Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Stitch Fix Review: September 2019

It has been a LONG time since I've done a Stitch Fix review! I've been getting boxes every other month, like I have for the past four years!, but I haven't done any reviews on them lately.  I received my September box and thought this would be a great time to pick it back up!


If you haven't heard of or tried Stitch Fix before, it's a styling service. They offer styling for women (including maternity!), men and kids. To sign up, you go to www.stitchfix.com and fill out a style profile, answer some questions and then you get a fix with five items. The styling fee is $20 and it can be applied to any items that you purchase.  If you use my referral link (click here) then you get $25 credit and so do I!

For this box, I requested transitional pieces and accessories if they worked with the pieces sent. I also asked for color, specifically jewel tones. The last few fixes I've received a lot of black, olive and other dark neutrals. They're great but I LOVE color! I wasn't too sure what my fix was going to look like this time because after my last fix, which felt totally rushed and like everything was just thrown into a box, I left some fairly harsh constructive criticism and checked the box for Stitch Fix to decide if I would get a new stylist or keep my current one. I've had Kelly for probably two years and she's had me nailed on style, but the last few have been duds.

I peaked when I got the email that my fix had shipped and it looked promising.  When my fix arrived, I was happy to see that Kelly was back as my stylist and that she was on her A-game!

Daniel Rainn Collie Draped Front Lace Detail Knit Top - XL ($58)

Initially, I thought I was going to love this top. The lace detail is fun and the color is great. But it also looks like a lot of other tops that I own. I'm also pretty close to being in a Large, so this was too big on me, but I also wasn't sure that the Large would fit right.



Collective Concepts Woodford Tie Sleeve Blouse - XL ($64)
This top was not my favorite originally. When I first put it on, I thought it looked too matronly. I have a lot of navy tops and brushed it aside. I'd actually decided to send it back when I took the photos for this post and realized it's actually really cute on!



I think styling it with my jeans (similar here) and booties (similar here) really brought it to life. I recently styled it for work with some brushed dark red pants and it was perfect!

Gorjhana Chloe Small Stud Earrings - $35

 These are by far my favorite item from this whole fix! They work perfectly with every single item sent and they are studs, which means I'm less likely to have them ripped from my head by my toddler. They also come in silver and gold, but I just love the rose gold.  If I had to choose just one item to keep from this box, this would be it. 


Daniel Rainn Darrel Crochet Yoke Knit Top - XL ($58)

I loved this top from the first time I peaked at my fix! Trying it on just confirmed how much I love it. The material is like a t-shirt, so it's super soft, the but pleating also helps it lay nicely. The lace detail at the top makes it dressy enough for work, but it can also easily be worn on the weekend. The arms are a tiny bit big on me, but it's not noticeable and I knew sizing down wasn't going to work either.  I planned to wear this for our family photos last week, but they got rescheduled. It's still hanging, waiting for picture, so you'll be seeing this again sometime in the future!



Bobeau Jemmy Brushed Open Pocket Cardigan - XL ($58)

My sister-in-law was over watching Carter for me when my box arrived and when I pulled this out and made her feel it, she commented that I was making her want to try a box again. It's that good! This cardigan is so super soft and I love the green. I will say that I could have easily sized down to a Large on this, but I like the slouchy feeling of the XL. I have beautiful, figure flattering, professional cardigans that fit, but there is something to be said about a cozy, slouchy cardigan for fall and into winter. 



I tried styling this with the red top above, but I looked like a Christmas tree. So I grabbed this top from one of my original fixes about five years ago! 

Usually, I tell you what I kept and didn't keep throughout the blog post, but I didn't this time because I kept everything! However, I only kept the first item, the draped top, because I generally liked it and I wanted the 25% discount. I sold it on Poshmark a few days ago. 

Overall, I was really happy with this fix. It felt like the Kelly I loved was back and she took the time to pick items that would work for me and would complement each other. With the discount and taxes, it was $220 for this box. It's definitely not the cheapest way to shop, but I've found that Stitch Fix items are great quality and that I wear them over and over. It's also really hard to shop now that I have a son, so this is a really nice treat! 

