My name is Sassa Brown. I am a writer, graphic designer, and publisher. I've had a passion for books since my grandmother taught me to read at the age of 3. I love what I do and am always looking for ways to help others however I can. I've been writing for years. I've ghostwritten some nonfiction books, articles, and blog posts over the years. I also spent two years writing for Condo Magazine and EDI Weekly. During that time, I wrote hundreds of articles on a variety of topics: real estate, Toronto news, technology, medicine, auto industry, and more. You can check out some samples of my writing below.
Condo Magazine Article
The Safe Way to Spring Clean
Environmentally Friendly and Healthy Ways to Clean Your Condo
Spring is in the air. The birds are chirping, the pollen count is high, lovers are gazing adoringly into one another’s eyes, and people everywhere are frantically scrubbing every square inch of their homes and shrieking in horror as their kids track mud onto their newly polished floors. Spring cleaning time has come again, and now we must cleanse our homes and our lives of all the filth of the past. Okay, so maybe we cannot sweep away all our problems, but it would certainly be nice if things were that simple.
In the meantime, we can focus our efforts on making our environment as clean, safe, and healthy as possible. Unfortunately, once we become enthralled in the chaos that is spring cleaning, we tend to overlook the unnecessary chemicals with which we complete our mile-long chore lists. These chemicals can prove detrimental to our health, as well as that of our children and pets. They can be particularly harmful to those with asthma, compromised immune systems, and a host of other medical issues. While it is certainly important that we keep our homes clean and sanitary, it is also essential that we keep the safety and wellbeing of our families in mind while doing so.
Air fresheners and furniture polish contain pesticides and other toxic chemicals, which can interfere with your ability to smell. They are also flammable and harmful to your skin. Bleach is highly corrosive and harmful, especially in the hands of a curious toddler. Let’s be real. They will get into anything, no matter how closely you watch over them. All it takes is a quick trip to the restroom for them to get their hands on everything in your cleaning cabinets. Most cleaners contain harmful substances such as ammonia, hydrochloric acid, and formaldehyde. (Poisons Under Your Sink: Hidden Danger of Cleaning Products, Mama’s Health)
Luckily, we have access to a wide range of products and methods for cleaning which are not only effective but also quite safe. Appliances such as washing machines can be cleaned out with vinegar. Pour some into your empty washing machine and run it through a cycle. Vinegar has a particularly strong, unpleasant scent. This may cause you to be wary of using this highly versatile product. Do not let that deter you, though. This problem is easily solved with several drops of essential oils, which not only have a much more pleasant scent but also have a calming effect that can make spring cleaning much more tolerable.
However, it is important to remember that while vinegar can double as a powerful cleaning agent, it is not reliable in all instances. Do not under any circumstances use it on floors, granite, marble, or other similar surfaces. The acidity will do far more harm than good. It is also not recommended for use in removing egg spills. Vinegar will actually make such messes more difficult to clean. (6 Things You Should Never Clean with Vinegar, Good Housekeeping, Dec 2015)
Odors build up quickly in dishwashers, but cleaning them is not as difficult a task as one might think. If you have some baking soda on hand, the dishwasher can practically clean itself. Placing a cup of baking soda in the dishwasher and running a full cycle will eliminate pesky odors and leave the dishwasher running much more smoothly. (Cleaning Appliances with Baking Soda and Vinegar, Mother Earth News, April 2014)
Microwaves are also extremely easy to clean, and they do not require any chemicals or special homemade cleaning concoctions. An old trick that was passed down to me does wonders and makes the entire process take less than five minutes, no matter how filthy it is. If it can tackle a microwave splattered with chili and cheese that my son forgot, then it can handle anything you throw at it. Simply place a bowl full of water in the microwave, set it to cook for two or three minutes, and remove the bowl and turntable. Microwaving the bowl of water in this way softens up food and grime so that it can be easily wiped away. After doing so, use a mixture of mild soap and warm water to quickly clean out the microwave so that it is sanitary. Wash the turntable and place it back in the microwave.
