Sunday, November 10, 2013

#RoseVoxBox #Influenster #InfluensterVox

I got a Rose VoxBox from Influenster and am super excited about the things inside!!

Kiss Gradation Polishes
I re-did my nails the day after I got the box because I was curious about trying these polishes.  The packaging recommends a three-step process, which I've documented in the photo above (top right, bottom left, then bottom right).  The only thing I didn't do was add the glitter polish (#3) to all my nails--I prefer an accent nail, so it's on my thumb.  Plus, glittery polish is such a bitch to take off.  This produced an ombre type nail and was really easy to do.  I'll definitely be using these more in combination with my other polishes (which are many).  
One week later, there is more chipping than typically present with better polishes (OPI, etc.), so I'd say it's good but not great.

BelVita Breakfast Biscuits: Cinnamon Brown Sugar
(the photo is from the BelVita website)
I ate these this morning as a pre-lunch snack.  They are appetizing and portable, but easy to break.  They came packaged in bubble wrap but one of my biscuits was a little broken.  That would be the only shortcoming for these, which seem to be marketed as a sort of breakfast on the go thing: they would definitely get crushed into 1,000 crumbs in my purse.  Anyway, they are touted to have grains and provide "nutritious, steady energy all morning."  Well, I don't know about all morning, but they are a good snack to have on hand.

Lindt Lindor Truffles
I love these things, VoxBox or not.  It was just the icing on top of the free stuff cake to get one of these truffles!  They are definitely one of the smoothest store-bought, widely available truffles and are always pretty affordable.  Yummm.

Dr. Scholl's® For Her Cozy Cushions™
Dr. Scholls Cozy Cushions
These shoe inserts are really plush and thick.  They will be perfect to put in my boots and less waterproof shoes!  It'll protect my socks from the water that seeps in the bottom when I step in particularly large puddles, and also be cushy for my long walking commutes.

Rimmel ScandalEyes Retro Glam
This mascara turned out to be pretty good.  The large brush made it easy to spread the mascara on my upper lashes, but I found it hard to use on my lower lashes because it was so unwieldy.  It was pretty long lasting and gives a decent curl, as well as adding volume.  I don't really get the whole "retro" look, because it doesn't do any of that.

The products in this VoxBox were all really good quality.  I'm happy I had the chance to try them!

Monday, November 4, 2013

On Barkbox (October)

This Barkbox was not as full as they usually are, but there are some pretty good items in here.

American Dog Toys: Fetch & Glow Ball
Arwen was excited to play with this ball, but I managed to get a photo of her with it.  It glows in the dark, which will be very useful when she is all riled up at night and I ask, "Where's your toy?  Go get your toy" so she stops jumping on me to play with her when I'm trying to sleep.

West Paw: Bumi Toy
This toy is the perfect shape for playing tug-of-war with a pup.  It's also eco-friendly (recyclable!), non-toxic, and locally made.  We don't play in the water much, but the description says it floats.

[not pictured, but it's bottom right in my top photo]
Baker's Best Autumn Harvest Goat Liver Treats
Oddly, I couldn't find out where to purchase these treats (or find a stock photo) of them online.  I let Arwen try one of these gluten-free treats made with goat liver, oat flour, pumpkin, brown rice flour, ground flaxseed, shredded carrot, dried cranberry, and blackstrap molasses (whew).  She really liked it and is jumping on me now to try and get more as I type the ingredients off the bag.

Fruitables Dog Treats
Fruitables share pack
This is an adorable idea and I love that Barkbox included these, but I didn't end up sharing these little doggie Halloween treats at all.  The better for Arwen, I suppose, as she gobbles up all the different flavors.  I like that these are all-natural and good for dogs with food sensitivities (no corn, wheat, or soy).

[not pictured, but it's the little stick in the top middle of the photo]
Etta Says Rabbit Chew
Again, not found via photo online, but Etta Says treats are usually a hit in our home.  Arwen was eagerly sniffing this rabbit chew, but like any other long-term treat, would probably be best with owner supervision.

On Barkbox (September)

This month's Barkbox seemed to be all about the long-term treats..which is FANTASTIC because we haven't been able to find anything that is good for Arwen AND lasts long enough!!

All I can say is don't make the same mistake I did and give your dog the Barkworthies tendon first.  Arwen was just nonstop chasing me around and sniffing for the treat after I took it from her.

Our Pet's IQ Treat Ball
This was the second treat I tried to give to Arwen.  She's not too interested in puzzle treats, but this one did occupy her for quite a while.  I filled it with her favorite Zuke's mini roasted chicken naturals and slid the opening into a smaller hole.  Halfway through her play session I decided to widen it because honestly, she's not one of those clever dogs who figures toys out quickly.  The write up recommends you put your dog's meal in here...maybe we'll try it this weekend to slow her down a little bit.

Superior Farms Venison Ears
We haven't had a chance to try these yet (seriously the box came in 20 minutes ago).  The write up says they are minimally processed, cleaned, rinsed, and dried (no added chemicals).  This sounds perfect!!  I do recommend supervision while dogs are chewing on things like this (e.g., rawhide).

Barkworthies Angus tendon
Arwen is fanatical about this treat now.  I pulled it away from her once I realized how long-term this treat is!  Sometimes we're entertaining guests and just want her to sit off on her own (i.e., we are eating food and she is going crazy).  This is one of those treats that would entertain her.

Wagatha's Organic Dog Biscuits
We got the Tuscan pizza flavor, and Arwen is a fan.  They smell pretty good, so the only drawback is that you shouldn't give them to your dog when you're hungry.

Vetra Care Pet Liquid Bandage
Thankfully, I haven't had the need/opportunity to use this yet, but I am happy to have a veterinary item in here to fall back on.  I know Arwen sometimes chews her foot or gets rubbed a little raw by her collar in the winter, so I'll definitely use this at those times.  

