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Dreaming of Bonnaroo…

We decided to not go to Bonnaroo again this year. We’ll be attending other festivals, but Bonnaroo still holds a special place in our hearts because it was the first we ever attended. Also for those who have attended Bonnaroo, you can agree it’s a life-changing experience. The heat, the lack of creature comforts, the crowds, the mud, the dust, the sun, the crazy variety of humans, the new music and art and experiences and friends. Did I mention the heat?

So while I sit in my cubicle this Friday, I shall dream of Bonnaroo…

I’ve learned a lot in the past year or two about festival preparedness.

  • Last year I took one of these chairs from Alite with us to Forecastle and it was perfection – when packed up it’s not much bigger than a large waterbottle.
  • Speaking of water bottle, I recently got one of these bottles from Bobble and it is utterly genius – built in cap but even better a built in filter! I love the pink color, and love how the strap from the cap to the bottle can also be a loop to keep the bottle attached to my bag.
  • Finally, last Bonnaroo I attended I was sans camera and phone because they both lost their charge. Since then I have bought a Soladec which could charge my electronics even while walking around Centeroo!

I’ve also learned a lot in regard to fashion.

  • I’m a loyal fan of Ray-Ban aviators, and have a couple pairs now. They’re lightweight, stay in place, provide plenty of coverage and are classic cool. I’d love some with the green mirrored lenses for festival season, they’d be a fun accent to my festie outfits.
  • I’m loving my bamboo scarves from Nepali by TDM Design; the bamboo isn’t too hot in the summer and a scarf like this one would work as a headwrap to fight the blazing sun, around the neck to protect from the rays (and dampened for the cooling factor), tied over the face for dust, and worn as a shawl when the sun goes down and there’s a bit of a breeze. They’re so light it wouldn’t be much of an issue to stuff in my bag.
  • Speaking of bag, while I’m a fan of a backpack at festivals, since going VIP I’ve found I need to carry less stuff. A waist pack (if I call it than instead of a fanny pack does it make it cool?) would be great for late night when I don’t need to cart around sunscreen, chairs, and the kitchen sink.
  • And I have learned that for me, the best festie shoes are boots. A pair of slouchy black short boots like these from Frye would look cute with cotton sundresses as well as distressed denim shorts.

This weekend, I know I will be checking out the live stream of Bonnaroo, and stalking Instagram to see all the photos my friends will be sharing.

Ah well… only a month until FORECASTLE!!!

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Bonnaroo 2011 – Sunday

I need to write these Bonnaroo recaps faster because I keep forgetting what happened each day! Now we’re up to Sunday, the last day of the festival. Like Saturday, Sunday is pretty fun because everyone knows Bonnaroo without needing to pull out their map, they’re dirty and smelly and tired but having a great time. Sad because they see the end of the fest, but happy because they have conquered Bonnaroo and can now just have a blast. Sunday during the day is pretty awesome because everyone is out, there’s no real Late Night so the party is while the sun is still up.

Sunday outfit: Pink floral cotton dress from H&M (sleeveless, surplice neckline, smocked waist, flared skirt), DUO “Bern” boots, gold aviators (from LOFT), cowboy hat, silver hoops, wrist of bracelets

We headed to Centeroo early – saw the last bit of The Head and the Heart (cute though not terribly memorable), then headed to the VIP lounge area near the Which Stage to hit the bathrooms, get some fruit. We overheard G. Love on the Which Stage, but I have seen him perform times before and I find his set to be pretty much the same every time. So we went back to The Other Tent and saw Nicole Atkins and the Black Sea. I liked Nicole Atkins – great voice, great banter between songs, great choice for a lazy Sunday morning.

After Nicole Atkins’ set, we headed over to the What Stage where there are tons of food vendors (and an easy exit back to camp). I got an amazing salad of field greens, gorgonzola, grape tomatoes and candied walnuts and washed it down with something called Black Lemonade. They took in-season berries, crushed them to a pulp and added them to lemonade for a really tasty treat. We headed to the VIP Hill to enjoy our meal and the sunshine.

Corey Glover checking out the Bonnaroo crowd while performing with Galactic – courtesty of Creative Loafing Atlanta

Up on the What Stage was Galactic. We saw Galactic last year at Bonnaroo during late night and their show was crucial – one of my favorite memories on the Farm. Saw them again at the 9:30 Club with Lionize and again had a blast. Even one of Emerson’s favorite CDs in the car is from Galactic! The show this year was great, but more chill than an evening set (obviously). Corey Glover from the band Living Colour was the singer and he was great (he is touring with Galactic through the end of this month).

We left Galactic early to see one of my “must-see” acts of the weekend – Robyn. I have liked her since “Show Me Love” (yes you young whippersnappers, this is the same woman!  Does anyone else remember her being on Beverly Hills 90210 performing at The Peach Pit After Dark? I can’t find any proof online, though am entertained by the fact that the Flaming Lips performed on it!), and knew she would put on a great show.

Robyn rocks it, courtesy of the blog Sound Bites

Even though we got there relatively early, the tent was packed. The crowd seemed to mainly be college-aged kids, and it seemed as though many of them were partaking in alcohol and illegal substances prior to the set. At first I felt a bit wigged out, thinking I was old enough to be these folks’ mom but soon got over it. We were able to wiggle ourselves into the tent to the right front, right near the steel cables that make and “X” to hold the pillars up. I could only see part of the time, but Robyn’s energy was amazing. The crowd’s energy was amazing too, it felt like Late Night with everyone focused on the stage, dancing, reacting to the music in a positive way. On top of it, it was Robyn’s birthday!  I have to say this was my favorite show of the entire weekend.

Video of Robyn’s performance at Bonnaroo 2011, wrapped up in less than 5 minutes

I felt old at a different part of this show, but in a different way. Next to me were two guys, maybe 18 years old. I could just tell this was their first Bonnaroo, their first time ever attending a music festival or event of this type. One was in a brand spanking new Girl Talk tee shirt and chino shorts a tad too short, the other was in some sort of goofy safari hat, a striped tee and some shorts you would find at REI. They were totally rocking out to Robyn and having the time of their lives. Suddenly the guy in the Girl Talk tee shirt gets inspired and all Gymkana on us and shimmies up the cables and sits at the X part of them, high above the rest of us. You can see the excitement in his face, and he pumps his fists in the air screaming, “Yeaaaahhhhhh!” His friend is below, cheesing hard and checking out the crowd who is checking out his friend. I felt as though I was watching one of these coming-of-age films like Superbad or Road Trip where the dorks have an amazing experience, almost get arrested, get the girl, lose their virginity, and live happily ever after. The boy’s flip flop fell off and all these girls were clamoring to put it back on his foot, he looked down and was in heaven with all this attention. Before he could get in trouble, he did a graceful dismount and returned to the crowd. The two guys were on such a high from that event and all I could think was, “Awww, they are having so much fun!” Now not only was I old enough to be these folks’ mom, I was thinking like a mom! However, I was the mom who was thrilled they were having a blast, not freaking out that they were climbing cables and probably dropping acid. It was a moment where I thought… I may be older than these people, but I am not too old to enjoy Bonnaroo.

Once reason I didn’t want to return to Bonnaroo was because it made me feel old and tired in ’10. All these young, energized folks in slips of clothing running around and here I was in a plus-sized maxi dress sweating gallons by the minute, aching feet in big puffy Crocs, feeling like a tourist. This year though, I just didn’t care and it made the experience amazing. I went to sleep when I was tired, I saw the shows I wanted to see and not what sounded “cool”, I wore what felt good, and didn’t give a damn about anyone else’s opinion. I felt as though I matured over the year, accepted my age and body, and because of it had a much better time.

It’s easy to say you’re okay with your age, or your weight, or whatever. It’s harder to truly accept it. It was liberating to come to that point, and to realize it while the beats of Robyn are in the background. I couldn’t help it, I just started dancing like a crazy woman, so excited about this realization. I looked up and my husband was having an equally amazing time. He looked at me, we cheesed at each other and kissed. And that’s when I knew I would be willing to return to Bonnaroo.

Robert Plant and Patty Griffin – courtesty of OurStage.com

After Robyn we were a bit exhausted and in need of water. We decided to head back to camp and went back through the What Stage. Robert Plant was performing at that time. My husband’s favorite band of all time is Led Zeppelin; we saw Robert Plant perform with Alison Krauss at Bonnaroo before and it was… fine. He wasn’t looking forward to seeing Plant, feeling as though it could ruin his happy memories. But Plant and The Band of Joy (hello Patty Griffin!) were sounding pretty good… and then they started playing some Zeppelin tunes. So we decided to get a beer and hang out for a bit.

My sister texted my husband (since my phone was dead all weekend), letting us know she was already on the VIP bleachers waiting for The Strokes. We had yet to see a show from the bleachers so was excited to experience it and we both like the band. We headed over… and the bleachers were full. The field was full. It wasn’t Mumford & Sons in being full, but it was still pretty ridiculous and we knew we wouldn’t be able to see a darn thing or hear very well so we went back to see Robert Plant.

Hanging out at Robert Plant… by this time we’re dirty filthy happy hippies and we don’t care!

And I lost another pocket of time.  All I recall is at some point being back at camp, hanging with our neighbors and Sarah, grabbing a shirt for the evening, and removing my boot’s insoles.  My feet weren’t killing me that weekend, but the center of each heel had a tender point and my toes felt smushed even though the boots are roomy.  I realized my crappy insoles kept shoving up to the front of the boot, leaving the lip right under the middle of my heel.  Pulled them out, added some Gold Bond and was a MUCH happier camper.

Me and my boots at Widespread Panic

I do know we saw Widespread Panic. I had yet to see WSP before – no one I knew loved them, I had heard some of their music, and I couldn’t understand why they were headliners so many times at Bonnaroo. Well after seeing them, I now do. Holy light show, Batman! I was wondering if the lights were affecting flight traffic, there were crazy white lasers shooting all over the sky, really intense colors, and the sound was phenomenal. WSP isn’t a radio band, but like most great jam bands they totally bring it when performing live.

Sunday evening outfit: Same, but added chambray shirt from Target
We stayed at Widespread Panic for an hour or two, and then headed back to camp. Our neighbors were packing up to head home – they only live in Nashville so they had a short drive and there wasn’t any point in staying the night. We were glad to be able to see them off. We could see the light show and clearly hear the music from our campsite, some of our neighbors got on top of their vehicles to have a better view.

The view from our campsite

After they left, my husband and I pulled our camp chairs out to their space and drank beers and watched the show; a very chill way to end our Bonnaroo experience.

I never ended up telling the story of our famous camping neighbor. So all weekend we knew it was this guy and five gals – one was his wife, and one seemed to be someone’s step-mom Amy. The rest were friends. My husband made a joke to him that they two were at Roo with their harem (we had three women and one man in our party) and this guy joked back that they would have to run off and talk football or something manly. We got to know them, chatted, shared snacks. I kept looking at “Step-mom Amy” and felt she looked familiar but couldn’t place it. We were then talking about getting electrocuted; the guy in the group said he had a relative who had been electrocuted several times. Amy mentioned how she had a herd of a rare breed of cows in her pasture during one thunderstorm. They went under a tree to be shielded and there was a puddle under the tree they stood in. The tree was hit by lightening, the lightening traveled through the puddle and killed all the cows. Hrm, lives in Nashville, has expensive cows, looks familiar, her name is Amy… I think at the same exact time my husband also figured out who she was because he joked back, “Man what a story. Amy, you should write a song about that.” She perked up realizing we knew who she was, we all laughed and went back to storytelling.

The next day wasn’t too exciting – we woke up, packed up, headed out. Stopped at Cracker Barrel (a tradition) and drove straight home and was back to our house before 10pm. All in all, an amazing experience.

How I looked by the end of Widespread Panic – Dirty, tanned, sloppy but extremely happy

If you think you’re too old, too fat, too weak, too uncool for Bonnaroo – you’re not. Yes, GA camping is a beast and can wear you out fast, but if you plan well it can be great. And if you can afford it, VIP can make it even better. Access Camping is still GA, but right near an entrance to Centeroo and available for those with disabilities. Family Camping is also close to Centeroo, and geared towards being quiet for families. Both special campings I have heard provide a bit more space for your tent setup too. RVs can be rented on-site (though I have heard they aren’t that well maintained and are pricey); you can plan well and drive to Tennessee and rent an RV there or take one from home to have creature comforts like your own bathroom, a real mattress and air conditioning. Some folks buy day passes and stay in a nearby hotel – we met two guys who did this and loved this feature because they had shuttle service to Centeroo and got good sleep and hot showers every night.

The beauty of Bonnaroo is the crowd is so large you can’t help but find a kindred spirit. There are others there who deal with the same demons, have the same issues, love the same music, have the same passions.

Bonnaroo is also not the only music festival on this planet. We go to Bonnaroo because it’s not terribly far from home, always has a lineup we like, and it was the first one of its kind I had heard of. We are considering All Good in the future because it’s even closer to home, not as hot, and a smaller crowd. There are some pretty phenomenal festivals on the West Coast that I would love to attend, and many different types for all genres of music all over this country this summer.

Never let your body hold you back from doing what you want to do. Festivals are usually set up to make them accessible to all, to ensure everyone is safe and having fun. And that is what you deserve. If you love music, you may love a music festival. This year I felt Bonnaroo was like a second honeymoon for us – I came home more relaxed than when I left, and felt closer to my husband. We shared a common interest, dealt with frustrations, overcame challenges, battled Mother Nature and were stronger because of it.

If you want any more information about Bonnaroo, do not hesitate to contact me. I will be doing a post specifically on VIP, but it may not be for a while. Gotta get back to the fashion!

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Bonnaroo 2011 – Saturday

I love Saturdays at Bonnaroo. Everyone has gotten their sea legs and feels comfortable on the Farm. Everyone is slightly disheveled, dusty, sweaty and they don’t care anymore. People are more willing to dance alone in a field, chat up a stranger, share with their neighbors. I think the artists feel this because the performances on Saturday are usually more intense and fun as well.

Saturday Morning Outfit: Black knit roll-waist skirt worn as strapless top, cropped lightweight camo pants, black Reef flip flops, aviator sunglasses, beige small cotton crossbody bag from Target.
Just for you – an incredibly glamorous and flattering shot of me dozing in the VIP lounge area

Now I would have loved to see Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears again – they were a blast at Black Cat a couple months ago and I know they would be a blast at Bonnaroo. However their set was at 12:30pm which in Bonnaroo Time is like 8am. We instead headed to the VIP lounge area in the campgrounds to check it out and chill. They have these big sailcloth awnings and Adirondack chairs underneath where you can relax, and we let our phones charge in the air-conditioned tent.  While there, we saw a “Lost” ad where a woman was looking for her two green glass necklaces… the ones we had been wearing since the previous morning.  We called the number on the sign and she was actually only a few feet from us.  Come to find out they are African prayer necklaces that she got on a trip and was very grateful for their return.  We missed the necklaces but were happy to give them back to their rightful owner!

