Tuesday, November 25, 2014

DIY Pottery Barn Kids Inspired Advent Calendar

I am so happy that I actually pulled through with making this Advent calendar.  It's so often I see something I love, but can't justify the price, and then believe it could be something I could make myself.  Pretty sure the last time this happened was when I made our toddler teepee, and while I really would love to make the girls a new one, it's still brings me so much pride seeing how much they enjoy it.  I hope I get that same feeling using this family Advent calendar year after year.

(2) 1x4x6, we used poplar -- this can be changed see details below
25 clothes pins
25 Muslin bags
eye hooks
120 grit sandpaper
Martha Stewart Vintage Decor paint in Linen
Martha Stewart Vintage Decor wax in Clear
Paint brush
Cotton rag
Table Saw
Picture hook
Wood glue/Hot glue
Wooden Star (optional)

I started the process by using the dimensions the PBK item description gave and drew up a little blue print on some of Ashlynn's roll of easel paper.  The description stated it was 24.5" wide x 45.5" high, however the image shows that the tree is mounted to a vertical piece of wood.  I'm not sure if the height included that piece, if it was and actual stand or wall hanging only.  I actually called their customer service to find out and they didn't know either.  So I just went with what I got.

I first measured out 45.5" on paper.  My paper was only 24" wide, so I dropped the extra half inch.  I then grabbed a clothes pin I had (I had enough on hand from other projects), and measured it at 3.5". Knowing I wanted the wood planks the same height, and that I needed 5 planks with 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 pins on each, I marked out all five rows.  After that I worked from the center line outwards how many inches the top and bottom of each plank would be, and it was actually pretty simple.

From top to bottom
1st - 6" and  8"
2nd - 10" and 12"
3rd - 14" and 16"
4th - 18" and 20"
5th - 22" and 24"

Then, I sent the Husband out with Ashlynn one morning with instructions to pick up a 1x4 in at least 80"in length.  I had looked up the night before on Lowe's website that 1x4s were 3.5" in true measurement - perfect.  Instead he came home with two planks 6' each.  He said we need some scrap for room for error, etc.  Turns out we had plenty leftover that I could make the vertical stand like the PBK version, but I choose to go with my version since it could collapse and would be easier to store away.

Since we don't have a table saw, I marked my measurements (with my fairy assistant) and sent the planks back off with the Husband to his buddy's house to cut them for us.

Then I needed to paint.  I originally planned on white washing the boards, but since the wood was so light in color I wanted to use an off-white or tan paint.  While searching at Michaels, I came across the Martha Stewart Vintage Decor line and remembered a project Courtney from A Thoughtful Place completed a few weeks ago and knew it was perfect.  It's basically a chalk paint with a matte finish.  I would be able to distress it with sandpaper and apply a wax finish to protect it and give it a finished look and feel.

Note:  The instructions on the paint suggest using 220 grit sandpaper, but I had trouble getting anything to show through when I tried so I moved on to rougher 120 grit and was happy with the result.

I painted each piece with one coat and let dry completely for 2 hours before going at them with sandpaper for some distressing to allow some of the wood grain show through.  The paint suggests using the Martha Stewart Vintage Decor paint brush, but it was seriously like over $20, so I just figured I'd use one of our many.  I had a small brush that had similar harder bristles like the branded brush and it worked great.  I probably would suggest a true paint brush over a fine art/craft paint brush with finer bristles, but I'm sure anything will really work.

I actually used a small craft brush to paint the clothespins. Then I allowed everything to cure over night.  I made sure I was happy with look and then applied the wax (to the boards only, not the clothes pins).  The directions for the paint and wax are pretty easy and clear on the bottle, but I did watch this video just to make sure I wasn't going to screw anything up.

Once I polished up the wax finish after letting it cure for 24 hours (the reason this post is later in the week than I planned!)

We drilled holes for the eye hook screws and attached the planks together with twine.  We used 1-3/16 eye hooks and a 9/64 drill bit.  Admittedly, I tested this out on a scrap piece of wood, but couldn't screw the hook in myself.

I measured 3" in both directions from the center of each board for the hooks to be place so they were vertically even.  I had the Husband drill the holes about 3/4 of the way and then screw the hooks in and he used pliers when it really got stuck.  He was able to get them all in flush and facing parallel to the boards. You could also use a sturdy (grosgrain) ribbon and staple to the backs of the boards with a staple gun, burlap would look cute too.  Or of course use the scrap wood to make it like the PBK version above and either nail, screw, or glue the planks to attach.

Tip:  Use a piece of scrap wood in between the rows for equal distance between the planks.

Once all the planks were attached, I laid out where I wanted the clothes pins and started glueing them on.  I wanted to use wood glue since I assumed that was my best option, but I couldn't find it in the house.  So I just heated up my hot glue gun and got to work.

I screwed a picture hook at the top center of the highest plank.

