Name: Ben

Bio: Ben gets the inside scoop and reaps the benefits of all the Vintage Mom posts - one of the many perks of filling the role of the Vintage Dad. Outside of editing Lauryn's blog posts and offering many unheeded opinions, Ben is a musician, writer, social media advocate, and connector of people. But only when he's not playing with the kids. :-)

Posts by benunh:

    7 Tips For a Great Shave and a #SmoothSummer

    August 13th, 2014

    **Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

    I have a love/hate relationship with shaving. Always have.

    I love the feel of a smooth, clean shave (especially in the summer!), and I also love getting a little creative and silly with my facial hair on occasion. Lauryn loves it too! Ok, maybe not… [see fig 1, 2, and video]


    Fig. 1

    Fig. 2

    Fig. 2

    But in the end, scraping a sharp metal object across the sensitive skin of your face everyday is pretty much torture. Especially for someone like me who has a thick, coarse beard that takes some effort to remove. Razor burn, nicks, cuts, and irritation are the foes that we men battle every time we pick up the razor to eradicate that unwanted hair in pursuit of the perfect shave for a #CoolSummer.

    Every face is different, every beard is unique, but here are a few common tips that will make your morning battle a little less bloody, and much smoother:


    1. Choose the right razor. In the 19 years I’ve been shaving, I’ve tried just about EVERY razor that exists. Disposable, 1-blade, 5-blade, and even (gasp!) electric razors. Then the Gillette Mach3 made its debut and I was hooked. Best shave ever. Then to the next level with the Mach3 Turbo and I’ve been using it ever since. Every now and then, I would stray for a special deal here and there, only to return to the Mach3 Turbo, time and again. But Gillette has taken a giant leap in razor technology with their new PowerBall razor. Yes, lots of great blades (just like my beloved Mach3). Yes, a moisturizing comfort strip (just like the Mach3). BUT this razor moves like no other! In addition to the swivel of the razor head forward and backward, the PowerBall allows you to pivot side to side as well. Duh! I mean, you’re face isn’t square, right? This is brilliant. This razor hugs your face, staying in close contact with your skin and not coming at your face from the wrong angle. Awesome, right?


    (Ps. Picked mine up at Walmart. Lowest prices around, as usual.)


    2. Choose the right cream. You’d think all shaving creams are the same, but you’d be wrong. Sure, spend under a dollar for the bargain shaving cream, and your face will pay for it! Try a nice shave gel, put it in your hand, but don’t lather it until you put it on your face. Not too much, but not too little. You don’t want to clog your razor with gel, but you need to make sure it’s not a dry shave too.

    3. Choose the right frequency. There is a sweet spot when it comes to shaving. Shave too often and you’re stripping off the top layer of skin cells on a regular basis and your face will scream at you. Wait too long between shaves and it’s a painful experience as your long stubble clogs your razor and diminishes its effectiveness. For me, it’s a twice a week undertaking My beard grows fast, but I also work in a business casual environment, making a 5 o’clock shadow perfectly acceptable. Experiment with your cadence and find the sweet spot that works for you.

    4. Go in the right order. I never shave without coupling it with a shower. I used to shave directly after a hot shower, the thinking being that the hot water opens your facial pours a bit and allows you to get a smoother shave. Not true. For years I toiled under this fallacy. Now, I shave directly before my shower. I wet my face, apply shave gel, shave, and hop in the shower. Then after the shower, apply aftershave moisturizer. Why? Your face needs a minute to recover after shaving. Clean it up, wash it down, then moisturize. The recovery time is key.

    5. Use the right water. This one is still a little tough for me, but if you want to avoid razor burn, don’t use hot water. A tough pill to swallow, but way better than a bunch of irritating red bumps all over your face!

    6. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. When you shave, not only are you removing the hair from your face, but you’re also removing skin cells! Shaving regularly really dries your skin out, so if you want your face to be smooth and kissable (and let’s be real, that’s the real reason we all shave), end your shaving routine with a healthy application of aftershave moisturizer.

    7. Keep it fresh. You can’t shave with a dull razor. Period. Change your razor cartridge regularly, keep it clean between shaves, and don’t let the moisture strip dry out.

    Everyone needs a clean shave now and then. It’s rejuvenating, invigorating, and confidence building. Try these tips out to make the most of your shave, then go out and make the most of your #smoothsummer!

