Sunday, August 9, 2015

Jezebel Ruined My Childhood

Today while scrolling through my Facebook I came across an article about back to school items that 90s kids loved and spent a happy 10 minutes reveling in memories of Trapper Keepers, gel pens, erasable pens and Lisa Frank. One of my biggest memories from childhood was hunting the aisles with my mom for the erasable pens to send to family overseas. We had an elderly relative who loved crossword puzzles and was losing her eyesight, erasable pens made it possible for her to see her puzzle and still fix her mistakes. They weren't available outside of the U.S. so we had to ship them to her.

For me the best part of back to school was the school supplies! My mom was very frugal and didn't believe in anything unnecessary, but her one weakness was office supplies (still is). It was the one time of the year I was guaranteed to leave the store with something awesome. Now as a teacher I'm still a school supply junkie-no boring pens for me! I stock up on fun colored pens, pencil pouches with cool quotes and ridiculous folders. My husband says my design aesthetic is that of a 12 year old girl (I highly favor cartoon prints, pink and green, and animals). As a teacher I'm famous for wearing stupid socks (think socks with jellyfish or unicorns on them) almost daily and I proudly own a dress printed with rubber ducks (one of many novelty print dresses). I like color and I like quirkiness and I finally have the self confidence to wear all the things I couldn't in middle school (and I've moved on from an unfortunate phase of only wearing black and vintage band t-shirts. It looked wonderful with my blonde hair and pasty skin). 

Even as a kid I loved Lisa Frank and I usually had one of her folders at the very minimum, but usually I had more. I had tons of her stickers and I can assure you none of them were ever used. I hated using my stickers so I kept them all pristine and stored them in a box. I would just take them out and look at them. Why yes I was a strange kid. I still remember my gifted teacher in 3rd grade bought me a little Lisa Frank notebook with unicorns on it to keep my book ideas in. I still have it and I still use it. Every year I look for Lisa Frank folders in the school supply aisle and I never find them. 

After I reveled in my 90s memories for awhile I saw the recommended article and my heart sank. A piece by Jezebel called "Inside the Rainbow Gulag: The Technicolor Rise and Fall of Lisa Frank" with a cute picture of a unicorn being smashed under a rainbow. I clicked the article with trepidation and read through stories of drug abuse by the founders, abuse of employees and financial woes. With each line of the story my mood darkened just a little bit more-to me Lisa Frank meant hope, cheer and optimism. Hope that this was the year I was going to finally fit in (spoiler alert: I never did), a cheerful reminder on the worst days of middle school drama and optimism that the adult world would treat me much more kindly than the kid world ever did (and it does for the most part). Lisa Frank meant that heady time of the beginning of a new school year-part of a time in my life where you felt so different after 3 months off and where you could be anyone at the start of a new year. As a kid you measure your life around the school year and shopping for school supplies meant I was a year older, a year closer to being who I wanted to be, a year closer to the adulthood I so desperately craved. In my misguided youthfulness I thought the right Lisa Frank folder or sticker would let me fit in and finally be the ticket to my acceptance. I loved the start of school so much I became a teacher so I could hang onto that feeling of optimism and change. 

I would make up stories about the character on my folders-each of them had a name and a backstory. These were my first attempts at writing and shaped me as the writer I am today. I still remember some of the stories I made up about the unicorns and dolphins that danced across my math folder. 

Reading the article I was appalled by the allegations and saddened by the downturn for the company. It seems I had finally found the reason why I couldn't find any Lisa Frank products stocking the back to school shelves. The article was beautifully written and well researched, but it hurt. It hurt because in my mind I was still that kid who thought the adult world was my ticket out. In my 12 year old mind the adult world was a Lisa Frank world-she was an adult who lived her life being creative and surrounded by cheerfulness. I thought when I grew up my life would still involve rainbows and unicorns and I would be free to be who I wanted to be and people would love me for it. The article exposed the truth-a truth I know but I desperately tried to avoid. The adult world isn't pretty, it's sometimes hard and people are still just as mean as they were in high school if not meaner. Life gets more complex every single year and money and material things still don't make people happy. 

I still haven't found acceptance and I'm still an outsider in most social situations, but I have found an amazing husband who loves me for every single part of my craziness and I have found a small group of friends who love the same things I do. I no longer feel the need to have everyone like me or feel hurt when people don't accept me. 
I have the self confidence to laugh off the mean actions of others. When a co-worker accidentally sent me an email making fun of my outfit instead of sending it to her friend I laughed. I was hurt for sure, but I was able to laugh it off and still love myself.
I have the self confidence to be who I want to be. I'm no longer trying to fit it, but rather I'm trying to stand out. 
I have a life that makes me happy and let's me be creative on my own terms.

I no longer believe the adult world is all rainbows and sunshine because I've seen both the good and the bad. Now I can see that Lisa Frank's life wasn't ever easy and that the hard times were always there. However, she kept looking for the unicorns and the joy in life even as her world was falling apart. Am I sad that my childhood was tarnished? No, because I know now that no one is perfect. I still admire her for influencing an entire generation and for providing me with hope during a dark time in my life. I still love her designs and I still hope for the best for her company and for her personally. I've also discovered that Amazon stocks her products so I'll be shopping up a storm and relishing in my adulthood freedom to like what I like! 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Kroger Coupon Scam

Recently an awesome coupon deal has been floating around Facebook offering $200.00 off your purchase of $220.00 at Kroger. A peek at the Kroger corporate page shows tons of posts from people asking if it is real or not. My newsfeed is full of people sharing the coupon, a lot of times with the message "this probably isn't real, but it can't hurt to try".

In all actuality it can hurt to try. Many times these scams require you to complete certain tasks to earn the coupon (or iPad, shoes whatever). You may not notice that you're signing up for expensive monthly offers. A lot of times they ask you to give your credit card number and people are so entranced by the idea that they will get something for free that they give it. These scammers use the names of established businesses to earn your trust. I would probably feel comfortable giving Kroger my credit card number (since I use my card there every week), but not to some random guy on the Internet. Once the scammers have your credit card information who knows what they can do with it. A friend of mine fell for one of these "deals" and gave them her credit card information. Her next bill was filled with charges for various services. She attempted to dispute them with her credit card company, but since she herself had signed up for them (Since she didn't read the fine print she didn't know what she was signing up for, but ignorance is not excuse). She spent months trying to cancel all these subscriptions and as expected her "free" item never arrived.

Sometimes the scam seems innocuous. I told someone on the Kroger page that it was fake and they replied that all they had to do was like a page and share with friends and that the page didn't ask for their credit card number. Often times these scams are used to collect a massive amount of likes for a page which is then sold and rebranded. You don't know who is buying the page or what your name will be associated with. In addition often times these links can contain viruses or malware that can infect your computer or harvest data from your computer. You can be exposing your passwords, financial information or anything else you keep on your device to these people. When I think about the sheer amount of data on my computer or device it terrifies me to think about someone having unrestricted access to it. 

You are required to share the page with your friends or with groups in order to spread the scam far and wide. This brings the scammers plenty of new victims and tons of people seem to fall for it. 

So the big question is how do you avoid these scams? It takes some common sense and some internet savvy. Common sense seems to go out the window with the promise of something for nothing. It's an enticing offer, but take a minute to step back and think.

 First things first take a look at the link. You can see the link underneath the words Get your $200.00 Kroger coupon now! This scam has a variety of different links attached to it. If it doesn't sound like a link to the legitimate page then it is a scam. You can see how long and complicated the link is in the first post. Somehow Amazon pops up in the link even though they have nothing to do with Kroger. That is a red flag right there!