While at Michaels, I picked up a little wooden 8" star for $2.  I mounted it on a little scrap piece and glued that to the top plank.  I had painted, distressed, and waxed it the same as the rest of the wood.  I toyed with so many ideas writing our family name, which ultimately intimidated me that I would screw it up - but if you have a Silhouette it'd be easy to make a label.  I outlined it with a Martha Stewart glitter pen, because it's a Christmas star so it has to have some glitter by law.  I still might paint "joy" or "merry christmas" if I get the balls to do it or see a small wooden ornament.

Then it was ready to hang.

I am so happy with the result.  I love the Martha Stewart Vintage Decor paint and think it was definitely my best option for the project.  Overall, the project did cost a little more than I had hoped.  The wood we purchased was about $20, but like I said above, Pete picked up too much and I'm sure this could be easily reduced or used from scrap you may already have.  The countdown bags I purchased pre-stamped on Etsy for $20 shipped, I could have gotten them plain for about $10, but wasn't confident in stenciling them or painting them myself.  Finally, the Martha Stewart paint is $9.99 a pop.  I used a 50% off one item coupon, and also got $10 off my total purchase because I picked up other things, like the $2 wooden star.  The twine, clothespins, eye hooks, and picture hangers were all things we had on hand.  So all in, it was probably about half the cost of the Pottery Barn Kids version when factoring in personalization, shipping, and tax.

Will you use an Advent calendar this December?  Did you DIY one or buy, and what does it look like?

[Giveaway] Baby Sign Language

Growing up I was a pretty good student, always made honor roll and while I preferred Math to English, my least favorite subject was Spanish.  I started taking it in middle school and stuck with it in high school instead of switching to the second option of French. I'm not sure why I had so much trouble with it, but considering I can't roll my r's for the life of me or basically pronouce anything properly, it just wasn't my thing. I still got A's, but definitely my least favorite class and I never continued it college.  When I was younger, I was friends with a girl who had a brother who was hearing impaired.  One summer I became close to her, the way you do in middle school jumping from friend to friend, and learned a pretty good deal of sign language quickly.  Of course, I've forgotten most of it now, aside for the alphabet and some easy words, but I always wished it was a language course offered in place of Spanish, French, or Latin when I got to high school.

You might remember if you've been around here a few years, that I did some baby sign language with Ashlynn.  We started with "more" and "all done" when we started to introduce baby foods.  Once she was walking around and trying to converse more with pointing and other gestures I taught her "please" for when she wanted her cup or "eat" for when she wanted a snack.  I had thought about trying to learn more, but never really followed through.

I started the same with Kenley, however, second child syndrome, I didn't really start signing "more" or "eat" until two months ago, but she caught on pretty quickly.  I was then contacted by Baby Sign Language and they were interested in getting my review of their Baby Sign Language Kit and partnering for a giveaway.  Since it was something we've been working on and I've always had an interest in learning more, it was right up our alley.

We received the kit and I was shocked with how much it was packed with.  Nice sturdy flash cards, a poster, an official reference dictionary -with more than 650 signs, and a teaching guide.  I was combination of excited and totally overwhelmed.  I opened the flash cards one night with Ashlynn before putting her to bed.  Bedtime with her is a total production lately and I thought looking at something new would be a nice change.  We went through the 52 cards and she had fun naming each item or animal and trying to learn the sign.  She's learned a few signs at pre-school, so it's fun for her to get to do them at home, too.  We've used them a few times with Kenley, as I have Ashlynn play teacher and say what each picture is while I repeat with the sign.  It's helping Kenley be exposed to more words then she may hear in daily life, like "airplane" or "butterfly", just like the importance of reading books.  Developing her vocabulary and how the English language works.

As for learning useful signs, the poster included has 22 common signs and the teaching guide also covers the most useful words to start with and how to go about building your library from there customized for your family's needs.  It covers the best way to incorporate teaching the signs at different stages and how to incorporate your family, something I've been doing with Ashlynn.  At dinner, I will sign "eat", "more", "cup", "please", and "all done", Kenley gets to watch us sign back and forth and of course us, signing to her as well.

Since receiving the kit, I've added in "ball", "book", and "bottle" (sign for milk), and "diaper".  Kenley has actually signed back ball while playing basketball one day and when I sign book, she 100% understands the word and will grab a favorite from the shelf. It's definitely a great age for attempting this since she hasn't said much more than Doggie, Bottle, and Baby.

Lastly, www.babysignlanguage.com is a wonderful resource outside of the kits they offer.  They have
thousands of free printables and videos to make baby sign language available to every one.

Now, the fun for you.  Right now the Baby Sign Language Kit is being offered for $39.99 and would definitely make a great holiday gift for a family member or friend who is interested in using it or is having delayed speech with a child.   And because it's the season of giving, enter the giveaway below!

