Hoopla 2015!

When I joined my second side business last year, I decided, no matter when or where it was, there was no way I would miss this company’s very first conference. Well, it was last weekend and it was amazing! Compared to being with 15,000 women last year, being with just 500 was very different. But it was such a great experience. The speakers and training and product demos could have been anywhere. But the best part was that many of us had been with the company since Day 1, and we knew each other online, and it was so awesome to finally meet these women in person! That was really the main highlight for me, because honestly, by the time conference rolled around, I was questioning whether I wanted to go or to stick with this at all, but having met those women, I am going to make the effort to keep with this as long as I can :o)

I was supposed to fly to Dallas on Thursday with another Designer from my area, but she ended up cancelling at the last minute due to some family issues. So I traveled by myself, and then it turned out my Director arrived at the airport about the same time I did, so I got to meet her for the first time (she’s amazing, more on her later) and we shared an Uber to the hotel. Oh, and Uber! The hotel was really not walking distance to anything, so this is the way we got around town all weekend, and it worked out great! Thursday we mostly hung around the hotel and greeted people as they arrived. A bunch of us went out to this Mexican place for dinner, and I’m sure it would have been really fabulous, but by that point, between traveling and a slight time difference and just the long day I’d had, I really wasn’t feeling well, so I barely touched my food. I just crashed in bed.

Friday was the day most people were arriving, so again we kind of claimed a spot in the hotel and greeted people as they arrived. The co-founder and “Customer Advocate” of Tiny Torch happened to be in town for another conference, and I was able to get him to come by and do a little meet and greet with some of our Designers! Ok, it was mostly with me, but it was great to meet him in person, he’s a super guy, and I think it at least piqued others’ interest in the service – there’s been a lot of interest and questions since I’ve been home, so I will be putting together a little guide to show people how I use TT to organize my businesses and schedule. Check-in opened, and we all got our swag bags full of new product! Plus, we were able to meet home office staff who, again, we’d been interacting with for the past year. Leadership training was during the day Friday, so the rest of us had free time until our first general session that afternoon. That night was our “team party,” which my director hosted in her suite (I got to help set up cupcakes!). Really cool to meet the whole team and celebrate accomplishments within our group.

Saturday started early with lots of training and special announcements. It was a long day of sessions, and then I went out with some other girls from my team for dinner at this cool diner. (Anytime in this story that I’m not mentioning where we ate, it’s probably because I had a meal from one of the food trucks that lined the sidewalk outside the hotel. Again, it was kind of removed from everything, so the trucks were really the only option if you didn’t want expensive hotel food, and didn’t have time to go out somewhere.) After dinner, it was time to get ready for our dance party! This was a really nice event, we had a whole big ballroom in the hotel with DJ and dance floor, photo booth, little sweets and cakes, cash bars featuring a special cocktail just for us, and lots of ladies just going nuts meeting each other and getting pictures. I got to meet a Designer who joined in the very beginning with me, and we actually spoke on the phone when we first were starting because she had never done anything like this before and was nervous. Guess what – she’s now one of the top Designers in the company! I hadn’t had a chance to meet her before because, as a leader, she had been kind of segregated from us, so it was so awesome to meet and congratulate her in person! Also hung out with my roommate (not on my team) and some other local Designers from PA, and we are going to try to hook up back home!



Our last day, Sunday, got off to kind of a slow start – I think some people were partying a little too hard at the dance party! Our “Chief Happiness Officer” serenaded us on his saxophone, then gave a really inspirational speech (which I think had the unintended effect of inspiring me to do something else, but .. at least it was inspirational). Everyone slowly started checking out and making their way home. This time I had a travel companion (my roommie), and our flight wasn’t until later, so we checked out and then hung out in “our” spot in the hotel, saying goodbye to people. (Cool thing that happened: I was there in the lobby and saw a home office person I recognized and hadn’t met yet. Hoopla was officially over, but I just went over and said I wanted to introduce myself and thank her for all she did for us. “I said, “You don’t know me, but my name is [first name],” and she said, “Oh, [first name last name]?” That just made my day – she knew me too!) We got an alert that our flight was delayed, but still headed to the airport at the scheduled time anyway, sharing a shuttle with another girl from my team who we just met there in the lobby! We grabbed dinner at the airport and killed some time before heading to the gate. Somehow, despite being delayed, we made up time in the air, and actually arrived home a little ahead of schedule! GG not only picked me up at the airport, he actually came inside to meet me, which was really sweet :o)