    Thanks to #CollectiveBias for sponsoring this shop.


    Check out this Pinterest Board for more Smooth Tips!
    Follow Hairspray and HighHeels’s board Smooth Faces of Summer on Pinterest.

    **Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.


    A Hot Air Balloon Ride with the US Hot Air Balloon Team {REVIEW}

    October 9th, 2013

    balloon ride

    Hey, it’s me, Ben (the Vintage Dad), checking in again after having the most amazing time flying with the US Hot Air Balloon Team!

    I grew up near the small-town Iowa community of Indianola, which just happens to be home to the National Balloon Classic, so I’m no stranger to being around hot air balloons. But surprisingly, I’ve never had the chance to take an untethered flight in one of these scientific marvels. So when Lauryn said I had to go represent the Vintage Mom on a ride, I was pumped!

    Rising before dawn and making the short drive to the tiny Pottstown Airport, I was excited and filled with anticipation about what the next few hours held in store. The crew from US Hot Air Balloon Team was there waiting, getting the gear prepped and waivers signed by all. I met Russ (our pilot) and Justin (crew chief) and was quickly put to work holding the bottom of the balloon open while a few giant fans filled the envelope with air.


    Once the 140,000+ cubic feet of air had been moved into the balloon, Russ gave it a few super heated blasts from the burners and the recognizable oblong hot air balloon shape formed just above our heads, the basket righted itself, and our small group of six was ready to board for our flight!


    Climbing over the side and finding a comfortable standing position, I readied myself for a thrilling take off, but was surprised when I looked down and saw that we had already left the ground and I barely noticed! That’s probably the biggest surprise of the whole trip – when you’re floating on air (literally), you don’t even feel like you’re moving. It’s a surreal sensation of simply being detached from the earth and having a freedom that is unlike any other.

    Before I knew it, Russ gave us the update that we were now 1,700 feet above the ground! Now, I am not afraid of heights at all, and looking around at the amazing landscape there was absolutely no fear or feeling of being unsafe. But being a six-foot-tall person, the basket topped off at waist-high for me and when I leaned over to look at the ground direct below (WAY BELOW!), it definitely shook my nerves a little! The others in the basket were all shorter than me and all of them said they felt just as comfortable as could be.


    If the balloon had coasted here for a bit more and then headed back for a landing, I would have said that this was a great flight and an excellent experience. But it turns out we were just getting started! As the sun rose above the horizon and the world was bathed in the warm orange glow of a new day, I and the six other brave souls packed into that leather and wicker basket climbed high above the waking communities below. Higher and higher we flew, until we were high enough that we could see the outline of the Philadelphia skyline 50 miles to the east and the topographical wonders surrounding the Schuylkill River to the west. At this point, I looked down and could no longer make out individual people moving about as we had reached a full mile (5,280 feet) above the ground!

    We floated effortlessly east, riding on the wind (there is no way to steer), passing rivers and hills, fields and houses, all the while, soaking in the feeling of being completely free and unfettered. Russ took this opportunity to spray some shaving cream into the ether, which doesn’t sound like it’d be that cool…but it was! The bits of foam floated around, and instead of dropping to the earth, stayed with us, suspended in air, twisting and turning on the wind just like we were. I’ve never felt closer to shaving cream. :-)


    Approaching the Schuylkill River, we started to descend, and Russ made a joke about landing in the shallow, flowing river. We all laughed, but then I started to doubt it was a joke as we got closer and closer to the surface of the water. We ended up hovering no more than 2 feet above the water, staring back at our own reflection in the rippling glass below. Then with a hot blast of flame from both burners, we shot back up above the trees faster than I would have thought possible!


    After just over an hour in the air, we began to scout the terrain in front of us, looking for a flat, unobscured place to land. We found the perfect spot in a lovely neighborhood where we were greeted by waves and whistles from the locals who were as surprised as anyone to have a hot air balloon land in their driveway at 8am! Touching down as gently as a feather, Justin and the crew packed up the balloon (yeah, you pack it just like a sleeping bag and shove it in a canvas pouch), and within 15 minutes we were all in the van that had been trailing us, heading back to our point of origin.


