Another random subscription box review--Birchbox

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I'd read about Birchbox a few times and thought it sounded like fun, but hadn't taken the bait until my newest SIL talked about how much she enjoyed the subscription my BIL had given her for Christmas. So I finally decided, "What the heck?" 

Birchbox is a monthly subscription service in which you get five samples of various types of skin or hair products to test out. As I've gotten into my 50s, my skin is definitely changing and some of the tried-and-true products from my past are not so tried-and-true anymore, so I'm game to find some new stuff. I also have difficulty finding products that will work well with my curly hair--defrizzing without leaving an oil slick behind. So, sure--lay some samples on me.

A monthly subscription is $10; you choose which categories you want to explore and they'll customize it to your wishes. Most of the samples are a pretty decent size--I had a couple of skin product samples that lasted a full week for me, so you can get a good idea of how they work. Once you try the samples, you can leave reviews on the site. You earn points for each month you subscribe, each review you leave, and for any purchases you make through the site--those points eventually turn into dollars off a future purchase. The prices for the full-sized products on the Birchbox site are competitive, although not discounted generally. It is helpful, though, to be able to read all the user reviews. You can either allow them to surprise you each month or you can customize your box. So far, I've got the surprise route, though I may try customizing next month just to see how it works.

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I got two boxes my first month (an extra box as a gift for a new subscription) but didn't post a review then--I was waiting to see how I felt about it after the second month. I'm still having fun with it so I'll keep it going for a little while. 

For this month's box, I got Kiehl's facial cleanser, Marcella gel moisturizer, Beautaniq Beauty blush and lip color serum, an eye liner (don't recall the brand), and Parlor curl defining cream. I've been able to try out the cleanser, moisturizer, and serum; not the eye liner (not a big eye liner person so need to be in the right mood to test it) and the curl cream (I'm not supposed to be showering right now with my foot all bandaged, so I'm leery of putting any product on until I know I can thoroughly wash it out again).

I've heard of Kiehl's so I was interested to try it. This cleanser didn't knock my socks off, though--no better than the Clinique I normally use--so I won't be switching over. The moisturizing gel was equally unexciting for me, although it could work beautifully for someone with less dry skin than mine--very lightweight. The blush serum made me look like a clown, so that was a definite no go. I think it was just too bright for my skin tone. I can't wait to try the curl cream--maybe next week.

In the first couple of boxes I got in June there were several things I really liked so I've added them to my wish list on the Birchbox site and, when I run out of my current products, I may start adding some of them to my skin and hair care routine. There's a nice detangling spray, a makeup primer (helpful when I'm traveling and have to be "on" from 8a to 10p) , and a wonderful facial oil I absolutely fell in love with but will need to save up to buy. 

If you're interested in trying out Birchbox, here's my referral code

As a side note, I'd also subscribed to Ipsy which is a similar idea, as I'd intended to compare the two. However, Ipsy put me on a "wait list" and then proceeded to hold me over a barrel by telling me I could jump ahead in line and get off the wait list if I promoted them on social media. What? Why in the world would I promote something I hadn't even had the opportunity to try yet? After waiting several weeks to see if I'd just get removed from the wait list naturally, but only getting more emails telling me to promote them to get off the wait list, I finally unsubscribed with a comment about exactly what I thought of their business model. Ridiculous.  

Fight the Funk Friday

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Not much funk-fighting going on here. Or, maybe, I'm fighting future funk? In any case, I'm well and truly out of commission for a bit. 

My foot surgery was Tuesday morning. He'd warned me ahead of time that, depending on what he found when he got in there, I might end up with a joint replacement. I figured that would be the case because I'd seen the x-rays and, by the way, had been living with it for awhile, so I knew it was probably pretty bad.

Yep, joint replacement. I think that means the recovery will be a little longer.

I do have the fun of knowing I'm on the "cutting edge" of big-toe-joint-replacement-technology, however. (Will that be my epitaph? "Here Lies Sandra Hasenauer, Cutting Edge Big Toe Joint Replacement Technologist.....") With my permission, he used a new type of joint that's only been in use about four or five months. It's made out of the same stuff they make contact lenses out of, so it's more flexible, works more smoothly, and supposedly feels more natural when I walk. Since I have nothing to compare it to other than my former useless human joint, I won't be able to give it a review. That being said, I had no real concerns about saying yes because rationally, logically, it all made sense to me that it would work well. Plus, I just started wearing (occasionally) contact lenses in my eyes so why not let my foot join in the fun? My toe will now have 20-20 vision, thank you very much.

I think I'd mentioned in an earlier post that I had a quick-o-change-o switch of doctors the week before the surgery. I really do like the one I've got now so much better, but it means there was a bit of information about the recovery process that I'd not gotten in advance. Doctor #1 kept making it sound like I'd be back on my feet within a couple of days of the surgery (albeit with the boot). Doctor #2 has me keeping my foot elevated above my heart until I go back to see him on Monday--nearly a full week after surgery. A little bit of a difference there! So now all bets are off--I'm not making any predictions about my recovery process until I see Dr 2 again on Monday.

Puppy Mayhem Personified

Puppy Mayhem Personified

I'm not 100% at keeping my foot above my heart as my back gets too stiff after awhile, but I'm doing it for hours at a time, and then switching to a sitting position so my foot is at least higher than my hip. Today I'm working at keeping my step count as low as possible (quite the opposite of my usual Fight the Funk Friday posts!) as yesterday got a little out of hand with some puppy mayhem going on. My daughter has most of the day off work, though, so she'll be here on Puppy Patrol and I should be able to be a better patient today.

I'm trying to pay attention to my eating so I don't regain weight while I'm off my feet. Frankly, the fact that I can't walk much is keeping that under control anyway, since it's a laborious trip to the kitchen and I'm not working up much of an appetite in any case.

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My nearly-niece (my nephew's long-time girlfriend) was so sweet yesterday and came by with a container of lentil soup she'd made and wanted to share with me. Hard to take an appetizing picture of cold lentil soup but trust me, it'll be very tasty, especially with some fresh Parmesan grated over it. Today's lunch. That should get my bones mending fast!

Here's hoping next week's FtF Friday post has more action! 

 

Woof Wednesday

I don't have much in the "Wardrobe Wednesday" department this week (you really don't want to see what I look like right now) so I thought, instead, I'd post about the latest Barkbox we got this week! I also ask that you excuse the lazy formatting on this post as I had my foot surgery yesterday and was told I have to be on the couch with my feet higher than my heart until Monday. But more about that in my Friday post. In any case, that means I have to post from my iPad which has a scaled-down version of my blog tools, and it makes typing a little tricky. 

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Auggie and Spencer got their second Barkbox on Tuesday, so I was able to do the reveal with them after I got home from surgery.  Made the day a little brighter.

This time we had an Alice in Wonderland theme--fun!

This box was a total win again, at least so far. We haven't busted open all the treats yet. As usual, Spencer's just getting the treats and Auggie is busily wrestling with his new toys. 

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They included a cute little photo frame you're supposed to use to post your Barkbox fun on Instagram. I'm not sure I'll be able to get either dog to pose appropriately. When my daughter comes back on Friday to play Mom-Nurse and Dog-Patrol for me, I may see if she can try.

Admittedly, when I first opened the box, I thought the theme was "A Tick in Wonderland," and figured one of the stuffed toys would be a tick. I thought that a little odd, but it took me a couple of reads to realize it's "A Lick in Wonderland." The font is a little tricky.

And I was on drugs. But we won't talk about that.

I didn't get a picture of the first treat that I immediately opened up and split betweeen the furries. It was a rabbit chew stick. They chomped it down immediately.

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These "We All Wag Here" treats are made from salmon and shaped like cats. I get a kick out of the labels--they do a good job in marketing. Under feeding instructions, it says, "Not intended as a meal substitute. Will not magically make your dog as big as a house or as tiny as a thimble." I haven't given these to the dogs yet so I can't review their popularity. 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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The "Chicken Nibbles" bag of snacks says on the back, "Not intended as a meal substitute, no mattter what your dog says."  

