Having a baby, the dollars and cents

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Last week, Caryn mentioned in the comments that she'd "love to see [a post] about the financial impact of a baby and how you're planning for that." This is a really, really good question, and one that has been the subject of near-endless discussion at my house for many months now. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about this subject, too, so in the spirit of Honesty Day, let's talk about the dollars and cents part of this baby equation, shall we?

I've been hanging around the alternative mommy message board scene for quite a while now, and if I've heard the following once, I've heard it a million times:

"Don't worry about money! Babies aren't expensive! You can get all of their clothes and stuff used/handed down, use cloth diapers to save money, and breastfeed!"

I'm sure that for someone, somewhere, that's true. In some utopian world, babies are so cheap as to be financially inconsequential. That is not the case in my world, however. In my world, this kid comes with a very high price tag. And I'm gonna tell you just how much, or at least as close as I can estimate.

Medical care
We are really, really lucky on this count. Some people are in debt for years for the costs of prenatal care and childbirth. As Mark's domestic partner, I am allowed to be on his insurance (which he is then taxed for as compensation, which would not happen if we were legally married, but that is a digression and a rant for another day). Mark has very good insurance, and during his open enrollment period this year, when I was newly pregnant, we upgraded it to very, very good insurance. My prenatal visits, with midwives (and I will write a separate post about why I decided to go that route, another great idea from last week's comments), are 100% covered--no copays. Our two ultrasounds cost about $40 each. The two times I had to go into the hospital for IV hydration were $20 each. And my delivery, depending on the specifics, will be no more than a couple of hundred dollars. If there are no complications, it may be less. As soon as s/he's on the outside, the baby will be covered by the same insurance, without an additional premium payment on Mark's part, and it will be similarly fantastic coverage. Like I said, we're VERY lucky.

In reality, though, our case is becoming the exception rather than the rule. It is hard to estimate what other folks are shelling out for prenatal care and delivery, but it runs into the the thousands, and if you have to pay for it completely, can be $8K or more for an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery, and skyrocket into tens of thousands if there are any issues, even relatively minor ones.

There are also non-doctor medical costs. Prenatal vitamins, massage/chiropractic care/physical therapy if that becomes necessary, the incredibly useful maternity pillow...these things add up. I haven't been keeping track, but I'd say they've come to a couple hundred dollars over the course of my pregnancy.

Day care
I could write a many, many page treatise about being prepared for the cost of day care. Day care, particularly full-time care for an infant, is extraordinarily expensive. I am not talking extended cable expensive, or car payment expensive, or student loan expensive. I'm talking mortgage/rent expensive, or "I could send my kid to college for that!" expensive. For many people, even with only one child, day care represents the largest of their monthly financial outlays, or at least the second largest, after housing. That will be the case for us. The day care centers on my list of options range from about $1,300 to over $2,000 a month (the one we chose lands in the middle of that range). You have to be pretty well off for a new $1,300+ monthly bill to not significantly change your financial situation.

Are there cheaper options? Some, but not a lot. An in-home day care, rather than a center, might cost a few hundred a month less. But finding and vetting one is, at least from my experience so far, a much more complicated process. There is also the question of reliability--a single provider might get sick or have an emergency that would preclude the kid going to day care, and a center likely won't. A nanny would, of course, be more expensive.

And this is the point at which someone inevitably pipes up with the stay-at-home option. I have lots to say about that, and I'm not sure how much of it I want to say here, in fear of mass alienation of readers. The bottom line is that having a stay-at-home parent is not an option that is even under consideration for my family. It would be a financially disastrous idea, even if one of us were willing to put our careers on-hold to do it, which we are not. So day care is, in our case, a necessity.

Lost wages
The amount in lost income a baby represents is completely variable. Some people, I hear, actually have paid maternity leave! Needless to say, I don't. In fact, as a contractor, I'm not even covered by FMLA, so, in theory, taking time off to have a baby and recover from labor and all that could lose me my job. Doesn't look like that is going to happen, but it could. However, the time I take off (which will be at least 8 weeks and may be up to 12, depending on how things go) is going to cost us. Because I have a short-term disability policy that covers childbirth recovery, some of my lost wages will be re-cooped, but a lot of people are not that lucky. I estimate the time I'm taking off will cost me between $5,000 and $7,500.

The big ticket items
Though it's popular to say that you don't actually NEED any of that "fancy baby crap," the truth is that most people use a lot of the items that are sold for babies. They may not strictly be necessities, but they make life a lot easier/more pleasant. And Mark and I are going into this with the idea that it's going to be hard enough without trying to be spartan about it. So we're buying a good few baby items. Note, though, that none of them are the top-of-the-line version--we're trying to be as moderate as possible, getting things that are of a quality that will see us through, but knowing that, since we're only planning to have one child, we won't need them to last a lifetime.

Carseat: This is one everybody pretty much agrees you shouldn't skimp on. We got lucky here, again, because we're inheriting a barely-used seat from a trusted source (you shouldn't go in for used seats if you don't know/trust their providence, since seats that have been in accidents need to be replaced). The seat we're inheriting is the Chicco KeyFit 30. If we had to pay for it? It would be somewhere between $150 and $200.

Stroller: A good jogging stroller is an important purchase for us, since Mark plans to take the baby on lots of walks with Ata. Yes, we could just use a wrap, and likely he will early on, but babies get big fast, and we believe we'll get good use out of a stroller. We aren't totally sure which model we'll be purchasing yet, but the one we're leaning towards is the Baby Jogger Summit. The price tag? $400.

Crib: Lots of people don't use cribs. Others have fully decorated nurseries. We're taking an in-between path. We do plan to purchase and use a crib (more on that later), but aren't planning to purchase any fancy bedding sets (just fitted sheets and mattress protectors) or have a theme, or anything like that. Cribs come in a pretty wide variety of shapes, sizes, and costs. Many of them are designed to "grow with" the kid and covert to toddler beds, then twin beds, and even full-sized beds. That seems like decent sense. We've looked at quite a few, and decided we're probably going to go with the Graco Signature Convertible Crib, which runs around $200. That's just the crib, though--we'll still need to buy a crib mattress (for anywhere from around $40 to about $200) and lots of fitted sheets.

Co-Sleeper: After giving it a lot of thought, Mark and I decided to go ahead and a get a co-sleeper. A co-sleeper is a small, bassinet-like thing that attaches right to your bed for the baby to sleep in for the first few months of life. The idea is that night nursing will be made much easier by the kid being right there (as well watching him/her sleep and not freaking about whether or not s/he is breathing), but s/he won't actually be in bed with us. It's a bit of a middle path between putting the baby in his/her own room in a crib immediately and true co-sleeping. Again, there are a list of reasons behind this decision, but that's probably another post in and of itself. The basic model co-sleeper we're going to get, the Arm's Reach Mini, costs about $150. It comes with a mattress and one fitted sheet, so we'll just have to buy a few more sheets for it and we'll be set.

So, why BOTH the crib and the co-sleeper? Well, due to the weight limits on it, the baby will only be able to sleep in the co-sleeper for a few months (up to 4 or 5 months, probably), and will then need to transition to the crib. We also plan to do naps in the crib from the beginning, so that s/he will immediately get used to sleeping by him/herself.

Pack N Play: This is another thing that I'm sure at least one person is going to say we don't need, but I think will be useful. We live in a three-story house. Our bedroom, and the baby's bedroom, are on the third floor. Our main living space is on the second. I want a place to lay the baby down downstairs, or even a place for him/her to nap there. A bassinet or Moses basket would work, but only while s/he is very small--a Pack N Play will have utility later, as well, and also give us a place to do diaper change that isn't the floor. We're going with a mid-range model, with a bassinet attachment for when the babe is small and a changing station, probably the Graco Pack 'n Play Playard with Newborn Napper Station. It will cost about $150.

Other furniture: This is an area where we are more or less skimping. We're not buying a dresser for the baby--the are a set of open shelves already in his/her room that we plan to use for storage. We were going to buy a changing table, but I got extremely lucky at the thrift store a couple of weeks ago and found this $350 changing table in great shape for $25. We will just need a pad and some covers for it. Since the kid already has a pretty good book collection, we'll probably need to pick up a bookshelf for his/her room, but hopefully that can be thrifted as well. The only other piece of furniture we're considering is a glider, for rocking and nursing. We haven't picked anything out yet, but the cost on those looks to be anywhere from $150 on up, and we'll probably go with something at the lower end of the range.

Diapers
Lots of people swear by cloth diapers for money-saving purposes, and I get the logic, but honestly, it's not gonna happen. Even if I were willing to take on the extra mess and laundry, we'd have to go with half-time disposables as soon as the kid goes to day care anyway. Doesn't seem worth the initial diaper outlay. So, we're going to use disposables. Cost estimates on that vary (depending, often, on whether whomever does the estimate wants you to use cloth or disposable), but we're tentatively planning for $50-$75/month. Then there are wipes, creams, etc. for a few bucks more.

Feeding
And here is where it gets REALLY political. If you are pregnant, or thinking of getting pregnant, or, you know, female at all, somebody will, at some point, tell you that nursing is free. Nursing is not free, at least not in the great majority of cases. It may be cheaper than formula-feeding (though, in my case, I'm not sure that's going to be true), but it's not free.

How not? Well, the first thing to consider is the increased caloric need of the nursing mom. More calories=more food=more money. But that's probably not a huge outlay, and it's hard to estimate, so I'm not going to dwell on it. There are also nursing supplies--Bobby and cover, nursing pads, nipple creams, etc.--those things will add up a bit, but again, not a huge outlay. The real costs, from what I can tell, come from the combination of nursing and working. Pumps, especially pumps that are decent enough to make pumping at work doable for a lot of women, are not cheap. There are several pump options, at a variety of cost points, from small manual pumps to hospital grade versions. Sometimes, you can even rent pumps. I'm not sure what I am going to do yet--it's going to depend on how things go--but probably if nursing works out well enough for me to commit to several daily pumping sessions at work, I'll need to go with something like the Medela Pump in Style Advanced, which runs about $350. It is possible insurance will cover it, I haven't figured that out yet.

There's also the time factor. While time to pump at work is protected, it's not paid. So whatever time it takes me to pump at work each day is time I am off the clock, and thus a loss in my hourly income. It's hard to estimate how big a bite that will take, since I have no idea how well pumping will or won't work or how much time it will demand, but my guess is that it won't be insubstantial.

There will be other smaller costs associated with pumping, as well, including sterilization bags, bottles or bags in which to store/freeze milk, etc.

Clearly, I plan to attempt breastfeeding. However, I am not afraid to go to formula if I feel that is what we need to do, or to do a combination of formula and breast milk. That leads to a new set of costs--bottles, nipples, a microwave sterilizer (I'm told this is key), a drying rack...I actually got a number of these things as shower gifts, so it won't likely add up to all that much for me, but they're still costs. Then there is the formula itself. Again, cost estimates vary greatly depending on who is doing the estimating, but the most reasonable sounding numbers I've seen estimate full-time formula use at $80-$120/month.

Then there is the assorted baby stuff. Clothes, blankets, pacifiers, burp cloths, and on and on and on. I have no way to quantify how much that all costs, as it is so highly variable, depending on how much of you get as gifts, where/what you buy, and so on. We haven't spent much at all on that sort of stuff yet, as we've been VERY generously gifted, but I expect it will start to add up once the kid is here and we see exactly what we need and don't have.

So a very rough total estimate? Somewhere around $7,000-$9,500 initial layout, then another additional $2,000 or so in monthly expenses. Not exactly cheap. In fact, I think you'd be hard pressed to argue that doesn't totally change the financial picture.

Getting back to Caryn's question, she asked how we're planning for this financial hit. We've actually been planning for it for quite some time. When Mark and I first started talking about having a baby, there was a certain amount of money he wanted to see in our emergency savings account before we started trying. Mark is a lot more financially conservative than I am, and I thought the number he wanted to shoot for was ridiculous. So, we negotiated, and came up with a new number, as well as a target date for getting to that number and a target date to start trying to conceive. When the TTC date came, we weren't quite to the savings goal, but it was within reach, and so we went for it.

Since I've been pregnant, we've gotten a bit more serious. What we decided to do was to start pretending that the biggest baby expense (day care) was already upon us, and "paying" it into our savings account. We've been doing that for the last six or seven months. This serves two purposes. First, it gets us used to the great level of financial austerity needed to work an additional $1,500/month or so into our budget. Secondly, it helps us to get to that savings goal we talked about. It has worked out well. As there always are, there have been some large unexpected expenses (veterinary expenses, as it turns out, which I will post about on another day), so our savings is not quite where we'd like it to be, but it's close(ish), and I feel pretty secure that we've been responsible about planning the financial side of this.

Honestly, I am at a loss as to how people who aren't so lucky as Mark and I have been, financially, make this work. Obviously the cost of living here is quite high, and that makes things like day care more expensive, but even in places with a lower COL, it's significant. And the medical expenses some people face are extraordinary. Then you add up the little things, and even if you try to go bare-bones, it isn't cheap. It's a daunting financial proposition. Which is why I find the "it will all work out! babies are cheap!" line of discussion so very frustrating. I just don't see how that reflects reality for the great majority of people.

