My First Facial

OMG you only now got your first facial?!

Yeah, yeah, I guess I don’t get out much. How I made it to my late thirties without a facial is beyond me.

I thought this would be a fun topic to blog about, so I got a recommendation from my sister, is good friends with an esthetician. Both of my sisters have seen Melissa for years, so I knew I was good hands.

Melissa works out of an unassuming office building, and I loved the tranquil pale blue walls and gold accent art on the wall. She had prettily arranged products for sale on shelves, and the chairs at reception where white.

After filling out four pages of forms about my skin, allergies, etc. I got settled onto her table. She popped on a Pandora playlist of soothing music like oceans sounds, and it wasn’t hard to relax.

The first thing she used was a green tea antioxidant cleanser, then added a 17% glycolic acid cleanser to help exfoliate. I honestly couldn’t feel my skin being cleaned, but the cleanser smelled fresh and was cool on my face.

She then put a fresh, hot washcloth on my face to wipe it off. That felt ah-mazing. It was hot, rough, and took to sweet-smelling potions off my face.

Melissa then put a paper mask over my eyes so that I wouldn’t be blinded by the super bright light she put in my face. She carefully examined my skin for imperfections, blemishes, and to see what needed the most work.

I try to take really good care of my skin; and Melissa commented how good my skin looks for my age. I slather on my Oil of Olay in the morning and then creams at night. I also avoid the sun like the plague. Melissa decided that I needed a good exfoliation more than anything else

The next thing she used was an antioxidant facial oil. She did a facial massage, lightly rubbing my forehead, eye sockets, cheeks, chin, neck, and shoulders. It was fantastic. I very much enjoyed chatting with Melissa about skincare up to this point, but I slipped into a numb stupor and simply enjoyed my tired skin being massaged.

Melissa then put on coconut papaya enzyme with what felt like a makeup brush. It was cold, goopy, and tickled. But it did the trick and sloughed the dead skin cells off my face.

The last thing she put on my face was hyaluronic acid serum to moisturize, soften, and to bind moisture to face. It contains vitamin C to moisturize and brighten the skin. Then she put on a moisturizing goji berry mask on top of it, which had a great peppermint smell to it. The berry mask tingled just a little bit, but that’s how I knew it was working.

Then she covered my eyes and steamed my skin. I could feel the tingle deep in my skin, though it was maybe a little uncomfortable to have steam on my face on a hot August afternoon. It wasn’t too bad—it only lasted eight minutes.

She also massaged my arms. She had to very nicely tell me to relax here, because my default mode is “tense” pretty much all the time. It was by far the nicest part of the facial.

Then she finished with another hot towel.

I will tell you Melissa has a new devoted customer. My skin looks and feels bright, clear, and like I had five years taken off. And that massage made my stress melt away. Melissa’s knowledge about skincare was mind-boggling, and I learned more in one hour than I had in the previous ten years about my skin.

Because she charges such reasonable prices, I can see this as something I can enjoy every couple months. I look forward to seeing her again!

Have you ever had a facial? If yes, what do you love about it? If not, what’s holding you back? Comment below!

How to Buy Plus-Sized Clothes on eBay

eBay is amazing. It is literally the world’s biggest consignment shop.

I never have any luck when I hit the thrift shops. Why would this be any easier?

eBay is an often overlooked asset for expanding your plus-size wardrobe, and allowing you to try different labels without the hefty price tag retail would subject you to.

You can find designer brands, international designers, and, if you’re lucky, smaller indie labels on eBay. Some are new and in pristine condition. Others are gently used but still in great shape. Whatever you’re looking for, here are some things to keep in mind when buying clothes on eBay:

  1. Shop with a specific item in mind. I find that mindless browsing can lead to mindless buying. Knowing exactly what you want will help you save time, narrow your search, and save you money in the long run. If I want a silk shirt, I am not going to look at poplin shirts or t-shirts. Keep your eye on the prize.
  2. Know exactly what size you are for each different fashion label. I am a size 22 in Lane Bryant pants, but a 20 in Marina Rinaldi skirts. Taking a couple minutes to Google the company’s measurements will save you money from buying something that doesn’t fit.
  3. Read the measurements carefully. I don’t trust sellers who don’t list measurements on the product listings. Read the item description to ensure the seller is talking about the measurements laid out flat or if they are guessing the entire circumference.
  4. Ask questions. If they don’t list measurements, ask away. You have the right to know if the item will fit or not. My experience is the vast majority of eBay sellers are customer-service oriented, and will respond to you within 24-48 hours.
  5. Know the material of the garment you are ordering. You can have all the measurements in the world, but 100% silk does not have the same elasticity as 100% cotton.
  6. Get every detail if you are buying a used item. There’s nothing wrong with buying used, but check the buyer’s feedback to see if they are reputable and will disclose everything. Ask them to send pictures of the defects. I’m OK with having a scuff on a shoe or a little tear in a hem, but I want to know that beforehand. (I was selling a shirt on eBay one time and set it on fire. I had to cancel the sale. True story. LOL.)
  7. Cheaper does not always mean better. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: quality over quantity. I will pay more for a used Lafayette 148 pencil skirt than a new White Stag skirt. Because I have a very specific item in mind, I’m not wasting money on cheaply made clothes I don’t want.
  8. See if the seller offers refunds. Though it wasn’t such a big deal to me a few years ago, I now often find myself only buying from sellers who offer refunds. Yeah, many charge a restocking fee, but I’m OK with paying that if it means I get most of my money back if the item isn’t just what I was looking for.

I hope you will browse eBay and see what different labels it has to offer, and that you will find something you can afford, and that you can’t find in the stores where you live!

What is the best item of clothing you have ever purchased online? Comment below!

101 Free or Cheap Date Ideas

1. Attend a county fair.
2. Attend a festival of a culture different from yours.
3. Attend a free home improvement class at a big box store.
4. Attend a high school sporting event.
5. Attend a lecture about a lecture you know nothing about.
6. Attend a political rally.
7. Attend a sporting event that isn’t baseball, basketball, football, or hockey.
8. Attend church services at a different denomination.
9. Babysit a friend or family member’s kid.
10. Binge watch a TV series you’ve never seen.
11. Borrow a croquet set and play in the backyard after a few beers.
12. Buy sidewalk chalk and play hopscotch.
13. Camp out in a pup tent in the backyard.
14. Check out a local observatory.
15. Check out free music at local bars or coffeehouses.
16. Do a free/low-cost fitness class.
17. Do as the Europeans: grab a baguette, cheese, fruit, & wine. Enjoy a sunset.
18. Dust off your belt buckle and go to a rodeo.
19. Enjoy some really bad karaoke.
20. Examine cool vintage vehicles at an auto show.
21. Experience a sunrise or sunset together.
22. Explore a new neighborhood or nearby town.
23. Feed geese at the nearest lake.
24. Find a bad movie on Netflix.
25. Find a free movie outside.
26. Find a free music festival.
27. Find bargains at estate sales.
28. Find the most useless kitchen utensil at the culinary store.
29. Fly a kite.
30. Get caught up in the excitement of roller derby.
31. Get free paint samples and then create a collage with them.
32. Get your picture taken with as many statues as you can find in town.
33. Go fishing.
34. Go for a long drive with no particular destination.
35. Go for a picnic.
36. Go mini-golfing.
37. Go on a hike.
38. Go on a photographic excursion. Take pictures of alphabet “letters.”
39. Go to a matinee.
40. Go to a poetry slam at a coffeehouse.
41. Go to open houses for expensive properties.
42. Go to Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods for free samples.

43. Go to Walmart and take a picture to submit to “People of Walmart.”
44. Grab your bowling shoes and hit the lanes.
45. Have a pillow fight.
46. Have a wine tasting at a local vineyard.
47. Hit the batting cages (not literally!).
48. Hit the local farmers’ market.
49. Hit the open mic night at a comedy club.
50. Hit the steepest hill and go sledding. Bonus points for an improvised sled.
51. Hit up some garage sales for a bargain.
52. If you can, find and old-fashioned drive-in movie theatre.
53. If you still have an arcade, play all the two-player games you can.
54. Learn a card trick on YouTube to impress your friends and family.
55. Learn a new board game.
56. Make a board game a strip version of whatever it is.
57. Make a dessert with a fruit you’ve never tried.
58. Make a high schoolers’ day – see a high school drama production.
59. Make a movie with nothing but an iPhone.
60. Make each other brunch.
61. Make scavenger hunts for each other.
62. Make up new constellations with names and backstories.
63. Make your own soap and blow bubbles outside.
64. March in a demonstration for a topic you’re passionate about.
65. Marvel at the beauty of a local butterfly garden.
66. ..Organize a game night with friends.
67. Organize a potluck with friends.
68. Participate in a First Friday celebration.
69. Patronize your local roller rink.
70. People-watch at the mall or airport.
71. Pick up a game of hoops at the park.
72. Play on the swings on the playground,
73. Play tennis in a local park.
74. Play trivia at a bar.
75. Put a jigsaw puzzle together.
76. Rake leaves for an older friend. Jump & play in them, then rake them up.
77. Roast marshmallows on the stove to make s’mores. (Please don’t set a fire!)
78. Run in the sprinkler in the backyard.
79. See all the creepy crawlies at the zoo.
80. See how long you can make $10 at your nearest casino.
81. See the smashy-smashy at a monster truck rally.
82. Shop for Halloween costumes at the thrift store.
83. Take a day and see how much crap you can sell on Craigslist.
84. Take a hike at a local state park.
85. Take a low-cost adult learning class in something you both suck at.
86. Take each others’ boudoir shots.
87. Take in a local art gallery.
88. Take in an arthouse movie.
89. Take your bikes out for a ride in the country.
90. Take your clubs to the driving range.
91. Test drive expensive cars.
92. Try a new sport like pickleball.
93. Turn a bad movie into a drinking game of your own rules.
94. Turn Scrabble in to drinking game with the rules of your choice.
95. Visit a pumpkin patch.
96. Visit a small museum.
97. Visit an organic farm.
98. Visit local haunted places at night – if you dare.
99. Volunteer together to walk dogs at the humane society.
100. Watch a movie in a pillow fort.
101. Write really bad poetry for each other.