Or maybe I'm just easily entertained while on drugs. But we're not talking about that.  

You can see my hospital armband. Just to provide the appropriate context for this post. 

The dogs have been eating these chicken nibbles and love them. They've got chicken liver, various vegetables, brown rice, sweet potato, blueberries, cherries, and cranberries. My dogs are eating better than I am these days! (Although my daughter made my favorite comfort food of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for me last night. She makes the WORLD'S BEST grilled cheese. I can be proud of my daughter for many things, but those grilled cheese sandwiches pretty much top the list.) 

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And then the toys. Auggie immediately took to the first one, the White Rabbit head. I didn't get a picture of it before he took it off for a major wrestling session. 

It makes a fantastic crinkling sound when he chews on it and throws it around by its ears. He loves this thing. He's definitely more a fan of crinkles than squeaks. He virtually ignores squeaky toys but if it crinkles he's all over it! He played with this for probably half an hour when he first got it, crashed for a quick power nap, then went right back at it.  

 

 

 

 

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The second toy is a pink flamingo. This one also crinkles, but has the added bonus of a plastic chewing bar in the neck which will be great when Auggie starts officially teething (any week now). I'll probably throw this one in the freezer occasionally to make it nice and soothing for his jaw, and hopefully help keep him off the legs of my coffee table. 

He liked this one too, but it's tough competition with the White Rabbit.  

You never really know what's going to get a puppy's attention, but Barkbox seems to get it every time. We've bought him other toys over the last few weeks but none grab him quite as much as the ones we've gotten through Barkbox, so they clearly know what they're doing! 

 

Apologies if the alignment on this post is all off, but the iPad version of my blogging site is a little harder to work with in adding images. I don't have the ability to add spaces or lines or anything to make sure the text is lined up with the pictures appropriately. But you'll figure it out! 

 

Fight the Funk Friday

My first full week of sabbatical is nearly over. Funny how it seems so long when it's in the future but it flies by when it's in the present. I know it'll seem short when it's in the past!

I had intended to write a chapter a week--and I have five chapters total--starting with getting the first chapter done this first week. I'd thought I already had everything pretty pulled together for the first two chapters and knew most of the research I had left to do was for the last three. However, once I sat down and started fleshing out my outline, I realized I did have more organizing, sorting, and thinking to do. Chapter one still shouldn't take me all that long to write (she says, fingers crossed hopefully) but it's now going to happen next week instead of this. Meanwhile, I've made excellent headway on figuring out where I'd left certain in-progress things and organizing what I still needed to do. 

So--Fighting the Funk this week mostly had to do with settling my brain into a different way of being, getting myself organized for a very specific task, and spending quality time with my doggies.


He's cute when he's not chomping.

He's cute when he's not chomping.

Spending quality time with Auggie, of course, still primarily involves the word "no" and a whole LOT of paper towels. But his favorite toy is the empty paper towel cardboard tube so perhaps I'm unconsciously rewarding him for these accidents. "Gee--I piddle on the floor, and I get a new toy! This is quite a shindig I've got going here!"


I've also played with my new vacuum sealer. This thing is serious cool beans!

Towards my general goal of healthier eating: I'm doing the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) thing again this summer, but only because the farm I did it through before started a new option in which I could sign up just for July and August, the two months I'm actually home enough to make it worthwhile. Woot! With the vacuum sealer, I can immediately prep the produce for either refrigerator or freezer. I'm also periodically snipping and freezing herbs from my container gardens so I'll have them through the winter. With this sealer, it doesn't take me much time at all. I give veggies a quick blanch, let them cool, dry them off, and seal away. I also seal what's going to be in the fridge because too often my week gets away from me and I end up not being able to use produce before it goes bad--using the sealer gives me several more days leeway. I'm not worried about the cost of the bags because it's definitely counterbalanced by the cost of the produce I used to always end up throwing out. I'm a fan of this sealing thing!

This summer, I've got one grape tomato plant and three regular tomato plants in my back yard. I think I'll get maybe two or three grape tomatoes this weekend. I also have one container with a variety of lettuces in it, just enough to occasionally rip a few leaves off and let it grow back. One salad at a time...


My foot surgery is scheduled for next Tuesday. I had a quick-o-change-o on my podiatrist/surgeon as the one I'd been seeing suddenly left the practice. I don't know why. I don't ask. I met with the new doctor this week and am pleased--I can actually relate to the new one more easily and he gave me a lot more information than the former doctor ever had. Turns out, it's quite possible I may end up with a joint replacement in that toe. It seems they use basically the same thing that's used in hip replacements, just very, very small. I guess that just means I'll have the hippest feet in town, ar ar ar. 

Here's hoping it all goes well and swelling goes down quickly and all that so I can be back into the swing of things, and wearing my normal shoes, as fast as possible!


Finally, I won't hold on this until Wardrobe Wednesday as it's not my wardrobe, but my husband got his bi-monthly StitchFix yesterday. Here's a peek at what was in it. He kept the two button-downs but sent everything else back. The blue tshirt was too form-fitting for his comfort level. The green pants and off-white shorts both fit him great, but he's very conservative in his pants (green felt way too risky for him, LOL), and the shorts were unfortunately see-through. It's too bad, too, because they looked great on him.

So--this StitchFix was partially successful. But given how infrequently my husband buys clothes and how picky he can be about them, I consider "partially" a major success. If you're interested in checking out StitchFix, here's my referral link. You can get to either the men's or the women's StitchFix through the same link.

Break over...time to get back to work...

 

Thinkin' about It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

Franklin Covey Her Point of View planner pages

Franklin Covey Her Point of View planner pages

  • that, once again, I may want to test out a new planner system
  • how I keep coming up short on time to draw out all my trackers and weekly pages and such in my bullet journal, even though I'm keeping it all very simple
  • how I also don't like just having all blank pages so in the weeks I don't get my pages prepped I tend to avoid using my journal because I don't like the way it looks
    • because I like having some structure
    • and just a little bit of color, but not much, because visual clutter annoys me
  • that maybe a Franklin Covey system may work well
    • because it's got monthly tabs
    • and two-page daily spreads with the second page blank so I could still do my journaling and other stuff I do in my bullet journal
    • and it has weekly menu planning pages I could insert each week which was the main reason I went to a bullet journal in the first place
    • and a handy little expense tracker/envelope for keeping receipts which would be helpful on work trips so I could keep them out of my wallet
    • and I do sorta dig a couple of the prettier design sets, like "Her Point of View"
  • how it's hard to swallow paying that much to test something out, though
    • because who knows if I'd be happy with that one either
    • because, clearly, I'm really demanding way too much of my planner system

  • how much I still miss this guy
  • that I can't wait until Auggie is house-trained, sigh.

Tea Tuesday: The Wordy Traveler review

I'm calling this "Tea Tuesday" as it references tea. But it's a very different Tea Tuesday than previous ones and only barely mentions tea, so it's not getting the pretty header.

I've suddenly become the subscription box queen. 

Well, maybe not "queen." Maybe a second-alternate of a lady in waiting, based on the number of subscription boxes I see the "big name" bloggers talking about. However, I've started doing a small number of different types of subscription boxes to see if they can expand my horizons, as it were. Well, Barkbox is just for the dogs. No horizon-expanding there. But the other ones I do for me are giving me the opportunity to try things I normally wouldn't try, so that's fun.

This one is about books. 

In an effort to expose myself to different authors or genres than I tend to lean towards, I started looking into book subscriptions. However, I know I've got limited time and, frankly, I don't read actual print books all that often anymore, so I didn't want to subscribe to anything that would overload me with stuff I'd never get to. After a little bit of exploring, I happened upon The Wordy Traveler club. It sounded like it was right up my alley and definitely a manageable subscription!

The box is beautiful!

The box is beautiful!

The Wordy Traveler is a book subscription in which you receive one to three books every quarter (depending on which level you choose) focused on a particular area of the world. You will then also receive a bag of tea and a few little accoutrements related to that theme.

(See? I mentioned tea. That makes this a legit Tea Tuesday post.)