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Monday, November 24, 2014

This Week and Last

I can't believe we one week until our already toddling baby is no longer a baby.  I wasn't overly sentimental or sad when we stopped nursing 6 weeks ago, but now that we are hitting this milestone I'm getting very "typical mom".   We went to my In Laws yesterday to meet our month old step-niece and while I can remember Ashlynn being that small, probably since she wasn't even into 0-3m sizes until she was 2 months old, I couldn't remember Kenley being that small.  I can remember what she looked like at birth, but I don't know if it was blur of having a toddler, two years of sleep deprivation and post partum effects, or what, but I really have a hard remembering her those first few months.  Which heightens my sadness of her getting older, I don't want to forget everything that I completely adore about her right now.  She has become such a happy, outgoing, and adventurous baby the last few weeks I really would be in heaven if this lasted another year.   Thankfully, I know how much we have to look forward too and a lot of that is watching her relationship with Ashlynn grow.

Moving on, last week went by in a blur.  The weather sucked, but we packed a lot in.  We had playdates on Monday and Friday, which honestly I think are more fun for me than for the kids, but I don't think they notice amongst playing with toys at someone else's house.  Tuesday was supposed to be Ashlynn's school picture day.  It was about 25 degrees out, so I dressed Ashlynn in adorable red cable knit sweater dress, leggings, and her red hunter boots.  I was afraid she might not want to take her picture, so I prepped her the whole weekend being excited about it.  When we got to school, the director asked if I wanted to take her over early since the photographer was just getting set up.  I was glad I had the chance to be there hoping it'd be easier for her ease up to the idea, but no go.  We watched some other kids take pictures against the cheesy school picture autumn themed backdrop, which I was so excited to get for memorabilia sake.   Even the prop of a red scooter didn't convince her.  All week she's been telling me, "I didn't take my picture, mommy", with a sad face, which I just let her know that's okay and she can try next year.  Now, on to working her up to want to take her picture with Santa!

The week ended with a trip to the ER for a possible toddler concussion.  Thankfully she seems okay and our visit was surprisingly short and sweet, which I was so grateful for since it was around 9pm and she had been up since 6am with no nap. We headed to the mall on Saturday and got a sneak peek at big man in the red suit, and Ashlynn has been talking about him since.  We hit Ikea on Sunday and I got some stuff for her craft area of the sunroom so that's finally coming together.  I can't wait to pull out all our holiday swag on Friday.  I honestly don't think I've been this excited for the holidays since I was seven, but that's another post in itself.

I hope everyone had a great weekend and is fasting for the Thanksgiving gluttony that will ensue! (hashtagfirstworldproblems, I know).

Friday, November 21, 2014

Busy Bee

Sorry for the radio silence, it's been a busy week.  I've been working on our Advent calendar and it's pretty much done, just waiting for the bags to arrive, which will hopefully be today.  If so, I'll get the post up this weekend in case anyone wants to tackle their own project before December starts!

On top of the that, Ashlynn's school had a Family Feast planned for this past Thursday.  Their version of a Thanksgiving dinner where the parents get to join the students and teachers.  I was actually looking forward to meeting some of the other parents, but it ended up being postponed.  After I had already baked cookies to bring, as I was asked.  So I had my third little cookie party.  I think I finally have it down, even though this round was admittedly my worst.  I made my flood icing a bit too thick and didn't really plan out what I wanted to do.

I'll be back later with some of my tips and tricks for making these cookies, though if you are looking for recipes and demonstrations, I definitely suggest taking Alison's Cookie Party course.  Happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Holiday Wishlist

This is an open letter to anyone (cough, my husband, cough cough) looking to send me something in a brown paper package tied up with string.  Here are a few of my favorite things... I want!

I typically love gifts that toe the line between practical and yet something I generally don't buy myself.  Nothing better than getting something you need and actually want.

I've been using the same address book since I graduated college.  It's a cute a little two tone Coach planner and address book holder and for maybe the first five years, I'd go into coach and buy a new planner insert, then I eventually stopped since I really only use a monthly calendar (not daily) and wanted a larger size.  The addresses in my book have been corrected once or twice or include people I no longer keep in touch with and is missing those I do.  I would love a new cute book to start over and finally dump the tiny pile of return address stickers I keep for all the people I'm never sure if I have their info.   

I haven't been too great to my skin since becoming pregnant.  I stopped using a lot of products when pregnant with Ashlynn and switched to brands toting natural ingredients.  I stuck with them through nursing, another pregnancy, and more nursing.  Now that my body isn't being shared, I'd love to restock my make up drawer with some tried and true products that can take care of my 30 something skin.  I love Philosophy products, and the microdelivery peel is a favorite.  I typically only use it once or twice a week, so it lasts a long time, but my Sephora/Ulta budget was the first thing I slashed when I choose to stay home and not return to work. Also, it's much cheaper to buy from Amazon then any of the department stores. 

I'm a roll with the sugar cookie making and while I actually have a decent cookie cutter collection, which is odd since I really never ever had used any of them, I'd love to add these letters.  Super cute and fun to add to any occasion.