We then headed to Centeroo and… well again I lost a pocket of time. I can’t really recall why we went to Centeroo that early and what to see. I do know around 3:00pm we were in the VIP tent near the Which Stage, which had A/C blasting, air conditioned toilets, fresh fruit, and a TV where you could see the performance on the Which Stage, and Old Crow Medicine Show was on. I do know I changed my clothes because I didn’t expect to be in Centeroo and wasn’t dressed for the heat.

Saturday Afternoon Outfit: White floral sleeveless cotton dress from H&M with empire waist, DUO “Bern” boots, cowboy hat, aviator sunglasses
They do say you start looking like your partner over time… matching hats, matching shades, matching hydration packs…

We walked over to What Stage, and I can recall walking across that field during Black Uhuru’s set thinking, “This is pretty awesome.” The weather was fantastic, the beats from the stage made for perfect walking music. It was a great Bonnaroo experience… and then Black Uhuru decided to kiss the ass of the crowd he was stereotyping. Next thing I know he’s doing a reggae version of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” which was corny yet acceptable at that time of day and on that stage. Black Uhuru then decided to up the stereotyping of his crowd and started singing about smoking weed every day, and asking the crowd to chant various phrases about marijuana.


Fail.

Come on man, you are talented enough to be scheduled to the biggest stage at Bonnaroo on Saturday afternoon, do you really need to get all cheesy and play to the lowest common denominator? Our plan was to hang out there and enjoy the tunes but I just couldn’t support such a craptastic performance.

Overwhelmed by all the beer selections…

A happy camper with his final choices

And so I lost another pocket of time.  I do know at this time we did stop by the Brooer’s Tent; one of my husband’s favorite parts of Bonnaroo.  It’s a tent where there are a good dozen or more beer vendors set up.  You purchase tickets which you can use for a small tasting of the beers, or to purchase an actual cup of brew.  It’s a popular place to get some shade; I can recall taking a nap in there a previous year.  The ground is sand so it’s not too glamorous, but it gets you out of the sun.

The requisite Bonnaroo fountain shot, courtesy of my sister

We went to see Devotchka because many friends begged me to see them and a guy at the VIP lounge area told us we MUST see the show. We arrived, slipped under the tent, saw the show… and were semi-underwhelmed. It was a good show, it just wasn’t mind-blowing or life-changing. I think it may have been better later in the day. We then headed over to This Tent to see Man Man, a show that both my husband and I were looking forward to. The vibe was far better and we had a really good time dancing and enjoying the energy of the crowd.

So it’s a map from 2009… you get the picture…

We thought we would then catch the rest of Mumford & Sons… we were not expecting such a crowd. Mumford & Sons should have been scheduled to be on the What Stage (the big stage) but instead were on the Which Stage (a smaller stage that doesn’t have as much room for crowds). The crowd was INSANE. It reminded me of Bonnaroo ’10 at that stage for the Flaming Lips’ performance of Dark Side of the Moon where the crowds were pressed against the Troo Music Lounge and the Brooers tent (see map above) . There were folks climbing on ATM machines and porta-potties to try to get a view of the stage and at the same time the porta-potty trucks are arriving to clean them out, honking and forcing the crowd the move. It was a total cluster and it took us forever just to wade through the packed crowd just to get to the What Stage. My sister said she saw my husband and I weaving through the throng of people but figured there was no point in calling out to say hi because there was no way we could stop, we’d be blocking someone’s view or stepping on a person to do so.

So no Mumford & Sons for us, though they sounded great as we passed by…

 The crowd at Wiz Khalifa

We decided to head to the VIP hill and check out Wiz Khalifa. We waded through the crod, and then waded through the river that had appeared in a gully between the two stages (they put down wooden pallets but it was still a mess) and came across a pretty empty field at What Stage, and what sounded like a pretty good show. I’ll be honest, I had no clue who Wiz Khalifa was until he started performing “Black and Yellow” but I thought it was a chill and entertaining afternoon set. We sat on the Hill sipping beers, eating our late lunch, relaxing and it was good. I have read online that many people didn’t like Khalifa’s set; maybe I did because I had a couple too many beers?

Me & the hubby waiting for the Black Keys

By time Wiz Khalifa was finished the crowd was really filling up for The Black Keys, who were on in an hour. We decided to stay put since we had a spot right at the tip of the first mound of the Hill. We snagged two seats for Sarah and my sister who soon joined us.

Do you know who this is?

Crowd watching before The Black Keys was awesome because they were a very popular band at the big stage, and a very heavily populated show.  And as mentioned at the top of this post, Saturdays are fun because everyone is so comfortable, relaxed, dirty, and not caring.  While People Watching, I saw this teeny tiny blonde and her posse of hipsters slouch into the crowd, drop a blanket and take a seat.  Everyone who was walking by would stop, stare, a couple stopped to say hello.  One guy who seemed pretty messed up decided to sit down with the group (you can see him in the pic above under the arrow) who was obviously not with them.  After a few minutes another guy (part of the group) gently escorted him away.  At the time I thought it was an Olsen (she was wearing a white or ivory peasant-style dress), but I never saw her face and was very far away.  Any takers on who this chick is?

 The crowd for Black Keys

The Black Keys

The Black Keys ROCKED! But really, would you expect otherwise? Amazing how two guys, two instruments can completely fill a ginormous stage and even more ginormous crowd of folks. An awesome show, I felt honored to be there and experience it.

Being on the Hill we had a better view of the crowd and saw there was no way in heck we would be able to get to Buffalo Springfield at the Which Stage in time to get a decent seat. I feared it would be just like Mumford & Sons so decided to stay put to see Eminem. From what I heard, that was a good decision because the audio at Buffalo Springfield was low and it was hard to see if you weren’t up close and center. So we stayed put.

Between The Black Keys and Eminem a storm started brewing. You could feel the change in the air, the wind picked up and there was crazy lightening all over the sky. We kept trying to decide – should we run back to camp and get our ponchos or stay? We decided to stay, fearing we would end up missing the beginning of Eminem’s set. The storm ended up passing, only a couple drops fell so it was a wise decision.

Eminem

Again, my opinion seems to differ from many reviews I have read… I loved Eminem. I thought the performance was really intense and crisp. Many say he was lip-synching but he was actually rapping over a track, which was set so low it wasn’t expected to replace his voice. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t even tell this was taking place, I just know I found the performance powerful.

However the 5-Hour Energy was NOT cutting it. It may have been because I had to take a Benadryl because my seasonal allergies were so bad I could hardly breathe or see. The dust was insane at Bonnaroo this year – even with a bandanna over my face when walking around in Centeroo I was still having a really rough go at it and it was wearing me down and attacking my immune system. Even though I was loving Eminem I could hardly keep my eyes open.

After Eminem we headed back to camp and I tried really hard to revive myself. I could hear the Scissor Sisters performance clearly from our campsite and it sounded like the best party. I also wanted to see Gogol Bordello – I have seen them perform a couple times before but never for Late Night. And then I knew Girl Talk would be a great show just for the People Watching alone. However yet again I disappointed myself and crashed before Late Night. I know… lame…

For more about my Bonnaroo 2011 experience visit:
Next post – Sunday!

Big thanks to my sister for many of these photos… you can hear about her Bonnaroo adventures at her Bonnaroo blog, Debbieroo!

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Bonnaroo 2011 – Friday

I was really glad I brought Benadryl and Claritin to Bonnaroo as that the grasses were really aggravating me. I woke up middle of the night unable to breathe, and with earplugs in it’s a pretty freaky experience. However two Benadryls got me breathing and back to bed in less than 30 minutes.

I headed to the bathrooms and really got to understand the beauty which is VIP. The bathroom trailers weren’t very close to our camp, but there was never a line, the trailers were freezing cold, always super clean and stocked with toilet paper. They also had sinks which is such a pleasure when you’re covered with sunscreen, dust, and grime. I also could take a shower which wasn’t hot, but I could take my time and really scrub, shave, and even condition my hair.

Friday morning outfit: Green print spaghetti strap maxi dress (from Ross), cowboy hat, black Reef flops, silver hoops, same wrist of bracelets
Living scarecrows – me and my husband on the way to the Inforoo brunch. 

Me and my sister

My husband carrying his portable cooler – a grocery bag full of ice to keep the champagne and OJ cold.

We started the day by heading to the Inforoo message board’s annual brunch. We got a bit of a late start (my husband and I forgot it was Friday and went to get breakfast from a vendor, checked out the VIP lounge, etc.) and showed up after what seemed like half of the people left. However we saw some folks we knew and I got to meet reader Megan! We brought mimosas for the brunch – a carton of OJ picked up at Walmart on Wednesday and our contraband champagne.

On our way back, my husband and I found two glass bead necklaces hidden in the grass. Ground score! We each put one on, planning to wear for the rest of Bonnaroo.

We then decided to explore and find out all the perks of VIP (which I will get into in another post). En route, we got a bit lost and ended up walking almost the entire perimeter of VIP camping. Instead of getting to Centeroo like planned, we just got worn out and stopped by camp again to recharge. We then went the entrance we knew into Centeroo.

The plan was for us to all go see Bela Fleck but by time we got to that stage we just weren’t feeling his music. So we headed to the What Stage (the biggest stage at Bonnaroo where all the headliners perform) to check out the VIP offerings over there. VIP has a fenced in area right to the left of the What Stage – there’s a hill where you can pull up a chair and see the show, a tent where beer and beverages are sold (and you can get some shade), and a set of air-conditioned bathroom trailers. There is also a gate there that goes right to VIP (we were confused and lost earlier because that gate had yet to open). This became a favorite spot for all of us and we usually had a front row seat on The Hill for all the shows at this stage.

Me & my husband trying to keep cool while waiting for Grace Potter

Our view from the VIP Hill

The view from behind our chairs – that tent is where there is shade & beer sales for VIP; past that is a slope with bathroom trailers at the bottom.  There is also the exit back to VIP camping.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

The first show we saw on Friday in its entirety was Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and we saw it from the VIP Hill. I have seen Grace perform several times before, the last time just a few months ago at the 9:30 Club. I have been a fan of hers before she became popular and a VH1 Diva, but the last time I saw her I left underwhelmed. She wasn’t even on my “must see” list for Bonnaroo. However, she totally redeemed herself as that Grace and her band totally kicked ass and gave us all a great show.

I would love to tell you what I did after Grace Potter, but for the life of me I cannot recall. I remember hearing some of The Decemberists and contemplating going to see Matt and Kim, but the next show I recall is My Morning Jacket which was 3.5 hours after Grace. I know at some point I changed my clothes… it may have been at this time. Ah Bonnaroo… I always end up with lost pockets of time while on the Farm!

EDIT: After publishing I remembered that during that time I went to see Florence + The Machine!  HOW COULD I FORGET?!?!   She is phenomenal but unfortunately because we were arriving late, we didn’t get great seats and couldn’t see the stage.

Friday evening outfit: Brown floral Old Navy sundress (sleeveless, empire waist, cotton, worn it to all 4 Roos), DUO “Bern” boots, same jewelry, green glass bead necklace
Me & my husband at MMJ in our matching necklaces. We’re starting to look a bit more dirty and sunwashed from the weekend…

For My Morning Jacket, we again chose to view from the hill at VIP. We got there early and scored seats right on the lip of the last tier of the hill for a view over all the crowds in the field, but as close as possible. I know many people prefer to be in the throng for shows and I do enjoy that, but with my height and my sister’s bad foot we found that for many shows, we preferred the Hill.

My Morning Jacket is probably my favorite band and they didn’t disappoint. At the beginning of their set, the audio was off a bit but they plugged through and gave a great experience to all in attendance.

We stayed where we were so we had a primo location for Arcade Fire. I know many obsessively adore Arcade Fire, I have never been one. I “get” them more after listening to The Suburbs in its entirety, and many people have told me that I MUST see them live to really understand them. So I made a decision to have them on my “must see” list, which wasn’t hard since they were playing unopposed at Bonnaroo.

I am glad we stayed put because we got to experience one of the coolest ad campaigns ever. Suddenly in the sky it looks as though there are a million twinkling blue lights, shot out in a stream. And then another stream. The twinkling blue stars start falling towards the earth, to us. Everyone is getting excited, reaching out to catch these falling stars. They were blinking blue LED lights attached to a piece of paper with a QR code. This video really shows what it was like:

Back to Arcade Fire. I liked them. I wasn’t overwhelmed and I didn’t fall in love, but they do sound amazing live and put on a great show. My husband on the other hand was not impressed and finds them “creepy.” So we left a bit before the end to head to camp to charge up for late night.

For those who have not been to Bonnaroo or another music festival, late night is where all the action is. Rules are broken and artists will perform past their schedule, other artists will join and jam with them, light shows are intense and the crowd is psyched. Glowstick wars in crowds, folks dressed up in crazy costumes and if you think the people watching is great by sunlight, it’s even more amazing when the sun goes down. Many people go to Bonnaroo and never head to Centeroo until 5pm to ensure they have enough energy to dance until dawn. In the past I have only been able to survive one and a half late nights; call me old but this body shuts down pretty early, no matter how many naps and 5-hour Energies I have.

My goal was to see part of the Black Angels, a bit of Lil Wayne so I can say I saw him, or Bassnectar, and then maybe head to Pretty Lights. Instead I got to camp and my allergies were killing me, my feet hurt, I was sweaty and grody. I took a shower hoping it would revive me but the hot water instead got me feeling all cozy. Came back to camp, had a beer, and almost fell asleep in my camp chair. Yeah, I’m a real wild child.

For more info on Bonnaroo 2011, check out:
Next Bonnaroo Post – Saturday!

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Bonnaroo 2011 – What I Packed

I am breaking my Bonnaroo 2011 review into a few posts. I know this topic isn’t interesting to all; won’t be offended if you scroll right through. Do know I will soon return to regularly scheduled fashion posts!


Bonnaroo 2011 – the 10th anniversary of this music and arts festival, our fourth time attending, and our first time going as VIP. This year there were four in our party – me, my husband, my sister, and our friend Sarah (Emerson stayed with Grandma).

For those who do not know about Bonnaroo, it is a four-day festival taking place in Manchester, Tennessee in June (I will sometimes call it The Farm as that is is on an old farm that was recently purchased just for Bonnaroo).  There are two stages, three large tents and several smaller stages where musicians perform pretty much from 11am until 4am (or later!).  On top of that, there are artists, dancers, vendors, food, and the best people watching on the planet.   Oh, and a water slide and Ferris wheel!  Bonnaroo is hot – there aren’t any trees and very little shade; when it’s really dry it can get really dusty and hard to breathe and when it rains it can easily flood your campsite or parts of the festival grounds (known as Centeroo).

Image of Bonnaroo 2010 courtesy of the blog Hurple Hoopla

Over 80,000 people attend Bonnaroo each year and most camp.  There are several types of camping programs available – General Admission, Family Camping, Access Camping (for those with disabilities and needs for close access), VIP (what we chose this year – details in a future post), RV and VIP RV camping, All Access (which is where you get to live the life of a celebrity in a tour bus with major access and perks), and even some folks choose to spend their evenings in a hotel and take a shuttle to Centeroo each day.

