It’s Ugly Sweater Season!

Fall is flying by, and before we know it it’ll be time for holiday parties and winter shindigs. When it comes time for the first ugly sweater party of the season, you no longer have to scour through aisles and aisles of clothing at the thrift shop. boohoo.com has just released a bunch of cute holiday sweaters that are affordable and stylish. Ya know, as stylish as a gaudy holiday sweater can be. Check out some of our favorites below:

azz27448_red_xl_2Ida Brushed Snowflake Jumper

azz23885_green_default_xl_2Ruby Reindeer Christmas Jumper

azz23330_black_default_xl_2Ria Reverse Knit Snowflake Jumper

azz23883_green_default_xl_2Rowde Christmas Jumper

azz21233_navy_default_xl_2Ella Prancing Reindeers Xmas Jumper

azz23887_blue_default_xl_2Jaimie Snowman Pom Pom Jumper

azz24155_red_default_xl_2Festa Ladies Jumper With Motif

azz19627_green_default_xl_2Happy Holla Dayz Christmas Jumper

Thanks to boohoo you can get a feminine fitting holiday sweater that isn’t 17-years-old with hole in the armpit. Ditch the thrift shop and start the holiday season in style by rocking the cutest ugly sweaters out there!

While you’re at it: if you need new going out gear, boohoo is offering 24% off their cute clubwear and party-perfect clothing when you use the code GLITTER at checkout.

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We Don’t Care Who Out of the Woods Is About

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As soon as I found out that Taylor Swift’s new song Out Of The Woods from her upcoming album 1989, came out this week, I quickly Googled it to take a listen. All I found were articles talking about which celebrity ex-boyfriend it may be about. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that this was what all the magazines were concentrating on.

I do understand the curiosity of wanting to know who a song might be about—especially with someone like Taylor, who is known to be very open and explicit about who she writes her songs about. But I feel like this takes away from the song, and it makes me wonder whether people are actually interested in the music or just the gossip.

I am not going to lie, I do believe Taylor has helped a lot with this every time she takes out a new song. She has always been known in the past to either give out a bunch of hints or just blatantly tell us who her songs are about.  I am not saying this is a bad thing, but I am not saying it’s a good thing either, because now the first question people ask whenever she comes out with a new song is: “Which guy is this one about?” And they will then write about that, instead of about the actual quality of the song.

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The song, which was written with Jack Antonoff — from the band FUN — is actually quite amazing and definitely wasn’t what I was expecting! Honestly, it had an 80’s vibe to it, and Taylor’s vocals just shined right through. When talking about the song, Taylor said she wanted people to feel the emotions she was going through, and I have to say, she definitely succeeded in doing that.

I do believe the story of the song is important, and that it makes the record. And I completely admire Taylor for being so honest with her lyrics and telling these amazing stories. I just wish the media would stop concentrating on the subject of the song and actually concentrate on the amazing writing and production of the song. But for now, I’ll just keep replaying Out Of The Woods until the entire album comes out on October 27th.

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Don’t Buy It – DIY Your Favorite Snacks!

Grocery stores can be both the pinnacle and the pitfall of convenience – it is so easy to just grab your favorite foods and go. But sometimes these snacks can get expensive, and who has the money to splurge on these foods every single week? Plus, packaged snacks can contain all sorts of wacky ingredients that aren’t so good for you. Consider this fun alternative to buying all your favorite snacks — try making your own! You’d be surprised at how easy it can be to make some of them. Plus, making these goods at home will give you a fun activity to take on with your friends, a learning experience in the kitchen, or just the simple knowledge of knowing exactly what’s going into your food.

Larabars

These fruit-and-nut bars come in a variety of dessert flavors. If you’ve ever checked out the ingredients label on the packages, you may have noticed that the ingredients in the bars are all familiar and pronounceable. It’s easy to make your own: buy nuts (such as almonds or cashews), buy dates, and any flavorings (try an extract, like lemon or vanilla, or even throw some coca powder in). Blend your ingredients in a food processor, then mold into bars!

Milkshakes

Blend a frozen banana, some low-fat milk, and whatever mix-ins you would like! Some suggestions for mix-ins: add an Oreo or two to make a cookies and cream milkshake, throw in some sugar-free vanilla pudding mix and sprinkles for cake batter, or simply opt for some cocoa powder and vanilla extract for a sweet and simple chocolate shake.

