the bufflogals’ holiday gift guide

Thanksgiving is upon us and the holiday season is officially underway. I thought I’d share what Etta and Claire are getting/wishing for/into this holiday season to help out any of you who might be shopping for toddlers/preschoolers this time of year. Last year their toys mostly focused on kitchen and food play, baby dolls, and bath toys, and you can check out that gift guide if you’re shopping for younger toddlers in the one to two year old range. Much of it is stuff they still love, and would make excellent gifts for any toddlers in your life. This guide is probably most suitable for ages 2 and up.

One category of play they are really starting to be into is dress-up and pretend play. We have bought and stashed some clearance Halloween costumes, and they have received some wings and hand me down hats, and capes and tutus remain very popular. Their big gift this year will likely be a small wardrobe to hold all the dress up items for easy kid access.

Dress Up Play

 

Etta remains really into wooden puzzles and blocks, and both girls seem to enjoy tool benches when we go to the Wonder Place or homes that have them. I’m considering a tool bench as another big gift option. Toys that encourage fine motor skills, like lacing, latching, zipping, and buckling are all really fun for this age group, as are color matching and shape sorting. These gifts fit that bill:

Learning Toys

 

We go to a weekly music and movement class that basically consists of playing kids’ CDs while introducing various props. It’s an experience that’s pretty easy to recreate at home, and our girls love to play with their various musical instruments. I’m thinking of attempting to DIY some ribbon sticks or wristbands, as they are always a favorite part of the class, and I think some juggling silks would also be pretty fun:

Music and Movement toys

 

Other categories of toys to consider when shopping for toddlers: books, bath toys, and art/craft supplies. A pack of washable crayons and a jumbo coloring book will definitely appear in both girls’ Christmas stockings, and I’m thinking maybe some bath tub paints or something will be fun too and solve my problem of hating to paint with them because it’s such a giant mess.

Note: this post is not sponsored and these are not affiliate links. Everything in this post is something I either have bought or am considering buying for my kids.

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Boden vs. Discount: girls spring looks for less

Each season my Boden Mini catalog arrives and I wish I had adorable British children, or at least the ability to dress my adorable children in adorable British clothes. Alas, they are expensive, and I just can’t justify spending $40 or more on pants for my kids when I spend all my time in $20 jeggings. I hear the argument that Boden clothes hold up better and are thus worth the price, but honestly, my Carters, Old Navy, and Target stuff has been used and abused by my two kids, and still been in great enough shape to pass on to two of our besties’ baby girls, both born a year after Etta and Claire. I like my kids to look cute, but I have a hard enough time justifying my shopping habit at discount prices, let alone spending serious bucks on clothes that are outgrown in a matter of months. Thus, my Boden vs. Discount posts were born. Welcome to the spring edition! I think I’ve done a decent job replicating the looks in the Boden Spring 2014 catalog at much lower prices, and you can expect to see a lot of these discount items on the Bufflo Gals as the weather warms up!

Boden vs. Carters applique tee and skirt
Boden looks for less: mixed print dress
Boden vs. Discount: embroidered tunic and roll cuff pants
Boden vs. Carters: tutu/tee/tights
Boden vs. Discount: print shirt, striped pants
Boden vs. Carters tank and printed skirt

Bufflogal Style for Boys: Boden vs. Discount

OK, Boy Moms, this one’s for you. I’ve often heard mom friends say boys are harder to shop for than girls, and I admit, I usually roll my eyes and think, “How hard could it be? Cute little man clothes are everywhere!” I’m even sometimes jealous of tiny button down shirts, tiny blazers, and other clothes that essentially look like shrunken adult items. However, I’d never really shopped for boys’ clothes in any real capacity until I decided to do a boy clothes counterpart to my Carter’s vs. Boden girls’ clothes piece, and I have to say, there are a LOT of bad graphic tees out there for boys. The weird gender messages of kids’ graphic tees could be a post in and of itself, but it seems like boys’ tees are largely desperate to prove masculinity, covered in licensed characters, or just plain dumb. And, I admit, Carter’s doesn’t seem to be as rocking in the boys’ department as it is the girls’, so I branched out and included Old Navy, Target, and OshKosh in my boys’ looks. (Though if I had a boy, I’d be sorely tempted to dress him in OshKosh overalls 90% of the time.)

