Winter Faves

My moods used to be dictated by the seasons: Excited, Happy, Bummed Out, Devastated.

I like the construct of seasons. (Have you ever heard anyone say that?) I don’t care for the fact that the weather gets cold during some of the seasons in most parts of the country, but I like the idea of having time split into four sections based around Mother Nature. As as a business owner, I never know what day it is, so if I at least know what season we are in, I feel like I have some kind of grasp on life.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen the silly little “Look Forward” lists I do for each season. Those started before I spent my winters in Charleston, SC. When I lived in RI year-round, I dreaded the cold weather months. So in 2016, I decided to write a list of things to look forward to that winter–trips, comedy shows, events–on a whiteboard I would see every time I opened the door to my apartment. I thought that would help dull my despair when it was icy and frigid and I was cursing my ancestors for leaving the warmth of Italy to migrate to America and settle in the Northeast.

Why did you do it, famigilia???

However, I’m not one to just look forward to things but not appreciate them when they are happening. No, ma’am. I’ve read too much Eckhart Tolle to do that. I like to take it a step further and not only be thankful for the good things, but learn from and be thankful for them. And that’s where my “Favorites” posts come in. I like to share the things I’ve been loving, as the things I love–whether they are actual objects, shows, new habits, exercises, etc.–make my life better by either making it easier or making it more joyful, and I thought maybe you could benefit from them too.

That was one hell of an intro, wasn’t it? Now we can proceed.

First-Thing Teeth Brushing. I’d like to think I’m great with my chompers. I get cleanings every five months, I brush for the suggested two minutes each time and I always brush after drinking coffee or any other known teeth stainers. Until recently, I did my first teeth brushing of the day after I drank my coffee each morning to help prevent coffee stains on my teeth. But my cousin, St. Maria–who has given me loads of great beauty and life advice–told me it’s better to make brushing be the absolute first thing you do after waking up. It’s like wake and bake, but for your teeth. Brushing and rinsing out your mouth straight away removes the bacteria and plaque that builds up overnight. Not only is getting that out of your mouth first thing good for your teeth, but good for your system (so you’re not swallowing the bacteria). So now I brush as soon as I get out of bed and again after coffee and breakfast. I use an electric toothbrush and my teeth are too sensitive to use it twice in a short period of time (morning and night is fine though), so I turn it on for my first brushing and keep it off for my second brushing.

I’ve also learned that you should wait 30 minutes after drinking coffee to brush your teeth, as coffee temporarily softens the enamel, so similar to the skin’s acid mantle, it needs time to re-build itself or it can get softened more by the brushing. If any dentists or dental hygienists have input on this, I’d love to hear it. Until then, I’m sticking with my new routine.

I said wake and bake FOR YOUR TEETH.

Bumping Mics with Jeff Ross & Dave Attell on Netflix. My love for comedy is no joke. I go to as many comedy shows as I can, and there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t watch a comedy special or a video comedy podcast. Even the last three books I read were written by comics (Patton Oswalt, Demetri Martin and Sebastian Manascalco). I’ve become a bit of a comedy snob–if I’m watching a special from a new comic and they don’t make me laugh within the first 15 minutes, I turn it off–but I really appreciate the seasoned pro comics.

So when Bumping Mics hit Netflix, I knew it would be good. I mean, Jeff Ross and Dave Attell? These guys are veteran comics. The show exceeded my expectations and had me laughing out loud. During each set, they’re on stage together, roasting each other and the drop-in guests (like Amy Schumer, Paul Rudd and Bruce Willis), and it’s hilarious. The title comes from how they bump each other’s mics when the other person says something really funny. I binged all three episodes and I wish there were 50 more. If you need a good laugh from two guys who know exactly what they’re doing, check out this show.

Masters of comedy.

Insight Timer App. I know, I know–I’ve said many times in this very blog that meditation is not for me. And I still don’t enjoy doing it on my own, but after several months of health issues that some of the doctors I went to said were probably caused by stress, I figured it couldn’t hurt to give meditation another try. (I’m quite certain my health issues were not caused by stress, for the record. Because as I kept telling everyone I AM NOT STRESSED.) I had a feeling I’d do better with guided meditation, so that’s the route I went.

Part of my health issues include frequent heart palpitations/heart racing, which I know can be related to anxiety (but in my case are likely tied to the middle ear infection I’ve had since October). Even though my palpies and heart racing bouts are positional and don’t come on when I’m feeling a little stressed or anxious, I figured even if meditation didn’t help with those, it would be a good thing to do anyway.

