Summer Goals Update

Earlier this summer I made two posts with goals for the summer. The first was travel related and the second was related to personal goals. Since the end of July is coming up quick, I wanted to check-in on my goals to see what I have accomplished, what is still manageable, and what will probably need to be pushed back to next year.

For travel, my five goals were to go hiking at Devil’s Lake, get drunk in a cabin with friends, visit Door County, explore a new cave, and visit Canada. I have done 2/5, hiking at Devil’s Lake and getting drunk in a cabin with friends. Both were lovely experiences. I will not be able to go to Door County or Canada this summer, so I will save those for my 2018 summer bucket list. I will be traveling in August so will check with friends and family to see if anyone would like to check out a cave.

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As far as my personal goals, I wanted to break even on my net worth, lose 15 pounds, spend more time with friends, read a book, and prepare to do well in school. Since this section is a little bit longer, I’ll break each one down a bit more.

  1. Break even on net worth: I don’t think that I will be able to accomplish this goal. My networth was -4k at the beginning of summer and is now -3k. I’m a little bummed out, but I am glad I have made progress. I will keep working toward this goal in August and try to get as close as I can. However, I don’t have a job anymore so there is no way that I am going to be able to pay bills, pay for life, and pay off $3k in debt.
  2. Lose 15 pounds: I have not lost any weight but I have been maintaining which is a positive. I no longer have access to a gym and would like to find a way to work out in August. I actually feel pretty good physically so I am not super worried about losing weight at the moment.
  3. Spend more time with friends: I have spent a lot of time with wonderful people this summer. I have made more of an effort to be in touch with my closer friends, and have had lunches/coffee with people who I care about. I can’t spend all my time with everyone which is a bummer, but it’s been really nice to connect this summer.
  4. Read a book: I have read TWO books 😀 – I would like to finish the book that I am currently reading and find another good one or two to read while I am traveling.
  5. Prepare to do well in school: I have been medium on this. I’ve had a lot of anxiety about starting school but am starting to get it together. Mostly I need to get started on my summer math prep class so that I don’t fail stats this fall.

Lovely lovely. How are you doing on your summer goals?

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Pool floats I’m dying to own

I’m not sure about you guys, but I didn’t notice pool floats become a thing. But I’m super happy that they are. Summer is 2/3 of the way over (cringe) but it’s not too late to buy a pool float. You could even stock up for next year.

These are the floats that I would buy if a) I had extra spending money b) I had consistent pool access.

1. The New Classic
Tried and true, these pool floats are amazing. A couple of weeks ago we went up to my friend’s cabin and had a great time floating around in these. The best part? They have cupholders.

2. Deceptively Delicious Donut Float

I never knew badly I wanted to float around on a donut until I had the opportunity to float around on a donut. This is something that everyone needs to have on hand if they’re planning to spend time in the water.

3. A Pizza Paradise

Speaking of tasty, I don’t think anything has ever looked as delicious as my boyfriend floating around on a giant piece of pizza. Nom nom!

4. Glorious Beautiful Peacock

If you’re not afraid of being upstaged by a beautiful plastic water float, you need this peacock raft. It is probably the most beautiful thing that you will ever sit on.

5. Don’t forget about your pupper!

If you’re lucky enough to have a doggo that will put up with bullshit, you absolutely need to purchase them a pool float. There is nothing better than lounging in the water with your best friend. Just don’t forget that their claws are sharp!

Last but not least.. Invest in an air pump. Seriously. I tried to blow up one of the donut floats and nearly died. I took breaks and kept coming back to it, only to find it completed deflated. Buy an air pump. Trust me.

What cute summer pool float are you dying to add to your collection of very important must have objects?

Review: Tony Moly Super Peeling Liquid Shiny Foot

One of my favorite Asian beauty products is the Tony Moly Super Peeling Liquid Shiny Foot. This product helps remove all of the dead skin from your feet and is absolutely disgusting but also complete magic. I have done a foot peel twice and have been very happy with the results both times. If you’re someone who has stubborn dead skin during the winter, I highly recommend trying this product out.

