FabFitFun Fall 2015 Box

Once again, FabFitFun has put together a really nice box! This is probably my favorite one yet, with the most items that I will really use! Even the box itself was cute and fun, with a pretty purple raindrop design by illustrator Kelsey Oseid.

  • Gold Radiance Luxury Facial Mask with Collagen and Rose Oil by Passport to Beauty: This is a gold full-face mask treatment that actually looks terrifying, based on the photos on the box… $65 value
  • FabFitFun x Tappan Collective Umbrella: Cute umbrella that says “rain rain go away” in a pattern of raindrops. Mine is white text on a black umbrella, which will be really fun for rainy days. $32 value
  • Lucky Lip Stain by Manna Kadar Cosmetics: As has seemed to be the case with the lip products in these things, I wasn’t super impressed by the color or other special properties it was supposed to have (primer, gloss, and stain in one). Nice texture though, and left my lips feeling moisturized. $24 value
  • 3D White Brilliance 2-Step System by Crest: Despite the photo of the full-size product in the booklet that came in the box, this is just a single use sample pack. I’m kind of nervous about tooth whiteners, so may or may not try this one. (“Sponsored,” aka free)
  • Flawless Skin Fluid by Doctor D. Schwab: I was excited to try this lightweight moisturizer. It’s supposed to even and brighten skin tone – a full-size tube! It definitely is light, and has almost a pearly finish to it. I guess if you’re not going to wear makeup on top of it, that will give you the “brightening” effect. $39 value
  • Purple Purse Charm by Allstate Foundation Purple Purse: I really liked this one. It’s a nice purple leather tassel with a little metal charm, sponsored by the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse to support Domestic Violence Awareness month.
  • HISY Battery Pack: A portable battery charger. Looks like there were a few colors available, mine is a light mint green. It’s small and sleek, and charged my phone 20-some percent pretty quickly, even while I was using it. I will have to see how well it holds a charge. $24.99 value
  • Strength Tubing Ankle & Total Body Tone with Tubing: Lower Body & Core DVD by Merrithew: This is a lower body workout DVD with some kind of resistance band thing. I’ve been wanting to try something like this, so excited to check it out! $33 value
  • Glass Crystal Bead Bracelet by Tribe Alive: Delicate little bracelet with light blue crystal beads and gold chain. I have a similar bracelet but half of it is adjustable cord, so this one is a little different. These little bracelets are great for layering with other pieces or wearing casually, and Tribe Alive apparently works with impoverished women to give them jobs and fair wages. These were created by women in Honduras. $49 value
  • Gift Card by Jeweler’s Wife: This is a $15 gift card to a site that sells jewelry from popular designers like Pandora and Alex and Ani, which of course I can’t wear ;o) May be a gift to someone…
  • Gift Card by Picture It On Canvas: I’ve been wanting to create a gallery wall and maybe include some photos printed on canvas, so I could give this service a try. They do other things besides canvas, too (like posters, phone cases, etc.). $75 value

The FabFitFun Fall 2015 box contains over $357 in product, and can be yours for only $50 – $40 if you use my code! If you have an extra few bucks a quarter that you were probably going to end up spending at Target anyway, why not treat yourself to a fun surprise? ;o)
Photo borrowed from Subscription Box Ramblings – check out her post for tons more pictures!

FabFitFun Summer 2015 Box

I will start off by saying, I purchased the Spring box after finding out what was in it and deciding I wanted it, and ended up disappointed with about 1/3 of it. Once I was in, I saw that I would be getting the Summer one automatically and decided to just go with it anyway, sight unseen. I love everything in this box! I’m so glad I kept the subscription! If you find this post helpful and choose to join, I’d be honored if you used my referral code for $10 off!

