Beauty Reviews – Summer 2016

  • Lush “Brazilliant” Shampoo Bar: I’ve tried shopping at Lush before and I just can’t. We have one in our mall and I go in and the scents just overwhelm me and give me a headache. I wonder if they haven’t actually done something about their ventilation system, because when I went to check out the shampoo bars a couple weeks ago based on a friend’s recommendation, I felt for once like I could breathe in there. I spoke to the sales associate and asked her which shampoo bar she would recommend for my hair: fine and frizzy, so I need something to make it sleek, but not weigh it down too much. She had a couple recommendations, but I ended up with Brazilliant, which has clarifying citrus and sweet orange oil for smoothness. It also smells amazing. I still use my regular conditioner and stuff, but my hair has been so soft since I’ve been using it, with really full volume!
  • Posh Rubby Scrubby: I’ve been trying a couple Posh products lately since a friend started selling it. This is one of my favorites – it’s a minty foot scrub in a handy tube you can easily use in the shower. I am obsessed with foot scrubs… If you don’t have a Posh lady, let me know and I’ll hook you up with mine ;o)
  • IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Powder: A while ago my mom was raving about the IT Cosmetics eyebrow pencil and even gave me one. It’s ok, but not my favorite (I prefer a little bit softer pencil). That was my only experience with the brand until I was watching QVC one night and saw a demo of this “Bye Bye Pores Silk Finishing Powder.” The actual product I purchased is no longer online; it’s a loose powder, not pressed, and came paired with a nice fluffy brush. I am liking it, especially for summer. It really does give you a nice finish! The loose powder is very light and leaves a little cloud in the air, which I could do without, so I might try the pressed powder version next time. On the program, they said the brush was so popular, beauty bloggers were naming theirs? I don’t know about that, but it’s nice…
  • Baby Foot Exfoliating Peel: Remember how I said I was obsessed with foot scrubs? So why not try the ultimate foot softener that’s been making the rounds on social media? You’ll find lots of variations of these, but basically they’re all pre-filled plastic booties you wear for an hour or so to give an acid peel to your feet. After a few days of nothing happening, you’ll be treated to a few fun-filled days of peeling sheets of skin off your feet, followed by baby soft goodness. I feel like there are several stages to using one of these:
    1. The waiting period – After applying the peel, you wait around looking for any signs that your feet are starting to peel. This can last a couple days to a week.
    2. The bottom peeling period – You’re not supposed to pick at it, but once your feet do start peeling, you kind of have to pull the dead skin off or you’ll end up with flaps hanging off and leave a skin trail everywhere. You’re supposed to soak your feet daily to help encourage this process. My friend MB invited me to swim in her pool a few days after the treatment, and woah did that accelerate things! It’s gross and fun and you’ll end up collecting piles of skin as you idly pull it off your feet.
    3. The top peeling period – The bottoms of your feet are so smooth and you think you’re done, but then the tops start peeling! For me this was not as much fun as the bottom because it didn’t really come off in sheets, it just flaked and looked like I had a bad sunburn, which I hope is what most people thought as well, since you can’t really hide the tops of your feet as well as the bottoms. If I do this again, I will try to limit the amount of solution that gets on the tops of my feet, and just try to focus on the soles.
    4. The soft period – The peel won’t necessarily remove callouses but it will make them softer, so enjoy that time before everything gets gross again.

    It really does work and my feet are super soft, especially considering it’s the middle of summer and I’ve been living in sandals and no socks for months. I definitely recommend doing this just before sandal season starts, so your peeling feet are hidden. Also, they say it won’t affect nail polish but the one I used at least did wear a couple spots in mine (I just added another coat on top) so beware if you’re about to get a pedicure or something. And I think it did something to actually make the color soak into my nails more, because when I removed it a couple weeks later, all my toenails were stained (which has not happened before). Maybe just do the peel when your toenails are naked.

Tieks!

I’ve been following Tieks for a few years now, probably ever since they came out with their gray felt model, which are gorgeous but were out of my usual price range for shoes. However, many of the women who are involved with the same business as me love their Tieks, own multiple pairs in every color, and rave about the customer service. Looking online, basically nobody has anything bad to say about them. There are reviews from women who wear them to travel all over, even on trips to Disney World. (Ok, for the record, there are some negative reviews if you search for them. But 99% of what you’ll find is extremely positive about every aspect of the product and company.) So with my favorite black leather flats* long since worn out, I decided to invest in what seems to be most people’s “starter” pair of Tieks, Matte Black.

Just a little background, if you’re not familiar with these shoes: they are known for being super comfortable, incredibly well made, come in a million colors and patterns, have pretty turquoise soles, and can fold in half in their own little bag so you can take them with you and switch them out when your heels get too uncomfortable. Oprah swears by them. Their customer service is said to be top notch, and they include a hand written note with every order.

