What I Learned Taking my Toddler to Disneyland.

family, fashion, mom life, productivity, travel

We recently took my 2 1/2 year old daughter to Disneyland for the first time. Kids get in free until they turn three and with family visiting it seemed like the perfect opportunity. To be perfectly honest, although I reside close to Disney, I don’t actually go there very often. I believe the last time I set foot in the park was 2012 when I ran the Disney half marathon. I’m not what you’d call an amusement park person. So, I reached out to friends on social media for advice on what to expect and things to pack because surprisingly, there wasn’t much information out there. Here’s what I discovered:

1. Everyone told me to pack snacks: I didn’t. Furthermore, I’m glad I didn’t, it would have been something extra I’d have to carry around. I think you have to know your kid and know yourself. We’re not big eaters. My daughter isn’t a snacker. We had lunch at the park and shared a Dole Whip. Remember if you pack snacks you have to carry snacks. Speaking of carrying…

2. A backpack seemed like a good idea: Not so much. You have to remove the backpack to get on every ride. I had to wrangle my child, get in the ride myself, remove my sunglasses, and move my backpack. It was an additional step I could have avoided with a crossbody bag or sling pack you can rotate to the front. This summer I’m all about my Louis Vuitton bum bag as a sling pack, I think it would’ve been a better choice (I had a Longchamp backpack). You also don’t need a huge bag, 8 diapers were excessive. I changed her twice in 6 hours.

3. Hand sanitizer is a must: I don’t always carry hand sanitizer but I did take a small bottle to the park. My daughter and I used it often, my husband didn’t. He’s now sick and we’re fine. I’m not saying it was because of the hand sanitizer BUT we’re not sick. Just saying.

4. Sunblock, obviously: We lathered on the traditional stuff before we left the house but for reapplication I used the Tarte TarteGuard mineral powder 30 sunblock. It’s not the best if it’s the only sun protection you have but it’s great for touch up. It also smells like vanilla. And easy to apply on a toddler.

5. Extra phone battery: I swear I collect these things. Most people have one. I rotate through three depending on the occasion. Even when my phone was new I still carried an external battery (all it takes to convince yourself they’re handy is being stuck in a restroom during a fire with some terrified teenagers who need an extra power boost to call their parents. Or you could just believe me). For Disney I brought out the big boy. It had attachments for both iPhone and Android because some members of my family actually have androids. Weird.

Heloideo

Sonix

MyCharge

6. Stroller: I say rent. It’s $15 for the day and it’s a pretty nice stroller. My cousin bought her own, which I understand because they’d done the whole tourist thing but if you’re local just rent the ride. $15 is worth it to not have to fold up your own and get it in and out of the car.

7. Bandolier iPhone case: it’s kind of cheesy but it came in handy (if I’d carried a crossbody bad, I may not have needed it as much, but I’d still recommend it). This is an iPhone case on a crossbody strap. The first time I saw someone with one I thought it was hideous. I wanted photos of my daughter’s first trip to Disneyland and I didn’t trust keeping my phone in my pocket, not to mention I have an iPhone 7 Plus and I’m an extremely petite woman. The pockets in 00 shorts weren’t meant to accommodate such a large phone. I put the phone in my picket and looped it around my body. It was easy to grab and I never had to worry about dropping it. The case is pretty protective. The strap is removable and I did manage to drop my phone face first on the concrete, no damage to the phone after removing the strap. The case was scuffed slightly.

In the end, I think taking any type of trip with a toddler comes down to personal preference. You know your kid better than anyone.

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Get In The Loop: Try The Loopycase

fashion, productivity, Technology

Recently I reviewed two alternative ways to hold your phone using add on accessories Popsocket and iRing. I’d like to throw a third contender onto the list: The LoopyCase.

