Friday, November 6, 2015

Le Tote Revew and $25 OFF for You!

So, I've been a little disillusioned with Stitch Fix lately. I'd kept at it about every other month, but really wasn't finding pieces I *loved*, but was instead buying one piece just to feel like I wasn't losing my $20 styling fee.

You see, I'm one of those people who's guilty of buying things, wearing them once, and then letting them sit in my closet for months...or years. Out of a desire to simplify my life, my finances, and my laundry pile, I decided to give Le Tote a try. I was especially enticed by a coupon in my mailbox for $25 off my first month of service.

Here's how it works: You sign up for your account, and then go through their inventory to add things to your virtual online closet. Before they send you your first tote, you receive an email that shows you everything you're getting - usually 3 pieces of clothing and 2 accessories. If you don't like something you see, you have the opportunity to switch it out for another piece. Then boom, 2-3 days of priority shipping later (LOVE), you get your tote delivered to you. You can keep your items for as long as you want, then as soon as you return them, you get your next tote. Here's a picture of the first few items in my closet:

The service is regularly $49 a month, and I've averaged about 3 boxes, or "totes" per month. Here's what I've gotten so far with two months of service. I've paid about $74 ($25 for my first month and $49 for my second) and worn all of the following items:

If there's an item you really love and don't want to send back, you can pay to keep it at a discounted rate. Here's what I think the pros and cons are to this service.

• Keep the items for as long as you want
• NO laundry - just put the items in the pre-labeled priority mail bag when you're done.
• Great for playing "dress up" and always having new pieces coming to your house - especially if you enjoy the novelty of never wearing the same thing twice
• The $49 a month is less than I would normally spend, and I've vowed to not buy clothing while using this service. Plus, I've done the math, I've received $1600 worth of clothing and accessories for the $74 I've paid, and I can probably fit in one more tote before I'm charged for my next month.
• This service is great if you need a dress or piece for a special occasion - no need to spend a bunch to keep a dress you'll only wear once!
• For me anyway, the clothes are very appropriate for my lifestyle - a lot of business and weekend casual with the chance to change it up by adding different things to my closet
• This may not be a pro for some people, but I like that I can see exactly what I'm getting for each tote and have some control over switching out items I don't like.

Tote #2 was my favorite so far - I would have kept everything if I could!
My favorite piece I've received - the Vegan Leather Drape Jacket from BB Dakota - sorry for the terrible attempt at a family photo on a windy, cold day!

Mirror cellphone selfies are always good for a laugh.

• I've found most of the jewelry quality to be sub-par and a little too costume-y - but that's fine for pieces you'll only wear once.
• If you're slow about returning your items, you may not maximize your value.
• To keep an item, you don't get any money off the price you already paid for your tote, so you're paying for the piece on TOP of the price of the tote. The one piece I loved enough to keep was a little too pricey. But no matter, I can just ask them to resend it!
• Depending on availability, all of the items you receive may not be from your "closet" - due to limited inventory on certain items, you may be waiting a while to try a piece you really love.

Overall, I love this service, and plan on continuing for a while. If you'd like to try LE TOTE you can click here to receive $25 off your first month as well. They give you the option to pause or skip any month, and you can cancel at any time. Just a note that I receive $15 off my tote if you sign up through my link, just so you don't think I get nothing out of this ;). Oh, and they just recently started offering a MATERNITY box which would be great if you don't want to keep maternity clothes!

Monday, March 16, 2015

March 2015 Stitch Fix Review + Coupon Code

First look - definitely fits with my expectations and I love that it fits with the current "color story" of my closet - lots of navy, coral, black and white

This was my 6th time receiving a Stitch Fix shipment. As always, I paid a $20 styling fee, updated my style profile and pinterest boards, and left a detailed note for my stylist (Jennifer - I've requested the same stylist since my first shipment) about what I was looking for.

I didn't have any specific requests this time other than the fact that I had regretted sending back a really soft chambray shirt a few months ago.

When Stitch Fix ships your box, you can actually go into your account and "peek" at what you're getting. There aren't photos, but I normally google the products to see if there are any images out there. I know it ruins the surprise, but I can't help it. After peeking, I was actually really excited about this fix, and I was worried I was going to want to keep everything.

