Sunday, March 30, 2014

Aden & Anais Burpy Bibs - Not just bibs, not just for burps

Every mother knows that, contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing softer than a baby's bottom. Those little cheeks put the world's finest silk to shame. If, however, I were forced to pick a runner up in the cushy category, I would have to go with Aden & Anais's rayon from bamboo muslin textiles. I would not just go with them, I would turn them into a Snuggie and shroud my naked body in it nightly. Yes, they are that soft.

I wish this were me right now.
Aden & Anais's traditional and organic muslin blankets are incredibly lightweight and absorbent, but the added sumptuousness of their bamboo line makes their swaddling blankets and Burpy Bibs both a luxurious and a practical gift for new parents.

I'm a big fan of everything Aden & Anais. I own a variety of their baby products in both the traditional and muslin fabrics, including swaddling blankets, bibs, washcloths and towels. I've decided it's impossible to own too many, and I'm still eager to try out their Dream Blankets and Sleep Sacks, which I think would be wonderfully lightweight for Arizona summer nights.

Their most ingenious invention is the Burpy Bib. Its patented design is stupidly simple and brilliant. Shaped like a large lima bean, this burp cloth perfectly drapes over the shoulder for maximum parental coverage. But wait folks, that's not all! It also has a little snap that converts it into a bib for your little one! Ok, that is all. Probably built that one up a bit too much. In any case, this dual usage makes it a perfect diaper bag companion.
The wonderfully versatile Burpy Bib!
There are a variety of colors and patterns available in the various fabrics. According to the Aden & Anais website, you can also add custom embroidery to most of their products, giving a nicely unnecessary but cute personalization to gift sets.

Burpy Bibs usually run in the ballpark of $12 apiece. Here they are on Amazon.

It's all in the name

Friday, March 28, 2014

SocialBliss Style Box Review - March 2014 - Paris!

Yay for Gai Paris!
Sans vous je ne suis qu'un ver de terre.

That's all the French I remember after 5 years of classes. Gotta love public schools and teachers you can manipulate into allowing French food days instead of real class at least once a week.

Luckily, my French-themed Social Bliss Style Box showed up yesterday to remind me of all I had forgotten! This is one of the many sleep deprived subscriptions I signed up for last month. They send a variety of one size fits all accessories for $39.95. I signed up because I liked the looks of previous boxes. 

I'm good without a theme, but it was cute.

It's heeeeere
I love it when my poor decisions try to woo me
Here are the contents in order of least to most exciting.

French Milled Lemon Verbena By South of France ($1)
Ooh La La Baumes Pour Les Levres ($1)
It's soap! And chapstick! Horribly out of focus!
Giving these long French names just really change the fact that they are soap and chapstick. These are valued at a fair $1 apiece. I suppose I had better hold on to the already opened chapstick. It's soft and hydrating, as chapstick should be. I have a lip gloss addiction so I don't know how much it will get used.

The soap will go into the guest bath. It's surprising how tough it is to find soap that size outside of a hotel room - so I'm happier than I should be about this item.

Flourishing In Florals Headband ($14)
Wish I could wear stuff like this without feeling like Blossom. Or 12 years old.
This is cute and would look adorable on an H&M model. I appreciate the trendiness of the pastel spring florals, but it's not the type of accessory I can pull off. I've tried headscarves many times, and I always feel like I'm wearing the costume of a much freer spirit.

Eco - Chic Beauty Brushes Set ($25)
This is going in my travel toiletries immediately. I have a paranoia left over from my cat-owning days that my makeup brushes will disappear, one by one, only to be found years later when moving a dresser. 

This set is incredibly soft and the case is handy. I'd like to know, though, whose idea it was to make the case light colored? A much better choice would be fake bake orange, with streaks of black, blue and purple, and maybe some mud colored shimmery smudges to accent. It would always look dirty, but at least you would have an excuse.

These have synthetic bristles and bamboo handles, and are a decent variety of brushes for powder, concealer, eyeshadow and brows.

