Bringing Home My Baby: What I packed for the Hospital

As you may have heard, my baby boy, Forest Leonardo Antonio Rotella was born on Sunday, August 7th. We are overjoyed with excitement and so happy he is home safe and sound. Thank you for all the thoughtful wishes left on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook page. It truly means the world!

I was looking through recent comments and saw a few of you asking for suggestions on what to bring to the hospital, so I thought I would share what I put in my overnight bag.

Preparing ahead of time is incredibly important and a great way to use your nesting instinct, if that has kicked in. Having a few essentials with you at the hospital will make you and your family so much more comfortable. I ended up filling a suitcase and a cooler with all my supplies. It was reassuring to know that I had everything ready to go at a moment’s notice should I go into labor before my due date.

Here’s what I made sure I didn’t leave home without on the big day:

The Cooler

First of all, since I was saving my placenta to be made into pills, I needed a cooler for it to be taken away in. Inside it I packed almond milk and a bottle for my toddler (her nightly necessity); Snack Packs, since I craved them the last time I gave birth and plastic spoons. I also brought bottled water, baby formula, and bottles. Hospitals usually provide formula, but they may not carry your favorite brand, so if you have a preference, bring it along. I brought Earth’s Best formula and the new Comotomo Bottles I was eager to try.

Holly Madison Blog

A Cord Blood Kit

I planned on banking my baby’s cord blood, so I made sure not to forget the cord blood kit. I also made sure to fill out a birth plan to bring to my doctor. I used the PDF worksheet from

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Mom Stuff

You never know what state your body is going to be in post labor, so comfort is key. I made sure to bring slippers, pjs, a loose fitting outfit to come home in, a wedge pillow for my belly and socks. These items helped me feel relaxed and at home pre and post labor. I am always surprised to see just how little my belly deflates after giving birth. My feet were so swollen, they looked like they should have been attached to a Hobbit. Not to mention, my anatomy was so swollen, I felt like I was sitting on a baboon butt (thankfully, that problem went away quickly). Those are just a few reasons I was glad I brought slippers and loose fitting clothes! I also packed toiletries, a little bit of makeup, a phone charger and a book.

Essentials for the New Addition

I knew Forest was going to be a big baby, so I brought both newborn and 0-3 month sized outfits, just in case. He came in at well over 8 pounds and ended up fitting in a onesie with a houndstooth vest and bow tie. The hospital usually provides all the diapers, swaddles, and hats you need so I didn’t pack any of that, but I did bring a pair of baby mittens. Babies are sometimes born with surprisingly long fingernails and can easily scratch themselves by accident, so mittens are essential.

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Sibling Stuff

Since I didn’t want Rainbow to feel left out or displaced by the baby, she came with us when we checked into the hospital and was brought back to visit as often as possible during my stay. To help make her feel more at home, I packed a small backpack for her with basic toiletries, pajamas and a couple of books, including ones that were all about new babies and siblings. I made sure to pack a cute party dress for her to wear as a “going home outfit” so that she would feel just as dressed up and special as her new little brother. We also got her a new baby doll as a surprise gift to help make this day as memorable for her as it was for us.

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The Final Essential

I made sure to have an infant car seat properly installed in my car ahead of time so I wouldn’t have to scramble and throw it together at the last minute.

Things I Forgot

Luckily, I had a friend willing to bring me a few items I found myself wanting. The first was my Boppy pillow, a half-circle pillow that makes breastfeeding so much more comfortable. The second was hand cream-all the extra hand washing you do during a hospital stay can really dry out your hands, particularly if you are sensitive to certain liquid soaps.

What must-haves did you bring in your overnight bag? I love hearing from you and know other readers appreciate learning new tips and tricks, so please share your thoughts below!

Lifestyle, Motherhood, Recipes

6 Dishes to Have on Hand When the Baby Comes

There’s nothing a new mom doesn’t need like the worry of preparing meals when you’ve just brought home your new little one. But, as you can imagine if you’re a new mommy, finding the time to make these meals for you and your family are usually at the bottom of the list. (Typically right next to sleeping!)

Trust me, cooking up meals and strategically stocking your fridge before the big day is incredibly important. When I brought Rainbow home for the first time, our family and friends graciously filled our refrigerator with meals, which made a world of a difference. This time around, I’m taking the time to make my favorite quick and healthy, yet satisfying dishes that will make our welcome home that much sweeter.

Here are a few easy, freezer-friendly dishes that I’m preparing before the baby comes:

When You’re Craving Something Rich

  1. Mac and cheese. I posted this vegan mac and cheese recipe on my Facebook wall a few months ago and it was heavenly! This would fill any late-night craving I’m having if my husband or I are up with the baby.

And with this recipe, the sky’s the limit when it comes to veggies — you can easily add your favorites (or whatever you have in the fridge) to make this dish your own. I’ve even mixed in of my homemade tomato sauce before! And it only takes 10 minutes in the oven to cook. So easy!

  1. Crustless Quiche. Another great, freezer-friendly dish that can serve as a breakfast, lunch, or dinner meal is crustless quiche. While you can certainly make regular quiche, I love the crustless version, so I found a mushroom, bacon, and shallot recipe and a spinach one that will really hit the spot when you’re looking for something rich to heat up. Plus, with our backyard chicken coop, we never run out of fresh eggs so this is the perfect way to make use of them!