Next check out the official corporate page on Facebook. Search for the business name in your search bar and find their page. When businesses run a promotion they will usually promote it-they want to promote their business. As you may see Kroger has posted nothing about offering a coupon. If they were offering it they would want people to participate.
Next do a Google search for whatever is being offered and the word scam. You can see I found tons of articles about different variations of this scam and other blog posts. Snopes is a reliable source for this information and you should always check with them before sharing something on Facebook. A Google search takes less than a minute of your time and can save you and your friends the heartache of being scammed. 
Last but not least think about it! This is what the page asks you do to to earn your coupon (I didn't click on the link, I found this on the Kroger Facebook page. Someone had posted this asking if it was real). For these 3 simple steps Kroger is going to give me $200.00. Think about the number of times you have seen this coupon shared, plus the number of people you would be sharing it with. If the coupon was legitimate can you imagine the amount of money they would be giving away? Does that sound feasible? Think about other giveaways you have seen-I have seen drawings for a gift card in a large amount, but how many people win those? One or two at most. Think about the usual coupons you see-usually they are worth a dollar or less right? How does a $200.00 coupon make sense? 
I've seen the same scam run with Ugg boots and Playstations. Once again think about the expense-companies like to market their products, but they can't give away millions of dollars for something as simple as sharing a picture or liking a page. 

You may not think it does any harm, but it does. It clogs up Facebook with this drivel, annoys your friends, puts your personal information at risk and makes you look stupid for falling for it. It seems so easy and innocuous to click share and hope, but a responsible person does their research! Protect yourself! 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Summer Fun comes to an end!

Wow it has been a long time since I've written! I had the best of intentions of keeping up with this blog, but life got in the way. I spend most of the summer traveling (I was only home for 3 weeks) and I preferred to live life rather than document it. I have tons of posts planned-trip recaps from Italy and Amsterdam, the new donut shop in town, new lesson ideas, a few fashion posts! 

I head back to work full time on Tuesday. However, I've spent the last few days working on my classroom. On the last day of school I had to board a plane at 4:30 to leave for vacation and I had to move to a new classroom that day as well. Needless to say I didn't do a very good job moving and all my stuff was just piled haphazardly in the middle of my new room. It has taken 3 full 8 hour days to get some semblance of order. Now that I'm finally set up (at least mostly) and now that I have lessons planned for the first few weeks I'm feeling better.

Like most teachers I'm dealing with the end of summer blues. I truly am excited for the year to start, but it's depressing to have summer come to an end. I think all teachers deal with the struggle of transitioning back into a school schedule and routine. During the summer we get used to having our freedom, doing what we want when we want and having no obligations or set schedule. It's just like coming back from a vacation, expect the vacation is much longer. I've figured out a few tips to make the transition easier.

1. Plan! Make a set schedule and a strict plan for those first few weeks of school as soon into summer as you possibly can! It takes so much pressure off and makes the transition easier when you aren't worrying about planning.
2. Keep responsibilities light for the first few weeks: teaching requires you to go go go all day long and we can't really change that. Those first few weeks I just plan on being exhausted after work and I try to not plan much for after school. I try to plan easy dinners, schedule time for relaxing and try to slow down a little bit.
3. Get on a regular sleep schedule: I always get off my schedule during the summer. I stay up late and sleep in. This summer has been worse since I spent most of it traveling internationally and my body was so messed up. I've been trying to go to bed a little earlier each night and wake up a little earlier each morning. Start getting back on schedule 2 weeks or so before school starts and that first week won't be such a crash.
4. Start planning for next summer: I keep a running list throughout the school year of things I want to accomplish over the summer. The list encompasses everything from chores and house projects to vacations and creative things! It helps me to remember that there will always be another summer!
5. Plan a short vacation: Luckily I go back in mid-August so we are only in school for a couple of weeks before its Labor Day. Even though it's only a 3 day weekend I use the time to take a short trip (even just to see my parents) or head out to the lake! Luckily the weather is usually nice enough to enjoy the outdoors and you can enjoy that last gasp of summer! It gives me something to look forward to during the first few weeks and it's a nice break!
6. Remember how lucky you are! Most adults don't get such a long break, enjoy it! Remember you have one of the best jobs in the world and back to school means a new year, new kids, new lessons and more chances to change the world! 

As I get back on a schedule I'll be posting more, once I get back into a routine and meet my new classes. I hope all of you had a wonderful summer and a relaxing break (however long you got)!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Teacher's Aren't Martyrs

As the school year is coming to a close and I prepare to leave for summer break I keep pondering the teaching profession. More and more I see new articles, Facebook posts and blog posts etc. etc. accusing teachers of every wrong thing that has ever happened. Teaching as a profession is something that is easy to criticize and a convenient scapegoat for a lot of things. That being said I see the constant posts from other teachers where they make themselves out to be a martyr.

I hear complaints ranging from "we don't actually get summers off", "we do a lot of work at home", "we arrive early and stay late", "we don't get paid enough" etc. etc. and those comments frustrate me-they make the whole teaching profession look lazy and give people a bad impression of us.

I do work in the summers absolutely, but I don't work anything close to a 40 hour week. My only school related OBLIGATION (something that is required) for the summer is a 4 day conference in July-and it's only a obligation because I took a volunteer leadership position at school. There are many professional learning opportunities available to me and I'm sure I'll take advantage of some of them, but most of my summer will be my own. I do have a ton of work to do preparing for the next school year (as all teachers do), but I can set my own hours and working from my couch is way better than being in an office.

It is pretty awesome to get a 2 week Christmas break (which no professional job that I know of gives you) and a week at Thanksgiving, a Spring Break and plenty of random days throughout the year. Most other jobs aren't lucky enough to get that many breaks (and there aren't usually work related obligations during those times). DH and I don't have to choose between visiting my parents or his at Christmas since I get a 2 week break-because of that we have the time to do both. However, in order for DH to get the 2 weeks off he has to save all his vacation days and sick days and comp time for the WHOLE YEAR in order to get that time. I get all the breaks plus I get 12 days a year of sick time. That's a pretty great perk.

I do arrive early and I do stay late as do many of the other teachers I know. There have been plenty of nights where I haven't gotten home until 8:00, however, there are many days when I'm home by 4. DH is an engineer (definitely a professional job) yet there are many mornings he has to be at work by 5 in order to support a build or work with an overseas supplier. He often works 18 hour days-especially when he is on the road and he spends 6 months of every year traveling. He often spends 6 weeks or more away from home-no weekends at home, no evenings at home nothing!

As for the pay I don't make a ton, but I don't make nothing. DH makes WAY more money than me, but in my mind he works harder. In fact, I look around at my "professional" friends and I see that they have less freedom than I do, less time off than I do and they work harder and longer hours.

I don't do a ton of school work at home-at least I try very hard not to. Of course there are days that I have to bring home grading etc. but I use every single minute of my plan period to make sure that I get as much done during work hours as I can.

Teaching is not an easy job by any means, but then again neither is any other job. I feel that some teachers get an inflated sense of self-worth and they don't seem to realize teaching is a job just like any other. I've heard the argument that teaching is more important than other jobs because we affect the future of children. However, if DH messes up a design or misses something during testing he can cause people to DIE. At least I don't have to be 100% perfect or someone might die-suddenly teaching seems easy!

Teachers are attacked in the media, by our government etc. etc. and it's becoming worse. Plenty of other public service jobs are under attack at well (law enforcement springs to mind). The worst part is the fact that a lot of the accusations leveled at teachers are true. It is your job at a teacher to do the best thing for your students at all times, to work hard and to strive to change the public perception of teaching. Is that something unique to teaching?-Kind of.....but it's a responsibility you willingly took on.

Is teaching important? ABSOLUTELY! However, it is a job-all jobs require you to work hard, devote plenty of time to finding success and no one ever gets paid what they think they are work. Teachers-feel lucky that you get to work in a job that gives you paid vacations multiple times a year, time to work at home, shorter work hours (even if you don't get them every day), freedom to do things your way and the opportunity to influence the future of your country. If you are one of those people falling into the trap of complaining about how undervalued you are either do something to make a positive change for the perception of teaching or find a job where you will be valued. Honestly, you chose to go into teaching-you knew what the job entailed before you started and you made the choice-be accountable for your choice.

We as teachers can't keep making ourselves out as martyrs or as people with the worst jobs in the world. There are definitely things wrong with education (but that can be said for any industry), but we are in the unique position to change the future of America. We get to spend each and every day with the funny and unique people that make up the youth of America-even if they are surly sometimes or unmotivated. Teachers need to stop whining and start changing-we don't have it ANY worse than ANYONE else. In fact we have it better than A LOT of people-in fact we have it better than many people who work "fancy jobs". All jobs have hard parts and all jobs have awesome parts (as I always tell my students-there is good and bad in everything).

