I have become one of those people

During the last quarter of 2015, I caught a nasty bug. When I finally went to the doctor, I found that I weighed much more than I thought I did. While I didn't weigh enough to be on My 600-lb Life, it was definitely more than I was comfortable with. So I decided to do something about it. I signed up with a personal trainer in February.

My trainer, Tammy, is pretty awesome. At the first appointment, we took some body measurements and tried a few exercises to see where I was starting. The next week ramped it up a little bit but not enough that I was ready to quit. But by the third week, Tammy kicked it up. A lot. But never to the point where I couldn't do anything. If something hurt or I had too much trouble with a specific exercise (damn you, push ups), we would modify it a little bit. I have yet to not finish a set.

But the part I like the most about Tammy? She makes me feel like I'm not working out. When I come in, she'll write the night's "assignments" (OK, they're sets) on the board and show me how to do each move properly. Once I get started, we spend the rest of the time chatting while I work out. I may not be able to respond with words (mostly because I'm trying to count in my head) but it's enough to distract me from what I'm doing. Before I know it, the night's workout is over and I'm heading home extremely sweaty.

On March 23, we took my measurements again. This was after only four weeks of training with her. (I had to take two weeks off due to a migraine and some school commitments for my daughter.) I lost an inch off my waist, three inches off my hips (which is my worst part), and an inch and a half off my thigh. In addition, I gained three-quarters of an inch on my bicep due to muscle.

For the record, this was almost entirely exercise based. My diet barely changed. I drank a little less soda, I added some more protein, and I tried to eat less fast food. I still don't measure or weigh my portions. The only real change is that I drink smoothies for breakfast instead of a bagel slathered with cream cheese. But I can still have a bagel once in awhile if I want!

I never thought I would be one of those people that enjoyed working out. Dancing has always been my "workout" but I don't do it nearly enough to make a difference in my body. Thanks to Tammy, I look forward to my trainer appointments. I've even purchased a kettlebell and a dumbbell to use at home in between our weekly appointments. A good trainer really does make a world of difference.

This new thing cars have nowadays

Cars, nowadays, have this new fangled thing that no one seems to know how to use properly. They're called HEADLIGHTS. For some reason, a majority of people seem to think that the sole purpose of headlights is to allow you to see at night. A majority of people are incorrect.

I'm not saying that headlights don't help you see better at night. However, headlights do help other drivers see you better in non-ideal conditions. What does this mean? It means that, on days when it is rainy or foggy or snowy, your car's headlights make it easier for the other drivers on the road to see your car. How many times have you been driving in the rain when, all of a sudden, a grey car without his lights on comes out of nowhere almost causing an accident? I'm sure it's happened more than once.

Let me say this once again:

Your Headlights Are Not For You.

Please, in the future, unless it is a bright sunny day outside, just turn on your headlights. Hey, even when it is bright and sunny outside, turn on your headlights. It will help you get into the habit of turning them on when it's gross out. You will make everyone on the road a lot safer.

Thank you.

Why Can't I Write?

If you have been following my blog (and you should), you'll notice that I haven't really written anything since October. But why, Cass? You were doing so well!

I could come up with a ton of excuses but it boils down to two hard facts: 1. November and December are difficult months for me and 2. I get writer's block in January and February. Let's take a closer look at these two reasons and see if we can't figure out a solution together.

1. Blogging and Vlogging are not my full time jobs. While I would love to make them my main source of income, at this point in time, they are not. That means that I have a full time job outside of my house. It's already difficult enough to find the time and energy to keep up both my blog and my YouTube channel after commuting an hour each way and working 8 hours in between. On top of that, my daughter is very involved in activities so I have to dedicate a few more of those precious "me time" hours to transporting her around town. And that is during the normal months! Add in Thanksgiving and Christmas and *BAM!* something has to give.

Another addition to the stress of the holidays and busy work schedule is the fact that I got very sick during the last quarter of the year. I went to the doctor a few times and, beyond a kidney stone that required surgery, no one could give me a diagnosis for my cold symptoms. We chalked it up to bronchitis and went on with life. However, this meant that, instead of spending my free time writing and vlogging, my free time was spent sleeping and trying to recover. Then came excuse number 2.

2. I have writer's block. Once I was well enough to be a normal human being again, I ran out of ideas for both my blog and my vlog. I don't want to keep doing the same thing over and over again but I'm not sure what to do differently. Even now, I don't really know what I want to do. I know I want to keep you, my readers, in the loop. I just don't know what that loop is.

