I Hate WalMart – Part 2

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WalMart and I were only together because it enjoyed my money and I enjoyed their low prices.

And then, WalMart finally screwed me over in enough of a personal way that I thought I had dumped them for good.

It was winter of 2011, and I was very pregnant, and very uncomfortable. I was near to completing the album “Red”, and had a radio interview with Mona Rodriguez. It’s commonplace to bring the radio station an autographed head shot along with a bio and a demo or pre-release CD. I placed my photo order for the head shots in their 1 hour service, then went to pick them up at the photo lab a few hours before the radio interview. I had used a program to add my name and web address to the front of the picture in my typical extra-big font, all caps. When I went to pick up the pictures, I was told I could not have them because they were professional pictures, and the photographer’s name is right on the front. I pulled out my driver’s license and showed them that it was myname on the front. Not good enough. Apparently, I needed to fill out a form stating that I own the copyright for the pictures, they couldn’t find the form at the store, and I would need the person behind the camera to sign the form, regardless if they are a friend or family member. Swell. Just wonderful. I explained my situation to them – that I needed to leave for a radio interview, that the pictures really were not copyrighted by a professional photographer, and that I really really just wanted to purchase them….please? Pretty please? No. I couldn’t have them. They look professional. There’s a name on the front. “Yes, it’s MY name!” I was told that I didn’t need to get upset, as if I were a kindergartener. I wanted to say, “This isn’t me upset. You want to see me get UPSET?” Somehow, being very pregnant and standing there for a long time with Zoey’s head pressed against my uterus didn’t make matters much better. I secretly hoped I would go into labor and gush amniotic fluid all over their floor…then they would HAVE to give me my pictures, right? “Sell me my pictures, or I will have this baby right HERE! Right NOW!” OK, so even though I spoke with several associates, and one rather mean female manager who clearly needed dental insurance, I left without any pictures, swearing I would never return. I had my pictures printed at “emergency” speed at the nearest CVS, where they didn’t give me guff about my name being on the front, but charged me a little more.

Like a boyfriend who had done me wrong, I thought I was leaving the enticingly bright lights and deceptively low prices of WalMart for good.

I complained on their online customer service, exchanging emails with them for about 2 weeks, during which time I shopped at Giant for groceries and Target for housewares. After 2 weeks of complaining and getting automated responses, someone actually read what I wrote in an email, and WalMart’s customer service support gave me a $10 giftcard for walmart . com. We were back in business. And that easily, WalMart had NOT won back my trust or confidence, but they had my business, and that was all that mattered.

Milkboy Coffee Open Mic Review

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I read online that Milkboy Coffee in Ardmore, PA was one of the best open mics in the Philadelphia area. I’ve been to their open mic twice now, which is on Tuesday nights at 7, with sign-ups starting at 6:30, and I have come to really enjoy the place. I plan to return next Tuesday if my schedule allows.

The first time I ventured into Ardmore, PA for Milkboy’s open mic, I have to admit I was intimidated when I saw the building. The view from my car window was of a corner coffee shop that was filled with people. On the sidewalk outside were about 10 musicians with guitars tuning and playing songs while the open mic was starting inside. I circled the block about 3 times looking for parking and building up the courage to go into this new place all by myself. I have to admit, I can be a bit like a 10 year old girl at times, reserved and shy about new places and new people. After considering to turn around and go back home several times, my nervous subconscious telling me that I would never find a parking place, I found a parking lot in the back with free parking after 6pm. At that moment, I realized I had no excuse not to go in. I decided to leave my keyboard in the car, in case I wanted to chicken out and not ask to play…then it would look like I was only there to listen and I could slip out without risking looking foolish.

When I got inside the building, I saw that the stage wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I had imagined it, the people were really friendly, and the gracious host Mike Shax could fit me in on the end open mic list. I ordered an iced Chai and a grilled cheese sandwich, and sat at one of the diner-style tables to watch the performers. I heard musicians of all experience levels sharing their well-rehearsed songs. A young man wearing a bandanna on his head and with tattoos on his arms and fingers took the stage. He played and sang a traditional folk song on his banjo with professional skill. Small ensembles (bands) came on and shared their original music. I had the pleasure of hearing Joel Benjamin for the first time, a motivational stand-up comedian who is just beginning his career in comedy. Steven Singer (spelling?) has a special act that he performs with his keyboard. The audience requests songs, and he plays them. Sometimes this can take a turn for the hilarious, as people request “a Disney song”, and Steven begins playing (and singing) “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid. At the end of the night, I brought my keyboard to the stage and played my favorite original song, “Red”, which was well-received by the patrons that were still occupying the tables and chairs in the dimmed lighting. As we all dispersed from the coffee shop carrying keyboards and guitar cases, I got to meet some of the other performers and share some musical discussion on our way to our vehicles.

