Fave 5: Preggo Picks

Happy Fave 5 Friday!  Christmas is just over ONE week away!  I love this season and am soaking up all the of the holiday spirit.  It's cooling off in Houston and finally feeling like winter (even if we get the occasional weirdly warm day in the 70s...it could be worse!)  Landon has really been getting into it this year from showing off our Christmas tree to singing his favorite carol, Jingle Bells, several times a day!

I just can't believe that once Christmas and New Year's are over, I'll only have about three weeks until Baby Girl's arrival (that is if she doesn't decide to come early)!  This pregnancy has certainly flown by mostly because I have been so focused on chasing a toddler.  It has been a whirlwind and the adventure is just beginning.  See below for a few of my favorite things that have made the last few months a little easier.

Fave 5 Preggo Picks.jpg

Clockwise from top:

Cake Lingerie Cotton Candy Bra:  This staple is supportive enough for everyday wear but comfy enough for prenatal yoga or even sleeping.  It's actually a nursing bra that I purchased at the end of my last pregnancy but this time I started rocking it five or six months ago.

Wamsutta Body Pillow:  It's so hard to get a good night's sleep when you're pregnant.  I tried the Snoogle and I honestly have no idea what all the hype is about.  It's too thin and I started referring to it as "the cobra" after about a week of use.  It was fun to wrap Landon up in it for a "pillow hug" but I ultimately sold it and I'm so glad that I traded up for this body pillow.  I sleep SO MUCH better with it!  I'm normally a stomach sleeper too so I needed something like this to keep me on my side with support for my (rapidly spreading) hips.  It's also less than half the price of most pregnancy pillows.

Honest Co. Organic Belly Balm:  This is one of my favorite gifts for newly preggo moms.  I love it just as much this time around as I did two years ago.  It smells like a spa.  I sampled other products but they were mostly too heavily scented and/or made out of some scarily unnatural ingredients.  This one is completely organic!  The oils are extra moisturizing but best to apply under absorbent pajamas before bed (since a little can come off on your clothes).  

MAC Matchmaster Concealer:  Speaking of organic...this is not.  I tried more "natural" concealers but let's be honest...those just don't do the job.  Pregnancy is tiring.  Pregnancy with a toddler in tow is exhausting.  Hide the evidence with this extra smooth, moisturizing, medium coverage miracle worker.  I use it as an under eye concealer every. single. day.  Plus, it's recommended by my personal makeup guru (and author of Binkies and Baubles)!

Lululemon Align Pant:  Ever since my brief stint in yoga teaching, I have been a Lulu junkie.  The quality can't be beat and almost all of their items are stretchy enough to last through pregnancy.  While most yoga pants are wearable through the first 6-7 months, something a little more supple and forgiving is needed when nearing the finish line.  The Align Pant has a high waist that acts like the panel of your favorite maternity jeans.  The Nulu™ fabric is super soft and has four-way stretch.  You really will forget that you're wearing anything.  They are that comfy!

 

 

Fave 5: 19-21 Months

 

I am completely overdue for a post and I really miss blogging!  Things have been crazy over the past few months but that is no excuse for letting my poor blog sit here.  I am finally catching up on my monthly Fave 5s and as many of you know, Landon is well past the 19-21 month phase but we have to start where I left off.  I miss having a baby around so it's a good thing Landon's little sister is on the way!  Baby #2 is coming in late January!  Stay tuned for more details, nursery updates, my takes on the latest baby gear and more.

My first thought when looking at this photo collage is, "Wow, that looks like preschool gear".  I can't believe that it is actually the truth and our little guy started preschool this fall.  He is only there for three hours a day but he certainly seems like a grown up toddler now that he is spending more time away from home.  Over the last couple of months, his love for building has grown along with his ability to color with regular crayons (as opposed to the egg-shaped baby version).  He runs around like a wild man in his new high tops and even recognizes all the letters in the alphabet.  Where is the time going!? 

Please chime in and comment with your favorites for this stage and age!  I love to pass along the info for other moms and the more ideas, the better.

Clockwise from top:

Tegu Blocks  This Target find is a fun way to introduce building to little ones while avoiding the frustration that can come along with trying to stack things for the first time.  Since the blocks are magnetic, they stick together in any combination (which is also helpful if they are with you in the car/plane etc.)

Pillowfort Industrial Kids Chairs (and table) - I love the look of this table and chairs set (chairs sold as a pair, table sold separately).  The metal construction is super durable and the little chairs are quite sturdy.  Landon uses this table as his coloring station.  It is easily wiped down which is a HUGE plus.  

See Kai Run Dane Sneaker - These are currently 20% off at Nordstrom and have been a hit for us.  I like that the high tops provide great ankle support.  They also look more like big kid shoes than baby shoes (which is bittersweet).

Classic Crayola 64 Crayon Box - This box of crayons brings me straight back to childhood!  All the great original colors are here and thankfully the crayons are washable.  My go-to is a paste of baking soda and water on the rough side of a sponge for wiping down the Pillowfort table (and a few other surfaces such as walls...for wipeable paint sheens, see here).  I even got a nice orange crayon scribble out of our living room sofa with a brush and some dish soap.  I chose some great roller shades for our house and some crayon even made it's way onto those.  Let's just say there is nothing like the miraculous Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  Now we need to work on our coloring boundaries...