Tony Moly Super Peeling Liquid

The product comes packed neatly in a nice square box, about the size of a DVD case.

Tony Moly Super Peeling Liquid Contents

Inside you’ll find two packets of “super peeling liquid,” a sample-sized packet of the Tony Moly Shiny Foot foot cream, and two plastic booties.

Tony Moly Foot Peel Process

In order to use the product, you slip the booties on your feet and then pour in the peeling liquid. After you pour it in, you can tie the booties tight around your ankles to prevent any of the product from leaking.

Tony Moly Foot Peel Wraps

The liquid feels very cold when you pour it over your feet. Though it’s cold, the liquid does not hurt or tingle. It’s important that you keep the booties on for at least 30 minutes so that the liquid can soak into your skin. The booties fit my feet perfectly, and I am a US size 9. Because they have ties, the booties will be able to adjust to fit different sized feet.

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Here is a picture of my heel before using the product.

Tony Moly Foot Peel

Here is a picture of my heel after my skin started peeling. This process does not hurt – though it does hurt if you pick/peel any skin that is not ready to come off. The areas that are white tend to be ready to go and the areas that are more skin colored are not quite ready to be removed. It’s always a fun surprise when you look down and suddenly big chunks of your skin are falling off.

It takes about a week for the skin to start peeling, and the length of time that it peels is unique to each person. If you have an event or know that you will be showing off your feet, I would give yourself at least two weeks from start to finish so that you do not terrify anyone.

All-in-all, I really enjoy this Tony Moly product. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who wants to try out a foot peel or a unique product. I am keeping a couple of them on hand so that I can take care of my feet whenever a disaster strikes. Since I can’t keep my feet smooth on my own, it’s nice to know that at least there is a product out there that will turn the situation around.

Review: Mediheal AirGuard Foilab Sheet Mask

I was very excited to try out this sheet mask – not only is it super cool and unique, but it is the first asian beauty item that I have received for free in order to try out and review on my blog. I entered a contest on Mishe Beauty to try out several different products and was really excited when the company emailed to let me know that I had been selected to try out the Mediheal AirGuard Foilab Sheet Mask.

The product arrived in the mail a few weeks ago. I was very under the weather so I wasn’t able to review it right away, and I finally got the chance to do so today.

Mediheal Airguard Foilab Mask Silver Waterful

Right away I was really excited because I have never tried a foil mask before. I have seen a few pictures of them on the internet and had my fingers crossed that I would be able to try this one out. I was excited to see that it was “waterful” which means hydrating, because it is the middle of summer and I have been spending a lot of time in the sun. My skin needs all the hydrating it can  get.

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When I took the mask out of the packet I was surprised to see that it was in two pieces. I have been wanting to try a split mask for a while, but thought that I would need to cut one of my own in order to do so. Masks tend to fit my face pretty well so I haven’t needed to do it, but they never fit my boyfriend or my friends.

I was also very confused about how to put it on my face. I wasn’t sure if I needed to peel anything off, so I fumbled around with it for a while before I finally realized what to do.

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I had a lot of fun putting this on. I was not able to get off the couch so I did it blind and adjusted using my phone. I did think it was a bit of a strange fit and had a hard time straightening it out to try to make it look nice.

Sheet Mask Cute Girls

I enjoyed the fact that even looking super goofy I looked adorable.

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I had a hard time looking cute in this mask, maybe because my hair was wet, but I did have a lot of fun trying it on and taking pictures. It’s very fancy and cute! I texted my boyfriend and he called me a beautiful robot.

I didn’t care much for the serum. It had the standard chemically smell that a lot of masks have and it started to sting my face after a few minutes. I was worried that I might have an allergic reaction, so I probably need to check out the ingredient list and see if there is anything in it that might have caused that reaction. My skin was fine when I took the mask off, but it was not the most enjoyable sheet mask experience I have had.