Spring In Paris Mattie Bag by Melie Bianco - Blush Pink ($80)
I'm a sucker for exposed gold zippers
Conveniently laid out interior
This pretty little top-handle purse also comes in creamy ivory. At approximately 12" wide and 10" tall it's medium-sized (> clutch, < tote), and has a great interior with a handy cell phone pocket. It's perfectly on trend with all the pastels showing up this spring. Unfortunately I tend towards larger purses with over the shoulder straps. It doesn't really matter since I'm currently trapped in the diaper bag only zone, so this little guy hasn't found his forever home yet!

Zooey Deschanel called and wants her box back

It's tough to find accessories that appeal to a mass audience with wildly varied tastes. Especially handbags. They can go with what's currently trending, like the floral headscarf. The other option is to go safe and boring. This box was about half and half.

Like most of these subscriptions, this box appeals to a fairly specific audience. If that's you, mon petite chou, you can sign up to get the next SocialBliss Style Box here

The contents were surprisingly high quality and beautiful. I think this is a much better deal than the beauty box subscriptions that give you dozens of tiny samples (a skin cream would have to be pretty miraculous to work in two days!). I preferred this month's POPSugar Must Have box, but I appreciate the quality and love some of the stuff I've seen in past boxes. I'll continue with this one for a bit and see how it goes, collecting some great gifts for other people along the way.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Reflexology - The Poor Man's Spa Day

I love everything about getting a massage! I love the tender-painful feeling of muscles being released. I love the zen-like trance I fall into. I love imagining what horrors the therapist is seeing as she compresses my upper thigh fat.

Ok, so I don't love everything about massages. I'm not thrilled with the $85+ an hour price tag. I would prefer it if my feet got a little more attention. I could do without the occasional therapist that wants to chat about ex-boyfriends. If only there were a cheaper massage with an incredible footrub that didn't require either nudity or chit chat!

Drumroll please....

I already gave it away in the title. Clearly, I'm going to talk about reflexology.

Let's cover what they'd* like you to believe. The basic premise behind reflexology is that ancient peoples (which ones? Maybe Chinese, maybe Egyptian) discovered that applying targeted pressure to specific zones on the extremities can unblock pathways and allow one's life-force or Qi to travel unencumbered throughout the body. Short version: rubbing your feet can cure all sorts of stuff. You can read more about the theory on Wikipedia.

Reflexology Chart courtesy of Wikihow
I generally find the brochures explaining the ancient healing arts to be a pretty amusing way to waste time. This is what you really need to know: It's a dang good foot massage. Actually it's a dang good whole body massage.

When you go, wear loose-fitting or yoga style clothing. Something you can get rubbed-down in. It will usually cost $25 - $30 for an hour of awesome relaxation, and there are often 30 and 90 minute prices as well. Similar to traditional massage, you will be in a darkened room listening to trickling water and pan flute. Reflexology, however, is done fully-clothed (both you and the therapist) and you're often in an pseudo-armchair next to somebody else. 

You will typically start with your feet in a bucket of hot water, so don't worry if you've been power-walking all day in unbreathable kicks. I don't think there's any standardized technique, but your therapist will likely start with your face and scalp; if you don't want lotion in your weave, best to tell them up-front. They work your way down to your feet, flip you over and work their way back up. 

The best reflexology places are in strip malls. That's because they're all in strip malls. Don't let names like "Magical Foot Spa" or "Happy Feet" deter you. They're more accurate than you think.

This is a great date, girl's outing or Mother's Day gift. I have yet to meet someone who really disliked it. Admittedly, the most recent one I took my best friend, Megan, to was a bit odd. The room looked uncomfortably like a cheap motel (complete with nightstand, alarm clock and bottle of lotion) and it involved some awkwardly aggressive stretching and slapping. I'm not entirely sure someone didn't just set up camp in an abandoned storefront. Maybe go the extra mile and check out Yelp before buying a gift card.

How do they do this so comparatively cheaply and why don't you have to disrobe? My theory (and this is JUST a theory) is that there's some way to circumvent massage licensing, as long as people stay dressed. Does this increase your risk of going to a creeper? I'm not totally sure. I've only been in Arizona, California and Idaho; and I've never had what I consider to be an illegal experience. Once again, a little research couldn't hurt.

*"They" being the marketing gods who can emotionally manipulate every gullible American on the quest for inner peace and permanent health, who is unwilling to invest time or even constructive decision making.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Certain Dri - So my FRIEND had this problem...

