Quarantine snack regrets

For the first time in my life, I’m going to admit that I have some very serious regrets.

Most, if not all, of these regrets are in regards to my snack purchasing decisions prior to the Stay-At-Home orders. To be clear, I’m not hurting for snack packs. We live in a big house in the suburbs with a full basement. So, like, there are always back-up snacks for the back-up snacks. I didn’t need to go out and hoard a bunch of food when everyone was hoarding a bunch of food…because I was already hoarding a bunch of food. I buy my canned goods when they’re on super sale (like 33 cents a can or something like that), and I usually buy enough beans, tomatoes and corn to make 2-3 big batches of chili, which I did in, like, November. I also get a ton of snacks and jarred goods at an annual warehouse sale. So we’re good.

But I also went to the store before things got too crazy and picked up a few less-than-essentials. Brian got a giant jug of salsa and huge bag of tortilla chips. I spent $50 on fancy cheese and sparkling water at Whole Foods and got some packaged cookies that I thought would be delicious.

Waterloo sparkling water and cheese from Whole Foods
No complaints here. I know that these are all magic.

Unfortunately for me, I was so very wrong about the cookies. I like weird flavors and trying new things, especially Oreos, so when I saw Caramel chocolate coconut, I was like OMG CARMEL DELIGHTS! YES YES YES. But when I opened the package on Day 2 of self-isolation, I was hit with the disappointment of disgusting cookies. They tasted like burnt coffee with fake coconut flavor, and it was horrible.

No matter, I thought! I have these strawberry shortcake Fudge Stripe cookies, which will clearly suffice. I opened those up to discover, much to my dismay, that they were equally disappointing. These tasted like Nestle Strawberry syrup in skim milk, but in cookie form.

These now replace my first adult visit to the Mars Cheese Castle as the biggest disappointment of my life.

I’ve also regretted not purchasing a big bag of Cheetos Puffs (if you prefer crunchy, which we have in the aforementioned storage basement in jalapeno form, you don’t know my struggle). And Fritos. I really want some freakin’ Fritos.

At some point, I’ll have to go out to the store again. We are running a little low on the important things – mainly vegetables (I’ll bet you thought I was going to say cheese, but we never run low on that). And when I do, you can bet your ass that I’ve already got lemon oreos (my favorite) Fritos, and Cheetos puffs on the list.

Hi guys, please note that this is in no way, shape, or form meant to deter from the heaviness that comes with the current COVID-19 pandemic. I only hope to make you chuckle or at least smile at some silliness, because we all need it. That being said, if you do not have to go to work, STAY THE FUCK HOME. If you go to the grocery store, shop for a couple weeks and then STAY THE FUCK HOME. If you have to take care of family or pets or medical care, obviously do what you need to do, and then STAY THE FUCK HOME.

I know that I, like many of you, love someone or many someones who is or are considered (an) essential worker(s). Some of you are essential workers yourselves. From medical personnel to factory workers, from law enforcement to restaurant staff, from gas and groceries to car service and utilities, anyone who is working their butts off deserves our gratitude and for us to STAY THE FUCK HOME. Because they/you need to work, the collective we need to do everything we can to protect them.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Social distancing activities to keep you entertained

Welp, we’re all on self isolation lock down until further notice. If you’re already going stir crazy, it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.

As an extrovert, I’m doing my best to maintain social distancing, which is hard when you’re a natural hugger. I’ve already cried a dozen times, like when I told my dad that I was probably staying home for the next two weeks instead of watching the rest of the MCU movies live and in person with him.

I had planned to do a couple improv shows before this social isolation thing, but something about the best laid plans…am I right? So my last hurrah was more of a whimper than a bang, and now we’re on day one million (my counting may be off by a few days) of hunkered down and waiting…hoping we don’t run out of eggs.

But without all of the fun out and about activities usually on my radar, I’m hitting up my go-to stay-at home activities (and also eating all my quarantine snack packs), usually reserved for winter hibernation, not this time of year when everything starts waking up in the spring.

Here are a few things we’re doing to maintain our sanity in the midst of mass hysteria.

FYI: There are a lot of links here. I spent time curating them, and many of them are affiliate links. No one is paying me to share this information, but any purchase you make through these links could earn me a small commission at zero cost to you.

Small group, couple, and family quarantine activities

Movie and TV marathons

Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Videos are all my favorite things right now. Even when I’m mad at Netflix for phoning it in.

My dad actually broke his leg a few months ago, so he’s already stuck in the house (which, to be honest, I’m rather grateful for). And I recently got him started on the Infinity Saga, and we’re on a magical Daddy-Chrissy movie journey of joy. I’m introducing my dad to the most epic cinematic event in movie history. Obviously, we’re watching in the AMC chronological order Brian and I followed last year leading up to End Game. Of course, because we live in different households, I’m trying to convince him to watch the movies at the same time and then call to talk about them…I kinda hope he warms up to the idea sooner than later…because I really want to keep going. But not without Papa Bear.

If we’re being honest here, I’m about 3 days from adding my parents’ house to my quarantine zone. Brian and I have been really great about self-isolation, but I am going stir crazy, and I need my family. 

You can also binge watch TV shows or other movie series options, like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, James Bond…you know whatever floats your boat. Brian and I just started True Blood (again for me, and mostly a first for B), and some of our current faves include Westworld and The Magicians. It’s also a great time to start the Doctor Who journey (I recommend starting with Christopher Eccleston).