The mask does contain “70% Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate.” I hadn’t heard of this before but a quick google suggests that it is a fermented fungus and is very common in asian skincare products. Apparently it is very good at moisturizing and locking that moisture in.

One of the coolest things about it is that the silver side felt dry, but when I took it off my skin was very moist from the serum. The material kept the moisture in so that it would absorb rather than evaporate.

All-in-all, I really enjoyed trying out this mask. The main draw is how cute and unique it is, but the mask itself was pretty nice. If you’d like to try it out feel free to check out the Mishe Beauty website. You can also apply for any of their ongoing campaigns and maybe receive a product to try yourself.

Do you think you’ll try one of these masks out? Do you have any other questions? I still want to try the gold version, it’s so beautiful!

My Favorite Blogs

Before I started blogging I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the blogging community. I had a photoblog back in the 2000s where I posted dozens of pictures of what I was doing every day, and I’ve started various small blogs for specific purposes, but nothing all-encompassing or long lasting. I also have not spent a lot of time visiting websites on the internet outside of social media / reddit / personal finances the last couple of years.

Now that I have this blog and can appreciate the amount of dedication it takes to have a blog and post in it regularly, I’ve been making sure to peruse my friends blogs on a regular basis. Here are a few that I visit + some comments on what I like about them.

#1 SkinnedCartree – My friend Corinne runs a UK Lifestyle blog. She makes a TON of money blogging and does such a great job with social media engagement. She is truly an inspiration. I love her blog because she combines practical information with product reviews and other goodies. She posts daily and I always love stopping by to see what she’s been up to.

Favorite Post: Postcode Pride – Corinne recently posted about the absolutely beautiful city of Bath in the UK. I recently visited in April and was just in love. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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Corinne and I loving each other at the Louvre in 2008

#2 Champagne Taste – Sarah recently started a fashion/lifestyle blog and I am so excited about it. I know nothing about fashion other than the fact that I really love everything Khloe Kardashian wears and I can’t afford any of it. Life is really hard. Sarah’s blog is full of tips on how to find quality items at decent prices. I’m looking forward to utilizing these tips when I have an income again after grad school!

Favorite Post: Why You Need It: the Louis Vuitton Speedy Bag – I actually really need this bag now. Thanks a lot, Sarah! This was one of her first posts and it was very persuasive, she’s definitely going to do great things with her blog.

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This is the only picture of me and Sarah that isn’t terribly embarrassing.

#3 Inspo & Co – I have never really talked to Katrina about her blog so she might be surprised by this mention, but I absolutely love it. Everything that Katrina does is so beautiful and I find her work very inspiring. From body positivity to vibrant and colorful photos, her blog is a visual treat. Side note, Katrina used to pick up books from the library I worked at and I’ve always thought we should be better friends because everything she checked out was something I loved.

Favorite Post: L. Feminine Hygiene Products are the Bomb – I like this post because we need more real talk about tampons. I’m currently using Lola but it’s a bit of a pricey service, so I’m definitely looking forward to checking this product out. I had no idea there was something so neat and affordable at Target. This is why we need bloggers!

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Katrina and I don’t have a lot of pics together.. But we’re both in this one!

If you have a blog that you want me to check out, let me know! I’d love to learn more about your interests!

Read Your Face Off Feature

A few weeks ago I joined a summer reading group called “Read Your Face Off.” It’s a really cool group organized by a woman here in Madison and a lot of my politically active friends are members. I was inspired to join because I’ve had trouble finishing books this year and joining has now helped me finish two.

I emailed the creator of the group last week to ask a question and she asked me if I wanted to be the featured reader. I typed up answers to a few questions and thought they would be fun to share here, too.

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What do you think? Agree? Disagree? What are your reading goals for summer? Have you read any good books lately? Tell me all your thoughts 🙂

The Grad School Series: Taking the GRE

One of the questions that I get asked the most about applying to grad school is, “How did you prepare for the GRE?” While I don’t think one way to prepare for the GRE that will work for everyone, I’m happy to share my experience and give some general tips and tricks.

