The new way to shop

25 Mar

Shopping for clothes.   Whether you love it, loathe it, or [like me] just don’t have time for it, it has to be done.  Having clothes that are good quality, appropriate for the situation, and fit well are a must for all successful people.  Okay, maybe not while you’re working from home or watching marathons of Sex and the City on Sunday, but for the office, date night, PTA meetings, etc., you want to make a great impression, and that starts with your appearance.

Lately, I’ve found myself with a closet full of clothes that are either:

a) Only good for one season – it was trendy 2 years ago/quality was clearly not a buying factor

b) Maternity clothes – time to put the elasta-waist into storage

c) Too big – hey, I’ve lost weight and toned up.  This is a good thing.

d) Never fit right to begin with – but I just HAD to have it

e) Lululemon.

I’m ready to clean out and donate, or put into storage (if only I had the time to do all this!).  It’s time for not necessarily a major overhaul, but a little investment shopping and new life into my closet.

Enter the “new” way to shop.

Online shopping is nothing new.  But it can be hit or miss, and sometimes returns are a royal pain.  But I think 2 different models in online retail are totally changing the way successful people shop.     Filed under the category of “why didn’t I think of that?” is the RENT IT model.  My standby for every special occasion these days is Rent the Runway.

 

I have been a RTR devotee for probably 4 years, including about 15 weddings.  Especially when you are often attending events with the same group of folks, I just wouldn’t get enough wears out of a dress to make it worth the price tag.   Renting dresses allows me to try new styles and designers, without the commitment.  They send you 2 sizes, provide personal stylist assistance for accessorizing, and take care of all the dry cleaning and shipping.  Sold!   I have had so much success with RTR (only 1 occasion where I had an issue and they overnighted me a couple different options in time for my event), that I realized recently that I don’t actually own any cocktail or formal dresses that weren’t bought before somewhere around 2008.

More recently, I’ve discovered the concept of Online Personal Shopping through the likes of Stitch Fix.

It’s an inexpensive way of having a stylist pick items for you, based on your preferences and body type, and then keep what you want and send back what you don’t.  I love the idea of someone hand-picking items for me that I maybe wouldn’t have picked myself.   When you have limited time and opportunity to shop, you tend to default to the same stores, same styles, same color palette, etc.   I can’t really afford a personal stylist… until now!  I’ve signed up and haven’t received my first “Fix” yet, but I can’t wait to see what awaits me.  It’s like Christmas in a box!  I’ve heard many great success stories thus far.

And not to leave the men out… a similar concept to Stitch Fix is Trunk Club.  Let’s be honest… no one could benefit more from this idea than the busy, successful man.   Let someone else pick it out, don’t make me go to the mall, make sure I’m wearing the right size… and I don’t have to commit?   Brilliant.  Again, why didn’t I think of that?

How do you like to do most of your shopping these days?   I recently just conquered the most feared shopping process of all — swimsuits!  But I did it the old fashioned way.  And it felt pretty good too!

The 9-month Milestone

5 Mar

So I try not to over-share too much baby info on this blog, but let’s face it – Danielle Does Dallas pre-baby and post-baby are just two different animals.   It occurred to me recently that with Emma Grace nearly 9 months old, she’s been out of my belly almost as long as she was in it.  And that my friends, is a major milestone worth celebrating!

I’ve heard often that while your life is never the same after having a baby, your body should finally be feeling back to “normal.”  That if you spent 9 months putting on weight and growing a baby inside you, that you should allow the same amount of time to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape.  I don’t think you body is ever the same (even if you’re lucky like me and didn’t have stretch marks, C-section scars, or any other tell-tale signs of pregnancy and childbirth), but I’m definitely feeling like my old self on the outside.  I’ve shed all the weight and then some!  Thank you Emma!

I’m not sharing this to show-off or brag.   I took care of my body by staying active and eating well while pregnant, which definitely started me off on the right foot.  But the changes in my lifestyle that have enabled this have been a direct result of having her… I’ve focused more on what I put in my body like eating more greens and less gluten, drinking more water & green tea and less alcohol.  While I’m not teaching nearly as many Les Mills classes, I’ve been teaching my Bebe & Me Core classes where we train functional strength using body weight and babies for resistance.   I focus less on food as a pleasure (no time) and more on just keeping my energy up to keep up with her.  I walk a lot more (pushing a stroller or wearing her, natch!).  And I regularly carry 17 lbs around in my arms.   I’m still breastfeeding (burning over 500 calories a day).  And my baby sleeps through the night, so I’m getting a pretty decent amount of sleep.   No diets, no crazy exercise fads, just lifestyle changes and being a mom.  And it feels good!