Kale chips

Pre-packaged kale chips from grocery stores have way too many unnecessary ingredients! Instead, purchase kale next time you go food shopping and make your own. Wash and thoroughly dry the leaves, then spread them on a sheet pan.  Next, drizzle the leaves with olive oil and any seasonings you want. Lastly, bake them until the leaves become crispy chips. Try sprinkling some vinegar on your leaves too, for a healthy spin on the well-loved oil and vinegar chips.

Peanut butter

You’d be surprised how different natural peanut butter tastes in comparison to peanut butters that contain some strange ingredients, such as hydrogenated oil. After a while of trying a more natural type of nut butter, you’ll be hooked on both the taste and the health benefits. And, luckily, making your own peanut butter couldn’t be easier. Blend some peanuts and salt in a food processor until you’ve reached your desired smoothness. Then, spread onto whatever your heart desires!

Buying the ingredients to make your own versions of your favorite snacks can seriously save you money in the long run. Additionally, you can be assured that the food you’re eating contains only good-for-you ingredients. Chances are, these homemade products will taste better anyway!

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The Impact of Technology on Children

I have worked as a nanny for many years and it is incredible to me the changes I have noticed around children’s play behavior and toys. Technology is changing every day– better operating systems, better designs and better devices come into the market so quickly it’s impossible to keep up, and the way children are getting used to it is astonishing.

I have witnessed a 2-year-old handle an iPad better than me, and I am not kidding. Even though I am currently pursuing a degree in media studies, I have yet to catch up with all technological developments. I do not own a smartphone, and my laptop is rather old. So when I started my job as a nanny three years ago, my mind was practically blown when I witnessed the 2-year-old twins I watch turn on their iPad, put in the code, play games, and take pictures.

There are nonetheless many issues that arise when children get accustomed to technology at such an early age. Yes, they are developing skills children of my generation didn’t get to develop that early on, but they are also in jeopardy of losing other skills that are critical to a child’s development.

It starts becoming a problem when children, mesmerized by these screens, will not react to anything but the activity and entertainment the screen provides. They are hypnotized to the extent that one can no longer communicate with the child while he/she is using the device. And, it’s not just tablets, most adults actually own smartphones nowadays, and I have witnessed that whenever an adult takes out his or her phone, a child in the room will run toward it and try and get it from the adult.

Some studies suggest that the increase in technology surrounding us and children actually increases the child’s “technological intelligence,” which is important to the society of growing technology that we live in today. Others suggest quite the opposite.

There are suggestions that the early use of technology can actually reduce a child’s ability to think creatively. And as far as I could tell at work, I noticed that as I would try to play board games and make believe with them, the twins would be occupied playing a dinosaur shooting game on their iPads. Yes, their iPads. At age two, both of them owned their own iPads.

I think time will tell what effects these technological developments really have on the brains, intelligence, and creativity of children.

Personally, I can’t imagine how drawing a picture on an iPad with your finger is better for a child than using a crayon, and feeling its weight and impact on the paper. There is a strong opposition, but also a strong pro-technology stance by parents for children out there. In the end, every parent has to make their own choice whether or not to raise their children with or without tablets.

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Yarncrafting Is Good For Your Health

Playing around with yarn isn’t only for people over 50. A few skeins of yarn can be whipped into a stunning accessory for your Fall ready outfit or for a homemade housewarming gift. The colors and textures of yarn are so extensive that your choice of projects will be limitless. Yarncrafting no doubt creates beautiful pieces and its healing capabilities are a spectacular bonus. Check out some of the health benefits of crafting with yarn:

Ditch boredom eating We all have moments where we graze because we simply have nothing else to occupy our time. A yarn project such as any one of the thousand free patterns from Lion Brand Yarn can keep our minds busy and refrain us from straying to the fridge or pantry.

Alleviates depression Alleviation of depression is the most commonly reported and studied benefit of yarncrafting. A blog post found in Lion Brand Notebook shared this hobby releases serotonin, a naturally occurring antidepressant. A new learned stitch or a completed project can add a great boost of confidence to the new yarn crafter.

