DIY Tutorial: Lip n’ Lotto Favors (free printable)

19 May

I’d like to share with you a very easy craftish gift I made for Teacher Appreciation Week. I did them at the last minute because obviously. The bad news is that it’s too late for Teacher Appreciation Week this year. The good news is…well…they’re easy to do last-minute (and in all seriousness, you can still use these for thank-yous, grads, end-of-year happies, party/wedding favors–all kinds of stuff!).

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Every holiday, even some of the more obscure ones, my family always gives each other lottery tickets. Even my three-year old gets his own scratch-offs. He’s trained now; when he sees it fall out of the greeting card, he immediately goes to his piggy bank to get a coin.

So naturally, it was the first thing that came to mind when puzzling about what to get his preschool instructors for Teacher Appreciation Week. Cheaper than a fruit basket, healthier than baked goods, more original than a gift card, and (sorry, #honesty) more attractive than a child-made art project–and what better gift to give an underpaid teacher than a chance to strike it rich and immediately quit her job teaching your child?

At approximately $4.50 per card it’s pretty economical if you need to make multiples. We did one for every teacher at his school, because there aren’t that many to begin with, and they really do take turns watching each other’s classes.

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Materials:

lip balm of your choice – something for which you can think of a clever pun is ideal.

scratch-off lottery tickets

hole punch

string or raffia or ribbon

shiny new quarters (optional)

card stock or other high quality paper

Hot MUNAY!

Hot MUNAY!

Step 1:

Have someone lucky get the lottery tickets.

Sadly, in our family that is T. Do I look like Mother of the Year stuffing dollar bills into the scratch-off vending machine and making my tiny child push the buttons? Maybe not. But hear me out: in 3+ decades of life, I have won ($1 usually) on scratch-off cards maybe……4 times? In Tenny’s 3 + years of life, he has won on scratch off cards approximately 7 times. And once was for $20. I don’t math so I can’t tell you the exact odds in this scenario, but if I was receiving a lottery ticket from someone in our household I’d be banking on him.

Step 2:

Design your gift tags.

Iknow Iknow, my kid isn’t really a baby. But in our case it was still kind of appropriate. I’ve noticed that T requires a lot of speshul love and attention. (Why is my son on the teacher’s lap during reading circle when everyone else is sitting on the rug? I can’t be sure, but I bet it involved whining and tears).

Also, I think Baby Lips are fun and cute.

If you choose to use them, you’re welcome to print my version of the cards using the link below–it prints 3 to a letter-sized page, and there’s room for you to insert a name on the bottom right as you see in my version (just give me a shout out if anyone asks where you got the idea, k?).

Download the Printable

With a little creativity you can use any brand though. I was originally intending to give Burt’s Bees and put “Thanks a million for BEE-ing my teacher!” but I changed my mind because they didn’t have enough of the same flavor, and I didn’t want to cause a Battle Royale over who had to end up with Mango.

Baby, Baby, Baby OH

Step 3:

Print the cards and cut them out, then punch a hole in both the cards and the tickets.

I put the corner of the ticket (where the $1 sign is) the upper middle of the card and punched both together. This was so I didn’t accidentally put a hole through the winning number or something. Yikes.

Optional step: You can also tape a shiny new quarter to the back of each card so the lucky recipient can get to scratchin’ right away. 

Step 4:

String the ribbon or what-have-you through the holes in the card and the lip balm.

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For this project you don’t have to unwrap and rewrap the balm in some cutesy and skillful way, like many other balm-based gifts I’ve seen. This works with the original packaging with the hanging hole already punched in. The Lazy Girl Way for the win!

I used plain old gift string, the kind you tie on a balloon. I like doing the curly thing with the side of the scissors–it’s literally the one crafty thing my mom was able to impart to me, so I don’t care how uncool it is–I’m doing it now and forevermore. And also T likes green and I felt he ought to contribute something other than his magic fingers. But feel free to get artisanal with it, with some recycled kraft raffia or whatever if that’s your jelly.

Million Dollar Baby

 

Step 5:

Find a cute way to arrange them and you’re done! Yay!

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Did I dump our bread onto the stove in order to use this basket? Maybe.

For the record, they were a big hit. The whole week the teachers were coming up and telling me to thank my husband (I didn’t manage to get these ready until Friday which is P’s day for drop off, so he ended up with the credit. I know, what?). The cafeteria lady even won $20 on hers! I’m telling ya, ol’ Lucky Strike T over here.

Have fun!

NAMB: Is this a birthday party or a wedding?

1 May

Is it just me, or are birthdays for small children getting utterly out of control?

I don’t mean out of control like my 7th birthday, where I invited every girl in my class to sleepover and all twenty-two of us paraded around the house in our PJs playing toy instruments at 11 PM. My poor parents.

I mean out of control like you realize that March is too late to start planning for your kid’s 2nd birthday…in July. I mean out of control like, you’re starting to wish you had an event planner to manage the various elements of your soiree.

This is clearly just my opinion, but seriously: if you are using words like “element” and “soiree” in reference to a birthday party for anyone under 50–even in your head–you need to #checkyoself.