"Horses sweat, men perspire and women glow. Right now, I'm glowing like a pig."
- Unknown

If there's one product I wish had advertised and marketed more circa 1996, it's this one. That's when this FRIEND of mine had issues with excessive "glowing." Yeah, I know, everyone's favorite topic. I hope you're eating so I can talk about changing diapers next.

My FRIEND was super embarrassed, constantly trying new products, and counting down the days until she could get a real job and earn real money and afford the surgical removal of her sweat glands. At 16, this sounded like a very reasonable plan of attack. She was often uncomfortable and self-concious, not to mention completely annoyed by anti-perspirant commercials that claimed they were "strong enough for a man." Really, talk about adding insult to injury.

Luckily, she met someone less embarrassed by the topic who told her she had had a similar problem. Her doctor prescribed a medical strength anti-perspirant but it required wrapping her underarms in plastic and was extremely uncomfortable. Then she discovered Certain-Dri. The heavens opened and the angels sang. Or something like that. It's an over the counter nightly roll-on that contains aluminum chloride to prevent perspiration. It does tend to itch, so she puts it on right before going to bed. The next day she is as dry as the Sahara. All day long.
With such flashy and convincing marketing, how could she have missed it?
My FRIEND was so excited to learn about this, but had no faith it would actually work. It did! Over the years she was gradually able to reduce her usage. Now she only has to apply it once every couple of weeks to keep things under control.

Since hearing her story, I've met many others, male and female, who had similar issues and similar success with Certain-Dri. I've only seen one awful commercial that looks like it cost about $10 to produce, but no other marketing. Big names like Secret now produce their own over-the-counter solutions, and Certain-Dri released a solid version, but my FRIEND claims nothing has worked for her like the original roll-on. Another advancement in glow-control is BOTOX, but I can't imagine what shots in the armpit feel like. It seems pretty awful. Perhaps not as bad as cutting out sweat glands, though.

So, if you also have a FRIEND who needs a solution to this not-so-fun problem, you should definitely tell her or him about this. It's in the deodorant/anti-perspirant aisle in the grocery store or you (they! they!) can purchase it online for less than $8.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Stitch Fix Review #1 - March 2014

***I've Moved! Come visit the new blog at Http://!***

For the most part, I plan to write about things I really love. However, I've really enjoyed reading other people's Stitch Fix and box subscription posts, and I find them helpful. So, regardless of my opinion on an individual subscription, I'll offer it here.

My first Stitch Fix box arrived yesterday (you can see what it is and how it works here). The contents were posted online once it shipped; but I'm a sucker for surprises, so I gritted my teeth and waited. I'll just cut to the chase, I was a bit disappointed.  Not in the quality or fit of the clothes, but regarding the overall style compared to what I was looking for.
Nice clothes, not what I was looking for (mostly)
I recently went through a massive closet purge, which I haven't done in the nine years since I moved to Arizona. During that time I graduated from my 20s to my 30s, started a career in software consulting, got married, finished a career in software consulting and had a baby. It was time. I either gifted, consigned or donated everything in the following categories:
  • Didn't fit perfectly
  • Hadn't worn in two years or longer
  • Was yellow or brown (intentionally or unintentionally). These are horrible colors on me!
  • Wasn't flattering on my body type
  • I purchased thinking I was 5 lbs away from really rocking it. Oh, I went those 5 lbs. In the opposite direction.
  • Gave me that feeling in my tummy that I also get watching the opening credits to M*A*S*H.
As I pulled each article, I realized I felt better and better without reminders of money poorly spent or weight never lost. I was left with a closet full of pretty good, well fitting casual pieces, with some nice dresses and jackets. Looking over what remained, I realized it was time for my closet to MATURE. What I lacked were standout pieces. I needed high quality staples, and I wanted some unique glam and funky pieces to add interest.

I signed up for Stitch Fix and filled out my style profile, anxious to see what fabulous stuff they would send. High on the request list were a great pair of jeans and blazer. I said I would invest more than my guideline budget for really fantastic pieces. I made sure my Pinterest board reflected my taste and hoped for the best.  My only concern was that every blogged Stitch Fix review I read seemed to reflect very similar style and price point. I wondered if most people fill out their profile similarly or if Stitch Fix tends to cater more to one style demographic.