And since there wasn’t a good place in the narrative to include this, I will just add that my director is an amazing woman. The more time I spent with her, the more I learned about her. She’s had such an unbelievable life, and is really an inspiration. She lives every day with a condition that basically feels like she has a permanent migraine, and will probably someday need brain surgery, but still takes care of her family and has had such amazing success in her business. She has experienced heartbreaking losses. Her three children are fabulous, and she has been a surrogate, carrying pregnancies for other families, multiple times! But the main thing I love about her is that she is not like most of the other leaders in this company, all “rah-rah” and sometimes aloof. She’s just a normal person who does not like being in the spotlight, who has achieved great success and knows that we all can, too.

Early Adopter

Originally I had titled this post “Things I’ve been doing since before they were cool,” but that sounds like I’m such a hipster. Although there are lots of things that I’m late getting into (e.g. I didn’t have a smartphone until, like, forever), I feel like there’s a lot of things I’ve been doing that have only recently become very popular.

Greek Yogurt: GG and I were talking the other night about how Greek yogurt has really taken over. At our regular supermarket, Greek yogurt probably fills about 2/3 of the yogurt case, and even the regular brands seem to have a Greek version. But I have been eating it for years! When I started eating Greek yogurt, you couldn’t even get it at the regular supermarket, they only had it at specialty stores like Trader Joe’s. And there was one flavor: Greek! Want honey in it? Add in your own honey! I like that there are so many options and it’s so easy to get now, but I’m sure the trend will die down eventually. (I hope Australian style is the next trend – that stuff is delicious!)

BB Cream: I used to read this makeup/beauty message board and years ago they were all going nuts over BB cream, this lotion/foundation/SPF combo coming out of Korea. It was huge in Korea and there were many brands to choose from, that you could order online. I picked a brand and purchased a sampler pack so I could try out six of their options. The differences were so minimal, I actually made myself a spreadsheet to track what each bottle said and what my impression of each was! Anyway, I ended up choosing a favorite and ordering a full-size bottle, and I’ve been using it ever since! Of course, now every mainstream makeup company has their own version of BB cream (and now there’s “CC cream” and other iterations).

Quinoa: This is another food that I discovered long ago at Trader Joe’s – thank you for helping me be ahead of the curve, TJ’s! I remember cooking quinoa back in college, circa 2003-2004. There are people today who have never heard of or tried quinoa, even though it seems to be in everything lately!

Edamame: I found this in high school (around 1999-2000?) from – guess where – Trader Joe’s! I used to get the bags of frozen edamame, cook it all up at once, and store it in a container in the fridge, to snack on with a little salt. I specifically remember one time I went to the movies with a friend and we sneaked in our own little containers of edamame in a backpack for a snack. I was just talking to someone recently who had never tried edamame (or quinoa)!

Etsy: Per Wikipedia, Etsy launched on June 18, 2005. Looking at my profile on the site, I joined on Dec. 15, 2005. I actually did a bit of selling back in the olden days – first little things that I had sewn, then I got into knitting adult and baby hats, and I also started sewing cloth pads. Someone asked me to knit a red and white Where’s Waldo had for a costume one year, and that led to my selling thirty-three more (I just counted) over the next couple Halloweens. I probably could still sell a bunch at Halloween time, just through people searching for them, but the site has changed a ton since it started. You used to be able to launch and promote your business solely through the site; now you really need to establish and market yourself outside Etsy, and just use the site as your shopping cart application. I still do shop there frequently for gifts and and for myself!

