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Fashion, Living

Molly Fienning Takes Babiators to New Heights

March 7, 2017
babiators

Babiators are easily one of our top “go-to” brands for our kids, so we’re excited to introduce you to their co-Founder, Molly Fienning. After graduating from Harvard in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Molly lept into a career at IBM. But as the legend goes, she was soon selling covetable kids eyewear from her kitchen table and gaining a cult following with one of the best customer service policies we’ve encountered (you lose ‘em, they’ll replace them!). Read on to hear what Molly has to say about making a dream into a reality.

babiators

Babiators hold a special place in our hearts. I mean, is there anything cuter than a baby in sunglasses? How did the idea for Babiators originate and did you really grow the brand to a multi-million dollar business in under 5 years from your kitchen table?

I might be biased, but I agree there are few things cuter than a baby in shades! The idea for Babiators originated from my time as a military spouse. My husband Ted was a fighter pilot for the Marine Corps, which issues aviator sunglasses to protect their pilots’ eyes from sun damage and glare. I thought, why not make aviators for babies – aka “Babiators” – to protect kids’ eyes too?

When we launched, my partner Carolyn and I cold-called hundreds of children’s boutiques from our dining tables. Within nine months, we were retailing our shades in 75 stores and had signed Nordstrom up to become our first major account! Today, six years later, we’re in 3000+ doors and Nordstrom is still a great partner of ours (we’ve also added major accounts Bloomingdales, Saks, Buy Buy Baby, Diapers.com and others). We’ve sold over 1 million pairs and generate ~ $6 million in revenue annually.

babiators

“When we launched, my partner Carolyn and I cold-called hundreds of children’s boutiques from our dining tables. Within nine months, we were retailing our shades in 75 stores and had signed Nordstrom up to become our first major account! Today, six years later, we’re in 3000+ doors and Nordstrom is still a great partner of ours. We’ve sold over 1 million pairs and generate ~ $6 million in revenue annually.”

Wow! Your growth is amazing! You just launched a new frame style, The Navigator. We’re so excited to have a new style option for our little ones to get them to wear shades. Why is it so important for kids to protect their eyes and how do Babiators accomplish this? 

We believe that kids are born to explore, a truth we love and wouldn’t change for the world. Outdoors on awesome explorations, however, children receive three times the annual sun exposure as adults. In addition, kids’ eyes are even more susceptible to sun damage than adults’ eyes because of their larger pupils and clearer lenses.

At Babiators, we’re spreading the word that 100% UV sunglasses aren’t just a stylish fashion accessory, they’re a healthy necessity. No matter what the brand, we’d love for all parents to protect their kids’ eyes from harmful UV rays.

babiators

You co-founded the company with your husband. Do you have any advice for mamas wanting to start businesses and successfully work with their spouse? Any tips you’ve learned along the way?

I love working with Ted. There is no one I trust more in the world, and our goals are completely aligned for the business. That said, there have definitely been moments that weren’t easy. We learned that it’s important to set boundaries so “talking shop” doesn’t take over the relationship (for us, the rule is no work conversations after 7pm). We also love using the MBTI personality type analysis. There’s a short online test you can take to learn your MBTI type and thus discover how you work/communicate/stress differently from your spouse to honor your own and his or her needs.

babiators

“Outdoors on awesome explorations, however, children receive three times the annual sun exposure as adults. In addition, kids’ eyes are even more susceptible to sun damage than adults’ eyes because of their larger pupils and clearer lenses.”

You’ve created a cult following with your brand. What was the moment when you first realized your business was a success and what did that feel like?

I first realized we were onto something in a hospital at 3AM, the day after our first son was born! I was feeding him and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I picked up the latest issue of US Weekly (while my husband slept on the ground next to me). I opened the page to a photo of Mariah Carey’s baby nursery, where her son, Morocco, was propped up in his crib and stylin’ in our Black Ops Babiators!

I literally jumped for joy on the hospital bed after seeing Babiators in print for the first time. My husband woke up startled by my bizarre behavior and we broke into laughter. We have since seen some of the coolest Hollywood kiddos around sporting our Babiators from the children of Sarah Jessica Parker to Khloe Kardashian to Rachel Zoe. Ellen DeGeneres even featured us on her annual Mother’s Day Giveaway episode – a pinch-me moment, for sure.

babiators

You have a charitable component to Babiators as well, delivering sunglasses to hospital pediatric units. Tell us more about that.

For the past few years, we’ve donated hundreds of pairs of Babiators to hospitals around the country, and we’re now ramping up a larger effort this year – which we’re calling our Future’s So Bright campaign. 

This campaign was inspired by a brave boy named Finn Blumenthal, who was born with Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) disease and whose mother was looking for a fun and heartfelt token to lift spirits after her three-day old son’s open heart surgery. The nurses brought him back to his mama in our Rockstar Red shades and his newborn hair styled in a mini-mohawk! It had a profound impact on us that Finn’s family’s “bright spot” during those difficult days at the hospital was Finn styling in his new Babiators. He is an inspirational 2.5-year-old and a VIP member of the Babiators family!

This month, we launched limited edition “Shark Finn” Babiators (in shark gray, as sharks are Finn’s fave animal). We’re donating 10% of proceeds to the American Heart Association for CHD research. Please check them out for Finn!

 

Through this Future’s So Bright campaign, our dream is to offer more moments of fun and play to other children facing difficult times in hospitals. If a pair of Babiators can make one sick child happy during his or her hospital stay, that’s enough for us.

babiators

Quote you love: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Best advice you’ve ever been given?: Life is short, do what you love.

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What are your 3 pearls of mama wisdom?

  1. Love What You Do. Building a business is a long road, so it is important to truly love what you’re doing. You might not love every aspect of your job, but a general feeling of excitement to show up most days and produce work is crucial. Otherwise, it is easy to burn out.
  1. Be flexible.  If something isn’t working, it is ok to adjust your path. We all learn through experience and need to be adept at changing course (instead of holding steadfast on a failing decision and going down with the ship).
  1. Persevere. As mothers, we all know that there is no quick fix to success. We’ve learned resilience as we love, care and fight for our children. It is not dissimilar for your business. A million small decisions contribute to whether or not your business thrives. Take that next baby step directly ahead of you, and keep on trucking.  

babiators

“If something isn’t working, it is ok to adjust your path.”

Exlusive heymama perk! Want to get your kiddos geared up in the latest shades? Babiators has offered 25% off using code HEYMAMA25 until April 1st, 2017.

Molly Fienning is the co-Founder of Babiators and lives with her husband and two children in Charleston.

Living

What I’ve Learned From Mothering a Special Needs Child

February 15, 2017
Angelman Syndrome

For most, the decision to have a baby comes with visions of a new life filled with sleepless nights, first words and tiny giggles. For some however, the daydreams become an alternate reality when things don’t go as planned. We first met Jasmine Jones through Instagram, later hooking up with her and her adorable family IRL at a heymama sponsored event. Her positivity was magnetic and we knew we wanted to know more about her. You see, Jasmine’s son has been diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome (AS), a rare, neurogenetic disorder that occurs in approximately 1 in 15,000 live births. Today, February 15th, is International Angelman Day and by Jasmine sharing her story, we hope to help her raise awareness for this curable disease. Here is their story…

Angelman Syndrome

Mothering a special needs child is truly extraordinary in every way. I’ve learned that even though your child has special needs, the world keeps moving at a normal pace around you. Life isn’t adjusted to our needs, we need to adjust to what is considered “normal”, but our situation is anything but. We’ve had to adapt and we’ve done a pretty great job.

Our son, Alexander Cree was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome (AS) which can present itself in similar ways to Autism or even Cerebral Palsy, and has a whole host of related issues such as balance and walking disorders, jerky movements, hand flapping, lack of speech into adulthood and more. People living with Angelman Syndrome will require life-long care and some days, it’s too overwhelming to process. There are days that I am frustrated and defeated, and crying out for a cure for my little boy, but we have no choice but to keep fighting. From the therapies and adaptations and wanting to be included in our social circles, to praying for a cure and wishing that I had enough money to put towards research, you adapt. I’ve accepted that there are no guarantees in life other than being born and someday dieing. Life doesn’t owe you anything. This is my situation, and after changing what my expectations were out of life, it opened me up a whole new way of living.