None of this is to say that I am sorry we're doing this. I'm so, so not. I am just really thankful to be doing it now, when we're in such a privileged financial position. It would be extremely stressful to be facing all of these new costs without the cushion we've been able to build, and without the good, stable jobs we've been able to find. We're extraordinarily lucky.

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 15: 4+11+20+25

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I dunno about today. I was going for that sorta flowy Eileen Fisher look, but I think I missed the mark. Maybe by a lot.

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I'm wearing:
-#4: Mossimo Convertible Maxi Skirt, black
-#11: Mossimo Ultra-Soft Cocoon Sweater, seaweed
-#20: m.e. sleeveless tunic, white (Marshall's)
-#25: Aerosoles Laser Printz Ballet Flats, dark orange

with:
-teal, green, and blue striped linen scarf (thrifted)

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Confession: I'm not actually wearing 30 for 30 clothes today. Why? Because every single bottom half-covering option is in the laundry. I'm not leaving the house anyway, so I don't suppose it much matters. However, I wore TWO 30 for 30 outfits yesterday--one for during the day, when I went thrifting, and another for an evening spent having dinner with friends. So we're still on track.

During the day I wore:

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I'm wearing:
-#1: Old Navy Fold-Over Wide-Legged Linen Pants, gray
-#10: Mossimo Ultra-Soft Cocoon Sweater, coral
-#13: Liz Lange for Target Maternity Short-Sleeved Ruched Basic Tee, Flat Iris
-#28: Teva Mandalyn Wedge Flip Flops

with:
-H&M tank top, black
-Broken Plate Pendant Company necklace

Then, in the evening:

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I'm wearing:
-#6: Liz Lange for Target Maternity Sleeveless Maxi Dress, gray/red/purple (belt removed)
-#(alternate)10: Old Navy open-front short-sleeved cardigan, cream
-#25: Aerosoles Laser Printz Ballet Flats, dark orange

with:
-gold concentric circles necklace (gift)
-gold, pink, and purple beaded wrap bracelet (Forever 21, I think)

I don't like these shoes with this, but it was raining too hard for sandals last night, so they were the best of bad options. The cardigan isn't really right, either, but none of the 30 for 30 cardis work very well with it. I really, really love the dress, though. So, of course, I spilled something on it last night. Hopefully it will come out in the laundry today.

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 12: 3+18+24+29

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I think today's outfit is kind of cute. This skirt has really become a staple. I also added item #29 today, another cardigan, since the weather is insisting on layers.

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I'm wearing:
-#3: Thyme Maternity denim skirt (hand-me-down)
-#18: Old Navy short-sleeved notch-collar tunic, black
-#24: Nine West leopard print flats
-#29: Old Navy gray jersey open cardigan (thrifted)

with:
-Mossimo Long & Lean tank top, gray
-Superhero necklaces

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Easing back into social media, and the tools I use

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In the first few months of my pregnancy, while I was absent from the blog, I was largely absent from other social media as well. I spent some time on Facebook, but I abandoned Twitter completely, and I dialed just about everything I did online down. This was, for the most part, due to my complete focus on myself and how bad I felt--that's all I would have posted about anyway, and who wants to hear that every day? Now that I'm back with gusto, though, I'm looking at the ways in which I use social media and the tools I use a bit more critically. In a couple of months, I am going to have a baby, and by all accounts, that's going to seriously curtail the amount of time I have to dedicate to my online presence. Yet, I don't want to go silent again--I like being plugged in to this world, and I don't want to lose that. So I'm trying to build an arsenal of tools to help me interact more productively, not miss anything big, and stay "plugged in" when I have less time to do so. I'm also working on doing a better job promoting this blog. I think this is a good blog, and it should have more readers, more followers, more comments. I know it is up to me to make that happen, though, and so far I have been abysmally bad at it.

So, here's what I've been using. I am hoping that this post will generate other suggestions!

First, the hardware: I am an Apple girl all the way. At home, I use a four or five year-old MacBook Pro, which I love. I also have an iPad 2, which I know I am not using to it's full capacity, being as mostly what I do with it is surf from bed, and an iPhone 4s, which is probably also underutilized, as it mainly serves to allow me to text, take occasional bad pictures, and talk on the phone on the occasion when I can't avoid it.

Now, the software. If you're Internet savvy, none of this is probably going to be new to you. I am about a hundred years behind when it comes to this stuff. Still, there are tools I've grown dependent on, so they're worth mentioning:

1. TweetDeck
My relationship to Twitter has never been strong. I just don't like the interface, and, until I recently (finally, thank you to my friend Rachel!) discovered Tweet Deck, I hated not being able to easily manage viewing and posting on both Facebook and Twitter in the same place. Enter TweetDeck. It's an easy interface, it allows me to see both my Twitter and FB feeds, together, and it allows me to choose, with each post I make, whether I want it on just FB, just Twitter, or both. Since I use Facebook and Twitter really differently, and have different circles of friends on each one, this is really handy. My family, who are mostly Facebook users, are a lot more interested in my constant pregnancy updates than are my Twitter friends. I interact with companies/brands far more on Twitter. Twitter promotion seems to be better for the blog, but linking to blog posts on Facebook means I'm going to get comments from friends/family. All of those things can be easily taken into account. I also like that I can run TweetDeck easily as an app on both my phone and my iPad, and as a Chrome extension on a PC. What I don't like, however, is that I can't use it on my Macbook without using Chrome or Safari--it won't run on Firefox, my preferred browser, and my OS is too old for the Mac App. That's a bummer.

For those who don't already have me on FB and/or Twitter, I can be found here and here.

2. Pinterest
I love Pinterest. It appeals to my inner sense of "oooh, shiny!" Making Pinterest boards and looking at all of the cool things other people find is, for me, a very pleasant way to spend hours. Hours that I soon won't have to waste. So, I'm trying to figure out what role Pinterest should have in my new Internet life. I know a lot of people are using it for blog promotion, but I'm not sure it's right for this blog--I feel like I'm missing something key, at least as far as brand interaction and how much I love to introduce other people to products that I enjoy, but I'm not able to put a finger on it at this point. Still, I have to shout out to Pinterest because it amuses me so greatly. To find me there, click here.

3. Feedly
I love Feedly. I was a Google Reader user for a long time, but I like Feedly's "magazine" interface even more. I read a lot of blogs (though part of what I am trying to do right now is cut my number of subscriptions down--always tough!) and I love to be able to categorize them, easily see who has new content that I haven't read yet, etc. I also like the ease of Feedly as a Chrome extension, which is how I use it on a PC, or a Firefox add-on, which is how I use it on my MacBook, or an iPad app.

4. Polyvore
If you've been around here long, you know how I love Polyvore! It's the tool I use to create the outfit sets for Dress You Up. I'm a much less advanced user than a lot of the folks on Polyvore, but I love what it allows me to do as far as mixing bunches of clothes and accessories from different places and showing them to you! I also love that it has a "Clip to Polyvore" button you can install on your browser (just like Pinterest's "Pin It" button), so that when I am shopping online and see something I like/want to use, I can quickly and easily add it it. It's so much easier than the ways I tried to "online shop" for people before. You can see all of my Polyvore sets, including all the past Dress You Up sets, here.

5. Google Analytics
Like so many bloggers, I am beholden to the alter of Google Analytics, which tells me how many visits my blog is getting. I really wish I didn't care, but I do. I'm afraid, however, that I am badly under-utilizing the tool. All I really know how to do with it is go in and see how many unique visitors I've gotten within a specific time frame, and maybe compare that to another specific time frame. MAYBE I can tell how long, on average, folks are hanging out here. I know I should be able to do more, including figuring out when I should be posting for the highest possible traffic, and what types of posts are garnering me the most eyeballs. But I do not have that kind of brain, and can't figure out how to do that without a tutorial. Anybody got a tutorial?

6. Dropbox
Dropbox is a new and very, very welcome addition to my online life. I have it installed on every device I touch regularly, and I use it just about every day. For those who were under the same rock I was, it allows you to put documents or photos or whatever in your "dropbox" on at one location and then access them from another location! Brilliant! I guess it's basically the same thing as Google Documents, which I also use, but it's a lot easier to use--you just drag and drop, rather than going through an upload process.

7. Flickr/Photobucket
Though I use them both, I'm not super thrilled with either Flickr or Photobucket right now. They both do what I need them to do, as far as storing pictures (Flickr) and allowing me to share them easily (Photobucket). However, I don't like the editing capabilities of either one. I used to like Picnik on Flickr, but now that they have switched to Aviary, I'm less excited. And the editing capabilities on Photobucket are, to my mind, pretty bad. I do, however, love that I can easily take photos on my iPhone or iPad and share them as links or on Facebook or Twitter, using Photobucket, and I keep it around for that purpose. Flickr I have years of archives on, so I'm not likely to abandon it anytime soon, either. To fine me on Flickr, click here (my Photobucket is pretty much transitory holding space and not really worth visiting).

8. InvisibleHand
InvisibleHand is a Mozilla add-on that I am finding really useful for online shopping, especially as I look at baby stuff. When you are looking at a given product, it alerts you with a banner on the top of the browser if you can get the same thing at a lower price elsewhere. Apparently, the search includes about 580 retailers in the US, UK, and Germany. It's saved me bucks a few times and it's a no-brainer to install and use.

9. Google Calendar
While I have used Google Calendar in the "keep track of birthdays" sense for years, I have only recently started using it more seriously. And by "seriously," I mean that I have more than one calendar now, and that I have learned to share/invite. Two things for which I am finding it very useful are keeping Mark aware of baby-related appointments (midwife, baby care class, etc.) and tracking when all of my various subscription boxes are ordered, ship, and arrive. This message has been brought you by The Year 2004.

10. StumbleUpon
StumbleUpon is another one I have been using, though not well, for a long time. I love the idea, both as a means of promotion and as a way to find cool stuff, but I find the actual act of Stumbling really awkward, and it's something I almost never remember to do. Plus it seems more and more dead lately. Is that the case? Are the cool kids using something else now and nobody told me? If not, you can find my StumbleUpon page here.

Really, that's the core of my arsenal. I have a few other things on my iPad, but nothing I use often. I feel like I must be missing out on some awesome things, but whenever I try to find them I end up on some "100 Apps EVERYBODY MUST HAVE!" list and my eyes glaze over. Given the amazing advances in what is available on the Web over the past few years, I feel like I could be doing a lot better job in both streamlining my online time AND building blog traffic, but I'm a bit overwhelmed by the idea. So...I'm enlisting your help. Looking over what I use and how I use it, what am I missing? Is there something that could replace one or more of my current tools and be more effective/efficient? I know there are experts out there--help a tired pregnant lady out?

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Lip balm, a literature review

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So I love lip balm. I put it on approximately one-hundred-sixty-seven times a day. I've tried a zillion lip balms and probably currently own two dozen varieties. And I have different lip balm preferences for different times/places. So, I thought I'd share with you my lip balm literature review.

By the bed

One of the most important lip balm areas, to my mind, is next to the bed. My lips get way dry at night. For this application, I want something long-lasting, easy-application, and not too sticky or shiny or fancy. Bonus points for nice smells and tastes, and extra bonus points for an easy-to-find-in-the-dark large applicator. My choice?

eos Lip Balm Smooth Sphere
eos smooth sphere.jpg

Several years ago, I got one of the then-new eos lip balm sphere as part of a swag bag at BlogHer, and I've been a fan since then. My original sphere was mint, but I have since switched to the lemon drop shown here--I just love the subtle smell and taste. The large applicator and non-rollingness of it make it perfect for my bedside table, and one sphere lasts forever. It's also a 95% organic product, not animal tested, petrolatum, phthalate, and paraben-free, available in tons of flavors, and CHEAP (around $3). What's not to love?

In my makeup bag

As part of my makeup application, there are two uses for lip balm. One is to go under lip sticks or pencils, the other is to wear on its own. The second category is general tinted, the first is not. For untinted balm to wear under other things, I like:

Pangea Organics Lip Balm
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Like the eos, I love that the Pangea has a nice smell (I use the Italian Red Mandarin shown here) and a bigger-than-average applicator. It doesn't tend to get lost among my makeup clutter. It also provides a really nice, non-sticky base layer. It's also vegan, mostly organic, and free of petroleum or synthetics. It's a bit more expensive, at about $12, but lasts forever (I've had the same tube for at least two years).

For tinted balms, it's hard for me to choose, but there are two big stand-outs:

Laura Mercier Hydratint SPF 15
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I just discovered Laura Mercier Hydratint and so far I LOVE it. It has great color choices (I have the rose tint, which is medium pink), it's very hydrating, and it has good staying power. It doesn't have much for a scent or a taste, which I know is important to some people. I like that it's SPF 15, too, as I'm trying to get higher SPF in all of my daily use products. It is sheer color, so if you are looking for drama, it's probably not the best bet. It's also on the spendy side at $20, since it's kinda small (regular chapstick size) and has decidedly un-fancy packaging. It actually reminds me a whole lot of Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm, which is a lot cheaper at $7, but I can't wear because it contains lanolin.

Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15
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I've been a fan of Fresh Sugar lip balm's for a while now, and have recently become very attached to the new coral one. My all-time favorite, though, is the rose one shown here. Fresh is just as moisturizing as Laura Mercier, with slightly more saturated color. I also really like the packaging--the harder-shelled twist-top tube can stand being knocked around in my purse. Like the Laura Mercier, it's SPF 15, and it has decent lasting power, though re-application after hot coffee is necessary. It's spendy, though--$22.50.

In my purse

It would be a fat lie for me to tell you that there is only one lip product in my bag at any given time. However, there is one that is ALWAYS there:

pūr~lisse pur~lip comfort
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I got my first tube of pūr~lisse from my first BeautyFix bag, and I've been using it since then. I think this is tube #3. I like it for my purse because it's a very shiny balm, so I can put it on over anything to get a freshly glossy look. It's also really moisturizing, though it doesn't have good staying power, and relatively smell and taste-free. It's $16, and doesn't last as long as the harder balms do, but I don't use it that often and it's great for those times I need it.

In my desk

For my desk, I tend to rotate through lip products depending on what I like at a particular moment. One thing I always have, though, is something I can put on before a meeting if I unexpectedly need to look a bit more put together. It's not exactly a balm, but I'm including it anyway:

Clinique Almost Lipstick
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Clinique's Almost Lipstick, in Black Honey, is a bit of an all-time beauty blogger favorite. It's one of those "everybody should have this!" things. And I can't disagree. It's somewhere between tinted balm and lipstick, goes on easily, and is a perfect color for "I'm presentable, but I'm not really trying or anything." Honestly, I think it's a little bit boring, which is why it's desk lip product and not something I wear often, but it's good to have in a pinch. It's also a great quality product at a decent price, selling for $15 for a tube that will likely last you (or me, at least) forever.

And there you have it! A million lip balms, and those are my favorites. Are you a lip balm addict? What are your favorites?

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 11: 7+(alternate)9+15+27

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So has anybody else noticed how big I am starting to look? Wow.

This cardigan is a substitution. The black cropped one from H&M that I'd included as my original #9 item doesn't fasten across my chest anymore, even though it did less than two weeks ago. Ah, pregnancy boobs.

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I'm wearing:
-#7: Mossimo Color-Block Maxi Dress, navy/orange/white (from last year)
-(alternate)#9: Old Navy open short-sleeved cardigan, cream (from last year)
-#15: Liz Lange for Target Maternity Short-Sleeved Ruched Basic Tee, Vermillion Red (really coral)
-#27: Bass Joanne Sandals, Cinnamon

with:
-Missoni for Target striped scarf
-wooden and bead wrap bracelet (no idea where I got it)

This outfit solves a problem I've been having--using the dress as a skirt by layering a shirt over it allows me to wear an ever-shortening (I keep telling myself they're shrinking, but I don't think they are) shirt without worrying about layering over a tank or exposing belly. Nice. Other than that, though, I can't say I'm a huge fan of this outfit. I just look so...big.

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 10: 5+11+26+25

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Yawn. I'm sorry, y'all. I'd like for these 3rd trimester 30 for 30 posts to be more interesting, but they just...aren't. I am rather absurdly proud of how the colors of my sweater and shoes are repeated in my necklace today, though.

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I'm wearing:
-#5: Land's End Pattern Knit Convertible Skirt, navy stripe
-#11: Mossimo Ultra-Soft Cocoon Sweater, seaweed
-#16: Old Navy Maternity Slub-Knit V-Neck Tee, white
-#25: Aerosoles Laser Printz Ballet Flats, dark orange

With:
-H&M white tank top
-orange and dark green stone necklace (gift)

This shirt? Too short. And it's a maternity tee. Life is hard for the long-of-torso, folks.

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Curated subscription review: The Look Bag

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Beauty curated subscription service The Look Bag follows the model set up by Birchbox. For $10/month, members are sent 5 "luxury beauty samples." The products are tailored to match your "personal beauty profile" by "Celebrity Beauty Therapist and Eyebrow King" Damone Roberts. Bags should arrive within the first two weeks of every month.

My first Look Bag experience didn't *quite* meet expectations. I signed up for the service on March 19, at which time I received an email stating that "within the first two weeks of every month, you will receive an assortment of 5 different high-end beauty samples in a luxurious bag." On April 16 (not within the first two weeks of April), I received this, packed in a padded mailing envelope:

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To my mind, the pink organza bag the products were packed is not a "luxurious" bag. The mailing envelope shoved in my mailbox was certainly not luxury packaging. On the website, the models are shown holding substantial sized boxes with Look Bag logos on them--more like what Birchbox does--and that is what I was expecting. So the packaging, and the time of shipping, were both slightly disappointing.

But what about the products themselves? I received:

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-Pur-lisse Pur~Protect SPF 30, .5 oz sample (estimated value $12.94): I was excited about this, as I think Pur-lisse is a good brand and I am excited to try any moisturizer with a high SPF, in the hopes of finding something that works like sunscreen without feeling or smelling like sunscreen.

-CoCo Cosmetics Jovie Jubilee Body Lotion, 2 oz sample (estimated value $4): Not so jazzed about this one, as it's a lower end lotion and the smell doesn't do anything for me. Probably going into the giveaway box.

-Laura Mercier Perfecting Water Rich, .34 oz sample (estimated value $1.93): This is an interesting sample--it's a water you put on before moisturizer/mixed with moisturizer to make it more moisturizing. It's a smallish sample, so not a huge value, but something I'll be interested to try, and I like Laura Mercier a lot as a brand.

-Orofluido Beauty Elixer, .17 oz sample (estimated value $1.31): I have a sample of this hair oil from a Birchbox a few months ago, and I like and use it, so I was happy to see this. The sample seems small at less than 1/2 oz, but a little of this stuff goes a long, long way, so it's good for quite a few uses. I'm finding hair oils to be a lifesaver for my pregnancy/humidity frizz issues.

-Virga BotanicalsWater Garden perfume sample: I don't like perfume samples. This one is made by an indie business, which is cool, but it's a heavy floral, which I wouldn't be into even if I did like perfume samples. It's also just a little umarked vial, which seems like an afterthought and not very professional from a packaging standpoint.

All in all, I feel really mixed about this bag. I was unimpressed by the packaging and shipping, and found two of the five samples to be fairly worthless. The other three samples, however, were all things I'll be interested to use, in quantities that are useful. The total value is approximately $20, which is reasonable, though not as high as I'd like (and low compared to other subscription services like Birchbox). I did find the products to be more similar than I'd like--no makeup, three skin care products, one hair care product, and a perfume--but that may change over time. I'll be keeping an open mind on this one and seeing what the next few installments bring before I make a decision as to whether to keep or cancel it.

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 9: 8+10+25

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The Mary Tyler Moore-ness of these pictures cracks me up. I'm not sure about this scarf--I got it from the free swag room at BlogHer, and I like it a lot, but it's just not the right color for me. At least it's bring and spring-y, though, right? Unfortunately, the rest of this outfit really isn't--it looked a lot better without the leggings, but it was 40 degrees at my house this morning, so warmth won out.

Also? Interestingly, at this point in pregnancy, none of the things I am wearing today are maternity clothes.

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I'm wearing:
-#8: Merona Draped Neck Value Dress, Xavier Navy
-#10: Mossimo Ultra-Soft Cocoon Sweater, coral
-#25: Aerosoles Laser Printz Ballet Flats, dark orange

With:
-Victoria's Secret Yoga Leggings, gray
-Boden polka dot scarf

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 8: 4+9+19+26

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Wow, I look seriously unthrilled in these pictures. And to be honest, I was. It is gray and raining and cold and nasty here, and probably not a good day for me to have chosen a monochromatic ensemble like this one. That said, I didn't choose many cool-weather clothes for my 30 for 30, so I had to make due with what I had.

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I'm really starting to hate these shoes...

I'm wearing:
-#4: Mossimo Convertible Maxi Skirt, black
-#12: Merona Pointelle Cardigan, elephant gray
-#19: Motherhood 3/4 sleeved tunic, black/white striped
-#26: Me Too bronze wedges

with:
-hinged silver owl necklace (Ebay)

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Updated on 5/1/12: Sorry, I'm a day late with the winner! Congratulations, Melissa, you've won a 3-month subscription to Green Grab Bag!

One of the areas of curated subscription that seems to have really exploded recently is "green" boxes. Blissmobox, Conscious Box, and Pink Moment offer general "green" selections. Kara's Way, Eco-Emi, and Goodebox (reviewed here) focus on natural and sustainable beauty products. Up for review today is another entrant into the green beauty category, Green Grab Bag.

Green Grab Bag follows the same general model as most of the other curated subscription boxes. For $15/month, they send at least six samples of natural beauty products. Their website includes a long list of green brands, including some great ones like Lavera and Vapour. I was very excited to try their offering.

My Green Grab Bag was shipped right on time and arrived quickly. The packaging looks like this:

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It's a printed reusable bag, with the products inside wrapped in tissue paper. The little card, tied to the handles with raffia, gives information about each product. Not THAT exciting, but really nice packaging that goes along with their green theme, and all of my products arrived intact.

These were the products I found inside my bag:

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From left to right:
-full-sized Revolution Organics Freedom Gloss, in Vibe (est. value $26): this seems like a really nice product, unfortunately, the "Vibe" shade is pretty rusty-orange, and that's NOT a good color for me. Bummer, because I think I could have worn any of the other four shades.
-one-use size sample packet of Delizioso Skincare Organic Elderberry Hair Smoothie (est. value: $36 for 4 oz, packet was maybe .25 oz, so $2.25): this is an interesting product, but I HATE single-use samples, especially since the product website specifically says "Best results after prolonged use."
-.5 oz sample of Skin Perfection Seven Seas Mask (est. value: $24.50 for 2 oz, so $6.13): I tried this the other night and it's GOOD stuff. My skin felt amazing after I washed it off--smooth, soft, and I think it even minimized some post-breakout redness. It's also a good sized sample--I think probably 4-5 uses worth. Definite win on this one.
-1 oz SheaTerra Organics Pink Guavas and Pomegranates Ultimate Moisturizing Body Cream (est. value $6): I haven't tried this yet, but it smells night and fruity and I tend to like whipped shea butter creams a lot, so I have high hopes for it.
-.65 mL sample of Tsi-La Ilang Ilang perfume (est. value: $44 for 4 mL, so $7.15): I straight up can't stand perfume samples. That said, this one smells REALLY nice. It's ylang ylang (ilang ilang), jasmine, citrus, and vanilla. It's too strong for me right now, but I could see myself wearing it in the future.
-full-sized Mineral Hygienics eyeshadow in Madras (est. value $13): This is another nice addition to the box. I am trepidatious of mineral makeup (for no real reason), but shadow is a really interesting medium pink color that I definitely think I will try. I was also really happy to see that they included a full-sized version, rather than a too-small-to-easily-use packet sample.

Total estimated value of Green Grab Bag: $60.53

As was likely clear in reading my descriptions of the products that were included in my bag, I think Green Grab Bag did an excellent job with this one. There were a variety of products included (two makeup items, a hair treatment, a body treatment, a perfume, and a skin treatment), most of the samples were large enough to use several times, and packaging was good, if not great. As a bonus, none of the products were from brands I already knew about--yay for being introduced to all new stuff! As I mentioned when I reviewed Goodebox, I'm a little bit concerned about how many product offerings there really are in the "green beauty" space, and how long Green Grab Bag will be able to continue featuring good, new products, but give their already long list of brands, that may be an unfounded concern.

And now, the best part! You get to try this one out for yourselves! Green Grab Bags has generously agreed to give one WINOW reader a THREE MONTH subscription! Yay for three months of surprise bags full of sustainable beauty products in the mail! To enter, please do the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post pointing me (and Green Grab Bags) towards a green or eco-beauty brand you'd like to see included.

and/or

2. Give this post a shout-out on Facebook and/or Twitter and link to it in the comments.

and/or

3. "Like" Green Grab Bag on Facebook (here) and/or follow them on Twitter (here) and come back to leave a comment saying you did so.

This contest will be open for one week, to close next Monday, April 30, at 9am EST. Good luck!

Added on 4/26/12: For those who don't win, or who can't wait, Green Grab Bag has a great promotion for Mother's Day! Buy your mom (or your favorite mom!) a 3, 6, or 12 month subscription and get a bonus bag for yourself, free!

Green Grab Bag provided the bag for my review and will provide the contest winner a three-month subscription. This post was not otherwise compensated.