The Busiest Month

Didn’t I say June was going to be crazy? Besides our anniversary/wedding weekend, here’s some highlights so far:

  • GG and I have been going to this weekly free outdoor yoga thing our town is offering for the summer (the weeks that we can both make it, and it doesn’t get rained out).
  • I went to Fall Product Premier in NJ (again). We didn’t have a big team there this time, just me and E (who happened to pull into the parking lot right behind me, so we didn’t even have to work on meeting up). I love everything that’s coming out for fall – this may be a problem (for my bank account)!
  • I’ve been busy with summer band concerts (the ones I can make, that aren’t rained out [actually none have been rained out, but last week’s was cancelled because power at the venue was out after a big storm the day before, and wasn’t restored until the following day]).
  • GG and I had a free Sunday, so we decided to knock a couple things off this list of “free stuff to do in Philly” that I’d put together. First we went to the Elfreth’s Alley Museum – we’d been to the street before, but hadn’t been through the museum. It was just us and one lone guy touring around with a grumpy guide. (Pro tip: the museum is not really free, there is a $5 “suggested donation.” I don’t know what she would have been like, had we chosen not to donate, since a lot of her complaints were money-related.) She cheered up once she got going, and it was an interesting tour. I’d love to come back sometime and see some of the houses that people live in today! It was pretty hot and humid by this point, so we decided to go get some lunch and cool off before making our next stop, so we went to Molly Malloy’s at the Reading Terminal. Finally, we went to the Fabric Workshop and Museum, which is totally free to tour. I’d heard of it, but didn’t really know what this place was, other than that it wasn’t just about cloth “fabric,” it was art “fabricated” from all different types of materials. They had an exhibition from the prolific and varied artist Richard Tuttle who neither of us had ever heard of. I don’t like to make fun of art, but let’s just say, some of his pieces were things I could easily make myself. (Photography was allowed for almost all the pieces, but there were a couple where photos were restricted. One was a short rope nailed to the wall at each end. I told GG, “Don’t worry, I’ll make you one when we get home.”) I checked out some reviews of the exhibit when we got home, and it looks like even the art critics were a little confused, so I didn’t feel so bad…
  • We went to see a live comedy talk show where Sasheer Zamata was appearing as a guest. We’d never been to this show before, but in honor of their second anniversary, they did some special activities, including: having a live pony (which promptly peed on stage); making waffles on stage for any audience member who asked for one; lots of games; and as a grand finale, destroying the coffee table that has appeared on set for all their episodes to that point.
  • I finally joined a CSA! Because I came in late in the season, I paid a pro-rated amount for a “small” share. Even this size share is a bit much for just the two of us (I’d be happier with more variety and less quantity), but since GG had been trying to eat healthier and more vegetables, we’ll definitely get our money’s worth. The pick-up location is really convenient, which has been one of the biggest deterrents to me joining a CSA previously. Very excited for what the summer will bring! (My first week featured candycane beets!)
  • Last weekend featured two birthday parties, each for two people, so that’s four birthdays if you’re keeping count. One of them was a one year-old, and he is adorable and did great, considering all the noise, activity, and different people passing him around! (His b-day cake was also amazing: a lemon blueberry cake!)

After the Independence Day holiday, my calendar is looking a lot more empty… At least for a few weeks!

Nice Weekend for Weddings

Can you believe GG and I have been married for nine years?! Usually we try to plan a nice dinner out or even a brief trip for our anniversary, but this year GG had already made plans to play in a band with our friend A at a Relay for Life event. So we had time for a quick (but nice) dinner at home before he had to drive to the event, about an hour away.