Angelman Syndrome

There are three things that have become mantras to me; love, hope and happiness. I love my son so much that I’m getting teary eyed writing this. He’s a beautiful ball of joy. He has no $%& idea that he has Angelman Syndrome. All he knows is that he has a mommy and daddy that plays with him, makes him delicious food, and gives him a fun life. He’s non-verbal, but looks at us and his eyes say “love me, I’m here and I love you, just love me!” That gets me through. I also have hope. There’s so much hope for our sweet boy. The world of genetics is rapidly growing and there’s some pretty amazing things going on with a cure for Angelman, which gives me hope for my baby’s future. Lastly, I try to live in the moment as much as I can. You get one wild, crazy and beautiful life… what are you going to do with it? There are so many reasons to be happy in life and I pay attention to those moments and appreciate them. It doesn’t mean that my heart doesn’t just break because of feeling robbed of my motherhood experience sometimes. Alexander was my first pregnancy, my first baby, and so many milestones either took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to happen, or just never have, and that hurts. My son is now four and most four-year-old’s speak a lot about life and how they see it and I want to hear what he thinks! I tell myself that someday this will all make sense and someday the miracles and unexpected victories will outweigh all of the pain, grief and heartbreak that has come with this. I make sure to surround myself with people who support us and are sensitive to our situation. I have no interest in being around moms who brag about their kids (who are my sons age) meeting milestones that we can’t, or people who treat us like we are aliens. I want people to treat him the same way they’d treat any other child and include us. The special needs community is often isolated because we don’t feel accepted or understood. I want to be a beacon of light and an example for special needs families as someone who didn’t isolate themselves because we are just “too different”. Although this is hard, I’m trying my best to promote inclusion and acceptance and less division and isolation.  

Angelman Syndrome

We’ve channeled our frustrations into creating a foundation Beautiful Rising Sun, helping to fund a cure for our little boy and others like him in partnership with the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics (FAST). I truly wish everyone could see my son through my eyes. Of course to us, he’s the most perfect being. He’s absolutely gorgeous inside and out. He’s a sweetheart. We get weird looks from kids a lot, and even adults and it hurts, but I get it because I know they don’t understand. We are a mixed race family, so even before our son was born, we were always the main attraction. People stare and make comments, but the comments were often more good than bad. So I say all of this to say that we are used to it, and it all goes along with not discriminating and realizing that before we are black or white or mentally disabled or atheist/Jewish/Christian, rich/poor, we are human. Pain is the same and love is the same. We all bleed the same and we are really more alike than we realize.

I believe conversations should be had with children to guide them to accepting people who are different. We all are, but educating them to accept people who may have a different skin color, different abilities, different languages or different family dynamics goes a long way. It’d be great if other moms could treat my son exactly how they would want their babies treated if they were given these harsh, unfair, undeserving and painful cards in life.

For me, being a special needs mom is the worst and best thing that has happened. It’s the best because it has taught me to look at life on a level that I’m proud of. Full of depth, undertaking and true appreciation for the breaths I take everyday. Do I wish I could’ve somehow learned this without Angelman? Maybe, maybe not. Ask me when I’m 90 (or once there’s a cure). Being a mother to Alexander Cree is like waking up everyday to fight a battle that seems like it has no end, but I make the choice to find the beauty. We have so many expectations out of life. I think everyone should know that life doesn’t owe you shit and to appreciate the heck out of all that you have, especially your health!

To learn more and donate to The Beautiful Rising Son Foundation, visit here.

Angelman Syndrome

Fashion, Living

An Intimate Affair: How Career, Kids and Love Drive These Couples Together

February 14, 2017
richer poorer

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we are on a roll celebrating all things amour and wanted to pause to get to know some of our favorite couples. We’re eternally fascinated by those couples who have found their forever mate, and doubly fascinated by those that can grow their love and a business at the same time. We thought it would be fun to take a behind-the-scenes peek into the lives of real couples making it work and play dress up in our favorite innerwear from Richer Poorer (we live in their pieces, after all).

TyLynn & Bee

richer poorer

It’s pretty sweet when your passion project turns into a full blown business and garners the attention of such heavy hitters as the Coveteur, Inc. and Vogue. Effortless, sensual and feminine, TyLynn Nguyen is a line of lingerie that dreams are made of and so is the couple behind the brand, TyLynn and Bee Nguyen. We go inside their cozy abode in our first Conscious Couples installment and hang with the couple wearing their favorite pieces from Richer Poorer.

Managing two careers can be all consuming. What’s your secret to making time for your relationship?

Bee: We spend a lot of our days together since we both work for ourselves and our secret is to find that balance. We make it a point to separate work from our marriage as best as we can, which is often times rather impossible, but we manage do it! We really love watching our shows and movies together as well as dating each other, that is key to any successful marriage – date your lover.

TyLynn: Planning ahead is essential! I also value multitasking and listening to each other and talking even when you don’t want to. I cherish our time after 8:30pm the most. The kids are asleep and it’s nice to be able to sit quietly next to each other since we are non stop all day up until that point.

 

Are you into astrology? What are your star signs?

Bee: I am a Virgo and TyLynn is a Cancer. I believe it is helpful to know and understand what characteristics are typical with each astrology sign. Doing so has helped me better understand how to navigate my wife’s moods and temperament, and I’m sure she too, has figured out the idiosyncrasies that come along with my birth sign.

TyLynn: I am a cancer and he is a Virgo. We are so perfect for each other and our ways! I am emotional and feel all energies that come to me, and he is a thinker and strategic problem solver. It works.

richer poorer

“The key to any successful marriage – date your lover.”

Do you have any shared hobbies? What are some of you favorite activities to do together as a couple?

Bee: We both really love design, art and fashion. We plan on doing a lot more traveling as seeing the world together is important to us. We have also been talking about taking up tennis and golf together since there is a really nice Country Club near our home. Spending time with our children is also very special to us, with our busy lives, ensuring that our children know and feel how much they are loved and honored by us has always been our #1 priority. Watching them grow into their own personalities is such a blessing!

TyLynn: There’s so much to us. We are completely our own people but we come together in areas like art and fashion. He has particular tastes and likes to expand his mind and ideals all of the time. I think that really resonates with me because I am in constant need of a new book or an adventure. He fulfills those desires for me.

Can you remember a moment when you were going through a rough patch and your partner really supported you? How did they make you feel better?

Bee: My wife is hands down my biggest supporter and she has always made it a point to vocalize that every day. I have been a serial entrepreneur for as long as she has known me, 10 years, and we have been married for 7 of those years. When you work for yourself, there are plenty of times where you just sit back and wonder how and why am I doing this? It’s those days that having TyLynn by my side simply reminds me of why and who I do this for – my family.

TyLynn: Since we work for ourselves, it feels like those moments can tend to happen more often than not. He has given me some great advice. My favorite is, “ You have to be content in all storms and blessings.” He has helped me learn to take each moment as a blessing, no matter what.

When do you think your partner is the most sexy?

Bee: I think my wife is the most sexy all day long! I especially like when she hops out of her bath and is getting all oiled up using her many skin products. Is that TMI? LOL

TyLynn: I love when he’s laughing. Bee has such a joyous, manly laugh. Also, his ability to be so loving and gentle which is something I find the ultimate masculine turn on.

Best relationship advice you have been given or that you give?

Bee: Best advice is for all the fellas out there reading this, just try your best to listen or at least have your lady think you are listening to her. Just kidding!

Really, it is about being great listeners. I am learning to not be so caught up in my own thoughts all the time, so as to make sure that I am present enough for my wife as well. It’s a work in progress.

TyLynn: Be open to falling deeper and deeper in love. Be open to let go of what you believe love should be, and let love form itself around you.

richer poorer

“ You have to be content in all storms and blessings.”

TyLynn is wearing the long sleeve crew tee in black

Bee is wearing the crew pocket tee in heather grey 

Amy & Jay

Richer Poorer

Next up, the adorable Amy and Jay Small. Amy has her own design studio and is the co-founder of A Hotel Life and Jay, the Owner of an insanely popular hair salon, these two have gotten married, had a baby, survived two months of hospital bed rest and overhauled a warehouse in Central LA all in the last two years. There’s a little magic between these two and we want to find out the secrets to their romance.  

What qualities do you see in your partner that you feel makes them successful in their career? And as a partner?

Amy: Jay has a zen like quality about him that I noticed from the day we met. He’s incredibly detailed and meticulous which is why he’s such an amazing hairdresser. As a partner it means he takes the time to hand write me sweet letters and cook beautiful meals.

Jay: Amy is incredibly calm and thoughtful. She is calm in the morning, afternoon and evening. The way she’s able to listen, understand and perform is what makes her great both in her career and as a partner. From the early days of our relationship to present day I am amazed daily at how she accomplishes so many things gracefully with a smile.

What’s been your proudest moment for them career wise and personally?

Amy: Once we had a baby on the way we knew it was time for him to move his salon out of our house. He found this incredible space that needed a lot of work and tore it to bits from floor to ceiling. I saw how nervous he was about what might happen with his business, but he was slammed from the moment he opened the doors. It’s a true testament to how great he is at what he does to see how loyal his clients are.