Plan Toys Preschool Alphabet  Another great Grandma gift!  These letters have traveled with us in their trusty little sack and have been so helpful for learning the alphabet.  Matching the letters to the associated cards/objects adds an extra challenge and was a great way to prep for preschool over the summer.

Hard at work on his coloring (20 months)

Fave 5: 16-18 Months

How is our little toddler already a year and a half old?  Just a few months ago, he was crawling, babbling, and eating purées.  Now he is suddenly a mini man on the run with a full fledged personality, a growing vocabulary, and a huge appetite for all kinds of foods.  Some days, Landon already seems like a typical two year old with the occasional tantrum and and a very clear desire to do things for himself.  While it is tempting to give him a helping hand and treat him like the baby that he still is in my eyes, it is also so rewarding to see just how proud he is of himself when he accomplishes new things each day.  

Lately, the biggest milestone is eating with utensils.  The biggest challenge at this age isn't a huge surprise...air travel has become a whole new world.  See below for the products that have been amazingly helpful for this age and stage.  I hope they work out for you too!

Clockwise from top:

1. Re-Play Utensils  While we experimented with them for months, eating utensils are just now becoming useful tools. As long as we time the meal right, Landon will proudly use his fork to spear everything from chicken breast and avocado to scrambled eggs and blueberries.  If he's too hungry, he will dive right in for the nearest bite with his free hand while holding his utensil of choice firmly in the air for the remainder of the meal.  We are still working on the spoon but so far it works well for greek yogurt and refried beans.  These lightweight and eco-friendly toddler utensils are made entirely from recycled HDPE plastic (milk jugs!).  Re-Play is focused on creating high quality products from recycled plastic, just like Green Toys (see previous post here).

2. ezpz Happy Mat  This gift from grandma came at the perfect time.  Landon had recently been in the habit of signifying the end of each meal with a triumphant toss of his plate to the floor.  This genius silicone mat is basically one big suction cup that sticks right to the table.  For picky eaters, the individual sections are perfectly portioned and keep different foods from meddling on the plate.  The key is to peel it off the table when your little one isn't looking so that they don't get any ideas...

3. Evenflo Tribute LX (travel) Carseat   When Landon outgrew his infant carseat, we got this Clek convertible carseat.  While we love it, the thing is a beast that just can't be used when traveling.  After reading rave reviews, we went for the Tribute which is super lightweight and can easily be thrown in this travel bag to be checked (for free!) with luggage.  While I probably wouldn't use a more pared down carseat like this one for everyday use, it has been fantastic for family trips.

4. Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag   This has been a great starter set of building blocks.  Not only does playing with them help to develop fine motor skills, we have used them for learning colors as well.  A platform on wheels is included so we have made several big "cars" using these fun blocks.  Unlike other sets, this one comes with a large storage bag that has been incredibly helpful for clean up.

5. Good Night, Gorilla   This book was a gift from Landon's grandparents and his love for it has bordered on obsession.  We even bought a travel size that was sadly left in Seattle!  There isn't much text in this picture book but that is part of the appeal.  It is a lot of fun for our little guy to point out all of the animals, people and objects that he recognizes.  Many things appear on multiple pages so toward the end it becomes a game of "what's missing?"  I truly think that books like this one have helped to develop his growing vocabulary!

Keeping up on his reading during a lunch date with mom

Wall Art on the Cheap

I'm finally putting the finishing touches on our new house and recently added wall art.  I went for framed family photos, watercolor prints (see this post), as well as various framed photos and paintings that we picked up on past trips.  When it came to a couple of blank walls in the dining room, I decided to keep it simple and very inexpensive by framing prints myself.  

The secret here was that I found the prints in a 2016 wall calendar (now half off!) that was discounted at the beginning of the year.  I chose 3 prints by Rifle Paper Co. that feature cities that I love.  I cropped the images with a paper trimmer and framed them with West Elm white gallery frames.  Since each print cost only a few dollars, I can easily swap them out for others down the road without an ounce of guilt!

Toddler Art (without the mess)

I have to thank my good friend Helen who is also the author of I Dream of Pretty Things for this amazing art project idea.  During some recent rainy weather, I started to panic when imagining full days stuck inside with a super energetic toddler.  We are fortunate to have numerous indoor options here in Houston including the Children's Museum, the butterfly exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, open gyms at various schools and community centers, not to mention the largest mall in Texas.  When it rains in Houston though, it really does pour.  So, I'm building up a stash of ideas for things we can do to keep entertained without having to brave potentially flooded streets and heavy traffic.  

This very simple and easy art project only requires a few basic tools and creates NO MESS WHATSOEVER!  How is this possible you ask?  Thanks to the Ziploc bag, all paint stays completely contained.  You could even throw in some glitter for fun and you would still have clean toddler hands when it's all said and done.  I plan to use these mini masterpieces for upcoming Mother's Day gifts!  Hopefully, Landon's grandmothers aren't reading this...

See below for the step-by-step guide to an instant art piece:

Step 1: Purchase washable finger paint.  I found these primary colors here and figured I could mix them to create secondary colors if needed.

Step 2: Squirt a little bit of each color onto white cardstock paper.  

Step 3: Place the cardstock in a gallon size Ziploc bag and let your little one have at it!  They will love spreading the paint around and mixing the colors and you will love that it all stays in the bag.

Step 4: Carefully remove the cardstock from the bag and allow to airdry.  Your mini masterpiece is complete!

