Friday, December 30, 2016

Goodreads 2016 Challenge

Inspired by my amazing sister nailing her 2015 Goodreads Challenge of reading 200 books and feeling total shame at my lack of book reading last year, I decided to set myself a goal. Me being a list person, having something to check off totally lights my fire, so it couldn't hurt, right?

I set a much more modest goal of 12 books, one per month, more than double what I read in 2015 (yes I said it was shameful). My secondary goal was to read some specifics: 1 Biggie Weatherford book, 2 Cat Who books, and 1 Jen Lancaster.

In the end, I managed to read 14 books including the Biggie and Jen Lancaster and one of the Cat Whos. The last two months I've been suffering from reading ennui, having finished only one book I started and abandoning 4 mid-read. But I am optimistic for the new year having just acquired some new books for Christmas that I'm dying to read.

So onward to the 2017 Challenge. It's not posted on Goodreads just yet, but I'll be signing up as soon as it is. My goal is 15. My planned reading list includes: another Jen Lancaster, 1 Biggie, 1 Cat Who, 1 Neil Gaiman, the Alton Brown book C gave me for Christmas, at least 2 of the cozies that have been multiplying on my shelves.

Are you doing the challenge? What's on your "to read" pile?

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Moonalisa Halloween 2016

I haven't had a Moonalisa haul in quite a while. I'm pretty well stocked on soap and such and have been trying other vendors. But in August I stumbled onto her site and saw the Halloween products were up. Still having some credit to use I decided to go ahead and place an order. Shipping was listed to begin the second week of September so I figured I'd get some soaps for Halloween. Two months (to the day) later I just received my order on October 28. 3 days before Halloween. To be fair, I do think she had her products to the shipping company somewhere around the 2nd week of September, but my order only shipped on Tuesday of this week (Oct 25) so I don't feel relying on her "shipping dates" is really viable any more.

The soaps arrived in a standard Priority Mail box. Gone are the days of pretty colored paper packaging. The box was stuffed with brown packing paper and the soaps just laid on top. There was talk on the Facebook page of freebies in the orders, but I did not get anything (nor did I get any freebies the last few times I ordered).

The soaps were a blind buy. As with most of her products there aren't pictures of the actual finished product on the order page...I buy based on scent description. The three I chose were Fairy Trap (Wild Raspberries, Boysenberries, Mandarin Orange and Tuberose), Halloween Hayride (Harvest hay, bonfires and dried leaves mix with amber, smoky sandalwood, and musk. In the distance you are anxious to get to back to the circle with the promise of roasted marshmallows, and other sugary seasonal treats) and Carnival Cakes (gooey glazed funnel cakes. Made of browned butter, caramelized sugar, dripping with maple syrup, & vanilla icing, topped off with  cinnamon and nutmeg spiked vanilla sugar crystals).

I am unable to smell any of them through the plastic wrappings so can't speak to what they actually smell like. The designs are pretty and (thankfully) not overly Halloweenish since I won't be able to use them before Halloween. I'll just display them with the labels turned away until they are used up.
I was surprised that all three soaps were different sizes and shapes. All of the soaps I have previously ordered were consistent slices that looked like they came from a loaf. The weights on these varied from under 7 to a hair over 8 oz. Previous bars all weighed over 9 oz. The Carnival Cakes bar isn't even cut straight.

I guess I'm being knit-picky but I am just so disappointed. I have been disappointed by the last few orders I placed as well and didn't post them. Looking back over my previous rave reviews here, I felt I needed to post an update since my opinions have changed some. Moonalisa does produce nice soaps that are pretty unique. I have a handful of soapers I love, nearly all cold process soaps, but I have yet to find anyone who produces the unique and beautiful M&P types soaps Moona does. Her scents are good, but there are tons of vendors with great scents with much better TATs. I'm not willing to wait two months for every order any more. Moona will always have a market and a following. The sense of exclusivity draws people in. She's definitely worth a look if you like the kind of goth/steampunk esthetic. But be prepared for a very long wait.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pinrose Perfume

I recently heard of a perfume company called Pinrose. The website offers a quiz to help you discover your perfect scent. The quiz is visual, a series of images to choose from and at the end they suggest 3 perfumes that they feel would be your perfect match. My suggestions were Pillowtalk Poet, Merry Maker and Moonlight Gypsy. Looking at all of their scents and note descriptions I thought I would like Campfire Rebel or Gilded Fox. They do not sell individual samples at this time, but you can buy a set of all the perfume samples. Or do like I did, buy the Hero Gift set which gives you the sample set to try all of the fragrances plus a voucher for a full bottle of perfume for just the cost of a bottle of perfume.

