Category Archives: Shopping

The Best Service


Hello! I haven’t been posting very often for a while, I know. I have been very focused on certain things in life and not feeling that motivated to talk about my food. I also haven’t cooked too many things that merited full posts–not to mention that no one has responded at all when I asked if anyone would be interested in posts about particular dishes, so I figured it wouldn’t matter…

While I have a few food-related posts on deck, I’m taking a minor detour at the moment to say how impressed I am with Drugstore.com, which is owned by Walgreens. I first purchased from them sometime in the past two months. I wanted to check them out because I’d heard that they have much more variety than any of my local drugstores and they have a lot of natural, organic products. They even have a tab just for “green” products.

EDIT: I just read that Walgreens is trying to take advantage of some of those ridiculous benefits corporations get from the government in dodging taxes and stuff, so I might not be able to buy from them anymore. NOT COOL, Walgreens.

The truth is, they have EVERYTHING. They’re like a mega-drugstore, with all sorts of products and so many brands, you’ll be REALLY GLAD you have a database to search instead of trying to pick it off a store shelf. They even have vibrators. Drugstore.com has all the basics for your hygiene and health needs. The other side of the site, Beauty.com, has more specialty and prestige brands, but you can shop on both and check out from both sites at once. It’s so damn useful, I don’t know why more sites don’t do this…

 

Not only do they have a ridiculously wide variety of products, they always have sales and deals going on, and they give 5% credit back on (almost) all purchases. It’s a good place to get a good price on things, and it cuts down on your physical errands–always a plus for me.

Having placed my second order just a little while ago, I am also reminded how quickly they fill orders. So far, my orders from Drugstore.com have been shipped on the same day. It doesn’t take a week for the package to come to me, either. It’s more like 1-2 days. I’m a frequent online shopper and it comes with the territory that your orders might take a while to reach you, depending on the shipping service the company uses. This is logical and I generally accept it, but this super-quick delivery is what we really want when we shop online. In this case, it means that you could buy cold medicine without actually going out to the store and have it the next day, theoretically. Since I don’t have anyone to go buy cold medicine for me, this is a great advantage. I just hope they’re not using delivery drones (as I heard a while ago Amazon was planning to do). Those things freak me out. And wouldn’t they have to launch it at your front door? Weird.

That concludes my somewhat rant-y review. Overall, I think this site is worthwhile and if you’re like me and hate going to the drugstore in person, you should check them out.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon to check for food posts!

What Could Be Better?


Having acquired quite a large amount (probably too much) of things that I don’t necessarily need, I’m starting to become more discerning in my acquisitions and thinking about the things I really feel like I need. What would actually improve my quality of life in general? Bit by bit I’m starting to collect those things, but there are some that in my experience are just really difficult.

1. The first is winter-specific, and that is thin, warm sweaters and tops. I am not really a fan of bulky or chunky sweaters that tend to abound in colder-climated places. They do absolutely nothing for my figure, and this is (sometimes disproportionately, I’m sure) important to me. The one really cozy sweater I have is not very bulky and hangs nicely. I have one or two more fitted, long-sleeved tops that are not bad for providing warmth, but I still have to layer them with another sweater on very cold days.

While I’m on the subject, I also am in desperate need of winter boots that look good with skirts or dresses. I mean actually weatherproof, will keep out snow and rain, but also moderately dressy and don’t make my pencil skirts look ridiculous. A few weeks ago I realized that the cold itself was not my only reason for wearing jeans every single day–it was because I don’t like how my boots look with skirts.

I need items that help me stick to my style in the winter instead of just defaulting to jeans and the same few nice tops or layers of cardigans, scarves, and tees all winter long. I’m too fancy for my winter clothes. I will have to start trying to fix this problem next winter.

2. This morning I found myself really wishing for a travel mug that does not change the flavor of my coffee, but also keeps it warm. Any time I take coffee in my metal ones, it tastes odd, very different from how it tastes in a normal mug. When I use my ceramic travel mug, which I bought because it had a picture of a peacock on it, the coffee is cold within 15 minutes. And, occasionally, the rubber top tastes weird to me. I shouldn’t have to taste the lid of my travel mug.