What do you think? What's your favorite item of these? What would you have kept?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

What Mama Bought: August 2019 Edition

This month has been a flurry of packages arriving in the mail, much to Aaron's dismay. Ha. But I've found some really good local businesses that I'm loving and have bought some items that you might be considering yourself. Plus, I thought this might be a fun new series covering everything from clothes and shoes to household stuff. You know - mom life.

Earrings!
My name is Sarah and I have a big earring problem. I love earrings and I like 'em big! I also have been buying them pretty frequently as of late. I don't wear many necklaces now (toddler life) and bracelets are hard to wear with a desk job. So earrings it is! I discovered LBH Style on Etsy and then they split and became Epp and Co and Pierce and Hide. Here are a few of the earrings that I've bought and love!

Pierce and Hide Coral and Birch Split Disk 
Epp & Co Turkish Tile and Wood Circle Drop
Not going to lie, I've bought a LOT of earrings from both sites. A ridiculous amount. It's a problem, I know. But they are so cute! And reasonable!

Peloton Apparel
One of my friends used my referral code to get herself a Peloton (go girl!). That got her $100 off accessories and I got $100 to spend in the Peloton Apparel Store! Now, $100 doesn't go very far in the Peloton Apparel store, ha. And you have to use it all at once. You get free shipping if you spend $50 - that's after all the coupons and discounts. So, I ended up getting an instructor inspired bra (yay Emma!) and two tops. That was about $48 out of pocket. I was worried about sizing, as they all looked from the measurements like they ran small, but the two larges I got fit perfectly and the XL was a little big.

Peloton Outside Track Tank - XL
Photo courtesy of Peloton Apparel
This one I got in an XL based on the size chart and it's a little big on me.

Inspired by Emma Bra - L

Photo courtesy of Peloton Apparel
Emma is my girl! Lately, I've been doing her Crush Your Core series, but I also love her rides. She did an all Red Hot Chili Peppers ride and in general her rides are a good mix of pop and rock. I got this bra in a L and it fits great!

Peloton Tank


I got another tank from Peloton, but it doesn't look like it's available on the site anymore. I got this one in a large and love it! For reference, I'm a pretty solid size 14 and L in tops, XL in most bottoms.

Kitchen Stuff
August has been the month of kitchen gadgets! I bought some new Instant Pot accessories and I finally broke down and got myself an air fryer. I was contemplating it on Prime Day, but couldn't really decide if I really wanted one or not. Eventually, I decided I did want it and used my rewards and coupons to order one.

I chose the Go Wise 3.7 quart for one very important reason - it fit the space requirements.  We have a rule in the Zinn house - if you buy something, it has to have a home.  That home cannot be on a counter. Or freezer (I tried that one, too). I cleared out space under my island for the air fryer, but didn't realize they were so big! I had to measure the space and then I chose the model with the best reviews that fit my dimensions.  The handle did break when I got it out of the box, but I contacted GoWise and they are sending me a new handle! I've been cooking with the broken handle, though, and it's worked just fine.



And, of course, as soon as I ordered that, I ordered the Skinnytaste Air Fryer Cookbook to go with it.


Stitch Fix - Buy Your Items
Stitch Fix has this new service where you can go in and buy new colors of items you've already purchased. The inventory changes all the time, I'm talking like within 30 minutes sometimes, which creates a really high fear of mission out (FOMO). So far, I've bought two items through this new service.  The one bought this month was a new blazer. I've had the grey version of this for a few months and loved it so much, I vowed to myself that I would buy it in other colors if they came available. And it did! I bought the blush pink and I'm excited to wear it!

Skies Are Blue Hannah Modal Scuba Blazer - $88
I was really excited for this service, and I still stalk the page, but I don't like the amount of FOMO induced buying it can cause. Yes, we're adults and should be able to control our spending, but it just seems a little predatory? I will say that I was part of the beta testers and recommended that they add extra sizes you could purchase, not just your original size. I'm sure multiple people also made that suggestion, but I was happy to see it implemented in the full roll out.