Centeroo is a fenced-in area at Bonnaroo where all the events take place. You can see from the image above how massive Bonnaroo is.

Image of the What Stage courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times

There is a real mix of musicians who perform at Bonnaroo – rock, jazz, soul, blues, gospel, hip-hop, bluegrass, country and everything in between.  Because of this there is an amazing mix of people – attendees come from all over the globe, some who are attending for the first time and some who have been to all 10 Roos.  All who love music.  Attendees come in all ages too – this year seemed to have more college-aged folks than usual and the majority of the crowd is under 30, but it’s not shocking to see folks in their ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s rocking out at a show right next to you.  Many people also bring their children as that Bonnaroo has a program set up just for the little tykes.

After being on The Farm three times before, through dust storms and record-breaking heat, and rain I felt pretty knowledgeable about what I should pack to be prepared, comfortable, yet still adhering to my personal style. However, I found that going VIP meant I overpacked. There was far less need for things to keep me cool, hydrated, and protected. I am going to share all that I packed, and then write about what I used and didn’t.


What I Wish I Brought:

  • Gummi fruit snacks. I had these previous years and loved them for a quick sweet treat. You can tuck a packet in your bag for a Centeroo snack.
  • String cheese. We had too many dry crunchy snacks and string cheese was always something I enjoyed at previous Roos.
  • Better shampoo and conditioner. Man, the stupid combo stuff made my hair a tangled, dry, frizzy mess. Was very grateful for the Garnier Fructis samples at the showers.
  • A proper shower caddy. This year we had shower trailers and the bucket got all full of water.
  • A big floppy hat. I was constantly feeling as though the tops of my ears were burning; a bigger hat would have been chic as well as offer better protection.
  • TOMs or flat espadrilles. My boots ended up not being too comfy (learn more later), the flip flops were downright dangerous in Centeroo, and I just couldn’t break down and wear the Crocs. I saw many people in canvas shoes that looked quite happy. My husband and sister both wore Sanuks and liked them at Bonnaroo.
  • Cute tops to wear with my cutoffs. When we were camping in GA, regular shorts would have been ridiculous – they would be too hot, too constricting, would ride up and be awful. However being VIP I didn’t have to walk as much and had respite from the heat. It would have been nice to be able to switch to a breezy cotton camisole with cutoffs for later in the day.
  • My camera battery charger. My camera battery was near-dead once I arrived so I only took a handful of photos.
  • A better phone. My Droid sucks and wouldn’t keep a charge for more than an hour, even though I didn’t have on WiFi and didn’t use it for anything but to check the time
  • A watch. Something small and waterproof. I heard Walmart has little ones in the toy section for a couple bucks that are of gummy rubber. That would have been perfect.
  • A grill. I found grills to be a PITA in GA, but in VIP it would have been nice to cook up breakfast each morning. In GA you can find a vendor that for $5 will give you an overflowing plate of eggs, potatoes, and onions. In VIP for $10 you get a pretty meager breakfast and have to walk a mile to find one of the GA vendors.
  • A bigger table. We had more space in VIP and it would have been nice to have a table we could use as a dining table, or to organize/store our foodstuffs nicely.
  • More jewelry. I went down wearing a beaded necklace from Forever 21 that stained my necklace and shirt, and a pair of silver hoops. I have a necklace I usually wear to Bonnaroo but it broke just before we got in the car to leave. My other necklace I was going to bring broke two days before we left.

My sister‘s Bonnaroo 2011 shoe collection – Crocs, wellies, and Sanuks

What I Didn’t Need:

  • The Crocs.
  • The jeans. It never seemed to get cold enough where I felt I needed to bundle up. A shirt or hoodie and my boots was plenty.
  • The Uhydration tablets. We never got that overheated where we needed to replenish like that
  • The hose. With VIP, you have 24 access to real showers, no need to DIY at a water station.
  • The watermelon. We forgot about it.
  • A case of beer. I hardly drank so we ended up taking home almost an entire case.
  • The solar radio/iPod and speakers. We were so close to the main stage at camp, we never touched these things.
  • My henley. I wore the chambray shirt one night, the hoodie another, every other night was pretty warm while I was out.
  • The Clorox wipes. I only used the porta-potties once while on the Farm so I didn’t need to sanitize. Along with that, no need for toilet paper or carrying personal wipes all day; and no need for the Pstyle. I only used the personal wipes for quick cleaning between showers.
  • The bathing suit.  But then I always bring a bathing quite everywhere because you never know when you will need it and they don’t take up much space!
  • My husband’s energy bars.  I don’t think he ate any of them.

Packing: GA versus VIP
Do know, my regular list would have probably been pretty awesome if we were in GA again. Over the three years and my time on the Inforoo message board I really learned the best things to bring, and what was pointless. I learned that comfort trumped fashion, that even SPF 30 will give you a dark tan by the end of the festival, that porta-potties aren’t that bad if you are prepared.

 Image courtesy of The Tennessean

Fashion

My standard uniform for the past three Bonnaroos was a 100% cotton sundress that floated away from the body, a pair of cotton underwear and a cotton bra, moisture-wicking bike shorts that keep me cool and also offer modesty in wind and when sitting on the ground, a straw hat, sunglasses and either my Crocs or DUO boots (the boots with cotton socks). It wasn’t glamorous, I wouldn’t be featured on any street style fashion blog, but it got the job done and I didn’t have to THINK about my clothing all day long. Come evening, I would change either into a maxi dress or just slip jeans under my dress. I liked loose jeans since I would be dusty and sometimes sunburned – far more comfy than tight denim!

Me on Friday at Bonnaroo this year

However, with VIP you have creature comforts. Three different locations for air-conditioned toilet trailers. The ability to wash your hands or take a shower twice a day. Fresh fruit at your disposal and cool, dark tents where you can rest up and recharge. Shorter walks to Centeroo (and two close entrances that drop you off in two different parts of Centeroo). It’s easy to stay clean, be comfortable, and look cute. All the people I saw in adorable vintage dresses, lacy peasant tops and vintage cutoffs either had on the VIP wristband or a press/all access badge and lanyard. If we do VIP again I feel I can be more creative with my wardrobe.

 Image courtesy of Dane101.com

Food

Also realize we have chosen over time to bring less food and purchase more in Centeroo. It may not seem cost-effective, but each year we saw how much food we brought home (even this year we brought home half the oranges, the watermelon, the bread and PB&J – only made one sandwich, and a third of the snacks were never cracked open). It’s hard to plan on being back at camp when camp is so far away; it’s easier and ends up being more frugal in the long run to only bring snacks and maybe breakfast food and purchase everything else at Bonnaroo. Vendors in GA have cheap food; in and near Centeroo you can get cheap arepas, pizza slices, and grilled cheese sandwiches. On top of that, there is some pretty spectacular food. I ate alligator, field green salads with candied walnuts, “black lemonade” which was lemonade mixed with a slush of crushed fresh in-season berries, and fabulous DIY pitas with fresh veggies, tzatziki sauce and grilled chicken.  This year they even had a section for fancy food trucks!

My sister’s freezer full of water pre-Bonnaroo

You will see we packed frozen water – when the water is frozen it acts like ice for your food. It melts throughout the time there so you always have icy cold water to drink! We have also learned that if you bring two coolers, you can once a day open the big one to fill the small one, and it will keep things cold/frozen longer in the big cooler (the less often you open a cooler, the longer it will stay cold). We didn’t do that this year and had to purchase ice twice while at Bonnaroo.

It is important to drink lots of water, but it’s also important to replenish salt in your body when you are sweating a lot. Salty foods like pistachios, and hydration products like Gatorade and Uhydration tablets help greatly and taste good.

I can’t stay up for four days straight like I could a decade ago so I use 5 Hour Energy to survive at least part of each late night at Bonnaroo. My husband guzzled FRS drinks a couple times a day to stay energized. I take the 5 Hour Energy 5-7 hours before I plan to crash because I can feel them wearing off and I end up almost dead by time they have run through my system. Some people have reactions to 5 Hour Energy; I recommend you try them out more than once before you go to Bonnaroo to ensure they work and don’t work against your body.

Drink

It’s hot. Seriously hot. Crazy hot. Heat and drinking do not mix, both will dehydrate you, and if you drink a lot you will be less likely to realize you are dehydrated. People die at Bonnaroo due to hyperthermia and heat-related issues – even well-experienced festival goers. If you’re thirsty, drink water. Keep the drinking of alcohol until after the sun starts to go down.

Drugs

There are drugs at music festivals. I have heard Bonnaroo isn’t as bad as many others in regard to this but do know this takes place. No one will look twice at you for abstaining. But realize people will stop by your camp asking you if you need any, people will be using them right next to you at a show, and especially once the sun goes down you will see the effects of people using all sorts of drugs.

On the trip down, cops will search cars looking for drugs. When you hit the farm, security may search your car and the search may be basic, or they may tear your car inside out. Cops on horses patrol the campgrounds looking for drug dealers. I don’t care whether you partake or not, I just want you to be fully aware before you go.

 Picture of some of the stuff my sister packed for herself this year – she too likes L.L. Bean!

Packing: What We Used

L.L. Bean Boat and Totes are my favorite for packing. They hold a ton, they have a sturdy bottom so they don’t tip over, but are flexible enough to smush around a cooler so you can close the hatchback. I have almost a dozen (and just got another one from Lands End the day we returned from Bonnaroo!). My pet Boat and Tote is the XL zip-top with extra-long straps. It’s berry with teal trim and it’s big enough to hold all my Bonnaroo clothes, beauty products, and even shoes. We used another for mine and communal beauty/personal supplies, another for camping equipment. We used a Whole Foods reusable bag for snacks, one of those mega IKEA blue totes for camping equipment, and my husband used a big duffle from his Navy days for his clothes and necessities. My husband also shoved our pillows and bedding into a waterproof bag which worked a bit like a SpaceBag by shrinking it all to the size of three basketballs.

Packing: Getting There
The two of us go in my husband’s Subaru. We drop the back seat, and use a Thule storage bag on the roof. I know four people can fit in a Honda Civic with all their equipment, but we liked that we had complete open space up front, the ability to see out the back window, and could access any of our luggage while on the road. On the way home, we were able to shove everything in the actual car and not use the rooftop carrier.

We have learned to wash the car before we go. We don’t advertise that we’re going to Bonnaroo because that’s just begging for a cop to pull you over and be tempted to search your vehicle. When driving into the farm, we dress conservatively – my husband wears a polo, I wear shorts and a regular top. The cops are drooling for cars to pull over kids and we don’t want to be seen as a kid. We have also found this speeds up our entry to Bonnaroo because we look like tame, respectable adults.

We stay overnight in a hotel on Wednesday so we’re well rested for our first day at Bonnaroo. I have learned to pack a single bag to take into the hotel with our toiletries and change of clothes. This way I don’t have to rifle through the entire car for our toothbrushes. We also use our Wednesday night to hit a Walmart for refrigerated items like beer (also a great chance to pick up things forgotten like allergy meds!).

On Thursday, we have the tickets in the glove compartment, the GPS ready to go, and a couple icy bottles of water ready for the cops directing traffic into Bonnaroo. The local police in Coffee County Tennessee work really hard to keep the lines moving quickly and smoothly and it’s not an easy job. When you slowly inch by them, thank them for their service and offer them a sealed bottle of cold water. It’s the right thing to do. This is another reason why we don’t overstuff our car – so we can reach the cooler!

Packing: What Not to Bring

  • Don’t bring things like flat irons and hair dryers. Seriously ladies, it’s okay to spend one long weekend with frizzy hair tucked under a hat or scarf.
  • No drugs, no glass, no weapons. Yes, we have broken the glass and weapon rule, but do as I say, not as I do okay?
  • Nice stuff. Leave your It Bag, your favorite dress, your designer jeans at home. I personally think you should also leave home computers and other electronics but if you do feel you need to bring them, be sure to lock them in your car out of sight.

Packing: What Not to Forget

  • Your tickets/wristbands!
  • A second set of car keys. One pair should be on your person at all times, the other pair should be somewhere safe (on your friend’s person, in your friend’s car, etc.). It would suck to have to pay a locksmith to get back in your car.
  • Car battery charging cables. Again, it would suck to require assistance while at Bonnaroo.
  • Sunscreen. I don’t care if you think you never burn, if you want to get a tan, if you think you have a base tan. It’s darn hot and there is NO SHADE. I wore SPF 30 on my body and 55 on my face the entire time, reapplied almost hourly and still came home with a dark tan. A sunburn would ruin your experience mighty quickly.
  • Immodium AD. I know, gross topic but again this could ruin your experience pretty quickly. Change in water, change in environment, too much beer, too much sun, too much fried food, a sketchy snack from a vendor on Shakedown… be prepared. Along with this, some Motrin, Benadryl, and aloe vera are good things to also have on hand.
  • Something to hold water. Water is available for free in Bonnaroo but you need some way to carry it. Camelbaks aren’t chic but they make a heck of a lot of sense. You can drink while walking, you don’t have to carry anything, and you can wear it and dance your booty off at the same time. A little water bottle won’t cut it; my 32oz. bottle was hardly enough and I was in VIP. Again, comfort over fashion – dress to stay hydrated.

Next post will be about what I wore each day… additional posts will come regarding how the VIP experience was, and what I saw/did each day while at Bonnaroo.

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Bonnaroo 2011 – Getting There and Day 1 (Thursday)

This was our fourth Bonnaroo and going in, I planned it to be our last. Last year I just felt very fat, very old, very tired by Bonnaroo. I told my husband the only way I would go back is if I lost the baby weight and we went VIP. Well I lost the baby weight and we decided to splurge on VIP; my sister and our friend Sarah did as well!

Wednesday outfit: Navy/white striped tank from H&M, denim cutoffs from Old Navy, chambray shirt from Merona, black Reef flip flops.

Wednesday morning the four of us set off from my town in two cars. We got to Knoxville, Tennessee around 6pm. My sister had reserved us two hotel rooms ahead of time. Though Bonnaroo is about 12 hours away, each year we stay overnight so we’re well rested for our first day of the festival. Previously we have stayed in Bristol – the first year our friend’s relatives lived there so we had a free place to crash; since then we found it to be a great halfway point. This year my sister suggested driving a couple extra hours to Knoxville for a cheaper hotel and a shorter drive the next day.

It was a smart choice. We got ourselves settled in our rooms and then headed to the Walmart a couple miles away for provisions. At Walmart we’ll pick up the things that should remain cold and add them to our cooler in the car that has been housing a case and two gallon jugs of frozen water. After Walmart we headed to Outback Steak House which was near our hotel. We ended up with a brand spanking new waiter who was utterly adorable. I said he was a blonde Scotty McCreery because he was so polite, humble, sweet, going above and beyond the call of duty and constantly apologizing. My husband swore it was an act for big tips, but the three of us women were utterly smitten.