When You Only Have One Hand

  1. DIY burritos. Okay, so you guys may have heard me talk about my runs to Taco Bell, which is because tacos are high on my favorite foods list. But, with a new baby in the house, finding time to run out is much harder. That’s why preparing your burrito ingredients ahead of time will make it so easy to just throw it all together when you only have a few minutes to spare. I love bean and cheese burritos, but I also like to mix in some lean meats like shredded chicken or beef and put them in a few organic corn tortillas.

And for a low carb option, I grab a head of lettuce and make lettuce wraps! Those are a super easy way to enjoy this dish without the extra calories.

  1. Grilled skewers. Another really easy and healthy one-handed meal is grilled skewers. This takes a bit longer to assemble, but also a good one for your husband to help out with! Simply cube up some veggies, your favorite protein, pile on wooden skewers, and grill away. I love to drizzle a little bit of barbeque sauce or homemade dressing once they’re done, too. To avoid messing with the grill, you can also just throw them in the oven.

When You’re Craving Something Sweet

  1. Protein balls. With these little bites, they can serve as dessert and fill you up at the same time. Having a batch of protein balls on hand will help satisfy your sweet tooth without any work — most recipes don’t even require an oven! Plus, you can make a month’s worth by sticking half the batch in the freezer (although between my husband, Rainbow, and I, there usually aren’t any left to freeze). I love this carrot cake and peanut butter cup version.
  1. Frozen fruit bag. This sounds super simple, and it is! Having a bag of frozen fruit that I can thaw whenever I’m craving something sweet will keep me from grabbing ice cream every time. Though, don’t get me wrong, there’s a pint of dairy-free vanilla coconut ice cream in my fridge that I will make sure to have on hand, but having some nutrient-dense alternatives is always a good idea. Plus, if you haven’t tried frozen blueberries, they really hit the spot!

I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have a well-stocked refrigerator when you come home with your little one. And with a little bit of planning, you can whip up a number of healthy options that will last you all month long.

What are you favorite go-to foods to prepare when you’re short on time? I’d love to hear from you!

Lifestyle, Motherhood

How to Make Vaccine Appointments a Little Easier

Originally published on E!online.

The word “vaccines” is probably a least favorite for most parents. Not only is there enough controversy around them to make your head spin, but kids hate getting them. No one likes seeing their infants face crumple up into the “what in the hell did you just do to me?” expression before letting out an ear piercing wail as they get bombarded with their first shots. But hey, at least infants don’t remember the ordeal so they aren’t thinking about it afterward or freaking out the next time they see a doctor’s office.

Toddlers, however, are a different story. My daughter is terrified of shots and her behavior resembled that of the kid in The Exorcist the last time I took her in for the vaccines she needed. Even when I made the appointment when she wasn’t around, somehow she knew. That night, she was freaked out and when I asked what was bothering her, she told me “I don’t want to go get a shot.” She is even campaigning to make me promise not to give her “baby brother” (who is on his way) shots.

Ironically, her favorite toy right now is her Doc McStuffins medical kit. She has no problem giving pretend shots to her stuffed animals. We even have discussions each time about how the shots keep the animals from getting sick and how it only hurts for a few seconds, but that has done nothing to ease her fear.

Here are some of my favorite tips to make the process just a little easier.

1. Request Your Favorites

When you make the appointment, don’t hesitate to ask for the person at the doctor’s office who does the best, fastest job. Quicker is better and if, for example, one of the nurses is a little more nervous about trying to inject the screaming Exorcist child, the process is just more drawn out and painful for everyone involved. If you notice your doctor is more efficient, don’t be afraid to ask for her or him specifically when you make the appointment.

2. Don’t Talk About it Too Far Ahead of Time

There is no need for your little one to stress about an upcoming doctor visit. Anticipation makes everything worse. It’s like riding the Tower of Terror at Disneyland. I am so much more scared before the elevator drops than while it’s dropping. Unless she asks, I don’t advertise that we are going to the doctor or getting a shot ahead of time and I don’t arrive at the doctor’s office earlier than I need to, either.

3. . .  But Don’t Lie About it

Sure, you don’t want to talk about it too far ahead of time, but if and when your child asks “Am I getting a shot?”, don’t lie. Just calmly explain that yes, they are getting a shot or yes, they will need shots later down the road and try and use the moment to have a simple discussion about why you feel shots are important.

4. Dress Your Child Appropriately

When you make the appointment, be sure and ask where on their body the child will be receiving the shot. I made the mistake of not asking last time and dressed my daughter in a long sleeved shirt. Naturally, the nurses wanted to give her the shots in her arms, but the sleeves were tight and they didn’t roll up far enough when I tried and by the time we’d had that much of a discussion about it, my daughter was already hysterical and clamping her arms to her sides. We ended up doing the injections in the thighs, but the visit would have been so much easier had she just been wearing a short sleeved t-shirt and we could have got right to it!

5. Bring a Distraction

I always make sure to bring a favorite toy and to have a YouTube video my daughter likes queued up on my Iphone for the doctor’s visit. She loves YouTube, but I try and save phone and Ipad time for “emergency” occasions when I really need it, like air travel or a doctor’s visit. If you can hold your child and give them something to look at, blocking their view of the actual needle when the shot is happening, that helps.

6. Dull the Pain

Ask your doctor about the possibility of giving your child some Tylenol before the appointment or applying a topical anesthetic ahead of time to make the actual shot less painful.