Shoes
I realized the other day that at some point, Franco Sarto became the new Nine West in my closet. Nine West used to be my go-to brand for cute, trendy work shoes that were reasonably priced. But I rarely go to the outlets anymore and I don't wear heels as much as I used to, so they slowly eased their way out of my closet. And apparently Franco Sarto stepped right in!

Franco Sarto Honey2 Flat
Photo courtesy of DSW.com

I picked these up at a DSW clearance sale for $40. Yes, in light pink. I went up a half size to a 9 for comfort and put a heel pad in to keep the shoes on.  I also bought a pair of light green Sperry tennis shoes, but those aren't available on the site anymore.

There you have it folks! Most of what I've bought this month. Did you take the plunge on any big items this month? And let me know if you like the idea of this as a monthly series or not! Happy Wednesday!




Friday, August 23, 2019

Carter is 18 Months Old!

My son turned 18 months old this past Friday. The last update I did on my little man was the photos from his first birthday in January. And man has he changed!

I can honestly say that it's taken me 18 months to find my balance again, or what balance there is as a parent. I tried, and failed, to keep up with the blog during the past 18 months and it wasn't until recently that I really thought, "okay, I can do this again!"  So, if you're still here after all those random posts every 2-3 months, thank you! You're the best!

Now let's talk about my favorite little dude!

Name: Carter Hollon



Age: 18 Months

Favorite Food: Mandarin oranges, yogurt and bananas (and anything messy!)



Favorite Character/Show: Octonauts and Sesame Street

Favorite Toy: His green frog that he pulls around behind him and his train.

Words: Wow, ball, book, bye bye, mama, daddy, yeah, bubbles, mine (his favorite!), no and hi

Loves: Outside! He loves to run around, be curious and get into ev-er-y-thing. He loves going to see Miss Pam at school and he loves cuddles, though they are more like drive-by cuddles now. He loves to be silly and play around with you and "helping."


Dislikes: Being told no, not being able to do something himself.  He also doesn't like to be around a ton of people at once (that's my kid).

Clothing Size: 2T

Shoes: Toddler 5 (he has some tiny feet!)


Favorite Moment: My favorite time of day with Carter is bedtime. We change him into PJs, he drinks his milk and then gets a cuddly. We attempt (and usually fail) to read a book and then we have the ritual of kisses and a bedtime song. It doesn't matter how crazy my day has been, doing this every night resets all the stressful things that have happened.

We love our sweet wild man! Happy half birthday kiddo!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

What We Ate: A Crock Pot, Instant Pot and Air Fryer Adventure!

A couple weeks ago, I decided to join the air fryer craze and bought myself a GoWise 3.7 quart with my rewards from BuyBuyBaby and my trusty 20% off Bed Bath and Beyond coupon. This means that I now have an Instant Pot, a crock pot AND an air fryer.  I used them all this past week and thought I would share my recipes!


One of the biggest misconceptions about these small appliances, in my opinion, is that you must love one with all your heart and never use the others again. Or your actual stove for that matter. I love food and I love to cook. I also love gadgets that make cooking good food easier. I personally will always have a crock pot. You can't convince me that the Instant Pot replaces it, because, well, it doesn't. An Instant Pot still as time to come to pressure and then cook the actual food. In the crock pot, that happens all day while I am at work. And sometimes, I like to come home and do nothing. But, I digress. The point of this post is to show you how I used all three contraptions in one week.

Sunday - Instant Pot Dulce de Leche Cheesecake
While out trying to find an air fryer to buy (I ended up ordering one), I found some Instant Pot accessories at Kohls.  I picked up a divided steamer and a 7" spring form pan.  And with new accessories comes new recipes! I actually used the recipe card that came with the spring form pan for a dulce de leche cheesecake. It was surprisingly easy and came out oh so good. I've decided that there's a good chance I will never eat cheesecake without dulce de leche again!