Thursday travel outfit: Black “Make Art Not War” tee, denim cutoffs from Old Navy, black Reef flip flops.

The next morning we all planned to meet in the lobby at 8am but we all woke earlier than that (guess that happens when you fall asleep around 9:30pm) and go ourselves some free hotel breakfast. Soon we were back on the road.

See that speck in the sky past the corn fields?  That’s one of the pod balloons for Bonnaroo campsites!  Almost there!

When you go GA there are two ways of getting into Bonnaroo; when you do VIP you only have one way of getting into the Farm, and it’s ONLY for VIP. They give you the directions with your wristbands and it’s on the back of the window placard you have for VIP camping. The traffic to get in was pretty bad because there were quite a few cars of folks who were not VIP trying to slip in and being forced to turn around.

View of our almost finished campsite – you can see how our car (black) ended up jutted out all weird due to the parking confusion.

Parking at our campsite was a bit confusing. With GA, they line you in, cars parked to one another and you camp behind your car. We pulled in and cars were parking vertically, horizontally, some were skipping spaces. We tried to follow suit with the cars in front of us and skip a space but the parking folks wouldn’t let us. However all the other cars had started parking so we ended up having to park vertically while the other cars were horizontal, which meant our tent was butted right up against our car, and we seemed to have less space than we ever did in GA.

Getting all MacGruber with photography equipment…

In GA, you park and rush to yank out your tents and such to claim your space. In VIP it’s far calmer. Folks are stopping to greet one another, grab a beer, head to the bathroom, stretch after their ride. A We set up our tent behind our car, my sister and Sarah had their own individual tents that were across from ours, and we put one EZ-Up shelter between our and Sarah’s tent, another behind our tent and in front of my sister’s. My husband then took a ginormous tarp, had it raise up for airflow thanks to a telescoping pole, and clamped it to each side so we had even shade and rain protection. A couple additional tarps and tapestries were hung up for sun shade. To make an awning over Sarah, we stretched a tarp over her tent using my husband’s photography equipment. He has two telescoping poles that support a metal bar that holds a roll of background paper (think high school yearbook photo backgrounds). We left the paper at home, but found the poles and bar made a great support for the tarp. Clamped it to the ground with a couple tent stakes.

To the left is my sister’s tent, to the right is our neighbor’s tent; this was one of our two entrances to our campsite. You can see how we connected our tarps for a mega campsite.
Taking a break after camp setup – we eventually moved our “living room” to the space past our tent closer to our neighbors; we also ended up taping down the cardboard to make a very lovely “rug” for our campsite.

We saw that our neighbors had a bit of a gap in their camp, which could end up shining very intense Tennessee sun on them each morning. My husband offered them some zip ties and to connect our giant tarp to their structure. They agreed and we were all happy to create a giant communal campsite. They seemed like really nice people – it was a guy, his wife, and four other women who seemed to be friends. One seemed a bit older than the rest, and one of the gals informed me that she was “The step-mom Amy” (more on our neighbors later).

Thursday evening outfit: Black floral sleeveless empire waist dress from H&M, turquoise bandanna as headband, black Reef flip flops, silver Ray-Ban aviators, silver hoops, wrist of thread bracelets and my silver cuff.

Forgot my camera charger so only took a couple pics each day – this is my husband and I Thursday at Karen Elson – look how CLEAN we are!

Once set up, we headed to Centeroo to check out the action. We heard most of Karen Elson’s set (we were in the field to the left of the stage so we didn’t see much though we were able to catch a glance of Jack White backstage), and stayed for a bit of Best Coast but wasn’t too impressed so we headed back to VIP.

On Thursday night, a party takes place for VIP. There is all you can drink beer, a food buffet, and a private concert (this year by the New Orleans All Stars). We headed to the party, got some free beer and a plate of what was like wedding food (chicken in a sauce and a tofu variation, veggies, starches, rolls, salad, brownies). We didn’t stay for the VIP concert because my husband and I really wanted to see Band of Skulls.

My poor sister dropped an EZ-up on her foot when setting up camp so she was a bit handicapped the whole weekend. She went with us to Band of Skulls, though sat on a blanket outside the tent while my husband and I went in. As usual, I couldn’t see crap but loved the energy of being so close. My husband being 6’5” could see the whole stage and would report to me as to what was going on. The band sounded amazing, the crowd was pumped (lots of crowd surfing) and it was an excellent start to the festival!

After Band of Skulls, we never saw another entire show on Thursday night. We caught a slip of this here and there, but were pretty fried from the drive and camp setup so we headed back to the tent to rest up for Friday.

Most pictures courtesy of my sister.
For more info on Bonnaroo 2011, check my first post: Bonnaroo 2011 – What I Packed
Next Bonnaroo Post – Friday at the Farm!

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My VERY LONG Review of Bonnaroo… and a Little News!

Bonnaroo – this would be our second year going. For those who don’t know what Bonnaroo is, it is a four-day music festival on a 700+ acre field in Manchester, Tennessee. As for the type of music, well that is extremely varied. Rock, electronica, bluegrass, blues, soul, hip hop, rap, indie, heavy metal, jam bands, and even famous comedians. Over 100 artists are at Bonnaroo but a few names you may know that were in attendance this year were Pearl Jam, Metallica, Kanye West, O.A.R., Death Cab for Cutie, Vampire Weekend, Cat Power, Lupe Fiasco, Jack Johnson, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, and Chris Rock.

Bonnaroo is 11 hours from my home in the Nations Capital – each year we drive down to Bristol, TN and stay overnight and then head out the next morning for the festival grounds. This gives us a last chance for a hot shower and a cool room to rest for when we do the Roo, we do it in General Camping. This means tents, no electricity, porta potties and the only water available is freezing well water from water stations (a fancy term for troughs with spigots in a trailer). Last year four of us went and with much research and help from message boards like Inforoo, we were prepared with a decent camp setup and all the necessities to survive the heat and long days of music and activity. This year our party grew to be seven folks with an even more awesome camp setup and plan of action to get the most out of the fest.

I was ready for the heat, the possible dust or rain, the long days, the lack of sleep, the need to stay hydrated, to stay up until sunrise to catch the best shows, the ability to be comfy without a hot shower or a shave for almost a week. I just wasn’t prepared to go at it pregnant.

Yes pregnant. I am three months With Child. Knocked Up. Preggo. There’s a bun in my oven.

This was not an accident – my husband and I decided to start trying this past Christmas. However with his medical history (think Lance Armstrong) and my almost two decades on birth control, I didn’t think it would be so… swift. We were trying but not trying. Not charting, temping and “baby we better have sex NOW!” sort of stuff, but just not using protection and being a happy married couple. We thought it would be a couple more months… heck even a couple more years before we got pregnant. I joked with a few about how I could be pregnant at Bonnaroo but didn’t really think it would actually happen.

I was 11 weeks along – long enough to have the morning sickness subside, my need to pee not be every 15 minutes and me start to have a twinge of energy again. For that I am eternally thankful. If Bonnaroo were two weeks earlier, I may have spent the entire time crying or sleeping in the fetal position in my tent.

So with this information… here’s my review of Bonnaroo 2008!

As I mentioned, seven of us went together. It was me and my husband, his best friend and my sister (the four from the 2007 group) and then two close girl friends and one of these girls’ boyfriend. They were all Roo Newbies, but music fans who had been well prepped by us regarding what they would experience when once on the farm. We considered shoving into two cars to save on gas, but decided to take three so we would end up with a larger campsite (you park directly behind your car) and not want to strangle one another before we hit Virginia.


Traffic in DC was a beast on Wednesday morning; it took over an hour and a half to get from my house in the DC suburbs to my sister’s apartment in DC to Route 66. We ended up not getting on the highway until around 10:30 am. Two cars headed to my sister’s place, the other started their commute from near Baltimore at 10:30 and still caught up with us in time for lunch. We stopped at a little pizza joint in BFE, Virginia where I had an awesome mushroom calzone, refueled the cars and got back on the road. We arrived at the Bristol La Quinta around 5pm.

Our friend’s dad lives only about 20 minutes from Bristol so we met him and his wife for dinner at Chili’s. Did you know there is literally only ONE vegetarian entrée on the entire freaking Chili’s menu? WTF! I was so not in the mood for a black bean burger that evening so I got super Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally on our waiter and made a custom meal. I didn’t feel too bad when he then admitted he used to go to Bonnaroo too, but stopped “when all the crappy commercial MTV bands started taking over.” I hate jam band snobs – there were still TONS of original Roo artists there (Umphrey’s McGee, Widespread Panic, Disco Biscuits, Yonder Mountain String Band, Phil Lesh, etc.) so those snobs drive me batty.

After dinner, we hit the Wal-Mart for some necessities. Got some awesome battery-operated fans for $5 that were lifesavers at Bonnaroo, some Clorox wipes to prep the porta potty seats, eye drops for my allergy-prone and contacts-wearing eyes, and my husband got a water gun and a Frisbee. After, my friend and his girlfriend went to his parent’s house for the night and five of us went back to La Quinta. Four drank beer, one drank water and we all played Roo-themed Pictionary and wrote goofy raps (sounds lame but we were giggling for hours).

We headed out a bit later than expected the next day, but with some advice from our friend’s parents (construction in Knoxville, use Route 55 to get into the festival) we made great time and ended up in a very short line (less than an hour from highway to campsite) and funnily enough only about 100 yards from our camp location the previous year (Pod 6/Camp Dr. Rumack for those who went). Not a bad spot – like a 10 minute walk to Centeroo where all the events took place and less than a block from porta-potties and right near a main road so it was easy to find camp in the middle of the night.

Camp setup was pretty painless with seven people. Unfortunately it was near 5pm which is when I seem to get my Morning Sickness. I was really dragging, but trying to be helpful. Drank lots of very cold water, had some protein and plugged through. Soon we had our phat pad set up – two EZ up shelters, four tents (one for me and my husband, one for my friend and her man, one for our guy friend and one for the two gals), tarps over all to block from heat and pounding rain, a mini kitchen made from a grill and folding table, a bunch of tailgate chairs, Christmas lights around the shade shelters and even a shower/toilet tent!

We all cooled off with some beers (me with some Vitamin Water) and headed to Centeroo. One friend had a couple he knew who were also there and they suggested we start the evening with seeing Grand Ole Party. Never heard of this band before, but knew I would like them once I found out the lead singer was a woman AND the drummer! They totally rocked and put on a good show. After we took a quick walk through Centeroo to get our bearings and headed to see a few more shows (Grupo Fantasmo, Back Door Slam, The Sword). I would have LOVED to stay up to see Vampire Weekend and Dark Star Orchestra but the kumquat (that’s what size the books say the baby was at the time of Bonnaroo) wasn’t having it so back to camp I went. I was knocked out by midnight.

Day Two – Friday. Started the day with a makeshift shower at the Water Station. This entailed me tossing on a pair of cargo shorts holding a hair towel, bar of soap, shampoo and a razor. Got in line with all the other campers with my own spigot of well water and washed my hair, shaved my pits and washed what was accessible. This year I had no fear and stripped off my shirt to just a solid hot pink cotton Victoria’s Secret bra so I could really feel clean. For the rest of the body, I went back to the tent and made do with Tea Tree cleansing wipes from The Body Shop and some Target brand personal cleansing wipes. I must admit I did add some girliness to the day – brought my Matrix Curl.life Contouring Milk to add to my air-dried hair and Cover Girl LashBlast waterproof mascara (BTW like it just as much as the non-waterproof version). Packed the Camelbak with Life Water, regular water, granola bars and fruit for snacks after slathering on tons of SPF 30 and donning a sloppy straw hat.

We started the day by attending a brunch for members of the message board Inforoo. May sound dorky, but it was totally awesome to meet so many people I had corresponded with for the past two years. We didn’t stay long because only half our group were members of the board and felt a bit left out. We also wanted to catch some music! We began the day’s music with Steel Train which I liked okay but found it more to be background music to my conversations with friends and People Watching. We then caught the end of Drive By Truckers’ set, which was pretty fantastic. We then headed to the Which Stage (second largest stage) to see Umphrey’s McGee. My husband saw them at Caribbean Holidaze this past December and we have a good friend that is a pretty rabid fan of theirs, but I had yet to experience them live. While half our group went near the stage to see the band, I stayed with a few friends near the back of the crowd under a tree to get shade and to relax. Still loved them and had an awesome experience. We stayed put for Les Claypool, who was on next. Another great performance.

After Les, I had great expectations. I wanted to see Swell Season, Rilo Kiley, M.I.A., Willie Nelson and Chris Rock. However Kumquat was exhausted so I headed back to camp for a late afternoon nap. I ended up sleeping until 9pm. Most of our group had left to go see Metallica; my friend Shelly and I chilled out, changed clothes, repacked and headed later into Centeroo to get good seats for My Morning Jacket.

My Morning Jacket is the reason we even went to Bonnaroo in the first place. My husband wanted to get his best friend a DVD for his birthday that showcased an amazing guitarist he didn’t know too much about (his friend is a guitar player). After doing some Googling he decided to get My Morning Jacket’s Okonokos DVD. We watched it together and I was addicted. I started researching MMJ and found they were regular performers at Bonnaroo. Though they weren’t performing in 2007, it still sounded like a cool festival so we decided to go. So this year they were performing and it would be my first time seeing them live and I was very excited.

We got a good spot (to the left of the beer stand for anyone who attended) and chilled out listening to Metallica’s set (not sad that I missed it) over the trees and enjoying the cool temperatures. Then it started to rain. Just a bit of drizzle, not too terrible. After Metallica, my sister, husband and my friend’s boyfriend caught up with us and it really began to rain. No worries, we were all prepared with ponchos and trash bags!

MMJ didn’t disappoint. It was so good, the vibe of the crowd and being with my favorite people and yes, even the rain made such a magical moment that I teared up. Definitely the highlight of the weekend. However the rain started getting to be very strong and my friends wanted to head out to see the Superjam (rumors were flying that Ton Waits was going to show up) so I regretfully left MMJ and headed with them to a different stage. We stopped at a tent selling hot tea and coffee to warm ourselves up. The barista told me my herbal tea was very hot, but I didn’t realize HOW hot it was. It was so hot, the cup collapsed on itself and spilled all over my left hand. I burned myself so bad the skin today is all leathery and wrinkled on my ring and middle fingers and I can’t get my wedding set back on. That, plus the rain, leaving MMJ, being tired and pregnant… I started to cry. No romantic tearing up, big heaving sobs. Friends got me ice for my hand and we all agreed it was a gross wet and very late night (around 2am) so we headed back to camp.

I was till a bit sad about how the night ended, but as I snuggled in next to the love of my life I heard MMJ perform “One Big Holiday” as clear as day and I smiled and knew things happen for a reason.

The next day, it was still raining. We trudged through off and on showers to get ready that morning. I can’t recall whether I took a shower or not – think that day due to the rain and mud I just washed with wipes in my tent. I decided to wear my Duo boots since I waterproofed them prior to Bonnaroo. I had brought Crocs as my main footwear because they are perfect for such a festival, but didn’t want nasty Roo mud seeping in through the air holes. As with the previous day, clothing of choice was a lightweight cotton sundress (Saturday was Old Navy, Friday was Target).