The following Tuesday, I made the trip out to Milkboy Coffee Shop again. It was pouring rain, and a 45 minute drive, so once again I barely made it onto the list…and was 2nd to last. I didn’t mind, since I wanted to stay and hear the other performers while enjoying dinner there again…Iced Chai and a grilled cheese sandwich. I managed to make it inside before the open mic began, and got to hear Mike Shax open up with The Ladybug Song from Sesame Street…which is actually a really well-written song!  I heard the tattooed banjo man again. His songs were mesmerizing as he plucked the strings in a fast pattern with impeccable precision. Joel Benjamin was there again, and his act and jokes this week talked about politics and religion. Ordinarily, this might seem like a “hot topic” with the crowd, but for this group of open-minded liberals, his witty remarks and interaction were right on target. I heard a woman named Laurie read a poem she had written for her daughter, who was coming that tuesday to visit her from another state. The poem talked about her 35 year old daughter, and the emotions this woman felt at her birth.”Ten fingers, ten toes, one tiny little nose”…(paraphrased). It was a beautiful poem that exposed the mother’s fear that her daughter would not have a good time visiting her as she has grown older and the poem hints that they are both going through hard times in their lives. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you will understand why I couldn’t hold back tears from welling in my eyes while the woman read about singing to her newborn at her breast. Ah yes, and Tommy played heartfelt guitar chords in the background to set the mood. I was doomed for runny mascara. Red-splotched with emotion and teary eyed, I went over to talk to Laurie and thank her for sharing her poem. We talked for a bit about her daughter and mine before I slipped into the ladies room to assess the damage on my mascara. Toward the end of the night, I played my original song “Apple Tree”, talked with a few of the musicians who were still around, and headed back home.

On to the reviewing part…Milkboy Coffee is kind to the musicians performing, and has a regular crowd that is welcoming to newcomers and respectful of the music. If you talk very loudly with friends, expect for the other audience members to kindly “shh” you. Talking is ok, but loud talking while others are performing is rude, and this audience respects the musicians. Milkboy has a LOT of talent that is worth coming in to hear while you enjoy a drink or light meal. (I couldn’t mention all of the acts I saw there, although I wish I could.) I did notice throughout the night that large groups of people would come in, sit down, and not purchase anything. While I appreciate that Milkboy Coffee allows people to come in just to hear the music and doesn’t make it’s patrons pay to have a seat, I worry that if the open mic nights don’t generate enough income it might be cancelled or reduced to once per month like many other venues do. That would be a shame. It’s such a wonderful place to come and share music. If you’re going to try out Milkboy Coffee’s open mic night, you may not be required to purchase anything, but if you bring $4-5 with you, your purchase will help support local musicians who want to share their songs and talent.

Milkboy Coffee …. 5 stars

Suave Sleek Shampoo and Conditioner Review

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Since when did shampoo and conditioner get so expensive? I don’t mean to sound like a cheapskate, but I remember the days when the “really awesome” designer shampoos were about $10, “pretty good” shampoos were about $3, and “I smell good but don’t do much for you” shampoos were 79 cents. (Where is the cent sign on my computer?? You know, the sign that looks like a C with a line through it…Is nothing less than a dollar anymore?) I digress…it seems now that “really awesome” shampoos can cost around $30, and the cheap ones have gone up the ladder to the $2 and $3 ranges. Maybe because nobody can find the cent sign on their computers anymore…they have to make them cost more. I’m sure that’s not the reason, but it’s an interesting theory.

I bought Suave Sleek Shampoo and Conditioner from Target for about $3 each. Maybe they were $2.50. I’m not really sure. I looked at so many different shampoo options while I was there that I can’t remember the price of what I actually bought. But I’m sure it didn’t use the cent sign…

I tried out the duo in the shower tonight and….amazing! I was able to comb through my badly damaged hair without any problem! Why is my hair badly damaged, you may ask? Because I’m addicted to straight ironing it. I’m a straight iron addict. Since I’ve gotten past the stage of denial now, I am on the road to recovery. Well…maybe.