I don’t think this is such a problem for everyone else. It’s not something I’ve ever heard others complain about, from what I can recall. I also want one without a Starbucks logo, and made from eco-friendly materials. Any suggestions?

3. For at least ten years I have been searching for a great skincare routine. In the past few years my acne has subsided a bit as my skin naturally became a little less oily, but I still have that pesky “combination” skin–some oily areas, some a little dry at times, others normal. I need a collection of products that are effective but gentle–because I hated using cleansers and such that would completely dry out some areas of my face. I need a routine that does not need twelve different products every day (my maximum that I’m willing to deal with is 7 or so), but really improves my skin in all ways–smaller pores, no blackheads, fewer blemishes, that “glow” everyone’s always talking about. And then it also has to make pimples go away more quickly; I’m sick of getting these spots that hang around for several weeks before they finally start to diminish, sometimes even with regular use of a spot treatment.

My current skincare routine is okay, having abandoned the harsher acne cleansers I used to use for some gentle, more natural products. In many ways they work much better for me, but I feel like my pores are getting larger by the day. Supposedly this is common as you age, but I don’t want them to be so huge no matter how old I am, so I’ve got a few brands in mind to try. I worry, though, that by the time I find the products that really work, my skin will be changing again and I’ll have to restart the search.

4. This is something that I assume I won’t have to buy, but is very hard for me to find: A time management guide. I have some issues with time management, one of them being that I hate routines that have me doing the same exact thing every day. Minor changes don’t count (like “today I have yogurt for breakfast and tomorrow I’ll have eggs”). I start to get very restless and going back and forth to and from the same places and activities every day becomes monotonous before too long. So the most typical advice of mapping out your day and setting aside particular times to do things makes me resistant because I don’t like being so closely scheduled. I prefer freedom, flexibility, options. I need the room for spontaneity even if it’s only used once in a while, or I start to feel suffocated. So I need some sort of time management buddy that allows me to organize things without planning out each day precisely. I have yet to find one that works for me.

These are the most prominent in my mind right now. There are other things as well, but those are more of long-term goals. Like owning nice furniture that I actually want to look at. I like dark wood, probably because it always seems to look nicer. Even cheap dark wood looks like better quality than light wood. Of course, I’m hesitant to buy any furniture right now. Not only do I not have the money, but I don’t want to acquire so many large pieces in my current apartment. I’m still hoping I won’t be stuck there for that much longer.

So what about you? What things do you feel like you need to make your life better/easier/more enjoyable? I want to know!

Monday Madness: Naked Santas and Overspending


First, I want to say that what happened Saturday night was barely a snowstorm. In Boston, it had completely stopped by Sunday. And yet, this morning there were too many stupidly icy sidewalks (hint: one is too many) and ridiculous traffic because no one can ever remember how to drive once there’s the smallest amount of snow. So I give up. If we have another snowstorm, which seems likely, I’m just not going to leave my house until spring. I’ll do that peapod thing to have my groceries delivered and order lots of pizzas.

Now, a quick thank you to everyone who liked my cupcake post. It’s nice to have that validation, since no one I invited over to have some thought it was worth the trip–either for having the cupcakes or for hanging out with me. I mean, that’s a major fail, right? But I realized I hadn’t done a real food post for a while, so there you go. There are still about four cupcakes left, but by now they’re on the stale side, so probably not worth a trip at this point anyway.

Logically I know people are just busy and sort of far away (unfortunate consequence of living in Boston: only friends who live in your neighborhood are actually easy to get to), but emotionally it just feels like everyone’s rejecting me. I started out December being really excited about Christmas, but now I’m kind of depressed.

I’ve been shopping way too much. And then, you know, the second you say “Ok, that’s it. I’m going to be good and not buy all this stuff I don’t need,” that’s when something comes up and you end up spending anyway. Like Christmas presents (I didn’t spend that much, but combined with everything it adds up), or the $20 off a $50 purchase from Sephora with a time limit (how could I pass that up?), so you can get that $34 container of moisturizer without feeling so bad about it. The good news is, that one container is probably going to last me at least six months. I think it might be time to trade in my coins for Real Money. It won’t be that much. Probably somewhere between $10 and $20. But it’ll do me more good in my pocket than sitting in a jar on a shelf.

