A Very Special Book Reading

At the Music Box in Plymouth, MA on November 18, 2018 author J Marshall Craig read some excerpts or as he penned them “rimshots” from his new memoir “Megalife” about Megadeath drummer Nick Menza.

I’ve never had much exposure to the music of Megadeath, but I was here for the reading to support Craig and ended up learning some very interesting things about Menza’s life. A deeply talented artist he seemed to never wanted to be defined simply as the “drummer for Megadeath.”

“I don’t like anyone thinking of me in such one dimensional terms,” said Menza.

I can relate.

Some of the funnier rimshots include one about what kind of shampoo he used (none, sorry!) and a time he met Bjork and surprised her by liking her music.

Here are some of the highlights I captured of the book reading!

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A Salem Day Trip

EXPLORING SALEM, MA WITH MY SISTER

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So, you just binge watched the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and you want to pretend you’re a teenage witch? Say no more. I’m right there with you and I can think of nowhere more appropriate to visit this time of year than Salem, MA. Sure, it’s a town you can visit during any season, but Autumn is arguably the best time to do it and it’s usually when I make my yearly exodus! I was lucky that this year my sister and I decided to drive up and make it into a day trip. We hit some new and favorite spots along the way and I figured I’d share the highlights of our day in case you feel like hopping on your broomstick and checking it out for yourself!

The Food

GULU GULU CAFE

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An hour and a half in the car can work up a hell of an appetite, so once we got there we wanted to get coffee and food right away! Both of us were dying to try Gulu Gulu Cafe, so we stopped in. As soon as we got there and were greeted by the sweet hostess I could tell that this cafe was going to become sanctuary for me. I felt at home instantly. I loved that the inside of the cafe is spacious and eclectically decorated with tall loft style ceilings. All of the tables are unique and some of them are painted. We decided to sit at the table that was painted black with a big bright red heart on it. Even the bathroom was adorned with fun, quirky paintings! You’ll see what I mean if you go! But enough about bathrooms, Leah…jeesh. I need to tell you about the best part! The food and drinks!

For drinks I ordered the white raspberry latte and my sister ordered the “Mind Sweeper.” I can’t recommend the white raspberry latte enough. The flavor of the raspberry was incredible and the presence of the white chocolate was sweet, smooth, and delightfully creamy.

I noticed while there that they also have a very extensive menu of unique beers that all sounded equally amazing! That day I was only in the mood for coffee, but I made up my mind to come back to try some of the beer on the menu.

As for food there were so many options! Again, I just wish I had a week to try everything, but when I saw the “Duck Yeah!” sandwich I knew I had to get that. The “Duck Yeah” (pictured above) consists of house-smoked duck breast, gruyere cheese, apricot preserves, and arugula, on grilled rye bread served with a choice of kettle cooked chips, dressed greens, or pasta salad and house made pickles. If that doesn’t sound mouthwatering to you then there are bunches of other delicious options (also many options for non-meat eaters too!). I recommend the pasta salad as a side though - so good!

The Sights

tourist spots

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Sure there are plenty of tourist spots and we hit a few of them just for funsies!

You can do many museum-like historical tours, but I did them once before in college with friends and that was enough for me. I remember some being more fun than others, but it’s up to you if that’s what you want to spend your day doing! You can get a good package deal on them, but going to each one will take a few hours. I’m sure you’ll come out very knowledgeable about Salem, though, and that might be quite worth it to some! Another fun tourist spot to hit is the Bewitched Statue as you can see me having a moment with above. It’s a very popular spot for a selfie or group photo! But this next stop is perhaps even MORE popular for a selfie!

The Witch House

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Not only is this house aesthetically pleasing and bound to get you oodles of likes on Instagram it is THE historical landmark of Salem - the home of the Witch Trials! So, I would consider it a must-go. You can do a self-guided tour of the inside that I highly recommend!

Some of the sights around town

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 There just happened to be a carnival in town the night we were there!

There just happened to be a carnival in town the night we were there!

The Shopping

There are so many interesting and eclectic stores - I mean it’s Salem after all! Some of my favorites to hit are always Hex, Omen, and a new favorite that I found when I was there last called Vampfangs! I ended up getting some professional VFX grade blood for my Halloween costume there and a pair of black deer antlers. I was also pleased to find they carry some awesome Indie brands like Rogue + Wolf.

