Friday, January 15, 2016

These are the Things We Fight About


Billy's band plays Cleveland tonight. I'm going to miss him!

Cleveland is a 2.5 hour drive, so I told him he should trade cars with me this weekend. My car is newer, can hold more guitars, and is more reliable. He said we'd discuss that idea later.

So, this morning, I kissed him goodbye and started to leave for the day -- in his car.

Billy wouldn't hear of it. His car, he said, wasn't reliable enough for me to drive to work.

I fought back. "But I'd rather have it break down for me, here in Pittsburgh, than for you, far away in Cleveland. You can't put all your guitars and amps on a tow truck!"

But Billy wouldn't budge. He wasn't going to drive my new car.

We fought about it for a while.

Eventually, I gave in. I knew that there was zero chance that my husband would ever, EVER, let me drive away in an unreliable car.

That's just the kind of man he is.

It's the same way he refuses to eat the last serving of food -- ever. We'll fight about how full we are and who should finish dinner, until he finally packs up the leftovers for me to eat for lunch the next day.

Billy is steadfast. He always puts me first.

I dated enough men to know how very, very rare this quality is. And now, I appreciate it with all my heart. Maybe best of all, it makes me take a critical eye to my own actions. Would I do the same for him? I think I would. I hope so.

But just to make sure, I make his coffee every day, and I have his breakfast ready for him, and I do whatever else I can think of in an earnest attempt to even the score.

May neither of us ever win.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Confession: My House Scares the Crap Out of Me

These are things people say to you when you rent your home:
  • You're throwing money away.
  • Your home never really feels like it's yours.
  • There's no security in renting.
  • Your rent costs more than my mortgage!!!!
Yeah, I know. I heard it all. I rented for 11 years. Because renting enabled me to set a fixed budget and live somewhat high on the hog while I socked money away. Instead of buying a modest starter home, I moved into a big, fancy apartment. Unburdened by a leaking roof or failing gutters, I always had money for vacations and happy hour.

My rent did cost more than some people's mortgage. But I didn't pay for gas, water, sewage, taxes, home insurance, loan interest, garbage, appliances, maintenance, repairs, or things like a lawnmower/shovel/rake, windows, furnaces, air conditioners, emergency plumber visits, and lots of other seriously expensive stuff.

And, I never once shoveled a snowy sidewalk, raked a pile of leaves, or unclogged a drain. I worried not about hot water heaters or burst pipes. Who cared if there was only one dirty dish in the dishwasher? I ran the whole cycle! That's the wonderful freedom I paid for.

But eventually, it was time to move. I married a wonderful man. He came with lots of stuff. We adopted a very noisy Beagle. We hated Mozart Management, our landlords. So after a long search, we found the perfect house. Since we'd always lived on a budget, we had a nice down payment. We bought that house, and we love it.

So ... where's this sense of security everyone kept talking about?

Home ownership is the scariest thing I've ever done.

Here are the things I worry about every single day:
  • Did I lock the doors before I left home today?
  • What about the garage door? Oh my god. I might have left it open.
  • Did I turn everything off? I bet I didn't. Something's going to start a fire. The house has probably already burned down.
  • Speaking of ... how old is our wiring? How much does wiring cost?  
  • Houses get older every day. It is DETERIORATING AS I TYPE THIS. I need to do ... things ... to it!
  • The upstairs is hot but the downstairs is freezing and the gas bill is going to be huge.  
  • Probably because we need new windows. And a new furnace. Oh, god.
  • And I DEFINITELY shouldn't take such long, luxurious showers.
  • NEW THIS WINTER! Did snow fall on our sidewalk? If someone slips and falls on it, can they really sue us? Did we buy enough salt?
  • ALSO NEW: So what does this mean, "burst pipe?" 
  • And so on.  

Anxiety aside, I do love our house. It is so pretty. It is just right for us.

And I do like the feeling that if we want to stay there forever, we can.

My husband can play guitar as loud as he wants. And our dog can bark as ferociously (and incessantly) as she wants.

I don't have to hide my cat  from the landlord anymore (eff you, Mozart!). In fact, we can consider more cats or more Beagles if we want!

This will never happen to me again:

Housekeeping Inspection from Mozart Management. This is no joke.

-- and -- this is big -- I love my laundry chute! (I don't know why we, as a people, decided to start carrying our laundry down stairs in modern times. This was a terrible mistake.)

We really bought a house.

So tomorrow, when I get home, it will happen again. I will stand in front of my house, the biggest thing we ever bought, the biggest responsibility we ever took on, and I will fill with sheer panic.

But also pride. And love. Because fears aside, it is our best adventure yet.

Or at least, that is what I will say if you ask me. Because I do love our house.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Moving Away From Animal Testing: A Cruelty-Free Morning Routine


Recently, I stepped up my efforts to create a cruelty-free home. I wanted to see if it was possible to switch all of my products to brands that don't test on animals.

I'm really excited to report that:

  • It's easier than I thought it would be! I realized that there are plenty of cruelty-free products at normal stores that perform just as well as the products I used to buy.
  • It's cheaper than I thought it would be.
    Some of my new favorite brands are saving me money.
I'd like to help you create a cruelty-free home, too. So, here's a blog about my new morning routine and the great products you can turn to. Next time, I'll post a cruelty-free cleaning routine.

But first, here's why you should care about animal testing:

  • It's unnecessary.
    There are plenty of safe, cruelty-free brands that prove this.
  • It inflicts unthinkable torture on animals -- even dogs and cats. Test animals are forced to live in cages. Chemicals are dripped into their eyes, injected into their bodies, or forced up their noses or down their throats. They suffer burns, infections, blindness, pain, and loneliness. Laws that protect pets do not apply to them -- although beloved breeds like Beagles are used for animal testing!