The Sorels are a total want/need.  Of course they are super cute and everyone seems to have a pair, but now that we can actually enjoy the snow this year (last year it was impossible to take a newborn outside in a polar vortex with a toddler) I need a new pair of snow boots.  My Uggs, which were probably 10 years old any way, got lost during our move and trashed this summer when found them cleaning out the garage.  So to keep my feet nice and dry, these would be great (size 7 eh hmm).

I pictured a Threshold throw blanket above, because I'm actually obsessed with all the blankets Target has out right now, and since Penny has claimed my last throw, I'd like a new one to cuddle with while binging on netflix that won't leave me cover in dog hair.  Not expensive, but just something I never feel like adding to our already large Target tabs.  

Last, this J.Crew sweater.  Totally my style, 100%.  I just like it, plain and simple. It's a splurge so I would never just go and buy it before it hit the sale rack, but I'd happily accept it in gift form. 

What kind of presents do you like?  Do you like being surprised or prefer mailing your list to Santa?

Monday, November 17, 2014

[Giveaway] Freshly Picked Moccasins!

Happy Monday, Friends!  I hope to bring a little cheer to your week with a giveaway from Freshly Picked.  It's no newsflash that we love our Freshly Picked moccasins around here and that we feel strongly that while they can be a bit of an investment they are worth every penny as baby's first shoes.

The elastic design keeps them on little baby's feet and the soft soles help baby with balance and learning to walk.  And maybe it's just my girls, but we get a decent amount of time out of each size.  Kenley has been wearing her size 2 blush moccs since June and they still have a small bit of room left for her foot to grow.  However, while roomy, her new size 3 salt water taffy moccs fit as well.  Ashlynn wore her first pair of size 4 platinum moccs for almost a full year before they got too snug.  And since they can be worn dressed up or dressed down they do make up for their price instead of buying a bunch of other shoes for every occasion in multiple sizes - that probably fall off!

But enough of my rationalization testimonial, find out for yourself why they are such an incredible and stylish shoe for your littles and enter the giveaway below.  Winner will be announced on Thanksgiving!

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Friday, November 14, 2014


Finally jumping back into a Five on Friday post, lots of random stuff I'm throwing out there today.

Kenley's birthday is fast approaching and I'm trying to get back in the party planning groove.  Her party is more of a playdate than a par-tay, but I still want to decorate and make it cute.  One, out of fairness since Ashlynn got a giant themed bash, and two, because I enjoy doing this stuff.

I have still been spending a decent amount of time up in the sunroom, now that it's finally cleaned up.  I still want to organize and declutter a bit more and make some things just prettier to look at, but hopefully it'll be in 'show off' status soon and I can post a tour of how I store all my different supplies.  I also decided, since Ashlynn only seems to nap on preschool days, that I should move her arts and crafts stuff into the room too.  It's the perfect quiet activity and then it's kept out of Kenley's way.  I already brought up her easal and plan to move her table and chairs from her room and set up a mini station for her.  Don't you love when one project just leads right into another one?

That means we need an ikea run.  More things to add to my list, like this, this, and this.  Hopefully we can fit in a run before Thanksgiving!  (and if not, I'll just order them through my amazon prime - seriously amazing!)

Loving this sweater, it's like the type I could wear everyday... super casual, but still appear (somewhat) put together.  And right now you can get 25% off with code SHOPNOW.  **wishlisting

Lastly, why is printer ink the equivalent of unicorn blood.  I swear I dread using my at home printer because I'm always afraid of running out, which it seems we always are.  If anyone has secrets for buying non-shady non-rip off ink cartridges let me know!!

Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

[Review] Merino Kids Sleep Sack

A month or so ago, I was contacted by Merino Kids to try out their merino wool sleep sack.   I waffled over whether I should accept since I have used the same brand of sleep sacks since Ashlynn had started using them when we stopped swaddling,  and have been very pleased.  I decided it couldn't hurt to say yes, since I try to only accept reviews for products that relate to the content of this blog and this it a type of product we use every night.  It's also a product made with quality and organic materials which we are typically drawn to and purchase. 

Merino Kids sleep sacks are made of super fine merino wool on the inside and 100% organic cotton on the outer layer.  It is itch-free, allergy safe and naturally fire-resistant.  It is much lighter and softer than I expected, I thought being wool it would be heavy, but it's actually really light and not bulky. However, since merino wool absorbs and releases moisture (why cloth diaper moms use wool covers!) it is able to maintain baby's body temperature keeping them warm and dry, without overheating.

The second thing I noticed when it arrived was how big it was.  The sleep sacks come sized 0-2 and 2-4yrs.  I thought it might actually fit Ashlynn better than Kenley, but due to the design it could actually fit both perfectly.  The bodice is contoured, so it doesn't slide up as baby rolls around in her sleep, and there are snaps under the arms to tighten or loosen the arm holes as the child grows.  The sack unzips at the bottom for easy diaper changes, and fully goes up the left side for easy on and off.  