7. Plan a Reward

The reward idea didn’t go too far with my daughter before the shot, but I hope the memory of it helps next time around. When we arrived at the doctor’s office and she found out she was getting a shot, I asked her to pick a treat for afterward. Would she like to go get ice cream? Suddenly, she didn’t like ice cream. Would she like a toy? Suddenly, she was over toys. “Would you like a goldfish?” I asked her, secretly cringing inside because, selfishly, the last thing I want is another pet to take care of, no matter how small. Nope, suddenly, she’s not interested in a goldfish. We did end up going to Salt and Straw for giant waffle cones afterward and I hope she remembers that next time we have to go for shots!

8. For Older Kids (4 and up)

Supposedly it helps lessen the pain to cough or exhale (as if you are blowing out a birthday candle) as you get injected. I haven’t tried this one yet, as it’s recommended for older kids, but I certainly plan on it! Anything to make vaccine day easier.

If you have found anything that works like a charm let us know![/fusion_text]

Lifestyle, Motherhood

Easy Ways to Look Your Best Pregnant

There are a ton of things to think about during pregnancy: your health, the baby’s health, how much time you can afford to take off work, preparing your home for baby, etc. Lurking underneath these worries are fluctuating hormones and a changing body that can sometimes make you feel not so great about yourself. While your appearance may not be the most urgent thing on your list of worries, sometimes finding easy ways to look your best each day can provide that extra surge of confidence that makes the other things just that much easier to tackle.

Holly Madison Pregnant

Here are some of the most effective, simple changes I made to help myself feel more confident and put together during the past eight months:

1) Prepare a capsule maternity wardrobe

Your pregnancy will be made that much smoother if you can put a little time aside to create a capsule wardrobe that makes getting dressed every day effortless. Usually, a “capsule wardrobe” is comprised of 35 pieces (example: 7 pair of shoes, 7 tops, 7 bottoms, 7 dresses and 7 pieces of outerwear/coats). Ideally, most of the items should all be able to mix and match and you should love every piece, making getting dressed on an ordinary day the easiest, most thoughtless process possible, because, let’s face it, you have more important things to think about. It is even said that geniuses like to wear the same thing every day because it’s one less thing to focus on (ever noticed Mark Zuckerberg is always in that same grey t shirt?).

The further along I get in my pregnancy, the more I appreciate the capsule wardrobe. Not only do I feel more uncomfortable and bloated than ever, but I am tired, emotional and experiencing the lovely brain drain that comes with these hormonal fluctuations. Right now, I need to spend my final month being as productive as I can be before this new baby arrives rather than waste my time rifling through my closet every morning, only to feel dissatisfied with whatever ill-fitting, poorly thought out thing I managed to throw together.

In the first trimester, you may not have to change up your wardrobe so much. Months four and five are when your body really starts changing, so that’s a good time to start putting together a capsule wardrobe that will make your morning routine for the rest of your pregnancy easier.

Everyone’s body changes in a different way, and everyone had different preferences when it comes to what they look like, so my “problem areas” may not be yours, but here are examples of guidelines I created for my wardrobe in order to flatter my body in a way that I liked:

  • I focused on comfortable dresses, versatile pants, extra-long tops and flattering coats. I was able to find most of what I needed online and for affordable prices. For a capsule wardrobe, it’s good to keep it classic, stay away from trends and stick to a color scheme you know looks good on you (I chose neutrals and jewel tones).
  • I usually like to stick with shorter or clingy, below-the-knee dresses, since my legs stay (somewhat) thin during pregnancy and a floor length muumuu just makes me feel like I’m wearing a tent.
  • I tend to put on weight in my upper arms, so I like a maternity dress (or any stretchy dress a few sizes larger than what I would usually wear) with a bit of a sleeve.
  • My hips and thighs are another area I was insecure about, and I found that coats were a good way to disguise those parts. After noticing pregnant Kim Kardashian and Chrissy Teigen often wearing light dusters over their dresses-I adopted the look myself. The coats covered my hip and thigh area, putting the attention back on my bump. A light trench coat can have the same effect.
  • When it comes to pants, I give maternity jeans the thumbs down. Not only are they generally not as cute as regular jeans, but denim is constricting enough that they started to not fit during my last month. If anything could make me feel like I was putting on way too much weight, the fact that my MATERNITY JEANS no longer fit pretty much did it. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life! I found that a black legging or a vinyl look maternity pant, capable of stretching with me, served me much better.

2) Stock up on stockings

My legs (a feature I don’t give much thought to usually) look like a damn mess when I am pregnant. Since pregnancy increases blood volume by 50 percent, pronounced veins show up out of nowhere. I also cut the spray tans while pregnant, which is what I usually rely on to help the skin on my legs look smooth and even. Since I no longer have a good tan to masquerade my bruises and veins, I stock up on tights and pantyhose for every time I wear a dress. Is there anything that sounds frumpier than the word pantyhose? Probably not, but they came in handy for me. Be sure to avoid anything labeled control top-I brought a pair home by mistake and regret it-the waist was so tight underneath my belly that it hurt! I make sure I have nude, sheer black and a variety of black patterned tights on hand so that I have something to go with any outfit and don’t have to give anymore thought to my preggo legs.

3) Travel light while you can

You will be burdened with a big, messy diaper bag soon enough. Enjoy your freedom and carry a small purse with you while you can. If you are one of those (like I was, before my first child) who constantly sport the big, bottomless, Mary Poppins bag, consider taking a break and find a small, chic daily handbag that you love. Trust me, you’ll get sick of the giant bag soon enough.