Not only has this been a breakthrough for me, Emma is reaching new milestones every day.  At 9 months, she has 4 teeth (2 of which just broke the surface this week).  She’s not necessarily “crawling” in the true sense of the word, but she can get from Point A to Point B in many creative ways (tomorrow we babyproof!).  She entertains herself while sitting up on the floor or in her crib (we’ve had to lower the mattress twice is recent weeks!).  Her palate for solid foods is pretty darn broad, and she enjoys sitting in her high chair both at home and at restaurants.  She’s snacking on finger foods and drinking from a straw.  And for the most part, she’s happy with any number of adults, children, pets, etc.  All in all, this is a very good stage for us both!

 

 

Hosting Out of Towners

5 Mar

Howdy!   Been awhile since I’ve posted here, but hey, no time like the present.  It’s been work, work, work around our household lately (speaking of our day jobs), and not a whole lot of time to play.  But with a dear friend visiting us this weekend and a trip to Mexico for another dear friend’s wedding next weekend, I’m looking forward to some good old fashioned fun.  Not to mention some warmer temps and maybe a tan to boot.

So today I’ve been thinking about what to do over the weekend for my friend who’s visiting us, and Texas, for the first time.  Now obviously, I know that as long as we get to hang out and spend time together, she probably doesn’t care what we do.  But I really enjoy hosting out-of-towners and sharing bits of our life with them.

We’ve had some great house-guests since we moved into our new house, both family members and 2 wonderful friends of mine.  Because I generally like order and having a plan, I typically follow a bit of a formula when hosting out-of-town guests:

Step 1 – The first step for success is putting them up in our luxury treehouse, aka the “guest suite.”   While I knew this was a great amenity when we bought the house, I never knew how much our guests (and us!) would enjoy it.   Our guest suite is detached from the house, has a den area with pull-out sofa and TV, high-speed internet, a garden-style table for 2, mini-fridge, microwave, Keurig coffee maker, queen bed and beautifully appointed bathroom with gorgeous natural light.  I leave bottled water, coffee and snacks for our guests, as well as a hairdryer, full size high-quality toiletries and a pair of sneakers (in case they don’t want to pack theirs).

Our guests always love the suite and the ability to have complete privacy.  In fact, they tend to linger in their PJs in the mornings before coming to the house, and retire to bed early enough for Kevin and I to have some time to ourselves or with the baby.  They’ve said it’s better than staying in a hotel!  All in all, it’s been a win-win-win.

Step 2- Have a loose agenda.  Especially if it’s a short visit (say a weekend), I like to have an idea of what we’ll do each day.  Not planned to the hour, but generally I have meals and one or two activities planned out or at least in my back pocket before they arrive.  Definitely a reservation made for weekend dinners out or a tee time for golf.  The worst part about not having an agenda is that you end up never leaving the house… So put a little thought into it!

Step 3 - Plan a few meals at home, as well as dining out options.  I think an important part of hosting someone in your home is to cook for them, even if it’s just having some easy options on hand for breakfast or lunch.  As much as I love eating out, it gets expensive, it’s generally not very healthy, and I think most folks tire of it if they’re eating 3 meals out each day.   So pick up ingredients to make omelets one morning, make some chicken salad for lunch one day, find out what type of drinks, yogurt or chips they like.

Step 4 - When it comes to activities, take them to your favorite places.  Rather than picking the standard tourist fare, I’ve found our guests really enjoy going places that we love to frequent.  Or maybe somewhere we haven’t been but have always wanted to go to.  I always try to pick a few different neighborhoods to explore as well, so they can see more than just one aspect of Dallas.   So maybe we’ll have brunch in Bishop Arts, visit Klyde Warren Park and the Museum/Arts District for a daytime activity, have dinner at home or at a neighborhood spot.  Because I grew up in Fort Worth, I often like to make a trip there to visit with my family and show them a little bit of where I spent my youth.

Step 5 - Be flexible!  Have a backup!   Weather is bad?   Have a good indoor activity in mind.  Dallas and Fort Worth both have some amazing museums (Perot Museum, Nasher, DMA, Kimbell Art Museum).   Not into museums?   Find an indoor racing track for some high-octane excitement!  Restaurant is on a 2-hour wait?   Pick a spot with lots of other dining options around it, or at least where you can do some shopping or strolling while you wait.

And finally, don’t worry too much about the house looking perfect (If you don’t have a regular housekeeper, consider hiring someone to come do a one-time cleaning before your guests arrive.  It is sooooo worth the time and stress you will save getting ready for your guests).

Hosting out-of-towners doesn’t have to be stressful – just do a little advance planning and you’ll come off as the true “hostess with the most-est”, and a real ambassador to Dallas (or wherever you live) too!

Do you have a ritual for hosting friends and family?  What’s your biggest gripe when staying with someone?