On Puppy-sitting

Some fantastic photos from our puppy sitting weekend with Lola, a full beagle.  Arwen was so excited that she could barely stay still for a photo!  They snuggled all the time.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On Barkbox (August)

Arwen's August Barkbox did not disappoint!  This review is one month later, but I can definitely say she has used almost everything in the box and loves it.  I unfortunately had to get a new phone and can't track down the photo I took when I just unboxed it, so you'll have to make do with stuff I find online.

Aussie Naturals Floatie Dolphin
This toy is really well made, with a tennis ball, squeakers, and rope inside.  The material also feels like neoprene for dogs to play in the water with.  Arwen doesn't really go swimming at all, so this hasn't gotten too much play (plus I bought her another toy right before the Barkbox came in, so I'm rationing them).

Plato Duck Dog Treats
Having never given Arwen duck anything before, I was surprised to see how crazy she went for these.  The treats are billed to be good for dogs iwth allergies, and includes duck and brown rice.  They are easy to break up into smaller pieces but I usually give her a whole one (which she promptly eats as fast as she can).

The Honest Kitchen Ice Pups
 I made these at the end of the month and poured them into an ice cube tray.  Arwen loves when I pull one of them out for her to chew on, especially since she loves ice in the first place.  They are grain-free, salt-free powdery-type mixes that can be added to water and frozen, or blended in hot water to make a winter broth.  They smell somewhat meaty, which is likely why she loves them.

Primal Pet Liver Munchies
Arwen LOVED these liver treats.  She goes wild for them, wiggling around and jumping all over to get one.  Her tail runs at 100 mph whenever this bag opens.  I will say that the treats don't smell the best, and you're supposed to wash your hands every time you touch a treat...but they are pretty appealing to Arwen.  They are 100% turkey liver made in the U.S. (antibiotic and hormone-free), as well as grain-free, salt-free, and sugar-free.

Barkworthies Bully Flakes
Obviously Arwen loves eating, so I didn't give these to her because I didn't want to mess up a good thing (i.e., her eating habits).  I did give this bag of bully flakes (essentially bull's penis ground up into flakes) to a friend's dog who is a picky eater.  My friend reported her dog loved them and gobbled her food up, which is great considering we're dog-sitting next weekend and I don't want her to starve.  

This Barkbox was definitely worth it and I'm keeping my subscription.  I have been considering cancelling, but for the number of treats that we get and how much Arwen loves getting the package each month, it's worth my money.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My First VoxBox! #ChooseSargentoCheese

I finally got my first VoxBox courtesy of Influenster!  This box included a manufacturers coupon for some free Sargento cheese products (which is fantastic, because I LOVE the cheddar cheese sticks!), a $1 off coupon, and a mini cheese carrier/cooler, which is basically a lunchbox perfectly sized for cheesy snacks.

You can watch my unboxing video here:
Sorry for the faulty orientation.  I don't make videos often, obviously.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

One Year Anniversary

Today is officially our one-year anniversary in Chicago.  It seems like just yesterday we were traversing our last stretch of road from St. Louis to Chicago, seeing the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) come into view and the cityscape stretch out before us.  What a year.

Monday, August 19, 2013

On Barkbox

Last month I got a Groupon for Barkbox, which I've been dying to try but just couldn't justify the cost. This month, it finally came in! This one is mostly treats, and I appreciate the focus on gluten-free treats because I know some dogs with allergies and these make for great recs. This box included:

The green bone in the front is a pocket bone into which you can stuff treats on both ends.  It doesn't smell rubbery (PRO!), it floats, and it's dishwasher safe and recyclable.  Arwen really enjoys trying to get the treats out, though I had some issues with some treats being too small and just rolling out.  Either way, she enjoys it.

Max & Ruffy's 
These organic treats for dogs are made out of friend (non-GMO, if that's something that concerns you).  These ones are banana and coconut flavored and basically look like cookies.  They smell really good, too.  Arwen loves them, and we haven't had any stomach issues (yay!).  Plus, I stuck one in each end of the Wigzi bone and she loved trying to pull them out.

No Grainers
These small trainer treats are the perfect size to stuff into the Wigzi bone.  They sometimes roll out but mostly require licking and maneuvering to remove.  They are also grain, wheat, corn, and soy-free, so they're great if your dog has allergies.

Mr. Barksmith's
This dog smoothie was the biggest hit in this Barkbox.  I froze it and gave it to Arwen the next day; she pulled it out of her bowl and made me chase her around the house to avoid her getting it on the carpet.  She was very reluctant to give it up, too.  It's made with fruit and has chia seeds in it (it says these contribute to healthy joints and coat).  This is probably something I'd seek out for her again, because she loves frozen treats.

This flexible bowl was a hit at the dog park on Sunday!  All the dogs wanted to drink out of it.  It was convenient for me to throw into my purse and pull it out for her to drink from, and it doesn't have a weird smell like some other silicone items.  The description says it's child-friendly food-grade silicone.  It also recommends you freeze water in the bowl overnight to take to the park with you (genius).

Clear Conscience Pet
These Tender Stikz smelled pretty good and essentially look like jerky.  They are made of meat, veggies, and cheddar cheese with no synthetic ingredients or fillers.  It's so fresh that you're supposed to refrigerate them after you open them, but Arwen gobbled them all up and didn't leave any to save.

This being my first Barkbox, I was unsure whether I'd get another one, but decided to continue it for a couple more months just to see what else we'd get.  I really enjoyed it, and so did Arwen!

Monday, July 15, 2013

On Outlet Shopping

I recognize this is quite belated, but we went to the Aurora outlets (about 40 minutes outside of the city) on Memorial Day.  It was crazy traffic!!!!  We drove around the massive parking lot for some 1.5 hours before deciding to park off site and walk to the mall (risking a parking ticket, though I am under the impression cops out here are less concerned with these than they were in LA).  I did pick up a lovely Kate Spade bag for a steal (50% off everything!!), as well as some Seven for All Mankind jeans in my actual size.  I finally cleaned out my closet of all those jeans from college that no longer fit me.  It felt pretty good to spring clean.
I've been outlet shopping in California, but I think there are more outlets in a closer area than out here...or something.  Maybe people in the Midwest love a good deal??