I started with the Headspace app, which I liked but didn’t love. Hatch Tribe founder, Hilary Johnson, recommended Insight Timer to me and I like it a lot better. I loved their Intro course, and I like that they have a variety of free categorized meditations for stress, sleep, anxiety, fear, etc. My heart is still actin’ a fool, but I do feel like I’ve been more patient lately. Maybe that’s because I don’t get the opportunity for road rage, or because of my shorter work weeks (more on that below), but think this app gets some credit too. Thanks, Hilary!

Washer/Dryer Combo. During my last snowbird winter in Charleston, I only filled up my gas tank twice in the entire three months I was in town. And most of my mileage was from driving to a laundromat I liked, 20 minutes away in Isle of Palms. So when I saw that my new apartment had a washer/dryer combo, I thought, Do I even need to bring my car? I decided not to bring it, and it’s been working out fine (more on that below). And this washer/dryer combo thing is working out even better. Sure, it takes twice as long as your traditional separate washer and dryer situation, but it eliminates the need to take laundry out of the washer and put it into the dryer. You can also set it to just do a wash, if you’re like me and have clothes you don’t dry because you don’t want them to shrink and make you feel like you’ve gained weight. When I do a load of laundry that also goes in the dryer, I just set it and forget it. (That tagline isn’t already taken, right?) I love not having to stop what I’m doing to move a bunch of stuff from one machine to another machine. It’s small and efficient (since you don’t have to transfer from washer to dryer), and those are words people use to describe me, so I feel like it’s my kindred spirit of appliances.

It’s like a shampoo and conditioner all in one, but for your laundry.

BumbleBFF. Y’all know about Bumble, right? (“Yes!,” said all my single ladies. “You mean like the bee?,” said my marrieds.) They have the dating app, which I have used, but that’s not what I love. What I love is the BumbleBFF part of the Bumble app. It’s the same swipe-right-if-you’re-into-them-left-if-you’re-not thing, but it’s for women who want to make some new friends, and I don’t mean “friends” in that wink-wink way. I’ve found that during college and when I was working at different schools/offices/restaurants, it was easy to make friends. There was almost always someone who I clicked with, and we automatically had something in common. But once I graduated college and no longer had tons friends living in my dorm or near my apartments, and after I became a solopreneur whose only coworkers are Coffee, Laptop and Phone, things changed. I’ve still retained a lot of my friendships from college and my pre-AB Beauty years, and I’ve made some great friends since, but many of them don’t even live in the same state as me, nevermind the same town.

I went on BumbleBFF in January 2017, at the start of my first Charleston winter. I met up with three potential new gal pals that winter, and one of them became my one of my closest friends. I’ve met up with a couple more this winter, and I can see a real friendship coming out of at least one of them. Thanks to Hatch Tribe, I already have more friends in Charleston than I do in Newport, but you can never have enough friends, right?

Like any kind of people-meeting app, you’ll have more people to swipe through in a bigger city. There aren’t a ton of people on BumbleBFF in Charleston, but there were maybe two when I looked in Newport, where the population is much smaller. So I think the chances of meeting a friend from BumbleBFF here are higher than if I lived in a smaller place, but I can see this app being especially helpful for those who live in big cities.

You could find the Amy to your Tina.

My Charleston Work Schedule. I used to hate deep winter–aka the months of January, February and March–but now those three months are some of my favorite months of the year, thanks to my Charleston Winters. Not only do I love my Charleston Winters because I love Charleston, its warmer climate and my friends here, but it’s the time of year when my workweek gets cut almost in half because I don’t take many clients, train makeup artists or work on set here.

It feels like heaven to only work 40ish hours a week, sometimes less. It’s a busy time of year for me with wedding bookings and trial scheduling (we easily get double or triple the amount of inquiries between January – March than we do between June – August), but I can usually get that work done in a normal-length workday. The lack of weddings, trials, shoots and trainings also gives me more time to work on the big picture stuff for my business. AND it gives me more time to have a personal life too, which can be challenging during the rest of the year when I’m so friggin’ busy.

While I’m still as responsive as I am the rest of year during my Charleston Winters, things move a little slower here, and I like that. I don’t feel so crunched for time every day. I’m more relaxed because my workweek is much shorter. I sometimes feel a little guilt about that, but I can usually push it away with grits and 65 degree winter days. I have yet to take a full day off since I started AB Beauty, so these Charleston Winters are probably essential for my health (and sanity).

I feel like I’m living that 4 Hour Workweek life during the winter.