  • Wren 14Kt Gold and Black Sapphire Necklace: I received a small rose gold heart with a tiny black sapphire embedded in it. I didn’t know what this was going to be, but it’s so cute! Even though I’m selling my own necklaces and wear them 101% of the time, I had to wear this one to work the very next day! (Bonus – it would look great layered.) Love it, as I’m kind of obsessed with rose gold right now :o)
  • The Everyday Wireless Speaker by FabFitFun: I haven’t tried using this yet, but mine is hot pink. You can either plug in your audio source, or pair it wirelessly with your phone (it also has a microphone so you can use it as a speakerphone). It has an FM radio, and a carabiner clip so you can hang it from your beach umbrella or wherever…
  • Inkling Scents Sultry Roll-On Oil Perfume: When I first opened my box, something smelled really good. Turns out it was this perfume, which wasn’t very tightly sealed (and I see other people’s bottles leaked all over their boxes). It smells nice, and the small roller bottle would be great for travel, I’m just not sure the scent lasts that long…
  • Gorge “I’ll Make You Look Amazing” Daily Spray: Very excited for this spray, which claims to be a leave-in conditioner that offers heat protection, among other things. It has a really nice lemon/coconut scent, that dissipates pretty quickly. I sprayed a few squirts into my hands, and then ran them through my hair, to make sure it got where I wanted. So far, so good!
  • Tarte LipSurgence Lip Gloss: I think FFF released a preview of this and I was looking forward to it, but honestly this was probably one of my least favorite things in the box. I just do not like the texture of this gloss. It claims to have “plumping” properties, but I didn’t really notice any change there, either.
  • FabFitFun x CosmoBody Jump Rope: This hot pink rubber jump rope has really nice, cushy handles, and if I had ever in my life been able to successfully jump rope, I would have been very excited to get it. However, I’m just not that coordinated, so I gave it to GG – the pink color will inspire him to man up and work out.
  • Scratch Nail Wraps: You know I’ve been trying all kind of nail wraps lately!! Per the package, “Scratch is an LA based company that works with artists to create unique nail wrap designs.” These are a white nail wrap with different patterns of pink triangles on them – kind of ’80s retro, and perfect for summer. There are eight different sizes, and like the Sally Hansen wraps, they come in a sealed package and must be used within one month of opening. A small orange stick and nail file were also included. I will report back on these!
  • Headspace 3-Month Subscription: Probably won’t use this, but it’s a card to redeem for three free months of an app called Headspace that guides you through a series of meditations. Gwyneth Paltrow uses it, sooo…
  • Hello Konjac Cleansing Sponge: This is a little white half-sphere sponge. You run it under water to soften it, then use it to wash your face, with or without cleanser. There was no other information on the package, and the card from FFF doesn’t really have much info either, so I’m not sure if the benefit is exfoliation, or if the konjac vegetable fibers it’s made from impart some type of nutrients to your skin or something, just that it’s “an all-natural way to restore the skin and balance your face’s pH level.” (I also just got a Clarisonic, so who knows what’s going on with my face right now. It’s not a very controlled experiment.)
  • Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe Spray Moisturizer: Call me boring, but I’d been thinking of trying this lotion and was so excited to see it in the box – a full-size can, too! It has a nice cool cucumber scent, and the light spray just stays where you put it until you rub it in, no running down your legs or anything. It’s certainly plenty moisturizing for summer.

In total, the FabFitFun Summer 2015 box contains over $275 in product, and can be yours for only $50 – $40 if you use my code! I think it’s definitely worth it, it was a fun treat and is packed with products that are perfect for summer. At first I was kind of wary of joining an automatic subscription service, but now I’m really excited to see what the Fall brings!

Photo borrowed from Hello Subscription – check out their post for more detailed photos of the products!

March

March started out with a short business trip to CT for a few days. I drove up and back with two of my good friends and coworkers, which was a lot of fun. We were there for our annual all-hands departmental meeting, and it was the most fun one of these we’ve ever had. As of last year, we have an “engagement team” and they organized the meeting and other activities, and everyone seemed to have a really good time. And of course, it was great to see a lot of my coworkers who I don’t often get to see in person.

We got home just in time for our learning event to start, so I was busy for a couple weeks helping out with that. Our contractor C was in town for the first week, so I was out to dinner with her most evenings. And she’s getting married this summer, so we decided to throw her a little wedding shower while she was in the office, which was really fun, and she was totally surprised :o)

My other big work thing was that a major system we use was getting upgraded, and I am on the “change agent” team for my department. That ended up taking over my life for a couple weeks as I did demos (for individuals, small groups, and hundreds of people!), prepared, answered questions, rewrote procedures, etc. I will be so happy when everything is up and running! I got lots of great feedback about my work on the team, though. This is one of the first really “high visibility” things I’ve done, so I’m glad it’s gone so well.