And here's what really got me: They donate a portion of the subscription fee to organizations supporting women and girls. I'm in.

I got my first box within a few days of subscribing. I took all my "reveal" pics at night in our dining room which has fairly subtle lighting so I apologize for them being a little off, but you should get the idea!

I subscribed to the "Backpacking" edition, which is only one book every quarter, rather than the "Full Suitcase," which is three books. I also thought this would be a good way to test it out for a few boxes before committing to the full-on subscription. 


This first box's theme is Russia. It came with a nice little card giving some background to the theme. 

There was also a very attractive bookmark (nice, since I don't have many bookmarks hanging around these days as they're not particularly necessary for a Kindle), a small "art print" of a Russian landmark, and a postcard thanking you for supporting women and girls through your subscription.

I'm not entirely sure what I'll do with the art print. Maybe I could start a gallery in my office/sewing room to show where I've "traveled" through my reading?


The tea included this quarter is Keemun Grand, described as a "malty black Chinese tea." I'm not sure why they chose this particular tea: There was no explanation as to how they felt it fit this quarter's theme. There are Russian teas out there, but maybe they couldn't find a cost-effective wholesale distributor or something. I haven't tried the tea yet, but I'll definitely get to it. That may be a future "Tea Tuesday" post!


One of the two gifts included was this very pretty little Russian-style painted wooden egg. I've put it in a stoneware bowl on the bookshelves in my living room, where I have a collection of wooden Robin's eggs (near a couple of pudgy bird figurines which you had to know I would own). It adds a nice touch.


The second gift is an antique-y looking necklace with a Russian doll depicted in the pendant.


I didn't think I'd ever wear this and was debating if my oldest great-niece was quite old enough for this necklace yet. But then I got dressed yesterday morning and realized it would actually look kind of cute with my outfit of a bright pink tshirt and a denim skort. I threw on a couple of hammered-gold hoop earrings and it actually all worked. Go figure.

Still, it'll probably end up being gifted to a great-niece eventually. But it's fun to wear it until then.


Finally...leaving the main piece for last...the book.

Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich is a prize-winning literary "documentary," of sorts. Alexievich interviewed hundreds of Russians about life in Russia after the fall of Communism to nearly present day. In interviews spanning 1991-2012, it chronicles the hope or disillusionment, and harsh economic and political realities, as experienced in daily life by regular people. 

I'm about 50 pages in already and am finding it utterly fascinating. I remember seeing on the news many of the events referenced in the book, but only know about them from the perspective of how we experienced them in the United States, as well as how we assumed those in Russia probably experienced them. Most of the interviews in the book, however, are showing me a very different reality than what I had imagined. It's extremely well done. 

However, it's also a kazillion pages long and in very, very small print.  Reading this book is an undertaking. The first 50 pages have gone pretty fast but I'm a little concerned about my staying power when I get 200 pages in. Still--I love really well-done nonfiction books and this definitely is a really well-done nonfiction book! It's done in a different style from anything I've read before so, at the moment, color me intrigued. I'll let you know how it goes.

So that's this first quarter reviewed. I'm not 100% sold on this whole book subscription concept yet as I'm definitely paying more per quarter than I would if I just bought the book and tea outright. On the other hand, this book wasn't even on my radar, nor had I ever heard of the tea, and I'm learning a lot from the book; so if my horizons get expanded and my brain is stretched (cute wooden eggs and necklaces notwithstanding), and I'm helping women and girls to boot...that's worth the cost of the subscription to me!

BarkBox Review

I don't have an alliterative day to post this one, so I'm just randomly tossing it into the blogosphere. 

After seeing my #twilter friend @ltdermdvm (Lori) post about her doggies' Barkboxes each month and how much her dogs loved them, I finally caved. My husband was aghast: "You're spoiling Auggie! We never did that for Sammy!" Well, in my defense, all I can say is that Sammy was a puppy when we still had kids living at home, and Auggie is the puppy of empty-nesters.  

It happens. 

Barkbox is a subscription service for dog treats and dog toys. Each month you get a few treats and a couple of toys based on a theme. (They have a refund/exchange policy if your dog doesn't like something in the box, I guess, although that didn't come up for us this first time.) You pay so much per month, depending on the size and number of dogs you're buying for. I just subscribed for a one-dog box because Spencer isn't really into toys, and we can easily split the treats between them. Right now, I'm getting the mid-sized dog box because Auggie's still a pup. In a few months, I may have to switch to the large-sized dog box.

I was out of town when the first box came and I asked my daughter (who was dog-sitting that day) to take pics of the reveal. 

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The theme was a Japanese spring picnic.

The Barkbox includes a page that describes the theme and lists some of the items you might have in your box based on that theme. We didn't have all of these items in ours so I'm guessing some of them are only for smaller dogs. 

 
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They got a buffalo chew or two--I don't know if these are actual buffalo since they'd already polished them off before I got home.  

 
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The duck treats and rabbit treats really are made from duck and rabbit. All the dog treats that come in the box are organic and have a minimum of ingredients, which is nice, although, I have to admit, I rarely worry much about that because dogs eat all sorts of cr*p in real life when we're not watching so I'm not going to be overly picky about their kibble. It's got to be better than whatever they find in the woods when my back is turned. Still, it's not chemical, so that's a plus.

They both loved the buffalo chews and we're still working our way through the Duck Jerky, but they like that too. I haven't opened the bag of Rabbit Sliders yet. 

 

 
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Again, Spencer's not much of a toy-playing-dog. When she was a puppy she loved plastic water bottles, especially when I froze them. But once she got over a couple of years old she really didn't show much interest in toys anymore. Sometimes she and Sammy would play tug-of-war with a rope toy but it was terribly unfair because Sammy would just lie down on the floor and Spencer couldn't budge the 80-pounds of him, so they mostly mouth-wrestled. 

Auggie, however, is Golden through-and-through. He needs to have something in his mouth. He'd prefer it to be our hands, of course, but that's not allowed, so we keep safer alternatives nearby at all times. He adores his Barkbox toys! 

This stuffed Japanese teapot is his favorite, I think. It's got a rope handle so he can pick it up and swing it back and forth like he would attack an animal in the wild. He gets all cute and growly with it. I hate to burst his bubble by reminding him he's going all wild-dog at a stuffed teapot.  

 
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The sushi roll is filled with crinkly stuff so it makes a great noise when he chews on it, and it's got different textures, plus it also swings around when he shakes it. Very satisfying.

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Sammy shredded every toy so quickly we stopped buying him stuffed things when he was quite young. So far, Auggie isn't shredding his toys. I imagine that'll start happening pretty soon, though, so we'll see how long these last. 

Auggie is a quick learner. As I was opening my StitchFix box when I got home, he was standing right at my side, sure it would be more fun for him! 

So, Barkbox is a huge hit in our house. If you use my referral link to join, your first month is free with any multi-month plan. Woo!

 

Wardrobe Wednesday

I'm home! 

I got home from my big summer work trip this week, just past Monday-turning-into-Tuesday. My flight was scheduled to land at 11:30 pm Monday, so I figured I'd be walking in my front door around midnight. We actually landed about 15 minutes early...but then our luggage got stuck in the baggage chute and it took them almost 40 minutes to get everything sorted out so we could pick up our suitcases. I didn't get home until about 12:30. My husband had waited up for me with the dogs, so I got to see my family and, after my husband went on up to bed, I hung out getting puppy cuddles until I was finally ready to go to sleep an hour or so later. Fortunately, as Tuesday was the 4th of July, a big celebration here in the U.S., I had the day off and we had no plans for family events or anything, so I could just laze as much as I wanted to.

I arrived home to a bunch of boxes, one of which was my July StitchFix. As tired as I was Tuesday, I knew I was pushing the three-day limit to send things back so I tried everything on and got my pics. With apologies for not actually quite looking good enough for public viewing, here we go. 

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First up...I'd said I'd like some casual t-shirt dresses to wear around the house or to summer festivals and the like.

Gee, can you guess? This red tank-top t-shirt dress SO didn't make the cut.