Board games

Games are our go-to for entertainment, we’ve been playing Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition and Betrayal Legacy lately. We also just bought Pandemic Legacy because it felt topically appropriate. But those big games may be out of your budget – especially if you had to buy toilet paper on the black market for eleventy billion dollars.

board game collection
Just a few games in our arsenal of boredom busters

Here are a few of my favorite games under $50 that will bring you hours and hours of entertainment.

  • Betrayal at the House on the Hill $30; 3-6 players (haunted mansion, cooperative with a traitor, super fun)
  • Mysterium $43; 2-7 players (haunted mansion, cooperative, storytelling element)
  • Sagrada $30; 1-4 players (visually beautiful, competitive puzzley game, single-player option for those of us who may have to play games by ourselves or play games with our dogs)
  • Castle Panic $26; 1-6 players (cooperative tower defense game with a single-player option)
  • Ticket to Ride $45; 2-5 players (competitive area control game, super easy to learn and play)
  • Tokaido $33; 2-5 players (competitive set collection game; gorgeous design)
  • 7 Wonders $40; 3-7 players (competitive card drafting game; I really love this one)
  • Pandemic $40; 2-4 players (Cooperative area control game; this might be too real right now…)

Want more suggestions? Check out these gaming gift guides and suggestion lists for some more of my favorites.

Hunt a Killer

Guys, we have been puzzling through our first Hunt a Killer season and LOVING it. We did receive this six-episode subscription box in order to tell you about it, and it is so awesome.

Hunt a Killer subscription box
This is the first box. Inside the envelope is a variety of letters and information to help us crack the case. The attention to detail is impressive.

Each box has a letter from the private investigator, a number of well-crafted clues and pieces of evidence (including receipts, cards, containers, letters, and even a small yearbook), investigation report details (witness statements, coroner’s report, 911 transcripts, etc), little gifts like enamel pins, and access to parts of an investigation website with more digital clues. It’s incredibly detailed and well thought out.

Hunt a Killer murder board
We built a “murder board” on an easel to collect clues and piece together evidence and it has been a riot.

For less than the cost of a few movie tickets, we get a couple of hours of enjoyment and distraction. There are six boxes to a full season. You can do a single box and still eliminate a suspect, but you won’t solve the full murder and find out whodunnit unless you go for all six. You can get the boxes monthly, you can ship the next one right after finishing the previous box, and now, to help get you through the coronapocalypse, they’re shipping full seasons to your door in one fell swoop. (We only let ourselves solve one box at a time for prolonged enjoyment, but I can also picture us spending an entire day solving all six and finishing the case!

Solo activities

Quarantined to your place by yourself or surrounded by your fur babies? Afraid you’re going to start hosting tea parties for your plushies? Or off work, while your partner/roommate/spouse/parent/etc is working their tail off so they can keep their job when this pandemic turns into a full-blown economic crash? Here are a few things you can do on your own without rage posting on Facebook.

Go for a walk

Just make sure that if you see a human, you politely wave at them before you turn in the opposite direction. It’s the polite way to socially distance yourself.

Get lost in a good book

Here are a few great books I’ve read recently that devoured me completely.

Puzzles and Lego sets

Uh yes, I have a grown-up princess castle Lego set that I’m going to put together this week. I also have some of these crystal 3-D puzzles that are super fun (and inexpensive). I’m also thinking of ordering a few 1000+ piece puzzles to keep my brain occupied when I need to mentally detox from social media, which I will.

Grown-up coloring

I love coloring — it’s terrible for my back because I hunch over a coffee table to do it, but there are some really wonderful adult coloring books out there. My favorite is You Are Here, by Jenny Lawson (AKA The Bloggess), which I’ve given as a gift to a number of people because it’s that good.

Get writing

Now is the perfect time to pen that novel, start that blog, or just write down your thoughts about this strange new world we’re living in. And if you’re writing things online, I want to know about them! So feel free to comment with links here or on social media posts or even just.email/DM them to me!

Go Live

This is part of my plan. I’ll be going live, hopefully with some frequency to keep social contact up and make sure that I keep my spirits high. My hope is that it helps others too.

And if you go live, let me know when and where and I will try to be there!

How are you maintaining your sanity while socially distancing yourself from the world?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Things I did while on hold with airlines this week

Like the rest of the world, I’ve been watching in horror as the best laid plans crumble around me.

I’m not a good planner, but I enjoy the anticipation of coming events. I hate surprises because I get twice as much enjoyment planning for and just thinking about something coming up. For example, I’ve been excited about the 2020 Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop since the minute I hugged Kathy Kinney goodbye at the airport after the last conference in April 2018. That conference, originally slated for early next month, has now been postponed to Halloween.

I’m also still hopeful about a trip to Italy in July for one of Brian’s cousin’s weddings. But I’m not holding my breath.

Can you spot me?

Like the rest of my jet-setting brethren, I’ve spent a good portion of my time waiting to speak with airlines this week to find out my options.

What I did while on hold with Delta

Delta was kind. When I called, they said the wait time was approximately 239 minutes, and they offered an automatic callback when I was next in line. I managed to get a lot done while waiting 2 hours and 18 minutes for Delta to call me back mid-chiropractor appointment.