Ovens are a bit tricky and can be difficult to clean once spills and stains have set in. According to Jennifer Chait from Inhabitots, the best tactic for cleaning ovens is to do so immediately after a spill. While the oven is still hot, sprinkle some salt onto the spill or stain. Allow the oven to cool completely and clean up the spill with a damp cloth. (HOW TO: Make Your Own Eco, Kid-Safe Cleaning Supplies, Inhabitots, Dec 2008)
That is some good advice to have going forward. For now, considering your oven may already be covered in crispy food bits, spray down the entire inside of your oven. Do NOT turn it on. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda all over the spills and stains. Spray the baking soda with the water to ensure that all of it is wet. It is important that it absorbs the water to make a paste-like substance. Walk away and continue on to other things while it sets in for a few hours. Come back and wipe the mess away with a damp cloth. If it takes a couple attempts, that is okay. Some spills, such as melted cheese, can be stubborn. This method is highly effective and 100% natural. (Natural Oven Cleaning Recipe, Wellness Mama, April 2017)
By now, you have likely finished most of the kitchen without breaking a sweat (or collapsing a lung, for that matter). Refrigerators can be cleaned out with a mixture of hot water, natural soap, and fresh lemons. Stone, marble, and granite can easily be cleaned with a mixture of soap and water. Again, do not use any vinegar, lemon, or other acidic products on them. Be sure to brush gently rather than scrubbing harshly so that you do not ruin your surfaces. Sweep the floors and mop them using the same formula that was used when cleaning your refrigerator. Make sure the water is hot.
Begrudgingly, you realize you must now tackle the one room you dread over all others. You make your way down the hall, cleaning materials in hand. You arrive at your destination, inhale deeply, and open the door only to find yourself staring straight into the Throne Zone… the porcelain throne, that is. (Cue horror film score and flashbacks of the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.) Thankfully, defeating this monster of a room does not have to be so deadly… or dramatic.
As foul-smelling as it may be (especially if you share your home and your heart with rambunctious little boys), the washroom is easily conquered without the use of industrial-strength chemical agents. The commode, for instance, simply needs to be soaked in a formula comprised of a small amount of baking soda mixed with vinegar for half an hour. Afterwards, scrub thoroughly to ensure it is clean and sanitized all over. Repeat the process if necessary. Then gently wipe down the outside of the commode once more before moving on.
A mild paste made from soap, baking soda, and warm water will work its magic on your shower and sinks. Before you begin, however, be sure to remove any hair or other items which may be clogging your drains. Remove the stoppers and any hair, Lego pieces, and Barbie shoes which might have found their way in there. Flush the system out by pouring baking soda and then vinegar into the drain. Allow it to soak until it has broken down any dirt, grime, and residue. Pour scorching hot water down the drain to finish the job before you continue cleaning the rest of your shower and sinks. After taking out the trash and finishing the washroom, a well-deserved break is in order. The worst is behind you.
EDI Weekly Article
A Tribute to the Life and Work of Stephen Hawking
The world is mourning the recent passing of Stephen Hawking at the age of 76, following a long battle with a debilitating neurodegenerative condition that left him paralyzed. The renowned physicist has made a lasting impression on those who knew him, as well as scientists around the globe. “The world has lost a beautiful mind and a brilliant scientist,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai via Twitter.
. . .
As we pay our respects and say goodbye to Hawking, let us take a moment to look back on the life that he lived and his contributions to the world of science.
Stephen Hawking’s Beginnings
Stephen Hawking was born in Oxford, England on January 8, 1942, the first of Frank and Isobel Hawking’s four children. He began to notice problems with his physical health while attending Oxford. He would occasionally trip and fall, his speech began to slur, etc. However, he did not look into the problem until his first year at the University of Cambridge in 1963. Although Hawking had mostly kept symptoms to himself, his father began to notice a problem and took him to see a doctor.
. . .
Despite this diagnosis and subsequent paralysis, Hawking went on to become a brilliant scientist, professor, and author. He performed groundbreaking work in physics and cosmology, and his books helped to make science accessible to everyone.
