Things That (cool) Moms Listen To

On September 11, which is an unfortunate day in the US for anything happy to occur, something very happy does occur. The Avett Brother's release their second studio album, The Carpenter. Contrary to the popular but misguided opinion that I am a music snob, I have no idea what differentiates a studio album from a non-studio album, other than some big shot named Rick Rubin, who worked with even bigger shots like Madonna and stuff, produced it. None of that impresses me nearly as much as the album itself, which I have been streaming almost constantly since it was put up on NPR's first listen ((listen here). In my absolutely untrained but highly subjective opinion, this album is awesome. My favorite track is called February 7, and in my mind it speaks to the second chances that we would all be proverbially screwed without. I like that this album has horns, and so does my Eclectic Man. The album still speaks plenty of banjo, which is my favorite sound in the world, but I also really love that Joe Kwon's cello really feels like it comes of age in these songs. My (true music snob) cousin has always said that he felt Joe didn't quite fit, or at least his cello didn't. My cousin also wears sweat bands and considers beards the status symbol of hipster ideology, so I feel safe in calling his critique into question.

But as to the idea that I am a music snob, I must confess a deep rooted weakness for mainstream trash, especially from the 80s and 90s, that would make my indie friends blush. I mean, would a real music snob tear up watching the infomercial for Power Ballads of the 90s? I think not. At this point the hipsters and indie music snobs are becoming so mainstream that my cousin's Hall & Oates fetish is actually more of an indie movement. (You have to admit, Brent, the girls aren't lining up at the door.) My studly guy wisely hid his proclivity for 80s hair music from me until AFTER the nuptials, and I will never admit to him that I secretly adore it. Unfortunately he reads this blog, so now I need to find a new superiority complex to develop.

So let me talk about my favorite music, the good, the bad, the indie.

It's hard for me to really categorize my musical preferences. It's kind of like food preferences for me: yes - I prefer it. All.

Anyone who knows me even slightly has been exposed to my slightly embarrassing groupieism for The Avett Brothers. I would be more ashamed except I really believe that they are THAT GOOD. As artists and as people. As much as My Boy expects me to leave him any second for Scott Avett, the day that man gets a divorce is the day I quit listening to their music and face the reality of Total Disillusionment. I have even talked to their dad, about child rearing, no less, and how to get around the harsh realities of parenting fails. Jim Avett seems like a kind soul. And makes great music as well. But enough about them. In chasing TAB around the country, I have discovered a handful of other great bands that you may or may not have heard of, depending on how cool you are. At the top of this list is Langhorne Slim and The Law (Langhorne's Website), Sally Ford and the Sound Outside (Sallie Ford), Sasparilla, Lone Madrone, Thao and The Get Down Stay Down, and probably more that I don't remember. As The Avett Brothers began to circulate, bands with that banjo-ridden americana sound all started surfacing in my consciousness. Great bands like Old Crow Medicine Show, Mumford and Sons (incidentally not American at all), Dawes, Blind Pilot, Blitzen Trapper, Trampled by Turtles... and then I started to cross over to other cool "indie" music like Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, The Black Keys, The Decemberists, and recently The Lumineers, Fun, the Mynabirds (I'm really throwing them in because I got to ride on a shuttle to Pickathon with them)(and they're good) and many many more. If you have any questions about these bands, I probably can't help you, but I can try!

Truth be told however, I spent the entire day today listening to a stream of 90s pop hits. Nothing gets to me quite like some good Ace of Base or Spindoctors. Wow. FLASHBACK. And speaking of flashbacks - this has nothing whatsover to do with music, but if you grew up in the 90s you obviously knew about Revlon's Outrageous Shampoo, which smelled exactly like you imagined dating would feel, if you were a homeschooled teenager. Anyway, it's not available in the US anymore, but I just found it on eBay, and it smells the exact same. I'd still like to know if dating feels that way. Outrageous on eBay Wow. That was a rabbit trail. Spindoctors and Outrageous. It's like oreos and milk.

I have quite a bit more to say about music, but can't remember any of it right now, so check back for more. After you listen to The Carpenter 37 times.