Weeknight Meals: Green Chef Intro

I like to make a few home cooked meals each week but I find that I often end up making the same 3-4 go-to dishes by default.  I wanted to mix things up while keeping it healthy so I decided to give Green Chef a try.  They deliver all the necessary ingredients for your meals once a week in a box lined with ice packs (so you don't have to be home when it arrives).  The great feature that sets Green Chef apart from other similar options is that all the ingredients are organic (or sustainably sourced, fish for example).  The directions are easy to follow and I've been happy with the results!  Since there is still some prep, chopping and sautéing involved, I definitely feel like I'm cooking and creating some yummy goodness from scratch.  Each meal takes 30-40 minutes to prepare but some prep can be done ahead of time if things tend to get too hectic right before dinnertime.  I love receiving only the portions of each ingredient that are needed for the recipes.  I really think this will help save on grocery costs!  So far, each dish has been delicious and we have had leftovers every time.

Give it a try and receive 4 free meals by following this link!

Rainbow Trout Veracruz, patatas bravas, tomato-caper-olive tapenade

Chicken and Biscuits, carrots & tomatoes, celery roof "fauxtato" salad

Italian Meatballs, orzo pasta, mushrooms & kale, tomato sauce

Fave 5: 12-15 Months

In a couple weeks the little man will already be 16 months old!  He is constantly on the go these days and loves to explore every corner of our house and backyard.  We are working on holding hands as he walks down the sidewalk (he is perfectly content to walk up and down our block multiple times) and he loves to run around on the grass at our neighborhood park.  He is still having fun with his friends at his music and Gymboree classes.  See below for our recent faves!

 

toddler shoes | water bottle | kid chair | set of cards | bath book

1. Once Landon started confidently walking, I began searching for shoes that would be supportive, comfortable, cute, and lightweight.  I love the look of all the mini styles of adult shoes (there is something so adorable about tiny versions of dad's shoes), but so often they are made of the same heavy materials as adult shoes and aren't too easy to wedge chubby toddler feet into.  The Tsukihoshi shoes above can be found locally in Houston at Imagination Toys and Shoes or online at Amazon or Zappos.  They are a great brand from Japan that specializes in kids shoes.  The materials are lightweight and flexible.  We love them!

2. Now that our little guy is so active, he is frequently more thirsty.  When he started sneaking sips from his dad's full-size Camelbak, we knew it was time for Landon to have his own.  This bottle comes with us everywhere.

3. Since we first decorated the nursery, I have been on the search for a cute and functional kids chair.  This was the perfect addition to the corner of his room where we have picture books displayed on wall ledges and board books in baskets below.  The seat cushion is removable and the cover is stain resistant and washable.  Plus, the foam core is free of flame retardant chemicals.

4. We keep books in almost every room of the house and in the backseat of the car since our bookwork can't get enough of them.  The only place where we were missing them was in the bathtub.  Landon received this waterproof, floating bath book for Valentine's Day!

5. This beautiful set of cards was a gift from Santa.  At first glance they look like individual packs of 10 playing cards but they are actually prayer cards for 10 different religions.  For some reason, cards are really intriguing at this age and Landon likes to study the images on each one, hand them to us, or trade for others.  This set will (hopefully) last a long time and through various childhood stages plus the cards are interesting for all of us.  Especially in this day and age, a little education about other religions is both eye-opening and educational.  

 

Wet Bar Reveal

I thought I would start off the week with a post about one corner of the house that got a major makeover.  See here for my earlier post about our super 80s wet bar.  With a little updating, I'm happy to say that it's looking more like something that belongs in the 21st century.  Without the dated mirror wall, glass shelves, black laminate countertop and ancient icemaker, its a fully functional wine bar.

I went for a clean and modern look with floating painted wood shelving, quartz countertops that match the ones we used for our master bathroom remodel, and matte white penny mosaic tile.  Since we tend to opt for wine more often than mixed drinks, we decided to replace the ice maker with a wine fridge.  I considered doing away with the sink but it is nice to have and the plumbing was conveniently in place.  I added a filter to the new cold water faucet so it now serves as a handy drinking water station.  My only regret is not adding some sort of drawer or other storage for wine related accessories (corkscrews, etc.) but since we needed an open cabinet under the sink, there wasn't much additional room anyway.  Luckily, the wine bar is located in the den a few short steps from the kitchen so any additional items can just be stored there.  Another big change was removal of the small swinging doors that used to enclose the old wet bar.  We found that they were really unnecessary and when open, they would just take up space in the den.  Now the bar feels like a part of the room and I can't wait to use it for future parties, dinners, showers, game days, and wine nights.  

See below for my sources!

Sources:

Tile: Daltile Retro Rounds in Bold White Matte

Countertop: Michaelangelo

Wine Fridge: Whynter*

Faucet: Newport Brass Chesterfield in Antique Nickel

Cabinet Hardware: Rejuvenation Mission Pyramid Knob in Brushed Nickel

*note: I found out during construction that for a built-in installation like this one, it is essential to find a wine fridge that vents to the front as this one does.  Many fridges have vents in the rear and they can't cool properly or get sufficient ventilation when they back up to walls or cabinets.

Fave 5: Pillow Talk

While I'm a fan of keeping furniture and walls somewhat neutral, I love to add pops of color from fun throw pillows and vivid wall art.  My latest mission is to find pillows for our den and living room that can complement two watercolor prints that I recently found on Minted.  

