Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Maternity Capsule Wardrobe

One of the big challenges of pregnancy, was clothes. I mean, yes, I'm saying this because I'm a style blogger, but also, no, I'm just saying this because I'm a style blogger. Your body is changing every day, and you still need to get dressed and go out into the world (and, for most of us, do a job in a workplace). The start of the 2nd trimester (and a belly that would, in fact, be noticeable as a baby bump) coincided for me with the return to work as teacher in the fall. I needed clothes that fit and were professional- and I and needed them fast.

The idea for a Maternity Wardrobe Capsule came out this need. What better, I thought, than not needing to think to hard about what to wear to work. Plus, with this, we would be saving money because you could make more outfits out of fewer items. If I was really smart I could incorporate items that could be used after maternity too.

The plans of mice and men, eh?

Actually, the capsule wardrobe idea worked- to an extent- fairly well. This experiment did allow me to try out several things I hadn't before, especially in terms of a color palette. my capsule had some blushes, rich fall colors rounded out by greys and black and whites. (I will be getting a pair of non-maternity grey jeans after all this over). And, since I had bought literally nothing during the first trimester ("what was the point?" was my constant refrain) it was fun to plan things out. It did also make getting ready in the morning a snap. Because winter was coming on, I narrowed down the capsule to just one real silhouette- skinny legged pants of some sort + a top, usually one that could show off my bump.

However, there were some definite cons to the idea of a Maternity Clothes Capsule too. Three main drawbacks, really. First- and no surprise to anyone but myself- a pregnant body is changing all the time and things don't always fit the same way. Some clothes I simply grew out of. Second was the realization that I am an emotional dresser. A good outfit is the start of a good day for me, and pregnancy hormones don't help this. Getting a new item that fit and flattered provided an emotional boost, though I really did try to limit any purchases to things I would use and need. There was also the trap of too many basics and not enough stand out items. We all know the image of the French Girl- and it is always a French girl- who looks so hip and cool in a t shirt and jeans but after a while that can pairing can grow old, especially when getting bigger.

Lesson 1: The stores and brands matter. Maternity items don't have to be frumpy, but many are. Get basics at places like Maternity Motherhood, but don't be afraid you will "never find anything that fits." Shop around.

Lesson 2: Shop Online. Very few places have much maternity wear in store (unless it is a store just for that, but they tend to be, well, frumpy), but many have a HUGE online selection. Try H&M, Target and ASOS for hip maternity clothes at lower prices. Do look at a few higher end maternity lines too though, like Hatch or Pea in the Pod (See Lesson 4).

Lesson 3: Comfort is King. You won't wear it if it doesn't fit or isn't comfortable. As a pregnancy wears on this becomes exponentially true, but it is true all of the time for everyone.  So make sure it is comfortable.

Lesson 4: You will only wear these clothes a few months, but you will wear ONLY these clothes for a few months. Consider the cost per wear and don't be afraid to invest in nicer things.

Lesson 4: Use those non-sized items you already own. Shoes, necklaces, scarves- they all punch up an outfit.

Lesson 5: Have more than one silhouette in your capsule wardrobe, but make sure they all match your weather and lifestyle.

Lesson 6: If it is winter, buy a coat. Make sure it fits over your belly and can zip. You will thank me.

Lesson 7: Consider sizing up and buying non-maternity items in bigger sizes, but be aware that shoulder width, arm length and item length all change too. You may FEEL like an XXXXL, but first try going up only one size.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Dog-Eared Page: The Story of Babar

How many new things!

 Those lovely avenues!

 Those cars and buses!

 Yet what interests Babar the most are the two gentlemen he meets in the street. He thinks: "They are really well dressed. I would also like a nice suit...but how?"

 Fortunately, a very rich old lady, who really likes elephants, understands just by looking at him that he wants a nice suit.