Ok, I know I’ve been teasing you. You’re wondering about the naked santas, right? Well… Read the rest of this entry

Monday Madness: A Weekend of Quiet Mayhem


Site redesigns often bother me, because in the attempt to make things look more “cool” or “high-tech,” I think they often end up looking overdeveloped or stupid… I miss gmail’s simple login screen. Now it’s this giant bubble with your google+ profile picture. And youtube has now made it so that you HAVE to update your username to display as either your real name or something else you enter before it will allow you to continue commenting on videos. I wish to ask Google (which owns youtube, in case you were unaware): What is the effing point of all this?

I am not a fan of the changes WordPress has been making to site navigation. I’ve written a little about this elsewhere, in informal, rant-sort of writing. I’m not going to stop using site unless it gets way worse, but I’m wondering: Now that posts open in a pop-up screen instead of taking you to the poster’s blog page, does that mean I don’t get a page view unless the reader actually clicks on the “view original” button in the upper left corner? If so, that really seems unfair. Please redesign again so that people who want to read my posts are actually taken to my blog, because I like that much better. Furthermore, if it’s just going to appear in a pop-up screen, why am I spending so much time worrying about my blog design? Should I just forget about it?

Dear WordPress,

I want answers.

Thank you,

Deva

Read the rest of this entry

Monday Madness: Where does all the money go?


I get paid once a month, at the end/beginning of the month, depending on how you look at it. So I always have plenty of money in my account at the very end of a month and through the first week or two, and it looks great during that time! I can do things! The sky (read: stores and restaurants?) is the limit!

But I know it’s not going to last

Rent check comes out. Transfer to savings account (which is usually transferred back to checking so I can pay my bills) comes out. Tax payment comes out. Credit card and loan payments happen. And throughout all of this, food and other essentials (and, ok, often quite a few non-essentials) are purchased.

This is how incomes and living work. We all know this.

But, because I only get paid once a month, I suffer from end-of-month brokeness.

It gets down to only $100-200 in my account. Granted, that’s more than some people have. But, considering that I have no savings, it’s not enough to deal with any emergency expenses. So those, naturally, would have to go on my credit card. On which I already carry a balance right now.

And then I have to buy my train pass on the 1st of the month. Depending on timing, that might have to go on the credit card.

And I’m having a little party the first weekend in August. It won’t be that many people, but it still requires extra money for the food and drinks I plan to provide.

I desperately hope there isn’t a paycheck delay this month. (So far so good, but it’s not certain…)

Re-entry


I returned from my cruise today! …to find that WordPress has been updating the site. I’ll have to see what I think about this as I continue to make more posts. I took a few pictures and videos on my trip, so I’ll have to do an experience post about the cruise and see if I can make a watchable youtube video with what I have. I will probably do that this weekend or sometime next week.

I need to say that this is NOT a relaxing Thursday right now. I wanted to get home and have some nice peaceful relaxation time, and I have to deal with some loud event happening at the school near my house. And I mean LOUD. With too many screaming children.

I’m also kind of in pain for some reason or other. I have all kinds of sore muscles and my lower back is bothering me right now. I don’t really know why. I went out to CVS because I am all out of ibuprofen, and I needed to get some melatonin as well because I have not been able to sleep well most nights lately.

CVS has rarely been a nice experience in the last several years. Today, I had people crowding me in the aisles, a bunch of stockroom stuff piled up right in front of the shelves I needed to get to, and a group of loud kids showing up at the checkout lane as I was waiting for “assistance” that should not have been necessary. (I don’t even know why they have self checkout there.) Plus, the machine refused my dollar off pain relief coupon. I didn’t feel like taking the time to complain about it.

Whole foods was not so bad. Middle of the afternoon on a weekday, apparently, is when you need to get there in order to avoid the crowds.

