Friday, November 30, 2012

Review - Gwynnie Bee

Gwynnie Bee

Gwynnie Bee by natylite78 on Polyvore

Gwynnie Bee is a clothing subscription service geared towards women size 10 and over. For a monthly fee, you can rent clothing at various levels (1 at a time, 3 at a time, etc). I read about Gwynnie Bee on one of my favorite wardrobe blogs, Wardrobe Oxygen. She partnered with Gywnnie Bee to offer her readers a 30 day free trial. The idea intrigued me, so I requested an invitation to the site (it is currently invitation only). I selected a 3 item membership, which is $79/month plus tax. 

The website is very user friendly. The major categories are shirts/blouses, dresses/skirts. cardigans and blazers. You select 8 items that you are interested in trying. Gwynnie Bee will send you three from the list.

I had a hard time picking out 8 items for my closet. For a style standpoint, I only saw a handful of things that I was interested in. However I decided to push myself and pick some items that I would not normally try. As well, this would be a great opportunity to try out brands that I was unfamiliar with, so I could see how the sizing ran. I normally wear a 12/14 (Yes, I just put my size out there for the whole world--eeep). I do not have any experience with shopping women's sizing, so I was curious. Within a day or so, I saw that my closet had been updated to show three items were on their way to me (pictured above).

The items are shipped via USPS. The packaging is terrific. Each item was wrapped in tissue paper and sealed with a customized sticker. Attached to each garment are two tags, one for comments and one with care instructions. There was a handwritten note welcoming me to Gwynnie Bee. Also enclosed were two return bags with prepaid UPS labels.

The clothing received were all of great quality. Fabrics were nice and the clothes were well constructed. However, the sizing was really off. I wasn't completely surprised as I picked items from brands I wasn't familiar with. Here is a summary of my thoughts on each:

(1) Tunic Dress from Alfani - Fabric was great. Length was good. I ordered a 0X. It was way too wide. A shame as even a belt wouldn't help it. I really liked it otherwise!

(2) Tweed Jacket from Coldwater Creek - I was hesitant about this one as I look at CC as beyond my age range. However, I wanted to give it a chance. I normally wear a size up in jackets because of my shoulders, so I ordered a 16. Big mistake! The jacket was swimming on me! Best line regarding this jacket came from J - "It looks like something my mom wore once.". Enough said :) I will say the fabric was terrific though! Great quality.

(3) Cheetah skirt from Karen Kane - I ordered this in a 0X. I liked the elastic band as it was wide and flattened my stomach. It was a tad wide in the hips, but I liked the room. It was a hair long on me but otherwise, a great skirt! 

Below is the comment card I filled out for the jacket.

I sent everything back, which was really the easiest process ever! The large return bag was perfect for sending three items. Even better was I was able to give it to our UPS guy with no hassle! Then I updated the status of the items on the GB website as shipped back. 

I checked today and three more items are on their way- Two tunics and a dress. I'm excited to try them out.

I haven't decided if I'm going to continue the subscription after my 1 month is up. It appears that for some of the brands, the women's sizing is too big on me. I'm not sure if I could find enough in my normal size to keep my closet "full". However, I keep checking the website to see what I can add. I'll be sure to update again after I receive my next shipment!

Monday, November 26, 2012

November Purchases

November Purchases

November Purchases by natylite78 featuring a wool jacket

I started reading Franish after my bloggy friend Amy at Forever 29 wrote about her budget friendly style. Franish hosts a Budgeting Bloggers linkup and I'm joining in this month!

 I needed to add some items to my wardrobe since I'm going back to work in January. For the first time in forever, I did a lot of eBay shopping. Here's how I did.

1. J Crew Bella Wool Blazer in Grey Herringbone - $ 34.99. I am so excited about this blazer. After some research, I discovered that this blazer in EUC (Excellent Used Condition) was going for $120-$175 on eBay and various blog sale. Looks like this blazer was from 2007 or 2008. Great quality and perfect weight for NE Florida winters.

2. Talbots Sateen Button Front Shirt - $11.99 - This was a bust. It was too tight in the bust (haha). I'll probably consign it at my local store.

3. Talbots Skirt - $8.99 - This will pair well with my black blazer. I love prints on skirts. This is conservative enough for work, but still has a touch of personality.

4. Sofft Black Suede Heels - $15.99 - This was one of my riskier buys as I've never tried on Sofft shoes before! I needed a comfortable heel able to handle lots of walking. It isn't the most stylish or sexy shoe, but it fits like a dream and fills a need!