Blue Light Blocking Glasses. We’ve all heard about the blue light from computer and phone screens, right? It can cause damage to the eyes and has been known to disrupt sleep. I log in a lot of screen time, and I’ve noticed that it does affect my sleep (I find it harder to fall asleep when I’ve been in front of the computer for hours). I also often get headaches from hours of looking at my laptop. So when a friend of mine posted about her new blue light blocking glasses, I thought, I’ll give these bad boys a try. I ordered these ones from Amazon and have been wearing them for a few days. And guess what? No headaches.

It’s hard to say if they have helped with me falling asleep, because the night time heart palpies have been keeping me up. Once those go away, I’ll be able to get a better read on if the glasses are helping with the blue light sleep disruption. Even if they’re not, $12.99 is a fair price to pay to get rid of the headaches, right? The answer is yes.

I sent my parents this picture and my father responded “Wow! Those are some big ass specs,” and that was the funniest text I’ve gotten all year.

Not Having a Car. I bought my first car when I was 16. And other than freshmen year in college, when we couldn’t have cars on campus, I’ve never not had a car. I walk to most of errands in Newport–it’s not unusual for me to do 3 or 4 miles round trip when I have a lot to get done–but I need a car for most of my makeup jobs. I needed wheels my first winter in Charleston, because I lived in an apartment complex 20 minutes away from downtown that was off a highway, so it wasn’t a pedestrian-friendly area and wasn’t in walking distance of anything anyway. I lived downtown last winter and could walk to most things I wanted or needed to do, but I needed my car to get to the laundromat.

This year, I took several things into consideration before deciding if I’d even need my car. 1) The washer/dryer combo in my apartment 2) The fact there is no onsite parking at my apartment. 3) How there is no parking allowed on my street. 4) The lack of street parking in my neighborhood. 5) The annoyance of having to remember to go outside each night and put a new visitor’s pass in my car (which I had to do last winter). 6) The cost of driving down from RI and back at the end of my trip, with one hotel stay each way and flying a co-pilot friend back to RI or MA and down from RI or MA compared to the cost of one flight each way for just me and a couple suitcases.

Seeing as though I am once again downtown and can walk to a zillion places, I thought, Forget it. I left my car at my parents’ house (a win-win, since they now have a car to use if one of their’s is in the shop) and I haven’t looked back. I don’t have to worry about parking, filling up my tank, oil changes, or any maintenance or repairs. I also think I’m going to come out of this a better person, as I won’t be experiencing road rage for three months. Sure, I’m spending some cheddar on Ubers and Lyfts a few times a week, but I think it will end up being less expensive than what it would have cost for the trips to and back from Charleston. And it’s so freeing not to have to worry about a car! This was definitely one of my better decisions in life.

And I’m fine with it.

Blo Charleston. I like my hair and I’m happy I have it, but it’s a bitch to blowdry it straight (the only way I wear it). I only wash it once a week and while I can and do usually blow it out myself, I like to outsource the job when possible. The problem is that I don’t usually love the professional blowouts I get. Let me revise that: I don’t usually love the top part of the blowouts I get. The bottom 2/3 usually looks way better than what I could do, but the top part is often too smooth and flat for me. Because of my face shape, I like a lot of volume at the crown. My face is wider than it is long, so adding volume at the crown gives the illusion that my diamond shaped face is longer, which, trust me, is flattering. When someone gives me a silky smooth or pin straight blowout, I hate the way my face looks. (That’s also why I don’t use a flat iron.) At the same time, frizz is my nemesis so I like my blowouts to prevent or minimize the frizz without compromising the volume I want. That’s a tall order, huh?

Luckily, like any good Southern city, Charleston has a few blowout bars. I wanted to try one in walking distance of my house, so I chose Blo at 430 King Street, and I’m very happy that I did. Shayla has done my hair twice and she is awesome. She listened to everything I said at my first appointment, and I left there with the perfect blowout. I had volume at the crown, big curls at the ends and no frizz. Shayla answered all of my questions about which products to use and she said she would record it all in my file. And she did, because when I went back the second time, she gave me the same perfect blowout without me saying anything. She’ll be sick of seeing my diamond shaped face by the end of winter, but I’m so glad I found Shayla and Blo.

Making my hair look better since late 2018.

This Hamstring Stretch. A few months ago, I was having pain while running. Every time I stepped down, I felt a jolt of pain in my right foot. My family chiropractor, Dr. Pete, fixed me and I was able to get back into my marathon-like running routes (just kidding, more like two miles) the next day. He said that part of my problem was that my hamstrings were tight, so he told me to get some rope and do this hamstring stretch every day. It was hard to do at first, but I’ve noticed a difference since I started. Ten reps on each leg every day keeps the foot pain away.

She’d probably have an easier time if she was stretching her hamstrings regularly.