Having just returned from shopping, I once again have to deal with the constant stream of video game noises from downstairs. I really should work on cleaning my room and unpacking, but all I want to do is lie down and not give a f#@! until I absolutely have to (tomorrow morning).

I’m going to try to find something online that will make me smile and avoid my chores until Saturday, I think.

Chicken Tikka Masala (from a jar) – Success!


My most recent anti-recipe dinner was chicken tikka masala. I have actually made this several times in the past and I have a method that I really like. It’s very easy, and I bet you could do it too. I am going to try to describe things in a way that lets you copy the method, even though I don’t have a recipe. I bet it would also be really good with shrimp or just veggies, if you want a meatless version.

The first thing you should know is that I do not make it from scratch. I have no idea how you would do that. I buy the sauce in a jar, usually from Trader Joe’s, but you can often find some version in the “world” sections of any regular grocery store. In just a minute, you’ll see a picture of the one I used this time.

I really like to play up the coconut flavor in the dish, so I add coconut milk. I combine one whole can with the whole jar of tikka masala sauce.

tikka masala lovefood 002      tikka masala lovefood 003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were the ones I worked with for this particular go at the dish. For this purpose, I really think that any can of coconut milk will do, so go ahead and get the cheap one. Alternatively, I think it says the can contains 14 oz of coconut milk, so you can figure out how to measure that out. You can also add less, if you don’t want it to be quite so heavy on the coconut, or MORE if you just can’t get enough.

I have in the past added minced or diced garlic to the sauce as well, but I didn’t this time.

So, because I had an onion left over from making chili, I decided I would add some sliced onion this time. I cooked them up in some canola or olive oil (I can’t remember) first, to make them less onion-y. Once they had been simmering a while, and a few started to brown, I tossed the chicken in the pan.

tikka masala lovefood 001

 

The chicken should be cooked before you add the sauce. However, since you’re going to simmer it all for a while, it doesn’t have to be fully cooked. Just so that it’s not still pink and raw… if you make this with the onions, you don’t have to keep them separate from the chicken like that. It’s just something I do.

When the outside of the chicken is no longer pink, that’s when I add the sauce. All you do it pour it over and then stir it together. It’s very very simple. Be careful when pouring, because there’s definitely a possibility of staining if you happen to splash.

To try something different, I thought I would add some more vegetables to it. I added an entire bag of frozen peas with pearl onions. It was very pea-heavy. If you wanted a smaller peas-sauce ratio, half the bag would probably do. Or you can just make it a judgment call.

Stirring it in with a wooden spoon, so that the bottom of the pan doesn't get scraped up.

Stirring it in with a wooden spoon, so that the bottom of the pan doesn’t get scraped up.

At this point, I cover and simmer the whole pan for at least 30 minutes. Generally no more than 45.

The pan I used here is a very large, Cuisinart cooking skillet. If you don’t have a pan like this with high sides, then you should use a pot instead. You want to make sure it’s a container that will actually hold the sauce and that you can cover easily (because no one wants to struggle to cover their pans while they’re trying to cook. It’s just not fun).

When it’s cooked long enough to be sure the chicken is cooked through and all vegetables you put in are cooked, that’s it. You’re done. In fact, I probably cook it longer than I need to. I bet 20 minutes would be fine. You don’t want to cook it too long, because then the chicken will start to get dry.

So then you just serve it up and eat.

tikka masala lovefood 005

Here it is just after cooking, over jasmine rice. Tikka masala has enough flavor that I didn’t want to do anything fancy with the rice. I put a little bit of butter into the water as it boiled, but otherwise the rice is just plain. Jasmine rice is my favorite and definitely my vote for pairing with tikka masala. Basmati rice would also be good.

And that’s all! It really is very easy to do, and you can experiment with any add-ins you’d like. It takes a little bit of time, but not all that much effort. Also makes great leftovers, tastes exactly the same warmed up the next day.

Lonely (Relaxing) Dining: Life Alive, Central Sq.