So I placed my order on a Thursday morning, and expected to be walking on clouds by the following week. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a shipping notification by lunchtime the same day, and they were actually scheduled to arrive on Saturday! They arrived on time, all the way from California. As I had been expecting, they came folded in half inside a little cube-shaped box, topped with a big green flower decoration. I’d included a note at check-out saying that I was excited to try them after the rave reviews from the ladies in my biz. A hand written note was included in my package, but it was just a general, “Hope you love your black Tieks” message, it didn’t reference anything I’d written to them.

First thoughts upon putting them on: they were immediately comfortable, except they were so tight across the tops of my toes, and my big toes were noticeably visible. If someone told me I had to put them on and wear them somewhere right then, I would have done it and probably been fine. I wore them around the house with socks on for the morning, just to break them in a little and protect myself from blisters. But when I took them off, my feet hurt! Although the whole body of the shoe felt great, it was very tight over my big toes, to the point where they almost felt numb! And even though I’d just been sitting most of the time I had them on, the bottoms of my feet hurt like I’d been standing around. I even asked about this on Instagram, and some of the Tieks fans recommended that I try sizing up, which seems excessive, given that the rest of the shoe fits fine, and I knew they would stretch some as well. Others recommended that I just continue wearing thick socks to break them in, so I wore them all evening with the fattest, fluffiest socks I own. They were starting to feel better by the time I went to bed, though it seemed silly to have to put that much effort into breaking in such expensive shoes… (Some reviews I read mentioned having to break them in for 2-6 months!)

I e-mailed Tieks customer service and they wrote back within a couple hours, and I had a nice exchange with CS rep Erin. We determined that the length of the shoe was fine and I probably just had to wear them a little more (she hadn’t heard of it taking months, but sometimes several wears). She offered to send me the next larger size so I could compare them both, but actually by that night I could already tell that they had loosened some and were a little more comfortable, so I declined.

Thinking I was off on the right foot (pun intended), I started making my wish list for my next pair… Feather Grey, Cobalt Blue, Metallic Pewter, Silver Lake, Lilac, Tiek Blue Patent… However, even after a couple weeks of wearing with socks, they still weren’t super comfy in bare feet. Plus, some of the stitching on the inside of the sole seemed a little loose in the area where they folded, and that made me wonder about quality. I’d wanted to bring these shoes with me when I traveled to California for my conference, but I just couldn’t imagine taking them. So, back they went, and I bought an emergency pair of new shoes.** (Luckily I’d never worn them outside the house, because I heard once you’ve worn them out, they’re no longer returnable.) I requested a return address label, which Tieks sent via e-mail, they were picked up by the mailman, and I received my refund in just a couple days, no hassle.

* I love these Nine West “Blustery” flats… They are so comfy, super cute, great shape. I had 3 pairs. One I never wore so I sold them. The black leather ones I wore holes in the heels within just a couple months, so they look like trash, but I still wear them. I also have a fabric pair that I wear quite a lot that has held up really well.

** And what emergency shoes did I panic and pick up? A pair of black Gigi Point Flats by Christian Siriano for Payless. I love Payless, I’m always so pleased with everything I get there! These were cute, sophisticated, and comfy for a long day of walking and standing around.

Photo: Tieks Instagram

California Dreamin’

Went to southern California last week for a conference. It was the furthest I’ve ever been from home (yes, turns out it was even a little further than when I’d gone to Mexico). Overall, the convention was great, I had fun (despite poor crowd control) and loved meeting people. I was also pretty proud of the capsule wardrobe I packed and being able to fit everything into one carry-on bag.



Something I learned about the Los Angeles area: when they give the weather forecast on TV, they actually have to give five different forecasts for all the different climates: beach, downtown, mountains, valley, and desert. We were about an hour east of LA and I was not expecting it to be as mountainous there as it was. Besides the landscape and use of Spanish style architecture, it was pretty much like home, though – lots of traffic and strip malls, lol!

Let me tell you about my Coxsackie…

About two weeks ago, I suddenly started feeling very sick and just tired and run down. My throat got really sore. I didn’t have a cold or anything, I just felt drained. Luckily, it really only lasted a couple days, one of which I worked from home and just napped between meetings. (I probably had a fever, too, but I was too tired to get up and find the thermometer.)

That all finally passed, and then I noticed this tiny bump on one of my fingers. The next day I had a couple more, and then a couple more. By that Friday, the palms of my hands and edges of my fingers were covered in little red dots and bumps, and I noticed the same thing on my feet when I got out of the shower! Then I worried.

My mom told me to go to the urgent care place nearby, so I went in and was seen right away (they’re great there). The doctor came in, I told him my symptoms again, and he asked, “Do you have kids?” No. “Are you a teacher?” No. “Well, have you ever heard of the Coxsackie virus?” Actually yes! MB had just been telling me that she thought baby R had Coxsackie, also known as Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. Yes, the thing babies get. Although it’s mostly found in kids, adults can get it too, so I must have picked up the germ somewhere 7-10 days earlier!

There is no treatment, but it’s also not really serious – although in adults it can cause fluid around the heart that can lead to heart disease, so the doctor did listen to my heartbeat (nice and strong, no fluids). So I just had to wait it out. By that point I was feeling totally fine, except for the bumps on my hands and feet, which were just annoying. The following day was probably the height of the bump situation – they didn’t really itch or hurt, but they were just uncomfortable (especially the ones on my feet, as I walked around).

