the sparkly life

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

We Adopted Kittens From Beth Stern! Here's How.

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beth stern kitten adoption
If you follow me on Instagram you already know this, but if not...we adopted two kittens from Beth and Howard Stern! (Yes, the Howard Stern.) I mentioned it briefly when it first happened, but a lot of people have had questions, so I wanted to share the full story. (And, of course, show more cute pics!) 

I first heard about Beth Stern's adoption program last fall when my friend Joanna adopted two kittens from her. Immediately, I started following Beth on Instagram, and in about two seconds, I fell in love. Beth Stern is an angel, you guys. She (and Howard) are constantly fostering multiple cats in their home. She usually has lots of kittens (some with their birth moms, some who were abandoned), and then a handful of what she calls her "perfectly imperfect" cats who are often very old and/or sick or missing an eye or a limb. She fosters them until they are ready to adopt (all the while sharing their photos on her Instagram account), and then personally delivers them to a lucky family.

I knew I wanted in! See, we had recently lost our 14-year-old cat, Stella. (My husband and I got her before we were even engaged...and we've been married for almost 12 years!) We knew we wanted to adopt again, and though I'm usually open to adopting adult cats, I did want my kids to have the experience of having a kitten at least once. I applied to Beth's program. 

Here's how that worked: In mid-November, I sent an email to the address in her Instagram bio, expressing my interest and asking about next steps. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. I was pretty sure it was lost in the abyss, but then in mid-January, I finally heard back. I had a phone interview with a representative from North Shore Animal League, I submitted references, and then again...more waiting. (I knew they had contacted at least one of the references pretty much right away, so when I didn't hear back for a long time afterwards, I was convinced that we hadn't made the cut!)

So, we stalked Beth's Instagram while we waited, wondering if any of the cute kitties would be ours. Things started moving again in early March when North Shore called saying we had been approved!  They suggested two of the kittens we had been fawning over on Insta, and we were initially thrilled, only to be heartbroken moments later when the timing didn't work out. (We would be on vacation in Hawaii when they needed to be picked up, because Beth was heading to Florida to pick up four new kittens.) They told us we'd be first in line for those Florida kittens. 

So we were glued to Instagram for the next few weeks! Then, a week or so before Easter, we got the call. Ebbylu and Bobalu--brother and sister from the Florida litter--would be ours, and Beth would be delivering them on Easter Sunday. I tweaked the names to Bobby and Lulu, and we decided not to tell the kids and let it be a surprise.

That day, our au pair took the kids down to the playroom in the basement to distract them. Beth arrived with the kittens (they were sooooo little!), plus tons of toys, wet and dry food, a litter box, etc etc., and gave my husband and I each a big hug. "I feel like I know you guys!" she said. (Though North Shore handles interviews and paperwork, Beth approves all the adoptions herself.) Then we quietly signed the papers, oohed and ahhed over the kitties a little bit, and then called the kids upstairs. And they were so surprised! (You can watch the video below--their reactions are so cute!) We took some photos together, she kissed the cats goodbye, and then hugged us before she left for her next Easter kitten delivery.

People have asked if we have kept in touch, and we sort of do! She follows the kittens on Instagram (it's @bobbyandlulu, if you're so inclined), and for the first week or so after the adoption, she would DM us questions checking up on the kittens, making sure they are ok, etc. We're certainly not BFFs talking every second of the day, but she truly loves all of her fosters, and I know that we could ask her a question if we needed to.

Bobby and Lulu have been growing fast. (It's amazing how quickly kittens grow!) They alternate between being sweet and sleepy--and totally crazy and energetic. (And it's usually the crazy thing--they are so playful!) They are both lap kitties, which we love, and they are both so, so adorable.

The only "bad" thing is that I'm still addicted to her Instagram feed and I find myself falling in love all over again with multiple kittens, multiple times a day. Maybe a calico or a little orange one somewhere down the road? Bobby and Lulu could use some playmates. ;)

Oh! And people have asked if I have any "tips" on being chosen to adopt through her program. Here's what I have: You'll have a better shot if you're open to two kittens. I've heard Beth say that she much prefers to send them in pairs, and having now seen a brother and sister together, I have to say: It's pretty awesome. They love each other soo much and they constantly have a playmate. It's also not any extra work to have two. (Truly.) It's just a little more poop. :) I also know that she is very against declawing (as she should be!), and you have to be willing to sign something saying you will not declaw your cat.

Now, here's that cute kitten-surprise video!

