Step Up 2018 INSPIRATION AWARDS

Those of you that have been visiting this blog and know me are aware of Step Up Women's Network. Last year, I was overwhelmed with gratitude at the generosity of many of you for your donations on my birthday! I still can't believe it.  

(quick sidenote: I'm reading the comments below. Thank you to those sharing your own experiences!)

Needless to say, it was great to be hosting another Inspiration Awards. Lacey Chabert and I have joined forces and gathered our friends in hopes of spreading the word about what Step Up does.  It was a beautiful day. 

Beverley Mitchell, Kimberly brown, briana cuoco, kaley cuoco, lacey chabert, katilin vilasuso

Beverley Mitchell, Kimberly brown, briana cuoco, kaley cuoco, lacey chabert, katilin vilasuso

Highlights:

Every year, one girl is chosen to share her moving, inspirational "testimony." About 20-30 girls walked out on stage and reported where they will be attending college next year. The majority of these girls are first generation high school graduates. Another group of alumnae (it looks like I misspelled that, but I looked up the plural form of female graduates!) came out and shared where they already graduated and where they will be working. It's such a honor to listen to them talk about their successes. I loved watching my friend Kaitlin Vilasuso's reaction to hearing about Step Up for the first time.

I loved that the high school girls of Step Up that want to be journalists were in the press line asking questions. I was asked what I would tell my younger self 20 years ago. Such a good question for us to all ask ourselves!! I said, "Oh, hope you do not worry so much. It's all gonna work itself out. Focus on the present and be your best YOU today." Now, if I can only take my own advice. Oh, and then I added to enjoy your youth! 

Regina Hall was honored. My favorite line she said to the Step Up girls: pursue excellence, not likes. In a world of social media, this is so important. 

Finally, and selfishly, I love this day because I get to see many friends all in one place. They inspire me. 

This year, I am vowing to do more in the mentorship department. Every little helps, whether we are giving our time or a little donation, or a big one. Programs like Step Up make it very feasible for us to make a difference in someone's life.

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The picture above with Lacey Chabert and journalist and activist Lisa Ling was also taken two years ago when we were all pregnant. We promised each other to get the littles together for a playdate soon.

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Since I do talk about fashion here.... here are a few details on the clothes/my dress. I liked wearing this dress- at $65, you can't really go wrong. Perfect for year round parties, summer weddings, etc. It comes in five colors, so check it out. I am wearing a size us 4 and it was very fitted. I actually had to clasp the back before I zipped it up, but it holds you in really well. I love the cobalt blue and just ordered a 6 to see the difference. Nordstrom is so easy to return if it doesn't work. I also found it on Topshop's site HERE in a deeper blood red!! On both sites, they are selling fast, FYI.

And I have about worn out my nude heels-- right now they are on sale under $50. These elongate your legs (close toed or open strappy). Since the bow and the red color were the focus of my dress, I kept the jewelry to a minimum. I did my own makeup which sometimes works for me and sometimes doesn't. Ha! I like this great highlighter to even out my skin and make my shoulders and cheekbones shine a bit (use sparingly) on top of my lotion. I attempted to use a self tanner the night before, but it didn't work that well overnight, so I mixed Sally Hansen's spray on tan (they also make a body makeup) with baby lotion!

(Tip: if you do this, mix it well. Use more lotion that spray. I stand over an old towel because it can get little bits of makeup on the floor. I quickly take the blow dryer and go over my body to set it once it looks even enough. THEN BEFORE I PUT ON THE DRESS, I take the old towel and gently rub over my legs and arms to make sure the makeup doesn't rub off on the dress. This sounds like a lot of work, and it IS! But, for certain events, it's worth it and once I got the hang of it, I can do it very fast. This was how we evened out my skin in all those swamp scenes on True Blood. On Bold and Beautiful or other soaps, we have BODY MAKEUP artists that come and make your skin even and tan and glow. No joke! Many actresses like to spray tan regularly so they don't have to wear so much body makeup.)

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taking a quick selfie with Lisa Ling

taking a quick selfie with Lisa Ling

Finally, I have to mention a few of the other gorgeous dresses my friends wore. I am VERY into polka dots and fun prints. Amy Davidson wore the cute dress with a cut out back- darling summer frock. And Beverley Mitchell wore the pretty floral print. My girlfriend Kaitlin Vilasuso wore the stunning white Ted Baker dress. 

Thanks for visiting!! 

Have a great week....

xoxo AAJ

Body After Baby

I have to thank Soap Opera Digest for their latest interview where Mara Levinsky got me talking about body after baby (on stands now- with a blurb on the cover!). I haven't written much about this topic because in no way do I feel like an expert. However, I think it's good to talk about the reality of life and getting in shape after having a baby. Or the reality of what it takes to get in better shape for anyone: discipline and work. The article goes in depth about the things that I didn't expect, the struggles and the joys of postparatum. Let me know what you think!

This photoshoot was two weeks after giving birth, right before I went back to shoot GENERAL HOSPITAL. I was EXHAUSTED and emotional and elated simultaneously. 