Luckily, the bumps really started to heal over after that. It’s now a week later, and really all the dots and bumps are gone, except you can still kind of see shadows of the first ones that appeared (they lasted the longest and were the worst). I’ve been trying to exfoliate my hands to help them clear up faster, lol!



Charleston 2016!

Remember when GG and I went to Charleston, SC? We had such a great time, we’ve basically been talking about it for the last 4 years. It was really a perfect vacation. So with our 10th wedding anniversary (!!!) coming up, we decided to go back! We booked our time well in advance, because we knew it would be a tough week for GG to get off work. Hotel rates seemed much higher than when we were there before, probably because it was more in the midst of the Spoleto Festival. I ended up booking us an Airbnb a couple months in advance, and then one morning I woke up to a message saying the reservation had been cancelled by the owner! Turns out, hotels in Charleston are suing Airbnb, so until everything was worked out, property owners were advised to cancel any pending reservations. GG and I started looking for other options, and found that in the meantime the rate at the Elliott House, where we stayed in 2012, was back down to where it had been before, so we booked it! And thus concluded our pre-vacation drama.

Wednesday, June 1: The week before we left, a tropical storm hit the area hard enough to cause flooding that closed down areas of I-95 for a while. Luckily, everything had cleared up just in time for us to leave. We didn’t stop anywhere on the way to South Carolina this time (except a creepy gas station in Virginia where I made the mistake of using the ladies’ room!). We left early in the morning and GG drove until we were past DC, then I took over for a long stretch (only listened to “Hamilton” once!), and then we switched back shortly before our destination. We had planned to take one day while we were there and drive over to Savannah, GA, but as we pulled into town, I was so sick of driving that I said to GG, “I know this sounds crazy [because we already have a detailed written agenda], but I would be ok with scrapping Savannah and doing something else around here that day instead.” So we did! (Read on to see what that was!)

We hadn’t really planned anything for our first evening in town, but GG had ideas for us. As soon as we checked into the hotel, we headed two doors down to Poogan’s Porch, where we sat at the bar and shared an order of the smoked gouda mac & cheese that just about put him in a coma four years earlier. We learned about two things there: a local beer called Pluff Mud (which GG enjoyed throughout the trip), and the existence of Poogan’s Smokehouse, which we immediately added to our agenda for later in the week. After that stop, we went next door to Husk, where we got a table in the carriage house bar and enjoyed a cheese platter and crazy burger with bacon in the burger meat. (Bacon is the main theme of Charleston.) Now here’s the sad part: after dinner, we went for an evening walk around town. I was wearing sandals that are usually extremely comfortable, but for some reason they gave me huge blisters that night! So for the rest of our trip, I had to wear the one pair of more sneaker-like enclosed shoes that I’d brought (which probably was better for my feet, but still!).



Poogan’s Porch mac & cheese

Cheese plate at the Husk bar

Not glamorous, but glad to be out of the car!

One other funny story about the hotel: the majority of the guest rooms are all along one side, which faces the alley next to Husk. Last time, our room was right above Husk’s dumpster, where they were constantly clanking glass bottles and trash. (It was the hottest dumpster in Charleston, though!) This time, as we checked in, GG said to me, “I hope our room isn’t on the first floor.” It was on the first floor (which was fine, we didn’t have to go up any steps and there was no problem). I jokingly said, maybe we’d be right by Husk’s kitchen entrance. Well, we walked into the room, opened the blinds, and the kitchen door was literally right outside the window! LOL! It really wasn’t any problem at all though. It wasn’t that noisy, there were wooden blinds that pretty much prevented anyone from seeing in, and we had a full blackout curtain for nighttime. Just thought it was funny :o)

Thursday, June 2: I know I said I was sick of driving, but, today was the day we planned to do a couple things just outside of downtown, so it was back in the car for a short ride. Our first stop was the Angel Oak Tree. The Angel Oak is often said to be the oldest tree in the country, and it really isn’t, though it is very old and very large. It’s impressive and beautiful, and you are free to just wander around it and admire up close or from afar. You can take pictures, although there are signs all around it that you can’t move. But don’t worry, because there is a gift shop!! We met an artist named Frank deLoach who was working on a really interesting painting of the tree. He said for years he did realistic tree paintings and couldn’t give them away. Then he started doing this technique and people are trying to buy them before he’s even finished, and he sells them for thousands of dollars. He mixes sand with paint to create the sketchy outline, then fills in the voids with color. Also, if you light the painting from just the right angle, the outlines cast shadows that give the piece a whole new look! Angel Oak pro tip: arrive early; we were there first thing in the morning and it was already getting crowded by the time we left.



Before we left, my mom warned me to stay on paved surfaces and not go under trees. Whoops.