With this “Sleek” new shampoo and conditioner, I may not need to use the straightener on my hair as much. Sadly, when you have fried your hair to a crisp, it looks better if you keep frying it straight. Otherwise, your hair is dry, damaged, frizzled AND waving all over the place. At least by straightening it, the hair appears to be a little less out of control. And so, it’s a vicious cycle.

Ah yes, I’m supposed to be writing about this fantastic shampoo and conditioner. Well, it’s really good. It smells nice and clean – not too fruity or flowery. The smell is more on the “fresh” side. I would call it “soapy” smelling, but that sounds like a bad thing. And it’s not a bad smell. Tons of aroma doesn’t emanate from my hair after it’s dry, but that’s ok. My deodorant is scented. My laundry detergent is scented. My perfume is obviously scented. My lip gloss….you get the idea. I’m just one walking scent-bomb. As long as the shampoo doesn’t smell bad it’s not an issue.

So, my review….it’s good stuff for straight-haired people struggling with tangles. And under $3. Yay!

Beauty for New Moms

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After giving birth hormones make your skin erupt like Mt. Fuji, hair from your head falls out and hair everywhere else sprouts like a forest. With all of this going on, it may be difficult to conceive the notion of ever looking pretty again. Besides not being able to fit into any of your pre-pregnancy clothes just yet, you might not even be able to find time to take a shower, let alone put on makeup!  I did a search the other day for “Beauty for New Moms” and was led to a website that recommended tips for beauty based partly upon what celebrity moms are doing to get prettied up in the weeks after delivery. I’m not saying that beauty tips can’t be ascertained by observing celebrity moms, but the “tips” I found seemed to be the most unreasonable suggestions for new moms. I got the impression that the writers either forgot what it is really like to be a new mom or they have never been one themselves.

While celebrity mom suggestions are nice, I’m not trying to get fancied up for the grammys.  I just want to get myself together enough so that I can go to the grocery store without people looking at me like I just crawled out of a cave. I don’t have the money or resources to hire a team of people like JLo did to get my pre-pregnant body back in 2 weeks or less. One of the makeup tips from the site recommended the smoky eye, under the premise that if you play up the eyes, you don’t have to spend makeup time on your lips. These women obviously don’t really have newborns, do they? This must be some kind of joke. The Smoky Eye?? I can’t even accomplish the smoky eye with much success when I am fully awake…let alone sleep-deprived and using a baby wipe to clean the grease off of my eyelids because I didn’t have time to shower and my hormones are pumping enough oil out of my face to fry an egg with. The smoky eye? I think not. Mascara? maybe.

Cover Girl does have that new dual-ended stick that is supposed to make the smoky eye super-easy to accomplish. That MIGHT work for my time budget.

 

Even celebrity moms can look less than stellar when deprived of sleep.

Tired new mommy Heidi Klum with dark roots showing and unkempt hair
Gisele Bundchen sporting ruddy skin and drab hair
Salma Hayek carrying a messy head of hair and a few extra pounds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This particular website also recommended creamy, brightly colored lipstick. Can I go a whole day without kissing my baby? Some doctors say that mommies have an uncontrollable urge to kiss their babies because it is a natural bonding process. Other doctors say that I’m checking the baby’s temperature. And some say that I’m sampling all of the germs on the baby’s face so that I can create the antibodies and deliver them to the infant in my breastmilk. Whatever the reason, brightly colored lipstick would certainly make fulfilling that urge difficult. Not to mention that most of the celebrity moms I saw wearing bright red lipstick were going to red-carpet events. I may go to the mall to walk around with my stroller. I might stop by the grocery store. Red carpet? I don’t think so. I would look ridiculous walking around with bright red creamy lipstick while I push my baby’s carseat in my grocery cart with one hand and double-check the stipulations on my coupon for prune juice with the other hand.

1. Lip Stain Instead of a lipstick that will prevent you from kissing your baby and make you look as though you were getting ready for a red-carpet event, a lip stain is light, will stay on your lips instead of all over baby’s face, and might even give your lips color for up to 3 days if you choose the right brand. Besides, new mommy, you aren’t sleeping anymore anyway, so why take the time to scrub your lips before “bed” when you’ll only be lying in bed for 2 hours. Scrub your lips when you finally get a chance for that long-awaited shower. Until that moment, you can have a color-stained pout that makes you look and feel prettier. Probably not JLo-at-the-grammys pretty, but prettier than “cave dweller”.

