Jamberry Scamberry: Why The Latest MLM Preying on SAHMs Will Never Give You Financial Freedom

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 6.12.49 PMIn its heyday, FarmVille farmers outnumbered real farmers 60 to 1. In the past few months, I’ve received more Jamberry nail party invites on Facebook than FarmVille invites in 2010. In a word, this epidemic is ridiculous. And, quite frankly, it’s much sadder than plowing fake crops and building imaginary barns because Jamberry “consultants” are investing real money ($119+) in owning their “business” and expecting “financial freedom” in return.

Look, I admire your ambition to have “financial freedom”, and when you spam me on Facebook asking me to buy X, Y, Z product, I really feel bad for you and wish I could help you, but I’m not interested in spending $45 for you to make a $13.50 commission just to make you feel less stupid. Also, $13.50 is not “financial freedom”. It’s a cheeseburger and fries. And you need to sell 27 Jamberry nail sheets just to break even with your “start up” fees of $119. Which means you need to sell 30 to afford a meal at McDonalds. Math, people. Learn it.

Let’s do the math, shall we? Jamberry promises its consultants a minimum 30% commission on products sold. So, if you sell $1,000 worth of Jamberry products, you’ll earn $300. The nail wraps cost $15/each. That means you have to sell 67 Jamberry nail wraps in order to make $300. If “financial freedom” is your goal, that’s a lofty one. In order to make the same amount of money as a minimum wage job before taxes, you would need to sell 258 nail wraps…per month. You’d make $1,160/month if you sold 258 wraps.

Since Jamberry likes to push the buy 3 get 1 free deal, let’s assume you can sell Jamberry wraps to customers 3 at a time. This means you need to have 86 people buy 3 wraps each every month. Ask yourself: do you even know 86 people, much less 86 people willing to charge their credit card $45 for some ugly nail wraps?

Jamberry touts itself as being a cheaper, quality alternative to a traditional in salon/spa mani/pedi. However, the reason I go out for a mani/pedi is to relax. To be pampered. For me, it’s worth the $60-75 trips to the salon or spa. For women who regularly get manis and pedis, the salon is a method of relaxing and convenience – these women do not have time to fool around in the bathroom for 15 minutes with a blowdryer or mini heater and apply vinyl stickers to their fingers and toes. They just don’t. That leaves us with Jamberry’s target demographic: stay at home moms. Jamberry lures them in with the funky nail wraps and friendship of other moms, then goes in for the kill: what Jamberry really wants is not to sell vinyl nail wraps, it wants to sell you on the idea that you can be financially successful if only you would sign up and hand over $119 to push their products.

Think about it: does Jamberry need consultants? No. When’s the last time you needed a consultant to buy nail polish or products? You hear about something through word of mouth or advertising, and you try it. You might be thinking, “Well, that’s why Jamberry needs consultants – for word of mouth advertising.” And that assumption is incorrect because marketing consultants, in the real world, get paid to market a product – they do not hand over cash upfront in order to have the privilege of marketing a product. They do not pay for the products they market. They are employees – not self-employed “business owners”. Jamberry operates by scamming women into signing up to be consultants so they don’t have to pay employees or their benefits – not because they want women to become successful business owners or have financial freedom.

SO, ladies, please, stop signing up for Jamberry. Take that $119 and get your hair and nails done, or set up your own Etsy shop, or, hey, start a blog! Jamberry is not going to give you financial freedom. It’s just going to make you feel like a dope and you will lose friends over it, or at the very least change your friendships with women who are judging you for being naive, who are disappointed in the product you endorsed, or who feel awkward about being asked to spend money they don’t have to make you $13.50/sale ($45 * 30% = $13.50). I bet your friendships are worth more than $13.50 each, so lay off the Jam juice.

It’s not just me who knows Jamberry is a scam. Take a look at these other stories:

 

Three Dinners in Three Days: A Review of Plated’s Subscription Service

Want to try Plated and get 2 plates for free? Click here!

I’ll admit it: in the few minutes I scroll through Facebook every day, I was drooling over the dishes in Plated’s advertisements. It didn’t help that I was getting the feeling that my cooking and grocery shopping game was getting kind of lame. I was in a food rut. So, when plated offered 4 free plates with the purchase of 2, I decided to give it a try.

What’s Plated, you ask? Plated is a food delivery service that provides the recipe and pre-portioned ingredients to make dinner for 2 or 4 people. Plated is a subscription service, and you can choose how many meals you want delivered each week. You choose from their weekly, ever-changing menu. It’s like restaurant fun without having to actually get dressed and go out. Also, you have to prep and cook everything by yourself. And, also, it’s not like a restaurant at all.

So, I’m going to share my Plated experience with you. If you want to jump to the “bottom line” review, click here. It started on April 1, 2015 (no, this wasn’t an April Fool’s joke). I signed up, paid $24 for 6 meals (3 meals for 2 people – bargain!), and then nothing happened. That whole choose your own meals thing? Yeah, it didn’t happen. I went to My Account and looked at my orders. I saw that three meals were selected randomly, and quite honestly I wasn’t really a fan of any of the selections. I used the help box and messaged Plated:

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After looking at the menu, I decided to swap the pasta dish for the beef lettuce wraps. Why didn’t I ask to switch all three? Well, I realized that the dishes I was drooling over were premium dishes (not included in the trial) and cost $30 per plate (so, dinner for me & my husband would be $60. If we wanted to include my toddler in this meal, we would have to purchase an additional 2 meals…making the total at home dinner for one night $120. Um, yes, you just read that correctly.)

Two days later, on Friday, April 3, my Plated box arrived. With fucking spaghetti.

