Today is my due date by measurements. But as we can all see, here I am alive and kicking from home. I went from feeling super anxious and annoyed at the prodromal labor, to just making a big effort to relax and take my mind off of it.  I didn't even know what prodromal labor was or that it existed at the beginning of this journey.
   I've been at 3cm dilated, 90% effaced, with contractions at 3 to 8 minutes for the last sixteen days. At first, I didn't register them contractions as contractions; it felt like any discomfort I learned to live with in my life. I really only found out the were contractions after my doctor measured them since the baby had already dropped. But time has gone on and they have become progressively more frustrating, though not closer together.
   My doctor checked me last  Thursday and, to my dismay, sees absolutely no dilation progression.    My feet are very swollen. We're talking extreme cankles and feet that don't even fit “comfort sandals” meant to be for edema. My contractions, themselves, don't register as pain as much as they paralyze me. I feel my uterus hardening to the point that I cannot move without feeling like it will tear. I feel forced to crouch or squat. And I feel major discomfort in my back.
   But perhaps the most annoying part of this all is not what I feel physically, but what I feel mentally. My doctor describes prodromal labor as "real labor in shifts" and these shifts are wearing me out.
   I have been soaking my feet in hot water and epsom salt, and trying to walk and stretch. All of it helps, at least mentally. I feel so ready to get this going and am trying so hard to feel less frustrated at my lack of control over when he arrives. But isn’t that just the best parenting lesson he is already teaching me without even exiting the womb: my time is not my own anymore.
   And, truthfully, I could have always used a lesson in patience. This is probably it. My due date by LMP (Last Menstrual Period) is still around the corner, so I may just have to learn to  do the thing I am worst atwait. 
   So now we wait.

. . .


FAST FACTS ABOUT PRODROMAL LABOR

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1. It is not false labor

Unlike false labor or braxton hicks, prodromal labor is real labor because it results in dilation and effacement. However, unlike early labor or active labor, it is "real labor in shifts"; So, in a nutshell, it is real labor in terms of pain, contractions, and regularity, but it comes and goes.

2. It does not happen to everyone

There is disagreement in the medical and midwife community about why it happens to some, but it is clear that it does not happen to everyone. Many women experience early labor and transition immediately to active labor.

3. The "maybe" upside

Many women who experienced a long prodromal labor report to have experienced a very short active labory'know, like less of the real deal, top-of-my-lungs-screaming pain and the pushing and so forth. So maybe being terribly annoyed for weeks before will be worth it? Or maybe it is just one more unpredictable thing I am going to have to grin and bear. At least everyone agrees, no matter the labor, my baby is worth it. And that I feel is true.


XOXO







   It's really no secret that I am a recovering spendthrift. Nor is it a secret that I prefer high-end, high-quality items over the latest fads or brand-new anything. The combination of these two traits is actually how I became a serious secondhand shopper.
  Money matters. Having a home, a husband, two cats, and a baby on the way means that every penny counts. There is still a rare every now and then (like once or twice a year) that I might make a big splurge on a new, expensive item I might want, but the truth is, that hasn't been the case for me in about three years. And still, my closet is full of high-end, high quality items that I bought for fractions of their retail cost. How? I do the majority of my shopping by thrifting and buying on consignment apps.
   For anyone else remotely interested or looking to get started looking their second hand best, here are a couple of my thoughts to share with with you. 

WHY?

1. Save Money

The most obvious reason why I love shopping secondhand is because I love to get high quality items that have a lifetime of use ahead of them, and to do so for very little money (like the price of a brand-new, mediocre item).

2. Reduce Waste

Despite being affordable, fast fashion comes at a high price to our world and environment. So rather than spending $30 on a fast-fashion blazer I'd throw out in a season, I would rather pay $30 for a timeless blazer from Burberry or Brooks Brothers in great used condition.

3. SIMPLIFY

Another reason to do it is to stop collecting junk. I am a collector-type at heart and I am retraining myself by limiting what I purchase. It makes the items I do choose to purchase very purposeful.


“FRUGALITY INCLUDES ALL THE OTHER VIRTUES.”

― Cicero

WHERE?

