Cleo Madison Dress Review

September 6, 2017 in Linen Closet

When it’s time for back to school shopping or looking for a great new dress for my gaggle of girls, I spend a lot of time searching for modest clothing that’s not crazy expensive, and it’s crazy hard to find. We are not always successful, and we have a hard time finding styles we love that are also modest and cute.

This dress is darling, modest, a great price, and even ships for free!

So I was excited to find this online boutique: Cleo Madison. They sent me a dress to try in return for an honest review, and I was thrilled to work with them. Beth was getting ready to leave for college, and looking for BYU-appropriate dresses was on her list of to-do’s before she left, so it was perfect timing.

By the way, we just got her safely tucked in to her dorm a few days ago, and this mama heart isn’t doing awesome with one of her babies living under a different roof. Feel free to send comfort chocolate. Anyway…

Cleo Madison dresses are cute and super affordable. I would say cheap, but that makes them sound like they’re bad quality, and that’s simply not true. The quality is as excellent as the pricing.

Beth chose this Cindy striped dress she loved and guessed on a size. They don’t have a general sizing guide because their clothing is provided by several vendors, but they are happy to talk to you about sizing and are happy to exchange or return items that don’t fit quite right.

Shipping was great – it came even faster than we expected. And the best part? Shipping is free in the US! I was out of town when it arrived, but Beth said she put it right on out of the package and it looked amazing. She definitely guessed right on the size. She did say it had a funky smell when she opened it that made her not want to keep breathing when she tried it on, but one wash and that foul odor was history.

This dress is darling, modest, a great price, and even ships for free!Bottom line, this dress is super cute. We LOVE the color. The dark green is gorgeous and goes perfectly with Beth’s coloring. The fabric is really soft. The dress is ridiculously comfortable – she wants to sleep in it. The sleeves are a fabulous length, covering the wrist, not at all too short. The length of the dress is good – down past her knees so she feels covered and modest.

The fit is fabulous, and Beth feels like she looks awesome in it, so you know she’s going to wear it all the time. At first she wasn’t sure how to wear the tie well. It’s not a style she’s used to. But as soon as she figured out how she likes it, she really liked it. It only took her one wear to figure it out. It’s not calculus…

Our only issue is the white stripes. They’re pretty see-through. A slip, of course, fixes most of that, but she still feels very exposed on top. So she either needs a different slip style or something else to wear under the dress – like maybe a demi shirt to line just the top stripes.

Overall, we love the dress and loved our whole shopping experience. Beth says she would give it a 10/10… after she washed out the smell. For me, I love how great she looks and how much she loves it. And the price is fantastic – especially the fast free shipping. I would definitely buy from this fabulous boutique again. They have dresses, footwear, skirts, swimwear, and tops with our names on them! Not literally, of course… but I’m eyeing this one next.

What do you love at Cleo Madison?

How I am finally learning to use my fancy camera

May 5, 2014 in Coffee Table


I took a photography class in a summer rec program when I was about 10 years old. I loved learning to use the old cameras, developing the film, and the red glow of the dark room. I was totally hooked. And then this creepy kid in my class told me he could see through my shirt, and I didn’t want to go back. I hadn’t developed my thick skin yet at that age, and staying far away from creepy kids was high on my list of priorities.

That sad introduction to photography was the only formal instruction I ever had, but that didn’t stop me from thinking I could take amazing pictures. I admit, I was one of those misguided souls who thought the camera made the photo, so all I needed was a fancy camera to take fancy pictures. I had all these cute little kiddos and wanted to have awesome pictures of them throughout their lives.

Mr. 4018 and I weren’t exactly rich, but we saved up our nickels and dimes (and gifts from our parents) until we could finally afford a DSLR. I was so totally in love! When the girls got home from school that day, I had them start jumping in the air so I could take fun shots of them flying, messy room and all.


Why was that our first photo session? I have no idea. But we thought we were so cool. Every once in awhile I would accidentally take a picture I really loved.


But mostly it was like having a really expensive point & shoot camera. I didn’t know what I was doing, and it was always on auto. That’s when I learned the fancy camera doesn’t auto-matically create fancy pictures – the photographer does! And I was not a fancy photographer.

I kept reading that I needed to take more photos to improve my photography, but I quickly learned that just shooting more didn’t equate to improving unless you really worked on it. You actually have to figure out some things to change before your photography improves!