Additionally, I have concluded if I had a boy, Boden’s pants just might be worth it. They a) have cute baggy corduroys which I couldn’t find at Carter’s, Target, OshKosh, or Old Navy, and a lot of their styles are either lined or have extra sturdy features like knee patches to stand up to the abuse little boys will put them through.

Still, I think I managed to put together some very similar fall/back to school looks, usually for half the price of Boden, and as a bonus, even found some shoes. This time, I saved myself some trouble by figuring out how to post Polyvore boards in WordPress. So, they don’t have my cute little writing and prices on the images, but there are clicky links to make shopping easier for you. You win some, you lose some.

Without further ado, I present, Bufflogal Style for Boys.

$54 Jackets from Carter’s vs. $95 from Boden:

Carter's vs. Boden: Boy's Coats

$13 striped pullover vs. $38 striped pullover

Discount vs. Boden

Discount vs. Boden: cool shirts, cool kicks

Discount vs. Boden: stripes, flannel, sherpa, and shoes

Carter’s $52/outfit (including shoes!) vs. Boden $100/outfit

Discount vs. Boden: boys' outfits 2

Carter’s $59/outfit vs. Boden $112/outfit

Discount vs. Boden: boys' outfits

Bufflogal Style: Carter’s vs Boden Mini

One of the most common questions I get about having twins is, “Do you dress them alike?” And the answer is no. Because I promised my Papa, a twin, that I wouldn’t. So I don’t.

I do like them to coordinate, though, and I have to admit that the clothes are a big perk to little girls times two. People often ask me where I get Etta and Claire’s clothes, and the answer for 99% of it its Carter’s, with a smattering of Old Navy, Target, Baby Gap, and deals I find on Zulily. Still, most of it is Carter’s, because if you’re choosy, they’ve got some great stuff amid the “I’M CUTE” glitter teeshirts, and because they have insane sales and lots of coupons on top of that, so you can get a lot for a little.

This post is not sponsored a bit, but was born of the fact that this week, I got a Boden Mini and a Carter’s catalog on the same day, which turned out to be unfortunate for Boden. I flipped through their catalog first, drooling over adorable British children in cute outfits, wishing I could afford to dress my girls in their stuff. But then I flipped through the Carter’s catalog and discovered that they have some very similar looks for far cheaper, and they even included a 25% off coupon, on top of the fact that they’re currently having a sale. So I put together some comparison boards, thinking they might help some other girl moms looking for Back to School style inspiration. Perhaps my fashion blogging sister is rubbing off!

Winter coats, Carter's vs. Boden Mini, $43 vs $92

Cute raincoats. Carter's vs. Boden Mini, $25.50 vs $60.

Carter's vs. Boden Mini, $13 vs. $38

Carter's vs. Boden Mini, $22.60/outfit vs. $60/outfit

Carters vs. Boden Mini, $12/outfit vs. $58/outfit

Carter's vs. Boden Mini, $16.60/outfit vs. $62/outfit

Are you as surprised as I am that a brand as ubiquitous as Carter’s has stuff as cute as pricey, pretty Boden Mini? Where do you like to shop for your kids’ clothes?

the babies are bankrupting us already

Things are getting more real in Babyville as my belly grows and the impending arrival of two wee ones continues to sink in. Helping us feel reality? Baby stuff has begun to arrive in our house.

I knew all along that one of our bigger purchases would be a stroller. A lot of my friends with only one baby don’t wind up using their stroller all that much– it’s usually easier to just strap the kid to your chest, or carry him, or put him in the car seat and carry it, than it is to haul out a big bulky thing and wheel it around. However, with two babies, that’s less of an option. Pretty much any time I attempt to go somewhere in public with the babies without Jon, I’m going to need a stroller, so it needs to be one I like. Unfortunately, I hated most of the double strollers I looked at. The tandem ones (a friend described them as “fighter jet cockpits”) seem long and unwieldy, but the side-by-sides sometimes don’t fit through doors and store aisles. And the strollers I didn’t hate? Well, they were really, REALLY expensive. I fell in love with the Baby Jogger City Select, because it’s not ridiculously huge, it takes 2 infant carseats (actually a rarity in double strollers, as most are meant for parents with two kids of different ages rather than twins), and the seats can be configured a bajillion different ways. It was expensive, but not as expensive as many of the fancy stroller brands, but still, we were not so in love with the idea of spending $650+ for a stroller, and I figured there was no way I’d ever get one.