5. Talbots Polka dot Navy Blouse - $10.00 - I bought this for spring to wear under the green blazer I purchased last month. I think it will also pair well with a few of my cardigans.

6 and 7. Cable and Gauge Twist Top - $14.99 each. Find it online here. I like the visual interest of the twists. The fabric is soft. This will be great under blazers and cardigans as well as on its own.

8. J Crew Reve striped shirt - $12. I already blogged about this top here

9. J Crew Cashmere Purple V Neck Sweater - $18. I've never owned cashmere before so I'm tickled over this find!

Total: $141.94 (does not include tax on Marshall's items as well as shipping)

If I added tax and shipping, I'd be closer to $160. Definitely not a cheap month, however I am proud of the items I found. They fit well into what I have already and will be work appropriate(except the striped shirt) come January.

Chocolate Pecan Tart

Before this baking project, I had never used a tart pan before. When my MIL asked me to bake a pie for Thanksgiving, I searched Pinterest. I found this tart recipe and honestly, the pan was the biggest reason I picked this. I only have a deep pie dish and the pie dough that I had was not big enough. A tart pan fit my needs more!

This recipe showed me that pie is 100x easier than cookies!! J had made the pie dough a few weeks prior and froze it for me. So all I had to do was make the filling. The hardest part of this tart was arranging the pecans. However, I heavily recommend you take the time to do so, as it makes for a pretty presentation. The only change I made in the recipe was to omit the bourbon.

I'm linking up with AP at I Love You More Than Carrots for "Hey, That's Pin-tastic!"

I'm working on my plan for holiday baking now. I have plans to make several treats with my pastry chef sister and give out some treat boxes to friends. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hey, that's Pin-tastic! - Oat, Chocolate Chip and Butterscotch Squares

J asked if I was going to bake today. I wasn't really planning on it, but I had a rough night with Jack last night. Baking is a stress relief for me, so I needed it. Since I wasn't planning on baking, I had to make something that used ingredients we had in house.

I pinned this recipe to use for a future post/link-up with AP at I Love You More Than Carrots, but no time like the present, yes?

Source: via natylite78 on Pinterest

This was the first recipe that I've had to use (1) cold butter and (2) the food processor! I followed this recipe to the tee with the exception of the coconut (didn't have any). I ended up packaging most of them up for J to give to our friends. I picked up some cute treat boxes from Homegoods. They were too small for their intended purpose of cookies, but worked great for these bars. 

Butternut Squash Risotto

I'm linking up with my dear friend Andie at Sweet, Southern, Spirited for a Thanksgiving side dish link up. While I love all the traditional trimmings, I like the idea of my Butternut Squash Risotto paired with roasted Turkey...or all by itself!

I use Ina Garten's Butternut Squash Risotto recipe. Find the original post here.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Adapted from Ina Garten


1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper
6 cups of chicken stock (vegetable stock works fine too)
6 tablespoons (3/4) stick of unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced (I get mine at the deli so I can get exactly the amount I need)
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1.5 cups Aborio rice
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads  Great if you have but not necessary
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (does not have to be exact). The yield should be around 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, till very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken or vegetable stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch Oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes and shallots are translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the win and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Sit, and simmer till stock absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, around 30 minutes. Take off the heat, add the roasted squash and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

Flashback: I was a Disney Cast member - Part 2

For my first weekend at the Studios, I had to work with a Disney trainer. I mentioned that my zone was by the Backlot Tour. However, my training site was the Hollywood Boulevard zone. The costume was awful!! High neck, long sleeved white blouse with black bowtie AND a long, black (and HOT) skirt. I had to wear a ribbon attached to my nametag that said "Earning my ears".

Truth be told, it was a fun weekend to start at Disney! LGBT couples and families abound. There were definitely families who were not aware that it was Pride weekend. Opps! I remember the amazing after parties that were held in the park after it closed to the public.

Finally, I started in my zone. I started OUTSIDE at the nametag kiosk and was eventually "promoted" to the air conditioned AFI store. Luckily, the costume for the back of the Studios consisted of shorts and a polo shirt.