On Life & Changes

Sorry for the lack of dedication to the blog lately; I've been pondering a job change and what job fulfillment means--some very mid-20s questions that trouble so many of us.  I've started looking for new positions that might be more financially beneficial at this point, but do not necessarily contribute to my career path.  We'll see how things turn out.
With the many changes over the past weekend (the death of Cory Monteith, the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's killer...) I've also reflected on the ephemeral nature of life.  Having lost a close friend a few years ago, this idea often comes to the forefront of my mind and makes me live a little distantly from the world for sometimes days at a time.  I recognize this dulled sensation and hate feeling it, but also have a challenging time escaping it.  In these moments, keeping in touch with the little things (cuddling my dog, the perfection of cold ice cream on a hot day) help bring me back to a sense of normalcy.  I hope these things keep you in touch with some semblance of "normal" for you as well.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

On Roma

My family embarked on a Mediterranean cruise this week. M and I flew from Chicago to Montreal (which was so beautiful and green that it's next on my list to visit), then from Montreal to Roma. Our first flight was a bit delayed so it was tight making our connection, but luckily there were so many people on the next flight that we were personally escorted to the plane.
We did SO much sightseeing once we got to Roma! I finally got to put my years of Italian to work...though most people replied back in English, a few must have pitied me enough to give me some Italian back.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


A brilliant quote from the gorgeous Joseph Gordon-Levitt on LA from this Huffington Post article (

"Another virtue of Los Angeles is getting to sing in the car. I miss that when I’m out of town. Even though the traffic’s a bitch, it’s nice to have such a private environment to listen to music."

This is honestly one of my favorite things that I miss about driving in LA.

On Springtime Entertainment

I've been neglecting blogging because the weather took a lovely turn.  Whenever this happens in Chicago, everyone insists on being outside--happy hours on outdoor patios, BBQs, and adventuring in the park.  Then there are the torrential thunderstorms (luckily, most of them have been at night), and that sends everyone else back inside.  I still can't adjust to the idea of warm rain...I'm too used to the California idea of rain when it's cold.  Humidity what?

Anyway, some exciting things we've done recently in spite of my recent sinus infection:
-Sailing on Lake Michigan through a fantastically cheap Groupon.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would recommend.  It was a little cold because of the wind, but at least it didn't rain!

-Watching The Great Gatsby.  I liked the movie, but was somehow not very attached to the characters.  It was mildly disappointing because I loved the book and felt very attached to the characters there, but what can you do?  Book to movie adaptations never live up to snuff.

-Eating!  We tried a bunch of different restaurants, including Bodega (Mexican food), which has carne asada fries.  We took the food home, but M said the place itself was really nice inside, like a classy taqueria.  I definitely want to go back. 

 We also tried Rockit, a subsidiary restaurant of the company where a good friend works.  The music was so good--unexpected mixes of songs from really disparate genres.  We went for dinner but I definitely want to go back for dancing.  The downstairs area was a little more tame dinner crowd (at 9 pm on a Friday night), while the upstairs had a more upbeat scene with pool tables, a DJ, and plenty of seating around a round bar.  

I'm pretty excited for some upcoming events.  We're keeping busy all spring and summer to take advantage of the weather!
-Apps & drinks at the Conrad Hotel rooftop bar!  I got yet another deal.

-the PAWS Chicago 8k run/4k walk (with our dog, Arwen!) benefiting a local no-kill animal shelter.  It'll be at Montrose Harbor this Sunday.  I didn't realize it was so soon, but it'll be fun!!

-Trying the Michelin-recommended Usagi Ya sushi restaurant in Wicker Park...we got a deal (I know, I love them because they're cheap) for a tasting menu.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

On Tea

I know that this is definitely not the season to get into hot liquids, but I have been feeling blah, sniffly, and just icky lately.  Thus, I've decided I'm going to start getting into tea.  I have a pretty tea kettle already, so I have the hot water to go buy a pretty infuser and some loose leaf tea!!  We live near an Argo Tea shop, and I do love their chocolate mint tea (hot or cold!), so I get the feeling I'd like all their other stuff too.

 Readers--Any recommendations?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

On Moving (practical advice)

Moving can obviously be a pain, but thank goodness for the Interwebz, where we can find valuable information such as this!!  This Lifehacker article shares a website that helps you compare costs of moving companies.  Keep in mind you need some info (e.g., how far you're going, how many boxes you have), so make sure you can at least give somewhat accurate estimates before you start filling it all out!  Wish I knew about this before the CA --> Chicago move...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

On Chicago Adventures

Last night we went out to a sushi dinner at Umai in the South Loop (it was delicious). On our cab ride back (and after many sake shots), we found a cab driver with an auxilary cable, allowing M to plug his smartphone in and play his favorite game: YouTube karaoke. Let me explain: if you type a song name into YouTube and then "karaoke," you can have an instrumental version of ANY song, usually with the words that some obsessive fan has timed perfectly, often with animation or at least changing photographs in the background. Anyway, he serenaded our cab driver (in a duet with his cousin) with "A Whole New World."
Then we ended up taking another cab on a failed trip to a karaoke bar. Again M sang, this time dueting to some Bob Marley...with the cab driver. This is my life.

Monday, April 8, 2013

On inspiration

I've been a little neglectful of this blog lately, not because of a lack of material or events, but because I'm having a harder and harder time finding inspiration through digital means. No, I don't mean Pinterest--that still works for me. But writing doesn't feel as intuitive when a keyboard (real or touchscreen) comes in between. That pen and paper are just so much more inspiring...Thus, thanks to Target, I'm going to tote around one of these little notebooks to spark creative thought anywhere! It definitely helps that they are adorable...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On Roadtripping

I love Lifehacker.  You know what I don't love?  Sitting in the car for 8 hours a day.  Luckily, M knew this when I consented to traveling across the country with him (see my previous post on why we had to drive...I'll give you a clue, it's because of Professor X).  Anyway, here are some tips on how to survive said car rides across the country!  Say, from California to Chicago? ;)

Monday, April 1, 2013

On nba2k

Actual conversations I have had with M during his nba2k play:
Announcer: Bosch...
Heironomous Bosch plays basketball now?! That's amazing.