So teachers: as you're enjoying your summer break take a minute to do something positive for the public perception of teacher. Write a letter to the newspaper talking about all the awesome things your school does, plan a community involvement event, reach out to a former student, leave a Facebook comment on a news website about teacher. At the same time take a minute to think about why you have the BEST job in the world-if you don't think your job is the BEST maybe you should spend your summer researching a career change.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

End of the School Year Wrap Up

The 2014-2015 school year is coming to a close-only three more days left with students! I'm genuinely excited for summer, but at the same time I dread the end of school. The last day of school means letting go of the students I've worked so hard with for the past nine month, it means that I won't have one more chance to finally get those light bulbs to click on and it always means something is changing.

Gone are the days where teachers stayed in the same room year after year and taught the same lessons each year. I do repeat a few lessons each year, but for the most part summer is my time to refresh, find new ways of teacher, reflect on what worked and what didn't work etc. etc. This summer is going to be even busier because I'm changing subjects for next year. For the past four years I've taught English and next year I'm going to be a Social Studies teacher! I'm thrilled since my degree is in Social Studies and the English certification was just a back up in case I couldn't get a Social Studies job (and I'm thankful I had it).

While I'm super excited to be teaching my first love and getting to share my passion for history and government with my students I'm also freaking out a little bit over the amount of work that has to be done. My new colleagues are super supportive and helpful-always freely sharing resources but we have a new test to prepare for so none of us have all the resources we need. We need to get better at meeting the Common Core Standards and at covering document based questions so we're rewriting our tests, creating new lessons together and figuring out strategies to teach writing and reading in the Social Studies department. It makes me thankful I have the English experience so I'm already ahead of the curve-History and English are super easy to mix! This year I taught World War II/Holocaust, Civil War and The Great Depression all in the context of covering literature from those eras.

However, even though mixing English and History is easy it still requires a lot of work on my part. I have a ton of ideas for teaching and for making our Social Studies classes even better! Social Studies is often seen as something that isn't important (and it certainly isn't afforded the importance of Math and English), often times it is looked at more as an elective rather than a core class. However, Social Studies is a great opportunity to inspire students to make changes in their world, emphasize high level reading skills, utilize critical thinking skills to analyze historical documents and social problems and to write essays and letters that require evidence and the defense of a position. Social Studies can also help students become better citizens and affect our whole world in a positive manner. It is my goal to make Social Studies a course that is important, relevant and an important part of a well rounded education.

I'm afraid of falling into the trap of showing movies everyday (since there are SO MANY excellent Social Studies movies) or just having students color maps every single day. I've seen classes like that and I can't see the educational value-I want a class that is rigorous, truly prepares students for high school and life and inspires passion in my students. Too many kids complain that history is boring-but there are SO MANY fun things about history and I want to expose them to all of it!

Along with my new subject I have to move rooms as well so the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of cardboard and tape! DH is away on a business trip so I'm holding down the fort at home along with packing up a whole classroom (and I'm one of those teachers who should probably be featured on Hoarders). I'm also leaving for Europe on the last day of school to meet up with DH which means I'm desperately trying to get the yard mowed in between rain showers (which seem to be occurring every single day), running the dog to the vet to get shots, packing for the trip, buying last minute items, packing all the things DH forgot etc etc.

Even though my summers are never a do nothing time for me (seriously my to do list is 4 typed pages long!) I'm excited to catch up on all the stuff I neglect during the school year and prepare for my new classroom and my new subject. Plus I'm thrilled for a four day educational conference, two different trips to Europe and plenty of time with the dog! DH is in his busy time at work (harvest time) so he'll be traveling most of the summer, but I can't wait for the days he is home so we can do super fun stuff together (like swimming and bike rides). I'm also planning on teaching the dog to go on bike rides with me so she can get more exercise (since her vet said she was getting chunky) without killing my injured foot!

I'm sad to say goodbye to my current group of students and my current subject-I've really enjoyed my English career-yet I can't wait to see what next year holds! Posting will probably be light for the next few weeks as I travel and check things off the massive list, but I'll post when I can and hopefully posting will resume soon!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Talk Derby to Me

This past weekend I packed up the Jetta and headed out the Kentucky Derby-alone. In an effort to live a bit of a happier life I've been trying to get out more and do more things that make me happy. DH gets to travel all the time for work and I get insanely jealous of his fantastic trips (he's jetting off to Italy soon).

A few weeks ago I had an epiphany-I could sit at home feeling sorry for myself and complaining about all the things I was missing out on or I could pack up and go. I've always used the argument that someone needs to be the responsible one in the relationship and take care of the house and the dog, but I deserve time for myself too. With that in mind I decided about 5:00 on Friday night to make the drive into Kentucky. DH stayed home and took care of the dog while I made the drive.

The only tickets left on the night before the Derby were infield tickets but I took what I could get, threw a few things in my little suitcase and hit the road. My plan was to drive through the night, reach Kentucky in the morning, sleep in my car for a few hours and then hit the Derby. About 1:00 in the morning (8 hours into my drive) that plan went out the window and I stopped in the lovely town of Mount Vernon, Illinois to grab a few hours of sleep at their Quality Inn.

The next morning I downed a Red Bull and drove the rest of the way in to Louisville. I drove straight to Churchill Downs and realized that was not the place to be! Most of the residents were offering parking for a low low price of $25.00 to cram my car in their yard-that wasn't going to happen. I couldn't imagine trying to get out of there after the race was over so I kept going. I was able to park at the Kentucky Expo Center for only $8.00-I had all the space I wanted and only had one small incident with a group of drunk tailgaters.

It's a pretty long and hot walk from the Expo Center up to the racetrack. I stopped at a Starbucks for water and to use their bathroom before braving the crowds at the track (I wasn't about to be stuck using a Port-O-Potty!). Getting into the track was suprisingly easy-I walked right up to the gate, handed them my ticket and off I went into the belly of the beast. I saw some other people getting their bags searched, but my giant Coach purse must not have raised alarm bells since no one even gave it a second look.

Once I was inside the gate was where the real madness started-thousands of people crammed onto the infield with most of them being drunk monkeys. In addition the Vineyard Vines tent was giving away foam hats shaped like their whale logo-I spent the rest of the day getting smacked in the face. I strolled around the infield, bought a few souvenirs and an overpriced lunch and checked out the lay of the land. Apparently getting their 4 hours before the race starts is getting there late since every spot of grass was covered with bodies.

Churchill Downs installed a large TV screen on the infield so people can watch the race-it cracked me up to see the rows and rows of lawn chairs people had lined up in front of the screen. It looked like the rows at a movie theater and made me question why on earth would you go into the mess of Churchill Downs on Derby Day just to watch the race on a screen? Why wouldn't you just stay home?

I staked out my spot on the first turn between two very boisterous groups of people and promptly fell asleep on the grass using my purse as a pillow(I'm blessed with the ability to sleep anywhere). When I woke up I was the color of a lobster and bored. Being there by yourself is not ideal since you don't have anyone to save your spot when you get up to get a drink or food. I couldn't leave my spot all afternoon in fear of losing it. The people in front of me had made a circle with their chairs and blocked it off with "Police Line" tape-I spent most of the afternoon imagining elaborate crimes that could occur there and giggling to myself.

The actual race started and was over in the blink of an eye. American Pharaoh won and I saw just a few seconds of the race when they thundered through the first turn. Then it was time to leave-one exit for 70,000 people (part of it includes a dark scary tunnel that you have to walk through). Leaving was quite possibly the worst possible part of the day. Everyone is pushing and shoving, people are whacking each other with chairs and coolers and drunk people are falling down. The lovely souvenir mint julep glasses are shattered on the ground so you're dodging glass with each step.

After I got home Churchill Downs sent me a survey about my experience, one of the questions they asked was "Was it a luxury experience?" and I just laughed. Imagine a frat party times about a thousand and that was the infield atmosphere. I like a good party and I like a good cocktail, but the amount of over consumption and rude behavior was ridiculous. People were passing out on the ground, marijuana was being smoked in the bathrooms, glass was being thrown etc. etc. and no security was present.