  • Got out of bed
  • Brushed my teeth
  • Went to the bathroom
  • Got dressed
  • Fed Nia
  • Took Nia outside
  • Played with Nia
  • Shared a photo on Instagram for the Disneybound Challenge
  • Went to Panera
  • Ate a Souffle from Panera
  • Drove to the chiropractor
  • Got a chiropractor massage
  • Had stim and heat treatment

What I did while I was on hold with United

United said my wait time would be more than 90 minutes, and then made me listen to their airline hold music for 71 minutes before anyone answered the phone. Then they placed me on hold for another 30 minutes while they changed my ticket. For funsies, the agent also told me that there were, at the time of my call, 4,560 other customers on hold. Here are all the things I’ve done since dialing the phone number for United (1-800-864-8331).

  • Got out of bed
  • Brushed my teeth
  • Went to the bathroom
  • Designed an outfit for the March Disneybound Challenge
  • Got dressed
  • Made French toast and sausage for Brian and myself
  • Ate said French toast
  • Did my morning stretches
  • Played with Nia
  • Fed Nia
  • Took Nia out to the backyard
  • Talked to Brian about my canceled conference
  • Fucked around on Facebook
  • Wrote this entire blog post

Airline policies in light of the Coronavirus pandemic

Just to give you a little help if you too need to change/cancel your flights, here’s what I know. I still have to call Southwest, but I can only handle so much elevator music in a single day.

United

United is waiving all change fees, including the fee to upgrade your nonrefundable basic economy fare to a standard economy open ticket that must be booked within a year from the purchase date. You will still have to pay any difference in price that comes with a standard ticket compared to your basic economy ticket. If you manage to find a flight with a standard ticket price lower than your original ticket, you’ll receive a travel voucher in the amount remaining for a future flight.

Delta

Delta is currently waiving change fees for all flights through April 30, and international flights to affected countries (Italy, China, South Korea) through May 31. Any flights booked March 1-31 will also have waived fees if you need to change your flight. When I called about my July flight to Rome (booked through Delta, but flying Air Alitalia), they informed me that I had the same waived change fees as those with flights earlier…so know that despite what is published online, your mileage may vary.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

I don’t pack light

Let me sing you the song of my people.

I’m a bad decision maker. Decisions are hard. They require a firm stance. Black and white. There’s no gray area in decision making.

I like choices. I like having options. A sliding scale of colors that ranges through the entirety of ROYGBIV and everything in between.

My closet is fully loaded. Though I regularly purge clothes (donating to thrift shops, giving to friends and family or selling on Poshmark and Mercari), I have a closet full of options. Choices. Possibilities. Most of them are at least several years old, and if they’re not, they’re rescued from thrift stores — what I like to call, “new to me.”

I can hardly decide what to wear for the next three hours (even when it’s cozy pajama pants and a matching t-shirt) let alone what I’m going to want to wear for the next five days in a row (when the weather might change drastically). So when I travel, I pack like a boy scout. I am prepared for everything.

The closet assortment unpacked for my current vacation in Marco Island. 6 days, 5 nights at my father-in-law’s home. I also have 4 drawers full of socks, underwear, bras, bathing suits, and pants. What can I say? I like options.

And still, I’m not prepared. I always forget something. I kept throwing items into an underweight suitcase, because I could, but I didn’t need any of them. And I will most assuredly think of something I wish I had with me while gone.

What if…

What If is the true song of my people. The words ringing in my ears like a siren. The fear that I have packed too much and yet also not enough. The constant worry that I did not adequately prepare for a few warm days in the middle of a small island city — a quick respite from the bitter cold of winter in Chicago.

What if…

What if indeed.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

A decade ago

I started 2010 with my favorite people in all the world: my family. We played Wii and ate snacks, and my godson spent the night at my house so he could keep playing video games for a few more hours. He fell asleep to The Doctor Seuss Sleep Book sometime around 3 am, just before all hell broke loose.

Drama ensued with a friend’s ex-boyfriend banging on my parents door while a toddler slept on a blanket bed on my floor.

You might say that the decade began with me realizing the things I wanted in my life and seeing clearly the things I didn’t want.

January 3, 2010 brought a trio of bad January 3rds. In 2010, I lost my boyfriend (got dumped). In 2011, I lost my car. And in 2012, I lost my job. I stopped paying attention to dates after that.

2010 was my experimental year. It was the year I said yes to a lot of different things. I tried on boys and friends and jobs like they were DKNY dresses.

“You know it’s not your style, but it’s right there, so you try it on anyway.” -Carrie Baradshaw

I was still obsessed with Carrie Bradshaw, not yet aware that the character was toxic and self-destructive. Not quite realizing that I, too, was a little on the self-destructive side.

I chased boys instead of dreams. I spread drama instead of joy. I let others dictate who I was instead of shouting from the rooftops that I was the only me there would ever be.

2010 Chrissy and her baby brother

And then on December 15, 2010, I met someone who would become the catalyst that helped me uncover and fall in love with my true self. He didn’t change me. He wasn’t the reason for my transformation. But he did light a fire inside me. A fire that longed to know who I am and what I wanted. A fire that gave me permission to change my mind and build on the dreams I’ve always had with the dreams I create for tomorrow. I am a dreamer, and I will never stop dreaming.

I’ve spent nearly a decade with Brian, and time seems to both fly and last forever – each in the best possible way.

So thanks, 2010s. I still don’t know how to refer to you (the tens? The teens? The 2010s?), but I do know you made me a better, stronger me. You helped me get back to my roots and chase the dreams I’ve long been afraid to chase.