We decided to make reservations at Seasons 52, since it was nice and close by. I guess because GG said in the reservation that it was our anniversary, they brought us a little card, and a couple free glasses of champagne. Our appetizer was amazing and something I need to re-create: blistered Shishido peppers with roasted corn, Sonoma goat-feta cheese, lemon aioli, and sumac. Apparently it’s a new menu item, and three different managers came by to see how we liked it. (We loved it! I’d just picked it on a whim!) Then I had the salad I usually get, GG had a pork tenderloin, and we each enjoyed a couple of the mini desserts :o)

Then on Sunday, we went to this wedding we were sort of accidentally invited to. So, funny story: I posted on Facebook about some cat food I couldn’t use, and a friend of mine from high school (she was a freshman when I was a senior) said she could take it, so we met up to drop it off. We talked for a while, and then she goes, “You guys are local, right?” and hands me an invitation to her wedding! My friend is Chinese, and apparently her parents were in charge of invites, and she was worried there would be “too many Chinese people” there! So GG and I ended up going, even though I was sure I would know nobody there.

It was a gorgeous day for the little outdoor garden wedding, and they did a really nice job of incorporating Chinese and western traditions (her husband is not Chinese). When we sat down for the reception, I found that we were at a table of people from my high school, but because they were all three years behind me, I didn’t really know any of them. The girl sitting next to me was actually even younger than the bride, and we started talking about how we both knew her. I shared that I was her “band mom” in marching band, and this girl goes, “Oh, she was my band mom!” So that made her my band granddaughter!

Also, I wore a very cool maxi dress, so I didn’t even need to shave my legs ;o)

May

Looking back on it, I had a pretty nice, calm May, compared to the crazy June I’m about to face! Some highlights:

  • We had our spring band concert. Nothing I was super excited to play, but it wasn’t terrible. I also wasn’t thrilled about the posters and programs I’d designed, but everyone seemed to like them, so that’s always good.
  • I took my mom and grandmom out for a really nice Mother’s Day lunch, and then afterward my brother came over and hung out and it was a very nice time.
  • We saw John Mulaney at the Merriam Theater! He’s really hit the big time :o)
  • After resuming regular orthodontist appointments a couple years ago when I had my retainers modified to be TMJ night guards, I have now officially “graduated” from orthodontia (again)! Instead of telling me to come back in a year, they said, “Call if you need us.”
  • I continued my David’s Tea obsession.
  • I also discovered this crazy vegan place in our area, Gangster Vegan. After meeting the owner at our farmers’ market and trying some of their juice, GG and I went there to pick up dinner one night, and he’s been talking about it ever since! Everything is vegan and organic, and also a lot is raw. (Did you know that vegan pie “crust” is a delicious date paste?!)
  • Had a relaxing and productive Memorial Day weekend while GG was away working. Having been an “ice cream widow” over summer holiday weekends for years now, I’ve learned how to make my own plans and keep myself occupied.
  • The TLC Block Party!
  • Hosted a ladies’ brunch/Ruby Ribbon trunk show that turned out pretty well. I might do brunches for all my parties from now on – the food is fun and easy, and you still have the whole day after it’s over! My friend L stayed after the party and we hit up the KoP Mall.

The HapTEAest Place on Earth

There is a new loose leaf tea shop in town, and GG and I are huge fans! DAVIDsTEA is a Canada-based tea shop that sells loose teas, drinks, and paraphernalia like mugs and steepers and spoons. They also sell really cute gift sets and sampler packs, and have recently launched a line of tea-based skincare products (lotions and lip balms). We have been longtime customers of that other tea shop (GG even worked there for a week once!), and the vibe is just so much nicer here! Brighter and more colorful and generally more happy.

I also have to compliment the staff. Every time we’re in this store, it’s like a party, and we leave with huge smiles on our faces! They are super friendly, happy, knowledgeable, and helpful. You can tell they really love what they’re selling, and want to help you pick just the right thing.

On Friday, GG and I came by after dinner to get some tea drinks. The woman making them was positively giddy about my choice and kept saying how excited she was to make this drink – an iced latte made with Forever Nuts tea, which brewed up to be a really pretty pink color.

