Monday, March 31, 2014

7 Random Memories of Birthdays Past

Happy Birthday to…Me!

Tomorrow is the big 3-7! Yes, I was born on April Fool’s Day. And, no, I’m not joking.

I toyed with the idea of writing a warm, touchy-feely post; you know, one of those letters to my younger self. But when I tried, I realized that while I am a bit wiser than I was in my elementary school years (thank God), there are still a lot of things I’m trying to figure out.

So, I bring you this list instead…
  1. I was born on a Friday. (Granted, this is more of a vague recollection than a memory since it happened so long ago.)
  2. I spent my 9th birthday on holiday with my mom and dad in Jamaica. The trip was awesome…save for the jerk waiter at our hotel who practically interrogated my parents after he realized that the birthday cake he brought to our table was for little ‘ol me: “How could you do that to her?! Courtney is a name for a BOY.” I have since learned that, yes, Courtney is in Jamaica what Michael is here in the US. But, back then, his words hurt my feelings. What an ass, that guy.
  3. For my 16th birthday, my parents rented out the largest room of our city’s Parks & Recreation building, which played host to the best party a girl could ask for. No, it wasn’t on the level of MTV’s My Sweet Sixteen; there were no flame throwers or caged animals, and I didn’t have a white Bentley adorned with a huge red bow waiting for me at the end of the night. But I did have one kick-ass DJ, two dress changes, and the company of my closest family and friends. (A week later, I got a used Ford Mustang, which I thought was the bee’s knees.)
  4. On the day I turned 32, I came home from work to find a masseuse, whom Scott had hired to give me a 1-hour Swedish massage. Later that evening, Scott surprised me yet again with a bottle of wine he had created – complete with a customized label and everything – at Vintner’s Canton Winery. I still have the bottle on display in our nook.
  5. On my 27th birthday, I auditioned for the role of a party-goer in a television commercial for Detroit’s Greektown Casino. I know it sounds all hocus-pocus, but I felt lucky that day…and I did get the part.
  6. While riding my bike to a nearby park on the morning of my 12thbirthday, I happened upon a brown paper bag on a lone stretch of sidewalk. The fact that I stopped and opened said bag and didn’t automatically think it was a bomb or something and begin peddling in the opposite direction is a huge sign of the times. Come to find, the bag contained $17 in rolled pennies. I thought I was rich. This, too, is yet another sign of the times.
  7. Since last year’s birthday fell on the day after Easter, my family and I actually celebrated my birthday on Easter – right after brunch. Believe me when I say that this was the absolute best scenario an always-hungry pregnant lady could ask for: Right after I stuffed myself like a glutton on French toast with whipped butter, applewood smoked bacon, and a made-to-order omelet with fresh asparagus, I dove into a gourmet yellow cake – you know, the good kind with sugar flowers and buttercream icing.


Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but all I know is that cake had better be involved.
                                                                                  
What is your fondest birthday memory?

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Why I’m Scared of Divorce

I just got word that my uncle and aunt are splitting after nearly 20 years of marriage.

I know statistics say that marriages – yours; mine; the neighbor’s across the street – have about a 50-50 shot of making it. Nothing new here.

As a child who experienced the benefits of having a happily (for the most part) married mommy and daddy, I used to think divorce was something that happened to other parents; other families.

But Father Time has a way of changing one’s outlook on things. I interpret divorce differently now. My knee-jerk response is an aching that resonates on a primal level, followed by an emotional cocktail of fear, sadness, and uncertainty.

In a cruel twist of irony, my mother divorced my father a mere two months after I married my husband. They had been married for 34 years, and the split was pure hell for us all. Make no mistake, it still hurts like a bitch when your parents divorce and you’re 30.

The upside is that there are no custody battles or screaming matches/teeth-sucking/eye-rolling at visitation drop-offs.

The downside, though, is that you’re shielded from nothing because it is perceived that you’re old enough to handle it.

Divorce can turn people – even good ones – into hot-tempered, irrational jackasses. And while it is true that time heals all wounds (you might forget overhearing what your dad said about your mom when you were, say, five), words become ingrained in your psyche when you’re 30. Not enough time has passed for me to forget how my father forbade my husband and me to enter their home to help my mother retrieve her belongings – just to make things more difficult. Not enough time has passed to forget the vile voicemail messages my dad left for my mom.