I took long walks several times a week and kept as active as my energy level allowed during the pregnancy, trying not to gain unnecessary weight. Hayden got fairly big toward the end (I wrote this post after the baby shower, and this post was three days before I gave birth). I admit, I was lucky I initially lost some of the pounds I gained, but it started to creep back. I had to eat more to keep breastfeeding and wasn't working out enough. The struggle to get back in the same shape I was in pre-pregnancy has been real for me. I haven't done it yet, as I discuss in the article. My body looks different. One of the biggest struggles has been learning to accept myself for where I am in life today. A reader (thank you Cara Sue!) left a comment in another post about resolutions for 2017. She simply said she wanted to have "more self care." I love this because it encompasses more than just vanity; it's a whole lifestyle practice mentally, emotionally and physically. My priority now is my baby and my family. This used to sound like an excuse to me when other people said it, and it is to an extent, but it's simply the truth. Do you feel like you have time to workout? I don't want to be that person with excuses! My husband reminds me it's all about prioritizing the day, making smart choices.

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So, I am trying to look at this as an opportunity to adjust to a new lifestyle! I strap the baby on and go hiking or walking. I use my Joovy jogger to jog if I'm not too tired. I have grand plans to escape to yoga, but my membership doesn't get as much use as it used to. So, I go when I can. Some days I feel like I'm running around in circles not being as productive as I'd like. I have to let my preconceived expectations of the day go as I step over full laundry baskets and Huck's toys. I have a feeling some of you can relate?  

I try to stay well so I have energy by implementing super simple tips I learned from Dr. Oz! I have to say, my whole household has been sick, but I have not! I still take Proglucamune, the immunity supplement from Usana.  I promised myself I would drink two glasses of water with my supplements every morning. I'm proud I have made that a habit. My mom recently reminded me of a tip we both learned from Ronn Moss (from BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL) years ago... hot water with lemon first thing every morning to detoxify the body. I remember him drinking it during the day on set, too. He swears by this habit. Healthy (and free) habits are the best! 

In order to make progress for tomorrow, I have to do something different today. Doing the same thing every day and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. So, I am making a list of easy, healthy habits to incorporate change in my life as part of my new year's resolutions. I'm going to force myself to try them--- wanna do it with me? Leave a comment of things you'd like to try. Drink more water? Vitamins? Less soda? Less sugar. Take more steps (literally walk more)? I'm thinking I'd like to start one habit at a time and build from there. 

In the meantime, in honor of the Golden Globes tonight, I'm sharing my favorite tricks I've learned over the years from wardrobe, makeup and hair that have helped me during this transition period of body after baby.  Read them HERE! 

NO MORE CRYING OVER SPILLED MILK! What items are saving me (and my milk)!

AshleyAJones.com

First of all, I'm grateful I can breastfeed at all. I know it's a privilege.  With that said, it's been an incredibly trying, challenging, emotional roller coaster. For me and my husband! Sleep deprivation is a real thing! Although it hasn't even been a month, there are a few key materials I wish SO MUCH I had utilized from day one in the hospital. I'm back to work today!!  And these products have helped me save extra milk for Hayden. This is simply my experience... I'm obviously not a doctor (even though I play on one on B&B- ha!), so do your own research and find what is best for you. 

First off, I've had issues. I'll write more in another post for those that are curious of my experience, but to spare you the morbid details, I'll just say my nipples got so raw, I couldn't breastfeed.  I was still pumping, but it hurt. Badly. Finally, I listened to my mother and bought breast shields. Immediately, I was able to go back to breast feeding with Hayden.  It doesn't take away all the pain, but it lessens it by about 75%.  (***Please note: before you use these, do your own research. I believe they can help temporarily, but over time, could lessen your supply of milk.)

                         Medela Breast Shield

                        Medela Breast Shield

Secondly, my husband did his own research and ordered me Milk Savers.  After seeing how desperate I was to produce and save milk, it crushed us to see wasted milk in breast pads or dripping down my clothes.  When I would nurse on one breast, the other one would leak quite a bit.  It would've saved me  a ton of grief, pain and spilled milk!  You know the saying... no sense crying over spilled milk? Well, let me tell you. I've shed a few tears over wasting this precious liquid gold.  Every girlfriend (nursing or about to try nursing) I have told about this product wants it!

While the Milk Savers are great while I'm nursing or even around the house, I am using breast shells inside my nursing bra occasionally between feedings. They collect excess milk and it can really add up. (TIP: if you use the lids with ventilation at the top, be careful when you lean over--- it will spill out!!). This is an easy way to collect milk when you aren't feeding or pumping. Plus, at least for my situation, it protects the nipples while they are healing.  I really used them mainly for that. I didn't love collecting milk in them.

Below, I rounded up the products that have helped me the most with breastfeeding.  I added my favorite nursing bras, too.  They are priced low to high (some, in my opinion, high).  But, so far, the ones I've chosen are worth the money.  (ps- click on each picture if you're interested because some items on sale are not reflected in this post, but will show up when you click).  I'm still in shock how quickly they get messed up and need washing... one minute we're good and the next... oops! We're leaking! Anyhow, check it out... and please--- this takes a village, if there are products you highly recommend, PLEASE leave a comment.  

Check out the nursing tops I have used the most. To read more about nursing, or see where I was wearing some of these, type NURSING in the search box at the top right. You'll see more posts!