Monday, April 30, 2012

Maternity Must Haves

Being a first time mom, my friends have been there for all kinds of parenting and baby advice. But I have to say, not many of them have had tips or necessities for those 9+ months of torture pregnancy. I'm being dramatic... I have had a great pregnancy, and thank God everyday for allowing me to get through these months without morning sickness, among other things.

However, there are some amazing products out there that are not maternity based, but should be. And I am finding in my daily rituals that I most likely will use these for years to come, with or without a baby bump. Here are a few things I recommend for the momma to be:


For some reason, before you give birth, you need as much rest as possible, yet you start getting less and less real sleep right before the baby arrives. As soon as the bump started getting bigger, and the books told me to start sleeping on my sides (how I miss my tummy time!), I knew the only way I could get comfortable would be with extra pillows. However, everyone knows how cramped a bed can be with 3 pillows for each person, plus a beagle who likes to hog the bed. Enter the V-pillow

I found this pillow at SteinMart of all places, for under $25, and on Amazon, it is even less! It even comes with its own pillow case, due to its unusual shape. I had seen maternity pillows like this one and this one, but unless you're sleeping alone, there is no way these are fitting in bed with you. I can put this between my knees, or wrap like an L behind my head and under my baby bump. I also use it in the V-shape shown when I am uncomfortable in the middle of the night... I just prop myself up and try to get back to sleep. It really is amazing, and a great all around body pillow. This coming from someone who hates body pillows.

I also hate sleeping with socks on unless it is the middle of winter. However, I have to say that these Dr. Scholls Diabetic and Circulatory socks really help with the puffy toes and middle of the night leg cramps. I picked mine up at Wal-Mart for $8/2 pair. They are lightweight, and super soft, so they don't bother me during the warm nights. And the times that I do wear them, I have less restless legs and fewer leg cramps than the nights when I don't.

Another godsend is something I discovered during a pedicure long ago, Aveda's Foot Relief cream. Lightweight and refreshing, it really helps with tired feet and legs. I put this on every night before climbing into bed, and sometimes even before I put my Dr. Scholl's socks on. It too helps with leg cramps and swollen feet. And a bonus, it has a cooling sensation, and if I get a hot flash in the middle of the night, I just put a little on the back of my neck and on my feet, and I can get my temperature back down and get back to those zzzz's!


I consider myself a pretty fashionable person, but a thrifty one. After checking out the limited selections of maternity clothes, I decided that I could find more reasonably priced dresses at Target, Old Navy, H&M, and TJ Maxx to wear to work and every other day. 

Maxi dresses are a MUST. There are some great colors and patterns out there for spring, and I simply bought a size or two up from my normal.

The black cross-smocked maxi from Old Navy is a definite go-to, as it makes you look slimmer (less pregnant) and offers plenty of support for a mom-to-be's growing cleavage. I pair it with bright flats, or a colored cami underneath. Or I keep things classic black and add a vibrant scarf or colorful jewelry.


Since the day I found out I was pregnant, I have used some sort of shea butter on my growing belly for stretch marks. One brand I like was actually gifted to me by a dear friend: Basq Advanced Stretch Mark Cream. I have only used this when I feel by belly is really tight and stretching, and have saved about half the jar for this last month of pregnancy. The other kind I have used religiously is the really inexpensive but effective Palmer's Shea Butter for Stretch Marks.

I lightly towel off after a shower and then spread this all over my tummy, chest (remember, they get bigger too!) and back while still damp, and let it soak in for a few minutes before getting dressed. I must admit, they are not the best smelling lotions, but the smell goes away after application. I don't know if they really work or if I just have great genes, because I do not have one stretch mark!

Another beauty product, that I have mentioned before, is one I even have packed in my hospital bag.... Kiehls Facial Fuel Under Eye Treatment. There are many uncomfortable nights, and restless sleep, and this helps me looking fresh every morning. I may be slightly addicted to it, and I'm sure once Baby D comes, I will be stocking up on it along with her diapers! I wonder what website I could order both from at the same time.....