I don’t know if it ever will.

The end result is the harsh realization that divorce happens, and it someday could be coming to a marriage near you. Or me.

To be clear, I love my husband now more than ever, and I married him for the right reasons. Our union, which was built on a solid foundation of acceptance, pure affection, and loyalty, is strong. I am happy – completely happy – and I cannot fathom the day when I would feel in my bones that walking away from it all is the better option.

However.

Can’t most spouses say the same about the early stages of their marriage? I’m sure my aunt and uncle did at one point. Sure, some marriages are doomed from the start, but I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the couples who went into it with eyes wide open and hearts bursting with love.

I no longer think any marriage is immune from this thing called divorce. And once you accept divorce as not necessarily a likelihood, of course, but a mere possibility – something you both have to work on to prevent, you begin to wonder if even the smallest of fissures might eventually be the proverbial loose thread that unravels it all someday. I’m just saying.

And it’s not just divorce itself that frightens me. It’s the aftermath.

I have long respected those couples who have summoned the resolve to stay put and stick it out. But I also know that it takes courage to strike out on your own for the betterment of your well-being – even if that means possibly facing financial instability, a shitload of what-ifs, and the prospect of knowing that you might end up alone. Not to mention being viewed as a leper by other married couples who knew you in your past life because they now fear your divorce might rub off on them.

This is the reality of millions of women, and the kicker is this: None of them probably thought they’d end up in this position.

I can only hope my fate is different.



“Why I’m Scared of Divorce” was originally published by Mamalode on March 26, 2014.
(You can view it here.)

If you enjoyed this post, please take a moment to "like" me on Facebook, which may help me sleep better at night (I'm getting desperate at this point). Facebook, however, doesn't care about my insomnia because they are now making fan pages (including blogs like The Brown Girl with Long Hair) PAY if we want our fans to read what we post. Me can't do that. So if you want to stay current on posts, please enter your e-mail address underneath the "Never Miss a Post" box located mid-way down on the right side of this page OR become a follower of this blog via Google Friends Connect by clicking the blue Join This Site button near the top right side of this page. Thank You!
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

7 Things Mothers Do That Are Taken for Granted

TP Patrol.
We have four bathrooms in this house, and I spend more than my fair share of time ensuring that each one is sufficiently stocked with toilet paper so that no one is left in the lurch after doing their business on the can. Contrary to popular belief, a brand new roll doesn’t just magically appear in the cabinet when the one in the holder is running low.

We get up close and personal with bodily fluids.
Vomit? These hands have caught it. Backside explosions? These hands have wiped it. When the shit (vomit, snot, you name it) hits the fan, mothers are often the first ones directly in the line of fire.

We function – and fairly well, I might add – on incredibly low amounts of sleep.
It is not uncommon for mothers to be the first ones up in the morning and the last ones in bed at night. Not to mention, we tend to be the only ones up in the middle of the night. (Well, the only adult, anyway.)

There are no sick days.
Sick day? Sick day? What’s a sick day? There are no vacation days, either. And if you do go on a family vacation, tell me: Don’t you end up needing a vacation from that vacation? I thought so.

Our “me” time during an average, run-of-the-mill day is scant, at best.
Come to think of it, the most alone time I experienced yesterday – not counting naptime – was just before sunrise, when I walked to the kitchen to put the kettle on the stove for my tea. After that, it was off to the races with no turning back.

We’re constantly in demand.
If my son’s train needs fixing, he can’t reach a book on the shelf, or he needs his boo-boo kissed along with the proverbial “All better” seal of approval, who does he call upon? Me. That’s who. Even though Dad is equally capable of solving all of these dilemmas. (I should actually strike this off the list because I’d be lying if I said that this doesn’t make me swell with pride; tee hee hee.)