The set arrived in a cute little zipper pouch which I will reuse. There were twelve samples in all. I decided to try all of the scents, whether I thought I would like them or not, before deciding which scent to pick for my full bottle.
Now, I really hate towelette samples. Only one slight step above those fragrance strips in magazines, towelettes are generally worthless for trying a perfume. But these were ok. There was enough perfume on the towel to hit my pulse points and neck and the scent lasted several hours for all of them. Could only get one use from each sample so I made sure I wrote down my thoughts about each as I wore them. 

Secret Genius: Much like Prada Candy; woody vanilla Treehouse Royal: Earthy, sweet fig
Gilded Fox: Soft creamy chocolate
Wild Child: Average white floral
Tambourine Dreamer: Weak floral
Cuddle Punk: Fruity vanilla; would be good in spring
Merry Maker: Pale, weak citrus
Pillowtalk Poet: Perfect powdery musk
Moonlight Gypsy: Warm, woody, spicy. Nice
Garden Gangster: Beautiful floral for summer
Campfire Rebel: Very woody, smokey
Pinrose: Leather and rose

Of the three the quiz picked for me, I did not like Merry Maker at all but Moonlight Gypsy was ok. I loved Pillowtalk Poet. Of the two I thought I would like, I HATED Campfire Rebel and just liked Gilded Fox. 

In the end I redeemed my voucher for Pillowtalk Poet. The bottles are on the small side (1 oz) but are nicely packaged and have a great sprayer. I adore this perfume. When I wear it it feels like me. The scent has excellent longevity, lasting easily 4-6 hours and average throw.
You can buy Pinrose perfumes from their website and Sephora also carries them on their website (not sure if they have them in store). It's a really nice little fragrance house and I recommend you check them out if you are in the market for a new scent.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016 Garden

2016 was kind of a mad year for gardening for me. Work and life conspired to keep us from getting the garden in until late this year. As a result, when we went looking for plants the 2nd to last weekend of May, things were pretty well picked over. We had already decided to downsize the garden this year, eliminating the one long, skinny bed where we haven't had much luck of getting anything but weeds to grow. We also decided not to plant onions. We do love our home grown Candies, but onions are cheap and easy to get at the grocers so better to devote the space to other plants.

No pictures this time. I didn't get any when the garden was new and pretty and now it is sad and droopy.

We planted 2 cherry tomatoes and 4 basil plants in the small bed near the garage. My beloved SuperSweet 100s are loosing favor with me now. The tomatoes are consistently small and tend to fall off the vines before I can pick them, making for a lot of cleanup. I just pulled the SuperSweet to give the Sunsugar more room. As in years past, the yellow Sunsugar cherry tomatoes are magnificent. Lovely, large tomatoes that tend to stay put until you pick them. They are sweet and delicious in salads or just for snacking. One plant is PLENTY for us with some to share. Next year I think I will just put the one Sunsugar and basil plants in this bed.

In the long bed I planted 3 Early Girl, 1 Mountain Fresh and 1 Supersonic tomato. The Early Girl closest to the garage didn't produce much and has already died off. I don't think it got enough sun there. That is where we usually plant onions so may have to think of a more shade tolerant plant to go there. The other 2 Early Girls are still producing abundantly. The Mountain Fresh produced nice, flavorful tomatoes, just not many. It has already died off. The Supersonic is a new one to me. It produces fabulous beefsteak tomatoes. The biggest problem I'm having is the weight of the tomatoes breaking the stalks. Otherwise, loving this one and will look for it again.

The big bed had a zucchini and a yellow squash which produced adequately but not as abundant as some years. We didn't even get one monster zucchini this year!

