Testing out online only products

I’ve always been skeptical of change.  Weird right?  But it’s true.  It took me years to get on the e-reader train.  I love the idea of a physical book – the smell, the feel, the ability to turn pages, the bookmarks, satisfaction of knowing how close I am to finishing a book, etc.  The only reason I actually ended up getting e-reader was because I had a gift card to Best Buy and got my e-reader for super cheap.  It’s not the latest and greatest, it’s not full of fancy technology and it definitely has Amazon advertisements because I bought a cheaper Kindle.

But that being said, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of online only stores.  The products that are only sold online, slightly cheaper because you don’t have a middle company and you don’t need to pay an additional markup.  But what I’ve found is even though these things are so intriguing to me, I still want to find a way to test it out.  That being said, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been more and more willing to take a risk on some of these various types of productions which actually seems counter intuitive.  As I get older, I should be more risk adverse but it’s been the opposite.  That being said, here are a few of the things that I’ve tried that I would 100% recommend to any and everyone.

Casper Mattress: Okay, I didn’t take a gamble on this one.  I actually monitored Casper for awhile and when it was time to buy a new bed, I actually made my way out to West Elm to test out the mattress.  This was back before the Leesa partnership that they had.  I think I spent about 35 minutes just laying and sitting on the bed testing it out.  I would highly recommend the Casper.  It’s delivered to you in a box and you can get a discount on having someone come pick up your old mattress and box spring.  That being said, I have friends who have tried Leesa, Purple, and Nectar.  They’re all pleased so realistically, I would put my stamp of approval on the box beds. They all have testing periods so if you’re in the market for, it’s totally worth it.

Kickstarter Products: I’ve ordered three separate items from Kickstarter with two more on the way and I have not been disappointed. If you’re in the market for interesting new products, try out the crowd funded products.  I got a portable air conditioner (with an ice pack), a travel jacket and a theft proof backpack.  It’s been amazing.

ThirdLove: I’m sure you’ve seen all the advertisements for ThirdLove bras.  I tried it and to be honest, it is pricey, like incredibly pricey. But I personally have been purchasing cheap bras all my life (specifically Target and H&M bras) and the last time I purchased a new bra is not a time that i will mention because it’s embarrassing.  So I decided that if the bras that come from ThirdLove fit in the way that they advertise, then I will keep them because I am an adult.  The bras came in the mail and I have zero regrets.  You get a 30 day free trial which is realistically just a 30 day return/exchange period. So keep that in mind when you do this. Read the fine print if you want to try this out because I believe the tags have to be on them to be returned if they don’t work which kind of defeats the purpose of the 30 day free trial. Luckily, the bras I ordered worked and they’re staying with me.

Thinx: Menstrual underwear.  I have zero regrets and zero complaints.  If I had to rate all of my purchases in my life, these might be number one best decision as a female and as someone who loves to travel.  If you were contemplating trying these out, I would put my stamp of approval on this and recommend it for everyone.

Lola/Cora: Two different types of organic tampon brands.  I tried both, I honestly have zero complaints.  My office just provides free ones and now that I have changed my routine for when I am on my period, I just didn’t think that doing a subscription service for tampons were necessary for me.  So if I need more, I’ll order them as a one off.

Function of Beauty: Personalized shampoo and conditioner. I love the shampoo and conditioner that I picked and it comes with the most adorable packaging ever.  They put your name on it to help with the personalization along with your ability to choose the color. If you’re into this, I would say it’s great.  The packaging is great, the smell is great, the product is amazing.  If I wasn’t coloring my hair as often, I would be ordering their products more often.

FabFitFun/Birchbox/Ipsy: I’m still currently subscribed to FabFitFun (testing this out to see how I feel).  I love the surprise of the various types of products that come in the box.  Birchbox was great and so was Ipsy because you could test out all sorts of beauty products and they usually come in travel sizes which is great for those who travel. That being said, I couldn’t use these products fast enough so I was literally just collecting products and then eventually throwing them away without really getting a chance to test it. But I did discover some really amazing products that I am now obsessed with and very loyal to.

Everlane: Okay, so technically Everlane is no longer just an online retailer. But I have loved this brand since around 2012, maybe even earlier. But I was never really brave enough to test out their products.  I finally got up the courage and haven’t looked back since. Everlane is now a stable for my wardrobe and let’s be honest, I’ve been following their journey and watching them grow.  I check out their stores when I’m in town and I am more than willing to test out any new products because I know it’s good quality.