We settle for the scraps.
Mealtime with a family of four – with two kids under three – can be harried, especially when one of the children depends on your breasts for nourishment. After I unroll the placemats, lay out the plates, silverware, and cups, you’d think it’s time to dig in. But, nope. Just as I lift the fork to my mouth Murphy’s Law strikes and the baby begins to cry because she’s hungry. She didn’t want to eat when I tried to nurse her five seconds prior. No. That’s because she wants to eat with the rest of us. What’s Mother to do? Tell everyone to back away from the food until she can join back in? Yeah, like that would work. So Mother is left to look on while everyone else goes to town, and then she pilfers from the scraps. (At least The Hubs saves the corner slice of deep dish pizza for me.)

What is something you do that you feel is taken for granted?

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Kim & Kanye Land Vogue

I’m not gonna lie: When news of this cover arrived last Friday by way of Vogue’s e-mailed newsletter, I threw this couple some major shade (i.e. there was a lot of eye-rolling on my part, compounded by a long, drawn-out Oh, puh-leez for extra dramatic effect.)

I’m not in Vogue Queen/Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour’s inner circle or anything, but it was pretty much an open secret that there was a time when she preferred to have been photographed in Prada from three seasons past than place Kim Kardashian on the cover of Vogue.

But, I guess Mama Bear Kris Jenner finally succeeded in twisting Anna’s arm (if the two were to throw down in a dark alley, my money is totally on Kris); or perhaps the rumors are true that Kanye confronted Anna with a Come to Jesus plea as to why both he and Kim rightfully deserve the holy grail that is the cover of Vogue.

Will we ever know what possessed Anna to cave and throw in the towel? Probably not.

Despite my major hateration, I still clicked on the link in the newsletter that read Click here for the video of Kim, Kanye, and Baby North on set of the photo shoot with [photographer phenom] Annie Leibovitz .

So let’s start with the obvious: Baby North is gorgeous, and the photos of her parents look like art. But then, Leibovitz is arguably the best in the biz. She could photograph a wine-o passed out on a street corner and it would look like, well…art.

Because that’s what Annie Leibovitz does.

But I’m still scratching my head with regard to what qualifies these two – more specifically Kim – to land on this cover. I don’t mean to be a fashion purist here, but I’ve been a Vogue subscriber since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and I quite liked the days when it was a given that Elle, Naomi, Stephanie, Linda – you know, models of that ilk – would grace a cover.

But, alas, it is a new day, one when actresses have snatched those coveted cover gigs and reality stars are even nipping at the heels of bona fide actresses. (I do admit, however, that I am inconsistent in my belief that a Vogue cover is only for cat walkers because I was fine with Sarah Jessica Parker, Lena Dunham, and Beyoncé gracing the cover; in fact, I was downright happy for them.)

Let me just come out and admit my bias right now: Khloe is my favorite Kardashian sister. I really, truly like Khloe. Like, would-like-to-have-coffee-with-her kind of like. But I’m not sure I want to see her on the cover of Vogue. Kanye, love him or hate him, I think is pretty good at what he does when he’s not acting like a complete fool and insulting people at award shows, but I’m not sure even he should be staring back at me from the cover of Vogue.

It’s Kim that leaves me scratching my head. Yeah, she’s pretty. But what does she do? Even on her reality show, she’s got the personality of a napkin. Let’s face it: Kim is known for her big butt and vocal fry(JLo was known for her butt, too, yes; but at least she sings, dances, and acts.)

Why is Kim famous?

Well, we all know technically why she’s famous, and, frankly, therein lies my fascination with her. Although I don’t admire it – quite the contrary, I find it profoundly stupefying how her mother, Kris, can make a dollar out of 15 cents. How she can spin gold from a sex tape…which eventually led to the cover of Vogue. And I’m guessing that Anna is willing to bet that this type of fascination will translate into magazine sales because that’s the whole point of this, right?

What do you think of this cover? Tell me – even if you are Team “Kimye.”

We can still be friends.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Let’s hear it for cheap cashmere!

The only things older than my collection of cashmere sweaters are the pyramids in Egypt.

I’ve got pieces that date back to 1998 – and I still wear them.

But here’s the best part: I paid less than retail for every single one of those sweaters in the photo above. I’m talking rock bottom prices. I’m talking about the kind of price tags that are liable to bring a woman to her knees – with sheer glee, I might add – at the check-out. The sweaters have come from near and far: eBay, Lord & Taylor, Old Navy (the best cheapo cashmere around!), Saks Fifth Avenue, The Limited, Express, and – the holy grails of all cashmere sources – TJ Maxx and Marshalls.

