A (Sort Of) Capsule Wardrobe

I have mentioned this a few times in the past few months on social media and been promising a post forever, so here goes. Last year, I started reading up more on capsule wardrobes. There is tons of information online about creating capsule wardrobes for each season, for the entire year, etc. but I've included a link above to help get you started. After having a child, and slowly getting used to my new post-baby body (totally a thing!), I was craving simplicity in my daily routine and a wardrobe that made me feel good. Keith and I talked about it quite a bit and decided that it made sense to slowly invest in my clothing (and beauty care) so I felt just as good about everything on my body as I did about everything we put on Adeline.

In my research, I stumbled upon Cladwell. It's a website that specifically helps you create a capsule wardrobe step-by-step. Not only do they have you think through your style and fit preferences, but they also provide a process for cleaning out your current closet, and then help you really narrow down your purchases to things you actually need and can wear all year long. Lastly, and the thing I really loved about them the most, is they are very big on supporting locally-made, and/or humanely-made clothing companies. There is a fee to be part of the site, but I found it hugely helpful for the first part of my cleansing, rethinking, redesigning myself process. Plus, I found several new clothing companies that I love (listed at bottom of post). I didn't want to be wasteful in this process, so when getting rid of any clothes, shoes or accessories, I was very selective on where I donated them. And when buying new clothes, shoes or accessories, I really thought of them as an investment and bought pieces from companies I felt good supporting and I knew were pieces that would last a long time.

This process definitely may not be for everyone, especially if you love tons of variety in your closet, but for me, simplifying has been so helpful and stress-relieving. Imagine liking everything in your closet and drawers and everything fitting perfectly. Six months into this process (aside from maybe a few pairs of shoes), that is where my closet is finally at. For the first time ever in my life, I enjoy getting dressed every day. Anyone else know what I'm talking about here (as in the opposite feeling)? I do want to be sure toclarify that I did not replace my entire wardrobe, I did not spend thousands of dollars doing this, and I definitely have a good mix of investment, high-quality, humanely-made items and less expensive pieces I got on sale at Gap (I have this crewneck in white, gray, indigo, and black) or bought through Stitch Fix. I don't think this is even quite as extreme as some capsule wardrobe suggestions, hence this post's title and my referencing it in quotation marks. Also, I capsuled winter separately, which is still a work in progress. For ease of explanation, I grouped spring through fall together and hope it's pretty obvious that the light sweaters are more spring and fall and the shorts and sleeveless tanks are more summer. Also, please note that my athletic gear is all bulked into #11, because it's kind of a lot. BUT to be fair, I am a fitness instructor so please excuse that portion.

My closet in all its glory. See those bright necklaces? That's where the splash of color comes in!

My closet in all its glory. See those bright necklaces? That's where the splash of color comes in!

So, here is what my New York City, spring through fall, "capsule wardrobe" includes:
1) 5 crewneck tee shirts in white, gray, indigo and black
2) 3 sleeveless tanks in white patterned, orange and light blue
3) 4 long-sleeved tee shirts in white, light blue, dark blue and black
4) 6 "dressy" (mix of sleeveless, short-sleeved, flutter-sleeve and long-sleeve) tops in white, blue, navy, gray and black
5) 4 light sweaters in red (cardigan), maroon (off-the-shoulder), dark blue and black (wool-blend crewneck, high-low style)
6) 3 patterned short skirts
7) 5 dresses (1 strapless maxi, 2 cocktail (1 blue, 1 black), 1 blue summer dress, 1 black and white long-sleeved striped dress))
8) 2 pairs of shorts in white and navy
9) 3 pairs of jeans (black skinny, bootcut dark wash, boyfriend style destructed)
10) 1 pair of skinny olive ankle pants (if you follow me on Instagram, you've definitely seen these)
11) Athletic gear - 2 pairs of stretchy black running pants (1 calf-length, 1 ankle-length), 2 pairs of stretchy yoga/athletic capris, 1 pair of black shorts, 2 sleeveless open-backed tops in salmon and blue, 1 yellow short-sleeved jersey top, 4 Fit4Mom tanks in pink, teal, gray and aqua, 2 Fit4Mom tees in teal and purple, 2 running sports bras (1 green, 1 pink), 2 regular sports bras (1 black, 1 purple)
12) Layering - 1 white cami and 1 white tank top

