At-Home Teeth Whitening That Worked For Me

*Scroll down for giveaway!*

When it comes to weddings, for me it isn’t just about a white dress; it’s also about a smile to match. Because I want my smile to gleam, a few months ago I asked my dentist about whitening my teeth and what it would cost to get it done professionally. He quoted me $700 and I laugh-cried all the way home. Does he have any idea what it costs to have even a small wedding in this city? Cue all the facepalm emojis.

Cheap drugstore whitening strips were my normal go-to but I thought maybe since it’s my wedding I could splurge a little and get it done professionally. Ha. Ha. Ha. Nope. I tried some other methods such as brushing my teeth with activated charcoal. But it was gross and I couldn’t bring myself to do it regularly enough to see any results.

An online company called Smile Brilliant reached out and offered to let me test out their at-home whitening kit. After doing some reading, I decided to go for it.

Smile Brilliant at-home teeth whitening kit

The Smile Brilliant at-home teeth whitening kit comes with putty to help you make molds for your custom-fit whitening trays.

Let me start by saying I had a few concerns. First, would it work? Second, would it make my teeth hurt? Third, would I gag when making the impressions like I did as a kid at the orthodontist’s office?

I received a welcome box with the T6Sensitive System, which included an impression kit and a bunch of syringes filled with either whitening or desensitizing gel. Everything in the box was so well-organized and there were step-by-step guides (with pictures!) and tip sheets for each step of the way. They thought of everything – including the chance you might mess up an impression and need a re-do. I definitely needed a re-do after my first try and the extra packs of putty came in clutch.

Here’s how it works:

  1. First, mix the blue and white putty together to make a uniform, light blue putty. Do this in under 45 seconds.
  2. Spread the putty evenly in the blue tray and push your top teeth into it, using your fingers to ensure even pressure.
  3. Wait about two minutes until the putty hardens and pull out the impression in a downward motion. Repeat with your bottom teeth.
  4. Use the prepaid envelope to mail the impressions back so a lab technician can create your customized trays.
  5. Wait a few days and get your trays in the mail. Now you can really get started!
Smile Brilliant teeth whitening custom trays

The custom trays in the Smile Brilliant teeth whitening kit were a perfect fit for my smile.

It impressed me how helpful the Smile Brilliant representative was checking in on how I was doing and offering some tips to minimize sensitivity, which she knew was a concern of mine. One thing that surprised me was how many uses you could get out of one syringe. On average, you can get three or four uses. For me, I did a total of 12 whitening sessions using three syringes.

Putting a bit of Vaseline on my gums helped prevent them from turning white, which some people experience. Whitening at night worked best and I usually had the trays in while I caught up on Instagram, read a book, or got ready for bed. Unlike the whitening strips I used before, when I had the trays in I did not drool like a crazy person and could even kind-of talk.

It wasn’t a perfect process and there were a couple of setbacks. My teeth did feel sensitive at first. At the recommendation of the Smile Brilliant rep, I whitened every other day and used the desensitizing gel on the in-between days on top of using them immediately after whitening. That worked like a charm. Oh, also, I went to the dentist and found out I had a cavity (oops). So between the teeth cleaning + fluoride and the follow-up filling appointment I had to take a couple extra gap days.

After I finished the third syringe of whitening gel, I compared pictures of my smile from the beginning of August and could see a difference! My teeth weren’t terribly discolored before, though I do love my black coffee and red wine, but it is noticeable how much brighter and whiter they are. Here are my before-and-after photos — it makes me cringe to see my face up that close but I wanted to be fully transparent with you about my results.

Smile Brilliant before-and-after at-home teeth whitening

My before and after smile! You can see my teeth are noticeably brighter and whiter.

Bonus: I still have enough applications left to do some maintenance in February before the wedding!

The Smile Brilliant system saved me hundreds and hundreds of dollars and I’m happy with my results. I’d recommend it to anyone who can stick to the routine (it’s best to do it every day or every-other-day) and wants something more comfortable and effective than drugstore strips without digging deep into their pockets at the dentist.