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 7: 2+11+14

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It is a rainy, dreary day here in NoVA. It's quite likely that I will not leave the house. In which case, I see no reason to even pretend I'm going to wear shoes.

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I'm wearing:
-#2: Motherhood Secret Fit Belly Super Stretch Boot Cut Maternity Jeans
-#11: Mossimo Ultra-Soft Cocoon Sweater, seaweed
-#14: Liz Lange for Target Maternity Short-Sleeved Ruched Basic Tee, Haywire Purple

with:
-H&M tank top, gray
-three strand red, lavender, and green necklace (gift)

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 6: 2+20+28

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Yay, weekend! Today's planned activities include a trip to Babies R Us and a manicure/pedicure appointment. The weather is probably not going to cooperate with this outfit all day, but it's nice right now, so I'm going to risk it.

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These pictures are really weird. Sorry about that.

I'm wearing:
-#2: Motherhood Secret Fit Belly Super Stretch Boot Cut Maternity Jeans
-#20: m.e. sleeveless tunic, white (Marshall's, I think it may be a swimsuit cover-up)
-#28: Teva Mandalyn Wedge Flip Flops

with:
-Old Navy Maternity black tank top
-red shell circle necklace (no idea)
-turquoise threaded bangle bracelets (from last summer...Ebay, I think?)

I really like this top/tunic/whatever. I'm not sure how actually useful it's going to be, as far as wearing it lots of different ways, but I think it's cute like this, and it makes me feel less like a house. So there's my maternity fashion advice for the day--don't neglect to look at the swimsuit cover ups!

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Curated subscription review: Beauty Box 5

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Man, this review is a bummer to write. For the first time, I am so disappointed in a subscription box that I can't really think of much of anything good to say about it. I thought about just not reviewing in this case, to keep things positive, but that seems dishonest. So here's the facts:

I signed up to receive Beauty Box 5 March 19. The website looked promising--$12/month for 4-5 samples of some interesting brands, packaged up in what looked like a cute little blue box.

And then I waited. And finally, on April 18, a full month after I signed up (and paid), I got a shipping notice for my first box. OK, that's a long wait time, but no big deal. Shipping was oddly fast--the box arrived the next day!

It seemed...small, from the outside packaging. And then I opened it and saw this:

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Hrm...some weird Easter-basket-esque filler and the products in a little organza bag. Not what I expected. Definitely not the gift feeling of the blue box and ribbon shown on the website. Still, better to look at the products before I get too judgmental, right?

This is what's in the bag:

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Yeah. Take a close look. That's:
-a single Waterproof LA Fresh Makeup Remover Wipe (estimated value $9.99 for 20, or $.50)
-a .14 oz sample packet of Pur-Lisse Pur-Protect SPF 30 Daily Moisturizer (estimated value $55 for 1.7 oz, or $4.53)
-a 15 mL sample of Freeman Pink Grapefruit Exfoliating Scrub (estimated value $3.99 for 150 mL, or $.40)
-a single SuperGoop Sunscreen Swipe (estimated value $10 for 10, or $1)
-a mL sample of True Natural Advanced Lift & Firm Serum (estimated value $69 for .5 oz, or $18.67)

Total estimated value: $25.10

There was no enclosed literature introducing me to the products, just a little card directing me to the website.

It would be an understatement to say I was underwhelmed by this box. With the exception of the serum, the sample are all single use, so even though they are technically of a higher value than the $12 price tag, they won't be particularly useful as testers--most things need to be tested more than once. They're also ALL skin products, which is neither particularly interesting or diverse. Compared to all of the other sample boxes I've received, they seem absolutely chinzy. So much so that, after finding a few other reviews of Beauty Box 5 online that seemed like they had nicer things (including full-sized products), I wondered if a mistake had been made with my box. (These reviews include this one of the March box at Nail Art Couture, this one of the March box at Mes Joies de Vivre, and this one of the February box at Pink Sith.) Surely a company trying to establish itself as competition to the extremely successful Birchbox would not intentionally send out a box such as this? I decided to send an email to customer service expressing my disappointment and see what they had to say.

Customer service got back to me quickly--within about 12 hours. However, the reply I received was very unsatisfactory. The customer service representative presented me with list of product values (some of which were different than those I found on my own), and said:

There is a misconception about beauty boxes in that it's a way receive free products
- that is not our mission. Our mission is help you find the right products by sampling quality brands that will benefit your skin, your time, and your budget.

My other concerns, about the quality of the products themselves (Freeman? really?), the small sample sizes not being big enough for true testing, and the lack of variety, were ignored.

I replied to the customer service representative and told her about the alternative values of the products I'd found (the difference, to be fair, was only a few dollars). I also reiterated my concern about the small sample sizes and limited variety. For a comparison, I mentioned what I had received in my last Birchbox (Birchbox is a $10/month program, 20% cheaper than Beauty Box 5). I also linked to reviews of several past boxes that were clearly of a much higher value than the one I received, still thinking there might have been a mistake of some sort. S/he replied, in part:

But thank you for doing your own research and finding these differences for us. Your absolutely correct in that we've featured higher valued boxes in the past. Additionally, we have also featured lower-valued boxes in the past as well. It really just varies and this is how it will be in the future as well. Some months you may get a $50 box, other months you may get a $20 box. We have never claimed to be a value box (although we do provide it), we focus our mission on providing beauty samples for ladies that are in search of cosmetic products to add to their beauty regimen.

Once again, no response to my complains about getting all skin products, or about the samples being too small to do real testing.

At this point, I saw no point in continuing correspondence, as it was clear there had been no mistake and Beauty Box 5 was standing by the shoddy box I received. I went to cancel my subscription, where I found that I had already been charged for/was committed to the May box, though it won't ship until May 17. The company charges a full month in advance.

At this point, I'd be hard pressed to say whether I am more disappointed in Beauty Box 5's box or their customer service. I am honestly floored that they would go to no trouble to make things right for an unsatisfied customer. I wanted to give them every opportunity to change my mind about their service/product, but instead they only made me more certain that they are the worst curated subscription experience I've had.

So this is the opposite of a recommendation. I strongly encourage my readers to skip Beauty Box 5 when you are considering curated subscription programs. There are a lot of options at this point, and this one is worth neither your time nor your money.

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 5: 3+11+23+24

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When I pictured myself pregnant, this is the kind of outfit I assumed I'd wear. It's cute, right? Like normal clothes, only with a big belly. So, of course, this is the kind of outfit that I rarely wear. I just bought this shirt, though, and I love it (yay Target!). It's comfortable, long enough, flattering, and seems on-trend. I am tempted to get a navy and white one as well.

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How huge does my belly look in that right picture? I kinda love it.

I'm wearing:
-#3: Thyme Maternity denim skirt (hand-me-down)
-#11: Mossimo Ultra-Soft Cocoon Sweater, seaweed (why yes, this IS the same sweater as Day 3 in a different color!)
-#23: Merona Maternity Scoop-Neck Shirred Side Fashion Tank, Ebony/Cocoa striped
-#24: Nine West leopard print flats

with:
-H&M black tank top (hand-me-down)
-wooden beaded wrap bracelet (no idea)
-yellow paper bead necklace (gift)

My feet are really too swollen for these shoes. :(

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 4: 7+12+25

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I am now apparently losing quality when I crop/resize my photos. Why is this so hard for me?

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I'm wearing:
-#7: Mossimo Color-Block Maxi Dress, navy/orange/white
-#12: Merona Pointelle Cardigan, elephant gray
-#25: Aerosoles Laser Printz Ballet Flats, dark orange

with:
-H&M white tank top
-Forever 21 tassel necklace
-Chico's bangle bracelets (gift)

This dress has become one of my favorite maternity pieces. It's not a maternity dress--I bought it from the regular section at Target last summer--but it's always been a bit big in the chest. Which means it fits perfectly now. I think the orange band under the bust is really flattering for the pregnant bod, too, since it serves as a delineation between my chest and my belly and I look less like one large blob.

I don't like these shoes with this, as they are orange, but not the same orange as the band on the dress, but I'm just about out of shoe options, even if I were willing to add another pair or two to my 30for30 lineup. My feet are staying swollen most of the day/night now, and most of my shoes simply do not fit. These ones only barely fit--they aren't comfortable. It really is flip flops time, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Still, I'd lay money that by the end of this 30for30, unless something changes drastically, you're going to be seeing flip flops with most outfits.

It's only Day 4 and I am already frustrated with my 30 for 30 choices. I don't know if it's that I chose badly or just that I don't have a lot of options at this size/shape, but nothing seems quite right, and I know I don't have enough bottoms, with only three skirts and one pair of ill-fitting pants to get me through a week. So...yeah. I'm going to try to stick this challenge out, but I'm not feeling terribly confident today.

Also, I don't know if you can see it well in these pictures, but I am wearing Fresh Sugar Lip Balm in the new coral color, and I LOVE it.

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Getting ready for the baby #2: Sleeping

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Next in E's ultra-helpful getting-ready-for-baby series was sleeping. The things she says we'll need:

1. The Happiest Baby on the Block.

LOTS of people have recommended this particular book to me, and I have it standing by.

2. Swaddling blankets.

E says:

Someone is likely to show you how to swaddle a bb while you're in the hospital. There are also instructions in THBOTB. I know you have some of the Aden and Anais swaddling blankets, which are great for bigger babies. When the twins were brand new, they were engulfed by those, and we used Carter's flannel receiving blankets, because I was worried about too much fabric around them while they were asleep. SWADDLING IS MAGIC.

E. calls the combination sleepsack/swaddler even more magical, but warns it is only available in newborn sizes.

3. Sound machine(s).

E. is a big devotee of sound machines and has several different kinds. She says the no-frills white noise machine is good for naps or during times when heavy-duty noise cancellation is needed. For nightly use, she recommends the Graco Sweet Slumber Sound Machine, which has several sounds and a built-in nightlight. When her babies were very small, though, she swore by the Cloud b Sleep Sheep, which can be velcroed to the side of the crib and has a timer feature.

4. Mobile.

E says she thought mobiles were a racket at first, but then hooked up her Wimmer-Ferguson Infant Stim-Mobile to a small motor. Starting at about 5 or 6 weeks, her babies would watch that mobile for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, giving her precious time when she didn't have to be holding them. That's a good enough reason for me to try it!

5. Crib sheets.

For cute, non-pastel crib sheets, E suggests Carousel Designs, and says she also got some nice sets at K-Mart. She didn't mention how many I should have on hand--anybody want to answer that in the comments?

E also suggests some Summer Infant Ultimate Organic Crib Sheets, which snap on so that the whole crib doesn't have to be re-made if the sheet needs to be changed.

That's the end of E's list, but I have one addition for our specific situation:

6. Co-sleeper sheets/mattress protectors.

We plan to use a co-sleeper for the first few months of Buzzy's life, so we'll need sheets and a mattress protector or two for that as well as the crib.

What am I missing? Leave a comment!

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 3: 1+10+19+26

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I did not know how bad these pants looked until I saw today's pictures. Eek. And the pictures are still not good--how can it be this difficult to get a decent timer picture from an auto-focus camera??

Anyway.

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These pictures are making me absolutely crazy. And I can't find online help for the issue I am having. And of course I can't find the manual for the camera. Ideas?

I'm wearing:
-#1: Old Navy Fold-Over Wide-Legged Linen Pants, gray
-#10: Mossimo Ultra-Soft Cocoon Sweater, coral
-#19: Motherhood 3/4 sleeved tunic, black/white striped
-#26: Me Too bronze wedges

with:
-Missoni for Target chevron striped silk scarf
-Jewelmint Honey Bee ring

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Curated subscription review: Birchbox

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Though I reviewed my first couple Birchboxes, I haven't done a review of one for well over a year. In part, this is because my last few boxes have disappointed me. I was even considering dropping my Birchbox subscription for a bit. However, I really liked my April box, so now seemed like a great time to do another review for the company that, at least for me, started this whole crazy curated subscription thing.

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April's box was built around a green theme, in celebration of Earth Day, I assume. The products I received were:

tarte LipSurgence™ lip tint in Peaceful: This tarte lip tint is the first full-sized product I've received in a while and I was jazzed to see it. I love these lip tints and have a bunch of them, but the very neutral Peaceful is not a color I'd have picked out for myself, and I'm sold. At a $24 value, this one product was worth more than twice what I paid for the box, too. Go, Birchbox!

MicrodermaMitt® Body Mitt: A second full-sized product! This mitt is made of floss silk, and it's a great exfoliating tool. A bit too good for my sensitive skin right now, but I think it was a great addition to the box anyway, and the $28.50 price tag really adds to the box's value, too.

Wonderstruck Taylor Swift: God, I wish there were a way to opt out of perfume samples...

Marula - The Leakey Collection™ Omega Rich Pure Marula Oil: I'm getting really into various oils, and this one is one of the best I've tried for skin. It absorbs quickly and completely and feels great on. Unfortunately, the sample sent by Birchbox was wee--only about four uses worth for me. I did appreciate that it came in a tiny pump tube, though, rather than just a vial--makes it much easier to get the tiny bit you need out.

Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream: This sample I wasn't all that jazzed about--it's something I used before and found eh, and it's not a huge amount. But it's not a horrible, unusable sample, either.

All in all, a great box! Huge value, and products I have used/will use!

I looked through the other April offerings, and there were lots of other things I'd have liked to see in my box as well, including Vapour Organic Beauty Siren Lipstick, willa™ Lavender Facial Towelettes, Pangea Organics Lip Balm (I have some of this and use it all the time), WEI™ High Performance Face Treatment Pads, and stila Smoky Eye Shadow. Enough that I started wondering about having multiple concurrent Birchbox subscriptions...So I guess I'm back in Birchbox's fan club. I do still have a lot of questions about how the boxes are being tailored (if at all), though, since it keeps seeming as if other people are getting products that would be better suited to me than the ones I am getting. I'll keep you updated!

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 2: 4+17+24

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OK, Day 2! It's still pretty warm here, so I'm keeping myself pretty well un-layered. I love this shirt--this one is not coral, but true red, and red clothes always make me feel better. And I am curious to see if the shoes are going to last all day, as the vamp is kind of low and my feet are very swollen...

Also, the pictures. Are terrible. I know. I'm working on it, I promise.

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I'm wearing:
-#4: Mossimo Convertible Maxi Skirt, black
-#17: Merona Maternity Short-Sleeved Tuxedo Front Fashion Top, Ruby Hill
-#24: Nine West leopard print flats

with:
-concentric circles silver necklace, Ebay
-agate pendant, Ebay

Notice a Target theme at all? Yep. Target is my spot for maternity clothes.

Now, about this skirt and flats combo--does it read super frumpy to you? I love maxi length skirts/dresses, but wearing them with flats is just NOT working for me. I feel SO frumpy! Unfortunately, the sandals I wore yesterday are out for bad swelling days, as the straps cut off my circulation. I miss heels.

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3rd Trimester 30for30 Day 1: 5+15+27

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Here we go! As I warned, it may not be the most cutting edge style ever...

Today is predicted to be in the mid-to-high 80s here (yay!), so it seemed like an excellent time for a spring-y start to my 30for30 challenge.

Apologies in advance for the quality of my pictures--my new camera and I are still having some trouble getting used to one another. I hope to spend some time with the manual tonight and figure out how to take a better shot.

I'm wearing:
-#5, Land's End Pattern Knit Convertible Skirt, navy stripe
-#15, Liz Lange for Target Maternity Short-Sleeved Ruched Basic Tee, Vermillion Red (but it's actually coral, as it appears, not red at all)
-#27, Bass Joanne Sandals, Cinnamon

with:
-H&M navy and white pin-striped tank
-Jewelmint Paramour Bracelet
-Broken Plate Pendant Co. necklace

To me, the most notable things about this outfit are the sandals and the color of the shirt. Both are, for me, departures. Orange/tangerine/coral are the rage right now, and they are not colors I've ever found to be flattering before. However, I'm trying them out now, and I'm happily surprised with how they look! When I ordered this shirt, I thought it was going to be red, and a year ago I would have sent it back for not being red. This year, I kept it, and I think I like it! The coral color is more fresh with the navy and white skirt than red would be, and less "patriotic." The sandals are something I have wanted for years--these classic Bass styles just remind me of the 70s, in a good way. But I've always avoided them because I thought they would come off as frumpy, especially on my boat-feet. Right now, though, when comfort really is job #1, seemed like a great time to try them, and now that I have them on, I'm not sure they're anywhere near as frumpy as I'd worried. If they are? Screw it, I'm a pregnant lady!

This outfit is incredibly comfortable, all soft jersey material, easily adapting to my shape. I'm sure a variation on it will be a staple for this 30for30.

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Third Trimester 30for30

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Tomorrow, I will be 30 week weeks pregnant. In celebration of this milestone, it seems an excellent time to start the Maternity 30for30 I've been threatening. Since I'm in my least-attractive-stage-of-pregnancy third trimester, and for the sake of alliteration, I'm calling in the 3rd Trimester 30for30.

Don't remember what a 30for30 is? The 30for30 challenge is the brainchild of fashion blogger extraordinaire Kendi. The idea is simple--restrict yourself to 30 items from your closet for 30 days, don't repeat any outfits. Generally, Kendi hosts these events a few times a year and lots of other bloggers play along with her. I've done it twice myself, in February-March and June-July, 2011. There isn't a 30for30 going on right now, so I can't join up with a group, but I'm going to do my own, using the same rules.

So why on Earth would I make dressing my changing-daily body even more difficult at this point in pregnancy? A few reasons. First, a part of the 30for30 is to stop shopping for 30 days, since you can't wear anything you buy anyway. I need that. I keep buying maternity clothes, not because they're so great, but because I keep thinking there has to be something out there that is better than what I've got. Which is, I know, faulty logic. I'm also interested in keeping closer tabs on how my body is changing during this late pregnancy stage, and taking daily pictures of myself wearing the same clothes will make that easy. In my previous 30for30 attempts, by body was changing via diet and exercise, and it was fun to document that. This ought to be even more dramatic. Another reason is that this will give me a way to organize my thoughts around maternity dressing, of which there are many and most are not kind. I've been trying to write posts about it for the past few weeks and haven't come up with much, so hopefully a daily reckoning will help with that. It's also, honestly, an exercise in humility. This is certainly not the most attractive, or the most fashionable, I have ever felt. My options, even without limiting myself to only 30 items, are pretty darn limited right now, and seem to be getting more so every day. So I set myself this challenge, and think it will be something fun to look back on when I am back in my regular clothes.

I am giving myself a bit of 30for30 leeway, though, on account of being pregnant. I currently need to wear a base layer (typically a tank top) under a lot of things I normally wouldn't, and I am not going to count those tank tops among my 30 items. Same goes with leggings, though I don't think I'll be needing those as much now as the weather gets warmer. I'm also making a rule that if something has not yet been worn and, upon my first attempt to wear it, I find I've already outgrown it, I can replace it--I tried to pick things that have a bit of room left in, so that won't happen, but no guarantees. There is also the shoe issue. I am having a lot of problems with foot swelling, and it's possible that my feet will swell out of any or all of the shoes I picked for this challenge. If that happens, I'm not going to go barefoot. Probably not, anyway. Finally, I left myself a couple of "wild card" spots, where I'll fill in my 29th and 30th items later. I'm guessing these spots are going to be filled with shoes, but I'm allowing myself to fill then however I need to as time goes on.

Fair?

Tomorrow will be Day 1, and you'll see my first outfit. Until then, here is what I am working with:

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#1: Old Navy Fold-Over Wide-Legged Linen Pants, gray
#2: Motherhood Secret Fit Belly Super Stretch Boot Cut Maternity Jeans

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#3: Thyme Maternity denim skirt (hand-me-down)
#4: Mossimo Convertible Maxi Skirt, black
#5: Land's End Pattern Knit Convertible Skirt, navy stripe

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#6: Liz Lange for Target Maternity Sleeveless Maxi Dress, gray/red/purple
#7: Mossimo Color-Block Maxi Dress, navy/orange/white
#8: Merona Draped Neck Value Dress, Xavier Navy

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#9: H&M short-sleeved shrug, black
#10: Mossimo Ultra-Soft Cocoon Sweater, coral
#11: Mossimo Ultra-Soft Cocoon Sweater, seaweed
#12: Merona Pointelle Cardigan, elephant gray

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#13: Liz Lange for Target Maternity Short-Sleeved Ruched Basic Tee, Flat Iris
#14: Liz Lange for Target Maternity Short-Sleeved Ruched Basic Tee, Haywire Purple
#15: Liz Lange for Target Maternity Short-Sleeved Ruched Basic Tee, Vermillion Red (really coral)
#16: Old Navy Maternity Slub-Knit V-Neck Tee, white

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#17: Merona Maternity Short-Sleeved Tuxedo Front Fashion Top, Ruby Hill
#18: Old Navy short-sleeved notch-collar tunic, black
#19: Motherhood 3/4 sleeved tunic, black/white striped

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#20: m.e. sleeveless tunic, white (Marshall's, I think it may be a swimsuit cover-up)
#21: Jones New York asymetrical hem sleeveless top, black, thrifted
#22: Calypso for Target sleeveless silk and crochet top, purple patterned
#23: Merona Maternity Scoop-Neck Shirred Side Fashion Tank, Ebony/Cocoa striped

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#24: Nine West leopard print flats
#25: Aerosoles Laser Printz Ballet Flats, dark orange
#26: Me Too bronze wedges
#27: Bass Joanne Sandals, Cinnamon
#28: Teva Mandalyn Wedge Flip Flops

Choosing the clothes was interesting, as it really drove home that the pieces I'm relying on are largely from Target, and a lot of them are not maternity clothes. These are both things that surprise me--I wouldn't have guessed either to be true when I started gathering maternity clothes. Another thing that was weird when I was picking these out was realizing that a lot of the first round of maternity clothes I purchased over the winter don't fit anymore. That is why this collection is so short on pants--I don't have any that fit comfortably. Constant evolution.

I am not overwhelmingly excited about these choices. They seem pretty blah to me, honestly, and the shoes just depress me. But I tried to be realistic about what I could wear comfortably and still be at least marginally work-appropriate, so we'll see how it goes.

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Getting ready for the baby #1: Pooping

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In case the title didn't clue you in, this post is going to be mostly about shit. Baby shit, as a matter of fact. It may be that the disinterested or squeamish want to skip.

As I mentioned last week, my friend E, a brilliant mom of 11 month-old twins, has been sending me long, detailed emails about the things I am going to need as a new mom that I might not have thought of already. I appreciate these missives more than I can tell you, and thought that, since they're so helpful, immortalizing them here might be a good idea. E. has split her advice up into categories: pooping, eating, sleeping, etc. And due to sheer volume, I think I'll post them the same way. What better place to start than with excrement?

These are the things I am advised to have on hand:

1. Oil

This is to clean Buzzy's bum after her first meconium poops. E says olive oil will work fine. It is also useful in the case of cradle cap.

2. Q-tips and rubbing alcohol.

This is to clean the cord stump until it falls off, which E suggests doing at every diaper change (thus relating it to the subject at hand).

3. Diaper Genie.

E explains:

You NEED this. It's environmentally nightmarish, to take your baby's poop, wrap it in a disposable diaper, wrap THAT in plastic, and throw it away, but you need it anyhow. Start composting dryer lint or cat fur or something to make up for it.

4. Diapers.

The advice (E knows we'll be using disposables):

Buy a couple of packs of newborn diapers, and see what works best for Buzzy's body, and your preferences as diaper changers. We started with Huggies, whch we liked because they had 1) good elastic in the back to catch diaper blowouts, 2) a wetness indicator stripe*, and 3) didn't smell weird like Pampers. We use Pampers Sensitive Swaddlers now, because Huggies doesn't have a wetness indicator stripe past size 2*, and the Pampers don't have branded characters on them, for which I'm willing to deal with the odd smell. *The wetness indicator stripe is REALLY handy. It's blue, change the diaper. Yes, the diaper is telling you what to do. Things like checking for yourself, and autonomous decision-making are for people without newborns.

She adds:

AMAZON AND DIAPERS.COM ARE YOUR NEW BFFs. Amazon Mom has great deals on diapers that PEOPLE WILL BRING TO YOUR HOUSE. Occasionally, diapers.com has a better deal, so it's worth checking both. We find that they're consistently the best prices, plus the not-having-to-go-out-to-get-stuff bonus.

5. Wipes and wipes warmer.

E recommends the gentle/natural wipes from Costco. Of a wipes warmer, she says:

At first, I was like, "Fucking yuppies and their gadget for every fucking thing - who the FUCK needs a wipes warmer?" Answer, "you do, asshole." And, really, it makes sense that it would make changing easier: it's 2 am - which do you want placed on your feces-covered genitals in the pitch dark, a warm wet cloth, or a cold one? Which will make it easier to get back to sleep?

6. Diaper cream.

E recommends California Baby Calming Diaper Rash Cream for mild irritation and Triple Paste and/or medicated A&D cream for really bad diaper rash.

7. Cloth diapers.

Even though we plan to use disposables, E says:

Go to Green Mountain Diapers and get yourself a dozen or so of their two-sided cloth wipes and a dozen or so of the orange and/or yellow prefold diapers (depending on how often you want to do laundry). These things are the BEST. The wipes make great general mop-ups for spitting up, etc., and you can use them as actual wipes if Buzzy gets a bad, painful diaper rash (the flannel side is very soft). The cloth diapers are AMAZING for putting down on your diaper changing pad (on top of the cover). That way, when you're changing diapers, if something gets dirty, it's likely to be the prefold, so you'll wash the cover less often. You can also put a prefold on your lap under the baby during a feeding, if Buzzy turns out to like to poop while she eats.