1. Poshmark

My favorite place to scout and purchase high-quality secondhand clothing and makeup is  Poshmark
(available as a phone app and online). I buy, sell, and trade many items through this market and have had amazing experiences.

2. Mercari

Much like Poshmark, Mercari has a wide selection of items to buy secondhand. It also has the added bonus of offering other types of household items.

3. eBay

Pretty much eBay is the father of all of these marketplaces, and always one of my favorites. It's harder to scout deals on it, however, because many things are sold on a bidding basis. 

4. Craigslist

I always scope out Craigslist first for any furniture purchases. I have had a lot of luck scoring great furniture sets with a lot of life left in them. 

5. Thrift Stores

The best thrift stores are the ones in the "nice" parts of town. I always enjoy driving to a thrift store in a rich city, because the kinds of things you find there (and at the prices they are sold) are unbeatable. 






  By Leslie Crystal
Photography | Sam U. Well




   The year 2017 has been a big year for my husband, Sam, and I. A big, big year. There has been a lot changes in every way, and we are barely now catching our breaths adjusting.
   For one, we celebrated our two year anniversary and really vowed to make our marriage and family our number one priority-- something we always intended to do, but left to the back burner as we went around working and living. We vowed to take the reigns and start the future more united than ever. Also, we decided to start a family. And in March, we discovered we were expecting our first baby. A baby boy!  With this news and joy, Sam and I really decided to kick our future plan into high-gear and laid out everything we wanted out of life. This all led to Sam getting a major promotion within his company and becoming an even more active participant in our community.
   All of this also meant that we needed to readjust our balance in order to keep our relationship at its best.
   Personally, I am a big fan of resolutions and, especially, self-improvement. I think I have consistently tried to make and keep resolutions for my life every new year, but this year both Sam and I felt it appropriate to make marriage resolutions-- even if it's already late in the year! There is never a better moment than now, right? Especially knowing that we are about to add a new addition to our family mix, it makes it all the more important to keep our relationship development as high a priority as possible. 
Here are a couple resolutions Sam and I are taking from now, moving forward.

. . .


MARRIAGE RESOLUTIONS

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1. Have Breakfast Together

As our days keep getting more and more hectic, we decided that this small part at the start of the day is worth making an effort spending together. Some days I cook, others we re-heat waffles. But it really sets a beautiful tone for our day and life together.

2. Volunteer Together

Separately, this has always been one of our favorite activities. We both enjoy gifting our time and love into causes that help people and animals. For our future, and especially our future with kids, we really want to make this a staple of our schedule because it embodies our ideals for a better world.

3. Brag About Each Other in Public

It's so easy to talk about problems, but the truth is that the majority of our life together is very wonderful and brag-worthy. Yet the compliments don't roll out as easy as the complaints in conversations. We plan to let the good roll out effortlessly from here forward.

4. Have a Real Date Night Monthly 

This is about to become a huge challenge and huge event to look forward to. As our lives change, we want to make sure we maintain real date nights and intimacy with all the good stuff, getting pretty, going out, getting that baby sitter and all.

5. Thank Each Other Daily 

It's too easy to start taking things for granted.  So we resolve to make sure there is always a "thank you" (or two or three or four) in our every day lives. It keeps us on the lookout for how much each of us really do put in to make this family thrive.


XOXO

   Family and Friends ― Now that we are over half way to the finish line, Sam and I are very excited to share with you that we are expecting Baby Well in November! We are ecstatic and thank you for your prayers and good vibes for our baby.
   We feel blessed to enter this stage of our lives and look forward to the future.

. . .


WE ARE EXPECTING

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Familia y Amistades ― Ahora que estamos a mas de medio camino, Sam y yo estamos muy emocionados de compartir con ustedes que ¡esperamos a Bebé Well en noviembre! Estamos más que felices y les agradecemos sus oraciones y buenas vibras por nuestro bebé.
   Nos sentimos bendecidos al entrar a esta etapa de nuestras vidas y por nuestro futuro.


