Tuesday, August 16

Creative and Colourful

Summer is in full swing, and I'm thirty pounds slimmer than I was six months ago which means I'm enjoying getting dressed again. This little blue number is from H&M and I was happy to dig it out of the closet and throw it into the mix. It has a cute crisscrossed back that's hard to get pictures of all on one's own. ;)

I paired the dress with some bike shorts since I was off on a wee photography job and was prepared to kneel down to get the shot. To protect my shoulders, I added a cardigan that's light
and breezy and colourful to boot!

I was excited about my hair. Usually, I just pin the top back when I want it out of my face, but on this day I twisted and twisted until  I had formed a small knot, then twisted it again in the opposite direction so I had two little twists. I pinned them down and they stayed in place all day! I thought it was adorably off center and just a little fancier than usual. ;)

It's been a genuinely weird summer, but one that's included more fun in the sun than I can remember. Getting outside, walking, gardening -- it's been a small joy to me and kept me from feeling idle during this season of unemployment. I'm also trying to focus on getting writing done and organizing my home, but sticking to a schedule and developing good habits isn't always easy! As a gamer I have a plethora of distractions that are easy to lose a whole day in, but I'm trying to keep gaming and tv-watching for after four, and be productive with my daytime hours.

How do you keep yourself busy and productive?
Dress - H&M / cardigan -  Anthropologie / bike shorts - Smart Set / necklace - gift / shoes, Keds 

Tuesday, August 9

At the Cabin

Some snapshots from our trips to the Petry cabin. There's something about this little retreat that revitalizes our family, it's simple and effortless and everyone who visits loves it. It's a comfy little spot for making memories and enjoying summer. I love photographing the bits and pieces around the cabin, there's personality in the details.


Where do you go to enjoy your summer?

Tuesday, August 2

How I Started Weaving for Under $30

For years now I've admired the gorgeous woven wall hangings of others, sadly, I could never afford one for myself. With some extra time on my hands, I decided I would give some of the internet tutorials I had seen a try, my only remaining hesitation -- getting started with a new hobby requires money. And I had none.

This is what I did: I tromped down to Micheals and bought an eleven dollar picture frame (just the frame, no back, untreated wood). I came home and with the help of a friend hammered a bunch of short finishing nails on two ends of the frame about a cm apart. It's not perfect, but I tell you for eleven dollars it's about as perfect as it can get.

Top left, my tools: a tapestry needle, chopsticks, scissors, and a plastic fork. Right image: all my weaving supplies in one place! 
There are a lot of nice, helpful tools you can purchase for weaving including combs, shuttles, and shed sticks. The only thing I absolutely had to buy was a plastic weaving needle, and I improvised the rest. For a comb, I have a small plastic fork from a bento box I no longer own and for both a shuttle and shed stick I use wooden chopsticks. No joke. As a bonus, they're easy to store (and replace).

Some different ways I use chopsticks while weaving. On the left, as a shed stick, and on the right as a shuttle. 
 I picked up a few lovely skeins of wool on clearance at Micheals, and had a few left over in my closet from other projects. Lastly, I spotted this cute felt container at a local greenhouse while shopping for plants and picked it up for 4.99. I think it's hilarious that felt storage totes can be so expensive, but apparently are equally good for planting things in. In any case, it holds my wool and chopsticks perfectly.

My first few weavings are semi-presentable and I'm sure in time I'll become deeply ashamed of this post, but for now, every weaving teaches me new lessons and I'm seeing an improvement as I go which is exhilarating! Now someone just tell me what to do with all of these wall hangings before my house gets lost in them...

My first weaving on the left, third in the center and most recent on the left. The last weaving was made using a pattern downloaded from The Weaving Loom.
If you're interesting in learning more about weaving wall hangings like these, I've got three pinterest boards up with more information. For shop listings, tools, looms and the like check out my Weaving Supplies board. I also have a Techniques board with tutorials, and an Inspiration board. theweavingloom.com is also a great resource.

Have you ever tried weaving? Leave me tips in the comments!

Tuesday, July 26

Staying Productive At Home

It's no secret I've been unemployed now since the beginning of June. Honestly, it's starting to feel weird and the uncharacteristic productivity I experienced at the beginning is starting to wear off. These days, I find myself staying in my PJ's a little later every day and getting less house work accomplished. I started doing yoga every day at the end of May and managed to keep up with it for about a month but my dedication to that has also dwindled. I've been exploring ways to stay motivated and decided to make up a schedule to follow. Sometimes what we're missing in life is just a little self imposed structure. I threw together a cutsey pink and gold desktop calendar in Photoshop and thought you might like a go at it:

Free Printable
Feel free to open it in a photo editing program and add your to-do's, or print it off and write them in!

