neighborhood watch committee

…Evie is an active member.

But this time, she was distracted. I put her headband on her, and so she had to take care of business,

and take the headband off.

She is no longer a passive observer

in her own fashion experience.

I better savor these moments

…while she doesn’t know how to take her pants off.

(photos taken Feb 10, 2013)

My Favorite Things 2013, Parenting Edition.

iiiiiit’s my FAAAAAAAAAAAAAVORITE thiiiiiiiings!

Stop looking under your seats.  The only thing there is an m&m you dropped.

Sorry, but all you’re getting is a list of items that have made our first 9 months of parenting easier.

(Now that I lost about 90% of the people reading this post …)

It’s true that you really don’t need much (if anything) to take care of a baby.

However, Michael and I have appreciated several specific items over the past 9 months, as they’ve made it easier to take care of a baby. This post may be good timing, as it seems several friends & family are currently expecting babies.

In addition to love, diapers & a car seat, it’s nice to have a …

Withings Smart Baby Monitor

We wanted a video monitor that worked on our iPhones or iPad. There seem to be ways to do this without a specific baby monitor product (via webcams & your own network), but this was easier. It was debuted in the US in the early spring of 2012. We like it because it’s extremely convenient to keep an eye on her using our wireless network.  Our phones are always with us, and the iPad gives a bigger picture than you’d find on a normal video monitor. We use the music function almost every night to lull her to sleep, which can be turned on or off with the iPad or iPhone. There’s also a nightlight, a speaker to talk to her, and the ability to take a picture (screenshot) of her. If we have a sitter at the house, we can also use our cell network to check in on her (15 min free per month). One major drawback is that it is dependent on your wireless network. So, if your wireless goes out, you lose the connection with your baby. However, our bedroom is so close to hers, we would still be able to hear her. This made the Top 10 because we use it so frequently (every night & every nap at home) and it’s worked extremely well. It definitely was a splurge, but I’m glad we got it.
Sneaking a peek at Evie through the Smart Baby Monitor:

stokke tripp Trapp high chair (+ PlayTray)

It’s a clean-lined high chair, instead of a huge colorful, difficult-to-clean distraction in your dining room. We got it in black, and so it blends in with the rest of our dining room furniture. It really almost looks like just another chair. As Evie gets older, the seat & footrest can be adjusted  to grow with her. Yes, it is much more expensive than a Fisher-Price high chair, but it’s not just for babies. The thought behind the Tripp Trapp is to have the baby pulled up to the table to take part in family meals. We did buy a tray for it (aftermarket) because at this age, it’s helpful to have a lip on a tray to help pick food up & also contain the mess. This was again another splurge, but I don’t regret it at all!

Amazon Prime

Yes, our most favorite .. intangible.. product that allows us to buy other products. Amazon Prime is amazing, especially for two working parents. Oh, we’re out of diapers? CLICK. Two days later, diapers. Oh, that ear thermometer isn’t accurate enough? CLICK. Two days later, rectal thermometer. (Sorry, Evie.) Wipes, dish liquid, shampoo, mascara, nursing pads, diaper genie refills, anything & everything your heart desires … including all of the items on this Top 10 list. It’s $79/year, but combining my Prime membership with Amazon Mom & Subscribe & Save, I get 20% off diapers and wipes. For Pampers, that’s $0.20/diaper (size 4). Normally, that’s what you would pay on average at Target if you used coupons half of the time. … and, you don’t have to drive to Target and find 176 other items to buy other than diapers (that you obviously needed). So – I call that a WIN.

Ergobaby Performance Baby Carrier (+ infant insert)