So there is my mom-to-be must have list. I completely believe that I will continue to use these products for years, and swear that they have changed my life in some way. I'll try to give an update after Baby D is born to see if there is anything to add to the list!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bamboo Flatware For A Steal

As you may remember from this post, I have dark brown bamboo flatware that I bring out for special occasions. I just got an e-mail today that Neiman Marcus is offering 25% off select home items, and these bamboo flatware sets are on sale!! They come in 20 piece sets (4 place settings), so for 12 people/place settings, the light bamboo ones are $56.25 total and the darker brown bamboo ones are $78.75. That's less than a pair of shoes for a way to really spruce up your dining table for special occasions! Just wanted to pass on a good deal, or maybe good gift idea for Mother's Day!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Let There Be Color

As part of BlogHer's Life Well lived series, I was asked to answer the question- How do you incorporate color into your look? There is rarely a day that I don't have some kind of color in my wardrobe, even 8 months pregnant. For example, here is what I wore yesterday:

Black low-rise skinny jeans (non-maternity)
Black Pea-In-The-Pod cami
Black and White striped oversized tank from TJMaxx
Gold Michael Kors watch
Yellow vintage wooden bead necklace

I know stripes are not really what pregnant women should be wearing, but I kind of love this top and it is one of the few separates in my closet that still fits! And for the record, I promised no belly shots, but photos from the front don't really count!

I showed this example, because color is so easy to incorporate by just using accessories. You could easily substitute big, bold earrings, or really fun shoes. Speaking of shoes, these also could have worked with my outfit yesterday:

I picked these up at  H&M the other day for $15. Really comfy flats in pink satin.... its a win, win. I was thisclose to going home with these green H&M wedges for $25:
Any of my friends will tell you I have a vast collection of shoes and jewelry. The reason is because they are the easiest accessories to add a punch of color to any black dress or jeans and a white t-shirt. Not to mention, can be found for a heck of a lot less money than a fabulous purse. And a bonus, can be thrown on in the 20 seconds you are running out the door. Great places for inexpensive shoes in great colors are Target, H&M, and often your local TJMaxx and Ross. By spending less money on colorful accessories, you can't feel too bad about giving them away in a year when the color is not in style, or out of season.

Most of my jewelry is actually vintage, that I have purchased at garage sales, vintage stores, and places around the world. Also a few "shopping trips" through my grandmother's jewelry box have produced some excellent colored enamel earrings and brooches from the 60's.  However, if you aren't comfortable with buying second hand, stores like H&M, Forever XXI, and online vendors like Etsy are a great place to find that fun piece for little money.

I love bright prints and clothing pieces, but I have to say that colorful shoes and jewelry are my favorite ways to incorporate color into my daily wardrobe. Even on a gloomy day, or one in which I feel large and uncomfortable, a pop of color seems to liven my spirit and make me feel cute at the least. Try it for yourself, and if you don't agree, check into the BlogHer Life Well Lived site for more ideas on how to incorporate color into your look. Stop by and enter their sweepstakes too for an iPod Touch and $50 iTunes gift card!

What is your favorite way to incorporate color?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day

We have not inherited the Earth 
from our Fathers,
We are borrowing it from our children.
 -Native American saying

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Update: Onion Experiment

So I have been pretty bad at providing an update for the green onions we have had sitting on the windowsill. But after just two weeks, they doubled in size and now they are just out of control...

And we have cut some off and used it in our cooking, and yet we still have plenty. It certainly works, and we will never have to buy green onions again! We will, however, have to put them in a larger container, as these are just not big enough!

What else can we grow so easily? Anyone know of any other vegetables or fruits that are easy to grow?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pinterest Challenge - Silver Framed Chalkboard

I try my hardest not to go on Pinterest every day, but it is really difficult when you are looking for a gift or design idea, and need a little inspiration. With the baby showers that my friends have graciously given me, I was in need of some different and inexpensive ideas for hostess gifts. One happened to be a Pinterest idea:

Cute and easy, right? Kind of. I did make some with success, but this tutorial shows that it isn't as quick as you would think.