If you want to try it, too, now is your chance! I’m giving away a Smile Brilliant at-home teeth whitening system and can’t wait to hear how it works out for the winner. Enter here: Call Me Winters Smile Brilliant Giveaway!

The giveaway ends in seven days and is open to residents of the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. If you don’t win, you can still use my code for 15% off anything in the Smile Brilliant store: callmewinters15

Happy Wedding Wednesday! I’m glad to have one more thing crossed off my wedding-prep list.

Winters

NOTE: SMILE BRILLIANT PROVIDED ME A FREE WHITENING KIT IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. I’LL ALWAYS BE TRANSPARENT WHEN ORGANIZATIONS PROVIDE AN INCENTIVE OR COMPENSATION FOR MY WORK. AND REST ASSURED, MY OPINIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ARE STRICTLY MY OWN AND IF I DON’T LIKE SOMETHING OR BELIEVE IN IT, YOU’LL KNOW.

Wedding Update: We have a photographer!

Happy #WeddingWednesday — it’s good to be back!

We are 185 days away from the wedding and officially moving full speed ahead. Here is what we locked down so far:

  • Date
  • Venue
  • Wedding party
  • PHOTOGRAPHER!

Yes, we finally locked down our second major vendor and are so excited about the photographer we chose, Kailee Elizabeth Photography. You’ll remember her from our engagement photoshoot.

Home engagement session 6

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

I met Kailee through a local community of women business owners/entrepreneurs/bloggers/creatives. She is so warm and chatty (in the BEST way) it felt like we were old friends catching up after a few years apart. We had a great time during our photoshoot and loved the photos so much we decided to seriously consider her for our wedding, too.

I noticed people really freak out about photography at weddings. They get super serious about it and invest heavily in it — often with breathtaking results. I get it. Photos are the only thing that will last, you’ll be all done-up to the nines looking like a flawless goddess, etc. and I do want great photos of my wedding day. But I also want them to look like us and it feels like a lot of modern wedding photography is more about capturing something you’ll want to Instagram than capturing your souls connecting.

winters48.jpg

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

Our approach to doing this wedding thing is to make it reflect us as individuals and as a couple. We’re having a small wedding with the people who know us best and want that comfort and love and connection to come through in our photos. Kailee can do that in such a beautiful, natural way. We were sold as soon as she shared this awesome gallery from the Ferro wedding. Do you see those moments she captured? Amaze.

What did you like/dislike about your wedding photos? What would you change? Are you the kind of bride that wants 75 glamour shots of your face? Or do you love the pictures that catch you mid-laugh with your mouth wide open and your nose wrinkled?

-Winters 

The struggle of a new routine

You know that feeling when your life is in flow and things come together almost effortlessly? Yeah, me either. Especially after all that fell apart over the last two months. I’m struggling to establish a new routine.

Maybe it’s over-dramatic to say things fell apart, but there were definitely enough little things coming into play to totally throw a wrench in the momentum I built during January and February.

The Transcending Waves planner

The Transcending Waves Planner (promo code below) is based on positive-psychology that propels you toward an improved quality of life and achieving your goals.

It started when I got sick after our engagement party and spent a few days on the couch watching Vanderpump Rules. My exercise and healthy eating routines were the first to go. Seasonal allergies hit next and definitely didn’t help motivate me to get back into the swing of things. Next, I accepted a new job and had to say goodbye to my wonderful work family. Except during my last week they were almost all laid off and I was told I could also be done working for the company. Cue the tequila and tears.

During the 10 days between leaving my last job and starting my new one, I traveled to San Francisco and also spent time in my hometown with my family — essentially living out of a suitcase for a week. Also, I turned 30. Cue more tears. What can I say? Transitions are tough for me.

There wasn’t much consistency in my day-to-day life and I felt a little apathetic. Small things can quickly pile up and knock you off balance before you realize what is happening. But after finishing my first week at my new job, I identified what was going on and decided to start the month of May with a new foundation.

Daily Review

The daily check-ins are key

The Transcending Waves Planner (scroll down for a promo code) is helping me do this by providing an organized, attractive space to dissect different aspects of my life and lay it out in a more thoughtful, introspective way. I like how it has monthly, weekly, and daily pages to provide a broader look at my life while keeping things in perspective with daily check-ins.

