Updated Top Knot Tutorial For Longer Hair

June 9, 2015

Photo on 5-19-15 at 3.10 PM #3

Lately I’ve been wearing my hair up in a top-knot more and more. As my hair has gotten longer it’s my go-to easy style for looking semi put-together while not having to spend a ton of time on my hair. Because, let’s be honest, I just don’t have a ton of time to spend on my hair these days and my hair is looking less than stellar thanks to that dreaded postpartum hair loss. The struggle is real, y’all.

Since it’s been a while since I last posted a top-knot tutorial, I decided to do a little updated video since the method I’ve been using has changed a bit now that my hair is longer. It takes about 5 minutes total and works great with hair that’s a little bit dirty. If you want to do the top knot with clean hair I would highly suggest spraying it with a little hair spray and then brushing the hair spray out to add texture OR spraying the roots with a little dry shampoo or texturizing spray before starting.

I filmed this video a little over a month ago while I was on maternity leave and found myself with a few extra minutes during baby nap time. Please excuse the rough nature of this video. Something is better than nothing, right?!


Budgeting Post-Baby: Saving at the Salon

June 4, 2015

11304400_10205798241333469_1791695065_nToday I’m continuing on with the budgeting post-baby series and talking about how to save money on your hair. Once upon a time in college I got into a habit of coloring my hair with boxed drugstore hair color. I think it was the worst my hair has ever looked, but it was so much cheaper than getting it done at a salon and my budget was tight.

Now that we’re re-evaluating our budget post-baby the money spent at the salon was another area where I knew there was major room to save. Although I loved my regular hair gal (who had a lot of experience and was on the higher end of the price range) I decided to switch to a more junior-level stylist who was half (?!) the price. She’s done a great job, and I still get to enjoy salon-quality color. 

I asked my friend and hair stylist, Tracy Rozeboom, to answer a few of my pressing questions on saving money without sacrificing great hair.

What should people ask for if they’re searching for great-looking, low maintenance color? Are there any styles that people should steer clear of?

When looking for a low maintenance color I would recommend asking your colorist to show you a swatch of what your natural color is.  Then I would ask to stay within 2 levels of that color. That way your grow out can last longer without you having to come in as often. If you want a more noticeable change ombre & boliage  techniques that are super trendy for summer!  This allows you to have something fun and different, yet remain low maintenance.

Also, if you want to be lighter for summer just ask for a few foils around your face.  Everyone is naturally a bit lighter around the face so by enhancing that you are brightening up the face and the grow-out isn’t as harsh. I would steer clear of a style that has a ‘wow’ factor.  Anything that isn’t close to your natural color is going to be work to keep up.

As a stylist, would you prefer your clients to mention that they’re trying to be budget-savvy on the front end? Would that impact the cut or color you steer clients to or away from?

YES.  If your hairstylist does not do a full consultation when you sit in the chair then please be sure to speak up!  Hopefully they will ask you a hand full of questions, but if not tell them about your lifestyle.  Include what your daily routine looks like, how much time you spend on your hair in the mornings, how often you’ll go to the salon, what products you are using, any life events, budget, etc.  By doing so the haircut and/or color can be based on what works best for you.

Then when you show them a picture of what you want, they can pin point what you like about that style/color for you, yet tweak it to match your lifestyle & budget!

Once you get home from the salon, what are some of the best ways to preserve your color and make it last longer? Are there any at-home products you would recommend to help extend your color?

The best way to preserve your color when getting home from the salon is to not wash it for 24 hours. There isn’t a rule about that, but I have attended professional classes that teach this to be true! In general, the less you wash your hair,the better. Washing your hair less will help preserve your color, balance your scalp’s pH with the natural oils of your skin, and make your products last longer. I recommend washing every other day.

As far as at home products go, I would stick to the recommendations of your stylist. The companies that make your hair color also make the product to work with your color. I know they cost more upfront, but they will save you money by making your color last longer! One money-saving tip I pass along to my clients? If you have blonde hair, you can use baby powder instead of dry shampoo!

Tip for the blondes: Ask your stylist about using a purple shampoo once every other week! It will brighten up your hair, save you some salon time and money and blow your mind!

What are the biggest mistakes, in your opinion, that people make when caring for their hair?

NUMBER 1 RULE: HEAT PROTECTANT. I think the biggest mistake that people make is to skip the products and fry their hair.  Beautiful hair begins with healthy hair.  You don’t need to spend a ton of money on a whole cupboard of products. The top two products I recommend to everyone that sits in my chair are a deep conditioner to be used twice a week and a heat protectant (with protein) to be used everyday.

Money-Saving Tip: You can swap a deep conditioner for a jar of coconut oil!

In your opinion, is it necessary to buy salon-quality hair products to have great hair? If you want to keep your hair healthy and can only splurge on one salon-quality product, what would it be?