4) Alter your skincare routine

Pregnancy can cause some major changes in your skin, so be prepared to alter your skincare routine. Before I was pregnant, I was using all kinds of preventative, anti-aging products on my face. One of these products contained retinol, which is not considered safe for pregnancy, so I ditched that for the time being. All my other products were too drying on my newly dehydrated skin, so I switched to using La Mer under a simple SPF every day (some drugstore brands like Nivea and Curel make more affordable alternatives).

Since pregnancy hormones have caused some discoloration in my skin, I usually wear a light foundation, like L’Oreal True Match when I go out. After the baby is born, fade creams or laser treatments can make the discoloration go away.

If breakouts start to plague you, look for products with alternative ingredients to retinol, such as washes and creams containing tee tree oil, benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid.

5) Experiment with your makeup instead of your hair

One piece of advice I see a lot on pregnancy blogs is “try a radical new hairstyle!”

I don’t really understand this one. It seems to me that the moment you are dealing with crazy hormonal fluctuations and other changes in your body is probably not the best time to cut off all your hair or try a new color, particularly since these changes aren’t always that easy to reverse if you aren’t happy with them. If you want to change up your look, I recommend experimenting with makeup instead. Find some good makeup tutorials and master that one thing you always wished you got down but never did: how to camouflage your dark circles (you’ll need this after baby comes), how to draw the perfect cat eye liner or master that contouring trick you always wanted to pull off.

6) Don’t forget lingerie!

Even though I am, for the most part, the only one that sees it, there is something about having my lingerie game on point that makes me feel extra put together. This is no exception during pregnancy. The idea of “maternity underwear” can be kind of depressing, but there’s no need to wear granny panties that cover your entire bump and dowdy sports bras if you don’t want to.

During your first trimester, organize your lingerie drawers and throw out anything that makes you feel less than fabulous. Start stocking up on flattering bottoms that are stretchy enough to grow with you, because the last thing that’s going to feel good is your pre pregnancy g-string cutting into your skin when you are already uncomfortable and cranky. I like lace thongs with wide waistbands, because they are light and elastic enough to stretch with me, but the lace look is still sexy.

Depending on how much your breasts grow, you may need to stock up on larger bras, but there’s not really any need to switch from the type of bra you are already comfortable in. If you like underwire, you don’t have to switch to a frumpy sports bra just because you are pregnant.

Though there are some cute nursing bras out there, the selection isn’t that large and you probably won’t want to spend a ton of money on bras you will only use for a few months, keeping your purchases mostly nude and black helps create a maternity lingerie wardrobe with color matched sets always on hand.

Lifestyle, Motherhood

Family Time With Busy Schedules — Key Lessons I’ve Learned

It’s no secret that quality family time is something every parent aims to make a top priority. But when you have so many other responsibilities (both planned and unplanned), that time seems much harder to achieve on a regular basis.

I certainly know the feeling! Between being a mom and building and completing different projects (including traveling for my recent book tour), maximizing my time with Rainbow and my husband can be tricky. Because when I’m there, I want to be mentally present as well.

Even working at home can present a unique set of challenges when dealing with the “mom guilt” we feel when we have to step aside from our kids to finish our work. I try and remind myself that I am also setting an example and teaching my daughter a little about time management and tackling responsibilities when I tell her I have to finish a chapter at my laptop before I can play, but I still feel bad!

With everything I’ve pushed myself to make time for (and goals that I still aspire to achieve), I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are a few quick tips to make family time possible with my busy schedule:

Force Yourself to Set Strict Deadlines

As a working mom, it can seem harmless to check emails while playing with your child or spending time with your husband. But this can lead to bad habits in the long-term down the line, and less attention that your family is looking for. Your family needs your undivided attention — that’s what building a family bond is all about. By instilling diligent deadlines for unplugging from email, phone calls/texts, and all other priorities, you’ll not only be there for your family, but provide yourself a little time to unwind to. I’m not always successful, but I try and stay off of social media on Sundays, for example, because that’s usually our “family day.” It’s nice to clear your head every once in awhile.

Ask For Help

If you have a long to-do list of errands and tedious tasks that can be fulfilled by someone else, don’t be afraid to ask for help! The minor errands seem to be biggest time suck in a busy day, so avoid clogging your daily to-dos with tasks that others can step in and help with. So whether you have your spouse prep dinner, ask your babysitter to run simple errands, hire a housekeeper, and/or take grandma up on those frozen dishes she’s always insisting to make, find a way to nix those 30-60 minute tasks that clog up your day.  It’ll open up more than you thought possible.

Don’t Overcommit

On top of setting strict deadlines, it’s also vital that you avoid over committing. As working moms, it can be easy to say “yes” to things and not understand the impact it will have on your schedule and family time down the line. While it’s certainly been difficult at times, I’ve slowly learned to assess what opportunities are worth committing to. And, if something comes along that is too good to pass up (or unavoidable), evaluate whether you’re able to let go of another task or event.

Listen and Act Based on What Your Family Needs

While making time in your day is the biggest hurdle for most of us, listening to what your spouse or children want or need is a less obvious piece of the puzzle — but an important one. If you’re going to be diligent about carving out time, make sure you’re making that time fulfilling for everyone. If it means more to your child to be at their soccer game versus seeing a movie, for instance, make it happen! Don’t get in the habit of opening up your day just to do it — make that time count and listen to who needs what the most.

