February Birchbox review March 7, 2014Posted by bettyjoan in Pretty.
add a comment
I have really enjoyed my Birchboxes since I started the subscription service back in September of last year. Unfortunately, February 2014 represented the first “bust” box. Here’s what I got:
I haven’t even used the Bain de Terre shampoo and conditioner yet, since I figured I would pack them for one of my upcoming trips, AND I am pretty doggone loyal to Bumble & Bumble. So, I cannot comment on the product, but I will give Birchbox props for some pretty substantial sample sizes here.
The perfume, a Joan Vass scent, was okay but not great. I am currently using a variety of perfumes that I love (and that I can switch around based on my mood), so it would be unlikely for me to buy another anyway.
The Previse HydroMilk I actually really liked – the lotion was non-greasy, and it had a wonderful scent (a light lavender). However, I had to giggle when I went online to read more about it – turns out it’s a hand/body lotion, but I was using it on my face! Now that I know what its purpose actually is, I probably won’t buy it – my face is the place where I’ll spend a bit more for a quality moisturizer.
I am SO TIRED of getting nail polish in my boxes. This one is supposedly a color-changing variety, but I don’t know how long it will be till I actually try it out. In the summer, I am much more likely to splurge for a mani-pedi, but since it has been permanently polar up here lately, I wish I could try more makeup/skincare instead of nail colors.
So, I guess they can’t all be winners – I still love Birchbox, but I am hoping that March brings more fun surprises that I will be excited to share with you!
Product review: the Basis B1 activity tracker February 28, 2014Posted by bettyjoan in Running, Uncategorized.
Tags: Activity tracking, Product reviews, Running, Walking, Weight loss
add a comment
The men in my office had a little wager going during the holidays, to see who could drop the most weight (don’t even get me started on whose bright idea it was to do a weight loss challenge during the heaviest eating season of the year – needless to say, I did not participate). Most of them invested in FitBits to track their steps – they were an army of wristbanded crusaders, they were!
At the time, I was thinking about getting activity trackers for myself and hubby, but the FitBit just didn’t do anything for me. It couldn’t tell the difference between walking steps and running steps, and the reviews indicated that it was a pain to have to maneuver to the screens because they are teeny tiny (though, to be fair, so is the band itself). Yeah, even before there was a recall, I was looking for something more. I eventually settled on the Basis, though I honestly cannot remember how I found out about it.
According to the website, here’s what’s behind Basis:
Basis is much more than a personal health tracking device. It’s a system. A system based on exhaustive research and insight to how we can be our best for the long haul. A system created with the most advanced personal tracking technology on the market to provide the most detailed data possible. And a system that can interpret that data, give you insight and translate it into simple actions you can take every day. So that you can meet the demands of today’s world. So you can develop and discover the super human in you.
I haven’t yet found my inner super human, but for the most part, Basis delivers on the technology front. I love love LOVE that I can get heart rate data without having to wear a chest strap, and in my experience, the device has been accurate regarding step counts and determining whether I am walking or running. It is supposed to be able to tell when I am cycling, but I have only tried it once, so I’m not 100% sure about the accuracy there – to be continued, when the weather improves! I have really enjoyed looking at the sleep data – it’s so interesting to compare how I feel in the morning with how well (or not…) I slept during the night, and you don’t have to tell the Basis when you are going to sleep, like you have to do with the FitBit (it figures it out on its own using heart rate and perspiration indicators). I also definitely appreciate that you can sync the device with a mobile app via Bluetooth or on your computer by plugging into the USB cable:
So far, the only technology-related negative is that there have been some sync-ing issues. The sensors on the cradle don’t always line up easily, which affects the device’s ability to sync, and recently there have also been some network/system issues that have impacted sync-ability for days at a time (which has meant that I don’t wear the device as much).
The biggest con of the Basis is its look/size:
It is very large, and not stylish at all. In normal work attire, it doesn’t bother me as much, but when I am actually trying to look cute and fashionable and chic? Yeah, I don’t want any part of it. They just came out with a newer model that has a steel “frame” around the face, which seems to slim down the profile a bit and make it look more like a watch.