De­‐stress during midterm and final’s weekThis time of the school year is especially stressful for students no matter how hard one studies. Instead of meeting at the local pub for a high calorie alcoholic beverage or appetizer when you’ve reached your cramming for finals breaking point why not pick up that crochet cowl you’ve been dying to finish so you can wear it with your skinny jeans and brown leather boots? Your skinny jeans will thank you.

Meet new friends Adding a pair of knitting needles or a crochet hook can create opportunities to expand your group of friends. There are many yarn and craft stores that offer knitting and crochet classes and meet up groups where new friends can weave beautiful fibers together. It is incredible how a common hobby can instantly spark a connection between two strangers.

The next time you find yourself near a craft or hobby store be daring and stop in. You just might find yourself at home among the rows and rows of beautiful balls of yarn. This heartwarming hobby can be just what you need to keep the pounds off, perk up, destress and meet new friends.

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Why There’s Absolutely Nothing Okay With Mocking Amanda Bynes

Today is World Mental Health Day. Yet, based on the comments floating around the Twitterverse, you’d never guess. People are having a field day mocking Amanda Bynes, particularly after her most recent tweets accusing her father of physical and sexual assault.

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Shortly after this string of tweets, Amanda’s mother, Lynn,  released a statement that refuted the claims entirely. Apparently, Rick and Lynn Bynes were on their way to New York to pick Amanda up and encourage her to seek further treatment. Currently, celebrity news outlets are saying that Amanda is MIA.

Most recently Amanda fired off a new tweet, saying that the original allegations weren’t true and that a microchip in her brain made her say these things.

While all this is unfolding, I’ve seen incessant tweets about wanting to grab popcorn to eat while this unfolds, calling her a trainwreck, and downright laughing at what Amanda is saying. Not only are these rude, crass, and lazy jokes — they’re also incredibly ignorant.

There are two potential scenarios that I can envision as causing these tweets, and they’re both devastating. (Note: this is total speculation.) The first is that, as heartbreaking as it may be, Amanda’s allegations may be true. We will never know what went on behind closed doors in Amanda’s house as a child, and just like with many cases of sexual assault, it ends up being one person’s word against another’s. Did Rick Bynes fondle himself in front of Amanda? Did he try and have sex with her? I think we’re all on the same page hoping that the answer to that question is a big, fat “NO.” However, we don’t know for sure, and belittling the emotions, fear, and pain of someone who was potentially sexually assaulted is not okay. You wouldn’t laugh at a friend who was assaulted by a parent (or anyone for that matter); why would you laugh at Amanda?

The other scenario that could be possible is that the circumstances of Amanda’s potential diagnoses could be causing these strong thoughts of situations that did not occur. I do not wish to pry into the intimate details of Amanda’s health, and I do know that her and her family have refuted certain claims of a mental illness diagnosis. So I won’t try to pseudo-diagnose her and say what could be going through Amanda’s head, but what I will say is that there are a number of potential health issues that could be causing these thoughts and erratic behaviors. And no matter what Amanda’s medical files may say, there’s one thing that is certain: her struggles are not a laughing matter.

As media consumers and creators, we are only promoting destruction and negativity by making light of a person’s highly personal and highly serious hardships as if they are a laughing matter. It continues to astonish me that just because people are in the public eye, we feel entitled to bash them and mock them in a way that many of us would never do in person.

Amanda Bynes doesn’t deserve degrading headlines, misguided tweets, or to be taunted by the mainstream media and its consumers. She deserves compassion, empathy, and support. It is not our business to know the most private matters and potential tragedies of her life, but it is our duty to be a responsible audience and end the barrage of awful, cruel, and just downright dumb comments.

Statistically speaking, it is highly likely that each and every one of us knows someone who has been sexually assaulted and/or is suffering from a mental illness — whether we are aware of it or not. If we wouldn’t mock our siblings, our cousins, our best friends, our classmates, our professors, or our neighbors, why would we mock Amanda Bynes? It’s time to stop acting as if her tweets are some comedic treat and start having a heart. In honor of Amanda Bynes, in honor of the hundreds of thousands of sexual assault victims each year, in honor of one-in-four adults who experience mental illness each year, and in honor of each other — because no one deserves to be mocked for coping with adversity.

ED NOTE: Many of Amanda’s tweets have now been deleted.

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No Equipment Required: Workouts for Your Lower Body

A lot of the time, it’s easy to think of exercising as a way to help you lose weight. Cardio is great, but what about building muscle? Becoming fit isn’t about being thin, it’s about being healthy. So, instead of focusing on trimming down, here are a few exercises that will help you bulk up a bit, in terms of muscle mass.