For more information on kitten adoption, you can visit North Shore Animal League (or your local shelter!) and follow Beth on Instagram. (Have you ever had kittens? Aren't they just the best??)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Why Don't Grown Men Know How To Buy Soap?

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If you have a boyfriend or a husband, you've probably observed that most grown men don't seem to know how to buy some of life's basic essentials such as underwear, socks, and standard grooming products (think soap, deodorant, etc). And I have a theory as to why. See, they use these things, of course, but they rarely actually purchase them themselves because they're just not used to doing so. Think about it: For the first quarter of their lives, it's their mom who stocks them up. And at some point, a few years later, that job tends to fall to their wife. (And if you've ever dated a twenty-something guy, you know that, for those years in between when they're left to fend for themselves, many of them basically make do with ratty underwear, hole-y socks, and whatever random soap or body wash already happens to be in the shower!) 

My husband is in that third stage of The Male Purchasing Life Cycle, which means the buying of guy products often falls to me. That's why I love places like BJ's Wholesale Club where I can stock up on all the essentials and not worry about him running out. BJ's has all the big brands (Gillette, Old Spice, Axe, Degree, etc, plus their exclusive label, Berkley Jensen), and the best part is that I can get everything in bulk, so my husband can be set for months and I can avoid any last-minute, late-night restocking trips. 

This trip I brought my kids along and they had a blast helping me find the products for Daddy, riding in the cart, and begging for giant boxes of Fruit Roll-Ups and Kit Kats. (I relented on the Fruit Roll-Ups; drew the line at the lifetime supply of Kit Kats.) We walked out with three mega cans of Edge shaving cream, a four-pack of Degree deodorant, Gillette razor refills, and enough Dove bar soap to last him (or a small army) a very, very long time--all at an incredible value.

So now his medicine cabinet is officially stocked, and he's got a few less things to worry about for the next few months, which means I've got a few less things to worry about, too. (God help me when my son starts using this stuff and I have to buy for him, too, though...!)

Thank you to BJ's for partnering with me on this post. Are you a BJ's member? If not, here's a cool deal: You can get a $25 gift card just for signing up! Click here for details.

Friday, June 8, 2018

15 Cool Things You Need to Click On Today

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There's been a lot of sadness in the world this week (Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, the current treatment of immigrants in this country--I could go on), so I'm trying to focus on the good moments: those I had over the last few days and those yet to come. My kids had some adorable end-of-the-year school presentations this week (my daugher's class had a big Brooklyn Bridge project and presentation; my son's class studied restaurants and created an actual falafel restaurant for us to eat at!). I feel so lucky that I was able to go to those things. (Perhaps the biggest advantage of working from home!) And this weekend we're heading to our lakehouse, primarily for a little decluttering. (Okay. A lot of decluttering. We even ordered a dumpster for next week!) I definitely plan to make time for some relaxation--and some ice cream--too.

Whatever you're up to this weekend, I hope you make it a great one. Here's a few fun links to check out in the meantime. 

• This tassel clutch is adorable--and just $22!

• Speaking of clutches, you know that wooden Cult Gaia clutch that every single blogger seems to own? Here's a dupe for $100 less!

• If you're looking for a the best summer book, I just finished The Heart's Invisible Furies (stayed up until 2am last night to finish it because I couldn't put it down!). It's this amazing, sweeping story that is hilarious and sad and beautiful all at once. It's one of those books that I was SO sad to finish because I won't be living with these characters anymore. OMG. Just buy it. Trust me.

• Madewell dresses are my favorite for summer. You can almost always dress them up or down (I wear many of mine to run around doing errands, and then with a switch of the shoes, to a dinner out at night), and they aren't crazy expensive! I just ordered this one and this one.

• If you're a regular watcher of my Insta Stories, you probably know that I recently became obsessed with Benefit Gimme Brow. It is SO GOOD. I struggle between wanting my brows to look full and groomed, but not super dark. Most brow products are either one extreme (dramatic) or the other (barely there). And the heavy, sharp brow look is just not for me. I want to look natural....but better. Gimme Brow is the perfect thing for that look. You brush it on and it magically fills in sparse spots and makes your brows look way thicker, but still totally real and not at all like you're wearing (say this in a shout-y voice) BROW MAKEUP. It's awesome. And this is how much I loved it when I first tired it: I immediately bought it in the store (instead of having the PR send it to me for free, which is a perk I have) because I wanted to be able to use it RIGHT AWAY.