The LoopyCase is a little different because it’s an entire case and not just a case accessory. This means that you have to be fairly committed when choosing a case style because you’ll have to purchase an entirely new case if you want to change things up (the company does offer some alternative loops for $5). I haven’t been able to justify buying a second loop for my case…yet. (I do have my eye on those glittery ones.) I don’t know how easily the loops switch out but it is possible. What I can say is that the loop really feels sturdy and well attached. The concept is similar to the iRing in which you loop (hence the name) your finger(s) through the back of the case for easy access or hands free carrying but because the loop is made from a soft, flexible material, I’ve found it more comfortable. The loop is also adjustable so you can customize the fit.

Unfortunately, the Loopycase has two major drawbacks: First, the case can not be used as a stand. I like to watch Netflix when I unload the dishwasher and a

stand is extremely helpful when you have video calls (ironically, I had one of those “GoToMeeting” calls and I hung the loop over a bottle of Diet Coke, it did the job). The Loopycase can’t be propped up for easy viewing. Secondly, there isn’t a car attachment for the Loopy Case, although there are obviously tons of ways to mount your phone in the car. Finally, the Loopycase is more expensive than both an iRing and a Popsocket combined because it is an actual case and to be quite honest , the price is on par with other cases of similar quality.

Pros:

* Comfortable strap which can be adjusted for size.

* Case protects your phone from drops and dings.

* Malleable loop fits easily into back pocket or small bag.

* Loop is well attached and will not come “unglued” from your phone.

Cons:

* The loop can not be used as a stand.

* Loop is attached to the case and can not be used with another case manufacturer.

I’m still rocking my reliable iPhone 7 Plus but I do plan on getting the next incantation of iPhone, whatever that may be, and the Loopycase has made my short list of cases I plan to repurchase which I believe says something about the product.

The Loopycase retails for about $35

Why You Should Think Twice Before Paying for MyFitnessPal Premium

Fitness, productivity, Technology

MyFitnessPal (owned by parent company Under Armour) is a calorie counting and fitness application designed to help people manage their caloric intake in either an effort to lose, maintain, or gain weight. The service is free with an option to go add free for $49.99 a year. I chose the paid option, and based on my experience, I caution you not to make the same mistake. Here’s my story:

There are two ways you can go about using the service. You can stay completely quiet and count your calories or you can participate in the “community” and , like all social media, post and communicate with others from around the world. For some reason, I decided to participate in the forums.

On Sunday morning I found my account blocked. Blocked means completely unusable. My $50 gone. I couldn’t get on to the site at all, even to log things I had kept private. Why? According to the pop up, I had violated their policy. Specifically their policy on eating disorders. The problem? I didn’t. I’ve read the policy several times, I know what I posted and in no way, shape, or form did I violate their policy. The bigger problem? There’s no way for me to prove my case. The company has zero customer support or series of checks and balances. I realize it sounds crazy, this is a company that trades on the stock market how do they not have a customer service department? I don’t know, all I know is that I reached out via the “contact us” portal on the website (twice!) because I wanted to see a quote of the post they claimed violated their rules (I was convinced it had to be a mistake). No response. Check out my Twitter (@CarolynNicole) I tried reaching them through social media with at least 5 tweets in an attempt to solve my problem. No response. Facebook messenger. No response. Instagram. No response. So how did my account become blocked if no one appears to actually work there? According to the website they rely on community members to monitor the forums. I’m not sure what that means exactly (and of course there’s no way to ask, because there is no customer service) but I believe that means that other members have the ability to suspend your account (even paid) if they feel offended by your posts. Now things make sense.

So what did I post that could have set someone running to their safe space:

– I am a recovered anorexic. I’ve been healthy since 1995.

– I am technically underweight. I DID NOT post my weight, measurements, clothing size, or BMI which I thought might trigger someone. But I am large enough to get pregnant and have a child (so, not unhealthy underweight).

– I am happy with my body. (That makes at least 50% of the female population hate you right away. Everyone’s for body positivity, as long as you aren’t happy with your own body)

– At the time I received help I weighed 72lbs. I had a wonderful counselor, had a positive experience, and encouraged anyone in my position to get help.