Lots of new places are opening up in our town. MB came out and we went to the new Container Store on its opening day. It was actually kind of disappointing – very crowded (as I’d expected), the products were fairly expensive for things that weren’t really that unique, and there wasn’t really anything special going on for the “grand opening.” We had a fun day hanging out, though! And the new Chipotle is finally open! It’s in a horrible location with almost no parking, so it’ll probably start to frustrate me, but it’s nice to have somewhere that I can get a burrito bowl without having to cross a river.

Also this month:

  • New coworker started (who is also a friend and old coworker’s husband!)
  • I had probably the best annual review of my life at work, and am really excited to see what this year will bring
  • Continued going to yoga; these last couple weeks especially I feel like I’m finally getting the moves down and can now focus on breathing
  • GG and I went to a wine and cheese party, scoped out a friend’s new girlfriend (to report back to his mom), and made some other new friends
  • GG got a mural job at another local business
  • GG’s computer died :o(
  • I got a new computer to replace my current XP tower that I’ll have to take offline soon, as well as my “fun” laptop; it’s been getting to be a pain working off two computers, so I figured a laptop + docking station was a good solution. Now to redo my office!

February

OMG, another month went by without any other blogging! I know February is the shortest month, but seriously it feels like it went by in a flash!

The main theme of February I guess was the nonstop crazy snowstorms that affected everyone! Luckily, our power never went out, but lots of our friends had outages. The power was off at my grandmom’s house for a few days, so she came to stay with us for a little while, which actually was kind of fun. The snow also meant we stayed in more than usual, so I got to watch the Nye/Hamm debate live online over dinner, and we didn’t go out for Valentines Day. Instead, I attempted to make us a really nice dinner at home. It was good, but… did not go as planned. I made steaks with this chocolate/chili crust on them, and I found directions for starting steaks in a pan and finishing in the oven. Unfortunately, these types of recipes do not account for chocolate/chili crusts, so it turned out to be a horrible mess. (It was delicious in the end, though.) Thanks to the snow and power outages and whatnot, GG had several comedy shows cancelled (even one that I went to see!). And, because of the snow and holidays and various days off, I think it wasn’t until the last week of the month that I actually worked five consecutive days from the locations I was expected to work from!

We’d planned this out a while ago, but finally on Presidents’ Day weekend, we went to Ikea and got stuff to clean up and organize GG’s office/studio like he’s wanted. We added a tall bookcase, and swapped out his old desk for one that aligns with his existing desk, so it’s like one continuous surface. Next up: my office!

Speaking of my office, not that anyone really cares, but we just got “upgraded” to new laptops at work with Windows 8, and I hate it. For being the resident “techie” person, I’m kind of a curmudgeon when it comes to major changes like this. The computer itself is nice. It’s a touch-screen, which is annoying, but whatever. The Office 2010 software is an improvement over Office 2007. But Windows 8 is really not for the business environment.

We saw Wolf of Wall Street on Presidents’ Day (had wanted to go a couple weeks earlier, but even the movie theater lost power in the snowstorm!). It was so good. Much better and funnier than I’d expected, and I was pretty proud of myself for catching the references to The Graduate.

I’ve been continuing my yoga class at the gym, and I really wish they had yoga more than once a week! I tried a special class they offered called ABsession, which nearly killed me. The yoga is so much more my speed :o)

The month ended with the first of a string of important work events. This was a multi-site meeting that I helped to run at our site. Despite a few technical difficulties, everything went well here and we got lots of good feedback from the senior leaders who attended. Learning Week 2014 Part 1 here we come…

Samsung Galaxy S4

I got a new phone! And while I usually delight in having a phone nobody else has, it is nice having the current, popular phone for once, if for no other reason than I have lots of options when it comes to cases :o) So how did I come to obtain such a lovely device?

I finally upgraded to an Android phone last year, after holding out for quite a while. But that phone was obsolete by the time I got it, and things went downhill from there. A lot of apps wouldn’t work, or wouldn’t give me the latest version, or would freeze up, and I couldn’t update my OS without rooting my phone. Then it started doing weird things with calls – it wouldn’t ring, and I’d just see the missed call, or I’d dial a number and like 5 minutes later it would actually place the call. Since making phone calls is one of the basic functions of a phone, I finally decided I’d had enough.