If I were to rank the Top 10, this may be #1. From the very beginning, Evelyn loved to be held close. When she was really little, I used a Moby wrap that I borrowed from a friend. It was perfect for when she was tiny, and I could easily change the way I would wrap her around me.
Then, when she was 3 or 4 weeks old, we started using the Ergo as well. It was quicker to put on because you don’t have to deal with the yards of fabric of the Moby. Michael was more comfortable to use it too; it’s almost like a backpack. At first, we used the Ergo with the infant insert, to make sure she was supported & snug while her legs were still in their “scrunchy” phase.
The Ergo was the key to surviving my maternity leave. Evie went through a phase around week 4 where she wanted to be held close always – especially when she slept. In order to not go insane (too much), I used the Ergo. I was able to get things done around the house while she slept.
We mostly use the Ergo now when we go to the store & take walks. It’s easy for her to look around, be apart of what we’re doing, and then have the freedom to take a nap. We mostly use the front carry (chest to chest), but you can also do a side carry or a back carry (we’ll most likely do this when she gets older and can be closer to our shoulders). The most useful time we’ve used the Ergo was when we’ve taken her on flights. We put her in the Ergo and then we still have both hands to work with. We’ve flown twice with her & used the stroller to carry the car seat & baggage, with her in the Ergo. Even with all of that, we have 4 free hands. It’s especially nice to have her in the Ergo when we’re boarding the plane, trying to maneuver down the aisle & find our seat. Even better, the Ergo keeps her close to us, so we never have to worry about people touching her.
I’ve only tried 4 carriers: a sling (not a ring sling), Baby Bjorn, and then the Moby & Ergo. The Ergo is by FAR my favorite because it’s so comfortable. The weight of the baby is transferred to your hips, not your shoulders, so that carrying even a heavy baby seems effortless. I’ve seen parents carrying their kids that appear to be 3, 4 or 5 years old.
We were very lucky and receive the Ergo & insert as a gift from Michael’s coworkers, but if we had purchased it, it would have been the most worthwhile purchase for Evie – besides the car seat and diapers, of course.
Here’s Evie, all snuggled in the Ergo + infant insert, about 6 weeks old, taking a nap during my maternity leave:
In the airport with Evie at 8 months:

Baby Jogger City Mini Stroller 

This is the only stroller we have & we’ve never felt like we’ve needed another. To be honest, we don’t use the stroller nearly as much as I thought we would, because we use the Ergo instead. However, when we do use the stroller, we love the City Mini. It’s a lightweight stroller (only 17 lb) with a really big canopy, large wheels for handling bumps & extremely easy to collapse. You just grab the handle in the seat and it’s closed.
We thought about buying a jogging stroller before Evie was born, but then realized that jogging strollers are not recommended until about 6 months. So, we waited. Well, whenever one of us goes for a run, the other is usually home to watch Evie (or I run at lunch while she’s at daycare). Therefore, no need for an expensive jogging stroller.
We did buy the car seat adapter accessory. It was really useful in the first few months, but not since then. It was nice to keep her snug in the car seat and then just set it in the stroller, facing us. Without the adapter, we definitely could have put her in the stroller itself (the seat reclines fully), but we wouldn’t have been able to see her as well. Now that she’s older, it’s nice for her to look forward – and we can still see her well enough through the clear plastic windows in the canopy. I’d say the car seat adapter is nice, but not necessary. We also got the Mommy Hook (thanks Biz! It’s perfect for shopping bags), belly bar (nice for her to hold onto) and the buggy buddy organizer for the stroller.

Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes

Ah yes. The savior of many a car trip. This little toy (we call it her “ipod.” Original, I’m sure) plays several different classical songs along while lighting up a few lights .There’s not much to say here; it’s pretty self-explanatory. When you’re in the car for a long trip, and your infant is screaming because she wants OUT … this will work and it will make your top 10 list as well. It gets even better when your baby learns how to press the button to make the next song play.  A shout-out to Maureen for gifting this gem to us.

Medela Pump in Style Advanced + PumpEase

I must recognize the 2 items that have allowed me to work full time and still breastfeed Evie exclusively. I have had zero issues with my Medela Pump in Style Advanced (PISA). The tote is functional & discreet (although a couple of guys at work whose wives have pumped have commented, “they know what that’s for”). It gets the job done.
The PumpEase bandeau bra allows me to get the job done, and do my other job at the same time (in the locked privacy of the mother’s room). I would go insane from boredom if I had to sit in a chair with each hand holding a flange to my chest, just thinking about all of the awesome things I could be doing at the same time. The PumpEase is no-nonsense. It has simple slits for the flanges & hooks in the front. To be honest, you could probably make one, but that would require more time than clicking “buy” on Amazon. Becca gets credit for recommending this one.
I did consider getting the Medela Freestyle pump, which is almost $100 more. The positives there were a cordless pump, so you could walk around at the same time, and a hands-free pumping system. However, I read some reviews that said the pumping strength wasn’t as great as the PISA. Furthermore, I didn’t need to pay the extra money in order to pace around the mother’s room and pump at the same time. The hands-free option didn’t mean anything once I found the PumpEase for $35.
So, yes – the pump & the bra together cost quite a bit of money. However, it’s much, much less than you would pay in formula (ignoring a few other non-monetary aspects of breastfeeding :)).