We started the day with an acoustic set by The Two Gallants at the Sonic Stage. Not bad, but I was distracted and spent a lot of time taking pictures of the crowd. We walked by and caught a few songs by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and then headed to the What Stage (largest stage) to see Ozomatli. I knew NOTHING about this band, but heard great things from friends on message boards. I again was not disappointed – had an amazing time and danced my booty off. It was a true Bonnaroo moment – fun music, good weather (rain had disappeared), good friends, thousands of friendly people dancing with me. We stayed for their entire set and then headed to the Which Stage for Gogol Bordello – another band I heard was amazing live. Maybe I was worn out from Kumquat or Ozomatli, but I wasn’t enthralled with Gogol Bordello. I pretty much chilled out (brought a Crazy Creek stadium seat which was phenomenal for field seating at these shows and easy to bungee to my Camelbak) with a frozen lemonade and People Watched. I then headed back to the big stage to see the legendary B.B. King. I stayed long enough to hear “The Thrill is Gone” and then found my friends at the That Tent where Zappa Plays Zappa was ready to perform.

Was never a fan of Frank Zappa, though I respected his talent. However I heard it was a must-see show and had a mini crush on Dweezil when I was a kid (I can still recall an interview with him on Nickelodeon where he said he hated making left turns while driving). They started and they sounded great, but I knew it was just the wrong scene for me. It was hot and dusty under the tent, a few guys near me smelled of BO and weed, a chick in front of me was smoking a cigarette, Kumquat was getting restless and Morning Sickness was starting (surprise, surprise it was a little after 5pm). I left my friends, wandered a bit and then decided to head back to camp to have a semi-healthy meal (as good as you can do with a 5-day cooler) and a quick power nap.

That power nap ended up being a doozy for I didn’t wake up until almost 10pm, completely missing the Jack Johnson set. Oh, no worries, I figured Jack would be kind of chill and I really was needing high-energy music to keep my own energy going through these long days. I changed into some long linen pants, a tank and a hooded long-sleeved tee and found my friends who were at the What Stage waiting for Pearl Jam.

Yes, Pearl Jam! One of my favorite bands and by far the most favorite band of my husband. Eddie and team have never disappointed us, and I was super excited to see them here were they would be more likely to play rarities and really jam out. Again, my expectations were exceeded. The show went over schedule, they played really rare songs, they jammed out, got personal with the crowd and sounded phenomenal. My Morning jacket made me tear up? Well my husband’s were shining during this set. Totally fabulous.

We then packed up and headed across Centeroo to see Lupe Fiasco at The Other Tent. We got a spot to the right of the tent. Standing, my husband and friend could see the stage pretty well. I was tired so I pulled out the Crazy Creek and had a seat. Lupe was pretty amazing and had the entire crowd wrapped around his finger. I was trying to get in a nap but couldn’t because the beat was infectious and the crowd so pumped.

We then headed BACK to the What Stage to see Kanye West. This was another must-see for me because I wanted to see what Kanye would pull out. There was much controversy about him even being at Bonnaroo – was he the right “feel” for the festival? Why did he get switched from a day spot on a smaller stage to a late night spot on the biggest stage? Would he be a primadonna? Would he live up to the hype? Rumor had it that he would performing the act from his Glow in the Dark tour which would have been pretty awesome to see.

We got a spot almost where we were for Pearl Jam – to the left side of the stage and a third from it. Good view, and good access to beer and porta-potties. I think we were settled by 2:30am and Kanye was supposed to start at 2:45am. I was pretty pumped, as were some of my friends. Others were starting to get sleepy. They were playing popular hip-hop tunes over the speakers until the show started and I was singing Rob Base and Beastie Boys with my girl friends. I was really shocked that no one in the audience knew all the words to Paul Revere. Is it because were are old? Because we grew up near DC? I feel that Beastie Boys’ Paul Revere is a rap classic, one that all ages would know all the words to. Anyway, us old ladies sand all the words and shook our booties!

3:00 and no Kanye. We get a message on the big screen that the show is delayed until 3:15. At 3:15 another notice of delay until 3:30. At 3:30 we get the message “Kanye West up Next!” There were a BUNCH of angry hippies by this point. People were booing, throwing things at the stage and many were chanting, “Fuck Kanye! Fuck Kanye!” I had pulled out my Crazy Creek again and got some shut-eye. I wasn’t going to miss this show, no matter how late it started. People started leaving and at 4am three of my friends gave up and headed back to camp. We persevered. The show FINALLY started at 4:29am. About 20 minutes into it, my husband and sister left because they were falling asleep standing up but somehow my one girl friend and I had a renewed sense of energy and stayed and even pushed forward so we were pretty near the front of the stage.

If you Google this show, you will get many mixed reviews, most negative. Most people were angry from the get-go for the show being almost two hours late. His show was also 30 minutes shorter than scheduled. It was NOT the Glow in the Dark tour performance, but one I had also heard about where he acts out having his space ship crash on an unknown planet.

Personally, I loved the performance, the cheesy parts and all. I knew many of his songs casually but found myself singing along to all of them. I wondered if the delay was purposeful when he began singing “Good Morning” right when the sun was rising, but honestly I didn’t care. I was pregnant, sober and up with the sun dancing my heart out to Kanye West with a good friend and a thousand new friends around me. I was damn proud of myself for sticking through. Kanye sung his heart out and I found him to be a powerful and talented rapper and singer (though his acting skills are SEVERELY lacking). The screens really added to the performance and I loved the lights, the video, the dancing, the whole effect. My friend and I were super pumped and glad to have had the experience.

The show ended around 5:30am and we trudged through Centeroo to head back to our camp. We were so physically and mentally exhausted we could hardly speak. However we were both so psyched by what we just shared.

Surprisingly, my body woke me up around 7:30am. Well maybe not so considering I rarely sleep past that point even on a weekend. Got up and got a burrito of egg and cheese from a nearby vendor. Sunday’s music started a bit later, so it gave me time to have a makeshift shower, even take another nap before heading back for our final day of music. It may sound disgusting, but I put on my same boots (new socks) and the same dress as the day before. I know, ME of all people! However I was going to be gross no matter what I did and the dress was so perfect – it was airy, not lined, super comfortable and my dress I had for Sunday had a lining that I KNEW would stick to my legs. Not only that, my breasts had grown a lot since I bought it and it just didn’t fit the way it was supposed to on top.

We started back to Centeroo around 2:30pm to catch Robert Randolph. He was phenomenal, and others thought so too. He was at the That Tent which is not a huge stage and the crowd spilled out from the tent to the side grounds, over an access road and into a common area. The sun was blazing and there was no heat and after about four songs I had to cry Uncle and move on. I think they put him on a smaller stage because he was with The Revival and not The Family Band, but honestly, he could have filled the What Stage just as well as Ozomatli the day prior.

I headed to the What Stage to catch Yonder Mountain String Band. The sun was insane, I was reapplying sunscreen every 30 minutes and kept wet bandannas on my neck and head. Guys were dancing around with misters and spray bottles which felt like droplets of heaven. I finished a two liter of water and had to go get more. My husband and I sat with our backs to the stage for a while so that the sun wasn’t beating on our faces. The rest of our friends met up with us just in time for the band to start.

Another Bonnaroo hit with Yonder Mountain String Band. Not my typical choice in music (bluegrass) but they were incredible talented, personable and the audience was energized. We were along the gravel access road on the left side of the stage and the road was full of dancing people – hippies, wookies, preps, rockers, ladies with hula hoops, tons of bouncing dreadlocks. It was an awesome sight and you couldn’t help but dance as well. My friend commented, “now I see why Black people say that White people can’t dance” and it cracked me up. It was true, the majority of the people had NO rhythm and seemed more to be doing a jig than traditional dancing, but they were so happy and full of life, it was beautiful! (picture depicts the feelings the next day by many festival attendees)

 We left and headed to get some sustenance and caught a few songs by Solomon Burke. Pretty talented man. We then went to catch O.A.R. It was 5pm and yet again, Kumquat was getting restless so I was feeling anxious, hot, sick and miserable. They were cleaning nearby porta-potties at this time and the smell almost knocked me over. There was no sun anywhere so we just tried to find a spot where we could hear the band and not smell sewage. My sister tells me she got a weird call from my mom on her cell. My mom was dog sitting and when she stopped by my house that morning, there was an alarm going off in my home. It wasn’t the smoke detector or a house alarm and she didn’t know what to do. By time we got the message and called her back, she had called my father-in-law who was also on vacation but called a neighbor of ours who is a handyman. He came over and helped my mom. Come to find out our water heater overheated and a bit overflowed onto the floor, where we have a moisture detection alarm. They cleaned up the bit of water, turned off the alarm and turned off the water heater’s circuit breaker and all was fine by time I called but to have that on top of Morning Sickness and heat and exhaustion… well I wasn’t as patient and nice to my mom as I should have been. I had to walk from my group of friends to hear her and when I returned I couldn’t find my camera. I totally went ballistic screaming that some wookie stole my brand new camera and then my friend found it under his backpack. I knew at that point I needed a major break from it all. The heat, the noise, the ridiculous crowds (65K in attendance), the music, the everything. It wasn’t bad being pregnant at Bonnaroo, but I did have a much shorter fuse than I usually would.

We headed for some food and some shade and I chilled out by myself regrouping. When I finally cooled down, my husband and I decided to go see Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, but find a spot in the shade away from the crowds. Eventually my friend and sister joined us. I lay down and relaxed and sort of vegged out. Honestly, I don’t remember much of that performance except that Alison Krauss’ voice can soar like an angel, and I heard Plant wail a la Led Zeppelin and it sent chills down my spine and made me glad I toughed it out.

After a bit, my sister and friend went to check on other shows. My husband and I decided to roam Centeroo alone, checking out various smaller tents and vendors. It was nice for when you go with a group of seven to a festival attended by 65,000 there’s little couple time available. We held hands and walked slow and it was a nice finale to the day.

At 8:00pm the whole crowd reconvened at the karaoke tent to see our karaoke-obsessed friend perform. This was not any old karaoke tent – this tent offered you to perform with a LIVE BAND. When we showed up it was a hard rock band all decked out in lycra and crimped hair and bandannas. It was fabulous, and T totally rocked the house with her awesome rendition of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. The karaoke tent shut down soon after her performance; a few went to see other shows, my husband and some went back to camp, my sister and I decided to get a trip on the Ferris Wheel. It had just gotten dark and we were able to see all of the camping and festival grounds lit up. It was a nice way to end the fest.

After the ride, my sister headed to see Widespread Panic. I was planning on seeing them but really felt it would be pushing myself too far. I instead kissed her goodbye and walked back to camp alone. I got myself a last Bonnaroo treat – an ice cream cone for the journey and took a long leisurely route so I could People Watch, Camp Watch, and see all the cars already leaving Bonnaroo.

I got back to camp and two friends were up drinking beer. I attempted to stay up and chat with them but soon started falling asleep in my tailgate chair. Said goodnight and was in bed by 10pm. I was so tired; I slept through all the fireworks and craziness of the last night of Bonnaroo. My husband did as well – we remarked that we had a surprisingly restful night of sleep!

The next morning my husband and I were up by 6am and we immediately started packing. I believe we were on the road by 8:30am. We stopped around 10am for breakfast at Cracker Barrel, made two pit stops and were home by 10pm.

All in all it was a wonderful and actually quite a restful experience. Four days without Internet, TV, newspapers, bills, work, and life drama was exactly what the doctor (and the kumquat) ordered. Finding nutritious vegetarian food was really not a problem – I brought plenty of snacks and there were many food vendors that offered healthy veggie-filled vegetarian and vegan meals. I really enjoyed being sober for the whole time because I didn’t miss a thing and never woke with a hangover or regrets. It was fun to have this crazy experience this summer, knowing next summer I will be caring for the new member of my family!

Bonnarooooooooooooo!

Yep, I am returning to the Bonnaroo music festival this June. Four days of music, art, camping and fun. I cannot WAIT! I went for the first time in 2007 with my husband, sister and our good friend. In 2008, I went with six folks (seven if you count the olive-sized Emerson that was growing in my belly). Last year we took off because… well we had a baby-sized Emerson and a depleted savings account due to a home remodel and a stash of cloth diapers.

Well this year we have decided to return to Bonnaroo, and I am thrilled. Kings of Leon, Jay-Z, Dave Matthews Band, Stevie Wonder, Conan O’Brien, Weezer, Flaming Lips performing Dark Side of the Moon, The Dead Weather, Jeff Beck, John Butler Trio, Damian Marley and Nas, The Gossip, The Gaslight Anthem, Clutch, Diane Birch, B.O.B., Regina Spektor, Michael Franti, Umphrey’s McGee… oh man I could keep going and going with the artist lineup (full lineup for 2010 Bonnaroo can be found here). I am looking forward to the time away from work, the sunshine, the lack of computers, the ability to completely LET GO.

Yes, I will be spending this time away from Emerson and that is freaking me out a bit, but she will be with my mom and I think it could be a good experience for all of us.

But what is really concerning me about Bonnaroo… is my wardrobe! I mean really, what you wear to a music festival is so important! You want to look yourself, you want to fit the part, you need to be comfortable. How do you achieve style and comfort without electricity and running water?

I went up in my attic to collect my Roo-wardrobe from years past. Nothing fit. Seriously, NOTHING. Your belly isn’t the only thing that changes after having a baby, and it shows with the length of dresses, the fit of garments in the bust or hip area. And let’s not again mention how all my old shoes (Bonnaroo-only Crocs included) no longer fit.

So I have had to start from scratch. The itinerary is leave Wednesday morning. Stay overnight near the Virginia/Tennessee border. Start at a comfortable hour on Thursday morning and arrive at Bonnaroo in the afternoon. Set up tent and check out the scene.

Right after setting up camp

Friday through Sunday are pretty full days at Bonnaroo. The heat of the sun will wake you before you really want to rise. Spend a leisurely morning at camp, eating breakfast burritos the size of your head that were purchased for a couple bucks from the stand a block away. Bathe in well water via a keg cup and a travel-sized bottle of 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner. Pack your bag with Purell, sunscreen, a couple snacks and lots of water and head to Centeroo, where you can easily watch 14 hours of live music. Feast on surprisingly fresh and delicious festie food, take naps, meet new people, see new things, dance. Possibly return to camp early evening to take a power nap, change into warmer clothes and get ready for a late night of more music.

Monday morning we will head back home and drive straight through (about 11 hours).

So really, I need three daytime outfits – outfits that can survive mud, dust, sweat, and porta-potties. Experience has shown that 100% cotton dresses (not jersey) are most comfortable because they don’t cling to sweaty skin, dry fast and allow for a bit of breeze. I love moisture-wicking bike shorts underneath to prevent Chub Rub and to provide some modesty when sitting down on the ground. For evening, lightweight pants or jeans and a hoodie is a great choice.