• I know you want to re-pin this gorgeous braid.

• This story about an immigrant child separated from his father at the border is gut-wrenching. You must read it though. This is happening, and we can't look away. 

• The news about Kate Spade hit me hard this week--partly because I was devestated for her daughter and partly because her bags meant so much to me personally at a very pivotal point in my life. My friend wrote this beautiful essay about the cultural importance of Kate Spade bags back in the '90s. (And I'm quoted in it!)

• I'm sure everyone and their mother has already read the incredible speech Abby Wambach gave at Barnard's graduation. But on the off chance you missed it, drop everything and read it now. (I've read it at least six times!)

• Holy moly: This French Onion Potato Salad sounds incredible.

• Employers often find reasons to fire new mothers because of the misconception that they won't work as hard, but the truth is, having babies actually makes you a better worker. (This was SO true for me.)

And in case you missed it, I...

• Revealed my morning and evening skincare routines.

• Shared my summer bucket list

• Talked about the benefits of a self-care shower.

• Cried about my son turning five.

Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

My Morning and Evening Skin-Care Routines

tata harper illuminating moisturizer, skinceuticals sunscreen, sunday riley C.E.O, clark's botanicals eye serum, bioeffect volcanic scrub
simple wipes, drunk elephant propini cream, lano hand cream, clark's botanicals eye serum

I've been a beauty editor/writer for well over a decade, so trying new products is literally my job. Still, when it comes to skincare, I've always been very guilty of an if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it approach. I haven't had great skin for most of my life, so when I find stuff that doesn't make me break out, it's hard to stray.

But I've made a real push to try more things over the last few months, and I recently realized that my skincare routine is suddently totally different than it was a year ago. And it's good! In fact, I feel like my skin looks and feels better than it has in a long, long time. 

In today's post, I wanted to share what's gotten me to this place. So here's what I actually do every day for my A.M. and P.M. skin-care routines. Enjoy!

Morning Routine

Bioeffect Volcanic Exfoliator or (not shown) Aveeno Positively Radiant Scrub - I use one of these exfoliators in the shower a couple of times a week. As I've said before, I'm bad at remembering to scrub, but somehow keeping the tubes in the shower makes me so much more likely to actually use them. Both of these are gel formulas, which I personally like so much better than creams, and both are gentle and effective. 

Sunday Riley C.E.O Rapid Flash Brightening Serum - Antioxidants are a must. If you're not using them, you're nuts. And vitamin C is one of the absolute best, especially when you want to battle dull skin, which is pretty much a constant issue for me. Problem is, most vitamin C products are smelly and runny and just kind of awful to use, but this one (which I also mentioned here) couldn't be more pleasant. It's a creamy formula that smells like citrus. And I swear, my skin looked noticeably brighter after just a few weeks of use. I'm obsessed!

Skinceuticals Light Moisture UV Defense SPF 50 - This is not the true packaging, FYI; I'm using a lab sample. (I got an early peek at it for a sunscreen story I did for Rachael Ray Every Day magazine, and real packaging wasn't available at the time. It really looks like this.) This is one of those new supersheer formulas that feels and looks totally invisible. It works perfectly under makeup, and I like that it doesn't clog my pores the way many of these ultra-sheer sunscreens tend to do. 

Clark's Botanicals Retinol Rescue Eye Serum - I have been using this for several months now and I love it so much!! I really feel like it made a noticeable different in the lines under and around my eyes very quickly, and I'm obsessed with the applicator. It's cold-to-the-touch, so it de-puffs as you apply it. It also works really well under makeup, acting almost like a primer to smooth out lines before you put on concealer.

Tata Harper Illuminating Moisturizer - I wrote about this for a magazine article coming out this fall, and (spoiler alert) I described it as giving you "millennial skin." And it does! It has diamond dust in the formula that gives the most amazing youthful, radiant glow that still shows through when you apply your foundation. And it's natural! This is expensive, but honestly so worth it. It makes your skin look like J.Lo's skin, no highlighter required. (One note: It has a heavy floral scent, which I didn't love the first couple of times I used it. But I got used to it fast. I don't even notice it anymore.)

Evening Routine

Simple Face Wipes - They're not fancy, but they work. They whisk away makeup, and don't leave my skin stripped or oily. They're also one of the only beauty products I actually buy. (I'm lucky enough to get most things for free, but I go through these so quick--and they're so affordable--that I just buy them at the drugstore myself.)