I mean, I think we all know on some level that children’s birthday parties have become some sort of toxic cocktail of perfectionism, one-upmanship, and Pinterest. And I’m hardly the first to make fun of the phenomenon of over-the-top birthday parties and borderline insane parents (see the now-infamous birthday list email, or how about the kid that didn’t show up for a party and got an invoice for his cost incurred). But if my social media feed is any indication, the trickle-down effect of these crazy, wedding-like extravaganzas is very, very real.*

*seriously–I just witnessed a 30+ comment thread on custom themed birthday cakes in my actual life. No, not whether they’re necessary, but the best place to get one.

Ask for pictures from a child’s birthday party, and instead of a bunch of smiling kids you’ll see forty angles of lavish table layouts. We’re talking blowouts for kids who are turning 1, 2, 3….ages where they still think playing in the bath tub is the height of good-time fun. Who is this shindig really for? Look in the index under parents, impressing other.

We need to stop the madness.

In that spirit, I have created a primer of good and bad words for children’s birthdays. To hammer the metaphor even further, we’ll play it like Red Light, Green Light. Next time you find yourself in conversation about a birthday, notice what key words pass your lips and follow the directions accordingly:

Green – go for it!

Cake – No party, indeed no birthday, is complete without cake. Go hog wild and let the birthday kid pick the flavor! Ice cream is always good too.

Mess – Accept it, embrace it, encourage it. Have you ever been to a fun party that didn’t get a little messy?

Invitations – I’m really old fashioned and like paper invitations sent via snail mail*. Even if they come from a pack at Target, it’s awesome. I mean, when you see an envelope in the mail with your name on it, you know you’re really and truly invited somewhere. I’m not against Evites per se, but I do get a little wistful when it seems like parents are putting more thought and effort on things like themed labels for the food (and taking pictures of said labels) than they are on requesting the pleasure of a guest’s company.

*tangent–I said the phrase “snail mail” to an intern the other day and he had no idea what I was talking about. Is that an old term or something??

Improvise – Story time. Last year P and I went to the Starlight drive-in and there was a birthday party parked next to us…probably a dozen 13 year old girls, split among two or three mini-vans. The party fare consisted of a few pizzas, a cookie cake, a couple of six packs for the parents. No decorations, no party favors. During the long wait to get into the gates, they got out of the cars and played with–you’ll never believe it– a ball. Like the kind you get out of the bin at the grocery store. The entire group, including the adults, was raucously laughing the whole time. The whole thing was on point, without reeking of planning. I bet you your deposit at Legoland they didn’t even have to make a reservation.

Red – Stop Right There

Fondant – I agree those cakes shaped like unicorns and cars look cool. Hell, I watched like 40 back to back episodes of Cake Boss at Northside while I was waiting to pop out T. But #truth, that stuff tastes like the bottom of a shoe. Whatever happened to buttercream?

Deposit – Does anyone else think it’s weird that in one generation, parents went from showing up with ten kids at whatever McDonalds had a decent playplace to laying two bennies down to reserve the party room at HippoHopp? (which is basically a glorified playplace, if you really think about it). Super-screaming red light if the words “non-refundable” are attached.

Dessert Table – Uh….you have a cake, right? Dessert. Bam.

If this is the 3rd birthday, what will the wedding look like?

Schedule – Think about it from a kid’s perspective. School, piano practice, the dentist…those delightful activities are examples of things that are scheduled. Leaving a few things up to chance makes it easier for you and fun for them (see improvise).

Registry –  Not to get too Emily Post, but I really do think this is gauche. Yes, it’s an unspoken rule that you bring a gift to a child’s party. But it’s the giver’s prerogative to choose the gift (and the price of the gift). I swear, half the time I see a birthday registry the stuff on it is high-priced–I’m talking in the $100-$200 range. If you want your kid to have a new kitchen set, that’s what grandparents are for (or here’s an idea– buy that ish yourself). If people are asking you what to get, by all means offer a suggestion–the $15-$30 range is reasonable, although even less is fine too (who doesn’t love some new playdoh?).  I’d even be OK with an Amazon wishlist, as long as you only send it if someone directly asks for it. And whatever you do, don’t provide links on your invitations to a registry. People don’t even do that on a wedding invitation! (Do they? Please tell me people have not started doing that).

Yellow – Proceed with caution:

Custom – Having the baker put your kid’s name on the cake? Yes. Hiring three different bakers to make customized cookies, cupcakes, and dirt pudding in individual ramekins? Overkill.

Game – It’s not a bad idea to have a few activities planned in case things start out slow. But this isn’t a baby shower. If it takes more than ten seconds to explain the rules, forget it. No rules works too–stuff like a bucket of water balloons or even a big roll of butcher paper and finger paint is plenty fun.

Favors – Something to say “thank you for coming” is a very nice touch. But most parents agree that a goody bag of tiny plastic crap toys is kind of annoying. People just do it because they feel like they have to.

Staaahp.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have personalized and/or homemade favors that seen to scream “I’m overcompensating for something.”

Apparently, this includes a personalized note and homemade hair bows. Good grief.