First I poured the entire can of sweetened condensed milk in one of my small cake pans.  I poured in one cup of water and sat the pan with the milk on the trivet. 


Then I made the cheesecake! I lined the bottom with parchment paper, added the crust and poured in the batter. The spring form pan sat on top of the pan with the sweetened condensed milk.


I made the cheesecake Sunday night and then we ate it Monday night.


I couldn't find the exact recipe online, but here is the recipe for the dulce de leche and the cheesecake. Just stack them and you're good to go!

Monday - Instant Pot Salmon with Sweet Potato Puree and Broccoli
This was another recipe card that came with the Instant Pot accessories. I didn't take photos of this one, but it was a really easy recipe! You simply peel and cube sweet potatoes and put them on the bottom. Then you add vegetable broth (the recipe called for a 1/2 cup, I upped it to one cup for coming to pressure) and then you put the broccoli in one portion of the steamer and then put a 4-oz cut of salmon in each of the other two portions. I seasoned the salmon and the broccoli with salt and pepper. You put the steamer on top of the potatoes and cook on high for 1 minute and quick release.

Salmon with Sweet Potato Puree and Broccoli
Aaron thought it was really good and I considered this a game changer and what really sealed my love for the IP.  I've used it a lot since I got it for Christmas, but I've mostly done soups and pastas.  I loved being able to do a simple, quick, healthy meal.

Tuesday - Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce in the Crock Pot
This is hands down one of my favorite comfort food recipes. I love making it in the crock pot. A few changes I've made to the recipe is that I use garlic and onion powder instead of chopping, simply for ease, and I don't add jalapenos.

Thursday - Chicken Cordon Bleu in the Air Fryer
As soon as I ordered my air fryer, I ordered the Skinnytaste Air Fryer cookbook. Basically, if Skinnytaste has a cookbook, I buy it. The only exception is the Fast and Slow cookbook. I didn't love that one. The One and Done Cookbook has some air fryer recipes, but not a ton. Amazon had the Air Fryer Cookbook on sale for $10, so I got it. This is my second recipe out of this book and, as usual, they've both been awesome.

Prepping the chicken.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Roll with Side Salad
I served the cordon bleu rolls with a side salad. I did have to make them in batches (batch of 3 and then a final batch of 4), so that took a little bit of time, but not bad. And clean up was still relatively easy. We both agreed that they were good and were going into the dinner rotation!

I had a fourth meal that I planned to use, but ended up having to work one night and we got takeout. Never fear, though, I made that recipe on Sunday! I've really enjoyed using my air fryer so far. And I think that, just like my crock pot and Instant Pot, it's a great tool added to my kitchen. But it doesn't replace everything. I still like to make casseroles and easy meals on the stove like Coconut Curry Shrimp.  Currently, the Instant Pot is the most useful, but my crock pot will always be #1 in my heart. You just can't beat coming home to a done dinner. Do you have any (or all) of these? Which is your favorite?!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Bryson City, NC: Vacationing with a 15 Month Old

We took our first vacation as a family of three back in June. We'd visited family with Carter, but I don't consider that a 'vacation.'  We thought of lots of cool places we could go, but they all ended up sounding so complicated and too much work. We wanted our first vacation to be easy. So we chose Bryson City, North Carolina.


We are not really a beach family. I like to lay on the beach, but I'm only good for like 2-3 hours and then I need to do something. Aaron's the same way. And we didn't want to have to haul all of the stuff down for a toddler to the beach.  So we chose the mountains. I suggested Bryson City because it's situated on three rivers, so we could still do fun water activities.

We stayed four days - Monday through Friday. I will tell you that it was the best plan. We had the weekend to pack and hang out. We drove up on Monday and back on Friday. Driving back on Friday allowed us a weekend on the back end to chill out, unpack and get everything ready for the week.  We also had a going away party for our friend Josh.

Note - there will be links in this post. I'm not an affiliate and this post isn't sponsored, the links are just for helping you out!