My goals range from small things like drinking more water every day to big things like plan, execute, and pay-for a wedding that’s less than a year away. Using positive psychology techniques, the planner is organized in such a way that I feel guided toward gratitude, mindfullness, and effortless productivity.

Also, the book itself just feels good in my hands. I chose the blue leather binding and like the aesthetic and structure it provides.

Week at a glance

I love the weekly overview

The thing I like most about this planner, though, is how it changed my perspective about routines. For me, a routine isn’t about self-discipline and rules. It’s really about self-care. I feel better and do better when I’m able to thoughtfully plan and make decisions for my life. Wish me luck navigating the month of May. 🙂

Head over to Transcending Waves to learn more about the planner and use code CMW10 for 10 percent off your own planner.

Winters


*Note: This post contains affiliate links which allow me to earn a small commission if you click through and decide you want in on this goodness. I promise to always be honest and only share the good.

Pressing pause on wedding planning

The beginning was easy: Book the venue, pick the attendants and have an engagement party. But after the engagement party, my desire to do anything wedding-related seemed to disappear. I didn’t understand. With a 15-month long engagement, how could I already feel burned out? Then Lilia and Olivia of Wedwell reached out and introduced me to their Bridal Wellness Guide.

Bridal Wellness Guide

The Bridal Wellness Guide from the ladies at Wedwell

One paragraph in and I was nodding my head and smiling with relief. Lilia recently got married and Olivia, her best friend, was a bridesmaid. The beautiful, 26-page guide was relatable, easy to digest and so helpful. They understood what I was going through! They knew what I needed!

Well Wed at Wedlocks

Me and Olivia of Wedwell at the Wedlocks bridal beauty event

Unlike most bride guides, this one isn’t about deadlines, checklists, budgets and family politics. This is about YOU. What a sigh of relief to have someone give you permission to prioritize your own wellbeing during the engagement and wedding planning process.

The guide covers protecting your energy, creating rituals, building confidence, meditation, keeping your perspective and more. I love that in incorporates mental, emotional and physical exercises.

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Wedwell takes a different approach to wedding-prep

By approaching wedding prep from the inside out, the tips, instructions and worksheets in the guide help me feel more balanced, calm and confident. With the overwhelm behind me, I made a catering appointment for us to taste some food we’ll hopefully serve at the wedding.

The Wedwell Bridal Wellness Guide is available for download now and would be a great gift to a bride you know — or to yourself if you are a bride. It’s a breath of fresh air and something you won’t find in the magazines. The ladies at Wedwell gave a special promo code to share with you: Use code “Empowered” to save 15% on the guide.

Thank you Lilia and Olivia!

-Winters

 


*Note: This post contains affiliate links which allow me to earn a small commission if you click through and decide you want in on this goodness. I promise to always be honest and only share the good.

When divorce was the right thing to do

This is a different kind of post and I debated whether or not to share it. It’s a letter I wrote yesterday to my 24-year-old self who five years ago to the day was about to end her marriage and turn her world upside down. She didn’t have a clue what was about to happen and what she would go through. I want her to know it will be painful but it will be worth it. It will be the right thing. If someone else is going through this, or is about to go through this, I want them to know too.

There are no pictures because this isn’t about my life then. It’s about my life now and paying tribute to my journey.


Hi honey,

Take a few deep breaths. Everything will be OK. All flowers must grow through dirt, right? Trust yourself on this.

When you get home from work and sit Him down on the loveseat, don’t talk yourself out of it. Don’t try to convince yourself again that things are fine and you’re just getting in your head too much.

Tell Him what is going on inside you. Tell Him the thing you spoke aloud for the first time last weekend when you were out at the bar with one of your closest friends and couldn’t hold it in any longer. Be honest, you should have had this conversation a long time ago before that day you woke up, popped a Xanax, and went through the motions of a wedding day. Even then, you knew it wasn’t right.

Well, this is your chance to make it right. This is your chance to set each other free.