A lot of parents get overwhelmed between the two and don’t give favors at all. But there is a happy medium, if you get creative. On a related note, thank-you cards for gifts are great for character building.

DIY (see also: homemade) – I know some of you maams are crafty and genuinely enjoy (and have time for?) making doilies, and if that’s you, go for it. But if you find yourself up at 4 AM the night before the party, cursing because you can’t find the right pastry tip to ice the clam macaroons or you’re only halfway through the 100 DIY bathbombs for baby’s magical mermaid party, you’re only hurting yourself.

I don’t make this ish up.

I say for us non-Martha Stewart types, pick one thing to make yourself (the cake, the invitations) and get thee to a Party City for the rest.

Look.

I’m not saying parties need to be like they were “back in my day” (#getoffmylawn). A few things, like donations in lieu of gifts and the slow fade of the watch-the-birthday-kid-open-presents tradition, are standout achievements of modern birthday parenting. Things evolve and that’s fine. But when it gets to the point where moms are feeling like they might be depriving their child if they don’t arrange for a candy buffet and miniature fruit bouquets, that’s a problem. For your child, it is and it should be all about the experience–just ask the girls at the Starlight Drive-in.

Lazy Girl Fitness: Why visualizing your goals doesn’t work (WOOP)

15 Apr

Hilarious Weight-Loss Quotes to Instantly Feel Better About Your Diet

via        original

I could also entitle this post: Ha! I knew I was onto something.

You’ve heard me say before that the only way I was able to become an active person was to make exercise a habit, like brushing my teeth. Absolutely no other strategy came close to getting me off my butt on the reg.

Turns out I’m backed up by #science.

Reading this completely unrelated book, I learned of a strategy call MCII, aka Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions.

Hu..What? Sorry, I spaced out for a second since that is literally the most jargony snoozefest of a term ever invented. No offense to the brilliant psychologist whose research brought forth the concept.

WOOP WOOP

Fortunately, another person with a short attention span came up with a snazzier acronym: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan–or WOOP. (Parents of preschoolers: does anybody else hear the Octo Alert from Octonauts in their head right now?) The book showed how applying this theory helped underprivileged students improve test scores, but my mind went immediately to its health implications. There are whole books devoted to this technique but I’ll summarize.

When it comes to goal achievement, some people focus on what success will look like (visualization). Other people get hung up on the obstacles to reaching it (dwelling).  Neither of these work very well on their own. You can probably guess why dwelling isn’t helpful. But visualization is at least as ineffective, if not more so.

Why You Should Delete Your Fitspo

This is important when it comes to exercise, because how many times have we been told to visualize our fitness goals? The health rags always suggest visualizing stuff like running a 10k, but please. I know y’all have a Pin or 12 of PYTs on your Pinterest board to “motivate” you. I once had a page of the Vicky Secret swim catalog taped to my wardrobe mirror with the suit I wanted to buy that summer (with the Angel I wanted to look like wearing it, natch).

Back in the stone age before we had TV and overpriced lingerie to help us imagine things, it made sense that seeing something in our minds enabled us to do it. It gave us the confidence that something imagined could be real. But now that movies do the imagining for us, we know full well that having a slammin’ body is possible–at least technically.

Happier Human lays it down:

If you’re reasonably confident but just lack motivation, positive-future visualization has been shown to hurt more than it helps. The reason is simple – your brain assumes the goal is easier to acquire than it actually is.

Don’t know about you, but lack of motivation pretty much sums up my relationship with exercise.

Your brain, so smart yet so dumb, tries to expend the least amount of energy possible at all times. For the underprivileged students, this translates to studying for ten minutes and still expecting to ace the math test. For us Lazy Girls? I think you can see how not spending too much energy is basically the whole problem.

As Happier Human puts it, “your subconscious speaks in images,” meaning that if you see fit people, it’s easy to imagine yourself as one, and if you can imagine yourself as Sofia Vergara, your lazy ass brain decides you’re pretty much already there. This is why those “if you can dream it, you can do it” posters on every middle school wall in America are utter rubbish. And why looking at attractive people has always just made me want to eat more.

I’ll get right on that. As soon as I finish these pretzels.

source
It Takes Two, Baby

So what about this WOOP WOOP stuff then (one woop just doesn’t cut it, wouldn’t you agree)? Basically, it’s the combination of the two: visualization and dwelling. You imagine what it would be like to strut down the beach in your new suit, yes, but you also mentally elaborate on how the present reality of chomping your child’s abandoned chocolate Easter Bunny while binge watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt might prevent that dream from becoming realized. This is the “mental contrast” part, for those keeping track.

Then we add the implentation int blah blarr part. Long name for a simple concept: the use of “if–then” scenarios. These scenarios help us identify the nitty gritty when/where/how of meeting goals and have been used by psychologists for years in behavior modification, for everything from bargaining more fairly to improving romantic relationships (if I cheat on my wife with her pilates instructor, then she will kill me, I guess?).

There’s one action step to each letter of WOOP, but honestly that makes it seem like more of a process than it really is. This train of thought chugs along quite quickly, even when you’re being very deliberate about it. In fact, you’re probably already doing it.

