Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tata Harper at Lily Grace in Ann Arbor

At the register to buy my Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask, per her suggestion!
I have been looking forward to this event for several weeks now. I have been using a product from the Tata Harper line since late last year, and when I learned that Tata was actually coming to visit Lily Grace Cosmetics (located at 306 S Main Street, Ann Arbor), I knew this would be my one and only time to meet her and learn more about her products. I love Lily Grace Cosmetics so much, it reminds me of a posh cosmetic boutique that could be found on 5th Avenue in New York City, or on Abbott Kinney Ave in Venice Beach, CA. It was a complete coup for Lily Grace to have Tata visit their beautiful store.

What impresses me about the Tata Harper skincare line is that it's all natural - 100% Natural and Nontoxic. I have very sensitive and oily skin. And I realize that some of the foods I eat can contribute to breakouts and the overproduction of oils, which lead to my skin looking like an oil slick, and having break outs. Via the combination of modifying my diet, and using natural products on my face, Tata Harper's products are the natural choice for someone like me.

The old adage, 'you get what you pay for', rings true with her skincare. It is not cheap, but you also won't go broke, but with my budget, I can't buy the entire line all at once. I have to be selective in what I buy, and then prepare my budget to expand my regimen to include more of Tata's products.

A customer asking Tata a question at end of facial seminar.
As you can see from some of these pictures, she's just adorable, and she's originally from Columbia. She created her natural skincare line all on her own, using her own money to finance the hiring of chemists to create these serums and oils, all from natural ingredients and flowers. The event was interactive with Tata and we used all the products on our faces. My face feels so good that I dare not need to wash it for the evening, I'm done for the day. At the end of the seminar, I was able to ask Tata directly which product out of the entire line can someone like me with oily acne prone sensitive skin, who is on a budget, should buy today. I told her I already use the Replenishing Nutrient Complex, and she immediately told me to buy the resurfacing mask because it's a mask that I can use up to 2 times a week and leave it on for 25 minutes. So I thanked her and purchased it.

Tata helping a customer select which products to buy.
I look forward to the day when I can incorporate her entire product line into my daily regimen because it's an investment in my face, which is the first thing people see, and I need to take better care of it. Go check out TataHaperSkincare.com for yourself! This sunny day in downtown Ann Arbor was perfect weather for Tata's visit, and it reminded me as to why it's so awesome living in this fantastic town! Please visit the Lily Grace Cosmetics blog - http://lilygracecosmetics.com/ .

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Getting closer to Paris


An aerial view of an avenue in Paris.
My Paris and London plans are firming up, however, I'm still just waiting for airfare to go down a little. It sucks in a way to live in Michigan because I'm in the mid-west, not the East Coast, and Detroit Metro is not Newark, JFK, or DC, so our prices will be higher. However, I still anticipate the price to go down a couple hundred dollars in the next 24-48 hours. And I'm just waiting to hit the purchase button when it does go down. I know I can save money now by buying a 1-stop ticket, but that's bullshit. There's no valid reason why I cannot fly to London non-stop, barring crucial budget reasons - and if that were the case, I really shouldn't even go. But, things aren't that tight, I just have issues with spending $1501 on a fucking non-stop to London May/June. Yes, I know it's "peak" travel time... but I have been to London, the past four times, in Nov/Dec, I want to enjoy the spring, especially in Paris.
And in getting physically prepared for my trip, I have been walking home on some days after work, the past few weeks. Now that I'm completely done with classes this term, I have given thought to walking to work and back home. This morning, I did my first walk. It was colder than I expected, and it was drizzingly outside, but it was manageable and it was a great morning exercise. It gave me a rush even! But I think one of the high points of my walk was that as I was walking through the empty Whole Foods parking lot, I found a $5 bill. Now you may say, 'that's nice'. And it is, very nice. But $5 isn't a lot of money. So in my continued effort to win the lottery, I used that five bucks to buy two EZ pic powerball for a chance to win $116 million, and I bought one classic lotto 47 for a chance to win $3.6 million. Needless to say, I will be happy with either grand prize.