First, I purchased some old silver trays at Salvation Army for $2 each. They were in good shape and just needed some polishing. But don't polish them before you start this process, as you may end up getting them dirty and smudgy.

Forgive the lighting in these photos, apparently the only time I have to do projects these days is at night when the lighting is horrible. 

I purchased some Con-Tact Chalkboard paper on Amazon to use for this project. After reading many how-to's online, some of the projects that used the chalkboard paint were a little streaked or required multiple coats, which I did not have time for. Also, our local Michaels was out of the chalkboard acrylic paint, and I can not use the spray paint (aerosol/fumes+ baby = no-no). But this stuff was fairly easy to use, and I love the finish it provides.

But there is one step to do before you get it looking pretty, which may require the help of a man and his drill (or a skilled Father-in-law who had it done in 10 minutes). See these little holes where you later tie your ribbons?

You need to drill them into your platters. And since we needed someone to hold the platter and someone to drill accurately, we had no hands left to hold a camera and take photos. So try to follow these directions to make the holes:

First, mark on the plate with permanent marker where you would like the two holes. These marks will go away once you drill. Second, get a large heavy-duty nail or screw and a heavy hammer. While one person holds the platter steady, the other should try to hammer the screw/nail into the plate to puncture the metal. It does not have to go all the way through, it just has to puncture the metal. This makes the drill bit go in easier. Next, use a 1/4" drill bit (or larger), and make sure it is for metal and not wood. Start the tip of the drill bit in the puncture and drill until you have a round hole all the way through the platter. Repeat on the other hole. To finish off, use a metal file to file down any sharp edges around the holes, as they will snag your satin ribbon later if you don't!

 I first cut a square piece of the Con-Tact paper to fit over the area in the middle of the platter. I taped a few sides taught before I began cutting the round edges with scissors.

Just insert your sharp scissors and run them around the inner edge of the platter.  

This wasn't the most conventional way to do it, but on this platter, it seemed like the easiest way to get the shape right.... or close.

 Here is the finished cut (above) and flipped (below).

Ok, so maybe my scissors weren't sharp enough, or it was just an overall bad idea to do it that way. The edges look ROUGH. 

I just took my scissors and gently went around the circle to make nice clean edges. Luckily, I could do this free-handed and it didn't make too much difference on how the chalkboard fit onto the platter. 

Here is how I would recommend doing it in the future, as I did with the other platters that had a more unusual shape. I placed the Con-Tact paper over the platter, and taped it to secure. I then took a marker and traced the inner edge of the platter, then removed the Con-Tact paper and cut along the tracing. It ended fitting perfectly with clean edges.

The next steps are probably the hardest. Remove a small section of the Con-Tact paper to expose the sticky side. Place the contact paper, sticky side down, on your platter, and as you smooth with one hand, pull the white backing underneath with the other hand, until the entire piece is stuck down.

I also found that using a credit or membership card as I went along helped smooth any bubbles. I ended up with some tiny bubbles or marks, just because the silver wasn't completely smooth on the surface.  But for the most part, it looked great.

It was at this time that I took a silver polish cloth to the platters to shine them up and get rid of any finger prints and tarnish. If the platters need a good deep clean, I would clean them with a rag and silver polish 1-2 days beforehand to make sure they dry well before you apply the chalkboard. 

Next, I decided that I wanted my platters to have the ability to be hung, rather than just put on a shelf. I took satin ribbon cut into two almost 2' long strips. The first strip is fed through each hole from front to back. Then about 6" above the top of the platter, I made a knot, and then over that tied a bow. Repeat the process, feeding the second ribbon from the back of the platter through the outside edges of the holes (so the top ribbon is on the inside edges of the holes). Tie in a knot and then in a bow at the top of the platter.

I use the bunny-ear method to tie my bows. I saw years ago that Martha Stewart thinks this makes the best bows. Frankly, its how I learned to tie my shoes, and have tied bows this way ever since!