I was so happy to find art that reminds me of my west coast roots.  The artist, Jennifer Daily, is based in Alameda, California just 5 minutes from where my dad lives.  I chose two abstract landscape expressions.  The first is above the fireplace in the den and it evokes the terrain around Palm Desert.  I love the fluidity of the beautifully muted colors.

Palm Desert from the Terrain Series by Jennifer Daily/Minted

The second is hung over the sofa in the living room and it portrays Marin and it's gorgeous green hills just across the Golden Gate from San Francisco.  

Marin from the Terrain Series by Jennifer Daily/Minted

At first, I couldn't decide which print to place in which room.  I then realized that the south-facing windows in the living room bring in warmer natural light that would enhance and complement the cool colors of the "Marin" print.  The cooler natural light from the north-facing den windows pairs well with the warmer tones of the "Palm Desert" print.  Using colors in this way is a good rule of thumb for decorating in general.  The same principle can be applied to fabrics, paints, rugs and furniture.

All of the options below are from SparkModern, a fab little Etsy shop that specializes in creating custom pillows from designer fabrics.  At most other locations and especially at a brick and mortar shop, a custom pillow crafted from a brand name textile would run $250+ not to mention the fact that a minimum amount of yardage would have to be purchased and ordered separately, often through vendors that sell only to-the-trade.  These beauties are much more reasonably priced and available in a gorgeous array of colors, textures, and patterns.  The mother-daughter team at Spark even runs another Etsy shop, OrangeOliveStudio, where they sell discontinued print pillows.  Not only are these options discounted, they are ready to ship.

The Manuel Canovas pillow in the center is probably my favorite right now for the living room since it would pair nicely with the greens and teals of the "Marin" print.  It could get a little busy with that detailed pattern but the jewel tones are so pretty and I love that it would add a classic touch.  To coordinate with "Palm Desert" in the den, the Peter Dunham Ikat option is the front runner right now and I would love to pair it with the two Kelly Wearstler options at the right, Channels and Bengal Bazaar.

Left to right (all pillows by SparkModern):

Kelly Wearstler Edo Linen in Opal

Peter Dunham Textiles Ikat in Pasha

Manuel Canovas Parfum d'Ete in Bleu Canard

Kelly Wearstler Channels in Plum Oatmeal

Kelly Wearstler Bengal Bazaar in Magenta

Here are a few tips for choosing throw pillows:

1.  Size matters.  For standard size sofas, 18" square pillows work well scale-wise.  For a low-back midcentury sofa or chair, smaller 16" square pillows or oblong lumbar pillows would be best.  Larger pillows that are 20-24 inches square can be used as well if you are looking for a more casual feel in a family or media room.  Just remember that pillows should be comfortable while providing enough room to sit.  If they take up too much of the seating area and need to be moved constantly, they just become a pain.

2.  Many pillows like the ones above are sold as the cover only with a discreet zip closure.  The insert is typically sold separately.  Look for inserts that are two inches wider in each dimension than the pillow to give it that full, cushy look.  For example, if you are buying a 20"x20" pillow cover, opt for a 22"x22" insert.

3.  While pillow inserts filled with 50% down and 50% feathers are plush, lightweight and luxurious, they often look crumpled and require a lot of fluffing.  The best option is to go for an insert that is 90% feathers and 10% down.  If you like to karate chop your pillows for that magazine spread look, this is the way to go since the pillow will hold its shape well.  For a more economical option, foam and synthetic fill inserts are available.  They have less of that lush squish but they hold their shape very well.

4.  A nice way to add variation to your room is through the use of texture.  For a velvet or mohair covered side chair, a smooth silk pillow would add nice textural contrast.  A leather sofa could use the soft warmth of woven wool pillows.

5.  Mix it up.  By using a mix of different patterns, textures, and sizes, you can create real visual interest around the room.  Bring them all together as a composition with a common thread throughout by using the same color palette or style for all pillows.

Landon's First Birthday Party

We had so much fun celebrating our little guy's big day with friends at our neighborhood park.  I'll admit that it was a little nerve-wracking leading up to the party because our early November weather was unpredictable with heavy rain, thunderstorms, and unseasonably warm weather.  Luckily, it all cleared up just in time for our Sunday afternoon get together and it was a beautiful sunny day in the low 70s!  I'm so glad we decided to do the party at the park since there was plenty of space for running around, multiple play and swing sets, and minimal setup required.  Since our new house was barely unpacked and decorated at the time, it was a big relief to have the party close by (2 blocks away!) but without the pressure of actually hosting at home.

I went for a fall/woodland animal theme based off of a cute invitation from Minted.  I found a lot of crafty décor supplies at Paper Source including fall leaf die-cuts for food labels, fox dishtowels for layering on the tablecloths, an acorn garland, and a wood grain paper that I used as the background of the monthly photo board.  I found balloons, tablecloths, and plates/cups/napkins/plastic flatware in the theme colors at our Houston party superstore, Arne's Warehouse.  See below for the sweet birthday hat and banners created by PopFizzHooray, a great Etsy shop.  We even repurposed the "Landon" portion of the banner and it now hangs over his crib!

Since the party was in the late afternoon, we kept it simple with a few healthy appetizers from Zoe's Kitchen and mini cupcakes from Crave.  Instead of a smash cake, I opted for a regular size cupcake for the birthday boy.  He was unsure at first but dug in eventually for a couple of sweet bites.  It was his first taste of dessert, and so far it looks like he will be a sweet tooth like his mom.