– I am a Christian, prayer helps me retain my health and guides my life.

– I’ve modeled in the past.

– I eat to live. I don’t enjoy eating and count calories to make sure I am getting enough food and nutrition every day.

– I sometimes pack my own food if I’m afraid I’ll freak myself out and choose to not eat in social situations. Eating is very important and you should never skip meals.

None of the above mentioned information violated any of their rules or guidelines. BUT, if you’re a random person, unhappy with your life, I may have posted something you found offensive. Maybe it was another person who has struggled with an eating disorder and doesn’t want to hear about help. Or possibly someone who suffers from a binge eating disorder and hates underweight women. Heck, it could’ve been someone who was anti-Christian. The point is, I’ll never know, and the company itself will never step in to figure it out. If I were a vindictive person (or just crazy) I could creat a fake account and randomly report people because I didn’t like their profile photo, or so it appears.

Consequently, until there is a better method of regulating how posts are flagged and accounts suspended, I highly suggest you stick to the free version of this app. Thankfully, since I purchased the subscription through the Apple App Store, Apple stepped in and within 24 hours my $50 was refunded. I would still love to hear from the company and be vindicated but I seriously doubt that will happen. I moved back to LoseIt! and am quite happy. I’ll make sure to write a review after using the service for a longer period of time.

You Better Put A Ring on it…or a Popsocket

fashion, productivity, Technology

Popsockets or iRing: Which accessory should your phone carry.

I’m extremely picky about my accessories. I tend to favor the likes of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Gucci. My bags and small leather goods are on constant rotation (currently I’m using my LV Palm Springs Mini Backpack, LV toiletry 15, coin purse, key cles & a Chanel card holder). It’s no wonder I’ve added accessories to my accessories. I almost always have either a popsocket or an iRing attached to my phone case. I own 4 popsockets and two iRings with car mounts for both. I know some people are very passionate about team popsocket vs team ring (I kid you not, there is a YouTube channel practically devoted to Popsockets, the woman owns over 100 of them) but I’ve found I enjoy using both (I do favor one…slightly) for different reasons.

The common ground:

– Both offer a way to more easily hold your phone.

– Both provide stand functionality.

– Both have an optional car mount (the iRing come with one included, to get one for a popsocket you’ll have to fork out another $10).

– Both have a collapsible state, regardless, when attached to the back of your device neither will allow your phone to sit completely flat.

– Both use adhesive which will not damage your device but can be removed and replaced close to 100 times.

Materials:

A popsocket is made of plastic (although they just came out with a blinged out crystal version which retails for $50) while the iRing is a combination of plastic and metal.

Why I like the Popsocket:

Popsockets are extremely customizable. I have one with my daughter’s photo on it. If you use two popsockets on either end of your phone, you can wrap your headphones around them so they won’t become tangled in your bag. If you’re concerned about having your phone sit on a flat surface, the popsocket does sit flatter than the iRing.

Why I Prefer the iRing:

The iRing is exactly what it says it is, a ring which adheres to the back of your phone. This means that the iRing makes your phone completely hands free, you can literally flip your phone around and wear it like a giant ring (not recommended). But the reason I find the iRing more convenient is because I have small hands (let’s face it, I have small everything) which makes a popsocket slightly uncomfortable to hold for an extended period of time.

I also have an iPhone 7 Plus, and if I use a thicker or heavier case, a popsocket will collapse when I try to use it as a stand. Because the iRing uses a metal loop, it tends to support the phone.

Neither accessory is a major investment and because they’re reusable, I’d suggest trying both and coming to your own conclusion because, you know, you can never have too many accessories.