These exercises all focus on your lower body. Your calves, thighs, butt, and even your hips will be toned with these moves. As an added bonus, none of these moves require any equipment, so you can do them virtually anywhere.

Squats

By working your gluteal muscles you can actually lift and tighten your butt. This may sound a bit strange, but your gluteal muscles are actually really easy to work out. As a plus, squats are also great for you thighs.

When doing a squat, you need to start with your feet anywhere from shoulder to hip width apart. After one squat you’ll be able to feel which position is most comfortable for you (this often depends on the strength of your knees). Once you are in this stance, squat down towards the floor with hands out in front of you. While doing this move you want to keep your upper body as straight as possible, and you want to stick you butt back behind you; keeping your butt back will help to keep the pressure off your knees. Make sure to do squats slowly to maximize the effect.

Lunges

Although lunges are a pretty basic move, they are extremely effective. Lunges predominately work your butt, thighs, and hips, while having a smaller impact on your calves.

When doing a lunge, you want to stand with your feet facing forward. Then, step one foot forward (about two or three feet), and bend both knees so that your back knee is almost touching the floor; you want to keep your front knee bent at a 90-degree angle to avoid putting too much strain on your knee. After bending down, you should straighten your knee, and step back into your beginning stance. Now, switch legs. For an added workout, grab some hand weights and do a bicep curl each time you bend down.

Calf Raises

These are generally easiest on an elevated surface, like stairs, so that you guarantee your heels are not going to touch the ground.

To start your calf raise, stand with only the balls of your feet on the stair step while holding onto the railing (the railing is only for balance, so don’t use it to pull yourself up); your feet should be hip-width apart. Raise yourself onto your toes and then slowly lower yourself back into the starting position. This move is super basic, so make sure to do multiple reps. If you want something more challenging, jumping rope is also a great calf strengthener, plus, you get in some cardio.

Standing Side Kick

This move will test your balance while also working your hips and butt.

Start by standing with feet hip-width apart, then slowly raise one leg up and to the side, until it reaches hip level, then hold. Your inner thigh should be parallel to the floor as you lift it and hold. After, slowly lower your leg back to the starting position, then repeat. Do multiple reps on both sides for an even workout.

These moves are really simply, but extremely effective. Because they require no equipment, they’re easy to do at home, or anywhere. If you continue to do them every week you’ll quickly notice the difference in your muscle tone!

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Ed Sheeran’s New Video Will Leave You Speechless

Ed Sheeran’s new music video for his single Thinking Out Loud is completely different from every other music video he’s has done in the past. I have to say its one of his best music videos yet.

Because the lyrics of the song weren’t enough to make your heart melt, the video features Ed wearing a tux—yes he is actually dressed up—in a huge ballroom dancing with a girl in a beautiful white dress.

In the past, most of his music videos feature other people, with Ed only making a small cameo. But in this video he is in it for the entire 4 minutes and 40 seconds. Not only do we see him throughout the entire video but all the dancing that is done is all Ed.

Believe it or not but the boy who claimed he couldn’t dance trained specifically for the making of this video. There are no doubles filling in for him.

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Thinking Out Loud is one of my favorite tracks on the album, if not my favorite,” Ed said in a press release for the video. “It’s a great one to perform live and means a lot to me. I wanted the video to be a little different, so I opted for ballroom dancing. I had lessons for 5 hours a day when I was on my US tour last month.”

We have to say it definitely paid off. The video fits the song so perfectly and it just makes it even more beautiful. Ed’s dancing left me speechless, I had no idea he could move that way and he looked absolutely amazing.

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Perfect Movie Soundtracks

Soundtracks make the movie, constructing, just as much as the visual information does, what we feel and interpret with each moment of the story.

In the clip below, for example, someone demonstrates this effect by changing the music of Jack Sparrow’s introduction in Pirates of the Caribbean. Our reception of the same images are entirely different depending on the mood of the song.

