Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Christmas Wish List

In getting in the holiday spirit, I thought that I'd share my Christmas wish list. Now, to be clear - I don't actually expect to get any of these things! But it's still fun to pull together a wish list, and maybe it can serve as a little inspiration when you're looking to buy gifts for your friends and family.
AirPods Pro
I am obsessed with my AirPods, so of course I want the new Pro ones, too. I love that they finally have the silicone tips, and they're noise cancelling, too. I don't necessarily NEED to replace my current AirPods, but I want to!

Everlane Scarf
This scarf is a mix of wool and cashmere, and it looks so soft and cozy - as you know, that's my absolutely favorite combination. I love that it's oversized, too, so I could wear it as a wrap. And I love to support Everlane's sustainability and transparency when I can.

Tech Pouch
I love little packing pouches. Anything that can help me be more organized when I pack, I'm into. This pouch looks perfect for keeping all my cords and other tech things together.

Clear Crossbody
So many concert venues now have rules in place about the kind of bags you can bring in with you. It's either a clear bag, or a little clutch that is too small to even fit my phone! This is a cute version of a clear bag that's the right size to bring in.

Cashmere Cardigan
I actually have this in black, but I want to add another color to my collection! This is perfect for throwing on in the winter to add another layer and stay warm. Because it's cashmere, it's also thin, so it doesn't add too much bulk.

Neon Coffee Sign
This is so cute! It's the perfect little desk decoration and homage to my complete caffeine addiction.

Gray Apple Watch Band
I have this watch band in black, and have been wearing it every single day. It has held up incredibly well! It's not that I want to get rid of it, but this gray version would give me another option for days when I want something other thank black.

Mackage Satchel
This is definitely the "in my dreams" addition to the list. I have wanted this bag for years - I love the size and the arrow clasp in the front. It's a bit out of my price range, though, and the price ranges of anyone shopping for me. But a girl can dream!

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Best Blanket Sweater

I have a small problem - when stores start sending e-mails about holiday sales (ostensibly for buying gifts for other people), I end up shopping for myself. I actually did a major unsubscribe purge earlier this year, but there are a select few stores where I do want to know when sales are happening.
As a result, I was browsing the Nordstrom site last week and came across this sweater, and I knew immediately that I had to have it. I'm always looking for things to wear that will keep me warm, but that aren't so bulky or tight that it's hard for me to move. It seems like such a little thing, but for me, even the switch from short sleeves to long sleeves means that it's harder for me to move. And since I can't take jackets/sweaters on and off, once I put something on, it's on for the day. So I need something warm, but not stifling when I'm inside.
This sweater fits all of my criteria, and as an added bonus, it's SO comfy and cute! I wore it with a simple t-shirt dress (this one, from Amazon, that I have in 5+ colors), but it could just as easily be worn with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. And seriously, I cannot express how comfortable it is! It genuinely feels like wearing a blanket (but a cute one!). I know I'll be wearing this A LOT in the coming months!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Friday Favorites

With Thanksgiving so close, it feels like we're officially in the "holiday season" now. My calendar is really starting to fill up, and I've been hearing Christmas music on the radio, too. I'm not ready to listen yet, but I know the time is coming soon!
I had the opportunity this week to go to a conference hosted by two local foundations focused on the intersection of nonprofits and disability inclusion, where the keynote address was given by the Ford Foundation. It makes me so excited every time I'm in a room full of people who are all passionate about disability inclusion and the concept that all issues are disability issues. I'm exhausted from the week plus the conference, but also invigorated! I am definitely looking forward to taking a break over Thanksgiving and relaxing a bit before the craze of December begins.

Now, on to this week's favorites...

ONE - Profile in The Pitt News
I was so honored to be interviewed and profiled in The Pitt News! The piece ended up being longer than I thought it would be, which was really exciting - I love being able to share my story and what's happened to bring me to where I am today.

TWO - Claire Saffitz Interview
I love every single video that Claire does for Bon Appetit's YouTube channel, so of course I also loved this interview. It's a fun "behind-the-scenes" glimpse into her life outside of the Gourmet Makes videos.

THREE - Bow Slingback Flats
I stumbled across these on Nordstrom's website, and couldn't resist when I saw that they were on sale. They're even MORE on sale now, and they're so cute and comfortable! It can be hard to find flats that still look dressy, but these definitely fit the bill.

FOUR - As Me with Sinéad
Sinéad Burke is a disability advocate with a passion for accessible fashion, which is of particular interest to me. As a little person, not many clothes are made with her in mind, and she's been working to help spur change in the fashion industry. She started a podcast recently where she talks with a diverse group of guests about what it's like to be them. It's SO good and really makes you think about other people's experiences!

