Sunday, December 30, 2012

American Girl Customer Service Rocks!

We took our first trip to the American Girl store this week.  Gracie loves her dolls and takes the responsibility of caring for them very seriously.  I will smile and giggle when she is caring for them because it is so sweet, and she looks at me like "This is a very serious job.  It isn't funny!"

We had doubled up on some items and needed to make a return and I thought the experience would be too fun to do in person instead of sending it back in the mail.
If you can go at Christmastime, DO, it is gorgeous!

We were mesmerized from the start.  It is an enormous store and is full of any and all things AG.  We missed the Bistro hours, sadly but it looks fun and surprisingly affordable.


While we were there, John set Cecile down to fix a display that was in a precarious position.  I grabbed her so we wouldn't forget her and in the process, her hat fell off.  We realized it quickly and returned to the spot and it was gone!  Someone had taken it and Gracie was so sad.

I called American Girl that night (at 11:30 PM- their customer service hours are amazing) and they are sending a complimentary replacement.  This is the third time I have called their CS and have always had amazing assistance from them.

Their items definitely are pricey and it will be a slowly compiled collection, but the workmanship and customer service make it so worth the money.

Thanks, AG!

Before the hat-tastrophe!






Thursday, December 27, 2012

eSalon Review (And Offer!)

I first read about eSalon in InStyle magazine.  It had actually been written about a long time prior to me reading it, but I got a year behind in my magazine reading.  So if you saw me in 2012 wearing 2011 styles, that's why.  Or it could be that I live predominantly in yoga pants and superhero tee shirts.

I read that eSalon is customized salon-esque haircolor that you do yourself at home, with all the tools and detailed, customized instructions sent by the company to your door.

Anyhow, the idea intrigued me- I am constantly changing my hair and looking for the best inexpensive way to do so.  I was especially interested at this point in time because I had butchered my hair.  Nope, I am not talking about that time I put my hair in pigtails and just chopped, hoping it was even, or the time(s) that I have cut my own bangs and called my sister in a panic to come fix them NOW.

It was when had I decided to ombre my own hair at home.  Gracie colored this picture for me at church the Sunday after I did it:



This rendering actually looks a lot better than it did in real life.  Gracie was being generous. I messed it up more than once actually, trying to get  just the right  ombre effect, and my ends were fried.  And orange. 

I'd had a bad experience at the last salon I'd visited and was not interested in paying $100 to cover my mistake, but I have had iffy results with boxed color in the past too.  It was perfect timing to try eSalon.  

I went to their website and answered a hair history questionnaire with no small amount of shame. I'm cruel to my hair. I am known to change my hair color every few months and may show up blonde, or a redhead.  I've had pink and purple hair, too.  Anyhow, at the end of the survey, I came to this summary page:


Before checking out, I was given the options to purchase a tool kit and color brightening shampoo.  I also selected if I wanted a one-time order or shipments sent to my home on regular intervals of my choosing.   My order arrived within three days!

I did not photograph the process then, but when I emailed eSalon and told them I wanted to review their product, they sent me another package so that I could photograph the product for the blog.  Here it is:    


                      

                           

They think of everything, they even sent a battery!

                                             
                                   
Is this supposed to be me?  I look swanky!
Here came the tricky part- the part that almost made me stop the process.  There were two bottles of color in the box, with different labels:


So I did something I never do...I read the instructions.




After this, I felt more confident and was prepared to move on.  In the center part of the package was a box labeled 'accessories'.  

I opened it was was really excited by what I found:



TWO pairs of gloves, stain remover, stain guard and your standard after-color conditioner.  I cannot be the only person who messes up a pair of gloves, then needs to go to the bathroom or tie a shoe and then makes a colossal mess trying to get the nasty gloves back on, and I KNOW I cannot be the only person who has had to cancel plans because my hair color did not stay solely on my hair...

So...I followed the instructions to the letter, and it was actually VERY easy.  Essentially, you use one bottle on your roots and another on your ends, then you do a rinse in the shower.  Your instructions will likely vary from mine because I have a different hair history and hair goal.

BEFORE:

Okay, so not only is this a picture of my bad DIY ombre (and a bad picture of me in general), but you get a bonus photobomb from Philip.


AFTER:



I plan on using eSalon for all of my coloring in the future.  Without a discount code, it runs about $20 per treatment.  So, about double the cost of box color and a third of the cost of salon color.  

Pros:
1) Cost compared to salon visits.
2) Ease.
3) Vibrancy of color (I noticed that my color looked fresher and brighter than when I color via box).

Cons:
1) If you are used to coloring from a box, this is more expensive.  But, I have found the color to be better and the application less risky.
2) If you like to color your hair on impulse, the three day wait will feel like torture.  


Here's the deal- www.esalon.com is offering my readers half off of their first order!  Just follow the link.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What Love Looks Like (Christmas 2012 Edition)

What does love look like?  This will be a regular blog theme here.  It is displayed in different ways every day.

Today, love looks like a pair of penguin socks.  John, with everything else he has to do, and regardless of the fact that we do not exchange Christmas gifts as a general rule, made a trip to the store to buy me penguin socks for Christmas.