But...spoiler alert... I sent it all back :(. It's not even that it was a bad fix. My stylist always listens to my requests and usually sends me at least one thing that I've pinned on Pinterest. The downfall this time was only due to sizing/fit/color issues (ok and one jacket that was pretty ugly).

So, without further ado, here's what I received in fix #6. The Good (ignore our lovely recycling bin):

Skies are Blue Jayda Dot Cuffed Chambray Top - $58
I liked this top. The polka dot print inside was a nice touch, and I liked the length of this button down for my long torso. However, in an XS, it was a little tight across my chest and shoulders. I felt like I wouldn't be able to reach anything on a high shelf. This was also due to the fabric that felt a little stiff to me - not at all like the super soft chambray top I'd regrettably sent back a few fixes ago (I think it had tencel in it which gave it that soft silky feel). Status: RETURNED

RD Style Lakie Eyelet Tee - $58
This was exactly the type of top I like to buy for myself - neutral color, goes with anything. I also loved the eyelet for spring. However, as you'll note in my sad face, it was way too short and boxy for my build. Status: RETURNED

Brixon Ivy James Laser Cut Dress - $78
This was my favorite item in the fix. A beautiful blue cobalt dress. Perfect length and not so fancy I couldn't wear it to work, but nice enough I could wear it to a wedding. The only problem? It's blue. Cobalt blue. Take a look at my current blue dress collection:

All from Golden Tote

I have a blue dress hoarding problem. I just couldn't justify almost $80 for another blue dress. If it had been a bold red or any other color, I would have kept it. Status: RETURNED.

The Bad:

Indy photobomb
Pixley Colibri Heart Print Tab-Sleeve Blouse - $48
I wanted to like this SO BADLY. Kudos to my stylist because it's one of the tops I had specifically pinned to my Pinterest board. I didn't realize that the fabric was a slick/shiny material, which made the tab sleeves awkward. It's also a strange fit on me - too long in the hemline (almost never heard of), tight across the chest and shoulders, funky collar. Overall, just not working for me. Status: RETURNED.

The Ugly:

41Hawthorn Will Bomber Jacket - $74
...Just in time to see the BUS FLY BY. It's all right, cause I'm SAVED BY THE BELL!
Great color, soft fabric... but other than that? Just, no.  I dubbed this the Saved by the Bell jacket, because it's straight up 80's windbreaker.

Will I order another Stitch Fix? Absolutely. Don't let the fact that I returned everything fool you. I love my stylist and I've been lucky to have her each time. To get a successful fix, work with one person each time so they can get to know you. You may need to request this in your comments. Be specific about your body and style, and keep your Pinterest boards fresh for each season!

Want to try it? If you click on any of my links, they will lead you to Stitch Fix and I get a $20 credit if you sign up. ALSO! For the month of March, they are offering $20 off your first fix (for first timers only!) - that will cover your styling fee, so if you decide you hate everything, you aren't out any money. Use coupon code RISKFREEMARCH when you checkout. This is cool because Stitch Fix almost NEVER offers coupon codes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

HelloFresh Review

Hello, my name is Amanda. It's been over 7 months since my last blog post. I just don't have the desire or drive to really blog very often, unless it's something that I think is worth sharing. In fact, one of my New Year's Resolutions for 2015 is to share LESS on social media. There are so many moments as a family that I want to keep just as a family. I'm still active online, but just in a different way. On facebook, I mostly try to make people laugh. On Instagram, it's ALL the kid pictures, and Pinterest is just one giant list of things I wish I could afford and/or have time to do. But the blog... The blog is where I plan to share things I really find interesting, reviews of cool services, etc. Which brings me to....


You might have seen their new commercials on TV. On their website, their banner proclaims "We deliver delicious and healthy recipes with all the pre-measured ingredients to your door each week." Well, that sounds very convenient. I admit that Scott and I have been in a rut when it comes to cooking ever since the holidays. We're so tired at the end of each day that even deciding what to have for dinner was starting to become a monumental chore. When a $40 off coupon was advertised for HelloFresh, I decided to jump on it. There are other similar services out there (Blue Apron, Plated), and all offer promotional deals when you first sign up. However, after looking at all the menu options on each site, I thought the ones on Hello Fresh sounded the most appetizing.

