Friday, January 30, 2015


Computer is back to being functional!

More posts to come very soon, as well as a slew of job applications. It is very hard for a technologically oriented person to work with a half working 10 year old laptop and an iphone.

I was doing really well with walking until I messed up my neck, but I am switching gears from calorie watching and exercising to trying a couple new recipes in the meantime.

Constantly reminding myself that life is a marathon, not a race. Avoid frustration.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Life Fail

So, as fast as things can go well, they can start to get all weird and messed up as well. Nothing earth-shattering, but plenty that can leave a person (me, anyway) kind of bummed and frustrated.

Guy from the amazing date has pulled a disappearing act. Not much more to be said there, beyond me being a little surprised. I have experienced fade-aways before, they are common in the world of internet dating, but I have never experienced it when dealing with a guy who was SO into things. Oh well, it sucks, but it happens. There is still hope for my romantic life that I did not have before, so it wasn't all bad.

My computer is broken. It is a TERRIBLE time for my computer to be broken given the job applications I am trying to put out. When my charger is attached to the computer, it is a bit loose at the port. I have no idea if the issue is the computer or the charger, but I am hoping with all of my might that it is the charger because I can't afford fixing the computer. I have an appointment to get it diagnosed in an hour, and I have just enough charge to write this and back up my important files.

On the plus side, the insanity of being into the guy and the frustration when he disappeared made me amp up my walking game like a boss. Typically, I aimed for a mile and a half (around 30 minutes) a day when the weather was good, 3 miles (an hour) on days I was really trying to get some exercise. The new standard has become 3 miles on a lazy day, with 4-5 miles as my exercise standard. I have been more into walking for longer stretches to loud music I love than shorter runs, which is probably good while I am jobless. Couch to 5k is still something I intend to do, and want to do, but sometimes a person just needs to adjust their exercise for what they need to be mentally healthy.

Here's hoping the computer isn't screwed.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Battle of the Beauty Boxes: January 2015 Birchbox, Glossybox, Ipsy

Another month of some exciting new products in my favorite beauty box subscriptions. I am really excited to see the value for this month in each, and see if there are any significant changes. 

Birchbox - $10 a month, rewards system is AWESOME. 10 points per product review, 100 points = 10 bucks. This month I received six products, and therefore got six dollars of credit to use in the shop. The shop is extensive and amazing - spending money there is no problem for me.

When Travelmate Sheet Mask: Value: $7.00. I am a huge fan of sheet masks, and typically get mine from Asia where they are common and cheap, as the American ones can be dicey in quality. I am looking forward to trying this.

Sumita Color Contrast Eyeliner in Hansa: Value: About $6.00. I have a black liner from this brand that I really enjoy, and olive green is an excellent color on my green eyes.

Essentiel Elements Body Lotion in Rosemary: Value: around $3.56. I will use this, and enjoy the nontraditional scent very much, even though I hate firm bottles like this due to how hard it is to get the product out.

It's a 10 Miracle Leave In Conditioner Plus Keratin: Value: $18.99. I have heard so much hype about this product via youtube and other beauty people. Although I don't typically heat style my hair, but I do have a curling want I want to get more adept at using, and I did not have a heat protector until receiving this.

Vasanti All Star 2-In-1 Face & Eye Primer: $8.00. I don't always use face primer, and have a ton of face primer samples to go through, so I really hope this works as effectively as an eye primer. I need eye primer daily to keep my shadow from creasing, and always have much less of it in my stash..

Overall: 5/5 products will be tried out and hopefully loved. Definitely a win - normally there is a product that is a reject.
Birchbox: $10 spent. Overall value: $43.50
Glossybox: $21.00 per month, mostly super deluxe sized or full sized products. Very reliably awesome. They give you ten points per review, just like Birchbox, but it takes 1000 points to redeem for a free box. Which means overall, it takes 20 months (there are normally five products per month) to redeem a new box. Almost two years. Super lame.