In 1988, Hawking published A Brief History of Time, which offered an overview of space and time, the existence of God, and the future. The book was a remarkable success and spent more than four years at the top of the best-seller list in the London Sunday Times. Since publication, over ten million copies have sold worldwide, and the book has been translated into over 40 languages.
Despite the intention to make science more accessible, the book was not as easy to understand as some originally thought. This prompted Hawking to follow-up with another book, The Universe in a Nutshell, which served as a more illustrated guide. This was eventually followed up with an even more simplified book, A Briefer History of Time. In addition to simplifying the concepts in the first two publications, this book also touched on new developments, such as those within the field of string theory.
. . .
Hawking’s View of the Importance of Travelling Beyond Earth
Stephen Hawking was known to have a vision for the future, which included humanity’s exploration beyond the Earth and its atmosphere. He believed that the survival of humans depended on its ability to branch out and evolve on planets other than our own.
“I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space,” said Hawking in a 2008 interview with CNN. “The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet.”
In May of last year, Hawking warned that humans have approximately 100 years to leave Earth in order to ensure their survival. “I strongly believe we should start seeking alternative planets for possible habitation,” he said. “We are running out of space on Earth, and we need to break through the technological limitations preventing us from living elsewhere in the universe.”
. . .
Hawking’s Final Work
Hawking worked on his final book, A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation, until his death on March 14th. In the book, he predicted an end to the universe, which he said would result from the stars running out of energy. Despite this somber prediction, he theorized that scientists could potentially find alternate universes using probes on spaceships, which would allow humans to form an even better understanding of our own universe and our place in the cosmos.
The work was published alongside his co-author, Professor Thomas Hertog. “He has often been nominated for the Nobel and should have won it,” said Professor Hertog. “Now he never can.” Of this latest work, however, he says that Hawking could have, and likely would have, won.
A Dream Come True
Although Hawking never fully achieved his goal of flying into space, he came remarkably close during a visit to Kennedy Space Center in 2007. On April 26th, Hawking soared weightlessly aboard a Zero-G Corp. jet that took off from the shuttle runway and completed a series of parabolic arcs.
The original plan was for him to complete a single parabola, which is a maneuver that provides approximately 25 seconds of weightlessness during steep dives. These parabolas are often used to train NASA astronauts, and they briefly subject passengers to higher gravity which makes them feel twice as heavy as they would on the ground. The plan was to complete one, and if all went well, he could complete two more.
“His eyes lit up,” said Zero-G’s chief technical officer Byron Lichtenberg. “He just had a grin from ear to ear, that first time he floated.” He was so elated and doing so well that doctors continued to clear him for a total of eight parabolas. “He was just such an incredible man and such a brilliant person, that to be able to let him float free out of that wheelchair was really amazing,” said Lichtenberg.
A Final Farewell
As the world says goodbye to Hawking, it is comforting to imagine that his boundless energy lives on and is drifting into the cosmos where he knew he belonged. Thanks to his brilliant mind, passion for his work, and tremendous contributions, his legacy will live on and serve as an inspiration for generations to come.
NYX Face Awards 2017
Update: I am pleased to announce that Ashley has made it to the Final Six and is headed to LA for the finale. Congratulations, Ashley!
The Face Awards, hosted by NYX Professional Makeup, seeks to find the “Beauty Vlogger of the Year.” The competition is open to professionals and amateurs alike. This year’s Face Awards began on April 3rd and will end on August 19th with a live awards show. The competition is fierce, and the entries have showcased an enormous amount of talent that leaves viewers in awe.
Competitors have recently uploaded their video entries in the hopes of landing a spot in the finale. The theme for this round is Cyberpunk, and the entries are amazing. I recently had the opportunity to speak with the lovely Ashley Quiroz, who is in the Top Twelve. The 22-year-old makeup artist is incredibly talented and dedicated, often spending long hours working on her videos on top of raising a family and working full-time. Read on to learn a little more about her, and then watch the videos below to see her entries for this year’s Face Awards competition.
I hear you are from Surprise, Arizona. What school did you attend, and where do you live now?
I am from Surprise. I originally grew up in El Mirage and went to probably three different schools in the district. Once I got into High School, I went to Dysart for the most part and Valley Vista for a small time.