Now I've been reading articles about lottery winners, and the chances of winning the lottery, and there are a gabillion different scenarios out there in the cosmos that need to line up in the right order for ME to win. Some say it's luck, some say it's all statistics and probabilities. I believe it's a little bit of both, but, with more luck to do with it than anything. However, what are the probabilities of me deciding to walk to work, for the first time today, in crappy weather, and walk directly in the path of that huge parking lot, to find a wet, folded over $5 bill? Now you think about that, because I surely have. My immediate thought was to invest it in some ez picks or some scratch offs. What do I have to lose since it's money that I found in an empty parking lot? So, I think with all things considered, some how, I may get a slight edge in wining something in either games. And that's not including the Wednesday drawing tickets I already purchased as part of my weekly lottery game allowance. So, we'll see. :D

After reading an article yesterday about how all the surviving Boston bombing victims who are hospitalized are expected to live, it was mentioned how much blood was used in saving their lives. There always seems to be a low supply of blood throughout the country, and especially in times of emergencies, it's all the more important to have access to blood. If you have never donated blood before, this is the reason why you need to donate, if you are eligible. I made an appointment to donate blood for this Saturday morning. I have donated many times before, but there was a period of several years when I could not because I was anemic. However, now that that problem is solved, just as my iron levels are "normal", the Red Cross friggin' upped their minimum required hemoglobin level to 12.5 (I was at a 11.1), so the last two times I tried to give, they refused my lame iron deficient ass. My iron level was now not at their new minimum level. I'm hopeful that I can donate this weekend, if not, just fuck it, I tried. I don't understand why they moved the acceptable iron level to a level where my body just can't meet. For a while I was taking vitamins, and I love spinach and iron rich foods. But I don't know if I'm naturally physically able to ever meet their minimum requirements again. I'll let you know if I succeed!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Boston Terrorism: I'm glad it's over!

Like many of you, I have been following the Boston Marathon bomb terror since Monday afternoon, and reading updates all through the week. On Friday morning, I heard on the radio as I was getting ready for work, that one of the two suspects was killed and the other was on the run. Subsequently, the entire city of Boston was on lock down in an effort to protect innocent civilians from possible gunfire shoot-outs. While at work on Friday, I listened in on NECN Live, they are a live stream news channel. Sadly, at a time like this, it was frustrating that none of the major networks allowed live stream of their broadcast. But in any event, I didn't need them anyway because I got news in other ways.

It was anxiety producing and stressful watching the waiting game of when they would find Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The 19 year old punk did the unthinkable: Caused a major American city to be on lockdown. Never before has this happened before! Impressively scary. In the back of my mind, I figured that he was either far away and travelling to another state, or he was very close by, VERY close by. Surely in all the gunfire exchange he had to have been hit, and if that was the case, the slow loss of blood would tire him and he would be found dead somewhere or unconscious.  But in the end, he was found hiding in a boat at 67 Franklin Street (surely an address that will be famous forever, the owner may even have to sell the home for privacy I bet!)

Of all of Dzhokhar's relatives who were interviewed yesterday, his useless father, his deranged aunt, it was his uncle in Maryland, Ruslan, who proved to me the most decent and intelligent. It is now no wonder why Dzhokhar eventually turned on the city and country that raised him. It's too bad that this bastard could not assimilate into American society and instead of moving out of the country, he choose to help build bombs that killed 3 people, injured around 180 people (permanently maiming most of them for life). He then went on to help assassinate an MIT officer, and seriously wound a Boston police officer in a shoot out.

In the end, I'm relieved he was found alive, he surrendered, and is now in a hospital. He will be questioned to an inch of his life, and he will then go on trial, and eventually given a death penalty sentence, or life in prison and solitary confinement. Either way, it appears that Friday, April 19th, for just a 19 year old, was the last free day of his short life.

I'm proud of what the law enforcement did yesterday in finding the suspect and safely taking him into custody. I hope now that the people who have been directly harmed by his actions can find some closure as he is brought to swift justice!