It took me way too many years to learn these lessons, and I finally decided it was time to really learn how to use my fancy camera. I’m still using the same DSLR we saved up for and bought all those years ago. (I decided I have to learn how to use it before I’m allowed to upgrade.) I bought myself a new 50 mm prime lens that came highly recommended but didn’t break the bank. And I begged my blogging/photographer idol, Kristen Duke, to save me from my auto woes.

Kristen Duke to the rescue! I had heard all about ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. I knew those were the keys. I pinned all sorts of charts and tips to my Photography Pinterest board, but I never really understood what to do with them.

Kristen took pity on me and generously sent me her Say NO to Auto e-book for beginners. She has it organized as 4×6 photos so it’s easy to print and carry around with you, and I ran straight to Costco to print it out so I could do just that.

And you guys… I finally get it!

Kristen makes it so simple and easy to understand. I started looking at the photos I was taking and actually having an idea of what I needed to tweak to make them better. I went from always shooting in auto, to {almost} always shooting in manual and getting good results!

I was able to get really cute photos of my daughter on stage in her school play in a dark auditorium with no flash (and no tripod).


I was able to preserve this beautiful Spring scene in my front yard


and capture the Easter fun with my cuties.



And this sweet girl who NEVER lets me take her picture, sat and told me story after story while I shot away.


Her older sister is not camera shy, but she is ALWAYS making a crazy face or awkward pose in every single photo – except this one.


I am even more hooked on my fancy camera now! I still have plenty of practicing to do and more to learn, but I now I have a grasp of the basics and actually have an idea of what to fix and how to make my photos better! I can’t even tell you how exciting that is for me.

I can’t wait to get started on Kristen’s next e-book, Get Focused, to take my photos up another notch, and I’m excited to see how my photography improves even more! These books are worth every penny!

If you have your fancy camera but you’re still on auto like I was for so long, do yourself a favor and let Kristen Duke save you from your auto woes. She makes it so easy to use and simple for any level photographer to understand. She even has a video workshop where she walks you through the whole book and explains every step in more detail. It’s like having your own personal tutor.

I still have so far to go, but thanks to Kristen Duke and her Say NO to Auto book, I finally know how to get there!

Do you need to learn how to use your fancy camera, too?

5 Star BBQ

April 30, 2014 in Guest Room, Out the Door

I am a carnivore, a total meat and potatoes gal. I always like a good burger and LOVE a great steak. I have a hard time serving a meal without meat and calling it dinner. Meat, meat, meat. yum

So when I was invited to an event at 5 Star BBQ in Orem, Utah, I couldn’t get the car started fast enough. Barbecue? Yes, please.


Cute, right? The restaurant is a house that was converted. It is easy to find with plenty of parking on the side and out back. When you walk in the front door, you find this menu board full of MEAT. Love.


And of course, there are sides and salads, platters, and kids meals, too. The prices are reasonable and the serving sizes are definitely enough to fill you. I brought along my friend, Carrie from My Recipe Confessions, and we wanted to sample as much as we could of what they had to offer, so we ordered the Burly Sampler.

Burly. That’s us.


The nice guys behind the counter started loading up our plate… and then grabbed another one and kept right on loading it up. Mmm, I’m craving meat now.


Our Burly Sampler was full of smoked chicken, pork, brisket, and ribs, potato salad, baked beans, stew, garlic toast, and cornbread. For 2 of us.


A little later in the meal, we had a cup of fresh cream corn delivered to our table because they had just finished a batch.

oh. my. yum.

You probably wouldn’t expect cream corn to be the highlight of any meal, but it was seriously amazing. If you’re thinking of canned cream corn, just stop that right now. This was fresh corn with an amazing creamy sauce that was simply the perfect addition to this meal. We loved it so much, in fact, that Carrie was inspired to create her own fabulous version.

As for the rest of the sides, I always love baked beans. I wasn’t a huge fan of the stew, but I talked to another guest who loved it. It just wasn’t my thing. I’m kind of a potato salad snob, and this one wasn’t my favorite, but it was much, much better than those inedible potato salads from the grocery store.

The meat was good, although it was a bit dry. I have never found ribs that I like as much as Texas Roadhouse ribs, but these did have a good flavor. It was fun to try out the huge selection of homemade BBQ sauces. I loved the white BBQ sauce.

Overall, we enjoyed our night and had plenty of good food to fill us up. While it may not be my new favorite BBQ joint, there are definitely some dishes worth trying. Visit 5 Star BBQ for lunch or dinner Monday through Saturday. And don’t forget to try the cream corn.


Looking at that menu, what do you want to try?

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