Personally, it was seeing him become a dad. He is so hands-on and helpful, and so deeply in love with our little girl- I can’t imagine a better partner in parenthood. He prioritizes spending time with her over everything else; and to see them cuddle and giggle together is the greatest gift.

Jay: A proud moment was when she asked me to join her on a trip to Petit St. Vincent. It was a writing assignment for A Hotel Life, a travel site she’d co-founded that year with a friend. Here we were taking 3 planes and a boat to this beautiful private island that had maybe 10 guests on it, and all I could do was stare at Amy in awe for making it possible. At that point I knew I should stick by her because wherever she ended up was going to be magical.

Personally, no day will ever bring me more joy then the day she gave birth to our baby girl. Telling jokes in between pushing, the same look in her eyes of appreciation from the beach in St. Vincent, despite the slight change in situation.

richer poorer

“I think the toughest yet most important part of a relationship is learning how to adapt to your partner’s needs and making it a point to put them first as often as possible. It’s so easy and satisfying to be selfish, but selflessness ends up benefitting us both even more.”

What is your favorite way to unplug from work and have fun together? Do you go out or stay in? Do you schedule in downtime/fun activities or are you more spontaneous?

Amy: We try to cook dinner together at least three times a week- it’s a great way to unwind yet stay connected and conversational before the TV comes on and we veg out. Sunday is the only day we have off together so we usually try to plan activities that we can enjoy as a family- like taking Georgie to the aquarium and meeting up with friends later for brunch. And we always like to have a future weekend trip on the calendar as something fun to plan and look forward to.

Jay: Our favorite way to unplug is to sit on the floor in the living room and enjoy a tasty meal. We split our time between cooking at home and ordering in but regardless once we both settle into our positions around the table the day is officially over. We go through moments of binge watching shows or me pretending to not like the Bachelor.

What would you each say your partner’s dream perfect day alone would be. No peeking!!

Amy: A game of tennis, a trip to Blue Bottle for coffee, a few hours of drawing and like, ten or eleven naps.

Jay: Amy’s dream day alone would start with a great cup of coffee and a beach. Then, there would be a breakfast of bacon, eggs and one pancake; followed by yoga, massage and pool.

What do you think the most challenging part of being a good partner is and how do you meet that challenge?

Amy: I think the toughest yet most important part of a relationship is learning how to adapt to your partner’s needs and making it a point to put them first as often as possible. It’s so easy and satisfying to be selfish, but selflessness ends up benefitting us both even more. We each encourage the other to go out and do things for ourselves; he’ll watch the baby so I can go get a pedicure or have a drink with a friend; I’ll encourage him to go get a massage. It’s gratifying to give each other these little ‘gifts’ of alone time and makes us appreciate each other a lot.

Jay: The most challenging part of being Amy’s partner is being as efficient, kind and thoughtful as she is. I find myself in awe of how she manages so much. My strengths are in consistency…always bringing coffee in the morning.

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“It’s easy to get the romance part down, but it takes knowing how well you can fight and make up and navigate smoothly through doubts and downs before you can really recognize the possibility of spending your life with someone.”

When do you think your partner is the most sexy?

Amy: On a Sunday morning with bedhead, in a white t shirt and sweats, bringing me coffee in bed.

Jay: I find my partner to be the sexiest when she wakes up in the morning. While she sits next to me sipping her coffee, regardless of how much sleep or what the day has in store, she is happy. The moment I realized that Amy always sees things on the bright side was the minute I told myself I would never let her go. She is a unicorn.

Best relationship advice you have been given or that you give?

Amy: Love is a marathon, not a sprint. We can get so caught up in finding the one and locking them down that we forget to pay attention to the nuances that really make a lasting relationship work. I always tell my friends that I think Jay and I knew we’d get married a week after we’d met, but we made it a point to date for two years before even entertaining the idea of getting engaged. It’s easy to get the romance part down, but it takes knowing how well you can fight and make up and navigate smoothly through doubts and downs before you can really recognize the possibility of spending your life with someone.

Jay: I have three pieces of advice…

1. It’s the small things that matter. Glances, laughs or hugs.

2. Start with clear alcohol end with brown.

3. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, shut up and listen.

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Amy is wearing the scoop V tee in black

Jay is wearing the long sleeve crew tee in heather grey and white

Photos by Nicki Sebastian

This post was sponsored by Richer Poorer

Fashion, Living

Love Story: Friends First

February 13, 2017
Amy Anderson

And now for the last in our three part series, we peek into the love story of Eric and Amy Anderson. You may know Amy from her popular blog, Parker Etc. but we wanted to know a little bit more about what keeps the love flowing between these two love birds. Raising their adorable little ladies in Brooklyn, Amy and Eric relish the simple things. From a handwritten note to a full-on kid-assisted art project, celebrating the day to day keeps the home fires burning. And if anyone knows a good locksmith, they’re looking to get into their old apartment building stat.

 

Thank you for taking the time to talk all things love with us! How and when did you meet?

Amy: We first met briefly at a charity event in the West Village. Fast forward a few months and we ran back into each other at a post church gathering with mutual friends. We hung out in larger groups for almost a year, while I had a huge crush on him, but would barely speak a word in his direction. Thankfully, he’s a persistent and patient man!

Eric: We met at a charity event/art show in New York City… I was photographing and met Amy, then we became part of the same little community and started hanging out more from there.

What was your first date? Can you remember what you or they wore?

Amy: Our first date was unintentional. We had been friends for almost a year, and I had an extra ticket to a concert, so we went together. He ended up walking me all the way home along the Hudson River to Hell’s Kitchen from Bowery Ballroom. Basically 5 miles! We ended up getting Red Bull’s, sitting on my rooftop and watching the sunrise. I have no clue what I wore, but it was probably my staple all-black-everything, but thankfully comfy shoes apparently!

Eric: She doesn’t consider it a date, but we went to see Josh Ritter in Brooklyn as “friends.” Ended with a solid side-hug. I can’t recall what she was wearing at all, just that she only answered me in one word responses!

Was there a pivotal moment that made you realize you had found “the one”?

Amy: Honestly, I think I knew in my gut right away when we started dating. Eric was a bit old fashioned (which I loved) and he vocalized early on his intentions for our relationship. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, it made me feel secure and I knew the relationship wasn’t to be taken lightly.

Eric: Watching the sun rise on her midtown NYC rooftop was pretty epic (and waiting for the train in the middle of the night most other nights). There was never enough time when we were together and our dates always stretched far into the night.

 

Amy Anderson

What 3 words describe your partner?

Amy: Patient. Really patient. Did I mention he’s patient?

Eric: Intentional, committed and sassy.

How would they describe you (no peeking!).

Amy: Intentional, loyal and a bit sassy.

Eric: Committed, Scattered, Protective

How do you make your partner feel special? Can you think of something super thoughtful your partner did for you?

Amy: Eric travels a lot for work, so the kids and I always try to have something special waiting for him when he gets back home. It can be a special dinner, a craft or drawing Parker has created, or a fun family activity we’ve planned to all do together. Eric is way more thoughtful than I am, so he’s always putting together surprise date nights, planning weekend trips upstate or leaving really sweet notes around the house in the mornings before he leaves for us to see when we wake up.

Eric: We have a pretty consistent flow of give and take. I try to do little things to make things easier for her day to day, and she does the same. I know she loves surprises, either big or small, so even if it’s just surprising her with some fresh flowers and bagels on a Saturday morning, that makes little things special. We regularly leave notes for each other around the house. I travel a lot for work so it’s nice to have constant reminders that the other is thinking about them.

How often do you go out sans kids? Do you have family near by or who can you lean on to watch the kids?

Amy: We try to do date nights as much as possible, but sometimes the best ones are just after the kids go to bed and we make dinner, drink some wine, watch a movie and then stay up late talking. Being able to just relax together is a date scenario I’ll take any day! We’re thankful for a wonderful network of sitters through our church and sweet friends that love on our family.

Eric: We try to, not easy with a 6 month old… but also actually like hanging and relaxing with the girls on the weekends more than trying to go out in the city. We’re now living a bit closer to family, which we’re very excited about.

What do you like to do on date night? What would be your ultimate fantasy date?

Amy: I’m always up for anything, but what I don’t like is going to the movies. I don’t want to pay a sitter to have time with my husband to then sit in a dark room and not be able to talk to him! So I’m always behind on what movies are out! I love surprises and Eric is great with always finding ways to incorporate surprises into our date nights. My ultimate fantasy date would probably be to find someone who lives in my old building to let us in so we can have a picnic date night again on my old rooftop. I’m such a sentimental sap!

Eric: Simple dinner at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, then maybe a drink or show. Amy used to work in the music industry, so we went to a lot of concerts during our dating years and we still enjoy seeing shows together when we can. Reminds us of being younger!