*doing the running man*
Me: I'm doing the running man. Bet you can't do that.
M: *eyes still on the tv* that's pretty good.

...obviously his priorities are a little skewed.  Who doesn't appreciate art history humor?!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Monday, March 18, 2013

On Escapism

Lately I've been daydreaming about getting away. It seems like this is a common feeling among Chicagoans: as the winter wanes, but we still have a few weeks of it dragging by, everyone is talking about spring road trips and cruises and general wanderlust-type subjects.

I am not immune. I still love the snow; it has not snowed nearly enough for my joyful playing in it, and I don't feel like it was a necessarily harsh winter. In fact, I'd greatly prefer 30 and snowing over 15-feels-like-negative-10-with-windchill. Either temperature, I digress.

This convenient location close enough to the east coast means flights to Europe et al. are significantly cheaper than they would be from my homestead in Southern California. It also means that we have the liberty of driving through those oft-overlooked "flyover states," exploring the middle of America and supposedly the heart of our country. It'll be interesting trying to find some places to go. A few people have made the following recommendations:

-Visit the Amish. Okay, I'll admit it. I want to visit the Amish after watching "Breaking Amish" on TLC over the summer, and subsequently developing a strong respect for their handcrafted goods. Additionally, Chicago is quite close to some larger Amish communities.

-Go to Milwaukee. I seriously don't even know if I spelled that right and my friend was trying to lure me there with sports (no, thank you), museums (getting closer), and breweries (good as well). If anyone is from there or can give more specific recs, maybe I will consider this one.

-I'd like to go back to St. Louis to spend more time at the City Museum, climbing down slides and play places.

-I still want to go to New Orleans (obviously flying), where a good friend's brother and his namesake nephew now reside.

-M (the fiance) wants to go to Green Bay. Again, no thank you. He says for the cheese, but I know it's for the Packers stadium.

Readers--any other midwest recs?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

On Frivolity again (nail polish)

I'd say I do my nails once every two weeks. Lately I won't paint them all one color, and I love the simplicity of polka dots on nails. No special tool needed--just brush the regular nail polish brush on the sides of the bottle and put a single dot on your nail. Honestly, if I mess up, I try to paint over the blunder with the base color, which works 80% of the time.
When my nails chip near the tips, I just paint over that chip and it looks fine. That's how I make a manicure last (mostly because I'm lazy).
These are both OPI shades: the blue is called Russian Navy, and I got it on Amazon. The silver is called Run With It! from Sephora.
Sorry the photo is so dark!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

On Unintentional Puns

Today one of the children in my classroom was arranging all the animals in a line on the floor. I turned to my co-teacher and said, "What is this, Noah's Ark?!" and immediately gasped and started laughing so hard I cried.
The boy's name is Noah.

Anyone else make some unintentional (or intentional) and hilarious puns lately?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On the Pants Paradox

The other day I played a practical joke on my fiance: while he was in the shower, I stole his clean pj pants he set on the floor of the bathroom and hid them (partially due to his always leaving things on the floor, and partially because he is so unobservant that I figured he really wouldn't be able to find them). Anyway, he didn't take this very well and to smooth things over, I sent him the following email:

Dear M,

Last night you were the victim of a practical joke in which a pair of your pants was taken from the bathroom whilst you showered, and subsequently could not be found upon your exit from the shower. Through a curious turn of events, said pants ended up on my person, where you did not find them for a significant length of time.
You became a bit snippy upon this discovery, and demanded I return said pants to their place (that is, on your shelf, as you had retrieved another pair of pants for wearing). I refused, and now feel it is my duty to give you appropriate reasoning for my refusal besides "I am not your maid."
When you retrieved a secondary pair of pants, you created what I will henceforth call "the Pants Paradox." The original pair of pants, which should have been worn on your person, were on the original timeline. When you obtained the second pair of pants, this created an alternate timeline in which the original pair of pants should not have existed. As the creator of this paradox, you were the only one who could rectify the situation without the time-pant-space continuum imploding. Thus, it was wholly necessary that you be responsible for returning the original pair of pants to their location on the shelf, restoring the time-pant-space continuum as we know it.

In other words, next time don't be so snippy.



Readers--have you ever played a practical joke on your significant other? How did it turn out?
Also, how do you deal with your significant other or roommate leaving things everywhere?

Monday, February 25, 2013

On Hand Care

Last week it was so cold and I had run out of my lifesaving hand cream that my knuckle cracked and bled.  This is a common occurrence in cold weather, mind you.  However, because I stubbornly refused to walk the two blocks to the nearest Kiehl's, my knuckle stayed cracked a whole week.  It was disgusting, guys.  I jokingly pulled the skin apart and together like a mouth and made "meep meep meep" noises at my fiance, who did not find it amusing.  Anyway, it's healed up now and I bought the large size of my favorite hand cream (see below, or click here to buy).  It's pricey as far as hand creams go, but it is absolutely WORTH IT.  No more cracked knuckles for me!

On Frivolity (Nail Polish)

My current manicure.  Can you blame me?  I'm thinking of spring.  The polish is Ulta's "Island Hopper" and actually comes out more of a true Tiffany's blue than the picture shows.  Lovely!

Monday, February 18, 2013

On Siri

Real conversation I had with my iPad:

Me: What's the weather like tomorrow? (all Zooey Deschanel style in that iPhone commercial, because she is adorable and every girl wants to be like her)

Siri: Looks like you may be getting some snow tomorrow. (displays relevant weather icons)

Me: Really?!?!

Siri: I do not understand.