 -The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant by Jean de Brunhoff

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Out of this World" Baby Shower

A few weeks ago, my mother and sister threw the most out of this world baby shower for Baby and me. No, seriously- Out of This World was the theme! Since Baby Boy's nursery theme is a "A Trip to the Moon," there was a whole tour of the galaxy at this party.

We met up at this very cool local place, Gestalt Studios. It is a repurposed power plant that now serves as an art studio/art supply store/coffee house. This may seem like it wears a lot of hats, but it proves true the adage  that something can be "more than the sum of its parts." In reality what it becomes is this place where artists and makers mingle to chat, and create. The spirit of camaraderie was certainly present and welcoming on this snowy day anyway!

I think the atmosphere would have been joyous no matter where the shower was held through. So many of my nearest and dearest friends were present. For those who were unable to make it- know you were missed! With poor traveling conditions though, we were just grateful everyone stayed safe and those that did come braved the foul temperatures! In addition to my mother and sister (soon to Grandma and Aunt!), my mother-in-law was able to be there (Thank you for all the photos Grandma Gwen!). Also present were many women who had watch me grow up and whose advice and guidence at different times helped shape me. Then, there were not one, not two, not three but FIVE of us who had been friends since almost before we could recall. Having some of my oldest friends there to celebrate this little boy's arrival was so special. I can only hope he gains  friends as dear to him. (Note: I didn't post a photo of everyone because not all are comfortable with having photos shared so publicly, but we all had a good time!)

Instead of the typical (and honestly, sometimes strange) baby shower games most such celebrations are built around, Danyon came up with a really cool alternative. The art studio provided 12 half-circle books, one for each guest. The idea was each would decorate the cover with a planet or other celestial object. I could put them in a box and use one a month to record the baby's progress! He would have a truly unique, handmade baby journal. The mini-journals  are without lines, perfect to make into art journals and paste in pictures, hand prints and more. Though some of us were a bit hesitant to show off our art skills, I was really impressed with everyone's end result. Just goes to show that all have a point of view that can come through in open ended art projects like this!
We also opened the gifts everyone so generously gave (this kid is going to be an Instagram rockstar because I will seriously not be able to resist showing off all his adorable outfits!) and I got advice from all the veteran moms in the room. Most of which revolved around bodily fluids, but, let's face it, that topic encompasses a surprisingly large percentage of a kid's life, even far beyond babyhood! 

Danyon also provided delicious treats, and my friend, Ginger, made this gorgeous cake. How fun is that?! (You can see another cake she made here too!) As the guests departed, they were encouraged to take hand-decorated star mugs, filled with several different beverage items like hot cider or cocoa powder to keep everyone toasty warm! 
Some  of my favorite moments included Shannon seeing my belly for the first time (We last met in person when I was only 9 weeks along!); Danyon feeling the baby kick; and all of these ladies just generally being gorgeous and photogenic! 

P.S. See other times Shannon, Ginger and Danyon have been on the blog! 

Monday, January 9, 2017

What Worked Well in 2016

Though I rarely make New Year's Resolutions, I love reading about them. But a twist on reflecting on the change over from the old year to the new that seemed particularly interesting was from Ashley from Happy, Sweet, Pretty, and Anne, the Modern Mrs. Darcy . Both reflected on what worked for them in 2016. What a great idea! We are often stuck on the ideas of growth and aspiration- which can be great- but we need to celebrate the wins too, and by focussing on what worked, it can show us what is worth our time.

I'll be honest, a lot of my own list is small stuff; the baby preparations seemed to have taken over the year!

1) Better control of my Type 1 Diabetes
If this was the only thing I could have had on this list, I still would be over the moon! Living with a chronic (and "invisible" to others) disease is not easy. Even my husband, who sees the most of what all living with diabetes really entails, couldn't see all of it (he went on an eating regime that ended up being almost exactly what I am required to do except he didn't need to take medication or check his glucose levels). There are a thousand small things one must do to manage one's health. Which is why, doctors can help. Diabetes educators can help. Nurses can help. Family can help- but it is also why they tell you that only you are the expert on your own body and health. Diabetes takes a lot of adjustments in your medication, requires you to conjecture what will or could have caused changes. In some ways this is very empowering, but it can also feel like a personal defeat when your test results don't show all the hard work you (and by that, I mean *I*) have put in. Unfortunately, for me, it seemed like my test results scores were getting worse, despite more effort and stringent control happening on my part. It was like a mystery I just couldn't solve!

