Friday, February 20, 2015

5 Albums I Will Never Throw Away

Messy Messy Fail - Who knew that caramels could burn  so quickly?  I was melting four cubes of caramel in a coffee cup to drizzle over my beautiful turtle pie when all of a sudden smoke is BILLOWING out of the microwave oven.  Whoops!  Note to self - next time try only 15 seconds at a time.

Tidy Victory - With a little quick thinking and a jar of leftover caramel sauce in the fridge, the pie turned out beautifully.  It did not quite match the pictures in the post where I found the recipe - I thought it would turn out a little LIGHTER and FLUFFIER - but it was still good.  Kudos to the pecan crust, yum!

As I am sure many of you out there can relate, we are always trying to get rid of stuff.  Especially all of the stuff that has accumulated in our basement.  Especially the giant box of CD's (albums!) that we still have collected since those shiny disks first came out in the late 80's.  I still remember my first CD - I believe my dad (of course he was into all of the latest technology) brought me home the first NKOTB album from BJ's Wholesale Club.  I was astonished at this thing, no more listening to the radio with my tape ready to record when my favorite songs came on!

I've been slowly going through my giant box of CD's (albums!) and trying to downsize by copying disks with single songs that I really like to my hard drive so I can toss the disk.  However, there are some CD's (albums!) that I just absolutely CANNOT throw away.  I've made reference to some of these in Facebook posts, but now I'd like to share my official list.  The following is a list of 5 CD's (albums!) that I will NEVER throw away:

<One> Weezer - Weezer (Blue Album) - the single "Say It Ain't So" was my mid to late high school years anthem.  Pure rock and roll that still tugs at my heart whenever I hear it.

<Two> Radiohead - The Bends - I had one of those 12-disk CD players in my bedroom and this album never left the mix.  I really can't explain why I love this album so much, all I know is I can listen to the whole thing without skipping a track.  Perhaps it had something to do with the high school looking-for-my-corner-of-the-sky years, but this album just really spoke to me and still does to this day.

<Three> Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill - received this for Christmas one year and it stayed it my Discman (whoa remember that contraption?) for several months.  I was so struck by the soul and emotion that dripped from her voice.  I just recently listened to the single "Zion" from the album about when she had her son and I cried.  What a beautiful song.

<Four> Madonna - Ray of Light - my dance album!  When I needed to lighten the mood, Madonna made it happen for me with this record.

<Five> Jay-Z - Vol. 2 Hard Knock Life - I did not typically listen to rap music, however, this was not typical rap music.  I loved the loops and samples he used (I thought using the music from Annie was pure genius) and his lyrics were so honest.  I had a friend from the youth symphony I was a member of in high school, two peas in a pod we were, and we would drive around BLASTING this album.  Boy did we think we were cool.

These are certainly not THE ONLY albums that will remain in my house - Ten by Pearl Jam, Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins, Aenima by Tool, Dookie by Greenday and Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette will never see the inside of a garbage bag as long as I'm living.  These albums are so solidly connected to moments and times in my life - that's the power of music.

Nothing else can bring back memories and emotions the way music can.  I often listen to our local classical radio station and the wave of happiness that comes over me when I hear a piece I had played previously in youth symphony or in college at music school is so unbelievably strong.  There is just nothing like the joy and emotion that music can bring, no matter the genre or style.

What are your CD's you cannot let go of?


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Is the Customer Always Right? Depends on the Company

Messy Messy Fail - let's just say the potty-training toddler presented me with a handful of poop and a handful of poopy underwear, I don't think any more description is needed.

Tidy Victory - the basement has returned to normal - AKA my Christmas vacation goal #4  has been accomplished!!  Nothing like having out-of-town family stay over to enforce a mandated clean up.

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received from someone was "All they can say is no!".  I find it infuriating when I've purchased a product from a company only to find that the item I (we) have paid good money for is cheaply made and barely lasted a few months.  So what do I do?  I contact the company to see what they will do to help me.  All they can do is say no, right?

Some people say I'm good at doing this, but I lend it to my sheer determination and threatening tone (ha!).  I am one of the crazies who will post/email/call a company when I have a faulty product. 

May I present exhibit A:

I (we) was (were) given an OXO silicone spatula as a wedding shower gift in June of '09.  Loved that spatula - helped with my obsession of keeping my non-stick pans unscathed, cleaned up quite nicely, too.  In the fall of '14, I happened to be washing it in the sink when I noticed a corner of it had ripped off.  I immediately deemed that completed NOT COOL and proceeded to email OXO.  I wrote a polite yet disappointed email to the company, explaining clearly when I received the item, how long I had used it for, HOW MUCH I LIKED IT AND HOW I TOLD ALL MY FRIENDS HOW MUCH I LIKED IT, my displeasure in the poor quality of the product that I liked so much, and if they were able to offer any assistance.  I received a reply a day or so later asking for a picture of the damage (which unfortunately is on my old cell phone DROID), so I sent a quick picture from my old cell phone (DROID), and I kid you not about two weeks later look what appeared on my (our) front stoop.....