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I did not reach out to Plated to correct the mistake, because I thought, “Maybe this is pasta fate. Maybe the universe is telling me that carbs are okay on Saturdays.” And I gladly accepted. Who doesn’t like fresh spaghetti?

So, three recipes:

  • Day 1: Ginger Trout en Papillote with Miso Butter, Sweet Potatoes, and Snow Peas
  • Day 2: Fresh Spaghetti with Pan Roasted Artichokes, Garlic, and Lemon
  • Day 3: Pan-Roasted Za’atar Chicken with Spinach-Feta Twice-Baked Potatoes

And I’ll guide you through what really happened with my Plated experience.

Day 1

Ginger Trout en Papillote with Miso Butter, Sweet Potatoes, and Snow Peas

IMG_0158So, it started with the ingredients. All the ingredients were organized by recipe. Anything that wasn’t in the recipe bag itself was clearly marked with what the ingredient was and which recipe the ingredient was to be used for. As I started the recipe, I thought, “Wow, this is brilliant. It would be super easy for someone who doesn’t know how to cook at all.” I began getting excited about this dish. Could I really make restaurant worthy food without the headache of planning a meal and shopping for everything? Let’s face it, even with a list I forget things at the grocery store. I was really hoping Plated would solve all my dinner dilemmas.

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So, I followed the instructions. I prepped all the ingredients. I sliced the scallions and separated those suckers by color. I cut up ginger into 1/4″ round coins. I cut a lime in half. The entire time, I was thinking, “Couldn’t Plated have done this for me? Is it really necessary that I sit here in the kitchen, cutting up produce? Wasn’t the point of this service that it would make things easier? Why am I still doing all this nonsense?”

IMG_0163As I moved on to the next step, stirring up the butter with miso paste, I thought, “Maybe this is worth it. This miso butter thing smells really good.” Because it did. It smelled fantastic. I won’t bore you with the details for Day 1. I’ll cut to the chase: my Ginger Trout en Papillote with Miso Butter, Sweet Potatoes, and Snow Peas, despite my best efforts, came out looking nothing like the pictures. And despite smelling really amazing and exotic during prep (fresh lime, miso butter, sesame oil, etc.), it was disappointingly bland and truly uninspiring. I ate it, because it wouldn’t kill me and after spending 45+ minutes in the kitchen during my toddler and newborn’s evening nap I knew I would not get another opportunity to go fiddle around in the kitchen that evening. But, I really felt duped. I felt like I had been mislead with the fancy French word for parchment paper, and for $12.50 a serving, I could have ordered some truly delicious takeout.

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Day 2

Fresh Spaghetti with Pan Roasted Artichokes, Garlic, and Lemon

I’m not even going to get into the details. This smelled disgusting while cooking (the olive oil, the roasting artichokes? I don’t really know what could possibly make it smell so disgusting, but it truly was gross.) and the instructions were, well, wrong. It said that a sauce would start to form with the pan roasted tomatoes, but from what I know of tomatoes and sauce, the wrong type of tomatoes were provided. Interestingly, this dish came out very close to what the picture showed, but, it was gross. And when I eat carbs, I want those carbs to be delicious. THIS WAS NOT DELICIOUS.

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Day 3

Pan-Roasted Za’atar Chicken with Spinach-Feta Twice-Baked Potatoes

Ok, so day 3. I was not looking forward to making another Plated dish, at all. I was epically disappointed with the first two nights, and I just wanted to get these ingredients out of my fridge so I could go grocery shopping the next day. (Yes, I was looking forward to grocery shopping!)

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Like the night before, this recipe included white wine, and given the past two days of Plated experiences, I decided maybe I should just drink this wine instead. And I can only caution you with similar minds that this is a horrible, terrible, awful idea. Because this is what happened to my face after taking a sip of Plated’s “white wine”:

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No, those pictures are not flattering. And, no, that was NOT white wine. I’m pretty sure it’s white wine vinegar, and why Plated did not specify that in the recipe or on the package is beyond me.

So, I gladly poured that shit in the pan as directed.

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After the allotted cooking time (according to Plated 6-7 minutes on each side for chicken), I noticed that my chicken felt jiggly – like it was still raw. Plated doesn’t tell you to make sure the chicken is cooked, but I did anyway:

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That, people, is raw chicken. And I honestly think that Plated’s obligation to tell customers these recipes take 30-45 minutes is what compelled the company to lie about the cooking time. I mean, if someone ate this, they could get seriously ill. Not cool, Plated. Not cool at all.

Since all of my ingredients were drying out now, thanks to an extended and unanticipated longer cook time, I had to do something. I could not contain my inner Paula Deen. I had to add butter and cover.

IMG_0385Which I’m pretty sure saved the day.

The twice baked potatoes? Yeah. Not baked twice at all. The Plated instructions specifically tell you to use the microwave for 5-7 minutes (turning once in the middle) or you could bake the potatoes for an hour – but WHO has time for that when Plated lied and said it would take 45 minutes for dinner and you’re starving? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But, apparently I did have time to double the microwave time because the potatoes were also still raw. Ew, ew, ew.

By the time I was done making this meal, I was so hungry. Maybe that’s why I didn’t dislike this Plated dish. It was not bad, but, it’s chicken and potatoes. Can you really screw that up? And, if you add spinach and feta to anything it’s going to taste good. You can even make quinoa delicious with spinach and feta. And we all know quinoa is gross.