I know salon products can cost a lot! The reason is the ingredients. Cheap products are full of wax that make you think your hair is soft and healthy when really it is coated and the hair strand isn’t absorbing any nutrients.  This can also lead to a wax build-up on your scalp.  Choose to splurge on a good shampoo and conditioner.  The shampoo will clean your scalp and hair without adding wax to the problem and the conditioner is like lotion full of moisture and nutrients.  By doing so you can get back to liking LOVING your hair!


Ainsley 3 Month Update

June 3, 2015

photo (87)


Likes and Dislikes: Little Miss Ainsley is non-stop action and personality these days! I love continuing to get to know her more and more and she truly is so much FUN to be around.

Ainsley Loves: people singing, being lifted into the air again and again by dad, playing in her Jumparoo bouncer, eating, watching her puppies run around the house and laughing at mom and dad

Ainsley Dislikes: having to wait to eat, waking up early from naps (she gets super crabby when she wakes early and can’t fall back asleep), having her onesie changed, going to bed at night

Daytime Schedule: Ainsley is waking up sometime between 6 and 7 each morning. During the day she is awake for about 1 1/2 hours before taking another nap. Her daytime naps are usually only about 1 hour in length, meaning we’re on a 2 1/2 hour schedule throughout the day. It works pretty well for us and means that she is getting extra calories in during the day, which equals better nighttime sleep!

Eating: Ainsley is eating 5 ounces pretty consistently in each bottle and taking between 6 and 7 feedings each day. Her bottles are a 50/50 mix of breast milk and formula. We’re on the fast-track to transitioning to 100% formula, both for my own benefit and because I’m pretty convinced that Ainsley does better on the formula as well.

Sleep: Sleep has gotten quite a bit better this month! We put her down for bed between 7 and 7:30 and then I sneak into her room and give her a “dream feed” around 9:30, right before I go to bed. By doing that, Ainsley can usually sleep until 2 or 3, eat, and then sleep again until morning. Waking up only once in the night is such a game-changer! It’s amazing what five hours of consecutive sleep will do for your mental health!

Family Transition: At the end of Ainsley’s third month of life, I returned to work! I was really emotional and nervous about the whole thing, since I was returning to a “new-old-new” job at General Mills. Basically, I was returning to my “old job” but my job description changed quite a bit after the layoffs and our team was quite a bit smaller, so I still have a lot to learn and catch up on.

Going back to work takes a lot of planning; meal-planning and lunch prepping and packing, getting Ainsley’s bottles ready and making sure we are all prepared to tackle the day ahead. But I’m finding that if I prepare for the week and put in the extra time on the front end, I can enjoy the week all that much more. Ainsley is taking to the childcare situation really well, and I’m convinced that the whole transition is harder for me than it is for her!

Mommy Body Update: The three month mark was the point in the recovery process where I really felt my body had returned to some version of “normal.” Don’t get me wrong, I still have some work to do in terms of strengthening and toning, but I’m fitting into most of my old clothes and feeling a lot more like myself. That said, this month I tossed a couple pairs of jeans that I’m convinced will just never fit the way they used to, and that’s okay, too.

Resources: Same as months 1 and 2!


Budgeting Post-Baby: Cutting Cable

June 2, 2015


Having a baby has a way of making you seriously re-examine your budget. You start to think about the little luxuries you enjoy every day and then realize the money spend on those luxuries could (and probably should!) be going toward more important things your child’s college fund. Although we felt we were in a position to have a baby, when we sat down to re-evaluate our budget post-baby, it was a big wake-up call to make some changes. We are no longer DINKS (you know, Dual Income No Kids?) and spending/living like we are is a thing of the past.

So, that said, I’m planning on doing a mini-series on the site in the coming months to examine how we’re adjusting our budget for baby and cutting costs while still managing to live well. Our first target for cost savings? Our pesky and over-priced cable bill.

Yes, we finally did it, we cut the cable cord! We’ve been talking about cutting DirecTV for a couple years, but the sticking point for us was always ESPN. But when we realized that we were spending $115 a month on cable, something needed to change. Our solution? We signed up for SlingTV (not the same as Sling Box) through Dish Network. Sling TV can be accessed through your internet TV or an internet TV stick, like a Roku, which we got free when we pre-paid for three months of Sling TV.

You plug in your Roku, download the SlingTV app and for just $20/month you get access to streaming of about 20 popular channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV and Food Network, to name a few. We’ve been SO impressed with the quality of the streaming and the ease of accessing our favorite channels. Plus, I love that you can by month-by-month with the option to add additional channel packages based on interests. In the fall, I anticipate that we’ll add the sports package (which includes SEC Network, ESPNU, etc.) for a couple months, which costs an additional $15/month. No matter the way you swing it, we’re saving over $1,000 over the course of the year just by making the switch.