Here’s a closer look at my two favorite pieces: A fitted 100% cashmere pullover by Ralph Lauren, which I purchased when I was back in college for $50 at the TJ Maxx near the University ofMichigan campus; a 100% Italian cashmere cable-knit calf-length cardigan by Brooks Brothers, which I purchased in 2011 on eBay for $30:

I maintain that preservation is the name of the game when it comes to keeping cashmere in tip-top shape, and with the warmer months on the horizon, it’s imperative to clean and store cashmere properly. Here are my rules:

*Dry clean only in the event of a hard-to-remove stain. Do NOT try to get the stain out on your own.
*Otherwise, hand wash in cool/warm water with just a dollop of gentle shampoo. If you’ve got a hand-wash setting on your washing machine – and you trust it – then give it a go; mine has never disappointed me.
*Whatever you do, do NOT wring out the item and DON’T put it in the dryer. (Unless you want to resize said item for your Barbie.) Air drying flat is best.
*Ziploc is your friend. I store my cashmere in 1-gallon plastic baggies; the old fashioned kind, not the new fancy version with the zipper-like closure, which tends to snap if you overstuff them. (Living in a wooded area + having a river in our backyard = Moth City. And those creatures would love nothing more than to have one my precious sweaters for dinner.)

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

NFL by the Numbers: 152

One hundred fifty-two is the approximate number of Tiffany & Co. velvet-lined pewter trinket boxes the NFL’s Player Association purchased to give to the wives and girlfriends of former players who RSVP’d for the “Money and You” financial guidance breakfast. The box was like a tchotchke of sorts; a thanks-for-playing gift attendees picked up simply for sitting through a stocks and savings accounts presentation by a big-time writer at Money Magazine. (Research suggests that nearly 80 percent of women in relationships bear the responsibility of managing household finances – often with little help from their significant others, and apparently the NFL got the memo.)

The early-morning seminar was but one of many events on the itinerary during the 2005 NFL Former Player’s Convention, an annual five-day getaway – usually held in a warm, sun-drenched locale; that year it was at the lush Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach – where retired football players, both young and old, convene for food, fellowship, and to hear health and business related updates from their board of representatives.

But for now, let’s focus in on the Tiffany swag because at that point in time, it was the first Tiffany anything I had received. If you’re thinking, Damn, Courtney, the box is made of pewter – it’s not covered in diamonds. You are easy to impress.

Why, yes. Yes, I’m easy to impress, then.

It’s because in all the 12 years I spent toiling in the workforce, attending more yawn-inducing seminars than I care to remember, the only token gifts I received were key chains and cheap ink pens, many of which had run out of ink before I had even reached the parking lot.

So, yeah, I admit it: My heart skipped a beat when I took my seat at the table and realized that the little blue box next to my mimosa and crumpets was for me to keep. It still is a pretty big deal to me.

But as much as this gift excited me, it pales in comparison to the second item we walked away with – and get this: The second item actually cost less than a dollar – 79 cents, to be exact. I’ll explain what it is – as well as its significance – in an upcoming post.

The 2014 NFL Former Players Convention kicks off today, as a matter of fact, at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando. This event is just another in a long list of things we’re continuing to pass on while the Ball and Chain are young.

Sigh.

In the meantime, however, Scott’s and my definition of “going away,” involves a trip to…wait for it…

The park.

…where Kennedy this weekend had her first ride on the swing:
And she liked it! She really liked it!

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Monday, March 17, 2014

10 ways to set Mommy off


Mommy rage.

It’s real. And, quite possibly, coming to a household near you if someone dares to complete one or more of the following offenses. Consider yourself warned…

1.       While standing in line at the store, reach out and touch the cheek of the newborn belonging to the Mommy in front of you. (This is not only a surefire way to set Mommy off, but also a fantastic way to draw back a nub.)

2.       Second guess any Mommy’s parenting skills, and furthermore, tell her that you are doing so. (When will people realize that, barring insanity or an extreme chocolate deficiency, we’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got?)