Foxcreek Cabins
I found the best cabin on Evolve Vacation Network. I found Evolve through the Bryson City webpage. They had vacation rentals listed and that's how we found the one we stayed in. Evolve was great because they didn't have the extra booking fee of Airbnb.

We stayed in Foxcreek Cabins in the Creekside cabin. There are three cabins total, all together, but the trees are so that you don't feel like you are right beside each other. The cabin had a big front porch, wide enough for Carter to play on while we drank coffee in the morning, that also had the hot tub. You could see and hear the creek from the front porch, too. The cabin had a full kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Carter loved having the living room to play in.

Our cute cabin!

View from our front porch.
The beautiful creek right by the cabin.

Hanging out on the front porch. 
We brought a lot of his food with us (puffs, cereal bars, squeeze packs, etc) and then bought groceries at Ingles supermarket.  My goal was to only eat out once a day to keep our costs down. The kitchen had plenty of pots and pans, a coffee maker (essential to this mama!) and dishes to use. I was really happy with the set-up.

Things to Do
As I mentioned above, it pretty much rained off and on the whole week. We planned a train ride for Wednesday, but didn't really make any other plans. What I like most about Bryson City is that you don't have to plan anything. We walked around downtown a few times. The downtown is small, but so cute with lots of fun shops. We stopped in to Bryson City Outdoors, and loved the tshirts and gear, but also the beer they have in the evenings. We also stopped by The Chocolate Shoppe and picked up some sugar free chocolates and truffles for me and candy for Aaron.

Fontana Lake and Dam
On Tuesday, we ate breakfast at Everett Street Diner. We talked about what to do because it was raining. We asked around about cool stuff to see and someone suggested the dam. So we drove about 45 minutes from Bryson City to the Fontana Dam. The dam is pretty cool because it's the highest dam east of the Rocky Mountains, but also because they flooded three towns to make it! Aaron, who's a wastewater treatment plant operator, really enjoyed figuring out the mechanics of it.

Looking down the mouth of one of spillways.

Carter climbing to the top!
Looking at the back of the dam.
The Little Tennessee River, which the dam flows into.
We were smart and packed some sandwiches for lunch and were able to eat at a picnic stop on the lake. We got lucky and made it under the shelter and had lunch right before it started to rain again. We also hit some really pretty scenic overlooks on the way to and from the dam.

The view from our picnic spot.

We met a really nice couple at the picnic shelter and we exchanged photography skills!


View from one of the scenic overlooks.

Deals Gap/Tail of the Dragon
On the way back from Fontana, Aaron realized we were near the Tail of the Dragon. It's a part of highways NC 129 and 28 and crosses the state line into Tennessee.  If you get car sick, I highly recommend not taking this drive.  It's 318 curves in 11 miles! And the curves are tight, hairpin curves. It's been made a destination by motorcyclists and other drivers looking for a good curvy road.  Aaron had ridden it twice on his motorcycle and decided he needed to also drive it in the Mazda CX-5. Carter slept through most of it!


Apparently, if you wreck on the Tail of the Dragon, you're supposed to leave a piece of your bike behind.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Our big excursion on the trip was the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.  I'm not going to lie, I built this up in my head as the coolest thing ever and it ended up being pretty stressful. We purchased the first class tickets, meaning we had assigned seats and we got lunch. Carter was pretty cheap since he's under two. I thought he would love it, but it turns out that 15 month olds aren't that great at sitting still, which you have to do on the train. He also likes to be really loud, which is hard when you're trying not to disturb other people.

We did have fun, though. I enjoyed riding a train for the first time and the scenery.  The guide was funny, super sweet and thoughtful with us and Carter and provided some interesting information. We stopped at the Nantahala Outdoor Center for the layover. I've been rafting there before, but it's been at least a decade and holy crap, I did not remember it being that crazy! Aaron took Carter down to the river edge and then we went back to the bus. Too many people for me!