I guess the question is was is worth it? Yes and no. It's not something I would do again unless I could really do it up right (and I'm in no financial position for that) but the experience was definitely worth it. It was fun to see and fun to experience. However, I much prefer watching the race from the comfort of my own couch-it doesn't involve 22 hours in the car and I can cuddle my puppy during tense moments! I will say that the focus of the Kentucky Derby has changed from horse racing to fashion and booze. I love fashion (as evidenced by my overflowing closet) and I like booze, but on Derby day I want it to be ALL about the horses. I'm a huge horse racing fan-seriously I can name every Derby winner, their time, their owners etc. etc. I'm just a repository for useless facts (yet I can't usually remember where I put my car keys). Why can't we focus on the horses and their athletic achievements rather than on what hat Kendra Wilkinson wore? I don't even care about the gambling portion of it-I just want to see the ponies run.

Now I just need to attend the Belmont and the Preakness to complete my own personal Triple Crown-and it's nice to check attending the Kentucky Derby off my bucket list since next year I'll be curled up on the couch watching it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mother's Day Extravaganza

My mom lives far, far away from me so we rarely get to celebrate Mother's Day together. Last year I drove up and surprised her for the weekend which was awesome! I kept texting my dad to let him know where I was on the drive and what my ETA was and my mom was getting suspicious because he NEVER texts! She had plenty of ideas in her head and me coming to visit wasn't one of them! She was super surprised when I walked in the door-it made my whole weekend!

This year my mom is going on a trip shortly before Mother's Day, so I won't able to make it up there to spend the weekend with her. Since I wasn't going to see her I had to put together an awesome gift! My love language is definitely giving gifts! It's one of my favorite things to do and I love shopping for (or making gifts) and putting together gift baskets etc.! I've been told that I go overboard (and I probably do)-I buy lots of random little gifts for people too-not just on holidays!

I keep a private Amazon wishlist throughout the year with different gift ideas for people on it. Whenever I see something neat in the store, online, in a magazine or someone mentions something I add it to my list. It's awesome because I can add everything straight from my phone right away! I'm pretty awesome at coming up with gift ideas, but I know not everyone else is so without further ado here is the 2015 Mother's Day Gift Ideas List!

Does your mom love snacking? How about some yummy fresh cookie dough from edoughable? The dough is eggless and packaged ready for eating straight from the carton! If anyone remembers the cookie dough they used to serve with school lunches this is NOTHING like that! It's gourmet and delicious! They have tons of flavors from the classic Chocolate Chip to Birthday Cake and PBJ. I've bought several boxes of the stuff and it's ALL amazing! They even have some Gluten Free and Vegan options for those on special diets. Each flavor costs between $8.00 and $10.00 so the price is right (and they ship super fast!)

You can buy it here:

For a movie lover in your life a Netflix subscription is an awesome gift that keeps on giving! You can give a gift subscription of one year or six months or set up an account and pay for it indefinitely! You can choose whether or not to give just streaming or DVD and streaming! I went for the DVD and streaming package for both my mom and myself-I think you need both to really make it worth it!
Netflix will send DVDs straight to your door and you can stream tons of choices! You'll never have to rent a movie again! In the five years I've been a Netflix member we've rented ONE Redbox movie!

You can buy gift cards in pretty much any amount. If you just set up the subscription it will cost 17.00 a month for both DVD and streaming. 

You can buy it here: or find a store that sells gift cards here

Want something that's sure to make mom cry (no matter how old you are?) How about a cute activity book from the folks at Knock Knock (they also have a Dad version). This is a great gift for kids to make or even grown ups (I made one for my mom this year)! The book walks you through different prompts about you and your mom. You write letters, draw pictures and choose the qualities of your mom. It's funny, but also super sweet! At 48 pages it takes some time to put it all together, but it really makes you reflect on your relationship with your mom and who your mom is!
The price is right at $8.99-and if you have Amazon Prime it can be here in two days! If you want something homemade, but aren't super great at crafting this is the gift for you!
Buy it here! (Affiliate link)

Is mom into traveling? How about a Try the World food box subscription?
This is a monthly subscription box that sends you a box of food from a different country every other month of the year! Each box contains 6-7 gourmet foods from that region plus a booklet about the culture of that region. This month the box is from Morocco! Currently they are having a flash sale where you get a free box if you sign up! Subscriptions are available for 1 month, 6 months or a year. If Mom likes trying new foods or exploring different cultures this is the gift for her! Plus, with different tiers you can find one that fits your budget!
1 Month is $50.00
6 Months are $115
12 Months are $210
Plus you get free shipping, free returns and you can cancel at any time!

Buy it here!

Is mom a reader? Magazine subscriptions always go over well-and it's a gift that brings joy 12 months out of the year! If you are a United frequent flyer you can use miles to get magazine subscriptions. If you redeem Coke Rewards points you can also earn magazine subscriptions. Amazon has pretty good prices on subscriptions and you can usually find them on sale!

If mom is into celebrities and gossip my favorites are People and US Weekly. Their reporting is a little better than most of the tabloid and they are a little less sensational than the other tabloids.
People is a little pricey at $121.37  but it's worth it. US Weekly is only $52.00 a year! That's only a dollar a week!

       Buy them here (Affiliate Links)            
If Mom is into cooking and home things I can't recommend Real Simple enough! They have tons of awesome recipes, organizational tricks and even a fashion section! It is one of my favorite magazines ever. Plus it's only $23.88 for a year long subscription and the magazines are really thick! It's a great value!

If Mom is into fashion you can't go wrong with the fashion bible-Vogue! Even though most of the clothes in Vogue are a little out of a regular person's budget it's still fun to look at! For more realistic fashion advice I like Lucky-they have lots of affordable clothes and things that aren't haute couture!

 You can get 6 issues of Vogue for only $6.00-plus a free clutch! That's a dang good deal!

  Lucky is an even better deal at $3.00 with a free scarf!

If Mom likes to cook and likes fun kitchen gear you can't do better than Koziol. Koziol is a German company that makes super high quality and fun kitchen gear. You can find a spoon rest shaped like an Italian Gondolier, a cake knife shaped like a crocodile and a cheese grater that looks like a hedgehog. I got a few of their items in France and I love them! They last forever, are well made and they are adorable (as well as functional).

Buy them here: or at (Amazon also has a great selection.)

If mom is a tea drinker you can't go wrong with a cute tea infuser and some nice loose leaf tea! Amazon has a huge selection of cute tea infusers-they have the standard stainless steel tea balls as well as other cute shapes. The prices are great-$5.00-$10.00 and tea drinkers love them!
(Affiliate Links)
Seriously look at all the adorable choices you have! These are just some of the options on Amazon-I found so many more that I wanted! They even have one that looks like a scuba diver!

For the loose tea you can't get better tea than Chelmsford! They have tons of awesome options and their prices are pretty reasonable (5.49 for 2 oz for most teas). I love the White Chocolate Mousse Black Tea and the Apricot Black Tea. For the Chai teas I love the Lemongrass Chai and the Vanilla Chai. It is totally worth the investment and would go great with a cute tea infuser. They have tea that matches any taste-I would get several different kinds to try. It's hard to narrow it down to just one! They also have a tea of the month club for 150.00 for a one year subscription.
Buy some here:

Does Mom work on her feet a lot? If she does she needs Crocs-and no I'm not talking about the ugly gardening shoes from a few years back! Crocs has undergone a renaissance and I absolutely love their shoes. I have tons of foot issues and I teach so I need shoes that are comfy and cute-Crocs fits the bill. You can wear their shoes 12 hours a day with no foot pain or problems.
Some of my favorites are:

Kadee Flat (which comes in tons of colors-I have them in snakeskin, leopard, black, brown and blue leopard)
Athens Flip Flops-I have them in black and they are my go to flip flop. They have WAY more support than cheap flip flops and aren't as harmful to your feet.

Cap Toe Flat: I have these in brown and in black and they are a great basic shoe! Super comfy for work and they even look professional! 