So, here we go. I turn to you for ideas. What type of posts would you like to see here? Reviews of television shows or books or movies? More How To type posts like How To Make A Dance Floor? Issues that affect society like Why The Minimum Wage Should Be Raised? Should I bring back the Website of the Week feature? Leave me a comment telling me what you are interested in reading. We can get through this together.

There's no business like snow business

I'm sure many of you have heard about the huge snowstorm that passed through the eastern United States this past weekend. Here in Berks County, Pennsylvania, we had 30 inches of snow fall within 24 hours on Saturday. Sadly, you will not hear any official record stating such. But, if you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen the snow covering my husband's Kia Soul. Sadly, my Honda Fit was a little too far away from my porch to get a good picture and I wasn't going any farther than my front door! (Hint: That is my blue car in front of his silver car.)

Approximately 11:00AM on Saturday, January 23, 2016

Approximately 11:00AM on Saturday, January 23, 2016

As you can imagine, most things were closed on Monday. All of the schools in the Philadelphia area were closed, the post office was not delivering mail, and even the grocery stores were mostly closed. The plow trucks were having a difficult time keeping up with the amount of snow that fell, making the roads mostly impassable.

Approximately 2:40PM on Saturday, January 23, 2016

Approximately 2:40PM on Saturday, January 23, 2016

Despite the weatherpeople's insistence that we did not have a blizzard nor did we have the largest snowfall in the area, you can see from these pictures that there was a lot of snow. Notice that the back of my Fit is no longer visible above, though you can still see a little bit of the Soul's doors! Schools were closed, once again, on Tuesday due to dangerous roads. It wasn't until today, Wednesday, that school was back in session, albeit a 2-hour delay. I worked from home the entire time, only venturing out of my house today to come into the office.

My backyard at 10:54AM on Sunday, January 24, 2016

My backyard at 10:54AM on Sunday, January 24, 2016

Of course, digging out from under all that snow has been a chore. My car wasn't freed from its snowy tomb until late yesterday afternoon. Thankfully, the temperatures have been rising slightly, letting the snow melt some. But that also means that liquid refreezes on the road overnight, making the morning commute an icy mess.

At least we are used to snow, here in Pennsylvania. It would just be nice if it wasn't THAT much snow. I'm all ready for you, summer!

 

Charcoal Masks are INTENSE (Giveaway!)

The folks at ASDM Beverly Hills were awesome enough to send me their new Detox & Renew Charcoal Mask to try out. I've only ever tried one other charcoal mask so I was interested to see if different masks had different effects.

This particular mask comes inside a rather large box. (See the first image above.) Inside the box is the 2 oz jar containing the product and a fan brush for applying it. I have to say that the box seemed unnecessarily large for the two items. The jar takes up about 1/3 of the space and the brush fits flush against the side of the box. Sure, it is taller than the jar but there is still a lot of empty box wasted. The brush could probably be a lot shorter without having any real effect on the usefulness of the tool. Then the box itself could be smaller as well.

Like many masks, the instructions are pretty easy. After washing your face, use the fan brush to brush on a thin layer of the charcoal mask, making sure you avoid the eye and nostril areas. Wait somewhere between 2 and 10 minutes, then rinse off. Easy peasy!

But this is where things went wrong for me. As you can see in the picture, I have a very thin layer on my skin and I thought I avoided the eye and nostril area. However, my eyes started burning the second the mask touched my skin. Shortly thereafter, my skin started feeling very warm as well. It's difficult to tell from this picture but I am having a very hard time keeping my eyes open long enough to snap a shot of the mask actually on my face. Unfortunately, I couldn't even wait two minutes before having to wash it off. For the rest of the night, the skin between my nose and my cheekbones was red and felt very warm, almost like the product actually burned me. Very disappointing.

Have you ever tried a charcoal mask? The first one I tried didn't seem to get nearly as hot as this one did. What are your experiences with charcoal masks?

ASDM Beverly Hills has given me a jar of their charcoal mask to give away to one of my readers. The contest will run from 10/27/15 through 10/31/15 and is open to everyone. The winner will be announced on Facebook and Twitter on 11/1/15 so be sure to follow me on both of those platforms. Good luck!

I received a sample of the charcoal mask for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own.

(Fact) Check Yourself!

Everyone has that Facebook friend. The person that shares every homeopathic "cure" they see, whether or not it actually works. But it doesn't stop with people talking about the healing properties of pineapples. Thanks to people not fact-checking things before sharing them, some people actually believe that Mr. Rogers was a NAVY seal before starring on his television show or that any number of celebrities died prematurely. The question is - why don't any of these people fact check the information before sharing it? Here are some easy ways to check if that fact you are sharing is correct.