The menu:

Orzo Tabouli Salad

Seasonal Fresh Fruit and Roasted Vegetables

Chicken Salad, Hummus and Pitas

Limeade and Iced Tea

Birthday Cake, Red Velvet, Chocolate, and Dulce de Leche Mini Cupcakes

While planning the party, I heard over and over again that the first birthday is really a celebration for the parents and I think that's absolutely true.  Your little one has no idea what's going on and might even be overwhelmed by all the attention.  The key is to keep the party short and sweet so that there is time for baby to have fun without affecting their nap and eating schedule.  I'm so glad our friends could come out to join us for a big milestone and very special day.  The first year flew by in a flash and my baby is suddenly a toddler.  I can't wait to see what surprises this next year will bring!

Monthly photos and party décor. Banners by PopFizzHooray.  Space Saver Highchair by Fisher Price.  Riviera Armchair by Serena & Lily.  Photo by R&J Studios.

6 month silhouette by Love & Victory.  Party Invitation by Karidy Walker/Minted.  Photo by R&J Studios.

Cupcakes by Crave.  Photo by R&J Studios.

Make a wish!  Party hat and banner by PopFizzHooray.  Photo by R&J Studios.

Inspecting the smash cupcake.  Photo by R&J Studios.

Loved the frosting, not so sure about the cake.  Photo by R&J Studios.

It was a perfect day for a party at Colonial Park.  Photo by R&J Studios.

Fave 5: 10-12 Months

Happy New Year!  The last couple months of the year just slipped right by me.  Between Landon's first birthday, a little design project, and the holidays, the weeks have been racing along.  Since we stayed home for Christmas and New Year's, I have a little time to finally catch up on the blog.  See below for my favorites from the last couple months of babyhood.  We now have a walking, babbling toddler on our hands!

Clockwise from top:

1. SpaRoom Aromafier Ultrasonic Diffuser  Along with a very large toddler appetite comes the inevitable and equally large...super stinky diaper.  The challenge was to find a non-toxic air freshener for the nursery that is stronger than baking soda but not chock full of nasty chemicals.  Enter the aromafier, a compact battery operated (and travel friendly) diffuser.  You simply add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (I went for this minty option) onto the inner pad and a tiny fan helps to spread the scent around the room.  The only downside is that the "on" button emits a bright LED light.  This isn't an issue during the day but it is definitely distracting in an otherwise dark room at night. I have found that if I just run the diffuser for a couple hours during the daytime, it's enough to keep the stink away.

2. Tower of Babble Stacking Blocks This set was a birthday gift from the great-grandparents and it was an instant hit.  They say the simplest toys are the most entertaining and that couldn't be more true about these cute, durable boxes.  They nest for easy storage and are covered in colorful (and educational) graphics.  Landon loves to watch us stack these into towers so he can knock them down and watch the boxes fly.  

3. Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon My brother sent this gem for the big first birthday.   When the box arrived, I couldn't wait to see the adorable wagon so I quickly assembled it during nap time.  It was so fun to watch the pure joy spread across Landon's face as he took his first steps while pushing it around the house.  It was the perfect photo prop at the first birthday party where we also took a few pictures for our holiday cards.

4. Boogie Wipes  Luckily we only faced a couple colds during the first year but they hit both of us hard (dad somehow avoided getting sick each time).  The infamous snotsucker was a real challenge, and I had much better luck with simple saline spray followed by (a lot) of Boogie Wipes.  I opted for the unscented version and they were great for keeping the snot in check without irritating baby's little button nose.  They are super soft and soothing with saline, aloe, vitamin E, and chamomile.

5. See Kai Run Toddler Shoes (similar here)  Shoes were a struggle when I first tried them around 7 or 8 months.  Until Landon was standing and cruising, he really didn't see the point of having those pesky accessories on his feet.  These days, he will patiently wait for me to put them on his feet so he can happily toddle around in style.  I have found that some shoes are absolutely adorable but a pain to get on so they just end up sitting in the drawer.  This brand is not only high quality and super cute but the shoes open wide making it much easier to get pudgy toddler feet strapped in.

Master Bath Reveal

I'm so excited to share some photos of the new master bath!  It is the room that got the biggest facelift during the remodel and it really looks completely different.  While we kept all the plumbing in place, we updated all of the finishes from top to bottom.  See here for my first look at the master bath and check out the bottom of this post for all of my sources.

I love a nice hot bath.  It's the perfect way to relax before bed with a cup of tea or a glass of wine.  Once our remodel was finally complete and we made it through the big move, the first thing on my agenda was a date with my new tub.  Although I felt ridiculous climbing in and out of several showroom tubs, it was worth it to find one that was the right shape and size.  I'm really happy with the one I found online after doing some shopping around.  It's so funny to look at the "before" photo now.  That hot tub time machine really could have fit 4 people!

sources:

tile: daltile | paint: benjamin moore | tub: signature hardware | faucets: moen | mirrors, sconces, hardware: restoration hardware | countertop: michaelangelo quartz | runner, soap dispensers: target | magnifying mirror: simple human | vanity stool: restoration hardware

Decorating the new house has been a gradual process.  Luckily, I have an enthusiastic design assistant who is happy to help me sort through roller shade samples.  p.s. the indoor/outdoor rug shown below has been amazing so far!