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So, if you want to know if Plated is worth it, my honest opinion is noI think it’s worth mentioning that I was not paid, compensated, or asked to review Plated, as many bloggers have been. And, that’s important because I made my decision to try Plated based on the opinions of others, who may have been influenced to give a positive review. Or those people are drunk. Drunk people will eat anything and think it’s good. PLATED IS FOR DRUNKS!

Everyone has different taste in food, true. If you really don’t know how to cook at all, I don’t know if Plated can help you because the instructions were not great and definitely not detailed enough for a first-time cook. However, if you know your way around the kitchen a little bit, but just want to try something that’s not frozen or pre-made, go for it. If you think Dominos is good pizza, you’ll probably love Plated. I, personally, am a pizza snob who thinks Dominos is garbage, but to each their own (actually, no, I’m totally judging you and your intelligence based on your taste in food. Wrong? Possibly. Satisfying? Absolutely).

Needless to say, I cancelled my Plated subscription.

The Neutrogena Naturals #WipeForWater Challenge – Sponsored

IMG_0079Yesterday, I received my latest VoxBox from Influenster containing a package of Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Makeup Remover Cleansing Wipes. In my box was a little card explaining the #WipeForWater challenge, and I’m so excited to get started.

What’s #WipeForWater? Well, in the spirit of Earth Month (April, people!), Neutrogena & Influenster have paired up to conserve water. I’ve been challenged to wash my face without water for a whole week. Yes, you read that right! Instead of using soap and water, I’ll be using my Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Makeup Remover Cleansing Wipes all week long. I’ll update you on this journey as the week goes on, but today is day 1!

You can check out my updates on Instagram @cassandraroth or Twitter @bottlesoup. See you there! :)

What If We Stopped Calling Every Disagreement a “Mommy War”?

mommywarThe “mommy wars”: we’ve all heard of those. Even the childless know about the “mommy wars”, but in case you’ve been living in a cardboard box for the last decade or so, the “mommy wars” are, in short, what any strong disagreement or difference of opinion is called among adult women who have children. And quite frankly, it’s ridiculous.

Let’s not get it twisted: the fact that all women (who happen to have children (you know, “moms”)) don’t agree on everything is not ridiculous. What’s ridiculous is that society expects all “moms” to feel the same, act the same, and think the same. It’s just not realistic, and it’s absolutely unfair. Furthermore, it’s definitely sexist beyond belief. And I have a huge problem with all of it.

While, in theory, it would be great for women with children to get along and form an unbreakable, unified support group for each other, it’s just never going to happen. Why? Well, because the only thing every mom has in common is that she has children. That’s it. That’s the only unifier. We don’t expect all persons with penises to unanimously agree on all things. We don’t expect all persons with brown hair to like purple. We don’t expect all persons who live in the same town to eat the same cereal for breakfast (or even eat cereal at all). Although having children and being responsible for children is a huge, life changing acquisition, there is very little to do with motherhood and child rearing that is one size fits all.

Think of your “mommy” friends: among your small group, you likely do things much differently. From your birth story to your dietary choices, you most likely do not agree 100% (or even 79%) with your fellow mom friends. So, why does society keep insisting we all circle together and sing Kumbaya? It’s not going to happen. Ever.

What would happen if instead of calling every disagreement a “mommy war”, we just settled into the fact that we are adults first, mommies second. In fact, we are only mommies to those we birthed or adopted; we are not societies mommies. We are not responsible for being “mommies” to the world, or even to our “mommy” friends.

We smugly shake our heads at the backward attitudes of “Mad Men,” but at this particular moment in our history, some combination of overzealous parenting, savvy marketing and glorification of hearth and home have coaxed the public into viewing female parents as a strange breed apart from regular people. You might feel like the same person deep inside, but what the world apparently sees is a woman lugging around a giant umbilical cord.” – Heather Havrilesky, “Our ‘Mommy’ Problem”, NYTimes

It’s time we stopped grouping adult, female parents into an isolated group of glitter, goop, and Graco. Most “moms” are so much more than their parenting ideals, so let’s start treating each other that way. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a “traditional” role. It doesn’t mean you have to put down the glitter glue. It just means we shouldn’t expect that from every mom – Pinterest be damned. Let’s rejoice in the beauty of our diverse opinions. Let’s celebrate the fact that our lives are not cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all creations. Because one size fits all truly fits no one well. So, let’s all disagree. Let’s get upset. Let’s hate each other. Let us be, unapologetically, who we are. And let’s stop being passive aggressive about it; let’s be honest. I’m a mom, but I’m not your mom. So, pardon me if I don’t act like your moral compass.

Why I Will Never Apologize For My Stance on Whiny SAHMs

whinysahmsOn October 11, 2013, I wrote a controversial post entitled “Why Stay at Home Moms Need to STFU (And, BTW, I Am One).” In the (roughly) 18 months since I published that post, I have been routinely bombarded with comments, emails, and social media responses to that article. Some sing my praises while others outright bully me, but regardless of the sentiment I’ve read each and every response, and in most cases I’ve responded directly to the feedback. Many, many disgruntled moms have tried, in vain, to shame me, make me apologize, or otherwise convince me that my opinion is completely wrong. I think it’s time I wrote a follow up post, but spoiler alert: this isn’t an apology. And, I’ve consistently reaffirmed the fact that I will never apologize for that article.

