Swap.com For Expecting and New(ish) Moms

07.11.14

Every year my friend Rachel does this 30 day no shop challenge in January. The thinking is that in December we’ve all bought enough items to top off a dozen landfills and at some point we all have to look at the amount of things we’re buying and put the brakes on. Because of Rachel this year I joined a local swap shop and I pop in there every few weeks, drop off some old clothes and pick up new ones. The idea of “thrifting” makes me shudder so understand that I’m not suggesting anyone dive head first into the piles at Salvation Army (unless that makes you happy – my kooky kid likes it) but I am suggesting that we all take a look at swapping out some of the mountains of goods instead of buying new all the time.

Well, this whole notion of less shopping is easier said than done particularly if you’re a mother, even more so if you’re the mother of a pre school aged child because developmental phases seem to last approximately 37.5 minutes. There are needs (both real and imagined) for new sets of toys, clothes and accessories. You buy an infant carrier and the baby hates it. At your mommy and me class you try a friend’s carrier and find out that your kid loooooovvvveeees theirs. Oh hey, who doesn’t have $40 to fling into the ether for yet another baby carrier? Spending money on buying five versions of the same item is super fun, right?

Pop over to Swap.com and buy a new one for cash if you like.

swap.com baby carriers

The products are photographed and posted, you buy with a credit card, Amazon payments, or PayPal and the product is shipped to you. There’s a money back guarantee on everything and it’s all pretty straightforward.

Until….

buy without money

You see that little Buy without money? underneath the shopping cart logo? That’s where Swap get interesting and different from anyone else out there. You can trade on Swap.com without having to negotiate with anyone. The most difficult part of trading is taken out of the equation.

You can just send in items from your house. You don’t have to photograph them, describe them, market them or anything, just price them and send them to Swap.com. If you have a printer at home (you do, don’t you?) just print out a shipping label, slap it on a box or a bag and send in your unused items anywhere from maternity clothes to teenage items. If you need a bag or a box sent from them to you it’s $3. But really? You don’t have a box or a bag?

Once you’ve sent your products in they have technology they call “trade ring” and in it’s essence it’s an algorithm that creates trades with multiple people. This way you don’t have to find the one person who wants maternity dress your Aunt Sally sent you knowing that you hate dresses but she’s convinced your career will never more forward without wearing one. Your maternity dress can get swapped with someone’s Gymboree Outfit even though they wanted a baby swing from someone else. It all just sort of sifts out in a way that we can’t make happen efficiently in our personal lives.

swap.com buy without money

Of note: when you ship items to Swap.com they do not own them. You still own the items and control the pricing. If the items don’t sell you can have them sent back to you or you can donate them to charity. It’s just like a local consignment store without the limitations of a local market.

Like I said I’m recently converted to swapping in my personal life but I think that a third party like Swap.com is essential if you’re going to enjoy it. They make sure that everything is clean and in good condition with no missing parts. It’s expensive having kids and it’s fun to watch them discover a new toy and charming to put them in cute outfits. If you’re using Swap it’s a little less upsetting if they outgrow that outfit or toy before it’s used much at all, you can just buy something else with it.

As an added incentive the folks at Swap.com wanted to give one reader $50 to try the site. Good luck! I’ll announce a winner on the 22nd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Shoebox App Review: Photo Storage for People Who Love Organization

07.8.14

I have children and I’m pretty sure they are the most beautiful children in the world therefore I take photos incessantly. In fact I have taken so many photos of poor Alexander that the most recent ones look a lot like this.

Which is probably normal but still disappointing.

In addition to the photos I take with a DSLR, I’m taking photos with my phone, a backup phone and a point and shoot. Those photos are often shared on facebook and I’ll never see them again. Which is often fine but sometimes there’s a gem I’d really like to print or save. Further, I’m unorganized. I don’t tag photos or save them by date. I just take photos and then hope for the best.

In my search for cloud based photo storage I found Shoebox. It offers features that I didn’t know I wanted and now I think I can’t live without. It’s like when you hire the professional organizer and they show up with their trash bags and their label maker and you just know that really great things are going to happen and you couldn’t have done it on your own. That’s the feeling I get every time Shoebox syncs with my computer or phone.

Now you’re like, “Uh, okay Jessica, back away from the computer. You’re nerding out over photo storage.”

Well, I am nerding out over photo storage a little but the excitement is in the organization. With Shoebox App I get one album for all my photos from all my devices. This means that photos from the laptop, the desktop and the iPhone are all together in one place. Photos are organized by date, by location and by the camera used.

shoebox app review home

My favorite feature is Time Travel

shoebox app time travel

This is an absolute must for anyone who loves to travel. Having photos sorted by location is a complete nightmare when you do it by hand. Well, it’s not so much a nightmare as it is unlikely to ever happen. Shoebox takes your geotagged photos and sorts them for you so that your trips are easily searchable.