RESEARCH

Though I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted to go to grad school last year, I noted when doing research which of the schools I was applying to required the GRE (all of them) and what the average scores were for each school. I knew right away that I would need to take the GRE but was assured by my friends who had applied that none of the schools I was interested in required impossibly high scores. After doing a little research, I noted that each of the schools required average reading/writing scores and below average math scores. Phew.

Graduate School GRE Score Research

Different schools listed their scores differently. Some listed the actual average score of the students they admitted, and others listed the average percentile. There are several websites that have fortunately done the work of converting the scores to percentiles and vice versa, for those of us who, you know, score below average in quant.

Once I knew that the schools required the GRE and what kind of scores I should shoot for, I started to look into what the GRE actually is. I knew that it was a test, but I had no idea what kind of material it covered, where to take it, what it cost, etc. Research was necessary.

The GRE is a standardized test required by most graduate schools. It measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. There are hundreds of locations around the country that administer the test (as well as other tests required by universities and professions) and they charge $200 to do so. In general, the tests shows that you can get it together enough to schedule, show up for, and sit through a long and tedious exam.

SCHEDULING

If you’re looking into and setting up your GRE exam a month before grad school applications are due, it’s already too late. It is important to give yourself time to schedule the exam, prepare for the exam, take the exam, and time for your scores to be transferred to and received by your schools. You may want to include an additional month (at the least) in case you do not do well and need to retake the exam. A good, safe GRE timeline is six months. A  pushing it timeline is three months. Less than that, and you’ll have to take what you get. 

STUDYING

I started studying the summer before I took the GRE, but I didn’t study consistently. The first thing that I did was turn to the commonly used vocabulary words sections and make notecards for any of the words I didn’t know. I flipped through them a couple times, but I have to say that I didn’t pick up very many words that I didn’t already know through the course of studying.

The next thing that I did was study test taking strategies. The strategies were helpful and I had never previously learned them or used them in a methodological way. I’m guessing that a lot of students learn these when taking the ACT/SAT in high school, but since I didn’t take those exams they were new to me. Some of the key strategies that I practiced were skipping questions, how to use scratch paper, elimination, ranking remaining answers, and using what you know about the remaining answers to make a decision. These were all helpful tools and are explained more in the books I’ll link to at the end of this section.

I focused the rest of my time (the month leading up to the exam) practicing math. I started at the very beginning of the math section of the book I was using and worked my way through. I did not have a very difficult time and felt fairly confident that I would do well.

About a week before the test, I started too look up examples of essays for the analytical writing section. I found it most helpful to look at essays that scored a 6, 5, 4, etc, to see what higher scoring essays had that lower scoring essays did not. It takes some time to understand what the differences are, but it starts to make more sense as you spend more time reading them and look at responses to different questions.

For practice, I used the following books.

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I also used the practice tests that are located on the GRE website. I printed them out and wrote ALL OVER the paper. I recommend using the practice tests on the website as they are previous questions and are most likely to reflect what you’ll see on the exam.

TAKING THE TEST

Taking the test ended up being a lot different from what I expected. I arrived at the testing center early. I realized when I got there that I had forgotten something at home that I needed afterwards and I called my mom to ask her to bring it to me. When I notified the prison guard working at the front desk (actually a nice 80 year old woman) that my mom would be dropping something off for me, she pretty much lost her mind and thought I was the most suspicious person on earth. Don’t follow my example.

Aside from that, the check in process was fairly easy. You check in and are assigned a locker where you are required to put all of your non-clothes belongings including watches, FitBits, and phones. If you have snacks, you’re allowed to leave them in a little kitchenette/locker area. I left my snacks (cuties and hershey’s kisses) here along with bottled water and chapstick.

Next you go into a room where they double check your identity, pat you down, and scan you with a metal detector. Real cool. They give you paper and you are reminded to be as quiet as possible while you are in the testing room. Then they take you to your chair and let you get started.