Prescription retinoid - Everyone needs to be using a retinoid. Period. I've used one on and off since my late teens, but I wish I had been consistent earlier. They're one of the only ingredients proven without a doubt to fight lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. It's basically a fact that people who regularly use retinoids look younger than people who don't. So, get on it! And, yes, I know they can be irritating. That's the reason I was on and off for so many years. For me, the biggest issue was excessive dryness, which was awful. Start with a low dose because you can always move up. Also, try different kinds if one doesn't work for you. For example, Tazorac--a really strong retinoid that many people I know are absolutely obsessed with--is too strong for me. The best I've found for me is this one: a generic 0.025% tretinoin.

Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream - Super moisturizing, but not at all greasy. And it's packed with potent-but-gentle anti-agers to work on lines and spots while you sleep. Since using it, my skin is so much softer when I wake up in the morning, and just looks so much plumper and healthier. 

Clark's Botanicals Retinol Rescue Eye Serum - I use it again at night. Nothing's better for eyes!

Lanolips Coconutter Hand Cream Intense - I never used to wear hand cream at night, but then I found this. I apply the tiniest dab to my hands and to my dry, rough heels, and let it work overnight. Best part: The smell is absolutely fantastic. A little bit coconut, a little bit spicy-cookie. So good!

Have you guys tried any of these? What other skin-care products are you loving right now?


Thursday, May 31, 2018

My Summer Bucket List

summer bucket list
There's a little more detail about this photo over on my Instagram, where it first appeared, but let's just say it's a result of making my kids pose for a million photos mixed with a lot of luck. It's one of my most favorite Instagram pics that I have ever taken!

How was your Memorial Day weekend? We spent ours at our lakehouse where we had one beautiful sunny day and two gloomy ones. But now it feels like summer is (unofficially) here! We've already got some fun stuff planned for the summer (I'm taking my daughter to see Taylor Swift in July--it will be her first concert, I'm going on a West Coast road trip--Seattle, Portland, Northern and Southern California--with the fam, we're spending some time with my parents down at the Delaware shore, and more!).

But there's still lots of other stuff I want to do! So today I've compiled a quick bucket list of things I'm hoping to accomplish this summer. (Truth be told: I stole this idea from my friend Meghan!)

So here--in no particular order--is some of what I'm hoping to do before the end of August. Any of these on your list, too?

Host a dinner party in our new backyard. After five years of living in our home, we are finally, finally in the process of redoing the backyard. (And it is a process. It was supposed to be done in February and still has a long way to go. Help.) But once it's finally done, I can't wait to host a party there! We designed it primarily for entertaining and we're going to have a big dining table (spoiler alert: I chose this one), two lounge-y areas, a firepit, and even an ourdoor kitchen.

Take a nap outside. Maybe it will be in our new backyard, maybe it will be at the lake, but somewhere, at some point, I want to take a nap outside. How great does that sound?

Read. I mentioned awhile back how I wanted to start reading more. I've gotten mildly better at this (right now I'm just over a third of the way into The Heart's Invisible Furies and I love it so much! Highly recommend...), but I still need to up my game some more. So I want to read a lot this summer. And I want to read outside! (Are you sensing a theme here?)

Eat multiple ice cream cones from Cliff's. Cliff's Homemade Ice Cream is a little old-school walk-up shop near our lakehouse and it truly has some of the best ice cream I have ever eaten. They have over 70 flavors, and I'm told that all of them are amazing, but I wouldn't know that considering I get chocolate chip cookie dough every. damn. time as it is (legit) the best cookie dough ice cream I have ever eaten. I want to go to there. Repeatedly.

Make a cobbler. I love fruit cobbler. But weirdly, I've never made one. I'd like to change that. Let me know if you have a good recipe!

Go fruit-picking. And maybe I'll make that cobbler right after completing this bucket-list item! We've done fruit picking before and it's always a good time, but we usually forget until the season is nearly over. This summer, I want to take the kids...soon!

Teach myself how to make a "green" acai bowl. Are acai bowls big where you live? They are huge in Hoboken right now. In our small town, we have multiple acai places with new ones opening seemingly constantly. My favorite spot is the latest to open: Playa Bowls. Oh Em Gee. They have acai bowls, yes, but they also have coconut bowls, chia bowls, pitaya bowls, green bowls, etc. I'm especially loving the green bowls right now, which are basically a more-frozen version of a green smoothie loaded with all the great acai-bowl toppings. My favorite is the Pacific (it was actually recommended to me by one of my Instagram followers!), which is a kale base topped with strawberries, banana, granola, shaved almonds, honey, and chia seeds. I actually get mine without chia (I don't like it) or honey (I don't need it), though. But as much as I love Playa, I want to learn how to recreate these at home, so I can save an occasional $10 a pop. (Note: If I can't figure this out, I reserve the right to change this bucket list item to "Eat all the green acai bowls.")