One of the most innovative details is the pocket slot on the front and back allowing you to slide through a seat belt or stroller buckle.  This is great for road trips or when you know you'll need to transfer a sleepy baby from the car to the crib and not want to disturb by waking them to get their jammies and sleep sack on.  It'd also be great for bundling up on walks for colder months.   

I was also a little intimidated about washing something made of wool.  Kenley started bottles about the same time we received the product.  Formula dribble is inevitable. I was hesitant to use it too frequently because I didn't want to have to wash it often.  That all changed one night after weaning her completely to formula.  She had eaten a dinner of pureed peas, zucchini and quinoa and then finally taken all 8oz of her bottle in one shot, the first time she hadn't quit early.  I was so excited she was finally accepting it.  She popped up and stared at me, I realized she probably needed to burp, but instead everything came out.  All over me, her white nursery chair, and her sleep sack.  I was horrified for a number of reasons, but the biggest was having to explain to the Merino Kids rep I managed to ruin the sleep sack prior to posting my review or even getting to give the product a fair chance.   I washed it on the handwash setting in cold water with Wool-lite and let it air dry.  It looks, smells, and feels, brand new. No stains and the wool feels just as it did when it arrived.  I've washed it multiple times since and it's come out the same every time.

I still think it's quite the investment at over $100 for one.  However, this sleepsack is really the only sleep sack you would need.  I have spent well over that amount on other brands of sleep sacks since I had to buy a new one at 0-6 months, 6-12 months, and 12+ in two different weights for different seasons.  So while it may hurt the wallet when first purchased, it would definitely keep costs down in the long run. 

I still use our old muslin sleep sack, but I honestly find myself grabbing this one just as much if not more now that the temps are dipping these last few weeks.  If you are looking for registry items or a luxury gift to give a special friend or family member, this is definitely a product that will be used and loved by the recipient.  

Merino Kids graciously sent us one Merino Kids sleep sack size 0-2 in Banbury for our review, all opinions and experiences are solely our own. If you like to learn more about Merino Kids, please click here!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Catch Up

Lately, I feel like a lot of motivation that had gone AWOL on me has returned.   Last weekend, we tackled painting the extra room.  It's a cape style room over our garage (that gets really hot or really cold because it's poorly insulated) and is connected to our bedroom.  I would be the best playroom ever if it could actually keep a temperature and not be in our bedroom.   Instead it's my craft room and a bit of extra storage.  After I stopped making teepees last year, it was a disaster.  And since I had stopped sewing when Kenley was born, I hadn't had a reason to even venture in there and the fact it was overwhelmingly messy.

Since we had the master bedroom painted, I wanted this room to match.  I cleaned up the room and started to prime it, the husband clocked out of kid duty and relieved me of finishing the job aside from the trim.  I spent most of the week organizing my stash of random supplies, throwing out junk, and filing a year's worth of paperwork.  

Now that Ashlynn doesn't nap (AT. ALL.), one day after fighting her for one for an hour which ended her walking out of her room and telling me "no, no nap" and going on her way, I made her hang out with me while I made Kenley a skirt for her birthday party. For my first piece of handmade clothing it actually came out cute and fits her right. 

Then I sewed a teepee I promised as a gift for a friend over the course of some "free" time while the toddler was at preschool and a baby wandering through my stash ribbon and more no nap naptimes.  

I swung by Michaels on my way to meet a friend for coffee on Saturday morning to put a 50% off coupon to use and grabbed this peg board set, hooks, and baskets all for 40% off.  The peg board alone was supposed to be $30 and I got everything for under that. I spent the afternoon nap (that was only had by one child, sense a theme?) finishing my up my space. I still want to replace the prints in Ashlynn's old frames and get the other half of the room together, but it feels so good to have a clear and organized workspace.  I got halfway through a quilt I had start ages ago as well. 

Moving from sewing to Arts and Crafts, we picked up the supplies to DIY this advent calendar and make a few other holiday related crafts to add my collection.  And getting even more crazy, you may have seen on instagram, I started having myself some cookie parties (my favorite food group).  Alison's cookie party is no joke, I have never made these type of cookies in my life and was already impressed with my novice skills.  I can't wait to work on it and make some killer Christmas cookies.

That exhausted me just writing it out, but I know I'm skipping things like awesome fun housework and once again completely rearranging the playroom. Oh well, the holidays are coming, full steam ahead!

How was your weekend?!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Got My Fix (Round 3)

My third Stitch Fix arrived this weekend.   It came earlier than scheduled, which was fun, but also a little annoying since I purposely schedule them eight weeks apart so I'm not 'shopping' more often.  Just a week, no biggie, just hope the deliveries don't continue to creep up!