Er, guess my excited voice is too high-pitched for Siri to process. Awkward.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

On transient relationships

Moving away has given me a new perspective on a lot of things. It has made me realize that the wonderful thing about where I grew up isn't necessarily the World Famous San Diego Zoo or the stretches of sunny, perfect beaches...but the people I've left behind. Granted, modern technology helps me maintain these relationships in ways that are as close to being there as I can get without becoming piss-poor from excessive plane tickets, but there is also a downside to relocation.
Here's a question: How many people do you still talk to from college? High school? Are the numbers dwindling? Most people have relocated or changed schools, jobs, and social circles at least once. It's something I really value in childhood (i.e., adjusting to new social situations, peers in their classrooms, etc.), because I think it teaches children valuable skills in forming new relationships, engaging others with diverse personalities, and entering into social situations from an early age. However, I feel we often focus on the "making new friends" part and less on the "keep the old ones" portion of that famed silver and gold song.
What am I talking about? Well, let's say you get new job, move, or start school. You form new relationships and often, especially in the case of college, become very close. However, these life circumstances thrust people together and then they just as quickly fall apart. M. (my fiance) doesn't keep in close contact with his friends from college. He keeps telling me "it's a guy thing," but I still feel like Facebook and social media makes it so simple to at least shoot a quick hello to someone every other month or so. Now that I've moved, I think about my own relationships: which friends from high school will still talk to me? If I was living in my hometown still, they would be my primary social circle. But even when I was in LA, there were more of them keeping in touch than they are now. I know that I'm out of sight and out of mind, but are these transient relationships?
This is even more salient in my latest efforts at wedding planning: making a guest list. How many people, once 2015 rolls around, will still be talking to me and have an invite to the wedding? Now I have friends from high school, college, grad school, my first job, and my current job, along with my Chicago social circle. This doesn't even include family, M's business school friends...the list goes on. How many of these people are we supposed to invite?

Readers--help! What was your rule of thumb for building your guest list? Do you still keep in touch with friends from all these different life situations?

On the Pitfalls of Moving Away

Today I missed a baptism for a close friends' baby.  But this wasn't the first event I've had to skip because of my choice to live over 2,000 miles away.  It hurts similar to heartbreak to know that I can't be back in San Diego for these events.  Sometimes I reflect on this move and am hurt by the timing of it all: I'm 26.  Knowing we'll be here for the next 2 years or so, I realize that I'll be missing numerous baby showers, bachelorette parties, and countless other small events (birthdays, dinners, reunions) because of work obligations and/or the high cost of plane tickets.

It's ironic, isn't it?  Your mid-twenties is supposed to be the key time that you can adventure and discover yourself; the time where you can pick up and move at a moment's notice because your ties are limited.  It also turns out to be the time where these monumental life events--weddings, baby showers--also take place.  Now I feel like I'm always choosing between saving up for my wedding 2+ years away or maintaining the ties that I cherish so much.

Frankly, it's hard.  I've already missed a bachelorette party in Vegas and a bridal shower in San Diego because I had to choose between these other events and the wedding itself.  Plane tickets to California, at BEST, turn out to be something near $200+ round trip...but are more frequently in the $320-350 range (sometimes more, with bad timing).  My early childhood education salary isn't giving me a lot of leeway to spend money on plane tickets whenever I want to go home--especially since I'm trying to pay off that early purchase of the wedding dress.

Modern technology makes it easier to keep in touch with people, but sometimes videochatting with family and friends from afar makes me miss them more.  Seeing my nephew's new developmental milestones, for example, just isn't the same over videochat than in person.

How do you minimize these feelings of missing out when you're far away?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Layering for weather part 2: colder and colder

Does anybody know what 0° feels like? What about, adding windchill,-15°? No? Me, either. That's because EVERYTHING WITH ONE LAYER OR LESS IS COMPLETELY NUMB.  No, but seriously: when it's below zero, it only makes sense to wear long underwear (see my previous post on layering for my recs on brands) and the longest coat you own.  Boots should meet the coat, or if not, wear leggings if you're outdoors for a long time.  I wear my long coat with a thick knit, long cardigan underneath to make sure I stay warm.

Accessorize: bring a scarf, hat, and gloves for sure.  Sometimes I even put my earmuffs (180s, if you read my previous post) on under my hat.  This ensures my ears won't hurt when I come back inside.

Shoes: I think this needs a post all its own.  In this weather, wear wool socks and fur-lined boots.  If it is icy, wear snow boots or Hunters.  Everyone wears Hunters.  Make sure you wear the fleece lining as well; your wool socks will NOT be enough and nobody likes cold toes.

YOUR FACE WILL FREEZE.  This is serious.  Appropriate skincare is necessary.  In California, I moisturized once a day (after I washed my face).  I have combination skin--oily T-zone, dry elsewhere.  Now I use very rich cream for nighttime, and apply a lighter moisturizer during the day.
Any other questions about cold weather?

On Finding A Place in Chicago

I think more practical posts regarding moving across the country would be useful, don't you?  So here's one about how we found our apartment.  We currently live in the Streeterville area in a high rise building with a doorman.  It is a quintessential city-living experience that we knew we wouldn't get anywhere else (since we have plans to move back to San Diego after his program is done), so we thought we would spend a little more on housing during his time here to be in the area we wanted to live in.  Plus, any housing in Chicago is still cheaper than LA (which is where I moved from, and was paying $1850 for a 2 bedroom/2 bath).  Additionally, having never been to Chicago before, concerns about security were eased with both the doorman and the proximity to touristy areas (which are usually pretty nice/safe because that's where much money is coming from).

 Before we moved, we made a list of things we wanted.  Mine included the following:

  • washer and dryer in unit
  • gym or pool (not that I planned on using the gym) as a perk
  • full walls--no studios (so we could close a door between the two of us for peace of mind, having never lived together before)
  • enough closet/storage space!  I have a lot of clothing.
  • safe location/close to attractions (attractions to me meant shopping)
  • close grocery stores
  • close to L (short for "elevated train" and sometimes spelled "El") stops for easy transportation
Once he found out he got into Booth, we booked a weekend trip to Chicago to look at places and so I could get to know the city in which I would be living for the next 3-odd years.  We planned a long weekend in Chicago (this was in July, so I could see the city in sunshine), and he booked a few appointments with a real estate agent.  Honestly, this was the best decision we could make--we used a variety of websites to browse places first, but the agent toured us around 4 different places and I liked 3/4 of them.  This was completely unexpected, because I'm pretty picky in terms of where I'm going to stay.  The best part was that we didn't have to pay the agent anything because she got a cut on the other end (i.e., from the person renting out the place), and we gave her our list of "wants" and she matched up what she could.  She also gave us more insider info on the different neighborhood options.