Things That Moms Wear

A few months ago I had an epiphany: I am no longer a teenager. How it took me 15 years to come to terms with this fact is a question of some embarrassment, especially in consideration of my wardrobe for the last decade or so. I feel like, if you are 35 and your 15 year old daughter with questionably skanky taste Really Wants to Wear your clothes, maybe you're doing something wrong. I have a couple of Life Events that I can thank for this glorious, if overdue, revelation. The first was the accidental acquisition of 30 pounds that I didn't really notice until they were all hanging off of me suddenly. The second was a series of photos taken by innocent bystanders, including my adorable husband, that captured the, ahem, larger me in such fashion that I quickly eradicated every hint that they had ever existed. The thought process that stampeded through my head when I saw these photos was something like: "who is that fat girl in my picture and why is she wearing my shirt oh my god is that me what the heck happened I want to die."

I have slowly, painfully, ever since, been going through my embarrassingly excessive (but all bargain-acquired!!!) wardrobe and carefully picking out the pieces that Clearly Do Not Belong in the closet of a 35 year old mother of four carrying 30 extra pounds. I probably started with the MINI skirt. I use all caps because there isn't an alphabet case called microscopic, and I needed to demonstrate the extremity of the mini-ness. It was inappropriate. Really, it was inappropriate for anyone, except maybe a 22 year old hooker. I guess she could get away with it. I think it really dawned on me when I saw another mid-thirties mother of some, who clearly hadn't had The Epiphany yet, wearing a similar strip of fabric, and I was horrified by what was hanging out the backside. I was fairly certain I checked and double checked my hindquarters before I went into public, but knowing the harsh reality of my hindquarters, I realize I couldn't have looked much better.

As I mull over the loss of some of My Favorite Things, including lingeriesque tank tops that are almost not skanky on a 120 lb girl with an A cup bosom, and shorts that long ago were swallowed by the squishy fat between my thighs and just look Plain Old Bad, I guess I am ready to progress to the next stage. I have always observed, in my lofty manner, that some people seem to graduate from high school , or college, and forever remain entrapped in the Ultimate Style Trend of That Specific Year. It's actually quite comical. "Let me guess: 1995? Yep. Oh, grunge wasn't in or anything was it? Nice flannel. I also like your doc martens. They never go out of style." Let's see, what else doesn't go out of style? Penny Loafers? Pleated Slacks? Hmmmm....

So one of these days I will say something that is Entirely About Jeans, because they really deserve their own conversation, being the Single Most Important Part of my (and every other real person's) wardrobe. But today is really just an overview of how I am learning What Not to Wear.

Let's start at the top:

1. Hats. Nevermind. Skip to shirts. (my opinion on hats is strongly contradicted by voting members of this blog  - namely the husband, and therefore will be omitted)

look how much my butterfly sleeves are irritating the lady behind me. 
1. Shirts: Before we cover shirts (literally?) we'd better briefly gloss over the beautiful building block that sets us apart from the hippies of yesteryear who set the standard for sag and nipple exposure. Now, I know that Gretchen Wilson can wear walmart (refuse to capitalize) bras and still look sexy. I, on the other hand, look like a cheese sandwich that got melted in the sun and is oozing out all four sides of the bread when I put one on. I wear Victoria's Secret Bras. Have for years. I have lots of friends who can't find a VS bra they like, and honey, let me tell you, we are all shaped so weirdly (thank you, kids), that it's a wonder any of us can find anything that works. I have finally given up on the fantasy that some random, adorable bra I see online will make me look like Giselle Bundchen, no matter how many times I get sized by those jerks at Victoria's Secret Stores that keep exaggerating my measurements just to make themselves feel skinnier. I have miraculously found one or two Really Cute (by my husband's estimation) bras on sale from the Very Sexy, Sexy Little Things, Dream Angels, Pink, and other fun and flirty lines. But mostly, when I find something that Works, I work it to death. Currently, I will rarely be found emancipated from the Body By Victoria Racer Back Demi Bra (see it here). I love this bra. It's sturdy (required), comfortable (necessary), cute (also crucial) and almost flattering. I should share that last year I had another uncomfortable epiphany: I realized that I couldn't get away from side boob fat entirely because I am fat. Or I have fat. Under my arms. That will not squish into my bra and be written off as graceful endowment regardless of my contortionism. But this bra really does well, considering. I know a racer back poses a problem for some of us who have old fashioned ideas about bra straps showing (mom, you know who you are), but I LOVE that my straps don't fall down, and that the very noticeable weight from my somewhat recently acquired D cup (curses) isn't bearing down on my structurally challenged distal shoulder area. Try it. Or don't. The non racer back alternative is the demi (here) that is also cute and comfy (a little more "side boob", but again, I'm beyond helping that). Ok, enough about that painful subject.