How to Deal with Toxic People in the Workplace When You Hate Conflict

I hate conflict at work.

God, I hate conflict. It is so much easier to bury my head in the sand just do my own thing rather than have those “I feel…” conversations when dealing with difficult people.

I am writing this blog post as much for you as me. We all have toxic people we deal with in the workplace, and most women avoid direct conflict. If you don’t have a significant other to bounce ideas off of, it can be particularly difficult.

I have identified four toxic personality types you may encounter in the workplace, and how you can work with them without all-out conflict and without sacrificing all your sanity.

Keep in mind that these are a general overview, and what works for one Debbie Downer may not work for another. Every office has its own different culture and vibe, but the following advice comes from 15+ years of being in the adult workforce. Just remember: You have the right to a sane work environment. Here are a few tips for navigating the professional jungle.

The Debbie Downer. The Negative Nancy. The No-Matter-How-Good-Things-Are-It’s-All-Doom-And-Gloom.

Ugh.

The first line of defense is to minimize contact with these folks. I find myself just sticking to work topics with negative people for my own sanity. It’s not being passive-aggressive; I only have a finite amount of positive energy, and I am not going to let toxic vampires suck it away.

It takes a lot of practice, but I’ve learned that taking everything with a massive grain of salt and with a twist of humor also helps. I never validate Debbie’s negativity, and I take my stand, letting Debbie know I will not stoop to the level of whining about everything. I am work to do a job, not whine about every little thing.

The Micromanager. Me oh my…this is a toughie. These bosses are emotionally taxing, yet there isn’t much you can do if you aren’t the boss. Here, the best advice I can give is to be as trustworthy as possible. Show your boss you are capable of doing your job without a lot of direction. And if you ask for more work, they are more apt to see you as a go-getter than a slacker.

Another tactic is to keep positive lines of communication open. Let them know what you are doing in a project. Report good news as you get it. Ask them if you need help. That is another way to get your boss to buy into trusting you. And bosses who trust you are far less likely to micromanage.

The Busybody. The Gossip. The Snoop. Pretty much everyone has one of these. Gossips should be treated much like the Debbie Downer. I stick to work topics as much as possible, offer no extra details to any story, or play dumb when it comes to giving them the latest “scoop” (if they come to me looking for deets, I either remain vague or just say, “I don’t know”).

I understand that some people see gossip as a way to make friends or bond. And I’d be a liar if I said I never gossiped about a coworker. But the older I get, the less drama I want, and the more I keep my mouth shut. If I don’t engage them, the worst they can say about me behind my back is that I’m not chatty.

The Bully. This toxic personality is the worst. Literally the worst. I’m not going to spend much time on it because I actually wrote an entire blog post about this earlier this year.

I will give two pieces of advice, which served me well (and, believe me, my last workplace bully was absolutely savage): Treat them better than they treat you, and don’t take their behavior personally. Bullying always reflects on the bully, not the victim. So don’t let their crappy self-esteem make you wallow. Keep your conscience clear.

Of course there are times when you do need to deal head on with emotional leeches, but hopefully this post will give you a few ideas how to treat your crazy coworkers without sacrificing your dignity. Or mental well-being. Because you are strong. You are kind. You are special. Your job needs you!