This is the painting on an angle – here it is straight on

Our next stop was Magnolia Plantation. There are several plantations you can visit along the Ashley River and I was a little disappointed with the one we saw before because it turned out it was “preserved” (i.e. kept in the same dilapidated state it was when the last owner died), not restored. Magnolia is the one everyone talks about, because it’s a huge property you can explore, and in addition to the house there is a garden, zoo, swamp tour, etc. I really just wanted to see the house, so we bought admission to the garden (which you need to be able to do anything else) and a scheduled house tour. We had time before the tour to explore the garden, and then wandered down to the river, which was the site of a British attack that preceded the battle of Yorktown (“Hamilton” has really improved my knowledge of the American revolution!). It was very beautiful but also very hot, so I was glad to get inside and check out their little indoor museum as well. They had some connection to the Grimké family, which was fictionalized in The Invention of Wings. (We’ll refer to this book again later, too! I read it because of its Charleston and Philadelphia connections!) The house tour was good; the property has had a long history, and actually is currently owned by the same family – the gardens were created by an early owner to make his wife happy, since he took her away from her city home, and were later opened to the public to make some money by charging admission.



The front of the house actually faces the river, since that’s how guests would arrive; this is the back that faces toward the gardens

We went back to town and had lunch at Eli’s Table, which was one of GG’s picks, and happened to be right around the corner from our hotel. After we mentioned to the waiter that we were from Philly, he brought over a waitress who was originally from Pennsylvania. Would you believe she went to the same high school as me?! Small world! Anyway, the meal was amazing. Afterward, we went on a little quest to visit some of the new distilleries in town. We first headed to Charleston Distilling Company, producer of a sorghum whisky that GG picked up. They have a tasting room, but due to SC’s weird regulations, you can’t just visit that area. You have to pay for a full tour, and then at the end you get the tasting. GG just bought a bottle of what he wanted, and then they let him in and basically gave him a little tour anyway.



We were going to try to walk to another distillery after that, but realized how far away it was, and it was super hot out and we were getting cranky, so we got ice cream instead :o) They have Jeni’s ice cream in Charleston! In what became our usual schedule for the remainder of the trip, we went back to the hotel, took sponge baths, changed, and then went out to dinner. Our reservation was for SNOB (Slightly North Of Broad), a restaurant we missed on our last trip. It was very good, but I think we only went there because it’s one of those “must try” restaurants everyone talks about. Now we’ve tried it. After dinner, we went for a walk around Waterfront Park and caught our first glimpse of the pineapple fountain this trip.

Friday, June 3: On the schedule today was a trip to the South Carolina Aquarium, which we had skipped last time because it seemed like a lot of kid stuff, and we’ve been to aquariums before. However, this year I learned that the aquarium is home to a Sea Turtle Hospital, and you can schedule a tour of this facility in addition to your aquarium admission! The aquarium was nice, though we realized after we’d gone through everything that we’d kind of done it backwards – you’re supposed to start upstairs with the “mountain” environment, and then work your way though all of SC’s ecosystems until you get to the “coast.” We did it the other way around, and I guess that’s why sometimes it seemed like doors didn’t have signs on them, it was because we were going through from the wrong side, haha! At our scheduled time, we met up with our turtle hospital tour group (including a Charleston transplant who was originally from our area in PA, you see this is becoming a theme), and we headed outside to the hospital entrance. The “tour” isn’t so much a guided experience as it is learning about the hospital, and then they just let everyone inside to wander and ask questions of the staffers. I was worried it was going to be sad but it really wasn’t – most of the turtles there were greatly improved from when they came in, and were swimming happily around their tanks and getting ready to go home! Turtle hospital pro tip: Book your tour in advance, they will fill up! (Actually, the hospital is going to be moving to a more prominent spot later this fall, so I don’t know how it’s going to work going forward.)



This non-native species is taking over the Atlantic Ocean, hope you find them delicious!

This huge tank was pretty cool (human included for scale) – we also saw a dive show they did in here

Turtle Hospital was basically 15-20 tanks like this, filled with recovering sea turtles

After the aquarium we thought we’d hit up a couple of the historic homes, but we weren’t really in the right location to visit both, so we just did the Joseph Manigault House, which is right across from the Charleston Museum (we visited last time) where we bought the tickets. The house is beautiful, but the “tour” again was just a speech in the foyer, then we were split into two groups and half explored upstairs on their own while half explored downstairs, then we switched. We did hang behind after the tour and speak to the docents about stuff like how bad everyone must have smelled in the olden days :o) The most impressive thing about this house was that it had been used for many different things, including a period where it was a boarding house for lots of families with kids running all over, and temporary housing for war veterans, yet the beautiful wooden railing and chandelier in the center spiral staircase remained intact!



We stopped by Bull Street Gourmet for a little drink and snack on the way back to our hotel, then got cleaned up and changed and headed to one of the dinners I was most excited about, Minero! This is Sean Brock’s Mexican restaurant… and I love me some Mexican food ;) We started out with guacamole and a trio of salsas, served with fresh chips they kept warm inside an oven mitt. For our main course, I had two little tacos. GG ordered a burrito which, for the price, was ridiculously oversized! He was literally almost in tears by the end of the meal because he was just physically incapable of finishing the whole thing. (Another fun thing about Minero: napkins and silverware are in a little drawer under your table!) After dinner we walked around and did our usual, checking out houses by the Battery and along Rainbow Row.