It's not the most flattering of colors on me, to begin with. You can see how it hangs a little too low in the sleeves and shows the side of my undergarments. It's a little twisted (sorry, didn't notice that when I took the picture) so it doesn't look QUITE as bad on me in real life as this picture might suggest, but still, this was not a keeper for me.

If I want a hot-weather dress to wear on the patio that doesn't look great on me I'll just buy one at Target.

Verdict: Returning.

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Another dress-for-summer-festivals they sent me was a much prettier dress overall, but a little fancier than I was picturing, and not a good color on me. I don't have anything against orange but it needs to be a brighter orange or it makes me look like death-warmed-over. Not that I needed much help in that direction the day I took these pictures anyway...

I liked the flutter sleeves on this, and it's a nice, flattering "faux wrap" style. It actually looks better on me than this picture would suggest (I really need to learn how to stand better). But it's not anything I'd wear to a casual summer event. If I had weddings to attend, maybe.  

Verdict: Returning. 

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I thought I'd said in my notes to my stylist that I don't wear shorts. Or, maybe I decided at the last minute to change that and allow the shorts thing to happen to see if I could get some good ones (I mostly don't like shorts because I so rarely find a pair that fit right). I don't remember what I said now--I always suffer amnesia about anything I did before leaving town on a work trip. In any case, I not only got a pair of shorts, but they're the frayed-edge, pretending-to-be-cut-off shorts. I haven't worn cut-offs since I was about 15. I'm not going to start wearing them again at 51. 

These were very comfortable shorts--the same brand as the two pairs of leggings I got from StitchFix before vacation that I love. But because they're a stretchy denim (which is why they're so comfy) they look like they're a tight fit, and that's just not an area of my body on which I'm comfortable putting form-fitting clothes.

The top was definitely more my style and nice enough, but I decided I didn't really need another top like this in my summe wardrobe and I'd rather save the bucks at this point.

Verdict: Returning both.

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The last item I got this month was a great pair of earrings. I had them on for all of these pics, so you can see they're nice, big "statement earrings." I'd been wanting a big pair of earrings to wear when I didn't feel like wearing a necklace, and this pair has the boho vibe I like, they're silver and go with most of my summer wardrobe, and are pretty lightweight despite their size.

Verdict: Keeping. 

So, out of the whole box, I'm keeping one pair of earrings. That doesn't bother me--in fact, had I loved everything in the box I may have ended up in a dilemma because I really do feel pretty set for summer clothes. 

Stay tuned for those other boxes that came while I was gone...

Thinking about It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

  • that, no matter how much I love puppy breath and fuzzy fur, it'll be nice to be on the other side of the training again.
  • that entertainment comes in so many forms, like getting so much joy out of the fact that my two dogs are actually playing together now (sometimes).
  • that, to all outward appearances, it would seem that my "healthy living goals" have taken a complete back seat.
  • how it's hard to stick an adorable puppy in the crate so you can go to the gym
    • but that I didn't have the same problem leaving my kids
    • so what does that say about how cute my puppy is compared to my kids?
 
  • how much there is to get done for work this week before I leave town for our big set of national events next week.
  • how it doesn't help that a puppy keeps breaking through my barriers and getting tangled up in wires and unplugging my mouse at random times.
  • that I'm beginning to worry about how much thesis-writing I'll actually get done during sabbatical unless Auggie and I work out a better system.
  • how it somehow makes it all more bearable when I spend a lot of my day working like this.

The Golden Days Phase 2

I hadn't intended to run out and get a new puppy quite so fast. However, the breeder where we had gotten Sammy (best advertisement for a breeder, ever!) had three boys left from her current litter, and no other breeders in the area had any litters even close to being ready for adoption. I have sabbatical in July and August so that's my best time for puppy training (well, and writing my thesis, but mostly puppy training).

Consequently, we now have some new Golden love in our home.

Meet Ogden. Aka Auggie. Aka "No, Auggie! Auggie, no! Auggie, get down! Auggie, leave Spencer alone! No, Auggie, that's not your food! Auggie, stop chewing that!"

Ah yes, the joys of puppydom.

On the other hand...

PUPPY BREATH!!!!!

He's an absolute sweetheart, when he isn't chomping on us with his little needle teeth and digging into us with his little dagger toenails. So far, Auggie doesn't seem to be as food-oriented as Sam was, but that may come with time. I honestly don't remember too many specifics about Sam's puppy days. 

Auggie is a titch over 8 weeks old. I've enrolled us in some puppy playtime/basic obedience classes starting in mid-July, and my niece enrolled in the same class with her new puppy (mixed breed, about 12 weeks now). We're hoping they'll be buddies. 

I've managed to only call him Sammy about eight times--revealingly enough, mostly when I'm telling him to leave his sister alone. Apparently I used to have to tell Sammy that a lot too. It's a knee-jerk reaction. 

Yesterday we started working on the "Come" command. He's about halfway to learning it. Or, he has actually learned it, but Puppy Brain kicks in when he's about halfway to me and suddenly he's off chasing leaves or chewing on grass. We'll get there.

This is more for my sake than yours, but here's Sammy as a puppy next to Auggie as a puppy. Left = Sam, Right = Auggie. Auggie's nose isn't any bigger than Sam's--it's just the angle of the camera. Auggie's face is just a little thinner than Sam's was. Auggie is definitely a darker gold, too. They darken as they get older--it'll be interesting to see what color he ends up compared to Sam. As long as he's my canal walking buddy, I don't care what color he is!

It is a bit odd to still be grieving Sam and crying at odd moments while, at the same time, I'm falling in love with Auggie. I told Auggie that he should be thankful to Sam since it was due to Sam's greatness that I was ready to get Auggie. I've told Auggie some stories about Sam and my Chuck-It games and walking on the canal. He seems to understand his job description: Have fun, play a lot, and be my buddy. He's ready.

The Golden Days

Most of you are likely with me on social media so you probably already know what's been going on with me these days.

It's been the worst of times and the best of times...

My buddy Sammy, aka Samwise, aka the Doofus, succumbed to his cancer on Saturday, June 10. He'd had a bad day earlier in the week but then had a very good Friday (we played fetch for a bit Friday afternoon), and seemed fine Saturday morning. By around noon on Saturday, though, it was clear that something had happened internally and by 2:00, we knew it was time. I rode in the very back of my SUV with him, laying with him in my arms and his head on my shoulder, while my husband drove. It was the longest, hardest 20-minute drive I've been through, but I'm glad I had that last opportunity to hold him and talk to him. I'm also glad that it was a Saturday and neither my husband nor I were traveling so that we could both be there for Sammy and for each other.

I still miss him. I still cry at the oddest moments. He'll always be my Sammy.

I do appreciate all my #Twilter friends who have sent their condolences, and their own feelings of missing Sammy on Instagram. He was an extremely photogenic dog, and a bit of a ham, so there were lots of pictures of him. I've posted here just a few of my favorites. I have hundreds, and they all make me smile.

I'll always miss you, Sammy. 

I'll follow this post with the other half of the update...

 

Wardrobe Wednesday and Catching Up

I tried to send another vacation post while I was gone but our Internet access was extremely sketchy and the post went all pear-shaped on me (can you tell I've been watching a lot of BBC again?), so I'll catch up on vacation pics later.

Meanwhile, I wanted to do a Wardrobe Wednesday post to give you the end of the shoe story, some comments on other recent purchases and how they held up, and my brief experience with the LeTote subscription service.

The ones on my feet and the black ones in this pic both came with me. I wore the stripey ones a TON, and the black ones several times, including for the flights home.

The ones on my feet and the black ones in this pic both came with me. I wore the stripey ones a TON, and the black ones several times, including for the flights home.

First, the Skechers shoes were da bomb! I ended up bringing 3 pairs of them, plus one of my Clarks that I'd bought on my first "vacation shoe shopping excursion" back in March, because all of them fit the inserts well and would mix and match with my outfits. Plus I had a pair of sandals. So yes, indeed, I packed 5 pairs of shoes for a 12-day trip. Excessive, but I tend to pack a lot more for vacations than I do for work trips so I've got options. Plus, I could get away with it because the Skechers and Clarks were all extremely light-weight and since I was using packing cubes for everything, I didn't have any problems fitting everything in.