   Ella era. She was. I was―
   I was once young, I can now say.  And while I miss the leisure and reckless passion of my youth, I do not yet miss my youth.  (I mean, I miss my metabolism but not my youngin' mindset, y'know what I am saying?)
   Turning thirty was very hard for me emotionally. I was scared of aging.  But as I turn thirty one, I feel both humility and excitement welcoming my middle ages and diving into the unknown future.
   Here are my top five reflections and resolutions on turning thirty one.

. . .

"Ella era hermosa, pero no como esas chicas de las revistas. Era hermosa, por la forma en la que pensaba. Era hermosa, por el brillo de sus ojos cuando hablaba de algo que amaba. Era hermosa, por su habilidad de hacer sonreír a otras personas incluso cuando estaba triste. No, no era hermosa por algo tan temporal como su aspecto físico. Ella era hermosa, profundamente en su alma. Ella es hermosa."
― F. SCOTT FITZGERALD ―
"She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful, for the way she thought. She was beautiful, for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn't beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul. She is beautiful."

1. BE A BEAUTIFUL SOUL
   I was way too consumed with shallow insecurities about my looks in my youth. And I was much too ignorant to know what true beauty is. In a world where we reduce beauty to the superficial, I dare to be brave and to develop my inner beauty instead.
   I grew up feeling ugly and I wasted my youth thinking ugly. In my middle-age, it finally hit me that the things I hated most about myself physically are the things that make me truly me. The big nose that I hated all my life and vowed to change cosmetically, I now am glad I kept as I am an heiress to this nose. Every time I look at my father and my grandfather, I am filled with love for this feature. And my crème fraîche skin which was much too pale to be considered tan and much too pinkish-gold to be considered snow-white, is now nothing more than a reminder of the varied ancestors that I carry in every cell. 
   More importantly, I now dare to bare my soul and seek to create beauty with my actions and my words. I want to keep a smile on my face that welcomes others. I want my passion for art and old world intricacies to light people's curiosity. I don't want anyone to ever wonder if I like them; I want them to know that I do.  And, overall, I want to make people feel accepted, loved, admired, and valued in my presence.
  

By Leslie Crystal
Photography | Leslie Crystal & Sam U. Well

Featured | Chicwish, Roni Kantor, and INC International Concepts

. . .

“Social media is just the market’s answer to a generation that demanded them to perform, so the market said 'Here, perform everything, to each other, all the time for no other reason.' It’s prison, it’s horrific. It’s performer and audience melded together. What do we want more than to lay in bed at the end of the day and just watch our lives as a satisfied audience member? I know very little about anything, but I do know this: that if you can live your life without an audience, you should do it.” 
― BO BURNHAM
2. LIVE WITHOUT AN AUDIENCE
   I was too consumed with social media. I was living my life for daily transmission and it was exhausting. Yet disconnecting from social media was always difficult because it was not only a nearly full-time job for me, but also a source of socialization and expression for me. The immediate affirmation via 'likes' and comments was a token of affection that I grew addicted to. In part, this was because I felt a need for affection and affirmation from my peers. But also, this was because I simply had a hard time communicating in real life and social media gave me a substitute platform to share myself at an intimate level... without the fear of facing people in person. (I'm prone to tear up when talking to people, and my voice trembles when I speak up for myself).
   At some point last year, however, I just simply stopped feeling a need for online affirmation. I still felt like expressing myself and taking a ridiculous amount of photographs, but I started craving privacy. Freedom. I can't explain really why; it was just a gift from aging. I just stopped caring if other people liked who I was or what I did, because I realized that I really liked who I was and what I did. I grew an appreciation for myself that was no longer dependent on social media. 
   Moreover, I learned that my love of expressing myself through words and visuals was better channeled through more static mediums like photography and blogging. Now, I want to use any sharing I do online to transmit real information and insight, rather than just live my life day-to-day on it. This is pretty much how and why this blog was born.
 

. . .

“Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society.” 
― César Chávez
 3. LIVE COMPASSIONATELY
   I was very wasteful growing up. I didn't grow up thinking about the environment or animals or any of the bigger picture. Over the last year or so was really the first time in my life that I had the privilege, insight, and maturity to think about the planet and its creatures in a more compassionate way. 
   First, I fell in love with my cats.  To know them is to love them, and to seek to advocate for animals. While I am not vegan (I fall far short of this ideal), my husband and I have taken into ideal regard to reduce our animal consumption, both in food and other products.  I seek to live a more compassionate and earth-friendly life, finding a balance between my ideals and my lifestyle. For me, this has meant consuming a plant-based diet primarily, though not exclusively, and taking into account that any make-up, clothing, or products I use are either cruelty-free or made of high-quality non-animal sources, if available. While not perfect, I am trying to take steps towards a more compassionate life. Above all, I seek to continue taking baby steps in the direction of kindness for all earthlings.  

. . .

"After all these years, I am still involved in the process of self-discovery. It's better to explore life and make mistakes than to play it safe. Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life. "

― SOPHIA LOREN

4. DARE TO BE FLAWED
   I was always crippled by my perfectionism. I couldn't start or finish a project unless it was "perfect": perfectly executed, perfect timing, perfect you-name-it. It made me a slave to my dreams, instead of an entrepreneur of my interests. In doing so, I stopped enjoying many things and others I gave up altogether. I had this foolish belief that if things were marred by mistakes or imperfection that they were no longer worth keeping.
  And then, last year, I was making mistake after crushing mistake trying to make my life "perfect." I ruined more things than I fixed, that is for sure. But I got something out of it: The crushing realization that you can own up to your mistakes and you can work on the things that aren't perfect, not just abandon them altogether. 
   I have learned that my humility is a far better trait than anything else I could possibly be "proud" of. I've learned that self-awareness makes all the difference. And I know that I am a deeply flawed person and so far from perfect. And I may never be perfect at anything, but I still dare to exist. I am still here for a reason. 
   In this new era of my life, I would really like to allow myself to embrace my obsessions without the crutch of dreaming that it should be the one thing that defines me or saves me. I vow to blog, to photograph, to learn ballet, to immerse myself in old-world knowledge, and to create beautiful creations... all for nothing else but my enjoyment. Without the crushing weight of expectations that follow dreams. 




. . .

“Walking, I can almost hear the redwoods beating. And the oceans are above me here, rolling clouds, heavy and dark. It is winter and there is smoke from the fires. It is a world of elemental attention, of all things working together, listening to what speaks in the blood. Whichever road I follow, I walk in the land of many gods, and they love and eat one another. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” 
― LINDA HOGAN
5. VALUE MY HERITAGE
   I was disconnected from my culture and heritage. As a racially ambiguous/white-passing Mexican American, I vacillated between wanting to be "super Mexican" in my disproportionately Mexican elementary school and wanting to "pass for white" in my predominantly Anglo middle school and high school.  Really, I just craved to belong. But I never really felt like I belonged or knew much about who I was to celebrate it.
   In the last years, I took an interest in learning more about my ancestry in an effort to learn more about myself. And I learned so much about my ancestors.  Ever since learning about my ancestry and embarking on my investigation into the past, I have found a profound love and acceptance of myself and interest in culture.
   In my future, I want to build deep roots with my culture and family. In some distant time, I can imagine myself living between two (or more) countries and just being more connected to the earth. Also, I want to develop an eye for ethnic clothing and arts: something I have always admired and never known much about. My personal style is developing in that direction. 

SHOP

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Dress: Embellished Dolly Dress by Chicwish - 100% Polyester (Vegan)
Heels: Gold Pumps by Roni Kantor - Vegan Leather
Clutch: Juliet Minaudière by INC International Concepts - All Man Made Materials (Vegan)*
Shop similar clutch. Clutch Pictured in post is no longer available.

SIZE & FIT

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  • Alteration: Hem taken up 2.5 Inches on both layers. 
  • Additional ruffle skirt added.

