Freckles in April: June 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Best Books I've Read This Year (So Far)

I have read so. many. good. books. this year. Half the time I finish a book and think, "This is one of the best books I've read this year." I don't know if I have just gotten really selective or what but there have been very few duds (and those I just returned to the library without finishing. Life's too short for bad novels or yawn-inducing non-fiction).

So here are a few of the best books I've read so far this year and what I loved about them:

Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History-- Without the Fairy Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

This was an impulse Barnes and Noble purchase. It was like $6 in the store (it's more expensive on Amazon, boo) so I grabbed it based on the title alone. I got 4 chapters in and ran out and bought two more copies as gifts for a couple feminist friends who I knew would appreciate it.

The chapters are each short-ish stand alone tales of princesses in history and mythology who didn't fit the standard princess mold. There are warrior princesses, mentally ill princesses, murderous princesses, and princesses who ran off with the wrong guy (a couple different times). History can often be too dry for me but McRobbie injects a lot of humor into her writing and I really got into the stories. Also, I really appreciated the bite-sized nature of the chapters- you could sit and read a ten page tale and then go on with your day without having to remember long strings of names and dates and places. Unfortunately, I didn't QUITE finish before I accidentally forgot this book on a nightstand in a Vegas motel. It's possible the last couple chapters were abysmal but going by the 90% I DID read, I'm not too worried. If I come across it again in B&N I'll buy yet another copy.



The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

I debated between including this one or the also excellent The Righteous Mind (which you should probably also read!) but ultimately decided on The Happiness Hypothesis mostly because I felt like so much of it was applicable to my life and things I have experienced. I've talked to several other people who have said it's one of their favorite books for that reason so I know I'm not alone in that. There's philosophy, religion, economics, psychology, and cognitive science all stirred together and poured out in a wonderfully accessible and cohesive portrait of what happiness is and how to improve our own happiness levels.

Chunks of the book feel a bit self-helpy but I don't think it's really a self-help book. There's definitely information here that could help you make positive life changes but this was definitely more of a psychology or philosophy book for me (my fav).



Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America by Bob Herbert  

The author, Bob Herbert, was a New York Times columnist for 18 years and he quit in order to write this book. I listened to this one and I just remember hiking in the mountains one morning and thinking, "omg I get it." It's no secret that I'm not a Trump supporter but this book helped me finally understand people who are. I found myself a little irked at Obama for not tackling some of these issues and I could see how people might have seen Clinton as more of the same and why they might not be interested in that.

He talks about the collapse of America's infrastructure (I have no desire to cross a bridge ever again) as well as the economic collapse and plight of middle class and the poor. It was incredibly well researched and offered a fantastically well written perspective of an America that I didn't see or understand before.




Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

I spent the past couple weeks binge-reading the CRAP out of this series. It's not new- the first book came out in 2012 and the fifth book came out last year- but for some reason I only JUST heard about it a couple months ago when I overheard my mom and sister talking about it. Fantasy isn't usually my jam so it took me a while to get around to picking up the first book. But when I finally did, hoo boy. My family didn't hear from me for a while. Pop Tarts for dinner kids, mommy's busy!

The main character is a badass female assassin. There are witches and demons and secret identities and kingdoms to save. Also: a parade of love interests. High five to Maas for keeping things unpredictable in the love story arena! There are also plenty of secondary characters that I actually care about and that doesn't often happen for me in books like this. I'm currently number 83 on the list for the fifth book and I am dyyyying to know what happens next.


There are several more that I could link here but my kids are begging to make cookies and I'm not one to turn down the opportunity to eat cookies. As I was looking at the books I've read so far in 2017 the vast majority are non-fiction. I could use a really good novel- any fiction recommendations?

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Splurge or Save | Bikinis

I go through cycles where I obsessively shop for certain things depending on the time of year. I usually don't even end up buying anything, just the online window shopping itself seems to scratch whatever mental itch I've got going on (I'm sure my psychologist brother would have things to say about that). In any event, lately I can't stop browsing swimsuits. Which means I've got some some knockoffs to share with you!

Standard caveat emptor warning- I can't vouch for the quality of any of these items so make sure you read the reviews and whatnot!



  ModCloth Set the Serene Swimsuit Top and Bottom (several color options) vs CupShe or SeaSelfie on Amazon

$75.99 difference (heads up- reviews are better for the SeaSelfie one over the CupShe one and it's a little bit cheaper!)