Middle drawer = pants and shorts, Bottom drawer = athletic gear and layering tanks, Top drawer = for my eyes only

Middle drawer = pants and shorts, Bottom drawer = athletic gear and layering tanks, Top drawer = for my eyes only

Phew! That feels like a lot all written out. Okay, please go count your items of clothing now and tell me how I'm doing. :) And now I'm exhausted, so I'll leave you here and save shoes, accessories and my winter capsule progress for another day. Oh, and coats. Because I kind of love coats a lot, and now that I live in New York, at least I have an excuse.

Huge (non-sponsored) Shout Out to: Cladwell for Women (capsule wardrobe source site), Everlane Clothing, Patagonia (my new workout attire), People Tree, Wear Pact, Prana (my favorite yoga pants ever!), Thought (I want all their skirts), UGG (for their transparency), and Stitch Fix - who completely changed my life and wardrobe and I might name a 2nd child after them.

Six Months of Firsts

I realized yesterday that we're halfway into 2017. This year is totally flying by for me, and I have been terrible about keeping up with the blog. We were in LA until mid-March, then I flew back to New York with Adeline and Keith joined us about three weeks later. The main thing I wanted to update you all on was my word of the year "first". In January, I participated in my first political march in LA. At the end of January, Adeline weaned from nursing and in February, I decided to reward myself for the hard work by starting to clean out my closet and start putting together a capsule wardrobe. I'm planning an entire other blog post on that process, but basically in February, I tried Stitch Fix for the first time and it may have changed my life. I won't say too much about it now, but the first pair of jeans they ever sent me, I actually teared up because I have never found a pair of jeans that fit so well for that good of a price. And every pair of pants or shorts or skirts they have sent me since fit just as amazingly (though I obviously don't keep them all).

One of my March Stitch Fix pairings - kept the shorts!

One of my March Stitch Fix pairings - kept the shorts!

In March before I left LA, I decided it would be fun to dye my hair for the first time ever. The stylist bleached highlights and then dyed my hair a cobalt blue. This is one of the example photos I shared with the stylist:

And this is how my hair turned out:

I totally hated it. I was convinced I looked like a Smurf. I thought maybe my hair just hadn't taken to the color well since it was so different a shade than I had asked for. After one week, I wanted to dye it back to its natural black. My husband and my sister both convinced me to wait, but every time I looked in the mirror, I got sad. I've actually started to love trying new things, and I've never been particularly sensitive about changing my hair, but this was different. Finally, after 5-6 weeks of torture, the blue was starting to fade and the bleach was coming through horribly (a la 90s boy band style).

I scheduled an appointment with my stylist here in Brooklyn, and thankfully, she completely changed my opinion of blue highlights. She dyed them the color I had wanted all along and told me about Overtone Weekly Conditioning Treatment. It helps my hair retain the fun color longer and keeps my hair well hydrated. It's also vegan and cruelty-free, right in line with my cruelty-free product goals!

I kicked off the month of April with a big first for me, teaching my first solo Stroller Strides class in Prospect Park! It was so nerve-wracking, and some days it still is, but I've also thoroughly enjoyed doing it. It is super rewarding, challenging, fun, and aside from parenting, it's definitely one of my all-time favorite jobs.

Living Room workout - not where I teach Stroller Strides :-)

Living Room workout - not where I teach Stroller Strides :-)

In May, we decided to take a little weekend getaway upstate to Hudson, NY (highly recommend!) and I drove across the Brooklyn Bridge and into Manhattan for the very first time in the two years that we have lived here (!!!). Driving in the city is definitely a bit challenging, but thankfully Adeline fell asleep not too long into it, and the traffic wasn't actually too bad. Plus once you're out of the city, it's a pretty pleasant drive. I would totally do it again!

Photos taken by my nervous husband

Photos taken by my nervous husband

I have another fun, but super scary "first" planned for the end of this month. And a HUGE one for August, so maybe in July I'll give myself a slightly easier challenge, like making a cherry pie for the first time or something. Thanks for the patience as always and hope you all enjoyed this little life update!