And for the record, I’m still glad I was a boy chaser in the 2000s/aughts/whatever, because we all know I had to chase Brian to the end of a Myers-Briggs test before he finally asked me out.

Happy new year friends! Hope the decade is full of joy and laughter!I know mine was full of joy and laughter…and sadness too.

Here’s a “quick” decade in review after that first year of the teens:

  • 2011: Got a new car
  • 2011: Snowmaggedon
  • 2011: Started dating Brian
  • 2011: Quit the restaurant/bar business forever
  • 2011: Decided I didn’t want to be a teacher
  • 2011:Got my first job in marketing
  • 2012: I was laid off from a job for the first time ever
  • 2012: Brian and I took our first vacation together
  • 2012: I started this blog
  • 2012: I made friends all over the internet
  • 2012: Brian’s mom got sick
  • 2012: I went back to Disney World (and dragged Brian) for the first time in over a decade
  • 2012: Brian and I moved into our first apartment
  • 2013: I started a new marketing job in the city working for Sears
  • 2013: We lost Brian’s mom because cancer is the worst
  • 2013: I started making money on this little blog
  • 2013: Our apartment tried to kill me (and I learned I am highly affected by mold and doctors are the worst)
  • 2014: We moved out of death apartment and temporarily into Brian’s childhood home
  • 2014: We bought a house
  • 2015: I left my job at Sears and started a new gig as a content editor
  • 2015: I lost another car
  • 2015: We got engaged
  • 2016: I attended my first Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop and realized I was, in fact, a feminist
  • 2016: Brian and I were married on a beautiful Friday afternoon in September in a sea of pink and teal
  • 2016: We went to Europe (France, Belgium, and Disneyland Paris)
  • 2016: The world changed a lot with a single election.
  • 2017: I left my job and started chasing all the dreams
  • 2017: Went to Disney World with my family for the first time in 20 years for mom’s 60th birthday
  • 2018: I attended the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop and was inspired to take my first class at The Second City
  • 2018: We adopted our puppy, Lady Nymeria Stark (Nia) and filled our house with joy (and barking)
  • 2018: I had my first several improv performances at The Second City and improved my writing tenfold
  • 2018: I became a WDW annual passholder
  • 2019: I finished the Improv A-E program at The Second City
  • 2019: Brian and I traveled to Ireland and visited the places his parents hailed from.
  • 2019: I auditioned for and got into The Second City music improv program
  • 2019: I started taking classes at Westside Improv
Nearly 2020 Chrissy. Bring. It. On.

Tonight, Brian and I will ring in the next decade together. One of the firsts we haven’t yet shared with each other. We’ll be among friends with a roaring twenties theme and bottles of bubbles.

And I’ll leave you with my hope for your new year. I wish you the best of the next decade and hope that you chase your dreams and live them out. May magic find you every day and may joy fill your hearts.

Happy New Year, friends. Joy and laughter always.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Stocking stuffers under $25

I have always loved little things. When I was a child, I used to make my brother play a game called “Little Things.” We would drag out all of our tiny toys into the hallway and basically cage match them with each other. It was amazing.

So stockings were also always a big deal for us (me, anyways). I love finding fun little gifts in my stocking, but what I love even more? Filling stockings! I fill stockings for all of my nieces and nephews every year. I fill a stocking for Brian. And sometimes, I fill a random stocking for someone else on my gift list.

Stockings are basically a super versatile gift wrap. And I love them. So here are some fun (and some practical) stocking stuffer ideas. The usual note: any purchases from links may or may not be affiliate links that I earn a commission from. It costs you nothing but makes a huge difference for me and this little blog. So thanks for supporting my dreams.

Fun stocking stuffers

For games to pop in the big sock, check out my travel-friendly games gift guide because any of the 15+ games I talked about will fit in a stocking. For more ideas, read on.

Funko Pop Keychains

$4-$11

Funko Pop mickey and minnie key chain

Pick your favorite fandom and go wild. I used to think Funko Pop dolls were weird, but then they grew on me, and now I’m hooked. Plus these Funko keychains are so cute!

Tiny plush sloth full of happiness

$7

Plush sloth

I just love this little guy. Also, I love Christmas with cute little sloths all over my house. You can also find other tiny plushes from Aurora World to fit the needs (and favorite animals) of your giftee.

Fairy lights

$7 for two sets

Fairy lights

These silly little lights are mult-functional and perfect for anyone who likes to decorate with lights, create fun crafty projects, or wants to make their own light-up clothing.

Metal Earth metal puzzle kits

$6-$18

Praying mantis metal earth puzzle kit

I bought this praying mantis for Brian a couple of years ago, and it was SO COOL. Also, it was fun to watch him put it together. You can also find a Cinderella pumpkin carriage on ShopDisney.

Nostalgic stocking stuffers

You didn’t think that I was done with games, did you? I have a couple more silly and fun toys and games that I received from my friends at Goliath Games up my sleeve that are PERFECT stocking stuffers for anyone who grew up in the nineties.

Legends of the Hidden Temple game

$13

Legends of the Hidden Temple is a super fun party game

This game is ridiculously fun. If you remember watching the Blue Barracudas dominating on Nickelodeon, this is a must-get gift. It’s a party game with activity task elements that pull from some of your favorite college drinking games for a double-down on nostalgia. Alcohol not required or included…but maybe encouraged.