SwaddleMe

This is one of those things where you wonder WHY you didn’t think of it first. Really, all it is is a blanket with velcro at the ends to secure the baby in a tight swaddle. Sure, we bought a bunch of those aden + anais muslin swaddling blankets, but even if you master the swaddling technique (which we did not, but we sure TRIED), the SwaddleMe is still going to hold better. I mean, it uses velcro. You put the baby’s feet in the little pouch & then wrap the flaps across their body very tightly. We kept both of Evie’s arms in until she started rolling back to tummy (around 2.5 months); then we kept one arm out to prevent her from rolling and faceplanting. Once she got strong enough to break out of the SwaddleMe completely, we moved on to Halo Sleepsacks (and then quickly moved on to just using an aden + anais blanket to cover her up because they were lightweight & I didn’t see the purpose of the sleep sack once she was so mobile).
Here she is, all happy & cuddly:
and the SwaddleMe in full action, keeping Evie’s crazy flailing arms pinned to her side so she can peacefully dream of endless milk:

Fisher-Price Rainforect Melodies & Lights Gym

play-toy
It seems most babies born around the same time as Evie have this same gym (in my dataset of … four). This was by far, Evie’s favorite toy from the beginning. Since birth, she was completely content to lie underneath the suspended animals, watch the dreamy lights & listen to the jungle music. There were times when I was driving in the car and would hear the songs of this gym in my head.  The songs become one with you. Thankfully, they aren’t that annoying. I’ve definitely found myself humming the rainforest theme around the house.
Anyways, this is just a great product, and keeps Evie engaged even now. When she was younger, she’d babble at the animals, laugh at the monkey’s face & do tummy time on the mat while trying to reach for a crinkly leaf or catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Now, she likes to stand, each hand holding on to a curved bar, and then periodically smack the green speaker in the center while laughing. (She may just be easily entertained.)
I really liked (1) the washability of the mat (just easily detach from the 4 curved bars and wash/dry in the machine) and (2) the loops all around the bars & mat – it’s easy to attach toys with one hand anywhere you’d like (and not just the toys that came with it). Also, it’s easy to fold up & store out of the way.
Here’s Evie at 2 months old, loving her rainforest.
The lion sleeping in her jungle:

Homedics Portable SoundSpa

If I had to guess which product has had the most use since Evie has been born, it would be this one. We only use the waterfall sound, which sounds just like static. It’s simple & easy to pack when traveling. This, in addition to the box fan we keep on outside of her bedroom door (great idea, Mike & Sarah!), helps her to sleep even when we have guests over, when we’re clanking dishes in the kitchen or having dance parties. (Especially dance parties.)

So, that’s it.

That’s all you need to make the first 9 months of parenting a breeze. Well, it might be smart to throw in a LOT of coffee & a pretty sizable sense of humor, too.

first little family christmas morning

Before we left for Wisconsin on the night of December 21st, we had our own little Christmas morning that day. Luckily, Santa got the message and came to fill our stockings the night before.

A little blurry, but I wanted to show how cute Evie was, checking out the owls on her stocking. :)

A book, Wind in the Willows. Santa may have started a tradition by giving her a classic book in her stocking each year.

oooo… what is this toy?

She really liked her clementines.

… and her puzzle. She really likes animals.

Sitting in her chair from Grandma & Grandpa, holding her clapping roller.

… and Evie playing with her gift from us, a Radio Flyer Walker Wagon. She has gotten really good at standing by herself, holding onto the bar. When we move the wagon forward, she has even learned to take steps forward!

We had a relaxing morning, drinking coffee and playing with Evelyn. We look forward to more Christmas mornings with our little family … especially next year, when Evie can better grasp the wonder of the season.

(Dec 21, 2012)

because this is what I do

… let’s do a seasonally appropriate blog post.

… about a month & a half late.