The Iris Lace-Up d'Orsay Pump by Halogen from my March Trunk Club. Well worth the money!

The Iris Lace-Up d'Orsay Pump by Halogen from my March Trunk Club. Well worth the money!

The sandals I brought were the ones I got from my Nordstrom's Trunk Club awhile back. These are now my go-to dress shoes. I've worn them several times, including events where I was on my feet a lot, and they're fantastic. Very comfortable. The block heel makes them very stable and my toes end well before the point so there's no squishing. Even with my bum toe, these are great shoes!

In any case, my toe behaved beautifully through the trip. Indeed, I even ditched the inserts by day four or so, and continued not to have any difficulties, even over extremely uneven cobblestones and a fortress carved directly into the side of a mountain (the "floor" in the first half of the fortress was pure rock and extremely uneven). I got a twinge here or there if I landed wrong, but no lasting pain. The very last day we were there, in Basel, it started acting up some, but once we got back to the room and I was off it for half an hour before dinner, it settled right back down again. 

So, I recommend Skechers! Now, that being said, now that I'm skipping the inserts I can wear my Toms again. Toms are definitely far better made and more substantial on my feet than Skechers' Bobs are. The stripey Bobs that I wore all over Europe have stretched out some now and flop around on my feet a little bit. I still wear them because they're still pretty comfy--and dang cute--but my Toms definitely feel better all around. So if you're doing some comparison shopping, Bobs are great, but Toms are greater-er. (They're also more expensive so you just need to make the call.)

Chicos Girlfriend Ankle Jeans--love these!

Chicos Girlfriend Ankle Jeans--love these!

Another recommendation? Chicos pants! I now have three pairs of pants from Chicos (all bought on sale)--two pairs of jeans and one lighter weight pants. They all came with me on the trip, I wore each pair of them several times, and they all held up super-well, especially the jeans. I can't find the lighter weight ones on their website, and they did get a little baggy on me after I'd worn them a couple of times, so I'll just focus on the jeans because I have nothing bad to say about those!

This picture at the left (not me!) is the So Slimming Girlfriend Ankle Jeans. The term "slimming" typically puts me off because it often means "corset." However, you'd never know these were supposedly slimming. They fit me like normal jeans--they just hold their shape really well! Can't say I particularly looked any smaller in them, either, but they're really flattering, so maybe that's the "slimming" part. I have two pairs of these, one dark wash and one medium wash. Neither of them ever bagged or sagged or anything even after wearing them multiple times on the trip (a couple of times on pretty hot days). These are my go-to jeans, now.

Review of LeTote

So, on to LeTote. Have you heard of that one? I was attracted to it because it's partially a rental service, of sorts. When you subscribe, you choose the level of your subscription (how many clothing items plus how many accessories within a few tiers of options). You pay a monthly subscription fee based on that level. You go through their website and add items you like to your "closet." Then they select items primarily from your closet, or suggest items based on what you've indicated you like, and put them in your "tote." You get 48 hours to either accept their recommendations or swap items out with other things in your closet, and then it ships to you. You can then keep those items and wear them for as long as you like. Once you decide what you're keeping and/or returning, you stick the items you're returning in their provided envelope and put it in your mailbox. Within a couple of days, you get billed for whatever you kept, and your next tote kicks into gear.

What I liked about it:

  • The idea that I was basically "renting" clothes for a bit. It's nice to be able to wear something to really decide if you want to keep it. Plus, as I had been changing sizes at that point, I felt like it was a good low-commitment way to have new clothes as I traveled further in my weight-loss journey. (I've stalled out for a couple months now but at that point I had reason to believe I might be going down again soon. Dang. At least I've not gone back up!)
  • The idea that I could easily send stuff back, without having to wash it, even. I know. "Eugh!" you say. But they provide all sorts of information about their cleaning system and I never noticed any sort of funk or smell to anything I got--it all seemed like everything I've ever bought in a store. If you're squeamish, you can always wash it before you wear it. 
  • Getting accessories in every box. I subscribed for the two-clothing-one-accessory tier. I got two pairs of earrings (only one of which I kept, if I recall), and the next tote would've had a belt in it, had I not cancelled.
  • In the last tote I got, one of the tops went on sale after I'd already received the tote, so they sent me an email letting me know that. I'd been waffling a little on it because of its original price, but the sale price was really good so I did end up keeping that one. Everything else went back. (StitchFix says they do the same thing but I've not had that happen to me yet with them.)

What I didn't like about it:

  • The "rental" thing didn't end up being my vibe. I either like clothes enough to want to keep them, or don't want to wear them at all. (I have the same problem with library books!) Plus, I have been doing so well with StitchFix lately that I don't feel the same need for another subscription service now that I did when I first signed up for LeTote.
  • I had difficulty finding clothes I liked in their offerings. That's a personal thing, so you may not have the same problem. I just found that I was adding things to my closet more because it was "better than anything else they had" and not so much because I really loved it. Even the jewelry wasn't entirely in my wheelhouse. 
  • It was a little stressful immediately getting another tote in process as soon as I'd sent one. If I was really into the whole "rental" thing, that would be fun. If I were working in an office and had a lot of people seeing my outfits every day, I could see where LeTote would be a lot more fun. But I don't get out much, LOL. I don't need a steady influx of new looks in my life.

What I'm holding my breath on:

  • I'd read reviews of LeTote before signing up, but somehow didn't see a whole batch of negative press that was out there until after I'd already subscribed. It was only then that I started reading people's complaints about how hard it was to unsubscribe. Several people related stories of getting billed for months after they'd tried to cancel. So, when I decided to cancel, I was nervous that it was going to be a problem. I'm glad to say so far that it hasn't been. We'll see what happens next month (will I suddenly get billed again?), but I think I was able to successfully cancel today. I sent an email a couple of days ago but didn't hear back, so I called the direct number today, put my phone on speaker phone and did other things during the 10-minute-long hold waiting for someone to get to me in the queue, and finally got to talk to someone directly. She was very nice, immediately cancelled my subscription, and sent me an email with a confirmation. I can't sign into my account now, so I think it's all good!
During a layover in Detroit coming home from vacay. Even at the end of two weeks of walking, my feet still loved these Skechers!

During a layover in Detroit coming home from vacay. Even at the end of two weeks of walking, my feet still loved these Skechers!

So those are my wardrobe updates. Maybe you'll find something helpful in all that! I'm not getting another StitchFix until July so it'll be awhile before we have another Wardrobe Wednesday!

 

 

 

Vacation--It's Thursday--wait, no, It's Friday

Trying to remember what day is what is tough!

Studying while cruising the Rhine--there's worse places to get my reading done! 

Studying while cruising the Rhine--there's worse places to get my reading done! 

Yesterday was our first full day on the cruise. We spent the morning on the river, then got into Cologne right around lunch. 

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

Turns out, it was a national holiday yesterday: Ascension Day/Men's Day. (In other words, it started out as the Catholic Ascension Day and then got taken over/secularized by Men's Day.) In either case, it meant that Cologne was filled to the brim with people--largely, groups of men of all ages--and lots of beer and music. It was fun, though it was a little hard to get around.

Street art

Street art

We took our first on-shore excursion guided tour through the city and to the Cologne Cathedral. It was gorgeous. Sad, though--it took several hundred years to get it built and by the time it was done, it was out of style. I've made quilts like that...

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Then we had a complimentary beer tasting of Kolsch beer, which is brewed in Cologne. That's not an unfamiliar beer to us in the US but I do like it--it's a nice wheat beer, and very refreshing after what turned into a pretty toasty day.  

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous, and I'm very pleased with the decisions I made in terms of outfits I packed that would give me options for 50 degrees and rainy or 80 degrees and sunny. We're definitely leaning towards the 80/sunny combo package for the next several days. 