Oregon Trail: Hunt for Food

$15

The Oregon Trail: Hunt for Food

The follow-up to the first Oregon Trail card game, Hunt for Food now with five new ways to die! There’s something about The Oregon Trail that will never stop getting me, and I love that these games from Goliath do my favorite childhood computer game memories justice. Don’t worry. You’ll probably die of dysentery.

Glowbots

$25

Goliath Games Glowbots

These little DC dudes are like Funko Pop meets Litebrite and I am loving them. Obvi, Wonder Woman is a star, but the joker is also a winner because everyone loves villains.* They’re ideal stocking stuffers for kids, grown-ups, and everyone in between. These are perfect for anyone who loves superheroes, the DC universe, and collectibles.

*Chrissy loves villains.

Practical stocking stuffers

When I was a kid, socks and underwear seemed like the worst gifts ever. But then I became a grown-up with a job and life, and all of a sudden, I wanted socks and underwear as a gift. Particularly socks. So these stocking stuffers are practical and useful and awesome.

Sheec no-show socks

$10 (Save 15% off your first order with my code: Quirky)

Sheec no-show socks that won't slip off

I am obsessed with these socks. Obsessed. They are truly the best non-slip, no-show socks ever, and I’ve tried quite a few brands. They are available for both men and women in two different fabric types: the Secret 2.0, an ultra-thin nylon material with a cotton sole for dress shoes and The ActiveX, an antibacterial modal for casual sneakers. They come in varying visibility from ultra-low to high (which is still low enough to hide inside most of my shoes). These socks would make a perfect gift for just about anyone who wears sneakers, dress shoes, and even sandals. I did receive some samples from them as part of an affiliate partnership, but I was already a huge fan when I reached out to them earlier this year.

Aqua Notes Waterproof notepad

$10

Aqua notes waterproof note pad

Practical AND fun. This is great for a writer or doodler. I initially bought these because some of my best ideas happen in the shower (don’t everyone’s?), but it turns out, they’re also really fun for leaving messages for anyone who shares your shower. I’d like to tell you Brian and I leave cute little love notes for each other, but really, when my bestie comes to stay at our house, that’s when the magic happens. Brian has his own shower, but Ally uses mine. And then she leaves me love notes. Because of course, she does. Anyways. Kick-ass stocking stuffer right here. Fun for everyone.

Multitool

$13

Multitools make great stocking stuffers

I always end up getting Brian some type of multitool in his stocking. He loves the functionality and portability of them…even if it means he has half a dozen on hand at any given time.

Eco-friendly stocking stuffers

I’ve been trying really hard to make my life a little bit more sustainable. Nobody’s perfect, and it is a constant learning process, but these are a few things I’ve been using to be a little more conscious of my single-use plastics and the environment overall. They’ll all make fantastic gifts for people looking to make changes in their shopping and consumption habits. Okay, fine, these are practical too.

Reusable travel silverware set

$13

Reusable stainless steel rainbow silverware trave set

This exact set is on my wishlist right now because 1. it’s ADORABLE and 2. it matches my actual rainbow kitchen flatware. You’re welcome. Anyone trying to minimize their carbon footprint will appreciate a travel silverware set in their stocking.

Makeup Eraser

$20 (Use code SUSTAINABILITY for 20% off)

Makeup eraser reusable makeup removing cloth

I have not tried this particular brand yet (I use a similar product: the Norwex face cloths right now), but I have friends who swear by it. I do want to try this cloth because it looks a lot softer than the Norwex (which has more of a leathery texture). Both are lovely gift ideas and stocking stuffers to boot.

Reusable produce bags

$20

Reusable produce bags fit nicely in stockings

I love fresh produce, but I hate that every individual item needs to be in its own separate bag. Once I discovered these reusable beauties, though, I was hooked. I can pack my produce, store it, and then wash these bags when the surplus of produce inevitably goes bad in my fridge (I know. I already mentioned there’s a learning curve).

Well gang, that’s a wrap for gift guides this year (though I will be pulling several of the items from this year’s guides for a YouTube video next week). Thanks for joining me on this super fun online shopping journey. If you’re looking for more gift ideas, you can always check out all of the previous gift guides.

What types of stocking stuffers do you like to see when you wake up on Christmas morning?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

I love you 3000

Yesterday was truly one of the most exciting days ever. I woke up to my Disney alarm at 3:20 AM, brushed my teeth, got dressed, grabbed a camp chair, and jumped in the car. I made it to the Bucktown Best Buy before 4:30 in the morning and prayed I was among the first 100 people in line to pick up my preorder copy of Avengers Endgame, which, after seeing it four times this summer, I can safely say is my favorite movie of all time.

I waited in line with other Avengers superfans and the hours flew by. I sat in my comfy camp chair, took a Cap nap, even walked to the Mariano’s a few blocks away for a bathroom and breakfast break. There seems to be a gentleman’s agreement that the people in line will respect your place in line so you can take care of human needs etc. I was very glad of that being by myself on this particular adventure. It was surprisingly cool when I was napping, and in hindsight I should have brought a light blanket, but otherwise I had everything I needed.

I was in line to meet Joe Russo, who is probably the first director to ever have such a huge impact on me. He was in Chicago as part of the We Love You 3000 tour. With his brother Anthony and writers, Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus, they make a dream team of storytellers that inspire and delight me as an audience member and fellow storyteller.