8. Changing table pad cover.

E says she has the Summer Infant Contoured Changing Pad and three covers, so that there is nearly always a clean one available.

9. Bath stuff.

Apparently, for moms of babies, bathing is a sub-category of pooping. E recommends California Baby Calming Shampoo and Body Wash and Calming or Overtired & Cranky Lotion. She uses a Tummy Tub for baby bathing and likes that. The Green Mountain wipes mentioned above, she says, make excellent baby washclothes.

10. Laundry detergent.

Like bathing, E sees laundry as a sub-category of pooping. She recommends going with a regular dye and perfume free detergent and skipping baby brands. She also says that I will become very much enamored with OxiClean Free, as a bucket of hot water with OxiClean Free will take care of most stains. Pro tip: OxiClean Free and OxiClean Baby are the same thing, but Free is cheaper. She says to skip fabric softener, which we do anyway.

That all seems manageable, if a bit nauseating. Any additions? Please comment!

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Curated subscription review: Goodebox

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Curated subscription club Goodebox focuses on "healthy beauty." In practice, this means Goodebox sends the same types of products as other beauty box services (makeup, skin care, hair care, etc.), but they focus on brands with natural scents, no phthalates, no sulfates, no parabens, etc. The products they send are also animal-friendly. For $16/month including S&H, Goodebox sends at least six samples of these types of products, both from established natural beauty companies and new kids on the block.

I received my first Goodebox in March. The packaging was unremarkable, but sufficient. Inside, I found the following:

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alima Luminous Shimmer Blush: A small sample of natural blusher in Freja. Wonderful color and formula, but not a very easy to use sample size. Estimated value, $1.50

alima Bronzer: A small sample of natural bronzer in Belize. Seems like a nice formula, but the color is a bit too dark for me and the sample size, again, is small enough to be difficult to use. Estimate value $1.50.

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Clairvoyant Beauty Depuffing Cucumber & Cranberry Eye Gel: A small sample size (.25 fl oz) of natural, vegan eye gel. A little goes a long way, so I've been using this for about two weeks and haven't even killed half the jar yet. I don't know if it's helping much or not--my allergy eyes are puffy no matter what--but it feels nice when I put it on. Estimated value $16.

Clairvoyant Beauty Balancing Rosehip Oil & Hibiscus Serum: A small sample size (.5 fl oz) of natural, vegan skin serum. Haven't yet tried it yet, but it smells wonderful. Estimated value $34.50.

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Josie Maran Bear Naked Wipes: LOVE these. An 8-count sample package of the best makeup wipes I've ever used--they take everything off, smell nice,and feel really good to use. I will definitely be buying a full-sized version. Estimated value $6.

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Stark Skincare GRAPEFRUIT cleanse + hydrate balm: Reasonably sized sample of a really nice smelling skincare balm. I just can't get down with balms--they feel like Vaseline on my face--but if I could, I'd use this one. Estimated value $9.

Stark Skincare Green Tea Detox Clay Mask: One or two-use sized sample of natural mask. Haven't used it yet, but I will try it. Estimated value $6.

Total estimated value: $74.50

There were a couple of things I really liked about my Goodebox. First, I hadn't ever seen any of these products before--they were all brand new to me, and that was really cool. Secondly, all of the products are cruelty-free, which is wonderful. Third, I really, really love the Josie Maran wipes--the introduction to them was worth the price of the box alone. Finally, Goodebox does something I haven't seen any other subscription company do--they send an email, after you receive your box, that lists each product, gives information about it, provides a URL to it, and has a coupon code for it. That's very smart business, and a nice touch.

The thing I liked less was the size of the samples. I understand that samples need to be small to be cost-effective, but some of the included samples were simply too small to use easily or to get a good idea of how I feel about the product. The Josie Maran sample pack was a great size (8 wipes), and the Stark Skincare and Clairvoyant Beauty samples were fine, but the samples from Alima really were too small. These Alima and Clairvoyant samples were also pretty poorly packaged, without full labeling. This makes the products feel a lot less special and a lot more like something you got in a free bin or shoved into your bag at Sephora.

Another concern I have is about the extent to which Goodebox is personalized. Looking around online, I saw a review of a box exactly like mine. More looking around makes me think that all of the March boxes were the same. This isn't necessarily a problem, but I think I prefer curated subscription models that tailor to individual tastes/needs at least a little bit.

I can't recommend Goodebox whole-heartedly, because of the issues I had with sample size and because I am a bit trepidatious about what they will find to keep filling their boxes with--how many natural beauty products are there to sample, really? However, I did like this box enough, and find it to be a good enough value, that I will try again next month. I'll come back and report on April's box then.

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Am I going to become a Mommy Blogger?

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I was asked recently, in what I assume was a serious way, if I am becoming a Mommy Blogger/if What if No One's Watching? is becoming a Mommy Blog.

After my initial response ("Of course! Have you seen the Mommy Blogger market share?!"), and subsequent wave of irritation, I decided this question was worth a public answer. Chances are, if one person has asked it, others are wondering as well.

I don't plan to become any kind of blogger other than the one I've always been. What if No One's Watching? has always been, and will remain, a personal blog. I blog about what I am interested in blogging about at any given time, and that's not going to change. Right now, that means I'm blogging quite a bit (though not exclusively) about pregnancy, as pregnancy is what is foremost on my mind. I'm sure that it will also mean blogging quite a bit about kid-related stuff, as having a kid, especially a new kid, is going to put those topics on my mind quite a lot as well.

To my way of thinking, this isn't really a whole lot different than any other time I've gotten interested in something and blogged about it a lot (which has certainly happened, many times, since the beginning of this blog). All of these subjects (Buffy, makeup, clothes, politics, whatever) have been interesting to some readers and boring to others. I suspect parenting-related posts will have a similar impact. Jokes about the brand relationships it could help me achieve aside, I have no intention and no wish to move to a completely parenting-oriented blog. I like blogging about a lot of different things, and I've never had the attention span to stick to one topic, even when I have tried to. The thing that will remain consistent on this blog is the only thing that ever has--me.

All of that being said, I am excited to do some "mommy blogging." Heather Armstrong's letters to her first daughters on Dooce, are among my favorite things written on anybody's blog, ever. I want to do that. I want to do it for me, and for this kid, and if any of you are interested in reading it, that's great, but if not, you can just skip those posts. I won't be offended.

I also have a lot of ideas for posts I want to write about feminism and pregnancy, and feminism and parenting. These are hard ones to think through and write, which is why you haven't seen any of them yet, but they are still percolating in my addled brain. Again, I think those will be of interest to some of my regular readers, but if they aren't, they, like everything else, can be skipped. I know there are people reading now who don't give the slightest damn about makeup, or clothes, or Sons of Anarchy, and I would assume they just scroll past the posts on those subjects. I don't see why parenting topics would need to be any different.

So, does that answer the question?

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Curated subscription review: petiteBox

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I know I've said this before, but I think I found a new favorite curated subscription program. petiteBox is a new US offering from the folks behind UK-based beauty subscription service Glossybox. petiteBox is intended for women in the second half of pregnancy and the first year of a baby's life, and each box is specifically geared to the current stage of the subscriber and her baby. Each box contains 4-7 products (not samples), as well as some very well-done literature. The focus is on health, wellness, and pampering for mom, as well as top-of-the-line stuff for baby. The products are promised to include the "creme de la creme of brands within the baby and parenting space."

And y'all, they aren't lying.

First, the packaging for petiteBox is the hands-down best I've seen for any curated subscription service. The box, shown above, is large, heavyweight, pretty, and completely reusable (I'm already thinking of ways to re-purpose a stack of these).

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Inside, the products are wrapped in tissue paper and everything is sealed with a simple logo sticker.

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After you pull away the tissue paper, you'll find extremely well-packaged products, nicely arranged, and whatever literature petiteBox includes. In my box, there was a welcome letter, a press release, an informative product card listing the contents of the box, and an envelope of cute cards with information on them, including a tutorial on how to choose a diaper bag and a recipe card for pregnant-and-breastfeeding friendly beverages.

This was the whole contents of my box:

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From bottom left, you are seeing:

Angel Dear Blankie: Adorable, super-soft combo of a stuffed animal and a blanket for little ones (retail $13).

Earth Friendly Baby Shampoo/Body Wash: A full-sized bottle of nice lavender-smelling baby wash (retail $9.95).

Basq Calm Resilient Body Oil: A full-sized bottle of really lovely lavender pear smelling body oil (retail $38).

MAM Pacifiers: A package of two BPA-free MAM pacifiers (retail $6.95).

Lotus Wei Infinite Love Mist: A full-sized bottle of amazing smelling "Infinite Love Mist" spray (retail $35).

Basq Advanced Stretch Mark Butter: A little one-use sample packet of stretch mark butter (retail $35 for the 4 oz full-size).

Lasinoh HPA Lanolin Oil: A full-sized tube of pure lanolin nipple cream (retail $10.99).

So what do you notice about these products? Well, first off they're all, as promised, high end. You won't find most of this at CVS. Secondly, the retail value of this box is far and away above the $25 price tag. Adding up the retail prices for the products, I get a whopping $113.89! They're also all useful--the included toy/blanket is something I can see my child loving, and the body products, for both mom and baby, are all really nice. With the exception of the lanolin, to which I am allergic (no way for them to know that!), I will use everything in this box. It also introduced me to new brands, particularly Basq, whose products I will further investigate.

With their first box, petiteBox has exactly captured what is so great about curated subscription services. The beautiful products and lovely packaging make this box feel like a gift, and every product in it is both interesting and useful. I honestly cannot give high enough marks to this one, and I cannot wait to see what next month will bring!

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Welcome, Spring!

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We spent a good chunk of time this weekend picking out and planting new plants in our back deck pots. And by we, I mean Mark--I did a lot of picking and some arranging, but no actual getting my hands dirty. That's my kind of division of labor!

It's possible that we bought a few too many plants for our pot space...

Plants ready to plant

Mark takes planting pretty seriously:

Mark planting

Mark planting

I think this pot is my favorite:

New pot

Though I like this one a lot, too...

New pot

And this one is also nice:

New pot

Lots of last year's herbs came back, so we just had to supplement them a little bit.

Pretty new herbs

Once everything is in, time to water!

Watering them in

And then mulch. Mark loves mulch.

Mark loves to mulch!

Now to watch them grow!

New plants!

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Creating the super-fast everyday makeup routine

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For the first half (and then some...) of this pregnancy, I more or less completely stopped wearing makeup. It wasn't really an intentional decision, I just didn't have the energy to put in effort that wasn't absolutely necessary, so all but the most basic hygiene fell by the wayside. I thought, for a while, that I had kicked the habit and would return to being the makeup-free person I was for so many years once I got to feeling better. I was wrong. For the last few weeks, I've been back into the face paint in a serious way, and the truth is that it makes me feel better about my appearance. I know, both emotionally and intellectually, that there are some very serious problems with that, and I hope to someday be able to unpack them completely and convince myself that makeup is truly optional, but for right now, given the large and strange effect pregnancy (and, I'm sure, new motherhood) has one one's appearance and one's feelings about said appearance, I'm going to give in on this one and just resume being a happy makeup wearer.

Except. Except that energy is still in a semi-short supply, and 5 minutes more sleep IS 5 minutes more sleep. I know this will be even more true once I have a baby. So it's essential that my daily makeup routine be fast and easy. I've never been one to take too much time with it, but still, I am working on paring it down further. Forget about the 5 minute face, we're talking the 2.5 minute face. I think what I'll do is put the products that I use every day in a separate small makeup bag, so when I don't have extra time (i.e. most mornings), I can just grab it and do my thing, without even seeing all of my other options. If you do your daily makeup this way, I'm super curious to hear about what you use. Leave a comment?

And in the meantime, this is my current lineup, which is still definitely under revision:

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theBalm BalmShelter Tinted Moisturizer SPF 18 in Light
I love tinted moisturizer--I've never been comfortable with thick foundation, and this is just the perfect compromise. I may switch to BB cream if I find one I like, but in the meantime, this stuff by theBalm, which I picked up at Marshall's/TJ Maxx, is great. It goes on easy, the light color is a great skin tone match for me, and it smooths everything out without looking caked on. Plus it's SPF 18, which I like.

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Powder Foundation SPF 12 in Deauville
I'm not sure what makes this product "powder foundation" as opposed to just pressed powder, but I've been using it for quite a while and I like it a lot. It goes on easy, mattifies my shine-prone areas, and is a good color match for my skin in the Deauville (light to neutral complexions with a perfect balance of pink and yellow) tone. I am actually about to replace it, however, since I'm hitting the pan, and I am going to try something else, since it's pretty spendy ($45) and feels like it might be overkill now that my skin has calmed down.

Smashbox High Lights Creamy Cheek Color in Golden Blossom

This Smashbox cream blush/highlighter duo is actually not sold anymore, which is too bad, because it's my favorite natural looking blush. I like cream blush, especially when I'm in a hurry--finger application with just a quick swipe. I don't use the highlighter part of this, just the medium pink blush part. This is not at all serious blush--it's a barely-there type of thing--but that's just fine for me right now, as pregnancy seems to have put some natural color in my cheeks anyway.