The ones who took our picture here are a couple from Manchester, England: Angela and Ralph. We spent a fair amount of time with them last evening. They were joking that after dinner they got back off the ship to spend a little more time in Cologne and meet some locals (we didn't leave port until 11p), and sat down at a table in a bar next to a group of young men.  Turns out, the young men were a soccer team from the University of Rochester--about 15 minutes from my home! Definitely a small world. 

Vacation--Tuesday, May 23 (We made it!)

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We got in at 5:30a Tuesday, Amsterdam-time, which was around 11:30p-ish (Monday night) to our bodies. Neither of us had been able to sleep much on the place, so although we were doing more-or-less okay in the morning, we knew we'd hit our wall at some point early afternoon.

We were able to stretch out and rest for about a half hour before showering, changing clothes, and meeting up with our tour group for the day's itinerary.

Riejksmuseum  

Riejksmuseum  

Our first scheduled activity was just a walking tour from our hotel to the center city of Amsterdam, which is only a few blocks away. Our guide is good enough but I'd like to have gotten more historical information and detail about architecture and stuff. To be fair, we've had some excellent guides in our time who have set a very high bar for us, so this guide is certainly sufficient. 

Our walking tour ended with a brief tram ride over to the Riejksmuseum, which was top on my list of what I wanted to do while here. I love me some Dutch Masters. Unfortunately, remember that wall I said we'd eventually hit? Slammed into it full force in the museum. Both my husband and I were quite literally falling asleep on our feet. After our guided tour through some of the highlights of the museum we were given about an hour to see whatever we wanted to on our own. Unfortunately, it was all we could do to drag our sorry butts to the museum cafe for tea, where we kept dozing off over our cups.

"Dancing" houses--all leaning against each other at odd angles from centuries of settling. (These are from the early 1700s, if I recall. We saw them from 1640s to 1890s.) 

"Dancing" houses--all leaning against each other at odd angles from centuries of settling. (These are from the early 1700s, if I recall. We saw them from 1640s to 1890s.) 

Fortunately, we had a couple hours' break between getting back to the hotel after the morning excursion and meeting up again for a canal cruise, so we were able to take short naps to take some of the edge off. Still, it's now 7:15p and I'm sitting in my pajamas in bed writing this post, planning on going to sleep as soon as I'm done!

The canal cruise was nice although we were still dozy, and we made a not-so-great seating choice so I don't feel we saw things as well as we could. Still, it gave us a good orientation to the city and, after dinner (at a great little hole-in-the-wall Italian place near our hotel with a great waitress who was a hoot), we were able to wander back along some of the canals again to see more clearly what we were supposed to be looking at the first time.

Weather was perfect today: 60s and sunny. (Yes, 60s is perfect for these Western NYers.)

Tomorrow we have the morning on our own and then we transfer to our riverboat in the early afternoon. We plan on just doing more wandering. But first, 12 hours of sleep if I can make it!

Vacation Day 1--Monday, May 22

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So we were supposed to in Amsterdam by now--or, at least, landing shortly. 

Instead, we're in the Atlanta airport.  

Small favors: At least we found out we were scr*wed before we even left town.  We were able to sleep in our own bed again last night rather than sitting in a shut-down airport somewhere overnight.

Our flight was supposed to leave at about 5p yesterday to get us to JFK. We had about 90 minutes at JFK to get to the International Terminal and get on our flight--which was already a fairly tight connection when you're going international. And then our flight from Rochester got delayed. And delayed again. Finally, it was scheduled to depart Rochester after our flight to Amsterdam was supposed to leave NY. No go.

Fortunately, we were getting the alerts about the delay starting before lunch so we were still home. My husband got on the phone with Delta and eventually managed to get us "stand-by" for a flight to Amsterdam from JFK on Monday but there were no guarantees. We couldn't do anything on the Delta site ourselves because everything was still listed as fine and we'd have had to pay change fees. We eventually decided to head to the airport anyway so that we could talk directly to a ticketing agent.

We said goodbye to the dogs...oh, and our daughter who drove us to the airport.  What a good daughter.

And we stood for about a half hour while the ticketing agent was on hold with someone trying to rebook our flight. We finally succeeded in getting actual seats (next to each other, even!) on a flight out of Rochester Monday morning at 11:30a, this time through Atlanta instead of JFK.

As we were sitting and waiting for our daughter to come back and get us (what a good daughter!), we noticed that the new flights only gave us 45 minutes between flights in Atlanta. Are you kidding me? Doable, but only just, and only if everything goes swimmingly.

Back my husband went, up to the ticketing agent's desk. The first two tried to tell him it would be okay, but a third one overheard and said, "Are you kidding me?" He rebooked our flights for an early one out of Rochester in the morning (god-awful early) but at least we'd be sure to have plenty of time to get our flight to Amsterdam. 

The dogs were a bit confused when we walked back in the house with our suitcases. And then confused again when we left at 4:30a this morning (with a bleary-eyed daughter driving us to the airport for a second time--what a good daughter!). 

So now we're cooling our heels in Atlanta on Monday, trying not to think about how tired we're going to be when we arrive in Amsterdam at 6a Tuesday morning their time (midnight our time), needing to almost immediately hit the pavement to catch up with our scheduled tours. I'd take a nap, but we're supposed to be visiting the Rijksmuseum which is a big one on my list. I love me some Dutch Masters. 

Fingers crossed we're able to connect with our extension guides when we arrive so we don't miss any more of this vacation that we've already paid for.  

Fight the Funk Friday (and a little Belated Wardrobe Wednesday)

I had a fantastically fun workout with my trainer, Lore, this week. We usually meet at the Y nearest me but due to both her and my travel schedules, this week the only way to have a session was to meet earlier in the week and at the Y where she's actually based. It's a long drive (about 40 minutes one way in traffic), but it was a lot of fun as her Y is much newer and has tons of equipment that mine doesn't have. I may try to meet her there once a month from now on because it was a blast!

I got to drag a sled with weights on it 3/4 of the way across the gym, then pull it back towards me at my starting place with ropes. 

I flipped a big tire back and forth across the gym.

I beat on that same tire with a sledgehammer. That felt great. I asked if I could do it more. I did it a lot.

(Did I already use this one? Probably. It's my current favorite!)

(Did I already use this one? Probably. It's my current favorite!)

I dangled from arm straps to do core work. That hurt. Clearly I need to do more work on my core strength.

(My trainer's quotable quote this week: "Everything's more fun when you're dangling." )

When people say they "hate exercise," all I can think is, "you haven't tried enough different ways to exercise yet!" Sure, I'm a little stiff now, but it was so much fun I don't care.  

I'm a beast. 

That workout helped to make up for the fact that I finally made the call not to do the Color Run this weekend. I really didn't want to do something I'd regret to my foot right before vacation. I'm terribly disappointed but I'm refocusing my brain on how much fun I'd been having with a highly varied workout before I started running. I enjoy doing different things all the time and running prevented that. To build up to a 5k, and given my schedule, I could only run (and do one session of strength training a week). I missed the variety I used to have before I started running. I've already written out in my planner a workout schedule for the week I get back that goes back to my "something different every day" routine. I'm still pretty limited--no Cardio Kickboxing for awhile, although I might be able to do Cardio Step as you try to keep your foot flat with that most of the time. Anyway...back to variety.

I may be in pain but my toenails are vacation-ready!

I may be in pain but my toenails are vacation-ready!

 I did go back to my podiatrist yesterday and he gave me another set of cortisone shots (two last time, three this time) to see if that can get me through vacation. The fact that I knew how much it was going to hurt afterwards didn't help. He did give me some more long-lasting anesthetic as part of the shots but I think that only took a little of the edge off. He then went into his routine about the surgery being "nothing." I laughed and told him that, as he hadn't really told me how much the cortisone was going to hurt, his credibility rating on "the surgery will be nothing" had taken a nosedive. He was surprised to find out how much pain I'd been in after that shot. From what I've seen online (and Twilter responses) severe pain for several hours after is normal. I suspect he's never had one. That's not something you can learn out of a book.