I kept thinking about the Q&A I had the honor of attending, sitting smack in the center of the front row, on Monday with Joe Russo at The Second City and some of the nuggets of wisdom he imparted on an audience of artists, performers, creators, and filmmakers.

Make the story you want to tell. Make what you believe in. Make what you care about.

-Joe Russo

As someone who is deep in the throes of writing a novel, this particular advice was meaningful in ways I didn’t expect. Hearing it from someone who capped off one of the greatest storytelling events in this lifetime gave it so much more weight than I could have imagined. Avengers Endgame was the twenty-second movie in a ten-year saga of 23 movies. I still get emotional thinking about the events that transpired and the way they were able to truly payoff the set-up they started a decade ago.

He talked about long-form storytelling being the future, as it helps audiences connect with the characters for an emotional payoff you can’t get out of a singular movie. How the actors know their characters better than he ever would and the trust he puts in them to bring those characters to life. This is something Brian and I talk about a lot. We both really hope to see more movie studios picking up on this idea that a series of interconnected stories in a single world can truly immerse audiences and drive interest and excitement.

He answered my question about “I love you 3000” – where it came from (Robery Downey Jr. told them it was a cute thing his daughter said, so they used it) and if they realized the impact it would have on the audience and eventually their marketing plans (they actually found that test audiences loved it so much, they added it to the hologram later, unaware of its potential at the time. He claimed meme culture helps bring one-off lines like this to the front line of movies and TV).

Joe Russo inspires me. And so when I had the opportunity to wait in line to meet him, I took it.

Which returns us to his appearance at Best Buy yesterday.

As they handed out wristbands, I anxiously watched, hoping our counts had been close and we were under 100. It didn’t feel real until they wrapped a blue paper wristband with the number 075 around my left wrist.

They handed out pins and Chicago themed posters with Iron Man (my favorite Avenger) that had me tearing up. They gave out gift bags with McDonald’s toys and Funko Pops for everyone.

In addition to the meet and greet, autograph, and goodie bags, they had actual props that had actual screen time in the movie.

  • Cap’s broken shield.
  • Thor’s axe, Stormbringer.
  • Iron Man’s power source.

I died.

It was truly a dream come to life, and it got even better when it was time to get back in line to meet the storytelling legend himself.

I walked up and shook his hand and told him it was an honor to meet him. He made polite conversation and seemed genuinely kind. He complimented my Captain America shirt twice. He signed everything he could in and on my Bluray case and then told me he would sign an extra poster, “just in case.” It really seemed he knew what it was like to be a fan getting autographs andhe did his best to make it a magical experience for everyone in line, so I like to believe he was there once upon a time too.

I didn’t embarrass myself this time. I didn’t fawn all over him, ramble like a fool, try to touch his chest, or let Brian come so he could say something that gets us death stares. I didn’t cry like I did when I met John Grogan (I should really tell that story). I was cool. I was collected. I was still me and talked the whole time, but would you expect any different?

Overall, this was one of my favorite meet and greets, and it was worth every second of sitting out in the strangely cool humidity for 6 hours.

Have you ever met a celebrity? What was it like? Would you rather wait in line for hours or pay money at a convention to meet someone? Let me know in the comments!

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Princess for a day in Kinnitty Castle

After our adventures in Dublin, it was time to kick back and relax in a haunted castle for my birthday (as one does). We rented a car as we made our way out of the city center, and I took the right-sided helm.


A two-minute look at some of our adventures in Kinnitty Castle

For better or worse, we were on our way to one of the many haunted spots in Ireland — and planning to spend two nights in said hotel. Because I had every intention of spending my birthday like the high-maintenance princess that I am.

The drive itself was uneventful, but upon arrival, we got a glimpse of our lodging for the next couple of days.

Why yes, this is where I spent my birthday

With an epic view from the road, Brian and I just kept “holy crapping” our way up to the front gate. This was where we were staying for the night?

We were welcomed to Kinnitty Castle Hotel and told that our room wasn’t quite ready yet, but we made reservations for my birthday dinner the next evening in the hotel restaurant and made our way to the first of two bars in the castle. The Library Bar was a welcoming mish-mosh of weathered furniture (sofas, tables, and chairs) and old tomes lining the shelves.

We quickly discovered the entire place was full of quirky antique decor that added charm to an already incredible venue. I was here for all of it.

We had drinks in the library while we killed time before the Dungeon Bar opened. Upon opening, we made our way downstairs to the dungeon for lunch. Embracing the kitschy theming, we found a dark dungeon nook just waiting for us to occupy it.

Kinnitty Castle Dungeon Bar cellar table
Kinnitty Castle Dungeon Bar

Our bartender/server ended up being our favorite staffer in the hotel (everyone was truly kind, though!) and she spent time telling us about the hotel and just chatting with us about anything and everything. We saw her a few more times throughout our stay and she was wonderfully sweet and engaging. She also promised that the hotel was indeed haunted and that she had her share of spooky moments. I knew then I was going to scare myself into imagining something if nothing ended up being in our room…

Before dinner, we wandered the grounds and planned to take one of the walking loops. We found all sorts of neat slugs and snails (you guys there were seriously slugs every couple of feet and inches in some areas! It was so weird and awesome).

Slugs are so creepy, but they’re also so cool!

