THINX: A New Game-Changing Favorite

Photo of the Cheeky pair from
One of my favorite products of 2017 happens to be underwear. Side note: If hearing about periods grosses you out, you may want to stop reading now. It's about to get personal.

So what are THINX? According to the company, they're underwear for menstruating people that are made up of "four bits of tech that makes them anti-microbial, moisture-wicking, absorbent, and leak-resistant." I agree 100% and I was very skeptical at first.

I greatly prefer tampons and avoid pads if possible, but sometimes I need backup. Pads bunch easily and make me feel like I'm sitting in a pool of blood. Not sexy, and it's hard to be confident in a business meeting or on a date when you're basically wearing a wet diaper.

One sleepless night, I stumbled upon a YouTube review of THINX underwear. Reusable, bulky pads have never been appealing to me, so I had always assumed THINX are similar and still have that wet diaper feel. After watching the review by someone who basically feels the same way about pads that I do, I decided to order a pair of THINX. I ordered a pair of the Sport undies, and the first thing I noticed was how thin the material is. It feels just like a normal pair of underwear. Next, I noticed that they keep you dry; I mean really dry. I almost forgot I had my period.

As someone who has been cursed with heavier periods for much of her life and has had a few embarrassing experiences as a result, I used to get nervous about leaks the first couple days of my cycle, which is when I'd often end up wearing a pad in addition to a tampon. However, sporting THINX as backup instead of a bulky pad gave me complete peace of mind. I ended up ordering a Cheeky pair too, and will probably keep adding to my collection (the only con is that they aren't cheap, but I figure I'm saving money and being more environmentally-friendly by not using as many pads or pantyliners). Having at least two pairs of THINX works nicely because you can wash and hang dry one pair while you're wearing the other. I have since traveled abroad with them and it's a surprisingly empowering feeling not being afraid that you're bleeding through your clothes. Or if there's a chance you'll get your period, wear them instead of a pantyliner.

Basically, THINX has changed my life and I don't dread that time of the month as much as I once did. I honestly can't believe I went as long without them. (And no, this is not a sponsored post.)

Questions I've heard people ask about THINX:
How do you care for THINX? I rinse them with cold water after use and either machine wash cold or hand wash. Hang dry. Don’t use bleach or fabric softener!

Isn't it gross to rinse them? I use them mainly as tampon backup so they don't get too bloody. However, if you've ever leaked in a pair of underwear, it's basically the same thing. Washing my THINX is less gross because they're black and the blood doesn't feel "hardened" like it does on most fabric. Also, it's sort of a shame that as women we are taught that our own bodies are gross.

What size should I get? They say they run small, but I ordered the same size I wear in normal underwear (small). They fit snugly but are very comfortable. For reference, I wear a size 4 in pants.

What style should I get? I prefer bikini-style underwear so the Cheeky and Sport styles are the most comfortable. When I order a third pair, I'll probably go for another pair of the Cheeky. Again, I wear them mostly as tampon backup, taking the place of a pantyliner or pad, or alone at night towards the end of my cycle, but if you're wearing them as your main product every day, perhaps go with the Hiphugger style.

Do you wear THINX? What surprised you most about them?

Remote Work 101: Top 5 Tips

Dogs and comfortable chairs are necessities for me.

In the age of the open work space, studies consistently show that remote workers are happier and more productive than their office peers. The technology is in place that makes remote work possible but how do you get started and what is everyday life like for a remote worker? After you finish reading this article, check out this book for more ideas.

Find a remote job

"How did you find your remote job?" was the number one question I received when I started my current remote job. It depends what type of position you're looking for but,,,,, and have a variety of remote and/or flexible work options. Check with your friends who work remotely because they may be aware of additional resources or open positions in their network.

Create an office or dedicated work space

For the first week or two of working from home, I made the dining room table my work space. Big mistake: It's easy to get distracted when you're looking around at dirty dishes in the sink or a messy sofa, or maybe bills you need to pay. Instead, I created a home office, which is the smallest room in our house but has excellent light with its three windows and built-in bookshelves. It also has views of the Adirondacks, which always give me a creative boost. I have a comfortable armchair in the corner that I sit in for Skype video calls or to read documents. The most important tip for working from home is to have a dedicated work space. It doesn't have to be fancy and could even be a desk in the corner, but the trick is that when you leave the space, you leave work.

Stick to a routine

As a remote worker, you may have a typical 9-5 or you may design your own hours. Again, it'll depend on what you do. Either way, you'll probably have a bit more control over some aspects of your schedule because you aren't commuting but don't expect to suddenly find additional extra hours in your day. Time management is even more important when you're working remotely because you don't have someone looking over your shoulder. Even when I was consulting and could set my own hours, I still woke up early, made my coffee, and started working by 8 or 9. When I began my current role, that made the transition back to more normal workday hours a breeze. In order for me to stay motivated, a routine is vital. Know yourself and how you work best.