Project Reverb – Day 14

21 Jan

Day 14 Prompt:

Feast: What was the best meal you had in 2013?  Was it slurped standing over the kitchen counter?  Was the menu written in a language you understood?  Were you alone?  Or at a table filled with family and friends?

I love to eat.  I love food.  But what I love most is sharing experiences with those I love over a great meal.  I’ve had a lot of good food this year, some of it at our favorite restaurants in town, on travel, and some of it at home.   But my favorite meal of 2013 was Thanksgiving dinner at our house.  The food was delicious… but the experience of hosting my first Thanksgiving was one to remember.  It was the first Thanksgiving in awhile that all three kids were home , and it was the first time that I was the executive chef in charge, as well as the hostess.  In haste, I forgot to take pictures of my gorgeous table, set with the china we used for the first time, as well as all of the food.  Way to go!

But I was able to capture a moment before all the company arrived and the cooking began.   In fact, this was the day before, when I made all the desserts.  This is me, type A, large and in-charge.  Recipes posted, ingredients laid out.

It was a shockingly smooth first go, especially considering I had an infant at home!  But with some assistance from my fabulous mom, I was able to put together the following menu:

- Tim Love’s Pancetta-Wrapped Roasted Turkey

- Anne Burrell’s Sausage Cornbread Stuffing

- Cindy’s Famous Mashed Potatoes

- Cindy’s Green Beans

- Tyler Florence’s Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon (plus I added walnuts and bacon)

- My very own Cherry Crisp

- From Scratch Cranberry Sauce

- Mom’s Apple Pie (with Mike’s help!)

- German Chocolate Cake (for the world’s best nanny)

- Emeril’s Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

Lots of wine, seasonal craft beer and wins by the Cowboys and Ravens!   It was a success and hopefully a new tradition in the making!

Any requests for recipes… leave me a note in the comments!

Project Reverb – Day 13

21 Jan

Day 13 Prompt:

Favorite things:  Give us a list of your favorite things from 2013.  Could be material items, food, people, anything!

Oh I love sharing my favorite things at any given moment.  See all my posts about What I’m Loving Right Now (can’t link from this computer… doh!)  But to pick some of my absolute favorite things from 2013… Let’s pick 5 , and do it with pictures.

1. Being a Mom.  Best, hardest, and most rewarding job on the planet.

2. AG Jeans.  Made in the USA.  Super comfy.  I’ve bought 2 pair post-partum and just slipped into the smallest size jean I’ve worn in close to 10 years.

3. Our First House.   At least once a week I tell Kevin how much I love our home.  We are so blessed, and pleased that we saved up and waited to purchase our perfect house!

4. Green foods.   Seriously, I’ve always been a big fan of vegetables, but I’m really loving all the focus on healthy greens this year.  Avocados, kale, brussell sprouts, asparagus, even green tea… Love em!

5. Outdoor bars/restaurant concepts.  A few of my DFW faves: The Woodshed, Truck Yard, Katy Trail Ice House, Chicken Scratch.   We still need to check out The Rustic.   Casual, outdoors, great food, great beer, live music, baby friendly… I am loving this trend and hope it is here to stay!

Project Reverb – Day 12

21 Jan

Day 12 Prompt:

Free writing: Write for five consecutive minutes on the word “jump” as it pertains to this past year.  No editing.  Set a timer.  Just write.

File this under TMI, but the first thing I think of when I jump these days is “try not to pee your pants!”  Seriously, it’s one of the annoying pitfalls of having a baby.  You know it’s supposed to happen, you try to do everything you can to prevent it (kegels, pelvic floor exercises, empty your bladder before class, etc).  But sometimes… it just happens.  And I probably do a hell of a lot more “jumping” than your average person.  BODYATTACK is just not my friend anymore.   And honestly, lately my body has really craved and enjoyed activities with less impact (BODYPUMP, BODYFLOW, CXWORX, any type of yoga really).  And well, BODYJAM (my fave!), I’ll keep at it becuase you’re worth all the pratfalls associated with your bouncing, turning, twisting, popping, locking and dropping.

I can’t believe I just wrote a post about peeing your pants, but I’m just going with it.   Let’s frame the lesson here as listen to your body.  At different points in our life it craves different things for a reason.  Do what feels good.  but for now, I’m putting jumping on notice.

My New Mom/New Baby Must Haves

14 Jan

So in taking a little break from Project Reverb, I thought I’d share my list of favorite baby products for all you new moms, dads, grandparents, friends, and anyone who has the pleasure or misfortune of attending a baby shower.  I’ve gotten this request often, so I thought I’d share it with the masses.

There are a lot of great products out there, and a lot of unnecessary ones.  I am not getting compensated in any way for endorsing them… just thought they are awesome enough to share!  As EG gets older, I’ll have to do an updated post now that we’re venturing into highchairs, big bathtubs and babyproofing land.