When my box arrived, this is what I received: 
Wrap Dress, Tunic
Blazer, Bracelet, Jeans

I apologize for the poor lighting and lack of truly full length pics. I would have had to interrupt my husband's battle with influenza to have him snap pictures of clothes I wasn't keeping. I couldn't figure out how to word that request!

Bay to Baubles Lory Rhinestone Circle Wrap Bracelet ($32)
This leather bracelet has a ring of tiny rhinestones. It just isn't my style. I'm tall and like bigger, statement pieces for balance. Plus the magnetic clasp means I would lose this within 5 minutes. 


41Hawthorn Melinda 3/4 Sleeve Blazer ($78)

The blazer is a beautiful aqua color, but the silhouette is a little square for my taste. I feel a bit boxy with it hanging straight down. I like the pics better than the reality. It was perfectly adequate, but I'm only going to buy stuff I LOVE from now on.

Collective Concepts Esten Button-Up Sleeveless Tunic ($68)

Once again, beautiful aqua fabric (sale at the textile mill?) but clearly this tunic does nothing for me! It hangs straight down from the girls, hiding any shape I have. Belting it at the waist just shows off my horrible belt collection and emphasizes my short waist. I'm not against getting things tailored, but the length is also too long and cuts me in half vertically. Couldn't even pull off an artfully sloppy tuck. I asked for longer tops but this was too long and too shapeless for me.


Lily Emelda Zig-Zag Wrap Dress ($108)

Great silhouette from the side
Too Peg Bundy from the front
This dress had the opposite problem, it couldn't contain my shape! Totally not their fault that I'm nursing a baby and pretty much out of control on top, but it couldn't even fully cover my bra. My son would appreciate the easy access, but I don't want to have to turn my porch light off on Halloween.

It also had a horizontal pattern (don't need that optical illusion) and thread unraveling on the tie.

Overall the shape and fabric are great for me, but true wrap dresses are tough for obvious reasons and the print, while pretty, is not what I'm looking for.


Just Black Jake Slim Bootcut Jean ($88)

Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!
Wouldn't it be great if you could actually see them?
Loved the fit, length and leg shape. They have a perfect rise and are an incredibly soft stretch denim. I needed a dressier jean and this is it. I love that I can comfortably wear silk tops and black with this midnight blue denim. I am really impressed my sorcerer, err stylist, nailed jeans in one try with no fitting room.


In Summary

In order to have a lucrative business Stitch Fix probably orders bulk for wholesale pricing. Including pieces from their proprietary clothing line would increase margins (41Hawthorn - I'm pretty sure they include at least one piece in each box). I'm still concerned that so far what I've seen of their inventory is all pretty similar in style. This would be a dream come true if it's what I was looking for.

I was pleased to discover that the fabrics were nice and the colors beautiful.

My closet already comprises decent basics, and I was hoping to take everything up a notch and discover some edgy glamorous stuff that I would be hard pressed to find at my local department store. After re-reading my style profile, I understand why each piece was selected, even if I had a different vision in my head. Updates have already been made!

Other blogs have warne
d that it takes a couple of boxes of feedback to nail down your preferences, so I'm not giving up just yet. I am very happy that the jeans were totally worth the whole box and my $20 styling fee didn't go to waste. Stitch Fix is extremely convenient and a great idea; it just may not be as custom as I was hoping for!

If you're thinking, "This chick is crazy! I loved the contents of her box!" Then by all means, sign up here!