Outdoor Voices: I am torn on Outdoor Voices. I tried their products via online ordering before I actually visited the store in Melrose. I got a pair of their 7/8 tri-colored leggings and their runnings shorts.  The shorts are great, I haven’t tested them out for a long run yet because it’s been way too cold to be wearing shorts.  The leggings are great but definitely more for looks and lounging in rather than actually working out like advertised. The material for the leggings were not what I expected, they aren’t as stretchy as I would have liked, the material isn’t the softest for leggings and putting them on is a fight but as soon as they’re on, they fit like a glove. It’s the strangest thing. The running products I actually got to feel when I visited the store in LA seemed pretty good quality but I wasn’t really willing to risk it at that point after my experience with the 7/8 leggings.

Oiselle: They started out as an online retailer but now they a store in Seattle. I have yet to be disappointed with their running products. Obsessed, will love forever and will always give them my stamp of approval.  Their products are made by women for women athletes and are of great quality. I personally am currently obsessed with their pocket joggers and wish I could own a million pairs of them.

Allbirds: Obviously these are the latest trend and apparently the shoe of Silicon Valley.  They’re as comfortable as people say they are and I love them.  They’re actually doing a pop-in with Nordstrom right now if you have some concern regarding returns/exchanges so order them through Nordstrom and then you can return them through Nordstrom instead. I’ve never tested the loungers but I love the runners.

Away: This was not as much of a gamble for me because one of my friends swears by her Away suitcase and so I was able to just ask her a million questions before I made my decision.

Lo & Sons: I have their original Hanover backpack. I use it every single day of the week for work and then when I travel for weekends. I love this backpack because it is durable, simple, just enough pockets, water resistant and fits quite a bit of stuff in it. Plus the inner liner can actually be removed if you need just a little bit more space.

Quip (toothbrush): If you are looking for an electronic toothbrush and you don’t want to pay the price for a Sonicare, I would recommend Quip.  It’s a lot cheaper, they send you refills for a year, it’s more attractive, it’s smaller and it’s good quality.  I haven’t had a consistent dentist over the last two years since I have been moving so I can’t say that my dentists have noticed an improvement but they definitely haven’t said anything about bad brushing so something must be working.

These are just some of my favorite things that you used to be able to only get online.  Do you have any products that you absolutely love that you discovered online?

 

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Serbian pancakes

As I was sitting in my hotel room staring at the Serbian currency, I got on my phone and googled “Serbian foods.” Okay maybe that’s not what I googled, but I did google something along those lines to see what food I should get for dinner.  And Serbian pancakes popped up as a must eat food while I was in Belgrade.  Luckily, according to Google Maps, there was a really good local place just down the street from my hotel so I decided to go there.  I went to Palacinkarnica Glumac and entered into a fully packed restaurant that was not fancy and super loud.  There was one guy working who greeted me in Serbian and realized that my blank stare meant that I had no idea what he said to me.  So he asked me if I wanted to eat in or take to go then gave me a menu in English.

I started taking in the various options that were listed on the menu and ended up just staring at the menu because I wasn’t sure what to get. I knew that I was starving and needed food but should I get a sweet one or should I get a savory one?  Should I get both because how often will I be in Serbia?

I decided on a ham and cheese pancake and then the nutella and banana one.  When I went to go order it, the chef asked me if I wanted two in English and I said yup, two thinking she meant one of each. In my head I was thinking, that’s funny that she would ask me if I wanted two when I gave her two separate types of pancakes that I wanted.

I watched her package up my food which looked like a lot of food and didn’t think anything of it. I paid my whole $7 USD for my dinner and then made my way back to my hotel.  As I made my way back to my hotel, I remember thinking that my bag of food was excessively heavy and how was I going to finish all of the food but whatever it was only $7. I would eat as much of it as I could and then maybe save the rest in the fridge (if my hotel room had a fridge).  If not, it was only $7 and I would probably be stuffed for the entire night and probably the morning.

I got back to my hotel room and settled into my bed to eat my delicious food. I pulled out the first set of aluminum wrapped pancakes and realized that it was super heavy.  There was no way I was going to be able to eat both of my pancakes so I would just save the nutella one for the next.  I’m sure it wouldn’t go bad.  I opened up the aluminum foil and realized that I had two of the savory pancakes.  They didn’t just give me one like I thought I had ordered, they had given me two.  I opened up the second aluminum wrapped and realized that when the lady had asked me if I wanted two, she meant two of each. She didn’t mean two overall.  So there I was with more pancakes than I had originally ordered.

So I started eating.

Serbian pancakes are basically crepes with a Serbian spin on them.  The crepe itself is not sweet and they use their own type of ham and cheese. It was the cheesiest crepe I’ve ever had in my entire life.  I got through the first one and took a bite of the second one and thought that I was going to explode so I stopped eating.  And like most people, I always have room for something sweet so I started in on my nutella pancake.  I got through about 75% of it and ate most of the chocolate and bananas and had to give up.  Immediately after that, I got ready for bed and settled in for the night.  The thought of doing anything more than sleeping seemed too difficult.