The Daily Mail has a very good article posted, and that is where I got this abbreviated timeline:

'We Got Him!': Twenty four hours of chaos comes to an end: How Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was apprehended by police after day-long search

April 18 5.30pm - The FBI releases CCTV footage and stills of two suspects from surveillance cameras near the explosion sites filmed shortly before the blasts. FBI agent Richard DesLauriers asks for the public's help in identifying the men who are both wearing baseball caps and carrying backpacks. 'We consider them to be armed and extremely dangerous,' Mr DesLauriers said, warning that they should not be approached.
10.30pm - A campus police officer is shot and killed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, near Boston, after responding to a report of a disturbance.
Shortly afterwards, police get a report of a carjacking nearby. The two men are suspected of killing the MIT police officer, then stealing the car at gunpoint and later releasing its driver unharmed. The suspects threw explosives from the car as police followed it to the Boston suburb of Watertown.
April 19 1am - Witnesses report hearing multiple gunshots and explosions in Watertown. Residents are advised to keep their doors locked and not let anyone in. TV footage shows armed officers surrounding a suspect lying on the ground.
Police later say one of the two suspects in the MIT officer shooting is dead but the other, who is tied to the Boston marathon bombing, remains at large.
Public transport is suspended in the Boston area as the hunt for the remaining suspect continues.
A new photo of him on the loose is released showing him in a grey hoodie sweatshirt at a 7-Eleven store in Cambridge.
5pm - Police admit at a press conference they don't know where 19-year-old Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev is. Authorities lift 'shelter in place' orders and allow residents to venture outside.
5.45pm - David Henneberry finds a body in his boat on Franklin Street in Watertown, less than three quarters of a mile from where Tsarnaev ditched his stolen Mercedes SUV.
6pm - Officers surround Mr Hennerberry's boat and exchange fire with him.
7.05pm - Flash grenades are reportedly tossed into the boat to stun Tsarnaev.
8.43pm - Tsarnaev surrenders and it taken into custody. He is rushed to the hospital by ambulance

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Just 42 days out!

I found this image of the Eiffel Tower at tumblr this morning and it represents two things: The end of the my winter term of grad school, and my trip to Paris (4 June - 8 June). I'm going to be taking dozens of pictures of this landmark and surely one or all of them will be the banner image of this blog. And speaking of the banner image, I'm going to rotate it possibly up to two times a month. During the first 7 months of this blog, I had one image of the State Theatre's marquee, but that gets old pretty quickly. To keep up with the 'zen' concept of ToZ, I'm going to showcase original images taken by me as the banner image.

I will not have any classes this summer, but I'll be busy looking for a new job and working on my graduate project pertaining to my FACT Community website - which hasn't been updated in weeks due to the demands of my studies.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thinking of Boston: 4/15


First bomb just went off, and in the background, the second and largest bomb can be seen in active detonation. And amazing but horrific image.
 Like many of you, I am in shock and anger of the bomb attacks in Boston near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. As of this moment, 3 people are dead, and approximately 150+ people are wounded, many of them gravely wounded with missing limbs.

I don't know what to say, or what to do. I feel helpless because I want to help. I guess I can just ask those who happen to read this to take a moment and reflect and use the goodness in your heart, to do good and be good to your fellow human being. I believe that MOST people are GOOD people; and there are just a few strong evil and sick ones out there. Just like eating an apple... if you find a molded section, the entire apple is no good. That is how corrupt and bad evil people are, and their evil and wicked deeds. But we can't allow them to ruin our world and lives.

The first terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001 will set off new changes on our civil liberties. I hope that the person(s) responsible are found soon before they wreck havoc again. Based on the number of bomb devices found throughout the immediate central area of Boston where the marathon finish line was located, it appears that more bombs were suppose to go off and destroy more lives and property. Regardless if the bombers are domestic or foreign, they are both terrorists and need to be dealt with quickly.

As I train for just a mere 5K race for this summer, my heart and prayers really goes out to the runners, their families, and the spectators and supporters who were directly harmed by the bombing yesterday.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Playing the American Card

This coming weekend, I will be extremely busy working on two final papers and a presentation. To say I'm stressed out is an understatement, but the previous semester was worse, so I think I'm doing fine. The state of my apartment is another matter. But, I shall tend to it next week after my final class on Wednesday. So with that said, I did want to update you all in regards to my London spa plans after my rant earlier this week in regards to the Sanctuary Spa poor customer service.