Comfort and Cleaning

  • Aden and Anais swaddle blankets, sleep sacks, bibs and washcloths.   Great brand, washes well and super soft for baby.
  • Gerber cloth diapers (to use as burp cloths, clean up messes)
  • Honest Company diapers and wipes (Eco-friendly, super cute patterns, deliver them once a month to your doorstep, no diaper rash ever!) www.honest.com
  • Angel Dear lovey.  Emma sleeps her pink owl lovey every night.   I even bought a “back-up” recently.
  • A diaper genie.  Only use it for the dirty diapers so you don’t run through your refills like crazy.  We just use a regular trashcan for the wet ones and empty every couple days.
  • A temporal thermometer.  They use these in the hospitals and are so easy and accurate.  You run it across the forehead and it gives you a reading immediately!  A relief when you are worried about fever.
  • Angelcare bathtub.  This fit inside our farmhouse sink and allows water to run through it, while keeping baby supported.  Now that shes getting bigger, I’m putting her in the bathtub with me which is comforting to her as she experiences the “big tub.”
  • Hooded towels.  Super cute and very practical.

On the Go Gear

  • Moby Wrap.  A great way to wear your baby in the early stages.  It looks intimating to wrap but isn’t bad once you watch the you tube videos and such.  Practice with a teddy bear or doll first, instead of fumbling with a squirmy baby while you learn.   Once baby is bigger, transition to a carrier like the Britax Baby Carrier or Ergo baby carrier.
  • Britax B-Safe carseat and B-agile stroller. There are lots of great options out, but we have been so happy with ours.   Good price point, very easy to maneuver, folds up with one hand, not ridiculously heavy, works together perfectly, and very safe rating. Test them out in the store before you buy and ask for help on how they work.  If you get this one, buy the travel system and save a few bucks.

Sleeping and Calming

  • “Happiest Baby on the Block” book and DVD.  I firmly believe in the fourth trimester concept and this had great advice for those first 3 months.
  • Fisher Price Deluxe Rock N Play.  Em wasn’t a fan of laying flat in her co-sleeper or crib for the first 6 weeks or so.   She slept in our room in the rock n play which kept her head elevated and allowed us to rock her with the touch of a finger.  As she got a bit bigger, she could even make it rock herself when she moved.   We transitioned her to the crib about 8 weeks when she was sleeping through the night.  (Note: this has recently been recalled for presence of mold in some models.  Do your research before you buy)
  • An exercise ball.  Seriously, it was the BEST way to calm Emma down and we sat on it and “bounced” her to sleep every night for the first 3 months.
  • Motorola baby monitor.  We opted not to get a video monitor, as I thought I would just obsess over it.  I’m so glad we didn’t.  If I want to check on her, I just walk in and see her in person!
  • A compact sound machine.   Any brand will do, but ours is small enough that we can pack it with us and create the same environment while on the road.  Ours is a nightlight too.

Nursing and Feeding

  • Medela Calma bottle (most closely mimics the breast and we’ve never had a problem switching between breast and bottle)
  • Nursing Pillow – get the Boppy for general propping of the baby, but I actually prefer the My Breast Friend pillow (terrible name!) for nursing
  • Medela Pump in Style breast pump
  • A lactation consultant!  Many hospitals have them, pediatricians offices or you can search through La Leche League.   Breastfeeding is not easy for everyone and getting some pointers on slight adjustments really can help turn a very frustrating and painful experience into a healthy, loving one.
  • Bravado Nursing Bras and Tanks.  I tried several.  These are the BEST.  Get fit properly in a store that carries them and stock up!

Clothing

  • Kicky Pants is my absolute favorite!  Super soft, adorable patterns, sizes seem to last longer through her growth spurts (must be due to a little stretch in the fabric).
  • Hanna Anderson PJs.  I love that they zip up, as opposed to lots of snaps or buttons.  Great material, good weight, gets softer with washing and never fades or pills.
  • Hanna Anderson Matching Socks.  Okay, so I realize they are like $10 each.  Wait till they go on sale and buy several. Most of the Hanna PJs are footless and you need to keep those tooties warm!  Plus, they never come off… which is the criteria by which I judge all baby socks.
  • Trumpette Socks.  These come in adorable little boxes in a variety of colors and styles.  Great baby gift, and they also stay on baby’s little feet really well.
  • Gymboree.  I love this store.  They always have such fun head to toe outfits, and everything is always on sale!  It’s the place to go for stylish but practical clothes.
  • Mudpie headbands and bows.  How do you get a big bow to stay on a newborn’s head?   Put it on a stretchy headband!   Mudpie makes my favorite ones (and Emma’s too!… see below)

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