I know that Drew Barrymore really makes that Cover Girl lip stain look fantastic, (I secretly think she may have had some work done on her face this year, or the camera guys did a lot of tape editing)…anyway….the Cover Girl lip stain is not good. First, it isn’t a stain. It washes off with water. It’s drying. If you read the reviews for it, there is a lot of defective product out there. The lip staining pen dries up really quick. The strawberry colored one I had was actually more of a dark red hue than the color that was shown on both the display and the tube.

Maybelline’s lip stain actually DOES stain the lip without rinsing off in water. However, I hear that there are a lot of good lip stains out there to be tried. I have a slightly raisin-colored Maybelline lip stain that has a clear balm stick at one end. Just be careful with darkness of hue and staying power when you buy your lip stain. It might be worth it to ask someone who works at Sephora what they would recommend and try before you buy if you can.

2. Sunglasses. There’s one thing that the celebrity moms above all have in common that I would agree is a good tip. Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses will hide the most tired part of your face; your eyes. It seems that many of us have a hard enough time making our eyes look pretty when we have gotten a decent amount of sleep. Trying to salvage their youthfulness after several weeks of bad sleep seems to be a fruitless endeavor.

Sunglasses come in a variety of different hues, and you might find that a pair of lighter, colored sunglasses works better than a blackout pair if you will be going indoors. It feels a bit silly walking around indoors with dark sunglasses on, so you’ll probably take them off…which defeats the purpose of wearing them to hide those tired eyes.

image from "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" Youtube video
Click here to see my sunglasses collection on YouTube

In one of my Youtube music videos, I actually used a lot of colorful non-black sunglasses. You c

an check it out by clicking this picture if interested. If really colorful sunglasses are not your thing, there are also many places that sell more conservative tones of gray and beige.

(Target, Sears, and believe it or not Five Below are my “go to” places for affordable, stylish sunglasses.)

 

3. Hair Texture. Last season, straight hair was the must-have style. I even fell into the trap of getting that side-swept bang cut into my hair that everyone gave tutorials for on YouTube. The side swept bang is nice, but it requires an incredible amount of prep time to make it “sweep” just right, and then an incredible amount of hair product to make it stay in that swept look. While this isn’t a huge burden on girls that have time for daily showers, this amount of hair-time is nearly impossible for you, new mommy. In the odd chance that you DO get to shower, perhaps you’ll have time to dry your hair, but dry, straight iron AND style it? pfft. Straight hair also looks like a rats nest if you pull it into a ponytail and then later decide you want to wear it down. It also doesn’t fare well if you sleep on it. Not that you will be getting a lot of sleep as a new mommy, but what little sleep you get will most likely destroy your hairstyle. Hair with texture is making a comeback, which is helpful for us, because unwashed hair can lend itself well to having texture! The trick is making the hair look stylishly textured without looking greasy or dirty.

TRY: Dry shampoo spray. There are lots of different brands of dry shampoo spray out there. Before being a new mommy, you probably even thought, “Eww…why don’t people just take a shower?” Well, here is our chance to have a little empathy for those who just don’t have time to shower every day. Dry shampoo spray is meant to absorb the extra oils in your hair, leaving it looking less greasy. If your hair is dry or frizzy at the ends, you may find after using this that the ends of your hair need some smoothing. Enter product #2..

A Spray Bottle of Water. I use an old bottle that once had detangler in it and just fill it with water. I’m poor and cheap-o like that. They do sell spray bottles for water though. You can find them in the hair or travel sections in most major retailers. Sometimes spraying your hair with a bit of water and combing it into place looks just as good as if you had a shower. I like the idea of trying water first before any major products like mousse or pomade, because whatever product you put in your hair may very well be there until you have your next shower…and who knows when that will be!