I am still on the fence about the whole Basis “system” of habits. Basically, the website/app tracks different habits, such as “Wear It” (which encourages you to, duh, wear the device for a certain number of hours a day), “Step It Up” (which wants you to take 10,000 steps in a day), and “Consistent Bedtime” (I think y’all can figure that one out). I mean, yes, I like to see when I have achieved a habit, which rewards me with points, which are redeemable for more habits to track, but I’m still not sure how well that works for me as a long-term motivator. Perhaps when spring and summer are here and I am walking/running/cycling more overall, I will be more successful and enjoy the overall approach more.
All in all, I think the Basis was a good purchase, and I would recommend it for folks who are interested in tracking activities in a bit more detail than with the FitBit. I will try to write a follow-up when we get to a point in the year when I am outside and active more!
I want to ride my bicycle February 24, 2014Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling.
Tags: Commuting, Cycling, DC
add a comment
So, I have always had a…tortured relationship with cycling. I know it’s good for me AND low impact (which is a nice change of pace from running), but other than in a triathlon setting, I have never felt particularly comfortable on my road bike. Especially in DC, I feel like I need something a bit more stable and with a lower center of gravity, since there is a lot of stopping and starting and you are battling cars (and buses, and taxis…) for space on the roads.
I enjoy my Bikeshare membership, of course, and the bikes definitely make me feel more safe out on the roads. The downside is that they are HEAVY, which means I work three times as hard to go the same distance. Also, they only have three speeds, so I am hesitant to travel in the hillier areas of town.
With all of that in mind, hubby and I headed to The Daily Rider this past weekend to check out their selection and ask some questions. I took a few bikes out for test rides, and the one I liked best was the Breezer Downtown 8:
This bike felt sturdy but comfortable, and it was so easy and pleasant to ride (and I didn’t feel like I was sitting on the couch, like some of the other step-through commuters). At $699, I think it is worth the price. However, I have never had internal gears before – do the pros (cleaner, smoother, less maintenance) outweigh the cons (heavier, more expensive, tougher to change tires)?
There is also a 5-speed version of the Downtown step-through that is cheaper ($569), but I wonder if I would miss the additional gear options if I’m doing a longer or hillier ride. Also, there is an 8-speed Downtown that has external gears that is the least expensive of the three ($449), but I didn’t get to test ride it, and I’m not sure how the ride/shifting would be impacted by the external derailleur. Then again, I’ve had the external stuff on my road bike for years, and it really didn’t bother me (my issues with my road bike were more about fit and weight).
Does anyone have any advice? I’d love to get an order in before the spring weather arrives for good.
Two by two January 27, 2014Posted by bettyjoan in Running.
Tags: Brrr, DC, Marathon, Rock & Roll USA, TNT is awesome
add a comment
Two pairs of pants. Two pairs of socks. Two shirts. Two jackets. Two hats.
That was my wardrobe for my long run yesterday. In case you couldn’t tell, it was a wee bit chilly!
We were originally supposed to run on local trails/paths, starting at Fletcher’s Boathouse in Georgetown, but apparently everything was still iced over. So, we started at the Senate reflecting pool (at Penn and 3rd) and did 4-mile loops along the mall. Most of the route was clear because it was on public sidewalks, but there was still plenty of ice in the areas that don’t get as much sun and traffic. Needless to say, it was more of an obstacle course than I would have preferred!
When it was all said and done, I got about 10 miles in, and even with 8/2 intervals I maintained a sub-12-minute pace. Not too shabby, considering that I tweaked my calf the weekend before, AND the week leading up to the long run was less-than-ideal from a training perspective.
Oh, and I felt like a total badass.
January Birchbox review January 25, 2014Posted by bettyjoan in Pretty, Uncategorized.
Tags: Beauty, Birchbox, Uncategorized
1 comment so far
I was out of town on a business trip when my most recent Birchbox was delivered, so I was extra excited to dive into the samples.
You can probably guess which item got sampled first – I love it when Birchbox sends chocolate goodies! I got the honey version of the Chuao ChocoPod, and it was delicious. I don’t think it was out of the box for 2 minutes before I had devoured it.
The only product I haven’t tried yet is the Color Club Cocktail Hour polish, in Top Shelf. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed to see this sample – a couple of months ago, I got the On The Rocks shade, and it was fine but nothing special. The website said that we were supposed to get a color from the Harlem Lights collection, which I would have preferred. Oh, well.
My favorite sample was definitely the Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré (24-Hour Miracle Cream).