Friday, March 21, 2014

How Stitch Fix Works

  • You create an account on Stitch Fix and fill out a semi in-depth style profile. You fill out your stats, general proportions, areas of confidence or insecurity and the fashions you like. They've included helpful graphics to assist. You also list the type of clothing you want (business, casual, date night etc.) to see more of and anything you DON'T want in terms of color, pattern, style etc. 
  • Add any additional comments for your stylist (i.e. "I really hate monkeys on my clothes" or "Would love to try something lime green" or "Please include lots of sexy dresses for an upcoming event!").
  • Attach link for your LinkedIn or Pinterest style board (if available)
  • Schedule when you want your first box.  I love that you can have them arrive monthly or have NO COMMITMENT and schedule random boxes at your convenience. To me that's one of the most appealing things about this subscription service.  I don't feel like they are just trying to rope me into a recurring payment. Warning: there is usually a backlog/waitlist of about 5-6 weeks if you order them one-off.
  • They styling cost is $20 per box, but you can apply that towards any and all clothing purchased from that box.
  • When your 5 clothing/accessory items arrive in the mail, try each one on with your current wardrobe (they include example cards that show you how to style them if you aren't sure). 
  • Go online to checkout. Note what you do or don't like about each and be sure to give detailed feedback regarding each one.
  • Within 3 days, place all unwanted items in the included pre-paid envelope and drop in the mail.
  • Your credit card will be charged for those items you kept (minus $20 fee).  If you decide to keep all five, you get 25% off your order.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Maybe She's Born With It, Maybe it's a $2 Brow Pencil

Powders, gels, pencils, pens, combo kits. I could probably teach an undergrad course on the variety of eyebrow makeup available. And given the prices of this stuff that the market bears, someone would probably pay to take it. Through years of experimentation, I have yet to find anything I like better than the tried and true Maybelline Expert Wear Brow & Eye Pencil. As I'm sure will become apparent, I am all about an indulgent trip to Sephora to pick up a top notch foundation or lipstick, but if I can find a cheap, quality drugstore substitute then bring it on!

I can't remember how I stumbled across this little gem, but it's a good blonde shade that applies quickly, is easy to control, and doesn't look orange, cakey or powderyThe only time I get compliments on my brows (usually the color) is when I use this pencil.

This works great on my brows which are fairly long-haired. If I don't keep them trimmed I quickly look like Father Time; if I do they can look more sparse than I prefer. I keep the pencil sharp and use quick short strokes to correct and fill in the shape, and to even out the color.

Any Questions?
Some reviews state these break really easily when sharpening. I haven't noticed that myself, but some time in the freezer first should cure that. Sold in a two-pack, this $3.99 purchase easily lasts me 6 months.

One for each brow?
You can find these at most drugstores and in-store or online at ULTA. They offer free shipping on $50 purchases and this product currently has a Buy 1 Get 1 Free offer. If I've done my math correctly, that means you only have to purchase 34 pencils to get free shipping. 

Unfortunately, I don't know how the other colors look. I apologize to all the brunettes and redheads; take comfort in the fact that you haven't had to put up with blonde jokes your whole life. You'll need to invest the $4 to test it out. I also don't know how it works as an eyeliner, because I think this would be a funky color as a liner. I'm currently looking for a good black one though, so if you have any suggestions, please share!

Oh, Roger

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Disney Cruising - Not just for Childless 30-Somethings

I love immersing myself in a travel destination; living life right alongside the locals: eating the same food, breathing the same air, sleeping in the same beds...

Well, maybe not the last one.

Until I met my husband this was the only way I travelled. I turned up my nose at cruising because I felt like I didn't get the WHOLE experience. Since then, having had the opportunity to take several family cruises, I have come to appreciate the ease of this other way of travel. Especially when covering a lot of geography, cruising can make travel so much simpler! You don't have to constantly unpack/repack, your cruise ship is your transportation (versus puddle jumpers or rental cars), and the occasional forced relaxation at sea keeps the vacation truly vacationy. I now really appreciate having a floating base camp to take the headache out of covering so much ground.

Disney Wonder
Over the past nine years I have tried out a variety of lines including Carnival, Norwegian and Princess (we actually got married on the Sapphire Princess). Each time, the experience it allowed on land was the highlight and the cruise experience itself was secondary.

Then I went on a Disney Cruise. I'm trying to even recall the destination, I think it was somewhere warm?

My extremely generous in-laws booked this trip for the whole family (19 people). As much as I love traveling with my family, I wasn't looking forward to missing my workaholic husband who couldn't get away. And honestly? I was childless at the time, and wasn't eager to spend a "vacation" on a ship full of thousands of shrieking children. But I packed all my non-revealing clothes and a Costco-sized bottle of Excedrin, and hoped for the best.

I think I may go again. Even if no one else wants to. Yes, I enjoyed a Disney Cruise with no significant other and no kids. No, not just enjoyed. Adored.