A Case for Cards

fashion, Organization, Technology

When I think about subjects to write about, I think to myself, what’s important to me or what makes my life easier? One of the more difficult aspects of taking on freelance jobs is that the subject matter is often assigned to me (and my students think I don’t understand their struggle) so although I’ve been given the opportunity to try a product or service out, it’s usually something I’ve only had for a limited time. Here I have space to expand upon things which I actually use and rely on regularly. Which is why I want to talk about phone cases with card slots. Honestly, it’s not something I ever thought I’d use, and yet, since purchasing one last year it has proven to be one of the handiest accessories I own.

My current love is the Wally case from Ullu, which is an investment. I started off with a cheap non label case I found on Amazon for $12 in a beautiful red alligator print…pretty sure it wasn’t real alligator. Once I was able to see how useful the case was I upped my game to the 12 South relaxed leather case (with pockets) and finally, since I didn’t splurge on a new iPhone this year, I went for the ullu, which I think is one of the most beautiful and well designed card holder cases on the market.

I don’t actually use the case as a full time wallet, my cards only reside there when I need easy access or I have limited space. Here are the situations where I find the case to be the most useful:

1. Taking My Daughter to the Doctor:

Sick babies are not fun. Colicky, fussy, sick babies are the worst. You’ve got the baby and the diaper bag, sometimes the stroller, she’s screaming and the front desk needs to see your medical card, her medical card, your ID & you have to pay the copay. My daughter had several digestive issues as an infant and a card case just made my life so much easier. Everything is all laid out on the back of your phone, phone goes in and out of your pocket with ease, no digging through your bag. You can hand the receptionist your cards all while texting your worried husband that you arrived safely. I assume that this would also come in handy at a place like an amusement park (I’m not a big amusement park fan) or anywhere you have some kind of “pass”.

2. Tiny Clutch Bags:

Gentleman, this is probably not an issue for you, or maybe it is, who am I to judge. I don’t need to transfer my stuff to a smaller wallet and then back again. I just add what cards I need to my phone case and go. The next day, I can just put my phone back in my big bag and transfer the cards back into my wallet when I get the chance (which is actually kind of funny, because I don’t carry a wallet, I’ll write more about that later).

3. Travel Time:

I’m notorious for losing hotel keys. Now when I travel I just stick them in the back of my phone. Easy to grab and go to the pool or the vending machine. I’ve never had an issue with the phone demagnetizing the cards. Same for ticket stubs and coupons you’d otherwise forget.

The Argument for a Digital Diary

journal, Organization, productivity, Technology, writing

I’ve been an avid journal writer for most of my life. I think it’s the narcissist in me, the same one who thought it was a good idea to try my hand at Hollywood, this thought that someday someone would care enough to read what I had written. It started in the 5th grade with a Scholastic Book Fair “diary” blue with pink hearts which by high school was a legit Laura Palmer type with a real lock and tiny keys. The diaries of my formative years are an open letter of who wronged me, who talked about me (who I was talking about, secret crushes and who attended what party.

Writing took on a whole new meaning in college when I moved away from home and everything I knew. No longer was I writing for an imaginary audience. As I struggled to find myself I wrote solely to sort out my ideas and feelings. To figure out where my place was in this world.

I never stopped. My career, my marriage, the deaths of loved ones, the birth of my child, successes, and some really dark times have all be recorded.

In 2010 I began using a digital journal on my Blackberry. In 2011 I switched to the iPhone and started using the Day One App. At first I was skeptical about digital journaling (and I’ll admit there’s a less comprehensive, yet Louis Vuitton, journal on my bedside table). There is something about putting pen to paper and leaving something behind for the next generation. I have my grandmother’s diary from 1915 and it’s an exquisite piece of history. There’s something to be said about expressing yourself using your own unique handwriting. If there’s one thing I can say about myself it’s that I have beautiful handwriting probably from all those years of journal writing. So I understand the argument for keeping your memories in a book,but here are some reasons to consider for either switching to a digital platform or keeping a digital journal in conjunction with a handwritten diary.