Now, listen to me: You will never forget how His face crumbles when you say, “I don’t think I want to be married anymore.” Your heart will continue to hurt, even five years later, when you recall how He cried and asked, “You don’t want to be married anymore? You don’t want to build our life together? You don’t want to have babies with me?” You will be numb to His pain. You will be numb to your own pain. You will be numb.

Then, without even realizing it, you will slowly but surely lose your mind. You will spin wildly out of control in the most euphoric way and then you will wake up to utter devastation when you realize what you’ve done. You’ll feel guilt, shame and pain like you have never known. You will feel betrayed by people you consider family and friends who don’t understand why you are doing this and think you are wrong. You’ll be accused of sleeping with your boss to further your career and they’ll call you a cheater, toxic, bitch. He will tell you to, “eat shit and die.” Know that you are none of those things and be strong in your own conviction. This is what needs to be done.

Take another deep breath, honey, cause you haven’t thought about this next part yet. You’re going to lose your baby boy. The funny looking little dog you brought home after his first mom passed away will not get to stay with you. The pup that was your good morning snuggle buddy and your companion during crime scene stakeouts will not be there for you any longer. For the rest of your life, you will pathetically ask mutual friends if he is still alive and if they’ve seen any recent pictures of him. You will be crushed if the answer is, “no.” You’ll wonder if he is happy and if he remembers you. Listen to Scott and take one last photo with your beloved boy. Even more – sneak back in the apartment while He is out at work and get in some final snuggles and kisses before he is gone forever.

In three short weeks they will be gone forever. But somehow they’ll still be everywhere all the time. You’re going to listen to a lot of Kate Nash and rapidly transition between dancing in the kitchen and crying on the bedroom floor. You will simultaneously withdraw from some relationships while constantly seeking out connection from others. You’ll want to be alone in despair and you’ll want to never be left alone to feel what you’ve done. Do not hide during this time. You need to own this. You need to be honest about this. And you need help with this.

Jon is going to tell you that divorce is like a death in the family. He is right. When you begin to feel that – to feel that your family is dead – it will be compounded by guilt knowing you are the reason it died. It will take you four full years to forgive yourself and be absolved of that guilt. Courtney will tell you, “There are no rules for how you get through this.” That will help you feel OK even as your entire life seems slip through your fingers like sand.

Embrace the chaos. It is taking you somewhere better. Know that despite the insanity of losing what you thought was everything in life on purpose, you will discover that you have the power to cultivate your own style of life and you can slowly, painfully, chip away at everything that isn’t you until you’ve revealed who you were meant to be.

You were not meant to be His, honey. You were meant to be yours.

Dear 24-year-old me, don’t ever forget that.

Sending you so much compassion and love and understanding,

-29-year-old me

What I learned as a speaker at Style Summit

There are only two things I would change about this month’s Style Summit at W Bellevue: First, I would not lose my voice, and second, it would last at least two days. That’s how much value I got out of the Sunday event bringing together women (and a few men) from the blogging, creative, fashion and entrepreneurial spaces in Seattle. And I have to share a taste of it with you.

Fashion essentials panel

Photo by Vivian Hsu Photography

The summit had 150 people in attendance and I was there because Sydney Mintle, the powerhouse behind Gossip & Glamour, invited me to speak on the “Fashion Essentials” panel. Since I established the influencer marketing program at my company and have years of experience with events, outreach and cultivating relationships, I shared some inside knowledge on what brands are looking for when it comes to collaborating with influencers. While I got great feedback from what I shared on the panel, I want to talk about what I learned from the other incredible women speaking at the event.

Sydney

Photo by Vivian Hsu Photography

Sydney, pictured above, hosted the summit as part of the #WhatSheSaid series with W Hotels. If anyone understands the importance of listening to female voices and empowering them, it’s her. We first met years ago when I first started blogging (different blog, different lifetime). I’m always in awe at how she can connect people and activate a room for a common purpose. Participating in this event with Sydney taught me the importance of putting myself out there to help others and to also be willing to listen to the help others can offer me.