When it comes to quality time spent with your family, it can seem like the most difficult thing in your day. But by being mindful of what your time means the most to each person, tuning out of all other responsibilities when it’s time, being okay with saying “no”, and allowing yourself to ask for help, you can truly do it all. My family is my life and I’m so grateful for the chance to be there for them while achieving my own personal goals.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you work to bring your family together when life gets crazy. Leave a note in the comments!

Lifestyle, Writing

Diary of a Book Tour

Not long ago, a friend of mine, who was thinking about writing a book, asked me what the best and worst aspects of the experience were. I answered that the best part is connecting with readers who enjoyed your book and could relate to or learn something from your story. I really don’t think there is a downside to having a book published, but if I had to pick something, I suppose the worst part could be doing press to promote your book. The press helps get attention for your book, which gets it into more hands. However, since the message you put into the book in the first place can so easily get distorted by the media, that process can be a double-edged sword.

A few weeks ago, I began a tour to promote my new book The Vegas Diaries. I was 7 months pregnant, fitting the travel in at the absolute last minute. In fact, the book was originally slated to come out in June, but since I was scared that I may not be able to travel in my eighth month, I asked the publishers if they could move the release date up a month, and they kindly agreed. It was my goal for The Vegas Diaries to debut on The New York Times bestseller list, which it did, but not without a few challenges along the way. I wasn’t prepared for much of a media firestorm this time around. I thought I would be lucky if the book got any attention at all! After all, unlike my last book, Down the Rabbit Hole, The Vegas Diaries doesn’t have the same kinds of name-dropping elements that the media likes to grab onto. This book is just as personal, but I made a point of disguising many of the characters I interacted with in real life. Telling my story, in this case, could be done without revealing most of the identities. I did end up getting a lot of press attention, but unfortunately, most people wanted to talk about old news and not my new book.

The first day of my press tour involved eight stops before my signing in Brooklyn. Most of them, including The New York Post and Inside Edition, were lovely, but there were two that day that were less so. Even though I have had been doing interviews since I first debuted on TV eleven years ago, the atmosphere is constantly changing and I am still learning. It had been almost a year since I had been out promoting the last book, and the difference that year made was pretty startling. Today, we live in the era of the clickbait headline. Since a salacious, eye grabbing headline is now the ultimate goal, it seems like the rules of the game have changed.

Over the course of the tour, I noticed three major changes.

The first pitfall I noticed is that more  outlets are shady about which topics they are going to cover. I realize this is a symbiotic relationship: I want the media’s help plugging my product, and they want a story they think people will be interested in. But there are just some topics I feel are irrelevant to what I might be promoting at the moment and things I’m not interested in talking about any longer because I don’t want to beat a dead horse. For example, if not talking about Playboy and some of the people who are still connected to that brand gets me (and my latest book) less exposure, I was and am TOTALLY fine with that. Before my interviews were booked, each outlet was briefed on what I was not willing to talk about. I even turned a few prestigious slots down because they were honest and said “we’ll only ask her two questions about Playboy,” and my decision was to turn those down because the exposure wasn’t worth it to me if I had to touch on that subject at all. I appreciated those outlet’s honesty. So many others, though, just asked me the questions anyway once I was stuck in front of the cameras with nowhere to go. There have always been people who do that, but in the past it was rare. These days, it seems to be the rule more than the exception.

The second pitfall has to do with the clickbait headlines themselves. It almost doesn’t even matter what you say anymore. Back in the day, it seemed that if you were careful about how you handled the questions that were thrown at you, you were in the clear. Knowing how to navigate an interview was a skill that paid off. Now, you can be as careful as you want, even refuse to talk about things outright, but chances are, the outlet will still make up a headline they wanted before the interview even began- one that may not have anything to do with what you actually said. For example, one interviewer asked me a Playboy related questions and my response was that I was done talking about it because I had said what I needed to say in my last book, which came out a year ago. We continued the interview, the rest of which was very nice and covered a variety of different topics, none of them the “P” word. Later, when I saw the headline attached to that interview, I was surprised to see it read: “Holly Madison talks Playboy and gives dating advice.” Uhhhh . . . actually, what I did in that interview was the opposite of talking Playboy, but whatever. That’s just one example of how misleading a headline can be. It’s frustrating because so many people don’t read or watch the whole interview, they just see the headline in passing. In the case of the segment I just mentioned, I can only assume people saw that and thought, Damn, she’s still talking about that same old subject? This doesn’t do my new book any favors-it makes it seem as if I don’t have any new stories to tell this time around, which isn’t the case.

The third pitfall I made a note to watch out for is the non-recorded interview. If you find yourself on the phone with a writer who says, at any point during the conversation, “hang on, I’m just jotting this down,” RUN! Since most people record interviews, I used to think it was quaint when someone said that. It called to mind an old-fashioned, roving reporter from a 1940’s movie, quickly jotting down what their subject said on their notepad with a pencil, all the while looking dapper in a trench coat and fedora. I gave those reporters the benefit of the doubt and just assumed they were really good at their job and could type exactly what I was saying at the speed of a skilled stenographer. But then I saw the product of one of these instances. In that particular piece, I was completely misquoted. I’m sure this was not due to any agenda that reporter had, just carelessness. It doesn’t take much in the way of rearranging words to completely change the meaning of what someone is trying to say. And that’s exactly what happened, and even though what was written was not what I said, there were still quotation marks around it. Which communicates that this is what I said, when in fact, it wasn’t what I said, let alone what I meant. If I said that I thought Down the Rabbit Hole was going to be a word of mouth sleeper but was shocked at the amount of immediate press coverage it got and then the article quotes me as saying something like, “Down the Rabbit Hole was really a word of mouth thing.” Well . . . a few of the words used are the same, but it is the complete opposite of what I said and what I meant.