3.       Few things can light Mommy’s fuse before her child arrives, but lobbying for a seat next to her OBGYN during delivery is just the thing to do it. If Mommy wants you there, she will let you know.

4.       On the heels of number three, some people actually take it one step further and attempt to crash Mommy’s homecoming from the hospital under the guise of offering “help.” (Yeah, okay. Insert eye-roll here.)

5.       Label her child as “slow” or “off” in comparison to the milestones already reached by other children. Them’s fightin’ words.

6.       Keep doing something Mommy told you not to. And keep doing it. Over. And over. And over. This stands for children and adults.

7.       When you’re in a parking lot of a superstore and see a Mommy who’s clearly having a tough go of it – let’s say she’s, oh, seven months pregnant and struggling with her man child of a toddler – turn the knife even further by snatching the only shopping cart within a ten-mile radius. Even if you don’t need it.

8.       Blatantly disrespect Mommy’s time by completely disregarding the window you’ve promised for service. (I’m looking at you, Refrigerator Repair Man.)

9.       Jerk Mommy around by transferring her from one incompetent account representative to the next. (I’m looking at all of you, Insurance Phone Representative People.)

And finally…

10.   Suggest to any Mommy – regardless her children’s ages – that she “should have lost all of her baby weight by now.” This is, by all means, an invitation for a myriad of problems. 

What sets you off?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

INSIDE MY DIAPER BAG

When you have two kids under the age of three, your diaper bag is seriously doing double duty. And since I have a penchant for loading my bags up like pack mules, I had to either determine which things are truly necessities, or carry everything and live in my chiropractor’s office. For obvious reasons, I chose the former, so here are the items I can’t live without. They are the exact items I carry in my diaper bag:
  1. Boudreaux’s Baby Kisses Lip and Cheek Moisturizer – This is one of my favorite lip balms (Eos is the other, and I keep that one in my wallet). It glides on easily, is fragrance free, and stays put. The kids and I both use it. I found it on clearance but would actually pay full price if need be; Kroger
  2. Diaper bag organizer – In one word, this is a lifesaver. Without it, I’d be rooting around in this bag for days; eBay
  3. Aquaphor Healing Ointment – What with all the diaper changing and hand washing that goes on, my hands are so dry, they look as if I’ve rolled them around in flour. This mitigates the damage, somewhat; Walgreens
  4. Hooter Hider – When you breastfeed your children as long as I do (I nursed Scotty until 17 months), sooner or later you’re going to have to do it in public. I’m totally not judging the mothers who choose to just whip it out, but I prefer to keep the twins concealed; eBay
  5. Tide to Go – Because stains happen; Target
  6. GoGo Squeeze Applesauce – It’s all-natural and my son can feed it to himself without making a mess. I love this stuff; Walmart
  7. Pure Wipes for Kids – The strongest, most reliable anti-bacterial wipes, bar none. (I also use them to wipe down tables at restaurants, too.) They’re well worth the price of only $1.20 per pack of 36; Big Lots
  8. Johnsons & Johnsons First Aid Kit – Because boo-boos also happen; Target
  9. Longchamp Large LePliage Tote – The art of consolidation has even impacted my choice of handbag: My diaper bag also doubles as a purse for now. I wanted something stylish, stain resistant, and, of course, light. This classic nylon Longchamp bag with durable leather straps is perfect; Neiman Marcus
  10. Speed Wheels toy car – I actually have about four of these in the bag. They (mostly) keep Scotty preoccupied, and at only $.89, it’s no big deal if he loses one; Walgreens
  11. Sesame Street Sensitive Baby Wipes – Another clearance find. Now I’m addicted to them and pray they’re not being discontinued; Big Lots
  12. Germ-X hand sanitizer – I buy these in bulk because, yes, we all know germs happen, too; Walmart
  13. The First Years changing pad – This was on my baby shower registry when I was pregnant with Scotty, and it continues to be my go-to changing pad for baby Kennedy. It cleans easily, has several storage pockets, and I can fold it with one hand; Target
  14. Raw almonds – Packed with antioxidants and “the good fats,” this small snack packs a powerful punch and can stave off my hunger for hours. My local grocery store
  15. Lysol To Go spray – Does this even warrant an explanation? Life with kids is stinky; Target

UPDATE: Times change. Please note that I've changed diaper bags since I published this post. 
Here's what I'm carrying now:

To read more about what's inside, click here...





