Wen With the water pelting my back, I diligently pumped the bottle of WEN cleansing conditioner (don't call it shampoo!) 40 times. 
Forty times!
Inventor and QVC star Chaz Dean assured me I'd need that much to cleanse and moisturize my thick, dry hair. I told him I'd go broke, if I didn't get carpal tunnel syndrome first. But I followed instructions and worked that huge handful of creamy fig scented stuff into my mane. It felt and smelled like pureed fruit being dumped on my head (more a parenting reality than beauty technique in my world). WEN does not lather, because Dean says lathering agents include harsh chemicals that damage hair. But I had no trouble working it in and didn't mind the new sensation. After rinsing, my hair felt heavier – it hung neatly, without frizzies or snarls. When I dried it, I must say: it was the shiniest and softest I've ever felt. I can't think of another product – and I try lots – that made such a noticeable difference. The question is, was it a good difference. I'm no master stylist (as has been well-documented in this blog), but the softness seemed to make my hair look overwhelmingly fluffy rather than piece-y (my ultimate goal). Dean says the more I use the product, the better my hair will get (he's big on quantity, and at $28 per bottle). I'm curious enough to stick with it – at least until this bottle runs out.
Check out my funny conversation with Chaz in the Pioneer Press on Saturday, June 27.

IMG_3437 Every independent shopping district has tried a Girls' Night Out event, but Excelsior, MN has really figured out how to draw a crowd week after week and here's why. Tonight, I witnessed a Botox injection on Water Street. Right there, in the heart of boutique row, with a crowd looking on, sidewalk diners peering over their menus and cars zipping past a doctor from a local clinic pumped the stuff into the forehead of a relaxed looking blond. People clapped. And then it was on to the '80s Diva Costume Contest. It's action every minute on Girls' Night in Excelsior. Seriously, other retail areas could learn a lot from this small lakefront town, which has parlayed its summer Girls' Night Out program into a real draw for local businesses. Here are some takeaways:

  • Be organized. Have a committee, put together a calendar, build a website. Put fliers and posters in every store window.
  • Get all the retailers on board. Just like mall retailers must keep mall hours, businesses in downtown Excelsior are unified about staying open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays between May and August. Power in numbers.
  • Theme it. When each Girls' Night is it's own event, customers are inspired to return.
  • Offer a real deal. Twenty percent store discounts, free chair massages, buy one, get one – stores and restaurants do what they can to make shopping on Thursday nights feel special. (A list of promos can be picked up in every store, but I'd argue stores should make their specific deals even more prominent.)
  • Karaoke in the street. It draws attention, involves the public and it's funny.
  • Prizes. Real prizes. People love prizes. The winner of tonight's costume contest received $400 worth of products at a local skin clinic. That will inspire the ladies to not only show up, but do so in neon spandex and lace. Like, totally.

Bethenny2 Bethenny Frankel of Bravo TV's "The Real Housewives of New York City" beat me to the Midway SuperTarget in St. Paul this afternoon. I even arrived 15 minutes early, but she was already in the check-out line buying Hanes boy shorts, makeup wipes and a SoBe drink. And, she made a pit-stop before our shopping date at Wal-Mart. (I'd tell you what she had to say about it, but that could jeapordize any future licensing agreements.) You can read all about our shopping escapades in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Sunday, June 28, but I won't make "Housewives" fans wait for this dish: The much hyped Season 2 scene in which Kelly Bensimon told Bethenny "I'm up here and you're down here" was not at all staged, Bethenny insists. But even at the time it was happening, the ever-enterprising Bethenny said she knew it was like "manna from heaven." Indeed, "I'm Down Here" is the working title of Bethenny's third book. As for the next "Housewives" season, which begins filming in July, Bethenny isn't worried about coming up with good material. "I have a boyfriend," she said. "That's enough." She did pause twice to gush over baby clothes…
Bethenny left a little something behind at the Midway Target: she signed every copy of her book, "Naturally Thin." Bethenny1

IMG_3431 Got a question? Need some help? You could wander around a store forever. But quietly stroll the sales floor with a notebook in hand and managers appear out of thin air. Today's locale: JC Penney at Rosedale Center. My shopping companion: green lifestyle expert Danny Seo, designer of JC Penney's very own Simply Green   home line. There he was, picking up one of his own pillows when a manager with a clipboard surfaced offering to "help us." What she really meant was: who are you and what are you doing that may get me in trouble with corporate? Danny, who is a fixture on the JC Penney website, not to mention the author of best selling books, a magazine columnist and frequent guest on national shows like, oh, Oprah, couldn't have been more cordial, but it was clear he was a little hurt. "I work for JC Penney," he told her, and recited the names and numbers of folks in the corporate office to verify this. "He's decorated for Tobey Maguire!" I offered. The manager retreated. We finished shopping. At least he gets a corporate card, which he used to pay for around $100 of his own merch, which he'll give away on Shop Girls Saturday, June 20.
Read more about my shopping spree with Danny in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on June 21.