Whether it’s belting along to Let It Go from Frozen, or cringing at Bernard Hermann’s sharp strings from Psycho, the music of movies has a lasting impact. These four powerful soundtracks, from Ethiopian jazz to eighties pop, brought something extra special to the films that housed them:

Ravenous (1999)

This clever, though choppy, film about cannibalism and the Mexican-American war is crowned and completed by the hillbilly-meets-no-wave score by Blur frontman, Damon Albarn, and composer Michael Nyman. Instruments like the squeezebox, banjo, and jaw harp seamlessly meld with electronic loops and industrial-inspired, minimalist beats.The music of Ravenous is spare, hungry, and oddly cavalier, just like the film itself.

Amelie (2001)

Shy Amelie’s imaginative interpretations of ordinary events transform dipping your hand into a bag of bulk beans or returning a stranger’s lost picture collection into a magical adventure. Yann Tiersen’s delightful accordion and piano-driven soundtrack makes modern day Paris whimsical and sweet. La Valse d’Amélie stays with your heart and returns you to the wonderful fairy-tale that is Amelie whenever you hear it.

Broken Flowers (2005)

Jazzy, laid back, and full of the self-assured coolness that can come with aging, the soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers is the perfect eclectic accompaniment to each step in finding Don Johnston’s (Bill Murray) possible son. Smooth Holly Golightly and the Greenhornes laze beside Dopesmoker and Ethiopian jazz musician Mulatu Astatke instrumentals,  and make this soundtrack amazing.

Drive (2011)

Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive was a slow burning, volatile look at dark urges cloaked in the flashy skin of a stylist. The soundtrack and original score captured a cultural zeitgeist with New Order-inspired pop before it came to dominate the radio, or pay homage to the larger-than-life eighties culture that inspired the film. Kavinsky, Under Your Spell and Cliff Martinez’s moody synth voiced all the angst felt by Ryan Gosling’s near silent hero.

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Why (And How) You Should be Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes

Makeup brushes are the most important things that touch your face– and that’s because the product isn’t nearly as essential as what you apply it with. These tools need to be taken care of properly, and we’ve compiled some reasons as to why you should be cleaning your brushes.

Reason #1: Bacteria Growth

This is probably the most important reason why brushes need to be cleaned, and cleaned often. Bacteria can grow due to contact with breakouts or cuts on your skin,  contact around the eye area, and product buildup. No matter the reason, bacteria grows along the hairs and rapidly spreads all over your face while you’re applying your makeup. If you’re breaking out like crazy for no reason, try giving your brushes a wash.

Reason #2: Tool Maintenance

Like any other tool, your brushes need to be maintained. Without proper maintenance, the brushes can become clogged with product and  therefore not apply as evenly. I had this issue with my foundation brush a few days ago— I noticed the bristles were sticking together and the brush wasn’t buffing as well as it used to. A quick wash fixed that issue, and now the brush is as good as new. The bristles won’t lay smooth without proper maintenance, so be sure to wash them regularly!

Reason #3: Color Cleanliness

This applies more to eye brushes than face brushes. If you’re using bright or dark colors on a brush, then try to use a light color on it. The brush will still have some of the old color you’ve used on it and your light color will be tainted. I have an angled brush that I like to smudge out eyeliner with, but that I also use on my brows. I have to wash this brush often to ensure that no color is getting carried over to where I don’t want it to.

The How-To:

So, now let’s get down to how to clean these lovely tools. The first step is to get some good brush cleaner. I like using Elf’s “Brush Shampoo” because it’s inexpensive and works well. Next, lay out a clean washcloth or small towel to lay the brushes on after washing them, or, use hair elastics to hang the brushes upside down from a towel bar. For the process itself, ensure the bristles stay facing down; this will prevent water from building up in the base of the brush and will also help get the product out of the brush more effectively. Begin by putting some of the brush shampoo in the middle of your palm. Wet the brush and swirl it in the shampoo until it lathers (just like washing your hair!). Then, rinse the brush until the water runs clear. If you need to, swirl it in more shampoo— this applies mostly to face brushes that have lots of product built up in them. Clean all your brushes thoroughly and then let them air dry. I like to wash my brushes at night so that they can dry over night and be ready for me to use in the morning.

Ideally, you should be washing your brushes about once a week. It seems like a lot, and it can be hard to find the time every week to wash everything.  The way I see it, you can wash the brushes you use the most once a week and all the others every two weeks or so. This will also help save on brush shampoo!

Hopefully these tips have inspired you to clean your brushes more often and more thoroughly. Happy cleaning!

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