Without naming names to protect the guilty, who was the absolute worst person you worked with or for? Comment below!

Day Trips for the Single Girl

Picture this: You’re a single girl. You are going bonkers because you want to leave town, but have neither the time to take off work, nor the funds to go very far.

Wow, that sounds familiar.

I want to highlight two recent road trips I took, and each was done within three hours. With just the littlest bit of planning and a great travel companion, you can take a memorable day trip without the time or financial commitment of a regular vacation.

TRIP #1: DODGE, NEBRASKA, POPULATION 612

OK, so this trip was actually four or five months ago. But my BFF Angie suggested going to a new restaurant, simply called “Eat”, to sample their 100% locally source menu.

I’m a foodie. It didn’t take much convincing.

This is Angie. You wish your bestie was as awesome as she is.

Cranking the tunes, we drove off into the prairie sunset. We remarked on all the pretty farms, enjoying the way the light played off the snow.

About halfway to our stop, Angie cried, “Look!”

She popped a U-turn right on the highway and made a beeline to Czechland Lake Recreation Area. Though the sun was almost down, the light danced on the water. The new moon hung in a silvery crest in the east as geese made their way to the half-frozen lake in their perfect V-formation. There was no limit to the horizon as the twilight colors crept onto the plains.

Angie and I posed for some goofball pictures and selfies. Neither one of us is a lake person per se, but we had fun doing what two best friends do in a beautiful sunset with their cameras.

Back on the road.

When we arrived in the bustling metropolis of Dodge, Nebraska, it was, well…a typical Nebraska town. One police officer, one bar, one tiny grocery store, two Catholic churches, two funeral homes (side-by-side on Main Street, oddly enough).

And Eat.

Eclectically decorated and great service. Angie and I fell in love with it instantly.

Lightly tempura-fried green beans, onion rings and (blech!) mushroom.

Pasta with beef tips from 50 miles away. With local carrots and broccolini.

Homemade German chocolate cake and coffee ice cream.

The pictures speak for themselves. Angie and I wined and dined our way to Eat, and it was with happy tummies we drove home in the dark, sated from our gastronomic voyage.

TRIP #1: ELMWOOD, NEBRASKA, POPULATION 634

This trip was planned by my mommy.

That’s Joann.

Mom wanted to go to this tiny town about 30 minutes away from where we lived so we could visit the home of one of her favorite authors, Bess Streeter Aldrich.

I’m more of a diehard Laura Ingalls Wilder fan myself, but mom loves the turn-of-the-(last) century, homespun tales of love, family, and sometimes heartache.

Three churches, one convenience store, and one teeny library only open 17 hours a week make up the village. But with its charming downtown district, manicured lawns, and well-maintained parks make this a great stop.

Built right at the beginning of the last century, the house we visited is only open a few hours a week. But it has period furniture and some of the author’s possessions. The house looks quite similar to when Aldrich last lived there in 1946.

As a writer, I loved Aldrich’s desk. It had a flat writing surface, but there was a wheel on the side you turned, and the desktop flipped over to reveal a typewriter underneath! I loved how clever it was, and it was a beautiful piece of furniture.

My mom was over the moon to see the beloved home of her favorite writer, and I was happy to be her companion on this little road trip!

Both of these little excursions may not seem like a big deal, but I got to visit two places I normally would not have visited. One of them was with my bestie, and the other was with my madre. I ate spectacular food and got a wonderful dose of Nebraska history, both of which always inspire me.

So grab a friend, an aunt, a sister, a niece, or whoever is laying around. Find a cool destination about an hour from where you are and just go!

What was the last day trip you took? Comment below!

 

How to Rock a Phone Interview

I like job interviews over the phone.

There, I said it.

I know some people liken it to jury duty or getting a tooth extracted, but I actually like doing job interviews over the phone because it is something I am genuinely good at.

With the exception of two phone interviews, I have aced ten out of the dozen I have ever done, and landed me face-to-face interviews. With the exception of Garmin and that other company. You know who you are.

It can be hard being a singleton and not having someone to bounce feedback off of, but the reality is companies are relying increasingly on phone interviews to get a feel for job applicants and weeding out the weirdos. And with 250 résumés for every corporate job out there, phone interviews are a crucial step in the job-hunting process.