This morning I scheduled a massage to use my living social coupon. It was at 10am, which is usually a time when I’ve just gotten up and am introducing myself to the weekend, on Saturday mornings. I rarely leave the house that early on a weekend day. Only if I have a specific reason.

Since I was so close I decided to go to Life Alive afterward, which is an organic vegetarian eatery with AMAZING smoothies. I had a “Sufi Poet” salad (I have no idea why they call it that), which was light but substantial enough for me, with really good flavors, and reminded me how much I enjoy dried cranberries on salads. I also got a Coconut Alive smoothie, and it was just perfect.

I know this picture is dark. The lighting is very dim in the cozy corner where I was sitting for this meal.

I know this picture is dark. The lighting is very dim in the cozy corner where I was sitting for this meal.

So, I sat on one of their little loveseat benches and read my book while consuming this delicious food. I ordered a demi salad, and it was still a pretty good size. I don’t even think I could finish a full sized one. I’ve been wanting to try their other, cooked dishes. I really want to get The Fool. Anyone ever had it? Did you like it?

It was rainy today, and a little colder than I was prepared for (I didn’t have any socks on–oops), but not too bad, since the rain was that misty drizzle type that gets you a little damp at the most. Not like Friday, when it was pouring down all evening. Glad I wore boots then. So as I was walking between the massage place and central square, I was in a really good mood, despite being kind of cold. After my nice lunch I was still in a pretty good mood, although it was starting to rain a bit more. Shoe shopping was really the only thing to do before heading back home.

I went to DSW with a $10 coupon. I was looking for shoes I can wear to work, something fairly comfortable but nice and pretty, maybe a little different. The ones I found are bright green, so I think I succeeded there. I also got some stuff for play, because it was drastically reduced. There was a red leopard wallet the tag on which said “compare at $40.” I looked at it and thought, I would never pay $40 for this. You know how much I actually paid for it, according to my receipt? $7. So. Yeah.

Look for the red, 70% off tags in clearance, because DAMN.

Look for the red, 70% off tags in clearance, because DAMN.

 

If you think I saved that much and still paid a lot, think again…

As for cooking adventures, I haven’t been having them much lately. Nothing worth posting about anyway. I have a brief post to write about a stir-fry I made the other day, which was pretty good, but otherwise all I’ve been making is things like eggs, bagel sandwiches, salads, etc. No one wants to read about that. If you think you do, you’re wrong.

I’ve actually been feeling quite unenthusiastic about food lately. Not sure why. Every time I think I really want a particular thing, I usually decide not to because the more I consider it, the less sure I am that I want it. Most of my food choices lately have been solely based on money, and occasionally on going out to hang out with someone. The  only thing I’ve really been excited about, in general, is smoothies. I was really happy about going to Life Alive today, though, so that was something.

I got beans the last time I went shopping, intending to make chili before it got too hot to enjoy it, but then I lost interest. I think I’ll get more chicken and make tikka masala instead.

 

On Tasting Boxes and Who to Support


I mentioned in a post a while ago that I’d signed up for some tasting boxes. Love with Food was the first, and Goodies Co. was the second. So far I’ve had three Love with Food boxes (March-May) and one Goodies Co. Box (April).

Love with Food costs slightly more, but they give money to food-related charities with every box you buy, so that’s pretty much worth it. In terms of the foods you get, They both seem good, not that different, and in fact Love with Food seems a bit more creative in their choices. I also really like that they have a theme for every box. Because Goodies Co is in beta right now, I get “founder” status, which I thought was pretty cool (even though it means nothing).

The first thing about the Goodies Co box that I noticed was that the box itself was bigger. At first that was exciting, but really, doesn’t that just mean that Love with Food is wasting less trees? It didn’t seem like they actually sent more food.

It was when I received that box that I started thinking, oh, crap. Why? Because, right there on the return address, it said “Wal-mart.com.”

I went to the site, poked around, and discovered that yes, Goodies Co is organized/run/whatever by Walmart. They weren’t hiding it, but they certainly didn’t put it anywhere on the site I would have seen until I was looking for it.