1. A digital journal is always with you: Life is busy. We’re constantly on the go. It’s not reasonable nor plausible that you’d have your paper journal with you everywhere. If you’re in the habit of writing things down as a way of catharsis than it’s beneficial to have that means to express yourself with you at all times. I once lived in a hotel for a month and there was no way I was leaving a traditional paper journal in my room.

2. A digital journal is more secure: If you choose one of the many popular journaling apps such as Day One, Wonderful Days or even Evernote, you can add a passcode or fingerprint lock to secure your writing. Day One even offers encryption as an added safeguard. The chances of someone “finding” your journal and gaining access are minimal.

3. It is a lot easier to add photos to your writing: Do places even develop photos anymore? I love being able to add photos to my entries, especially as I watch my daughter grow.

4. Unlimited space: My journal currently encompasses almost 8 years of memories. I’m saving space by not having all those books cluttering up my closet AND it’s much easier to return to my writing and read past entries, something I rarely do with my previous journals.

5. Writing becomes more organized: I can have multiple journals and tag entries according to subjects or yearly events.

I understand that some people may be worried about trusting “the cloud”. What if the internet goes down? What if the company (app) goes out of business? Those are legitimate concerns. I regularly export my journal as a PDF and save it on a removable hard drive. I have a friend who chooses select entries monthly, prints them out, and adheres them to a scrapbook.

A journal is a personal thing and it isn’t my place to tell anyone how to record their memories but if you’ve never considered a digital journal I hope I’ve offered viable reasons to give it a try. Below are my top three picks to start your mobile writing journey.

Day One

My Wonderful Days

Evernote

Cracked Screens Aren’t Couture

fashion, productivity, Technology

Cracked screens aren’t couture. Your phone is the one accessory which accompanies you everywhere and it’s important that your phone looks well cared for and professional when you pull it out to enter important dates, add a new contact or scan a business card. Just like you, your phone needs to be dressed for the occasion. Here are my top three choices for dressing your iPhone with style and class in every situation.

Ullu

I’m not even sure how I originally heard about ullu, they aren’t sold in retail stores, but these cases are my go to for a slim and classy design. I have a leather snap on and a wally case. The cases are a bit pricey ranging from $75-$400 depending on the style and materials used (ostrich anyone?) but they’re so beautiful. I’d planned on only using these in my smallest handbags because of the slim form factor and lack of rugged protection. The Wally case with its three card slots (and my monogram) was purchased specifically to use in my Louis Vuitton Palm Springs mini backpack (because pulling out a wallet from that bag is annoying) but the case is so gorgeous I use it almost exclusively & am just careful with my phone. No handing it off to the toddler with this case & I’m not sticking a Popsocket to anything this pretty either, so no stand, but it’s worth it. *As a side note, my phone fell off my night stand last night (about a 3 foot drop) & on to a hardwood floor in the Wally case. It’s fine.

Pros:

– Luxury materials

– Light weight

– Slim

– Stylish

– Open ports/easy access

– Monogramming available ($10)

Velvet Caviar

If you’re looking for a trendy, stylish options which offers a modicum of protection, check out Velvet Caviar. These are my gym and exercise cases. They have a slim enough profile but I feel like my phone could actually survive a spill off the treadmill with this case on. The Velvet Caviar cases also work well with Popsockets (which is a great way to prop your phone up on a spin bike or other machine) the site even features some exclusive styles of those handy little stands. Not only is the selection of styles impressive they’re always adding new designs and have descent sales regularly.

Pros:

– Durable

– Easy to wipe down

– Decent protection against falls

– Trendy styles

– Good value for the price

12 South

So I have a thing for wallet cases. I’ve owned 12 South’s original BookBook case since my first iPhone. The case functions as a wallet and a stand but it also has the ability to remove the inner shell and use that as a slim case without the “wallet” portion (on a side note, Ullu offers a similar option with a magnetic backing, something I’m not a fan of, and a flap closure. Again, not a fan). This case does not offer a closure which, I believe, is a selling point. Having a folio style case adds protection to the screen, but it’s one extra step when trying to capture a quick photo. Any type of extra closure, like a flap, I find to be an annoying hindrance. I like this case for traveling. Essentially you’re getting two cases in one so you don’t have to pack an extra case to use in evening bags, it works well for watching movies on a flight and it has the card slots for whichever cards your using, your ID or hotel room keys.