LUXURY

Let’s go over a few things, shall we? In my experience with angry responses, it seems that most moms were ticked off by the fact that I referred to staying at home with your children as a “luxury”. You’ll be happy to know that a recent op-ed in the New York Times echoed your grumpy sentiments. In her article, “A Stay-at-Home Parent is Not a ‘Luxury’,” Allison B. Carter wrote, “So in some ways, yes, we are lucky that I can stay home. But a luxury is a nonessential item. An indulgence. What I do is essential, and certainly not self-indulgent.” Carter goes on to list all the “luxuries” she does without in order to stay at home. This argument is so fucking annoying it’s not funny. Guess what? Staying at home is nonessential. That’s why daycares, nannies, and sitters exist. If you’re truly broke and sad about it, you can work opposite shifts. The argument that your presence at home is absolutely essential and irreplaceable is idiotic, but furthermore the luxury I refer to in my post is the fact that you get to spend all your time with your kids, and that is absolutely nonessential. That is absolutely an indulgence. And if you don’t feel like having the precious, precious ability to be the sole caregiver of your children is something luxurious and indulgent, then you’re doing it wrong. AND BEFORE YOU WRITE A NASTY COMMENT…YES, everyone has bad days, bad weeks, bad months, etc. But – if at your core, you wake up angry and resentful more days than you wake up happy and excited to spend another day with your kids, then you should not be at home. And you should stop making excuses for why you’re staying home. Your sanity is worth something; even if it’s just an extra $56 after daycare and the illusion of professional significance.

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RELATIONSHIPS

Look, I’m not here to be your marriage counselor, but since it comes up in a lot of responses, I’ll bite. You should not be disrespected or demeaned in your relationship; you should not disrespect or demean your partner, either. My point about handing the kids off the second your spouse/partner walks through the door is this: it’s completely inconsiderate. If you’re at home all day with one child or seven, you want a break. I get it. I understand it. It’s rational. However, assuming that the minute your partner walks through the door your “job” is over is completely ridiculous. Please tell me how your partner worked all day, and has to do it all over again the next day, but also must clock in for a second shift the second he/she gets home. If you really feel like being a stay at home parent is a “job”, then why oh why is it okay for your partner to do double duty, but you only have 1 responsibility? Again, before you go ape shit on me, I said in my original post and I will say it again: This does not mean your partner shouldn’t be involved. This does not mean your partner shouldn’t be equally involved as a parent. This does not mean you never get to take a shower or go to the gym or take a break. It just means you need to be a little bit more considerate of your partner and accept the fact that stress happens outside the house, too. SAHMs are not the only ones who have it “tough”, ok? Communicate with your partner. If your partner needs an hour to unwind when they get home, give it to them. If you’re really going nuts, hire a sitter or recruit grandma/grandpa to help you, but chances are you can deal for a few more minutes until your partner is recharged and ready to relieve you.

LANGUAGE

I can’t believe I even need to address this on the Internet, to an audience of adults, but…my blog is not for children! It’s not meant to be read by toddlers or preteens; it’s made for adults. If I want to swear like a sailor, I will do so. That does not make me, or anyone else using colorful language, a bad person or a bad parent. And, to every bitch attacking my use of profanity, the answer is NO. No, I do not talk to my children that way. No, I do not talk to my husband that way. No, I do not speak to strangers in public that way. But here, on my blog, I’ll curse up a fucking storm if I’d like to, because I can. Because I want to. And mostly for effect. Get over it, prissy pants.

JUSTIFICATION

If you don’t like my opinion, that’s okay. You won’t hurt my feelings. I know what I wrote is controversial. But you do not need to justify your feelings to me, a stranger on the Internet. If you’re truly comfortable and confident with your role or your opposing feelings, GOOD FOR YOU. But if I’ve hit a nerve please be honest with yourself. Being honest with yourself will make you a happier person. And happy people make better parents. (In case you’re wondering, I’m a very happy person.)

TIME MANAGEMENT

Please don’t feel the need to justify why you “have no time” to me. I have the same 24 hours in a day that you do, and I manage to get a lot done most days. Some days, I manage to get nothing done. But guess what? No one is keeping score. So, manage your time in order to get things done that are a priority to you, and stop making excuses for why you can’t/won’t accomplish something. Your children are not excuses. They do sleep at night, and some nap during the day. It does not take 24 hours to do the dishes, run the vacuum, straighten up toys, or throw in a load of laundry. In fact, it maybe takes less than 2 hours to do all of those things, and even less time if you stay organized.

SAHMs DO NOTHING

I really wish most of you would be honest. I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat myself: be honest. I know thousands of you are on BabyCenter, TheBump or CafeMom for hours a day, chatting with other SAHMs and complaining about how exhausted you are. I also know thousands of you are writing me angry comments and you seemingly have plenty of time for that nonsense so, yeah. Sometimes, SAHMs do nothing. Sometimes, people do nothing at work. You’re not fooling anyone by pretending you’ve spent the day doing important shit and haven’t had a single second to just do nothing. It’s all in your head. Adjust your perspective.

So, to recap:

  • If you resent staying at home with your kids, stop doing it. Yes, it’s that simple. Get a part-time job. Get a full-time job! Go back to school. DO something. Whining and telling me your husband won’t “let” you is RIDICULOUS. You are an adult. Act like it and take control of your own life, because NEWSFLASH: your children will grow up and realize you absolutely hated being at home with them, and in a lot of cases they think you resent them. And that’s awful.
  • If you don’t like my opinion, go about your life. Yup. Self-explanatory. Sure, I’ll still entertain the hate mail. But, really, I thought you didn’t have free time for anything…?
  • If you want to get more things done, be honest. Get a planner. Write down what you want to accomplish today, and check things off as you go. Or do it the opposite: write down everything you’ve accomplished today, even if it’s a diaper change or 12. Writing it down will help you see what you’ve done and what else you can do – it will get you on track. If you don’t “have time” to write anything down, then you definitely don’t have time to be nasty to me, so save it.
  • Enjoy staying at home. Just relax. Take a deep breath. Remember that instead of being at home with your little munchkins, you could be in an office or a store getting treated like crap by someone who does not give a shit about you. Instead, you’re knee deep in diapers courtesy of your built-in fan club. Embrace it. Those tiny terrorists love you. They need you. You are their everything. Find joy and peace in that.