The Company

my sister

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The style icon herself! My sister accompanied me for this journey and we had so much fun around Salem together! I hope we get to go back soon!

Thanks for exploring Salem with me! Where should I go next?

The Very Best of Concord, MA

WHERE TO GO + WHAT TO DO IN THIS RICHLY HISTORICAL New England TOWN

If you haven’t been to or heard of Concord, MA you need to change that ASAP and don’t worry I’m here to help as it’s one of my favorite places to visit in New England!

Concord is still a hidden gem in some ways. Every time I bring it up to my Massachusetts friends or otherwise people often look puzzled and ask, Concord, NH? Before I have to tell them about Concord, MA.

WHY I LOVE CONCORD SO MUCH

Concord is the cozy safe haven of a New England town you haven’t heard of yet.

It was home to the greatest Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau and as you may or may not know already it bore some of the most quintessential quotes about the woods.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

-Henry David Thoreau

In fact the main spot of Thoreau’s exodus to the woods, Walden Pond, is available for you to walk and explore at all times of year. However, I venture to say the most optimal time to visit is Autumn for the foliage.

You can check out the site of his cabin while there, as well as the faux cabin they’ve erected to show what it might’ve been like.

In the Summer you can even swim Walden Pond.

THE RESTAURANTS

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Haute Coffee

If you’re looking for some fresh pastries to nosh on or a delicious piece of avocado toast and latte look no further than Haute Coffee. I have to say it’s often an absolute pain in the you know what to get a table there, but not impossible! And as far as parking, the lot that is shared with Haute Coffee and a few other businesses is small and incredibly difficult to find parking in, as well. Even with that I say don’t give up! I didn’t anyway. If all else fails there’s an even bigger public parking lot on Keyes Lane that you could park in and then walk over. The walk through town is lovely anyway with plenty of quaint storefronts to window shop!

Main Streets Market and Cafe

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For lunch, dinner, live music, and drinks look no further than Main Streets Market and Cafe. The atmosphere inside is homey and warm, with framed pieces of local art and history on the walls. Some nights they even have live music, which adds a special energy to the cafe. I’ve tried many of the items on their menu over the years and it’s all mouthwateringly delicious, but some of my favorites are the Parmesan Truffle Fries, Guinness Onion Rings, Turkey & Brie Extreme Grilled Cheese (yep, EXTREME GRILLED CHEESE), and the Farmhouse Chutney Chicken Salad. The Raspberry Lime Rickey is a treat, as well!

MUST SEES

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Walden Pond

As mentioned above Walden Pond is a must-go while you are there! It’s a lovely walk through the woods that’s sure to yield beautiful photos.

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Author’s Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Okay, first of all, how could you not want to go to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery? The name alone is enough to bring me there, but that’s just me! I happen to have a bit of a thing for cemeteries. But! This one in particular is the resting place of several famous authors including Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and many of their family members. Visitors often leave little trinkets on the gravestones.

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The Concord Free Public Library

I don’t know that everyone finds libraries exciting, but I do and this one in particular has some interesting artifacts that you should at least pop your head in and look at! My favorite part of the library is “The Transcendental Alcove” that houses books by Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne. Sometimes they even have interesting galleries of local art and photography. While there I was able to view a gallery by a local photographer named Richard Higgins.

The Ralph Waldo Emerson House

I know what you’re thinking, ugh, a historical tour…I’m with you, but this one is an exception! This tour of Emerson’s house is actually super interesting! Not only do you get an insight on Emerson’s family and his life, but seeing his home with pretty much all of the original items inside of it intact really gives you an idea of how people lived during Emerson’s time. The tour guides are also very cool and unique! Not boring whatsoever. You can tell they’re knowledgable and passionate about the information they’re reciting and you learn many interesting facts about Emerson during the tour. You are also free to walk around the grounds. From his house is a trail that you can explore and there’s a magnificent grape vine in the garden that you’ll definitely want to check out. I highly recommend adding this to your list if it’s the only “museum-like” thing you do while here!

SHOPPING

The Concord Bookshop

Every time I’m in Concord I stop in to The Concord Bookshop to buy something new to read. The atmosphere of this bookstore is quiet and beautiful and I find it has a very good selection. This year I got myself a book of Keats as he is one of my favorite English Poets. Yes, I know an American poet would be more appropriate for Concord, but I think Keats and Thoreau could’ve been friends if they’d known each other.

