February

Highlights of this busy, busy month:

  • Went with my friend C for a Sephora makeover/makeup lesson. We had so much fun and I really learned a lot!
  • GG and I went to see Artie Lange do stand-up. The opening act was really good. Artie, not so impressive. Also, we saw him do literally all the same jokes later on a TV interview.
  • Watched the Superbowl with GG’s family at my BIL’s house – lots of food was had, and we stuck to our way of eating (I made buffalo chicken dip and there was also veggies and guacamole and some other things we could enjoy). So far no problems sticking to the plan!
  • We went to The Farmer’s Daughter for our Valentine’s dinner (and used a gift card GG had gotten for his birthday). We just had to make a couple substitutions to accommodate our new WOE :)
  • GG and I saw Split – we’re big M. Night Shyamalan fans so of course we loved it, but the end was awesomeeeeeee!! (No spoilers!) Also, we love trying to guess where in Philadelphia things are taking place. And the funniest part was that we were watching it in a town that was mentioned in the film! When they said it, everyone in the theater was like, “That’s where we are!”
  • On our day off for Presidents’ Day, my friends L, J, J’s sons, and I went to New York for the day. We visited the 9/11 memorial and museum (and I didn’t cry! Almost, but kept it together), then went to Brooklyn to eat at a Harry Potter themed pasta restaurant, then tried going to that restaurant that serves cookie dough in ice cream cones but they were closed, then went to the Nintendo store (child’s request), and then took the train back home. Oh also, L had come out the night before and spent the night, which is fun :)
  • GG and I went to see a live taping of Ask Me Another, which was fun and really interesting! I’d never been to a live taping of an NPR (or any other) show before. GG had been to a Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me taping a couple years ago, so he had already seen them do things like record pick-ups after the show.
  • We also went to see a high school production of Rent that one of my JA kids was in. Besides some technical issues with microphones and a couple tone-deaf singers, it was surprisingly good!
  • We went to a friend’s birthday party and stuck to our WOE! The friend who hosted it is a baker and made a beautiful peanut butter chocolate cake, which I knew would be amazing. So GG and I each tried exactly one bite and… meh. I mean, I’m sure it was an amazing cake. But we didn’t feel tempted to eat a whole slice! We stuck to veggies, the buffalo chicken dip I’d brought (that’s been my go-to party food), and hot dogs (without buns).

January

Highlights this month:

  • GG and I started eating a Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) or Ketogenic diet. Basically, very low carbs, moderate protein, and high fat. I’ll write more about this later, but so far, so good!
  • We made our annual visit to the PA Farm Show with our friend L. It was a little different this year because of the aforementioned diet (no milkshakes or donuts!), but there was actually plenty for us to eat and we did great.
  • We saw Hidden Figures, I loved it!
  • I met up with my friend M who lives in NC but was in PA for his kid’s ice skating competition! I got to see some of the skating, and then we hung out and chatted for a while before I headed home (it was a couple hours away – but closer than the 7 hour drive to his place, I’ve done that before too!)
  • We went to our friends’ housewarming party – they used to live somewhere really sketchy and now they are a little closer, in a much nicer place, so yay!
  • Got to go wedding dress shopping with a friend! I’ve never been wedding dress shopping before, and it was so sweet of her to invite me! It wasn’t like it is on Say Yes to the Dress, mostly because she pretty much already had something picked out, and everything else she tried on just served to convince her to go with the one she already liked!

December

Highlights of the last month of the year:

  • Had a very successful holiday party and this year’s entertainment was a ventriloquist! It was really funny when I called to hire him and got to explain that no, there would be no children, he can tell all the dirty jokes he wants ;)
  • Had a bunch of events for my side business.
  • Played a bunch of holiday concerts.
  • Got to celebrate Christmas on two separate days, instead of rushing to cram two Christmasses into one day, which was much more pleasant.
  • Interviewed house cleaners as my Christmas gift to my grandmom (she picked one to start in January!)
  • GG and I took our usual day off to do Christmassy stuff in Philly – this year included the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, followed by the Temple of Awesomeness and Delight at DiBruno Bottle Shop.
  • Celebrated A’s birthday with dinner in NJ followed by a very bad escape room :( When we were done, we didn’t even stay to take funny pictures with their signs or anything (and actually, nobody from the place encouraged us to), we just left.

I was trying to get a few people over for a small New Year’s Eve dinner, but nobody was really available and then I got a really bad cold and decided I probably shouldn’t be handling people’s food, so now our plans include sitting on the couch in our PJs, and making s’mores with my new s’mores machine :)

November

How can I describe November? Disappointing? I fell asleep for a couple hours on election night and woke up to a crazy dystopia. We took 2 kitties to the vet and guess what, there is nothing physically wrong with the crazy one, he’s just crazy – so now he gets drugs :/ I did a big vendor event for my side business that had the most horrible load-in – luckily GG was able to meet me afterward and help me take things back out! Thanksgiving was nice and we had lots of family together, but meanwhile in GG’s family there was a medical emergency (everyone’s ok) and his dad and brother were in charge of making dinner, which actually turned out surprisingly well (we said they’re in charge of stuffing from now on). We went to MB & A’s annual Friendsgiving the week after, which is a little different now that everyone going has tons of kids running around. And I did my Christmas decorating early, since we’re having our holiday party earlier this year.

October

Highlights of this month!

  • I had a booth at our community Fall Fest which was great for meeting local customers, and I got to spend the day with my newest teammate!
  • GG and I joined the new Community Center and committed to working out regularly at the gym.
  • We made our annual trip to the Ren Faire! Got to spend the day with some of my favorite ladies (and GG). I made a flowered headband for my favorite little lady!