The Fix on Netflix. Yes, another comedy show on Netflix. It’s not a standup special though–it’s a panel show hosted by British comic, Jimmy Carr. Every episode features comics D.L. Hughley and Katherine Ryan, as well as two guest comics. They break off into two teams to debate and come up with a (usually joking) solution to hot topic issues. Then the live studio audience votes for the solution they like best, and the winning team gets…nothing.

I laughed out loud–a lot–at every episode of The Fix. I think it was one of the funniest shows–including standup specials–to hit Netflix in 2018. Every guest was hilarious, and I wish this could be a weekly show. I finished it a couple of weeks ago, but I already want to go re-watch it. If you have any sense of humor at all, you’ll love it too.

SO good.

White Noise Machine. In 2010, I moved into a third floor apartment in Newport. My second floor neighbor was an elderly night owl gentleman who loved watching The History Channel. Why do I know so much about him? Because on my first night there, he had his television on alllllll night, turned up so loud that I could hear every word on every show about wars that he watched. It didn’t take me long to buy a sound machine to (try) to block out my forced nocturnal history lessons. The machine I bought had a few options: Rain, Rainforest, Beach, White Noise and Heartbeat. Rainforest and Beach had too many annoying bird sounds, and White Noise sounded scratchy. The ominous thumping of Heartbeat would surely make me dream of murderers, so my only option was Rain.

That was almost a decade ago, and I still have to sleep with some kind of non-History Channel sound on. I downloaded the Relax Rain app a while back because I got sick of bringing my sound machine (when I love something I love it) every time I had to sleep somewhere else. Relax Rain is a good app, but sometimes it doesn’t block out noise as much as an actual sound machine.

When I moved into my Charleston apartment this year, I discovered I have a loud upstairs neighbor (or did at first). Relax Rain wasn’t cutting it and my sound machine is packed in my storage unit, so I did some research and discovered this white noise machine. It’s got 20 white noise and fan sounds, so there’s something for all of my fellow light sleepers and HSPs out there. I (thank the Lord) have not heard any thumping around from the upstairs neighbors since I got the white noise machine, but I have used it to block out the construction sounds from my across-the-yard neighbor’s house, and it’s working surprisingly well. I now prefer white noise to rain sounds, which I didn’t expect. What can I say? I’m always evolving.

My new preferred sound.

Fleet Feet. If you are a hardcore runner like me (I joke, I joke), you have to wear good sneakers. I’ve worn crap sneakers in the past and ended up with foot pain, back pain, knee pain, and of course, blisters. A few years back, I found a pair of Asics that I loved, and I kept buying the same ones each time I wore out a pair. When I went to buy them last summer, I was told they had been discontinued. I bought what was supposed to be the most comparable pair, but they were wack. My toe busted through the top after only two months–it usually takes about a year for me to wear them out that much–but worse than that, they were squeaky. Each step I took, squeak, squeak. It was embarrassing!

I threw the squeaky sneaks out and asked around for a good sneaker shop in the Charleston area. Several people directed me to Fleet Feet in Mt. Pleasant, and I’m so glad that they did. Not only do I love my new, quiet kicks, but the whole experience was great. Chris H. greeted me soon after I walked in and explained the process. He had me take off my shoes and socks and walk about 10 feet (I don’t really know how much 10 feet is, so that could be wrong) and back a couple times. Then I stepped onto a machine that scanned my feet and measured the size, width and arch of my feet. My left foot is a 5.5 and my right foot is a 5.8 and I wish I didn’t know that, but Chris said it was normal.

After my foot scan, Chris brought out three pairs of shoes for me to try. He then said I could take a little run in the parking lot to test them out, which I did. I’ve bought a lot of sneakers in my life and no one has ever suggested I run in them, so I loved that. Chris was super knowledgeable and nice, and not at all pushy, which I appreciated. My new sneakers (Nikes, because I’m mad at you, Asics) are comfortable, squeak-free and cute. I had an awesome experience at Fleet Feet and would recommend it to anyone who needs good sneakers sold by people who know what they are talking about. They have locations in most of states in the US, so just go there already.

Ready to Forrest Gump it now.

AND NOW FOR THE OUTRO

I know it’s weird that this is a beauty blog and there is only one beauty fave in here, but I’ve been sick for a couple months so I wasn’t really in the trying-new-products mood. I’ve been feeling, if not fully human, at least halfway there lately, so I’ll make a point to review some new beauty products soon. Until then, I hope you’ve found this post helpful, or at least entertaining. And if you live in an area of the country where it’s cold right now and you need something to look forward to, there are only 62 days left until spring!

Have a beautiful day 🙂

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