If you don't want to get a real estate agent, we used some of the following websites:

  • Craigslist
  • Housing Maps - this website uses Google maps and applies a really useful interface over it.  I used this a lot to map these locations on a personalized Google Map, where I put links to the Craigslist ad, etc. and any notes (e.g., old bathroom, lots of storage space)
Some of the places we looked had some great perks (washer & dryer IN the closet?!  Genius idea!!), but we ended up renting a place that is in a condo building.  We rent from the owner, who lives elsewhere.  The perk of this is that the Maintenance in the building is FANTASTIC--we email our landlord (i.e., the owner) and he often gets someone here to fix anything we need in the same day!  The building also has an amazing gym with a sauna, indoor pool, and weight room.  Pretty nice!

In terms of my list, we ended up giving up on the washer/dryer in unit.  Everything else on the list is pretty much hit--including close to shopping.  We are two blocks down from the Gap on Michigan Ave. (Magnificent Mile), and there are a number of Anthropologies within walking distance, as well as Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, and (my favorite!) BHLDN (the Anthro wedding brand).

One key discussion we needed to have with locals before our move (which we didn't have) had to do with "neighborhoods."  Chicago is comprised of a bunch of neighborhoods, all with their own distinct feel.  Streeterville has a very "downtown" feel, with downtown pricing (if you catch my drift).  Lincoln Park, on the other hand, has more of a homey vibe with brownstones/brick buildings, young post-college people, and cute shops.  I think it's also slightly cheaper, but I wouldn't really know considering I don't live there.  Old Town is an area that has also been recommended to us frequently; it's cheaper than anything more in the heart of downtown, but is close by the L.  Wicker Park is the more hipster area that is much cheaper living, close to a vibrant nightlife with bars and the like, but also a little less clean/sterile than the downtown area.  The Loop is a little more busy, with many residences mixed in with the downtown office buildings.  River East (New Eastside) is more subdued (and south of the river), with some beautiful lake views and access to a lot of big parks.  Fulton Market has a stretch of super nice expensive foodie dream's restaurants, but the places to live are tucked away and less of a neighborhood feel (this is where the meatpacking district used to be, so there are a lot of warehouses).  Anyway, I'm sure you get my point.  Like any city, you have to find the right place for you so you are happy there.  If you haven't found it, you won't like your stay.

Another consideration is parking: if you plan on bringing a car to Chicago, be prepared to pay a lot in parking.  We are renting a spot in our building for $200/month.  Anything downtown is pricey, especially hourly parking.

Readers--any other questions about living in Chicago or moving here?  I'm happy to answer any questions about prices as well.

On Dry Shampoo

I finally got around to making something off of Pinterest! I am making a concerted effort to save money because 1) I am poor and 2) I will be made considerably more poor after 2014, when I am in or attending a number of California weddings. I think my last count was 5. 

Anyway, I found this site on Pinterest and made my own simple dry shampoo. It's a simple combo of cornstarch and cocoa powder, which makes me smell delicious and also feels better than inhaling all that aerosol business in the commercially sold dry shampoos. I bought a fluffy brush on eBay and brush it onto my roots all over my hair and it does its job quite effectively.

I also found another one to make my own mineral veil, which involves cornstarch, baby powder, and a hint of tinted powder. This also came out wonderful and if I apply too much of both of these mixtures I smell like a baby who got into the chocolate. I don't really mind this.

You can find the recipe here:

Saturday, February 2, 2013

On Snowing Up

Somehow living on the 24th floor means we are up high enough for the snow to be caught in swirling eddies. This makes it look magical, because it looks like it's snowing UP!!
However, I keep trying to take pictures or videos of the snow falling with either my phone or my point & shoot, but none of them are coming out. Any camera tips?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Arwen's first snow

It is currently snowing out and I'm cozy inside after another failed attempt to make a good snowball (seriously, you have to pack those suckers tight. That's what she said). Here's an adorable video of my puppy eating snow out of my hands. This is her first snowfall where there's enough to gather on the ground without struggling. Magical!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Paperman - Full Animated Short Film

Seriously adorable, guys.  Also, set in Chicago!  That is the L.

On Valentine's Day Gifts

If you've been dying to hear the second part of my roadtrip story (which I doubt, because nobody comments), here is a preview:

Build your own high-quality photo books at

I made this photo book to give to my fiance on Valentine's Day.  Finally, all those pictures I took will be put to good use!!  I promise I'm working on the second half of said blog post, full of photos and exciting things.

Additionally, if you have NO IDEA what to give to your significant other for Valentine's Day, you should try to scoop up a Groupon or deal for one of these photo books.  Cost-efficient, thoughtful, and sentimental.  Plus, it's fun to personalize!

Walking On Ice

At least in the city (downtown), they salt the streets and sidewalks to prevent too much slipping.  This doesn't mean that ice is non-existent, and I'm pretty paranoid about falling on my butt on those tiny patches (it usually gathers wherever there would be a little puddle, and right off the edge of the curb so if you're not looking when you step into the street, you might slide onto your butt).  Lately, the weather has been very odd--warm and humid, raining, and then freezing cold and snowing.  These varied conditions created a good amount of ice!  Enter: Lifehacker.  This infographic was pretty useful to me (though the comments on the page said otherwise).  I haven't put it to the test yet, but I'm going to keep it in mind.

Additionally, a few other people have recommended Yaktrax to me.  I don't personally own them, but these recs come from reputable sources, so I would trust them.  I have a couple pairs of snowboots I usually wear when it's icy or snowing to avoid slipping, but they still slide around a little bit.  Everyone stylish and hip here swears by Hunters.  I have a pair, but I did slide a little on the ice.  They aren't entirely accident-proof, but they are stylish.  Mine are purple--most people have black and other subdued colors.  Eh, who wants to wear black all winter?!  Those boots are great for keeping your feet dry, but I do recommend getting the fleece liners to keep them warm: Hunters alone are not enough, even with wool socks!