At the Nantahala Outdoor Center
This is also when we discovered Uncrustables!
I want to do the train again when Carter's older and will better understand and enjoy the aspect of being on a train. At one point, I did apologize to Aaron for the amount of money we spent on the train ride because I felt like it was more work than it was worth. But he pointed out that it was a cool experience, he enjoyed the train and it was something new. If you are going with a toddler, though, be prepared for a crazy kid that doesn't want to sit still.

We went to La Poblana that night for dinner. This did break the "eat out once a day" rule, but it's vacation. A lot of people recommended Guyabito's, but we were impressed that the parking lot was packed out every time we passed La Poblana.  We were not disappointed. Yes, it was a Mexican restaurant. And yes, it was wonderful.

Deep Creek
Our last full day was Thursday.  We really wanted to go hiking and tubing and the weather app kept saying that it was going to rain all day Thursday. But that morning, we had two surprises! We found out that Aaron passed his Grade 3 wastewater test and that we had a clear sky that morning! We got up, ate breakfast and headed out!

We went to Deep Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We hiked to three different waterfalls! Aaron carried Carter in the carrier and he slept most of the time.  At first, we weren't sure if we wanted to do tubing or not because it was a cooler morning, but after hiking, we were all sweaty (Aaron even had a Carter-shaped sweat stain on his back!) and decided it was a go!

Aaron and Carter in front of Juney Whank Falls
Indian Creek Falls


Family selfie with a passed out Carter 
Tom Branch Falls



Carter was not a fan of tubing. We brought his life jacket, which he did not like. He rode in the tube with Aaron and I had my own. The water was frigid! But we figured that if we didn't tube, we would regret it. We ended up going down the river once. Carter cried most of the time, half mad, half freezing and it started raining at the end. The tube rentals were only $6 each, so it was well worth the $12 that we spent.

Afterwards, we went to quite possibly my favorite place in Bryson City: Nabors. It's a drive-in right on the Tuckasegee River. We had the best burgers, fries and dessert all while sitting in the car, watching the river. It just felt so right. It wasn't anything fancy, but it was good!

On our way out of town on Friday, we stopped at Mountain Perks. I wanted a fancy coffee for the road. I also got some of their quiche. The staff were so sweet, the coffee was amazing and I pretty much drooled over the quiche. It was the perfect ending to our first family vacation with Carter.

We loved Bryson City. So much so that we actually started looking at cabins for sale in the area because we like the idea of going there every summer with Carter. It's the kind of place that good summers are made of. If you get a chance to go, I highly recommend it. I know that we will be back!

Baby Gear
I thought I would finish this post up with what we brought for Carter. Our first trip with Carter was when he was 2 months old and we drove to Pennsylvania to see Aaron's grandparents. We basically took our whole house with us. In the Corolla.  It was as ridiculous as you're imagining. I've learned a lot about packing with a toddler, though, and this is the gear we brought with us. I've provided links when possible.

Pack and Play - This is what Carter slept in at the cabin.  I would link ours but it's older (and was free!)
Fisher Price Spacesaver Highchair - Carter's still small enough (and busy enough) that he needs to some help in a chair. This is our regular high chair for him and it's super easy to travel with.
Eagle Creek Pack It Cubes - I use these exclusively to pack Carter's clothes. I put the PJs and bulky items in the big cube, the tops and bottoms in the medium and his socks and shoes in the small one. I also have a cosmetic roll-up bag that I use for his toiletries and medications.
Ergo Baby Carrier - I picked this up at a consignment sale for $50 and it was perfect for hiking!
ezpz Happy Mat - This is my favorite dish/dinner item we have bought for Carter. I have a bowl and a divided plate. They are great because the plate sticks to the table. Those little mats that you can stick to a table? Yeah, he rips those off. But these he doesn't mess with until he's done. Also, the mini plate and mini bowl works great on the high chair above! We also brought a couple sippy cups, fork and spoon sets, the drying rack and kid bowls with us.

Overall, we loved our first family trip. We loved Bryson City, we loved spending time just the three of us and we loved having an easy vacation. What was your first vacation with your baby?