Sidebar: At the time, the Studios was the only park where you could wear your costume outside of your assigned zone. It was considered a "working studio" at the time so it was permitted. Ever notice that you don't see cast members dressed outside of their "land" at the Magic Kingdom? You can't be in your Adventureland costume in Fantasyland. Instead, MK cast members have to navigate the vast MK Underground and take the properly assigned stairs to "magically appear" at their land. I toured the Underground and it is quite the site! I peeked in the employee cafeteria to see Haunted House employees dining with a headless Minnie Mouse. AMAZING.

Here was a typical day. A security guard would check your Castmember ID and you would clock in. At that time, Cast members could clock in before their official start time as we were paid for our costume change and walk time. Usually, you were not supposed to wear your costume outside of the park. However, I knew many people who did not change if they closed that night.

I would go to the Costume window and let the costume mistress know where I was working and what size I needed. She would make sure you had your nametag. If you forgot, there was a bin of miscellaneous nametags. I would usually pick a random boys nametag if I forgot.

Once at my location, it was show time. We were encouraged to interact with the guests as much as possible.  We were helping people find their way (the infamous Disney Point) or entertaining the kids. I used to draw a hopscotch "board" with sidewalk chalk and get kids to play. If you haven't figured out already, we were called cast members because we were "on stage" while working. Always smiling. ALWAYS. Assertively friendly behavior was required.

We were empowered to do almost anything to turn a guest experience around. Immediate guest recovery was expected. If you want to read more on Disney Service Basics, this post is a good resource.

Guests were mostly nice. Usually overheated and stressed around their kids, so you felt for them. Guests were also pretty naughty! Cast member friends told me stories of guests getting busted for having sex on the Planet Earth ride at EPCOT or the Haunted House at MK.

You figure with all the smiling and "acting", Cast members have to blow off steam. Cast member nights at Pleasure Island were nuts, but so much fun! College Program cast members all lived at Vista Way, which we likened to Club Med. Lots of parties. Lots of hooking up. I was not a CP cast member :)

I left Disney when the fall semester got a little too busy. It was a GREAT experience! Sometimes people ask if working there makes the magic disappear. Maybe for some, but I really appreciate the attention to detail that Disney takes to make the experience magical.

And in case you are wondering, my favorite park is EPCOT. My favorite non park area is the Boardwalk, where you can watch EPCOT's Illuminations for free (parking is even free!).

Any questions???

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Flashback: I was a Disney Cast member - Part 1

I worked for Walt Disney World in the summer of 1997. I never really planned on working there. It just happened! Here's my part 1 of my story.

My friend heard that Disney was casting for the season as well as year-round employees cast members. They were hosting a day long job fair. I tagged along out of boredom really. I already had a summer job working at my college's Bio lab, assisting my professor with her botany project. I spent the days in the darkroom, developing pictures of this plant that tracked the sun. Anywoo, exciting stuff.

Back to Disney, we arrived at the job site (a large tented area) where Mickey Mouse greeted us, dressed in his safari outfit. Get it? Because people were "job hunting"! Oh, that Mickey. I saw that you could work just once a week and still get the park benefits (I'll cover those later). We completed applications and got called for on the spot interviews. They asked us what areas we were interested in as well as reviewed our previous experience. I indicated I wanted retail (it's what I had experience in). In retrospect, I could have been a character as I was the right height to place Minnie, Chip and Dale, etc.

I passed the first interview (so did my friend). Because I was interested in retail, I had to take a math test. The testing took place at the Casting office (visible from I-4). I passed that test and then waited. And waited. Then I got called back to a recruiter's office and got my offer! I was hired for weekends and was assigned to the Studios in retail. At that time, you were hired for a zone. My zone was near the Backlot tour. My retail spots included the American Film Institute store, souvenir nametag kiosk, Ellen's Bookstore (from Ellen's sitcom!), and a photography stand. You got assigned to whichever area needed you the most.

Before I could start at the Studios, I had to go through Orientation Orientation was called Disney Traditions. In 1997, Traditions was a two-day class. In researching for this post, it looks like Traditions is only 1 day now. Traditions was a crash course in all things Disney. We covered all the different parts of Disney (ESPN, Touchstone, etc etc). We were required to dress professionally--suits! You may have heard of the Disney Look Book. We received a pocket sized book that included hairstyle recommendations (!!!), jewelry requirements etc. Of course, all of this information is on their website now! My favorite part of Traditions was the scavenger hunt. In our business dress, we had to run around Fantasyland to find examples of attention to detail as well as hidden Mickeys. My group also visited the Polynesian Resort.