Five - Crosswalk the Musical, Frozen Edition
I mean, I couldn't NOT share this. I have loved all the Crosswalk the Musical episodes, but this one has so many all-stars in it that it's extra good.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Striped Sweater Dress

When the temperature starts to drop, sweater dresses become my go-to when I want to be cozy and still look put together. The best part of dresses, in general, is that they take very little effort to form an outfit, and yet it still looks cute and polished.
Sweater dresses are the ideal version of this for winter - they're cute, but they keep you warm and comfy when it's cold out. And this striped one from eShakti is my current favorite.
I love the different colors - totally not my thing, normally, but I just think it works perfectly! The pleats give it a little something extra, and it's SO soft. Just so soft and comfortable! Plus, since it's from eShakti, it was super customizable - I changed the neckline and the sleeves to make it more "me." I get so many compliments every time I'm wearing it.

If you're looking for a last-minute outfit for Thanksgiving, I think that a sweater dress is the perfect way to go. No matter how dressy or laid back your meal is, there's a sweater dress for the occasion, and you can fill yourself with turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing without having to worry about unbuttoning your jeans.

If you want to try eShakti, don't forget to enter the code HEATHERTOMKO in the "Gift Coupon Box" at checkout to get 33% off plus free customizations on your first order. If you're looking for something a little different, I picked out some other cute sweater dresses below!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Headspace in Pittsburgh: Happy Healthy America

Earlier this month, I saw on Facebook that Headspace would be coming to Pittsburgh and doing a two day, live event in Schenley Plaza for free, and I RSVP'ed as quickly as possible. I found out they were actually launching their Happy Healthy America campaign here, which is so cool for Pittsburgh and really exciting for me!
I've written about using Headspace before - it's a guided mindfulness meditation app. I will admit that I'm not always the best about using it daily, but I am really trying to be better about my practice. I love that the app has so many different lengths of meditation - I can stick to the 5 minute ones, for now, since I'm still getting used to it. They also have so many different categories - meditation for anxiety, for focus, to help with sleep... something for whatever you're looking for.
Headspace took over Schenley Plaza and put up a huge, inflatable structure - "The Dot" - where all of the events took place. When I say huge, I mean it - it was three different connected bubbles, basically, all with room to walk around and explore. One of them was set up for the live meditation sessions, with little poufs to sit on, and one of the others had a QR code that you could scan for a fun Headspace filter for Facebook/Instagram (which I obviously took advantage of!). They had a whole bunch of activities going on across the two days they were there, but I specifically signed up for the live meditation session on Friday.
I wasn't exactly sure if I was going to enjoy it, going into it - I wasn't sure if I'd be self conscious meditating in front of other people, or if I'd accidentally fall asleep! But it was THE BEST. I didn't feel self-conscious or fall asleep - I just felt incredibly relaxed! It was led by Eve, who is the female voice on the app (I've actually only listened to Andy before), and she was great. I think it probably lasted about 10-15 minutes or so, but I wasn't really checking my watch! Afterwards, I got to walk around a bit and explore the rest of "The Dot." The only issue, for me, was the it wasn't very warm inside of the huge bubble, and by the end of my time there all I wanted was to be WARM. But at least I was relaxed!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday Favorites

This week has felt so busy! I had an amazing time on Wednesday evening speaking about my Public Source article at the Ace Hotel... and then had a delicious dinner afterwards at The Whitfield, one of my favorite restaurants. And later today, I'll be going to a live mindfulness meditation with the founder of Headspace! I can't wait.
And of course - thank you all SO MUCH for your support in the mission to Lift the Limit on the MAWD earnings cap! If you didn't get a chance earlier this week, you can sign the petition here.

Onto the favorites...

ONE - Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood
I am SO EXCITED for the Mr. Rogers movie coming out later this month. This story is such an in-depth look at the writers' time with Mr. Rogers - I think everyone should read it. It's just so good!

TWO - Lover Remix
Have you heard the remixed version of Taylor Swift's Lover, where she sings with Shawn Mendez? It's such a pretty song as a duet!

THREE - Knotzland on Youtube
Nisha, the creator of Knotzland Bowties, serves on the board of The Warhol with me. She's currently being featured in a series called "YouTube Stories." How cool is that?!

FOUR - History of Disney Songs
It's no secret that I'm a huge Disney fan. So of course, I loved the medley of Disney songs that Jimmy Fallon and Kristen Bell sang! It's the perfect thing to brighten up your Friday.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Advent Calendars

Growing up, my sister and I had a different Advent calendar every year. We loved opening up the little squares every day in December - I think that some of them had small treats in them, but often they were just a quote or a picture. But we always looked forward to getting to open it each day and see what the little square held - and see how much closer to Christmas we were getting!
I haven't had an Advent calendar in years, but I came upon this one from Anthropologie and couldn't resist. I thought it was the perfect mix of grown-up Advent calendar and nostalgia for me and my sister. It'll be something fun to do in the days leading up to Christmas - who doesn't love getting little mini presents each day? I'm really excited to bring the tradition back in grown-up form.
I realize that you might not all want a beauty-focused Advent calendar, so I pulled together some other options below. I think I might buy this tree one too - it seems like such a great little decoration for an entry table! And of course, chocolate is always a good option for getting into the holiday spirit! There's even a DIY version, where you decide what treats go in each pocket for each day.