Vichy Purete Thermale 3-in1 Step Cleanser: Value:$2.91. Two months ago I had no cleansers. Now I have about five. Luckily this is small enough it can go in my travel bag.

Skin&Co Truffle Therapy Serum: Value: $13.60. I have tried this serum before through a beauty subscription and enjoyed it - it isn't often to get the chance to use something so luxurious.

Kueshi Revitalizing Face Toner: Value: full size is $13.30. I am actually very low on toner and while it isn't a must in my skincare routine, I like having it around to spritz on after I cleanse my face. Plus, the ingredients list on this seems great and very natural.

Lollipops Eye Pencil in Goodbye Moon: Value: Full size at $17.70. I haven't needed to buy black eyeliner in ages thanks to these boxes. I have about 7 in different shades and shimmer levels of black and I love it. I will happily add this one to the mix.  

Teeez Trendy Cosmetics Beautiful Flat Brush Stuff: Value: Full size at $23.50. I have been trying to revamp my brush collection and I love that I get so many great quality brushes in these boxes. All of my favorites have been gifts with purchase or beauty box brushes, leaving me free to focus on spending the little money I have on nice face brushes.

Overall: 5/5 products to be kept and used. No reject products. A few full sized, and some luxury thrown in. Awesome brands.
Glossybox: $21 spent. Value: $71 (rounded to nearest ten cents)
Ipsy: $10 a month, super reliable about providing good brands and makeup items, even if the brands aren't always super luxe. Comes in a makeup bag that is sometimes ugly and useless, sometimes wonderfully shaped and pretty. I do not count the bag as having any value in the box as it is impossible to calculate. Also provides 10 points per review, takes a super long time to gain enough to redeem for free product.

This bag looks like it is spacious. I strongly prefer when the zipper is on the top and not on the side.

J.Cat Fantabulous Gel Liner: Value: $3.99. This is in a navy color. I am not keeping this. I do use gel liner on occasion, but I barely use the ones I have. Better to keep this one new and untouched for someone who would love it. Plus, blue doesn't do a ton to compliment my coloring, and I have a navy pencil liner for the random instances I feel like using one. 

Manna Kadar Sheer Glo Shimmer Lotion: Value: approximately $7.25. I really like highlighters like this for mixing with my foundation. During the winter on cloudy days, my skin needs help looking alive. This very much resembles the Nars Orgasm Highlighter in color, a rose gold. 

Nourish Organic Eye Cream: Value: around $10.00. Eye cream is another thing I tend not to have around in excess, mostly because out of any facial care product it takes the longest to use up. I like that I can have this as a travel product/spare.

Pacifica Natural Mineral Coconut Eye Shadow in Ethereal: Value: around $3.00. This is a gorgeous highlight shade. Unlike some other Pacifica shadows I've received, this is smooth and pigmented and the shimmer is very refined. Keeping it even though I have a dozen shades similar to it. 

Real Techniques Fine Liner Brush: Value: $6.00. I don't have many liner brushes, and this was obviously meant to go with the gel liner. I appreciate when Ipsy does that, makes sure it provides the tool needed to use a product. I normally prefer my liner brushes to be firmer, but I will definitely test this out.

Overall: 4/5 products to keep, though the other was not the fault of the product, just my overstock of gel liner products. Mostly makeup, which is why I like this bag compared to the other two, which tend to focus more on skincare.
Ipsy: $10 spent. Value: $30.25 (rounded to nearest ten cents)
Round Up:
Value Per dollar:
Birchbox$4.35 in product for every dollar spent. (Compared to $2.34 last month)
*If you consider the $5 in credit as money off, it changes to $8.70 for every dollar spent compared to $5.85 last month*
Glossybox$3.38 in product for every dollar spent (Compared to $4.57 last month)
Ipsy$3.03 in product for every dollar spent. (Compared to $3.13 last month)
*Removing the value of the product I won't use changes the value to $2.63 for every dollar spent.*

The best products were in the Glossybox, which is pretty typical as it is a more high end box, followed by Ipsy and then Birchbox this time. That said, I don't think any box is a dud at all. The best value is Birchbox by ar this month, regularly and with the credit, by a full dollar which was surprising. As the Birchbox value per dollar shot up, the Glossybox fell, and Ipsy was almost the exact same as last month in value.