I’ve been trying to keep up to date on what’s available and what was coming out soon, so I decided to go for the Samsung Galaxy S4. Then I had to research how to get it for the best price. Buying it outright is more than I’d like to pay for a phone, T-Mobile doesn’t have contracts anymore so you can’t get one at a discount by upgrading your contract, and most of the listings on eBay were a little sketchy. I ended up buying a used “good condition” one from Gazelle. It was still a little more than I wanted to pay, but I’d just sold some things online and used my PayPal balance for part of it, which got the balance to a level I was comfortable with. The phone came by itself from Gazelle – no box, manuals, cables, etc. – but it was in very good condition. There was maybe a minor scuff on one corner (which gets covered by a case anyway), but actually the protective film was still covering part of the metal trim, so I don’t think it had been used much before it was sold.

Next thing was to get a case. At last, I have a phone that Otterbox makes a cover for! I got an Otterbox Commuter in gray and aqua, which I’ve been using and it’s great. I like that it has covers for the headphone and USB ports, but there are still a couple areas that remain open (speakers and microphones and such), so it’s not completely enclosed/dustproof. I also picked up a couple other cheaper cases on Amazon. The Caseology Matte Finish TPU in turquoise gives it a nice, squared-off look, and the Poetic Atmosphere in clear/light blue is a minimalist case that’s really sturdy and doesn’t come off easily.

One of my big concerns with my last phone was battery life, and I actually purchased additional high-capacity batteries for it. The stock battery in the S4 is really great! I’ve found that it gets about the same or possibly better battery life than my old phone with upgraded batteries. After a full day of normal use, including calls, texts, photos, videos, and wifi connection on, the battery is still at like 50%. Especially considering that this is a used phone with a used battery, I’m very pleased. I’d been researching extended batteries before I got the phone, but I don’t think I need one at the moment.

The last problem was that I kept dropping off the network. And yeah, that’s kind of a major problem. When I first got the phone, I went to the T-Mobile store where they cut down my old SIM card to fit the S4, which uses a micro SIM. I didn’t realize there was any problem until a couple days later, when GG got home from work and said I must have been on the phone all day, because every time he tried calling, it went right to voicemail. I actually hadn’t been on the phone at all, and that’s when I realized what was happening. Restarting the phone and staying off wifi seemed to help, but that’s inconvenient and not ideal. I did a little research and this seemed to be a common issue with this phone, which worried me a little, but the first solution to try seemed to be changing the SIM card. I went back to T-Mobile and this time got a whole new card, at which time they told me that my old (cut down) card was a 2G card. As soon as I had the new one in my phone, my 4G icon turned to LTE! Yes! I figured that would solve the problem, and it has. I’m on the network, I’m on wifi, and I haven’t had any problems.

My one negative is that it’s a little larger than I would like, but it’s so slim (especially compared to my old one with the keyboard), I haven’t found any pockets my old one fit in that this one won’t. It’s a little big to hold in one hand, and because the “menu” and “back” keys are not physical buttons, I sometimes accidentally hit them just from the way I’m gripping the phone. That is really the only bad thing I have to say about it.
Overall, I’m very happy with this phone! I know I said this last time, but hopefully this is the last time I have to upgrade for a little while :o)

The Rest of My Christmas Vacation

To pick up where I left off… We decided to have a very casual, informal, early dinner party on New Year’s Eve (after which people were welcome to go out somewhere more exciting, go home, etc. before midnight). The number of people who were going to attend kept increasing, so on Saturday morning, GG accompanied me on a frantic shopping trip to get everything needed for the party. Frantic because it was supposed to start snowing sometime that day. We were out for a couple hours, and literally the moment we got home, it started snowing!

And then the snow continued… and continued… We had at least 4″ by the time it stopped around 5 PM. We’d been planning to see Les Miserables that afternoon, but that plan was obviously out, so I just resigned myself to the fact that was not happening. Then a couple kids came around to try to shovel our driveway, and I didn’t want to pay people for that, so I was like, “Well, I guess it’s time to shovel.” It actually was good shoveling snow – by the time GG had cleaned off his car, I had shoveled the whole driveway and sidewalk myself. And since everything was clear… we could go see Les Mis! It was awesome. I saw it live years ago and for most of my childhood I had the soundtrack memorized, but it had been a while. My one real complaint was that, while it may work on stage, just focusing on a single person’s face singing a solo piece doesn’t really lend itself to film so well. I wish they had done something more interesting, considering they had the medium of film to work with. For example, in “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” I always imagined it with the ghosts of the guys sitting around – couldn’t they have added in some ghost dudes? GG also enjoyed it (he was actually seeing it voluntarily, after being impressed by the cinematography when he saw a preview while at a different movie), but you should have seen the face he made when, after “One Day More,” I whispered, “And that’s the end of Act 1.”

