A Car Review? WHAT?

OK so about two weeks ago I was running to the grocery store at lunch to pick up some snacks and paper towels and a salad. On my way there, some old dude RAN INTO ME. I mean, my car, not me personally, but you know. He hit my beautiful, wonderful xB! I love that car so much. It’s so cute, and so roomy and comfortable inside, and so well made, and so reliable, and gets great mileage, and it was cheap. I mean, what’s not to love? Here’s a picture (not my actual car, but a facsimile):

Look at it! It’s so beautiful.

So, anyway. This guy sideswiped me (front passenger side door) and it was totally his fault, which thankfully he admitted, and therefore his insurance is paying for the repairs and a rental. So I took the car in on Tuesday to the body shop, and they’re going to have it until next Friday at least. So in the mean time, the rental company gave me what I can only describe as the most miserable, non-user-friendly, uncomfortable, fugly car I have ever had the misfortune to drive: a Chevy HHR. Here’s what THAT piece of crap looks like:

Yeah, it’s awful. I think this car perfectly illustrates what American car makers DON’T GET about cars and people, that Japanese car makers DO get: the experience matters.

I mean, both cars are about the same size, and get similar mileage, but that’s where the similarities end. Here’s a list of all the things I have quickly grown to hate about the HHR:

1. Sitting in it is like sitting in a WWII bunker, like those cement things the Germans were sitting in when we stormed Normandy Beach on D-Day, and driving it is like being in a tunnel that never ends. You can’t see anything. The windshield is abnormally small, and the front pillars and roof obscure much of the view. I get claustrophobic if I have to sit in it for too long, no kidding.

2. Mechanically it feels cheap and unfriendly. The steering is so stiff it feels like it’s not even power steering. It would be hell on a long drive. And the accelerator is weird – you put the pedal down, and nothing happens for a few seconds. Acceleration, once it finally starts, is mushy. I’m not sure what kind of engine is in this thing but it’s definitely not very good.

3. The seats are very uncomfortable. Despite the electronic controls, there’s just no way to make them feel better. It doesn’t help that someone already broke the armrest on the driver’s side.

4. The interior layout is asinine. Everything is in a place that doesn’t make any sense. Like, there’s a lidded pop-open storage compartment in the middle of the dashboard, on top. WHY? Who puts a storage compartment where it’s going to further obscure the limited view when it’s open? And the cup holders are right next to the emergency break – I mean RIGHT next to it, so that if you had anything in them, and tried to engage the emergency brake, it would knock your beverages over.

5. It feels totally claustrophobic in the car. Some combination of the limited visibility, the uncomfortable seats, and the ridiculous equipment layout makes it feel like I’m in the worst car ever made.

I hate the Chevy HHR, and honestly, I think it hates me. I’ve already hit my head on the door, and getting in and out is like some kind of sideshow of the clumsy and graceless. The moral of this story is: don’t ever buy an HHR, and if they try to give you one when you need a rental, run away screaming.

Love/Hate/Don’t Care

Right now.

Things that I love:

– The Internet, but especially all the stuff in my house that uses it. Roku, Chumby, Internet radio, etc. Some day I hope I can log into a website for “our house” and run the dishwasher remotely.

– My new boots:

– My other new boots:

– Buying boots (obviously).

– Videos by Lisa Eldridge. I love the way she refers to what we Americans usually call the “crease” (in the eye area) as the “socket line.” Actually I just love the way she says “socket.” All of her videos are pretty cool, but I especially liked this one. I even ordered the MUFE Aqua Cream to try (and it’s gorgeous).

Jonathan Product Silky Dirt, which I put on my hair every day. Smells gorgeous, gives shine and light hold and separation. This is a miracle product (and it should be, at those prices).

Things that I hate:

– Allergies. Holy cow. It’s barely even Spring here, and already my eyes are watering, my face is itching, and I’m sneezing with alarming regularity. I may have to up my intake of Zyrtec (that stuff is a miracle, usually).

– Douchebag drivers. I think the epicenter of all douchebaggy driving in the universe just might be Reston, Virginia.

– The erosion of the middle class, which is too complicated a topic to get into here, but trust me…it’s happening and it’s really depressing.

Things that I vehemently don’t care about:

– Charlie Sheen.

– Bristol Palin.

– Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, Celebrity Rehab, Ice Road Truckers, or any of the other “reality” crap that masquerades as TV programming nowadays.