It was such good timing to get an amazing moisturizer, since it has been colder than cold in DC lately. This cream is very powerful, but it still manages to feel light and not greasy at all. I loved it even before I knew that it doubles as a makeup remover! I will definitely be buying this product when my current moisturizer runs out. This is exactly why I adore Birchbox – you can really find your next go-to product at any moment!
The Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle was a pleasant surprise. I thought nothing could outdo my B&B Prep spray, but this absolutely did. It’s thicker than I was expecting, but it didn’t weigh my hair down at all. And the smell? AMAZING. I’m going to continue using it and make sure I really love it before I switch, but right now I’m thinking I have a new standard.
Finally, another perfect-for-winter product – the Dr. Lipp Nipple Balm for lips (yeah, the name could use some work). This is a very thick balm, so I think I would mostly wear it overnight. However, I am going to try it over some of my matte lipsticks to see if it adds any moisture and/or staying power. I’m not sold on this product yet, but we shall see.
Are any of you Birchbox subscribers? What did you think of January’s selections?
Failure to launch January 21, 2014Posted by bettyjoan in Fundraising, Races, Running.
Tags: DC, Fundraising, Marathon, Training challenges
add a comment
You may have noticed that the Nike Women’s Half Marathon is no longer on my “Upcoming Races” list. I originally signed up with Team In Training to do both the Rock & Roll USA Marathon and Nike as fundraising events. But since Jason and I have had a lot more trouble raising the funds for RNR than we anticipated, I concluded that it just isn’t realistic to raise the additional funds that would allow me to do Nike. Even though I definitely think it’s the right decision, I am bummed, especially since the lottery period has ended so I don’t have another way to sign up for the race.
We have never had this much trouble fundraising before. We have done TONS of events with TNT, raising thousands and thousands of dollars for a cause that is very important to us. I haven’t quite put my finger on what has been different this time around, but I have some theories, and I suspect it’s a combination of a couple of factors.
We will certainly be adjusting our approach going forward, but for now, we are still looking forward to RNR. Our training hasn’t been perfect, but we are hoping to still be ready for the full marathon. If things don’t work out, we’ll definitely still do the half.
Since Nike is off the table, does anyone have suggestions for good half marathons in the April-May timeframe? Also, has anyone planned to do a marathon but switched to the half at the last minute? If so, why? Were you disappointed?
All that glitters: Rent the Runway review January 21, 2014Posted by bettyjoan in Pretty.
Tags: Beauty, Fashion, Special occasions, Uncategorized
add a comment
I have previously expressed my love for Rent the Runway, but I actually just wore my first of their dresses. One of my best girlfriends was having a birthday, and she encouraged everyone to get dolled up and bust out the sequins – I didn’t need any convincing! Here’s the dress I ended up renting, and here’s a pic of me with the birthday girl:
The whole RTR process is awesome. When you order, you specify when you want your dress(es) to arrive (they recommend at least one day before your event), and they show up right on time and very nicely packaged in RTR garment bags, which you get to keep. There are also samples in the box – this time, I got some shampoo/conditioner/hair mask samples from L’Oreal.
If available, you get to choose two sizes for your primary dress. So, for this sparkly number, I asked for a 6 and an 8, and the 8 ended up feeling more comfortable. Also, you can choose a second dress for a reduced amount, which is great if you have multiple events in the same weekend, or if you change your mind about what you want to wear. I loved the second dress I ordered as well, but I didn’t have another occasion that weekend – BUT, it’s nice to know which size fits, so I can snatch it for another time.
If nothing fits (which happened to me on NYE), you can either call the RTR folks and they will work to rush another dress to you, OR you can send it back within a shorter timeframe and get a credit (which is what I did).
If your rental works out and you wear the dress(es), you just send them back on your specified date (you can choose a 4- or 8-day rental, and obviously the latter is more expensive), in the pre-paid, pre-labeled UPS envelope. So easy!
Normally, RTR charges for shipping and insurance for each rental. However, you can join their “PRO” program for $29.95 a year, and you get free shipping/insurance on all rentals AND a free dress on your birthday! I joined as soon as I heard about it, and it pretty much has already paid for itself. And, clearly, it’s good for RTR because I will order more often knowing that I don’t have those extra costs (it makes rental more attractive as opposed to buying).
Interested in RTR? Click my referral link, and you’ll get a $20 credit when you complete your first rental.