Voila!  Not another question, no form to fill out, just a brand-spankin' new even-larger-than-my-ripped-one silicone spatula!  No shipping and handling to pay, no service charge, just a brand new product to REPLACE THE ONE THAT FAILED!  Holy cow, I thought, now that is a company I will continue to invest in by purchasing their products because I KNOW FOR A FACT they stand behind their merchandise.  What a concept!  Therefore, I would give the company OXO 5 out of 5 stars for customer service!

And now a tale of disappointment & satisfaction from the same company - I now present exhibit B.

We have purchased at least two Evenflo baby gates to block the bottom of the stairs and to keep the toddler in his room.  The gate has a different kind of locking mechanism - I can only explain it as "press the buttons on either side and push down on the palm of your hand".  These gates can be found here and typically run about $40.00 at stores such as Target.  They seem to have updated the locking mechanism since we've purchased ours (of course!).  However in the mean time, the mechanism on the gate that blocks the stairs suddenly broke.  As in the gate will no longer lock and the toddler can now push his way right through it, which renders the gate useless.  

I immediately emailed the company explaining what happened, received an email back wanting the purchase date, serial number, etc. at which point I provided all the necessary information.  The reply I received was less than thrilling - "We are sorry for the inconvenience.".  I responded by asking if there was a replacement part or coupon they could offer to purchase another gate, and I received the same email back again - "We are sorry for the inconvenience.".

I found this overall response EXTREMELY disappointing in that a few months prior, one of my Evenflo glass baby bottles literally SHATTERED in the bottle warmer (which I thought was not supposed to happen), I emailed the company and they immediately sent me a replacement bottle.  

Now OBVIOUSLY there is a large price-point difference between a glass baby bottle and a safety gate.  However, in this case, the common factor is me, THE CUSTOMER, being made quite happy with a new bottle and quite disappointed with a useless safety gate.  Clearly this company does not feel that losing the profit of a baby gate is worth keeping me as a customer, therefore,  SEE YA EVENFLO!  Side note - the baby (Wreck-It Ralph) grabbed a bottle out of my hand one day, tossed it on the ground, and it too shattered, so I no longer recommend these bottles.

As a consumer who does proper research (on most items) before purchasing, I am loyal to companies who provide the proper support and stand behind their products when they do not perform as promised.  I REFUSE to invest my (our) hard-earned paychecks on items that do not stand the test of time because they are cheaply/poorly made.  If you believe in your product, provide your consumers with a decent warranty and FOLLOW THOUGH with it!  Loyalty is where your profit will be!

The following is a list of companies that I have experienced excellent customer service with:

OXO - replaced ripped silicone spatula
Kiwi - full value coupon for replacement boot spray (nozzel broke and wasted half of a can)
Best Buy - has refunded me (us) SEVERAL times when large appliances we purchased went on sale at other retailers and we called to see if BB would refund us the difference, gave us an even exchange on a brand new plasma TV after the first TV we purchased died after a year and a half and we FORGOT (yup, we forgot) we had purchased the warranty and went ahead and bought a new TV before checking (that's for another post :)
Wegmans - will always refund forgotten coupons or exchange/return bad items, sometimes even without a receipt
Playtex -  sent me several coupons, even a full value coupon, when I emailed complaining about a diaper genie refill that did not come out of the casing properly and ended up wasting half of it
Emerilware - fully replaced my non-stick smooth bottom (for glass stove top) glass lid pan when the non-stick finish was wearing off after only a year

A list of companies I have had mixed customer service with:
DirecTV - sometimes they credit our bill, sometimes they don't
Evenflo - see above
Cloud B - replaced the sound machine device that would turn off by itself in one of our sound machine stuffed animals but not the other

And here is a list of companies I have had poor customer service with:
Verizon - I don't even need to explain that one
Urban Decay - bottle of eye primer dried up, product stuck in poorly designed vessel
Sony - when our original TV died after a year and a half and we THOUGHT we had not purchased a warranty (see Best Buy comments above) they would do absolutely NOTHING to help us

So remember, when you purchase a product and it fails, all they can say is no!  Take a few minutes from your day and make the call, send the email - who knows what it may or may not get you!

Care to share a little rant about poor or great service?  