But then I found one for $499. And then I read my friend Suzanne’s rave review of her Baby Jogger City Select, which she uses for her baby and her toddler, and when she told me even her husband agreed the stroller was a good buy even at full price…well, we decided it was the stroller for us. I’m not crazy about the fact that it’s white, but with the $150 we saved, I’m sure we can buy some Scotchguard or something. We’re both pretty excited for it to arrive. Maybe we’ll have to put Tinycat in it to test it out or something!

In even more exciting news, we don’t need a new car. We went to Babies R Us, where they kindly let you test carseats in your actual car before you buy, and discovered that the Chicco Key Fit 30 actually fits in our car on the passenger and middle seat while still allowing Jon to scoot the drivers’ seat into a comfortable position. In fact, he can even put one behind the drivers’ seat and still drive, though we like being able to have one of us sit in the back with the babies, at least at the start.

So, lil Pontiac Vibe, you will remain with us a while longer. We picked out the orange and grey version (in stock it was that or black/gray), and orange happens to be Jon’s favorite color. We’ve put the seats in the car and driven around the block, so we know it works. Lots of people keep telling me I need a minivan, including the ladies on the Mothers of Multiples message boards, but somehow people in Europe manage to have multiple children in small cars, so I’m sure we can make it work. We have the added incentive of this car being paid off and not wanting to add car payments on top of baby expenses, so we don’t even need Tim Gunn to tell us to make it work.

I’m hoping the excitement over fun baby stuff can help distract me until our next doctor’s appointment on the 16th. I’m hoping we can get a peek at the genders then, and the anticipation is killing me!

trying to live la pura vida

I’m back from an amazing week in Costa Rica. Did you miss me?

I want to write all about the trip, and kept a journal while we were there in order to do so, but our camera broke while we were there, and my husband’s iPhone, which became our backup camera, was left in San Jose. Through a strange and amazing series of circumstances which I will surely tell you about later, the phone is on its way back, but I’m not going to write about the bulk of the trip until I have some pictures of beautiful Costa Rica to share as well. I really fell in love with the country and the people we met there.

One thing people in Costa Rica say a lot is “pura vida.” It literally translates to “pure life” but can also be used to sort of mean “full of life.” It’s definitely true of Costa Rica, it was true of our trip, and it’s something I’m trying to make true of my life as well. As the comments on the “No Clothes” post keep rolling in and people affirm the challenge, I’ve been pondering my motivations for the challenge and for my desire to begin to live a simpler life in general. Part of it is that I know that for me, the cycle of wanting and buying and wanting and buying is not actually leading to a happier, more joyful life, but rather a vicious cycle of materialism. And another part of it is, I don’t want the things that give me happiness, like a pretty new dress, to be tainted by the fact that they’re bad for the environment and made by very poor people in very poor working conditions. A life of “pura vida” would be about life and happiness for all, not life and happiness that is dependent on others’ suffering and oppression.

When we were in San Jose, we stayed in an amazing house-turned-bed-and-breakfast that we found through AirBnB. Our host, when we asked what brought him to Costa Rica, told us about the day he was liberated from a life of comfort and material things the day a wildfire destroyed his nice house and everything he owned in Southern California. And that’s the way he describes that experience: liberating. Now he lives in a lovely condo in San Jose and shares the gifts of hospitality and good conversation with everyone blessed to stay with him. And I do mean blessed– hospitality, shared meals, and good conversation are practically the sacraments of my faith.