The following are my tried-and-true tips for rocking job interviews to get you past that first hurdle and closer to your dream job:

  • Research commonly asked questions. Write the answers down. That’s the best part of the interview—you can write everything down! Research 10 common phone interview questions. Write your best answers out. How are they going to know you are reading from a script?
  • Do all the research you can about the company. If you don’t Google the hell out of the company you are applying to, why bother interviewing with them at all?
  • If possible, do all the research you can about the interviewer. I have managed to find most of my interviewers on LinkedIn and Facebook. And I manage to drop in things I know they are passionate about into the conversation. *cue evil laughter*
  • Read the job description carefully. Link all your strengths to what the job entails. What job are you applying for? Make sure you know exactly how to present yourself as the candidate for the job. Leave them wanting more.
  • Practice with a friend or family member. Tape yourself if you have to. Where are you stumbling or “uh”ing? Get those glitches ironed out.
  • Go to a quiet place for your phone interview. I have been in my car. In a bathroom. My bedroom. Whatever fits the bill.
  • Be five or ten minutes early for the interview. If nothing else, use that time to calm yourself, envision success, and inject confidence into your performance. Even if you’re really not feeling it.
  • Take deep breaths.
  • I know how cheesy it sounds, but the enthusiasm you put in your voice can only play in your favor.
  • Have a list of questions ready at the end of the interview. There are tons of blogs and websites with good questions. Asking about corporate culture, why the interviewer likes their job, and/or a question along the lines of, “Are there any doubts you have about my applying for this position?” have stimulated good conversation.
  • Make sure you are very clear about the timeline for the next steps in the hiring process. If the HR person gives you a clear timeline, that is usually a pretty damn good sign.
  • Send a thank-you letter as soon as the interview is over. I don’t care if it is 2017. Write a damn card thanking the HR person for their time. It works—believe me.

I know phone interviews can be unpleasant experiences, especially for shy people like me. But an hour prepping will make you feel a whole lot more confident. You will outshine others who are interviewing for the same position, and you will increase your odds of landing a face-to-face interview. It works for me, and please believe me when I say it will work for you!

What is the most painful part of a phone interview for you? Comment below!

101 Things I Learned While Unemployed

It has been a year now since I lost my job. Looking back, it was an awful time, but I grew as a person. I grew a lot.

To commemorate that year, here is a list of 101 things I learned in my six weeks of unemployment. Wherever you are in your career, I hope you can carry something away from the following:

1. A good night’s sleep will help you tackle any challenge.
2. Alcohol will not help you feel better. Believe me.
3. All human resource departments run on their own schedule.
4. Applying for jobs you are not remotely qualified for just to satisfy unemployment requirements becomes second nature.
5. Aunts who take you on interior decorating trips to get you out of the house are the definition of empathy.
6. Being debt-free will make it much easier to maintain finances.
7. Being unemployed is humiliating. But it is temporary.
8. Brothers taking you out for movies to cheer you up are the best brothers.
9. Count your blessings every day. Each one brings you something to be grateful for.
10. Craigslist is useless for job searches.
11. Dads give solid advice.
12. Daily exercise gets the endorphins going.
13. Do not turn down free lunches or coffee from friends cheering you up.
14. Do not wear pajamas at home. Even if it’s just shorts and a t-shirt, wear clean street clothes.
15. Do something that cheers you up before and after every job interview.
16. Doing a weekly or monthly budget will help you know exactly where your finances are at.
17. Doing mock interviews with a friend or family member is a surprising confidence-booster.
18. Don’t be afraid to reach out when you are feeling sad or anxious.
19. Don’t get sloppy/lazy on the weekends. Keep a weekend routine.
20. Don’t read articles about job prospects or unemployment statistics. They almost never pertain to your situation and will only scare you.
21. Don’t take the first job offer that comes along if it’s not right for you.
22. Don’t watch anything remotely sad or depressing.
23. Educate yourself about all your rights and benefits being unemployed. That is part of your job now.
24. Even if it seems impossible, a regular bedtime establishes a routine and will keep you rested.
25. Everyone has job-seeking advice. Use selective hearing.
26. Feeling despair is normal. You can control how you react to it.
27. Funny animal videos on YouTube are instant pick-me-ups.
28. Get out of the house. Every day.
29. Getting out of the house to coffee shops maintains sanity.
30. Getting up at the same time every day helps stave off depression.
31. Going to church helps pass the time and establishes a routine.
32. Going to your parents’ house five nights a week is comforting.
33. Have the interview suit ready to go at a minute’s notice.
34. Having a professional write you a resume is a smart investment.
35. Having an emergency fund will infinitely reduce your stress as you do your job search.
36. Hiring a professional to write a cover letter is a wise investment.
37. I don’t care where you are on the political spectrum. Obamacare is a godsend.
38. If you like to shop, know your triggers so you can avoid them.
39. If you suffer from anxiety and depression, keep on top of your meds and get enough sleep.
40. Indeed.com will become your new favorite website.
41. Inform yourself about low-cost or free medical care.
42. It doesn’t hurt to see if you qualify for food stamps or Medicaid.
43. It is essential to have an emergency fund in case you lose your job.
44. It is important to celebrate every small victory, like a phone interview or scheduling an interview.
45. It takes at least two weeks to start to see the first round of job-search results.
46. Keep a list of all the hoops you have to jump through to get unemployment.
47. Keeping a daily routine is essential for a feeling of normalcy.
48. Keeping a gratitude journal puts things in perspective and reminds you little things matter.
49. Keeping your house clean will give you a feeling of control.
50. Laughing one minute then crying the next because you feel like a worthless person becomes the new normal.
51. LinkedIn is actually a helpful website.
52. Looking for jobs is now your full-time job.
53. Losing 15 pounds in 2 weeks is entirely possible (though not advised).
54. Love on yourself. However you cheer yourself up, do it.
55. Maintaining good nutrition will keep your health and spirits up.
56. Moms are amazing listeners and cheerleaders.
57. Negative people have no place in your life right now.
58. Netflix becomes a primary source of entertainment.
59. Never, ever badmouth your former employer. Ever.
60. One day for a pity party, then you have to get into battle mode.
61. Only eating once a day is cheap, but not recommended.
62. Pets do not make good handkerchiefs.
63. Positive podcasts are great ways to stay motivated.
64. Purring cats are therapeutic.
65. Reach out online if you are feeling depressed. There are people out there who want to help you.
66. Read all the letters you get from your state’s Department of Labor.
67. Read anything positive and uplifting you can get your hands on.
68. Reducing social media consumption is not a bad idea.
69. Remember everything that went wrong in your last job. This is a new beginning.
70. Remember who is kind to you. Those are your best, truest friends.
71. Set a stopping point every day. Stick with it.
72. Shower every day. You owe it to yourself to keep your routine.
73. Sisters feeding you and watching reality TV to keep you company make you grateful for family and Bravo.
   74. Slashing your spending to the bone helps reduce budget anxiety.
75. Start the job search at a set time every day.
76. Stay hydrated. Water is important to help you feel your best.
77. Surrounding yourself with positive people is critical.
78. Take a break from job-searching during the day. It is exhausting.
79. Taking the weekends off from job searches will keep you fresh for Monday.
80. Tapping your professional network is the best way to get into the hidden job market.
81. The Food Network and HGTV are TV comfort food.
82. The library is a great place to get out of the house and job search.
83. The tedium of waiting for HR to call back is maddening. Do not give into temptation to call obsessively.
84. There are way too many “silver lining”-type clichés that people will use on you.
85. There is a difference between feeling humble and feeling desperate.
86. There is lots of good advice online for phone interviews.
87. There is nothing wrong with taking a day to have a pity party right after you lose your job.
88. Tune out every single negative thought. Repeat the positive till it becomes second nature.
89. Uncles are amazing men whose kindness can never be repaid.
90. Unemployment is ridiculously hard to get.
91. Virtual friends you have never met who take time to Skype with you are true friends.
92. Volunteering will take your mind off your situation.
93. When you call your Department of Labor, don’t forget to be patient. You will be on hold. A lot.
94. While Netflix is great, avoid binge-watching season of anything. It leads to feelings of guilt.
95. Work friends are fleeting.
96. Working side jobs to generate income is better than no income.
97. You are just a number to Department of Labor employees.
98. You are stronger than you know.
99. You truly find out who your real friends are when you lose your job.
100. YOU WILL NOT BE UNEMPLOYED FOREVER. THIS IS TEMPORARY.
101. Your pets will not understand why you are home so much now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Easy Summer Pasta Salads

The dog days of summer are here.

It is too hot to walk. Too hot to move. Too hot to cook.

Well, maybe there’s a little time to cook.

If you need to bring a salad to a summer barbecue or are just looking to change up your summer cooking repertoire, I found two super-duper easy pasta salad recipes. These can be eaten as a side dish or because they both have veggies and protein, they make a great meal if paired with a green salad.

As many of your know, I am a fan of simple recipes with as few ingredients as possible. The first recipe has just four ingredients, and the second has seven (not counting salt and pepper). Get ready to wow whoever eats these!