HelloFresh is normally $69 per week for a Classic Box. That's three dinners a week for two people. The Vegetarian Box is slightly cheaper. So my first week was only $29 with my coupon. Heck of a deal for three meals. The other good thing about HelloFresh is that you can customize your deliveries. Say you only want to do it every once in a while. You can log into your account and select which weeks you want to receive meals. You can even preview the menu a week ahead and decide if anything looks appetizing to you, and skip if not.

With the Classic Box, you have the option to pick 3 of 5 presented recipe options. I chose:
1. Shrimp Jambalaya
2. Lamb Meatball Pitas
3. Wild Mushroom Fettuccine

All the meals come packed in a large insulated box with big, reusable ice packs. I was a little disappointed in the labeling. I eventually figured out which was which meal because most of the ingredients for one meal are packed all together. All of the above ingredients in the picture were packed together for the Shrimp Jambalaya. As you can see, the spices are not labeled, which is important since you need to use a teaspoon of chili powder, but only a pinch of cayenne pepper. We had to do a little smell test to figure out which was which. And we might have guessed wrong because...

Our Shrimp Jambalaya ended up being WAY too spicy. I only used a tiny pinch of the cayenne pepper, but it was so hot we couldn't even finish our meals. And this is coming from two people who LIKE heat in their food. Even Scott, who is prone to ordering the "Dragon's Tongue" or "Devil's Pitchfork" on any and every menu, found this to be way too hot. It's disappointing because this made enough for three meals. Too bad we couldn't even finish our portions.

The other disappointment with this one was missing ingredients. My package was missing both the scallions for the top and the stock concentrate - which I had to steal from my Wild Mushroom Fettucine package. I ended up adding some chives to the top instead which I had on hand. Hello Fresh meals assume you have nothing in your house other than olive oil, salt and pepper.

Our next meal we tried was the Lamb Meatball Pitas with a side of Sautéed Zucchini. It was a much more successful venture. Each card gives you a list of all the ingredients that should be included, nutritional information, recipe, and expected prep/cook time. All of these meals had a combined prep and cook time of about 40 minutes, which seemed pretty accurate.

The ground lamb was something we don't normally use to cook with, but we do love it in our traditional gyros we always get when we buy Greek take out. I actually really liked the herbs and the flavor of the zucchini side - I wish there had been more! The pitas were whole wheat and all the flavors in this meal tasted very fresh. I felt like I was eating a very healthy, well rounded meal. The tzatziki sauce was fine, but I think we make a better version on our own. Our own version uses fresh minced cucumbers and mint and garlic, but no lemon. Luckily, there were no missing ingredients for this meal.

Our last meal was the Wild Mushroom Fettuccine. I was a little worried about this one because of the no-meat factor. Scott likes meat in his meals, although I could take it or leave it. I actually sometimes prefer for there to be less meat in a meal. More of a side note than the starring attraction. However, Scott actually did eat all of his and said it was pretty good. This one also made enough for three meals.

Since I had stolen the stock concentrate from this meal to make my jambalaya, I substituted 1/2 cup of chicken stock I had in the fridge for the stock concentrate and 1/2 cup of water the recipe called for. I really liked the fresh lemon and herbs in this one!

Overall, I was happy with the HelloFresh experience, and it was a fun change up to our normal routine.

The pros of Hello Fresh:
• Great for lazy times since everything is already portioned out and prepackaged.
• Perfect for trying new recipes and using ingredients you might not normally consider - a good way to get out of the habit of making the same meals over and over.
• Saves you from buying a bunch of random herbs or ingredients when you only need a small amount of a certain thing.
• Good solution to the never ending debate about what to have for dinner.
• Great for novice chefs, since the recipes are very simple to follow.
• Ability to choose between recipes and preview upcoming deliveries.
• Ability to customize your delivery times and manage your subscription account online.
• Lots of options for special diets - gluten free, nut free, etc.
• The quality of the produce and meat is very high!

The cons of HelloFresh:
• If your package arrives missing ingredients, you may be SOL.
• If you're an experienced home cook, some of the flavors and recipes might be a little too simplistic (although if you're like me you can just add extra spices, etc. to your dish if you have them on hand. I added about an ounce of Boursin Spreadable Herb cheese to the Mushroom Fettuccine dish to make it a little creamier).
• The price of regular weekly delivery is a little spendy at $69/week.
• You don't actually save any time prepping your dinner. You still have to chop all the vegetables and herbs, measure out spices, brown meat, etc. The only time saver is not having to go to the grocery store or gather ingredients at home.
• The fact that everything is individually packaged = a lot of trash. Luckily we can recycle all the plastic. I also imagine if you get a delivery every week, you're going to be breaking down a lot of cardboard boxes.

