Retail therapy #6

Item: Brooks Boston Marathon Launch 5
Purchased: March 25, 2018

Who wouldn’t want running shoes with lobsters on them? I’m not from Boston, I don’t ever expect to run the Boston Marathon, and I don’t even eat seafood, but I still love them! But even with their whimsical nature, these shoes might be a bit too practical to fall into the retail therapy category. However, I’m still calling them a frivolous purchase since I didn’t really need them. I saw these shoes for the first time on Facebook and thought they were absolutely adorable, but they didn’t seem like a reasonable investment. The Brooks Launch style don’t have enough support for me to use them for running (I prefer Brooks Adrenaline), and I wasn’t in need of athletic shoes for anything else. But after several days of seeing them all over social media I bought a pair anyway because I decided I couldn’t live without them. They are just so fantastic! I figured I could wear them to the gym so they wouldn’t be a completely silly acquisition. Fortunately they have worked out great in that capacity. I’ve been going to boot camp classes with my running buddy consistently for about six weeks now and I feel great. In addition, lacing up these fun shoes three times a week makes getting ready to go to the gym even more fun. It’s amazing what a little exercise can do!

Necessary purchases

“When I went to DC the week before last I took four jackets with me. This Florida/California girl does not handle much more than a mild winter very well so I packed two fleeces, a sweatshirt, and a North Face jacket that I’d just bought. I haven’t needed a heavier coat in years so in order to be prepared for potentially cold temperatures in DC I went in search of one before I left on my trip. … And after all that effort I ended up not needing it at all! In fact, it was too warm in DC that week for just about all of the outerwear I brought with me. So this new jacket that I went through so much trouble to obtain went completely unworn.”
2/15/16 webpage post

On March 12th I found out I was going on a business trip to New York and DC the following week. On its own this was great news since I haven’t traveled for work in more than two years (January 2016 per the above quote) and I miss seeing my DC co-workers on a regular basis…but then I checked the weather. The place I was headed to in New York was going to be freezing. I don’t own a single jacket or pair of shoes that can handle lows in the teens and highs in the 20s. Brr! My time in Florida and California has done nothing to equip me for such temperatures. My closet full of light fleece jackets and flimsy leather flats just weren’t going to cut it in such a cold climate. So on March 16th I went to the North Face store, browsed the sale rack in desperation, and then begged a salesman for help. He was invaluable helping me pick out a jacket that was appropriate for the minimal amount of time I was planning to spent outside in the cold (basically just walking to and from my car at the airport, my hotel, and work). And on sale too! You don’t know how relieved I was to walk out of the store with a jacket. I wasn’t going to freeze to death in New York!

Then on March 18th, the very last day before I left town, I went to the mall in flip-flops and a hoodie (a true Southern California outfit) to find a pair of boots for my trip. I thought for sure I would find lots of options to try on and choose from at DSW Shoe Warehouse, but I was wrong. Turns out mid-March is way too late in the year to shop for boots. I had no idea! I got rid of my last few pairs years ago and now I wish I hadn’t. (In the last couple of years I have fallen in love with Tieks flats and I haven’t worn anything else to work since then.) After striking out at DSW I suddenly got very anxious about finding suitable footwear for cold weather before leaving California. Luckily, a lovely Macy’s employee scoured their limited stock of winter shoes where she found a pair of simple black ankle boots in my size. And by some miracle they actually fit my crazy narrow feet and felt pretty good. Hallelujah! I am so grateful to that Macy’s saleswoman. My feet weren’t blocks of ice in New York thanks to her. (The downside was learning the hard way that the boots were NOT made for walking. Hoofing it through three airports on March 21st was painful.) So I figure the necessary purchases of the jacket and boots make up for the unnecessarily purchased jacket for my trip to DC two years ago. Things have a way of working out eventually!

The race that almost wasn’t

You don’t know how happy I was to run the Seal Beach 5K on March 24th. Not because it’s my beloved hometown race or because I can basically roll out of bed and walk to the start line, but because I had to defy the odds to get there this year. I was on a business trip to two different cities during the week, and I booked my flight home on Friday evening so that I would be back in time to run the race on Saturday morning. It wasn’t ideal with my plane landing in Orange County at 10 PM, but I was committed. However, things didn’t exactly go as planned.