Here's what mine looks like:

It's important for me to break apart my house chores so I don't get overwhelmed. I tend to look at a messy house and want to crawl inside a sea shell and become a snail. By committing to a few specific days to do yoga and other activity I also avoid that horrible feeling of guilt that compounds every day I don't make it to the mat. As long as I can do it on the scheduled days, I'm proud.

Of course, I want to make some commitments for every day that I'm not working. Scheduling in an hour of art and 800 words writing allows me to do more if I'm feeling inspired, and avoid the guilt when I would rather play video games. As long as I'm meeting these minimums, I'm progressing in the right direction!

How do you stay motivated and productive?

Sunday, July 24

On Being a Tourist in Your Own City (and Pokémon Go)

A few weeks ago Nick and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary by having a wee staycation. We booked a hotel downtown and vowed to walk and take public transit, eat out, and go to shows just like we would if we were visiting a more exotic location. At the time, it was this novel, wonderful experience and we could never have anticipated that with the release of Pokémon go we would be spending the rest of our summer doing just that!

To start, some pics from our anniversary:

As it happened, Pokémon was released during this time of media blackout, but it wasn't long 'till our friends had us caught up.

We quickly realized a lot of the places we had stopped to take pictures (like the wall mural above, middle left) are now Pokéstops! I started collecting pictures of the local points of interest that are now Pokémon hunting spots, and I've been getting out and walking places I've never seen before! Can you believe that it took this app to get me down to the legislature grounds for the first time as an adult? I hardly can. Plus, I've walked almost 50km, and completed my first weight loss goal.

All pokestops in Edmonton. It's crazy how you never notice a wall mural 'till a Pikachu spawns under it. 
 In short, even if you're not out there catchin' 'dem all, it's amazing to get out and experience the city you live in. I had no idea how many parks, gardens, statues and monuments there are in Edmonton, not to mention wall murals and art projects. It's beautiful to feel connected to the city, and to the people I share it with! In the pictures at the bottom, you can see all the other Pokéhunters!

Tuesday, June 14

Honest.Com Round Up and Review

Hey! You guys remember all those Honest.com unboxings I did ever and ages ago? Well, I may have stopped posting about it, but I haven't stopped ordering products from the Honest company. I love having all those little fidly house products delivered to my door when I need them and I still love Honest's Essentials Bundle subscription model (easy to pause and waylay until the very moment you need to restock). They've improved a lot of their packaging for shipping to Canada so spills and leaks are a thing of the past and I love the bonus products they include every so often!

I'm going to share some of my favourite buys from Honest, and some of my least favourite, and tell you why. Here goes: 
The winners are pretty clear in the body category, I LOVE the Honest toothpaste and conditioning detangler, both of which I order about once every month. I use them the most, my husband and I both use the toothpaste. Toothpaste is one of those cosmetics I found there weren't a lot of alternatives for in drug stores that aren't tested on animals and are environmentally friendly, I do love Tom's naturals and Kiss My Face toothpaste, but they can be hard to find when out and about, SO I love to keep some of this stocked in the house. 

I forgot to include them when I took the photos (see photo at very bottom of post), but I also use the Honest shampoo/body wash and conditioner. The shampoo is not for everyone, my husband doesn't like the way it feels in your hair (it's more of an oily clean than a clean clean for him) but I like it. I use it mostly as a body wash. I did notice they recently released new shampoos and conditioners I haven't tried yet.

I do also really like the body oil, which feels great and keeps my skin moisturized, and the bug spray. The bug spray actually smells great and works great, but I've had trouble with the spray top getting clogged which is annoying. 

The shave oil works really well, but it clogs my razor horribly so I end up having to spend more money on razor blades and change my blade more often. Probably not a bad thing in the long run, but annoying. The deodorant I did not like at all at first, it doesn't seem to work very well for me at all -- if I use it and end up sweating, guess what, I still smell, and it is bloody cold to spritz on which is not nice in the winter, BUT recently I've started spritzing it on post yoga work out and it is a nice refreshing spray that makes me feel a little bit better about my slight yoga scent. ;)

Not Pictured: I totally forgot about my biggest Honest fail to date, the Honest healing balm. I thought it would make a good hand lotion for very dry hands and the oil content actually separated from the cream so that when I squeezed the tube it just  leaked oil everywhere. It was  messy, and oily, and gross. I actually threw it away.
 I really don't have any losers in this area (the stain remover some how found it's way in here, but oh well). I use the multi-surface cleaner most often, and honestly (harhar) could get by with just purchasing that one cleaner to replace allll the others. It makes a fair glass cleaner and does bathrooms just as well as any other space in the house. I do use the others, but not as much.