Thoreauly Antiques

Wherever Thoreauly gets their antiques they have acquired quite the collection of lovely wares. I’ve found use books there, as well as unique items such as old glass slides and photographs and so much more. It’s like a little magical realm full of wonder. Definitely check out Thoreauly Antiques if you love pieces from the past.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Although I consider Concord a hidden gem it is often quite busy and full of interesting people, so be prepared for reasonable waits at the restaurants and cafes I mentioned (they’re much busier on the weekends!). Also, if you’re visiting in Autumn make sure to bring your camera as the foliage in Concord is gorgeous and bright - plus, the town is ripe for some unique New England street photography! I hope you enjoy your trip to Concord, MA! Feel free to reach out to me if you want anymore pointers on where to stay and what to do!

Have you ever been to Concord? What’s one of your favorite places or where are you dying to go now? Let me know in a comment!

My Trip to Portland, Maine | September 2018

This month I celebrated the first weekend of Autumn with a trip to Portland, Maine. While there I took in the sights, sounds, and tastes of some of the best that Portland had to offer. From Maine blueberries, fresh maple syrup, warm potato donuts and homemade mead to local oysters and buttered lobster…it was a feast for the eyes, stomach, and soul.

Naturally I took many photos while there, so I figured I’d share them along with some tips I learned while there for anyone interested in going for the first time or just looking for new places to try!

Here are some of the highlights from my trip to Portland, Maine:

The Sights

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The Portland Observatory

The Portland Observatory is well worth the price of admission for the view! For $10 you can take a guided tour to the top or go at it yourself! I was happy we decided to go on the unguided tour. We were able to set our own pace and learn about the history by reading and exploring ourselves. At the top there was even a man who works there separate from the tours who told us many interesting things about the Portland Observatory, as well as some interesting facts about the birds that nest in the area.

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Portland Head Light

This was the biggest highlight for me (pun intended!). It’s a short drive outside of the city, but I recommend either hitting it on your way in or your way out! We hit it on our way out and I’m so glad we stopped. Parking is free which is amazing! And the entire area is very well-maintained. There is a cliff walk, a few parks, a small food and drink kiosk, and the main attraction - the lighthouse! Definitely breathtaking views and great pictures to be had here!

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The Portland Love Locks

Although the love lock fence was torn down in 2016 after it started to fall into the ocean…a piece of it has been kept alive on the waterfront! We enjoyed looking at what was left and reading the loving messages inscribed on each lock.

The AirBnb

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A Fiery East End Flat

I haven’t stayed in many nice Airbnb’s (this is only the second one I’ve stayed in and this time I had friends to split the cost with), but this one was definitely the cream of the crop in terms of an Airbnb! The “Fiery East End Flat” was spacious, colorful, comfortable, and met all of our needs while allowing us to be in walking distance of everything we wanted to do in Portland. Along with several immaculately decorated rooms there was an air mattress provided, a tv with a dvd player, cards and games, many different brands of coffee to choose from in the cupboards, and the host even left us a bottle of wine and some cookies! I don’t know when I’d be able to afford this flat again for my own travel purposes, but with a large group it is more than perfect and I highly recommend it!

The Food

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DuckFat

Duckfat fries are the Holy Donut of fries. Yes, there is a lot of hype for them much like how there’s a ton of hype for Holy Donut, but the hype is not overstated - these are the best fries I’ve ever had and you have to get the truffle ketchup! Ugh, I’m salivating just writing this. A fun little fact, we ended up getting the Duckfat fries at the Oxbow Brewery as opposed to the restaurant…and it was made even better by the fact that it was right next to the Hardshore Distillery and Maine Mead Works. Maine Mead Works even advertised that you can get your Duckfat fries over at Oxbow and bring them in there to enjoy with some mead. So, it’s a no- brainer to head in the direction of all three. You might as well check them all out while you’re there!

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The Holy Donut

Oh my gosh, what’s there to say about the Holy Donut that hasn’t already been said? It’s the most delicious donut I’ve ever had. There are many flavor choices to choose from and they all sound amazing, but I decided to get the maple donut. It was melt in your mouth delectable. If I had one near me I’d be tempted to go every day. I’m already tempted to drive up again just for the donuts and I think I will soon.