What are your tried and true tricks for not falling on the ice?

Monday, January 28, 2013

On fog (belated post)

Apparently this post never published! It's from Feb. 2nd.

This is the view outside right now. Chicago, I'll never understand your weather.

On Two Lives

Today I realized the 6 month mark of moving to Chicago came and went without any celebration and fanfare.  We made it here on August 22nd, and it is now nearly February.  Looking back, I have to say I haven't been as homesick as I previously thought.  Having never lived anywhere but the warm sunny confines of southern California, I thought this drastic change in lifestyle would definitely leave me missing home.  I will say that while I do miss my flip flops, I haven't felt that heart-squeezing homesickness as often as I thought I would.

Part of it has to do with something I realized over this past weekend when we were back for my friend's wedding: my fiance and I are living two very full and complete lives.  We quickly built a new social circle, routines, and a home here in Chicago.  This somehow did not discount the life we left behind--on pause--in San Diego.  That's the thing about San Diego.  We go back and it's like we never left; all of our friends are there from high school (usually back for the same holiday or event we are there for), so it feels just like home again.  We have a full group of friends at home, and a full life here as well.  Instead of whining about how I never see this person or that enough, I really should be utterly thankful.

So here it is: I am grateful that my biggest complaint (aside from the cold) is that I don't get enough time with either my friends here in Chicago or my friends back home in California.  I'm grateful that I have two full lives to live in different parts of the country, and when I'm back in either place, it feels right.  I'm grateful to have the relationships I do and the comfortable, happy life I am leading.  I do know that this time in Chicago is not permanent, so I'm happy to savor it now.

On Weddings (and Saving Money)

I'm back from the wedding in California (but sick from all the traveling and the rushed weekend), and now I have weddings on the brain.  Luckily, 100 Layer Cake just put up this post on borrowed bridesmaids dresses that is genius.  I'm seriously going to consider this one, because they also have the option to buy.  The styles are pretty nice, too.  That's for you, bridesmaids who might not agree with my style and don't want to waste money on a dress!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Snow day

Today I had my first snowy day with snowfall collected on the ground!! I learned a lot of valuable lessons.
-that brown stuff in the road? It's not gravel, and they didn't just plow the roads really well. That's very dirty snow.
-snow is pretty! But even in snow boots, if it's packed and frozen, it is SLIPPERY.
-They salt the sidewalks some places, so you have to be careful walking the dog (it can hurt their paws). Also, it can ruin your shoes according to the locals (leather and suede ones, supposedly). This WILL save you from slipping and cracking your skull open.
-Wear material that isn't knit as your outerwear. The snowflakes stick to my knit panda hat and I have to shake off like a dog before stepping inside.

This weekend I'm back in San Diego for a whirlwind trip! My good friend from high school is getting married, so we'll get a brief respite from the cold.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Snowball fight!!!!

Here is my first experience of freshly fallen snow on the ground!! I'll post more later on what below zero feels like, but for now just imagine a fully grown woman scooping up snow from planters on the side of the road and throwing handfuls at her friends. Then picture this same adult carrying pictured snowball up an elevator ride to throw said snowball at her fiance, warmly tucked away in their apartment. Stay joyful, friends.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My favorite form of escapism: Books

Finally saw "The Hobbit" tonight!  I've wanted to but put it off until after I finished the book (as a LOTR fan, I was discouraged from reading it initially by a friend who said that it wasn't worth reading...after having read it, I wholeheartedly disagree.  I love the lighter writing style, though it does take some time getting used to), and then life in general got in the way.  But I saw it!  I came out satisfied, though I can't understand why they're splitting it into three movies.  Nine hours?  That's a lot of time for a short book such as The Hobbit.  Anyway, I've long since learned not to compare books to their movie versions because they are always disappointing in some way (e.g., Harry Potter books), but stand well in their own right.  The sole exception to this is The Princess Bride, which is both a brilliant book and movie.  Anyway, back to "The Hobbit."

Photo from Hobbiton Tours...which...can I go??

I will admit that my eyes were shining at that first glimpse of the Shire at the beginning of the movie, which I know makes me sound silly and nerdy but for some reason seeing it on screen feels a little like coming home.      No?  You don't feel like the Shire is your home?  I don't in the real sense (that would make me rather deluded), but I get that same surge of warmth in my heart that I feel when I see the San Diego skyline from an airplane.  It's amazing that the book gives me this feeling--that my imaginings of it were so vivid that it feels like home.
I think it's because I fall for books hard--I get lost in them for hours or days at a time and coming back to the real world almost hurts.  It's fairly challenging for any piece of fiction, but I am a fan of fantasy books.  This makes it even harder, as you're stuck in the real world rather than some imagined land that a brilliant author dreamed up (Ursula LeGuin, anyone?).

Does anybody else get this way when they read a good book?  

Thursday, January 17, 2013


A view from the park by our place--looking across the lake
Being new to the blogging scene, I've just recently started clicking around to find interesting reads.  A few of the blogs I've started following (check out "Interesting Reads" on the right side) are written accounts of people's explorations through other cities worldwide!  I love being able to identify with that nervous excitement of being in a new city and getting to know it intimiately.  Some of the ones that really have me wishing I could travel more include Oh Happy Day's posts from her time living in Paris, and Lost in Cheeseland, an entire blog of one woman's life in the City of Light.  These blogs definitely give me a taste of picking up and moving to Europe at a fraction of the cost!
These blogs also remind me to not get too caught up in the day to day.  During our first couple months here, I remained unemployed for a while just settling into the new city, getting our apartment together, and job hunting.  During these weeks, I walked around the city and really took advantage of living downtown.  Then I got a full-time job again, and between running around all day in the classroom and outside with the children, I just got too tired to do small things, even run errands (this is the epitome of lazy, as the grocery store is across the street from my apartment building).
 These bloggers, on the other hand, truly take advantage of living in Paris, exploring the city, and making little shops their own.  I love the idea of being able to say that a particular bakery is "my" bakery, when certain stores have personal meaning.  These blogs inspire me to continue my adventures in this new city, find new places to call my own, and above all, use the breadmaker I got for Christmas--because fresh bread looks so beautiful in all their photos and I heart carbs.  
Back on the topic of wanderlust--for those of you wishing you could see more of this big city in the Midwest,  here are some photos from my wandering.  
Michigan Ave. during the holidays
A colonnade in Grant Park