Amy Anderson

 What is your favorite outfit that each other wears?

Amy: When he wears slim black jeans, a button down and his favorite wax canvas jacket. Two thumbs up!   

Eric:Jeans and a t-shirt works every time. I prefer her casual outfits than her more dramatic ones.

Amy, finish these sentences: The first thing we do in the morning is divide and conquer the kids. The last thing we do at night is pray we get a full night’s sleep.

Eric, Finish these sentences: The first thing we do in the morning is make breakfast for the family. The last thing we do at night is let out a big sigh and congratulate each other on keeping everyone alive for another day!

What’s your fondest memory together?

Amy: The weekend Eric proposed. He told me to meet him at Grand Central Station at Platform 27 and that’s all I knew. We went up to our favorite Hudson Valley town of Cold Spring (where we actually also got married), and he asked me to marry him down on the pier. Our friends traveled upstate and surprised us the next day, throwing us a party and a massive dinner complete with celebratory toasts. We felt so much love and support!

Eric: All night cross-borough walks through Manhattan in the early days… when the weather was nice and we’d finish dinner, we would just walk the city for hours and talk. We had so much more energy back then! That and traveling Italy last year. Probably our best trip together yet!

What’s in your travel couple bucket list?

Amy: A relaxing stay in the English countryside. I’ve always wanted to take Eric to London so I can show him around my old stomping grounds. It was a really formative time in my life when I lived there. So we’ve always wanted to do a few days in the city and then head out to the country… it’s just so gorgeous!

Eric: More small trips to Charleston or Montreal. We really love exploring together whether it be just a day trip or a full week trip. Also, looking forward to taking the whole family to see National Parks here in the few years as the girls get older.

Amy Anderson

Do you have advice on how to stay in synch when you can’t get away for couple time?

Amy: Make time together at home – even if it’s just an hour after the kids go to bed. Be intentional and always keep communication open about everything.

Eric: Communication is key. Just talk to each other.

Lots of couples start to dress alike, accidentally walking out in matching looks…do you have a go to couple style?

Amy: Well, being New Yorkers we definitely tend to walk out of the house looking like we’re about to attend a funeral together. Monochromatic everything is a problem in our household… children included.

Eric: We usually look like we are headed to a funeral… all black all the time.

 

How do you plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year?

Amy: Honestly, we try to not make a big “to-do” about it and just make sure to write each other little notes. We’re a big love note type of couple, and find either cheesy or cute cards, and write down things we’re thankful for and love about the other. I literally have a huge bag full of notes that I’ve kept (again, super sentimental over here!).

Eric: I’m off to Santa Fe on Valentine’s Day, so we’ll just have a nice little Valentine’s breakfast with each other before I head to the airport, but I’ll probably leave a few love notes behind.

AnaLoveStory_6

Photos by Ashtin Paige

OUTFIT DETAILS:

Me: Sweatshirt / Jeans / Shoes (similar) / Jacket / Jean Jacket

Eric: Shirt / Jacket / Jeans (similar)

Thank you Old Navy for sponsoring this post.

Living

Love Story: Married Not Once, But Twice

February 12, 2017
hailey andresen

What can we say, we love love. And we love everything about Hailey and Zack from Household Mag. High school sweethearts from Arizona, these two have had their fair share of highs and lows and are truly stronger because of it. Now relocated to the East Coast and the parents to a one year old little boy, their love story is one that will have you doing a double take. You might be surprised, things aren’t always as they seem.

 

We’re so excited to be talking all things love with you two! How and when did you meet?

Hailey: Despite having plenty of mutual friends, Zack and I actually met at work when we were 16 and 18! We worked at a retail outlet store and Zack was my boss.

Zack: Our love bloomed in a world of multi-colored polos and mom jeans. I was Hailey’s manager when we were in high school.  

What was your first date? Can you remember what you or they wore?

Hailey: For our first date, Zack took me to an arts festival in the city (we went to high school in the suburbs of Phoenix). I’m pretty sure Zack wore a t-shirt and jeans and I wore lots of layers (I was going through one of those wonderful and embarrassing teenage phases! Ha!). We went out for burgers, and as we made our way back home, he introduced me to his mom, sister and best friend. It was super intense looking back, but in the moment it couldn’t have been more perfect.

Zack: Our first date was to a TGIFridays (don’t judge, we were teenagers) and then a record store in Phoenix where I bought her Copeland’s Beneath the Medicine Tree because I was a little emo boy. Then I brought her to meet my mom.  

hailey andresen

Was there a pivotal moment that made you realize you had found “the one”?

Hailey: I got a scholarship to FIDM when I was in my senior year of high school and without question, Zack agreed to put college on hold for himself and move to LA with me. Once we moved into our first home together, it didn’t take long before I realized he was “the one”!

Zack: I mean, she didn’t run away screaming after that first date, so I felt pretty confident I had found “the one” if by “the one” you mean “the one person crazy enough to continue dating me”.

We heard that you and Zack were so in love that you ended up getting married twice? What broke you guys apart and what ended up bringing you back together? Do you think you were more in love the second time around? How was your second wedding different than the first?

Hailey: Zack and I got married really young the first time. I had a really tricky time navigating our first rough patch after we both had graduated college and instead of splitting up for the summer like most couples would, we actually filed paperwork. I think we had a better understanding of what being in love was the second time around, and that has been essential to the success of our relationship. It’s not a constant honeymoon, and our struggles have made us that much stronger today. Our first wedding was one of those large parties where you’re meeting your parents co-workers for the first time and our second wedding was much more private. Our ceremony took place at the courthouse with my brother and Zack’s sister as our only witnesses and the reception was an intimate dinner with the twenty people we’re closest to.

Zack: We separated because we were young and hadn’t ever grown up as individuals, always as a unit and at the time, things that weren’t “us” felt more important and incapable of coexisting with the life we had created together. We got back together because we realized we were completely and totally wrong and that none of those things mattered if we didn’t have each other to celebrate with. I don’t think we were more in love the second time around, just more conscious of how precious our relationship is and how close we came to not having it. The second wedding reflected that: it was all about us, a celebration of our ability to overcome the seemingly impossible rather than a big, decadent extravaganza.

Do you think that this has made your relationship better? Knowing what you know now, would you have stuck through it, or do you think going your separate ways has made your relationship stronger?

Hailey: Such a tough question! I absolutely believe that everything we’ve gone through has made us better, but that being said since I know our paths led us back to each other, I wish we would have stuck it out. By divorcing, I think we honestly worked through things quicker and with more intention when we came back together – the space really allowed us to take a step back and see what was important and how we both needed to change to make things work. This method involved a lot more heartbreak than if we would have stuck together, but we’re here and I couldn’t be happier. I try to find the beauty in our story rather than thinking, “what if”.

Zack: Hailey and I talk about this sometimes. On the one hand, I’d love to not have that blemish on our relationship. It’s been three years since we remarried and I still look back on that time and only feel pain. But, on the other hand, I do think it was necessary. We wouldn’t be the couple we are today if it hadn’t happened, I can say that confidently.

hailey andresen

What 3 words describe your partner?

Hailey: Hilarious, intelligent and loving.

Zack: Timelessly beautiful, compassionate and nurturing.

How would they describe you (no peeking!).

Hailey: Hardworking, kind and beautiful.

Zack: Loyal, loving and no butt.

How do you make your partner feel special?

Hailey: Zack’s primary love language is words of affirmation. Since our schedules are so busy and there isn’t always a ton of one on one time I make an effort to always share how much I love and appreciate him even if we won’t be seeing each other much that day. My go to’s are a handwritten note for him wake up and read in the morning, a midday text or if there’s something small he’s been needing or wanting I try to messenger it to his office as a surprise with a note.

Zack: We know each other’s love languages. Hailey is all about quality time, which is challenging with each of us working as hard as we do and having a toddler at home. It’s all about the little things; I try to make sure that when I am home and it’s just us, I am present in the moment, not scrolling mindlessly through my phone or zonking out on some dumb TV show.  

Can you think of something super thoughtful your partner did for you?

Hailey: I recently expressed to Zack that I was feeling a little disconnected and in need of some quality time together. He immediately took action and planned out a few different date nights for us – we tried a new restaurant one night, went out for drinks another and to a comedy show in our neighborhood. It’s taken time, but because we each receive love so differently it’s important that we check in with each other and make sure we’re filling each other up. Zack is especially great at responding to my needs and being extra thoughtful.

Zack: Hailey does a better job of tangible, thoughtful acts, partially because my love language requires more of that. Recently, I forgot my umbrella at home and it was raining cats and dogs when I was at the office. She Amazon Now-ed me an umbrella and a package of my favorite candy. It was such a sweet, thoughtful surprise.   

hailey andresen

How often do you go out sans kids? Do you have family near by or who can you lean on to watch the kids?