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Hot Suppa

Hot Suppa was suggested to us by a local who gave us some great pointers when we arrived. If there’s one thing we noticed about Portland it was that the people living there were extremely friendly and would stop to ask us if we needed help or suggestions without us even asking! If you want to go to Hot Suppa expect a very, very, very long wait. We went on our last day, a Sunday, and the wait was between 1 and 2 hours. We waited and it was definitely worth it, but be mindful of that! The menu items are on the pricier side that’s for sure, but it’s definitely filling and delicious. I got the Mother Clucker! A fun name and also a really yummy dish. Since it’s a Southern Kitchen you have to order something Southern - or at least that was my thought process! So I figured I couldn’t go wrong with fried chicken, biscuits, gravy, and home fries. You could get grits, but I just really love home fries and those were top notch home fries if I do say so myself. This is a must-go in Portland - I completely agree with the locals!

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The Porthole Restaurant & Pub

On my list of must-dos in Portland was getting a lobster roll. There are certainly many options of varying culinary delight and price ranges, but I found mine when my group suggested a seemingly off the beaten path restaurant and pub called The Porthole. I had my reservations at first, but when arriving there I actually found it to be quite quaint…but only if you’re sitting outside - I didn’t like the look or the ambience of the inside. Outside there is a large porch you can sit on with picnic style tables and umbrellas. You’re right on the water, which is absolutely perfect on an Indian Summer day and whether to your disdain or enjoyment there was a live band playing. We found it to be amusing! I also sampled the oysters while there and though I didn’t have the luxury of knowing where they were from quite like I did at Even Tide (keep reading for that exciting experience!) they were very delicious. I can only assume they were Maine Oysters as Maine has many varieties. I opted to get my lobster roll with butter and it came with a pickle and chips, you could substitute for fries, but I wasn’t in the mood for them after Duck Fat (nothing will ever be better!). Two of my other friends also got the lobster roll and we were in agreement with how pleased we were with the portion and I thought it was very tasty - it definitely satisfied my requirement of getting a lobster roll in Maine! Then it was onward to Even Tide!

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EvenTide Oyster Co.

Myself and two of my girlfriends were determined to get oysters at Even Tide. We went into it knowing it was going to be good, but we never could’ve guessed how much of a life-changing experience it would be! I do have to say that if you’re going expect a wait. We waited at least a half hour to finally be seated, but they will serve you cocktails while you wait if there’s standing room. Make sure you go with a smaller group as they don’t have space to accommodate large tables. Once in, I have to say the Parrot cocktail is a must! Not only does it come in a delightful parrot glass, but it’s one of those drinks that has a limit. On the menu the alcohol used is listed solely as “rums” and that was enough to get us interested - so three parrots it was! Next was the oysters. The menu comprised of varieties from Maine and Massachusetts and being from MA we wanted to try Maine oysters first and foremost. So, we each got a dozen including 10 Maine oysters and 2 Massachusetts oysters. The accoutrements were a really fun touch, as well! Before then I had never tried red onion ice or kimchi ice for that matter (I preferred the red onion), but it was a flavorful and fun addition to the overall oyster tasting. We savored each and every one.

The Drink

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Hardshore Distilling Company

On to the drinks - of which there are many opportunities for in Portland! Obviously any of the breweries would be spots to hit, but we found many other interesting alcohol attractions along the way. If you’re a gin fan Hardshore Distillery should be on your list to check out! Although I wasn’t much of a fan of their gin per se it was certainly a strong one and there’s something to be said for that!

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Maine Mead Works

Next store to Hardshore Distillery is Maine Mead Works and honestly I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did! The mead was delicately delicious! I got a small Lavender Lemonade mead to try. It was sweet and complex, but not too complex…just right! This is a spot I would go to again in the future. I really enjoyed the ambience, the people who worked there were friendly and warm, and the mead was divine.

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Novare res

This was a must-go for me. I’m very glad I checked it out. Their beer list is expansive and it’s a great spot to just hang out and enjoy some drinks with your friends!