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chocolate Valentine Buttons - A Toddler "Baking" Activity

Messy Messy Fail - I really try to take advantage when Shutterfly offers their 101 free prints by printing out the pictures that are quickly collecting on my laptop.  However, when it comes to putting the pictures away in an album, oh I'll just say it I'M HORRIBLE.   I have several of those fun orange envelopes with pictures stuffed onto one of the built in shelves.  Blah!

Tidy Victory - Even thought it would be considered some "cyber-tidying", I got all of my other social network accounts linked up to the blog.  FINALLY!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Oh hey, Friday! - What To Do On a Snow Day

Messy Messy Fail - Puzzle pieces, puzzle pieces, puzzle pieces EVERYWHERE!  The toddler really enjoys putting puzzles together, however, he doesn't always put them back.  Gotta come up with a way to organize the 987234987234 puzzles we have!

Tidy Victory - I just realized last night that I have managed to keep the spice cabinet ORGANIZED from when I originally cleaned it out a few weeks back.  Holy cow!

On our local news, it was reported that we should expect negative digit readings for our temperature this morning, with even lower readings for the wind chill.  Schools starting closing last night even.  Our district will often close due to extremely low temperature because so many of our students walk.

"The Call" usually comes in the morning around 5:30 AM, and when I hadn't heard the phone ring at 5:50 I was ready to get up and start preparing for our cold journey to daycare and work when "The Call" came - snow day!  Most of the districts around us (except my poor husband's, sorry dear!) ended up closing due to the low temps and wind chill, although it did not get quite as cold as expected.  So what did I do?  Well duh, I went back to sleep!

What should I do on my unexpected day off?  Here is a list of 5 things that you should try if you are ever so fortunate!

<One> Baracade yourself in the house - why should you leave when it's this cold out?  I HIGHLY recommend this one especially if the weather is truly nasty.  They cancel school for a reason, so follow suit and stay inside.

<Two> Bundle the kids up and take them to daycare anyways - only if it's safe temperature and weather wise.  We are fortunate enough to have a daycare provider just a few minutes away who still takes the kids even on a snow day.  Most importantly, since tomorrow is Valentine's day, the toddler had his valentines ready to go, so I wanted him to go and hand them out to his friends.

<Three> Go to work anyways - although we suspected we may not have school today, I did not have the forethought to bring home some things I needed to work on over our winter break next week.  So there I was, only truck in the parking lot save a few other people who just couldn't stay away, collecting the oboe parts from the full orchestra pieces to transpose at home.

<Four> Go shopping - as in go to Joanne's looking for some fun musical fabric to purchase for the orchestra's display case in the front hall of the high school and end up buying fairy garden items because they are 40% off plus another 20% with coupon!  Just because there is a couple feet of snow on the ground doesn't mean you can't plan your new fairy garden for the summer!

<Five> Make plans for the weekend - meet fun co-workers out for a chick dinner and movie - CHECK, washing baklavas, I mean baccarats, I mean BALACLAVAS for our Valentine's day snowmobile adventure tomorrow - CHECK.

Sometimes it's just so nice to have an unexpected change of plans, so when it happens take advantage of your opportunity and ENJOY IT!

Stay warm everyone, Happy Valentine's Day AND Presidents' Day!


Monday, February 2, 2015

The Blush Obsession

Messy Messy Fail - so I was supposed to start following this calendar of anti-clutter for the month of January.  The calendar offers a small tidying activity to perform every day with the grand finale being a tidier house at the end of the month.  I completed a few of the chores out of order but ultimately, I forgot to check my daily task and ended up with WHA WHA WHAAAAA!  Oh well, I'll see which room I'm supposed to tidy for February.....

Tidy Victory - One of the tidying activities was dedicating a donation box - so I declared a box in the hallway to be christened so - clothing items go directly into it to be prepared for donation. Some probably think I'm crazy, but I log ALL donations on a spreadsheet and submit it on our taxes every year.  It's amazing how much you pay for items and how much their value decreases.  However, it's still wonderful to donate to a good cause.  

I have a problem, an obsession actually, with a makeup item that is probably found in a large percentage of American women's makeup bags.  I was never into crazy lipstick, eye shadow is okay, but what really makes me excited is BLUSH.  I have cheap blush and not-so-cheap blush (do not judge).  It's my thing, I cannot help it.  The first step to recovery is admitting your faults, right?  

I am one of the palest Polish girls you'll ever meet, so my solution to looking not-dead - rouge!  My mother, Nana Patti, would always say, "You're pasty, get over it!" - well, I couldn't, and so my colletion started. 