This is a really interesting venture so far. I think once I get 6 of these I am going to make a compilation post where I compare the three over time. 6 months is when I would be looking at cutting out one or all. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Updates: Teaching, Weight Loss, Dating

My certification is in, which means I am officially a teacher and can (and am) applying for jobs as I like. The relief that this process didn't take too long is overwhelming. Hopefully I will be subbing soon. The head of field experiences for my program emailed me with news of a long term sub position she thought I might be interested in, 5th grade for a local parochial school. Not a place I had ever really imagined being, particularly in a grade that is outside my cert. For parochial schools, a teaching certificate is not a legal requirement so I could teach any grade they would accept me for. I don't think it is a wise thing to take at this point, as I will hopefully be going on lots of interviews for contract positions in April and May and June, but having the glimmer of hope that something soon will go my way professionally was REALLY needed. After two and a half years of studying, I have been feeling like a real job is so close yet so far...and it got just a little bit closer with that email. 

I have been making good progress on making good exercise choices, though my running has been stalled due to having a lot of pet sits taking up my time, and not awesome weather. I have been walking many days a week though, which is still the most important activity to me. I have been making progress with my weight loss, slowly. In the first two weeks of the new year I have already learned to make four new recipes (out of the 50 I hope to learn this year), though I have not been counting calories in the strictest sense. That being said, I am trying not to weigh myself except for once every few weeks, maybe even once per month so I can avoid the losses and gains from hormones, and not focus on the number as much as the choices that contribute to the number that is my weight. As of now I am 308 pounds, down 7 pounds from my original post, though pretty far from my original end of the year goal. Student teaching ended up being too all-consuming to focus enough on what I was eating. But now I am back on track.

I also went on a date this week that was the first I've been on that made me excited for a LONG time. I've dated since my breakup, but it was more to get back into the mental space of dating, and to help give me things to do given how few friends I now have around here since the breakup. But they were all just one or maybe two dates with the same kind of not-so-interesting man. Given my life circumstances being in such transition, I haven't been willing to compromise on anything I might want in a partner. Only the best would be worth the effort. This latest guy so far has met my best and then some, and I couldn't be happier. Some hope is in my professional future, and even if things don't go anywhere I now have hope in my romantic future as well. So far this is an amazing start to 2015.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Recipe: Homemade Chai

Everyone who knows me knows I love tea...but that I LOVE chai tea. I have about 4 or 5 blends of chai tea in the apartment at any given time, and I will never ever have less than 3. Well this week, I decided making real chai by boiling spices over the stove. I looked up several recipes, and decided on this one from Whole Foods website because while the timing of things is not the simplest, the ingredients all were.

When it comes to these ingredients, particularly Indian spices, I always check out the ethnic section of Wegman's. They have big bags of cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, and anything else you might want for truly 1/3 of the price of the regular spice section, and you get 4-10 times more in a bag weight wise.

First, you chuck in the cinnamon (recipe calls for 1 stick. I put in 4. Because cinnamon), 6 cloves, 6 pods of "lightly crushed" cardamom (I found this very tough to do as I have no good crushing implements but I don't feel like it affected anything to have them not crushed), 1 tsp of whole peppercorns, and ginger (I had no fresh ginger so I sprinkled in a tiny bit of powdered, as I don't like ginger much anyway. The recipe calls for an inch nub.).

Bring it all to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer (covered) for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat (or remove from heat if it is an electric stove) for 10 minutes.