The Friends

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I’m much more used to solo travel lately, so it was a new experience for me to go on a vacation with seven of my friends. I’ll be honest, the size of the group made me a little nervous at first, but I’m happy to say that any nerves I had melted away almost instantly - I had an an absolute blast! We did learn that if you’re going with large groups it will make it more difficult to get tables in the restaurants (many of the spaces in Portland are quite small!) so it’s good to know that you might have to break off and do different things at different times to account for that. But even with that small inconvenience we were still able to do everything we wanted to and more! So, my final review is if you’re looking for a cool city that won’t break the bank while still offering so much in terms of nightlife, food, and activities look no further! We had an amazing time and I hope to go again soon! Thanks, Portland!

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Tara + Matthew | Glen Ellis Falls, NH

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Sometimes the best photo shoots are the spontaneous ones! This session with Tara and Matthew proved that to me when on August 26 we all found ourselves in New Hampshire for the same purpose: take photos at Glen Ellis Falls.

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On July 31, 2016 Tara and Matthew eloped in the White Mountains of New Hampshire at Glen Ellis Falls. The story of how they ended up getting married at the Falls is another case of "meant to be" when the couple found themselves gated out of Mt. Washington the evening that they planned to elope! A park ranger at Mt. Washington suggested they go to Glen Ellis Falls and the rest is history!  

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Both are talented creators and makers and I'm always blown away by their artistic talent: Matthew with his blacksmithing and photography and Tara with her art and pottery. They are definitely a multi-talented couple and I am so honored I was able to photograph them and their love in such a special (and absolutely gorgeous!) place.

Life truly works in mysteriously beautiful ways, doesn't it?

I couldn't be happier that it does.

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Are they not the two cutest people you've ever seen in your life? 

Follow Matthew and Tara:

Pitch Pine Pottery

Fire Pine Forge

My Approach to Headshot and Portrait Photography

My approach to headshot photography is similar to how I approach every shoot: the subject leads the composition and editing.

I believe that not every subject should be shot the same way. Some things like shoes or basic products mostly can, but people, places...they have a unique personality and style that I firmly believe in letting dictate my shots.

Sure I could shoot every person the same, in a controlled environment, with studio lighting (and I've seen some amazing work like that that I love!), but my personal style is to let my subject for the day influence what my shooting style will be. 

Like with my sister: she's a hair stylist with a big personality, great style, and she just happens to own a pink car! I mean, how many people do you know with a pink car that don't sell Mary Kay (haha). So, that day I walked into the shoot knowing I had to get a photo of her with it.

I always prefer to take a photo of someone in their home, office, or favorite place as opposed to in a studio or a contrived location.

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I start my process by taking account of the surroundings. Wherever it is that my subject wants their picture taken - I know that it likely says something about them. If I'm in their office, for example, their furniture, artwork, decor or even their "mess" will have an impact on the photo. 

Do you have pieces of paper or coffee cups laying around while you work? Good! Keep it in the photo :) it all says something about you. 

Some people may be uncomfortable with this at first, but I like to shoot this way because I know that if I was on the other side of the camera I would want my photographer to capture every aspect of my personality in the photo, too!

And I love capturing candids of people breaking composure - laughing or smiling big! Those ones are the best! So, on a shoot you might notice that I've always got my finger on the shutter...searching for those golden moments!

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Sometimes even the quiet moments can speak volumes. I love being a fly on the wall to someone's creative process.

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This one happens to be one of my all-time favorites because it shows my subject in his element - creating his art. It's not about me, it's not up close and contrived...it's personal and private - a snapshot of a moment that would be happening no matter if I was shooting or not.

And that's really what I'm always striving for with my headshots and portraits.

Ready for your close-up? I'd love to do more photos in a series like this, so if you're an artist in the Boston area interested in getting your photo taken contact me and maybe we can set something up!

-LA

Reinventing Myself

adventure

 

Master of Reinvention?

Probably not.

I've always fancied myself a sort of "master of reinvention"...mostly because I've had to do it so many times. 

However, now that I think about it constantly reinventing yourself might be a sign that you're not good at reinvention at all.

Perhaps the problem lies in how I was previously looking at this concept...

 

I Cannot Leave Here, I Cannot Stay

I'm ready for the next experience.