8 Places to Buy Stylish Nursing Clothes

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If you’re exclusively breast feeding or pumping, wardrobe can be a huge issue you overlooked during pregnancy. Tired of the whole nursing tank and button up shirt or cardigan combo, I sought out some stylish, comfortable nursing clothes options and decided to share those options with you. Yes, some are a bit pricey, but there are others that have great sales and bargains. Here are my favorites:

1. Milk Nursingwear

Milk has a great selection of tops, dresses, sleepwear, nursing bras, and other nursing essentials. Milk Nursingwear even has a gift registry option, so if you’re expecting you’ll definitely want to register here. The nursing clothes you find here are great for day or night.

2. Mamas & Papas

Very cute selection of nursing tops and dresses! Mamas & Papas has a variety of mom & baby geared goods so definitely check out the rest of their inventory.

3. A Mother’s Boutique

The website itself is nothing fancy, but the nursing attire is fabulous. I’m particularly fond of their sleep and loungewear, which AMB seems to carry more of than any other nursing clothing website.

4. Belly Moms

So many adorable dresses just in time for spring and summer!

5. Au Lait

There’s no way around it: Au Lait is very pricey. However, if you need something for a special occasion, Au Lait probably has it.

6. JoJo Maman Bebe

This store is located in the UK, but the but the style is fit for USA. I love the maxi dresses they carry!

7. ASOS

ASOS was a favorite of mine for maternity wear, and I was delighted to discover their nursing clothing. Great sales, great quality, and great customer service.

8. Boob Design

THEY HAVE HOODIES. Need I say more? Amazing. Now I can take my toddler to the park and not worry about my layering attire in order to effectively nurse my newborn.

11 Household Essentials for Parents with Toddlers

It’s no secret: toddlers are like tiny hurricanes. They destroy almost everything in their path, and by the time they’ve fallen asleep, you’re left to pick up the pieces. It’s like my living room is littered with a 2,000 piece puzzle that’s been left in front of an industrial sized fan for a few hours. Naturally, there are some casualties (R.I.P. coloring book and race car track. You will be missed), but most of the chaos is fixable – if you have the right supplies. Here are 11 things you should always have on hand if you have a TIH (Toddler In House):

1. Magic Erasers
These small cleaning wizards are quite possibly the most accurately named cleaning product on the market. Yes, Magic Erasers are really magic. Recently, our 19-month old has been banging his toys together during an activity known as “playtime”. His toys had scuffs and discoloration, and while he couldn’t care less about the physical appearance of Buzz Lightyear and Captain American, I was really concerned about the battered faces and extremities of these miniature superheroes. Magic Eraser magically removed their afflictions, and the toys look brand new. Fabulous. The only way the Magic Eraser could be improved is if it magically erased toddler tantrums. Why can’t we get on that, Mr. Clean? Hmmm?

2. Batteries
Having a stockpile of batteries in all kinds is essential to toddlerhood. Please don’t ask me why all of these toys need different kind of batteries and always go dead at the most inopportune times. But, be prepared and avoid meltdown city by always having batteries on hand. And, don’t be stupid: some toys don’t take those common, regular batteries you can buy at the store. No, some toys need special battery packs. So read the instructions and always have a backup, and a backup of the backup. Your sanity is worth it.

3. Ziplocs
Inevitably, someone will give your toddler an age-inappropriate toy, which will have tiny pieces that are choking hazards or otherwise obnoxious. Ziplocs are a great, simple way to keep toy parts organized. Ziplocs are also a must-have for taking snacks or sandwiches to-go, since toddlers are always hungry when you’re nowhere near a kitchen. You can purchase reusable bags for an environmentally friendly option, or you can just be honest with yourself about the fact that you will never, ever wash those things and Ziplocs are just 1,000x more convenient. Just get the Ziplocs.

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4. Insulated, locking, to-go coffee mugs
It doesn’t matter that you’re not leaving the house this week (or any time in the near future). Having a great to-go mug is the solution for the lukewarm, day-old coffee problem toddler parents have. Keep your coffee or tea hot, protect your toddler from burns and your beloved drink from spills with a locking lid, and you, too, can finally finish a hot cup of joe again.

5. Disinfecting spray
Let’s face it: toddlers are gross. Leave the diaper off for a second too long, and you have a disgusting mess on your floor (if you’re lucky) or $2,500 couch (if your toddler effing hates your guts). Also, the toys need a cleaning once in a while (uh, yeah, you should clean your toddler’s toys. Have you seen what your toddler does with toys? Yuckkkk).

6. Hand sanitizer
Again, toddlers are gross. Sometimes, toddlers are gross and also demons who will not let you leave the room for a second to wash your hands. Hand sanitizer. You need it. Gallons of it.

7. Disaster bags
For those diapers that permeate the almighty Diaper Genie, you need what my husband calls “disaster bags”. Or on the go diaper genie bags that contain baking soda. Wrap said shitsplosion in disaster bag, tie tightly, then dispose in diaper genie.

8. Candles
The expensive kind. Because truthfully no matter what you do or how often you take the trash out your home will smell like vomit and feces. Eww.

9. Paper Plates and Cups
Who wants to do dishes after your whirling dervish has finally went down for a nap? Not me, and not you. Paper plates and paper cups: get both, and get both now.