That changed in May. When I became pregnant, I saw a different set of doctors and diabetes educators who switched me to different medication, and set different goals for my day to day carb intake. While some days are better than others, I'm very pleased to say that overall, my diabetes is in the best control it has ever been and my pregnancy looks far more like a typical woman's than one dealing with this disease. There will be new challenges as I have to relearn how my body reacts to everything post  pregnancy (everything can affect one's diabetes including hormones etc.), but changing medication has made the single biggest difference in my health! Hooray!

2) Make my bed everyday
I'm not even sure this had been a conscious goal, but this year was the epiphany that if my bed is made, I'm more likely to have a good day. Feeling that my personal space is in order helps kick start the feeling that rest of my day can be in order too.

Have you ever felt that way?

3) Skin Care Routine
Let's not dwell on how I made it 31 years without a skin care routine. This year was finally the year I managed to find not only something that actually worked, but was simple enough to be a routine I could carry on. I use a morning lotion, and a night cream for my face. A facial wash and body wash is used in the showerThen, to prevent stretch marks and just keep generally hydrated I use a combo of an exfoliating salt scrub, an essential oil and body lotion.

Maybe one day I'll even learn how to put on make-up effectively!

4) Using Snapchat 
These next two are bit of funny ones, because as far as social media goes, its been a mixed bag this year. I quit my blog for the better part of the year, and am not sure where it is going even now that it has been started again. In addition to which, we have so many talking heads and articles preaching the importance of unplugging. But these two things both worked for me this year.

I signed up for Snapchat before this year, because my sister asked me to. But, to be honest, I didn't really use it all that much till we took a trip to see her in April, and I could see how she utilized it, what she snapped and what she enjoyed from it. I still only have a handful of contacts- and that's okay. The point wasn't followers. Snapchat still gets used almost every day. I'm a big believer in the "Languages of Love" and one is giving of gifts. Not the wrapped-in-bow kind (though that kind is good too), but sharing little things you know the other person might enjoy. In this case, where the other person lives far way, a little peek into daily life- a funny sign, a sight they saw, even just seeing you make a funny face- really can add a lot to someone's day. I feel more connected to her and the other handful of people I Snap with.

5) Instagram Improvements
I've made two changes to how I use Instagram and both immensely improved my enjoyment of the platform.

First is using hashtags. That same trip, my sister mentioned how important it was to use the right hashtags- not just of what the photo was of, but the mood it might invoke or  the place hashtag etc. So that people would see it and connect to something larger than just that photo. She also pointed us to us that, unlike with Twitter or Facebook, there wasn't really a downside to using a lot of hashtags. I think she said it in reference to a friend's account sharing drawings or my Dad's account sharing his art photography. But it made sense. I've started using more and have seen that not only has there been a (modest) gain in those numbers, but I love looking through those more effective hashtags and seeing some of the photos. Okay, a lot of time I'm looking at the #wirefoxterriers hashtag to see cute dogs or #pinupgirl to see awesome chicks in cool dresses, but who doesn't need more images of cute dogs and people in their lives?

The second change I made was to start following interesting people and institutions, rather than just people I know. I have Facebook for the people I know and I do follow some of them, but I also now follow museum feeds to see gorgeous art, a ballerina's feed to see some of the amazing limits the human body can be pushed to, and- my personal favorite- the smithsonian zoo for the best animal photos around. PANDAS are featured frequently. I rest my case.