On Sunday we went to the UPenn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to see the Maya 2012 exhibit. I’d been wanting to go since it opened, and of course now that it was about to end we finally went. It was actually a really good exhibit. Lots of multi-media, different ways to get your interest. And pretty informative, too, even for a Maya geek like me. I also like the way it was laid out, explaining how the Mayan writing and calendar systems worked, then showing examples, explaining about specific sites (Copan), and then finishing up with modern Mayans. After the museum, we went to Percy Street Barbecue for lunch. GG had been talking this place (and their mac & cheese) up for weeks, but honestly… I was not impressed. Their claim to fame seems to be that they have the largest selection of canned beer in the country, and the food was not all that amazing. When we got home, I prepped all the food for NYE dinner that I could do in advance.

Monday was our NYE party, so I spent the day cleaning and cooking. I actually thought I’d started cooking kind of early, but I was actually still cooking when our guests got there at 6 PM. Oh yeah, at some point in the previous two days, the number of people we were expecting got up to about 12, which was way too many for me, and then down to six as everyone started coming down with some cold/flu thing. Everyone kept saying how bad they felt about canceling, but I was secretly happy. We ended up with two other couples (and our favorite baby), and that was pretty perfect. The food all turned out pretty good – it was mostly stuff I’d found on Pinterest. There were a couple things I wouldn’t do again. The big hit of the night was the Hot Chocolate Bar – everyone got a mug of chocolate, which they could dress up with toppings like marshmallows, sprinkles, caramel, candy canes, and cookie sticks. I would definitely do that again for a winter party. Anyway, everyone had cleared out by 11 PM and I passed out on the sofa. GG woke me at 11:59:55 and I counted down the last five seconds to midnight, drank my glass of sparkling cider, and fell back asleep.

Tuesday was my last day of vacation, and the first day that I could really relax. Obviously I’d given up on my home project by this point. So I spent the day on the couch with my favorite Christmas gift. I also finally ordered my Kindle! And I watched about 9000 episodes of “Buying Alaska,” which really makes those losers on “House Hunters” look like wimps.

My short workweek was a good introduction back to working, and luckily not everyone was back from vacation yet, so it was fairly quiet. A lot of those who were back were out sick. And eventually the cold caught up to me – I was sneezing and sniffling on Thursday, miserable on Friday and most of Saturday, but recovering by Sunday. I’m pretty much back to normal today. I would like to thank the power of Vitamin C!

Oh, and guess what arrived on Saturday afternoon, several days earlier than anticipated? My Kindle! It’s the new Paperwhite version. It’s so tiny, but really it’s the perfect size. I also ordered a case for it, which is due to arrive this week. I figured out how to get ebooks from my library, and have already almost finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

2013 Goals:

  • Read 25 books (I think that’s doable)
  • Send 2 cards/letters per month to people just to let them know I’m thinking of them
  • Be a better blogger (more on this soon – watch for a reader survey!)

MyTouch 4G Slide and Accessories

As I mentioned last week, I have joined the rest of modern society and gotten myself a smartphone. After a lot of research, I chose the MyTouch 4G Slide, because it’s super powerful (I don’t want to have to upgrade again for a while), and has a physical keyboard. Also, it’s got a pretty amazing 8 MP camera (my actual camera camera is only 6 MP!). The first thing I noticed when I started using it was that it eats batteries. I knew that going to a more powerful phone would mean having to recharge every day, compared to my old feature phone which I could use pretty heavily and still recharge just every couple of days. I know you can turn off various services and functions, or you could just not use your phone, but what is the point of having this powerful device that you’re afraid to use because you might run out of power while you’re out somewhere?