My stylist Erin used my pinterest board to help guide her selections for me.  The biggest issue with this, is that I've tried adding a few items to my Style Wishlist board recently, but majority of the pins are older than my kids.  I still like the majority of the styles, but not super current.  My Style  Inspiration board has more style ideas, so I updated my style profile on Stitch Fix to reference this board instead.   Either way her picks were definitely up my alley.

First up was the Vida Striped Detail Zip Up Cardigan by Tart, which Erin included because of the unique thumb hole detail.  Something I love as I own a few shirts/work out gear with the thumb hole.  I like the stripes on the wrist and the pockets zip close.  The detailing under bust helps give me a bit of shape.  It's lightweight and washable, perfect mom-gear.  I can wear it with leggings or jeans for my usual casual style.  I don't necessarily have a hole in my closet for these type of items, but I did want to get a new lightweight zip up since the one I usually grab when lounging around is starting to fall apart and I no longer wear it out of the house.  It was priced a little high for my liking at $78, I would have been happier at $48 or $58, but I know comparable LuLu items are even more.  I had a credit so that help me decide to keep it, and I've already worn.

The Presley Colorblock Button-Back Sweater by 41Hawthorn was the item I was drawn to the most.  I loved the vibrant mustard and I love a good crew neck sweater.  However when I opened it up I noticed the buttons down the back (there was a tag there) and thought they really looked like cardigan buttons.  I thought maybe I could wear it both ways, then thought it was a neat detail, then I put it on and confirmed, no it looks like a backwards cardigan.  I loved the fit from the front and I really love sweaters like this and just recently trashed a J.Crew one that I wore holes through the elbows, but after an Instagram poll confirming that it did look like I got dressed in the dark, I sent it back.  So close and the $68 price tag was reasonable, great fit and nice material.

This Benson Embroidered Trim Top by Skies are Blue was pretty drab in real life, a heathered orange and was a slub jersey knit material.  I wasn't crazy about the color, but I did like the fabric (washable and soft) and the detail, but the fit just wasn't flattering.  I didn't love it, sent back.

Erin included the Coco Swiss Dot Roll Tab Blouse by Brixon Ivy because I had a pin of Lauren Conrad, my listed style icon, in a similar top.  I waffled between this top and the activewear zip up for which to keep, since they were both the highest priced items in my box I didn't want to keep both.  I'm regretting it bit, but I just don't think it was special enough.  I have a few similar style blouses in my closet and I don't reach for them all that often even though they are some of my favorite pieces.  This is usually because I don't want them getting yucky doing dishes 20x a day, wiping hummus hands, and bottle drips.  It was definitely the right style and type of item I look forward to receiving in my Fix, but I just didn't have to have it.

Last was the Devaux Printed Tab Sleeve Blouse by Angie.  If this didn't fit like a tent, I might have kept it!  I liked the teal color and the fabric compared to the Swiss Dot blouse was more mom-friendly, no risk of snags and easier to wash. It was marked XS on all the tags, but I'm still believing it was an error.  Once I had it on, I immediately thought it looked like I was wearing a hospital gown, and the print pattern that I initially liked, looked just like the print on the maternity gown I gave birth in.  This was sent back.

Overall I was really happy with Erin's picks, I just had issues with fit or details.  I'm looking forward to updating my pinterest boards and thinking more about any specific items I would like so I can send a note to give them some guidance.  If you are interested in receiving a Stitch Fix, you can use my referral code and sign up here!

Want to learn more about how it works?  Read my first post here!

Have you tried Stitch Fix yet?  Are you happy with the service? I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

How I Use Essential Oils

Oh boy, yes, I am another victim to the essential oil cult fad, but a few of you have asked about which ones we have been using so I thought I'd share all the details.

After first seeing some doTERRA related instagrams about them a few times late last winter I did some reading up on what the hell they were.  I wasn't down for spending a ton of money on something that I wouldn't really use if they even worked, so I bought a cheap "starter kit" on amazon that had great reviews and read the little pamphlet that came with it, a 101 Uses type thing, and was encouraged to try as many things as I could.  I didn't own a diffuser and I was bit hesitant to use them on myself, so I started with other suggestions like cleaning. 

I started using lemon essential oil in my DIY multi-purpose cleaner and loved the scent it left.  I was also promised it had disinfecting power.  Then, every Spring, we have ant problem.  It usually starts in our master bathroom of all places.  They come in through a tiny crack between the door jamb and tile on the floor.  I read they are repelled by peppermint oil after many online searches for non-chemical treatments.  I stuck a cotton ball soaked in peppermint on the crack and they disappeared completely for about 5 days until I had to place a new cotton ball in the spot.  This is when I was sold on the oils. (We did have an exterminator come to eradicate the problem completely, no one wants to live with ants!)