On Monday my flight from Orange County to New York (with a layover in Atlanta) was blessedly uneventful. It was so cold in New York, though. Luckily there was no snowfall while I was there and I didn’t have to deal with much ice due to covered parking at my hotel. That leg of my trip was very successful. Then it came time for me to fly to DC on Wednesday evening. Of course that was the day Winter Storm Toby was terrorizing the eastern seaboard so it seemed very likely that my travel plans would have to change. But as the day progressed Delta never modified my itinerary or downgraded the status of my flights so I headed to the airport as planned. My co-workers who were on direct flights that afternoon had to reschedule their travel for the next day. However, since I had a completely out-of-the-way layover in Detroit first, I somehow made it to Dulles without any trouble because my flight landed around 9 PM. By then the snow had stopped and the roads were perfectly clear when driving to my hotel. It really couldn’t have been any easier. I thought the worst was over, but I was so wrong.

On Friday evening I headed to Dulles to fly back home, with a layover in Minneapolis first. My flight from DC took off late due to “air traffic” (Delta’s explanation) which caused me to miss my connection to Orange County. When the plane landed in Minneapolis I ran to attempt to make the connection, but when I arrived, out of breath and fairly sweaty, the jetway doors had already closed. I was out of luck and so annoyed. Delta had already rebooked me on another flight the following morning so things were looking bad, but I hadn’t quite given up hope of getting home that night. My final opportunity was a flight to LAX that was leaving a few hours later. Of course it was overbooked, but an airline employee put me close to the top of the standby list. Miraculously I got the last seat on the flight so I was headed home! It landed at LAX at midnight. Remember that I was originally supposed to fly to Orange County? This meant that my car was 40 miles away. I took a very expensive taxi ride from one airport to another, picked up my car, and drove an additional 30 minutes to get home at 2 AM. At that point I had been awake for about 20 hours and I was exhausted. I fell asleep around 2:30 AM with my alarm set for 7 AM in order to give myself a bare minimum amount of time to get ready for the Seal Beach 5K in the morning. So everything worked out and I got to run the race, but I never expected it would be such an ordeal!

Retail therapy #5

Item: INKnBURN Denim Capris
Purchased: January 26, 2018

I think it’s fair to say that I’m obsessed with workout clothes. A long time ago I used to exercise in old t-shirts and shorts, but now I have a huge wardrobe of specialized gear. At some point in the last few years my running/gym items have taken over not only the largest drawer in my dresser, but also three full boxes under my bed. I only realized the extent of my collection just now as I was tallying that amount up in my head. I’ll admit that it’s beyond ridiculous. But even the reality that I’m rapidly running out of room for all of my fitness apparel doesn’t mean I stop shopping for more. Even when I wasn’t exercising much in January I was still browsing for workout clothes online. It was basically the epitome of retail therapy – boxes of shirts and pants that, given my situation, were the opposite of practical arrived at my door and that made me happy. Even if I wasn’t wearing them for their intended purpose! Luckily things have started to turn around in that department. For the last five weeks I have been going to boot camp classes with my running buddy three times a week fairly regularly (except the week I was on a whirlwind business trip – more on that in another post) so my new workout clothes have been getting more use. (And my poor muscle have also been getting more use. Ouch!) So far I’ve fooled two of the trainers at the gym on multiple occasions with the INKnBURN denim capris I ordered in January. They are fantastic! Super comfortable, stretchy, and made of fabric that’s designed to look exactly like jeans – back pockets, embellishments, belt loops, button fly, and all. Who says you can’t be stylish while exercising? And they have the added benefit of being respectable enough to wear running errands as well. So the INKnBURN pants were a choice well made. That’s certainly not true of all of my retail therapy purchases, but that’s a story for another day.

P.S. I bought these denim capris in two different sizes – one pair I can wear now, and a smaller pair for when I start meeting my fitness/weight loss goals! Something to look forward to.

St. Patrick’s Day 2018

St. Patrick’s Day on the weekend for a change is a rare chance to do something exciting for the holiday without the constraints of a workday. So can you guess what I did today? I ran a race, of course! Big surprise, I know. The Big LA 5K at Dodger Stadium this morning was delightfully St. Patrick’s Day themed with green shirts, green race bibs, and a medal with a shamrock on one side. It was fantastically festive. And I got to wear one of my holiday-specific running shirts for the occasion. It proclaimed my heritage as “Irish Every Day.” Very accurate. Even the weather cooperated (winter finally arrived in Southern California this month and it’s been gorgeous). Everything was great, except for the course. There are some serious hills around Dodger Stadium and they make for less than pleasant running. I’m still getting back in shape after a few months of inactivity so it wasn’t an easy 3.1 miles for my weak body, but I’m so glad that I went out and did it. The LA Big 5K is also the last race in the Triple 5K Tour of LA Challenge (Santa Monica, Pasadena, and Los Angeles) so I got an extra medal at the finish line. That’s always good motivation to get up before the crack of dawn, drive an hour, and hit the course even when I don’t want to! Let’s hope this marks my return to regular running again. 2018 has been rocky so far, but I think it’s looking up. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

Sunscreen experiment #18

I know that basically no one cares about these reviews except me, but I am going to continue writing them anyway. I just wanted to add this note here because I realize that I expounded on the pros and cons of this sunscreen product quite a lot more than I expected!