– Android tablets, or Android phones, or why you think Android is so much better than my iPhone (hint: it’s not).


A Massive Review Post

Review time! Now I will share my (unsolicited) opinion with you on a variety of products that I have tried recently (and not-so-recently). Unless otherwise specified, all products were purchased by me, and I did not receive any compensation from the makers of said products.

Philosophy Shampoo/Shower Gel/Bubble Bath in Vanilla Birthday Cake: This is the only product I’m going to review that I got for FREE. YAY FOR FREE! How did I get it for free? By being a Sephora Beauty Insider. Basically, if you sign up for Sephora’s emails, they send you offers for special deals and free samples, and you earn points on every purchase that you can use towards special freebies (which I’ve done several times). ALSO, you get a birthday present every year, and this year it was a choice of this shower gel stuff or some men’s Jack Black product. I picked the shower gel because a.) I love shower gel and b.) I love vanilla fragrance! This stuff had it in spades. It smells really nice, exactly as advertised (like birthday cake). I did not use it as a shampoo or bubble bath, so I cannot evaluate it’s worthiness for those purposes, but as a shower gel it kicked ass. Also, it made me happy for a month, seeing “Happy Birthday, Beautiful!” in my shower every morning (and the not-quite-full size bottle did last me a whole month of daily use).

Nivea Lip Balm in “Milk & Honey”: A little before Christmas I picked up a sort of gift set of Nivea products in the drugstore. It was kind of a steal: a gigantic shower gel, body lotion, and this lip balm, all for $9.99 or so. I like the shower gel and haven’t tried the body lotion yet, but I have mixed feelings on this lip balm. Plus: it smells nice, seems to moisturize pretty well, and feels nice on the lips. Minus: it is yellow, and actually leaves the barest trace of a yellow tint on my lips. Seriously! I guess I’m pretty pale; a person with darker coloring might not have this problem at all, but I definitely noticed it. Yellow is NOT a flattering color in a lip product, people! Anyway, I do like the balm OK and so I’ve been using it at night, at home, when I’m not going to be seen by anyone who’d be shocked by seeing me with yellow lips.

Nars Super Orgasm Lipgloss: I’m a little late to the party on the Nars Orgasm stuff, which started as a blush and then blossomed from there. I recently got a set of Nars stuff from Sephora that includes a multiple (sort of a cream blush in stick form), a blush duo (regular Orgasm and Super Orgasm), a nail polish (Orgasm) and this lipgloss. Man, this gloss is PRETTY. A beautiful shade of pink with lots of golden sparkle, and the texture is just right: pigmented without being thick, sparkly without being gritty. Big thumbs-up to this one.

L’Oreal HIP Kohl Eyeliner: I wish I had better things to say about this. I love a smokey eye, and I almost never, I mean never use pencil to line my eyes. The deal with this stuff is it’s a loose pigment, with a tiny pointed brush-like applicator that you pull out and use to apply it as a liner. Unfortunately, it makes a MESS. Pulling the applicator out: mess. Actually lining the eyes: mess. Attempting to clean up the mess made by lining: bigger mess. Because it’s a loose powder, it flakes all over the place. So disappointing. The only way I could see making this product work is to use a different brush, slightly damp, which sort of negates all the convenience of the built-in applicator. For me, this one was a loser.

Fresh Sugar Plum Lip Treatment: An expensive treat. I was a big fan of the original Fresh Sugar balm – it smelled divine and felt great on the lips. Now there are two new versions, a Rose which gives a bright pinkish tint, and this Plum version which offers a slightly deeper tint. It’s still very sheer though. While the color looks like it’s going to be Clinique Black Honey levels of plum, it’s actually a lot sheerer than that, so reapply without fear. It still smells nice (though not as nice as the original, honestly) and it’s a very good lip balm. It should be, for the ridiculously expensive price!

Dior Addict Lip Glow: I carry this in my purse EVERY day. I love it. This is another one in the “ridiculously good but also expensive lip balms” category. It applies sheer and glossy, and then turns pinker depending your lip chemistry, not unlike those gimmicky “mood lipsticks” of yore. The color, on me, is a bright but sheer pink, and gets pinker with repeat applications. A really nice option when I don’t want lipstick, but still want some color.