So now, that I was really interested in trying these oils for all the benefits they had to offer, I started reading more into doTERRA.  I had been following a few sellers on instagram and seeing all the different ideas for uses how they've been able to makeover their medicine cabinet with natural alternatives, so I looked into my options for buying and took the plunge into getting a wholesale account (though I am not currently selling them, sorry!).  I am now able to buy any future oils at a member discount and I was given some bonus product for signing up and purchasing the Family Physician Kit

Now that I was being promised 100% Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade oils, I was game for trying them out for health and healing benefits. (You can read a bit more on what that means here) I started with lavender.  I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, and would put this on my wrists and behind my ears when I felt overly anxious.  Then, I started putting it on Ashlynn's feet with fractionated coconut oil (a liquid carrier oil that doesn't solidify like regular coconut oil) at bedtime and noticed she did indeed put up less of a fight and slept soundly through the night.  You can also use it on bug bites and addressing cuts to help soothe.

When the Husband complained about a pain in his arch after a long run, I used Deep Blue blend (similar to icy hot) with a carrier oil and he was amazed that "my voodoo magic" worked.  He's since used an "allergy blend" I made with equal parts lemon, lavender, peppermint (in a roller ball filled with fractionated coconut oil) and OnGuard when he felt a cold coming on and was again amazed they actually seemed to work.  I made a believer out of him.

Other oils I've used topically include the DigestZen blend on my stomach when feeling nauseous or having a stomach ache, which I'm not crazy about the scent of licorice, but it seems to do the trick.  Deep Blue on neck and shoulder tension and my knee pain from running.  Peppermint on my neck or temples when suffering from a headache.  Balance on my wrists when feeling extra anxious. Melaluca (tea tree oil) on any blemishes that pop up (just the smallest dab with a q-tip and they are gone within hours - which should be no surprise since tea tree oil is a common ingredient in skin care).  You can also mix with lavender to treat and calm rashes, including diaper rash which both common ingredients in natural balms.  I've used Breathe blend mixed with fractionated coconut oil on Kenley's back when she was sick and OnGuard on her feet.  I also try to remember to always put OnGuard on Ashlynn's feet the days she has school to help boost her immune system.  And my current favorite, a homemade "tantrum" blend of lavender and Balance that I roll on Ashlynn's spine and feet when she's being extra special.  And by special, I mean two years old.  It's definitely helped us get some naps and easier bedtimes since taking away her pacifier. 

I recently purchased a diffuser and now I can get the aromatic benefits of the oils as well.  When we took away Ashlynn's pacifier, I ran the diffuser in her room with Serenity Calming Blend.  I've also used Lemon in the kitchen to purify the air and OnGuard when Ashlynn brought home a cold from school.  I need to read into more diffuser suggestions, I know Wild Orange will lift moods and energy, but I typically focus on running it for sleep!!

Honestly, I still haven't taken any internally.  Even though doTERRA is certified to be safe and free of synthetic ingredients, I just haven't felt ready to take the plunge.  Not all oils are safe for ingestion, but all the oils come clearly marked with how they are to be used (diffused, ingested, topically).  

As for cleaning, lemon is my bff.  I've moved on from just using it in my multi surface spray to being my all-in-one cleaner.  My favorite use is polishing our stainless steel!  I always have a hard time finding a cleaner that is truly streak free.  I've used specific "stainless" cleaners, but they always leave a slippery residue on the floor from the mist. Not to mention a baby who loves licking kissing her reflection, I don't want to use harsh chemicals. A few drops of lemon on a damp rag and polish your appliances and trash cans until they shine.  It truly brings ours back to brand new.   

Speaking of the dishwasher, I add a few drops to our rinse aid and my plates and glasses have never been cleaner. Even the inside stainless tub is sparkling after adding it. It helps clean up grease on my range and the splatters inside the microwave.  A drop down the garbage disposal and good bye stinky onions or other table scraps or a drop in the washer when you've forgotten to swap everything over to the dryer and it's sat for too long.

OnGuard I've also used to disinfect.  I placed some in a small spray bottle filled with water and sprayed on all our sheets about an hour before bed to help kill any germs when they girls were battling colds.  You can also do this with lavender to help with sleep.  I also would spray our counters and door knobs when trying to keep germs at bay from going through the family.

As for the pricing, it is no doubt an investment.  I had a lot of explaining to do when I bit the bullet and got the Family Physician Kit. However, I knew buying them individually would add up as well.  You can buy the oils on Amazon as opposed to an independent product consultant, the only concern would be where they are coming from and that it's not coming from a suspect source that could tamper or provide counterfeit products .  I always read the reviews so that helps me have confidence when purchasing anything from Amazon.  I also love reading all the reviews for how buyers are using them.   