That Time Travel tab is really fun. It’ll show you how many months you’ve used each of your cameras, what time of day you’re taking the bulk of your photos and there’s a pie chart for the months too.

You can build galleries to share photos, which would be great for family photos that you don’t want on Facebook or photos friends might want to print.

Shoebox defaults to a slideshow that’s simple. Click the < to see the photo you just passed and the > to continue scrolling through. There’s a download icon so you can instantly download a saved photo and a delete because even I know that 300 photos of a one eyed dog are too much.

There’s nothing confusing about Shoebox. It’s got all the features a blogger needs and the simplicity required by a luddite. Photos are sorted by year, by month and even as little images on a calendar if you’re looking for a specific day.

Because the default setting on Shoebox is private moms like me can feel comfortable using it as an automatic download for our family photos. Shoebox uses the same encryption methods as banks do so I’m confident that my photos will be there when I need them.

It’s really easy to use Shoebox. Just go to shoeboxapp.com and click on the big green box where it says download. Use the default settings to install the app (takes less than 2 minutes) and then start uploading your photos. Here’s where I think Shoebox could lose you, don’t let it lose you. The first download may take hours. Plural. Don’t freak out, it’s not a slow app, it’s just that if you’re like me you probably have several years worth of photos on your computer.

My deskop has more than 4,500 photos on it. This will take several hours to upload to the app. It’s a lot of space. If you’re like me you might want to think about dumping all those photos on an external hard drive in addition to the app and taking them off your computer in it’s entirety, freeing up space for more important things. Like minecraft or shopping.

You can let Shoebox run in the background and do something else or (and I recommend this) you can walk away from the computer and come back to it when the upload is complete. I’m impatient and things like this are a challenge for me.

Although shoebox is private you can still share your photos with twitter, facebook, pinterest or email.

shoebox app on pinterest

Since many of us are using Pinterest for our travel this is a really helpful feature.

Shoebox is free forever if you’re using web sized photos. Meaning the Shoebox App will compress your photos to 1024 pixels on the longest side and store them for a lifetime. If you are open to paying for storage, Shoebox App’s Pro Plan is $5 a month or $48 a year and you are limited only to 20MB per photo. This is pretty standard and within a dollar of Flickr’s annual price.

Most importantly Shoebox works on all the devices: Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android, making sharing with the entire extended family simple and efficient.

If you download the app I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments. How many photos are on your computer? I was shocked by volume on mine.

This post is sponsored by Shoebox App but I went ahead and spent my own money on the Pro Plan. I’m a convert. 

 

On Rodeo: You Know the Dinner is Good When it’s Four Hours Long

06.11.14

Last week I was invited to On Rodeo, the restaurant and lounge inside (and outside) the Luxe Hotel on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. They are adding baked goods to their offerings and have wisely begun with a chocolate soufflé.

I don’t typically attend events like this but I’ve had several lovely lunches at the Luxe Beverly Hills and my daughter is bugging me to have a sleepover (and possibly a Sweet 16) there so I figured I’d put on my best eating dress and head out for some soufflé before dinner at 5pm.

We had passed appetizers, champagne and the soufflé along with an explanation of the sourcing of the chocolate and a reminder that Beverly Hills and Cannes are sister cities. I sort of paid attention but mostly I was enjoying the dessert. I enjoy the occasional sweet but given the option of cake or a cheese plate I’m pretty religiously going to choose savory over sweet so I was delighted to find that the soufflé was full of chocolate flavor and missing that overly sugary finish that too many desserts seem to have.

Once you’ve had dessert you might as well stay for dinner. So I did. There were wine and tequila pairings and great company at the table so I instagrammed the meal because I wisely knew that I’d forget each and every thing.

We started with roasted tomato soup which tasted like warm tomatoes from the garden.

Next was Ahi Tuna with fresh citrus there was a white wine pairing that was delightful.

Beet salad with candied walnuts

Do not miss the shrimp (and I don’t love shrimp) paired with a sip of tequila

Pan seared salmon on a bed of cauliflower with a sauce you don’t see.

Our second dessert was bread pudding because everyone needs a second dessert when you’re on your fourth hour of dinner.

bread pudding

And their dessert cocktails are spectacular. My favorite is the Key Lime Pie Martini. It’s delicious.

on rodeo key lime pie martini

If you’re looking to sit outside, to see and be seen be sure to request table 81. You’ll be smack dab in the center of Rodeo Drive. We ate and drank and laughed until 9.30. Just in time for a midnight snack, right?