And then we accidentally hiked through part of the Slieve Bloom Mountains (we kept getting higher with no turn in sight. Eventually, we turned around to make it back in time before dinner service ended — this turned out to be a common issue in our Ireland travel…food service stops at 9 in most restaurants). If there’s anything Brian and I are good at when we travel, it’s getting ourselves a little lost and calling it an adventure!

That night, we played card games in the Dungeon bar until it closed and then in the library until well past midnight before quietly tiptoeing the creaky floors of our room.

I am kind of obsessed with this gif Brian made. I was deep in focus, and he was royally kicking my ass (hence the death glare). I don’t know if he said something or what, but I just love him.

It was at this point that I started worrying myself into a tizzy. What if there ARE ghosts? Throughout the night (including one wake up in the middle of the night bathroom check), I thought I may have heard creaks and noises, but I am about 90% sure they were all in my head. No hauntings for us. Which, to be honest, was probably for the best since we still had another night left in us.

I woke up the next day to embrace that birthday princess life, and what a magical day it was. I disneybounded as Princess Aurora in two different outfits (of course).

Living that Nap Queen life. Wake up in a castle. Eat. Nap. Repeat.

First, up was breakfast in my Ralph Breaks the Internet loungewear. Breakfast at Kinnitty Castle was amazing. It was definitely the best Irish fry that we had throughout our trip (and omg the brown bread was addictive here). For those who don’t know what an Irish breakfast consists of:

  • Eggs
  • Bangers (Irish breakfast sausage)
  • Rashers (Irish bacon — imagine marrying Canadian bacon to American bacon in one full slice)
  • Black and white pudding (bready sausages, sliced and fried)
  • Some combination of tomatoes, mushrooms, and or onions
  • Baked beans in tomato sauce

Basically, happiness.

After breakfast, I realized I was still beaten up from jet lag and opted for a two-hour nap. Because it was my birthday and I was wearing a shirt that said Nap Queen. It felt appropriate.

Nap time for this princess

We then left our castle to go to another castle (appropriate), Birr, where we toured fancy gardens that reminded me of our arboretum and saw what was, for over 70 years, the largest telescope in the world (science!). The castle itself was still lived in – remember our awesome server in the Dungeon Bar? She told us that her friend used to work at the cafe of Birr Castle and said that the residents of the castle insisted on being called Lord and Lady, and the way she said it had us giggling a little too much.

Princess for a day in Kinnitty Castle

We returned to our home castle in time for an incredible birthday dinner at the Sli Dala (the fine dining restaurant open on the weekends for dinner). This was the best meal that we had in Ireland, and I was in absolute heaven. When they arrived with dessert, they came in singing with a candle in my torte, but Brian was nowhere to be found. They stopped halfway through the first line, and I started laughing.

The server who was holding the cake looked at his empty seat, said, “uhh this is awkward,” and blew the candle out. I told him my husband had stepped out for a minute. Just as they turned around to leave, with me laughing like a hyena, Brian returned to his seat. They started again and I just laughed through the entire thing. It was perfect.

We finished our meal and went down to the bar for live music and after dinner drinks before calling it a night and preparing for the third leg of our trip. Overall it was a fine birthday adventure for this girl, and definitely one I’ll never forget. Level 36, bring it on.

Woke up in a castle. Went to sleep in a castle. Best birthday ever.
Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Strangers who are mean to me are basically kicking a puppy

I like to think I’m a pretty nice person. I try to find the positive side of just about everything. It is known that I have a penchant for loving terrible things. It’s part of my charm, according to Katie. I love dogs and cats and babies and even adult humans, though the consensus seems to be that adult humans are the root of all the problems.

And yet…

Strangers scream obscenities and call me a fat ass across a busy parking lot because my husband stopped to let me out of the car in front of the grocery store.

Strangers in a movie theater call me horrible names and repeatedly tell me I need to be put in my place because I politely asked them to quiet down in a movie theater.

Strangers on the internet call me names and judge me without knowing anything about me.

Friends say things to me or about me that are hurtful. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. Sometimes to my face and sometimes behind my back.

Adult humans are constantly breaking my heart.

But I’ve survived heartache before. When your heart is openly exposed on your sleeve, it tends to take a beating. Mine is no exception. But I’ve learned to manage the bruises.

And with that, I wanted to show you guys my process. Because I know I’m not alone in experiencing hurt. I know that many of you deal with so much more than a few spiteful strangers proverbially spitting on you. And I wanted to share how I deal. And how I continue to stay positive despite the bullies and meanies that I occasionally engage with. It’s a process, to say the least — and one that’s not without a pity party for one. But it works for me.

Survive

The first step for me starts while I’m dealing with the initial incident. My body takes over, so my brain busies itself by running simulations to help choose the safest route for getting out of a given situation. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t always listen to my brain. Sometimes fight wins in the fight or flight response, and I yell back. In the most recent conflict, I panicked and froze and eventually took flight instead of going for a fight. I’m not mad about it.

Calm myself down

The rush of adrenaline that spikes, when someone is verbally accosting me, can take its toll on my ability to think. I try not to do anything while I’m in this phase. Instead, I’ll sit in my car or away from others and work things out in my head to remind myself that I’m okay. I’m safe. I’m away from the conflict. Sometimes I’ll call Brian, or I’ll tell you guys about it in my Instagram stories.

Get angry

Once I’ve calmed myself enough to rationally think about whatever it was that happened, I usually get angry.