Buzzfeed strikes again! Surprisingly, this particular purchase wasn’t motivated by a need for retail therapy, but by my seemingly neverending search for the perfect sunscreen. I’ve been documenting my sunscreen experiments for nearly four years, but I’ve been trying out different products for about two decades. These days I’ve found a lot of products that I love and am loyal to, but when I see new, potentially superior products I jump at the chance to give them a try. For example, my daily facial moisturizer from Olay is fantastic for many reasons, but it’s only SPF 15. I’ve been looking for one with better sun protection that meets all of my specifications, but I have not been successful yet. I admit that I am incredibly demanding when it comes to sunscreen, and I’m lucky that I have so many options to test, but it’s still frustrating. The SPF 30 version of my favorite Olay face lotion is pretty good, but it’s just too sticky to be used under makeup. Still good for the weekends when I spend more time outside, though. In the last couple of years I’ve tried several higher SPF primers from Bare Minerals and Coola, but they aren’t moisturizing enough for my dry skin (thanks, Los Angeles).

So when I saw IPKN Big Apple Sun Cream (SPF 50) on a list of recommended beauty products I was intrigued. I hadn’t ventured into the world of Korean skin care products before this, but I had heard that they are beneficial for pale women such as myself. And fortunately the Big Apple Sun Cream wasn’t too expensive so I didn’t feel guilty impulsively some from Amazon. You can definitely drop a lot of money on beauty products if you’re so inclined. Without going into a massive amount of detail about all of the times I’ve used this sunscreen over the last week, let’s just say that I still haven’t found the perfect product for me. On the plus side, the Big Apple Sun Cream feels moisturizing without being sticky, practically a miracle, but just doesn’t work as a primer. My makeup settled into the lines on my face very quickly. I even tried two different concealers to make sure that wasn’t the culprit. Unfortunately it was terrible both times. Dang. I will definitely be using this sunscreen on the weekends when makeup is so this sunscreen won’t go to waste. Unlike so many others, I do not regret this purchase!

Throwing money at a problem

One of my favorite ways to resolve a problem is to throw money at it. Remember last year when my only available option to fix my malfunctioning iPhone 6 before leaving on vacation was buying an iPhone 7? All I really needed was a new battery, but the Apple Store couldn’t do that in an acceptable amount of time. It was ridiculous. So purchasing a brand new phone was indeed a viable solution to my problem, but certainly not the most economical. To be clear, I feel very fortunate that throwing money at a problem is a choice that is available to me. I don’t think of myself as an extravagant person (in spite of all these retail therapy posts I’ve been writing lately) so purchasing a very expensive smart phone was a big deal, even if I wasn’t worried about having enough money in the bank to pay for it. I realize that not everyone has this luxury.

A few weeks ago one of my running buddies confessed that she was feeling overwhelmed and depressed, and that she really needed to start exercising again to regain her work/life balance. After performing practically zero physical activity in 2018 I realized that she was speaking my language, so I told her we would go back to the gym together. A combination of companionship and guilt would motivate us to get moving again! This is the woman who initially got me started at boot camp classes almost two years ago, which was extremely beneficial, but things have gotten complicated since then. Last summer we got Groupons for a 4-week trial at another gym so that we could try out their classes. To make a long story short, I didn’t continue after the four weeks (I went back to my old gym instead), but my friend did. Fast forward to now and I decided to join her gym so that we can work out together even though it wasn’t my favorite. Hence, throwing money at the problem! Yes, this means that I currently have two gym memberships. But it’s been working really well so you can’t argue with results. The price of fitness (with a side of stress-relief and friendship) is high in 2018, but I’m hoping that the pay off will be worth it.

Not retail therapy for a change!