Overall the savory and the sweet pancakes were really good, the cheese on the savory felt a little aggressive.  I’m actually not a big fan of savory crepes but I think I panicked when I was standing in the restaurant.  So I ordered one and with the grease that came out of the cheese with the ham plus the butter used on the crepe itself, it was a lot to say the least. The sweet crepe was delicious because how can something with nutella not be absolutely delicious and amazing.  I ate around the pancake so that all that was really left were the outer portions that had barely, if any nutella, and was overall very pleased with my decision.

After consuming my weight in pancakes, I fell into a deep slumber in preparation for my full day of wandering.

Landing in Belgrade, Serbia

The flight from Athens to Belgrade was relatively uneventful which I really appreciated. There is nothing worse than having a bad flight to really make your travel adventures unpleasant. I landed in Belgrade and went through customs and passport control.  Tip: If you want those stamps in your passport, it’s good to alternate between Schengen countries and non-Schengen countries. Since you can travel freely between the Schengen countries as soon as you get into the EU, you won’t get stamps for each country. But if you alternate between Schengen and non-Schengen you can get stamps which is really awesome. I didn’t plan my trip like that on purpose but it was definitely awesome to consistently get different stamps throughout my various excursions.

Once I went through passport control and customs, I went outside to meet my driver.  Yes, I sound cool and fancy because I had a driver but it was a nice littler service provided by the hotel that I could get for relatively cheap and to be honest, it made me feel safer. Since I was going to a country that is not your typical tourist destination and their public transportation is a little lacking, I definitely felt a bit safer going with a hired driver rather than dealing with a taxi. I just wasn’t sure if taxi’s were the best way to go in Serbia, especially with all the possible taxi scams that do happen all around Europe. Maybe it is wrong of me to assume that I would have had more issues in Serbia as compared to other places, but I haven’t done a lot of research on Serbia and for places that I don’t have a lot of knowledge of, I have a tendency to be more cautious and apprehensiveness.  I think it has less to do with the country’s reputation and more to do with the fact that I just don’t know enough about that place. Especially if the country I am going to does not speak English.

I got into the car with my driver and unfortunately, I had landed around rush hour so it was definitely a fun little experience driving to the city center since we had to deal with all the traffic. I think that my driver was making up his own rules about what was considered legal vs illegal and what was considered a lane. I didn’t necessarily feel unsafe where I was and I didn’t feel unsafe in the car, but it was definitely a bit like I was in a street racing movie.

Eventually we ended up at my hotel which was located in city center. I got out of the and headed in to the lobby of my hotel. The front desk team was super awesome and checked me into the hotel. I asked if they did currency exchange and unfortunately they didn’t, but there was a local place just around the corner that closed in about an hour. They offered to take my money for me to go and get it exchanged for me, then bring it to my room.  Looking back, I probably should have been a little weirded out by giving someone a decent chunk of my money, and having them deliver something to my room but I went with it. About 20 minutes later, they called me to let me know they were coming up to my room (which was a nice courtesy) and they brought me my Serbian currency.

After, that I was set for the Serbian adventure and I decided it was time to go get food.

Five years and counting

I know that I’ve written about this multiple times throughout the years and I bring it up often, but this year marks a very big milestone.  This year marked exactly 5 years since my friend Jimmy passed.  I’ve noticed that as time has gone by, I stop thinking about him more and more.  His presence is no longer felt on a regular basis and things don’t necessarily remind me of him as often. But the one consistent thing is that every year around the end of February, it is like my brain knows I’ve tried to spend the last 363 days trying to avoid thinking about how long it’s been and all of the sudden I realize just what date it is.

This year, I conveniently booked a trip to LA for the weekend of March 2nd to be with two of my best friends. The thing about these two girls is that one of them was with me when I got the news that Jimmy had passed. I still remember jumping back into her car after dropping off a Redbox video in West Seattle and her quietness as she stared at me.  I remember her asking “is this a joke” as she handed me her phone.  I remember feeling like the world around me had disappeared and I was falling.  She was with me for the remainder of that day and became one of my biggest supporters through everything.  She dealt with my bad moods, my mood swings, my sadness and really helped me pull through.  The second girl wasn’t there when I found out but she was key in helping me survive.  I could text her any time and she was there for me.  She listened to me cry, she listened to me struggle and she never left my side and she never grew tired of being there for me while I struggled. So, while unintentional, it was basically perfect that I booked a trip to spend a weekend with two of my best friends.

I honestly didn’t realize the date until I got on a plane to Washington D.C. on February 28th and was staring at the calendar and realized that the next day would mark 5 years. On March 2nd, I was almost stranded in D.C. due to winds and cancelled flights and I realized just how important that weekend trip was for me.  Just how much I needed it.

Five years is a lot of years. Five years of not having Jimmy around is hard.  Knowing that by now he would have been doing something great, probably in his residency. But it’s also been five years of realizing just how far I’ve come since March 1, 2013.