Then, add in black tea. Recipe calls for ONE tablespoon of black tea...for 4 cups. I put in 4-5 teaspoons. Because I like my tea to taste like tea. Bring everything to a boil again and then remove from heat and let it steep 3-5 minutes.

After, strain out all the "bits" and return the liquid to the pot, adding as much sweetener as you like. I add two tablespoons of agave. The recipe then calls for a cup of whole milk, but I used a cup of fat free and didn't feel like the recipe suffered at ALL. Then heat it slowly on low so the milk warms, and it is then ready to serve.

Crazy delicious, not hard at all, and not that time consuming if you love chai like I do. I made it alongside my lunch and it didn't take much effort at all to keep busy during the "waiting" periods. I suspect I will plow through the big bag of cinnamon in no time at all...

Monday, January 5, 2015

Steepster and Tea Organization

Today marks one year on the tea lover's haven, Steepster. I have to say it is one of the more awesome discoveries of the year while also being the most cruel. I have spent a lot on tea, and my stash is nuts thanks to exposure to more high quality brands that are often small and not very well known. In that time, I have completed 423 tasting notes in that year, though admittedly a solid chunk are compiled from other records I have from tea reviews past (mostly Adagio). I am excited to see where this next year takes me.

I am also checking in about my tea pare-down goals I introduced at the end of last summer. At that time, I had 80 samples and 68 tins. The goal was 20 sample sizes and 30 full tins. I currently still have 68 full sized tins, but only have 43 samples. I take this as decent news - it means that knowing I bought a TON of tea, I was drinking it and/or rehoming the things I didn't like at the same speed as I purchased it. And more, I am drinking samples far faster than I am acquiring them. With some mindfulness, I am confident this year will show progress in reducing even more.

In the spirit of the new year, I reorganized some things. I also got my first little teapot. It has a mesh strainer inside it, is a pretty jade green color, and holds two mugs worth of tea. This has revolutionized my tea drinking as I am now able to steep loose leaf tea easily while I am dog sitting (I have been house and dog sitting for the past 3 weeks straight), and able to make a big pot and sit and do other things. Overall it cuts down time brewing.

I redid my cabinets. Right now as they stand, they house nearly all of the tins I have. It is organized in a specific way, and about 2/3 of the way full. The organizational system doesn't work as effectively if it is any more full, so I think what is inside is my real goal for knowing I have just enough.

The bottom shelf are all teas I prefer to make iced - many tins are on their sides. On the right, there are older teas I need to use up first. The pink box in the middle hold all of the tea samples I have tasted and am keeping. The left side holds the iced teas that are newer. The top shelf holds my hot teas. The ones on the right are ones that are full sized that I haven't tasted yet. The ones on the left are ones I have. The ones in the middle are my favorite teas so I can find them easily. The whole top shelf is also organized by having the newer teas in the back in their sections, and the older ones in the front.

I keep a small stash on my countertop of things I am trying to finish. There are usually a couple samples here too. Right now, I have some lavender honey I am trying to finish. Yes, I also have a small excess of honey.

I have an excess that I am trying to cut down on. This small box holds all the teas that I am not going to bother rehoming in a tin - there isn't enough to warrant it, and many are Butiki and are going out of business. These will be consumed long before they go stale. Many of these are night in light-proof packaging, also requiring that they be consumed sooner rather than later.

This is the true overstock. The large box on the left are samples. Since this picture was taken, I received my golden tips subscription so there are more now. The small Adagio box holds samples that I know I enjoy, but that aren't open yet. I really try to make sure teas not living in tins, or open samples exposed to air get priority. The box on the right contains all of the sealed, airtight teas that are waiting for tin space in the cabinet. It is a medium sized box. The giant bag in the middle is a huge amount of Blood Orange tisane from Adagio, one of my favorite iced teas, waiting for tin space.