I have recently ordered this dress from Old Navy – in red (which is almost neon in color) and purple. It is great, but the XL is too big and I will have to try on the Large in the stores to see if it will work, or if I need to instead try to shrink the XL and shorten the straps. But really, this is a near-perfect Bonnaroo dress. It is the same concept as my old favorite Bonnaroo dress (also from Old Navy) that no longer fits. For day three, I got this maxi dress from Gap (if you like it, go into the stores – it is over $10 cheaper there than online and most online coupons work in-store). I love it because I can rock it without a bra and not look a mess.

I did a similar photo at the Leaning Tower of Pisa…

As for shoes, I despise Crocs. They are so hideous, but they are the perfect footwear for Bonnaroo. My purple ones I got in ’07 are too small, so I will have to buck up and get myself a new pair. There is a Crocs outlet at a nearby mall – I plan to go there as that I don’t care too much about the color and really can’t stomach paying full price for butt-ugly footwear.

Rocking while wearing my DUO boots

I will also be taking my Bern Boots from DUO (wore then in ’08 and they were super comfy), and a pair of Reef flip flops for the car rides and for padding around the campsite.

Waiting in line to get into Centeroo with hat stolen from my mom

I have a crushable straw hat that was actually my mom’s that I will be wearing for sun protection, I will also bring many bandannas to manage icky hair and prevent scalp burn (I also got this scarf from Lands End Canvas that is 100% cotton, bigger and far more chic than a standard bandanna). My old Gap Essential jeans will be great evening wear – they are loose and a bit worn. I have a hibiscus-colored hoodie from Gap, and will also probably take some other sweater or sweatshirt. For the car trips, most likely some other sundress out of jersey that won’t get creased from hours sitting on my tush.

Hopefully this weekend I will be able to get to an Old Navy to try the dress on in size Large to be able to finalize my Bonnaroo wardrobe. Then I can start plotting out what personal care essentials I need. Oh yeah… and I guess I should look into getting an air mattress!

Any of you ever attended a music festival? Any fashion and beauty words of wisdom?

Oh, and here is my post from Bonnaroo 2007, and for Bonnaroo 2008!

Expensive Doesn’t Always Equal Appropriate

I know you readers have my mantra memorized – Quality, not Quantity. Quality can come at any price range, and appropriateness can too. Often times we confuse a high pricetag with formality. Just because a frock is designer (or at a designer price) it does not mean it’s always the best choice for an event.

A couple of years ago I was invited to a black tie wedding at an historical mansion. The bride wore a white veil and train that rivaled Princess Diana’s and the ballroom was filled to the gills with gold Chivari chairs and white roses. This was an event where the classic LBD was verging on too casual, even when paired with the family jewels and elegant heels. The bride only had one attendant, her sister. She gave her permission to pick any dress she desired in any color.

The maid of honor chose to wear a gown by a very hot fashion designer, worn by all the It Girls of Hollywood. The gown was brown and rust-colored silk jersey with a plunging halter neck and back, many straps wrapped around the body and a floor-skimming hem. Gorgeous dress, but far more appropriate for a summer fete in the Hamptons, than a December black tie gala. The dress would have been fab with a few wooden bangles and gold gladiator sandals, but the woman tried to formalize the dress with silk heels and diamonds.

It was expensive, it was gorgeous, it was totally inappropriate for the affair.

My friend works at a very cool ad agency in the city, where many of the women dress for work as though they are going to New York Fashion Week. One is sure to see the latest designer bags, heels and jeans at the water cooler. My friend was in the elevator with one of these well-dressed ladies and complimented her on her new Chloe dress. “Thank you, I wanted to look good for our first meeting with [big government agency who was new client].”

The dress was fabulous, but short, sleeveless and with a low back. Again, great for a Hamptons weekend affair, but not the right look for meeting with a new client who is most likely on the conservative side (I have worked with the government for years and have yet to meet an agency who fully appreciates a dress from Chloe).

I have seen spindly Manolos at beach weddings, strapless silk sundresses at family cookouts at the local park, designer fur vests at general admission all ages concerts, even Balenciaga purses at Bonnaroo – a 4-day music festival on a dusty farm in Tennessee where attendees camp without electricity or proper plumbing.

The point is, when shopping for a specific event, unless it IS New York Fashion Week, price and brand shouldn’t be a factor. Above all else, a look should be appropriate for the location, the audience, the type of affair. Style doesn’t come from a label, so when shopping ignore the trends, ignore the brands, ignore the fact that so-and-so was photographed wearing it to an awards ceremony. Focus on how it fits you, and your life and you will always be in style!

A few tips:
Weddings:
Steer away from bright red or white unless there is a theme specified on the invitation. If the event is after 5pm it is more formal (silk in place of cotton, clutch in place of handbag, crystals and pearls in place of metal and plastic jewelry and absolutely no denim). If the invite states the affair is Black Tie Optional, it doesn’t hurt to contact a member of the couple’s family or bridal party to confirm the level of formality. If all else fails, an elegant black dress of an evening fabric that is knee length or longer, silk heels, a clutch and a sparkly piece of jewelry will always work. For additional tips, visit my post about wedding attire.

Interviews/Client Meetings:
Err on the side of being conservative. For suggestions, visit my post about interview attire.

My Wardrobe Today – Tuesday

Cargo jacketCaslon
Lace skirt - Ann Taylor (no longer available online though you may be able to find in-store on the sale rack)
BootiesMiss Sixty
Charm bracelet – eBay seller

My body may be here… but my mind is already at Bonnaroo! We leave tomorrow morning and I cannot wait. I spent all last night and this morning packing, planning, preparing. Though we decided to splurge this year and go VIP, it’s still four days of camping in the Tennessee heat and to be comfortable, you have to have the right gear and clothing (speaking of which, check out my lastest Savings.com post about Bonnaroo fashion!).

I considered scheduling guest bloggers to post while I was away… but I was a slacker. I won’t be posting while at Roo, but I will be Tweeting while there! If you aren’t following me yet, be sure to do so – I’ll be sharing photos, stories, and experiences on the Farm. And if you are going to Bonnaroo, be sure to Direct Message me on Twitter or email me – maybe we can meet up!

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Saturday

Saturday evening I attended the My Morning Jacket concert at Merriwether Post Pavillion.  It.  Was.  Awesome.

Sooo awesome.  One of the best concerts I have ever attended.  I am TOTALLY reved up for Bonnaroo after that show – totally in the live music/festie mindset now!

But anyway… on to the pictures…

Here I am a tailgating.  This is the maxi dress from Gap.  And yes, it was hot out.  Silver earrings from a boutique in Rehoboth beach, and for the tailgate, my silver aviator sunglasses.

And with the dress I wore my Bern boots from DUO.  That ivory floral thing is a drawstring bag I pinned to my dress and stuck in my dress pocket.  It held my camera, phone, money, lip gloss. 

This dress is great – not the best for the breasts, but not horrible and very comfy and fun to dance in.  It was also very breezy on a hot evening.  I look forward to wearing it at Bonnaroo.

How to Shop: eBay

For a long time, I was terrified of eBay. I didn’t understand it, and felt that I could easily be scammed by sellers who were passing off fakes as authentic, taking my money and not sending me items, pretty much getting screwed by the whole process.

A few years ago, I fell madly in love with the Sandhurst hobo bag from Banana Republic. I went into the store often to drool over it. I would stand in front of a mirror, hold it in my hand, sling over my shoulder, and admire my reflection. However, I just couldn’t afford the price. A friend suggested I look for it on eBay. I did, found a seller who had the exact style and color I desired and was able to get the bag brand new in its dust cover for 30% off the retail price.

After that I was hooked on eBay for brand-name accessories. If I loved a certain necklace from J. Crew or bag from Rebecca Minkoff, I would get the style number and name, the color, the measurements, and then head to eBay. Often times I could find it, and for far cheaper than retail.

I don’t claim to be an eBay expert, but many of you have asked about how I go about shopping on the site. Here’s some of my tips and tricks for navigating eBay:

Accessories on eBay


Shopping for Accessories on eBay

When You Know Exactly What You Want
So you want the Essex bag from Kate Spade? Before you buy retail, head to eBay. There are lots of reasons why people are selling items on eBay. Maybe they got it as a gift or won it in a contest, possibly they are thinning out their collection, maybe it’s a store sample, and yes maybe it’s hot or a fake.

The search function on eBay is pretty robust. I usually start by typing in the brand and style name into the search function (you can often find this info on Google if you don’t already know it). If that doesn’t give me the results I desire, I will make the search broader and just enter the brand name, and then the type of item (handbag, jewelry, sunglasses, etc.). Often times sellers do not know the style name or number, so by adding that to your search you may end up with zero results.

I then search through the selections and in a separate browser tab/window, open any that fit my criteria. I then look at each different auction. Are they really the same item and color? What is the condition of each? Who has the better options and price for shipping? What are their return policies?

I look at the seller – I care less about how many thousands of sales they have had, and more on the quality of their feedback. I go and read the feedback; I am especially interested in negative and neutral feedback. Recently I purchased a blouse from a seller who claimed the item was New Without Tags, never worn, pristine condition. When I received it, it was missing a button. I left neutral feedback, as that the blouse was as described except for the fact that a very important button (cannot be replaced) was missing and this was not in the description. The seller contacted me, angry about the neutral feedback and asked for me to return the blouse and remove my feedback. I again looked at her feedback and saw that in the past six months she had two other neutral feedbacks from folks stating their items were not quite as described. I chose to leave that feedback to warn future customers; I wonder how many either didn’t notice their purchase’s flaw or accepted the seller’s offer to return the item and remove the feedback.

Once I find the item and seller that I like, I stop and think, what is the maximum amount I would pay for this item? I then write it down so it is more concrete. I bid, and I NEVER go over that number. eBay will let you know when you are close to being outbid and when you have been outbid, and it’s so tempting to add a couple more dollars just to stay in the game. DON’T. I have a friend who admitted she spent $50 more on an item on eBay than it cost in the store just because she got caught up in the thrill of the auction. I feel that if you are bidding within 30% of the actual retail price for something on eBay it’s usually not worth it. Wait until you get a store coupon so you have the customer service to go with the item in case there is an issue/need for repairs or a return.

Nine times out of ten what you are bidding for on eBay you don’t need in the first place, so if it’s not in your price range, let it go. Seriously, let it go.

Once you get your item, carefully open the shipping package and inspect it from head to toe. Does it match the photos and description of the item? Were you extravagantly overcharged for the shipping? If you are happy, leave quick and detailed feedback about the shipping, the price, the quality, the communication of the seller. If you find an issue, let the seller know; she may offer a quick solution. If you’re wildly unhappy, don’t keep it to yourself – let the seller know and let the world know with your feedback. Feedback isn’t just for the seller, it’s for future customers, future yous who want to buy and know they are getting their money’s worth.

When You Don’t Know What You Want
You can search more general terms like “Stella and Dot ring” or “Ann Taylor” and then use the eBay-offered categories to break down to jewelry or shoes or bags. From there you can usually break it down even further by color, size, and specific type of item. I usually don’t, and let my mouse do the walking through dozens of pages of auctions while I eat my lunch or wait for a friend to arrive. If you don’t know what you want, it’s good to really take a tour because you may be pleasantly surprised with what you find. A search for peacock-feather earrings ended up finding me a great dress for Bonnaroo; a search for a charm bracelet got me my Anthropologie crystal bracelet.

As with others, investigate your seller, and write down a final price. Be sure to check shipping prices – sometimes they are so high (or coming from overseas) that it’s not worth it to wait for it to arrive, or you might as well buy it retail.

Clothing on eBay


Shopping for Clothing on eBay

I hardly ever go outside my brand comfort zone on eBay. I shop brands whose fit I know is consistent. It is either something I have already tried on in a store, or a designer with whom I am very familiar (hello Ann Taylor). Keep in mind, even your go-to brand (hello Ann Taylor!) changes its sizing over the years – you may be an 8 at that brand, but if the item is five years old you may find an 8 to be a bit snug.

The only time I will go outside my complete comfort zone is with vintage clothing, and then I have to have very detailed clothing measurements in the description. If you have questions, ask them! Ask the seller for a photo of the back view of the dress, ask if the skirt is lined or what type of slit it has in the back. Ask if it’s more of a midnight navy or a dark blue, and ask for the fabric content. If you are unsure of the year, ask to see a photo of the label (most retailers slightly change the logo or look of their label every couple of years – you can often Google to find a timeline of the brand’s logo). It sucks to receive an item that isn’t want you believed it to be and go back and realize the seller didn’t misrepresent, you just filled in the blanks without asking.

I prefer a seller who has multiple pictures of an item, and of the actual item, not a JPEG lifted off of Google Images. This way I really know I am getting what I desire.

eBay Shopping Support

PayPal: If you don’t already have a PayPal account, you will need one to shop on eBay. I prefer PayPal to credit cards for online shopping because I have less chance for identity theft. PayPal is very user secure and friendly, and you can easily set it up to your checking account (or multiple bank accounts) so when you have a $0 PayPal balance, it will just withdraw right from your bank.

PayPal can be used at so many other sites online (hello Etsy, drugstore.com,Lands End Canvas and Zappos and more!) that it makes sense to have an account with them.


eSnipe: I haven’t used eSnipe in a while, but loved it back when I was looking for my Sandhurst bag. My hairdresser told me about it, and it has helped me score some great prices on eBay auctions. Instead of having to constantly stalk your auction to ensure you have the highest price, eSnipe will do it for you. Tell them your maximum price that you are willing to pay and in the last couple of seconds of an auction eSnipe will bid on your behalf, helping you win the auction, and not go above your budget.  FYI, eSnipe is now only free for a trial period, and then has a slight cost.

Ebates: I have a love affair with Ebates.  Sign up for free, visit Ebates before heading to most online shops and get cash back on your purchase.  They have popular online retailers like Sephora, Nordstrom, Target, Ann Taylor and Old Navy, but Ebates also gives you 1-4% cash back on all purchases on eBay! 

Ebates gives you an actual check once a quarter, no points to redeem, no gift cards, actual cash.  No spam, no strings, just 30 seconds for money back.  Be sure to sign up and visit Ebates each time before you head to eBay!

Some eBay Acronyms to Know:

  • NWT – New with Tags. This means the tags should be ATTACHED unless otherwise stated in the description
  • NWOT – New without tags. This means new condition, an item could be found at a store like this. No perfume, no dog hair, no creases from wear.
  • NWOB – New without box. (everytime I see this acronym I think NKOTB)
  • NRFB – Never removed from the box
  • EUC – Excellent used condition. Means like-new, though not as perfect as NWOT.
  • MNT – Mint condition (again doesn’t mean new, but is closer to NWOT)
  • VGC - Very good condition.  This means the item was worn, but is still in wearable condition (no stains, holes, etc.)
  • GUC or GU – Good used condition. This description has many shades of gray and it’s important to know details, see detailed photos and ask questions to fill in the blanks.
  • NBW – Never been worn
  • TTS – True to size
  • S/S or SS – Short-sleeved
  • L/S or LS – Long-sleeved
  • FB – Feeback
  • DBL – Double
  • FP – Fixed price
  • GBP - Great British Pounds
  • ITF – Impossible to find (often used in title for limited-edition pieces)
  • VHTF – Very hard to find (ditto, often in auction titles)

eBay Etiquette
Leave feedback. No matter what you purchased, or how many times you shopped from the same seller, leave feedback for every individual purchase you make. Many people make their living off of eBay auctions, and your feedback supports their livelihood. Feedback also helps your fellow shoppers, letting them know who to trust, and who to avoid.