Me and my friend Lucinda discovered the Amida spa in the Chelsea section of London as a brilliant substitute. We found a coupon deal at the Wahanda webpage for the Spring Sensation Spa Day for £65, a 38% discount deal! It includes full use of the spa facilities and 55 minute Aromatherapy Intensive Muscle Release Massage! Just tying that makes me weak in the knees in anticipation of this massage. And again, with saving so much money instead of going to the other spa, we jumped on it. However, Lucinda bought her voucher first, only to realize after the purchase that the voucher was only good through May 31st. We plan to go on June 3! So I emailed the Amida Spa directly to inform them that I'm traveling to London, from the States (Tip 1: Play the American card when dealing with overseas businesses), and me and my friend wanted to try their spa instead of our usual Sanctuary visit (Tip 2: Play the Mention the Competitor card when dealing with a new business in the same industry), but I'll just be flying into London on the day the deal ends, and I asked if there's a way it could be extended through June 3. I crossed my fingers and sent the email.

Low and behold, not 15 minutes later, I get a reply back from Amida Spa saying thank you for contacting them and that they would be delighted to honor the Spring Sensation Spa Day deal. Praise Jeebus! After a battle with lackluster customer service last week and early this week, here is a business that wants me and my friend's business! I reckon £130 from the both of us is better than £0, yes? So I shared the info with Lucinda, I bought my voucher, she called them, and we're all booked! I'm so excited about this visit because I'm in desperate need for a massage. My muscles are very tight and bunched up due to stress, and it will really be a mess after this weekend.

While I was shopping at Whole Foods the other day, I visited the health aisle to check out their detox cleanser systems. I have pledged to do a detox cleanse every 4 months and to coincide with my trip at the end of May, I have designated the first two weeks of May to a new detox program. Try as I may, I eat well, but I have also been stressed out so I have been diving into sweets more than I should. And the evil business meeting leftovers and parties here at work have left me eating foods I normally wouldn't buy and eat. So I jumped at the chance to by the Simple Cleanse system which was on sale for 50% off at $9.99. The benefit to this plan instead of the 365 Whole Body Cleanse from Whole Foods is that there are less horse size pills to take. That was the downfall on that plan... I would literally be gagging at the 8 pills I would have to take at morning time and nighttime. Whereas with Simple Cleanse, it's just 4 in the morning, and 3 at night for two weeks. My esophagus will be treated more gently with this system. I'll get rid of this belly bloat, and lose the 6 pounds that are making my pants a little too snug at the moment.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Fine Art of Poor Customer Service x3

Poor customer service happens to all of us, but hopefully not often enough to really upset us. But in my case, in a span of just a few days, I have been put off from three separate poor customer service experiences. To make matters worse, these are businesses that I have been very happy with in the past, but after a long break, I may resume doing business with them. Here are the situations:


As a slave to health and beauty products, I routinely visit each of my cosmetic junkie hangouts at least once a month. Last Thursday (April 4th), I went to the Ulta store to exchange a product I bought a few days earlier because I had an allergic reaction to it. I loathe to exchange/return things because I'm very selective in what I buy and I'm usually quite happy with purchases, even brand new items. But in this case, the Neutrogena shimmering renewal lip balm I bought gave me an allergic reaction. Part of my shopping routine at Ulta, and as a member there, I receive coupons of $3.50 off purchase of $10 or more. My total purchase with the lip balm came up to $14, so it qualified. Since I bought this lip balm that cost $9, I figured I would just exchange it for another Neutrogena product, like makeup removal face wipes. Perfect for my upcoming overseas trip! And it was two dollars less than the lip balm. I went inside the store, picked up the makeup removal wipes and proceeded to the check out counter.