Saturday, June 4: This was the day we had originally planned to go to Savannah, but as you’ll recall, we scrapped that plan as soon as we arrived in Charleston. Instead, we decided to go to the Charleston Tea Plantation. This was an excellent decision – the tea plantation was one of the most interesting places we visited on this trip! Now – we both love tea. But it was really fascinating! The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only tea plantation in the US – all other tea comes from overseas, much of it from Asia, Africa, and South America. This plantation was set up as kind of an experiment, since the soil and climate in Charleston are ideal for growing tea. You enter through a huge gift shop, selling every type of tea and tea accessory. There is also a sampling station of hot and iced teas, which you are encouraged to bring with you on the tour! We first did a little walking tour of the factory, which is free and runs every 15 minutes or so. You basically just walk along while looking at the factory equipment through a window, and videos play to explain what each piece does in the process. Then we went on a trolley tour of the plantation. Our tour guide was super knowledgeable and we got to learn how they grow and harvest all the tea there. Most tea around the world is harvested by hand, which takes hundreds of people. At the Charleston plantation, they have developed a piece of equipment that cuts down the bushes and separates out the leaves, allowing them to do the same work with just a handful of employees. The bushes are planted in rows designed for the harvester to fit between them. It takes about 27 weeks for the plants to re-grow to the height they need to harvest them, so they divided the plantation into 27 sections – by the time they reach the last one, it’s time to harvest the first one again! They also have a greenhouse for starting new tea plants that is naturally climate controlled and all automated.



The tea harvesting machine


This is Waddy the frog, named for Wadmalaw Island

When we got back to town, we went to Poogan’s Smokehouse for lunch, as had been recommended to us by the Poogan’s Porch bartender on our first night. It was a very cool and kind of industrial place, and the food was fabulous of course. We split their version of mac & cheese, just to try it, and then I had a burger. GG got a platter of three different types of BBQ meats and a couple sides. He was again just about in tears by the end of the meal because he couldn’t finish the roll that came with it! (They have six types of BBQ meats and the largest platter includes five – our waitress told us she had a customer who got the five meat platter and then ordered the sixth type as his appetizer, just so he could try them all!) Poogan’s Smokehouse pro tip: the bathrooms here are really nice!

After lunch we went to the other historic home we wanted to see, the Heyward-Washington house. While waiting for the next tour to start, they told us to go check out the outbuildings and garden. The cookhouse had some information about the families who’d lived there, and mentioned Judge Grimké. This was the house where The Invention of Wings took place?! So then I was extra excited about the tour. This was probably the best historic home tour we went on – it was informative and the group was just us and two other people. Like most of the other historic homes, this one had gone through some transformations (for example, at one point the downstairs was lowered and converted into a bakery storefront). There were a lot of paintings in the home that our guide kept pointing out because they were mostly done by the same artist, and he was really bad, but he was the only portrait painter in town at one point, so he got all the business! He gave everyone one of two face styles, he couldn’t do hands so they were usually covered up, and actually he was bad at painting skin, so that was usually covered too.



After the tour, we were walking back toward the hotel and saw this church with its courtyard gate open, inviting people in to their garden. Turns out it was a huge cemetery, and GG got some great creepy shots. I walked around for a little bit, but then hung out on a bench where I was eaten alive by bugs.



We went to Bull Street Gourmet for a full meal, finally, and had dinner there. Of course we had to get one of their beautiful cheese boards. Then I had a gorgeous salad, while GG ate some gazpacho. After dinner we went for a walk around Colonial Lake. I’d heard on the local news that they had recently completed a beautification project there, and yes, it was much nicer looking than the last time we’d visited, with nice new landscaping. It felt like it was about to rain any moment, but still not yet a drop the whole week, despite the daily forecast calling for scattered thunderstorms.



Sunday, June 5: We started off the day back at Eli’s Table for brunch so we could try the breakfast side of their menu (the hotel did provide breakfast every day, which is a great time and money saver, but we’d decided we did want to eat out at least once). Our Philly friend was our waitress, so we got to see her again! The highlight of the day was my special surprise gift to GG (and myself) – massages! I’d figured by this point in our trip we’d be pretty achy from all the walking around and whatnot, and we’d had a couples massage on our anniversary a couple years ago, so I knew GG would enjoy it. However, what I learned at our previous massage was that he does. not. shut. up. Making it very hard to relax. So the Massage For Two at Earthling Day Spa is perfect, because you actually get separate massages in separate rooms. Mine was excellent, exactly what I needed. I felt so much better and just more relaxed for the rest of the day!

We didn’t really have too much planned until dinner, so GG tried looking up some other homes in the city we might tour, and found the Calhoun Mansion. This Victorian mansion was inherited by a descendant of John C. Calhoun, hence the name, but is currently occupied by jet-setting lawyer with extremely eccentric taste. The home is filled with various art and artifacts that he’s collected since his college years, as well as several dogs and cats who are locked in the kitchen during tours so we didn’t get to meet them. They’ve used the mansion in several films and TV series, including “The Notebook.” It was weird and ornate and there was lots of historical “stuff,” but it wasn’t really a historical re-creation since it’s actually someone’s home. (Also, no photography inside, but you can see pictures on their web site or buy postcards in the gift shop.)