I planted 2 rows of kohlrabi. I haven't planted kohlrabi in years and it is a pleasant addition that I intend to keep going forward. I need to thin the plants better next year since these seem crowded. I thinned them a week or two ago and the bulbs are finally starting to get bigger.

4 jalapeno peppers for C's hot tooth.

4 San Marzano tomatoes. These were a happy find that I had never seen before. While I should have only planted 3 (4 is too crowded and has effected production) the tomatoes I've gotten are wonder. Nice meaty plum tomatoes, perfect for drying. I'm sure they would also make fantastic sauce. Will look for these again next year.

I had to go with Black Beauty eggplant as we could not find my favorite Dusky's anywhere. They are not producing well, we've only gotten 3 or 4 so far. The round, deeply lobed eggplants they yield are difficult to peel and loaded with seeds. I may order Dusky seeds and start my own next year just to be sure we can get them!

And finally bell peppers. I couldn't find my favorite Red Knight and King Arthur peppers so we went with Flavorburst and Bell Boy. The Flavorburst are a medium sized, thin walled pepper that matures to yellow. They are pretty good, but nothing to write home about. The Bell Boys are just starting to come in. These are a nice, large size pepper, medium walled and that mature to red. The plants are quite full and loaded with blooms so I'm hoping for a decent crop yet.

The size and variety of plants in our downsized garden worked well. I was able to keep up with weeding (love my hula hoe!) and, except for the plum tomatoes, everything had the space it needs. And we still have plenty of veggies for us. Hopefully next year we'll be able to start earlier again.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Jawbone 6 month update

I've been wearing my Jawbone Up3 for about 6 months now and wanted to post an update. I went back and re-read my initial thoughts and much of my feeling remains the same.

I wear the tracker all the time, except when charging and showering. It does seem to be somewhat water resistant as the recent super hot weather have resulted in some pretty sweat-intensive workouts. I remember having some irritation from the band the first few weeks, particularly at the metal contact points. When that happened, I would switch to wearing the band on the other wrist until the irritation cleared up. This only lasted a short while and I've had no problems since. This tracker is so small and lightweight it is really easy to wear all the time.

The step and workout tracking works very well for me. The app provides good statistics and feedback on how I'm doing. Every Monday I get an email summary of the past week's activity and sleep records. I also discovered that by going to the Jawbone website I can download my statistics to a CSV file to see even more data. Year to date I've taken 1,644,937 steps (yay me!!) but I can see I am inactive far more than I am active (ugh). I love the inactivity reminder, especially on work days when I find I'm focused on projects for long periods of time and easily lose track of how long I've been sitting. It's a good reminder to get up and move a little. Now that we are walking most every day, I hit my 10,000 step goal at least a few times a week.

While I guess it's not super useful, I still dig the sleep tracker. It's interesting to see the statistical quality of my sleep compared to what my impression of the quality of my sleep is.

I've been most disappointed in the heart rate tracking. Jawbone has been saying since well before I bought my tracker that on demand heart rate tracking would be added in a future firmware update, but this still hasn't happened. The band is supposed to monitor your resting heart rate periodically throughout the day when you are still. Some days it takes many readings other days it takes very few, regardless of my activity. I find this annoying as it makes the statistics less accurate.

Battery life is also a bit disappointing. I get about 4 days on a charge before having to recharge which takes at least an hour. The app is also pretty draining on my phone's battery so I tend to only sync my band two or three times a day.

The final disappointment is the physical condition of the band after 6 months of use. The tracker unit is metal coated in black paint. The paint is wearing thin across the face making it look shabby. And then the band broke this week. The silicone split about half an inch from the head of the tracker. My guess is because my wrist is a little small there's probably a stress point there which resulted in the break. The band is not replaceable, the tracker is integrated into the silicone band and Jawbone won't replace it because I purchased on open box item. Fortunately I was able to glue it back together with super glue and it seems to be holding fine.