Do you want to try HelloFresh for yourself? You can use referral code 4ANF4E to get $40 OFF your first box! $29 for three meals really is an awesome deal. I'd love to hear if you try it and what you think!

*this post contains referral links. I was not compensated for my review, and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

DIY Craft: Faux Copper Patina Jars

I love the look of copper patina. If I was rich I would have a big ol' hammered copper apron sink in my kitchen complete with copper pots and pans and other French-Country inspired décor. Alas, I am not rich. But when I saw this idea on pinterest, I knew it was something I could easily recreate.

The only things I used to create these were a pair of glass Ball Mason Jars, Matte Spray Paint, and Copper Acrylic Craft Paint. Luckily I had a great blue-green matte spray paint left over from another project. The brand is Krylon and the color is Catalina Mist. I love that it dries in 10 minutes.

I started out spray painting my jars and letting them sit overnight. I then went over the top with copper acrylic paint, making it thick and covered at the top and randomly brushing down the sides. I tried to "age" the copper with a wet sponge brush throughout, and near the bottom. I'm trying to think what I could do to give it a more natural aged feel. I might try sanding off some of the copper paint, but I'm not sure if the spray paint will come off with it.

In any case, it was a pretty way to add a little faux copper into my life. Now these pretty jars are holding my makeup brushes in my bathroom.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 2014 Golden Tote Review,/

I cannot tell you how infatuated I am with Golden Tote. It's the clothing subscription service that lets you pick out 1-2 items at a set price point, and they surprise you with the rest. Their sales launch on the first Monday of the month, and you get a choice between a $49 tote (up to a $250 value) or a $149 tote (up to a $600 value).  And of course, all your items come in a tote bag - I use mine for grocery shopping! If you choose the $49, you get to pick out one item, and they'll send you 1-2 more. This is the option I chose in April, since I just wanted to test out the service. I received a tunic dress, a top, and a bralette.

This time around I wanted to do the $149 option, where I got to pick out 2 items, and Golden Tote would send me 4-5 more based on my style profile. Luckily I sold a few Etsy orders to make this happen. My Etsy shop has been funding my clothing addiction! But, I'm so glad I went with the $149 this time, because out of the 6 items I received, I LOVED 5 of them, and liked one.
Here were my picks. The Resort Maxi in Cobalt Blue ($50 in the boutique):

The Whisked Away Dress in Navy ($70 in the boutique):

So you can see the two items I picked already come in at $120. That means the rest of my 4 items average about $7.50 a piece! Here are the items Golden Tote surprised me with. This Fantastic Fawn Dress (with pockets!):


Next were the Puella Printed Slouchy Pants and Black Esley Basic Tank. I wasn't too sure when I saw these pants, but they are THE most comfortable pants I own. It feels like wearing pajamas, and I love that I would never pick them out myself:

Sequence of events: "Judah, don't take your mower in the sand box. Great, now there's sand on my shirt. Oh well, I can't stay mad at that face."
And last was this Porridge Swing Tee in a nautical print. It's the only one I'm not in love with. Luckily, there's a Golden Tote Trading Group on Facebook. Since Golden Tote is an all or nothing deal (you can't return/exchange individual pieces), you can go on Facebook and trade with your fellow Golden Tote addicts.

Have you tried Golden Tote or a similar subscription clothing service? I'd love to hear about what you got!

*I bought this tote myself, but this post does contain referral links.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