Caprese Pasta Salad

I found this on a beautiful blog called The Recipe Critic. Alyssa Rivers is a Utah-based food blogger. Just looking at her Pinterest-worthy recipes is enough to make you want to lick your screen. Check out her take on a classic Caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, basil, and fresh tomatoes).

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 oz. pasta (I used cellentani)
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) small fresh mozzarella balls
  • 2 cups (10.5 oz.) grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons pesto
  • Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cook and drain your pasta according to package directions. Drain with cold water and set aside.
  2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine pasta, basil pesto, grape tomatoes, and mozzarella balls. Toss together until it is coated in the basil pesto.

Serves 4-6 people.

I wolfed this down in two sittings. It is easy-peasy to do. Although Rivers gives a recipe for homemade pesto in the original recipe, I am lazy and used store-bought pesto. I can use it again for sandwiches, pasta, meat, etc.

20-Minute BLT Pasta Salad

Baker by Nature is another mind-blowing food blog. Ashley Manila cranks out decadent photography and damn easy recipes. Look at this BLT salad you can nosh on all year round! (Note: The original recipe is HUUUUUGE so I halved it here.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces bow tie pasta
  • 1/2 cup zesty Italian salad dressing
  • 1/4 cup ranch salad dressing
  • 1/2 pound thick cut bacon, fried until crispy then cut into strips (I used salad bacon bits to save time, but they didn’t work well after they soaked in the dressing. Real is best here.)
  • 1 large ripe tomato, diced
  • 5 leaves of crispy romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water until cool.
  3. While the water is coming to a boil, heat a skillet over medium heat; add bacon strips, and cook until crispy, about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.
  4. Place cooled pasta in a large serving bowl; set aside.
  5. In a small bowl combine zesty Italian dressing and ranch, mix well. Add dressing to pasta and toss well to coat pasta.
  6. Add bacon, tomato, and onion to the pasta bowl, mix well to combine, and season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve at once, or chill until needed.
  7. Add romaine right before serving, or else it will get soggy and gross.

Serves 8-10.

There were no leftovers when I made this for my family. Like I said, real bacon is best because my real bacon bits didn’t hold up in the soggy dressing. But I like it even better than BLT sandwiches. There, I said it.

Both of these recipes are super easy and guaranteed to wow you or your guests. I loved them, and you will too!

What is your favorite summer salad? Comment below!

I Did Parks & Rec Fitness for One Week

I don’t think I have ever mentioned this on the blog, but I work for my city’s Parks & Rec department.

Cue the L’il Sebastian and Jean-Ralpio Saperstein jokes. Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard ‘em all.

With summer in full swing, Parks & Rec has a huge selection of activities not available any other time of year: swimming, softball, canoeing, special hikes, and other free classes. Being thrifty by nature, I gave myself a challenge to see if I could do at least four days of free fitness classes using only what Parks & Rec offered.

Challenge accepted.

Tuesday—Canoeing

I was at our city’s Fourth of July celebration to serve dinner to our employees working overtime. But before it was dinnertime, I went out to the lake (site of the fireworks show) where the Rec people had kids’ games and other demonstrations. One of them was canoeing. The Rec staff asked if I wanted to hop into a canoe.

“I haven’t been canoeing since the nineties,” I admitted.

That excuse wasn’t good enough. They slapped a life jacket on me and chucked me into a canoe.

If you’ve ever been in a canoe, you know the first couple minutes are a little hairy because you swear you are going to tip over, and that was my experience. As soon as I managed to feel even-keeled, though, I started drifting further away from shore. My quick demo would turn into a three-hour tour if I didn’t do something! Thankfully the water was not deep. I shoved my paddle into the water like a gondolier and made my way back to the bank.

I served dinner with hella sore arms, but proud I could navigate a canoe alone after 20+ years.

OK, so technically it wasn’t a class. But I got more exercise in those fifteen minutes than I do many days of the week!

Wednesday—Yoga

I have talked before about how much I love yoga, so this one was a no-brainer. I had to negotiate a longer lunch since this was in the middle of the day (12:00-12:45). I quickly changed into yoga clothes at lunch, sped the 10 minutes to the park where the class was, and rolled my mat open.

I was pleasantly surprised. There were only four other participants, so I got a lot of one-on-one instruction from a local yoga instructor. Though all of us were intermediate yogis, the teacher truly taught the class for any level. She suggested pose modifications to make things easier or more advanced. What I appreciated most was that she helped me make modifications for my bad back on the concrete surface below my mat. She was a true pro!

Thursday—Water Fitness

This was after work at a local pool. I was hesitant to break out my new Lane Bryant suit, but I paid a lot for it and dammit I was going to use it!