I explained to the cashier that I wanted to return the lip balm because of an allergic reaction (I even had the packaging and receipt). So she processed the exchange and then went on to proclaim that I OWED $1.14. I was confused because the makeup wipes cost $2 less than the balm so why do I OWE money, I'm expecting a small credit at least. Well, as it turns out, when I use my rewards coupon on a purchase, IF I return/exchange something from the original receipt, and that new product is less than $10, my previously used rewards coupon from the original purchase, is canceled. WTF? So I was left with the option to pay MORE and lose my reward coupon, or just return the balm and have my credit card credited. On principle, I told her to just return the lip balm, and I'll go buy the damn makeup remover at another store. Just on principle. This policy makes no sense, it is designed to punish the loyal customer with daring to make an exchange! Neutrogena products can be bought ANYWHERE, and I'm going to take my money elsewhere to buy it. This pissed me off because I thought I was doing ULTA a favor by demonstrating my loyalty by seeking an exchange and my still saving a measly dollar and some change. Needless to say, I won't bother with them for a while because there are way too many places for me to go to buy my health and beauty needs.


On that same day, in anticipation of my trip to London, I clicked on my bookmarked link to my favorite London spa, Sanctuary in Covent Garden. My dear friend Lucinda got me hooked on this place in 2009, and since then, on two subsequent visits, she and I have been there again. So I was anxious to go to the website to review the spa packages and coordinate with Lucinda our spa plans. However, I was very confused when instead of visiting the usual UK site, my browser automatically deferred me to the new American version of the Sanctuary website. I tried manually entering in http://www.thesanctuary.co.uk but the browser would convert it to www.sanctuary.com/en-us  which is the American version of the UK spa. What.the.hell? I tried using a different browser like Firefox, I even logged off my computer and then logged back on. Nothing, still the same results. Apparently Sanctuary UK is branching off into America... well, that's all fine and dandy, and good for them. But that should in no way impede my trying to visit the UK website of a London spa I have been of customer of since 2009, and just visited the website in late February.

So I sent twitter comment to @sanctuaryspa explaining the difficulties I was having in visiting their site to make a booking inquiry. They told me to try to use another browser. Duh, gee, it didn't work, thanks a lot. So I sent an email to info@sanctuary.co.uk and it took them four days to reply back to me. I wrote a very thorough description of my concerns and problems and needed their assistance. Here is the response:

Dear Simone
Thank you for your e-mail.
A US version of our Sanctuary.com website has launched in the past few weeks so this will be what you are now seeing.
The US site has information on certain products but nothing on spa vouchers as they are no longer available to ship overseas.
Regrettably the internet will always route you to the US site.  All we could suggest would be to maybe try and bring the website up by going via google uk.
We are sorry that we have been unable to help you more with your issue.
Kind regards
As you can see, this is not a proper response and it does not provide a resolution. I immediately replied back to 'Denise' but a full 48 hours later, she has yet to reply back. Firstly, the act of mailing the spa vouchers is an antiquated business concept as said voucher should be Emailed in this day and age. Previous visits, I just had the voucher mailed to Lucinda's London home. As I have recently discovered, nearly 100% of spa competitors in the London area email their vouchers to clients. The voucher is your proof of purchase of your spa treatment itinerary. One would then call/email the spa to make the actual appointment for the spa package. In my search for an alternative spa, I found many lovely spas that I look forward to getting acquainted with on future trips to London. After reviewing several dozen spas and being mindful of my budget, and my spa preferences, Lucinda and I have selected Amida Spa in Chelsea: http://www.amidaspa.co.uk/home/treatments/by-location/chelsea/massage

I'm quite looking forward to a 55 minute intensive full body deep muscle massage and full use of the spa for £65! The money I would have spent at Sanctuary would have been around £130. Mind, in US dollars, that's a shit load of money, but I thought it was worth it for my once a year indulgence at a spa, and a top notch one in London, England to boot! But the mere thought of saving 65GBP thrill me to bits! And so I have tweeted this info to sanctuary and I emailed my plans to sanctuary. They haven't lost me forever, but this is an example of poor customer service in preventing American visitors to view the UK Sanctuary site in order to make a booking. The American site is half-assed complete, and it looks amateurish and ill conceived. It's a poor and blind woman's version to the UK site. So until Sanctuary UK website get their shit together, my hard earned, converted from dollars to pounds money is going to a British spa that has a website developed to provide customer service, efficiency, and convenience to non-British customers.