Our dinner was a GG pick, Lowcountry Bistro. He’d added it to the list because they serve cioppino, which is a type of fish stew they have in California. However, once we got there, he saw they also had jambalaya and paella on the menu! He ended up getting the paella. I had an appetizer for dinner, fried chicken on sweet potato waffles. And we split an order of brussels sprouts with pancetta. GG made friends with our waiter (of course), who recommended Carmella’s Dessert Bar for dessert. We actually first tried to book a ghost tour, but we were like 10 minutes too late, they’d already cancelled that night’s tour due to lack of attendance. So we went over to Carmella’s and had some gelato, then hurried back to the hotel because it seemed like it was actually about to rain at this point.

Monday, June 6: Hey, remember how it was supposed to rain every day during our trip, but it never happened? Well, it finally rained … and it rained all day! Another hurricane was blowing in, bookending our trip. It wasn’t raining when we arrived at Waterfront Park for our Porgy and Bess walking tour, but as everyone gathered, umbrellas started popping open. This was the one Spoleto Festival activity we were doing, and I’d really been looking forward to it. I’d seen Porgy and Bess maybe once, but I am familiar with the story and music. The story was written and takes place in Charleston, and the tour was held in conjunction with performances of the opera during the festival. Our guide was super knowledgeable (I missed his intro in the beginning, but I think he’d written a book about Porgy and Bess?!), and we learned so much about the opera, its creators, and its Charleston connections. Of course, it was pouring rain the entire time, and it was kind of hard to hear or pay full attention when you are dodging puddles and being pelted with rain, trying to peek between everyone’s umbrellas. We stopped under roofs and shelter when we could, but it was kind of miserable.



This is the Heyward-Washington house again – DuBose Heyward was a relative and lived down the street from here for a period

GG found a flag to match his shirt (outside a liquor store run, ironically, by a pro-Brexit British expat

I’d worn shorts, and by the time the tour was finished, my legs were totally splashed with mud, plus my shoes were waterlogged and just wrecked. (Luckily, they were cheapies from Payless – the same pair was on sale online, so I tossed the ruined ones which had served me so well all week, and ordered replacements that arrived home shortly after we did.) We got cleaned up at the hotel and then went back to Poogan’s Porch for lunch (and to split another order of smoked gouda mac & cheese) – seemed fitting that they would be our first and (almost) last meal of the trip.

We went out to pick up some souvenirs while the rain had lightened up a little bit, then got cleaned up and changed, and went for our super fancy 10 year anniversary dinner at McCrady’s. (Well, first we had to get our traditional anniversary photo where we’re holding up fingers for the number of years we’ve been married.)



McCrady’s is super old, super historical, and super expensive. They serve very fancy, almost molecular gastronomy level dishes. For example, the man at the table next to us ordered a dessert that was basically blueberry foam overflowing out of a fish bowl :o) It was very very good though, and now we can say we’ve eaten at all of Sean Brock’s restaurants (well, at least the ones in Charleston). We tried going for a walk after dinner, but it was raining so much, and we had to get up early in the morning, so we just went to bed.

Tuesday, June 7: Watching the news the night before, we saw the effective of the next tropical storm blowing in, and GG suggested we pack up and drive home overnight. Actually, it’s a good thing we didn’t, because everything passed through during the night, and though there was some flooding in some areas of the city, by the time we left early in the morning, the rain had stopped and skies were clear. We had no issues getting home and the kitties were happy to see us :o) Although it was hot and humid (i.e. normal weather) compared to the last time we visited, I would still rank Charleston in my top five favorite places. We had a great trip, plus I can’t believe we’ve been married ten years!

Check out all my Charleston pics here.

May

Couple of cool things we did this month:

  • I had my band spring concert, and this time because we had a nautical theme, people were in encouraged to dress in costume! I was a pirate, I sat next to Left Shark (yes, she was wearing a full-on shark costume in which she’d cut slits for her hands so she could play clarinet), and we also had sea captains, SCUBA divers, beach goers, Cap’n Crunch, hula girls, and lots more..!
  • I went to the 50th anniversary of my middle school.. There were only a couple other people from my grade there, but we got to go on a tour of the school and it was neat to see what had changed and what was still the same. 8th great was about the peak of my life’s greatness ;o)
  • GG and I went to a wedding at the Mütter Museum! It was very cool, they have some really neat spaces upstairs where I’m sure they have awesome weddings all the time. Plus we got to go through the museum, too! (Oh, and they had a guacamole bar during the cocktail hour?!)


  • We went to see Mel Brooks live in Philly: it was a showing of Blazing Saddles (which I’d actually never seen in its entirety), followed by a sort of interview/storytelling by Mel Brooks about the making of the film, and then a little Q&A from the audience. He was really funny!