Be video-ready

Many people have the idea that remote workers work from their beds or sofas in their pajamas. While some people may, I don't recommend it (see #2). When you're working remotely, chances are you're relying on technology like Skype or Google Hangouts for conference calls. My rule of thumb is to always assume every call will be video, even though 95% of mine are not. I also feel like it' s the start of my work day when I've showered, dressed, had my coffee, and I'm ready for the day. 

Don't be a hermit, but also don't overdo it

When I first started working remotely, I was so worried I'd get lonely or feel isolated that I made plans almost every day or night of the week. I went to seminars, had lunches, coffee and walking dates, and people over for drinks in the evening. While it's important to see people, don't overdo it so you're constantly exhausted. I have much better balance now! And if you're worried you'll miss working with people? You'll be chatting and interacting with people every day even if you work from home, and for my position, I go to an office every six to eight weeks. There are also a number of co-working spaces that provide excellent networking and collaboration opportunities for remote workers, or you can always work from a local coffee shop.

Occasionally, I will post on remote life so check back for more updates and tips. The next installment will focus on remote working myths.

Book Review: The Scandinavian Home

Scandinavian design is about functionality, aesthetically-pleasing clean lines, and rich, cozy, natural textures like wool, wood, and linen. Scandinavians seem to possess an innate sense of interior design and the ability to make their homes both cozy yet original. Their homes are less about mass-produced objects and more about one-of-a-kind pieces of art and handmade goods. When daylight diminishes significantly in the winter and temperatures drop, meaning less time is spent outdoors, why wouldn't you want your home to be comfortable and beautiful? One side of my family is Norwegian and I definitely grew up with similar values about home and sustainability. Add to that a Vermont childhood without a TV,  filled with stacking wood, reading by the fire on cold Vermont evenings, and cooking vegetables grown in the backyard, and you'll see why the Scandinavian ideas of home really resonate with me. (Think Danish hygge.)

When I first picked up The Scandinavian Home: Interiors Inspired by Light by Niki Brantmark (Cico Books), I instantly knew I would love it. Its pages are filled with gorgeous inspiration with a mix of urban apartments, chic country homes, and rural cabins. The descriptions and quotes that complement the beautiful full-page photography spreads make it feel like you are getting personal tours of friends' houses. Readers get an intimate look into the homes and lives of Scandinavian people. With the homes' mix of artwork, iconic design elements, antiques, and homemade objects, reading this book inspires you to bring Scandinavian design into your own home. Get ready for your home to tell your own unique story!

Above: Images from Brantmark's beautiful book, The Scandinavian Home. Be sure to visit her blog.

First Time Buying a House?

Enjoying Sunday brunch in our dining room.
Three years ago, my husband and I were in the process of buying our first home. It was an exciting but stressful time, and I want to share a few tips and recommendations that helped us out. There are some basics, like always get a thorough home inspection, organize all your taxes and financial information, get both names on the mortgage (if you're buying a house with a partner), and ideally have a credit score higher than 700. Here are a few more ideas that will hopefully make the process that much smoother for you.

The bank will probably approve you for more than you may be comfortable.
The bank came back with a number for us that we knew was more than we'd be comfortable with. In fact, my husband Michael and I loosely based our "comfortable number" off of one income. This meant that last year I could walk away from a job that was making me miserable and start doing some freelance consulting. I wouldn't have had that flexibility if we were already maxed out. If you buy a house that is at the maximum of your budget, be prepared for some extra stress and a lack of flexibility in your life choices. A house is constantly a work in progress and you don't want to feel overwhelmed immediately. Break down the mortgage, taxes, and homeowners insurance and make sure you're fully comfortable with the final number.

Find a buyer's agent you can trust.
A friend recommended our buyer's agent to us, and we were so fortunate to work with her. The sellers ended up being extremely difficult, and we were glad to have a realtor to serve as a mediator. Our agent helped us look at houses differently, worked on our paperwork, and made the process much easier. As a buyer, you don't have to pay a buyer's agent, and they can serve an important role for you in the process. I would recommend that every person buying their first house should work with a buyer's agent.

Don't get emotionally invested in a house until after the closing.
This is something Michael and I were really good at! We were quite realistic and critical of houses throughout the process, which kept us level-headed throughout the process. It's important to be able to see yourself living in a house, but you don't want to have every room planned out immediately. Do not get emotionally invested in a house until the keys are in your hand.

Drive by the house at different times during the day.
The house may seem like it's really quiet and the road has hardly any traffic when you visit mid-morning. However, you may find that during rush hour, there are lines of honking cars right outside your door. Drive by on the weekend or evening and see if it still seems like an area you'd be interested in living. Remember, it's all about location.

Think about the resale value.
It may seem crazy to think about the resale value of a house before you even put in an offer, but it's a must. Does the house have a really steep driveway? Is it an unusual shape with hardly any yard? These will cut the value of the house and also make it that much harder to sell in the future. Michael and I looked at a couple houses that had been on the market for a very long time and our buyer's agent was able to point out several reasons why the resale would be difficult. 