My sister has these words tattooed on the tops of her feet. It's apropos placement because our feet take us on our journey through life, but in the phrase lies a contradiction that keeps your feet in one place. And I can think of no better way to describe my situation right now. If I can't leave and I can't stay...where am I? I'm stuck. I feel so stuck. Whether it's because of debt, money, mindset...it's really all of the above. But more than money I think it's how I've chosen to think. I think we all limit ourselves. We come up with a million reasons why we can't do things when really if we really wanted to do something we would...I am guilty of this. 

I want to break the chain. It's so hard isn't it? Breaking out of these habitual thought processes that keep us in one place and limit our thinking requires hard work. It's much easier to clock-in to a 9 - 5, pick up our paychecks, take our 12 holidays per year, and satiate our unhappiness with television shows and possessions. 

I get so stuck in that mode of thinking. I get a momentary happiness from purchasing the things I've "wanted" for so long...no I don't need all of the things that I buy...most of us don't. We work jobs we don't want to buy things we don't need...and it's an endless cycle. 

That's a quote from Fight Club isn't it? Of course, I always find myself quoting that film/book (haha). 

Society wants us to limit ourselves. I always used to get so frustrated in conversations when people asked me what I did...for starters I was still finding out what I "do" (and I still kinda am), but if I said I was a photographer they would want to know what of. If I said I did a little bit of everything it confused people and made me look foolish. I've just never wanted to sum up what I did into one thing. Maybe that's easy when you're a lawyer or a doctor or nurse. Whenever I limited myself to just one aspect of my interests and talents it made me feel disingenuous. I spent much of my 20s not knowing how to describe who I was to people. 

If you're not this or you're not that, what are you?

So, I tried fitting into the confines that society wants me to be in...and that only made me feel worse.

To me, it's always felt akin to brainwashing and I've been searching for a way to get out of the system while also being afraid to leave it...because it's comfortable in the system isn't it?

 

life happens outside your comfort zone

I cannot leave here, I cannot stay.

Well...I  have to leave here and I can't stay. Ever since I moved back home into my parents house (for the second time in my 20s) I've been experiencing this feeling all over again - the feeling of not knowing where I belong. I have ideas, goals, and things I'd like to achieve, but a lot of them are far outside of my comfort zone. 

I've tried moving away with a significant other. I found that that isn't what I truly wanted. Now that I'm finally settling into what I believe is going to be who I am and what I want in life (at least for now) I know that I need to better my future for myself. 

From high school to the first half of my 20s I thought I was supposed to find a husband who would take care of me. Yeah, that's what I was taught and believed. I truly thought that in order to have everything I wanted I needed that first. How sad. I know that that can bring a lot of people happiness and if that's your joy then I am happy for you, but that's not my joy. 

Underneath everything I was taught and conditioned to believe is a rebel. I value my freedom and my independence sometimes more than I even realize. 

I broke up with my first boyfriend at the age of 14 stating "commitment issues" and I cheered "I'm free!" when he agreed to the breakup. Sometimes I think I knew myself better then than I do now. 

After that getting my drivers license and my first car was my next act of freedom and independence. It felt amazing. I could go where I wanted to go. I didn't need to rely on anyone and I could feel freedom behind the wheel. In fact, it was such a huge milestone for me that it's what I wrote my college essay about.

It's so surprising to me then that I found myself in my 20s trying to limit my freedom as much as possible, but a little bit of dormant feelings from emotional abuse, daddy issues, and unhealthy relationships can do that to a person. 

I may have lost myself for a while, but I'm ready to reclaim that freedom once again.

So, now that I know what I want to do comes the hard part: Doing it. 

It's very outside of my comfort zone, but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

 

Never change for anyone else's benefit but your own.

my mistake: I thought I had to change who i am to be loved and accepted.

Reinventing yourself isn't about changing yourself...it should be about becoming a better version of who you've always been.

Look at it this way...it's like a snake shedding it's skin...or wait, maybe a better metaphor is a phoenix rising from the ashes, but either way...

As you grow you live in a moment for a time, you have new experiences, and when it comes time to shed that part of you and move on you do and you find that you are shiny and new underneath, ready for the next experience.

That's where I find myself now and I wish strength to all of you who are also along on this journey with me. 

We are not alone. We all experience this. It's part of being human.

Wherever it is that you want to go, don't worry you'll get there. 

You just have to take the first step.

The hardest thing I ever physically did was climb a mountain, but when I got to the peak I was so grateful that I did - the view from the top was incredible.

