Sunday, June 29, 2014

Kendra Thornton Fashion Challenge

Miami Fashion Challenge

I am always up for a good challenge. Especially if it's one that I can do from my couch. Ha! Well, I recently received an email from a Ms. Kendra Thornton inviting me to participate in a fashion challenge. She's looking for one day and one evening look for an upcoming romantic getaway to Miami, so basically I get to play virtual stylist! Sounds fun to me! She's in PR, a travel expert, a wife, and a mom of three. Here are the details she sent me:

"I love using the internet to learn about places to go, things to see, and fashions to wear. I enjoy sharing and getting tips from other travel gurus concerning places to stay. Currently, I’m planning a romantic vacation with my husband, and I’m looking forward to getting fashion advice to make the trip a success. After discovering gogobot I found the perfect hotel for our stay in Miami. We’ll be guests in the Everglades Suite at the Biltmore Hotel. Built in 1926, this hotel is the only Florida hotel designated as a National Historic Landmark. The building has been fully restored and is popular with heads-of-state and other dignitaries visiting South Beach. Naturally, during a stay at a venue like this, I want to look timeless and fashionable. Any stay in Miami features plenty of succulent dining options. I’m looking forward to an evening enjoying delectable French cuisine at Palme D’or. When dressing for this evening of dining in, I want to look smart and elegant. I would love both one day and night look for this trip. During the day I want to look for sophisticated and at night sexy with a classic twist. I know I’ll enjoy my time there even more when I feel confident in the fashions I’m wearing. That’s why I can’t wait to learn what recommendations you have for my new tropical look!"

When I think of Miami, I usually think of coral-colored tops, breezy dresses, linen trousers, and thong sandals. My personal style is evolving, however, and I am much more drawn to neutral colors these days. In years past, this post would have included lots of bright colors, but now, I am reaching for heather grey, black, beige, tan, and nude. So, Kendra, I am afraid there isn't anything very "tropical" about these looks, which are definitely heavily influenced by my personal style. I do enjoy pops of color, though, so that's why I added a colorful cuff bracelet and bright evening shoes. Also, the hat is actually more of a golden yellow, which is difficult to tell in the photo.

In Kendra's description of her weekend plans, the words that resonated with me were "classic," "sexy," and "sophisticated," so here's my rationale behind each look: First, I chose tops that I thought could transition well from day to evening. Day 1: A grey silk top with frayed denim shorts and classic black leather sandals for art gallery shopping. Then in the evening, change from shorts to black cigarette pants and crystal-encrusted heels for dinner at Palme D'or. Day 2: Nautical top with frayed denim shorts and black leather sandals for casual sightseeing. Then in the evening, change into black cigarette pants for a Cuban soul food dinner. I chose classic nautical stripes because I think tucked into the shorts with an elegant belt, it can be a clean, smart look. The frayed shorts make the outfit a bit more young, fresh, and on-trend. The retro-style sunglasses are a nod to the vintage accommodations. The simple leather tote is pure sophistication. The heels add that bit of sexy to an otherwise simple outfit. Finally, the Cartier trinity necklace is thrown in for good measure since this is a romantic trip for two ;)

I hope you enjoy checking out my ideas, Kendra, as much as I enjoyed putting them together :)

Silk Top -- Otte New York
Black Pants -- Michael Kors
Crystal Shoes -- Giuseppe Zanotti
Necklace -- Cartier
Leather Tote -- Everlane
Leather Belt -- Everlane
Leather Sandals -- Everlane
Striped Top -- Saint James
Denim Shorts -- Frame
Panama Hat -- San Francisco Hat Co. via Sonnet James
Sunglasses -- Stella McCartney
Handmade Cuff Bracelet -- Evocateur

(Clicking on the collage will direct you to Polyvore where you can access more information about each item. The photos of each item were taken from the various online retailers listed below my Polyvore set.)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fountain Fun

I forgot to post these photos from a few weeks ago. We spent the afternoon at the zoo and Balboa Park, and I just happened to have swim trunks in my bag for Hunter. I am realizing that it is now a MUST to keep extra clothes and swim trunks in my bag because you never know when the mood for wading in a public fountain will strike. He loves the water! Happy summer!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Baby Shower Gift Ideas

All images via manufacturers' websites except for NoseFrida via Target

In the last several years, I have attended numerous baby showers. If I knew the gender ahead of time, I almost always used to give a cute outfit. Then I became a mama and started paying closer attention to the registry. I definitely appreciated the gifts that came from my registry, especially because I personally put a lot of thought and research into what went on my registry, so I respect that new parents want things they need (or at least what they think they need). Of course I appreciate everything we received for Baby Freerksen, but I especially loved the gifts that either followed a cute theme or came from expert moms who gave me things they found indispensable as new mamas (hello, breastfeeding gear! bibs! socks! plain white bodysuits!). 

New babies get lots of clothes, cozy blankets, diapers, and burp cloths, but it wasn't until my baby was in my arms with spit up everywhere, I hadn't showered or dressed or eaten, that I would realize, "Gosh, I could really use X right about now." Also, eventually babies get sick of staring at your face and actually want to touch things and play with toys. Plastic food containers, cups, and wooden spoons are great, but there were a few times I wish I had had some toys stashed in the closet that I could break open on the spot. 

Without further ado, here are my ideas for baby shower gifts I never knew I wanted or needed until after I became a mama...