Sharp Knives!

05.28.14

A year or two ago I was driving home and saw an outrageously painted lilac bakery truck parked in front of the restaurants near my house. It had a phone number on the side, some messages about redemption and the fact that the owner of said truck would sharpen knives.

Los Angeles has knife sharpening issues. It used to be that you’d bring your knives to the butcher at Hughes Market and they’d sharpen them while you shop. Later when Hughes sold to Gelson’s you could sometimes find a butcher who would help you out and then it all just stopped. HOWs markets opened up and my knives were sharp again but then they promptly closed. There are places where I can drop my knives off but no one seems to do it right or they want me to wait for two days. Maybe my family could just hit pause on dinner for a couple of days while the knives are being sharpened? I don’t think so.

So as I’m sitting around with Junior giving him water through a syringe (no exaggeration) the phone rings and it’s a number I do not recognize. A man mutters something about knives and I tell him he has the wrong number. Then he says, “Jessica, I sharpened your knives for you last year.”

“Do you have a purple truck?” I am excited.

“I do.” He is calm.

“I have been looking for your number everywhere. Are you nearby?”

And he was.

purple knife truck

Now I’m sitting with Junior who just wants to be held (though that’s not unlike him before being bitten) and I’m watching the world pass me by. It’s not unlike the first months of motherhood when it felt impossible to leave the house as it took 30 minutes to feed the baby, change the baby and collect the gear.

It’s a strange feeling, this sense of immobility. It’s like having a sick day without being sick or rewinding the clock to when they were babies and the world was small. It’s not altogether unpleasant but it is remarkably dull. I don’t want to fix up the house, I want to leave the house but that’s just too much for Junior today and leaving him alone right now isn’t wise. The good news is that he is moving his leg a bit, he’s responding to touch and he’s not putting weight on it but that’s to be expected. We’re removing the word amputation from the discussion.

This week I’m watching my dog sleep but I’m going to do it with sharp knives.

 

We Haz All the Cars

05.12.14

Mr. G’s Jaguar lease is about to end and we need to get him a new car. Before the Jag he had a bunch of BMWs all in a row, one after the other. They’re wonderful cars, one kept him safe in a major accident and they hold their value well. The problem is that they are boring. The city is littered with 5 Series BMWs and after 4 years of a Jaguar he has come to enjoy having a car that’s a little bit different. I have loved the 6 series Gran Coupe since I laid eyes on it.

2013 bmw gran coupe

Unfortunately I’m the only one who loves it. It doesn’t appeal to Mr. G. The 7 series is just too big and he doesn’t like Audi or Mercedes. I can’t even begin to talk to him about a Japanese car. They’re much too reasonable and reliable for our tastes I suppose.

When Mother’s Day rolled around Mr. G asked me what I wanted and I told him nothing and I meant it too. I’ve bought myself everything I need and most of what I want. I wanted to get my mom something a little more expensive and I wanted to have a day where I didn’t wash any dishes (that did not happen). I wanted the kids to start studying for final exams and I wanted Mr. G to pick a car so I could buy one for him in the coming weeks.

After lunch with my family we headed out to find a car for Mr. G. We both yawned at the 5 series, knowing that it’s the car we’d likely end up with, I dragged him to the Mercedes Dealership where he refused to drive anything as he didn’t like the look of a single one and then we landed in Dante’s Fourth Circle of Hell, the Maserati Dealership.

We looked at the Quattroporte as there are quite a few that are preowned with very low miles but it’s an absolute boat. The interior styling is unquestionably luxe but at a gazillion dollars the car we saw didn’t even have a backup camera. The salesman mocked me for caring so that might be why I decided that I hated the Ghibli, or it might have been because in between the Quattroporte and the Ghibli we drove a Panamera S and it appealed to us more than either of the Maseratis.

So we left the dealership knowing that we’d be calling my friend Jay at Beverly Hills Porsche. Mr. G likes the Panamera but I secretly thought I’d steer him to 911. Now that we have three cars they don’t all need to have back seats.

Then I considered something I’d previously ignored. We can buy the Jag. My husband loves that car, there’s nothing wrong it with (now) and the Mercedes will be going back in less than a year. Today I went ahead and purchased the Jaguar (for $10,000 under Kelly Blue Book, that was NOT a good lease) and Mr. G will continue driving it until my lease ends. At that point in time we’ll be knocking at Jay’s door for something obnoxiously fast and I’ll drive the Jag until the engine gives out and the wheels fall off (which could be soon).

So basically today I sold myself a used car.