Cobbler Clogs: These are the most awesome winter shoes ever! Mine are fur lined but they don't seem to have those any more. These are the only heels I can wear all day, every day without hurting. 
Crocs have pretty reasonable prices-most of their shoes are less than $50.00 and even the more expensive ones are under $100.00. They have a pretty decent exchange policy too! Rack Room Shoes and Payless both sell Crocs so you can actually see them in person (plus there are some Crocs stores around the country). If you don't know Mom's size you can always do a gift card! 
Buy Them here:

A new obsession of mine and perfect for any mom is Pomegranate Clothing. I'm obsessed with their comfy cotton nightshirts and pajama sets. Their sets are made in India and are probably the softest cotton I've ever felt! They are a little pricey, but they are so worth it (and they are running a fantastic sale right now!). The prints are adorable and cheery.
I love their nightshirts paired with a part of their Penelope shorts for the perfect summer pajama set! Every mom needs comfy pajamas to hang around the house in and these are probably the best pajama sets ever.

They are the perfect weight of cotton so you don't get too cold or too hot plus they are soft and cozy. I love to put mine on right when I get home from work and just hang out in them all night! I've been debating buying a set of the pants and the shirts for winter. I own 3 of the night shirts (Serengeti (sold out), Pink Elephant and Pink Pony) and 2 pairs of the shorts (Llama Parade in blue and Serengeti) and I'm always lusting after more! I feel like nice pajamas are a very grown up thing and something every woman should have in her closet! 
Pomegranate also has super adorable clothing-lots of breezy tunic tops and comfy dresses! 
Seriously how can you resist dresses this adorable! 
I'm also in LOVE with their home section! Aren't these the most adorable pillows ever?! I'm pretty sure you couldn't pick out anything on Pomegranate's website and Mom would love it! They have a super easy Southern beachy style that I just love (hey I'm a Southern native!). I also ADORE their customer service (especially Elly!)-they are super duper helpful! (And no they aren't paying me for this review-I'm just in love with them!).

If you sign up for their mailing list you get an instant 25% off coupon for your first purchase-you can save quite a bit on such expensive items! And they have an awesome sale section on their website. 

Check them out here:

Honestly, the most important and special gift you can give your mom is TIME! It's important to spend as much time as possible with your parents-and Mother's Day shouldn't be the only day of the year you appreciate your mom! Take her out to lunch, take her shopping, take her to see a movie, taker her hiking whatever she's into! Some of the best days I've spent have been curled up on the couch next to my mom reading while she reads. We don't do a lot of talking other than to read each other interesting passages of our books or to discuss our books, but it is such a bonding experience. Make time for your mom-it's a gift for both of you! Get your mom to pass down the family recipes (and teach you how to make them), show you family pictures and tell you stories of her youth-these are things you will want to know as time goes on!

While I love giving gifts and think it's important to acknowledge my mom on Mother's Day I also give her gifts throughout the year and I make sure we have a close relationship. The time I spend with my mom is probably the most important thing in my life-and she's one of the most important people in my life. You can never be too busy for your mom and that's a fact!

What do you like giving for Mother's Day? Let me know what I missed in the comments-I'm a shopaholic and would love to know of other ideas!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Groom Genie Review

A few weeks ago the fine folks at Knot Genie held a contest on their Facebook page to win one of their new grooming brushes for dogs-the Groom Genie. In my never ending quest against dog fur I entered and I actually won!

I got to pick whatever color I wanted (orange or blue) and they shipped it to me super quick! It arrived at my house 2 days after the contest was over!! In the box was a letter asking me to post a review. I kept putting it off and putting it off since I didn't really know how to write the review. Finally I came to the conclusion that I would try out my video skills and make a vlog! Check it out below!!

I will say that the Groom Genie is a nice compliment to my Furminator that I already use! Since I made the video I've actually used the Groom Genie more since it's a lot quicker and it makes Massey look SO NICE! It's great for just a quick brushing to make her look pretty-not necessarily a full on grooming session. Massey really enjoys it as well-once we got her inside where she wasn't so distracted she was loving it. It has become our nightly routine before bed to brush her with this instead of rubbing her belly. It's a lot easier on my hands and she loves it! It works great on more sensitive areas (like her belly and the top of her head). She does tangle a little under her collar and that was super easy. This brush pulled through the tangles so fast-I barely even noticed they were there! When I first did my review I was pretty ambivalent about the brush, but as I've used it more and more I'm starting to fall in love with it! Massey's coat is looking better and shinier-she already has a really pretty coat, but it tends to dull and dry out over winter. This brush actually brought life back into her coat after just a few brushings.

I'm also brushing her more since she likes the brush so much (at least once a day!) and even though I don't get as much hair out as I do when using the Furminator I am noticing less shedding since I brush her more. I haven't found an easy way to clean the hair out of the brush yet. I like the button that the Furminator has and it's annoying to have to pick the hair out of this one! I will recommend the brush though (I'm planning on getting one for my mom and her cats-we may have to do a vlog on how it works on felines!). 4/5 stars!

You can buy one of your own here:
And I highly suggest liking Knot Genie on Facebook-they have some awesome giveaways!!

I'm a huge fan of the Knot Genie brushes and I highly suggest if you have hair that tangles you buy one! I keep one in every car, one at work, one in my suitcase and one at home! Brushing my hair went from being a 30 minute job (to get rid of all the tangles) to a five minute chore. No more ripping chunks of my hair out and no more crying! When I was a kid my dad would spend HOURS (no joke) brushing my hair and making it look perfect (my dad has WAY more patience than my mom or I do)-one step outside and all his work would be ruined. I seriously wish this brush had been around when I was a kid! I have naturally fine and straight hair, so when I brush my hair it looks just as perfect as it did after my dad combed it (in 5 minutes instead of hours!).When I buy baby shower gifts for people who are having girls I ALWAYS include one of these brushes-they are a lifesaver! I'll do another video review soon showing you how exactly they work! :) But until then take my word for it and pick one up at the affiliate link below-you won't be sorry! They have tons of different colors to pick whatever suits you (I'm partial to the pink!).

Disclosure: I was sent the Groom Genie for free and asked to post an unbiased, honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the company! Some links in this post are affiliate links.

What are your favorite tools for you and your dog??

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lilly Haul Part 2!!

I know, I know I shouldn't have gone back to Target but I did! I was super sad that I missed out on the makeup bags and the Essie nail polish this morning (since my Target didn't stock them) so I decided to make a trip into the big city to hunt for them! My plans were to do some online shopping to pick up those items, but of course I was thwarted by the fact that EVERYTHING was sold out!

I headed to the big store about 2:30 so I got there about 3:00-and I was still expecting pandemonium. Nope! Nice and quiet, but not much left. Kids clothes had one or two white tops and women's had 2 jump suits and one dress left. No accessories at all. Housewares was completely cleaned out-one hammock stand and one odd cushion left. It made me sad to see for sure. In the kids section a little girl was having a complete and total meltdown over the fact that the dress she wanted was gone. It was heartbreaking! She was such a cute little girl. 

I really don't think Target handled this collection well at all-especially judging from the number of listings on eBay right now. Greedy resellers took advantage of Target and are trying to sell the items for up to $350!! Ridiculous!! Target should have learned its lesson the first time around (with the Missoni collection). Lilly is such an iconic brand-Jackie Kennedy wore her clothes in the 1950s and 1960s! They knew the demand was going to be crazy and they should have made more stock and put limits on what people could buy. I'm sure the collection still would have sold out, but more customers would have been able to purchase the things they wanted and would have left the store happy. Honestly you can't expect people to practice good manners on their own, sometimes limits are the only thing keeping people honest! I was lucky with what I got and I'm happy with everything I purchased. I am sad that I wasn't able to get some of the online exclusive stuff or the stuff that my local store didn't have, but I was luckier than a lot of people. The stories of people sweeping whole shelves into their cart and getting into fights over the clothing just breaks my heart. I really hope Target learns their lesson for the next go round (or produces more of the Lilly)! This was supposed to be a 2 week event and Target claims that they planned for the items to be available for the entire 2 weeks! They should've known better and planned better!