Pay promptly. If you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t be bidding in the first place. When I win an auction, I pay within 24 hours. I have sold on eBay and it’s frustrating to have to chase down a customer to beg for your money. Not paying promptly is like being rude to your waiter – he will care less about pleasing you and you may get spit in your soup… or a delayed shipment.

Pay. Again, if you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t be bidding. Winning an auction and then never paying won’t just give you negative feedback, but will also screw over the seller. There is a lot of steps a seller has to take to prove that you didn’t keep up your end of the bargain, to get back their selling fee, and finally be able to re-list the item. A good month could go by and that’s possibly the rent or grocery bill for that seller.

If something unexpected happens where you just can’t pay… contact the seller. Let them know as soon as possible. Don’t hide and ignore the invoices you will receive. Bad things happen to good people, we have all been there. Don’t leave your seller high and dry.

Accept the seller’s terms. As a previous eBay seller, nothing is more frustrating than having a person from Belgium try to bid on an item when I clearly stated I only ship to the US. I have had sellers try to pay via money order when I write that I only accept PayPal, ask me to ship FedEx when I use USPS, request I take the item off auction and just sell it at a reduced price to them. Read the description, all the fine print. It doesn’t hurt to ask if it’s a small change (offer to pay additional for expedited shipping or delivery to Canada from the US), but remember these are people, not major corporations. They don’t have the time, resources, money or desire to be your personal valet.

Have you had success shopping on eBay?  What are your tips and tricks for navigating the site and getting great fashion deals?

Please visit my other “How to Shop” posts:

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Like Mommy…

The cheap Mardi Gras beads aren’t good enough for my Emerson – she needs to raid my jewelry armoire. 

Sorry I have been MIA – got back from Bonnaroo very late last Monday and since then I was sick, then Emerson was sick, and now my husband is sick.  Will be back to blogging quite soon!

A Proper Bra Fitting – My Experience

I believe a woman should be fitted for a bra every year. Our bodies are constantly changing with age, weight loss and gain, changes to our exercise routine, childbirth and nursing and so much more. Getting properly fitted for a bra does not mean heading to your local Victoria’s Secret to have a teenager who works 4 hours a week try to figure out your size and get you to buy a bra at that store, even if your size isn’t in stock. Getting properly fitted doesn’t mean trying to measure yourself at home and cross your fingers that your online purchase fits.

What it means is going to an expert who can measure you, and then offer you a few styles and brands to try so you can find not only your band and cup size, but the specific type of bra that gives you the best shape, support, and style.

I have been putting off being fitted for far too long; the last time I was fitted was a little over a year before I got pregnant. Since then, I lost weight, carried a child, nursed it for over two years, gained weight, and lost it again. My breasts were sitting like deflated water balloons in my molded-cup bras, they were obviously the wrong size and on top of that, stretched out and in need of replacement.

My community parenting group scheduled a bra-fitting party at A La Mode in Annapolis, Maryland and I jumped at the chance to go. I had been meaning to be fitted but kept putting it off… too busy, not enough money, too lazy. The event was yesterday and it was amazing.

A La Mode Intimates in Annapolis 
Click for a larger version (and to see my mom being rung up at the counter!)

I had heard of A La Mode before, but never visited. They have a new location at the Annapolis Towne Center and it is gorgeous. Bright and airy, yet romantic. The sales area is broken into little rooms which made shopping more fun, and you felt less on display when fingering a lovely charmeuse camisole or reading about nursing bras. Through curtains is their lounge. They set up a lovely little spread for us of brie with crackers and grapes, wine and ice water. They had a couple chairs, a couch and coffee table that were surrounded by gigantic fitting rooms with large mirrors and flattering lighting.

Rebecca assisted me; she whipped out her tape measure and in about three seconds flat had measured me over my shirt. From that she brought me a bra to try. I didn’t look at the brand, I didn’t look at the size, I just tried it on. And I was amazed. My breasts looked smaller, firmer, younger. I had a waistline! Then I looked at the tag…

When I was last fitted, they said I was a 38D. When I got pregnant, my breasts grew and I made the decision to go to 38DD. After Emerson was born, I seemed to be at 38DD and stuck with the same bras. As I have lost weight and stopped nursing, my breasts shrunk. I bought a 38D but kept falling out of the top, and it irritated me under my arms. I went back to my 38DD bras which looked crazy, but at least were reliable.

This bra was a 36F
F as in Frank
F?!?! 

How could that be? I have these deflated, smaller breasts! An F?? But this bra was a perfect fit, it almost felt as though I wasn’t wearing a bra, it was so comfortable. Rebecca informed me that different countries have different bra sizing methods. The US goes from D to DD and then skips E for F, but Europe skips DD and goes straight to E. In the UK they use both single and double letters. This means that a bra from Wacoal, a bra from Elomi, and a bra from Chantelle may fit the same but have different cup letters on the label.

Rebecca checked the bra on me, informed me that the straps shouldn’t really be doing the support (which I do, tightening my straps in an attempt to lift), the bra itself will do the work. She showed me how the band should sit low on my back, not up near my shoulder blades – this prevents your skin from pouring over the bra, and also helps with support. She asked me my bra needs (something that is invisible under thin knits, something that won’t show when I wear a scoop neck, and something that gives me a great shape) and came back with a couple more bras to try. I am a fan of the molded cup and she brought me some of those, as well as a couple other types I may not have considered. I got plenty of time to try on by myself, I didn’t feel as though a salesperson was breathing down my neck, yet if I just said, “Rebecca?” she was right there to bring a different size or color.

 Me in my original bra

 
Me in the bra I purchased

I had two bras that I loved, but unfortunately they didn’t have either in a skin color.

The Winners:
Fantasie Moulded Smoothing T-shirt Bra. Very basic, but gives amazing shape. No lace, no frills, no nothing so it’s invisible under knits. Incredibly comfortable, with incredible lift. I fit a 36DD.

Fantasie Ava. Another simple t-shirt bra, but with a bit of lace detail and pretty straps. Again, I fit best in a 36DD.

I don’t need two black bras right now, so I chose the one with the thinner, less-decorative straps (makes more sense for summer with sleeveless tops). A La Mode will let me know when the bras are back in stock in skin colors.

I went to be rung up… and remembered I needed a strapless bra. Since Rebecca had helped me try on a good dozen different bras, it was easy for her to guess which styles and brands would work best for me. She handed me a skin-colored strapless and I tried it on. Did you know that there are strapless bras out there that are comfortable? I put on my shirt and came out into the lounge to show the other women in my group. “THIS IS A STRAPLESS BRA!” I exclaimed, and they all ooohed and aaahed because really my bust looked almost as good in this strapless as the Fantasie bras above. On top of that, this strapless has straps that can be attached, so you can make it a one-shoulder, criss-cross back, halter or standard bra.

I tried on another strapless, but it didn’t compare to this one in regard to fit and comfort.

THIS is a strapless bra!

The Winner:
Simone Perele Velia Strapless Plunge in Praline. I wanted a strapless that wouldn’t peek out of a sweetheart or surplice neckline and this one did the trick. I tried it last night with my new Gap maxi dress I was going to return because it can’t be worn with any bras I own. Now the dress looks adorable and I am still uber comfortable!

Now this strapless is more than I have EVER paid for a bra… but to have a strapless that is invisible under thin knits, hides under plunging necklines and is so comfortable that I am wearing it all day today as a standard bra… sounds like a worthy investment to me! Also with researching online, I found that A La Mode’s prices are competitive with what I found at department stores and online boutiques (I paid the same price for this bra as it is listed on the Simone Perele site Bare Necessities, Neiman Marcus, and HerRoom).

The benefit of going to a bra boutique or lingerie department of a higher-end department store is you will find an educated bra specialist, and a large variety of brands and sizes. When you visit your nearby Victoria’s Secret, all you have to choose from is Vickie’s bras. Your breasts are just like every other part of your body – unique. What may be Holy Grail jeans to one woman may be terribly unflattering on you; the same holds true with bras.

Bras aren’t cheap. As Rebecca said yesterday at the bra fitting, “You get what you pay for.” Before Bonnaroo, I was desperate for a bra and went to Target and got one from their Gillian and O’Malley line. It itches, it makes my breasts look a bit square in shape, and come the end of the day I can’t WAIT to get it off. I have purchased bras at Frederick’s of Hollywood that lifted my breasts practically to my neck, but I found them horribly uncomfortable after a couple hours, and they would fall apart after a few months (even with proper laundry care). A bra that properly fits, supports, and is comfortable will completely change your figure, your posture, the way your clothes fit. This morning, I wanted to wear a light-colored top and put on my old nude bra. It was… fine. I then tried the new strapless and I looked as though I had lost ten pounds and was five years younger. Seriously, this is the difference between and okay bra and a great bra.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself fitted, and get yourself some quality bras. You won’t regret it!

Note: I was not compensated in any way for this post; A La Mode did not contact me or know I was going to write this post.

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Weight Watchers Update

I have been a slacker with my Weight Watchers updates because I have missed a lot of meetings. Last week I did attend and found out I removed 0.6 pounds while at Bonnaroo. At first I was disappointed – I mean how many activity points did I earn each day walking and sweating and all that? But then, I didn’t really follow Weight Watchers while there. I often chose water over beer, grilled over fried… but I still was NOT on the plan.

Lately I have been a bit of a slug. With the warmer weather I have been more active, but I haven’t been good about tracking. It’s hard to see any progress… until I saw pictures from last year at Bonnaroo.

While doing my Bonnaroo posts, I did a Google Images search and came across a picture of my husband from my friend Insana’s blog. She went with us last year, is a photographer, and captured so many great moments from the trip. And not so great moments, like me when I am not aware that a camera is focused on me.

I saw these pictures and it told me what I didn’t want to know. I was fat, and in terrible shape. I needed to do something and fast.

A year later, I am around 25 pounds lighter. Not a drastic change, but enough that I weigh less than I was when I got pregnant. Enough that I feel more comfortable in the heat, fit better into clothing, and happily survived another Bonnaroo.

When I feel frustrated, when I feel complacent I need to look at these pictures. Pictures of where I never want to be again.

At my Weight Watchers meeting, the leader asks for our “before” pictures and she has them on a big sheet of poster board. It sits at the front of the room, and you can see these photos of overweight folks, look around the room and see those same faces attached to smaller bodies. It’s really inspiring. I have always deleted bad/fat pics of me because I didn’t want to accept the truth. Now I see them as motivation to stay on track.

What do you use for motivation and to not go down that slippery slope back to your old self?

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Ask Allie – My Beauty Products

I am not a beauty blog, and I don’t claim to be an expert. However, after mentioning my beauty routine in a previous post, I have received many emails and comments wanting to know more about what beauty products I use. Today’s post will be about my medicine cabinet.

Though we had our house remodeled over two years ago, we still don’t take showers in the new master bathroom. There seems to be some place where it’s leaking, and we need to seal it properly… and just haven’t gotten around to it. So while I use this bathroom for getting ready in the morning and before bed, I actually take showers in the hallway bathroom. So my medicine cabinet only holds the items I use at bed, in the morning, and when doing my hair post-shower:

A. Get My Hair Did

  • L’Oreal EverPure Smooth Frizz-free Serum. I bought this… wow maybe two years ago? I bought it when I ran out of my BioSilk serum, and that I milked a travel-sized bottle for a couple of years. I don’t wear this often because I think it usually makes my hair look greasy, not shiny. However, it’s great when I’m past due for a hair trim – I’ll add it to the ends before letting it dry.
  • Pureology Texture Twist. Sometimes I love this stuff, sometimes I hate it. Lately I have been adding a veeeery tiny bit to damp hair, scrunching and letting it air dry. It’s very sticky, so it keeps curls curly when it’s humid out. I don’t like it for much else because it’s so thick and sticky and makes my hair feel strange.
  • Frederick Fekkai Luscious Curls. This stuff rocks, this is probably my fifth tube of this product. A pea-sized amount, scrunch, let hair dry and you have lovely soft, shiny waves and curls without any stickiness.
  • Jonathan Create Motion. It’s a cream gel, so it has the best of both products. Not too heavy, not too light, not too sticky. I got this as part of a Birchbox-like program that is now defunct, and since I don’t use it every day this tube has lasted me almost two years. It’s worthy of a re-purchase, I like that it gives more hold than Luscious Curls, but does a similar thing. I also like using it before blowing out straight, and it helps hold any heating tool styles.
  • TRESseme Heat Tamer Spray. I don’t use this as often as I should. It gets rave reviews online, and I got it when I was trying to make waves with a flat iron. Many YouTube beauty vloggers swear by this product, I find it sometimes makes my hair too soft.
  • Salon Grafix Spray Powder Shampoo. I have reviewed this before. This is my third bottle, I like it so much.
  • Jonathan Product Silky Dirt. I bought this for me, my husband took it over. He adores this for a soft hair look and he loves the regular Dirt when he wants a mussed look.

In the far right corner is Jonathan Dirt, a replacement brush head for my Clarisonic Mia, and a bottle of bath and Body Works body lotion from a hotel (sometimes use it as a hair styling product). Far left next to the serum is some Sally Hansen hair remover – every 2-3 weeks, does a great job of getting rid of the ‘stache without irritation or redness.

B. Hydrate!

  • Some random tube of a hydrating mask. I don’t know the brand offhand, I don’t know where it came from. I don’t think it accomplishes much but my husband loves masks and uses it.
  • CVS Night Cream. It’s a cheaper version of RoC.
  • Olay Beauty Fluid, SPF 15. I ran out of moisturizer while in Vermont and picked this up when I went into town. It’s light, it has some SPF, it’s fine.
  • Olay Definity Eye Cream. I like this eye cream because it doesn’t leave the skin greasy; it really absorbs quickly so I don’t have to wait before applying makeup.

C. Washing Up

  • Clarisonic Nourishing Face Cleanser. It’s gentle, it’s creamy, it doesn’t strip the skin but I am not in love. Doesn’t take off makeup and is very pricey for not wowing me.
  • Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser. My husband picked this up because he too doesn’t like the Clarisonic cleanser. It tastes terrible, it’s hard to rinse off, but boy does it do a great job at removing makeup. This stuff can even take off waterproof mascara and liquid liner.
  • Clarisonic Mia. I bought it as a birthday present to myself but was never immediately wowed. After a recent article on Un Femme d’un Certain Age I started using it again, either with face wash when I haven’t taken off my makeup, or alone on clean skin. It does make products like the Clarisonic face wash work better, and hopefully it will help my skin texture and clarity.