1. (b) Shirts: most of what I have learned about flattering shirts I learned from my mom, who learned from my dad, when he accidentally told her that he liked her shirts with longer sleeves "way better" than her other ones, in a gentle hint that arm flab is for grandkids to play with, not for showing off. While I disagree that my mom really has arm flab to flaunt (brownie points anyone???),  I will contend that certain sleeve styles can do a lot to play up or play down some of these delicate, ahem, curves. For example, you will never catch me dead in butterfly sleeves. again. I am hopelessly addicted to tank tops. Partially because things with sleeves and necklines choke me, and partially because I like to imagine I look like Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider. This is a fantasy that I choose not to expose to reality. Some people really look bad in tank tops. Like most men. I don't have a huge distaste for arm fat, but I know lots of friends who do, and apparently, my dad. I vote for short sleeves, cap sleeves that don't peak off the shoulder like Star Trek shoulder pads, and tank tops. I am not a fan of 3/4 length sleeves. They fall under my WHY? category, along with capri pants and booties. Just wear long or short. Or if you must, roll them a little. And make up your mind between boots and shoes. Really. I will offer up that my tank top fetish will be the next level of relinquishment to age. Unless my fitness routine finally starts to pay off and I actually do trend Joliesque. Another requisite for tops is length. Obviously there is some crossover on this issue with the rise of certain pants, but by and large, most shirts should be able to readily compensate for the lowest of low pants - think: loading 46lb bag of dog food on bottom rack of grocery cart squat crack. Get longer shirts. 35 year old cheeks hanging out are not pretty. Ask my kids. As for necklines, if you are claustrophobic like me, you might find it hard to find a balance between hithisismycleavage and choking to death. I really like boat necks for this. And I like V necks too, especially the ones that make me feel buxom. I have sworn off of that sheer burnout fabric since I discovered the thing it does best is demurely allude to the generous rolls of fat I have accumulated pretty much every where. I really like cotton with just enough spandex in it to mildly suppress the worst of the jiggling. Button downs definitely have their place, unless they have 3/4 length sleeves. And never, ever, ever button the top button. I don't care what Bill Gothard says. Also, I have moved away from brandishing company names across my chest like I am a billboard for Hollister. I mean, it's ok if your 15 and you really need people to know that you've been to a Hollister to establish street cred, but at 35, you're just admitting that you shop the clearance racks and try to squish into junior sized clothing.

2. Pants: First of all, there are some schools of thought that would consider throwing out this category altogether, and it isn't just my high school alma mater. I would contend that it is not worthwhile to spend much time on any pants that aren't jeans, because unless they are sweat pants they probably aren't worth wearing, and sweatpants will fall under the "leisure wear" discussion which will be held at a different time. And since we're covering jeans elsewhere as well, we can skip this whole category. Lord knows we won't touch panties. But for the record, I am STRONGLY opposed to thongs [not the shoe kind, mom]. They just aren't right. Ok, I have a pair or two. Hold on, a thong isn't a pair, is it? It's a singular. But why is a pair of panties a pair? Is it just fabric amount determined? Weird. Anyway, I have a thong or two, but only for Huge Emergencies, like that tight dress I probably shouldn't be wearing anyway, (don't read this mom) or because my husband needs me to wear them (ok you can read again), or those horrible slacks without pockets that probably no one should be wearing. NEXT SUBJECT

3. Skirts/Dresses: Obviously these go in the same category because they both go on hangers. I don't have much to say on this subject, being a wanna-be tomboy who got all of my dress wearing out of the way in the 10th grade, however, in addition to my MINI skirt revelations, I have always been away that ruffles and tiers don't do my backside any favors. When I was young and thin, I got lots of attention for my "substantial" bootie. Now It's just a big B**T (we don't say that). I am all about straight or aline styles, gathers and flounces I reserve for my 8 year old. I won't pretend I don't have a couple of ultra-comfortable empire-waisted sundresses that make me look 8 months pregnant (I like to play up on that for better seating in public), but lets just pretend that those ones "never go out of style". Like penny loafers.