My class had all different cast members in it. Retail, Parking, Characters etc. There is definitely a pecking order. The hardest positions to fill are the "face" characters like all the Princesses, Prince Charming, etc. Costumed Character cast members usually played a couple of different characters. All characters had to also take an autograph class! You can definitely appreciate the need for Mickey's signature to look EXACTLY the same whether you are at EPCOT or the Magic Kingdom etc.

Before I forget, Disney benefits included free park admission at any time, quarterly free tickets to give to your friends and family, retail discounts, and Cast Member nights at Pleasure Island (RIP). I did not qualify for medical etc, so I cannot speak to those.

After Traditions, I had to attend a 2 day Retail class where we learned how to count back change "The Disney Way". Disney required that we count back change up to the original tendered amount. For example, your total is $17.25. You pay with a $20 bill. I would say, "Your change is 25, 50, 75. 18. 19. 20"  The change amount was NEVER displayed on the register. I'm sure we learned other things, but that's the big thing I remember. I also remember that we rode Tower of Terror before the park opened. You know, to help wake us up for class!

Next post: My first weekend...which happened to be during Pride weekend ;)

Latest Consignment Find: J Crew Reve Shirt

Consignment find

Consignment find by natylite78 featuring old navy

I bought this shirt a couple of weeks ago from one of my favorite consignment stores. I normally shy away from shirts with words on them, but I liked the sequins and thought it would be fun to mix in with my current wardrobe.

I wore it with the orange Old Navy Rock Star Jeans and TB's. It was a fun way to update the "Jeans and T-shirt" look.

I'm thinking of pairing it with a pair of skinny jeans and the green Talbots blazer that I picked up a month or so ago. 

I recently bought 2 work friendly pieces from eBay and can't wait to share if they worked out (or not!).

Monday, November 12, 2012

What I'm Loving: Baby Sniffles Edition

Jack had his first cold a month ago. Considering J and I both suffer from seasonal allergies, I figured Jack would be the same. The above products are in my mommy arsenal to fight the runny nose.

(1) Saline Drops - I use Target's generic brand of saline drops. They help keep the nasal cavity moist and loosen the hard mucus that may be get stuck up there.

(2) Boogie Wipes - Boogie Wipes are saline wipes. They comes in a variety of scents, but I prefer the non-scented ones. They can be purchased at Target, Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby. However, I like to order them from as they are Buy 3, Get 1 Free. also has a reward dollar program AND you can use Ebates!

(3) NoseFrida - NoseFrida is an alternative to the traditional syringe bulb. I heard about the NoseFrida from Twitter and cannot say enough good things about it. I love sharing how well it works for us with fellow moms. I love it for 2 big reasons: (1) You control the level of suck. (2) You can see what comes out!

Not pictured is our Rock n Play. Jack has been sleeping in his crib since 6 or 7 weeks old. But when he got a cold, we let him sleep in the RnP to help with the drainage. I definitely think it helped!

Any other products I should know about? 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Really, who is tired of my baking yet? Luckily, the people in my life are enjoying the fruits of this labor! For this week's link up with AP at I Love You More Than Carrots, I baked specifically with my father-in-law in mind. We had dinner with my in-laws on Saturday and I wanted to bring him something sweet. He has a big sweet tooth! 
Like his son, he is a fan of chocolate and peanut butter. I made these cookies back in September. I wanted to use the Reese's Peanut Butter Chips that I had in the pantry. After a bit of Pinterest browsing, I found the following:

Unlike past baking projects, I made several modifications to this recipe, including adjusted baking time, ingredient additions and changes. Here is my adaptation:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from KA Flour
Yield 2.5 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon of brewed coffee, cooled
1 2/3 (1 bag) cups Reese's Peanut Butter Chips

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

In another bowl, beat together the sugars, butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, egg, coffee, and water, then stir in the dry ingredients, blending well. Stir in the peanut butter chips

Using a cookie scoop, scoop dough onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, or until they're set and you can smell the chocolate. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.

These cookies turned out so yummy. So pour yourself a glass of milk (or Lactaid in my case) and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rigatoni with Bacon, Beans and Veggies

I posted the above on Instagram and Twitter on Monday and received a handful of requests for the recipe. The thing is...there wasn't a written recipe! So I interviewed J and asked him how he made it.