"Bath-time Fun" Theme: Some mamas use soap on their babies, and some mamas just use water. So I tend to stay away from those kinds of bath essentials. Instead, I like to think about bath-time fun. When Hunter was big enough to sit in the bath without support, it looked rather lonely in the tub. Luckily these stacking cups were on my registry, so I pulled those out. 
1. That cute Under the Nile frog washcloth is actually a puppet/mitt. The tiny washcloths I received are better suited for mopping up runny noses, but this kind of washcloth is actually one I'd use in the bath. I could be silly with the puppet and then give Hunter a quick scrub down. (Organic & Fair Trade. Made in Egypt.)
2.The Green Toys tugboat is both a toy and useful water scoop. It makes rinsing shampoo out of baby's hair so fun! Sort of. (Made in USA)
3. Bath toys in general like Sophie for the bath or this kit (including a classic rubber duckie) are great, too.

Heirloom Toys: A handmade wooden car, a classic pull toy, or wooden clutch toy are all gifts families would treasure and pass on from generation to generation. I like the wooden toys from HABA because they are made with high-quality materials under sustainable practices. (Made in Germany) These cloth veggies from Under the Nile are pretty adorable, too. 

Medicine Cabinet Kit: Some parents prefer homeopathic remedies, and I am one of them, but when my baby has a super high fever, I turn to Baby Motrin. These other essentials are items I wish I had had on hand.
1. The NoseFrida works a thousand times better than a regular bulb aspirator. While you're at it, pick up a Windi too for relieving gas. (Made in Sweden.)
2. I use a saline spray in conjunction with the Nose Frida to loosen up pesky snot.
3. Camilia teething drops by Boiron are a great alternative way to treat painful teething symptoms.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why Buying "Made in USA" Is NOT the Answer

images via hoodie/shoes/scarf/sandals

I've seen, read, and heard that making a commitment to buying only Made in USA goods will boost manufacturing in America. It will create more jobs. Your stuff will last longer. It's the ethical way to shop. And, I kind of drank that Kool Aid, for a while. 

What can we do to help America thrive? This is the question I had been asking myself, and I thought the answer was to buy more Made in USA. Well, after several years of buying more Made in USA products, I have run into a handful of issues:

1. Not everything made in USA is of super-high quality. My Made in USA can opener sucks. My Made in China can opener is awesome. Cheap is cheap, no matter where it's made.

2. Not everything made in USA is produced ethically. There are sweatshops in Los Angeles, people. That's not cool. 

3. Some things I would like to buy are just not made by any manufacturers in USA. For example, I wanted to buy Hunter a locally made balance bike that didn't cost $300 -- impossible. Also, silk shirts might be sewn here, but I think there is like one silk mill left in the USA, so the fabric is most likely imported. I do love silk.

4. Buying ONLY Made in USA does not support the global economy, and like it or not, that's the world we're living in -- a global economy.

5. Sometimes the Made in USA options are just not as cutting edge as products made overseas. 

Now, don't think I've given up on buying Made in USA. If you look above, I still have that lovely link to my "Made in USA" page. I am still happy to support American manufacturing, and I will continue to purchase goods made here as much as I can. My focus, however, has shifted. 

The new question I am asking myself is, "Was this product ethically made and will it last?" "Buy Made in USA" definitely isn't the answer to my to new question, though I wish it were because that would make shopping so much easier.

Nope, now I am thinking more about buying less stuff that maybe costs a bit more but will last a long time. I honestly don't care where something comes from so long as I can figure out if it's made by a worker earning a fair wage and I can use it for many years. Not everything made overseas is cheap crap, and unfortunately the Made in USA movement is kind of banking on the idea that it is.

So, what is the answer? It's a complicated one. It requires some investigating and some trust. I don't have a definitive answer, but these are definitely some of my favorite resources and places to be an ethical consumer:

1. Everlane -- I want all the things in their women's collection. ALL THE THINGS. They work with factories in the USA, Spain, Italy, Thailand, Scotland, and China. Their thing is transparency. They strive to be transparent about how much it costs to make a garment and how much they mark it up. They also encourage consumers to "know your factories." On their site you can check out photos and write ups on each factory. In a recent email correspondence in which I asked for more information regarding the factories in China, a rep confirmed the following, "The factories we work with in China treat their workers well and take pride in improving wage and living standards. The employees work 8-5 and are paid 5x the minimum wage. They're also welcome to work overtime, but it's not required. Wages are increasing 10% each year and now China is actually one of the most expensive Asian nations to produce in."

2. IOU Project -- I have written about them before, so I will just reiterate that each one of their garments and accessories is truly a work of art. The madras is handmade in India, and on their site you can view photos of the individual weavers, who get paid double their normal pay when they work on IOU fabrics. The garments are sewn in Europe. Each finished product has a unique code that consumers can use to trace back to the original weaver. 

3. Flint & Tinder -- Two things I love: their 10-year hoodie and their transparency. Though I have yet to try their hoodie, I think it's awesome that it's guaranteed to last at least 10 years and includes free mending. The other thing I like is that they are upfront about when they use imported fabric, and you know what, I believe them when they say they are trying to get the fabric manufactured locally.

4. Fournier -- I love to give baby gifts from this small-scale company. The knitters are women in Bolivia, and the founder started this company as a poverty alleviation project.

5. My favorite fair trade certified companies: Oliberte and Under the Nile. Oliberte makes awesome leather shoes and accessories in Ethiopia. Under the Nile makes adorable organic cotton clothing and toys in Egypt.