I will continue to use my Jawbone as long as it holds up, but I wouldn't buy another one. At least not of this model. I'm looking into a tracker with a replaceable band that would also have a display so I don't have to sync up to my phone to see updates. I've found one that looks promising and I'll be sure to post if I make the switch.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Flea Market finds June 2016

Warm weather is here again and flea market season is back in full swing. We've been down to Adamstown a couple of times this year but didn't find anything until today.
First is a cute "poison" bottle found for $15 at Renninger's. I'm pretty sure it's not old, but it is  cute and will be a nice addition to our Halloween collection. Disappointingly, the paint on the crossbones peeled when I was cleaning it. I can fix it easily but reinforces the notion it is probably a cheap piece.

At Shupp's Grove we scored this vintage milk glass egg nog set. It's missing one of it's cups but since it will be used mostly for display I'm not fussed over it. I'm not sure of the age or manufacturer of this piece. I believe it is either Anchor Hocking or Hazel Atlas from pictures I found online. We just liked it because of its adorable vintage look.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Spring/Summer 2016 scent lineup

For once, I've actually got a spring/summer fragrance library I'm excited about.
Normally the fresher lighter scents don't resonate with me like my rich, musky, boozy fall/winter scents. Summer tends to be a season of frustration for me when it comes to perfume. But this year, I am feeling the love for every scent on my shelf.

Returning favorites include Burberry Summer, Ed Hardy, Tommy Hilfiger Summer 2015 and Replica Lazy Sunday Morning.

Kiehl's Original Musk has become my year round, go to, comfort in a bottle scent. I anticipate this being a permanent fixture on the shelf.

At the risk of sounding like an Avon commercial, half of my line up is from their Today, Tomorrow, Always line. It started two years ago when I picked up Together. At the time I ordered it from Poland because I was impatient, but it never did hit America so I'm glad I did. It has been my most complimented scent and a firm favorite for warm weather. This year I decided to try a few more of the perfumes from the line. Amour, Tomorrow, Today and Daydream are all lovely. They are not overpowering but last for hours. Unlike some companies' flankers that all smell alike (I'm looking at you Thierry Mugler), these are all unique yet fit well together. I love the (mostly) consistent bottle design and how nice they look all lined up together. For inexpensive perfumes, Avon has always been a go to for me.

Missing from last year are Avon Pure O2. I bought bottles of this two years in a row and got tons of use from each bottle. But it has been the lone problem child from Avon perfumes for me in that it loses it's potency within only a few months. Fortunately, it is really inexpensive and still available so might pick up a bottle when summer heats up.

Also missing is Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl. This one has been a staple since I bought it about 4 years ago but the sprayer tanked on me a few weeks back. I salvaged as much as I could into a decant sprayer and will definitely pick up a new bottle when I run out.

I've been actively trying to scale down my collection after it ballooned to ridiculous proportions. I'm to the point now where everything on the shelf is a winner for me. It's a great feeling to (finally) have a carefully curated perfume library.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Beauteque Mask Maven subscription box

The last year I have really upped my skin care game. For the first time in years I have my dry skin relatively under control. There are lots of things playing into this but one of the significant factors in my opinion is the regular use of sheet masks. I had a hard time getting on the sheet mask band wagon. But after a few tries I got the hang of how to apply them use them to their full potential and now I'm hooked. There are many many many brands of sheet masks out there of varying quality and efficacy. Fortunately, most are great and quite affordable ($1 to $3 is the average I pay).

I was excited to find a subscription box that offers a monthly selection of sheet masks. The Beauteque Mask Maven subscription box starts at $15/month (plus shipping) and gives you 9 to 11 masks to try each month. I had a coupon code when I signed up so I went with the 3 month option (ALWAYS search for coupon codes before you buy anything on the internet, you'll be surprised how many you'll find).

My first box arrived this week. The masks come packaged in a drawstring bag along with a card that details everything you receive. Be sure to hold on to the card as most masks are written in Korean with little or no English information.

