My initial review of Hello Fresh

I enjoy cooking.

I adore eating.

I run a very thrifty household.

So, I decided to use my birthday money and one of those special introductory offers you see everywhere and try Hello Fresh.

It arrived Monday.

Here is the halfhearted unboxing as I was running out the door to go to work: First Hello Fresh Box (unboxing)

We made the honey-ricotta crisps for breakfast yesterday. Here are the videos for that:Part one and Part two.

My only criticism is that what they call a “baguette” is what I call a roll. Maybe Italian but not French. Folks, if your baguette is soft on the outside it is not a true French style bread. It should be crispy outside and soft inside.

Today I started cooking. For real.

Before continuing, please note: my spirit animal is a cat. As a consequence, I don’t like being told what to do and I tend to be flexible with directions. If you’re a strict, play-by-the-book sort, you might have a stroke reading this.

Because we just make pork with rice and stir fry vegetables on Monday, I didn’t want rice. Two of my meals include rice. (Teenager #1 cooked the pork, teenager #2 said it was delicious. I am eating mine at work tonight.)

I decided to make the vegetarian curry, but swap the rice for the creamy kale from the Tuscan chicken dinner.

I ordered extra chicken, just to try some of their other products. Let me say, even as I make some criticisms, everything was delicious. And having a food service, retail background and commercial kitchen experience, I know some of the challenges Hello Fresh faces when combining food with a subscription service.

But this chicken is not “strips.” The package says strips, but it is chunks. And wow is whatever that packaging juice is slimy. Some of these chunks were too small to even cook. I fed them to the dog.

Hello Fresh chicken “strips”

I made the chicken with everything else because I usually have breakfast at 1 and dinner at 7:30 so I wanted to make it a little heartier.

The curry included fresh lime, fresh cilantro, and an amazing full fat coconut milk. It included green beans and red pepper as the base of the meal which wouldn’t be my normal pick. Turns out it’s a great mix. And the recipe forced me to work with shallots. Have never done that.

I hate onions, but I know they cook down in a recipe like this.

The secret to the creamy kale was Tuscan heat spice and sour cream. Kale and sour cream go so well together… I wonder how it would be with herbs de Provence instead of Tuscan heat…

Finally, let me at that the meal is supposed to take 45 minutes, prep & cooking. Mine took more than an hour, in part because I didn’t stick to one meal but mixed and matched.

We still have two more meals and I did schedule a box for next week.

With mandatory overtime ongoing at work, it’s an easy way to make sure I eat real food.

Mindful planning: a preliminary review of Silk & Sonder

As you may know, I am a daily journaler. What I journal from volume to volume may change, as I have been doing this for 30 years, but I have filled hundreds of notebooks.

Thanks to social media targeted ads, I discovered the Silk & Sonder planner, a self-care tool. Every month they will mail new a new planner with a new theme.

May was creativity.

See the unboxing here: Silk & Sonder May 2021 unboxing

My subscription was due to start in June, but as tomorrow is my birthday I thought it would be fun to request the May book. I ordered it Saturday night. It was scheduled to arrive Friday, May 7. My mandatory overtime at work began May 10, so this would be the perfect way to organize my mental health.

Except it arrived Monday, May 17.

Regardless of this, and what feels like a very hefty price tag for an aesthetically pleasing but, in my opinion, cheaply manufactured spiral bound book (it’s not cheap, but I struggle to find the right words— the paper is not thin, but it’s also not as heavy as I would expect for the price).

For instance, it’s flimsy. You can’t write on your lap. You have to have it on a hard surface. For $20 a month, the cover at least should be a cardboard consistency to ensure it will withstand travel and daily use.

The interior is lovely. Ninety percent contains elements I already do in my journal, financial book, and/or on my phone: sleep tracker, expense tracker, habit tracker, mood tracker, meal planner, to do list, etc.

There is a weather tracker, goal lists, coloring pages, thought/writing prompts, and poetry and inspirational quotes.

My journal should contain what I have done and my Silk & Sonder should foster my goals, I suppose.

I’m definitely going to experiment with May and then decide on a system for June, which the company has already shipped.

I will revisit the product upon more use.

The crazy, the lazy and the witchy

Today was a typical day in the crazy menagerie of our home. But it was delightful. I’ve come to accept that Saturdays are overscheduled and hectic. Sundays are a rest day.