The other component of a book tour, and the flip side of handling press, is meeting people at the signings. It’s so wonderful to be able to meet readers in person, and this time, hear about how they connected with my last book. Some had even finished The Vegas Diaries by the time they met me and we were able to talk about it a little.

The Vegas DiariesI returned to The Bookmark Shoppe in Brooklyn and visited Bookends in New Jersey for the first time. I then flew to Dayton and signed at Books and Co., then on to Minnesota the next day for Mall of America. It was so great to have the mix of new places as well as some repeat stops. I was able to see so many people who had visited last year’s signings. I am so flattered that they returned! Signings at the Barnes and Nobles in Las Vegas and at The Grove in LA are always a treat. I came home from those with a lot of gifts from you guys-you didn’t have to do that, but thank you so much! Rainbow loves her gifts, too!

My second to last signing was in Tempe, Arizona at Changing Hands Bookstore. The signing was wonderful and this was also the day I found out that The Vegas Diaries debuted on The New York Times Bestseller List! A special thanks to Changing Hands for offering to ship personalized, signed copies worldwide. It was fun to look at the addresses as I signed to see how far away some of the books were going!

On the last day of my tour, I flew from Arizona to beautiful La Jolla, California, where I checked into a hotel for a few hours to have lunch and do an Australian radio tour before my signing.After finishing a salad (healthy ambitions), I found myself puking my guts out (this baby boy I am carrying does not like greens, unfortunately). I had to reschedule the radio tour, as I’m sure the sound of me retching was not what they signed up for. I pulled it together in time for my final signing at Warwick’s, a store I signed at last year. Everyone at the shop was amazing and I had a great time meeting all the people who came!

Thanks again for stopping by to have your book signed! I appreciate it so much and hope to see you all again, perhaps in a year or two!


My Pregnancy Diets

Originally published on E! May 13th, 2016

When my newly pregnant (or eager-to-get-pregnant) friends ask me for general advice on the matter, I often meet them with an apologetic look, a shrug and a disappointing response.

“I feel like I can’t really give any good advice because every pregnancy is so different,” is the standard reply.

That sounds lame, but it’s true. Some women love being pregnant and others hate it. Some are bedridden and plagued with morning sickness, while some barely stray from their normal routine. Just because I went through it a certain way doesn’t mean you will. This isn’t just per mom, it’s per gestation. My two pregnancies have been vastly different from one another.

Take cravings and aversions, for example.

When I was carrying my daughter, I was one of those annoying “pregnancy unicorns” whose only cravings were green smoothies and blueberries. Now, in my second pregnancy, green juice makes me want to vomit. I am turned off by most foods, which leads me to eat a lot of bland carbs like toast and pizza. Lately, I have mastered the art of concealing all the evidence of my clandestine fast-food jaunts.

Here are both of “My Pregnancy Diets.” If you can, I would follow the first one!

Breakfast 1: Blueberry Green Smoothie: -1 cup water, -1 cup blueberries, -1 cup spinach, 1 banana

Breakfast 2: Escape to Starbucks for an Americano for my maximum daily caffeine allowance and the only thing that doesn’t make me nauseous, a.k.a. a carb, such as a slice of pumpkin bread…which we all know is basically a dessert loaf.

Lunch 1: Organic Kale Salad with oil-free vinaigrette dressing and a bowl of red pepper and tomato soup.

Lunch 2: This is where I make a secret run to a fast food joint, such as Taco Bell, In-n-Out, or the chicken-sandwich-joint-which-shall-not-be-named. Be sure and throw away any evidence before you get back to your house. And drive home with the windows down to get rid of that fast food smell. Who needs the judgment?

Console yourself with the fact that you are taking your daily prenatal vitamin and DHA supplement. For those of you with a sweet tooth, I highly recommend Honest Company’s calcium and vitamin D gummies…they are seriously good!

Snack 1: green smoothie: -1 cup spinach, -1 cup kale, -1 cup water, -1 banana, -2 apples

Snack 2: choke down an organic green juice, preferably while holding your nose. Concentrate on keeping it down by reminding yourself how good this is for the baby.

Dinner 1: Homemade vegan lasagna

Dinner 2: order dairy-free Pinkberry from Postmates

So, as you can see, despite having the same motivation and the same knowledge of nutrition as I did during my first pregnancy, I just can’t stomach the same diet, for whatever reason. Is it hormones? The baby’s gender? I may never know, I’m just taking each day to try and eat healthier.

Right after I throw out this Taco Bell bag.

Lifestyle, Writing

Reading Recommendation: The Longevity Book and the Evolving Attitude on Aging.