Skechers new and old

Skechers new and old

And, I went shoe shopping again this week. I finally decided that, as only one pair of my initial "vacation shoes" actually worked with the inserts, I just had to bite the bullet and check out some more options. As the one pair of shoes I already owned that worked with the inserts were Skechers, I hit the Skechers outlet store ten minutes from my house. I spent a fast half hour between other appointments (1) finding the few options available in my size (especially with the inserts, I'm in the upper range of shoe sizes), (2) picking at the edge of the insoles to make sure I could rip them out to fit the inserts underneath (while trying to avoid doing enough damage that I'd have to buy the dang shoe anyway), and (3) trying them on with my inserts. I actually found a grand total of six pairs. They were having a "buy one, get one 50% off sale," woo. However, I don't necessarily know that I'll be keeping all six. Since I was doing it in a hurry, I was just looking for "what worked" and "what I liked," but couldn't think carefully through "what outfits I have that I know these will work with." This first picture is my original pair of gray Skecher sneakers with the inserts now removed from under the sole, with the two pairs of new ones I knew for sure I was going to make work because they were so comfy and cute! 

Skechers Bob's platform espadrilles--fantastic!

Skechers Bob's platform espadrilles--fantastic!

Here's a second, better picture of the black ones. (The multicolored in the picture are flats, just like Toms.)

These are probably my favorite comfort-wise because the platform sole means that they're actually stiffer than any of the rest of the options, and with my toe issues, stiff is good. (Did I mention my inserts are a sheet of carbon plate? We're not messing around here. The point is restricting my toe bend when I walk.) When I put in my inserts and then the memory foam insole over the top, these are really, really comfortable. I can easily picture myself walking all day in these, and I think they'd look cute with several of my possible outfits. I do have to take a hair dryer to the heel and the left toe to get a little more stretch on them--with the inserts I have to really work to get my foot in there. But once they're on, they're really comfy!

"Bobs" are the Skechers total rip-off of Toms. They don't even try to hide it, which I at least respect. They even say that Bobs helps support some pet charity or another (Toms gives a pair of shoes to an underprivileged child for every pair you buy), although Skechers is pretty cagey about how that works and how much support goes to them. Toms are definitely better made, but I can't rip the insole out of them (remember that "better made"--the insole is stitched down rather than glued) so I can't easily wear my Toms with my inserts. I'm not expecting these Bobs to last me as long as my Toms but, to be honest, they don't really need to. If they get me through this summer and all my foot issues, I'll be ecstatic.

And here are the other four pairs that still need to be assessed. I'll be trying them on with the pants I know I'll be packing to see what works. And no, I won't be packing that many pairs of shoes! I have one pair of sandals already set out that will go with all my dress-up outfits and are already toe-tested. Then I may allow myself three other pairs of casual/walking shoes for various modes of dress (and probable rain). I'm looking at those gray leather slides as my airport shoes--easy to get on and off in security and a little warmer on the plane for my cold feet.

Another nice thing about these Skechers is they're all really light-weight so won't add much to my suitcase poundage! As a note--the navy sneakers came with a second pair of navy laces, and the gray sneakers come with a second pair of light gray laces, so you can go lower contrast on both if  you prefer. I definitely wouldn't bring both pairs on vacation but I don't have any navy casual shoes so I suspect that pair will be a keeper for my general wardrobe. Not as sure about the taupe flats or the gray sneakers, but we'll see.

If all six work with my summer wardrobe overall, well, they were all really well priced so I'll just figure I now have a shoe wardrobe  at least four times the size of what it was ever before! And hopefully that means I won't have to buy new spring/summer shoes for several years. I don't need nearly as many footwear options in the fall/winter, as the snow and slush drives all shoe-buying options at that point, and I still have some from before that will work fine. And by then, I'll have had my surgery so I should just be back into normal shoes I like, not messing around with what I can shove a piece of carbon into. Sigh.

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Oh--quick update on the contacts: I'm getting much better at putting them in! We switched brands on the trials earlier this week and the new ones are much easier to use. I'm down to three tries (average) on the left eye, and can generally get the right eye in one (I'm a rightie). And no problems taking them out at all. I pick up another set of trials today that are hopefully much closer to my actual prescription so fingers crossed!

Between the cortisone, the footwear, and the contacts...all I have to do now is pack and we're on our way vacay! Woot!

(Tea Tuesday ended up on unintentional hiatus this week as Lori and I couldn't get our schedules together, but it'll come back when I'm back from vacation. Consider today's shoe section of this post your Wardrobe Wednesday. I didn't get Thinkin' about It Thursday done due to evening conference calls and unexpected podiatrist appointments. And I won't be posting for the next two weeks unless I can sometimes throw some photos up here while on vacation. Otherwise, you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @sandyquiltz--I'm sure I'll be pretty active there!) 

Fight the Funk Friday

This week, I've mostly been working on getting my head back in the game. And making some other general "life improvements."

I came to the conclusion earlier this week that everything with my foot had really thrown me totally off track. Not so much that I was doing horribly--no major binges, I wasn't sitting around like a slug day on end--but I was enough unfocused that I've been going back and forth with the same couple of pounds for about three or four weeks now. I'm a bit fed up with it, so I decided I really needed to regroup. Okay, so I can't run--I needed to be more intentional about making a plan for what I was going to do instead. I had gotten into some less-focused eating habits--and even healthy eating habits can start slowly wandering off track with an extra few Veggie Stix here and there, the one or two meals that went unplanned and uncounted, and so forth.

So this week, rather than getting all beating-up-on-myself or boot-camp-y about eating and exercising,** has been 90% about working on what's in my head. Weight Watchers has begun to use a mantra that I've known for years: What I'm thinking affects how I'm feeling, and how I'm feeling affects what I do. So it all starts with the thinking.

**i.e., saying to myself "I have GOT to get this right! That's it! Working out EVERY day. Tracking EVERY SINGLE BITE." because I know that lasts all of about a day and a half, if that, and I'm right back where I started.

1. Remember some of those motivational memes I posted in FTF post several weeks ago? I have quite a collection. I ran across a pack of Post-It Sticky Picture Paper I'd forgotten I had from a work project many years ago. It finally struck me: Motivational Memes + Post-It Paper = Daily Motivation. I printed off a bunch of them, and have started sticking them on my bathroom mirror. I also have one on the front of my bullet journal--cheaper than buying another phrase from Etsy, although probably won't last that well. But I have more of the post-it paper left so I can replace it pretty easily. My husband teased me about it a little bit this morning (in a loving, supportive way--he's been great), so I told him he was more than welcome to go through my collection and find something to post on his side of the mirror! As a note--the post-it that I had up there when I took the picture is one of my favorites because it stays in the realm of "acknowledge what I have to be proud of." It reminds me that I HAVE come far--yay me!--but that I still have further I want to go. None of my motivational quotes are sticks, they're all carrots. 

2. I got my cortisone shot for my toe yesterday. Ai, Mami, the doctor did NOT tell me how much that was going to hurt afterwards! Once that anaesthetic wore off, my toe was suddenly screaming "WTF?!?!?!?" Serious pain for a couple of hours, then (thankfully) it subsided into manageable pain for a few more hours. In fact, by the time I met with my personal trainer at 4:30 it was only giving a few throbs once in a great while. We joked about the fact that I might be coming up with a new Personal Record category of "No Toe Pain." Woo! We'll see how well it keeps me going during vacation. I'm going to bring my sneakers w/ inserts as back-up in case something goes awry, but I have high hopes now that I'll be able to wear my nicer-looking comfy shoes.

3. Sammy and I got out for another canal walk! This was actually on Wednesday, pre-cortisone-shot, but my foot was behaving itself pretty well that day and it was cool, but really beautifully sunny. I know Sammy's time on the canal is limited so I'm trying to get him out when I can. Now that I'm not worrying about keeping up with a 5k training schedule anymore I can choose to take a long walk with him rather than trying to do a certain set of intervals. (Still doing the Color Run at the end of next week, but it'll definitely be a Run-Walk for me.)