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Benefit Lemon-Aid

Lemon-Aid is "color-correcting eyelid primer." So, it neutralizes the darkness around sleepy eyes, and gives your eye shadow something to cling to. Primer is one of those products that someone who is trying to streamline probably ought to give up, but I'm not going to. In fact, I just bought a replacement for my nearly-empty Lemon-Aid. A swipe of this stuff makes a huge difference, both as far as how tired/allergic I look, and how well my eye shadow stays put. It's staying on the list.

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Stila Eye Shadow in Kitten

Eye shadow is one of those areas where it's easy to get hung up on making a decision--so many choices! For my quickest face, though, I think it's best to go with the perfect neutral, and Stila's Kitten is, to my mind, the perfect neutral. I don't super-love Stila's eye shadow formulation, as even with primer I don't end up with a lot of it still on at the end of the day, but I love Kitten so much that I use it anyway.

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Tarte SmolderEYES Amazonian Clay Waterproof Liner in Fig

Regular eyeliner is not something I can do fast (or well...). However, jumbo liners like my favorite ones from Tarte are easy to apply and meant to be smudgy. I just draw a quick line, finger smudge, and I'm done. These liners are the best, because they truly do not budge all day--even for someone like me who habitually rubs her eyes. I have a bunch of colors, but if I have to narrow down to just one everyday color, I choose Fig, the darker/more neutral of the two purples Tarte offers. This color seems to suit me on almost any day.

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Clinique Lash Power Mascara Long-Wearing Formula in Black Onyx

I just bought this Clinique mascara, because I needed something that would stay put for allergy season, and so far I am really happy with it. The brush is really small and sparse, which makes application a bit more precise than I'm used to, but as I get used to it I see how it could be even easier than a bushy brush. So far, I haven't seen any rings-around-my eyes or anything while it's on. It's not the easiest thing in the world to get off when I'm trying (I really hate eye makeup remover), but that beats having it come off when I'm not, so I plan to keep using it.

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Clinique Long Last Soft Shine Lipstick in Bamboo Pink

Like eye shadow, lipstick is an area where I can be crippled by choices. I have no fewer than four dozen lip color options in my arsenal, so choosing among them could take way longer than I have on most mornings. For a true neutral, though, this lipstick by Clinique is a great start--totally subtle color, and moisturizing, with just the right amount of shine. Unfortunately, as is always the case with lipstick, it doesn't last as long as I'd like it to.

Now that I have them all listed, it seems that I'm still using quite a few products. I swear, though, as long as I don't have to choose anything, it hardly takes any time to put them on. And, like I said, it's a work in progress. What would you cut? Change? Leave me a comment, makeup lovers!

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Pregnant lady shopping list

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With the help of my good friend E., who is the mom of nearly 11-month old twins and one of my pregnancy and parenting gurus, I'm going to be doing a series of posts highlighting the stuff one really needs to have on-hand for a new baby. I'm doing this 99 percent for my own use--once I have something posted here, I know I'll be able to find it again--but also because I thought currently or future-pregnant readers might find it useful. In that same vein, I thought I'd start the series with a post on what the newly pregnant lady should buy/obtain for herself. I got a lot of good advice when I was first pregnant, some of which I did not follow, or did not follow as quickly as I ought to have, and it seems like good citizenship to pass it along.

Please realize this list is by no means comprehensive, and it's based on the specific pregnancy experience I have had--everybody is different.

Things to buy when you find out you're pregnant

1. Maternity body pillow.

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Don't wait until you think you need one of these--if you know you need it, you're already uncomfortable. Buy one at the beginning. Seriously. I bought mine at around 14 or 15 weeks, and I can't tell you how much difference in made in my sleep. I definitely could have used it earlier. The one I bought is the Leachco Back 'N Belly Contoured Body Pillow, and it has worked great for me, but other people swear by the Snoogle and the Boppy.

2. Bras.

When you are pregnant, your boobs typically grow. This starts early, and it's not comfortable. DO NOT keep wearing the same ill-fitting bras, thinking "well, I'll wait until they're finished growing to get new ones." Your life is too short for that kind of constant discomfort. Either resign yourself to buying new bras a couple of times over the course of your pregnancy/post-natal period, or buy some soft, wireless, expandable bras, like the Motherhood Maternity Wrap Nursing Sleep Bra, which I am told is useful from early pregnancy all the way through breastfeeding. This particular bra doesn't work very well for me, at least not yet, because a sleep bra isn't anything I have needed so far, and they are cut so far in that they show under most of my clothes, making them fairly useless for daily wear. However, I haven't totally given up on the ones I bought, because I can see how they'd be useful after the baby is born. Especially since the bras I am wearing right now, which are two sizes larger than the ones I started this pregnancy with, are almost inevitably going to be too small at that time.

3. Oil

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It's probably true that moisturizing your belly and other stretch-mark likely areas doesn't keep the stretch marks away, but you should do it anyway, starting early. Why? Because stretching skin ITCHES, and keeping it supple makes it itch less. My two favorite products for this are Bio Oil and Mama Mio Tummy Rub Stretch Mark Oil. Pregnancy seems to dry out your skin in general, too, so you may want to make sure you're well-stocked with regular body lotion, facial lotion, and lip balm, as well.

4. Flat shoes.

Some pregnant women happily traipse along in heels until the very end. I didn't. By the end of the first trimester, my balance was so bad that heels were seriously a danger to me and to the kid. And so I begrudgingly switched to flats. At this point, my feet are such a puffy mess that anything but pretty accommodating shoes are out anyway. However, please don't feel like you have to just give up and wear Crocs or Birks or whatever your equivalent is, at least not until you really do have to (I can see that I may well yet get there). There are cute and stylish flats that are still comfortable. My favorite brands are Naturalizer and Aerosole, but you may find something else works best for you.

5. Prenatal vitamins.

This is one everybody probably already knows, but it doesn't hurt to mention it. Start taking prenatal vitamins as soon as you find out you're pregnant, or, ideally, before you even get pregnant. You want something you can stomach, with DHA and folic acid.

6. Colace.

Trust me. Just have it on hand.

7. Soft waisted clothes.

Even before you get big enough for maternity clothes, it's likely that you will be bothered by restrictive waistbands around your newly-sensitive stomach. Soft waisted clothes are wonderful during this period. I lived in yoga pants at home and jersey dresses and skirts for work.

8. Snacks.

This one didn't really apply to me at the beginning, because I was too sick to eat much during the whole first and part of the second trimester, but many pregnant women find access to constant snacks really important. Things like nuts, energy bars, etc. are great for this. Lately, as I've able to eat again and needing to eat regularly to moderate slightly wacky blood sugar, I've started stashing Luna bars in my desk, purse, and car. Are they a nutritionally perfect diet building block? No, but they're easy to grab and eat when what you need is simply some instant calories.

9. Books

From what I can tell, most pregnancy books are more bad than good--they're bossy, fear-mongering, and generally massively unhelpful. However, you're probably going to want some sort of reference material. I like the week-by-week style books, as I'm fascinated with what is happening developmentally each week. You have to be able to just take what you need and leave the rest, though. Really.

10. Heating pad.

Not all pregnant women get back pain, at least not early on. However, a good number do, and it totally and completely sucks, especially in combination with everything else that is going on. Be sure you have a heating pad of some sort to help with it.

11. Something for self care.

This one is really individual, but I think it's important. Pregnancy is hard on you, physically and emotionally, and it can start being hard on you really early. Anything you can do, or you can get the people around you to do, to make your life easier, is a good thing. There are lots of "typical" things that people suggest--massage, pedicures, setting aside special blocks of time for yourself, whatever. Those are ALL good suggestions, and what works for you depends on you. But don't forget yourself in this process. It's easy to focus on everything you need to do to grow a healthy baby, and all of the pressure of impending parenthood, and not stop to think about ways to nurture your body and your mind during what is a pretty damn tough time. So try to keep that on your list.

What essentials did I miss? Mamas and other pregnant women, speak up in the comments!

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Since folks are so curious, and the winner has already been identified, I thought I'd put y'all out of your misery and let you know what was in the scrambled basket picture for my discount store love giveaway.

First, an unscrambled glance:

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Now then, what's in there? And where's it from?

*Australian Bush Botanics Body Wash in Peach Blossom & Wild Lime (TJ Maxx)
*Fibra Natura Yummy 100% Superwash Merino Wool yarn in Raspberry (Tuesday Morning)
*Smart Planet Collapsible Eco Lunch Box (TJ Maxx)
*theBalm Black Tie Kit (Marshall's)
*BioSwiss Aluminum Travel Bottle Set (Big Lots)
*eeBoo "The Little Book of...Make Your Own Stories" notebook set (TJ Maxx)
*Le Creuset small silicone spatula (TJ Maxx)
*Lilly Pulitizer Mini Notebook in Desert Tort (TJ Maxx)
*Bic Mark It Color Collection, 5 piece (Big Lots)
*UT Wire Flex Ties, 5", 8-piece pack (TJ Maxx)
*Chronicle Books Stitch-It Kit (TJ Maxx)
*Piccadilly Essential Notebook Small-Graph (TJ Maxx)
*Potter Style "What I Read" Mini Journal (TJ Maxx)
*Branch & Twig colored pencils (TJ Maxx)
*Liberty Note Cards (TJ Maxx)
*Helen Lang Love Birds Note Cards (Marshall's)
*Pink Fashion Duct Tape, 2" X 15 yd (Big Lots)
*Fringe Studio No. 1 Grapefruit Scented Soaps (Marshall's)
*Burt's Bees Tinted Balm Shimmer Combo in Red Dhalia & Fig, (Big Lots)
*Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day All-Purpose Cleanser, 2 oz, Lavender (Marshall's)
*Mrs. Meyer's All-Purpose Cleanser, 2 oz, Lemon Verbena (Marshall's)
*Forget Me Not Grow Kit (Big Lots)
*Sunflower Grow Kit (Big Lots)

A bizarre collection, maybe, but I think everything in this giveaway rocks, and it gives a good idea of how wonderful discount stores can be for gift-type items, especially stationary and bath & body type products. And now I'll stop harping on this, I swear. For at least a week.

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4/11/12: Congratulations to Nancy, the winner of a "Found In _____" crate!

Remember back in October when I told you about stationary-focused curated subscription club Lost Crates? I thought Lost Crates was really cool then.

Lost Crates is way, way cooler now. They've completely revamped, and now they feature six different subscription box options. They still have their $38/month stationary offering, but they also have an eco box (also $38/month), a housewares box ($68/month), a foodie box ($48/month), a "Found in ________" box, which features products from a new city every month ($48/month), and "Jack's Picks," a box of monthly surprises selected by "design aficionado" Jack ($38/month). When Lost Crates asked me to choose one of their new offerings to review, it seriously took me days to make my selection. Every single box sounds fantastic!

Finally, I chose the housewares box, figuring I'd go with the box most likely to appeal to most of my readers. I was not disappointed. March's box theme was "Cocktails Anonymous," and the products selected by the Lost Crates team to highlight this theme were fantastic--both innovative and useful. They included:

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Rocking Whiskey Glasses: The boxes biggest item was a full set of six 6 3/4 oz whiskey tumblers, made by the Swedish company Sagaform. These glasses are on a round base, so they "rock," but don't fall over. They're attractive, made of high quality glass, and innovative--I'd never seen the rocking design before.

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Graffiti Cocktail Shaker: Everybody needs a cocktail shaker, but most people already have one. How does Lost Crates deal with that? They include this innovative shaker, made to look like a spray paint can. It's a Philadelphia University/Kikkerland Design collaboration project winner and though it's not exactly to my taste (little Andy Warhol for me), it's very cute. It's also a high-quality shaker that my resident drink master thinks looks leak-proof.

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Whiskey Stones: I thought the addition of the whiskey stones, US-made of US-soapstone by Vermont company Teroforma, was the best part of the crate. I love the idea and appearance of whiskey stones, and I particularly love that Lost Crates chose "local" stones, and really attractive ones!

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Double Jigger: The double jigger included in the crate, made by Harold Imports, was my least favorite item. I get the practical value of a jigger, but there was nothing exceptional or innovative about the particular jigger that was chosen. That said, not ever item has to be one-of-a-kind, and the jigger did round out the collection nicely (at least, it would for people who measure their liquor...)

There were several things I really loved about this crate. First, the products were largely new to me. We have a pretty extensive collection of both new and vintage barware at my house, and, with the exception of the jigger, nothing in this crate duplicates something we already have. That's awesome. It also introduced me to some new brands, specifically Sagaform--and they're good to know about, because they design really beautiful stuff (I've got my eye on this teapot now). Introducing me to products and companies of which I was not otherwise aware is one of the top reasons I love the curated subscription model.