And then on Friday, for lunch, I visited the People's Food Co-op in the Kerrytown section of Ann Arbor, near downtown. I love walking to this area for lunch, and I enjoy shopping at the co-op because they have natural and wholesome groceries there. I went there to get a fruit and some Cliff bars. There can be some strange people that shop there, these neo-hippies who police their bodies and minds with only the finest and freshest of foods. One man nearly ran me over twice trying to navigate the small aisles. As I approached the check out area (there are only two lanes in this small store), one had 2 customers, and the other just had one. Naturally, one would navigate towards the lane with the one customer. I placed my banana and two blueberry Cliff bars on the counter and waited. It appeared that the dude in front of me wanted an 'end of the world' stock up order of some very, very, very special mountain stream, filtered, purified, angel tears blessed bottled water. The cashier was writing down on a form his request. Oh dammit... wrong lane. Just as I was about to maneuver into the other lane, some lady with a hefty cart rolled up there. Dang. Ok, I'll have to wait. Well... after the cashier finished writing down the angel tears blessed special bottled water for the man, she then picks up the phone and calls someone. She hangs up, and she said to the man, 'It'll be a few minutes'. Shit...

By now, the cashier still hasn't acknowledged my presence with a mere glance at me. Instead, she continues to flirt with the guy and talk about bullshit stuff. I look around and see if the mystery person that she was talking to on the phone would appear and resolve the situation, but nope, no one. Meanwhile, another person got in line behind the lady with the large cart in the one and only other lane. Cashier and dude are still chit chatting nonsense. My organic banana and blueberry cliff bars just sit on the counter. Ok, I'm pissed now. I took a deep breath, looked around once more for mystery phone person, and I see no one. Not in the mood to listen to the bullshit chit-chat of the ignorant cashier girl and the man she's flirting with, I left the banana and cliff bars on the counter and walked pass the fool man and left the damn store. What the fuck? Why couldn't the cashier just look at me and say that it was going to take a few minutes, or apologize? I would have stayed there if I was just treated with, um,... respect, yeah, that's it, fucking respect!

I wound up getting my cliff bars fix and bananas at Whole Foods later than day, but I really wanted to support the food co-op, a small local business! I can appreciate a worker trying to help and provide great customer service to their current customer, but for cripe sakes, don't just ignore the other customer who has to wait for an uncertain amount of time for an unknown reason. Customer service has to be consistent and sincere. If there is a problem, offer a rational resolution. If you can't provide the solution, find someone who can. But in the end, communicate policies or apologies and explanations as soon as possible.

If just one of these three situations occurred by themselves, I would not have written this blog entry. But instead, in a span of 24 hours, I got the shaft from all three, and this is unacceptable. I may not have a lot of money, but I know how to write and I'm voicing my concerns and disappointments about all three companies. It will be quite a while before I deal with them again. Businesses should not be so dismissive of their customers because it's a big world out there and a LOT of competitors who will take my business and offer great service that leaves me happy!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thank you Roger Ebert: 1942-2013


Roger Ebert 1942-2013
Because of you, I love films. I watched Siskel and Ebert of PBS in the early 80s when I was a tween, and because of 'At the Movies', I loved listening to them bickering about a film review, or compassionately being on the same page for their love of a film. Roger died today after his dreadful cancer returned. I followed him on twitter and just YESTERDAY, he made what would be his final tweet and posted the link to what would be his final blog entry: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2013/04/a_leave_of_presense.html
But from the sound of it, he fully expected to survive his latest hospitalization, but slow down and have others help him. I'm so sorry he died today. I'm at work and I can't let all the tears flow that are making my eyes watery and red, and affecting my sinuses. Like I posted on twitter a few moments ago, rarely does the death of a celebrity genuinely make me sad, and rarer does a celebrity death bring me to tears like I feel now.

Rest in Peace Roger, and I know your friend Gene Siskel's thumb is up in welcoming you home.