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!

I’ve got no strings

For Christmas I asked for a pair of wireless earbuds for running. I’d been wanting a pair for years to make my running experience more enjoyable, but the technology hadn’t quite evolved enough to meet my expectations. The battery life was too short (only a few hours) and the connectivity issues that I read about were plentiful. In 2017 I made the switch from traditional in-ear running headphones to bone conduction ones instead, specifically Aftershokz Sportz Titanium. They sit in front of your ears and conduct the sound through your cheekbones so that ambient noise isn’t blocked at all. I was skeptical, but after my first wearing I was in love. They allowed me to better hear my running buddies conversations, traffic noise, or whatever, and they didn’t make my ears ache after wearing them for a long time. Marathons are tough on your ears if your earbuds aren’t comfortable! This was a hefty upgrade for me. So when I saw that Aftershockz had a new and improved wireless model, Trekz Air, I put them on my Christmas list. So far they have exceeded all of my expectations. Not only are they wireless, which removes one major annoyance from my running experience, but they are also light and incredibly comfortable. In addition, they have easily accessible volume and music control which my wired pair is lacking. I absolutely love them and I’ve worn them for all of my races in 2018. (The photo above is from the Pasadena 5K last month.) I think this is the beginning of a beautiful fitness relationship. Definitely one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received.

Retail therapy #2

Item: Mrs. Meyer’s Apple Cider Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap
Purchased: December 5, 2017

In November 2016 I complained that my stockpile of my favorite hand soap, Softsoap’s holiday edition cinnamon & clove, had finally run out. Obviously this is the epitome of First World problems, but I loved that soap and using it everyday was one way that I kept the holiday spirit alive throughout the year. Since then I’ve been searching for a suitable replacement. In December when the options were plentiful I was determined to purchase enough festive hand soap to carry me through 2018. Mostly I filled my shopping cart with an unreasonable amount of Method Frosted Fir Gel Hand Wash because it was inexpensive and smelled amazing, but I wanted to have some variety in my cupboard. When I saw that Mrs. Meyer’s had a limited edition apple cider hand soap I just had to have some. Unfortunately I was late to the game because it was more of a fall scent, and therefore not readily accessible in stores. So I turned to Amazon, my usual tried-and-true source for everything under the Sun. Of course it was available from one seller, but it wasn’t cheap, as far as standard amounts of hand soap go. As you can imagine, in my holiday-fueled hysteria I wasn’t thinking clearly and purchased a bottle. It was silly, but it made me happy. The first few times I used the coveted apple cider hand soap I loved the scent, but it reminded me of something else that I couldn’t quite place. I racked my brain to figure out where I had smelled something similar in the past. It took a while, but I finally figured it out. This semi-expensive, limited-edition hand soap that I was so obsessed with getting smells exactly like Suave Kids 3-in-1 Apple Shampoo! If you’re not familiar, it’s one of the cheapest items in the shampoo aisle at just about every store. Next time remind me to look for more practical substitutes before spending way too much money on ridiculous frivolities!

Retail therapy #1

Item: Philips Sonicare 2 electric toothbrush
Purchased: January 26, 2018

Brushing my teeth has always been an activity that I didn’t particularly enjoy. It was something I was obligated to do when I was groggy first thing in the morning, and then again at night when all I wanted to do was crawl into bed. Fortunately, my dentist has always told me that my teeth look great, but I’ve never really taken my daily dental care very seriously until recently. While I was feeling so terrible back in January I spent a lot of time reading inane Buzzfeed articles, and one of them was titled something like, “Amazon Products People Swear By.” One of the items on that list was the Philips Sonicare 2 electric toothbrush. I’ve been debating an electric toothbrush for many years now, but never did much research, much less pull the trigger on actually purchasing one. But in my somewhat compromised and easily influenced state last month the toothbrush caught my attention. So I did some comparisons on Amazon and ended up ordering the Philips Sonicare 2. The good news was that it cost less than $40 so I wasn’t making a huge commitment if I ended up hating it. I figured it was going to be one of those impulse buys that you kinda regret, but use anyway because you spent money on it. Much to my surprise, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I love this thing. For the first time brushing my teeth is fun! That sounds silly, but it’s true. There’s been a bit of a learning curve since I’ve never used an electric toothbrush before, but my teeth have never felt so clean. Hopefully my dentist agrees when I see him in May. So if you’re still waffling about purchasing an electric toothbrush, I can’t recommend this one highly enough. You’ll thank me later!

Can I buy stock in Pyrex? (NaBloPoMo day 24)

It’s Black Friday, but I didn’t do much to contribute to the growth of the economy today. After realizing that I’ve already spent a lot of money this month I decided to avoid taxing my credit card on the biggest shopping day of the year. Now that the day is almost over I can say that I was fairly successful. Besides the breakfast I bought at McDonald’s this morning, the only other item I purchased was a plastic lid for one of my Corningware casserole dishes. Exciting, huh? With all the cooking I’ve been doing this fall I’ve discovered that I don’t own enough containers to refrigerate and freeze all of the leftovers for future consumption. It didn’t help that until recently I didn’t have any plastic lids for my Corningware casserole dishes at all, and the glass lids weren’t satisfactory for freezing food. It’s actually been quite an ordeal trying to find a plastic lid for my larger Corningware dish and I had to return two I ordered from Amazon on separate occasions because they weren’t the right size, in spite of their online descriptions. Very frustrating. So today I broke down and ordered a lid directly from the Corningware website. Let’s hope the third time’s the charm!