I am feeling great about the start to this year, tea included.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Battle of the Beauty Boxes: December 2014 Birchbox, Glossybox, Ipsy

I love beauty boxes. Even more, I love analyzing them for value. I love that I discover new products, haven't needed to buy eye cream (or mascara) on my own in two years, and anything that doesn't work for me is bound to work well as a stocking stuffer for a friend during the holidays.

Birchbox - $10 a month, rewards system is AWESOME. 10 points per product review, 100 points = 10 bucks. This month I received six products, and therefore got six dollars of credit to use in the shop. The shop is extensive and amazing - spending money there is no problem for me.

Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo: Value: Around $3.00. I dislike the feel of dry shampoo on my hair, this will be the first product in my give-away box for 2015.

Dr. Jart+ Black Label Detox BB Cream SPF 25: Value: $4.80. I love Asian BB creams, and am excited to try this one.

Miss Jessie's Jelly Soft Curls: Value: around $1.60. I will use this, but the people who think giant packets make good samples should burn in hell. There is nothing portable or convenient about this, not unless I am staying somewhere for three weeks, and I hate that there is no way to close it.

Mirenesse Mattefinity Lip Rouge in Sydney: Value: $5.80. This packs some serious punch - I absolutely can't wait to try. I really embraced the fuscia, red, and berry tones in 2014 and I am planning to bold lip it even more in 2015.

SeaRx Anti Wrinkling Serum: Value: $6.80. I love serums, as my skin is dry and fine lines are sadly becoming more of a battle.

Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream: Value: $1.60. I have heard this stuff works wonders. A test on my arm makes it seem more like a creamy oil than a cream. I will save it for when winter becomes super duper cold.

Overall: 5/6 products will be tried out and hopefully loved. That is a win to me, even with the sketchball packaging on the curl cream.
Birchbox: $10 spent. Overall value: $23.40
Glossybox: $21.00 per month, mostly super deluxe sized or full sized products. Very reliably awesome. They give you ten points per review, just like Birchbox, but it takes 1000 points to redeem for a free box. Which means overall, it takes 20 months (there are normally five products per month) to redeem a new box. Almost two years. Super lame.
Beautiful holiday box.

Bellapierre Mineral Lipstick in Burlesque: Value: full size at $19.99. I have already tested this an it is an amazing hot pink that is comfortable to wear. I already put it away for summertime use.

Ciate Mini Paint Pot in Humbug: Value: full size is $10.00. I love that this is tiny, because I love the chunky glitter look, but not all the time.

Rituals Miracle Scrub in Ginseng & Ginkgo Biloba: Value: full size is $17.00. I love the scent, and I have been dying to try things from this brand.

Nuxe Masque Creme Fraiche de Beaute: Value: Full size at $32.00. This is the most exciting thing to me in the box. I love moisturizing masks, and I have been itching to try this brand and compare it to my Origins Overnight mask. 

Toni&Guy Prep Leave In Conditioner: Value: Full size at $16.99. I have hair that requires leave in conditioners to keep the Jew-fro under control, so this will be good to try.

Overall: No reject products. All full sized, even if it is the smaller size available of two sizes. Awesome brands. Nothing going in the reject box here.
Glossybox: $21 spent. Value: $96 (rounded to nearest ten cents)
Ipsy: $10 a month, super reliable about providing good brands and makeup items, even if the brands aren't always super luxe. Comes in a makeup bag that is sometimes ugly and useless, sometimes wonderfully shaped and pretty. I do not count the bag as having any value in the box. Also provides 10 points per review, takes a super long time to gain enough to redeem for free product.
This bag looks like it could be very useful for brushes when traveling. Shape win.

Beauty Without Cruelty Facial Cleanser AHA Complex: Value: $2.60. I like little travel facial cleansers, and I love trying natural products even more.

Crown Brushes Infinity Shadow/Crease Duet Brush: Value: Full size at $6.99. I love getting brushes in my boxes. I am trying to revamp my very old, ultra cheap brush collection, and all my nicest eye brushes came in these subscriptions and I love them.