Their teas have really unique flavors/ingredients and cute names (there is one called Movie Night that includes popcorn!), and the other products are nicely designed. I’ve given a couple mugs as gifts, and this last time I picked up an iced tea pitcher, which I wanted to get anyway, plus it enrolled me in their Summer Steeper program for the next couple months (check it out – can be done online, too!). So expect lots more “selfteas” coming up :o)

PS: This post was totally unsponsored, I just really like this store!

April

  • GG got some bad news at the end of March and April started a new and hopefully ultimately positive and exciting chapter of our lives/year.
  • We did Easter Brunch with my family at our current favorite local brunch spot (those Eggs Benedict, mmm!), followed by Easter Dinner with GG’s family, which, like most holidays, was a lot of food for one day!
  • Celebrated National Cheese Fondue Day at The Melting Pot; I signed up for their “fondue club” or whatever, and learned of a special member deal they were doing. I do love me some cheese…
  • Spent a very hipster night out in Philly to celebrate GG’s friend’s birthday – we went to Barcade, Johnny Brenda’s, and Frankford Hall. Because it was the first gorgeous weekend day of the year, these places were all packed. If nothing else, Frankford Hall totally sold me on building my own fire pit at home ASAP.
  • GG took his annual plane trip to visit friends out of state, and I stayed home and enjoyed having the place to myself for a week ;o)
  • We saw TMBG in Philly!! I know, the last time we saw them at the TLA we decided we were too old (or their new child fans were too inconsiderate and unaware), but we decided to give it another try. We actually had a decent time. It was “An Evening With TMBG,” so there was no opening act, just two long TMBG sets. They played a lot of their new Dial-A-Song tunes, but it turns out that “Glean” is a great album, and they meshed well with their other classic songs. Stage banter was fabulous – I was so glad there were no sock puppets! But I loved the phone calls from Mama and Papa TMBG (including callbacks to earlier jokes, like a warehouse full of all the rats’ asses they don’t give about flash photography). We met up with a guy GG knows while we were waiting in line, so we had someone else to chat with. There were a few annoying kids (like, teenagers, and actual kids who were there with their parents even though this was explicitly not a kids’ show), but all-in-all, it was a good night. This was my 13th TMBG show!
  • Went to a breast cancer fundraiser/fashion show with my breast cancer survivor friend J :o) It was a really nice venue, nice set-up and decor, little bar when you came in, the fashion show was fun, good raffle prizes, etc. but, we were told there would be brunch. They finally served everyone a small wedge of quiche and a handful of lettuce leaves, and… that was it. They collected our plates and there was nothing more. Everyone at our table was like, “Was that it?” (They did eventually release us for cookies and coffee/tea :o/)
  • I read Growing Up Duggar and tweeted my thoughts as I went through it. If you are a fan (or anti-fan) of the Duggars and don’t follow me on Twitter, you’re really missing out. I have a bunch of followers who basically like me just for my Tuesday night live commentary of the show.

March

This has been a really tough month, understandably, but it’s had ups and downs. Some of the ups:

  • Had a nice off-season trip to OCMD with GG and his family to attend a hotel and restaurant convention (aka: excuse to eat and drink all the samples). We found a nice new (to me) restaurant down there, Hooked. And it was nice to just get away for a few days.
  • Went to a middle school play… The play itself was cute, but the real highlight for me was my band friend C yelling at the rude middle school boys next to us during the intermission, then ending with a threat, “You don’t know who I am, but I know who you are, and I’ll see you when you get to high school!”
  • Had another great event for my second side business! I’d been working with this hostess for months, and she just did not have any confidence in herself – so it made me so happy to see what a great turnout and event she had, and how that made her feel better about herself, too!
  • And of course … the new guy. I’ll have to write more about him later.

