My First Dia&Co Box

I have a love/hate relationship with shopping. It can be a blast and so worth it to find great clothes at even better prices. Alas, my options are limited by an almost non-existent budget for clothes, and the struggle of being curvier than the average XL but not having quite the right body type for most “plus-size” clothes. Landing good-quality clothes in my size and fit at an affordable price is, essentially, a unicorn of an occasion.

My experience with shopping as a plus-size woman is not unique, and that seems to be why Dia&Co exists.

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I’ve been seeing ads for Dia&Co for months. Hindered by my budget and my hesitation to give subscription services a try (yes, this was my first one), I didn’t take the plunge until last week, when I was reading an article about plus-size models on Racked, tweeted by my friend Alicia. That article linked to another one about Dia&Co, and somehow, I ended up on their website, creating an account to order my first box.

The process on Dia.com is simple: complete a survey, write a note for your first stylist (if you’d like), pick your subscription option, and try to wait patiently for that first box! Their initial survey went so in-depth, I actually felt a bit emotional when going through the questions. “What parts of your body are you comfortable showing off?” “What parts of your body do you like to keep covered?” They were thoughtful enough to ask for a budget range on a variety of clothing items, not just a broad overall budget. Similarly, they wanted to know the specifics of sizing, not just a broad “I’m a size XXL!” or whatever. This was made for people like me.

I wasn’t without my misgivings through this process. I knew my $20 styling fee (shipping both ways, in case you decide to return or exchange anything, is free) would be applied to any item I wanted to purchase. But… what if I didn’t want any of the five items that were shipped to me in that first box? What if nothing fit right or none of the styles were “me”? What if I just couldn’t justify the price of any of the items? It’s a thrifty gal’s nightmare.

Spoiler alert… I shouldn’t have worried.

My box arrived on Wednesday (I placed that initial order late on the previous Thursday). I had eagerly checked the tracking number they had emailed me and knew to expect it on my stoop when Chris and I got home from work (and quickly had to turn around and head to church for VBS — but that’s its own blog post).

Inside, I found an envelope with a letter from my first stylist, Jonelle, and the itemized invoice for each of the items.

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So what was in the box?

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First, this absolutely perfect peplum top. The fit is spot-on and, if I’m being honest, peplum flatters my body type in a big way! The best part is that I feel like I can wear this to work, to church, or out with Chris with just a tweak of the accessories or my choice of pants.

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I also died over this wrap dress! In my survey, I told Dia&Co that I like retro styles, and this is one of the choices my stylist made based on that response. The fit was perfect, and the skirt length and modest neckline made it just right for work (and, again, it would feel right to wear to church or out to dinner). I felt incredible in this dress, which is why I took the plunge and paid waaayyy more for this than I would have in a store. (Just being real with y’all.)

Those are the two items I decided to keep from my box! There were three additional items I didn’t keep for largely budgetary reasons:

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First, this cute top. This sucker is so me, but I already have several things like it in my closet, so I decided not to keep it.

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These killer skinny jeans! Y’all, I have never felt such soft jeans in my life. The fit was good from the hips down, but the waist was a bit too snug and I didn’t think going up a size would be the right choice with these (due to my height).

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There was also this necklace that I wasn’t nuts about. I don’t wear much silver, and the price tag on this couldn’t be justified for its simplicity. I have plenty of cheaper, funkier pendant necklaces already.

Alright, time for some real talk: the total cost for all five items in my first Dia&Co box was $270. Yep. If I wanted to buy all five items, Dia would have applied a 25% discount ($67.50), bringing the total down to $182.50 once the original $20 styling fee was deducted as well.

I had to be pretty honest with myself about what I could justify splurging on, which is how I ended up keeping the peplum top and the wrap dress ($131 before deducting my styling fee and a referral bonus). Wearing those two items, I felt like a new woman, and the way I figured it, that was the whole point. Additionally, I am starting to consider that I should be more willing to splurge on high-quality, well-fitting clothes instead of always just taking what I can find on a clearance rack.

All in all, I truly loved this first box. My concerns about the survey not being able to clearly convey my style to my first box’s stylist were unwarranted. I truly feel like Dia&Co worked hard to ensure this first box would match what I already liked to wear while simultaneously challenging me to try variations of my favorite styles. However, I won’t be able to afford to do this on a monthly basis. I hope I made that clear in my post-box survey, because I definitely want to order another box again in the future (once I’ve saved up enough that I could buy everything I might want from the box)!