First Year of Parenthood

In 2016, I became a mom to a gorgeous, amazing, feisty, adventurous little girl. A lot of people told me that the birthing part was the least of my concerns and that the first 100 days would in fact be far more difficult. They were oh so right. The first 100 days may be the most tiring, but the rest of the first year makes up for them. This "job" is my favorite one yet. In celebration of my daughter's first birthday being over two weeks ago, I thought I'd share some of my silliest mom moments / mistakes / embarrassing truths from my first year of being a parent. And obviously no judgement if you have similar new parent stories. 

1) Poop Range

I heard countless stories about getting sprayed with pea, especially when it comes to changing boy's diapers, but I never knew that this can also happen with poop. Let's just say the worst incident involved Adeline sneezing, an open diaper, and a face being too close to the wrong end. 

2) The Breathing Check

This is another one of those parenting quirks you don't think will apply to you (until it does). I still remember waking up in the middle of the night to check on Adeline in the bassinet beside our bed, and sneaking into our room during the day to stare at her chest and make sure she was breathing. The worst was probably once we transitioned her into the crib in her own room. There were definitely one too many times that I quietly tiptoed into her room just to insure she was okay, even though I could see her on the monitor perfectly fine. Ah the breathing check. 

3) The World Wide Web

When your child seems a little more whiny than usual or gets their first runny nose, the last thing you should do is search their symptoms online. I think my most stressful online search was actually about clogged milk ducts though. One site recommended pumping a little, another would threaten in all caps not to pump because that tells your body to produce more milk. I was starting to hyperventilate and freak about mastitis when Keith gently reminded me that I had a lactation consultant's phone number. This is where professionals come in handy. Contact your own lactation consultant, postpartum doula, family doctor, pediatrician, chiropractor, etc. Stay off the internet. 

4) Not Accepting Help when Offered

We hired a postpartum doula to help in the first month of being home with a newborn, since we don't live in the same state as any of our family. I wound up using her so little that she actually didn't hold me to the contracted hours initially agreed on. I never even took her up on her offer of taking Adeline for a walk so I could catch up on sleep. Oh man, do I wish I could use those hours sometimes now. 

5) Providing Constant Entertainment

The first six months of Adeline's life, I was convinced that she needed constant stimulation, interaction, entertainment, etc. I would get down on the floor and talk to her about everything, regularly move her from one activity to the next. I slowly started to realize that she was actually capable of entertaining herself and engaging in activities much longer than I expected from a baby. I've read more up on this philosophy over the past few months, and it's so much more enjoyable parenting during the day now. We can go to the park, have a picnic, and I read a book while she stacks her blocks, stares at leaves or grass blowing in the wind, tries to eat leaves on the ground, etc. At home, she explores the living room, pulls every toy out of her small toy basket, flips through her picture books, empties her diaper bag, laughs at herself in the mirror. I sit nearby keeping a watchful eye, but allow her to enjoy her surroundings and independence.

6) Worrying about Milestones

I definitely may have encouraged her to sit up earlier than Adeline was ready. It was just so darn cute to prop her up on the bed or couch, but it was also completely unnecessary. Now I'm more of the mindset that she'll do it when she's ready. I'm excited for more regular walking and more words too, but I also understand better now that more words = the sooner I'll start hearing no in response to everything. 

7) Eating Dirt (and other things...) 

If you follow me on Instagram, then you won't be surprised to hear that I took SO many baby photos this year. And due to my constant photo taking (I'm trying to be better this new year), there may have been a few close calls and dirty mouths thanks to my being distracted behind the camera. There were several times I was taking a photo at the park where Adeline managed to grab a handful of dirt or grass and I'd have to drop the phone and attempt to wipe all the dirt out of her mouth, but the worst incident was with a bug. I still don't know what kind of bug it was, but I was taking a photo of her standing against the wall and the next second she was chewing something she found on the wall. I managed to get out a tiny head. The rest was digested. Protein, right? 