One of the tips from the websites I researched recommended braiding my hair before bed and taking it out in the morning for a soft, wavy look. So, I thought I would try it…

I dampened my hair with water, and worked in a bit of gel. I separated my hair into 4 sections and french braided it. This took more time than I probably would have spent just taking a shower, to be honest. And I needed to braid the top part of my hair so that my hair wouldn’t be curly on bottom and straight on top. I had to keep dampening my hair as I braided, as it took a while. Once all of the hair was in braids, I patted more of the holding gel on the braids. In the morning, I took out the braids and poof! my hair was curly. I “combed” through my hair with my fingers, trying to get it to lay in such a way as to not keep re-parting itself where I had parted the original braiding. My ordinarily side-swept bangs were incredibly poofy, and made me look like I belonged in an 80’s hair band. I sprayed a bit of water on my scalp and rubbed it in with my fingers to help lift the roots a bit, being careful not to get the curly parts overly damp. Despite my best efforts, the top part of my hair was still straight. So, I pulled out my old crimper that has been collecting dust in my closet since the early 90’s and used it to make the top of my hair blend in with the rest. I went through several stages of crimping my bangs, hating them, wetting them with water and waiting for them to dry…then crimping again…until I finally got them to look almost normal. Unfortunately, babies like to get their hands tangled into mommy’s hair. So, I pulled the curly mass into a ponytail on the right (since baby’s head is usually on my left). Keep in mind while scanning these pictures that I am a very tired new mommy who is not wearing makeup. :P

CLICK AND DRAG TO VIEW

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For the amount of time that I spent fussing over this hairstyle, I do not feel like it is a good “tip” to save new mommies time. It may have worked if I had a different hair texture, or if I didn’t have bangs. The day that I took the braids out the hair looked pretty “decent”, but was not a style that you could comb easily, making it look a bit more dreadlock-like by day 2 (another day without a shower, by the way) and by day 3 I HAD to take a shower because I just looked like a frizzy mess. I think I will stick to my spray bottle of water and dry shampoo.

4. Wear makeup products that have a built-in applicator. There are so many new products out there that have the applicator built-in for truly one step application. But Beware some of the Loreal products with those brushes that are built atop the lid. They LOOK like built-in brushes, but are actually not all that convenient. The more convenient types are like the Neutrogena Mineral Sheers, where the powder actually flows through the brush. It won’t cover imperfections as well as liquid foundation, but it’s better than nothing at all if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands.

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5. Use a nail buffer.

Now that your hands are constantly on your baby, the last thing you want is for her to accidentally ingest some nail polish. Let’s face it – you’re going to be sticking your fingers into her mouth on a daily basis now…so nail polish is (for now) a thing of the past. Put a nail buffer on the back of the toilet tank and use it each time you go to the loo.

6. Wear Casual Anti-Wrinkle Dresses if it’s warm. There are a few reasons for wearing dresses. The right cut can hide parts of your new body that you are uncomfortable with. Some dresses are very comfortable for napping in. It is easier to find dresses than tops that have easy access to the milk-factory for breastfeeding moms. Certain cuts of dresses will still fit after you get your pre-pregnant body back, unlike jeans which are very size-specific. It’s takes less time to throw on a dress than to match up tops and bottoms.  

Hopefully some of these tips will give you back your confidence and help get you out the door to enjoy the world. And if all else fails, throw caution to the wind and hit the town as you are; with your new jiggly bits, with your hair that cries for a product to fix it, and skin that looks very far from Dove-commercial ready. Remember that you are beautiful just as you are, and when your baby smiles up at your face, she really doesn’t care whether you have the best looking “smoky eye” or not. To her, you are the most beautiful person in the world.

Loreal Studio Secrets Magic Perfecting Base Review

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After purchasing Smashbox Photo Finish (oil free) clear primer and finding it to be an incredible waste of money for me, I was surprised when I tried the little sample of Loreal Magic Perfecting Base from a peel-off in a magazine and found that under foundation, it actually made my face look pore-free! Voila! Of course, there was only a very very small amount of the product under the peel-off strip, so I even had my doubts as to whether the full size product would perform as miraculously, but it did!

Loreal’s Magic Perfecting Base works like spackle does for construction workers. It works best if you only apply it where you have a problem. Anywhere you have pores that can’t be covered by foundation, it works miracles. It is surprisingly inexpensive (around $12.99 at CVS) and really does dry quickly, invisibly, and feels weightless. These things are important for me. That was my issue with the Smashbox Photo Finish – even though it claims to be oil-free, it seemed to never dry, and felt exactly like oil would on my face. It also made my foundation slide around like oil.

Magic Perfecting Base would probably work best on oily or combination skin, as it isn’t as moisturizing as other bases and primers I’ve tried. Due to the size of the jar, you will also need to use a Q-tip to remove the product unless you have very short fingernails.

I’ve been using this base for about 6 or 7 months now, have used half of the small jar, and the product continues to perform the same as it did on day one.