Me and my hot date, Walt
We were aboard the Disney Wonder, which is one of their two older ships even though I wouldn't have guessed it. The entertainment, food, decor and childish excitement were unparalleled. The big shows are all Disney themed, but the nostalgia is nice and the special effects, impressive. It even snowed and bubbled over the audience. The restaurants and meals are pretty spectacular as well. The black and white walls of the Animator's Palate are slowly "painted" with color while you eat.

You expect Disney to be amazing for kids, but there was a surprising amount of thought put into the adult experience. There were adults-only pools, nightlife areas, and entertainment around the ship. I found an amazing little two-story coffee shop that they were literally hiding from the kiddos. I was looking for it and passed it three times because it was so inconspicuous!

From the best-tasting ice cream bars (they were intended for the kids - ha!) to the nonstop children's activities, Disney does it right. They don't just have all-day babysitting, they've created spaces to which the kids couldn't WAIT to escape. Each night the little ones in our group (sitting at their own table, treated like royalty) would scarf down their food so they'd be ready when the staff came through to whisk them away to Kids Club. The adults had several hours to finish dinner and do their own thing before their offspring turned into pumpkins at midnight.
They were so well-behaved, I decided to adopt all these children.
This seems like a little thing, but I appreciated that each member of the staff was extremely clean cut. There were no visible tattoos or crazy piercings (or even noticeable nail polish). I'm all about individuality, but I think special rules apply when working with kids. Besides, Ariel just wouldn't look right with tribal tats and gauged ears.

As expected, characters roamed the ship or posed for pictures throughout the day, although they may be hard to spot with all the 3 ft princesses underfoot. My most charming memory was an impromptu chase we witnessed between Captain Hook and Peter Pan. Peter got all the kids to rooster caw and misdirect Captain Hook. So stinking cute.

The most surprising part was that I don't recall ANY unhappy kids. Maybe they lock them up belowdecks. Fine by me.

Go, enjoy yourself. Remember to pack your Jack Sparrow Gear for pirate night - no, you're not too mature to get in costume. If they're good? Consider bringing your kids with you.
Well, I left MOST of my revealing clothes at home

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Trinny & Susannah's 12 Body Shapes - They get it!

***I've Moved! Come visit the new blog at Http://!***

Not quite an apple? Not quite a pear? Maybe you're a skittle!

I have been stymied for years by the standard 4 (sometimes 5) female body shapes as stated by most fashion resources. I've studied them and studied myself, but I could never settle on one because some aspect was always off. I'm not an inverted triangle because I don't have broad shoulders. I'm not an hourglass because my hips are fairly narrow. When I gain weight it goes to my tummy - does that make me an apple? That doesn't seem right either. 

Most common female body shapes as listed on Wikipedia. There are more options on an In & Out menu!
When I signed up for Stitch Fix they suggested providing my body type to my stylist, if known. Once again, I hit a wall while reading their descriptions - nothing fit! So, like all thorough researchers I turned to popular online opinion. After extensive Google searches, I finally came across a UK stylist duo named Trinny and Susannah. I hadn't heard of them before, but they starred in BBC's "What Not To Wear" and tout themselves as the "World's Favourite Makeover Queens." After perusing their site, I highly recommend checking out their work.

I was thrilled to see they've defined twelve much more descriptive body shapes (based on proportions, not size). They are as follows: Skittle, Goblet, Hourglass, Cornet, Cello, Apple, Column, Bell, Vase, Brick, Lollipop or Pear. They break down each body type in their book "The Body Shape Bible", but several online blogs also provide a wealth of information.

The Trinny & Susannah Female Body Shapes as interpreted by Nina Squirrely
I found a great decision chart on Body Shape Style that quickly derives your shape through a series of short questions. It turns out I'm a lollipop, essentially straight except for the, ahem, lollipop area. It was fascinating to read through the different body shapes along with the benefits and challenges of each. You may still not be a perfect match, but I'm guessing you can find something more accurate than your horoscope. 

Great Quiz from Body Shape Style. She also includes lots of info for determining and dressing your shape. FYI - before you skittles get confused, that's apparently Brit-speak for a curvaceous bowling pin.
Once you know your shape, blogs like Idealist Style are great resources for guidelines on how to dress or not dress for maximum effect. You can avoid most of the trial and error figuring out which clothing silhouettes, patterns and fabrics worked for you. Other people have already figured it out! 