Hailey: Our parents all live in Phoenix so going out is a little tricky. Zack’s cousin lives in NYC so we have her babysit often, and we have a few pals we can count on as well, but I would say unless the grandparents are in town it’s close to one or two times a month.

Zack: A couple times a month. We don’t have family close by as everyone is in Arizona. We have a few close friends who are willing to chip in here and there, but generally we have to pay a babysitter to come in and give us some relief.

What do you like to do on date night? What would be your ultimate fantasy date?

Hailey: Most date nights include checking out a new restaurant, stopping for drinks and if we really plan well, a concert or comedy show. When either of our parents are in town we normally do a little staycation in the city and honestly, that’s pretty perfect for us! While you’re never able to completely check out as parents, it’s always nice to have a full night out where you can enjoy yourself, let the grandparents take charge and get an uninterrupted night of sleep.

Zack: We’re both big eaters, so everything centers around food. There’s so many great places to go in NYC, so we try and pick somewhere new and mix things up. Typically end with a few drinks somewhere where we inevitably end up being the weird couple who looks at pictures of their kid at the bar on their night away.  

What is your favorite outfit that each other wears?

Hailey: We are both t-shirt and jeans kind of people, but really enjoy dressing up for a night out together!

Zack: We rarely get the chance to dress up, but when occasion calls and Hailey is all done-up in a nice dress, it’s like catnip for me.  

hailey andresen

Hailey, finish these sentences: The first thing we do in the morning is snuggle Owen, grab him a bottle and make coffee. The last thing we do at night is kiss each other goodnight and say I love you.

Zack, finish these sentences: The first thing we do in the morning is make coffee and get Owen some milk. The last thing we do at night is get a foot in our faces from our co-sleeping toddler.

What’s your fondest memory together?

Hailey: When our son, Owen, was born Zack was the only one in the room with me besides the nurse and doctor. My labor was close to twelve hours and aside from the two hours that I pushed, we really just had the best time together. He helped keep my mind off things, made me laugh and encouraged me every step of the way. The process took our bond to a whole other level and left us feeling especially connected as a family the moment Owen was born.

Zack:  Being alone in the hospital room right as labor was really kicking in but before the doctor came in to have her start pushing. I was trying so hard to make her laugh to distract from the pain and we had this really beautiful moment where we thanked each other for fighting for our relationship and getting to this point. I’ll always remember that.

Hailey Andresen

What’s in your travel couple bucket list?

Hailey: We’re heading to Spain in April and have Montreal, Canada on our list for later in the year. We’d love to travel to Japan and Iceland at some point within the next few years too!

Zack: This year we’ve already done Costa Rica and we have Spain in April. Trying to get to New Orleans (Hailey’s never been) and Montreal this year as well. That said, biggest bucket list spots would be a few spots in Asia. I really want to go to Tokyo.  

Do you have advice on how to stay in synch when you can’t get away for couple time?

Hailey: Keeping our lines of communication open is crucial. Since we don’t get away much as a couple we do our best to let each other know if and when we need something in the relationship. We set up a great schedule for ourselves that allows each of us some time away each week as well as time together and we check in every few weeks or so to make sure we’re each feeling loved and balanced. We’ve learned that being honest with each other is essential and that there’s no harm in asking for what you want.

Zack: You might not be able to get away, but you can always find time, it’s just about how you prioritize. I read a quote from the CEO of Coca-Cola once that said: “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. ” I try to remember that whenever I am putting too much weight on work and not enough emphasis on my family.

hailey andresen

Lots of couples start to dress alike, accidentally walking out in matching looks…do you have a go to couple style?

Hailey: Zack’s job allows him to dress fairly casual and since I work from home mine does too. We definitely aren’t a matchy matchy couple by any means, but we both enjoy denim and classic tees, sweaters and coats which makes shopping for each other fairly easy!

Zack: I don’t think so. Hailey is so much more stylish than me. I wear weird metal band t-shirts and the same pair of jeans everyday.  

Define the word love as it feels to you 🙂

Hailey: After being in a relationship for almost 11 years with Zack I always come back to this quote when it comes to love, “Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”

― Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Zack: the same quote as Hailey (awwwwww!)

How do you plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year?

Hailey: We always like to find a small way to celebrate Valentine’s Day together – we made the mistake of skipping over the holiday the first year we were married and decided from there on out that even though we make every attempt to show our love for each other everyday that Valentine’s day was just as important. That being said, we will most likely order in some take out, open a bottle of wine and get cozy on the couch! Nothing too fancy, but it’s important to us is that we spend it together.

Zack: Foooooooooood. Wineeeeeeee. No baby.  

hailey andresen

Photos by Stevi Sesin

OUTFIT DETAILS:

Hailey: Sweatshirt / Jeans / Shoes / JacketHat (similar)

Eric: ShirtSweatshirt / Jacket / Jeans

Thank you Old Navy for sponsoring this post.

Living

Love Story: From Chance Meeting To Engagement in 6 Months

February 11, 2017
Patricia Chang

A chance meeting turns into a whirlwind romance that sparks an engagement after only 6 months (yes, that happens in real life!). Now, designer Patricia Chang and her loving husband Hank are expecting baby number two in a few short weeks and things couldn’t be more picture perfect. You can’t help but smile when you hang with these two and their love definitely gives us all the feels.  

You two are the cutest – thanks for taking the time to share your love story with us! How and when did you meet?

Patricia: We met at a mutual friend’s birthday party on September 25, 2010. I never go out alone, but that night I did. Otherwise I likely would not have had a chance to make conversation with a complete stranger! He was lively, spontaneous and most of all fun, so we chatted all night.

Hank: At a friend’s birthday party. I had just enough liquid courage (ok, a little more than “just enough” …this was in my mid-20s) to approach her.

What was your first date? Can you remember what you or they wore?

Patricia: The night we met he mentioned wanting to check out an art fair in Dumbo, Brooklyn the following day. Hank wore a beige argyle sweater and I wore a loose fitting t-shirt with a graffiti print of monster characters on the front and back. Hank recalls thinking I wasn’t interested in him wearing an outfit like that!

Hank: It was the day after we first met at the now-defunct annual art festival in Dumbo. This was during my short-lived phase of trying to become (or at least seem) more cultured. I remember clearly what Patty wore because we joke about it all the time – it was the baggiest t-shirt I’d ever seen and had a graphic print of what looked like Mickey Mouse with rabies. I remember thinking to myself “she seemed into me last night, but that t-shirt screams “let’s just be friends…”

Patricia Chang

Was there a pivotal moment that made you realize you had found “the one”?

Patricia: Traveling with someone reveals a lot about your compatibility. I think we both knew there was something long term when we went on our first vacation together to Napa only two months in. It was also clear that we enjoyed the same things and, as cheesy as it sounds, that we “completed” each other. I am very right brained and he is very left, so we rely on each other’s strengths where we are weak to compliment the other.

Hank: Not a pivotal moment – the first six months were just a whirlwind (in a good way) of love.  We were joking about getting married within a month of meeting each other, talking seriously about it within two months and engaged within six.  I think it was when I realized she was either completely blind to or somehow able to forgive my laundry list of character flaws that I knew she was the one.  

What 3 words describe your partner?

Patricia: Patient, practical and easy going.

Hank: Beautiful (inside and out), sunny and loving.

How would they describe you (no peeking!).

Patricia: Positive, affectionate and fun loving.

Hank: She SHOULD describe me as pragmatic and calm with the stunted emotional capacity of most men my age, but I suspect her description will be more positively skewed.  She’s still wearing those rose-colored glasses (see comment above), which I love her for.

Patricia Chang

How do you make your partner feel special?

Patricia: I try to my best to let him know he really is special to me with lots of encouragement and support. He loves it when I cook for him since its is not as often as he’d like. He is always, I mean always, doing something thoughtful for me. When we were dating and I was out to dinner with my girlfriends, he would do sweet things like send champagne to the table, but when you’re married it’s the everyday things that mean so much to me. He never complains about being hands on as a husband and father while going above and beyond. On top of that he’s always trying to make me laugh.

Hank: I’m not good at the big things, so I focus on the little things like making sure she feels loved everyday, helping out around the house as much as possible and making a conscious effort to be a better husband than the day before.  There’s only so many times you can plan some special event or present or whatever before you run out of ideas or money (in my case, more likely money).

How often do you go out sans kids? Do you have family near by or who can you lean on to watch the kids?

Patricia: We go out often sans kids, but rarely together. We recently had a movie theater date for the first time in 3 years. My parents live nearby so we were fortunate enough to get a lot of help from them when our first son was born, but being grandparents they eventually got burnt out. I work as the founder of my namesake brand from home so now we have a part time nanny which is incredibly helpful.