Got a real big brain but I’m lookin atcher BEEP

For example, maybe you’d like to get a promotion (wish) so you can earn more money (outcome) but Facebook stalking your crush is so much more fun than data entry (obstacle). So you make a deal with yourself that if you can finish your work early, you can briefly look through his/her photos (plan). The if–then scenario helps us overcome the obstacle (if I start to go crazy looking at these figures, then I will get up and stretch).

In one research study, the MCII method was used to improve snacking habits. At first it takes a little mental effort (the study participants had to actually write down their bad snacking habits and ways to deal with them). But after using the same imagery over and over, picking up an apple instead of potato chips became a no-brainer.

Literally. Over time, you make a whole bunch of neuron connections between overcoming routine obstacles and getting to your end result. Eventually, the connection in your brain between obstacle and future reward is so strong that it happens subconsciously. The best part is, it has nothing to do with your feelings about the change (do you think those study participants stopped liking potato chips just because they were choosing something healthier? Hell no).

That sounds like good news to me. It means students can get homework done regardless of whether or not it’s interesting (it’s probably not). It means you can quit smoking even if other people in your social circle don’t (they probably won’t). And it means I can get in regular workouts without necessarily enjoying them (I’m probably not). You just have to make a strong enough mental connection that making good choices becomes automatic.

In other words, a habit.

Say what? Yes, I am basically saying you hypnotize yourself into exercising.

One caveat: WOOP [WOOP] doesn’t work unless you have a “high expectation of success.” This is your efficient brain’s way of keeping you from focusing too much time and attention on stuff that’s never going to happen (wish someone had told my 14 year old self that when I was planning my wedding to Leonardo DiCaprio). Fortunately, becoming fit is very easy for most of us to imagine (see above re: Sofia Vergara). And you know what they say–if you can dream it, you can do it.

Status Update

So how am I getting along with my fitness plan, you ask? All I can say is that I’d better hop right to it and take a dose of my own medicine–while I was working Hairspray the past couple months, I had to use my lunch breaks to choreograph. It got me out of the habit of hitting the gym midday, which had been the bread-n’-buttah of my exercise for the week. It wasn’t a problem then because the daily dancing was plenty of exercise. But now that the show’s over, I’m left with a broken exercise habit and shorts season on the horizon. Let’s see if we can put this into practice!

NAMB: You’re Doing it Wrong

1 Apr

Somebody is doing it wrong.

 

If you’re a woman in the United States, you know by now that there are many choices available when it comes to structuring your family. But only some of them are right. My gentleman readers (or the younger ladies out there) may not know, however, so let’s talk about the many ways your lifestyle choice can be and probably is wrong.

Single, no children

This is acceptable until the age of 26 and three months. If at that age you don’t at least have a highly likely prospect of marriage you’d better start saving up the pennies you’re obviously working too hard to earn, because you’ll need to purchase a subscription to every dating site on the interwebs. And also plastic surgery because there’s clearly something wrong with you. You could spend your money on world travel, hobbies, or continuing education, but I wouldn’t advise it. Being well rounded isn’t half as valuable as being well off and well married. Which brings me to number two.

Married, no children

So when are you two going to have kids? Well, just don’t wait too long. You should probably have your responses to that tattooed to your forehead to save time. Henna tatooed, because future moms shouldn’t get inked–it might affect their unborn offspring. (Dad-to-be, you can skip the tatt, but do work on getting a promotion/raise at least every 18 months). If you aren’t preggers by your 2.5 year anniversary, clearly there are only two possibilities. First and most likely, fertility probs. If you would like kids one day but don’t have any right now, this is actually the only possibility. As the internet has taught us, fertility drops off at age 27 (hence the deadline in life situation #1). And since men can father children into their sixties, the problem must be with you, ma’am. Sure, you’re in grad school and your husband is job searching. We know postpartum depression and alcoholism runs in your family (don’t even play, I saw Uncle Tommy at y’all’s wedding). But since having a baby trumps all other considerations, we know that can’t be the reason you are still childless, so we’ll just say it: I am so, so sorry you have geriatric ovaries. Actually we won’t say it, we’ll just whisper it after you leave the party early (probably to try to get pregnant). On the upside, if you got married after 27, you can put the money you started saving for eHarmony towards IVF instead.

The second possibility is that you don’t want kids. Don’t worry, you’ll change your mind. How do I know? Because having biological children is the only way to experience a meaningful life and real love, and you want real love, don’t you? Your cat/career/friends/partner/best-selling novel doesn’t count.

Unmarried with children

This one is pretty obvious.

LGBTQ or any letter other than 100% arrow straight, with any kind of family status

See above.

One Child

Congratulations, you’ve achieved motherhood! It looks good on you too. For six months. After that we’re sure you’ll bounce back. So–when do you plan to have the next one? Everyone knows that only children are lonely at best and socially maladjusted at worst, and no matter where they fall on that spectrum guaranteed to be a prime weirdo. I know you’re interested in staying on a career track and that’s good. We ladies can have it all nowadays. But you don’t want to wait too long. Sibling spacing is indeed a heavy consideration, but five years? Your kids won’t be in the same school together. Oh. Ohhhhh….you must be having trouble in your marriage. OK, we won’t ask about it.