I don’t 100% remember the structure of the test but it was different from what I expected. There were several sections and it seemed to take much longer than I thought it would. I was extra upset when another math section popped up when I thought I had already completed the math sections.

The vocabulary sections were quick. They go by very fast and it is a little nerve wracking because in my case, I either knew them or I didn’t. I don’t like guessing.

The math sections were completely different from what I had prepared myself for. They were a lot uglier on the computer screen than they would have been written typed out on a sheet of paper. The formatting was weird. They were more complex than I expected. I probably got half right on each section.

The writing section was fine. You are given two essays to write. I highly recommend using your scratch paper to make an outline before starting and saving time to go back to edit / fluff with extra detail after initially finishing.

When I was done, I was done. I saw my scores for math and vocab and I was horrified.

MY RESULTS

I am not overly proud of my results and I know that there are things I could have done differently in order to do better. I also know that I could have tried to take the exam again to try for a better score. However, I also think it’s important that we share our experiences and be honest so that other people have realistic expectations.

public policy GRE scores

All of my scores were below average for the schools that I was interested in attending.  I was really upset and grumpy and cried to everyone around me about how I wouldn’t have a future. (Remember, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to go to grad school before I started this process.) A family member offered to pay for me to retake the test, but I wasn’t sure that I would do any better and I knew the results wouldn’t get to the schools in time. I decided to only apply to my top two schools, and I curbed my expectations by telling myself that it was very likely that I would not get into either.

I was very happy when I was accepted into both.

SUMMARY

If you want to go to grad school, you have to take the GRE. How you do on the GRE is completely subjective and does not determine whether or not you will be a good graduate student. In my case, it didn’t even impact my acceptance. As far as I can tell, the only draw back is that I will not be receiving funding for grad school. On the other hand, if I do well my first year there will be plenty of opportunities to earn scholarships/financial support for my second year.

If your scores are due in December, I recommend the following timeline.

May – June: Research schools, find out if you need to take the GRE, figure out what scores they require.
July – September: Study regularly. Start learning new vocabulary. Take practice tests to get an idea of what you’ll score.
September: Schedule and pay for an exam in October.
October: Study daily, take the exam. If you don’t do well, immediately schedule a second exam.
November: Take a second exam if necessary. Make sure the schedule allows for the scores to be received by the application due date. Add an extra week in to be safe.

Please let me know if you have any other questions about the process, or any tips and tricks you would like to share.

My Favorite Podcasts: Summer 2017

One of the first posts I made when I started my blog last year was My Favorite Podcasts: Summer 2016. At the time I had been listening to podcasts for just a few months and found them really helpful when trying to complete mountains of data entry at work. I’ve now been listening to podcasts for over a year and they help me get through a lot more than data entry; I listen to podcasts during long car rides, while mowing the lawn, sorting laundry, and anything else mundane that allows my brain to be mostly somewhere else.

I am not including the podcasts that were listed on my previous post because my opinion of them is still the same, they are amazing.

3. Modern Love: I really like this podcast because it explores unconventional relationships. Each episode features a celebrity guest reading a story that was written for the Modern Love column in the New York Times. One of the reasons that I like this podcast is that I never know what to expect, the stories reflect our relationships in that they are all varied and intricate. I’m rarely bored when I listen to this podcast and I especially like when they contact the author for follow-up.

Favorite Episode: A Child of Two Worlds. In this story, a mom had to make a tough choice about giving birth. The mother had to decide whether or not to give birth in a third world country without a lot of pre-natal resources or any options for emergency assistance should anything go wrong. It was neat to hear about the care offered to the expecting mom and made me wonder what I would do in a similar situation.

2. Radiolab Presents: More Perfect:  This would be my all time favorite podcast if there were more episodes. I absolutely loved listening to this. The podcast takes prominent Supreme Court cases and explains how they have impacted our judicial system and every day lives. While it sounds nerdy and probably is a little bit, it’s fascinating to hear the intricacies behind cases that have affected our lives in ways we don’t even realize.