On The Menu: Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches

Yes, I realize it's been a LONG while since I've posted any recipes. I've tried several and I hope to share the ones we've really liked and have added to our regular rotation. The first is this too-easy recipe for French dip sandwiches. My husband is a notorious crock-pot hater, but I kid you not, his exact words were, "Seriously, I just can't get over... man. This sandwich is tasty. Remember this one." Strong endorsement! Thank you to Leigh Anne over at Your Home Based Mom for this original recipe.
Here's what you'll need:
Serves: 6
• Chuck Roast (1.5 - 2 lbs)
• 1/2 tsp dried thyme
• 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
• 1/2 tsp garlic salt
• Fresh ground black peppercorns and salt
• 2 tsp minced garlic
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
• 2 cups beef broth
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• Cheese of your choice (swiss is traditional, but we used provolone)
• Hoagie buns or French rolls - we got ours from the bakery section of our Hy-Vee
1. Season your roast on both sides with fresh ground pepper and salt (I LOVE these McCormick Grinders). Brown your roast on both sides in a heavy pan (I used my cast iron skillet) in your olive oil - about a minute and a half per side on medium high heat.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the broth, soy sauce, minced garlic, thyme, rosemary, garlic salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste.
3. Place your browned roast in your slow cooker and cover with your broth mixture. Slow cook on low 8-10 hours (we did 9 hours).
4. Shred your beef and layer on top of toasted buns. Cover with cheese and place under your broiler for about 2 minutes to melt your cheese.
5. Use the au jus from your crock pot for dipping!
Even the two year old liked it! He "shared" my au jus, which gave it a little extra flavoring. Is that dirt I taste? Maybe a hint of roly poly?
The discerning reviewers.
Also... I have to share a picture of this epic hair, just so you can really appreciate what I try to tame on a daily basis. It is futile. This is a boy who had a haircut less than a month ago.
Happy dining!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Stitch Fix Review #2 - May 2014

So, I signed up for another Stitch Fix and received it on May 12th. There are a bazillion other bloggers who detail exactly how Stitch Fix works, so I'll just summarize it for you. Basically, you pay a $20 styling fee, you get 5 items based on your extensive style profile, you keep what you want and your $20 is credited towards your purchase. If you buy nothing, you forfeit your styling fee, but if you buy all five items you get a 25% discount on your order. Also, if you refer a friend to Stitch Fix (links are referrals) you get a $25 credit. So let's get to it!

I was BEYOND pleased with the items I received in this month's box. Almost every item was definitely "me" and my stylist did an awesome job really researching my style and what I like. You'll have to excuse the lighting in the photos. I had to take them at night after Judah went to sleep. Both tops are paired with my skinny jeans I kept from my last fix in March.

1. Daniel Rainn Floral Tank - $68
I forgot to take a picture of this tank by itself, but I paired it with my vegan leather jacket I got about a month ago from Threadflip. I like the combination of edgy and feminine. However, even though I really loved the top, I just couldn't justify the almost $70 price tag for a seasonal top. If it was something I could wear three seasons out of the year, then I would have jumped at it. STATUS: (Sadly) Returned

2. Baggu Melanie Canvas Bag - $38 (pictured above and with the tank dress)
I was so pleased to see that my stylist looked at my Pinterest board, as I had pinned this exact bag. It's nice and BIG and has a pocket on the inside. I'm now wondering how often I should clean up my pinterest boards. Should I delete an item off the board if I receive it? Not sure...STATUS: Kept.

3. Tart French Terry Tank Maxi Dress - $148
Yeah, you read that price right. It's a great dress, and I could tell it was high quality fabric and well made. It would be easy to dress it up or down and could last a long time due to it's classic style. However, at this price point, I would want something more than a plain navy dress. Some sort of embellishment or print or something. It was also very long. I'm pretty average height at 5'6" and this dragged on the floor.  I would hate to pay that much for a dress and spend more having it hemmed. STATUS: Returned.

4. Kut from the Cloth Cargo Denim Short - $68
This was the only piece I wasn't really into. The light wash was a little too 90's for me and they were a size too big (although, score one for my post-baby body ego!). Also, once again the price was outrageous for a pair of plain denim shorts. STATUS: Returned.

5. Tart Striped 3/4 Sleeve Cotton Blazer - $128
This one made me saddest of all. Sad because I fell in love with this blazer. I love the nautical stripes, the soft cotton fabric, and the awesome fit. It was so comfy I didn't want to take it off. The ONLY thing that held me back was the cost. STATUS: (Sadly) Returned.

Overall, I'm really happy with the Stitch Fix service. I feel like the longer you do it, the more your stylist can get to know you and your style and really get you pieces that work for you and your budget. I was disappointed to receive TWO items over my set price levels. I went into my account and changed all the price levels to be much cheaper. So hopefully my next Fix in July (oh yes, I'm addicted and have already scheduled my next one!) will be right on the money. Now...if anyone has an extra $300 they want to throw my way, I'll keep all the pieces ;).