So I started researching about the battery, and found that hardcore users often upgraded to one of two brands of high-capacity batteries. HTC is good at making phones, but doesn’t specialize in batteries, so it’s a good idea to upgrade – plus, I bought my phone used from eBay, so who knows exactly what the situation was with the stock battery anyway? It certainly wasn’t brand new. So after researching, I went with the Anker brand batteries, which are a good brand and a little bit higher capacity than the stock HTC battery. They sell a set on Amazon for like $30 that includes two batteries and a universal battery charger (so you could have one in the phone and be charging the other). I am so happy with them! I have been keeping all the notifications and background synching on, using it what I’d consider a “normal” amount to make calls, send e-mails, check Facebook and Twitter, play Draw Something, take and post photos, etc., and the battery can last over 24 hours.

With the battery problem solved, the other thing I needed to do was get a case. This is highly recommended to protect the phone in case you drop it, of course, and also to protect it from dust. Apparently, dust can get under the screen and this can be a big issue (I had no idea!). There are a few options and styles, but the one I kept seeing mentioned as the best is the Trident Aegis. I ordered one, and meanwhile I kept looking, just in case. The other case I saw a lot of people mention was the Fishbone, which was less than half the price of the Trident, so I ordered one of those as well and figured I’d choose in person and send back the other one. The Trident arrived first. It is very bulky looking, and there is a large logo on the back. It’s supposed to be better because it covers more of the holes on the phone (speaker, various jacks and ports, microphones, etc.), but that makes it look very hardcore. When the Fishbone case came, I put it on immediately and have been very pleased. It has the same two-layer padding that the Trident does (there is softer rubber against the phone, and then a hard outer shell over it), so it seems pretty protective. It doesn’t cover over the front of the phone so much, covering the speaker and all, but I prefer this look. Also, there is no logo on it – the logo, I guess, is just the “fishbone” design on the back. It goes on and off pretty easily, but it’s not like it’s going to fall off. All the holes and cutouts are in the right place, and the slide mechanism still works smoothly. So I am going to keep the Fishbone and send the Trident back.

My other accessory is a stylus, which I pretty much got just to play Draw Something. I’m not even going to mention the brand, because it was like $5 and it sucks. My main problem in Draw Something is trying to do detailed things on my little phone screen with my big fat finger. The stylus is basically like a fat finger in pen form. I should have sprung for one with a finer point. Oh well, I guess it helps slightly…

The phone itself, I love. I’m not going to bother with a real review because I don’t know all the technical stuff well enough and I still feel a little dumb trying to figure out how to do things, but for the most part I’ve got it set up the way I want and have the apps I need, etc. I feel like I’ve caught up with everyone else with smartphones (and even surpassed everyone with iPhones, since there’s so many things they can’t do, like play Flash).

“It seems the after-party has been moved to your house”

Not too much new is going on since last time…

  • We got some new furniture that is amazing for relaxing and watching TV. The sofa is huge!
  • We had Easter brunch with my family at a new place, and it was fabulous. The food was great, and it was less expensive and more casual than the place we usually go. It was not busy at all, and we did not feel rushed (in fact, the waiter was MIA for a while when we started thinking about leaving, so we couldn’t even get the check). I would definitely go back.
  • I went on another business trip, but this one was stupid short – we left at 6 AM Monday, and I was home by 11 PM Tuesday. While there, I was in a workshop for two days, had a team dinner, and met my work twin’s new boyfriend (I approve).
  • I got a smartphone! I felt like a huge moron at first because I could just not figure out how to do anything, but I quickly got the hang of it. My next concern was battery life, because this thing dips frighteningly low compared to my old phone, but I’m getting the hang of managing that too. Want to play me on Draw Something?
  • GG and I went to see a show some of his comedian friends put on. There were about 12 people in the audience, and all the comedians knew him, so they were all picking on him (and me). The main topic, of course, is how a guy like him could get a girl like me. Thanks, that makes me feel really great about myself, too. (Sarcasm.)
  • We watched a couple movies. First we saw Fireproof, which surprisingly GG wanted to see because he heard Kirk Cameron had an internet porn addiction, but they didn’t really show much about that. I had a lot of problems with this movie (too many sterotypes, of all kinds, not to mention the horrible acting), but the next door neighbor was great. Then we watched Timecop – I have a lot of problems with this movie, too. They got in a special car to time travel, but then popped out in the past without the car. Why did they turn up in a different location every time; wouldn’t they just appear in the same location they’d left from in the future? Or if they could control the location, why would they choose to arrive over a lake or in the middle of a highway? After the past and future versions of the bad guy touched each other and imploded, why didn’t the bomb disappear? Wouldn’t anything his future self had done at that point cease to exist? I could go on…