The wet mopping pads are a great little luxury item if I'm too lazy to suds up a mop I can stick them to any swiffer-like mop to spot clean or even do all the laminate in the house. They really never dry out too, i've had them in my closet for a year probably (since I don't always use them when I mop) and they're still good. The reason I don't use them more is that they don't quite fit my no-name brand swiffing tool so they require a little macgyvering to stay on.
 I've loved this laundry detergent since I first met it. It's funny, I've had a few friends and others give me hand me down clothes lately and I am so overwhelmed by the scents on them! I'm used to my clothes not having a perfumed scent, so it's weird to encounter evidence of other detergents. I love that this detergent does the job well, without the scent and without the chemicals. I've heard some controversy over the ingredients in the detergent, but overall I'm happy that it doesn't sacrifice performance while still being gentle.

The stain remover has saved my life many times, it works very well while still being gentle on clothes. I love it.

The oxy boost seems to work well and I do use it when I wash whites, but I did have some of the packs burst in the bag which is quite messy.

I've tried the lavender and the citrus dish soap and I am so in love with this pair of lavender soaps right now, they smell amazing and I love washing the dishes (or my hands) with it. Plus, I think it works great.

I also use the lavender scented  air and fabric spray and it's wonderful. It's lavender/vanilla and I use it in our bedroom for a calming, restful environment (also pictured at the bottom left of the post).

The dishwasher packs on the other hand... In fairness, I have an old dishwasher and I have no idea how one maintains their dishwasher so it isn't the greatest to start but this dishwasher detergent does almost nothing in my dishwasher and I have used it about four times before I gave up and went back to the grocery store.

Every once in awhile Honest will include a thoughtful gift with your order, I've recieved lip gloss, a cookie cutter and organic cookie mix (for Christmas), and these adorable freezer packs (I got to choose the pattern) which are amazing for bug bites, small injuries, or just hot days!

You can subscribe to the Honest Essentials bundle on their website (here's my referral link if you want to give it a go), but another way to buy is through Well.ca, which I noticed is having a big sale on Honest products for the next few days! 

What other products from Honest.com have you tried? Anything awesome I'm missing out on?

PS. Honest isn't sponsoring this post or anything, but I wish they would hire me as a sales rep. ;)

Saturday, May 28

Cashmere and Denim

Hello again!

I'm back to share this transitional spring outfit with you. One of my favs. These days I'm all about the cozy, utility pieces in a wardrobe that can take you from season to season and transition from day to night. Boyfriend jeans, once thought a bit of a trend, are around to stay and for good reason.

Although these boyfriend jeans have traditionally been weekend attire, this is my last week of working in a no-dress-code office and I decided to throw caution to the wind and wear my favourite jeans to work.

You can see my wearing this exact pair all the way back in 2013, although I've since added a black lace patch when the artful tear over my left thigh became a touch too revealing even for the weekend. I like them better this way, they look -- and feel -- perfectly lived in.

 As companion to my cozy jeans I've layered a drapey high low tank in navy and a grey cashmere sweater. I take very good care of this sweater, it's my only cashmere so it's lovingly folded just so and cradled between other sweaters in my drawer, tamped down with lavender sachets just in case. As a result, it always smells of lavender and wearing it is a special treat.

All together, it's the perfect outfit for the transitional weather we're having this May, off an on again rainy, breezy and a touch chilly with fits of warm sun in between.

Besides that, it's the perfect pallet of high quality neutrals to make me feel put together like a boss.

Speaking of being a boss, I've finally done it -- to push myself past the twenty pound mark, I started regularly going to the gym and I've started doing yoga again at home. I'm using this amazing youtube channel, Yoga with Adriene, it came highly recommended and for good reason. I started the 30 day challenge and it's exactly what I was looking for. It's shocking too me how much my body missed yoga!

 You might be wondering what I've been up to, and I apologize for not updating this space as often. I have a lot of outfits and home stuff happening I can't wait to share.

In the meantime, I've posted a short story, Garden of Nothing, on my writing website here. Also, two interviews on equality in gaming. Check them out if you're interested.

ASOS Boyfriend jeans (old), Macy's Cashmere Sweater (old), Payless Shoes flats (old), Winners tank (recent)

Thursday, March 31

Five Years and an Outfit

 My coworker Meagan took some pictures themed around athleisure for her blog, Flannel Foxes, and I nabbed some to share here as well. Fact is, I wear a lot of clothes that can be categorized as 'athleisure', because of the comfort they afford, and the fact I'm not dying to change into sweats the moment I get home. I like to mix comfortable joggers that have clean lines and dark, neutral colours, with a nice blouse or jacket. It's a great way to transition from the office to home, going out, or even walking the dog and I love the versatility.