D. My Eyes! My Eyes!
I wear contacts. Here’s my case, here’s my solution (I ran out so am using my travel size for now).

E. Get My Nails Did
I am not a big nail person, I never wear polish on my hands and often go sans color on my feet. These are the basics – polish remover, clear topcoat to maintain a pedicure, and a lovely sheer pink that will make nails just look healthy and complete without color. I usually keep any colorful polishes in my dressing table.

F. So Random
This tumbler from my kitchen holds all the little random things in one place:

G. Brusha Brusha Brusha

  • My husband uses a Sonicare, I kick it old school with a cheapy toothbrush. I should switch to a Sonicare, but I just ENJOY a regular toothbrush. I have one here, one at work, one in the bathroom downstairs. I brush my teeth 4-5 times a day and replace my brushes regularly.
  • Dental Floss. Yep, I floss. My dentist is very proud of me.
  • NTIs. Nothing sexier than a couple with matching mouthguards to prevent tooth grinding. His and Hers.

H. Holy Grail

  • Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel. This stuff is awesome. I sometimes use this after cleansing to calm my face, I use it in the morning to remove dead skin and leftover moisturizer. If I accidently put on eye cream before my contacts, I use this to remove it so I won’t goop up. I also use it as a body refresher, wipe my décolleté and back of neck to feel fresh when dashing out of the house. My husband also uses it as a toner. It’s gentle, it’s a pleasant scent, and it’s natural. Score.

Next to the witch hazel is one of our three toothpastes. This was from Bonnaroo (travels well, won’t explode in heat – think it’s Colgate but when I went to peel off the safety packaging the whole label peeled off). We also have some tube of Tom’s of Maine that is almost gone, and a new tube of Crest 3D White because my husband believed the hype. It’s new, so I don’t know yet whether it will take our coffee- and wine-loving chompers to pearly white-ness… will keep you posted.

J. Got Sweat?
Does one household really need four different deodorants? Guess so. I switch between Dove formulas for day (find if I stick with one too long it stops working). For night I was using CertainDri but it seemed to stop working so I switched to Dove Clinical. The Dove is almost out, so I’ll go back to CertainDri until the bottle is empty and go back to Dove. The yellow is Arm & Hammer, my husband switches between that and the blue Dove.

And when you turn around from the sink you see the bathroom’s second door. I didn’t want this door. The bathroom is half in the master bedroom, half in our office. The contractor and my husband thought a second door would be useful if we used the office as a guest room, if we tried to sell the house. We never use the door – there’s furniture in front of it in the office and it’s a waste of space in the bathroom that could be used for a proper cabinet. So this is how I use it:

 

This over-the-door rack was originally purchased for the powder room on the main floor. I envisioned umbrellas in the basket, lightweight jackets and such on the hooks. We don’t have a closet on the main floor, so figured this would be a great alternative (we have a coat rack near the front door that is always overflowing). When I realized this bathroom has no wall space for a proper cabinet, I put this here for a “temporary fix.” Two and a half years later it’s still here. Usually there’s towels hanging there, but I took these pictures on laundry day.

In the top are all the things that don’t fit in the medicine cabinet:

  • Listerine
  • Hairspray (Elnett and Jonathan spray)
  • More contact lenses (the big box of more is in the linen closet in the hallway but I keep one box of each at the ready)
  • Diffuser (came with the dryer)
  • Brushes (two are missing from this photo – one is in the other bathroom, and one has disappeared because Emerson finds brushes to be playthings)

While the hooks hold damp towels, they also hold all my appliances:

  • Remington S9950 Shine Therapy Moisturizing and Conditioning Digital Ceramic Hair Straightener. This one was favored by many beauty vloggers back when I was trying to make waves with a flat iron. I don’t think it gives my hair shine, but it has a thermostat so I can control the heat level and I like how narrow it is – does a good job with making waves as well as straightening bangs without a weird bump at the hairline.
  • Hair Dryer. This one sucks and burns my hand if I use it too long, but I won’t buy a new one because this one gets the job done. When it dies, I will buy a new one.
  • Vidal Sassoon 1 inch Curling Iron for Fine Hair. It has a tight clamp so it holds fine hair in place. Can control the heat level and a cord that never gets all twisted up. Not bad, though if it dies I want to replace it with my sister’s – whenever we travel I use hers (think it’s a Conair) and it’s awesome.
  • Charging cord for my Clarisonic Mia.

Oh and yes, photobomb by Emerson who was using her potty as a cave for her bath toys.

Whew, are you still here? Still reading? I am impressed! So that’s my bathroom in a nutshell. Not a lot of fancy, fun, and glamorous things but things that get the job done. Still need to get a proper day moisturizer and face cleanser, but I’m frugal and wait until the current bottle or tube is completely empty. So keep sending me your recommendations, I am noting all of them and they will help me when I do finally purchase!

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Blogging Love – Interview!

I was honored to be interviewed by Elle of the new blog Label Ho. Elle’s discusses fashion and her personal style on this site. I love supporting fellow fashion and style bloggers so I jumped at this chance to have us get to know one another better!

You can check out the interview here.

I loved the questions she asked (and if you go back in her archives, you can see her answers to the very same questions!). The name of her blog cracks me up. It reminds me of when I was Editor of my high school yearbook. I had such the fight with the sponsor over the proper spelling of this word. “If you add an ‘e’ it’s suddenly a garden tool!” (Let’s not even get into why this word was in my yearbook – let me just state that my high school was a fabulous one where I learned Japanese and was in International Baccalaureate courses, but it wasn’t in the most chi chi of neighborhoods.)

Since she interviewed me, I decided to ask her a few questions as well. Get to know Elle!

Name: “Elle,” author of Label Ho, a fashion and personal style blog

Why did you start blogging? What could be better than writing and posting about something you love? I thought it would be a fun hobby and a great way to connect with other fashion-minded people.

Favorite item in your closet: An authentic vintage Gucci handbag circa the 70s. I love that its suede and doesn’t have the GG logo plastered all over it. I found the bag at a thrift shop and its in immaculate condition. Best of all, I got it for an excellent price!

Favorite Web site to visit: FabSugar.com. They have pretty comprehensive coverage of what’s going on in the fashion world, delivered in quick, short posts. I also like that they post great outfits that members of their community put together. I’m fascinated with seeing what people put together.

Top five items on your style wish list for this season: I can only think of three since I think I pretty much have most of my key pieces already:

1. Another pair of dark bootleg jeans. I’ve pretty much worn my favorite pair so much (Joe’s Jeans in the Honey fit) that the color’s faded significantly.

2. More dresses. I’ve purchased a few already, but I just can’t get enough. They’re so easy to pull on in summer.

3. A pair of wide-leg jeans. I’ve tried on a ton of different ones, but still haven’t found a flattering fit.

Outlet Mall Shopping

Yesterday I visited a major outlet mall in my area. Over a mile of stores – some with great bargains, some with great piles of crap. There have been many stories about discount stores – how some of the product is not on sale, the clothes are made specifically for the outlet and are not the same quality that the brand name usually delivers, etc. After all that, you find designer duds for less, when is it worthwhile to spend, when should a bargain be passed by?


Fit
If it doesn’t fit well for $300, still doesn’t fit well for $150 and even for $65, don’t buy it. Just because it’s a great bargain does not make the fit any better. Shoes that are too tight or too big, jackets that pull at the back, pants that would be lovely if you just lost 15 lbs., no matter the bargain these items should just stay on the rack.

If the jacket’s sleeves are too long, the skirt’s hem at an awkward length, the shoulders a bit too big, these things can be altered easily by a tailor. You must be in love with the piece and find multiple places and ways to wear it to justify the tailor expense. I found a cream silk linen suit at a discount store – the suit fit perfectly except for a broken zipper and too long of sleeves and legs. I bought the suit for $65, regularly $350, and for $40 had the zipper and hems all modified. I have worn the suit to work, to religious events and as separates for three years. That purchase was worth the added tailoring expense.


Style
Often times the items at the discount store are there because they are leftover from last season. When it comes to classic pieces like suits, dresses and knits, this is not a problem. A blue merino v-neck is lovely almost every year, and more lovely when 50% off. The problem comes with the trendy p[pieces.


If Lindsay, Mischa, Nicole or Chloe was wearing it last spring, it’s a good chance that piece is passé now. Pass on the embellished jeans, the metallic leather bags, the rainbow-hued sunglasses and most other accessories. Just because it’s on sale does not mean it is a good buy. When it comes to scouring outlets, your best deals are the ones that will last through more than one season. Sweaters, suits, outerwear, cocktail dresses, leather goods and most shoes are great bargains if you find quality and value in the same item.


Name Brands
Just because you found a pair of Manolo Blahniks for $100 at the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet does not mean they need to be purchased. Do they fit your current style? Are they comfortable? Are they current or classic?

We have all seen the label whores – those women with a Coach purse, Jimmy Choo shoes that JLo wore last year, Baby Phat jeans, a Bebe tee with the rhinestone logo, Chanel sunglasses and a Pucci scarf in her hair. These items weren’t bought for the quality or the style. They were bought because a stranger could spot the brand a mile away. She looks trashy, obvious and victimized by fashion. None of these are appealing. Labels do not suddenly make you well dressed or well liked.


If you can find a Furla bag for 40% off and it suits your style as well as lifestyle – then go for it. If you are buying a bag purely because it’s Prada and you don’t like the style, size or fabric… well you have become a label whore.

Don’t buy that jacket just because it’s designer. Pretend that it is an unknown label – do you still like it? Do you still find it attractive and necessary? If not, put it back on the rack. That goes for ill-fitting designer duds, last season’s “It Bag,” obvious logo advertising (if it’s that obvious, it will be that obvious from last season – not worth your time or money) and damaged designer goods.


Damaged Goods
Many discount retailers sell the irregulars from a label. Some irregulars can barely be seen by the naked eye – may be an incorrect dye lot or the wrong buttons sewn on a jacket. Some may work in your favor – pants cut too short or sleeves that are too long or too narrow. Often times these stores received the garments that were damaged in production, transit or through many jaunts to the fitting room. Broken zippers, missing buttons, fabric snags are all defects that can easily be repaired or covered up if the price and style is right. However there are other defects that are not worth the purchase, no matter how low the price. Runs in nylon, stains, button holes at the wrong height, linings that do not align with the trouser, two pieces stitched together from two different dye lots. Even if it is Versace, it will look like Gallo Clothing on you if it is this defective.


Buying in Bulk
I used to be a huge fan of buying in bulk – find a tee shirt you love, buy it in eight colors and three of white and black. Flattering trousers? Buy one in every color. I then found that my wardrobe was like one big uniform… one big boring uniform. Mixing basics with fun pieces offers versatility, ease but individual style.


At outlet malls, buying in bulk is a good idea. Yesterday I was at the Banana Republic outlet and found high quality stretchy tees in tons of colors – $9.99 each. I bought one in black, one in white, one in gray and one in red. These shirts can be worn with jeans on weekends, with a little skirt for happy hour with the girls or under a suit for work. I found a great pair of wool trousers at Off Fifth, bought them in brown, gray and black. They were so standard and fit so amazingly well (and were only $39.99 each) that it was worthwhile to buy every color I liked. I knew with my work and lifestyle I would find regular use for such trousers. Another time I found a pair of really cute studded pointy heels from NYLA. They were 75% off and tres cute. I decided to buy them in hot pink, ivory and black, thinking that if they fit well, they would get much use. I was imagining sparkly tops and designer jeans with the ivory, a sexy power suit with the black, and envisioned an outfit a la Carrie Bradshaw for the pink. I took them all home, have worn the pink ones multiple times, and have barely touched the other two. I don’t wear designer jeans with sparkly tops on a regular basis, and don’t own a single chic black power suit. Those two shoes have barely seen the light of day. Consider your current lifestyle when considering to buy in bulk – items that look too familiar may not be worn and too many of the same thing may make them all too boring to regularly wear. Also, if you don’t wear red patent stilettos now, you probably won’t after purchasing a pair.


In conclusion, don’t buy just because of a label, or just because of an amazing price. Less money for an item is still money, and money should be spent carefully. Be willing to take the time to find quality purchases, not pick up every shiny bauble that sort of resembles what Gwen or Jessica wore last Spring. Fashion is not about the specific item, but the allover look. A Louis Vuitton bag or a pair of Chanel sunglasses will not make you a fashionista, the pairing with appropriate and complimentary pieces is what takes you from being a label whore or a fashion victim to fashionista status.

My Wardrobe Today – Thursday

Green and purple print silk dressJack and Ginger
Black beltAnother Line
Black ankle booties - Miss Sixty
Silver cuff

Hello all, I missed you! I got back into town Monday night but took two additional days off work so I could reconnect with Emerson and decompress after the insanity which is Bonnaroo.

I will be doing a full post on Bonnaroo 2011 – what I wore, who I saw, what I did but I just have to say this year was amazing. The splurge for VIP was well worth it. I totally felt my age this year, but not in a “woe is me, I am an old fogie” but more like, “I’m older than most folks here. I still rock, but I appreciate my creature comforts.” I went with my sister, our friend Sarah and my husband and I think we all had a great time without being utterly depleted and destroyed by the end of the festival thanks to VIP.

It was nice to come home to Emerson, who seems to have grown a foot and doubled her vocabulary since we left. Yesterday she got her first “real” haircut from my stylist Kathleen at Bananas Hair Salon and I think she looks like a blonde toddler version of Amelie. :) What’s also nice about a vacation is that you come home and look at your house with fresh eyes. I have to say I love my home, it’s so cozy and personal and it felt good to sleep in my own bed again!

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My Wardrobe Today – Monday

Black scoop teeAnn Taylor
Orange-red shantung pleated skirt – Banana Republic (no longer available)
Leopard haircalf pumps - Nine West (no longer available – similar)
Bracelet – J. Crew

How was everyone’s weekend? Ours was pretty fun. After work on Friday, we dropped Emerson off at my mom’s and went to a local restaurant/sports bar for a couple beers and some steamed shrimp. We grew up near this bar and it’s always fun to go and see folks from our past. After we came home and walked to our neighbor’s party, which was a blast.

Saturday morning my husband was teaching; I took Emerson to our neighborhood sand volleyball court which was being used as a sandbox for the local parenting group. Must have been at least 15 local families there; the kids had a blast playing in the sand and the weather was perfect. We then met my husband at the local cafe for a light lunch. The rest of the day was spent prepping for Bonnaroo – getting camping equipment from the attic, organizing what we’re taking, and of course trying on what I will be wearing once there!

Yesterday was our official wedding anniversary and we played it low-key. Headed to the community farmers market where we got iced coffees and crepes and enjoyed them in the town center. We then went to the local cafe where there was a jazz singer. Emerson danced and enjoyed the music while we had a drink and chilled with neighbors. We then went home so E could nap, we could continue prepping for Bonnaroo. My sister came over that evening and we grilled seafood and had a nice salad and a bottle of champagne to celebrate seven years.

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