Rigatoni with Bacon, Beans and Veggies
4 servings (2 for dinner/2 for lunch the next day)


1 box of rigatoni
6 strips of bacon
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 portabella mushroom caps, diced
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp anchovy pasts (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups greens (spinach or broccoli rabe- used a mix of both)
½ cup of water
1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
grated parmesan cheese to taste
chopped Italian parsley (optional)
salt and pepper
  1. Start boiling water for pasta
  2. In a large saucepan (J used a 3 qt but could have used a little more room), fry bacon in the olive oil over medium low heat till fat is rendered and bacon starts to crisp. Reserve 2 tbsp of bacon drippings and toss the rest.
  3. Using the reserved bacon dripping, sauté the onion, carrot and celery till softened. Add a pinch of salt.
  4. Add the portabella mushrooms and another pinch of salt. Saute till softened.
  5. Add tomato paste, anchovy paste and garlic. Stir to combine.
  6. Add the greens and water plus a pinch of salt. Cover.
  7. Start cooking the pasta.
  8. After 5 minutes, remove the lid and add the cannelini beans. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Once the pasta is cooked per box instructions, add to the pan plus 1 ladle of the pasta water.
  10. Liberally add parmesan cheese and parsley

Recipe Notes
  • There isn't a true sauce for this pasta. The pasta water plus the water from the green combined with the cheese will coat the pasta.
  • You can substitute button mushrooms (or any type of mushrooms) for the portabella.
  • You can substitute chicken sausage (taken out of the casings) for the bacon.
  • You'll notice J salts at each layer he adds to the dish. This is to help bring out the natural flavors of the ingredients. It was a tip we learned from all those cooking shows we watched when we still had cable!
Hope you enjoy this weeknight meal!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How I Fight a case of the wants

We all get a case of the "wants" from time to time. Like me, you may covet a handbag that someone blogged about or a shirt that is featured in the latest issue of "In Style". However, like me, you may not be able to instantly satisfy this want. I will try to rationalize with myself. Also, I don't need more stuff!

One way I've found to curb the "wanting" feeling is to reorganize what I have. I periodically weed out my accessories so not to be overwhelmed by the chaos. Sometimes it seems easier to just buy something new instead of figure out what you already have. I blogged about this back in 2010 and thought it was time to revisit.

I recently purchased the bracelet display stand from Michael's. It was $7. I originally wanted an acrylic one but this one will do just fine! I used to think I did not own many bracelets until I put them on all this stand. Yeah, I own enough!

The display tray was purchased 2 years ago at TJ Maxx. They run anywhere from $6 to $8. However, I see them EVERY TIME I'm there so I'm sure you can too! I keep earrings and pins in the tray. I also keep a selection of necklace extenders. I have a FAT neck. Truly. So to keep a lot of necklaces from looking like Blossom esque chokers, I use the necklace extenders. I purchased a set of 6 (3 silver colored/3 gold colored) from eBay for around $5.

I also keep my sewing supplies nearby in case I notice any wardrobe malfunctions that need quick repair.

The necklace "tree" is actually an old ornament stand that I stole took from my parents' garage a few years ago. I always intended to spray is silver, but alas, two years later, I still haven't done it.

My headbands are hanging off a milkglass vase that I bought at a garage sale for 50 cents.

Hopefully, by keeping my jewelry in order, I'll resist the urge to buy more.

Funny story, I started this blog post on Monday afternoon. Then Monday night, I was looking at the Bellevue Newport flash sale. I saw a tortoiseshell necklace that  really wanted. So I bid but I was too late. Then I go back to finish this post and realized: Self, You did not need that necklace!!

So there's that. :)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hey, That's Pin-tastic!: Salted Toffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies

For this week's linkup with AP at I Love You More Than Carrots, I decided to bake for a good friend of mine who just had a baby. I know you are supposed to bring a casserole or something. But I firmly believe a woman with a new baby NEEDS chocolate more :)
I checked out her "Yums for the Tums" board on Pinterest and re-pinned one of her pins. Pinterest definitely made it easier to select a recipe that I already know will appeal to her! It reminded me of a Salted Caramel drink from Starbucks.

And really. It is salty and sweet. Who doesn't like that?

The original recipe calls for you to use chopped semi-sweet chocolate. I substituted dark chocolate chips. Here is my mise en place.

The original recipe also uses a muffin top tin to make giganitic yet uniform cookies. They indicate the yield as 16 cookies. However, I used a cookie scoop and got 4 dozen out of it.

The fleur de sel is what makes this cookie special. The salt and crunch set off the richness of the chocolate and Heath bar bits. If you like salty-sweet desserts, then you will enjoy this recipe!