You don't have to take part in this. But unfortunately, if you're not paying attention, you probably are funding the cruelty, because the most popular brands tend to test on animals.

Make the switch.

Here's an easy and affordable cruelty-free morning.

NOTE: There are PLENTY more cruelty-free products on the market. If you download the free Cruelty Cutter app, you can scan products at the store to see whether or not their brand tests on animals. These are just the ones I've tested and recommended for you! If you have other recommendations, post them in the comments!


  • Body Wash: Alba Botanica Very Emollient smells great and is super creamy for dry skin. If you like a bubbly lather better than a creamy mousse, try Jason brand. I like the apricot. You can get these at most grocery stores, Amazon, and sometimes TJ Maxx and Marshalls.

  • Face: I love Alba Botanica's face washes. I'm using their Acnedote Deep Pore Wash, which is slightly minty and has a refreshing zing! It smells great.
    Update! I've had some break-outs since writing this blog, so I've sprung for Humane Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Acne Treatment, which is like an animal-friendly Proactiv.
    Also, my friend Amy sells Rodan and Fields, which is cruelty-free.

  • Shampoo and Conditioner: My husband (who has amazing, luxurious, long curly hair) turned me on to sexyhair. Now we both have nice hair. :)  Sometimes, I like to switch to Bliss Supershine Shampoo because it smells delicious, like real lemons.
    UPDATE: I  started using Shea Moisture Curl & Shine and it is giving me seriously good hair days. 

  • Shaving: Dollar Shave Club ships cruelty-free blades to my house every month, and they're WAY cheaper than the grocery store brands! Check them out by using my personal referral link, please! Blades start at $3 per month. I spring for the Executive blades, which are still cheap at $9 per month. They sell products like creams and gels, too.

Personal Care
  • Deodorant: When it comes to deodorant, I'm also concerned about toxic ingredients. I like Crystal Essence brand because it's clear. Tom's of Maine has an antiperspirant and a deodorant that work for me, too. UPDATE: A friend who is an avid runner and attends spin classes recommends Schmidt's Naturals and says it keeps her dry! She likes the bergamot-lime scent.

  • Toothpaste and Tooth Brush: I been using Tom's of Maine toothpaste for at least 15 years, and I've never had a single cavity. (I'll note here that Tom's is owned by Colgate, which does test on animals. As a consumer, I feel like I'm creating a market for cruelty-free by shopping Colgate's cruelty-free line, but you can decide how you feel about that.)
    Don't forget to make sure your toothbrush is cruelty-free, too. I like the Preserve toothbrush, which is made of recycled plastic and is available at Trader Joe's and some grocery stores.
    UPDATE: I started using Dr. Bronner's toothpaste instead of Tom's and I love it. Check it out here.
  • Tampons: Natracare and Seventh Generation are great. I just learned about Lola, which ships cotton tampons to your house every month and doesn't use animal testing. I'm going to check them out!

  • Lotions and Hand Cream: There are tons of options if you look. Right now I'm using Alba Botanica, and a great pomegranate body butter by Trader Joe's! They have lots of great cruelty-free products for your face, skin, and hair. I found a purse-sized bottle of Shea Moisture Brightening Body Lotion at Target. It's thick and creamy, has lots of organic ingredients (including mushroom extract!) and works great.

  • Contact Lenses: I just ordered my first box of Clear Conscience contact solution. It has great reviews, so I have high hopes for it.
    UPDATE: Clear Conscience did not work well for me. But since then, I realized that Top Care, which is available at Giant Eagle, and Equate, available at Wal-Mart, make inexpensive and cruelty-free contact solutions!

Hair and Make-Up
  • Styling Products: I use TRENDStarter styling paste. It's cheaper than the salon version and it works. TRENDStarter has lots of cruelty-free products.
    Update: Now I use Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie, available at Giant Eagle, Ulta, and TJ Maxx, because I want to avoid parabens. Check it out!

  • Hairspray: Try TRENDStarter or splurge on the more expensive sexyhair.

  • Face: ULTA's house brand doesn't test on animals! I've been using their foundation stick to cover under-eye circles.
    Update: I've been treating myself to nice powder and concealer from Younique, and I really like it. Check it out!
  • Eyes: I've been using ULTA's house brand, especially the eyeshadow cream because it goes on like a stain and lasts all day. You need to try the eyeshadow primer by Elf, which you can grab for a dollar at Target.

  • Nails: My search for cruelty-free lead me to my two favorite kinds of nail polish! Remember Wet n Wild, from when you were little? It turns out their nail polish lasts a really long time without chipping, costs a buck or two, and doesn't test on animals!
    I also like Julep, although their bottles are very tiny. They have really pretty colors.

  • Lips: I'm completely obsessed with lip gloss. Right now my favorites are this chocolate lavender balm by Dagoba/Eco Lips and anything by Alaffia. Una Biologicals is a Pittsburgh-based line with lots of wonderful stuff, especially their smooth and glossy Chocolicious lip balm with a hit of mint. I wear Lip Smacker every day too. I used to like the little round EOS pods, but I'm sad to learn that they test on animals so that they can sell their products in China. Shame on them.


One more note: Brands change their stance on animal testing all the time. Lots of products I used to use in high school now test on animals, and some brands I used to boycott are now cruelty-free. It's a good idea to scan products with the Cruelty Cutter app for the latest info, even if I've suggested them in this blog.

I've purposely posted photos that aren't too hard to look at. If you do your research, you'll see examples of HORRIFIC torture on animals. Please join me and go cruelty-free! It's easy!