Fave 5: 7-9 Months

Happy Friday!  It's been a crazy few weeks since we moved into the new house but I'm excited to finally get back to the blog!  Our little guy is not so little these days and he is very quickly approaching his first birthday.  I can hardly believe that my baby will soon be a toddler.  Since I'm feeling a little sentimental, it seems like a good time to pull together some of our favorites from the last few months of babyhood.

Clockwise from top:

1.  Grapple Toy  I was first introduced to this amazing little gadget when I met a fellow blogger friend and her baby girl for lunch.  Helen had arrived at the restaurant completely prepared with all the necessary essentials to keep her baby happy including the Grapple.  It has a suction cup base that can easily attach to a tabletop or highchair tray.  Flip up the adorable apple top and you have a nifty little cup for snacks.  The best feature is that it can hold three toys with it's adjustable tethers.  Absolutely genius.  After spending the majority of our lunch fishing toys off the ground that Landon had flung from his highchair, I didn't wait long to get a hold of our own Grapple.  It was so great to have for our summer trips!  For some reason, it didn't stick to the airplane tray table as planned but it did suction nicely to the personal seat back screen.  The apple leaf is also a handy hook so I've attached this thing to the stroller several times too.  A+ for design in my book.  This would be a fantastic gift for a new mom.  Be sure to check out Helen's blog, I Dream of Pretty Things!

2. Hanna Andersson Sleeper  Hanna is known for adorable jammies in super fun prints but the greatest thing about their sleepwear is the quality.  Landon wears these over and over again and he has consistently outgrown them before they show any signs of wear.  While other pj's have ended up with a hole in the toe or faulty zippers, the Hannas have really stood the test of time.  During those warm summer nights, the footless versions were perfect. Plus, I just love how the slim fit shows off those sweet baby thighs and belly!  Right now, his Halloween pair is in heavy rotation.  Since these cost a little more than the average pajamas, I try to wait for them to come on sale.  They were 25% off over Columbus Day weekend so keep an eye out for holiday promotions.

3. Mealtime This little touch and feel board book was a gift from Landon's fabulous Aunt Jen.  He loves to feel all the different textures including the very sticky jam on the PB&J page.  He always turns right to the bowl of pasta so we think he inherited his mom's love of carbs.  This book is small and very durable so it frequently comes with us in the car or diaper bag.

4. Hape Pound and Tap Bench  I love all the nice wooden toys that Hape offers but this is a great two-in-one.  It is part xylophone and part pounding bench, and good for developing dexterity (or baby will just hurl the little balls across the room...that's how the first few weeks went).  Landon has spent plenty of time testing the new hardwood floors in his room with this toy's mallet (it was all white carpet up there before the remodel).  It has been fun watching his skills improve with this one.  He started off violently banging his mallet on all surfaces of the toy but will now gently tap on the colored balls until they fall through the holes and make musical sounds on the xylophone keys below.

5. First 100 Words Landon is already a mini bookworm and this book might be his favorite.  There isn't a story to follow along with but he loves to look at all the images, smile back at the smiling babies, and make "grrr" sounds when he spots different animals.  He is perfectly happy flipping through this book several times on his own.

 

House Rules: If These Walls Could Talk...

The walls of your home are like a blank canvas full of possibility.  There are so many options to consider when thinking about the surfaces that contain each room.  Which paint color is best?  Would framed photos or art look better in the space?  What about wallpaper?  During our remodel, I've found that by following a few basic guidelines,  I'm able to at least cut down on a few of the decisions.  See below for a few house rules to live by when thinking about wall art, lighting, and paint.

photo: elle decor

Rule #1: Hang wall art at 57" on center.  

By hanging art so that the center is 57" off the ground, the piece will be right at average eye height, a trick used by museums and galleries.  Hint:  This is lower than you might think!  Most artwork is hung too high.

Rule #2: Hang wall sconces between 60 and 72 inches above floor level.  The best height for bathroom sconces is 66 inches.  

Remember to take into consideration what you want to highlight with your wall fixture.  For example, accent lighting in a hallway can be at a higher level than bathroom sconces that need to enhance your reflection in the vanity mirror.  If you are a little shorter or a little taller, adjust the height of your bathroom lights accordingly.

Rule #3: High gloss or semi-gloss paint is best for kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and trim.  Eggshell or satin paint is best for high traffic areas, hallways, and kids' rooms.  Flat paint is best for ceilings, bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms.

When it comes to paint sheens, the higher the gloss, the more durable the paint.  Higher gloss walls are also much easier to wipe clean.  For low traffic areas, flat paint is a high coverage, money-saving option that hides imperfections. 

Project Update: Wet Bar

We are very close to completing the remodel!  With only a couple weeks left, things are really starting to come together.  One element that is basically complete is the den wet bar.  When we bought the house, the original 80's style bar closet was in need of a serious refresh.  

The hubs capturing the wet bar during our first visit to the house

While I'm sure the (broken) ice maker got plenty of use at one time, we figured that a wine cooler in the same space would be a better fit and a nice update.  I first considered removing the sink completely, but with the plumbing already in place, I decided it will be great to have. With a filtering faucet, we can use the sink for drinking water and even add a coffeemaker on the counter and we have a wine and coffee bar!  The black counters, mirrored backsplash and glass shelves gave the whole bar a dated look and the wine storage rack felt heavy overhead.  While double doors gave us the option to close off the closet, they really weren't necessary and when open, they crowded the floor space in the den.  We removed the doors and created a cased opening, helping to make the bar a part of the room.  