Regarding Pyrex, which I referenced in the title of this post, I have another story to tell. Late on Tuesday night I reluctantly headed to Target to do some last-minute shopping for Thanksgiving necessities. I hated going anywhere near a store that close to Turkey Day, but it was sadly unavoidable. I had prepared two batches of my homemade cranberry sauce that afternoon in preparation for the Thursday feast, but afterwards I realized that all of my Pyrex smelled like chili! Apparently my leftovers have infused the containers with a distinctive smell that was decidedly incompatible with the cranberry sauce. So as I was picking up a few things at Target I added four new Pyrex dishes in my basket – two for cranberry sauce and two for pumpkin dip (as shown above). A couple of them were even Christmas-themed! Very festive. This is in addition to the two Halloween-themed containers I bought in October while I was cooking up a storm for Whole30. All told I have acquired six new Pyrex containers in the last two months and I had limited kitchen cabinet space to begin with. As one of my co-workers pointed out, I should have bought stock in Pyrex beforehand! I guess I’ll have to keep cooking massive amounts of food throughout the holiday season to justify my purchases!

2017 Resolution #2 revisited (NaBloPoMo day 12)

“I always joke that my entire paycheck goes directly to the Walt Disney Corporation. And with my Disneyland/Disney World annual pass, race registrations, and a couple of trips to Orlando per year it’s not that far from the truth.”
1/26/17 webpage post

Back in January, after the shock of getting my credit card bill from the holidays and a trip to Orlando, I resolved to be more frugal in 2017. About ten months have passed since then and I have to start this resolution revisit by confessing that I haven’t exactly succeeded in being more frugal this year with regards to Disney-related purchases. I’ve renewed my Premier Annual Pass which gives me unrestricted access to all Anaheim and Orlando Disney parks, gone to Disney World twice and run several races there, and participated in four multi-day race weekends at Disneyland. And all of that is on top of my usual visits to the Happiest Place on Earth that have nothing to do with running. These are expenses that, while technically frivolous, bring me a lot of joy. I get an immense sense of accomplishment out of conquering the Disney races (including the Avengers half marathon just this morning), plus I get to see the overwhelming excitement on my sweet goddaughter’s face when we watch Paint the Night or Fantasmic. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for any amount of money, but that doesn’t mean they were cheap! There’s some good news for 2018, though. Well, maybe not so much good news as really terrible news with an indirect upside.

On October 18th runDisney officially made an announcement that most of us in the running community had been expecting for a long time. All West Coast races were cancelled for 2018 and placed on an indefinite hiatus. This was not a huge surprise considering that back in March runDisney suddenly postponed registration for the Disneyland-based Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Weekend shortly before it was supposed to open. (I was one of the lucky few who had already signed up for the 5K using a link sent out to previous participants so I was even more bewildered.) And then they gave us not one word of explanation for the next six months. After this extended radio silence we all knew that the race wasn’t going to happen, but we were still incredibly annoyed at being kept in the dark for so long. When the announcement was finally made last month, current and future construction at the Disneyland Resort was blamed for the race interruption. There’s no guarantee that is the true reason for the hiatus, but we have no idea when or if the race weekends will actually return. So the bad news is that my favorite races have disappeared for at least a year (the Avengers races this weekend were their swan song), but the good news is that I’m going to save a lot of money. Not just on registration costs, but also hotel reservations, food, and merchandise. My bank account is certainly going to thank me, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. The bottom line is that I’ve failed miserably at this particular 2017 resolution, but things are looking up for 2018! Stay tuned for more next year.

Thank you, Old Navy

“The other day I realized that some of the new pants I ordered from Old Navy recently (during a 50% off Labor Day sale online) were feeling loose. Not like I’ve lost a full pants size yet, but I might be getting there. Will I be disappointed if all of my brand new pants don’t fit in a month? A little, but I’ll be much happier being smaller and lighter than I’ve been in about a year and a half. And running will be easier too.”
10/2/16 webpage post

“It’s official – my pants are too big. This morning as I was getting dressed for work I slipped on a pair of my favorite pants – olive green skinny jeans from Old Navy. I ordered them just a couple of months ago, about a week after I started my Nutrisystem diet. I was so excited to have started losing weight that I treated myself to some new clothes to celebrate. What I didn’t think about was those new clothes being too big for my shrinking body a few short weeks later. Even though I knew I’d been making great progress, I was still shocked when I buttoned my pants this morning and discovered how loose they are in the waist. Really baggy everywhere but the legs (this runner’s legs are muscular!). Not quite unwearable yet, but they’re getting close.”
11/9/16 webpage post

A couple of weeks ago Old Navy was having a 50% off sale on jeans. Based on the fact that most of the pants from my pre-diet days no longer fit me properly I figured it was the perfect time to restock my wardrobe. It was so satisfying selecting a smaller size when filling up my shopping cart. I’ve lost 17 lbs (and counting) since September and I look damn good. Especially now that I’m a size 4 again. Due to the very timely sale I went a little crazy and bought six new pairs of Rock Star jeans and pants to replace the ones that I can’t wear on a regular basis anymore. About a week later they finally arrived at my door I eagerly tried on every pair. The purchases were mostly a success because I decided to keep five of the six pairs. I’m so excited to have more items of clothing that fit me at my current size rather than pulling the same couple of pairs of jeans out of the drawer day after day. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. Last night I tried on all of my old size 6 pants to decide whether any of them were worth keeping. Due to the less than superior construction of Old Navy garments every one fits a little differently even though the tags all have the same size printed on them. I’m not quite ready to donate all of the old pants yet, especially my beloved corduroys (winter will last a while longer here in LA), so I’m going to try throwing them in the dryer to see if I can shrink them just a little bit. Not that I have any place to store both the old and new pairs, though. I know it’s a first world problem, but I’m really going to miss my favorite purple pants if I have to get rid of them!