Lady is guiltily chewing on a stolen bone, and love is Brinkley letting her have it and instead happily chewing on a noisy squeaking penguin toy from his stocking. 

The kids are playing outside in the snow, the glorious snow that we did not expect to have on Christmas day, considering that it was 80 degrees last week.  Love is the fact that on this snowy day, Philip gave Gracie his waterproof gloves even though it meant he would be wearing the kind that will get soggy and cold fast.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Community

This past week, I have heard many stories of someone's life being changed by their community.

I have received my own 'community support' many times this holiday season.  Ranging from a friend sending me a message of support and strength via Facebook, or a box of goodies arriving on my doorstep from the kids' Gammie on just the day everyone needed a 'pick me up', every day there has been something to show me how blessed I am.  I am surrounded by a beautiful group of people.

How can you show someone in your community (whether it be virtual or physical) you care in the year to come?  I am going to look for new ways to support my community and just maybe I will change someone's day.  :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bad Band Name Ideas #2

Something funny happened with my last bad band name idea- it turned out to be a real band name!  I purchased a dashboard Jesus figurine on a spring to bring to the church gift exchange.  I joked to John that 'Dashboard Jesus' would be a funny candidate for our little game.  I searched the web and lo and behold it IS a band name!

Monday, December 17, 2012

What Is Your Favorite Christmas Song?

In elementary school, I came home and announced that "The Dreidel Song" was my favorite Christmas song ever.  That is one of my favorite little anecdotes, but I guess 'ever' didn't mean forever because now, hands down, my favorite Christmas song is Oh Holy Night, and I listen to it year round.  If you have not heard David Phelps sing it, here is a video.  The song begins at 1:25



What is your favorite Christmas song?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Shooting In Connecticut (Harden not your heart)

This morning, an elementary school was shot up in Connecticut.  I found out about it through Facebook and went on to read more via news websites.

My initial thoughts were ones of pain for the parents and the students.  Then someone posted that we should remember to pray for the gunman's family.  Oh how true that was, and I made sure to do that as I prayed for the families.

As the morning has worn on, posts spewing hate began to pop up.  Hate towards our President, and our laws and immigrants and minorities and the list went on and on.  The pain that I felt when I first heard the news was compounded.  Was this their solution to the problem?

People like to have someone to blame.  And, like my Uncle Brian has said with so much wisdom, "Compassion and acceptance.  Hard to do.  Anger is easier."  I am going to try for the compassion and acceptance.

 Love is the solution.  God is the solution.

Father, help us to show others the Love that You have shown to us.  The mercy and the goodness too.  Be with these families who have been affected forever by this tragedy and soften our hearts.

I am also praying that my own heart not be hardened.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Giant Snowflakes And Other Sundries

When I was a kid, I got an autograph from Seth Green.  It said "Much love and other sundries" above his name.  I remember looking up the word sundries when I got home and thinking "Love is not sundry".  But I valued that autograph because I have always liked his work, and I probably still have it in a box somewhere.

Which leads me to the point of this post which is OH MY GOSH, do I have a lot of stuff.  I am like a mini hoarder.  While going through things, it would not be surprising to hear me exclaim "Ooh, look- a napkin from our first date!"

With Philip in 'rest mode' last weekend after his trip to the hospital (I will write a blog post on Philip soon, I need to), John and I had a lot of time on our hands.  I had not left the house in a week except for a brief trip to the store for milk, and the hospital.  That in and of itself is crazy making stuff- so I needed to be accomplishing things.  So I cleaned and purged.

We do not do big Christmases when it comes to gifts but I realized that adding anything to this house without removing something would be insanity.  Plus, we are not even done unpacking and we have been here for a year!  Yes, it has been a year if you know what I mean, but even with everything we have been dealing with, we need to finish unpacking.

So I found a Christmas decoration that John and I bought our first Christmas together.  It is a large snowflake with a hook on the bottom.  Our names are on the large snowflake, and the idea is that every year, you hook another, smaller snowflake onto the bottom with the year on it.  I had the great presence of mind to buy two of the 'add-on- snowflakes.

We are now exactly 11 snowflakes behind and not only that, but we now have two kids who are missing from The Great Family Snowflake.

I was not great at thinking ahead, obviously.  Was I hoping that miraculously ever year for the next 75 years, I would find a tiny hooked snowflake while out shopping?  By the time we hit 15 years, this thing would be a monstrosity, where was I planning to put it?

So I am encouraged now to look at everything before I bring it home and think it through.  Because clutter is stressful, and it is a lot of work to go through a lifetime of things.  I don't want to keep so many 'things' that I cannot enjoy them or remember why I have them. I also don't want to buy 4 cheap bath mats to 'save money' when I could have purchased a very nice one for less than what I shelled out for the 4 cheap ones.