8) Date Night

Keith and I agreed that we would go on at least one date night each month once the baby was born. Our first ever date night, Keith's parents watched Adeline when she was six weeks old, we ate at a restaurant across the street, and were back in less than a hour. The worst date night incident though was our first time using a non-family member as a sitter. She was professional and kind, but Adeline had a really tough time going to sleep and we basically had to lay her down upset and rush out the door to make our reservation. The entire first hour I was stressing that she was awake screaming at home, and the sitter didn't return either of my two anxious parent texts "just checking in". Keith and I barely spoke over dinner, because I was so stressed out, and we hurried home as soon as we finished. Adeline had been asleep the entire time. The sitter just hadn't noticed my texts. The next time we went out, we set up a wifi-enabled monitor and were able to check on her ourselves, every ten minutes or so (and sent no anxious texts to the sitter). Ah new parenthood. 

9) Cabbage Leaves 

All I'll say is I totally tried this for an entire week after Adeline weaned. It might just be an old wives tale, and I'm not sure how much it actually helped, but it does feel kind of nice. :-) 

10) Bathtime Fun

A week or so ago, I managed to get in a pretty strenuous living room workout while Adeline sweetly played with her toys beside me (not always the case). Adeline has recently transitioned to one afternoon nap, and since I really didn't want to delay a shower for several hours, I decided we could take a bath together for me to clean up. It was going great until she tried to eat the bar soap and got upset when I took it away. She stood up in the bath, loudly crying, and then peed all over me. So my "smart" idea turned into an afternoon shower anyway. 

In this year of Firsts, I've learned a lot, especially how to be more forgiving of myself, ask for help when needed, and worry a little less about all of the what ifs. In January, Adeline celebrated her first birthday, Keith attended his first film festival premiere of a film he edited, and I participated in my first Women's March. Hope your New Year is off to a great start with a fresh slate for all kinds of silly mistakes and learning opportunities!

My Cruelty-Free Daily Beauty Routine

During my pregnancy, I started researching cruelty-free products for newborn care. I read various blogs, online reviews, even got a few sample products. It initially came about because I wanted to feel confident about anything I was putting on my baby's body. The first company I discovered during this search was Babo Botanicals, which I wrote a review last summer on. Adeline and I are both regular users of their shampoo/body wash and conditioner. Amidst my in-depth research, I discovered a lot of affordable products that were both cruelty-free and made of quality ingredients I could actually pronounce. Here are some more of the reasons we've made the switch, and you might want to as well. Over the past six months I gradually transitioned to almost 100% organic, cruelty-free products (each time I ran out of a product, I replaced it) and thought you all might enjoy hearing about my day-to-day routine.

Before I jump into it, two quick disclosures. 1) I am NOT a skincare professional, so please do your own research and check with a professional before switching to anything new. Keith treated me to a facial last week (one of my Christmas gifts) and the esthetician said my face was in great condition, so seems like I've found a good process for me, but keep in mind there are different skin types. 2) This is 100% my personal opinion. I was not given any of these products for free or asked to promote.

Daily Facial Care
I started using anti-wrinkle creams both morning and night when I was about sixteen. My grandmother regularly reminded me growing up about caring for your skin through the use of sunscreen, moisturizers, and skin protection (big hats and sunglasses!). I listened well and used the same product for fifteen years, but it not only wasn't cruelty-free, I also had no idea what the majority of the ingredients were. Here's a rundown of what my morning routine looks like now:

That's it! I'm pretty low-key on my daily routine, and unless I've got special plans, I really don't even use makeup on top of the tinted moisturizer. I do have some cruelty-free makeup info too though, so stay tuned for that. Below is a makeup-free photo for an idea of how I look daily (sans the ice cream - I don't have that daily!). If I'm exercising outside, I first apply Babo Botanicals Sport Sunstick to any exposed parts before going outside. Once back inside, I shower and then do the above routine.

Here's a quick rundown of what my evening routine looks like:

Bonus fun tip: I read recently that honey is great to use on in-progress pimples (not just teen problem sadly). I have now tried it twice in the past few months and it totally worked! Dab honey on the affected area after your nighttime ritual. There was a slight tingling as it went to work and by the next morning, both times, they were significantly less red and gone within two days. As I mentioned at the beginning of my post though, please research any products and remedies before using yourself.