My Version of the Chili’s Fresh Mex Bowl


I few weeks ago, I had dinner at Chili’s, which I hadn’t been to in a couple years. There were a few new items on their menu in the “Fresh Mex” category, including two versions of a Fresh Mex bowl. The one I had was really good, just the right amount of food, and still felt light and healthy. So the next week, I decided to make my own version at home.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you could totally customize it. Leave something off, add something in. When I ate at the restaurant, my bowl had some sliced chicken on it, so marinate a chicken breast and add it to the recipe below. If you’d like something a little spicier, you can adjust the seasonings, or add some jalapeno or maybe chipotle in adobo. But here is the recipe for two of the bowls pictured above:

Ingredients: (these are all kind of estimates because I “cook from the heart”)

  • 2 cups brown rice (dry)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 15 oz. can of black beans
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • salt & pepper

Rice: Prepare rice in a pot with boiling water, according to its directions. When almost finished, add about 3 tsp vegetable oil, salt, 1/4 cup cilantro, juice of half a lime, and combine. Keep warm until ready to assemble.

Beans: Heat about 1 tsp of oil in a pot, add rinsed and drained beans. Sprinkle with chili powder and cumin to taste. Cook until warmed through and keep warm until ready to assemble.

Corn: Heat about 1 tsp of oil in a pan, add thawed corn. When almost fully cooked, add about 1 Tbsp lime juice, 1/8 cup cilantro, salt and pepper to taste. (This would be a good place to add some chopped jalepenos, too.) Keep warm until ready to assemble.

Sour Cream: To 1/2 cup sour cream, add 1 Tbsp lime juice, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/8 cup cilantro. Combine and keep cool until ready to assemble.

Assemble the bowl: starting with a base of rice, add beans, corn, half a sliced avocado, shredded cheese, and sour cream.

February

Between snow and sickness, I was home a couple extra days each week this month. I actually never made it to the office for a full week (or my usual 3 days) all month! Some highlights:

  • More of a low-light, but I got food poisoning from wonton soup and/or egg rolls from our favorite Chinese restaurant, the night of the Super Bowl. I felt bad immediately after eating, and was up all night throwing up and whatnot. Then it continued for the next couple days. On the plus side, I lost 5 pounds!
  • Just when I got over this illness, I got a mega cold. Then GG got sick (and he is never sick)!
  • I finally got my shelves hung in my office! And then found the perfect desk (which is actually two kitchen tables from Ikea, but trust me, they look and work great). Now I just need to finish getting things organized, I really need a free weekend to work on this…
  • We went to see Birdman, just in time for the Oscars…
  • Went to what was actually a student music recital at Drexel, but GG knew the director/teacher of the group. Also discovered Zavino, which had great food, good prices, and the most generous cheese and charcuterie board we have ever had (seriously, we couldn’t finish all that meat).
  • Had a really neat opportunity to meet and have dinner with the founder of Ruby Ribbon, thanks to my Director from my side biz!
  • We celebrated Valentine’s Day a day early by going out to dinner Friday night at Sullivan’s Steakhouse. The food was good, but for those prices, I’d like to be spoiled a little more (e.g. Capital Grille). The whole meal and situation was kind of weird – for instance, they apparently cleared out the regular tables from one room and replaced them with rinky-dink folding tables for all the couples out celebrating, which looked really junky.
  • On Valentine’s Day, we went to see Thank You Scientist. I’d never even heard their music until the week before, but they are amazing. Really incredibly skillful musicians, and they put on a great show! Such a shame they were the opening act, but on the other hand, we left right after their set and got home nice and early! (Also, District N9ne is a great venue, I’d go to another show there, although it’s kind of in a weird location.)
  • Went to the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention (not my usual scene, but I knew someone working there) – no, I still do not like anything enough that I need it tattooed on my body forever.
  • I tried Colour Pop, and I am hooked! The eyeshadow is amazing – goes on creamy, blends nicely, and lasts really well all day without creasing. I can’t say the same for the lipsticks, which are a mess, but I have a couple of those, too.
  • I continued working my second side business and had an amazing month!