Hank: Not as often as we would like. My hours are long and I don’t get to spend as much time with our son (soon to be sons) as I’d like, so weekends are generally designated as family time. I do believe that setting aside alone time to reconnect with your spouse is important, but practicing what I preach has never been my strong suit.

What do you like to do on date night? What would be your ultimate fantasy date?

Patricia: We like going to a nice relaxing and romantic dinner. My “sky is the limit fantasy date” would definitely include taking a private jet to some exotic outdoor location and having a private dinner with candles all around.

Hank: There’s this cheese and wine bar right by our apartment. We’ll just go there and unwind, drink some nice wine and reconnect.  We have some very fond memories there. Ultimate sky is the limit fantasy date? Two front-row seats to a showing of Hamilton where they bring back the original cast.  Those tickets are IMPOSSIBLE to get.  Patty doesn’t even actually want to watch the show – she just wants to watch me tear up at “It’s Quiet Uptown.”

Patricia Chang

What is your favorite outfit that each other wears?

Patricia: I don’t think he has an opinion about what I wear and generally lets me do my thing. As long as his pants are skinny fit and his hair is styled with hair product, we are good to go!  

Hank: Patty loves me in some skinny jeans.  The tighter the better.  She’s usually pretty laissez faire about my wardrobe, but she recently put her foot down on some of my older pairs of straight/boot-legged jeans.  They were donated to the local thrift store when I wasn’t looking and replaced with proper skinny jeans.  As for my favorite Patty outfit, I’ve only seen Patty in maternity clothes for the last few months.  I honestly don’t remember at this point what her normal wardrobe includes.

Patricia, finish these sentences: The first thing we do in the morning is eat breakfast and feed the cats. Hank always takes a morning shower. The last thing we do at night is “nighttime routine” where we tidy the home for the next day. Then we all jump in bed, read books, sing bedtime songs and go around saying our “I love yous” and “Good nights”.

Hank, finish these sentences: The first thing we do in the morning is tell Chase to go back to sleep. The last thing we do at night is tell Chase to go to sleep. To be clear, it’s not that Patty and I have the sleep cycle of a toddler – it’s that Chase has the strangest sleep cycle I’ve ever seen or heard of for a two and a half year old.

Patricia Chang

What’s your fondest memory together?

Patricia: There are so many from our travels, but I have to say there was a moment I felt a deep love from him after I gave birth. It was a complicated birth with our first and I had to stay at the hospital for a while. Chase was born right before our second wedding anniversary which we ended up celebrating sitting side by side in the small hospital bed together, eating hospital food (my first meal in days). I knew for certain he would be a rock I can lean on no matter what life throws at us. It will always be a special memory.

Hank: Really too many to name.  Relationships are a constantly evolving process and there’s a beauty to every stage in that process – starting as boyfriend/girlfriend, getting engaged, getting married, becoming parents.  I have to say parenthood has been an amazing ride (so far – I’ve heard less stellar feedback about the angsty teen years). The mutual love we have for our son has strengthened our bonds with each other and it’s so much fun watching our son change everyday.  

What’s in your travel couple bucket list?

Patricia: Greece, Morocco, Maldives, pretty much anywhere we haven’t been we’d love to go!

Hank: What’s not on our travel bucket list?  We love to travel together.  I didn’t catch the travel bug until late in life, so there’s plenty of spots left on my bucket list.  Hell, when I first met Patty, 75% of the reason I wanted a girlfriend was to have a travel partner.  

Do you have advice on how to stay in synch when you can’t get away for couple time?

Patricia: Hank doesn’t have the shortest work hours, so we have to make an effort to make time for each other. I’ll even follow him into the bathroom while he showers to take any extra chance to talk to each other. When we are home together, we implemented a “no technology” hour for quality face time.

Hank: I think it’s about learning to make the most of what time you do have together.  People made it work in the days of horse buggies when a long distance relationship meant a letter a month.  We have e-mail, text, Skype, Facetime, etc.  No excuses – make some time to connect.

Patricia Chang

Lots of couples start to dress alike, accidentally walking out in matching looks…do you have a go to couple style?

Patricia: We have matching sneakers and I make him wear skinny jeans.  

Hank: Our whole family has matching Adidas sneakers.  We went down to the Soho store one day and decided to be that family.  I don’t remember having agreed to being that family before we entered the store, but by the time we exited we had definitely become that family.

Define the word love as it feels to you.

It’s evolved. I’m learning to feel loved over time the way he expresses it, which is by actions. Love feels selfless, doing whatever it takes to see the other person happy.

Hank: A highly pleasant and addictive programmed neural response to external stimuli – like crack, but good for you.

How do you plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year?

Patricia: This Valentine’s Day, we’ll probably celebrate it over a nice relaxing and romantic dinner either out or at home. We often leave the house taking turns watching our son, but rarely just the two of us for dates. I love how it reminds me of when we were dating and those early butterfly feels.

Hank: Can’t tell you…it’s a surprise.

Patricia Chang

Photos by Stevi Sesin

@stevilou

Patricia:  Shirt / Sweater (similar) / Jeans / JacketHat (similar)

Hank: Sweater / Hoodie / Jeans / Sneakers (similar)

Thank you Old Navy for sponsoring this post.

Fashion, Living

The Ultimate Mama and Little Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

February 6, 2017
Valentines day gifts

I don’t know about you, but we have been feeling like we all need a hug. Valentine’s Day is around the corner and we’re going to press pause on real life and indulge in a little extra lovin’ this year. The uber-talented Aisha Alkayali from The Gift Pick has a special knack for finding the most splendid must-have gifts, and she’s curated the ultimate mama and little gift guide for us. We’re sure these picks will bring a few extra much needed cuddles, don’t you think? Enjoy mamas!

 

  1. Sweatshirts

Valentines day gifts

For mama: IYL Couture, $62

Valentines day gifts

For your little: ILY Couture, $36

 

  1. Earrings

Valentines day gifts

For mama: Jennifer Meyer, $475

Valentines day gifts

For your little: Nordstrom, $14

  1. Aviator Sun Glasses

For mama: Rayban, $200

Valentines day gifts

For your little: J. Crew, $20

  1. Nail Polish

Valentines day gifts

For mama: tenoverten, $135

Valentines day gifts

For your little: Amazon, $15

  1. Bracelet and Necklace

Valentines day gifts

For mama: Starling Necklace, $70

Hey Mama Valentines 5

For your little: Starling heart bracelet, $35

  1. Shoes

Valentines day gifts

For mama: Vans, $55

Valentines day gifts

For your little: Vans, $32

  1. PJ’s & Dress

Valentines day gifts

For mama: Roberta Roller Rabbit, $95

Valentines day gifts

For your little: Roberta Roller Rabbit, $55

 

  1. Swim Suits

Valentines day gifts

For mama: Net-A-Porter, $280

Valentines day gifts

For your little: J. Crew, $59.50

 

  1. Handbag

For mama: Rebecca Minkoff, $195

For your little: Nordstrom, $24

  1. Travel bag

Valentines day gifts

For mama: Ban.do Duffle, Macy’s $55

Valentines day gifts

For your little: Ban.do Pouch, Macy’s $10

 

Aisha Alkayali  is an LA mama to two littles and is the Co-Founder of The Gift Pick, the ultimate destination for coveted gifts for all ages.

Living, Wellness

I’m A Cancer Survivor: Here’s My Story

February 4, 2017
breast cancer

When I was 17 years old, I felt a lump in my right breast. I had larger breasts in high school and when I mentioned it to my OB she said it was probably a fibroadenoma (a very common occurrence) but referred me to a specialist just to be safe. The specialist suggested we could do a biopsy, but because I also had several other lumps in both breasts that I should stop taking my birth control to reduce external hormones, cut down on caffeine, and we would keep an eye on it.

I was young, carefree, and felt invincible. I knew in the back of my mind everyday that the lump was there, that I should do something about it, but I wanted to live my life. I wanted to have fun. There wasn’t time to slow down, take care of myself, be responsible. Fast forward two years later, and at age 19 my tumor had grown to roughly the size of a tangerine. I knew it was time to go back in.

I remember being so afraid, sitting in the waiting room surrounded by older women, some with hair, some without, and thinking to myself, “I don’t belong here”. I remember the biopsy machine being loud and the room was cold. The specialist asked me to come back after a few days and I received the news. “Ana. You have breast cancer.”

breast cancer

I was diagnosed on February 7, 2007 with a malignant Phyllodes tumor. Phyllodes tumors are extremely rare – only 1% of all breast tumors are Phyllodes. They are most commonly benign so having a malignant Phyllodes tumor is even more rare. The most common symptom is rapid growth of the tumor, though luckily it doesn’t tend to spread to other parts of the body.