For this post I would like to share my obsession and beautiful blush collection.

****Disclaimer - to my friend (you know who you are!) who I tried to convince that my not-so-cheap blush was the most life-changing thing ever, just smile and read on. :)

1.  Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Dim Infusion  2.  Maybelline Face Studio Master Glaze Blush Stick in Just-Pinched Pink  3.    SimplyVera Vera Wang Cosmetics Illuminating Powder Blush in 314   4.  NARS Blush in Amour   5.  Maybelline Mineral Power Naturally Luminous Blush in Gentle Pink   6.  Tarte Cheek Stain in Exposed

<One> Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Dim Infusion - by far my most prized and favorite.  Comes in a sturdy high-end case (the mirror doesn't fall back when you prop it open on your counter!) that holds such beautiful color.  This particular color is a soft coral with a SUBTLE lighting (not shimmer!) that needs no other highlighting.  I did not think I could wear corals well until I tried this on at Sephora.  Well worth the price at $35.00 - definitely a special treat!  Goes on so beautifully and easily, you cannot mess this one up.  Gives you an effortless look that will stay for most of the day.  Does not come with a brush but who cares!

<Two> Maybelline Face Studio Master Glaze Blush Stick in Just-Pinched Pink - a nice drugstore blush stick that you apply then blend with your fingers or a sponge (I'm a fan of the digits).  Gives a really nice color that's easily build-able and lasts a good portion of the day.  Does not give you a dewey look like a cheek stain would, almost looks like a powder blush but still has a nice, faint glow.  A pretty decent product at a drugstore price - $7.94 ($1.00 off if you bring a Maybelline coupon woo-haa!).  Thanks Maybelline!

<Three> SimplyVera Vera Wang Illuminating Powder Blush in 314 - a powder soft peachy-pink color with an ever-so-faint glow.  Goes on very easily, does not last that long but still goes on with beautiful color.  As you can see I do not use the brush it came with, and the casing is a bit cheap.  Seems a bit pricey at $19.50 but I still like the color and it will stay longer then my cheapy drugstore blush (that's coming up soon).  

<Four> Nars Blush in Amour - a bright pink (can you see the pink trend I follow?) that will stay on ALL DAY LONG.  This was the reason I made this purchase - I was looking for a better quality product that I could wear to work and still have it present when I arrived home to start dinner.  Extremely pigmented (in my opinion) so a little goes a long way.  My go to for long-wear most definitely.  I was EXTREMELY tempted to purchase the cult-favorite color Orgasm but the lovely lady at Sephora convinced me otherwise.  You too can purchase this long-wear beauty for $30.00 at Sephora.  Does not come with a brush.

<Five> Maybelline Mineral Power Naturally Luminous Blush in Gentle Pink - so I purchased this blush in 2007 at a local deep discount store called Mr. Salvage (I can't believe I just admitted I bought makeup at a place called Mr. Salvage) for $0.99 when the mineral makeup craze started with bareMinerals.  This purchase was also made during my I-don't-need-to-spend-more-than-$2.00-on-makeup phase.  It certainly does NOT last all day, perhaps a few hours, however, the makeup has literally lasted YEARS in the container, as in I'm still using it and there is a decent amount left.  I'm not sure I would use the word LUMINOUS to describe the finish as it's name suggests, but I wear this product a lot to school (work) as my every day blush.  Just did a quick search and found this product is still available on Amazon for $6.69.  I also have the colors Original Rose (which I'd call more peach than rose) and Fresh Plum for a bit of a darker look.  Does not come with a brush.  

<Six> Tarte Cheek Stain in Exposed - I found this product when I had 4.6 free minutes to run through Sephora and I was drawn to the idea of a cheek stain.  The packaging is SUPER cute 
(as you can see) but for me, one of my favorite aspects of this product is it has a LOVELY smell!  It's a slight citrus/lemony smell, which is what initially sold me (I'm a big smell person).  This color is described as a neutral/brown shade which I would normally NEVER wear but it goes on in such a light contrasting way.  Definitely gives you a dewey look if that is what you are looking for.  Apparently this blush has been around for quite awhile and I see why.  I love getting samples from Sephora as you can see from the last picture, so I took advantage of my opportunity and got a few other colors of the cheek stain including Blushing Bride and Flush.  The colors looked super pigmented in the containers but definitely go on much lighter.  If you want to smell this magical blush check it out at Sephora for $30.00.

So there you have it folks, my collection.  My obsession is out there for all to see, judge me if you want, but we ALL have our vices, mine just happens to be blush :)

Do you have a favorite blush, or a particular makeup obsession?  Please tell me about it and start with your first step to recovery!


Makeup Monday