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Thoughts On Vulnerability

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Why do I make myself vulnerable and share my struggles so openly?

First of all, I think it’s important. When I was growing up it would’ve helped so much to hear someone say, “I know what you’re going through, I understand you, and I have similar issues.” Because in moments of struggle, especially as a kid, you feel like you’re the only person in the world experiencing what you’re experiencing.

As a teenager that feeling only got worse for me. I felt alienated from my peers and I pushed away from friends and social activities. I felt like there was something wrong with me that kept me from being open about the things I was going through. While others seemed to be leading normal lives I felt mine crumbling around me. No one else was talking about their personal issues either. Because of that it took a lot longer than it should’ve for me to learn that every single person struggles with something - family, mental health, you name it...insert issue here.

Life isn’t easy for anyone, but we try to make it seem like it is.

We have this way that we conduct ourselves in society that doesn’t acknowledge our problems. Instead we are encouraged to keep personal matters to ourselves. But over the years I think I have started to see that form of societal thought shift for the better. 

With the Internet we’re able to easily connect with people who have similarities to us and we create little communities with the people that make us feel like we're not so alone. So, I like being open about my struggles within my communities.

Not only does it feel good to vent my thoughts and feelings - it’s incredibly rewarding if I’m able to help someone else feel validated in what they're going through. I know it’s helped me.

I look at it as being a sort of mentor to people who need someone to understand what they’re going through and offer inspiration, motivation, support, and advice if they want it. I feel like I have experienced quite a bit and made enough mistakes along the way that I'd like to at least use that knowledge to help others. 

Of course opening up on a large scale makes one very vulnerable to criticism and judgement, but I'm not going to let that stop me from doing something that I think is important. 

Even if it is a little scary I'm going to continue to do it.

And I fully support and encourage others to, as well. 

The more open we are the more connected we'll be.

-LA

Reviewing Two New L'Oreal Products

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Colour Riche Shine lipstick

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I love this lipstick! I got it in the shade 904 "Varnished Rosewood." It's a really "my lips, but better" shade, which is exactly what I was looking for when I found it! I'd say this color is best described as a warm rose with a hint of brown that gives it that expensive appearance. It's got a really nice glossy shine, too!...Shine isn't usually something I seek out in lip products, but this is perfect for a fresh every day look! I do think I'm going to get more of these in different shades at some point, but I couldn't be more pleased with the one I picked. If this sounds like something up your street I'd definitely give it a go!

Lumi Glow Amour

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This product is just okay. I'm sad to say I'm not blown away by it. I thought it'd be a good substitute for higher end illuminating drops - it's not that it isn't, it's just not that mind-blowing either. 

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As you can see in this picture this is how it looks on the skin before you rub it in, but unfortunately once you do it wipes right off and becomes sheer. This would make it ideal to use as a base for powder highlighter, but I was looking for more than a base. I really hoped this would be a liquid highlighter that mirrors the appearance of a solid and this just misses the mark for me. However, if you want to add some irredescence to your foundation or put it on your eyelids (I've done this a few times) then it does have it's uses. Daybreak is very pearlescent and glowing with a sort-of champagne-like tone. Perhaps I'll try adding it to a moisturizer for an added sparkle! If I come up with any more groundbreaking uses for it I'll be sure to come back with an update! Otherwise, I feel it was a bit of a waste at $11.99.

-LA

Glossier Must-Haves & Have-Nots

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For those of you who don't know I'm a Glossier rep.* 

I absolutely love their products and have been sharing them with anyone who would listen since day one!

Everything from Glossier's aesthetic to their marketing makes me love them - I think they're just the perfect example of a brand done right!

However, even a perfect brand has a few flops. And over the last year or so I've tried as many of Glossier's products as I can. So, today I figured I'd demystify their products as much as I can for everyone and go over my list of absolute must-buys! And my list of "eh, you can skip its." 

Must-Haves

1. Boy Brow - This is the product that started it all for me. What truly made me fall in love with Boy Brow is just how simple it is. All you have to do is take the brush and comb the product through your eyebrows and voila! perfectly tinted and defined brows in a matter of seconds! It not only shortens my time doing my makeup in the morning, but it gives me a boost of confidence that my eyebrows are serious, bold, and ready to take on the world! There's a reason that Boy Brow launched Glossier to the level of cult fame it has today!