  St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13th) opens the Nordic Christmas season. On this day, families select a girl to be their Lucia, dressed in white robes with a red sash and crowned in a candle-lit lingonberry wreath, to serve the family with lusekatts (saffron buns) and pastries.  Lucia meaning light, St. Lucia Day is the winter solstice festival of lights across Sweden, Norway, and Finland, which begins with a procession led by the Lucia designee, followed by Tärnor (servant girls) dressed in all white and wearing wreaths on their heads and Stjärngossar (star boys) dressed in a white pajama-like costume singing traditional songs.  Although I only recently found out that I carry Nordic blood (Norwegian), my love of this holiday runs to my childhood. 
  You see, growing up my siblings and I were not allowed to watch television or play with dolls. So I grew a wild, untameable imagination and read books. Lots and lots of books. And we were too poor to actually buy any books, so we would check out books, magazines, and catalogs (to the max limit)  every week.
 That's how I discovered the American Girl catalog and my favorite holiday book from the American Girl Collection...about an immigrant girl 
in Minnesota celebrating St. Lucia Day (Kirsten all the way, duh!). I wanted that Kirsten doll in her Lucia robes so badly! But, alas, it never was.
  As an adult, my husband and I decided to enact our own Christmas traditions and I knew where I wanted to start. So this year, if anyone is wondering why I am crazy-happy this season and obsessed with celebrating St. Lucia Day, it is because this was the first year in my LIFE that I was able to materialize it into something more than the daydreams I grew up with. Huzzah!

By Leslie Crystal
Photography | Leslie Crysta
l

In celebrating this day, we made our Lussekatter and cinnamon pastries from scratch early in the morning (Too early, maybe!).  We used the Vegan Lussekatter Recipe from The Vegan Swedes. During the afternoon, we ate our pastries with Glogg (Swedish/Norwegian Mulled Wine) and coffee, and feasted on a Gardein Holiday Roast, paired with maple brussels sprouts and peppered sweet potatoes. This meal has officially become our holiday staple. It was truly delicious! 
We finished out St. Lucia Day celebration by wrapping up Christmas presents and putting up our Star atop the Christmas tree!
IT WAS SUCH A WONDERFUL WAY TO START OUR YULETIDE SEASON.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

SHOP

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SIZE & FIT

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  • Lucia Dress purchased in Size Small. No alterations needed.
  • White Cat Tuxedo purchased in Size XL for 19 lbs Luca.
  • White Cat Dress purchased in Size Small for 6 lb Minka.



There is something about mint-colored dresses that just reminds me of mermaids and beautiful creatures. With every wedding in town happening late this summer, I set myself on a mission to find an embellished mint dress to wear.  Then, out of sheer habit, I was doing my weekly "mint dress" search on Pinterest when the beauty that is the Teardrop Guipure Panelled Mini Dress hit my screen. I don't think I have ever double-clicked a Pinterest image faster. I wanted to know what this dress was and where I could get it immediately.
  The good news: It only took some reverse-image searching on google images to find out everything I needed to know about this dress. It is made by the UK-based brand Self-Portrait, which has now become one of my absolute favorite brands ever. The bad news, at the price of £270.00 (roughly $300+ish USD), it wasn't really something a girl on a budget could buy on an impulse. Even worse news, it was sold out nearly everywhere in my size. 
  It took me a few weeks to track it down. But when I did, you better believe I got it. And, I wore it to a wedding like 2 days after receiving
my dress. Now I am looking for any occasion whatsoever to wear it again. It's just so beautiful.
  The dress features a mock turtleneck/Victorian collar, with a plunging deep-v neckline covered in lace. The lining is nude everywhere other than the bodice.  In fact, while wearing this to a wedding, one guest remarked that she loved my dress because it looked like it was "crocheted onto my naked body."  I'm not even sure if that was a diss or compliment, but I felt so pretty in this dress that I could only take it as a compliment.
  I ended up pairing it with nothing more than some comfortable, skin-tone matching pumps from none other than Target. And guess what, still felt beautiful and feminine and fairylike. 
  I'm hoping to add some new Self-Portrait lace dresses to my closet now. I am officially obsessed with this brand.  

By Leslie Crystal
Photography | Leslie Crystal
Featured | Self-Portrait



“I MUST BE A MERMAID...I HAVE NO FEAR OF DEPTHS AND A GREAT FEAR OF SHALLOW LIVING.”

― Anaïs Nin

SHOP

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  Shop JulesB 
different sizes available at each site

SIZE & FIT

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  • Wearing Size UK 4/US 0
  • Alteration: Hem taken up 1/2 Inch between the two lace layers
  • Extremely comfortable lace fabric

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