On December 9, in a sudden burst of Christmas craftiness, I went to Michael’s. (The craft store. Not where my husband lives. Which would also be my house.) I bought a medium & a small wreath, some brushed metallic berries, ribbon, a large discounted leather frame from the custom framing department, floral wire and spray primer & paint. I came home, and by the next morning, I had my Christmas paradise crafty mantle.

(Do you sense the pride? I don’t normally craft. It’s a financial decision based on a cost/benefit calculation, where I have a ridiculously large assumption for how much my “time” is worth.)

First, I took the large leather frame outside & sprayed it with primer. I wasn’t sure I could do this on a leather frame. I googled it, and nothing came up – which means, nobody had every spray painted a leather frame before. But, I decided to do it anyways, because obviously, I am a pioneer when it comes to being crafty.

I let the frame dry and went inside to tie the 2 wreaths together with floral wire to get one big, full wreath. (WHY do I keep typing “wrather” for wrather…err wrather…for WREATH?)

The fake berries were attached to a bendy stem, so I wrapped the bendy part around the wreath, tying down some berries with floral wire. Then I wrapped the wreath in white Christmas lights (which I already had).

I went outside periodically over the next few hours, spraying the frame. I think I did about 5 thin coats of primer & 3 thin coats of brushed metallic spray paint.

After letting that dry overnight, I brought it inside & used the wired ribbon to tie the wrather-wrata-WREATH to the frame.

I put the frame/wreath up on the mantle, plugged in the lights, took an old fake garland, wrapped it in lights & laid it up there. I took some metallic candle holders & stuffed the leftover berries in them. The pillar candle holders were already on my mantle, and then I added 3 white Christmas trees that my mom had got for me last year from a cute little store near her.

Ta daa!

And, because to me, this is more like a winter mantle, you could leave this up well into January. Like, January 20 for instance. With no immediate plan to take it down… because that was enough craftiness for a year, and you’re not really sure to do with your mantle after that.

little girl’s first bedroom

It’s finished, with a lot of help from many of little girl’s loved ones.

My mom made the gorgeous curtains. The fabric is Amy Butler’s Daisy Chain Deco Rose Navy. Michael & his dad hung the curtains.

Michael painted the walls & the trim, as well as refinished the window sill. The sill was pretty disgusting; the plaster wall around it was crumbling off in pieces & the sill itself was covered in several layers of cracked paint. He removed all of the old paint, rebuilt the wall around it, and repainted. It looks gorgeous.

There will be something above the crib, but that is a surprise for now :)

Michael also put the crib together.

I made the crib skirt using the same fabric as the curtains. It was ridiculously easy & didn’t require any sewing. Perfect for someone who isn’t crafty. The tutorial on Young House Love was my inspiration.

… and he and his dad put together the dresser.

The books were from many friends and family, but my friend Lauren generously gave us the majority of them! Part of her gift to us was a huge bin full of wonderful children’s books that we’ll treasure with little girl (and hopefully her siblings) for years to come.

Chris’ girlfriend, Carley, painted this amazing canvas of a cute hippo. She is so talented! The bunny I bought in Paris in November is hanging out next to him. Mom gave us the adorable little …dude?… in the pointed hat below them. If I sleep with it, it will retain my scent & calm down little girl when I can’t be with her.

This owl (“Owlie”) is one of my favorite gifts little girl has received, from my friend Erika. He’s hanging out in the reading corner.

And again, another project I dreamed up for Michael to do: he finished the IKEA kitchen cart we had in our old kitchen (mostly using this tutorial) to use as a changing table. It turned out fantastic. I was going to use the dresser as a changing table initially, but it was just a bit too tall for this shorty. The kitchen cart is just a bit lower, and only cost us a few cans of primer & spray paint.

Michael and his dad also replaced the door handle with this new one. The old one was a bit clunky & made a lot of noise when it was turned. Definitely not what we want when little girl is getting her sleep.