6) Bluetooth for Podcasts
Okay, so this one came together in the very last days of 2016, but it has already been so helpful and so effective and easy that I just had to share. Over Christmas I was gifted with a device that allowed for bluetooth capabilities in my car and we got an Amazon Echo. Both of these can connect to my phone and therefore to my Stitcher Account. For those not in the know, Stitcher is an app that is basically the Netflix of podcasts, except even better than Netflix because it is free. You can follow and listen to all your favorite podcasts in one place, and see when they update automatically.  By being able to connect to these devices, I can now easily listen to podcasts where ever I go. I need to turn off my car; the bluetooth device automatically stops the podcast and saves my spot. I want to turn up or down the volume, but am in another room? The amazon echo responds to verbal commands.

It is the easiest thing every and I'm actually able to keep up with my massive list of podcast shows!

What worked well for you in 2016? 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Le Tote Review: Maternity Clothes Edition

I've reviewed the Le Tote subscription services before (here, and here), but wanted to revisit it to discuss their new "maternity membership" options. Because getting dressed is hard enough without your body changing every day, so hopefully this helps demystify some things for some mamas-to-be.

A quick run down for anyone unfamiliar with what Le Tote is. It is a subscription service where, for a monthly fee, you become a member. In exchange, you are sent boxes of clothing and accessory items that you are essentially renting. You can keep the items for as long (or as little) of a time as you like. When you send a box of items back, a new one is sent to you. There is no limit on how many or few boxes you can get in a month. It is up to you.  Unlike other women's clothing subscription services, you are doing most of the picking of items, not a stylist. There are three ways this happens: by filling out a style profile for stylists to reference; by adding items to a virtual closet; and- mostly-  by "customizing your Tote." This last option is what really sets Le Tote apart, in my opinion. You get an email before a Tote is sent to you, allowing you up to 48 hours to "customize" your tote. Basically, if you don't like an item, you can swap it out for something else! There are some limitations to this- namely, you must choose from what they currently have in stock which may or may not be your style or size. One helpful tip is to remember is if you don't like any items they have in stock at the moment, just come back in a few hours. There are often different items in demand.

There are two different types of memberships, Maternity and "Classic." These are exactly what they sound like. The "Classic" membership is regular, non-maternity clothing. And  the Maternity membership is, well.... three guesses and first two don't count I've gotten three Totes during my pregnancy and one thing I've noticed is that just since September, they've made improvements on how you can navigate these membership options. For my first box, if you chose maternity, you could only pick maternity items (or you had to get very creative with your account, switching back and forth!) My last two boxes I got in December and I've noticed that a Maternity membership gives you access to BOTH "classic"  items and maternity items. Now that I'm 8 months pregnant, I can't take advantage of that as much as I'd like, but its perfect for those just starting their second trimester.

For each one of these membership options, there are also box- or rather "Tote"- size options. You can choose to get  either 4 clothing items OR 3 clothing items along with two accessories ($69.00 for a maternity membership and $59.00 a month for a classic membership). Alternatively, you could get a smaller Tote with only two clothing items and one accessory ($49.00 for a maternity membership and $39.00 for a classic membership). You also always have the option of adding on both clothing and accessory items to your Tote for an additional fee per item.  Compared to where they started, I'm so impressed by all the options to make your Tote fit both your needs and your budget!

summer and sage maternity, le tote,
My September Le Tote had a lot of ill-
classic clothing items, le tote, As I stated earlier, I have gotten a total of three Totes with Maternity membership option. I'll admit, I had actually sort of planned to just use a Le Tote membership from September (start of my second trimester) on through the arrival of Baby Boy to pad out an otherwise pretty minimal collection of maternity basics. It didn't happen that way though.

Le Tote emphatically states that it is never too early to switch to a Maternity membership, if you are pregnant. While this may be true now that you can have access to both maternity and classic items at the same time, back in September, that wasn't an option yet. So, I had a bit of a baby bump; work clothes weren't fitting, but my body wasn't going to hold up some of the clothing items designed for ladies
further along in their pregnancy.