Picture this: Gorgeous new salon and spa swathed in orchids, throngs of skinny, coiffed blondes in little black dresses sipping cocktails while makeover subjects get dyed, plucked and styled, and former Minnesota Viking Esera Tuaolo belts out ballads over a DJ's microphone. Such was the smashing bash tonight to celebrate the complete remodel of Spalon Montage in Edina. Beautiful space – huge improvement. Lobby straight out of a design magazine. The spa is much bigger. The women's locker room is nicer (though still underwhelming compared to the scale of the facility). Could have taken a nap in the space-age sound massage pedicure chairs – they help to justify the $70 price for a pedicure. And the new Thai Yoga Massage sounds like my kind of yoga: someone else does the poses while I enjoy the massage. (Wonder if I could convince my editors to let me test that service?) I'll leave you with this thought to ponder: are stylists taught in beauty school to be tall, skinny,
smokers in dresses that verge on slutty, or is it just coincidence?

What would you pay to be able to do your own hair or makeup like the pros? How about, say, $178.99 for the year? At a splashy Chambers Hotel launch party, I got the hard sell today for BeautyVT.com, a brand new subscription website featuring dozens of step-by-step video tutorials on everything from choosing the right brush to doing your own blow-out to tweezing your own eyebrows. Love the idea; skeptical that people will pay – we expect online content to be free. Aveda stylist and co-founder Jon Reyman encouraged me to watch the "Flat Wrap" how-to (interpretation: frizzy hair day) and I've got to say, it broke down the process in such a way that I felt like I might – might – be able to triumph. Now, moving my laptop to the bathroom vanity so I can really find out. I'll report back! 

A friend asked me just the other day where to go for a hip but practical bag to replace the diaper bag she's been lugging around for four years. I sent her to Heavenly Soles at Lake and Lyndale in Minneapolis where she found the perfect messenger bag. Unfortunately, she also found out this LynLake veteran is closing at the end of the month. It's the economy, the road construction, "a lot of things," the owner told me. Sad to see this independent go.
There's still a considerable amount of inventory. See Sales/Specials for details. 

Bethenny Pink on Grass 2 (3) Do you really want to know how you look in those pants? You need to shop with a sharp-tongued, but well-meaning girlfriend like Bethenny Frankel of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New York City." The multi-tasking non-housewife Housewife (single, no kids, health foodie, drink designer, entrepreneur, author) hits the Twin Cities next week and there are a couple of opportunities to see her, and, oh yes – shop with her (momentary pause to appreciate what a weird world this is). Frankel will headline the "Shop Like a Socialite" event from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 16 at Corset Boutique in Hopkins. Tickets are $50 and include a $10 store gift card and a free copy of Frankel's best selling book, "Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting." Bonus: everything in the store will be 30 to 75 percent off. Order tickets here.
On Wednesday, June 17 at 6 p.m., catch Frankel at the Mall of America Rotunda where she will sign copies of her book.

Moneysavingmom.com, Couponmoms.com, Thriftymama.com, Mamabargains.com, Rentalcarmomma.com (my personal fave). As I was compiling a list of online bargain resources favored by the St. Paul Pioneer Press Store Troopers I was struck by how many are run by moms or are mom-oriented. Yes, I know: moms make most of the household buying decisions. Moms are out there in the trenches at Target every day. But to surf the online bargain world, you'd think moms were the only ones clipping coupons. Of course that's not true – every year when searching for the best bargain hunters to join the newspaper's panel I meet teenagers, single men, retirees and childless career folks who are passionate about pinching pennies. But there are always a lot of moms. At our recent tryouts, one of them summed it up for me in a way that made the dozens upon dozens of "mommy" coupon resources make sense: "I left my job to stay home with our kids," she said. "Saving my family money makes it possible for me to do this job."
Bring on the diaper discounts.   

Covered, which brought contemporary fashion and designer denim to the University of Minnesota, has quietly closed its Dinkytown boutique. Owner Stacy Larson plans to focus on the larger location she opened in Uptown. It's incredibly difficult for a local retailer to maintain two stores – especially in this economy. "Dinkytown is a great neighborhood that helped Covered establish a terrific relationship with a young, fashionable clientele," Larson said in a statement. "We are bringing our A-game to the Uptown store and have some really exciting developments in the works. Stay tuned!"