    I have nothing but GREAT things to say about this experience and the professionalism of the crew from US Hot Air Balloon Team. This was the kind of ride you remember for a lifetime. And even if your memory fails you at some point, the breathtaking pictures you can take (even a very amateur photographer) will serve as a lasting memento of the time you could count yourself as someone not of this world, floating among the clouds.


    Back at the airport, we all dined on danishes and sipped mimosas, while Russ regaled us with The Hot Air Balloon Toast, wishing us all safe travels. Walking away with my complimentary champagne glass and a certificate making my first hot air balloon flight official, I was riding high and filled with the excitement that can only come with an exhilarating experience like this.

    Thanks to the US Hot Air Balloon Team crew for one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had!

    Facts, figures, and things to know about hot air balloon rides:

    You can’t steer. You’re literally floating on the wind, so you go where it goes. The pilot can make the balloon go up and down and spin around, but your direction is completely at the whim of the weather gods.

    It’s highly dependent on the weather. Flights typically happen at dawn or dusk because that’s when the wind is the most favorable. I had this ride scheduled and rescheduled a few times as the weather didn’t always cooperate.

    It’s not cold up there. You would think it’s colder in the upper atmosphere, but because you’ve got 10,000 pounds of hot air just above your head, it’s actually about 10 degrees warmer in the basket.

    It’s not scary. You really don’t even feel like you’re moving. It is in fact, one of the most tranquil and peaceful situations you could ever be in.

    I for one can’t wait to go again. Now I just have to get Lauryn to go with me. :-)


    You can read my “date” for the day’s write up here.

    Make sure to follow the US Hot Air Balloon Team and their adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

    * Disclosure: The US Hot Air Balloon Team sent us on a ride in return for writing a review of the ride. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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    3 Reasons to Buy Ukulele Excercises for Dummies

    September 6th, 2013



    Hey there, Ben here filling in for the Vintage Mom!

    Lauryn asked me to check out a book she was sent to review and let everyone know what I thought of it. My first thought was, “I must be in 4th grade. Get out your Trapper Keeper, it’s book report time!” But then I found out I wasn’t writing 4 pages, double-spaced on To Kill a Mockingbird, but rather I was reviewing a book on ukulele exercises – woo hoo!

    I’ve been playing the ukulele since 2008 when all the cool kids started doing it and posting videos on YouTube. (Search Ben Blakesley on YouTube and you’ll come up with way too many videos of me teaching or playing ukulele…and maybe a beard video or two…) As a guitar player, it was super easy to pick up and start playing uke. The problem is, I never learned how to do it correctly. :-/

    Ukulele Exercises for Dummies to the rescue!

    I dove right in, found some techniques that I definitely need to improve, loaded up my iPhone’s metronome app (Pro Metronome), and got down to business. After spending some time working on my finger picking, advanced strumming, and melody lines, I was feeling accomplished and reminded of how much musical exercises can really help your playing. Thanks, Ukulele Exercises for Dummies!


    So here are 3 reasons you should buy this book, whether you’ve been playing ukulele for years, or you’ve never picked up a uke in your life:

    1. It can teach you everything, or just one thing. My absolute favorite part of this book is how it’s organized. It’s written in a way that the sections are not dependent on one another, so you can literally look at the table of contents (or the Contents at a Glance), find the uke exercise that interests you, and just head right to it to begin practicing and improving. No need to slog through strumming patterns if all you want is to be a better finger picker. Brilliant!

    2. The exercises are easy to understand and try out. Brett McQueen, the author of this floppy yellow book, gives you the tools to be successful with these lessons, whether you’ve got musical notation knowledge or not. You can read the notes or listen to the audio examples and follow along. Whatever suits your learning style.

    3. It’s got something for everyone. Having played for years, I was kind of expecting to be bored by a “dummies” book on playing ukulele, but that wasn’t the case at all. I definitely found exercises that will make me a better player, but at the same time, I could have given this book to anyone with a desire to play and it would have worked for them. Experienced or not.

    4. [BONUS] It’s floppy and fits right on your thigh so you can see it easily while playing. :-)

    So, thanks, Lauryn, for making me do this book report. I don’t know any other time when writing a book report actually meant playing the ukulele (and getting better at it too).

    Disclosure: The Wiley Brand provided the book Ukulele Exercises for Dummies for free in exchange for this post. As always, the opinions contained here are my own.

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