See below for my wine/coffee bar inspiration and a few of the elements I chose.  We are using the same durable quartz counters in our master bathroom, and the penny round mosaic backsplash matches the subway tile we added above our kitchen counters.  Stay tuned for photos of the completed bar, coming soon!

photos: coffee bar & wine bar

materials: tilequartzfaucet

Fave 5: 5-7 Months

It's Fave 5 Friday and I'm overdue for a post!  Since we are quickly approaching the 9 month mark, I thought I would round up the products and toys that we found the most helpful during late spring and early summer.

Clockwise from top:

1. Green Toys My First Tugboat  Landon has been into bath time since he was a newborn but once he started sitting up in the tub, toys became a lot more interesting.  A lot of floating toys are made of toxic foam so I was happy to find some great reviews about this green line of products.  The boat doubles as a scoop and can be used for rinsing/making waterfalls.  I was really impressed with the detailing and quality.  It is sturdy, durable, and made from 100% recycled milk jugs!

2. FLOR Carpet Tiles  I have been a fan of FLOR tiles for a while and have used them in multiple interior design projects (see one here), including the child/adult proofing of our slippery wood stairs.  Since Landon has been on the move lately while perfecting his army crawl, I wanted him to have a play area that would be comfortable and also drool proof.  We were using an indoor/outdoor blanket for a few weeks but its easily wipeable surface was becoming a slip hazard.  Once I started searching for a play mat, I ran into nothing but foam options and a lot of reviews about chemical odors.  The greatest thing about these tiles is that they are modular and can be configured to create a rug of any size or shape.  I put 12 of them together to make a play rug that matches the nearby tiles on the stairs.  If one piece gets dirty, it can easily be rinsed in the sink.  The tiles also meet low VOC standards and are recyclable.

3. Little Tikes Discover Sounds Hammer This great toy was a gift from grandpa and became an instant favorite at the 6 month mark.  It makes funny cartoon-like noises when you hit surfaces with the end of the hammer.  Landon loves to use it on the tray of his highchair.  Maybe he is demanding more food?

4. Indestructibles: Baby Faces  A friend gave us one of these paperback books as a gift and I'm pretty upset that I didn't think to invent them myself.  The cute little books are waterproof, chewable, rip proof, machine washable, and basically genius.  They come in several different versions with fun illustrations and no words (so you can make your own story).  Throw a couple in the diaper bag!

5. Aden and Anais Wearable Blanket We transitioned from the Zipadeezip when Landon was 6 months old.  Like all A&A products, the muslin and bamboo wearable blankets are super soft and lightweight.  With his arms and hands free, Landon can suck his thumb and soothe himself.  He can also reach through the crib slats, grab at things, and attempt to unzip the blanket so it's a double edged sword.

What are some of your favorites for this age?

Project Update: Master Bath Redo

Our remodel is underway and I am so excited to see how everything turns out.  We have dubbed the project "Byebye 1986" since the priority is to update all of the super 80s details starting with the master bathroom.  Luckily, brass is back but there was just a little too much of the polished stuff in this room.  Plus, that red tile floor has got to go.

The layout of the bathroom works well.  I just need to change pretty much ALL of the finishes...

One of the first big challenges is remodeling the tub and shower.  When we bought the house, the whole bathroom was filled with cultured (faux) marble.  Our plan is to replace the tub and shower surrounds with porcelain or stone tile.  The huge built-in whirlpool tub probably could have fit four people.  To give the bathroom a fresh and updated look, I decided to add a much smaller freestanding tub.  Once we install a frameless enclosure around the shower in place of this brassy one, the whole bathroom will have a new feel.

Cultured marble and lots of polished brass

Let the demo begin!

Let the demo begin!

Since the freestanding tub will be the focal point of the bathroom, I decided to go try out a few in the showroom.  There are so many beautifully sculptural tubs to choose from and they can be found in acrylic, resin, cast iron, or stone.  I'm so glad I climbed into several of them because there is a huge range in comfort.  Some of the tubs that I liked the most when searching online were actually much too long for my frame when I tried them in person.  I decided to go with acrylic as opposed to the much heftier (and heavier) cast iron and stone options.

I fell in love with this resin and acrylic Toulouse tub when I saw it online since I'm definitely drawn toward the slipper style.  In person, it was way too long for me and therefore not too comfy.

The Amiata tub has a graceful curved shape but it is still too long.

Of course, the tub I loved the most was also the most expensive.  It is definitely modern but the oval shape and slight slipper style would work well in our traditional house.  

This beauty is simple, modern, comfortable and of course outside the budget.

After doing a little research, I found this great alternative.  It is very similar in size to my favorite but it is slightly smaller.  We only have about 5'-6" of clear floor space for the tub so this one is perfect!  

Next up...choosing tile!  Details to come...

Checking out our original 1986 floor plans while looking at tile options.

Weeknight Meals: Slow Cooker Chicken Mole

I made the easiest dinner last night and I owe it all to my slow cooker!  I was in search of a good chicken mole recipe after enjoying some delicious mole enchiladas at Skinny Rita's last week.  I stumbled upon this version and cut the recipe in half with a few adjustments.  It's so fun to order mole at restaurants because it really is a little different everywhere you try it.  It's almost like a Mexican "special sauce".  Mole has a nice kick of spice with a little sweetness to keep things interesting.  Chocolate for dinner?  Yes please! 