Triangl Delilah Fiore Nero suit vs Muxilove Neoprene Bikini

$60 difference

I've had my eyes on Triangl's neoprene bikinis forEVER (I mentioned them back in January) but haven't been able to convince myself to spend that much on a bikini that I'm not totally sure I'll wear (sometimes I feel brave enough for a bikini and sometimes I don't). But $19? Sure. I'd take that gamble.



Mango Molli vs SheIn.

This antler print bikini showed up in my Pinterest feed a while back and I immediately loved it (I even shared it on my IG story) but no way will I ever talk myself into paying $200+ for a swimsuit. The SheIn one is obviously not a direct knockoff but for $14? It works! PLUS
not only is there a $188 difference between these suits, SheIn does 6% cash back through eBates (ps they have a new Chrome plugin that is SO HELPFUL. I don't have to remember to go through eBates, there's just a little pop-up while I shop that says "Oh hey, you can get 3% cashback if you buy something here, want to do that?" YES). I've never ordered from them but I'm tempted.\

Hope you're enjoying your summer! If you've been watching my IG stories you know we're surviving-not-thriving over here (5 more weeks until school starts!!!!!!!) but no one has murdered anyone yet so we're counting that as a success!

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Friday, June 2, 2017

ThirdLove, True & Co, Lively & Naja: An Unsponsored Bra Review

None of this is sponsored. I paid for everything with my own money and these companies don't know who I am. This is an honest, unpaid review of ThirdLove, Lively, Naja and True & Co. However, there are affiliate links in this post. Which means if you click and end up buying something I get a small perk- usually a few bucks toward a new bra. Which I wouldn't hate.




If you're a girl with boobs then odds are good your FB ads are like 75% bra ads lately. There are quite a few newish underwear companies trying to make their mark, including ThirdLove, Lively, True & Co. and Naja.

After the Caboose was born I went to Nordstrom and had a bra fitting. The lady blew my mind and I came out with like $150 in new bras in a size I most definitely did not realize I was.

EXCEPT.

Then I joined the gym. And my body burned my boobs for fuel right off the bat (my belly is the LAST place it's going for energy stores, of course) so those pretty bras I bought? Don't remotely fit anymore.

I found some bralettes at Target that I liked. They're great, I've worn them almost exclusively for over a year. They're quite comfortable and keep what little I've got in place and I can't really complain. Except for the part where they look and fit like training bras and sometimes I want a grown-up bra that is a bit more flattering.

What I've been wearing


The bummer about finding bras when you've got not-a-lot-up-top is that they tend to make you look...weird. Pointy or all smooshed or some other configuration that just isn't flattering. Bra shopping is usually rather demoralizing for me.

So I decided to go on the hunt for a new bra via online routes (better my bedroom mirror with natural light than the unflattering yellow lights and dirty carpet of a dressing room, right?). I gave all four brands that have been taking over my FB feed a try and, obviously, documented my experience here for you lovelies.

ThirdLove



K, immediate thing I LOVE about ThirdLove- their "Try Before Buying" program. Basically, you just pay for shipping. If you don't return it after 30 days then they charge your credit card for the full amount. Considering how much I shelled out for the other bras, this was a bit of a relief.

I took the boob quiz and it recommended I try the 24/7 T-shirt bra so that's what I ordered (and I tried to find equivalents in the other brands for comparison sake). The bra retails for $68, though I just paid the $2.99 shipping to try it out first.

Blurry armpit spillage


Unfortunately, I'm not sure ThirdLove is suited to my shape, though I'm also not totally confident I got the right size. The downside of ThirdLove is that they make recommendations based on the fit of whatever bra you're currently wearing. Except...I wear bralettes that go off of a generic small/med/large situation. There's no band size or cup size for me to work with. Even their "bra size chart" asks you to use your current bra. I ended up ordering based on a guess from my previous bra and apparently it wasn't quite right.

T-shirt Test: Meh. Doesn't do my boobs any favors, really.



I retook their boob quiz a few different times and changed my answers and it kept recommending the same bra (or the padded version of the same bra). It's possible another size would have fit me perfectly but it's also possible that Third Love just isn't right for me. But, with their $2.99 try-on, you really don't have much to lose by giving them a shot!


Lively



I ordered two bras from Lively- the t-shirt bra (so I could compare to the ThirdLove bra) and the Deep V No-Wire. There's a discount if you buy multiple bras and the discount deepens the more you buy so my two $35 bras ended up being $27.50 apiece. Even without the discount, though, Lively is by far the cheapest of the 4 brands.

I'd also argue that they've got the prettiest packaging. Millenial pink with foil inlays and a pretty card when you open the box. Presentation matters to me- if you're spending $50 on something then receiving it should be a pleasant experience and Lively nailed it.