This month's bag included 9 masks. From most of the reviews I've seen online it seems 9 is the norm, even though the company says you could get more. I received 8 sheet masks and one "mask pack" which is basically a cream type wash off mask. Since I generally only find time to mask on the weekends, 9 will keep me stocked for a full month.
Beauteque also offers a Korean skincare subscription box comprised of 6 to 8 full size products each month. This didn't appeal to me as much since skin care is so varied based on skin type and concern. Masks are fairly generic in that most can be used on any skin type.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Jawbone Up-3 - initial thoughts

I've been toying with the idea of a fitness tracker for over a year now. I like statistics and thought that the information a tracker would give would be interesting and maybe help me stay motivated. But the cost and my inability to make a decision on which one to buy kept getting in the way.

I picked up a clip-on pedometer last year and used it for maybe a month or two. I liked the information it provided. But I had to remember to clip it on my clothes and not forget to take it off when I put my clothes in the laundry. It had a tendency to catch on things which I found annoying. Plus I had to manually track my steps. So now it's collecting dust on a shelf.

Then this month I saw the Jawbone Up3 pop up on Amazon's Deal of the Day (UP3 by Jawbone Heart Rate, Activity + Sleep Tracker, Black Twist). It was still almost $100 and the reviews were iffy. Then I noticed you could get an "open box" item in very good condition for $40 so I jumped on it. Still had a 30 day guarantee so I figured I could send it back if I changed my mind.

It arrived quickly and although the box was opened, the contents were all there and in like new condition. I got it charged up and have been wearing it ever since.

I'm not a fan of the charger. It's a short USB cable that attaches magnetically to the band. There are 4 pins that have to line up with a port on the band and I find it fiddly to get the pins lined up. You know it's right when the band sits flush on the charger. However, charging is fast. The first charge took about an hour. I've recharged it once since then and that took maybe half an hour. A charge will last about a week.
The band itself is very light and comfortable to wear. There were a lot of complaints online about the band coming loose. My guess is they didn't have the size adjusted properly. I've had no problems whatsoever. I must have a small wrist because I had to adjust the clasp all the way up to the sensor (as short as it will go) but it fits securely. I went with plain black, although they have a lot of nice color choices. The black blends in nicely with the bracelets I wear so it is unobtrusive. They say it is water resistant (can be worn in the shower, but not swimming). I err on the side of caution and take it off before showering. I have gotten it wet washing my hands with no problems.

The Up3 tracks 3 things: steps, sleep and resting heart rate. You need a bluetooth enabled device with the Up app in order to see the readings. The app keeps your historical data and gives you feedback on how you are doing and what you can do better, encouraging you to meet your goals. Thanks to firmware upgrades since it was first released, you don't have to tap to move the device from active to sleep mode, it now happens automatically or you can control it manually through the app.

This time of year I am particularly sedentary. Long hours at work, glued to my desk and cold dark nights making it hard to get out and walk. So I'm not stressing too much about my low step counts. I love that you can set an inactivity alert which will cause the band to vibrate if you've been sitting longer than the designated time. Mine is set to thirty minutes. Its is an odd feeling when it buzzes you but definitely encourages me to get up and move. Since it only tracks your steps, I love that the app allows you to manually add workout statistics. So on days when I ride the exercise bike I can add the workout and the app will figure the activity into my daily fitness goals.
Resting heartbeat is pretty cool. I had originally wanted a band that gave on demand heart rate but I'm finding this method of tracking works great. The band randomly checks your heart rate throughout the day and night and provides graphical data so it's easy to see how stress, activity and inactivity are affecting your heart rate. The app also provides feedback on your readings to help you understand what it means and how to improve.
The sleep feature is also really neat. Mostly from the interesting perspective, seeing how you move in and out of the different stages of sleep. I am generally a pretty good sleeper (thanks to a bout of mono when I was in high school) but it's fun to see the graphical interpretation of sleep.
So these are my initial thoughts on the Jawbone. It's still early days. We'll see how long I stick with it and how it plays out for the long haul. I'm not very fitness conscious. I just want to be healthy and not a total lump.

Lightweight, comfortable and attractive design
Long lasting charge
Easy to use
Great statistics via the app
Feedback/encouragement based on your numbers

Have to use the app. I wish there was a PC interface for viewing statistics and manually adding data.
Difficult to attach the charger

If you are looking for an entry level fitness tracker, this might be one to look at. I know I'm enjoying it so far.