NYX Butter Lip Balm: Full size at $4.00. This is a comfortable, pretty, sheer red. I could see wearing this to school daily for a no fuss lip look.

Pixi Fairy Dust in Brightening Bare: Full size at $10.00. I love the shade. Usually love the brand. Loathe this messy packaging.

Tarte Lights Camera Lashes Mascara: Value: About $7.70. I love trying new mascaras, particularly high end ones that are sample sized so I don't feel too guilty throwing them out if I hate them.

Overall: No reject products. A mix of mostly makeup with some skincare, which is refreshing, and a mix of high end brands with drugstore ones. No reject products, just a little reject packaging.
Ipsy: $10 spent. Value: $31.30 (rounded to nearest ten cents)
Round Up:
Value Per dollar:
Birchbox: $2.34 in product for every dollar spent.
*If you consider the $6 in credit as money off, it changes to $5.85 for every dollar spent*
*Removing the value of the product I won't use changes the value to $2.04 (or $5.10) for every dollar spent.*
Glossybox: $4.57 in product for every dollar spent
Ipsy: $3.13 in product for every dollar spent.

The best products were in the Glossybox, followed by Birchbox and then Ipsy this time. The best value is Glossybox but if you know you will have no problem spending the Birchbox point money then it is the best value overall. I am pleasantly surprised by Birchbox - when I unsubscribed two years ago, their boxes had gotten so terrible it felt like a waste for them to even be $4 or $5. As long as this post is, I think this is a good way to track box value, and compare subscriptions for when I eventually end up needing to cut back.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Goals and Resolutions

Welcome to 2015, and may it be an amazing year for everyone. It will be one of big changes for me, that is for sure.

I am not a huge resolution-y kind of person, because I find they end up setting me up for failure if I am not succeeding a few months in. So I stick more to goals, and keep them generalized. I do tend to have target numbers, but that is really only to keep me focused on always moving forward.

Goal: Continue to lose weight. Ideally, around 40-50lbs.
Goal: Cook more, order out less. Financially, this one is necessary. Health wise it is helpful too. I want to learn 50 new recipes this year. Even if I only try them once, even if it is simple and three ingredients or involves super low prep. My biggest challenge with cooking is just my lack of experience so trying anything new is a huge help in the long run. 50 sounds like a lot, but really the goal is about one per week.
Goal: Continue to amp up the exercise. I did a great job walking more in 2014, particularly over the summer, and I want to continue that trend of walking more, but also incorporating the couch to 5k program I started.
Goal: Finish more of what I have, organize better, keep cleaner. I have trouble with clutter, and having lots of things around. Particularly makeup, beauty products, and tea. I am already well on my way to paring down the makeup stash even more (a serious win of 2014), haven't bought new lotion in months (thank god), and have made great progress in lowering my overall tea stash. And I have done a great job in organizing my three main hoards so that I use more, more efficiently. This year I began the rule of "if you haven't touched it in a year, contemplate if you REALLY need it" when it comes to organizing. I need to continue that effort throughout my apartment, in prep for moving in the summer.

I believe all of these things are good, attainable goals even among unknown moving situations and job stress and whatever may come.

I am so proud of my progress with my tea. I posted in August about having 45 samples and 59 containers of full size tea. Thanks to amazing deals and a general lack of control, even as I gave away a ton of tea throughout the fall and drank a ton...I currently have 66 full sizes and 47 samples as of December 31. Womp. Why am I proud? Because I reorganized them, have begun purchasing more wisely in general, and am still plowing through my stash at a rapid enough rate that I feel confident I can continue to get my stash to a more manageable level in 2015. My goal is to have all of my tea fit into my cabinets I store them in (post about organization later). Now that I bought some new tins for cheap from New Years sales, my cabinets are about 2/3 of the way full with as many tins as I feel I need.

Overall, I am feeling pretty positive about the new year. Updates on how these goals are going will be regular, I am thinking of making them a monthly thing so I can keep myself on track.