P.S. I know this great book about secondary infertility.

Two or Three Children

Since this is the ideal number of kids (three is the new black, you know) we’ll move on to other concerns. By now you probably don’t have any friends that aren’t part of your carpool, so you’ll want to brush up on these important discussion topics:

  • Who is your contractor and are they LEED certified?
  • Charter or private kindergarten?
  • What is the hottest workout, and how to look like you’re actually doing it
  • Is three too young an age to really appreciate a Disney World/European vacation?
  • And of course, who is stepping out on whom (husband or wife, duh, we’re not sexist).

Don’t think too much about things like life purpose and meaning (outside of your kids, obvi). Save that for empty nesting, or even better, your deathbed.

Now that you’re family is complete*, this is the time to consider the rest of your life. The gentle applause for staying at home while your kids were babies subsides once they’re in third, first, and preK respectively. Couponing as a full time gig is so 2011. What’s a lady to do? If you can’t manage leaning back in to a high powered career, there’s always activism/volunteerism. Maybe you should try blogging, that’s easy.

*unless your children are all the same gender. In which case–are you going to try for a girl/boy?

Four or More Children

Wow! You have your hands full. How do you do it? I could never manage that many. At this point your only hope of respectability is to be on the board of a Fortune 100 company or somehow in politics–a Kennedy if you can manage it. Otherwise, how could you be a loving* mother, a master chef, a fun friend, a successful careerwoman, have a home that’s a charming mashup of Pottery Barn and West Elm housing a stellar shoe collection, and be able to double as a Victoria Secret Angel on Halloween and Valentine’s Day? (In other words, the definition of having it all). If you are missing one or more of these elements as a woman with four or more children, you will automatically be labeled a hot mess. #justsayin

*defined as doting, but not helicoptery. You’ll know you’re doing it right if each of your children is well-mannered, high-achieving, and popular. 

The good news is, you should be covered in your old age. With that many kids, the odds are definitely increased that at least one of them will take you in or be able to set you up with a sweet assisted living situation. Of course this also increases your likelihood of having one or more of your children living in your basement as adults. Bottom line: make sure your will is up to date.

So, to recap.

I guess if you are an accomplished 25 year old who is engaged to a charming and successful male with detailed plans to birth one girl and one boy in the [not too] distant future with a rockin’ well-dressed bod and a successful yet flexible career, you are all set. Anything other than that and you’re doing this whole woman thing wrong.

Welcome to the club.

Give a woman in your life a high five for doing it wrong today, and more importantly, give yourself a hug. It’s all good.

P.S. Happy April Fools! Check out links in this article for evidence that contradicts the statement.

I love people, I just don’t want to hug them in church

5 Mar

As a kid, I was really shy.

Like, painfully shy, the kind of kid who not only wouldn’t say boo to a goose, but would generally hide behind my mom’s leg and cry when spoken to. The kind of kid who was afraid to call my friends–this was before cell phones, you’ll recall–because I might have to talk to their parents. Sometimes I was even afraid to talk to my friends themselves. I was a regular Beth March, only without the piano skillz.

After long years of sucking it up buttercup, I’m in a better place. I can now call and order pizza with no qualms. I can ask for assistance finding the right size windshield wipers. I make my own doctor’s appointments. I can give an audition calmly and clearly, and at a loud enough volume to be heard in the back of the house (actually, I never really had a problem with that. I dunno, cognitive dissonance?).

But certain parts of me still shrink from social interaction, and conversations, made awkward by me, are part of daily life. I will always be the person who would rather order the pizza online, given the choice.

The weird thing about all that is that I feel great affection for human beings. Even though the Myers-Briggs classification method has been mostly discredited, I’ve pretty consistently scored as an INFP and feel like it rings true.

Although they may be reserved in expressing emotion, [INFPs] have a very deep well of caring and are genuinely interested in understanding people. They make very good mediators, and are typically good at solving other people’s conflicts, because they intuitively understand people’s perspectives and feelings, and genuinely want to help them.

Source

…In a meta kind of way. In a real life way? I can be rul prickly.

Is this your story too? I’ve noticed that people don’t hug me. Or, the only people that hug me are family members and those people who hug everyone.  After a while you have to realize the vibe is coming from you.

Recently we had a prayer vigil at work (not unusual–I work at a seminary) for the president who was dying. It was just as awfully sad as you’re imagining. People who felt compelled to do so stood up and read out verses or poems or started songs, and it was really quite beautiful, as such unscripted slices of life can be. But at the end came the obligatory, go-in-peace, hug-your-neighbor moment. And for me came the gut-level (but quickly covered) reaction, familiar since my youthful Sunday School days, of UGH. Why? I don’t know. I like everyone I work with.

I don’t fit in as a mom. At the inflatable playground, the other mothers’ eyes slide off of me. I play with my kid and write an email to my friends about book club. Nor am I among those of my peers doing Great Things with their lives. Some people are networking, and volunteering, and furthering their careers and whatnot, and I’m just over here like, Ima look up historical events on Wikipedia.