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Friday, March 7, 2014

MY SILENT PRAYER

And my prayer is this:

“Dear God: Just don’t let me expose myself at the pool.”

Let me explain.

It’s crunch time, folks.

Pun wholeheartedly intended.

Scotty begins his next round of swimming lessons one month from now. One month!

The class rules mandate that a parent must accompany each child in the water, and since I was pregnant for the better part of last year, Scotty’s aquatic prowess was put on hiatus.

I felt it would have been distracting for the children to be swimming alongside Shamu. Or perhaps they would have thought I was one large community flotation device; you know, something they could have reached out and latched on to in the event that one of their life jackets got a hole in it.

Either way, all the money in the world could not have enticed me to take Scotty to those swim classes last fall – not when I was mere weeks away from popping.

So since I’ve got less than 30 days to shave down what’s left of these saddlebags – while trying to somewhat flatten my pooch – I’ve moved on to the next 30 Day Challenge; two, actually.

I’m now doing the 30-Day Crunch and 30-Day Squat Challenges simultaneously: 

My biggest, challenge, however, was buying a new swimsuit.

While I didn’t want to rock the bathing suit equivalent of mom jeans, I didn’t want to arrive to the pool looking like a Sports Illustrated reject, either.

Those aren’t the looks I’m going for.

So enter this modest “tugless tank”one-piece from Lands’ End:

Frankly, this marks the very first time form and function have dictated my choice of swimwear.

My itty-bitty Pucci bikini hasn’t seen the light of day in so long that it’s laced with cobwebs. (A huge sign of the times, but I digress.)

Even in this swimsuit, which by all accounts is a safe choice, I’ll still be saying a silent prayer to the Lord above that all of my bits remain covered.

At the end of the day, I just want swimwear that won’t give way to a nip slip or give me The Mother of All Wedgies when I’m getting in and out of the pool.

Is that too much to ask?


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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

THE. BEST. WINTER. BOOTS. EVER.

A few weeks ago, I featured a pair of ankle boots I had recently purchased, and while I do like them, this is more my speed…

Some background: Those close to me know what I don’t leave the house for much these days. It has to be something big, like taking one of the kids to the doctor or, say, fetching bottled water and batteries because the world is coming to an end. But the prospect of a trip to Marshall’s or TJ Maxx will send me searching for the car keys every single time.

A few months ago, my mom, the kids, and I made a pit stop at a Marshall’s, and as I’m strapping Kennedy’s baby carrier onto the cart, I see the boots pictured above.

I didn’t know anything about them – i.e. who made them, how much they cost – but I knew I needed them.

Now.

Come to find, they are by a company named Bogs, which makes super durable, super reliable outdoor wear.

But I didn’t know all that at the time.

All I knew was that the rain boots I had at home were a b*tch to get off, so I needed an upgrade.

I exert so much energy pulling those suckers off that I swear I lose five pounds just trying. 

Anyway, these Bogs were perfect.

Well, they were $60, but they retail for $104. And it gets better: My mother purchased the boots for me as a Christmas gift, which I am extremely thankful for. Here’s more about the boots, from the Bogs Website:

Built with durable rubber to keep you dry and comfortable and to withstand the harshest conditions. Constructed with 7mm four way stretch Neo-Tech insulation. Comfort rated to -40˚F. Contour fit for maximum support and movement and a non-slip outsole to deliver excellent traction on any surface.

Now, I get that the style of these boots is quite rugged, a look not everybody is into.

But if my Bogs aren’t your cup of tea, don’t write the brand off just yet – Bogs come in a variety of shapes and fabrics.

Just look at a few of the ensembles I pulled off of Bogs’ Pinterest page: 
I wanted to write this post immediately upon buying these boots, but I decided to wait until I had worn them for a while in order to make a fair assessment.

And the verdict is in: These are, without a doubt, the best winter/rain boots I have ever owned.

Period.


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