10. Stain Removers
Yes, I said stain removers, with an “s” – plural – for multiple stain removers. Toddlers will make multiple kinds of stains on a multitude of surfaces. Cover your bases now.

11. Crayons
Because sometimes you just need to let your toddler color to the heart’s content. And guess what? If your toddler colors on the wall, it’s no big deal. That’s what Magic Erasers are for!

So cuddle up on the couch with your hot to go mug of coffee (it doesn’t matter that you made it four hours ago, it’s still hot!) and revel in the fact that thanks to this handy list, you’ve officially “got this”.

Happy parenting!
xox bottlesoup

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Two Under Two: What’s a Mom to Do? 7 Steps to Make Your Life Easier

During my pregnancy, I would stress out just thinking about having two little munchkins in diapers. It’s been a little over 2 weeks, and so far, it hasn’t been terrible yet. I realize I may be setting myself up for a huge disappointment by admitting that two under two hasn’t ruined my life yet, but maybe it’s my perspective. You see, it’s not that I’m not exhausted (I totally am) or stressed out (also, yes) or overwhelmed (regularly), it’s that I realize this crazy, sleep deprived, wild time is only temporary. Eventually, my newborn won’t be a newborn anymore. She’ll be an infant, then a toddler, and before I know it, she and her older brother will be at school. I can’t get this time back, so I’m staying in the moment and enjoying it.

A lot of my mommy friends with children the same age are easily defeated. I don’t blame them; it isn’t easy to be a mom of one and with two it doesn’t get easier, that’s for sure. But I want to share a few things that keep me sane, in effort to help others who may be feeling like their life has suddenly become too much to handle.

1. Take time for yourself

Yes, I know sometimes this is not possible. However, perhaps it’s best to redefine what “time for yourself” means. It doesn’t have to be a spa trip or girls outing (although both are nice and highly desirable). It can be much simpler than that and it is essential to your well-being and stress maintenance. For me, time to myself means a shower – preferably once a day, but every other day is not the end of the world. I lock myself in the bathroom, turn the sink faucet on full force to drown out the baby and toddler noise (because, let’s face it, my husband is 110% capable of watching the kids but if I can hear them, I feel that mom guilt/obligation to rush) and warm up the shower. I splurge and spent that extra cash on soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and anything else I need to pamper myself in house. I also bring a bottle of water, a snack, and some form of entertainment in the bathroom in the event that both kids are asleep. Yeah, I’ll blog or catch up on Grey’s Anatomy in the bathtub. Although my showers are usually less than 25 minutes, I feel rejuvenated and mentally reset.

A few of my favorite bath/shower indulgences:


Aveda hair products. I love their shampoo and conditioner. I also love their leave-in product, Smooth Infusion. It’s a great detangler and smells fantastic.


MamaMio is expensive, but so, so worth it. Your skin will look and feel fantastic. Their Goodbye, Stretch Marks! cream is rumored to be revolutionary.


Trader Joe’s sells a green tea soap from France that is amazeballs, but this one is good, too. (TJ’s is cheaper, BTW) It smells like you’re at the spa, and it’s great for removing the toxins from your skin.

 

2. Eat well

Yes, we all feel the pressure to eat healthy and lose the baby weight. Yes, it can be challenging to make meals while watching children. But, being honest with yourself and realistic at the grocery store can take a lot of stress out of the whole food situation, and can help you avoid ordering costly and unhealthy takeout 5/7 nights a week. A few of my favorite food staples are KIND bars, protein bars, deli meats, sliced/pre-cut cheese and veggies, and pre-made salads or wraps. You can make these yourself or purchase at the store (Trader Joe’s has a great, affordable selection of ready to eat salads and wraps). I keep track of my food with My Fitness Pal, which keeps me accountable about my food choices, but eating well starts at the grocery store. Eating well doesn’t need to be difficult. You just need to plan ahead. Your body will thank you for it, and you’ll feel much better if you feed your body right instead of resorting to junk all the time.


KIND Bars are a must. Almond Coconut is my favorite, but the sea salt caramel varieties are also to die for. There’s also dark chocolate ones. Yum.

3. Stay hydrated

Dehydration can make you tired. It can make you overeat. It can mess with your supply if you’re breastfeeding. Basically, dehydration is the worst. Invest in a reusable water bottle or cup/straw combo and refill it regularly. Coconut water is also great if you’re feeling really dehydrated and tired – it has tons of potassium and electrolytes. It’s so much better for you than Gatorade – and it tastes yummy, too! I mean, it comes in chocolate. Hello, healthy indulgence.


Chocolate Coconut Water. Electrolytes + potassium + hydration + chocolate = why aren’t you clicking the picture to buy this right now?!

4. Be active

It’s easy to park yourself on the couch with the baby, but you’ll only feel more tired if you simply stay put. If your baby wants to be held constantly, invest in a baby carrier. A few favorites are ring slings and soft structured carriers like a Beco or Tula.


Beco Soleil. At $135, it’s more affordable than the Tula, but absolutely worth the investment. Babies love it. It doesn’t require an infant insert. It comes in neutral, dad-friendly, gender equal colors. What’s not to love?

5. Force yourself to leave home

I know, I know. The idea of taking your baby or children out of the house can be scary and incredibly stressful. I’ll admit I get serious anxiety just thinking about leaving home with both the kids, even if my husband is along to help. But, even though the whole process can be a pain, I’m always happier when I’ve left my apartment and got some fresh air and real world interaction. Go to the grocery store, the mall, a park, or just a walk down the street. You have to rip off the bandaid and just do it.

clarkislastroller
Yes, my stroller looks insane, but look at that happy toddler! And content baby! We all survived a trip to the mall. Worth it.