Sammy was moving a little more slowly than he used to, but he made it to our usual bridge stopping point. We like to sit on the cement foundation under the bridge and watch the canal together. It's a little on the high side for Sam so he puts his front paws up and I haul him up from the back. (I had to do that even before he got sick.) He normally wanders about the concrete and sniffs alot but this time he immediately laid right down next to me, so I know his energy levels are starting to sag. When it was time for us to go, he looked really unsure about jumping back down again (that was the part he always did himself) so I decided to try to lift him down. He's 80-ish pounds of muscle mass with probably another 5 pounds of fur. I got him off the cement okay, but when I put him on the ground he decided it would be best to immediately sit--which threw me off balance so I sort of fell forward over the top of him--which made him twist around and start licking my face--which made me giggle and made it even harder to get back upright. We finally untangled ourselves and I did a quick look around to see if anyone had seen our wrestling match...phew. The only other walkers were pretty far away and had their backs to us. Our little secret--until now, at least, but I can trust you to keep it on the low-down, right?

4. Oddly enough, I now have contacts. Or, rather, I'm still in the trial period of contacts. I wrote about it in my Thinkin' about It Thursday post yesterday. I only started wearing glasses a lot in the last four or five years. I had them for working at the computer or intense bouts of reading before that (since grad school) but for most things didn't really need them. Aging put paid to that. Anyway, this week I had my biennial eye exam and had no intentions of doing anything other than getting new glasses if my prescription had changed. Which it did. But in talking with the optometrist about having readers all over the house and, more critically, my annoyance during speaking engagements and board meetings about always having to have reading glasses at hand, or on for a few seconds, then off again, or looking at people from a podium over the top of my glasses so I could also read my notes...she told me about new contacts that have only been out for about a year that can deal with both close-up and distance. So I'm trying them out. So far, I've succeeded at learning how to put them in and take them out--yay me! We still have to get the prescription right--I'm wearing trials that aren't exactly my prescription so it's hard to tell yet whether this is the right answer. I go in again Monday to see how I'm doing with contacts in general and then we'll order my real prescription. I do think I'm in love with the concept, though!

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Oh, and... 5. I successfully avoided eating any of these while sitting in the waiting room at the optometrist for over an hour starting at 4:30 p--Hungry Time.

As I posted on Weight Watchers Connect (their social network), "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!" But I prevailed!

And the good news is, I managed to lose a pound this week. If I can stay focused, that puts me back in good line for achieving one of my mini-goals at my last weigh-in before vacation. Focus is key.

 

Thinkin' about It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

  • That starting to wear contact lenses at 51 (and some) is a bit of a challenge
  • That my eyes are a little uncertain about this whole "putting something solid in them" thing
  • How nice it is, though, not to have to keep taking reading glasses on and off and on and off and on and off and...
  • That it'll also be nice not to have to be carrying reading glasses up to the podium during speaking engagements
    • and dropping them off the side of the podium
    • because podiums are always oddly angled
    • and usually way too small
    • and made for tall men
    • and I hate podiums
    • and I always leave my glasses up there afterwards and have to retrieve them later
    • so wearing contacts will at least decrease some amount of chaos in my life
  • How good it feels to be done with classes altogether
  • That, on the flip side, I already miss the academic camaraderie of my cohort
    • who I won't see in person again for a long time
    • until we graduate, probably
    • and some of my original cohort is no longer part of my cohort
    • because some have dropped out
    • and some have changed programs
    • and some had life happen and are now graduating later than planned
    • so we're down to about half of what we started with
    • and I still miss the ones we started out with
    • so I know I'll be missing the ones I finish with even more!
    • but that makes me sad
    • so I'm not going there for now
  • How nice it is to have my thesis proposal approved with no revisions required (woot!)
  • How much I'll enjoy being able to just hunker down and focus on my own project instead of needing to finish classwork before I can do my own reading
    • which means I still have a backlog of my own reading I want to get to
    • but I've got a nice long plane ride coming up soon
    • so Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr., are going to be flying with me
    • It'll be companionable
  • That I'm going to give myself a week off of doing anything school-related first
    • and go take Sammy for a canal walk on a beautiful spring day.

Wardrobe Wednesday--The Elusive Poncho

By jove, I think we've got it.

If you've been following along in my recent Wardrobe Wednesday posts, you know that I had a bug in my bonnet about getting a poncho I could use for travel, specifically for airports. I'm almost always cold on airplanes, especially long, international flights. But I hate sitting in a jacket. I feel way too constricted. I usually bring a pashmina with me and use it as a blanket, stretched from toes to chin if I'm sleeping, but even that can get problematic, trying to keep myself covered. I thought a poncho might be a good solution, at least for my top half. (The pashmina or plane blanket can still cover my legs and ankles.) Ponchos also seemed to be "on trend" this year so who'd-a-thunk I'd have so many problems finding one?

First of all, many of them are southwestern style, which I don't mind on other people but doesn't generally go with my sartorial vibe. Second, I was pretty picky about the fabric they were made out of. I didn't want to look like I was wearing a sheep, but I did want to be warm enough.

Well, long-story-short, I finally found a couple of possibilities at Chicos (online) and ordered two, figuring I would return whichever one doesn't work.

The first one I ordered was on sale, which is always a plus. This is the Maeve poncho. I loved the color-block look and asymmetrical vibe. 

Don't I model so much better now? Tee hee.

In any case, I got it in the white/black version. Black and white is more universal to go with whatever I might happen to wear on travel days. However, I do like the red version, and I think that would be a good red for me--so many are not! 

The Maeve poncho can be worn off-the-shoulder but I wouldn't plan on wearing it that way--I like the boatneck look it has in the photo with the red version.

Unfortunately, I think I'll be taking this one back. Well, let me clarify that: I'll definitely be returning the white one I got as it has a little hole and a pull in it that would only get worse. And I don't want two black and white ponchos. Whether I replace it with a red one remains to be seen.

It's very lightweight, so it's not warm enough for what I wanted in regards to air travel. However, I do love the way it drapes. It would be a really interesting variation on a work outfit and/or going-out-to-dinner outfit. Rather than a cardigan or jacket of some sort, I could throw on this poncho and look dressy but be very comfortable. It would be a nice weight for my usual conference-room work life, and it's one-size-fits-all so it would move with me through my journey. So, I'm still debating this one (in red) for other uses.

The second one I got, though, tics all the boxes for me.

This is the Talia poncho. It was also on sale--yay for me. 

The Talia is not only much longer than the Maeve, but it's a heavier knit and has a very soft, fleecy interior. It's definitely more blanket-like, but the style and fabric doesn't make it look like you're wearing your comforter out of the house. 

I love the unusual cut on this, and it makes it a little bit warmer since it's almost a cape-like vibe in the back. The way the neckine is made is also nice--the fabric folds under itself so you've just got cozy softness but it's not all bunched up. This will be extremely comfy on the plane.

The only draw-back to having a poncho is carrying my bag over my shoulder through the airport. Chances are, I'll actually put the poncho in the bag during my layovers--I'll be wearing long sleeves underneath and I don't usually find airports all that cold, especially when I'm hoofing it from one gate to the next. However, my totebag that I'll be using as a carry-on does have a cross-body strap as well, which is easier to manage with the poncho. 

In any case, I finally found my travel poncho. Whee!

By the way, I'm not a Chicos affiliate so those links just take you to the site with no benefit to me. Just sharing the good news in case anyone else is looking for ponchos or ruanas--Chicos has a lot of possibilities! I'm eyeing some of the kimono-style light-weight ones to wear over camis or tanks this summer. However, I'm taking a break from adding to my wardrobe for a bit as, now that I've got my poncho, I'm all set for vacay and my big summer work event at the end of June. The one question mark I have left in my head is whether my toe will force me to get some other pair of shoes for my work event, as none of my dressier/professional shoes work with my inserts and I'll be on my feet pretty much all day every day for that one. I'm going to wait to see how my foot does after my cortisone shot (tomorrow!) and a couple of weeks of hard use on vacation. If it's still happy then, I'll be fine with the shoes I have--so fingers crossed!