Favorite Episode: Object Anyway. This episode bummed me out. It discusses Batson v. Kentucky, the case that led to the creation of the Batson Rule. The Batson Rule is a court rule that doesn’t allow attorneys to remove jurors based on race. This sounds wonderful but they explain in the podcast that all the attorneys have to do is give another excuse as to why they don’t want that person to be on the panel. The world is frustrating.

1. Criminal: I started listening to this podcast last month and have made it through 40 episodes. This podcast is actually perfection. There has only been one episode that I have found boring and every other episode has been engaging. It’s another podcast where I never know what to expect and find myself super interested in something I never knew was a thing. I have to admit – I thought the first episode was boring and it stopped me from listening to more right away. If you don’t like it, skip it and keep going. It’s worth it!

Favorite Episode: No Place Like Home. This episode talks about a man who went to prison and found out that the prison was also home to the last remaining leper colony in the US. Many of the people who lived there were dropped off as children and left there for years and years. It’s really sad to think about how we have treated anyone who is at all “different” in the US and was a very eye opening episode.

There you go! My top three podcasts right now.

What are you listening to? I’m always looking for new suggestions.

June Instagram Memories

June was a wonderful month for me. I tried to keep myself busy by doing the things that make me happy and did a fairly good job of it.

Early in the month I took a trip to Devil’s Lake for hiking, which crossed an item off of my summer 2017 bucket list. We had an amazing time and really enjoyed the views and exercise. I highly recommend an evening hike at Devil’s Lake if you have the opportunity!

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Click on the picture if you’d like to see more pictures from the trip

I also developed my new found interest in ice cream with not one but TWO trips to the ice cream shop with my little brother. Summer time brother time is my favorite. I love that he doesn’t have school and I can take him wherever I want whenever.

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Toward the end of the month I saw one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. I came out of the gas station to see a double rainbow forming. Instead of continuing on, I decided to sit in the parking lot and watch it. It kept getting brighter and stronger and ended up being so incredibly beautiful that I was nearly in tears.

It was so cool seeing all of the people come out of the stores to look at the rainbow and my mom drove over to where I was to look at it with me. It was amazing. We need more beautiful rainbows in America.

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I posted on Instagram 18 times. I feel like I don’t post on there very often so I am trying to make more of an effort. Personally I hate the new algorithm that shows you the top posts instead of every post.. It’s super annoying and makes it much less fun to use. Whatever. Here are my June memories.

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Feel free to follow me on instagram @jenrazzle if you would like to see my posts on a regular basis 🙂

The Grad School Series

I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to go to grad school. I had an idea of what I wanted to study and the schools that I wanted to apply for and I started doing research before I finished my undergrad. At the same time, it was really important to me that I take some time to earn money and gain professional experience. However, when I started working in salaried positions, I quickly realized that I missed the academic environment and using the skills (especially writing) that I had spent years and thousands of dollars developing.

When I graduated I created a five year plan. I wrote in a lot of flexibility and knew that I wouldn’t be able (or perhaps even want) to stick to it 100%, but I have used it to help keep me on track with my general life goals. My plan was to spend my first year after college working and not thinking about schools. I then wanted to spend the second year working but also researching and applying to graduate schools with the intention of starting the next fall.

While I did diverge from the plan a little bit and wasn’t always sure that I wanted to go to graduate school, I continued working on the plan so that the option would be available to me. This blog series will tell you about the steps that I took and the things that I learned along the way. Please let me know if you have questions or comments, or if there is anything that I left out that you’re interested in learning about. I’m reasonably open and I want to share the ups and downs so that others aware of how the process works and can make the decisions that are right for them.

Topics:
-Researching programs to choose the right masters degree
-Researching schools
Preparing for and taking the GRE
-The application process
-Weighing offers and choosing a school
-What to do if you don’t receive funding
-How to transition from working full-time to being a full-time student

I’ll update this main post with links as the blog entries are created. Please let me know if there are any specific topics that you’re interested in that I haven’t covered.