I use these roller bottles and usually add 60 drops total of the oil blend, for example the Allergy Blend I mentioned above was 20 drops Lemon, 20 drops Lavender, and 20 drops Peppermint then fill the rest with fractionated coconut oil.  Or if you want to have a Lavender Roller bottle, which is perfect for using on baby and toddler feet before bed (make sure to cover with socks / sleepsack so they don't accidently touch it then touch their eyes), just add all 60 drops then fill with the FCO.  The Intro Kit would be a good way to get started and see if they are something you find yourself reaching for and using, the three oils included - lemon, lavender, and peppermint, have a tons of uses!  Majority of the oils sell separately in 15mL bottles, however the Family Physician Kit comes with a sample of 5mL bottles.  Even having the smaller sized bottles, I still haven't used any up and I received my kit back in July.  So they do go a long way for the price, you only need to use a few drops when diffusing or using topically.  And if you make roller ball blends they go the distance too.  I'm closest to needing to reorder Lavender and OnGuard.

Now, while some people have an oil for anything, we aren't quite there yet.  I do enjoy using them, but Essential Oils in general (all brands) have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The products mentioned are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.  I just strive to use natural products before using heavy duty cleaners, medicines, etc and find the oils useful in my daily life.   If you are interested in speaking with a independent product consultant and learning more details from someone truly versed in the options of the oils, contact Traci at The Oil Mommies (@theoilmommies on instagram) and mention Strawberry Swing to learn more or order products.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

[Featured On...] Sunflower State of Mind

I'm so excited to be guest posting for Vanessa as she welcomes baby Nash over at Sunflower State of Mind.  For her Say Hello to the Holidays series I'm sharing our family's sweet potato casserole recipe, a Thanksgiving day tradition for most families!

Be sure to follow along for some other great posts coming from some awesome bloggers in the next few weeks.  So much holiday fun!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

[Baby #2] Kenley Drew - 11 Month Update

No official weight or height until her one year appt.  She is working on her 8th tooth, hoping it pops through any day now because the last few have been a bit rough, though, I don't really mind the extra cuddles.

Sleep is pretty good.  We weaned this month (more below) and because that eliminated any night feeds, she now sleeps from 7pm to 5am.  She wakes up at 5am on the dot more days than not.  Most of the time I can go in, get her paci, give her a 3 minute cuddle and then have her lay back down until 6 or 6:30. 

Naps are pretty solid, not always consistent, but the average is 60-90minutes in the morning and about and hour in the afternoon. 

She's so much more social than she has been in the past, or even compared to Ashlynn as this age.  I think some of it has to do with the weaning.  She happily walks over to her Pop Pop or Bopo and is fine being held by others.  She had to spend one morning at the gym daycare when I took Ashlynn to gymnastics (she usually would stay back with Dad), and she did great in there even though she hasn't been in for a few months. 

Biggest change is that we fully weaned during the month.  It was a tad earlier than I had planned, but we both took it well.  Because I nursed exclusively (no pumping, no bottles), I'm actually surprised how much I enjoy giving her a bottle.  Aside from the ease of being able to schedule appointments or be gone during a "feeding" (something I couldn't do) and that freedom, I actually think we bond a bit better with a bottle.  Not that we obviously didn't through nursing, but most nursing sessions were spent with me scrolling through instagram.  Now that she isn't halfway under my shirt, we can actually have real eye contact and share some smiles.   I plan on switching her over to milk at the end of the month as she turns 1.  

As far as solids go, she OVER babyfood.  Almost rejecting all of it.  She's eating a healthy dose of bananas, blueberries, kiwi, waffles, pancakes, meatballs, pasta, macaroni, peas, carrots, corn, beans, cheese.  The usual suspects. 

She's gone from walking to running. I turn around and she across the house.  She's climbing on everything (finally blocked off the stairs) and she speed and which she just get's to standing impresses me most for her age.

Aside from Mama and Dada, Doggie is really the only comprehendable word.  She loves blowing raspberries, clicking her tongue, and flipping her finger on her lips making noise.  She does it all the time and it cracks me up. 

She loves giving kisses on the mouth and rubbing our noses together.  I usually give her an eskimo kiss after she finishes her bottle before bed, and she'll grab my cheeks and pull me back for more.  This age may melt my heart more than any other.

She is obsessed with her baby, Mia. If I ask her "Where's Mia?" She'll look around and then give a giant open mouth smile and run towards her.  She "sings" along when we do Twinkle Twinkle or Patty Cake and dances to music.  When Ashlynn is jumping around, she bounces her knees like she wants to join her.  She understands which toys are the dogs and always is trying to shove them in their mouths.  Can do simple puzzles, like the jumbo Melissa & Doug ones, and loves trying to put the basketball in the hoop (from the bottom, since she can't reach). She's also signing "more" and "eat". And thankfully, bathtime is finally easier.  She still stands up, but at least she's now sturdier on her feet and I don't actually have to get in the tub to hold her.  Glad we are past that. 

I've been reminded and confirmed, that this is probably my favorite age.  Not that each age doesn't come with it's own highlights and difficulties, but I remember loving this age with Ashlynn and I'm in love with it again.  It just feels so easy.  I love the personality shining through and the beginnings of communication. Sloppy kisses and bear hugs forever, please.