4. Shoes: Two words: Flip Flops. I mean, ask my darling husband, how can you go wrong? Thin pieces of rubber that do nothing to support, protect or really even decorate your feet. They are the ultimate go-to footwear. Truthfully, I love flip flops, year round, with everything. Because I am That Cool. For those of us who struggle with the need to make more of a fashion statement, I will again restate my aversion to booties - WHY? But I will toss in to the "never out of style" consideration category the ever  popular Converse All Star. What? Yes, I did graduate in the mid nineties. I am a big fan of ballet flats, cowboy boots and one pair of multi-purpose heels. As this discussion originated on the propriety of motherly dress, I should mention a modern youthful trend: Toms. Get some. Every time I think that maybe I am too old for Toms, I put them on again. And it's ok. If you are a 35 year-old mother of 4 with 30 extra pounds, DO NOT pair said Toms with skinny jeans and a hipster t shirt. It will not be as cute as that 14 year old you saw doing it. I promise.

In conclusion - even though I haven't skimmed the controversial areas of accessories, hosiery, lounge wear and the All Important Hoodie, I have to say that the constant evolution of my closet is a study in anthropology if ever there was one. Now that you have had the first taste of my highly evolved fashion opinion, and conformed your views accordingly, I invite you to share your wins and insights with me. Mostly because I have No Idea What to Wear.

favorite places to shop: Urban OutfittersThe BuckleGoodwilleBay

Things That Smell Good

Let me start with a disclaimer: I am a Scentsy Consultant. Maybe that's more of a shameful confession than a disclaimer. I am a horrible salesperson, just ask my husband. The whole idea of selling Scentsy was mostly just to pay for a tragic habit that I had formulated after my BFF introduced me to the divine smells several years ago. These little squares of messy wax transformed my chronically dirty house into a celestial palace, if you closed your eyes and just inhaled. After moving (many times) I realized that I was ordering all of my mess-masking smells online from a consultant I didn't talk to, and there was probably a cheaper way to do it. Enter the brilliant idea to become my own consultant. Realizing I had no friends here in Bend, there was a glimmer of an idea that maybe selling this redemptive stuff would make me instantly popular. As one of my long distance buddies pointed out, selling anything really isn't the best way to make friends, but I was really looking for an excuse to throw a great party. So I signed up, got all my cool demo stuff, scheduled a party and invited EVERY person I knew, local or not. It was Christmas time, so I went all out. $200 of food and drink and new decorations, prizes - the whole schlemiel. One person came. A neighbor. We drank all of the wine, plus a very dangerous concoction of assorted liquors. Between her kids and mine we pretty much ate all of the food, and needless to say, she won the prizes. It was fun, other than being sick for three days afterward, but I didn't sell a single splotch of smelly divinity.

Fast forward 8 months. I decide to have another go. For whatever reason, Scentsy is still calling me a consultant, which would be totally absurd except for my own personal orders have kept me just above the minimum required sales - the beauty of being a consultant is that I get 20% back off my own orders... One of the very weak justifications that I have been using on my Ever Tolerant Man. So my new and pretty much only friend Desi and I put together a party. I had introduced Desi to the money pit of Scentsy when I gave her one of my demo warmers for her birthday and made her smell every single sample scent I had. She was instantly drawn into the cult. We invited over 100 people to our party. This time, being disillusioned, I decided to spend most of the party money on booze, since if no one showed up, at least we would have fun. (Actually that isn't even true, since we used left over wedding wine :)) This time, Desi's sister-in-law showed up, along with 4 of her work friends. It was a smashing success, even though I didn't know any of them. 

Anyway.... all of this was the preface to what I really planned on saying. I like Scentsy. While I am a consultant, I know that there are many questions and controversies about the stuff and would like to lend you my totally biased and unfounded opinions. Let me break it down: (does that sound like I am listening to early 90s rap? Because I am.)

1. Smell: I love Scentsy's baked smells: Cutie Pie Cupcake, Sugar Cookie, Happy Birthday = YUM. I have developed a theory that if my house smells like a cupcake that I will not need to eat one, and 37% of the time, this rings true. That plays out as 37% less cupcakes consumed, so ultimately I win, right? I have yet to find someone who can't find some scent that they Absolutely Love. My sister likes Love Story, as do many friends. I like to mix smells, like Luscious Lemon and Cutie Pie Cupcake. 

2. Lasting Power: My biggest complaint about Scentsy smells would be the longevity. I did some research, and am currently conducting my own in-house study on which flavors or styles last the longest. Feedback online indicated that the spicy smells (cinnamon, clove, ginger) and some of the citrus smells seemed to last longest. It makes sense then, that my favorite of the Scentsy Man (is that kind of oxymoronic?) smells, Hemingway, has always seemed to last longer than my other fragrances, as it is kind of clovy and exotic. 