These joggers are from Fabletics, but I also have a pair from Everlane, and more than a few from The GAP.

Did you know the blog turned five on Tuesday? Pretty crazy, huh? You might wonder why I haven't been posting outfits here very often anymore, maybe you've been wondering what's going on in my life, or maybe you're stopping by for the first time (if it's that last one, hello!). In any case, I'm going to take a few paragraphs to get real with you for a sec.

Last spring I went off hormonal birth control for the first time in six or so years, and over the next year I gained thirty pounds. Without mincing words, it was a sucky time. I've always been a very body positive person and I struggled to continue feeling that way whilst gaining weight. I didn't fully understand what was happening with my body and I was frustrated and overwhelmed. I stopped buying clothes, I stopped wearing dresses, and I stopped feeling comfortable in my own skin.

To make things extra fun, I found out last summer that I would be losing my job come spring (June 3rd, in fact is my last day). 

The whole time this was going on I maintained that I ate healthily, and that, since I had weighed the same for years and never changed my life style, the problem wasn't with me so much as my hormones. I didn't want to change how I lived, or give up the things I enjoyed (ie, playing video games and eating whatever I wanted).

Turns out I was quietly deluding myself. This spring I joined Weight Watchers and I've so far lost about thirteen pounds. After the first ten pounds came off I noticed a marked difference in my hormones, including experiencing regular periods for the first time all year (if that grosses you out, sorry, but get real with yourself). I know I need to increase my activity levels, but making a change in my eating habits has been as hard as it has been rewarding, and that's to say -- very hard, but very rewarding.

What does this have to do with athleisure you may ask? Well, not much. Not much except I no longer feel restricted to athleisure looks, because I'm beginning to feel comfortable again no matter what I'm wearing.

It's my goal to get back to my original weight from two years ago, when I got married, and I'm almost half way there.

The next few months are looking a little dicey, I am, after all, about to become unemployed, but I'm taking the same renewed confidence from my home life into my career hunt and I'm out there going for my dream.

All that is to say, I'll probably be posting more here about my personal life and outfits, but I've also started a new website where I'll be posting creative writing, game reviews, and hopefully interviews with gamers on diversity and representation in games -- themes that are incredibly important to me but that I haven't been as vocal in the past as I should be.

If you would like to catch up, check out my new website K. Jewell Writes.

Joggers by Fabletics, blouse from The Bay, shoes from Modcloth

 Photographer for these photos was Meagan from Flannel Foxes.

Wednesday, March 23

Game Review: Firewatch

Light A Candle has always been a place I can blog about what's going on in my life, including my interests and passions, so today I'm back to share a review of a fantastic new video game: Firewatch.

Firwatch is the premier game of studio Campo Santo, who describe themselves as "a small but scrappy game developer in San Francisco, CA." who "set out to make games about interesting people in fascinating places."  (from the Campo Santo website).  

Now, at the outset of my review I wanted to explain a few background things. For myself, player choice and representation have always been an imperative part of story telling in games, and when I started playing them I made tons of ludicrous statements such as "I'll only play games where you can play as a woman." Of course, if you're a gamer you know this kind of stipulation is entirely unrealistic (perhaps woefully so).

Prepare for some very light spoilers below. I promise I won't give away anything that doesn't occur in the first five minutes of game play.

In Firewatch, you don't begin the game with an intricate system of categories and sliders, nor do you name your character or pick bits of backstory from a list. In Firewatch, the year is 1989 and you play as Henry. A middle aged man whose life has been a combination of blissful married years (always in a heterosexual union with a woman named Julia), romping and strolling with your dog (here you get some choice between dogs, mine was a beagle named bucket), and dealing with the emotional toll of what becomes a long distance relationship and later your wife's declining health.

Having spent the bulk of my time gaming with RPG's such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect, it was immediately strange to have the choice of who I was playing dictated. Whilst playing through the introduction (which I've done a few times now) it becomes clear that no matter what choices you make as Henry, nothing will ever turn out as you intend. Campo Santo takes away your ability to create a Henry that is a self insert, or to mold a life for him that reflects what your own choices might have been -- instead, we always begin the game with a sad, sick taste in our mouth of a life derailed. (Check out this great article about player agency in Firewatch over at Polygon, spoilers abound).