Monday, January 14, 2013

Layering for Weather

This blog post may seem silly to most people from these colder climes, but I guarantee this is useful information for people from warmer places (like me).  After much trial and error, I have figured out how to appropriately layer for different temperatures.  Granted, Chicago's winter thus far has been fairly mild (just cold, not too much snow), so maybe I'll be screwed when the snow/ice really starts to hit.  Anyway, this is what I have so far:
Eddie Bauer Northern Aurora Down Jacket in Capri Blue, with my Modcloth owl  mittens (gift)
-Eddie Bauer coat (to my waist) with fur-edged hood, guaranteed good for 0-20 degree weather

-J. Crew Factory belted puffer coat: I was really opposed to wearing these because I think they look like a black version of the Michelin man, but I see why they are necessary now!  The only part of my body that gets cold when I wear this coat is between my boots and my coat...and I have legwarmers now to remedy that.

-CK belted puffer coat: looks similar to above but has fur around the hood.  My mom gave this to me for Christmas!

-a bunch of California winter coats (read: not thickly lined, with varying wool weights).  Okay, I'll be honest, some of these are cotton.  I don't wear those ones much, though...

-long underwear (I don't wear these too often yet, but I have both Cuddl Duds and REI brand.  I wore the Cuddl Duds under thick leggings and had no issues getting the layers on or off because they are silk, and they didn't slip and slide around under my clothes)

-down vest that folds up really small into a bag that it comes with (used frequently)

Available on Amazon (men's and women's are exactly the same, except women's come in different girly colors)

-180 earmuffs (that's the brand), which go behind your ears like those erstwhile popular Sony headphones.  These are most useful for when I wear glasses or don't feel like wearing a hat (because it seriously feels like your ears will fall off when you're walking around in the cold for extended periods of time)

-a variety of
  • scarves
  • hats: knit hats for everyday, a Goorin Bros. wool hat (I wore this last night in the rain and stayed so dry! Only issue is my ears get a little cold, but I could easily put a beanie on under it to fix this), and a variety of warmer hats (including a Russian or Fargo hat for painfully cold days, a knit hat that looks like a deer's face for when I'm sad about the cold)
  • gloves: leather gloves for fall, North Face gloves for playing in the snow/serious winter (they were around $50 retail at the North Face store on Michigan Ave.), knit gloves with cute patterns for slightly warmer weather or when I know I'll tuck my hands into my pockets often

When we first moved here in August, I went to Nordstrom Rack and bought the down vest.  It was seriously the best purchase I've made thus far.  It meant I could wear all my existing coats, and added warmth without too much bulk.  Best of all, since I was crazy paranoid about freezing to death, I could tuck it (in its convenient bag) into every purse I carried and not have to worry about the temperature dropping too far at night and getting cold!  I seriously carried it from the end of August (started getting cold) til I started wearing it every day or using my down coats.  That's how nervous this California girl felt about her first real winter.

Anyway, here is the breakdown of my outerwear by temperature:

  • 40-49 degrees: California winter coat, scarf, maybe thin gloves if I'm walking far.
  • 30-39 degrees: down vest under California winter coat, gloves, earmuffs or hat.  Closer to 30 and I'll probably bring a scarf along just in case.
  • 20-29 degrees: Luckily, my Eddie Bauer coat told me exactly what temperature at which to wear it!  I'll pick one of the below:
    • Eddie Bauer down coat by itself (sometimes I'll sweat in this, though).  Definitely earmuffs or hat, unless I put my hood on.  Leather gloves at the lightest (closer to 20 degrees, I'd put on my North Face gloves...or if I think there's a potential to play in the snow!!)
    • sweater, down vest, California winter coat.  The issue with the down vest is that it doesn't have sleeves, so my arms sometimes get cold when those Chicago winds blow up loose sleeves.  Thus, you have to wear a cardigan or sweater under the vest!  +scarf, hat or earmuffs, and North Face gloves (since the coat itself isn't as warm, I make sure my extremities are).
  • 10-18 degrees: this is damn cold.  These are the days I walk outside and mutter an expletive to myself, then pull my hood on and trudge to work, watching for ice.
    • Eddie Bauer down coat, high boots (very cold legs otherwise!), legwarmers or long underwear (if I'm walking far).  Scarf, hat, North Face gloves.
    • Either puffy coat, scarf, hat, any gloves (these long coats keep most of my body warm and I can tuck my hands into the fleece-lined pockets!)
  • 10 degrees or below: No.  Don't go outside.  That's not normal.  Okay, maybe I haven't experienced this too much yet (ignoring windchill).  I haven't yet felt the need to wear my down vest under my down coats, so I think so far I'm okay...and the coldest it has hit when I was outside was -8, I believe.
To be honest, the windchill is what is the worst part--it might actually be in the teens, but it feels WAY COLDER.  I still can't wrap my head around what this means, other than it makes me miserable.  Also, obviously this is just what I have found helpful, and it might be different for others.  I tend to get really hot when I'm moving around a lot, so I'll layer up and prefer to take off layers as I walk.  Others prefer just one thick layer so they don't have to worry about the hours it takes to put them all back on.

As a sidenote, I work with children--1-2 year olds.  They don't layer quite as much, though I have seen a few children who wear long underwear.  Usually they're just in big puffy coats, hats, and mittens when we're running around!  Additionally, we don't go out if it's below 32 degrees.  This is drastically different from working with children of this age in California, where we were blissfully barefoot and outdoors through most of the "winter."

What do you wear in the winter?  Any thoughts from local Chicagoans or people who grew up in cold areas?  Was this helpful to anybody moving to colder climes?