I’m reading a few different books this week, but I wanted to take a moment to recommend The Longevity Book by Cameron Diaz and Sandra Bark. When I heard Cameron was coming out with an “aging” book, I assumed it would be comprised of typical Hollywood shortcut tips about how to look young or mask your age but I was surprised to find out that it actually carries a totally different philosophy on how to deal with age. The Longevity Book is actually about reshaping how we think and feel about aging. I was so taken with the message and spirit behind it, that it got me thinking about my own attitudes toward the aging process.

The book is divided into three sections, the first of which addresses the science of longevity and how over the last 150 years women have gone from a life expectancy of 40 to a life expectancy of over 80! I also learned a bit about how different men’s and women’s bodies are, aside from the obvious reproductive differences. For example, I had no idea women and men metabolize certain medications differently and that dosage isn’t always adjusted based on gender. The second part of the book tackles attitude adjustment as well as how each part of your body ages and the final section is devoted to what you can do to keep yourself as healthy as possible. It includes commonly covered topics such as nutrition exercise and rest, but the part I really enjoyed was chapter 12, which was dedicated to the brain. I feel that mental health is so important, yet something we so often overlook.

Even though (I assume) most of us don’t want to die young, many of us still think of “old” as a horrible insult and of aging as something to fear. Anytime I hear the “old” insult whipped out, I wonder, but don’t you want to end up “old” one day, considering the alternative? Isn’t that where we are all headed? Of course, I’ve had my fair share of insecurities related to aging, and they go all the way back to when I was quite young.

Since I spent my early 20’s living at the Playboy mansion,I got caught up in the age paranoia super early. I’ve been told I am “too old” or “almost too old” since I was in my early 20’s. How ridiculous is that? It’s easy to point the finger at certain patriarchal figures in my life and say they set the standard, but valuing a woman based on how young she is, is commonplace in our society. It’s important, for us as individuals, not to get swept up in someone else’s standards and disparage other women for how old they are or appear to be.

I have to admit though, I did fall into that trap myself. When I was 21, I started thinking 28 was super old. That seemed to be the unofficial cut off age for centerfolds. Sure, a few ladies over the age of 28 made it through, but they were rare. Sometimes I would catch myself looking at another woman and think “oh my god she’s so old, what is she doing here/why is she acting that way/why is she still trying to look like that?” I kept these thoughts to myself, but it wasn’t a healthy way of thinking. I knew that when I was older, I wanted more fulfilling things in my life than just the “bunny” lifestyle, and certainly my horrified “she’s so old” knee-jerk reactions came from my own fears and insecurities.

Of course, with those ridiculous standards, it wasn’t long before I was on the receiving end of the barbs. A few years ago, when Twitter was at the peak of it’s popularity, and everyone was constantly oversharing, a Playmate who was pissed at me for some reason or other tweeted a swipe at me, calling me “over the hill.” At the time, I was thirty-one. I certainly didn’t feel old . . . I was happier with everything about my life (including the way I looked) than I had ever been before, so . . . what exactly was I too “over the hill” for? Vagina modeling? She could have that!

Anyhow, the dig hurt, even though I knew it was silly, didn’t even make much sense, and was coming from an emotional place I had been all too familiar with. This person was only six years younger than me. Didn’t she realize that by denouncing me as “over the hill”, she was giving herself exactly six short years to “be young”? Since that amount of time has passed since she made that comment . . . should I send her some flowers with a sarcastic note welcoming her to the club?

No, I’d rather send her The Longevity Book. I’m over beating myself (and others) up about growing older and I hope she is, too.

Lifestyle, Motherhood

Coffee, Heels and Pregnancy

Originally published on E!Online, April 14th.

There is a long list of things you aren’t supposed to do when you are pregnant: eat sushi, drink alcohol, smoke, etc. And then there are those things that people think you aren’t supposed to do, but are really OK in moderation.

The first example that I think of is drinking coffee. According to The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, it’s perfectly acceptable to have up to 200 mg of caffeine a day. That’s somewhere between a tall and a grande iced Americano or a little more than two shots of espresso. That’s not a lot, especially for a caffeine addict like myself, but it’s something! And I cherish that something.

Not only is it true that you can have caffeine in moderate amounts, but my doctor even recommended it for headaches. Knowing many over the counter medications were forbidden during the 40-week journey (such as Excedrin, Advil, etc.) I asked her what I should do if I got a headache. She recommended two Tylenol with a small dose of caffeine.

Even though I was surprised that I was allowed to have caffeine, I didn’t quite realize what a commonly held misconception it was that pregnant woman shouldn’t have any at all. That is, until I started ordering coffee with a baby bump. Shortly after announcing my first pregnancy, I rolled up to a drive thru to order a drink. I pulled up to the window, ready to eagerly accept my doppio espresso and was met with a barista, who, as soon as she registered that I was pregnant, recoiled from the window and gasped, “Are you even supposed to be drinking coffee??”

“Um, yeah, my doctor said it was OK…” I mumbled, suddenly embarrassed.

Quickly, an associate barreled past the aghast barista and apologized profusely.

“Oh, my god, I am so sorry about that! That is so not supposed to happen,” the new barista told me, handing me my coffee.

“It’s OK!” I chirped back nervously. “It’s actually alright for pregnant women to have…” I trailed off as she moved on to take the next order over her headset.

Since then, it hasn’t been uncommon for me to get weird looks or for the barista to ask me if I want decaf when I order my usual.

“No, regular, please,” I always respond, usually with something like, “I don’t drink all of it,” tacked onto the end of my response as I imagine everyone else in the coffee shop thinking Jeez, she’s drinking all that caffeine while she’s pregnant? What a fetus abuser!