So for 2013 I am challenging myself to be a conscientious purchaser and add high quality items to my life and be mindful of the quantity of things I purchase and hold onto.  I just hope I can convince myself to throw away the ginormous snowflake ornament.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Bad Band Name Ideas #1

Sometimes I will say a phrase and think "That would make a really terrible name for a band.  Yet someone, somewhere would think it was brilliant."  For whatever reason, this happens a lot.  Tonight's was:

Preliminary Grime

Saturday, December 8, 2012

American Girl Tutu Tutorial



Our American Girl adventure has been a short one so far, but I have a feeling this will become a great hobby for Gracie and I to take up together.  John and Philip have big plans for constructing doll scenes and beds, making carpentry a hobby of theirs.

It all started when an unsolicited American Girl catalog arrived in the mail, and it just so happened that Gracie checked the mail that day.  She instantly fell in love with the Marie Grace doll and collection.  It was the only thing she wanted for Christmas.

My Dad emailed a few days later and asked what the kids wanted for Christmas.  Seeing as they each only had one thing on their list, we agreed to split the list and Marie Grace was ordered and on her way!  I was positively giddy.  When she came, John and I oohed and ahhed quietly over each little thing in the box.  

Then the amazing happened and American Girl decided to offer Marie Grace and her best friend Cecile at over 60% off, AND the bed too.  I ordered, knowing I could return the full price Marie Grace and in her place with a small investment more, get two dolls and a bed.  That was an exciting day in our house!  Cecile is a gorgeous doll, and now there will be two dolls who can play together and we can host tea parties.  And ballet recitals!

The idea of a tutu came very quickly because I make people sized tutus already.  I had all the supplies and the idea of a tiny tutu was just too cute.  I do not plan on purchasing most things from American Girl, I would like to make most of it if I can.  

So here it is, the American Girl Tutu Tutorial!



1.  Choose your tulle and ribbon, and have a pair of scissors handy.



2.  Decide how long you want your tutu to be.  I like mine to be medium length, because if they are too long, they lose the puffiness.  For the medium length tutu, I cut the tulle into 11" strips.  You'll want about 2 feet of ribbon so that you can tie the tutu in a pretty bow in the back.


3.  Your doll's waist is about 11." around.  So I tie knots in the length of ribbon on either side of 11" like this:  
This will become the 'base' for my tulle.  When this area between the knots is full, I know my tutu is done.


4.  Make a 'U' shape with your tulle and place it underneath your ribbon.



5.  Bring the bottom two edges together and loop through the bottom 'rung' of tulle and pull.



then tighten, and you will have a knot.  The tighter you tie these knots, the more tulle you will be able to place on the ribbon, and the fuller your tutu will be.  If you leave them a little looser, you will still end up with a full tutu and will save on material costs.




Then just keep going until you have filled up the space on the ribbon between the two knots.  The ribbon will be squished under the tulle knots but that won't matter, it will not be seen.  I like to use two colors in my tutus, but you can do any number of colors, just alternate as you are knotting your tulle.

When you are done, tie a bow in the back and voila- a tutu for your doll that cost less than $5 and you will likely have enough tulle left over to make more tutus for kids or dolls!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Santa Medley

John and I were in the car one time. John was scrolling through my Christmas playlist and he says in a very confused voice "I'm going to play this one.  I wonder what a Santa Medley is?"  You have to know that he did not say Santa, but it came out sounding like Saaahn-taaaah.  I said "Do you mean the SANTA Medley?"

We laughed and laughed and laughed.

Anyhow I was thinking about Santa today. We are somewhere in between two schools of thought, which happens with a lot of things actually, and usually neither side of whatever issue it is is thrilled with whatever I say. But we have managed this issue pretty well and haven't caught a lot of flak for it, fortunately.

We decided when we first had kids that we were not comfortable with telling them Santa was real.  Santa is part of our Christmas celebration in that we might have ornaments or other decor with him, and we love Santa movies.  When our kids asked if he was real, the answer was "no, not in the sense that most people say he is".  As they got older we talked about the various stories about where Santa came from and who he was.  They haven't suffered from a lack of Christmas cheer and appreciate that we were honest with them.

Our biggest concern was- how to keep our kids' mouths shut so that they do not spoil anyone else's Christmas traditions???  This was pretty simple, we just told them it is not something we discuss outside our home because we never know what someone else chooses to teach their children.

I can't even count how many times I have heard the Santa debate come up in a group of Moms.  It boils down to this- you know your kids and you know your values.  There's a way to do what you feel is right for your family and it might not look like what anyone else is doing.  So enjoy your Santa (or your Saaaahntaaaah) or your menorah and Santa combo, or your Santa-free Christmas and rest easy and PLEASE drink looooooooooooots of cocoa.


What are your favorite traditions?  I would love to hear about them; you can share them below in a comment!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Accomplished Mama

I am feeling like quite the modern Proverbs 31 woman today.  I woke up at the crack of dawn to get a great American Girl deal, shared the deal with a friend, made a nutritious and yummy breakfast for my kids, and they rose up and called me AWESOME!  I'm even clothed in something more significant than my ripped up Batman tee shirt and Hello Kitty pajama bottoms.

Considering that most days, keeping everyone alive and taking a shower feel like major achievements, I am feeling fabulous.