Special Occasion Facial Regime (ie mascara time!)
I know a lot of women may think I'm nuts for not wearing mascara every single day, but firstly I was blessed with very dark lashes and secondly, I'm lazy. :-) I can't possibly remember to wash off mascara every night along with remembering to take out my contacts, so please excuse my tired eyes. Again, because I'm pretty low-key and like a very natural look even when "done up", I haven't tried a ton of cruelty-free makeup products, but I will say of the few products I have tried, I LOVE 100% Pure. I totally assumed when switching to cruelty-free products that they probably wouldn't be as effective. Silly perhaps, but that was just my assumption. Plus $25 for mascara that makes my lashes look insanely amazing, has not been tested on animals, is made of all-natural ingredients I can pronounce, and (strange but true) has a nice smell, sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me! Again, they totally didn't pay me. I just really love their mascara. On that note, here are the makeup go-to products I use from 100% Pure. I apply these after my morning ritual for special outings or events.

I am clearly no makeup guru and will never post how-to guides on social media, but here's a photo of me (far right) from a family Christmas shoot all "done up" with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece and daughter. Pretty intense brows, eh? :-)

I already linked my previous review on Babo Botanicals from last summer, but just for a full-body recap, I shower using their shampoo/body wash in my hair and as my shaving gel (works great for my sensitive legs!), their conditioner, plus their lavender lotion after every shower and each evening. I also have used Tom's of Maine Original Care Deodorant, Fluoride Free Toothpaste and Mouthwash for years and continue to very happily. I haven't found a cruelty-free hair product yet to replace mine, but I'm starting to research Paul Mitchell's products now. If you have any favorites, please share in the comments! Lastly and most importantly, the main part of my daily beauty routine is water. I drink at least 64 oz a day, and on days when I exercise more vigorously, I make sure to drink a little more on top of that. 

I tried to figure out a price breakdown for each section, but since some things I have to purchase each month (like the bar soap) and most last me many months in a row, the math was getting way too complicated for me. So instead, I'll just let you know that if you were to purchase all the facial products I use daily that would cost about $90 2-3 times a year (plus $4 every other month or so for the Tea Tree bar soap and $40 once a year for the exfoliant). And if you were to purchase all the makeup I listed, that would cost an additional $135 once or twice a year depending on your usage. I completely understand that the makeup might be double what you currently spend depending on the company, so here's a super thorough list, broken down by type and affordability, of all the high-quality, cruelty-free makeup lines out there.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, feedback, questions, your own favorite brands, etc. Also, please let me know if you'd like to continue to see posts like this from time to time. Next post, I'll be sharing all about the 10 silliest things I did in my first year of parenting.

Links to some of the websites I found most helpful during my research: Jenni Raincloud, Gimme the Good Stuff, Cruelty Free Kitty

Celebrating the Winter Solstice

A month ago, on an online parenting forum, someone asked for tips on how to skip both Santa and the strictly Christian aspects of Christmas with her children. She asked for feedback if anyone else had done this and had details on where various Christmas traditions originated. Since my childhood did not include Santa and he won't be part of our family tradition, I thought others might also be interested in learning more about how I responded to her question. I explained that my mom told my four siblings and I as children that Santa Claus was inspired by an actual person, St. Nicholas, and though Santa is not real, the idea of him inspires people to give to others. We also were taught that everyone has different traditions and it's important to respect those, so if you were wondering, no I never ruined Santa for anyone else. I've had several friends who were taught as children to believe in Santa express concern that not including him may take away from the "magic" of Christmas. As a child and still to this day, I find magic in the process of decorating a tree and frosted cookies to share with family and friends, in strolling through a neighborhood of houses strung in multicolored lights, sipping on hot chocolate in front of a fireplace with someone you love, and watching your family members eyes light up as they excitedly unwrap the gift you spent months making or picking out just for them. There is so much magic and excitement everywhere this time of year, so please know that if you also weren't raised to believe in Santa or have considered not making him a part of your family tradition, it's 100% okay. Your kids will be just fine. And you will find a lot of other ways to make your family's holiday experience truly special.