Now onto my haul from my second Target trip of the day! All I purchased was makeup type stuff since that was all that was left!
Haul Number 2
Weekender-Happy Place 29.99 (yellow)
Valet-My Fans 29.99 (blue)
My Fans Printed Bobby Pins 5.00
Happy Place Printed Hair Elastics 5.00
My Fans Turban Headwrap 8.00 
Nosie Posey Printed Hair Elastics 5.00
My Fans Printed Elastics 5.00
Nail File Nosey Posey 2.00
Nail File Happy Place 2.00
Nail File My Fans 2.00

There were still lots of hair elastics left and several of each of the bags I bought. There were lots of nail files, nail polish and lipstick left. In fact it didn't look like ANY of the Essie nail polish had been purchased. I didn't buy any of it since it wasn't anything special-it looked like they just wrapped a tag around the neck of a regular Essie nail polish that said Lilly Pulitzer for Target. I expected a special bottle (maybe with a print) or something special. They didn't even have Lilly themed names! For 9.00 a bottle I'll stick with my OPI nail polish-I can find plenty of colors to match my Lilly dresses! The lipstick was the same way-nothing special about it at all.

The nail files are super cute, practical and cheap! I was surprised that more of them weren't gone! I love the adorable patterns on them. I plan on keeping one at work, replacing my worn out one at home and keeping one in my purse. They were a great buy! 

The turban headwrap is adorable! I saw a picture of a girl on Facebook wearing it and it looked massively cute on her! I thought it was more of a sweatband type thing but it actually covers more of your head! I haven't tried it on yet but I'm super excited to wear it. I will be a perfect way to liven up a boring outfit or add some Lilly to other outfits! The hair elastics are cute and once again I was surprised that more of them weren't gone! Each style I bought was fully stocked! They were a little pricey for elastics (over a buck each), and their quality doesn't seem super awesome. They are kind of thin and I'm afraid they're going to snap when I try to wind them around my hair. However, the pineapple charms some of them have are adorable and will match the zipper pulls of the dresses I got perfectly! The prints on these aren't very bright, in fact they look kind of faded, but I guess that's to be expected!

Let's talk about the bags now! I'm so so excited that I got them :) The blue bag is actually a hanging type toiletries bag which is awesome! I bought one off Amazon over Christmas and it's too small to actually hold what you need. 
Not this bag! It has tons and tons of pockets! You can even fit full size shampoo and conditioner in the bottom pocket! DH and I travel a lot so this will see a ton of use! The fabric is super thick and the plastic on the pockets is very thick! It feels very well made-much better than my other one!

The other weekender tote I bought just because I could pass up the print. I have no clue what I'm going to do with it, but I'm sure I'll find some use for it! I actually thought I would keep my full size toiletries in it, but now that I've discovered that they'll fit in the other bag I don't know what to do with it! Maybe I'll sell it on eBay for $100.00 (I kid, I kid!). 

The inside of the weekender tote! It has a zippered pocket on one side and two open pockets on the other. The fabric on this bag feels thinner than the other bag, but it still feels sturdy! Does anyone have any ideas on what to use this for? I'm not a big makeup girl and I don't use any tools on my hair, so I can't use it for that! Maybe I'll use it as a purse!

Overall, I'm most impressed with the housewares and the beauty sections of this collaboration. Read my previous entry to see my impressions of the clothing, but I can say I definitely prefer my vintage Lilly any day! 

A lot of people are saying that Lilly herself would be disappointed by the collaboration with Target. I definitely don't think that would be true-Lilly was slightly eccentric and not really an elitist at all. Yes, she was wealthy and yes her clothes are expensive but she kept monkeys as pets and ran a juice stand (when she had enough money to never work again). I think she would have reveled in the fact that ordinary people were gaining access to her clothes and she would be pleased by all the excitement her fashions were creating. It saddened me to see how many people had never even heard of Lilly (I'm a native of the South so maybe that's why I love her so much-she seems to be a Southern thing). I'm glad that more people will learn about Lilly and get exposed to her cheery prints-they really are the best thing to brighten someone's day! 
I highly recommend the book Lilly: Palm Beach, Tropical Glamour and the Birth of a Fashion Legend if you want to know more about her! You can purchase it below by clicking on the link (it is an affiliate link-help me make more money to buy Lilly clothes)! It's an awesome, in depth biography about her that really looks at who she was as a person rather than her company. It's a fast read and very informative plus it's filled with awesome pictures of early Lilly clothes! 

I'm also saddened by the lack of manners shown by some people in their greediness. Lilly definitely wouldn't have liked that! I just checked out ebay to see how many items were listed-there are almost 20,000 hits for Lilly Pulitzer at Target!! That's ridiculous-I'm pretty sure most of the collection is on there! Shame on these people for profiting in such a way! The only way to fight back is to not give into temptation to buy their things (even if you missed out in the store). Make them get stuck with the inventory! I saw this after the Missoni collection-about 2 months after the collection launched everything was on eBay for .99-people just wanted to get rid of it! If we make it unprofitable for them maybe they'll think twice about doing it for the next collection!
Seriously someone is trying to sell a MAKE UP BAG for $2700.00! I do love the hammocks but I'm not about to pay 500.00 for one (no matter how adorable they are)! 
People are trying to sell nail files for 4.00 (when I found plenty in the store). Plus, someone stole A SIGN from the store and is attempting to sell it for 2.75! Can you believe the nerve of some people??? This just makes my blood boil! How rude! 
People like this put a nasty spin on the whole collection and ruin it for the rest of us. I really hope Target listens to their customers (the actual customers, not the resellers) and puts a limit on the next designer collection so they can't ruin it again.
 Overall I'm pleased with what I got-sometimes living in the country has its perks (like less demand for Lilly!). I'll still keep shopping at Target and I'll still buy way too much Lilly but I might avoid ebay for awhile. I was one of the lucky ones with this collection and I got most of what I wanted so I'm happy. I really do feel heartbroken for everyone who didn't get anything. I also feel bad for the people complaining that they don't know what all the fuss is about or that we're too materialistic or that this collection cheapens their real Lilly-I'm sad they can't see the joy and the fun in stuff like this! 

Lilly Pulitzer for Target is here!

The long awaited day has arrived! DH and I were up bright and early this morning to hit up  our local Target in search of the Lilly collection. I've been anxiously awaiting this day since the collaboration was announced. This promised to trump even the Missoni collection for sure! When the Missoni collection came out I went to about 5 different Targets in the large city near me and left empty handed at each (as I remember it released on a weekday and I had to work so I couldn't be up early). Almost a week after the collection launched I discovered the sweet spot-a semi-rural Target closer to my house that had TONS of Missoni left in stock! I guess the designer collaborations weren't their style! 

For the launch of Lilly I planned to just hit up that Target and maybe online (since they are a smaller store they don't get everything). DH and I got to the store about 8:30-half an hour after opening time and they still had plenty of Lilly. We stocked up on clothes first before hitting housewares. We were in and out in under an hour (which included buying the components for a gift basket for a friend). My Facebook was full of stories of people waiting in line for hours and then not getting anything! I was pleased with my hidden gem-seriously DH and I were THE ONLY ONES there for the first little while-2 ladies joined us after that but that was it! No crazy lines, no fighting over pieces nothing!

I'm a huge Lilly fan so I've been saving and saving since the collaboration was announced so I wouldn't have to deny myself anything! I own tons of "real" Lilly dresses (mostly vintage ones bought on eBay) and my planner is always a Lilly planner. I even have a room in my house decorated with Lilly and I have Lilly lightswitch plates on all my outlets! I'm a true fan for sure! I've loved previous Target collaborations-The Webster was probably my favorite and I loved Missoni! I'm pretty obsessed with Target in general (especially their dollar spot!). This collection combined by two favorite things!

