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: http://www.edoughble.com/

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: http://www.netflix.com or find a store that sells gift cards here https://storelocator.gmgpulse.com/v2/partner/netflix?locale=en-US

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! http://www.trytheworld.com/pages/the-gift

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: http://www.wayfair.com/Koziol-C537925.html or at http://www.koziol.de (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: http://www.chelmsfordtea.com/

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: http://www.crocs.com

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: http://pomegranateinc.com/

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: http://groomgenie.com/
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!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Great Blog!!


This won't be a full fledged post, but this just happened to pop up on my Facebook newsfeed and I cheered!! This lady really is living the life that we were trying to simulate through our experience and she is doing it EXACTLY how we wanted it to be. She has a great menu that feeds 7 people (2 adults, 3 toddlers and 2 tweens) for one month on $300.00. She openly admits that she isn't a great cook and that she doesn't use a lot of processed foods! She has healthy meals that are easy and cheap! It's a great read and it's especially enlightening to see how she does it and how different it was from the Choose My Plate challenge! Well worth the read!

Day 14

The last day of the challenge!! I was so happy and relieved that it was over and I could get back to my regularly scheduled meals.

Breakfast was perfect pumpkin pancakes. I forgot to take a picture since they took so long to make and we were rushing out the door to get to work. They were actually pretty good-but not very spicy. I was hoping for something that tasted like pumpkin pie but they tasted like you were just eating straight canned pumpkin. We will probably make these again though :) They were interesting and a fun way to make pancakes a little different. However, these would be better as a weekend meal than as a meal on a workday. It took about 45 minutes to mix up the batter and cook the pancakes-that's way too long for our mornings when we have to get to work.

Total Cost: 1.92 per serving (3.84 for both of us)

Lunch was leftover red beans with a side salad and milk. 
Finished lunches! The salad were chopped cucumbers, carrots and lettuce with vinegarette dressing. It was a pretty yummy lunch-the red beans were the same as the night before (bland) but they kept well. I was definitely full after lunch. I'm surprised how much I'm loving eating salads! I will keep this in my lunch rotation after the challenge is over for sure!

Total cost: 2.03 per serving (4.06 for both of us)

Dinner was meatloaf muffins-it was quick to make but took an hour to cook!
Ingredients for the meatloaf.
The ingredients were simply mixed together and placed into greased muffin tins. They were baked for an hour at 350 degrees.

Finished dinners! The muffins were accompanied by mashed potatoes and frozen green beans! They were actually really good! These would be great to make on a weekend for an easy grab and go lunch or dinner during the week! They had a lot of flavor and were easy to eat! We will be keeping these in our menu! I'm glad the challenge ended on a high note since we've had so many disappointing meals! Today was probably my favorite day in the challenge!! I will say that I'm glad it's over-I learned a lot from the challenge and I'm glad we did it but it was a tough two weeks! Tomorrow I'll post a wrap up post about everything we learned and my overall impressions so be on the lookout for that.

Total cost: 3.76 per serving (7.52 for both of us)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Day 13

Amid the madness of Spring Break and DH's new schedule we fell off our eating plan hardcore. I went North to visit my parents for a few days which threw us off track. I'm home now and we're back on track to finish our last 2 days of healthy eating.


Breakfast was banana walnut oatmeal accompanied by milk and an orange. No picture this time since DH made it while I was visiting my parents. He's become addicted to oatmeal as a result of this project. It was never something we ate before this project started and now it's become a staple for him. I'm not a huge fan, but I'm happy that DH found something he's loving that's healthy.

Total cost: 1.74 per serving (3.48 for both of us)

Lunch was a tofu salad sandwich-It was very odd.
Ingredients for the sandwich. The tofu was chopped up into chunks and mixed with chopped veggies and a dressing made out of mayonnaise, mustard and soy sauce.
The finished sandwich. The salad tasted delicious when we made it, but it didn't work well in sandwich form. The bread turned soggy and it was really hard to eat. I took the sandwich apart to try and salvage my meal, but the salad tasted different than the night before. We got an orange and milk to accompany our sandwich-it was a small lunch. I can say that I liked the salad when we first made it and I might make it again. I've discovered that I actually like tofu-who knew?

Total cost: 2.21 per serving (4.42 for both of us)

Dinner was "easy" red beans and rice. It was easy to make, but once again it took a long time to make. We started cooking about 6:00 and didn't eat until 8:00!!

Ingredients for the rice and beans.
Finished dinners! The red beans and rice was accompanied by lemon spinach. The spinach was really good and simple-the spinach was simply cooked and coated with lemon juice! It was awesome-very tangy and flavorful! The red beans and rice were just blah. No seasonings were used so they were kind of bland and tasteless. I dated a guy in high school whose family was from Lousiana and I loved eating the Cajun food his mom made! I still make some of her recipes and I love how spicy and flavorful Cajun food is. Red beans and rice is a Cajun staple and his mom's was amazing-this in no way matched the flavor. With some spices and flavoring in it it would have been amazing-but without any spices it was just bland. I was pretty disappointed-I don't know why this plan is so against the use of spices! That's what makes the meal :)

Total cost: 1.82 per serving (3.64 for both of us)