Next, I cut the tails on the bows with some scissors, keeping the tails shorter for the bow at the top of the platter, and longer on the piece that actually hangs the platter. 

For the final touch, I took some chalk and wrote messages on the chalkboards. With each chalkboard, I included pieces of chalk tied with more of the satin ribbon. I really loved how they turned out, and I actually have some leftover Con-Tact paper, so I may just have to make myself one soon!

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Case of the Mondays....

I have a case of the Mondays.... all night I was experiencing the uncomfortableness of  7+ months of pregnancy, along with taking care of our sick dog furry child all night, so I am all out of sorts today. Apparently I am not the only one, as I received the funniest and real e-mail from my husband, whose entire office received this message from their break room:

This cupcake would like it's owner to claim it's remains… either finish it off or throw it in the garbage can (Please & Thank you).

Who does that?! Probably someone like me who is having a case of the Mondays. At least, that is the only excuse that is acceptable. Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hoppy Easter!

After a busy weekend, I managed to whip up a simple but cute table for Easter dinner.

I took a large antique bowl, filled it with giant lemons from the tree outside, and then clipped some fresh gardenias and stuck them in. I finished it off with some egg garland, found at Michaels last year. 

A closeup of the beautiful, fresh centerpiece:

 Then I made all the napkins into bunnies, using this Martha Stewart tutorial. It was a little difficult, since the napkins we had were really thick. I just helped secure the napkin folds with a small clear rubber band.

Hope you all had a wonderful and hoppy Easter celebration!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

An Experiment...

I have seen on a lot of blogs lately that you can regrow green onions after you use some of the tops. So after I chopped some for my lemongrass chicken recipe, I went ahead and put the leftovers (white bulbs with roots) in small glasses of water. Give me a few days and I will report back to see if they regrow....

If this works, then I have been wasting a TON of money on new bunches of green onions in recipes for many years. I wonder what else you can regrow this way?!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lemongrass Chicken and Thai Vegetables

This past week, my mother in law told me that she had a lemongrass plant outside that she had never used to cook with.

Being a lover of Asian lemongrass flavorings, I decided to make dinner with it one night. I couldn't find any recipes that I loved, so I took some basic ingredients and combined them to make a lemongrass chicken with stir-fry vegetables.

First, I clipped a couple long lemongrass leaves, and washed them thoroughly, and cut them in half. Next I trimmed up my chicken breasts, cut in smaller halves, and sprinkled with garlic salt.

Next, I wrapped the chicken breasts in the lemongrass leaves and placed them in a shallow baking dish. I threw in a Thai Chili for a little flavor. 

Next, I poured in about half a can of coconut milk and some lime peel (I use the rest of the limes later), and baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  

While the chicken was cooking, I filled a skillet with white onions, green onions, broccoli, red peppers, portobella mushrooms, and about 1tsp of thai chili sauce to give a little more flavor.

As the vegetables heated up, I added a little sesame oil (1 Tbsp) and just a dash of soy sauce (about 1 tsp). I like the fresh flavors of the vegetables, so I don't like a ton of sauce with them.

Once the chicken breasts are cooked, I took them out of the pan while I prepared the rice (Uncle Ben's 90 second brown rice).

Simply take the package of brown rice and rip open the top according to the directions. Add 2 Tbsp of the leftover coconut milk, and cook in the microwave for 90 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and stir well.  Use the remaining lime, cut in wedges, to lightly juice the rice. Top with the lemongrass chicken and vegetables for a delicious meal!

When I make this again, I think I may marinate the chicken overnight in a coconut milk and lemongrass mixture, and then remove the chicken and cook them alone in a pan. The chicken had great flavor... definite lemongrass flavoring that was subtle, and the coconut milk was not overpowering, but the coconut milk was just a little more congealed than I had anticipated. I may also throw some lemongrass in with the vegetables next time too!

Let me know if you have a good lemongrass based recipe to try... I am all about experimenting with this!