I was in complete shock. The doctor was explaining treatment and our next course of action but it sounded like I was underwater and everyone was talking about me above the surface. I had never had surgery, stitches, not even a cavity. I remember them showing me a book with reconstruction options and thinking this isn’t happening to me. My body can’t look like that. How will I ever feel like a woman? How will I feed my future children? How will someone ever love me?

I opted to have a double mastectomy. I had several tumors on my left breast as well that they were going to remove and I knew if those tests came back positive I couldn’t put myself through this experience again.I think one of the hardest parts of the entire experience was the isolation. I had so much anger and self-pity. All I thought of was what I had lost, not what I had gained.

breast cancer

It has been a long journey to find acceptance and gratitude. It finally came to me the day I gave birth to my daughter Edith. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t breastfeed her, I was there, she was mine, and I had been given this gift of life. I realized I was a survivor.

For me, being a survivor has meant living in gratitude. I know it sounds cliche to say “live each day as if it were your last” but nothing is more true to me. I’m not perfect. I have days where I let the kids watch too much TV. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost my patience or gotten upset over something petty. I’m human. But I know the “big picture” of things. We live life. We welcome adventure. There are nights when we stay out hours past bedtime because no one has stopped laughing since dinner and I can’t bring myself to tell them the fun has to end. Or when we just decide to have ice cream sundaes for dinner because it is too hot outside to cook anything and summer will be over before we know it. In those moments, I know exactly what the meaning of life is and nothing else matters. We will make it home for a decent bedtime another night. We will have plenty of time for our daily routines, school, and healthy dinners. I just want to wake up and take each day as it comes.

I don’t have the answers why some people survive and some don’t. I do know cancer isn’t “fair”. That is takes good people – mothers and mothers who would do anything to be back with their children. When I wake up in the morning that this life is a gift. Being here, being a mother, I don’t take it lightly. I know my second chance at life hasn’t been wasted.

breast cancer

Ana Fritsch is a writer, stylist, and blogger who currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters. You can follow along with her journey over at Lucky Penny
Living

This Mama Sold Her Company And This Is What It Was Like

February 1, 2017
Rachel Pitzel

A mama after our own hearts, Rachel saw the need to create a community for moms, moms-to-be and families called Club Momme. Apparently, others thought this was pretty rad too and Rachel sold her business to mom.me in 2015. Fast forward to today, Rachel has her own consultancy, Rachel.xo, and manages strategy, influencer outreach and creates custom experiential events.  

Rachel Pitzel

What was the biggest thing you learned creating and growing your own business to a point where you were able to sell it?

Two things really stand out for me.

The first, was business is constantly evolving, and you need to continuously evolve along with it. Now in the age of social media, we need to constantly stay on our toes and be open to trying new things. Once you get comfortable, you’re in trouble!  I simply cannot plateau, I need to be constantly pushing forward and evolving.  

The second is planning. Doing so is great, but you need to be flexible to grow along with your business. While I like plans, calendars, and schedules, greatness never follows a strict roadmap. For instance, when I first started my business, we agreed not to take on investors. Selling was never our intention, but it was the best thing for the business, and for me as well!

What did it feel like to actually sell your business? Were you a little sad/nervous or were you 100% pumped to see your baby go?

Selling your business is kind of like having a child grow up and go off to college. You are so happy and proud, and you want your baby to flourish and grow. I knew that my company could evolve into so much more than I was able to offer it. My specialties are in ideas, strategy, execution, business development, social media and collaborations, but scaling a business and managing people are not my strengths.

Just as you would feel so happy for your child to go off to school, there is an intense sadness as that little baby that you spent all night rocking to sleep when they were sick going off and being independent. It took me several months after the sale and working for the company who acquired my company to be ready to move on and go to the next thing.

Rachel Pitzel

Speaking of moving on, what was your game plan post sale? Did you know right away what the next steps were? If not, what did you do to help figure it out?

My initial game plan post sale was to work for the parent company who acquired my business. Beyond that, I could never imagine walking away from my organization that I put my blood, sweat and tears into before and during the sale.

I had an inkling as to what I would do post-sale, but it took some time for that vision to become clear. After 9 months of working for the parent company, I was ready to take my next step. It was scary, as are all great changes in life. I call it my pivot. Jenny Blake has a great book and podcast on the topic which has been really helpful in my journey. Sometimes you just need to take the next step without knowing exactly where you are going or how you will get there. Rather, you rely on faith.

I am a big believer that hard work, motivation, connections and putting out the right energy will take you places.  Initially I took some time off (not much!) and really enjoyed time with my family and traveled a lot. I took a lot of meetings, talked to people, and spent time thinking, “Who am I right now?”, “What do I want?”, “What is important to me right now?”, “What am I loving and what do I want to devote my time and energy working on?”.  I was really unhappy for a period of time working for someone else after being an entrepreneur for so long. It took me some time to figure it out.

But you know what? I am still figuring it out. Opportunities come up and you have to decide what is right for you and there are constant little pivots along the way. My best advice is to surround yourself with good people, follow your passion and the direction your heart is pulling you. Trust your own instincts!

We couldn’t agree more! If you had a theme song what would it be?

Girl on Fire by Alicia Keyes

Rachel Pitzel

Words you live by: Find your tribe and love them hard.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?: Collaborate! Build a community. Never take no for an answer. Don’t take things personally. Sometimes I still do, (okay, a lot), but I try!

What are your 3 pearls of mama wisdom?

1. Don’t stress the little things.

2. Your parenting style depends on your kid, so don’t worry too much about how everyone else says to sleep train, potty train, etc. Find the best method for YOU and YOUR child.

3. Empower your husband/partner.  Don’t nitpick how they parent, as an empowered spouse frees up so much time for you to do your own thing!

Living

Show Me Your Best Shelfie

January 27, 2017
Shelf Design

When interior designer and stylist Dee Murphy isn’t beautifying spaces for her latest client’s or shuttling between her home in LA and the upcoming Modernism Week showcase house in Palm Springs, she’s procrastinating with shelves. Thank goodness she’s got an eye for turning clutter into cool, curated and covetable spaces and she’s here to share the art of the styled shelf. Keep reading…

Staring at a blank set of shelves to style can be daunting, even sweat inducing…or… with the right set of tools in your back pocket and a few basic rules, it can be exciting and even therapeutic (if you like to procrastinate on the rest of your “work” and style things over and over like I do!).

It’s not as hard as one might think to turn a basic shelf into the focal point in the room. Here’s what you’ll need:

-Books

-Greenery or natural elements

-Sculptural objects

-Personal items that you’d love to show off

-A few other knicks and knacks such as candles, frames or even a pot or pan depending on what room you’re styling

Shelf design

I like to keep things pretty organic, but there are few basic rules to help you get started:

1. Keep a consistent color scheme.

The shelf above was just one section of a massive bookshelf I had to style in a New York West Village project. In order to keep the shelves looking collected vs. cluttered, the color scheme remained mostly white and gold, with shades of brown. I then added pops of color with books and flowers.

You can also decide to use all the colors of the rainbow and coordinate the colors in a way that creates a unified pattern. Organizing your books by color can be quite striking and add a lot of visual interest to your room.

2. Think in “levels” (high, low, high, low).

For visual balance, I made sure to fill the spaces with objects of varying height. Books, plants and sculptural objects are a really great way to achieve this!

Shelf design

3. Use personal items.

When we ran out of “budget” to buy more accessories, I scoured my New York client’s closet for personal items that would make a statement. The clutches were just what I was looking for. They kept to the color scheme rule, and gave a nod to her own glam personal style as well.

Shelf design

In this “tween” girl’s bedroom, vintage books from her mom were the obvious sentimental choice, sandwiched between two geode bookends (note the natural elements).

4. Use greenery and/or natural objects.

When styling bookshelves, ALWAYS bring in natural elements like flowers, indoor plants, wood accents and geodes for warmth and texture. The dreaded fake plant has come such a long way, that even someone who perpetually kills their plants (like me), can find an amazing substitute. The imitation succulents and air plant below were all from West Elm, and low maintenance enough for even a tweenager.  

Shelf design

5. Work groupings of objects into odd numbers.

My final piece of wisdom is a subtle trick most designers seem to use as a rule of thumb. We love to group our objects in odd numbers like threes and fives.

These shelves just went up in my kitchen two days ago, and I wasn’t supposed to put anything on them yet, but for the sake of this story, I sacrificed them for ten minutes (and maybe I was procrastinating again).

You’ll see that on the bottom shelf I have a group of three books, a group of three jars, plus the wire bowl, which equals three. On the second shelf, a bowl, plus a group of three smaller objects, plus a pot, equals three.