Messed Up Work Weeks, Valentine’s, and My Need for Gadgets

This past week was kind of messed up. Last Friday was the last day of our really busy week, and we skipped lunch and then left a little early to get a late lunch with our visiting coworker before she had to catch her plane home. I said then that I was not leaving my house again until Sunday, and I did not. On Sunday, Jen came over and we went out for lunch and manicures. We went to this place at the mall that another friend had recommended once, and I think they were very good – not that I am a manicure connoisseur or anything, but they were thorough, the polish lasted for almost a week without chipping, and they didn’t chit chat in front of us in another language.

On Sunday night, GG took me out for a Valentine’s Day dinner. I’d asked him a couple weeks earlier to plan something for us on Valentine’s Day – didn’t have to be on the actual day, didn’t have to be anything fancy, I just wanted him to take responsibility and plan something. So he made reservations and wouldn’t tell me where, only that it was in Philadelphia, it was somewhere we hadn’t been before, and he knew I’d like it. I didn’t know where we were going until we walked into the building, because he covered all the signs! We went to Talula’s Garden, recently voted “best cheese plate in Philly,” which of course will score it major points with me. So obviously we ordered a cheese plate, and we went with the “American Cheese Champions,” which is a selection of six award-winning cheeses. They were good, but I found the portions a little small (and let’s not even get into the portions of the compote and stuff that were dabbed on the board). Honestly, I much preferred the cheese plate at Garces Trading Company. For our meals, I had the hangar steak, served with mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and kale, and a side order of beets with orange zest and ricotta cheese. GG had roasted leg of lamb and a side of “roasted mushrooms galore.” We both enjoyed our meals, but again, not my all-time favorite. Finally, for dessert, I had the “Petite Cookie Collection,” which was a plate of four different mini cookies. And GG had the raspberry and citrus mousse, which was amazing and very refreshing. The atmosphere of the restaurant was really neat – you enter via this little courtyard, which is filled with Christmas lights and I’m sure in warmer weather is a really nice place to enjoy your meal. Inside, the building is an old hotel or bank or something, with crazy high ceilings. They have kind of cutesy decor with birdhouses and farm stuff. We were seated in a banquette in the bar area, where there were four tables along the window. On either end of the bench, there was a huge metal vent that was part of the original ventilation system of the building. The decorative grates are beautiful, but according to the manager (who apologized to the women on either side of me, but not me, I guess I didn’t look cold enough), they do get “drafty.” I was freezing. Overall, it really was a lovely dinner, and I love when GG surprises me with things he knows I’ll like. But would I go back? I’d rather go back to GTC first.

Because the previous week was so crazy with working, I decided to work from home three days last week, adding Monday in addition to my regular Wednesday and Friday. That really messed up my schedule and sense of time, but it was nice to only go to the office two days. I ended up going out to lunch with a friend on Tuesday, which turned out to be fine because then I didn’t go out for lunch on Thursday, when we usually get together.

This long weekend has been nice so far. GG’s been pretty busy with comedy stuff, so we haven’t been out to dinner together like we usually do. But we’ve been spending the days together. Yesterday we went out together to shop for a couple things. I was looking for a new MP3 player, because after six years (almost to the day!) and two batteries, my beloved Creative Zen is finally starting to go. It doesn’t start up, or the battery dies almost instantly, or it freezes and I have to pop the battery out. Also I’m finally running out of storage space. So I was looking for something similar, but with a little more space. Turns out, if you don’t want an iPod, or a little tiny thing like for exercising, you don’t really have a lot of choices when it comes to standalone MP3 players. The guy at Best Buy was saying he just uses his smartphone and a music player app, which didn’t seem like a horrible idea, but actually I just won an eBay auction for a used Creative Vision:M, so hopefully that works for me whenever it arrives. But in the meantime, we happened to go by the cell phone store and I just asked what the price difference would be if I upgraded my plan and got a smartphone. It turns out that I could get a smartphone sort of at a discount if I change plans and extend my contract for two years, but you end up paying full price because the balance of the cost of the phone is paid off in installments as part of your bill for who knows how long. So I’m holding off on that for now, though it was fun thinking about joining the rest of society with a smartphone, even briefly. I can do everything I need with my WAP-enabled phone for now :o)

Depending on the weather tomorrow, GG and I plan to go somewhere for the day to take advantage of the day off. And then I have a business trip coming up this week, which will end up eating several days, when you account for travel time and such. We tried to get out of it, but they really want me and my coworker K there for a couple meetings, so off we go.