I like to watch those people though. That’s partly why I’m attracted to drama and writing–storytelling in general. I have considered the idea that my only completely natural aptitude might be a desire to connect with humanity. Notice I said desire, not ability. My college acting instructor used to tell me I was thinking about my character instead of being her. I tell you truly and strangely, sometimes I feel like I’m thinking about myself instead of being her.

But only sometimes. Even INFPs don’t sit around thinking deep thoughts all the hours. Mostly I think about how I’d really like to say something canny and hilarious right now, but the words that come out of my face don’t match what’s in my head.

Back to the vigil. By chance I was sitting next to a new coworker. A girl nearish my age with really good fashion sense. We could probably be buds–if I was capable of simultaneous extended eye contact and coherent thought. Alas, the golden opportunity rapidly devolved into that awkward peace-be-with-you hug followed by a run out the door that would make Napoleon Dynamite proud.

So the next time you feel a chill from your neighbor, throw her a bone instead of shade.  Chances are she’s not aloof, just strange.

But I still don’t want to hug it out right now.

Lee Stafford Hair Growth Line: A Review

13 Feb

You guys. I have the slowest-growing hair in the history of the world. I know they say that hair grows an average of half an inch a month, but I think my hair grows that much about every three months. You think I’m kidding? I chopped my hair off to chin length after my wedding in 2009. I started growing it out when I was pregnant with T though, in the interest of making ponytails. And this is how long it got by the time he was born.

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Yeah. Approximately one inch, and that was with hormones. Determined, I continued to grow it out. Right before T’s second birthday, it was like dis.

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So that’s at best, what, 3 inches? In almost two years. By the half inch formula, my hair should’ve been like a foot longer, even with regular trims. (I do have a consolation prize–my nails grow super fast. Nothing like having to trim your toenails every two weeks because they’re pressing against the toe of your shoe. #beauty)

The Challenge

When I was little all I asked for in life was “princess hair.”

Specifically, this.

But because — sigh– my hair is rather fine, it’s never gotten much longer than collarbone length. Longer than that and it tends to get straggly. And that’s unacceptable by princess any normal standards.

A few months ago, I decided to go for it though. Just let it get as long as God can grow it. (OK, maybe not quite. There is such a thing as too long.) But maybe to bra strap length, not to get graphic *snort*.  I mean, why not? Eventually I’ll be too old to rock long hair, at least not without it being a terrifying surprise when I turn around.

I’d already switched to salon brand shampoos a year ago, after hearing from a few too many sources that drug store brands cause waxy build-up. But I figure slow-ass growing hair of this caliber needs a little something extra. So to help me in my mission, I turned to – where else? – Pinterest, and that’s where I came across the Lee Stafford line of growth products.

Salon Brand?

Lee Stafford is a UK celebrity hairdresser who sort of looks like he should be choreographing a group piece on So You Think You Can Dance but instead has his own product line. They sell it at Boots which basically the British equivalent of a Duane Reed, but I got sucked in by the tag line “for hair that never grows past a certain length” (once I got past the sociopathic capitalization, at any rate). I don’t know, maybe in the UK they don’t allow wax in their products. You never know.

Literally.

The bottle arrived with no ingredient list. I guess the labeling requirements are different across the pond? I couldn’t even find the ingredients on the internet, although I did search only briefly, and then really only for sulfates (since my hair is colored).

The retail price for these products is in the $14-16 range per bottle. So, not all that cheap, but by no means top dollar as far as hair products go. I paid $50* at Amazon and got all this.

*of my own sweet, sweet, hard-earned cash, as you should know by now.

There’s a shampoo and a conditioner, and a protein mask that you’re supposed to use between the shampoo and conditioner. I read somewhere that it’s really important to use conditioner of some kind after the protein treatment, otherwise it will eat your hair or something. I don’t know about all that, but I will say that I would never be able to get a comb through my locks after the growth treatment without the help of conditioner. The last item is a milky leave-in spray.

Application and Usage

The biggest complaint in the Amazon reviews was that it smelled bad. I don’t think I would have given the smell a second thought if I hadn’t read that though–it was perhaps a little stronger than other shampoo scents, but by no means did I find it gross or weird.

The protein growth treatment got used up the fastest. You’re supposed to use an egg-sized amount, and even that didn’t spread very far. Eventually I got a clue and starting using it, as well as the leave-in spray, on just my roots (the instructions say to apply all over, but come on, where does new hair come out?). The conditioner ran out before the shampoo because I was applying it all over instead of just on my ends like I normally would (I was scared of the protein treatment). The conditioner wasn’t particularly creamy–it was on the lightweight side if anything. I usually had to use an extra product post-shower to help detangle. #finehairproblems

I still have at least half of the bottle of leave-in treatment left. So my review is based on complete use of three out of four products.

Does it work?

The part we all care about, right? So here’s the BEFORE shot, taken at the beginning of October.

Hair Before 2 fix

This is my hair at the end of my last bottle of shampoo and conditioner (it was Joico, if you care). Please do not judge my toothpaste splatters.

…And this is the after, taken at the end of January (approximately 3 months later).

Hair After 2

At first glance, pretty great results I’d say.