How long have you been doing makeup as a form of art? What first interested you in it?
I have been doing makeup as long as I can remember. I started off bold from the get go. In middle school, I played around with the simple stuff like eyeliners and bronzer (and horrible brows). In high school, I always had a full face. I’d always try new things and new colors. I started really getting into transformations and things like that over the past couple of years.
Is this something you learned on your own, or did you seek training?
I learned everything I know from myself and getting inspired by other beauties online.
What is the competition like from an insider’s perspective?
Nerve wrecking! It’s truly an amazing experience and so incredibly fun; but yes, it can be very stressful. I have to balance work, having two kids, my YouTube channel, and the competition, so I really have had to manage my time wisely. It’s so fulfilling when you finally post your next challenge video and the response is positivity from the people who watch you.
Speaking of which, what is it like to balance all of that, especially with two young children?
It’s been quite challenging but also rewarding once I’m done. I’m not able to just film my videos whenever I want. I truly have to set a plan and stay structured for it to work. I’ve gone into work with face paint stains on me and spray paint stuck in my hair. Luckily, I have an amazing team at work, and they’re rooting for me even if I’ve been a mess lately.
Are you nervous, excited, or a little bit of both?
I’m a lot of both… even just thinking about it.
Is there anything else that you would like readers to know about yourself, the competition, or both?
I would like them to know that if they have something they’re passionate about, go for it! I’ve wanted to enter this competition for years, and this year I finally went for it. I never would have guessed that my first year entering, I would have made it this far. It’s a dream of mine, and that’s why I’m so determined to make it to the finals.
Thank you, Ashley, for allowing me to interview you. You are incredibly talented, and I wish you all the best. Good luck in the competition.
Watch these videos below to see her entries thus far in the competition, and then head over to the Face Awards to show your support. You can vote up to three times daily, and the deadline is Friday. Get those votes in and share this with family and friends. #teamcakess
Since this article is still published, I'm only including an excerpt. You can find the full article here.
(published under my pen name, S.B. Rhodes)
The bond between siblings is a strange thing. Some siblings are joined at the hip, while others are their own biggest rivals. For Abigail and Olivia Manchester, it was the latter. They had not always been so distant. In fact, their mother loved to remind them during each of their arguments that they were best friends from the very beginning, even holding hands in their ultrasound.
However, their friendship was put to the test more than a few times over the years, starting with minor issues and escalating to all-out war. Before long, they had stopped talking altogether, and it seemed that any hope of rekindling their friendship was lost forever. Then tragedy struck, and they were forced to pick up the pieces.
Olivia sat on the sofa, looking at the photo of her mother and father on their wedding day. “We’ll never see them again,” she said, tears streaming down her face. She thought back to the night that everything changed, Christmas Eve.
Family had come down for the holidays, and everyone was settling in. Mother was in the kitchen, cooking up a storm, and the house smelled of apples and cinnamon. A delicate glass bowl sat on the coffee table, filled to the brim with homemade candies. Grandfather and the uncles were in the parlor with father, and Grandmother was in the kitchen, trying her best to help but mostly complaining that Mother put far too many pecans on her pie. “I’m liable to chip a tooth!” she said.
Mother replied that she could just remove the excess pecans if she liked – or help herself to any of the other desserts that are being prepared for dinner. Aunt Sophia laughed at the two of them, reminiscing about her and Mother’s shared childhood and how they were always at odds with Grandmother. Mother and Grandmother were too busy bickering to pay Aunt Sophia any mind, so she joined the twins in the family room and attempted to make small talk.
Olivia sat in the corner, furiously wrapping gifts. “Olivia, those look lovely. You have quite the talent. Maybe I should have you wrap gifts for me next year.”
She smiled at her aunt. “Thanks. They’re for a local children’s shelter. Someone is coming by in a bit to pick them up, so I’m trying to get them done as quickly as possible.”
“I see. Then I will leave you to it.”
She turned to her other niece and looked her up and down. “Oh, honey, look at you! That dress is stunning!”
“Thank you. Wait until you see the one I bought for tomorrow. It took me three paychecks to afford it, but it was worth it.”