Clinique Chubby Stick in “Fuller Fig”: Bought this on a whim, and was surprised by how much I liked it. I love lip colors that come in crayons like this, because they’re sort of a liner and color in one. These Clinique Chubby Sticks are very glossy, and supposedly make your lips look fuller, though I can’t say that I noticed any difference in that regard. However, I did like the color very much, as well as the texture, which is a light glossy balm. I also love that the “pencil” twists up from the case, and doesn’t actually need sharpening or anything like that. I suppose it’s really just a gimmicky lip gloss, but I liked the gimmick in this case, so it gets a thumbs up from me.

Why I Don’t Like Ulta

This is a short rant about Ulta, the beauty/cosmetics/haircare store. If you need those types of products, I recommend you shop at Sephora (both online and in store), Target, or Walgreens; Nordstrom if you need a luxury line not carried at any of the previous places. Do not shop at Ulta – at least not the physical store. The online store is OK in a pinch.

Maybe the Ulta by you is different, but the one by me sucks. Let me know if yours is better; I’d be happy to hear that the entire chain isn’t plagued by the problems I’ve seen at my local outlet. And here they are:

1. The store is a mess. They take very poor care of their testers. Stuff is broken, smeared, and dusty. Sometimes things are scattered all over and nowhere near where their respective tester is located. Mostly it’s just dirty, which grosses me out.

2. The employees do not give a shit. Apart from a cursory “You finding everything OK?” every now and then, they don’t make any effort to be helpful at all. Generally they stand around in groups of two or three, gossiping about other employees. Just the other day I was in Ulta (last time, I swear) and two employees stood near an end cap viciously ranting about a third employee who wasn’t present. Let’s just say I heard WAY more than I bet their manager or the corporate PR would have liked me to hear.

3. Bait and switch. They advertise lots of specials and gift with purchase, but be warned: it’s all on you. If you don’t bring it up yourself at checkout, you will not get your gifts with purchase or special deals. You have to straight out explain the GWP to the cashier when you check out, then and only then she will check to see if they have the gift in question – sometimes they claim they’ve run out already. Also, watch carefully to see how much things ring up for, and make sure you’re getting any advertised sale or promotional prices.

4. Overpriced. The prices on boutique (i.e., stuff you can only buy there, Sephora, Nordstrom, etc.) items are standard, but Ulta also carries a huge selection of drugstore makeup, skincare, and haircare. And it is the highest price you’ll pay ANYWHERE for those products. Only buy drugstore items from Ulta if you’re desperate, or they have some clearly-marked, to-die-for special going (and then make SURE you get that deal at checkout).

In general, if there’s something you really want from Ulta, buy it from their website. I’ve shopped there before and not only do the gifts with purchase actually work and automatically get added to your cart; but they have great coupons and deals and they always honor them. However, I’d still buy from Sephora first.

Christmas Shopping!

My Christmas shopping is done. DONE, I tell you! Of course none of the wrapping (almost) is done, but that’s another story. Wrapping all the presents requires the following precious commodities:

1. A few hours without the intervention of my favorite elf, The Bean

2. At least two glasses of red wine

3. Oh, and some wrapping paper and stuff

I’ll get to it when I get to it (probably this weekend). But yeah, got that shopping part all done, and honestly, it was done over a week ago. Yay me!

One of the hardest people to buy for is my father. He is 80 years old, but very youthful and spry (think dude in his early 60s and you get the idea), and very independent. He lives alone in South Carolina (several miles from my sister and her family) and his hobbies include lawn maintenance, home remodeling, and watching the Weather Channel.

(Seriously, he LOVES taking care of his lawn, up to and including consulting with the local extension office at the University about the current season’s pests and soil conditions. My brother-in-law reports that Dad’s lawn looks like a golf course pretty much year round, and this obviously makes the neighbors by turns jealous and highly suspicious.)

Well, I couldn’t exactly get him a new tractor, and he has just about everything else. All my good ideas were taken in previous years: GPS device? Check. HDTV? Check. Weather station? Check. Toaster oven? Check.

So this is what I got him, more or less. Maybe it will give you some ideas for the quirky 80-year-old in your life.

Digital Counting Coin Bank. I didn’t get him this exact bank, but it’s similar. Dad still operates on an almost completely cash basis, so he ends up with lots of change. This nifty bank will let him keep track of how much he has stored up, so he knows when it’s time to truck it down to his local bank and dump it into their version of Coinstar.