If you are interested in trying a Dia&Co box, please feel free to use my referral link: https://www.dia.com/r/qt98

What subscription services have you tried? What was the verdict? Let me know in the comments!

My First Dia&Co Box

 

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Muggles in Diagon Alley + Free ‘Platform 9 3/4’ Printable!

A few weeks ago, Chris and I went on a road trip through Williamsburg, Savannah, and Orlando! Each stop was a blast, but let’s be real — I was the most excited about going to Diagon Alley.

I have precisely zero shame talking about the Harry Potter conventions I’ve attended. In the summers of 2010 and 2011, I met up with friends in Orlando and we talked about Harry Potter for four days straight. We wore wizard’s robes and carried wands around Universal’s Islands of Adventure in July. We all watched the final installment of the film franchise together the night before it premiered.

But a few months after LeakyCon in 2011, Chris and I got engaged and later married, and now, five years into our marriage, we’ve bought a house and have full-time jobs at the university where we met — so my memories of those summers in “Hogsmeade” seemed like a summation of my childhood.

Except not really! Chris grew up reading Harry Potter too; it’s one of the shared interests that sparked our friendship. Numerous copies of Harry Potter books in various editions fill our shelves. When it came time to plan a trip to celebrate our fifth anniversary, it seemed an easy (though admittedly expensive) decision to visit Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

You guys. They nailed every detail in these parks. I thought Hogsmeade was magical when I visited with friends in 2010 and 2011. But walking into Diagon Alley with my husband back in May, soaking up all the details and the grand scale — that was perfect!

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There are so many more photos (by both me and Chris) of the other stops on our road trip on Instagram at #chrashleyroadwarriors!

So here comes the free printable! I’d been meaning to make a Platform 9 3/4 printable for our new house since before we even moved in… but coming back from our trip, filled with warm fuzzies remembering the magic of growing up reading those books — that was just the motivation I needed to whip up this simple, low-key print!

FREE Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4 Printable!

And I want to share the printable with you! I ended up making a black and white version as well as the slightly more colorful one pictured. When you download the file, you can choose between a 5×7 size or the full size, which can be trimmed down to 8×10 or use as the 8.5×11 pictured.

Click the image below to download the printable of your choice!

Copy of Card – Untitled Design

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Wanting to fill your home with more Harry Potter goodness? Here are two other gorgeous free Harry Potter-centric printables that I’ve been eyeing for our home, too!

  1. Happiness Can Be Found Even in the Darkest of Times – Lightbulb printable by Simple Everyday Mom
  2. I Solemnly Swear that I am Up to No Good – Watercolor printable by How to Nest for Less

If you’re a little more ambitious, you could try making a Book Page Wreath! I have full instructions with photos at that link!

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Crafts for Groups of Kids (A Challenge Accepted)

On Wednesday nights throughout the school year, Chris and I are “yellow team” leaders in our church’s Awana program. We hurry home from work, feed our pathetic cats, grab some fast food, and show up to church a few minutes late every Wednesday. We work with a group of third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders as they study Scripture, complete activities, and ultimately memorize verses.

With May just around the corner, I’ve started planning for our summertime program that replaces Awana once the kids are out of school: MegaSports. If you know me even remotely, you’ll know sports are significantly beyond my wheelhouse. Fully within my realm of expertise, however: crafts, y’all.

Yes, I lead the less-than-sporty crowd at MegaSports, and we do crafts proudly.

I’ve been leading crafts since 2015. I took up this mantle when I learned that our children’s pastor could never find anyone willing to do it. This blew my mind; who wouldn’t want to bust out the popsicle sticks and glue with some munchkins on a fine Wednesday evening in summer?

Turns out, the hard part isn’t corralling an excitable group of kids around a table strewn with craft supplies. It’s finding crafts that are do-able with groups of kids. Most kids’ crafts that you’ll find on Pinterest are either too complicated for the attention-deficient or too simple to occupy older kids, or they require materials that are expensive or impossible to find in bulk (a must for church activities). It takes time and effort to find crafts that use inexpensive supplies, have simple instructions, and are suitable for a range of ages.