    But possibly cooler than that, GG took me out for a surprise dinner first! He had actually planned something else, but when I started guessing and he saw I got really excited about going to Sbraga, he switched the reservation and took me there instead! It was an amazing meal!
  • My first college roommate’s daughter was riding in the Devon Horse Show, so I met up with her and her family while they were in the area. I hadn’t been to the Horse Show in a while, so it was like Main Line overload! It was great to see them all, and her kids are so cute!


April

Besides our impromptu trip to New Hope, we did some other exciting things this month:

  • We had OWNIT day at work and it was probably the craziest one yet, in terms of fun and activities! Since I’m on all these site committees I actually had the opportunity to get really involved in planning and running it, but I decided to sit this one out (I’m doing another event later in the year) and just enjoy it from a participant’s POV.
  • I added a new product to the offerings at my side biz and had a big launch party to celebrate!
  • We finished our taxes!
  • I attended my fourteenth (!!) TMBG concert (with GG, and J and K). Also, while we were all driving down South Street, GG saw this guy getting into a car and kept going, “That’s Redman! That’s Redman!” Then he rolled down the window when we got close and said, “Yo, Redman,” and the guy was like, “I’m Method Man!” But it was ok because even though he mixed up the names, GG knew the right rap lyrics and rapped out the car window at him while people on the sidewalk laughed and cheered.
  • My volunteer program I did through work wrapped up with a regional competition. I spent the whole day there with some of the kids from my team and one other volunteer. They did well and were very confident with their showing, but in the end didn’t win any of the awards. Hopefully the fact they didn’t take home any trophies doesn’t cloud their opinion of the day, because I thought they did great!
  • GG and I checked out the Philadelphia Ren Faire, which isn’t quite as robust as the PA Ren Faire and actually this was only the second year they’ve done it, but it was nice and seemed well-run. Plus we got to see “our” magician perform!
  • To celebrate MB and R’s birthdays, GG and I went to the Academy of Natural Sciences with MB, A, R, and R. It was a super fun day, and R is so smart! They had this spider exhibit and we caught a presentation from museum staff. All the kids were giving dumb answers to questions and asking dumb questions. Then R raises her hand and out of nowhere says something like, “Spiders also molt!” I forget exactly what she said, but it was so smart and we were all just like, “What? Where’d that spider fact come from?!”
  • I went with GG to his alumni weekend for the first time ever. (That’s because this was the first year they offered a “family” activity with food and bands.) It was nice, and was cool to meet a lot of his high school friends I hadn’t met before!
  • I registered with a political party just so I could vote in the PA primary, yay!

New Hope Afternoon

We just had such a beautiful weekend, and since the weather was so nice and it was our last free weekend for a long time, I suggested to GG that we go up to New Hope on Saturday. We haven’t taken an overnight trip there in a few years, but we do still like to go up a couple times a year for a day here and there. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea! There was almost nowhere to park in town, and the sidewalks were so crowded, people had to squeeze past, single file. But it wasn’t really unbearable, and it was such a lovely day, we had a great time!

We both had some things to take care of at home first, so we didn’t get on the road until about 11 AM. There’s a new highway bypass (well, I call it new, it’s been open for several years now), which shaves a bit of time off the trip and makes it quite a pleasant drive. We first stopped by Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, because GG wanted to go to Hewn Spirits and see if their Reclamation whisky was in stock (it was not). There also happened to be a spring fair going on, so there was this whole other area with vendors and tents set up nearby and throughout the village. One of the booths we stopped by was Offbeat Gourmet – let’s just say, he had the whole “handmade hipster” thing down so well, when he gave me change for my purchase, it was a $2 bill from a homemade cash box.

We continued over to New Hope. Unable to find a parking spot in our usual favorite lots, we ended up parking near the canal lock at the north end of town. We had thought maybe we’d get an early dinner before leaving. Last time we were there, someone recommended the Blue Moose Cafe, but they might have been closed or all booked for the day. We stopped by there first but they were serving brunch, and then would be closed until dinner at 5PM. So GG went in and made us a dinner reservation for 5.

Next order of business was to get a little snack to hold us over until then! We went to Nina’s Waffles for a little Belgian waffle and ice cream action. Then we just took a few hours walking through town, seeing what’s new and checking out our old favorites. We don’t usually walk east on Bridge St., but happened to go up that way and found The Creeper Gallery, which we’ve somehow missed for the couple years it’s been open! If you like weird taxidermied animals, Victorian baby photos, and general creepy artwork, check this place out! And of course no visit to New Hope would be complete without stopping in at Farley’s Bookshop to see Butter the cat (and, um, look at books)… We usually have to look for Butter, but this time he was sitting out right in the middle of the children’s department. On a nearby chair, there was a notebook titled, “Dear Butter,” which featured a couple pages of cat FAQs, followed by blank pages for people to leave notes. GG wrote a very nice message from us. I gave him lots of scratches and he purred a lot.