Hair After 3

It looks like we went from clavicle length to armpit length. But wait…

Hair Before After Side

Compared side by side, is there really that much of a difference? I mean, clearly there is new length here, in my bangs if nowhere else. But is it more than would naturally occur in three months without a trim? Hmm. Maybe, maybe not.

Pros:

I think the biggest thing this product has going for it is that I wouldn’t have been able to get it this long and still have it look nice. Anytime I’ve tried to get my hair longer than it is in the before shot, I’ve had to cut it because the ends have gotten so tangly and dry and gross that I can’t even comb my hair, much less make it look cute.  It’s now the middle of February and I still don’t feel like anything except my bangs needs a trim (and that’s just because I like shorter bangs).

Also, it’s shinier. (Sigh, yes, these pictures were taken in different lighting situations but I promise, I spend enough time staring at myself in mirrors to know the effect is not a trick). I like to think that’s health shining through, but who knows. My hair definitely feels lighter and bouncier, despite its being longer (maybe) . Which leads me to…

Hair Before After Back

Cons:

The difference in length is even less distinct in the shot above. By normal growth standards it should be an inch and half longer. But my hair is a little curlier in the after shot which may have taken away from the overall length. What do you think? Maybe I should’ve put the exact same shirt on.

The resulting texture is a bit rough, making combing a little more difficult and the hair not really as smooth and soft to the touch. However, I think that may be because there were no waxes present (that’s what usually gives your hair that smooth and soft feeling–did you know that?). On the other hand, I think there may have been sulfates. Believe it or not, I actually refreshed my color about halfway between the before and after shot, and it still lightened up that much.

Caveats

I should say here that this wasn’t exactly a scientifically controlled experiment. In addition to the Lee Stafford products, I’ve also started taking a high dose of biotin. A word of caution if you’re thinking about starting a biotin regimen: be prepared for ALL your hair to get longer. Embarrassing admission–when the peach fuzz on my face started to veer into sideburns territory, I dropped back to taking that ish no more than three times a week.

I also started using a Tangle Teezer right after Christmas, and it’s been pretty life changing, even if it does take me, like, 15 more minutes to comb my hair now. Around the same time I got a free sample of the Perfect Hair Day cream from the Living Proof line, and I love it. It’s going really far toward softening my hair that extra bit.

Additionally, I wash my hair only 2-3 times a week. That’s how I was able to make these relatively small bottles last three months. I also try not to use heat styling except for on special occasions. Such as when it’s too cold to let my hair air dry.

And of course, let’s not forget I didn’t trim my hair at all. The general wisdom is that cutting your hair helps it grow, but in reality that has more to do with–again–simply keeping it from looking like garbage as it gets longer in its own sweet time. If I can achieve healthy looking hair through products instead of trims, whose to say I can’t get my bra-length hair?

Bottom Line: Would I recommend it?

Yes. If you don’t process (straighten, color, etc) your hair. I’m going to continue to use the protein growth treatment and the leave-in treatment, but I’m stopping the shampoo and conditioner in favor of the ones in this line (yeah, Blake Lively is on the Strange Rocket headed toward Planet Annoying, but you can’t deny her hair is killer). Hopefully that’s enough to save my color somewhat but still achieve the desired effect.

The thing I really liked most about this product is that it really brought out a new texture in my hair, one that was perhaps weighed down previously by those creamy conditioners I prefer. Previously I couldn’t achieve waves like that without salt spray and a curling iron (and even then usually only in fall and spring when it wasn’t raining and humidity was at a perfect 30%).

This is a decently low cost line with results that in my opinion, make it a good value. But as for myself, I might see greater results with an even more radical treatment–not cutting my hair.

It’s been a while man, life’s so rad

27 Jan

Hello friends. I’m hibernating and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

I’ve been catching a lot of screen time, reading a lot of books, and doin’ a little dancing (I’m choreographing a local school’s production of Hairspray, for the three of you who don’t know me from Facebook and/or RL). I sort of despise winter and the only way I can beat SAD every year is to get a little indulgent. I buy beauty products and fleece leggings, read magazines, drink hot chocolate, and forget I’m 30-something for the length of a YA novel or movie (follow me on Goodreads and we’ll swap reviews!).

To that end, last night I convinced P to watch The Fault in our Stars with me. I’d read the book but until this moment didn’t have any interest in the movie because–depressing. But watching it had the intended effect, namely, to make me feel grateful for everything, large and small, that is good in life (Sometimes the cold can make me whiny).

So I’m coming out of my cave for a minute or two to share what I’m obsessing over now. Surprise #notsurprised most of it has to do with food and makeup.

Roku is enabling my DA addiction

The only show that I’m driven to stay caught up on for whatever reason is Downton Abbey. We couldn’t get either of the hand-me-down antennas our friends gave us to work in our house (I don’t know, trees?…), so we ended up ordering a Roku with a bunch of reward points that were built up on my credit card. (The upside to sinking hundreds of dollars a year into keeping an old vehicle in working order). We can’t watch the episodes until the day after they air, but that’s better than waiting an eternity for that ish to roll out on Netflix. I can handle a day.

But seriously. Roku is awesome, and you should get one, and then poop on Comcast’s lawn.