Did you have an Advent calendar as a kid (or as an adult)? Let me know which one is your favorite!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Lift the Limit

I've written before about having caregivers/aides who help me, and I've written about what it's like when they don't show up (in this post). But what I haven't talked about is how they're paid for.
image via
Paying for caregivers out-of-pocket would be incredibly (impossibly) expensive, and insurance doesn't pay for long-term care (which is what caregivers are considered) at all. So there are state waiver programs, part of Medicaid, that pay for this care. Depending on how much you make, you may have to pay a monthly premium, on a sliding scale, to continue to be eligible even after you make more than the standard Medicaid limits (which are also impossibly low).

This all sounds reasonable... but there's a catch. There's an income cap of around $62,000 - meaning that if you make over that, you're cut off. And if you're married, it's a combined $62,000, not just the income of the person with the disability alone.

This means that employed people with disabilities are forced to make impossible choices between remaining employed and remaining eligible for the services that keep them employed. It's a nonsensical system, because forcing people to choose unemployment means that those people cost the state more money than they would if the state continued to support them through their employment.

I am working with the United Way to get Pennsylvanian lawmakers to "lift the limit" on the salary cap. You can visit to watch two videos of people sharing their stories (you may recognize a familiar face...) and then sign the petition to show your representatives that you support lifting the limit, too.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Friday Favorites

This has been one of those weeks where it both feels like it has lasted forever and it has flown at the same time. I was convinced that it was Friday on Thursday, multiple times, which is never a good sign!
It was a fun week, though - I got to see Antoni from Queer Eye speak and do a cooking demo at CMU, which was a great mid-week bonus. And now, I tentatively have no real plans going on this weekend, and I'm so happy about that. I definitely have things to do, but I'm really looking forward to being able to take it a little bit easy.

On to this week's favorites -

ONE - "Real Pittsburgher" Quiz
I thought this was a fun little quiz from Pittsburgh Magazine about how many "real Pittsburgher" things you've done! I actually didn't score that highly even though I've lived here all my life - let me know how you score, if you live here!

TWO - Billie Lourde and her Mom
I'm not even a real Star Wars fan, but this essay written by Bille Lourde about her mom, Carrie Fisher/Princess Leia, is SO good. You have to read it.

THREE - Molly Burke Meets a Fan
I've shared some of Molly's videos before, but this one is a new favorite. Molly surprises a fan who is also going blind, and seeing them connect is so heartwarming. I hope that you don't come away "inspired" by their disabilities, but rather understanding the importance of representation and connection. It's why Molly started vlogging, just like why I started blogging - representation is so powerful.

FOUR - Activism and Fashion
I love this interview, where Amanda Nguyen talks about clothes and style being a source of power, and using them in her work as an activist. You can do really important work while still being interested in style!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Sephora Holiday Bonus 2019

It's that time of the year again - Sephora's annual holiday sale. It's the perfect time to stock up on holiday gift sets (for yourself or others) or just get some refills of your regular products. I tend to do a little bit of both - I definitely take advantage of the change to get refills on things that I'm running low on, but also pick up one or two fun, different things that I wouldn't normally buy. It's the perfect excuse to branch out a little bit.

As for the details - for Rouge members, the sale runs from November 1 - 11, and you get 20% off. VIB members get 15% off from November 7 - 11, and Insider members get 10% off during that same time. You can go into the store, or use the code "HOLIDAYSAVE" at checkout.

So what am I buying?

First up - the refills.

Drunk Elephant Products
Specifically, I use the exfoliant, the hydrating serum, and the vitamin C serum. I've been using these for almost a year now, I think, and I'm still loving them. They work, and they don't have any ingredients that my face reacts poorly with. They're not cheap, but I think they're worth it.

Ouai Shampoo and Conditioner
I use the Clean line - it's clarifying without being overly stripping. It smells amazing, and I feel like I've been having more good hair days since I started using it. Sold!

Urban Decay Subversion Lash Primer
I wear this every day under my mascara - I think it just makes my mascara look better and last longer. Is it absolutely essential? Probably not - but I love how it looks and I'm going to keep using it.

Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Mascara
I feel like I go through mascaras so quickly that I'll always pick up another during a sale. I've been using this mascara for a few years now, and I still love it. It's not clumpy and it lasts all day without smudging down my face. I don't use waterproof, so it's still easy to get off at the end of the day.