F. Bean Barker woke at 5:30 am— a normal part of the routine in her old home. No one gets up that early here.

I went to bed around 2:30 am so when Ms. Black Bean woke up and barked/whined/howled for 30 minutes, I texted teenager #1. She went down, covered the dog’s crate with a blanket and laid down on the couch beside the dog to go back to sleep.

After that 45-minute disturbance, I woke at 9:30 am. The teenagers finished picking up the house to prepare for the notary arriving at 1 pm.

We cared for our pets and crated Vesta and Minerva of the FURR Roman Pride for the adoption event at Petsmart.

We then stopped at Dunkin on the way home because I wanted to do something to thank my husband for taking the time to come sign this paperwork and for supporting me in the refinancing of the house. It’s been about 20 months since he’s lived here with me. Neither one of us has filed for divorce. So his name is still on the deed of the house and the current mortgage.

This new mortgage will pay off my car, save me $300 a month, though also extend my term five years. Now instead of the house being paid off by the time I am 55, I will be 60. Mortgage payment alone on the the refinancing will pay off is 50% of my take-home monthly income and that makes me nervous.

My hope is that once the pandemic ends and life shifts, new opportunities and stability will allow me to apply extra money to the principal.

And teenager #1 will take her drivers exam Tuesday. If she passes, her dad and I will have a massive insurance bill so my solace is that if something should happen to my car, at least it is paid for.

Teenager’s dad loved his new cold foam chocolate stout cold brew. The closing almost went without a hitch, but Fog decided to saunter across the table amid the notary’s pile of papers. Cats are not allowed on the table. Especially when we have guests.

The teenager got ready for work and we watched an episode of Canine Intervention on Netflix. I wish they had more episodes.

I dropped her off at Tic Toc Diner. I then went to get the kittens.

Those adorable tuxedo sisters then went to Petco (Greenwich Township, NJ) for their adoption habitat.

Minerva (left) and Vesta

Vesta, having spent about three weeks in the habitat at the other Petco, sat there and shook in fear.

I came home planning to walk F. Bean Barker with our neighbors, Jan and her Ladyship Sobaka. But Bean only made it a half-block.

She’s just exhausted.

And then Jan and I went to pick up Nan and have dinner at Tic Toc. The teenager was worried about not having a Braille menu for Nan. As if we need a menu.

The teenager told me the founder stuffed with crab looked really good as the cook took a lot of care in its preparation and plating. I ordered it. With coleslaw. And the silly waitress got me french fries instead.

The dish reminded me of a crab cake wrapped in other fish. So good and a ridiculous amount of food for the price.

After dinner, Nan and I hung out at my house until it was time to retrieve our waitress from the diner.

And then when she got home, she unboxed this month’s box from Witch’s Gifts. These items are so carefully curated. To see the unboxing: March Box Witch’s Gifts

These boxes (and my tarot and witchy podcasts) remind me that I need to pay more attention to my spiritual and magical development.

Ipsy February 2021 Glam Bag Plus

I have to admit I was disappointed when my choices rolled around for this month’s Ipsy glam bag plus. I love the fun of this subscription service and it’s allowed me the opportunity to change up my look.

But the pandemic now limits where I can go and covers a lot of my face so I just don’t wear make-up that often anymore.

I upgraded from the glam bag to the glam bag plus about six months ago and downgraded my plan from every month to every other month. The smaller bag got highly repetitive and didn’t offer enough edgy products. I think the value and versatility of the glam bag plus is much better than the glam bag. The one “bad” thing is that most of the fun of getting a surprise happens when you select your products online versus a surprise when you open the box.

Glam bag plus allows you to select your products from a curated collection. I have to admit— sometimes none of the products appeal to me. But today, even though online I was disappointed, when they arrived in real life I was impressed.

Here is a video of me unboxing this month’s glam bag plus: February 2021 Glam Bag Plus

The non-linear days

PART ONE: GLUTTONY

I had to face my pandemic denial today— due to the stressful nature of my last professional position, I’ve been stress eating more than I’ve admitted the last few months.

(And if you read this blog, you know I’ve been fairly transparent about my ability to each an entire Dominos or Little Caesar’s pizza. So imagine the late night bags of chips and the multiple doughnuts I haven’t told you about.)