We look forward to the memories we’ll create with our daughter in this room … wiggles on the changing table, story time while snuggled in the chair, playtime on the floor, and sleepy smiles from the crib.

crib – Baby Mod ParkLane from Walmart

crib mattress – Sealy Soybean Foam-Core Crib Mattress from Amazon

dresser – IKEA Hemnes

dresser knobs - mercury glass melon knob from anthropologie

changing table – IKEA FÖRHÖJA, refinished using this blog

glider – Peyton by Best, from Buy Buy Baby

ottoman (“floor poof”) – Target (seasonal, spring 2012)

curtain & crib skirt fabric – Amy Butler Daisy Chain Deco Rose Navy from fabric.com

crib skirt tutorial – Young House Love

bunny prints – Etsy seller krisblues

lion print – by artist Marisa Haedike, bought on Zulily.com

hippo canvas – gift from Carley :)

prints in square frames – cut from a 2010 Paper Source calendar

dresser lamp -Target (seasonal, spring 2012)

floor lamp – Target

rug – 5×7 zig zag rug from Urban Outfitters

wall frames – Ribba collection from IKEA

wall shelves – Ribba ledges from IKEA

mirror – Target, from 2010

birds on the wall – Target (seasonal, spring 2012)

changing table containers, lighter color – Target

changing table containers, darker color – Lowes

aqua petal throw pillow – Grandin Road, 13″ round

crib sheet – Carter’s Easy-Fit Velour Fitted Sheet, ecru from Babies R Us

changing pad cover – Boppy, sand from Babies R Us

books – so many generous gifts from friends & family!

plush owl – Pier 1

wooden sheep – lacing sheep by Plan Toys, a gift from Laurel :)

maiden voyage: cashew chicken

For her maiden voyage, our new kitchen made us chicken.

Actually, Michael made it and I helped. As great as the kitchen is, we didn’t spring for the upgrade to self-cooking chicken.

err, kitchen.

I found this recipe via my sister, on Pinterest. (Of course, I really didn’t find it ON Pinterest, yet I found it via Pinterest, on the blog the letter 4.) So, I have to give credit to my see-store for this yummy find. It was delicious & very easy. The most time consuming part was cutting up the ingredients, which you could definitely do ahead of time.

While we both thought it wasn’t as good as Pioneer Woman’s Beef with Snow Peas, this is definitely a tasty alternative when you want to use chicken instead of beef.

We served it with jasmine rice and it was downright deeee-licious.

 

{now we’re cooking with gas!}

 

CASHEW CHICKEN

3 chicken breasts, or 4 boneless thighs
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced {we omitted.}
1/2 lb.  snow peas
4 green onions, chopped {we omitted.}
1 small can bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained {Yup, we omitted these too. Couldn’t find them at the store.}
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
oil

{we also added baby carrots, sliced thinly long-ways}

Cut chicken into 1″ pieces.  Whisk together soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, and salt.  Heat oil in skillet on medium heat and add nuts to the pan.  Stir fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add chicken until cooked through.  Add peas, mushrooms, chicken broth, and soy sauce mixture {and carrots}.  Cook until it boils and thickens, stirring constantly.  Add green onions and serve over rice.

 

kitchen reveal.

When we bought this house in September of 2010, we knew we wanted to renovate the kitchen. I didn’t have any specific ideas in mind, but I wanted the space to be more open & airy, with clean lines, yet true to the character of the house. I’ll let the before/after pictures speak for themselves, but I think this was accomplished.

I want to say, first of all, that Hurst Total Home did all of the work, from the layout, to the structural considerations, to the actual construction. We were very pleased with the team we worked with at Hurst, and would recommend them to anyone in the Dayton, Ohio area. While they did all of the hard work, I had fun picking out the textile-type aspects of the kitchen … cabinets, counters, hardware, tile, etc. :)

{before}

{after}

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(those 3 drawers still need hardware… 1 of a couple minor details yet to be finished.)

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{after}

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Ta daaaa!

We still can’t believe it’s our kitchen. We cooked dinner in it for the first time last night, and I think we both felt a little timid. I was so accustomed to using the microwave in the living room and the fridge in the dining room … I still found myself going to get water from the gallon jug in the dining room fridge, even though the water dispenser in the new fridge is fully functional.

Some details … the cabinets are custom by DeWils (black is stain, white is paint), counters are Cambria quartz, hardware is by Amerock, and all appliances are from the GE Cafe line except for the drawer microwave, which is Sharp.

{quartz counters by Cambria}

We had some more work done around the house by the same contracting company; I’ll post about those later. We loved our home before the renovations, but now … we LOVE our home :)  The functionality, design, character, warmth … it’s kind of ridiculous how much I love our home.