Panel 2

Photo by Vivian Hsu Photography

Let me introduce you to Brittany Hicks (pictured above). Not only is she a buyer at Amazon Fashion (talk about #careergoals) but she is also passionate about bringing more women into the tech/fashion space. The founder of Girls in Fashion and Tech, Brittany understands the business of fashion as much as she understands the human element of it. Learning about the stories (aka the women) behind the intersection of tech and fashion is key to increasing the representation of women in companies that sell goods and services to the largest purchasing demographic– women. She made a great point about how few women are in senior leadership positions in the very businesses that constantly try to market to and optimize for women consumers. Check out her website and you’ll likely find yourself nodding in agreement with her.

Steve Madden

Photo by Vivian Hsu Photography

During our breakout sessions, we were connected with other people in our niche (mine was e-commerce) and talk about our experiences, share ideas and brainstorm solutions to any problems. Through that session, I learned from Bhawna Gupta, the founder of Tema Athletics, that pop-ups aren’t necessarily the optimal way for online brands to increase sales (though that’s actually how I first met her). The group came together with some great ideas on how we each could leverage different channels to reach our goals. I can’t wait to see some of them go into action!

Kacy Om

Photo by Vivian Hsu Photography

There were also, of course, some fun brand activations including special access to the new handbag line by Kacy Yom, the spring shoe collection from Steve Madden and some delicious and healthy drinks from Pressed Juicery.

Pressed

Photo by Vivian Hsu Photography

The good news for those of you who couldn’t attend Style Summit is Sydney posted some incredible recap content on the Gossip & Glamour blog. There’s even a FB live video where you can hear me use my poor little voice to talk about brand communications marketing and the influencer space — until the recording cuts off suddenly cause the phone dies. Sometimes, the universe tells you to stop talking. When I did, I could feel the inspiration and fulfillment of the day really sink in. I walked away from the event full of ideas and next steps and insight I knew I could build on for work and for Call Me Winters. Everyone else I asked about Style Summit said the same.

So, who wants to build it out to two days for next year?

-Winters

How to get the perfect engagement photos

If there’s anything I know for sure about Mason and I, it’s that our relationship is a little unorthodox and always has been. (You know the story of how we met and how we started dating) We do things different. We just are different.

Home engagement session

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

So, when it was time to think about engagement photos I couldn’t help but feel turned off by the inspiration I saw on Pinterest. Don’t get me wrong — I think a bride-to-be standing in field in flowy dress looking longingly into the sunset while clasping hands strategically (to show off the bling) with their betrothed at her side is totally beautiful and good. And the cradling of each others faces and gazing into each others eyes? Precious. But not us.  You want to make us feel awkward? Ask us to strike a polished pose and see us turn into a couple of jokesters or two deer-in-headlights.

Home engagement session 2

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

I met Kailee Powers through an awesome group of Seattle women who are passionate about creating beautiful content, sharing stories, building each other up, and collaborating over competing always. She expressed interest in doing a couple photoshoot that wasn’t the standard — something in their home, showing more candid moments and the things that make the relationship special. You better believe I DM’d her right away! We set a date and from the minute she walked through the door I knew we were going to have an absolute blast. She just got it. She got us.

Home engagement session 3

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

She caught the little things: How I laugh with my mouth wide open and he envelopes me with an arm around my shoulders. The peach crate of records and the bottles of craft whiskey. The “Love You More” pillow and the mugs that have stories behind them. We recounted how we met, how we started dating, how he proposed, how he loves my quirks and I can’t get enough of his laugh.

Home engagement session 4

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

It was so natural. One of my favorite things about my relationship with Mason is how thoughtful yet natural and effortless it is. We both put a lot of thought into if we should date, if we should move in together, if we should get engaged, not to mention the day-to-day thoughts required to nurture a relationship. It doesn’t feel like a chore, though. It just flows. When we chose our wedding venue, Westland Distillery, it was serendipitous to see the motto: Thoughtfully Made. That is us.

Home engagement session 5

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

Kailee took so many amazing pictures and it never felt forced or awkward or disingenuous. We’re endlessly grateful to her for capturing our engagement in a way that also captured who we are as a couple.