Image from Jeh's Today

On the second portion of the forum poster's question, and the main purpose of this post, I thought for many years that Christmas was strictly a Christian holiday. So when I started to explore my spiritual and religious beliefs in college and realized that they no longer aligned with my childhood beliefs, I started to worry that meant missing out on celebrating various holidays. I won't delve too deeply into my religious beliefs here. My super simplified explanation is that I believe there are many religions because there are many different types of people and each of us finds different religious or spiritual practices that bring us closer to a higher being or help us be the best, kindest, most loving version of ourselves. For some that is in long hikes, exploring the outdoors, running, meditation, yoga, prayer, reading, fasting, volunteering, etc. And for some, that also means attending church on a daily or weekly or monthly or annual basis. Mainly, I'd encourage everyone to ask lots of questions, do a lot of soul searching, and find what's best for you and your family. Thankfully both Keith and I went through this spiritual exploration separately around the same time in our lives and came to a similar conclusion.

In the past five or six years, in trying to figure out how we wanted to celebrate various holidays as a family, we have done a lot of research on where various traditions (mainly Easter, Halloween, and Christmas) originated. We found that many Christmas traditions originated in pagan winter celebrations (see this article from the Christian Post). Did you know that Christmas trees were originally called Yule Trees (see this article from Christianity Today with some tree and gift history) and the evergreen served as a reminder amidst the dead of winter that the earth would bloom again? Did you know that December 25 was designated Christmas (though not when historians actually believe Jesus was born), because how closely it fell to the Winter Solstice and Christians hoped it would draw more pagans to Christianity? It is believed that Advent Wreaths were based off pagan traditions of lighting candles during the longest night of the year as a symbol of hope and reminder that the sun would rise again (see this article from Catholic Education). Mistletoe was considered by the Druids to bring joy and peace. Pagan Romans considered laurel wreaths (like the ones we now hang on our doors) sacred to the sun god, Apollo. This article has a further lightened synopsis of various origin stories.

Image from Time Slips on Norse Yule Traditions

I find all of this very fascinating! Plus, as I said earlier, I think it's so important when continuing or passing down traditions to research where they came from and contemplate if it's right for your own family. This is part of the reason three years ago we decided to reduce the number of gifts we exchanged and move to a tradition of "something you want/need/wear/read". We wanted our family celebration to be more about our time spent together and less about the number or size of gifts under the tree. In the past few years, as we started to discuss adding a child to our family, I started to struggle even more so with some of our Christmas traditions and constantly questioned whether we were doing them for the actual symbolism or just to simply do them. I know some day in the not so far off future Adeline will start to question everything. And when she questions why we decorate a tree, exchange gifts, sing certain songs, go to church, hang lights on our house, and give handmade cookies to our neighbors, I want to insure we have a very well thought out, honest response. And not just "because we do". So this year, we're trying something else new to our family that feels more fitting to our beliefs. Tonight we're going to have a Winter Solstice celebration. 

This solstice celebrates the longest night of the year and is often ushered in by turning off all lights in your home and eating your family meal over candlelight. There are many ways to celebrate the Winter Solstice, so if you're interested in learning more or possibly having your own family celebration, I recommend reading this list of suggestions, this article that shares more on the history and various traditions, this slideshow from Refinery29 with some simple tips, or picking up any of these books from your local bookstore. This year, for our first Winter Solstice celebration, we're going to turn off all the lights in our house, turn off our phones, and take an evening walk around our neighborhood together. We plan to bring a few branches of rosemary from the bush out front inside while singing Deck the Halls, and form a wreath on our dining table around four candles. We'll hang a sprig of mistletoe above the front door and shout three times "Hug and kiss, hug and kiss! May this whole house be full of bliss!" Next, we'll light the four candles on our dining table - one for each family member and one for our family as a whole. And then enjoy a special homemade meal together with spiced eggnog and some traditional Christmas music playing in the background. Lastly we'll have our family gift exchange by our tree while Adeline tries to eat the wrapping paper (not part of the celebration) and then we'll carry Adeline to bed by candlelight.

I'm excited to see how our holiday traditions continue to evolve over the years, and I'd love to hear how some of your traditions have changed once you settled down, had children, or did your own research. Feel free to privately message me on my comments page if you have a question on my experience without Santa, how our family Winter Solstice celebration turned out, or if you'd like some of my favorite recipes for cookie exchanges. Happy Solstice! Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!