  • Did some other events for my side biz, including training in NYC! GG came with me and we went up the night before and spent the night. Then he entertained himself at a photo convention and explored some restaurants in the pouring rain while I was at my training. Afterward, we had a fabulous dinner at Parker and Quinn before driving home.
  • The day after this overnight NYC trip was MU Homecoming! We had another official PSP reunion this year, but it didn’t have the magic of the last one … My friends and I were pretty much the only alumni there. We did get ourselves invited to the Housing reunion so we could go on a tour of one of the new dorms – we’d toured it a couple years ago when it was brand new, and I wanted to see how things were holding up now that kids had been living there for a while (and were responsible for cleaning their own bathrooms, etc.). One story they kept telling us involved a guy who was storing jars of pee in his room…
  • Our Fall Concert for band took place a week early, in October instead of November, so we ended up doing a semi Halloween theme and everyone wore all black (with orange accessories) instead of our traditional black pants and white tops. I accented my outfit with a black cat ear headband.
  • We once again offered full size candy bars to kids on Halloween, and cups of hot apple cider to parents. Our porch was really hopping last year, but this year it felt like there were a lot fewer trick-or-treaters.

September

I always love September – it’s my favorite time of year, and my birthday month! Some highlights this year:

  • I did my very first escape room with my Chicklet when she suggested it as kind of a spur of the moment activity to kick off Labor Day weekend. I was a little nervous because I’m not always great at puzzles and trivia and that kind of stuff, but we rocked it!


  • We got to see Thank You Scientist again (this time I was prepared because I know the band now!), but the singer was super sick, which really just made me sad for him because you could tell he was miserable :( But then we got to meet the trumpet player outside afterward, which was awesome!


  • I had to do this two-day training at work for a system that we inherited from a company that we acquired and is so convoluted, it will make me never complain about any of our other systems again. We had to fly a trainer out to teach three of us, and by the end of day two, between four total people, we had successfully completed the process one time. Not encouraging :/
  • Went to Sunfest in OCMD with my friend L! She has been going for years, but I’d never been, so we both took a few days off work and went for a nice long weekend. Sunfest was so fun, and we also went on the Sand Castle Home Tour, plus played mini golf, hit the boardwalk every night, and ate a lot.


Surprise!

This year was a milestone birthday for GG, and for the past several years I’d been wanting to throw him a big surprise party. It was a little daunting though because he has a lot of different groups of friends (current coworkers, past coworkers, people he went to school with, musicians, comedians, family and childhood friends, etc.), and I was a little overwhelmed trying to figure out how to invite all of them. Finally I decided, for this big birthday, I was going to do it. I got in touch with a “representative” from each group, and asked them to help with invites.

I also wanted the party to be mostly GG and his friends on stage, playing music or telling jokes or whatever, since that’s where he’d be happiest – so then I had to find somewhere with a stage! That was tricky, as these places were pretty expensive to reserve… Then one of my invitation contacts recommended this local music venue where his wife had held a movie screening and her bridal shower before. So I reached out to this place and they were amazing! The venue was very cool, we didn’t really have to decorate; they’re a local music place, so they already had a stage, sound system with sound guys, and even a bunch of instruments (like a drum set and stuff); and they have a kitchen so were able to prepare all the food, we just had to bring our own alcohol! Also, the price was extremely reasonable, and the owner was excited because he’d never done an event like this before.

Leading up to his birthday, GG kept saying he didn’t want to make a big deal about it, etc. etc. Little did he know we had guests coming from all over the east coast to celebrate him! As a ruse, one of his old bandmates invited him to play this private gig the night of his b-day, which was a Friday. I told him to go ahead, because we could just celebrate the next day, it was no big deal, right? This got him to the venue, with his guitar and equipment (because I had no idea what he’d want to pack if I had to sneak and do it for him)!

So the night of the party, I got dressed (GG even caught me on my way out of the house – I don’t think he was suspicious!), picked up the awesome cupcakes I’d ordered, and headed to the venue to set up a little. The owner had put together a great menu of all different types of quesadillas (one of GG’s favorites, and a specialty of this place!) and finger foods. My BIL, who was such a huge help getting things organized, was able to bring a ton of liquor from his job, and other friends brought drinks as well. People started arriving and I was shocked to see how many people there were, and how far some had traveled (like, from Virginia and Connecticut)!

Finally it was time for GG to arrive, so everyone got situated in the main room and turned off the lights. GG and his friend came in with their instruments and stuff, and he started looking around. He looked upstairs where the balcony seating was and saw a friend from work, which I guess is when he started getting suspicious. Then he walked into the main room and we all yelled surprise and his reaction was perfect! He was so shocked to see all the people who were there for him!

So then everyone put on an amazing show – MCed by my super helpful BIL. We started out with a roast/comedy performance by anyone who wanted to participate, including some surprise performers! GG sat on stage and by this point he was pretty drunk. Then there was a magic performance by our magician friend, which transitioned us into the music portion of the evening. Members of past and present bands, as well as other musicians and friends, got up and performed with GG, and it looked like everyone had a blast! When there wasn’t music playing (which, there pretty much was for the rest of the night), the sound guys played my “Party Like It’s 1976” playlist of songs I’d downloaded, which all were either released or at the top of the charts that year.

We had such an amazing night and such great memories. I am so thankful for everyone who helped me pull this off and make the dream a reality – everyone who helped invite, helped me with the venue, everyone who performed, and especially our friend who got him to the party without any suspicion ;)

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!