6. Stop being cheap

Spend the extra money on things that will make your life more convenient. As much as I hate seeing the bill or total at the store, I’m grateful for every little thing I’ve invested in that makes my life simpler. For example, single cup coffee for my Tassimo costs a lot more than brewing a pot of coffee, but sometimes I really don’t have 3 minutes. I have maybe 30 seconds, and I’m glad I have the option to just pop in a disc and hit start. I’ve also splurged on baby goods, like the 4Moms MamaRoo, 4Moms Breeze, 4Moms Infant Tub and Britax B-Ready, to have ease of use and quality of product. I don’t have to fight with my playard/pack n play every time I want to disassemble or assemble it. It literally takes one hand. My stroller was expensive, but it holds both my kids, folds up easily, and I can still fit a diaper bag and two cups of coffee on the thing. My husband is very tech savvy, and as far as home entertainment goes, we’ve invested in that heavily. I now consider TiVo and AppleTV to be essential for all new parents. Let’s face it, there will be days when you can’t go out or don’t want to – or it’s after midnight and you’ve finally got both kids asleep and can actually watch adult entertainment. In those moments, you’ll be glad you recorded the last 7 episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians or can watch Game of Thrones from start to finish with HBO Go.

Get these things, thank me later:

7. Let go of the mom guilt

You are a mom, yes, but you are also still a person – an adult person – who is allowed to enjoy kid-free time. If you have friends or family nearby who are trustworthy and willing to take the kids off your hands for a few hours, let them. Go out to eat with your partner. Go have coffee with a friend. Go take a yoga class. Or go home and take a nap. And do not feel guilty about it. You’re allowed. In fact, it’s encouraged. Your kids will not miss you (that much. At least not as much as you miss them). Your kids will still be alive and demanding when you return. If you don’t have anyone nearby to help out, please, please, please go on care.com and interview potential babysitters/nannies. Everyone needs a break from time to time. Do not allow yourself to be held captive by the tiny humans. You are not their prisoner, no matter what they say or how you feel some days.

letitgo

I realize these tips are pretty general, but I promise you if you take my advice, you will feel better. And happier moms are better moms. So, take the steps to be a brighter, cheerier mom. Your kids (and your partner) will thank you for it.

The Plague of Three Courses

Three Course Sunday Dinner Made Easy (But Doesn’t Sound Easy ;)):

Roasted Chicken with Thyme, Garlic, and Lemon, Crab Meat Gnocchi with Melted Havarti and Gruyere, and a Spinach Pear Salad with Honey Dijon Dressing

Sunday Dinner: Oven Roasted Chicken with Thyme, Lemon, and Garlic, Gnocchi with Melted Havarti and Gruyere with Crab Meat, and a Spinach and Pear Salad with Dried Cranberries and Shaved Almonds

HOW TO BE CREATIVE WITH MEAL PLANNING FOR A PARTY…

I usually don’t post three different menu items at once…but I realize that you all may have encountered many times before…

Have you ever been plagued with indecision when it comes to entertaining your guests? Which appetizers and entrees should you prepare that will blow them away without blowing your money? If you’re preparing a three course meal, you need to coordinate all your meals and make sure it doesn’t feel like a sloppy hodgepodge. Oh yeah, and the dreaded “wine pairing…”

Honestly, for someone like me, it takes me a solid hour to decide (usually) what I want to prepare. I always want to go all out for guests, as if it were a holiday.

I will read food blogs and scroll through Food Network like many of you. Pinterest always makes me feel like I am lacking creativity, and I never want to fall short–ever.

So what is my advice to you? Feel free to galavant via the internet for inspiration, and whatever you do, stick to these cardinal rules…

1.) Create dishes that are familiar classics…

2.) But figure out a twist.

Use your mind to think about traditional meals you personally have enjoyed in your life. Stick to what is comfortable for you. For me, pasta is always my safe haven. So I knew yesterday that I wanted to incorporate pasta.

So then I thought of using gnocchi (Italian dumplings.) When Cassandra and I went to Europe, we had the most delectable homemade gnocchi that it truly brings me back to Venice. It’s the best of the carbohydrate world: potato and pasta. Finding the balance between the two is tough when creating your own, so if you’re not feeling particularly rebellious, you can use Giovanni Rana’s–it’s a great pre-packaged substitute.

Once I decided on gnocchi, I knew I had to incorporate two cheeses that would complement the outrageously expensive crab meat.  When I thought about my adoration for cheese–yes–I thought of Kraft Mac and Cheese (God forbid), I knew I wanted to present comfort food but in a way that would be distinguishable. I thought about the rarity of a blend that could be the most joyous union: Havarti and Gruyere. Both cheeses that are relatively affordable, but they are not as common as say Sharp Cheddar and Swiss.

To up the ante, I decided to make it a seafood delight by adding succulent crab meat. Why crab meat, you may ask? It’s one of the best seafoods out there, and I know of only few people who say they “distaste crab.” Usually, it’s getting the crab out that makes it a deterrent for people to eat it. Again, realizing it’s not too cost effective to pick the meat myself, I purchased the jumbo lump crab in a  container. No judging–I picked good quality, and you know what? When my guests came over, I could actually socialize. This side dish came together swimmingly like a casserole.

In my mind, I thought to go with what everyone loves: macaroni and cheese, but add a twist by adding crab and better cheeses. I’m sure some adult won’t admit they love macaroni and cheese, but to me, this is the upscale version of a classic dish that is unarguably perfect.

This same process went for the Spinach Salad with Pears and the Roasted Chicken with Lemon, Garlic, and Thyme. Stick to what you love, and make it uniquely your own.