Additionally, we share an extended-family Netflix account for streaming movies and TV shows and we pay for Hulu Plus as well, which costs $8/month. And access to the basic channels like ABC, NBC and CBS? Those are free with a digital tuner!

A few notes about cutting cable:
-You need to be 100% committed to cutting the cord. When we called to cancel, DirecTV offered to reduce our bill by a paltry $10/month. But, about an hour after cancel our service we got a call from DirecTV’s retention department offering to give us our current package for $60/month for 12 months, plus a $200 Visa gift card and NFL Sunday Ticket for free. Tempting, but we stuck to our guns and passed on the offer. (Hint, doing this might be a good option if you want to keep cable but are trying to reduce your budget!)

-Even with SlingTV, we’re going to have to do without some luxuries like being able to record the shows we want to watch at a later time. However, most of that can be remedied by going online to Hulu Plus or Netflix and finding the show we want to watch. Not nearly as convenient but costs savings frequently mean a trade-off in convenience.

-We’re hoping that by cutting cable we will spend less time watching mindless TV and more time reading, spending time with Ainsley and getting outside. We have said it’s not only an investment in cost-savings but an investment in another way of living, and I like the sounds of that.

Old Budget
DirecTV $115/month
HuluPlus $8/month
TOTAL: $123/month or $1476/year

New Budget
SlingTV: $20/month
HuluPlus $8/month
TOTAL: $28/month or $336/year


I’m excited to continue this series on budgeting over the next several weeks. I have a few awesome guest-contributors who are going to weigh in on things like hair and salon visits, food and groceries and events/activities!



Will You Promote That Product?

May 30, 2015

Ainsley Banner

Blogging and sponsored posts and content. Ugh. Does just reading that make your eyes roll or your stomach churn? It’s a tough topic for bloggers, their readers and the companies that want to promote their products. When blogging was first getting started people felt like they were selling out for simply having ads on their site but these days ads are almost a given and sponsored/custom content is where it’s at.

While I’m a blogger, I’m also an avid blog-reader and have a love-hate relationship with sponsored content. When done well (that is, when it seems genuine and is presented in a visually-appealing way) it’s non-offensive and sometimes even encourages me to buy or seek out a product. When done poorly I’m left feeling like the blogger is a “sell-out” and it’s even caused me to stop reading blogs that promote too many products.

But here’s the thing bloggers don’t always want to say: Blogging takes time, money and energy. It’s a hobby and passion, yes, but it can be an incredibly time-consuming hobby. Many times the content that is created on the blogs we all love to read costs a pretty penny to produce. Groceries and kitchen equipment for food posts, clothing and accessories for fashion and lifestyle features, materials for craft projects – you get the picture.

I’ll be the first to admit that there have been times in the past (especially when I was first starting to get offers from companies) when I was quick to promote products that weren’t a good or natural fit for this blog, my lifestyle and my reader’s interests. There have also been times when I’ve been offered a good deal of money to review and promote products that I’ve had to pass on because I just didn’t believe in the product or would never purchase it myself.

Lately I feel there is more sponsored content than ever in the blogosphere, and I’ve been taking a good, hard look at what I will and won’t promote on E&C. As a new mom working outside the home my time is precious. Now seems like a great time to take a hard look at the sponsored content posts I’m willing to accept and those that are simply not worth my time or yours.

I’m not sure I have a really great way to tie this all together or a clear point to what I’m writing other than to be entirely transparent about sponsored content and my motivation behind mentioning a brand or product. I know for certain that I’ll be continuing with my partnership with Lavazza to talk all things coffee this year. I love coffee and I truly love Lavazza’s coffee and the partnership is something I can feel good about. Sometimes friends, like Emily Ley, send me their amazing handiwork (like this baby book) and I can’t help but shout from the rooftops how much I love it. And that amazing hand-made banner on Ainsley’s crib? It’s from a friend of a friend’s Etsy store called Momma Coco Designs and it’s just darling.

Other times I’m incredibly disappointed in products, and I promise I won’t ever share a dishonest review. Case in point? When I was packing for the hospital, Belly Bandit sent me one of their postpartum belly wraps to review. The Belly Bandit is pretty pricey and I was thankful for the opportunity to review it without cost; however, when the time came for me to write a review, I just couldn’t do it. I hated the Belly Bandit; it made a lot of noise when it was worn and had a very obvious and awkward seam and I just didn’t think it was necessary for postpartum recovery. (That is, for a normal vaginal delivery; I’ve heard some c-section mommas say it was great, for what it’s worth.)

So, here’s to transparency, honesty and authenticity in the products we all promote and support on social media. I’ll do my best to curate and evaluate what I talk about, and you’re welcome to keep me honest along the way!


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