Things having gone so poorly, Henry (and you the player), have taken a job you found in a local newspaper. It's a summer job, out in the wilderness of Wyoming where you will be charged with keeping watch over the forest for any sign of fire. Your boss is a charming voice on a radio sending you instructions and engaging you in conversation from her own fire tower some distance away. As a player you do have some choice with how much you engage with your boss, Delilah. You could very well choose to ignore most of her conversation options, but through doing so you would lose out on a lot of the games story, and for a game that clocks in at about eight hours of play, that would be quite a loss indeed.

Delilah is instantly likeable and flirtatious and Henry can respond with detachment or receptiveness. Both characters are written with a myriad of flaws bolstered by an absolutely wonderful sense of humor that makes their repartee -- the only real delivery system for the games story -- feel natural, real and engaging.  

The story itself is not at all what I expected. It's a mystery that rachets up from zero to 100. It's an exercise in paranoia and the effects of isolation. It's romantic, tragic, and left me evaluating my life and character in ways I didn't expect. I don't want to give too much away, but despite some deficiencies in the way the mystery is wrapped up, the story was thoroughly enjoyable.

One really can't discuss this game without acknowledging that Firewatch is completely and unabashedly gorgeous. The animation, the art style and the amazing score contribute towards both the atmosphere of isolation and wonder at the incredible natural surroundings. The only problem I had whilst playing was that I was at times so stressed out by the intensity of events that I failed to take my time and inevitably missed a lot of the small details. Were I to play the game  again, I know I would take more time to explore every corner. Not to mention, there's a wonderful mechanic where you come by a disposable camera and can take pictures of your surroundings in game, but I was often so involved in the story I forgot to use this to document the beautiful sunsets and vistas. Trust me when I say this mechanic has it's place and by the end of the game, not using all my disposable film was my biggest regret.

When everything ended, for me about seven hours in, a rush of emotions and thoughts ricocheted around the inside of my head. I wasn't completely convinced that all of the clues made sense when the mystery wrapped, there were definitely some red herrings and smoking guns involved and it took some rowdy discussions with other players for me to feel they sufficiently made sense of all these details. Despite that, the core story of Henry's emotional journey wrapped perfectly and the catharsis I felt around his character was deeply satisfying. Not to mention, once the credits had finished I found myself in tears and incredibly eager to talk to someone -- anyone -- about what I had just experienced.

I also felt the need to schedule another play through, I didn't want the story to end. I was lucky enough to have some friends interested in the game so they played and I watched. Firewatch is just as beautiful to observe, and because it's a short game it made it doable in two sessions.

The brevity of the game has been a contention point for some. One player left a review on Steam saying they were considering a refund because they didn't believe there was enough game play to justify the cost. I would recommend reading the thoughtful response and respectful exchange with the developer that ensued, as it encapsulates a lot of important points about indy game making in today's industry and the price we put on others creativity.

Personally, I feel Firewatch could have done a bit better with its diversity. Because there are only two speaking characters in the game, both of which are very fixed, a player is locked into a specific narrative that might not reflect their own experience at all and even make it uncomfortable for them to engage. For white, heterosexual players Henry is the every man and his story is quite universal, but for minority groups it might feel slightly forced. I think back to my beagle, Bucket. At the outset of the game this is one choice you can make for Henry that leads to an actual divergence of dialogue. If you choose the Beagle, you cannot also have the German Shepard.  This doesn't affect the story at all, but it gives players the illusion of choice and effectively makes them feel more connected to Henry and his illusive, predetermined past.

One question I might pose to the developers is this -- how much more difficult might it have been to, when Henry meets Julia in a bar in the text based intro slide-- give the players the option to meet Julia or John. The name of your spouse and the specific pronouns associated with them would make only a few divergent changes necessary in the dialogue, Julia is never seen on screen, and although she is voiced in one short dream sequence, Henry's sexual identity would have made very little difference to the story being told. The only thing to change at that point would be the undertones of Henry's conversations with Delilah, and since the player already has the option to engage or not with her flirtations, I maintain that little would be different on the surface. Providing this kind of choice can prevent certain audiences from disengaging with the story and give players more of a sense of participation in what is sometimes a passive narrative. 

Ultimately, I think enjoyment of Firewatch boils down to recognizing what it is, and what it isn't.

What Firewatch is, is a beautifully illustrated, animated, acted and scored interactive short story. The story wouldn't be out of place at all printed on the pages of a prestigious anthology. Instead, the game developers decided to let us take part in the unraveling of the narrative which lends us the ability to not only observe, but absorb and learn as though Henry's experiences were our own.

Friday, October 30

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween friends! This year I'm wearing my Cassandra hoodie and pretending that's a costume. ;) Our Saturday sounds like it will be low key with candy, friends, board games and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to celebrate the holiday. Have a fun, safe weekend wherever you are!