The Creeper Gallery


Signing the “Dear Butter” book

We were pretty beat after a while, so we sat down on a shady bench for some people watching/possibly a nap, but there were a lot of bees around! So we ended up going to Nektar for some drinks. It was across the street from where we were having dinner and we’ll definitely have to have a meal at this place soon! We went there several years ago when it was Wildflowers, but this is a totally new restaurant with new owners, and it looks pretty awesome!

Finally it was time to go over to the Blue Moose. I hadn’t been in there before, but the decor was pretty cute! Their door handle (and logo) is a whisk with moose antlers; pendant lights were made of box graters; there was a window box of flowers made from forks, knives, and spoons… It’s a BYOB restaurant and you can choose a two or three course prix fixe menu (some dishes do have an additional charge of a couple bucks), which is a neat way to do things. The third course is dessert, so we skipped that. For our first courses, GG and I shared the cheese plate and Sweet Potato Nachos (which were awesome and I will definitely try recreating at home!). Then for our entrees, he had the Seafood Jambalaya (the scallops were so perfectly golden, I thought they were breaded!); and I had the Oricchette with roasted brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and a lemon cream sauce. After that, we made our way back to the car (quick stop at the candy store!), drove home, and pretty much went straight to bed!

Sunday was a pretty productive day, and then GG’s brother invited us over for dinner because he was grilling some chicken, ribs, and veggies (not sure what he would have done if we hadn’t come over!). It was so nice out, I even voluntarily ate outside! We ended up watching/making fun of Terminator Genisys before heading home to bed.



Easter Miracles

I don’t want to jinx anything, but… I just had some really lucky days, after a string of terrible ones!

Our sewer line clogged last week, I had someone snake it, and they found tree roots in the line. After lots of phone calls and plumber visits over the next few days, I wasn’t sure exactly what to do – most plumbers wouldn’t do the job, and the one estimate I got was way higher than I expected. But then I learned I live in one of the few municipalities in which the township is responsible for the sewer line past the curb. They re-checked with a camera, and found all the roots were under the street! So the township is coming this week to give us a whole new sewer line, at no cost to us (I mean, we pay taxes, so…)

Earlier this month, a customer paid for a huge purchase with a check. I usually don’t accept checks, but something had happened to her credit card so she was waiting on a new one, she had shopped with me before online, and our mutual friend vouched for her. I deposited it as soon as I got home. Well, last weekend the check came back to me in the mail, returned due to insufficient funds. I tried contacting her via e-mail, phone, and text, plus our mutual friend tried to get in touch with her. She did reply at one point, but then stopped responding again. When our mutual friend sent me a photo she’d shared on Snapchat with one of her new items that she hadn’t paid for, that was the last straw. Friday was her payday, I knew the money was in her account, and first thing Saturday I took the check back to the bank and had it cashed again – this time for real!!

GG and I have been planning our summer vacation, and because rates at the hotel we wanted to stay at had gotten so high, we ended up finding a 2 bedroom condo on Airbnb for the about same price as the original hotel rate. Saturday morning I woke to a message on my phone saying the reservation had been cancelled by the host. I sent him a message asking if this was a mistake, and he said one of the hotels in their town was suing all the Airbnb hosts, and the site recommended that they cancel all their pending reservations until it was resolved. So GG and I started looking for another place to stay, and ended up finding a much better rate on the hotel we originally wanted, so we were able to book it after all!

I went to a Norwex party my friend hosted on Saturday. I love these demos because they do crazy stuff like rubbing butter all over windows, slathering raw chicken on countertops, and breaking raw eggs everywhere – then they clean it all up! This consultant actually was really good, she had a special pen that would change color in the presence of protein, so she could prove that all the chicken juice had been removed ;o) She did a game where everyone could choose a plastic Easter egg from a basket, knowing that there was a possibility your “prize” would be to commit to hosting your own party; other prizes were free shipping, or a little giveaway item. I won the big prize – a free EnviroWand! (I’m so excited because I really need to dust better! I also ordered the Dusting Mitt, which is supposed to be great for blinds..!)

In addition, GG and I had a nice weekend together – Friday night I saw him play with the (awesome!) band he formed with some of his friends and coworkers; Saturday we went out for a nice dinner at Seasons 52 to celebrate all the lucky things that happened (even the dinner was lucky: it was mostly paid for with a gift card I got for free with my expiring Marriott points); and Easter was nice on Sunday, we saw both of our families and ate some amazing food :o)



Typical rockstar pose…

February

This has been such a busy month! Highlights include:

  • I finished the 21 Day Fix – just in time for a Super Bowl party! (Full review of the program will be coming!)
  • Lots of appointments for my side business (I actually prefer these private or small group appointments because I can give more personal attention and build better relationships with customers, and that’s really what this is all about!)
  • GG and I celebrated Valentine’s Day (a day early) at one of our favorite restaurants and site of a previous Valentine’s surprise!
  • I went to my alma mater to celebrate my fraternity’s 100th anniversary. I just thought it would be something neat to do, since I lived relatively close by to national headquarters, and another friend of mine met me there, but apparently we missed the memo that this event was really for fraternity superfans, so we felt a little out of place. It was still neat to take part in, though.

Happy Leap Year! Real life is for March!