“Yesterday was my favorite day of the year – holiday potluck day! It was a great day. I arrived to work early to get the hot chocolate started. I can’t believe anything that simple could be so popular, but I had several people ask me for the recipe again this year. The biggest lesson I learned is that I need to get an extra large Crockpot so that I can make a double batch next year!”
12/17/16 webpage post

I was half kidding when I wrote about buying an extra large Crockpot specifically for hot chocolate back in 2016. But a year later when I was once again preparing for the holiday potluck I did some research on Amazon and discovered that a humongous 8-quart Crockpot would only set me back about $30. It was practically a no-brainer to go ahead and order one. It seemed a bit silly to have a slow cooker for the single purpose of making hot chocolate once a year, especially with my limited kitchen cabinet space, but it ended up being a great decision. I was able to make a double batch of my much-loved holiday beverage (including a full gallon of milk as well as a quart of cream) with no extra effort, and it was still absolutely inhaled by my co-workers in record time. Due to planning difficulties this year the potluck had a much smaller guest list (I was grandfathered in after about a decade of participation), but it seems that an 8-qt Crockpot full of hot chocolate was still not enough. I couldn’t believe how quickly it was drained. I swear everyone just grabbed a straw and sucked it dry. Crazy! It wasn’t easy to find a spot to store this new addition to my kitchen arsenal, but even if I only pull it out once a year it will still be worth the investment. Only nine more months before I start planning holiday food for 2018!

Retail therapy #4

Item: Tsum Tsum Marvel Countdown to Christmas Advent Calendar
Purchased: January 1, 2018

As I’ve previously described, on New Year’s Day I was sick with the flu. It was miserable. After my official diagnosis I spent most of the day on the computer, cancelling my highly anticipated Disney World vacation and feeling sorry for myself. An overabundance of time on the internet combined with my despair over the state of my health was arguably the catalyst for my glut of retail therapy. (Admittedly, some of it did happen in December, but I blame those particular purchases on the holidays.) At least it’s given me plenty to write about recently!

Speaking of the holidays, when we were growing up my brother and I had Advent calendars that had a piece of chocolate for December 1st through 24th. It was magical, given the fact that we were rarely allowed such treats. Now that I’m an adult and can buy chocolate whenever I want (much to the despair of my bathroom scale), a calendar full of sweets has lost its charm. But then last fall I was delighted to discover that Disney makes Tsum Tsum Advent calendars so I immediately bought one for myself! This is what adults do, right? The above photo includes all the characters I unboxed in December 2017. It was fantastic. On January 1st as I was browsing Amazon, feeling like crap and mourning the end of the holiday season, I saw something extraordinary – a MARVEL Tsum Tsum Advent calendar! My mind was blown. Of course I ordered one for 2018. Presents for yourself are the best kind. And let’s face it, most of these retail therapy purchases I’ve made lately are presents to myself. Granted, some of them are practical or utilitarian, like dress pants for work or household supplies, but a majority of them have been purely for amusement. Unlike all of the other items, this particular acquisition will have delayed gratification. The Advent calendar is something I’ll have to look forward to as end of the year approaches. Maybe I’ll even trim my Christmas tree this year. A girl can dream!

Retail therapy #3

Item #1: bareMinerals Prime Time Eyelid Primer
Item #2: Benefit Cosmetics Boi-ing Industrial Strength Concealer
Purchased: January 10, 2018

While I was home sick in January I spent a lot of time languishing on my couch listening to podcasts (usually as a break from all the terrible television I was watching). One of my favorites during that time was Forever35, a new podcast about self-care for women who are no longer in their 20s. As a woman who is barely holding on to her 30s I definitely need guidance in this area! The two women hosting the podcast discuss their daily habits, beauty routines, and a number of products, both reliable favorites and new acquisitions. A lot of it seems excessive and kind of ridiculous to me (the sheer number of products they use on their faces and bodies is staggering), but when I was stuck at home so long after having the flu I was susceptible to their glowing reviews of luxury items that no one really needs. So the day after my birthday, when my need for retail therapy overrode my common sense, I placed an order on the Sephora website. I’m very picky about my makeup and I tend to stay loyal to my favorite brands and products, but I thought the things I purchased in my state of cabin fever were practical enough to be worth the price and would fit in well with the rest of my beauty supplies.

Turns out, both the bareMinerals Prime Time Eyelid Primer and Benefit Cosmetics Boi-ing Industrial Strength Concealer are great products and I didn’t waste my money! I wear Olay SPF moisturizer under my makeup every day because my skin is very dry in the Los Angeles weather so I’ve had trouble with my eye shadow settling into the creases of my eyelids. Even with high-quality eye shadow (I am partial to Clinique and Urban Decay) it’s still a problem. Luckily the bareMinerals eyelid primer is the perfect remedy. It’s an extra step I’ve had to add to my morning routine, but a worthwhile one. Also, I’ve had a similar issue with concealer settling into the lines around my eyes (yes, I know I’m getting older), and the Benefit concealer not only covers imperfections very well, but stays put all day too. I am very fortunately that both of these makeup items have been very worthwhile purchases and I’m glad that I semi-impulsively bought both of them last month. I know it’s such a minor thing, but I’ll take any victory I can this year, no matter how small!