Golden (Globes) Girls January 18, 2014Posted by bettyjoan in Pretty, Uncategorized.
Tags: Beauty, Celebrities, Fashion, Uncategorized
add a comment
I know it has been nearly a week since the first award show of the season, but I have to say my piece about my favorite looks. Overall, I felt that the fashion was good at the Golden Globes this year – there weren’t too many really horrible moments. However, I had two favorites, and I really can’t decide which one takes first place.
Julianna Margulies just took my breath away in this gown. It was sexy, age-appropriate, fashion-forward, and she looked absolutely radiant in it. SO flattering and elegant, but it’s still fun. Absolutely brilliant. And did you see her hair???
LOVE. I mean, what’s not to like about this? It was polished, but still loose enough for the less-formal vibe of the Globes.
And then there’s this…
BAM. Now THAT is how you dress for an awards show when you are pregnant. Instead of trying to hide the baby bump and winding up looking like a balloon (ahem…Drew Barrymore), Olivia Wilde accentuated her curves and looked insanely sexy. Her hair and makeup were spectacular, and the color of this dress was stunning. A lot of people were saying that it was risky to do a long-sleeved green sequined dress (because of Angelina Jolie’s iconic pick back in 2011), but I frankly think this look takes the cake and sets a new standard for expectant mothers on the red carpet.
What did you think about the Golden Globes this year? Who were your favorites on the red carpet?
That’s my goal January 11, 2014Posted by bettyjoan in Uncategorized.
Tags: Goals, Training challenges
add a comment
One of my fitness goals for the new year was to do SOMETHING active every day for the whole month of January. The idea was just to spend at least 30 minutes of every day walking, running, cross-training, doing yoga, cycling, or doing jumping jacks in my living room – counting out any walking that was a part of my daily commute.
So far, so good – it is January 10, and I haven’t missed a day. I’m actually pretty surprised – it is harder than it sounds, especially when the weather is crummy. Yes, it helps that I am training for a marathon, so I automatically have an incentive to get moving. But keeping the streak alive is a separate motivator – which is kind of the whole point. Here’s hoping I can keep it going next week when I am out of town.
In order to track our activity and give us that added boost, husband and I bought and started wearing Basis devices. I will post a more thorough review once I’ve had it for a little bit longer, but I already like it better than other trackers on the market (FitBit, for example) because it can tell the difference between activities and you don’t have to tell it when you are asleep. It has given me some interesting information about my habits, and I think it definitely provides a push, since every time I look at it, I am reminded of my activity and training goals. It’s like an instant guilt trip!
The biggest problem? The Basis is really ugly – like an old-school 80s Swatch watch. So, it interferes with some of my beauty and fashion-related goals – isn’t it funny how exercise/sports can easily do that? – but I am working on finding a good balance between the two.
How do you find balance between your athletic side and your other interests?
Running out of time December 30, 2013Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling, Races, Running.
Tags: Goals, Reflection
add a comment
When I sat down and began reflecting upon 2013 in terms of training and racing, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. Sure, I ran a half-marathon, a ten-miler, and a 10K, but they were some of my slowest races to date. AND I backed out of the triathlon I was planning on doing in April. I gained weight. I didn’t incorporate exercise into my daily routine in as meaningful a way as I had in the past. Overall, I felt like the year was…I don’t know…wasted?
Then again, this past year, I moved my career and my family and my LIFE to Washington, DC. That kind of change is bound to take the wind out of your sails for a while, right?
On balance, while I may not have made as much progress in my training as I would have hoped in 2013, I think I made some important strides. I joined Team In Training in DC and started working to build a new legacy of fundraising and racing for an amazing cause. I started cycling to/from the office, when the weather permitted. I definitely led a more active lifestyle in general, since we rarely drove and did a lot of wonderful walking with our pupster.
And, when I did run, I got views like this:
And, of course, this:
So, I guess I’ll take it. I won’t write 2013 completely off, but I will definitely strive to improve in 2014. I would love to run the Rock & Roll USA Marathon in March in under five hours. I’d love to run a sub-two hour half marathon at the Nike Women’s Half in April. I’d love to join some other area running groups and build my training AND social circles. I’d love to up my cycling game, not only by biking more, but also by moving from my bikeshare bike to my road bike for everyday commuting.
What are YOUR training goals for 2014?