Today I hit a new body weight high. And none of my pants fit. So it was sobering.

And I know part of that is my good intentions gone wrong.

Yesterday the morning started with breakfast with my dad and the teenager. I had coffee, a broccoli feta omelette, home fries, dry rye toast and cranberry juice.

I was proud of my choice because I haven’t had vegetables enough recently and I could bring half of my meal home for today. It was too delicious. So I decided I would skip or have a light lunch.

But then I stress ate a doughnut.

Then my dad and step mom invited me to the pub for dinner. My step mom wanted pizza so I thought I’d have a beer and a slice. I think I ate the equivalent of a whole bar pizza.

This year has not been one of discipline

It’s 7:23 pm and I’m watching the marching band rehearse so my daughter can drive home… I’ll make7,000 steps today but not my goal of 10K.

PART TWO: WARLOCK CRAFT BEER REVIEW

At Three Mugs Pub yesterday, I ordered a salted caramel chocolate Saucony Creek, a craft beer label I typically enjoy. Chocolate stouts and porters tend to be my favorite beers.

They didn’t have it. So I ordered a Warlock instead.

Warlock is an imperial pumpkin stout brewed by Southern Tier Brewing Company. It was smooth and not obnoxious in its seasonal flavor. And caused more of a buzz than I was expecting given all the food I ate.

PART THREE: CHICKEN BONE BROTH

Earlier— on Tuesday—while the teenager was still hanging out with my dad…

I finally turned off my crock pot that had been brewing the chicken bones of a whole young roaster I bought at Grocery Outlet on Saturday for $4. I made the chicken in the crock pot that day, returned the bones and skin to the crockpot and kept filling it with water until Tuesday noon.

I carefully poured it all out and squeezed all the goodness out of the now soft bones. I also started a pot of soup on the stove. The yield was nice.

PART FOUR: TRIGGERED

I started my day with coffee— fighting an unusual sluggishness and some unexpected difficulty with my menstrual cycle.

Last week, I had started thinking about my psychological triggers. I have long known that I have an obsessive attitude toward food. Not in the disordered eating way, but in a hoarding kind of way.

I don’t actually hoard food, but seeing a piece of fruit rot or having to throw out an out-of-date food product upsets me far more than it should.

It usually serves me well, but it backfires sometimes and missteps with food can make me unreasonably angry.

Let’s bring this back to that chicken— I didn’t need that chicken. I didn’t even want that chicken. But that was a huge roaster chicken for $4.

I made soup and froze it for the first cold day of the fall season. (I’m not even fond of chicken soup). I separated the white meat and the dark meat and froze that for future use. And I made bone broth.

That’s a lot of food for $4. Good, healthy protein. But… it’s not food I enjoy. So why?

But then this morning as I was drinking my coffee, I heard two people arguing. It was a loud verbal altercation. This is one of my triggers I forgot about— and it’s one I understand. My parents had a lot of verbal arguments and if I’m honest (forgive me for saying so Mom and Dad) if they had enough alcohol the fights could get violent and ugly. There weren’t that many over the years, but enough to create an even more terrifying environment than the mere alcoholism that existed in my childhood home.

So I surveyed my surroundings and couldn’t see anyone. My chest was tightening and my stomach dropping and that odd little internal tremble shook me.

These incidents were frequent when my previous neighbors screamed profanities at each other and threw objects and each other at the walls. It terrified me. They were literally on the other side of the wall, similar to my parents. When I didn’t stand there paralyzed and watch them.

I am not convinced what happened this morning, but I suspect my neighbor had some sort of television program playing in her car.

PART FIVE: THRIFT STORE

I promised the teenager a trip to our favorite thrift store. She bought supplies for her father’s birthday craft and two belts. I bought approximately three skirts, four pairs of business slacks, one pair jeans and one pair corduroys.

Since I can’t try things on, I got everything from size 7 to 10. Far cry from my normal 2 or 4, or my spare/ baggy sizes 6 to 8.

$43.50.

None of the professional pants fit. The red jeans (Old Navy low cut Rockstar 10) fit but are snug. The corduroys fit (size 8). One size 8 skirt fits, the other two did not. The medium skirt fit.