 The total haul: I didn't get much to be honest. Not nearly as much as I planned on getting.
What I got:
Shift Dress-See You Later (pink) $38.00
Strapless Maxi Dress-Nosie Posey $34.00
Shift Dress- Upstream (blue) $38.00
Challis Pompom Shorts-Upstream $24.00
Beach Towel-Fan Dance $25.00
Gold plated Giraffe bottle opener $10.00
Napkins with Pom Pom trim $10.00
Ceramic Mugs with Gold Caddy $30.00

Now the big question is how does the collection stack up to the real Lilly? I was actually pleasantly surprised with the two shift dresses I bought. They aren't nearly as thick as a "real" Lilly, but they seem to be well made. They even have a pineapple as a zipper pull! The fabric feels like a nice thick cotton and I would put them on quality level with dresses I have from the Limited! They have a lot of cute details-like gold zippers, slits on the side, and the zipper pull which make them look more expensive. They really seem close to a real Lilly (different fabric of course) and I felt they were well worth the momey. The maxi dress was NOT worth the money for sure-the fabric is thin and it doesn't seem well made. However, it looks adorable on (and is my first strapless dress ever) so I couldn't resist. 
The shorts are cute, but very thin. They honestly feel more like pajamas than shorts-but that is what makes them comfy. 

I was REALLY impressed with the housewares (even more than the clothes)! The bottle opener is heavy and well made-I would have paid way more than $10.00 for it! The cups are super cute (and printed on the inside is the words "Being happy never goes out of style") and they look great displayed in the caddy. I don't even plan on using them-I just have them set out to stare at them. The napkins are 4 different complimenting prints and they are a really thick cotton! The beach towel is pleasantly thick and the pattern is very bright and cheery. I own 2 Lilly swimsuits already so I'm excited to lay out on my matching towel! I commented to DH at the checkout-"you know you're an adult when you get more excited over housewares than clothes". All the housewares that I saw (including the plates and the cushions) were super well made. They all seemed more expensive than they were-the sewing is good and they have some heft to them. This was actually the best part of the collection!

I tried on a few more clothing items that I decided not to purchase including :
Palazzo Pants-Fan Dance
DH said these looked like pajama pants and they truly did! I usually wear a medium and I took a small in these pants and they were HUGE! I looked like I was wearing clown pants! The print was a little overwhelming on such big pants so they ended up just looking ridiculous! They felt like pajamas too-really thin and satiny. I have a pair of Missoni PJ pants from the last collection and these were the exact same just with a different print.

Satin Jumpsuit-Boom Boom
I wanted this to work out for me so bad! I love jumpsuits and I've always wanted to wear one! However, even in a size small this was gigantic! The pants were about 3 times the size of my legs and the straps were so long that the top fell half way down my boobs. It doesn't come with a belt (as shown in the picture) so it looks silly. Once again it was really thin and felt more like pajamas than something I would wear out of the house. It did not seem well made at all!

V-Neck Tank Top in Nosie Posey
Another disappointing thin cheap looking top. It did have a cute zipper up the back, but it felt so thin and cheap! The sides on the one I tried on were cut SUPER low-like below my bra. I got another one and the sides weren't cut as low. The stomach portion was super billowy and large-it looked like a maternity shirt on me!

Out of all the clothes I saw the dresses were the ONLY thing that I felt was comparable to a really Lilly and something that was worth the money. My Target didn't have any swimwear so I can't comment on that. However, all the tops, pants and shorts seemed to be super cheap and flimsy. The sizing was inconsistent and they weren't well designed. Lilly has always done dresses well (especially the classic shift) and maybe they should stick to that.

I wanted a pair of flip flops for summer but they had a huge logo on the sole! Right in the middle of the print was the Target logo and the Lilly Logo! It made the flip flops look tacky-I don't want to advertise for Target when I take my shoes off. Even though they seemed well made I skipped them. All the prints have the Target logo worked into the print (much how Lilly always works her name into the print) but it's subtle and you have to look for it. Not so with the shoes, it was so obvious and glaring! I wish they had at least put it on the bottom of the shoe instead of ruining the print.

The beach bags that I saw were thin and cheap looking-they didn't have any structure to them at all and just kind of flopped over. The clutch bags were expensive ($20.00) and made of a thin canvas knockoff. I didn't really need one so I skipped it. My Target didn't have any of the cosmetics or cosmetic bags-and I was disappointed! They seem to be sold out online so I guess I'll be trolling ebay. I'm going to wait since the Target manager told me they might get more in over the next few days.

Overall, I wasn't impressed with the collection as a whole. The housewares and the dresses were definitely worth it, but everything else was a disappointment. I honestly thought the Missoni collection was better made and more expensive looking. However, most of the Lilly I own is older and the few newer pieces I've bought have been disappointing so I think Lilly as a whole is trading on their name and using cheaper fabrics and finishes.

Lilly used to be reserved for the wealthy, but as expensive fashion has become more for the masses (and regular people aspire to own it) companies feel that they can get away with selling cheaper clothes for outrageous prices simply because of the name. I've noticed this with A LOT of brands (not just Lilly)! I'm happy with the things I bought (and happy I spent less than I expected-more money for Europe!), but I was underwhelmed with the collection. 

I will say I LOVE Target and their designer collections! I like that they introduce designers to the masses-my cashier didn't even know who Lilly was! I also love Target clothes-they are great priced and pretty well made! I love Lilly too-especially vintage Lilly (I'm a fan of the older prints!). It was a great experience and I'm excited that Lilly did this collection :) I also have to give a shout out to DH for being so patient with my constant discussion of the collection and for helping me shop today (and not complaining about the total!). I married a great guy indeed!

Of course everything is now on EBay for 4 times the retail value and Target says they aren't getting anything else in! While I love ebay I hate resellers-I mean come on! They take everything and leave everyone else with nothing! It's terribly disappointing. Target needs to set limits on what people can buy or make more of the collection!

What were your thoughts? How was the shopping experience? What did you get?


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Cell Phone Jail

My kiddos started state assessments this morning-that means a full week of testing and vainly attempting to keep them quiet. I came to school loaded down with a tote bag full of hard candies to keep them quiet and stacks of word searches, crosswords and mazes to distract them after the test.
 Massive bag of candy-purchased and paid for by me! Thank a teacher for all they buy for your students during the year. I've spent about $500.00 already this year!
 Things to keep them entertained!

Keeping them off their cell phones is SUPER important during the test-and I knew if I let them keep their cell phones in their pockets they would be tempted to sneak a peek at Instagram or Snapchat during the test. That's a huge violation of testing security and makes BIG problems for the teacher. Last year a colleague had a student ANSWER his cell phone in the middle of the test-apparently it was his mom and he couldn't ignore a call from his mom! It caused a huge mess for sure :)

I set up a cell phone jail for my students-simply a plastic tub where they were required to place their cell phones before the test. They put a Post-It with their name on it on their device, turned the device off and left it in the tub. I warned my kids ahead of time that we would be doing this (so I didn't have the inevitable fights) and it went smoothly. I didn't have ONE problem with the kids giving up their devices! It was amazing :)
Cell phone jail!

It was amazing to watch the transformation in my kiddos as well-they are usually glued to their devices if they have time. We have the daily struggle to keep kids engaged in the lesson and keep them off their phones. I often catch students scrolling mindlessly through Facebook when they are supposed to be working. The kids get in trouble for their addiction to their devices, but I'm no better-I'm often checking e-mail or looking at Facebook if I have a few spare moments.

Everyone finished the first section of their test and we had about 20 minutes left in the testing session. I told the kids it was okay to chat and expected a rush to get their phones! No one came to get their phone (and a few kids even forgot their phones when they left class). It was neat to watch my students work together to solve a word search, draw a picture together, play tic tac toe or just chat with a friend with no distractions. It was a great reminder to put down the technology and truly live. It was great to see how easy it was for them to let go of the phones (and to be fair I put mine in jail too). Without their phones they were still able to entertain themselves quite easily-a skill we often forget we have.

Some of my students commented that they didn't miss their phone or that we should have technology free days again! It was amazing to see my students who are of the tech generation truly live in the moment-and not be chronicling every second for Instagram. My students had more real conversations in that 20 minutes than we've had all year! Some students were even talking to kids they don't usually talk to which was amazing. When technology is removed you are forced to connect with the humans around you-which is a good thing!