If you can, put 20% down.
Besides the instant equity, you'll avoid expensive private mortgage insurance, which if you and your partner make more than $110,000 ($55,000 per person) you won't be able to deduct from your taxes (there are many more reasons why it's good to not have to deal with PMI, and click the above link to learn more). If you put 20% down, you can also avoid the requirement of a mortgage escrow account, which is when you pay your lender a specific amount monthly to cover your property taxes, homeowners insurance, and private mortgage insurance. Why is that a benefit? Think about your monthly bills: One month you may have more to put in savings, another month you may have an expensive car repair, an appliance breaks, or you have to travel to a family member's wedding. If you aren't required to use a mortgage escrow account, you can put money aside to pay your property taxes and homeowners insurance. If you're good with budgeting and like to be in control of your own money (with a mortgage escrow account, a third party would be holding your money), then this is definitely for you.

Have a financial cushion.
Don't spend all your money on the down payment. I've heard many people say, "It's a turn-key house so it doesn't need any repairs or work." Trust me, it will. Even the most beautiful houses need maintenance: something will need to be repaired, a toilet seal will leak, or an appliance will break. This article recommends setting aside about 1 to 3% of your home's purchase price for yearly maintenance alone. The bigger the house, the more funds you will need to set aside so bigger is not always better. Make sure that you are comfortable with your house, the bills, and that your budget will remain relatively similar to the lifestyle you've become accustomed to.

Enjoy the process and I hope you find the home of your dreams soon.

Four Friday Favorites: Natural Products

Whenever possible, I try to use natural and/or organic products. We use only natural dish soap, cleaning wipes, multi-surface sprays, toilet cleaner, sulfate-free hand soap, and organic toilet paper. My mom belonged to a coop when I was a child and we always had the very uncool crunchy peanut butter and whole grain bread (no white bread and Skippy in our house).

Still, when it came to beauty products I used to feel like I had to choose between conventional products that worked or all-natural alternatives. Now, natural beauty brands make products that are as effective as conventional ones but are far friendlier to my sensitive skin. I am now buying mainly natural skincare and makeup that are cruelty-free and free of these dirty chemicals. Below are four of my favorite beauty and personal care items, in no particular order.

1. Acure Moroccan Argan Oil is certified USDA Organic, and is rich in Vitamin E, essential fatty acids and proteins. My facial skin is on the drier, sensitive side and since I've started using this product, the texture of my skin has improved dramatically. I also rub it into my cuticles at night, and it can even be used on hair or dry elbows. It's a healing, multi-use oil that I never plan to be without again.

2. Tata Harper Clarifying Spot Solution is for blemish-prone skin, and it treats breakouts but doesn't dry out the skin. The first week that I tried this, my skin was in the middle of a bad hormonal breakout (full disclosure, I had switched birth control methods). I noticed right away that the painful, hormonal pimples along my jaw switched from being hard, to the kind that you can easily pop. The second quick change was a reduction in redness and inflammation, and pimples seemed to heal extra fast. The only breakout I've had since I started using this spot solution was when I forgot to apply it while PMSing. If you don't like the scent of juniper, you probably won't like this smell. Tata Harper products are quite expensive but when I use them, they make a drastic difference. They're also 100% non-toxic, and are created just a few miles from my house.

3. The Konjac Sponge Company 100% Natural Vegetable Fibre Face Sponge With Nourishing Mineral Rich Pink Clay for Tired or Devitalised Skin (whew!) is a hard sponge that becomes very soft and moisturizing when wet. The Konjac sponge was developed in Japan and is derived from the Konjac plant. I received this sponge in my Petit Vour beauty box last month, and use it after my face wash in the shower. It smooths my skin, refines my pores, and feels like a mini facial.

4. Organic Tampons (by Natracare and Seventh Generation, specifically) are free of fragrances, deodorants, chlorine processing, and pesticides. Cotton is one of the dirtiest crops when it comes to pesticides, and pesticide residue has been found to cause infertility, hormonal imbalance, and even cancer. Similarly, many conventional tampons come with plastic applicators that contain phthalates, which mimic human hormones and have been found to be endocrine disrupting compounds (they are also found in many conventional perfumes). I have used both Natracare and Seventh Generation for tampons, and the occasional pads, and love their products.

Favorite Independent Magazines

To read interviews, short essays, and long-form journalism celebrating art, style, work life, and Nordic home design, check out Kinfolk. Each issue has a different theme.

For beautiful photos, delicious recipes, and simple craft ideas, read seasonal Sweet Paul and get ready to drool.

If you're a proud feminist and love learning about women's history and popular culture, paired with recipes, craft ideas, sex advice, and book reviews, then BUST is for you. It's published bimonthly and can be found at indie bookstores and Barnes & Noble.

To savor gorgeous photos without re-touching, enjoy empowering interviews with strong women, and read a magazine that celebrates the "art of being a woman," check out Darling.

If you live to travel and eat good food, bi-annual Cereal magazine is for you. It's based in the UK.

Celebrate women and food with Cherry Bombe. It pairs beautiful design with interviews, fun features and recipes, and has its own podcast.

Are you an entrepreneur, freelancer, or daring creative? Read the uplifting interviews and tips in BUNCH.

For interior design inspiration, editors' picks, and entertaining ideas, flip through online Rue Magazine. It's free.
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