Home engagement session 6

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

To the soon-to-be-wed, here are the tips I have to share so you can also get engagement photos you love:

  1. Look at the photographer’s style and see if it matches your own. Then, talk to them about how they like to shoot and what inspires them.
  2. Make sure your partner shares your vision and work together to find little details that show the intimate side of your relationship. Ritual Sunday morning pancakes? A shared love of vintage vinyl?
  3. Don’t be too matchy-matchy but keep it comfy and simple. We went with basics in fairly neutral tones and it worked perfectly without us even comparing outfits beforehand.
  4. Shoot in a location you’re familiar with so you don’t feel uncomfortable or out-of-place. Maybe your favorite happy hour spot or go-to neighborhood park.
  5. Relax into each other and let your energies flow. Make each other laugh. Have normal conversation. Do that thing he can’t stand. Do the thing that makes her crack up. Be yourselves and don’t worry about what it might look like on camera.
Home engagement session 7

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

Home engagement session 8

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

Home engagement session 9

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

Honestly, I can’t pick a favorite and I think that’s pretty great. Do you have tips on engagement photos? Drop them below and let’s pass it on.

Happy #WeddingWednesday,

-Winters

I quit the gym for my wedding

A few weeks ago, Mason and I sat down and created a preliminary budget for our wedding. We had an aggressive savings goal to work toward and we agreed we weren’t going to have a huge, fancy, expensive wedding. An hour later, we realized a wedding doesn’t have to be huge or fancy to be expensive.

According to The Knot, the average couple spent more than $33,000 on their wedding in 2017. It sounds insane, but it’s normal. Actually, it might even be on the low-end of what it costs to have a wedding in Seattle. We cut everything we felt wasn’t essential, but there remained a sizeable gap between our savings goal and the estimated cost of our March 2019 wedding.

So, sacrifices were made. And against the advice of every bridal article ever written, I canceled my gym membership at Orange Theory. Savings over sweating.

My new fitness plan is to go on power walks with my coworkers during lunch as much as possible given Seattle’s wet weather. Also, scoping out new fitness studios that are offering introductory classes or specials, finding free community fitness classes, and opting for jogs around Green Lake more than boozy brunches (RIP). I also joined Beachbody on Demand because it’s low-cost, mobile, and has a lot of variety in the programs offered, which should help me avoid boredom.

So far, I’m doing OK with this new plan. The motivation to get up and GO is lacking (I’m currently sitting on the couch rather than doing day three of PiYo) but I’m determined to find the self-discipline to make fitness a priority. If you have creative ideas on how I can pull this off, I’m all ears!

-Winters

The Seattle blogger event you must attend

Face it: There is no shortage of bloggers or social media influencers and brands are catching on. With a saturated market, ever-changing algorithms, and fickle followers, it’s hard to know how to stand out and grow your personal brand.

There are dozens of blogger workshops, seminars, and conferences promising to help you get to the next level and be a social media success. But in my experience, you usually walk away with a nice bag of swag but no idea what tactics to implement to reach your goal. Enter Style Summit.

GameOver-StyleSummitGraphic

In its third year, Style Summit is the passion project of Gossip and Glamour founder Sydney Mintle, and it’s where bloggers go to grow. Though I didn’t attend the last two years, I paid attention to who did and I saw how they elevated their content, strategy, and branding with great results. This year, as Style Summit partners with W Bellevue and the “What She Said” series, I’m thrilled to attend — not just as a blogger but as a panelist representing the brand where I work as a PR/Influencer Manager.

My panel will discuss style blogging in relation to digital assets, affiliate marketing, social media strategy, and how to establish solid, ongoing brand collaborations. Other panels include tips from top bloggers on how they made it to the 50k+ Club and insights into the rapidly-changing landscape of retail. On top of all this goodness there is also a keynote, break-out sessions, brand activations, and an after party.

style summit

The day kicks off at 10 a.m. on Sunday, March 11, at W Bellevue, and wraps up with a 4 p.m. after party at Civility and Unrest. There are still tickets left, but I’m sure the event will sell out in the next two weeks so get on it! You can get tickets here and use code BLUENILE to save $50.

See you at Style Summit!

-Winters