A less common misconception, but one that’s definitely out there is the “you can’t wear heels when you are pregnant” myth. In fact, when I Googled “pregnant heels” the first thing that came up was a quote from BabyCenter saying “wearing heels (even wide-based, clunky ones) is generally not a good idea during pregnancy.” Well, call me a risk taker, but I wore high heels all throughout my first and so far throughout my second pregnancy with no problems whatsoever. I was even dancing on stage in heels while I headlined a show during the first five months of my first pregnancy. I probably would have kept doing it until the day I gave birth if the costumes hadn’t been so skimpy!

The reasoning behind not wearing heels when you are expecting is that your center of gravity can shift during pregnancy, which could potentially throw you off balance and tumbling to the ground. Definitely pay attention to your body and how you are feeling. If you rarely wear heels and aren’t really comfortable in them, pregnancy definitely isn’t the time to be trying out a new pair of six-inch platform stilettos. If sporting heels is second nature, though, I say go for it! I mean, I’ve been known to bite the dust wearing socks more often than heels. Sure, I was careful to take some things more slowly and always use handrails when taking the stairs, but I felt comfortable wearing even my highest heels while pregnant. I paid attention to my body and trusted my instincts.

If you decide to take a ride on the baby train, be sure and talk to your doctor for peace of mind before making any personal decisions. In the meantime, take comfort in the fact that your lifestyle may not have to change that much if/when you get pregnant. Yes, you can still work, exercise, have sex, color your hair, drink coffee and even wear heels if you want to.


Game of Thrones: A Fantasy Where Women are Real

During an interview a few years ago, Game of Thrones author George RR Martin was asked where his approach to writing complex females characters. His response? “You know I’ve always considered women to be people.”

I love his response. It was funny and spoke to a problem in entertainment: women aren’t represented in the way men are. A young boy will see pretty much every kind of male figure they can become through entertainment. But for women, it’s often an angel, a demon or a damsel in distress.

But with Game of Thrones it’s different. There’s no shortage of diverse women in the Seven Kingdoms and the rest of the world. Maybe that’s why women make up more than half of the series’ fans.

Take a look at some of the strong female characters he creates. They run from an athletic knight who keeps her word at all costs (Brienne), to brave sisters looking to shatter their family’s view of women (Yara), to young highborn women making their way in the world when all their loved ones have been torn from them (Sansa and Arya).

My personal favorite is Daenerys. Dani is ambitious and unwavering, determined to take back the throne stolen from her father, King Aerys, so many years ago. Despite her confidence and strength, and regardless of what she achieves (even freeing an entire slave population), she is brutally challenged and hated on wherever she goes. Nothing is ever easy for Dani. There are betrayals and thieves at every turn. Even her dragons, which were her trump card for so long, mature out of her control.

I love Dani’s spine of steel and unwavering devotion to what she believes. She’s my superhero spirit animal. The next time you are feeling pressured to back down and don’t want to, just ask yourself What Would Dani Do? I kid. We aren’t living in a fantasy world and we don’t have dragons at our disposal, but Dani’s posture and firm delivery are two things I know I could stand to replicate in certain situations.     

Another female character I find vastly intriguing, for different reasons, is Margaery Tyrell. The entire Tyrell clan is extremely politically savvy. Even Margaery’s hilarious grandmother, Olenna, is thought to have been the mastermind who seamlessly got away with murdering Joffrey before he could get his abusive hands on Margaery.

While Dani toils away on the other side of the Narrow Sea, Margaery kills it in King’s Landing. She’s smart, extremely adaptable, loyal to her family and knows how to turn her personality on in order to get what she wants. She is skilled at public relations, quickly winning over the people of King’s Landing and coaching Joffrey to do the same. She never misses a beat. Even her spouse’s murder (by shadow, no less!) and her own imprisonment don’t throw her off course.

For fans of the television show who have yet to dig into the books, it may surprise you to learn that Margaery is more of a secondary character in the written version. She is present and functions the same way as her television counterpart does, first as wife of Renly, then Joffrey, and finally Tommen, but she never gets the chance to tell the story from her point of view, as the other major players do.

The Song of Ice and Fire books, for those who don’t know, are told in the first person, but the narrators rotate by chapter. For example, the third book, A Storm of Swords, employs no less than 10 narrators: Jaime, Jon, Catelyn, Tyrion, Sansa, Arya, Bran, Samwell, Davos and Dani (the prologue and epilogue feature minor players), but no Margaery! Even though this is the book that season 3 of the TV series closely follows, where we see Margaery relocate to King’s Landing, win the love of the people, the admiration of Joffrey and the hatred of Cersei, her role isn’t as spotlighted in the book.

In the novels, Margaery is mainly seen through Cersei’s eyes. We can only guess what Margaery’s intentions are and just speculate as to whether or not she is a woman of initiative, as she seems to be on TV, or just the young puppet of the wealthy Tyrell family. Furthermore, Cersei is an obviously unreliable narrator, so Margaery’s actions (or imagined actions, as the case may be) are filtered through Cersei’s jealous and paranoid eyes. We are left guessing as to what Margaery’s personality is really like.

This is one of the few major character discrepancies between book and TV. Martin has done such an amazing job creating fascinating female characters and I am so excited to see if Margaery blossoms as yet another riveting POV personality in his next book, The Winds of Winter.