Over the course of the week, I just kept ruminating on what it would be like to feel liberated from materialism. I don’t mean liberated from actually having things, or appreciating beauty, or even from buying things, but I do mean liberated from the never-ending desire of my current shopping habits. For example– I like to browse lots of style blogs, largely for inspiration on how to wear things I already have, or things to DIY for myself or my home– they inspire my creativity, and that’s always a good thing. However, they also often inspire my desire to shop and spend. For example, while perusing my backlog accumulated in Google Reader during a week without my computer, I saw, and immediately wanted this dress from Ruche: Why? Because it’s a very good knockoff of a Marc Jacobs dress I’ve been coveting ever since Michelle Obama wore it (source): The Marc Jacobs version was $685. The Ruche version, which is sold out, was $43. Why? Well, the knockoff is 100% polyester (read: made from petroleum, not very breathable) and “imported” (read: probably not manufactured under the best of conditions). I could (were it not sold out, and had I not taken a no shopping for clothes vow) buy that $43 dress and simply enjoy its beauty and the feeling that I had scored a great look that I had long admired at an insane price. But I’d be bothered by the fact that it’s a blatant ripoff of something someone else created, and I’d be more bothered by the fact that it was made of oil and most likely sewn under not great working conditions. And the sad fact is, the person I am right now, that person can easily say to herself, “BUT IT’S CUUUUTE. AND SO CHEAP!” I don’t want to be that person. That person who says she cares about living “la pura vida” and advocates for the environment and social justice, but is willing to throw all that away for a cute dress. Maybe one day I’ll actually live up to my own values, but it’s hard. Anyone else out there on the same sort of journey?

not shopping, and a chambray skirt

Thanks to my “no shopping” post being featured on the WordPress homepage, a lot of new faces have showed up around here in the last two days! Welcome! Even though I said I wouldn’t be posting daily outfit photos, I will be occasionally sharing photos of items I’ve sewn, and possibly particularly interesting outfits remixed from items in my closet. Though seriously, I need to get a tripod and some self confidence, because I feel sublimely silly posing while my husband snaps photos with our 5 year old digital camera in my kitchen, home to the only bare wall I could find (I like art), while also trying to keep two large dogs from hopping into the picture (I was standing near their food bowls and it was almost dinner time, so they got rather excited).

I thought I’d clarify a bit on what motivated the no-shopping challenge. I identify as a follower of Jesus, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how my consumerism lines up with that identity. I read Shane Claibourne’s Jesus for President with a book group at my church, and I’ve also been reading a lot of Pete Rollins. Basically, I think I undermine my statements about following Jesus and trying to love people like he loved when my dollars every day are a) going toward my own comfort instead of those in need, and b) are perpetuating a system of slavery and oppression in other parts of the world, where the poor are exploited just to make my clothes. And yet: there’s no other way to say this, I want to look cute. Yesterday, while out buying a must-have hair product, in an apparent act of self-torture, I wandered into Forever21, “just to look.” I saw about 20 things that I really wanted. “Wouldn’t that little dress be a great beach cover-up for my upcoming trip to Costa Rica?” I didn’t buy anything, but I realized what an addict I am. I can’t say that I’ll swear off buying clothes forever, and only buy from thrift stores or make my own, though that would probably be ideal. I can’t even say I’ll never buy something from Forever21 again. But I am going to spend the next several months abstaining from buying clothes (I have a feeling trips to Target are going to be torture! I also spotted a gray striped jersey dress there yesterday that I really wanted.),  and I hope to learn something from the experience.

One area I do hope to improve are my sewing skills. I am confident that I can learn to make a lot of the clothes that I want, for myself, for less money than I would spend in retail stores, and in the process, with confidence that my clothes weren’t made in a sweatshop. Now, when I want an item, if it looks “sewable,” I pin it to my Sewing Inspiration board on Pinterest. One thing I had been pinning a lot of lately was chambray skirts (click image to be taken to Pinterest page which links to original source):


So, armed with several skirts under my sewing belt, I decided this covetable item was something I could make myself. And sure enough, I followed this tutorial to make myself an adorable (if I do say so myself) chambray skirt:

I used a double layer of chambray for the skirt, to prevent sheerness and give the skirt more of the full look I was going for. I have to say, I think it turned out just as cute as several of the skirts I had pinned!