The Deep V No-Wire was a definite no, which made me sad because I love the look of it. But it pulled weird after I put it on and created an odd indentation.

???


The t-shirt bra was fine. A perfectly serviceable bra but it wasn't THE ONE, even though I did think the back was really pretty.

Hello, Las Vegas sunburn

I will admit that I spent some time after trying on those two bras going through their website again and bookmarking a few other bras I'd like to try. The price is right and I like their branding- I'd like to see if there's anything else they've got that I might LOVE.

T-shirt Test: Not terrible but not amazing either. Just...fine.




Naja



Naja should win an award just for being the prettiest. I've actually taken screenshots of their ads in the past because their stuff was so pretty and I wanted to remember the brand when I was in the market for a bra.

I mean, honestly.
However they get immediate points off for a few things: when you click their "size chart" it doesn't bring up a BRA size chart. Which is...not useful. Also, when you give them your email address you get a 10% off code. My code did not work.

I've always wanted a tattoo. This almost does the trick.


I got the Isabel Sparrow Bra because A. it was pretty and B. it was in their "t-shirt bra" category. I paid the full price of $65 (side eye at my non-working 10% off code).

Fortunately, despite a sort of wild guess at my size, the bra fit quite well. It was also SO PRETTY. The band is made of several layers of stretchy mesh (think pantyhose type material) so it conformed really nicely to my back instead of cutting into my back fat, which is what bras often do.

T-shirt Test: I mean, other than the obviously problematic "black bra under a white tee" thing, it works! I'm not smooshed or shaped weird. It makes me look like I have SOME boobs without any padding. It's a good bra.




True & Co.




True & Co's True Body bra ($49) looks like a more grown-up version of the bralettes I've already been wearing so I placed an order. I took their quiz and it didn't recommend their t-shirt bra. I debated and ended up getting one they did recommend- the Alice Easy Fit Pullover ($48). I didn't want to order the t-shirt bra and then hate it because, hello, they told me not to get it in the first place. Didn't seem fair to the brand, I guess? Anyway, the Alice bra was good (I love the mesh detail on the straps) but ultimately it was essentially a fancy sports bra and I have plenty of those.



In retrospect, I should have gotten the Gramercy Balconette, which they also recommended, because it would have been a better analog for the other bras I tried. Oh well.



As I pulled on the True Body bra I thought, "Yeah I won't keep this, it's almost exactly like my nude brale- HOLY CRAP THIS IS THE MOST COMFORTABLE BRA I'VE EVER WORN." I immediately sent a deeply unflattering half-naked mirror selfie to a couple friends who I'd discussed this bra with before- we'd seen the ad and were like, "maybe? maybe too uni-boobish?"and I told them they needed to try it after all. There's no underwire, which I generally prefer, but it doesn't squish my boobs into oblivion. The way its constructed is so smooooth. It basically disappeared beneath my clothes. This is pretty much the perfect bra to wear under close-fitting tops.

T-shirt Test: Basically invisible. Good shape. My fav bra of the bunch.



One downside:



The shape makes it non-tank-top-friendly. And I wear a lot of tank-tops in the warmer months. I would have kept it (and possibly ordered a couple other colors!) if not for this one detail.


After a lot of internal debate I sent them ALL back. However, both Lively and True & Co. were close enough that I'm going to order a couple other bras from each brand and see if I can land on something I really love.

The search continues!


Edited to add info about returns:

ThirdLove: Just had to hop on their website, answer a few brief questions about my return and they emailed me a return label. I slapped it on the original box. Easy!

True & Co: Not only did they include a return shipping label but they ALSO included an envelope to send my returns back in. Seriously, this company is so good.

Lively: They included a shipping label with the original shipment which I just put on the original box. They also want you to do a step on the website where you mark what you're keeping and what you're returning but it was glitchy for me and I ended up having to contact customer service.

Naja: Website has NO return info aside from stating that there's a 15 day (!) return window. I did some googling and found a LOT of reviews saying that Naja is super sketchy and their customer service is nonexistent. I ended up just printing a label through PayPal and sending it back to the address it originally came from. Crossing fingers. I'll update this to let you know if that works.
EDIT 6/15/2017: my return to Naja processed just fine AND I got an email from their customer service thanking me for my post and letting me know they've fixed the size chart issue and are not sure what happened with my 10% off code but they double checked it and it seemed to be working fine. They're working to make returns easier and to make sure customer support is more regular. So, good things from Naja! I actually think I might order from them again but more with a "this is lingerie" mindset rather than "this is an everyday bra" attitude. They also offered to send me one of their gorgeous bralettes- obviously I will report back.

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