What a good reminder to put down the cell phone and live! Tonight I'll be putting away the cell phone and the iPad and enjoying my husband and my dog without snapping one picture for Facebook or checking my e-mail. I'll focus on living and creating memories rather than chronicling memories to share with everyone. DH and I are going to have technology free days at least once a week-hopefully more! I'm also going to do a weekly technology free day in my classroom this year and next year! Let's learn how to live without technology distracting us! I challenge you to put down the phone and really live in the moment-you will be richly rewarded.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Choose My Plate Challenge Summary

We FINALLY finished our challenge! It was tough-way tougher than I expected, but I learned so many valuable things from the project.

1. Cooking Skills-My cooking skills have improved immensely over the course of this project. I had some basic skills, but I didn't realize how much I didn't know! I've gotten so much faster at chopping veggies :) We did struggle with timing the cooking of different components of the meal. It often turned out that one part was done while we were still working on cooking another part. It got better as the project went along, but it's still not 100%. So much of cooking is about timing-and that's a skill that I don't have a lot of experience with. So many of the critics of healthy eating say that a barrier to eating healthy is a lack of skills. I can say that the more you cook the easier it gets-just give it a shot. We didn't ruin anything and most of our meals were edible. One of the biggest barriers to cooking is fear-I'm usually reluctant to try new things in case I mess them up. This project forced me to try new things and most of them worked out well. I feel more confident in my cooking skills and I've learned lots of new things. It also helped to bounce things off my mom (who is an excellent cook)-she was one of the most ardent readers of this blog and she would tell me what I could have done differently and how I could have made the meal quicker and easier. It was great to have a mentor to help me out with some of the facets of the project. Honestly, I don't think the excuse that you don't have cooking skills is valid. Anyone can learn and practice makes perfect! Don't be afraid to try new things and give things a shot. If you can find a mentor to help you it is so beneficial and valuable.

2. Cooking Equipment-This was a definite barrier to eating healthy. Many of the meals on this menu required several pots and pans, multiple sets of measuring spoons etc. None of the equipment required was specialty equipment, but it required a lot of it at once. There was no way you could only own one pot and make these meals. DH and I went to Wal-Mart and priced the kitchen equipment we used for this project. We selected the cheapest things we could find (our own pans are expensive Calphalon as you see in the pictures-we didn't price anything that expensive). The total cost for all of the equipment we used would be 226.78 (not including sales tax)! Kitchen equipment can often be found cheaper at garage sales and Goodwill-but it was still a lot of money. Obviously food stamps don't cover kitchen supplies and if you don't own kitchen supplies it would be easier to make meals that can be made in one pan or in the microwave. These meals can still be healthy though-all of that comes down to choices-however following this plan would have been difficult if not impossible.

3. Costs-It's obvious that healthy eating is EXPENSIVE! We spent way more than our allotment and more than we usually spend on groceries. The average food stamp budget is $3.00 per day (Source: A Place At The Table)-We were spending between $5.00 and $10.00 per day on these meals! There were ways to make them cheaper and I have many healthy recipes that don't require as many ingredients. If we were limited to $3.00 per day it would be difficult to find healthy meals. It's sad when processed, packaged foods are less expensive than produce-especially when those packaged foods take more to make and produce. This is something that needs to be dealt with-however I'm not sure that I have a solution. Part of the issue is cultural-demand drives down prices and the trend has been towards packaged foods. America doesn't value meals and family meals the way other countries do-it won't be until we create a demand for fresh food and create a culture of healthy eating that things will change. It is still possible to eat healthy at an inexpensive cost however, especially by buying in season foods and foods that are locally grown.

4. Time-This was the big issue! A lot of nights I was tired after work or had other things that needed to get done. It was hard to find the time to spend 2-3 cooking a meal and cleaning up when we had other things that needed to be done. It was hard to find time to come home and cook a lunch on the weekends-it was much easier to pick something up in town for lunch when we were out running errands. My mom revolves her day around meal times-and she arranges her chores so that she can be home at meal times (a very European thing). This is not something that is ingrained in American culture and therefore is difficult to do. It is cheap and easy to swing through a drive through, but it isn't the healthiest option. We must start prioritizing food over other things-which will be a cultural change-in order to make healthier choices.

5. Lack of education/mixed priorities-Healthy food must be the number one priority for a family. Many families don't have the education needed to make healthy choices-it should be a mandatory requirement that in order to receive government aid you must take and pass a class on budgeting, wants vs. needs, basic cooking skills and healthy eating. If you don't own basic cooking equipment it would be supplied during the course. A lot of the families I know don't know how to budget and they waste their money on things that aren't necessary. If you don't have the money to feed your family you don't have the money for ANY extras-that's just life. We worry so much about keeping up with the neighbors and fitting in that food falls to the lowest rung-that is something that needs to change! I know it is difficult to live on a minimum wage job-and I don't advocate cutting government aide-but it needs to be used wisely. I do advocate for austerity measures for those who are receiving government aide-not because they don't deserve nice things but because they can't afford them. When I can't afford something I don't get it-simple as that. I know several families who qualify for aide but don't take it-and they have to live without many "nice" things just to meet the basics of life-why should they be any different than those who are receiving aide. We need to increase education and teach financial responsibility-I teach a course to my 8th graders and it's surprising how many of them think it's okay to get credit cards and not pay them back or to buy things you can't afford. We have become a culture of greed, debt and instant gratification. It is more important to have designer clothes and an iPhone than it is to feed your family healthy meals. This is something that needs to change in our culture-and I'm not sure how you go about changing cultural norms. Our priorities need to change in order to make our country a success.

6. Unwilling to try new things: People tend to be stuck in their ways and not want to try new things-I know I am! This project forced me to try foods I've always rejected. I discovered a love for salads and bananas which was awesome! You just have to be willing to try anything. One of my biggest frustrations is to watch my students toss 90% of their school lunch (that is free to them) because they don't eat apples (or any healthy foods) yet still find the money to buy a bag of chips from the a la carte lane. Why do we subsidize families that have the money to give their child extras at lunch? Why do we allow kids to get away with not eating healthy foods? It should be a requirement that you try at least a few bites of each food-you don't know if you will like it until you try it. Unless kids are exposed to healthy foods they aren't going to like them. We have to bring education into the schools (and the homes) and encourage healthy eating and healthy choices. We also need to change our parenting styles to stop the culture of entitlement and kid led mealtimes etc. Parents need to be parents and require healthy choices from their children.

Overall, I felt like this particular project was a failure in terms of cost. Most of the recipes were good, but they cost WAY too much. I do feel that healthy eating is possible on a limited budget, but this plan was not well thought out. We need to consider all the barriers and objections and find ways around them. We need to make meals that are quick and easy so that those who work or who are disabled can still prepare them. We need to find things that you can make ahead and freeze, things that don't require kitchen equipment or even electricity to make and things that are portable. We need to expand the availability of healthy foods and full service grocery stores in rural and inner city areas. We need to expand the food stamp budget in order to allow familys the money to eat healthy. I also think that limited amounts of food should be available on food stamps-structure it similar to the WIC program where certain foods are approved for purchase. We need to work to decrease the costs of healthy food and increase the demand for healthy foods! Healthy eating is not just about money (or lack thereof)-there are so many other things that go into it. We need to address ALL facets of it-and we need to educate people. American culture is tied so closely with unhealthy choices and a lack of emphasis on food that we will have to change our whole entire culture in order to fix the problem completely. However, expanding the food stamp program, limiting what can be purchased, increasing education, making mandatory classes a requirement to receive aide, educating children in the schools about healthy eating and budgeting, increasing the minimum wage, increasing the availability of healthy foods and giving incentives for healthy choices we can make strides. I'm so glad that I did this project-DH and I struggled a lot at times but we enjoyed ourselves immensely! It was a great learning experience and it made me realize so many of the other issues that go into food insecurity! We must make changes in order to help our country-we could save so much in health care costs, environmental costs etc. if we were able to make these changes!

DH and I are still feeling very passionate about this issue-and we think we can do better that the Choose My Plate site! In the next few weeks we'll create our own 2 week healthy meal challenge and see if we can beat the government with cheap and easy healthy meals! Keep your eyes peeled for that!