I’m sorry, guys. I also wanted to update you on Aspire to Autonomy, Lady Boss Entrepreneurs Club and some recent make-up unboxing from Dolls Kill and Target.com. But I’m wiped out and this is really long. Oh — and William Prystauk’s third novel appeared on Amazon.com today so now you can read the latest Kink Noir masterpiece and get your mystery/romance/crime/BDSM on.

More tomorrow?

In the meantime: enjoy this unboxing video:

Unboxing a Dolls Kill package

May 2020 Ipsy Glam Bag

So today my May 2020 Ipsy Glam Bag arrived— and I have to say that the special add-on I purchased for the teenager was more exciting than my goodies.

Huda Beauty Sapphire Obessions

This eye shadow palette came with a full set of make-brushes. The colors are fairly true to what you see on the cover. The teenager’s school colors are blue and gold, plus who doesn’t love a good splash of glitter.

But the glam bag… I’m not impressed with the color scheme of the actual bag. The brush from FARAH is a blending brush and has a lovely soft texture.

The Benefit Roller Lash mascara I’m not going to open right now because I recently ordered black mascara that came with my last bag.

Same story with the AutoBalm Day2Night eye shadow — the color is fairly identical to not just one but two of the recent colors sent. So I will also save this until I use the earlier product. Good news is, it’s one of my favorite eye shadow colors, a neutral bright beige with some shimmer. Hides my tired eyes.

The Moroccan Magic Maruka Honey Lip Balm will also remain sealed as I’ve gotten lip product in every Ipsy bag and don’t leave the house enough to need an extra in my purse. I’m not even sure where my purse is.

So that leaves the Soroci Spot-Light Eye Cream. Which I am actually excited about trying. I’m old— my under eyes could use some firming.

I put some on and it feels good. Only time will tell if it makes me any younger.

Here’s the video the teenager took of me unboxing my treasures: Unboxing May 2020 Glam Bag

And I decided to use this month’s bag to store unopened cosmetics and store it in our cupboard so that if the teenager and I need something we have it in reserve.

Review of my Ipsy April 2020 Glam Bag

My April 2020 Glam Bag came yesterday and the teenager and I did an unboxing video (that features more kittens than make up) here:

April 2020 Glam Bag by Ipsy unboxing

For those of you who don’t know, Ipsy offers a mail order cosmetic subscription “box” that, in the small “Glam bag” size offers a custom make up bag and five items, one of which is usually full size and the others are samples. It costs about $12/month. And they offer add-ons.

I treated myself to a mascara this month.

This service is perfect for me as I have a bit of fear and inexperience around make up. I want to try more, but don’t have money to invest in products I will probably not be ballsy enough to use.

So this allows me a chance to explore.

This is literally all the make up I own before Ipsy. (I love blue mascara. Would love forest and/or emerald green but haven’t found it.)

My go-to eyeshadow is gold, with a touch of red on the outside. I call it my “Monet sunrise” look.

This was last month’s Ipsy bag.

See related posts here: Lighthearted Ipsy Review of the March 2020 Glam Bag

My first Ipsy Glam Bag—pre-unboxing

So now to check out the April products:

  • Buxom mascara, black, $3 add-on, 3 ml
  • Seraphine botanicals 100% vegan lip gel, berry + juice, 6 ml
  • Aromatica Calendula Juicy Cream, vegan formula, sample size, maybe 15 ml
  • Oryza Beauty Nude Shimmer & Contour eye shadow palette, vegan
  • Estate Dew Me Lit baked highlight powder
  • Araceli Grande Blending Brush

Let’s start with the Aromatica lotion. Now, if you saw my video, you’ll know I tried it as soon as I got it. I didn’t notice anything remarkable about it at the time, but today I’m going to try again.

Smell appears neutral. That is good for me as my skin and my senses can’t handle heavy scents.

Applied quickly and smoothly.

But let’s compare to last month’s Hey Honey lotion.

The honey smell is intoxicating. The lotion this month by Aromatica is thicker and offers more coverage. So I think I like them both. But would use the Aromatica for hands and maybe Hey Honey on the face as it claims to be a calming lotion.

I put a layer of the Hey Honey lotion on my face, and I might have rubbed it in roughly as now my cheekbones hurt. I’m going to put on some of last month’s Tarte Quench hydrating primer. I love this hydrating primer but it’s my first experience with any primer so don’t take my word as gospel.