Pros:

– Unique “book” design

– Two cases in one

– Clear plastic ID holder

– Acts as a stand

– Easy to access all ports

– Folio style protects screen in large bags

Happy New Year! What I’m Bringing From 2017 Into 2018: The Best of 2017

fashion, Technology

Goodbye 2017. Hello 2018. With everyone focused on starting anew, resolutions, and wiping the slate clean, I thought I’d share some of my favorites from 2017 which will be making the transition into the new year with me.

The Bags

Palm Springs Mini Backpack: Hands down my easiest go to bag for running around the neighborhood with my daughter. I’ll be posting my one year review and wear and tear on YouTube this week. I’ve never regretted splurging on this bag.

Gucci SoHo Disco Bag: I love this bag because it’s the crossover between a personal bag and a work bag. I can fit my work keys or a diaper in it and it’s small enough to walk around town or take to the playground.

The Accessories

Louis Vuitton Small Leather Goods:

It took me forever to find a system which worked for me. I change bags a lot and it’s easier when I can grab just a few items to transfer. The winners: a mini pochette (or toiletries 15), a cles, and the round coin purse. Every bag, every time.

Leather iPhone Case(s):

Although not the most protective, they are they most stylish and professional. Right now I’m sporting a snap on case from ullu but I have a soft spot for Twelve South as well. Some of my cases have credit card slots, some don’t , but they all have that soft, lived in, leather look and sleek design.

The Apps

Day One:

I’ve kept my digital journal since 2010 and I’ve never looked back. I started using DayOne back in ‘11 but it’s made my 2017 favorites list because I finally splurged on the subscription service enhancing my experience. Unlimited journals. Lost of photos. A secure server. Password protected.

Awesome Calendar:

Yep, that’s it’s name and that’s what it is, an awesome calendar. I’m not anti paper planner, I use an Erin Condren monthly planner for work and an LV pm agenda next to my bed. I carry a Field Notes notebook with me just about everywhere but my digital calendar is my life line. What I love about Awesome Calendar is how customizable it is. I can add photos, stickers, color code, attach notes, directions, and review what I did on this day in history (because sometimes you’re just curious). This is the closest app to my college planner I’d spend hours decorating with magazine cut outs.

The Beauty

Benefit Hello Flawless Powder Foundation:

I’d heard somewhere that women over 40 shouldn’t use powder because it settles into fine lines and wrinkles. While I’m sure that’s true for some women, I’m still pretty oily and powder foundation helps control that. The formula is light and comfortable while providing complete coverage.

Bangs:

I’m not immune to wrinkles and the saying “bangs or Botox” definitely holds some truth. Besides, ever since my daughter saw Iron Man 3 and said I was Pepper Potts, I have a new affinity for my fringe. As much as I love changing up my look, I think I’ll keep the bangs another year.

The Fashion

Zara:

Zara still dominates my closet for shoes and tops. Unfortunately, the brand has vanity sized me out of pants. In an effort to be more inclusive and diverse the smallest pants size Zara carries in most styles has a 26” waist. But, the brand continues to be innovative, trendy, and affordable so I can spend top dollar on more expensive jeans elsewhere.

The Guilt App:

Speaking of denim, Guilt offers a wide variety of styles, brands, and sizes. I’ve even been able to find a size 22 on occasion. The best part is most of the merchandise is discounted. Guilt carries more than jeans, you can find everything from designer bags to vacation getaways.

Remember, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. There’s no need to get caught up in the hype. If you love something, keep it. Happy New Year.