2. Generation G - Another cult beauty product Generation G is a must-must-must-have! There is no other lip product I've ever tried quite like it. The colors are buildable and beautiful. And I don't feel odd eating or kissing in them because they're so barely there that there's nothing to worry about (and you can easily reapply to perfection after intense eating or kissing haha!). Most of them have a matte, blurry appearance. Although Leo seemed more on the glossy side to me (but I love Leo!). So, 100% if you're looking to try a Glossier product that is quintessentially Glossier definitely put a Generation G lipstick in your shopping cart!

3. Wowder - Even if you aren't about to be a Glossier convert or fan at least get yourself the Wowder! It should be a staple in everyone's makeup routine. I've used many powders in the past. Some even irritated my eyes! Ew! And then there are the powders that leave you looking like a ghost or perhaps even worse there can be powders that seem to do nothing at all! This is not one of those. It works sooo well - better than any setting powder I've ever used. The packaging is also genius! It doesn't spill anywhere and is simple to use. I've had no problems with this powder and will be repurchasing if I ever run out!

HAVE-NOTS

1. The Super Pack - Meh! I'm sorry to say that these just don't get me excited. At first I was really loving Super Bounce and I would probably still purchase it on it's own if it weren't for the price ($28 a piece!). Out of all the serums I would recommend trying Super Bounce for extra hydration and the hyaluronic acid, but I think I'm going to look to other brands for something like this. It was simply just "alright" and I'm searching for "AMAZING."

2. The Priming Moisturizer - I actually like this product so much! I should really clarify that this list of have-nots isn't to say that these products are no good, it's just that they're the ones you can skip. Here's my reasoning on why you can skip this one: the Priming Moisturizer truly is an amazing primer to your skin before makeup (especially Glossier makeup) and it did make my skin so so soft, but you know what else does that? the Vaseline intensive care essential healing moisturizer I've been using on my skin throughout the winter. Again, I would continue to buy the Priming Moisturizer if it weren't for the price point ($22 for 1.7 fl. oz.), but my Vaseline moisturizer is $3 at Target for way more product. So, I choose to skip this one until I am making more figures on my paycheck and with that saved money I'll invest in my Glossier must-haves! :)

3. Stretch Concealer - I like this concealer...in theory. It's so creamy, the packaging is really nice, and it goes really well with the perfecting skin tint, but unfortunately it's only an "okay" concealer. First off, don't put this on your under eyes - it creases like a mother-f-er. I've even used Wowder with it and still the creasing doesn't cease. Also, if you have a blemish...it covers okay...but not great. So, because of everything you can't do with this product I unfortunately don't think I'll be repurchasing.

Honorable mentions

I figured why not include a few products that are "nice to have" if you just want to treat yourself!

1. Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser - I really like this cleanser! It's gentle, creamy, and pretty much scentless - which is what my sensitive skin loves! It's unlike any other cleanser I've used before and I mean that in a good way! I think it's unique and it does a great job at cleansing your skin while removing makeup. Definitely try it out if you feel like treating yourself! 

2. Glossier You Perfume Solid - I've mentioned before in a video review of Glossier You (you can watch that here) that the spray perfume will last on you pretty much all day - it's kinda incredible! But! If you want to make sure you keep smelling amazing throughout the day or maybe you just prefer perfume solids I would recommend getting yourself the Glossier You Perfume Solid. It's really nicely made and is the perfect travel companion. I got it so I could always have it in my purse wherever I go. You never know when you're going to need a little extra!

3. Perfecting Skin Tint - I feel like this product isn't for everyone...but it should be. Some I think just won't see what's so cool about it, but if you're in to minimal makeup then you'll understand. This feels like you're wearing nothing at all . And it's some sort of witchcraft for sure, but it really does match your skin tone perfectly while blurring out imperfections...it's weird, but it works, so I love it! So, if you feel like giving this a try knowing you may very well hate it (I feel like this is definitely a love it or hate it kind of product) then why not just order it? And make sure to let me know what you think ;) 

-LA

*And since I'm a Glossier rep I will let you know that purchasing through my link will get you 20% off your first purchase, so definitely follow this link if you want to save some money ;) glossier.com/reps/leahastore. Happy shopping!