It doesn’t necessarily always turn out this way, but groups of threes and fives just seem to work both in photographs, and to the human eye as well!

You’ll also notice that in this particular style session, I’ve got my consistent color scheme (black, white and gold), personal item (framed art from a friend), highs and lows (except for maybe that second shelf – whoops!), and natural elements (plants and wood shelving) to round up my styling rules.

Shelf design

Do I still get stumped when attempting to style? Absolutely! I’ve got a console calling my name for the last three months that I just can’t seem to get right! But inspiration will strike! Most likely when I should be working… on something else.

Business, Living

Bigger Isn’t Always Better: The Rise of the Micro-Influencer

January 26, 2017
Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 8.56.16 PM

By Nicole Best

Let’s be honest. When you see your following surge on Instagram it feels good. Am I right? But if your numbers are flat, don’t despair. Brands are starting to come around to the fact that it’s not always the numbers that make an impact, it’s the engagement. If you have built an audience that trusts and values what you have to say, and sometimes recommend, it can be worth more than the number of overall followers you have. Our friends at Matte Black, a culture marketing firm and creative studio, agree. Read on to hear what they have to say on The Rise of the Micro-Influencer…

A digital influencer: the term heard ‘round the world. As a surplus of individuals have oversaturated a market that was once undefined, lifestyle, coffee, beauty and travel influencers have become commonplace, so to speak. These people have created an industry that is is so attainable, it almost acts as a surplus of talent. So, with this overcrowding of an industry, how do we sift through each of these individuals and differentiate between Influencer A and Influencer B?  

As a brand, when you look at an influencer on Instagram, Snapchat, what have you… are you more concerned with their reach or their engagement?

Let’s do a little math to figure it out: if someone has 4 million followers and gets .5% engagement per media, is that better than an influencer with 30K followers who gets 10% engagement per media? The answer is no.

This is where the term, ‘active user’ comes into play. An active user is someone who is following another person with purpose. Active users are engaged and genuinely interested in the people they are following. These people are important because as a brand, wouldn’t we prefer to see 100 clicks back to a website to buy a product off of one post, than see 100,000 impressions but no ROI? 

As important as exposure is, hitting your key demographics with what we consider the micro-influencer is a more strategic route for a brand. The micro-influencer has a dedicated, niche following. They have a community of users that deem them the expert in their fields; the Beyonce of their craft, following their every step with a magnifying glass.

The micro-influencer is interactive, constantly engaging with their community and ensuring they are heard. This person is creating an enviable, yet tangible lifestyle, and their community not only wants to be a part of it, but already feels like they are. These influencers are tapping into the consumer’s modern desire to be a part of something unique in a world where content is fleeting, as our friends at Forbes noted.

He or she is also more cost effective. Because even though they can’t necessarily prove how they’ve helped other brands, they’ve curated a community that deems them the expert in their field.

For example, let’s say you are a skincare brand and you want to tap into the enviable life that Sincerely Jules has created. Yet, maybe 10% of her followers care about her beauty routine. I.E. you’re wasting dollars hitting 90% of a community that really doesn’t care about you. With the same amount of budget, you’d be able to activate 10 influencers with 50K followers in different niche, demographics to really expose your brand in key markets, ultimately seeing better engagement. To top it all off, these influencers aren’t yet represented by management who control deliverable and can ultimately compromise the authenticity of the partnership.

So let’s forget about follower size. Let’s forget about the cost associated with the following; the traditional CPM’s that actually don’t mean anything in digital marketing.   We need to measure ROI differently; there are a lot of intangibles that you can’t put into a spreadsheet. Let’s measure clicks back to a site, total impressions reached. How many new eyes are coming to your page and seeing your products for the first time? How much brand awareness are we increasing?

Because there is such a thing as being too popular. And social media influencers who start seeing declines in engagement with increases in follower sizes are the ones who realize this.  

Looking for insta-inspiration? Head on over the Shape Shift Report to discover 40 micro influencers in Travel, Food Fashion, Men’s Lifestyle, Fitness, Beauty, Lifestyle, Creatives, International and our favorite, Mommy.

This article first appeared in the Shape Shift Report, a trend and insight publication by the culture conduits at Matte Black. For more inspiring insights, follow along on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Living

How I Got My (Creative) Groove Back

January 24, 2017
Alassio

By Amy Preiser

 

Like crossword puzzles? Here’s a fun one for you: what’s a 10-letter word for “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”, but also “checking things off your to-do list as fast as lightning.”?

W-O-R-K-I-N-G M-O-M

Hilarious, right? Because when would a working mom have time to do a crossword puzzle?

Because working moms – and in this club I’m including full-timers, part-timers, stay-at-home moms who dabble when they can – are highly familiar with giving up indulgences (hi crossword puzzles) in the name of getting sh*t done. Which yes, is mostly necessary. But for me, at least, often leads to limiting my own perspective, and falling too deeply into routines, without ever popping my head up to see what else is out there.

Enter Annette Joseph. She’s a lifelong stylist (worked with Gwyneth, NBD), who lives between Atlanta and Italy (she’s currently renovating a Tuscan fortress – wha?). She’s raised two grown-up kids who are polite, funny, kind, and gainfully employed. She’s kind of like Sophia Loren, but if she was a Jewish mother, and could set a beautiful table with her eyes closed, while also cracking you up.

She hosts creative workshops around the world, and invited me to experience one in Italy last summer. There, in the seaside town of Alassio, I was immersed in possibility and knowledge. I improved my styling. I learned how to properly use my camera and tripod. We talked Instagram tricks. All the meals just magically and deliciously appeared, which made me feel like I airdropped into some wonderful healthy delicious adult preschool. I was in charge of nothing except expanding my horizons.

But the real magic comes when I least expect it and I ended up walking away from the experience with some invaluable tips that got my creativity back on track.

Amy Preiser

“The real magic comes when I least expect it.”

1. Getting better at one thing = Getting better at everything. I didn’t come to the workshop to upend my writing career and become the world’s top photographer, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t participate in every photo challenge and lesson with intensity and drive. Even though it’s not “my thing”, it did help me look at storytelling from a different lens (ha! Camera joke!) and I find myself thinking about my photo instructor Emily Followill’s instructions when I least expect it… like when writing this piece!

2. Your kid’s interests seep in more than you think – and that’s not such a bad thing. Annette has an incredible eye, but the workshop was more about recognizing each person’s point of view, rather than copying hers. Which means when we were walking through the shops in a small Italian town, and my classmates were shooting everything from street fashion to gelato, I was crouched in bakeries, capturing some Peppa Pig-shaped jellies, or out front playground structures I thought my son might enjoy. A lot of those photos came out, as you’d expect, quite boring. But when I found myself fascinating by a group of young kids jumping into the water, I wound up with one of the best photos of the trip.

3. Choose “interesting” over “pretty”. When you look at flatlays and styled vignettes like the ones we were practicing in our workshop, it’s easy to think that the end goal is to make something pretty. But? Nothing looks as good as interesting comes out. Annette and Anne definitely called me out when I styled scenes that I thought looked “sooo ‘grammable” but ended up looking like a bunch of pretty junk on marble. The solution? Whatever your creative pursuit is, make sure your goal is for it to tell a story or provoke a feeling.

4. Learn, absorb, practice, breathe, and look around. It’s an essential sequence that most mamas hardly ever carve out for ourselves.

“Your kid’s interests seep in more than you think – and that’s not such a bad thing.”

So here’s my big pitch to you, mamas: be a student for an hour, a day, a weekend. Immerse yourself in something new, or something you could stand to improve in, and seek out a structured way to get better that involves human interaction. A local parks & recreation class, a cooking seminar at your local kitchenware shop, a sewing class taught by some mom who’s always wearing some genius drapey creation she “just stitched up!” Schedule this kind of class like you would any other self-care activity, and then schedule yourself an extra block of time to let it all sink in as you take a walk, get coffee with a fellow student, basically anything but linking right back to your to-do list and phone.

I’d be remiss to not draw your attention to Annette’s next workshop, a weekend-long course in Los Angeles complete with Annette’s frequent collaborator Anne Sage spouting brilliance on her social media game. There will be delicious meals and soul-warming conversations, and the kind of inspiration that only comes from IRL connection.

Learn, absorb, practice, breathe, and look around. It’s fortifying and you know it. Because as hard as it is to make time to do it for ourselves, isn’t that what we hope for for our littles? Let’s lead by example.

Amy Preiser

“Be a student for an hour, a day, a weekend. Immerse yourself in something new, or something you could stand to improve in.”

Amy Preiser is a lifestyle journalist and branded content strategist. Based in the LA area, she writes for the LA Times, Martha Stewart Weddings, House Beautiful, and Sunset, among others. See more and follow along at amypreiser.com and @firstpreiser.