I start thinking things over in my head. Replaying the situation on repeat, wishing I had said X, Y, or Z. Trying to understand how someone could say whatever it was they said, especially if it was a stranger who knows absolutely nothing about me. I may even hide in my car or house and scream at the top of my lungs to let the emotions building up inside of me out. Anger is something I understand. But taking that anger out on another person, especially one you know little to nothing about? I can’t fathom how anyone can do or say cruel things to strangers.

Allow myself to be sad

It takes me time to get over the hurt. For long-term heartbreak, it can be weeks or months or even years. For a slew of slurs? It may take hours or days. For me, it’s kind of a grieving process. I don’t know what exactly I’m grieving when someone verbally assaults me, but it gives me time to let the insults wash through me. The more hurtful, the longer it takes. My eyes live on the verge of tears, but we already know I’m a pretty regular crier as it stands. Brian already calls it my superpower – just like the Hulk, but instead of being always angry, I’m always ready to cry.

Limit social media

If you notice me going dark on social media, it’s likely because I’m taking time for myself. I’m allowing my heart to recuperate without adding the stress and expectation of social media. There’s no contract that says I have to be “on” all the time, and when I turn myself “off” I can recharge in a way that doesn’t add to my anxieties. I think we all need a little bit more of this, honestly.

Power up

I have a Power-Up playlist on YouTube that re-energizes me when I need a pick-me-up. It has empowering songs, like “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. It has happy songs like, “Can’t Fight the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. And it has songs that just bring me personal joy, like “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon. It’s a fun collection of party pop, alterna-rock, Disney songs, and musical numbers that makes me ridiculously happy. I also use this to rev myself up before a show. It’s amazing what music can do.

Remember the good in humans

You guys are pretty much the best, did you know that? If you’re reading this, you’re probably already on my list of favorite people. My village lifts me up so hard. You remind me that for as many mean people in this world, there are a hundred or even a thousand times as many kind, generous souls ready and willing to share and spread joy. To love. To pass good vibes on to everyone around you. Keep doing that. Because the world needs more people like you.

How do you stay positive when people are mean? What are some of your coping mechanisms for heartache? Let me know in the comments, because I’m always looking for new ways to stay positive.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Some people make me feel uncomfortable

I am often surprised by that which makes me awkward. JK guys. I am the queen of awkward. For all my self-love and confidence, I also know what drops my confidence like it’s hot. I am also acutely aware of things that make me uncomfortable, and I feel like I can’t be alone in this, guys.

As someone who genuinely loves people and surrounds herself with them whenever possible (hello extrovert life), it’s hard to find people that truly make me uncomfortable. I talk to strangers at the grocery store. I get in full-on conversations about Disney with my dental hygienist and physical therapist. So really this list only has a few offenders.

Door-to-door salespeople

Yes, even you, adorable Girl Scout peddling your caramel delights and shortbreads

I really don’t like it when people come to the front door unannounced. Unless you are like family or one of my friends who is like family (at which point, cue DJ Tanner shouting “It’s always open!”), I get a surprising amount of anxiety. Maybe it stems from my very first night alone in our house…or my inability to easily, breezily say “no thank you,” but I cannot handle people at the door.

If Brian (reminder: Brian is an introvert) is home, he is the one to answer the door, because I would much rather hide on the floor, in the back of the house than answer the door.

When I’m home alone, or I’m caught off guard…Or worse, sitting right there with the curtains open…I open the door to find everything from teenagers selling coupon books or kids selling candy to guys wearing neon yellow vests asking me to show them my ComEd bill. It’s really hard to say no to any of them, but the pushy ones (always adults) don’t just take no for an answer. They keep coming at you with details. They compliment your hair or your dog. And distracting you from saying, “goodbye. No thank you.”

So I printed out a sign and taped it to my front door. Because I’m classy. (Mostly because I’m a terrible decision maker and couldn’t find the right sign that compelled me to pay $15, and until I do that, my free print out will do).

Police officers

Especially police officers in cars that are behind me while driving

It’s no secret that I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with the law (all driving related, obvi). And maybe it was that last speeding ticket that really did me in because that police officer was terrifying. But I get SO. MUCH. ANXIETY. when I’m driving and a police officer pulls behind me on the road. I’m just waiting for the lights to flicker and the siren to sound and then I have to come up with an excuse for why I was doing whatever it was they pulled me over for in the first place.

Even when the siren sounds or the lights flicker and I KNOW it wasn’t me (because I’m a surprisingly good driver now), that doesn’t stop the angry tummy of anxiety from greeting me with open arms like a long lost friend.

The other day I was driving home, and I noticed a police officer behind me. And he kept driving behind me as we moved into the next town over…and I was just like, fuck it. And I made my escape. I turned onto the tollway (an unnecessary route for me to drive the few miles to my house, but for me, it was well worth the 70 cents to avoid any further anxiety from being tailed by Chief Wiggum for another three miles).

This morning? Driving Brian to the train, and I drove through a yellow light right behind a police officer. I immediately pulled into the bank on the other side of the light just to let the police officer get a good mile ahead of me before continuing on my route. Illogical, maybe. Unnecessary, definitely. But my peace of mind is important, guys.

Okay gang, now that I’ve rambled on about people that make me feel uncomfortable, let me know in the comments what types of people make you uncomfortable? Or are you an impenetrable fortress of comfort and security?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!