I was at a wedding recently and a ‘I’m Yours’ by Jason Mraz started playing.  The first time I heard this song at a wedding was Jimmy’s wedding.  The second time I heard that song was his funeral. The third time was a wedding three months later where I had to walk out because I was crying so hard.  Since then, I’ve left multiple receptions during that song to cry in a bathroom, collect myself or just wait out the song.  I had a friend recently tell me that they purposely didn’t add that song to their wedding so I didn’t have to deal with it. While that song is so perfect and fitting for a wedding, it now triggers a memory of mine where I am standing in a church in Boise hugging my friend while she breaks down in my arms.  This friend I’ve known since I was 11 and had seen her cry maybe twice in her entire life.  And that moment, one of the strongest people I knew was needing me for support and not the other way around. The song also triggers the first dance where I saw Jimmy singing the song to his new wife. And because of that, everything in me breaks down.  But this time, I sat at my dinner table and I took the song in. Not on purpose but because it was the middle of dinner and because I was the table furthest from the door so a quick escape didn’t exist. And you know what? I didn’t cry. I was sad, I was quiet, but I didn’t cry.

I didn’t cry because it’s been five years.  I didn’t cry because it’s time I realize that there’s nothing that will change the past and all I can do is move forward.  I don’t think I’ll ever get to a place where that song will bring me full happiness and won’t damper my mood for a minute but I will get better about hearing it.

I can proudly say that in the past five years, I have done more than I thought was ever possible and to be honest, I don’t think I would be in the same place I am today if he hadn’t passed. His passing reminded me that life is too short and I don’t know what tomorrow brings so I need to embrace every moment, every person and every experience.

Wedding season

It has officially been wedding season for me since the start of 2018.  I didn’t really realize it until recently but I have been to two weddings so far in 2018, who would have thought that this soon into the year, I would have already completed two weddings.  The first one was in Bristol, UK the first weekend in January and was absolutely the most wonderful experience.  I personally take credit for that relationship (which sounds incredibly snobby and terrible) but if I hadn’t convinced my friend to go to the Shire with me, then she wouldn’t have met her now husband.  To give just a little bit of backstory, she’s never seen the Lord of the Rings movies and the Shire meant nothing to her.  The second wedding was in San Diego and was absolutely beautiful and amazing.

But the amount of weddings I’ve been to this year has really left me thinking a lot about all the weddings I have been to and how many more I have this year.  I’ve been going to weddings since I was a kid but the first major wedding I went to that probably kicked off the trend was in 2012.  After that, each year became a steady perpetual wedding season and man it is expensive but at the same time, I think I’ve come to really appreciate and love them so much.

I came to this realization because the last wedding I went to, the groom started walking down the aisle and as he made his way down, he was on the verge of tears. It was one of the first moments where I’ve been able to see that happen and it made me realize just how much I love weddings.  This sounds strange because most people love weddings and most people thrive on them. I don’t necessarily “hate” love but weddings are more of a logistical nightmare to me. Just the process of finding clothes to wear, regardless of whether in the bridal party, remembering to RSVP, gifts, etc.  I’m just so bad at balancing my personal life that remembering to be helpful for someone’s wedding is difficult to me.  I may or may not be that person who texted the bride two weeks before her wedding to make sure I RSVPed to the wedding.

But I think that I’ve realized that up until the weddings started, birthdays and major holidays were the way that you would get everyone together. But as people have started moving and changing their lives, weddings are now how we are able to meet up and have reunions.  Weddings are now reunions for us.  How adult.  Surrounding yourself with all these people who love the married couple as much as you do and being able to celebrate them while being able to reunite with people you love… so great.

That being said, I still have one more gripe about wedding season. I hate that, as a single female, I am consistently told that I need to be a part of the bouquet toss. I don’t know if you remember but I’ve been chased at other weddings to be a part of the group of girls frantically screaming for the bouquet to get tossed at them. I remember one wedding I went to in 2014 where the bouquet landed between a friend and I, and we both turned, looked at it and walked away. It was like a direct replay of the Sex and the City scene. But since then, I’ve avoided the bouquet toss and I hate being pointed out as a single female at a wedding. This last wedding, I had multiple people point me out for not standing up and as a proud single female, I was offended. Why can’t people get on board with the fact that I am happy as a single person.  I wish people would be okay with the fact that I don’t want to be a part of the bouquet toss because it represents people thinking I am incomplete, it represents someone else getting married which is not what I want, and it represents pointing out that I am one of the lone single females at the weddings (which I’ve noticed is quickly diminishing with each wedding).

As I get ready for the remainder of the weddings that I have this year, I need to get better about timing my leave from the reception during the bouquet toss. But other than that, I cannot wait to celebrate the love of my friends and their move toward being more adult than me. Now who wants to help me shop for outfits and gifts for the remaining three weddings of the year?