  1. Google it. Everyone has access to Google. I bet you even have it on your phone. Simply type a few keywords into the search engine (for example: "pineapple cough") and you will likely find the answer quickly.
  2. Snopes.com. Run by a husband and wife team, the website specializes in debunking urban myths. This is one of the best fact checking sources around.

Honestly, these are your two best sources. There are some other, smaller, website around (like Truth or Fiction) but they aren't as established as Snopes.

So, before you click on that share button, make sure you check yourself before you wreck yourself. (Yeah, I went there.) And feel free to check other people. Sure, they may get angry that someone showed their gullibility but maybe they will think twice before blindly sharing. After all, knowledge is power.

Her Story - A Different Type of Video Game

I don't play video games very often. Sometimes there are stories that I need to play through to see where it goes. Her Story is that type of game.

Her Story isn't your typical video game. There are no monsters or bad guys to kill. There are no princesses to save. There are no treasure chests to be opened. Instead, you are given a computer with access to a police database. You have to search the database for video clips of woman taking part in a number of police interviews. These clips do not contain the officer's side of the conversation. Only hers. And you can only access the clips by searching for keywords. Some of these keywords are contained in previously viewed clips (you are given one keyword to start off - "murder") but some of them you have to figure out on your own. When you have watched enough of the main storyline videos, an instant message will pop up asking if you have figured it out. The answer is up to you.

I bought this game from Steam because (1) it was $6.00 and (2) the gameplay sounded interesting. I'm not good at shoot-em-up games or difficult puzzle games but I am good at hidden picture or games that require you to figure out the answer. Since the gameplay is so much different from every other game out there, I was intrigued. There are no real controls. You just have to search a database. How difficult can that be?

The game, itself, is not difficult. There are a few instances where I ran out of obvious keywords so I had to broaden my searches a bit. The difficulty in the game lies in the fact that there is no real solution. As you watch the videos, it is obvious that the case is about the murder of a man. The woman in the video is his wife. She tells a variety of stories - a lot of them based on fairy tales. You have to decide which stories to believe. And the goal of the game is not to decide whether or not this woman committed the murder. No. You have to decide if the videos depict twin sisters or one woman with multiple personalities. At no point are you given a definitive answer. And, from what I can tell, the answer is different for everyone. Some people see traits that prove the twin theory and some people see traits that prove this is only one woman.

While I did enjoy the game, the lack of an ending is frustrating. I wanted there to be some sort of definitive answer and there is not. Sam Barlow, the creator, wanted it that way. To be honest, I have more fun scouring the (real) internet for other people's opinions. Maybe that is what Barlow was aiming for. Not so much the experience of the game itself but the interaction of the players after the game was over. There have been a ton of online discussions debating what was real versus what was a lie. I think that alone makes Her Story one of the most interesting video games of the year.

The Economy (or Why The Minimum Wage Should Be Raised)

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images News / Getty Images
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images News / Getty Images

Money is one of the things that you can guarantee will cause an argument. Some people have more money than they could ever possibly spend. However, many people are barely scraping by. In 2014, 46.7 million people in the United States were living below the poverty line. I plan to show you how raising the minimum wage in the US will not only bring people out of poverty, it will actually improve the current economic climate.

For those of you that don't know, the United States is a capitalist country. We thrive on the free market. Being able to choose where we spend our money is an American right! But, thanks to the Regan era, we are stuck in a wrong mindset. Many people seem to think that "trickle down economics," where giving benefits to the wealthy helps the rest of society, works. Well, it doesn't.

Capitalism is based on the theory that people will spend money on products. The economy needs people to have enough disposable income to keep it going. Instead of relying on the few wealthy people in society, we need the larger middle class to spend. The only way that will happen, though, is if they (and, to a lesser degree, the lower class) bring enough money into their households to pay for things like food and rent. We, as a society, need to make sure that these necessities can be covered so money can be spent on other, not-so-necessary things.

Let me give you a scenario: Bob attended college. He got his degree and is qualified to teach high school math. However, Bob can't find a job teaching. But Bob still has to eat and pay rent. (We'll be 'nice' and keep Bob single so he doesn't have to pay for diapers or baby food or daycare costs.) So Bob takes a job at his local grocery store. Bob barely makes enough money to feed and house himself. He can't afford a car or to have a meal at a restaurant or buy the nice pair of shoes.