And if you’re too scared to go out and venture in your world, follow the following recipes to a T. I literally prepared all of these meals in under an hour:

Appetizer: Spinach Pear Salad with Dried Cranberries, Shaved Almonds, and Honey Dijon Dressing

Cast of Characters:

Salad

4 cups of Baby Spinach

1 cup of Dried Cranberries

1 Bosc or Anjou Pear (sliced thinly)

1/2 cup of Shaved Almonds

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Stage Directions: Wash your spinach greens and make sure they’re dry. Pour the cups of dried cranberries and almonds on top. Slice the pear thinly along the edge of the core and mix lightly in the salad. Next, make your dressing by whisking the above ingredients all together. Serve the dressing on the side, and make sure you adjust the dressing to your taste (i.e: more vinegar, more honey, etc.)

Entree #1: Crab Meat Gnocchi with Melted Havarti and Gruyere

Cast of Characters:

2 pounds of gnocchi (I like Giovanni Rana’s)

1 pound of crab claw meat (It’s cheaper and still good quality than a $40.00 can of lump jumbo crab meat)

3 cups of half and half

8 ounces of Havarti (shred on your own, if possible)

8 ounces of Gruyere (shred on your own, if possible)

1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups of Panko bread crumbs

3 Cloves of Garlic (mince on your own–don’t use minced!)

7-8 Tablespoons of Butter

Zest of Half of a Lemon

1 Teaspoon of Salt

1/2 Teaspoon of Pepper

1/2 Teaspoon of Nutmeg (I put a little more!)

(Optional: Grated Parmigana Cheese–if you add this to the bread crumbs and a bit to the mixture, it takes it to new levels!)

Stage Directions: Pre-heat your oven 350 degrees. Fill a medium pot with water and kosher salt. Boil the water; when the water is ready, put in the gnocchi (one package at a time–it only takes 2-3 minutes to cook!). In 2-3 minutes, the gnocchi should float which means they are done. Drain in a coriander and once drained, pour gnocchi in a 13 X 9 pan. Repeat this process for the other bag. Once both pounds of gnocchi are poured, open the pound of claw meat and spread throughout (without shredding) with a fork. Meanwhile, melt five tablespoons of butter and once melted, pour in minced garlic (that is minced yourself), and lemon zest. Slowly incorporate flour and whisk throughly. Then pour in (slowly) three cups of half and half. Throw in the cheeses and stir occasionally until fully melted. You should have a medium heat, and then bring it down to thicken the cheese mixture. Once smooth, pour over the gnocchi and crab. In a small sauté pan, melt three tablespoons of butter and mix lightly with panko bread crumbs. Once lightly brown (not burnt), pour on top of mixture. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the panko is browned.

Entree #2: Roasted Chicken with Thyme, Garlic, and Lemon

Cast of Characters:

1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
Half a stick of butter melted
1/2 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bunch of green beans (optional!)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions: Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. In a roasting pan, coat with olive oil. Wash your chicken (if you just bought it, try to let it rest/thaw for an hour before using) and pat it dry with a paper towel. Open the cavity and take out the giblets (which could be in a bag or out in the open–either way, man up and remove them!)  (Side note: if you can, leave your chicken out overnight uncovered so the skin becomes crispy). Apply liberally kosher salt and pepper to the outside of the chicken and the inside the cavity. Cut a lemon into four and shove it in the cavity.  Cut garlic crosswise and shove it in the cavity whole (no need to peel the layers.) Next, place a bunch of thyme sprigs (save some for the veggies) inside. Melt half a cup of butter and once melted, brush the butter all over the outside of the chicken. Again, liberally salt and pepper the chicken. Cut up the carrots and half an onion into long, thick slices, and once cut, place around the chicken. If you have green beans, cook those in the microwave (usually can be microwaved with a forked bag), and put the cooked green beans all throughout the pan. Pour a little bit of olive oil all over the vegetables, and mix the assorted vegetables with hands. Put the chicken in the oven for an hour and a half. To make sure the vegetable don’t burn, use tongs to mix the vegetables while the chicken is cook. There is no need to baste this chicken. It just works.

Bon appetit!

 

 

Influenster VoxBox #2: Reese’s Spreads in Peanut Butter Chocolate

IMG_8464I’ll admit it: at 8 months pregnant, I was pretty excited to receive this Influenster VoxBox. It’s like Influenster read my mind and said, “Here, have a Happy New Year.” And I did.

As a very health conscious eater, the odds that I would seek out and buy Reese’s Spreads in the store are slim, but after trying out the product I have to say I’m much more likely to pick up Reese’s Spreads and recommend them to my family, friends, and, of course, my loyal audience. And, truthfully, the nutrition information on the back of the Reese’s Spreads is not so scary – it’s actually comparable to other chocolate nut spreads and definitely A-OK for a cheat day or chocolate craving.

And, bad mom alert: I totally let my toddler try some on an apple and he was not complaining. So, there you go – the picky toddler stamp of approval.

You can buy Reese’s Spreads at most supermarkets for less than $4/jar ($3.89 to be exact), and there’s no wrong way to use Reese’s Spreads. ;) IMG_8465

I opted for a somewhat healthy approach by dipping apple slices in the Reese’s Spreads Peanut Butter Chocolate Flavor, but some other great ideas include:

  • Pita chips
  • Vanilla wafers
  • Banana chips
  • Pretzels
  • Fruit
  • Bacon

Basically, my verdict is you definitely must try the Reese’s Spreads. They’re the best thing since, well, Reese’s.

reesespin

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