Go on more date nights. We go on embarrassingly few of them--especially considering we now have a live-in babysitter! (Yes, really...! More on that at another time.) I want to go on date nights with just my husband and also with couple friends. We just need to get out more and summer is the perfect time to start, no?

Plan some solo activities with each of my kids. We make lots of memories as a family with both kids in tow, but I rarely get alone time with each kid. So I'd like to plan a few mommy-and-me activities with each of my kids. I'm actually taking my son to The Lion King next month (I took my daughter last year), and I'm now trying to think of something fun to do with my daughter, as well.  

What's on your summer bucket list?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Power of A Shower

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Self-care is a big buzzword these days. And it's important! And good! But let's be honest: As a mom (and, really, as a human, working woman who has to #GSD), I don't always have time to carve out hours for a lengthy bath, a face-mask session, and a Netflix marathon. But a shower? Treating myself to a really, really good shower? That I can manage.

Good showers have become my self-care. And I make the most of them. Today I've partnered with BJ's Wholesale Club (which offers your favorite beauty brands at a great value and in bulk so you never run out) to show you how to make the most of your shower. Here's how I do it.

-Set the scene. I like to dim the lights in my bathroom, which somehow instantly makes any shower seem way more relaxing. You could even light a candle with a soothing scent and leave it burning on your counter.  I also love to listen to music or a favorite podcast through a shower speaker. (Now, obviously you're not going to do these things every single time you shower--sometimes you just need to get in and out quickly--but when you have an extra few minutes, these little things do make a difference!)

-Suds up with a great body wash. There are many amazing high-end ones, but really, your body wash doesn't need to be fancy. For instance, Dove is one of my all-time favorites. It smells clean and fresh, it leaves my skin soft, and it's cheap. Case in point: I picked up three ginormous bottles of Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash at BJ's for $15.49. (In other words, I'll be self-care showering with these for many, many months to come!)

-Turn your shampoo into a spa treatment. A good shampoo is nice; a good shampoo that smells spa-like is even better. I love Love Beauty and Planet Smooth Serene Shampoo and Conditioner. (Have you guys heard of this new line, BTW? I got a sneak peek at it last year and I'm really loving it!) Anyway, the shampoo and conditioner are moisturizing, frizz-smoothing, and they smell like lavender, which is always an instant stress-reliever for me. I leave the conditioner on as a mini mask for a few minutes, while I wash my body, shave my legs, etc., then rinse just before I get out. 

-Sneak in a scrub. Even though I've been a beauty editor for the last ten-plus years, I'm the worst when it comes to exfoliating. I can never remember to do it! (And when I do remember, it's pretty much the last thing I feel like doing.) That's why I've started storing my face scrubs in the shower. For some reason that makes the whole thing feel like much less of a chore. (It's also much less messy!) Right now I'm using a classic: Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Daily Scrub, which is gentle, dermatologist-recommended, and just about $15 for a three-pack at BJ's.

-Finish strong. I'm so guilty of skipping body lotion, but my skin is so much happier (and softer!) when I take the extra ten seconds to use it. One of my favorite dermatologist tips: Apply it literally right after you step out of the shower, when your skin is still damp. This way, you'll lock in all that moisture and your skin will be so much silkier and more hydrated. Two of my go-tos that come in value packs at BJ's: Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe and Jergens Ultra Healing.

Thank you to BJ's for partnering with me on this post. Are you a BJ's member? If not, here's a cool deal: You can get a $25 gift card just for signing up! Click here for more info.

Friday, May 4, 2018

My Little Boy Turns Five Today

My boy is turning five years old today! Which I think means my little boy is officially a big boy. And big or little, he is all boy. He is full of energy--and opinions. He is a class clown (or maybe the class pest?). He is challenging. He is creative. He is hilarious. And he is also the sweetest little guy I have ever met. He freely hands out random and constant hugs, kisses, and "I love you"'s

Boys love their mamas; it's so true what they say. And the feeling is so, so mutual. 

Nate, you're my best, my smartest, and my most handsome boy. Happy birthday. I love you so much.