3. Availability: Another complaint I would have is scent availability, as it seems like just when I figure out what my Favorite Smell of All Time is, they don't have it anymore. This is usually circumvented by a biannual (?) Bring Back By Bar sale, where they have a limited production of popular discontinued bars, or by finding a similar concoction. Being that all sales are online, and I am too poor a salesman to order the newest demos, you're kind of shooting in the dark when you order blindly. But for me, that's part of the excitement of opening a box of Scentsy. (which, by the way, I am expecting any minute!)

4. Cost: I don't love the cost of Scentsy. I feel like it is a tad overpriced, and to be honest, I will only buy the stuff on sale, which isn't hard. I hope that as the company grows, we will continue to see a decrease in overall cost, but I am not holding my breath. It really is a luxury item, and as much as I love it, if things got tight for us, it would be one of the first corners I cut. My solution to this : stockpile. The downfall to that solution? See #2. Lasting Power - the bars lose potency with long term storage. Luckily, for you all, this is another in-house test I am conducting, since my stockpile is well underway and I won't use all of this stuff for a very long time. So stay tuned. 

5. Maintenance: Let me say this one thing: DO NOT DO WHAT I DO. I couldn't find specific Scentsy recommendations for how long you should leave your warmer turned on, but other consultants recommend thinking of it like a lamp: you have it on when you are there, using it, otherwise, it is off. I, on the other hand, leave mine on 24/7, which (here's another in-house study bonus tibit for you), a) makes your scent last a shorter time (see #2), and b) eventually kind of burns in a crispy wax residue that is hard to clean off. When I figure out how, I will let you know. I am lazy. This is no secret and should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. When I change the wax, I do not pour it into the original container to let it harden. I know good and well that I would forget to pop it out and throw it away and then try to reuse it, wondering why my smells are smell-less! I do what you are NOT supposed to do and pour the hot wax onto a paper towel directly into the garbage can. I do not recommend this, but will continue to do it. Because I am lazy. I have a billion little Scentsy spatulas for cleaning the residue (note: this does NOT work on crispy burned wax scum), out of the dish. If you want one I will give it to you. Just find me. I probably have the messiest Scentsy warmers of any consultant alive. But they do clean easily and beautifully on the outside with a paper towel when they are warm.

6. Mess: Closely related to maintenance is dealing with the inevitable (unless you are over 40 and live alone with no cats, dogs, or loud music) wax spills and drips and slops. The beautiful thing about wax is that when it cools and hardens, it scrapes easily off of most surfaces. Unless that surface is unfinished wood. Perhaps it's needless to say that my antique dresser now has a smooth wax finish. Also: dyed waxes might scrape up, but if the colors absorb into, oh, say, caulk, or grout, etc, well, you'd better like pink. Or green. My plan is to avoid non-neutral colored waxes in the future. Which will be hard since Happy Birthday is Peptol Bismol pink. I will be working on solutions for this problem, as will my adorable and clever husband. Again, stay tuned. 

7. Safety: My husband, ever the safety expert (no really, he is a paramedic/firefighter, and I used to think he was exaggerating how much safety research he does, but he actually does), told me he read about a Scentsy related fire back east. I totally believe him, and have been extra conscientious about making sure to leave dirty clothes and junk mail piled in places other than right next to the Scentsy warmers. I did some research myself (this is usually to try to prove him wrong, but always fails), and did read a couple of stories about possible connections, as well as the results of Scentsy's own safety investigations into related events, and some independent tests performed with warmers. With newspapers wrapped around the warmer, and fabric draped over it, the temperature of these objects never reached 100 degrees, far from flammability levels. Again, I take, and recommend taking every precaution - well, ok, I don't always turn them off when I am not around, but I plan to start doing that! But I do keep flammable objects away from all of my warmers. It's just smarter. Not to mention when those warmers get bumped and slop wax, it's a son of a gun to clean up. 

Ok, so that's my 7 scents (hahaha) on Scentsy. I love the stuff, but believe it has it's downfalls. If you can live with them (I can), then it's totally worth feeling like you have a gloriously beautiful clean house, even if you really have pink wax in your grout and haven't vacuumed in days. 

Shameless plug: if you shop at my website , my husband will like me better. 

Feel free to fire away with any questions and I will make up an answer for you! email: Bendability

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