Now on to the fun things...

Pat McGrath Eyeshadow Quad
I'm trying to be a bit more experimental in my eyeshadows. This Pat McGrath eyeshadow palette seems perfect for that! I chose "Iconic Illumination" - it has some more standard colors, but also the pretty purple/plum one to have some fun with!

Bite Beauty Mini Lipstick Set
I discovered Bite lipsticks sometime last year, I think, and keep buying more of them. I love their texture and staying power, and they're not so matte that they dry out your lips. I don't wear lipsticks so often that I ever go through a full sized one, so this set of minis is perfect. It would also make a great gift!

Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk
I know, another lipstick set! But I have heard so much about how the Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk shade is the perfect natural color for almost everyone that I had to try it for myself. This would also make a great gift for someone!

Monday, November 4, 2019

November Happenings

It seems like October flew by, but November is when things start to get really busy, I think. The end of the year creeps up before you know it, and the holidays always come with a lot of activities and events, too.

I thought it might be fun to share some of the things that I have going on in the next month.
This month, the Broadway in Pittsburgh series starts again (that's my name for it, not the technical one!). I saw Mean Girls this past weekend, which I absolutely loved - it was the perfect mix of references to the movie while still being its own thing. I also have tickets for A Bronx Tale later this month - I don't actually know much about it, but I've heard good things, so I'm excited.

On Wednesday I'm going to hear Antoni from Queer Eye talk and do a cooking demo at CMU! I watched the newest season of Queer Eye over the weekend to hype myself up even more. After getting to see JVN (see this post) and Karamo (in this post), I guess I'm making it my mission to meet all of the Fab Five!

Then the week after, I'll be telling my Pittsburgh Story with PublicSource at The Ace Hotel. I loved writing about accessibility in Pittsburgh, and loved even more the outpouring of support that came from my article! I'm looking forward to talking about the story behind my story, and hearing about the other speakers' Pittsburgh stories, too. Don't forget to get your ticket here if you want to join us!

On the 15th and 16th, Headspace is coming to Pittsburgh! I can't go to everything, but I'm very excited to join Andy for a live guided meditation. I am not amazing in my meditation practice, but I'm trying to get back into the habit. I'm really interested to see what it'll be like to experience it live.

I'm also excited to attend the Disability, Inclusion, and Access: Moving Forward conference being held at the Heinz History Center on the 21st. With a keynote address being given by the head of the Ford Foundation, the whole focus is on how disability has been largely overlooked in the planning and programs of nonprofits.

Finally - I'm traveling to DC! I had a ton of weekend trips over the summer - but they were all for something specific - a conference, a wedding - and while they were all really fun, they weren't necessarily relaxing. I feel like I'm finally ready to travel again after all of our summer trips, and I'm really excited to relax and explore. We have plans to visit Mt. Vernon while we're in DC, which I've never been to, so it should be great.

And that basically takes us into December; into the very thick of the holiday season.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Friday Favorites

Happy November! While I'm not really a big fan of dressing up on Halloween, I absolutely am a fan of dressing Lily up for Halloween, and she tolerates it pretty well! This year she was Wonder Woman - she has this weird thing where she freezes up if I put anything on her head, so she's not wearing the little crown, but I still think she looks adorable.
On to this week's favorites...
ONE - L.L. Bean #Bootmobile
L.L. Bean had a pop-up shop on Pitt's campus this week, and of course I had to check it out and take this picture with the Bootmobile (and pick up this super soft pullover). The best part, though, was learning that they actually had a chairlift that would let me get up into the truck/trailer part of the shop! Not only did it exist, but multiple employees made sure to tell me about it. I couldn't believe it, and it made me feel so included (and made me feel better about my purchase, too!).

TWO - The future of Condé Nast
I've always loved reading magazines, and as I kid I often thought about what it'd be like to work for one. I've watched The September Issue, the documentary about the making of the September issue of Vogue, so many times. This is a great, long form article about what the future of magazines looks like.

THREE - Airpods Pro
Apple FINALLY came out with Airpods that have silicone tips and are noise cancelling! I actually don't care that much about the noise cancellation part of it, but I have wanted Airpods with silicone tips for so long.

FOUR - Normal People on Hulu
I really liked Normal People when I read it, but it's definitely not light material. I didn't realize that they're turning it into a show on Hulu - I'll be really interested to see how it translates to the screen (and I'll definitely be watching).

FIVE - Dagne Dover Sale 
I bought a duffel bag from Dagne Dover earlier this year and LOVE it. They're having a sale right now, with some bags and a lot of their pouches. I may pick up this one in the XL size. I feel like you can never have enough little pouches when you're traveling!