I am constantly refining my understanding of what works on my shape. The information I've found recently is a great validation of that. Having a shortcut to this information would have been awesome in my teens and twenties. Frankly, I would love to get back the embarrassing amount of time and money I've wasted on unflattering styles that I bought because they looked great on my friends (or Kate Moss), or were 85% off with a designer label. It took me a surprisingly long time to learn that clothing isn't a deal at any price unless you actually wear it.

What's the point of all this awkward self-examination (aside from getting a cute new nickname - Helloooo Cello!)? To save you time, money, and heartache in the dressing room. Wouldn't it be fabulous to know what style of dress will flatter you BEFORE you try on two dozen that are completely wrong? How about discovering clothing that makes you look 10 lbs lighter, but that you had never previously considered? 

I believe when a woman hates shopping, it's often because they either get overwhelmed with options, or can't figure out why the things they gravitate towards never look right. Why not take what others have figured out for you and incorporate it to make shopping less headache-inducing? For example, if I didn't understand my body shape, I would have tried countless high-waisted skirts this season, because I think this trend is classy and adorable! But I know better so I can save myself the frustration.*

Funny...I swear I tried on a similar outfit...somehow it looks different on the VS model
Whether you are shaped like a pencil or a Big Mac, you can learn how to make the most of your assets by drawing attention to them. It's much easier to embrace your body when you are working with, not against it. Incorporating a few tips and tricks regarding your own beautiful shape can make a world of difference to your confidence, because you are making conscientious, informed decisions as you get dressed each day. 

*Fine, I still tried. But at least I didn't beat myself up when I predictably looked like a disproportionate freak who had no waist and her knockers resting on her hips. I just marched myself back to the lower waisted tulip skirt section where I know I belong.**

**Ok, ok.  I bought one.  Just ONE.  And using my creativity I found a way to make it flattering.***

***I haven't found a way to make it flattering. It looks awful. I put it on once and had to take it off before leaving the house. The tags are no longer on it so I can't return it. Don't tell my husband.

White Noise Winner - the BabyShusher!

Shhhhhh. Shhhhhh. Shhhhhh. Believe me, at some point that will be the sweetest sound in the world.

I was going to wait a week to write this, but I can't hold off. The BabyShusher is a game changer and if you're a parent of a new baby you need to know about it NOW.

Having a colicky little one, I learned very quickly that white noise is a fantastic baby calmer. I watched "The Happiest Baby On The Block" (video based on the book by the same name) at the advice of my friend Geoffrey. In it, Dr. Harvey Karp explains the five S's of baby-calming: Swaddling, Side/Stomach Positions, Swinging, Sucking and Shushing. You can read about these methods in more detail here.

While the methods are most effective when used in tandem, my favorite by a mile is using white noise (AKA "shushing"). This method is completely free.  You repeatedly say "Shhhhhhh," loudly in your baby's ear until he shuts up or you pass out, either of which solves your problem. Other effective noises are the hairdryer, vacuum cleaner and radio static (great for carseat meltdowns). We used all of these with great success to get our baby to stop crying, but they have to be LOUD to work and are pretty annoying until you can tune them out.

On the other end of the financial spectrum are high end white noise machines that have a variety of sounds more pleasing to adults. One example is the Brookstone White Noise Machine ($129). I have one and really enjoy it. In the hospital, crashing ocean waves and rainstorms helped us all sleep through the night. Acouple of the noises are creepy or downright nightmare-inducing (Celestial, Meditate) but overall there are nice background noise options.  It's unlikely to stop hysteria but might help your baby fall or stay asleep.