I also liked that the products included in this crate were, by and large, useful. They're all things I can easily incorporate into my household, and none of them are so anachronistic that I have to wonder where they should go (or to whom I should gift them). Relatedly, the products are all high-quality--they are things that are expected to have long, useful lives, not cheap disposables. This is a qualm I have about some curated subscription programs, where the focus is more on "hey, you got a present!" and less on "hey, this is something you can really keep and use." Everything in this box was keep-and-use-able.

Though it's true that every product in my crate can be easily found on Amazon and elsewhere, I was also impressed by the focus on independent and non-US design. While the jigger is a pretty basic made-in-China model, the glasses, shaker, and stones are all examples of less run-of-the-mill design, coming from a Nordic company, a design contest winner, and a small US business, respectively. If Lost Crates continues to go out of its way to support these types of businesses, that will go a long way with me, and it already goes a long way that they did so with this box.

Curious about what the boxes I didn't choose might have contained, I poked around Lost Crates' website and found that, for those who hate surprises (fools!), they give a full accounting of what is in each box each month. So, for March, were the other boxes as great as mine? I'd say yes! The $48/month foodie box was another one I was tempted to get, and had I done so, I'd have been happy! The March selections were on a "Cup O' Joe" theme, and included a Chemex, a box of Chemex filters, and a pound of Intelligentsia Coffee! I'd have loved that, and again would have found the products both new and innovative (I've heard of Intelligentsia, but not tried it, and I don't have a Chemex) and useful!

The "Found In ______" box was the other one I'd have really loved to try, much as I'm a sucker for local products and for travel. For March, the box's featured city was Brooklyn, and it contained a set of coasters from Brooklyn Slate, a bottle of blueberry candy from Brooklyn Hard Candy, a Brooklyn Maptote wine tote bag, a Pepperpress "Greetings from Brooklyn" letterpress postcard, and a letterpress "Good Luck" card from Walk Up Press. Though these items are a bit lower on the "long-lasting and useful" scale than those in the other two crates I've mentioned, it's still a very well-curated collection, and one I'd have been happy to receive.

Lost Crates is not the same as other curated subscription companies I've featured. They are at a higher price point, and the products included in the crates reflect that price point. These aren't samples, they aren't seconds, and providing a discount isn't what Lost Crates does. Instead, they are selling small collections of carefully curated items, and they're selling them at a premium. Were you able to find the collection of items I received yourself, for example, you'd probably pay $8-$10 less for them than the $68/month charged for the housewares crate (at least, you would based on Amazon prices). However, you'd lose two important things--the expertise of their selection/curation, and the gift aspect of receiving a surprise in the mail.

Shelling out $68 (or even $48) a month for a gift for myself isn't currently in my budget, and I doubt it is in a lot of my readers' budgets, either. However, Lost Crates is still useful. For one thing, they offer a quarterly option for their crates, wherein you receive (and pay for) a crate every three months, instead of monthly. That's a bit more doable. I also think the gifting potential of their product/service is enormous--wouldn't a few months of housewares crates be a great housewarming present? A few foodie crates for a hard-to-please foodie on your list? I love the idea of "gifts that give repeatedly," and this strikes me as a bit classier than the beer-of-the-month club (though I wouldn't turn down a nice monthly microbrew delivery, either). While I (sadly) won't be signing myself up for monthly Lost Crates deliveries, I'm definitely going to keep them on my gifting list, and I'm seriously considering splurging on a quarterly subscription.

An even more budget friendly choice, of course, is to win a crate! Lost Crates has generously offered to give one away to a lucky WINOW reader. You can choose any of the six crates, with the exception of the original stationary crate, since I gave one of those away already in the fall. In order to help you choose which crate would be perfect for you, Lost Crates has developed a little quiz. Go take it, then come back and leave me a comment on this post saying which crate you'd like to win.(Psst, if you want to cheat, you can also look and see what is coming in each April crate, but I recommend waiting to be surprised!) For a second entry, head to your social media outlet of choice (Twitter, Facebook, or your own blog) and mention both this giveaway and Lost Crates (find them on Facebook here or on Twitter here), then come back and leave another comment telling me you did so. The contest will be open for one week, so hurry!

This is not a compensated review--Lost Crates provided the crate for me to review and is providing the crate for the winner. All opinions are my own.

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Dress You Up #10: S.

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How excited am I about the return of Dress You Up? Out of this world excited, I tell you. I can't promise weekly installments--this feature just takes too long to put together--but I will try to do periodic Dress You Up pieces for the next few months, OK? And I am starting with someone who has waited very patiently, who asked to be featured on Dress You Up at this time last year! I'm a big fan of S.'s blog, Sophia the Writer, and I was completely honored when she asked me to feature her on Dress You Up. I am stoked to be finally getting to it!

This is S:

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Admit it. She's the cutest thing you've ever seen, right? I know.

This is what she had to say:

I live in L.A. on a writer's budget, so I need some way to keep up with all the cuteness going around without breaking the bank. I used to be a film and TV actor who's considering going back into the industry. I'll definitely need to look polished and fashionable - and eternally youthful without being gaudy! Unfortunately, I'm pretty low-maintenance with my style - I have wash-and-go hair, I rarely wear makeup and usually forget to put on jewelry (or lose it!). I wear jeans and sweatshirts in the winter and maxi dresses in the summer. I also prefer flats to heels - I know, I suck - but I'll definitely wear comfy heels if I have to. Fashion dicatates! ;)
I'm 5'2" and a size 0-2. I wear a size 6 shoe and I have high arches and wide feet in the front, which makes finding comfortable shoes nearly impossible. (I live in Chacos - very San Francisco, but definitely not L.A.) I'm chilly ALL THE TIME so I also need a look that works during this unnaturally cold California spring and our chilly coastal nights. And I've got incredibly short legs. And arms. I'm like a T Rex.
I desperately need your help to turn my PJs-all-day/hippie hobbit look into something more Hollywood ready!

Now that is my kind of challenge! Sophia needs a youthful, fashionable, low-maintenance look that includes comfortable shoes and layers and flatters her petite body. She also needs the look to be inexpensive and not have too many fussy accessories for her to forget or lose. Got it.

Since Sophia needs her style to look more "Hollywood," I decided to dig for some inspiration from the stars. Lucky for me, About.com has a whole gallery of petite celebrity fashion! A few of the looks I saw there that I thought might work for S:

Casual, chic Christina Ricci:

The perfect proportions here take a very plain outfit to a greater height. Celebrities achieve this with money to buy designer clothes and have things tailored, but S. can do it, too--she's just gonna have to try more things on to get there.

Mod, stylish Drew Barrymore:

I love this type of look. It's dramatic, but wearable, and nothing here overpowers a small frame. This looks stylish without trying to be stylish.

Jennifer Love-Hewitt in a dress and jeans:

I don't actually like this outfit. The top half doesn't work for me at all. But I think this general idea--short dress, skinny jeans, wedge sandal--is perfect for S.

With these celebrity ladies in mind, I set about putting together some looks for S.

S. Outfit #1

Top
$24 - soul-flower.com

GAP high waisted jeans
$25 - gap.com

Patent leather handbag
$41 - kohls.com

Yellow gold earrings
£2.50 - matalan.co.uk

Pashmina scarve
$45 - amazon.com

This is a pretty simple look, and I think it would work for S. for a few reasons. First, I like the idea of high waisted jeans to elongate her legs and make jeans look a bit more formal. Secondly, I'd like to encourage her to think outside the cardigan when it comes to layers, and a pashmina could be a great choice. The accessories here are simple, but intentional--a pair of earrings, a bright bag, and bright sandals--and I think the coral/pink/yellow/muted green color combo would be fantastic on S. I also like the laid-back boho vibe of this outfit--it's put together, but gives no hint of trying too hard.

S. Outfit #2

Long dress
$48 - laposhstyle.com

UNIONBAY low rise jeans
$30 - kohls.com

H&M ballet shoes
£7.99 - hm.com

Shop handbag
$50 - warehouse.co.uk

Amrita singh jewelry
$40 - amritasingh.com

Amrita singh jewelry
$30 - amritasingh.com

The second look I chose for S. is another casual, boho-feeling one, but with a bit more structure. I was thinking about things that are difficult for non-petite people to wear, but petite people rock the heck out of, and that led me to the short, sleeveless dress and white skinny jeans combination, which I think would look fantastic on S. She could wear a slightly shorter jean hem and flats with this, too, and still look really polished. This is a tiny bit more to do on the accessories front--shoes, bag, bangles, ring--but they all coordinate and could go together with other outfits as well, which might make them easier to manage. Again, I like the saturated colors here, too, especially the cobalt blue dress and the pops of orange.

S. Outfit #3

Wallis pink evening dress
$47 - wallisfashion.com

Dorothy Perkins peep toe high heels
$27 - dorothyperkins.com

Metallic clutch
£18 - debenhams.com

In a radical departure from the two casual, boho styles, I'd love to see S. try something mod-influenced. I think this style should appeal to S. in it's simplicity, and it's designed to show off her natural gorgeousness, with a minimum of clutter. While the same look could easily be achieved with a plain black mini-dress, I like the color-blocked pink band on this one to give the outfit just a little bit of fun and make it a touch less severe. The simple, classic shoes, bag, and jewelry are all just supporting pieces.

S. Outfit #4

Old Navy sleeveless dress
$25 - oldnavy.gap.com

Old Navy short sleeve top
$23 - oldnavy.gap.com

Seafolly summer handbag
$48 - my-wardrobe.com

Color craze knot jewelry
$12 - jcpenney.com

S. mentioned a love of maxi dresses, and as a fellow maxi-dress lover, I wanted to make sure to do at least one maxi outfit for her. Maxi dresses are a bit more difficult for petite women, I think, since they can just look like an awful lot of fabric. To combat that, I chose plain, rather than printed dress, and a style with a defined, high waist, for S. To further elongate S's legs, I've topped the maxi with a cropped cardigan. Adding a chunky, high-heeled shoe also gives S. a bit of a lift, though I think this outfit would work with flat sandals as well. I also like the very simple color combination here, with the dress color repeated in the shoe and necklace and the cropped cardigan as a contrast. The accessories here are simple and bold, making for fewer pieces to mess with but a pretty big statement. I've been looking at how petite celebrities wear maxi dresses, and it seems a lot of them follow some variation of this maxi+chunky jewelry+cropped jacket/cardigan+chunky and/or high shoes model, and it looks great on them (see below).

jessica simpson maxi.jpgmila kunis maxi.jpgnicole ritchie maxi.jpg

Though I realize this Dress You Up doesn't have quite as many options as past installments have, I am going to leave it here, as I'm still getting back into the swing of things. S., I hope some of this helps you! Others, if you'd like to be featured in Dress You Up, please drop me an email at avengingophelia@gmail.com. I'd love to have you!

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Thrift Share Monday, I've missed you!

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While it may not actually have been a thousand years since I've thrifted, it kinda feels that way. When I was sick and exhausted for the first four or five months of pregnancy, thrifting was the last thing that appealed to me. However, in recent weeks, I've been back in the saddle, as it were, so I'm thrilled to hook back up with Thrift Share Monday this week and show you some finds from a couple of weeks ago!

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My haul, from bottom left: two tank tops, both long enough for maternity wear; a vintage cake holder, a large Italian-made glass jar, a Mexican style pottery cat, a small carved wooden bear, and two sets of silicone egg poachers.

You may think this is a strange assortment, and I accept that, but I promise there is a reason behind each thing! The tank tops are self-explanatory--I'm growing out of everything and long-length tanks are one of my lifesavers. The big glass jar was a godsend, as I've been eating a metric ton of granola lately, and haven't had anything nice to put it in after I make it (you can actually see a weekly batch on the counter behind my thrift finds in that first photo). The egg poachers are these, and they were a gift for Mark, who found them as thrilling as only he would. But the other finds are the ones I'm really excited about...

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These two little guys represent additions to my two most favorite thrifted collections. The cat is a new member of my Mexican style pottery collection, which all grew out of my thrifting this really cool owl way back when. The owl has since been joined by a duck, a fish, some other sort of a bird, and now this adorable cat. I just love the style in which these are painted. The bear is a member of an even older collection, began when I found a carved wooden pig at the thrift store and could not put it down. The big has two hippo buddies, two dolphin buddies, a crane friend, and now a small bear to play with. And you begin to see how the combination of thrifter and collector can get dangerous...

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The hard-to-photograph cake plate is, however, my favorite find from this trip. I've wanted one of these for a long, long time. I love cake plates in general, and have a couple of glass ones, but these mid-century aluminum versions have always been my favorite, and this is the first one I've ever spotted in a thrift store. No, it's not worth anything, and yes, I could have just purchased one from Etsy for not a whole lot more than I paid for this one (it was overpriced at my thrift store), but it's a thrifting bucket list kind of item and I was stoked to bring it home.

Ah, that felt good! I doubt I'll be a weekly Thrift Share Monday contributor again anytime soon, but I do hope to make sporadic appearances now that I'm back on my game. I've missed it!

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