Crafts for groups

This blog post is inspired by my quest for such crafts. I’m writing it selfishly, as an attempt to wrangle all the ideas floating around on my children’s ministry Pinterest board for this year’s MegaSports. (Also, I’m 100% procrastinating some yard work needing to be done. Whoops.)

Wanna see some of my ideas for this year’s crafts? (Click the Read More button below on the right.)

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18 Tried & True Whole30 Recipes for Normal People

Well, family, it’s here: Day 29 of our very first Whole30. And we’ve made it here relatively unscathed! My cravings are mostly under control and, though I haven’t been on the scale, I can tell I have lost some weight. I’m feeling pretty great, y’all!

One of the reasons I embarked on this Whole30 was to gain a new perspective on meal planning. And considering that, in the last 29 days, we’ve tried 23 new recipes or food preparation methods, I believe that one has been achieved!

Building our first meal plan for our first week of our Whole30 was terribly intimidating. I wasn’t yet comfortable ferreting out the non-compliant ingredients I was used to using in recipes, and I was wary of going all-in on any recipes that I might not love. My husband is notoriously picky, so some ambitious ingredients (salmon, zucchini pasta, stuffed peppers) were off the the table this time around. Additionally, we don’t have an especially roomy grocery budget, so we couldn’t rely too heavily on pricey specialty ingredients.

So what the heck have we been eating for the last 29 days?!

I decided to compile a list of our favorite Whole30 recipes we successfully tried this month. These recipes were all simple and made up of ingredients normal people can afford and enjoy! Ready to dive in? 🙂

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Quick disclaimer: All of these gorgeous photos are the property of the bloggers linked in each caption. Please visit their blogs for the full recipes!

First up, let’s talk about breakfast! (Click the Read More button below on the right.)

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Whole30 – It’s all downhill from here

Well hello, Internet!

Here we are on Day 18 of our Whole30 — several days “over the hump,” midway through our third full week, very nearly out of the teens. If you’re familiar with the Whole30 Timeline, this is what whole food fans refer to as the “Tiger Blood” phase!

I don’t know about Tiger Blood, but I have seen “non-scale” improvements in several areas:

  • The food is good. I haven’t tried a lot of new foods, but I’ve definitely become more comfortable with preparing meals from scratch and using whole foods. We’re still eating too many white potatoes, but I only recently realized that sweet potatoes actually taste sweet on their own (without brown sugar and butter)! I don’t even think that they need cinnamon! And that’s just one example of my “good food” discovery.
  • I have way more self-control than I thought. I’ll talk more about my bad habits below, but saying no is becoming easier (that may be because I know that I’m one step closer to being able to say yes as I progress through my Whole30…shhh).
  • We are saving a ton of cash money! Anyone who is concerned about whole foods causing a spike in their grocery bill should consider how much they will save by not eating out as frequently. We’ve been eating out once, maybe twice per week, whereas we used to eat at least five meals outside of our home each week. In addition, many whole foods purchased in bulk (and in season) are far less expensive than convenience foods.
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A colorful, simple, last-minute meal that we tried this week (roasted veggies and chicken)!

There are, of course, some tough aspects, too.

  • My instincts toward junk food are still alive and well. I have become very conscious of some bad habits and toxic attitudes I have toward foods that aren’t so good for me. When coworkers offer me a snack or treat, it’s bizarre how I am wired to just say “Sure!” without even thinking, “Am I hungry? Is this a good choice if I am hungry?” It will take a lot longer than thirty days to break this habit, but I’m thankful that it’s being brought to light now (and I’m learning to arm myself with appropriate snacks if a craving hits).
  • I have had some moments of real boredom with the diet. These seem to occur most frequently on the weekends, when we have a lot of time at home and I feel so unenthused by preparing all three meals in my kitchen. I have tried to fight this by injecting lots of new meals into our meal plans; check out my Made it & Ate It board on Pinterest for meals we’ve tried so far!

I’ll still be posting daily snapshots over on my Instagram Story, so if you like pictures of people’s food (if you’re on Instagram, you clearly at least tolerate such photos), check out my Instagram!

Toward the end of our Whole30 (the last day of which is April 10th), I will post an update on the reasons we embarked on this thing in the first place. Stay tuned!