These nails y’all

I’m sort of over crazy nail art. I’m really loving pure colors right now, especially neutrals. Currently I’m lacquered up in this warm winter white, a color of my own invention. None of these polishes were quite right on their own: too gray, bright, and peachy, respectively. But together they make the palest skin tone neutral that my skillful phone photography can’t do justice to.

(For the interested, the recipe is: 1 drop Revlon Bare Bones, 3 drops Avon French Tip White, and 6 drops OPI My Vampire is Buff).

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On the other hand, this mani is kind of a mess so maybe it’s better this way.

My toes are chrome rose gold. You guys! It’s like my toes are wearing jewelry! (That matches the be-YOO-tiful new pink gold watch that P got me for Christmas, beetee dubs). The best part about this nail makeup, other than that I got it on super clearance at Ulta, is that it actually works better without a base and top coat. Laziness condoned? I’m down. Sadly, it’s been discontinued (hence the clearance) but you can still score it on Amazon and Ebay. For the moment, anyway.

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It dries quickly enough that my feet didn’t turn into ice blocks while trying to avoid slipper-smears.

 

Snapware Makes Me into an Adult where Everything Else has Failed

My friend H and I determined, when we were both drooling in the Corningware Outlet, that it’s a true sign of getting older when you are excited about food storage. But the hilarious yet surprisingly awesome set I have right now has started to get too grimy to use, and now I’m hoping to replace it eventually with the full complement of these babies.

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Not Sure Where These Have Been All My Life

I had an amazingly delicious side of roasted chickpeas at our holiday office lunch, and was floored to learn that it’s really easy to DIY that fancy looking snacky-savory-side. And you can add any kind of flavor, really–for my first go around I used garlic, cumin, and parmesan. There are about 657000 recipes on Pinterest but all you really need to know is a drained can of garbanzos for 30 minutes at 400 doused in EVOO and spices. They were intended for a rehearsal snack, but it was all I could do not to eat the entire batch standing up in the kitchen.

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Embarrassing confession: I did not know that chickpeas and garbanzo beans were the same thing before now. This is what happens when your primary food group is pizza.

 

Online Bureaucracy Means One Less Fraught Interaction with Strangers

Maybe it’s because this has never actually worked for me before, but renewing my tag was stupid easy this year. Basically since I started driving I’ve had to schedule a birthday visit to either the tag office or the DMV, even though I live in a county with online renewal. This year I got my renewal notice, emissions test, paid online, got the sticker, WAM, BAM, all in about a two week time frame. You go, state of Georgia.

 

T minus Five Days Until This is Me

Ok so not really. But my main dudes and I are going to Colorado next week to visit my cool lil’ bro C and his cooler better half S, plus one of my very best buddies is meeting up with us from LA. And we’re all going skiing at Copper Mountain! It’s like vacation squared!

 

The Only Thing That could Make me Eat Salad when 45 Degrees Is Actually Starting to Sound Warm

If you don’t have a Kroger in your area, that is a real travesty because this Private Selection Poblano Ranch is everything you could ever want in a man dressing and more, and I don’t even like ranch.

Just give me a head of lettuce and we’re good to go.

 

So This is Neat

Truly though, after that downer of a movie I was walking around my house with new eyes. For instance, I’ve had these little bird hooks forever–seriously, it sat on a dresser unhung the entire time we lived in our old apartment, and it’s been hanging here for almost three. But suddenly I looked at it and just loved it.

Side note: I seem to own a shocking number of clothing with bows.

Side note: I seem to own a shocking number of garments featuring bows.

 

I Swear This Wasn’t Intentional

Not long ago we redid the horrible green floor and mauve trim in my bathroom with peaceful white and deep gray. And that was great. But what’s even greater is that the products on my bathroom shelf are color coordinated and I didn’t even plan it. From the eye makeup remover that I don’t use because it stings but I keep because MERMAID, to my go-to winter body cream. This is the kind of randomness I can really appreciate.

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This Face Though

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This is my sweet, sweet child. My child who not only is free from horrid diseases GAH WHY movie with FEELS?!?, but is basically a 17 year old in a 3 year old’s form (he can’t be any older than that because grown men don’t think fart jokes are funny).

Oh wait.

Anyway. He came with me on the aforementioned Ulta trip, and a stranger actually stopped me to say what a great conversationalist he is, like a little adult. (The fact that he was talking loudly enough to be heard by every random stranger in the store assures me he’s still a preschooler).

He is kind of a ham, which I guess was unavoidable and totally expected, but it still surprises me sometimes. This is a gag he came up with to underscore an enjoyable meal–in this case a lunch of blood oranges and the free soft serve from Jason’s Deli #dontjudge.

Freakin Delicious

Imagine, if you will, that the entire series above takes about ten seconds start to finish, and is punctuated with a jerk of the head and a tiny toddler voice saying the words “FREAKIN’ delicious.”

So what are you obsessed with grateful for this winter?

By now I’m sure you all know I was given neither free stuff nor dollars by any of the brands mentioned here. Kroger, if you want to send me a case of Poblano Ranch I will not say no. Have your people call my people.

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