This is the problem. Without Bob spending his money at other businesses, those businesses don't have the money to pay their workers. It is a vicious circle. However, if we paid Bob a little bit more, Bob would have some extra money he could spend on extra things. He could eat at the local restaurant, which would generate more money for the business, who could afford to pay their workers more. Then those workers would have extra money to spend at other businesses. And around and around and around.

Thanks to the media, people think that the retail workers or fast food workers are nothing but lazy scum. They are not. They are hard working people like everyone else. Maybe they prefer retail work (someone has to help you buy that shirt or that microwave) or fast food (someone needs to cook those burgers if you want to eat them). That doesn't make them lazy. That makes them useful members of society. And we need to treat them as such. There is no reason that they shouldn't be paid a wage that will allow them to not only survive but thrive as well.

To those of who you think that raising the minimum wage would result in a $15 hamburger at McDonald's. You are wrong. Dead wrong. Capitalism survives on supply-and-demand. When demand is high and the supply is high, the cost is low. I don't forsee McDonald's running out of hamburgers any time soon. Instead, the demand will increase since now Bob can afford to buy a burger. If anything, prices will decrease because the demand will be that much higher.

But where do we get the money to start the process? I know this is very unpopular but those outrageous salaries of executives need to be cut. The CEO of CVS, Larry Merlo, makes a little over $24 million. If you cut that by 25%, that would give an additional $6 million that could be spread out over their lower-tier employees and, poor Mr. Merlo, would still have $18 million per year left. The same is true for all of the top executives.

We, as a society, need to stop believing that certain work is menial or beneath us. All jobs are necessary or they wouldn't exist in the first place. Now we need to stop treating the people doing those jobs as scum. They are people too and they deserve to be treated as such. They deserve to have good, healthy food and an apartment that isn't filled with cockroaches and rats. I wish I could say that it was simple selfishness. No, we are hurting ourselves more than we are helping. Sadly, it is nothing more than greed. And greed will be what collapses our economy.

Installing KissPat Feather Hair Extensions

Feather hair extensions are a popular way to dress up your hairstyle. Even though they are called "feathers," they aren't really feathers. They are simply hair extensions that sorta look like feathers. And they are much easier to get in your hair than you think! Watch the video below to see step-by-step instructions on how you can install extensions in your own hair!

I received a sample of these hair extensions for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own.



How To Use "Common Core" Math

We've all seen those posts on Facebook. Especially around this time of year. Parents complaining about their kids' homework. Math usually gets the brunt of the hate. Poor math. But the problem doesn't lie in "The New Math." It lies in the fact that many parents won't even bother to try to understand the process behind Common Core. I'm going to try my best to help you figure it out.

First off, Common Core is not a way to do things. It is merely a list of standards. Since most of the complaints revolve around elementary school math, that is where I will focus. That example above is a terrible example so I'm going to ignore it. I'm pretty sure that was someone just trying to screw around. Let's look at a better example:

In "The Old Way," you had to carry numbers and remember to add those numbers to the next set of numbers and...it could get really confusing if you didn't have a piece of paper and a pencil in front of you. With "The New Way," you get the original set of numbers into easier to use numbers. Here: 29 becomes 20 + 9 and 17 because 10 + 7. We can easily add the 20 and the 10 to get 30 so we really just have to handle that unwieldy 9 and 7. Because we know basic addition, we can easily figure out that 9 + 7 equals 16. So now we have 30 + 16. We can break that down even farther by saying 10 + 6 equals 16. Add the 30 to the 10 and we're up to 40. Add the 40 to that leftover 6 and it's 46. No carrying at all.

"But," you say, "isn't that a lot of work to get to the simple answer in the old example?" Not really. It just looks that way on paper. See, this "new" way isn't really new at all. This is how a lot of people do math in their head without writing it down. (This is also how people who do "fast math" in their head tend to do it.)

I'm betting you don't believe me. Take an addition or subtraction (this will also work with multiplication and division but we'll keep it simple) problem. Something a little more difficult. Say, 34 + 28. Go through the new process in your head. No writing it down! Isn't it just a little bit easier?

"Common Core" isn't out to get you or ruin your children by teaching them a new way to do things. It is trying to teach your children how to think, period. Rote memorization doesn't work. And that is what most of us did in the olden days. We simply memorized number patterns. When it came time to figure out that 15% tip, we didn't know how to do it without writing it down. The new lessons will teach them the math skills they will need later in life. I know it looks scary. Just have a little patience and give your brain some time to come around. You really can teach an old dog new tricks, you know.