There were about thirty people there, almost all women. And they were all shapes and sizes, so why should I feel self-conscious about my size? It was basically a water aerobics class without using any props—just body weight for resistance. The teacher did a great job of teaching to those without much experience and suggesting ways to make it harder if we wanted to push ourselves.

I took a semester of water aerobics in grad school and it is a phenomenal workout. I used all my muscles, got my heart rate up, and best of all, my perpetually sore back didn’t hurt. If I’m honest, that was the best workout I had all week!

Saturday—Yoga

This was similar to Wednesday’s experience, but there were a dozen people in this class instead of five. I still got great, individual instruction. I also got to roll next door to one of my favorite cafés for breakfast! 

Sunday—Water Fitness

This was a similar routine to what I encountered Thursday, but the pool was absolutely packed. There had to be at least sixty people in the pool. It was a little more harrowing to find my own spot and harder to hear the instructor, but I still had a ton of fun. Though I couldn’t see well with water smacking my glasses, the age range appeared to be college kids to people well in their seventies.

It was the same instructor from Thursday, and I am amazed how she managed to keep sixty people corralled in one pool, motivating everyone, offering suggestions to modify the workout, and keeping us all laughing. She was worth her weight in gold!

All in all, I had a great week doing my Parks & Rec workout. If you are looking for something to do, why not see what your local Parks & Rec has to offer? You never know who you will meet, and it’s all low-cost or free!

What was the last fitness class you took? Comment below!

Six Reasons Why You Should Take a Retreat

Playing around on Google recently, I was stunned by the number of different retreats out there.

Religious ones. For writers. Yoga. Silent. Team-building. Corporate. Leadership. Health/wellness.

And they come in different types: guided, self-paced, structured, unstructured, silent, social, teams, couples, prayer…the list goes on.

I can already hear you saying: Are you seriously trying to convince me to go on a retreat? I’m already single. I get plenty of alone time!

You may get alone time, but how do you fill it? TV? Internet? Errands? Going out?

Those are all good things in themselves, but the word “retreat” comes from the Latin retrahere which literally means “to pull back.” How does it sound to take a week or weekend and just concentrate on you and what you want to do? However you want to do a retreat, I think it’s a powerful, transformative experience. Here are six reasons a retreat why a retreat may be just what you need:

  1. Shut out the outside world. One of the most obvious reasons to go is to take time away from work, family, friends, daily stress, and just be. This is strictly you It is not greedy or selfish to take a few days away from everyone and concentrate on yourself. Because if you don’t take care of yourself, your work, relationships, and other aspects of your life will suffer.
  2. Develop deeper connections. Whether it’s connecting with a higher power in a religious setting, making new friends at a writing retreat, or rekindling your inner fire at a yoga retreat, these are all very important. Be it another person, God, or your very self, foraging these connections are at the very heart of what it means to be human.
  3. Gain perspective on your problems. I am one of those people who have difficulty seeing the forest through the trees. Petty problems can bog me down that I forget the big picture. But taking time alone to think about life reminds me that running errands isn’t such a big deal. Or that I could be more patient in traffic. Or nicer to everyone I meet. The little problems just don’t seem to matter when you step back and really examine it.
  4. Declutter your mind. Just as you get to put life into focus, you can also shake the cobwebs out of your brain. Ditch thoughts of that toxic coworker. Don’t beat yourself up that you forgot a friend’s birthday. Stop worrying about the number on the scale. It just doesn’t matter on retreat. Take a long, silent walk or luxuriate in a hot bath. Journal. Do what you need to do to quiet your mind, forget your shortcomings, and just move on.
  5. Rediscover what peace is. It is in that decluttering that you can remember what it is like to be at peace with the world. As cheesy as it sounds, I think retreats make the sunset and sunrise more beautiful. Food tastes better. Life seems happier. I feel calmer and more confident. When was the last time you were able to say you felt peaceful? I mean really, truly peaceful? That is the power of retreats.
  6. Cultivate or perfect a skill. Whether you try journaling for the first time, perfect a yoga stance, read a book on a topic you’ve always wanted to explore, or learn to cook a new dish, you are adding to your skills set. You are taking time to (re)learn what makes you happy, and that added depth will stay with you, even after the retreat is over.

 I went on my first retreat—with nuns—when I was 16. I haven’t been on one in a few years, but these are all things I’ve experienced firsthand. And yes, even us single ladies deserve some alone time!

What type of retreat appeals to you? Comment below!

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