Sizing was also an issue. Because Le Tote has items from multiple brands, it is always important to look at the sizing of each item. Even then, this isn't a guarantee things will fit. Some maternity brands want you to pick your sizes based on your pregnancy measurements. Some want you to measure where you are today. Some want you to guesstimate what size you think you will be growing into. Unfortunately, even though the sizing guides are there, what the company wants you to use- your past, present or future size- is unclear. This meant both my first and second maternity Le Tote boxes had some weird sizing issues on certain items.

 Lastly- and, yes, I sound a bit of a snob here, sorry- their maternity items are just very.... maternity. A lot of the patterns looked mumsy and too loud. And I don't care how big my belly gets, I'm just not going to dig bodycon dresses or empire waisted shirts. Your milage on such styles may vary, but these just aren't my cup of team and wasn't work the membership fee, I thought.

velvet leggings, maternity clothing, pregnancy, le tote, So what happened between September and December that made me give Le Tote another go? All cards on the table here: It wasn't anything magical that Le Tote had done. Fact of the matter was, I got bigger and more desperate for items that fit and that I liked. Stylistically, Le Tote still mostly carries styles that did not appeal to me. But I found that using the virtual closet and the customizing features really helped. I could hunt for the items that DID appeal. Plus, I now have a few more months' worth of experience to tell how a piece is supposed to fit a pregnant belly and how comfortable it would be (this is the most important factor of all!)

I have really loved my last two maternity tote; they have done magic in that they make me feel pretty and like I have more than two outfits I actually can wear. So, here is what set my December Totes apart. Unintentionally, my choices reflect a certain pattern that tried to walk the line of getting basics I could remix with items I already owned, and things that had an interesting detail (otherwise, I might as well just get another tee from Motherhood beyond comfortable. Score!  I also chose a sweater with an interesting detail each time (a low-cut back and a zippered back respectively), as well as a more basic/casual shirt and two accessories. Accessories have become a bit more tricky with a huge belly, but I still love 'em. And who knows? I might even get one more maternity Tote before my own little guy arrives.
maternity for ten bucks). For both boxes I got a pair leggings. Most maternity pants are jeans- because apparently pregnant ladies don't work or something- and if they aren't jeans, they are black. Admittedly the leggings I picked are also black, but for one box, an interesting detail at the knees kept them from being too basic, and for the second box, the leggings were velvet. Now, I'm not normally a velvet person, but these make me feel So Fancy and they are

One thing that always impresses me about Le Tote is how much they change and adapt, adding new features to make things easier for their costumers. The different Tote sizes would be one example of this. Another would be the way they added access to the classic items and maternity ones when you have a maternity membership. There are still some places for improvement. Mainly, while you can leave feedback on items, it is all prescribed; you click the issues from a predetermined list. Except, if there is an issue with an item, the pre-determined choices don't always cover the issue. I hope they have a comment box in the future. But then, they are so good about adapting, it wouldn't surprising me in the least if they get that changed soon.
basic maternity shirt, summer and sage maternity, noir Luxe necklace, le tote,

Part of me does wish now that I'd given the Maternity Le Tote a second chance earlier, but I'm enjoying it now. Like a lot of other mamas-to-be counting down the weeks and then days,  there are times I feel huge and un-pretty- and pretty much all of the time I feel uncomfortable. Slipping on something pretty and new can really help combat those feelings, especially since most women's maternity wardrobes are small because we all know we won't be using the clothing more than a few months. Le Tote really does solve the issues of getting a new infusion into your wardrobe. It isn't free, but, honestly, the membership price is the cost of one or two items of clothing, so you get much more than what you pay for. Plus, you can send it back when you're done, so you don't end up with a ton of maternity items in your closet and no idea of what to do with them once that bundle of joy arrives (though, for both the classic and maternity memberships, if you really love an item you can purchase it, usually for less than retail value).

Have you tried Le Tote for either the "classic" or "maternity" options? What did you think?

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