“I’ll bet. You must have to beat the boys off with a stick. Are you seeing anyone?”
Olivia overheard Abigail excitedly telling her about David and stormed upstairs. The sudden fury caught Aunt Sophia off-guard, and she looked back and forth between her and Abigail, who was now looking down at her feet in apparent shame.
“Olivia, are you all right?” called out her aunt from downstairs.
She was too furious and too close to tears to be able to choke out an answer. She grabbed her backpack and began stuffing as many of her belongings as possible into it. Despite the pre-determined sleeping arrangements, she could no longer handle bunking with her sister. So, she grabbed her things and moved into the basement until she could get her own room back.
Her mother called after her, but she did not want to hear it. She just wanted to be alone. Unfortunately, her wish was granted. Now, the only person she had left in the world was her sister. She wished she could see her mother again and talk to her about how she was feeling. She would give anything to see her walk through the door like she always did when they were having a hard time. She wasn’t sure if it was the fresh-baked cookies she made during troubling times or her way of always knowing exactly what to say, but somehow their mother could always coax them out of a bad mood. If only she had given her a chance this time, things might have turned out differently.
“Oh, mom,” she said sadly as she walked through the house. The ash-covered floors and singed walls gave an ominous feel that made her shudder. She entered the family room and looked around. The gifts she had been frantically trying to wrap were gone, and the supplies were all put up nicely. Someone had finished them for her. She turned toward the fireplace and reached out to touch it… ever so softly. That was where it started.
Their little cousin, Aaron, had awoken in the middle of the night to get a glass of water. On his way back, he tripped over an extension cord. In his half-asleep state, he failed to notice that the dancing Santa had toppled over into the fireplace. He crawled the few feet over to the air mattress he shared with his brother and fell back asleep. By the time firefighters arrived, the entire house was engulfed in flames.
Abigail sat in her room, holding the promise ring David had given her as a gift just before Christmas break. She held it to her chest as she thought back to the night of the Winter dance. She had attempted to be discreet when sneaking out of the auditorium to see him.
She did not mean to hurt her sister, but they had fallen for each other. She felt that she owed it to herself to pursue the relationship, and she rationalized it by telling herself that she would be saving her sister from being tied down to someone who did not love her anyway. She had intended to wait until things got serious to tell her sister, but the truth was revealed earlier than she hoped when Olivia caught the two of them kissing in the hallway. Abigail would never forget the look of betrayal and heartbreak on her sister’s face. How did things get so complicated? she thought to herself.
As she went to Olivia’s room, she found her on the floor, sobbing over an old photo album. In the album were photos of the two of them and all the things they had done together over the years… birthday parties, family vacations, paintball wars, dances, learning to ride their bikes, and so much more. They had been so close, and now it felt like they were strangers… yet they were all each other had.
“I’m so sorry, Liv!” said Abigail through tears. “I never meant to hurt you; I swear.”
“Why did you have to take him, Abby? He was the only boy I ever loved. It was always so easy for you, but he was the only one who even looked at me.”
Those words cut deep, and all she could bring herself to do was lower her head in shame as the tears began to fall once again. She sat next to her twin and wrapped her arms around her. They sat in silence before continuing to go through their belongings. Before long, they were reminiscing over the good times, which slowly began to drown out the bad memories.
“Why did you come back for me?” asked Oliva.
The question pierced Abigail’s heart, and she turned to face her sister. “Why wouldn’t I? You’re my sister, and I love you. I couldn’t leave you down there.”
As they embraced, they heard the sound of the moving truck approaching. They rose to their feet and stepped into the hallway just in time to see their parents walk through the front door. The looks of pain on their faces were unbearable, but all the twins could do was watch as they packed up box after box.
Packing up the house was almost unbearable. So many happy memories were made in that house, and now those were overshadowed by heartache and tragedy. The markings on the wall from measuring the kids’ growth over the years were difficult to see, but Mrs. Manchester could not help rubbing her fingers over them anyway. As she walked over to grab the final box, she found the matching set of lockets she had once given to her daughters, one last sign from them that they were watching over her and that they were together again.