Now, the Seraphine lip gel smells amazing. (Why do I keep commenting on smells?) It’s smells like berry in that candy-that-is-berry-flavored way.

Here I am wearing the lip gel, with my old glasses, badly in need of a haircut and my Goth troll t-shirt.

Estate Highlighter Powder. No idea how to use this product. Watched some videos on YouTube. Applied some to my right cheekbone. Not seeing it. Okay, well, let’s keep going and see if I can notice it in different light. Maybe I’m too pale. I bet the teenager would look good in this.

Now the eye shadow palette. So excited as these are glittery neutral shades like the ones I favor.

I love every one of these colors on my face. And the Buxom mascara is a very long brush with shorter bristles that goes on very even. And looks natural (but in an enhanced way).

Very pleased.

I think these are some very practical products with some fun and sass thrown in.

My first Ipsy Glam Bag—pre-unboxing

March 2020 Ipsy Glam Bag and my cat

As you may have been able to tell from my posts about dentists (Tooth and nail) and budgets (Budgeting and Budgeting, part 2), I had a hard week. Not to mention the whole Do I have high blood pressure? issue. So I’m going to lighten it up a bit tonight— we’re going to “unbox” my Ipsy Glam Bag.

And if you noticed that odd photo that is the featured image for this blog post that is Fog, the feral kitten we trapped last trying to get to Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo. Fog is getting sooooo big (as is her brother, Misty) but the teenager didn’t believe me when I said they’d doubled in size.

March 2020 Ipsy Glam Bag without my cat

But anyway… it’s Friday night and I had to work late unexpectedly so by the time I got home, the teen was leaving to have dinner with her grandparents and spend the night with her dad.

Which means I get to have Vanilla Coke Zero and peanut butter pretzels for dinner. I gave one to Nala. Well, more accurately, she demanded I share.

And here is a funny video of us: Nala tries to open a peanut butter pretzel.

But back to the Glam Bag. Focus, Angel, focus.

So I started the dishwasher, and a load of laundry, and took my peanut butter pretzels and my Diet Coke out to see if my neighbor wanted to unbox my Ipsy package with me since the teenager wasn’t home. My neighbor is an economics professor and faces a midterm deadline. I thought it best not to bother her. Nala and I ate our pretzels and opened the makeup.

We also kept Fog at bay, while her brother frolicked in the basement.

Then my neighbor texted she had coffee ready at 6:30ish at night. That’s pretty wild for my Friday night.

I walked out the door and met my other neighbor, whose adorable Yorkie-Maltese mix likes to visit instead of go for a walk. We all went to the professor’s house and even the dogs got to visit.

I got home, retrieved the laundry and the kitten from the basement, and fed my mini-pride of lions before hanging the laundry.

Nala joined me while I hung wash, watching Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. Roomba vacuumed my room.

Now I’m in bed, taking a breath, playing a little Words with Friends and listening to kittens play. I’m going to watch more Gordon. Hell’s Kitchen is not my favorite but I finished Kitchen Nightmares on Hulu, as I also finished 24 Hours To Hell and Back.

I can’t find any more Hotel Hell and for some reason, The F Word is starting to bore me. I think it’s because Gordon Ramsay is a nice guy on that program.

More on that another day. I’m hoping to formally review Gordon’s shows one of these days.

Gordon has inspired me to try harder with my cooking. Last night, I actually trimmed my chicken, made a marinade, and chilled the chicken in the marinade before cooking.

The marinade was:

  1. Low sodium soy sauce
  2. Honey
  3. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  4. Minced Garlic
  5. Fresh Ginger
  6. Water
  7. Sesame Seeds
  8. Lemon Juice
  9. Sesame Oil

I cooked that, and sautéed a bag of broccoli slaw in the leftover marinade and reheated some leftover rice and seasoned roasted chick peas I had made earlier in the week. It was delicious.

But remember that Glam Bag?

I promise I’ll play with it tomorrow. For $12 I received:

  • A studded teal bag (it matches my room!)
  • A full sized eye shadow
  • A full sized chapstick/lip balm
  • A sample nail polish in a mild creamy cafe au lait color
  • A sample “hair mask”
  • A sample primer
  • A sample body lotion