It was the best of times, it was the Best Buy of times

Last weekend, GG and I went to Best Buy to check out potential new computers for him. He’d seen something at Staples that he liked, and it turned out that Best Buy has the same one for about $50 less, so he’s keeping an eye on that. While there, I just glanced at some laptops (I was really starting to hate my Gateway laptop, it’s got a lot of issues). I saw a HP laptop that looked nice and was actually really reasonably priced, but they were sold out at the store. Minus 1 for Best Buy. I made a note of the model number and thought I might order it online.

I went online and found the laptop, which had amazing reviews everywhere. Plus, they were running a special deal where if you buy a HP computer, you can get an HP TouchPad at a big discount. I had no plans to get a tablet computer, in fact I think they’re kind of silly, but for the price it was too good of a deal to pass up. Plus 1 for Best Buy. I put both items in my cart online and went to pay for them… but kept getting different error messages about one item or the other not being available to ship, or being sold out. Minus 1 for Best Buy. I tweeted my frustration, and a Best Buy representative tried to help me out, eventually directing me to e-mail the details to one of their Geek Squad community people. Plus 1 for Best Buy.

Over a day later, I hadn’t received a response to my question, or even an acknowledgement. Minus 1 for Best Buy. I again tweeted about it, and magically I received an e-mail response! This guy told me that the items were sold out online, but may still be available at a local store. Even though the web site hadn’t been able to locate one for me at any store nearby, I gave him my zip code, and he found two stores that he said may have the laptop in stock. Plus 1 for Best Buy.

I called the more convenient of the two locations after work, and it turned out that although their computer said they had one laptop in stock, they actually didn’t have any. Minus 1 for Best Buy. But the girl I spoke to there called the other store for me, and they did have one, which she had them put on hold for me! Plus 1 for Best Buy.

I called the other store, and it turned out that the one laptop that they had in stock was one of their “pre set-up” models. Geek Squad had already set up everything on the computer, installed antivirus software, uninstalled all the junk it comes with, etc., but it’s otherwise completely brand new and in its original packaging. I didn’t know they did this, but apparently they keep about 30% of their stock in this state, for people who just want to grab a ready-to-go computer. I don’t mind setting stuff up myself, of course, but if that’s all they had then that’s all they had. But, this service added $99 to the cost of the computer. Minus 1 for Best Buy. I decided it was still a good enough deal to purchase it – even with the extra fee, it was under the amount I’d been planning to spend. The laptop was really all I wanted or needed, but then I asked… Did they have the tablet in stock? The girl I was talking to went to check. It wasn’t appearing on their computer, because… a shipment had just come in! So she put one of those aside for me as well! This girl was so nice and helpful, explaining everything to me and doing a lot of checking. Plus 1 for Best Buy.

GG and I headed out… in rush hour… in the dark. Oh, and he didn’t know we’d be going anywhere and had had a glass of scotch when he got home from work, so he wasn’t comfortable driving, so I had to drive. Even though it’s not their fault, minus 1 for Best Buy. I did eventually get us there, found the girl I’d been speaking to, avoided her sales pitch for additional products and services, and paid for my items. The whole transaction went completely smoothly. Plus 1 for Best Buy.

So overall, Best Buy ended up with zero points.

Anyway, the tablet was quick to set up, but I don’t see it replacing a regular computer for most things. Web sites don’t really work quite right, and the apps (such as the Twitter app and Facebook app) leave a lot to be desired. It’s a little heavy to just hold for long periods of time, and it’s not made for major typing. But it does have an e-reader function, and I think it will be handy to just have sitting around the house in case we want to look something up, refer to a recipe online while we’re in the kitchen, or take out on the road. I’m happy with it. The laptop, I love. Everything was ready to go so quickly, it’s much faster and more user friendly than my other computer… I think it may be more powerful than my desktop. And it’s prettier. There may come a day when I could use a laptop as my main computer, but for the time being… there are six computers in this house between the two of us. Plus the tablet. Plus our phones.