But ignore everything I wrote above because two days ago I stumbled across the most. amazing. baby. invention. ever. It's called the BabyShusher and I love love love it. Before you ask, I TRIED to marry it. It's so stupidly simple that I've face-palmed myself for not inventing it. All it does is shush.  That's it. Shhhhhhhhh. Shhhhhhhhh. Shhhhhhhhh. Its long, drawn-out soothing sound lulls both the baby and I into a stupor. User-friendly controls allow you to adjust the volume to overpower the freaking-out of your baby; and you can set the timer for 15 or 30 minutes. I start it loud and reduce the volume as he calms down.
So this is what heaven sounds like
I've used it for naps, bedtime and in the car. It put us both to sleep the first time I tried it. It's extremely portable so you can toss it in a diaper bag. Yesterday my tired baby started crying in the car and I whipped it out and turned it on loudly. Within 3 seconds he stopped fussing and just looked perplexed. Within 3 minutes he was asleep. It's very effective when he's due for sleep, but I haven't needed to try it yet outside that scenario.
Okay, okay maybe he's responding to mommy's face and not the convenient product placement
The manufacturer claims it's most effective up to 4 months of age (mine is 5 months). However, I feel like it's already been worth the $35 price tag; it's tough to put a price on sanity! 

If you want to be a new mommy's favorite person, get this as a shower gift. Or offer your babysitting services during meltdowns. Myself? I'm stocking up now.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Plated 1st attempt - Disgrossting

Let me start off by saying that this post will surprise no one that has ever lived with me. Particularly my brother-in-law who once saw me light a tea towel on fire while attempting to make dinner. It wasn't a symbolic towel fire either ("Quit oppressing  women - Cook your own dinner!"). Nope, that's just the way I roll.
Oh so innocent
Despite this, when my husband went to Vegas for the PAC 12 tournament, I invited my friend Edie over for a girl date with homemade Chicken Fricasse a la Plated. I suffered temporary amnesia and in the words of Bridget Jones, I had a "sneaking also something of a genius in the kitchen." I have been watching a lot of the cooking channel lately, so obviously I must be pretty good. Unfortunately, the similarities to dear old Bridge didn't end there. I might not have made blue soup, but I did end up with purple gnocchi.
Psych! This is what it's supposed to look like.
I had been intrigued with the idiot-proof recipe service called Plated since I first saw it on Facebook a month ago. One coupon code later and I was prepping my kitchen for an explosion of culinary genius. Apparently I should sue for false advertising; Plated was no match for this idiot.

I selected two chef created gourmet meals from the weekly menus. Recipe cards and all the pre-measured ingredients were delivered to my door in refrigerated packing. There were illustrations, cooking tips and detailed instructions. ALL I HAD TO DO WAS FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS!
This is as good as it gets
I started out brilliantly with some stellar knife skills. Seriously, that dill and onion didn't see me coming.
Stand back, the professionals are working
Once the chicken was cooking on the stovetop, I carefully set the timer because I knew how easily distracted I get. About this time Edie showed up, but I still stayed on top of my game. At exactly the right time I removed the chicken. And it was black. Completely. 
Evil, evil chicken
Believe it or not, it was downhill from there. I got the sauce for the gnocchi boiling and added the chicken back in, per the fail-safe instructions. I quickly realized I had the wrong type of pan, and swapped it out for one with a lid (why didn't they mention that up front?? Oh, wait...). I carefully watched the clock to make sure I didn't miss the 20 minute mark. Had I thought to actually watch the chicken I might have noticed the sauce completely boiling away. At that point I probably would have double-checked the recipe card and seen that sneaky little line "reduce to medium-low" and might have been able to save dinner. Maybe.
Maybe Plated will hire me to write the beautifully illustrated "Opposite Day" instructions
I now had to re-create the sauce, but had no chicken base, onion or white wine left. Using skills newly aquired from watching 100 episodes of Chopped, I improvised. 
White wine, red wine, what's the diff?
Charred Chicken with Purple Gnocchi would have been a more accurate name for the meal. I'm tempted to write a letter. 

I refused to admit defeat and let my guest go hungry, especially since she patiently held my son during an epic meltdown while I tried to save dinner. She insisted (Profusely profusely insisted. A lot.) that she was fine, but I went ahead and assembled dinner so we could enjoy our gourmet meal.
End result looks pretty good to me
I do realize that publicly sharing this means I will never hear the end of it, but I actually think this service is pretty awesome. For anybody in the entire world except me.

Even though Edie probably won't agree, part of me still thinks I'm secretly an amazing cook who just hasn't found her stride yet. Luckily I still have Plated meatloaf to make for my husband when he gets back. After a week in Vegas, he deserves it. ;)