I have never, ever been a fan of Walmart. I can’t explain exactly why, it just always put me off. The only times I remember actually going into the store was during college, when there was a location down the street and it was just easier to get there than to the real grocery store. You could find all kinds of random stuff there, and during college convenience often wins. But even then, I only went there a handful of times. And I don’t think I’ve been in one since.

I’m not saying that to brag about my avoidance of walmart (although I am quite proud of myself), but to let you know that they’re not a company I’m really interested in supporting. So when I found out that I’d signed up for a service provided by them, therefore making them money, I started to really consider whether I should keep that subscription. Then, this morning, I saw this article about Walmart posted on facebook. And I figurately almost threw up. My brain was throwing up. I mean, I wasn’t surprised, but still horrified. Why do huge companies think it’s ok to prioritize making and keeping the most money possible over building good relations with the people around them? The saddest thing is that Walmart manages to have any hourly employees at all, considering that stuff like this goes on, but jobs are scarce enough. I’m sure not all of them are really like this, but I would doubt many people really like working there.

So, without needing to know that every single Walmart employee experience is like this one, my desire to not associate with Walmart was strengthened. I cancelled my subscription. The May box already shipped this week, so I will get that box and then no more. Whatever benefits I get from it are not really worth spending my money at a business I dislike this much.

Before I head off, I would like to say that I am not telling YOU, reading this, not to subscribe to Goodies Co. or shop at Walmart. That is for you to decide. And I’m not telling you to subscribe to Love with Food either. I’m just giving you my thoughts and you can figure out yourself if you’re going to take any of my words to heart. If you want my recommendation, I think you can deduce from this post which one I think you should get.

Monday Madness: Sunday Madness


Coffee is winning the war of spilling vs. not spilling. By this I mean that I’ve been spilling a lot lately. My coffee this morning kept leaping out of the little hole in the lid, as it so often does. With all the advancements in science and materials and engineering, they still can’t make a coffee cup that actually keeps the coffee inside of it. I find this confusing.

Yesterday was SoWa Open Market Opening Weekend, and I brought my mom. We were slightly pressed for time and I was hungry and tired, so we ended up resolving that we would come back later in the summer. I still say it was too cold to be that crowded, because the wind made it feel much colder than it was. The point being that it was crowded: hence, Sunday Madness.

First, I had it in my head to try to grab some lunch from the food trucks, but the whole food truck area was so crowded and confusing, it was almost impossible to tell where the lines actually started, and I gave up without getting any food from them. It was very upsetting. We ended up buying a scone each at one of the food booths, and they were very tasty. Mine was lemon basil. I have never had basil in a scone.

It was a little better once we got to what I consider the main area, which is all the art/merchandise vendors. We strolled and browsed. I contemplated buying some awesome vintage/steampunk inspired jewelry from Emry’s Finery, where over a year ago I got the locket I wear almost every day, and I found one artist who made many pieces I desperately wanted for my walls. His name is Nathan William Murrell. He said he would be back at SoWa later in the summer, so hopefully I’ll have some bucks to spare by then and I can satisfy my need for paintings of anatomically correct hearts.

As we wound our way through the tents and the people walking very very slowly, I saw a booth with a sign that said “black magic coffee co.,” and I really felt the need for some coffee. The line wasn’t too long, so we stood and waited for the coffee artist to deliver caffeine to our mouths. We both got cappuccinos, and I was satisfied. Unfortunately they do not have a brick and mortar store, but I was informed that they will be at the Market on Sundays at least most weekends. I recommend checking them out, as long as you have the patience to wait in line a while.

There was much to see and much to buy, and I didn’t actually buy anything this time, but I intend to go again as soon as it’s feasible, and if I’m lucky I’ll have some money to spend.

Now it’s back to work of course, but before I go back to toiling over manuscripts I have to acknowledge my awesome Saturday night. I went to see my favorite band play at Ralph’s Diner in Worcester. They are The Blackboard Nails and I just love them more every time I hear them. If you’re in Boston, New York, or certain parts of Canada, there’s a good chance they’ll be playing in your area at some point, so check them out.

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