Step 1: Season four boneless, skinless chicken breasts with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Step 2: Blend the remaining ingredients for some savory and slightly sweet goodness.

A few hours in the slow cooker and voila!  A healthy dinner!

Slow Cooker Chicken Mole (4-6 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 4 breasts)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 14.5oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chilies (I chose this organic one)
  • 3 large chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, plus 1/2 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or you can cheat and use the chips like I did)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Season chicken breasts on both sides with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Place in slow cooker in one layer (try to not overlap).
  2. Place remaining ingredients in a blender and blend on high until sauce is smooth.
  3. Pour sauce into the slow cooker and mix with chicken.  Allow some sauce to go under the breasts so that they won't stick to the bottom.
  4. Set your cooker for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.  Note:  Since the breasts are skinless and boneless, they won't need to cook for the full time.  Switch the cooker to warm after 2.5 hours on high or 6 hours on low.  There is A LOT of sauce in this recipe so the breasts won't dry out but the meat will be much more tender if you adjust the timing.
  5. Enjoy over rice with beans or with tortillas.  The breasts can also be shredded and turned into another meal for the week.  Hold on to the extra sauce!

Easy Homemade Baby Food: 5 Reasons To Try It

I used to think that parents who made all of their own baby food were superhuman and required no sleep.  I always liked the idea of creating yummy purées from nutritious foods for my baby but how would I find the time?  How would I store the food?  Would he even like it?  Luckily, since Landon didn't eat solids on a daily basis until the 6 month mark, we had some time to get our routine down and his sleep schedule on track.  Regular nap times have given me a chance to experiment with a couple of simple and very easy recipes.  

Since there are quite a few reasonably priced organic baby food options in stores and online these days, I don't make all of Landon's food but I do like to make a big batch of purées every couple of weeks.  I pop a few pouches of homemade goodness in the fridge and a few more in the freezer.  For the majority of the recipes designed for baby's first experience with solid food, there are really only one or two main ingredients.   These fruits or veggies can be blended with a little water or milk to achieve the right consistency.  I started Landon on a thinner food made with more liquid at first to ease the transition to solid eating.  Once he got the hang of being fed with a spoon, I started making his food a little thicker.  We decided to start off with veggies before trying fruit.  We figured that if he is anything like his mom, he would get hooked on sweets and didn't want to risk him refusing healthy green vegetables after that.  It turns out that his absolute favorite food by far is sweet potato so he is getting the best of both worlds.  He has a pretty big appetite and rarely refuses any food but if I mix anything with his favorite staple, he is sure to eat it right up.

So...why even bother with the mess? (It's really not that messy...)

1. It's the healthiest choice!  When it's homemade, you know exactly what is going into your baby's food.  Many of the best organic packaged baby food options list water as the first ingredient.  This does nothing but "bulk up" the product and reduce the nutrients.  When you blend your own baby food at home, water is added for consistency but it certainly isn't the main ingredient.

2. You can make organic baby food for your little one at a fraction of the cost of store bought options.  When you aren't paying for that cute, colorful packaging, the savings really add up.

3. Simple storage.  Fresh food made at home can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours and frozen for up to 2 months. 

4.  There is nothing like the ego boost and sense of accomplishment from watching your baby happily eat up your homemade treats.  

5.  It's fun!  

The Goods:

  • Recipes: My close friend and college roomie is also an experienced mom of two.   She gave me The Petit Appetit Cookbook which I love.  For most first solids, it's just a matter of cooking a veggie and tossing it in the blender with some water or milk.  As baby grows, you can get more creative by combining different ingredients.
  • Storage: The two options I use are the Infantino Squeeze Station and pouches and the Mumi and Bubi Freezer Trays (no waste!)  I highly recommend the squeeze station and it is a fun and simple way to put purées into pouches.  We received this as a shower gift from a sweet coworker and it really does make food storage a snap! 
  • Travel Utensils: If you are out and about, these little guys are so convenient.  Just screw the spoon onto your pouch and go!
  • Bibs: Current fave

Whether you buy pouches or jars at the store or use your own pouches at home, recycling can really cut back on a lot of unnecessary waste.  At the recommendation of my close friend and fellow blogger, I collect all of my pouches over the course of a couple weeks and send them to Terracycle.  The shipping is free and each shipment earns you points that can then be donated to schools and charities!

Sweet potato in the squeeze station

The finished product

Baby approved!

Local Caffeine Fix: The Best Neighborhood Coffeeshops

There are plenty of times when the Starbucks drive-thru is the only way to go.  When I am in a rush, late for a meeting, baby is fussy, full-on crying or fast asleep, it is a lifesaver and can't be beat.  On days when we have a little more time, I like to visit our neighborhood coffee spots for a latte or flat white.  Here are my favorites for a quick stop-by with the stroller or when meeting up with friends for coffee and a meal.

Clockwise from top:

Sister to Montrose-area Black Hole CaféAntidote has a great laid-back vibe and funky mid-century modern seating along with ample patio space.  This spot serves fair trade organic coffee and goodies from local spots such as Fat Cat Creamery, Sinfull Bakery, and their own Black Hole kitchen.  Open late!

Blacksmith has become a weekend ritual for me and the hubs.  These guys have great coffee down to a science. Barista John Letoto even competes in latte art championships.  Breakfast and lunch are served all day and options such as the Vietnamese Steak and Eggs and Scratch Biscuit with Crème Fraîche and Marmalade will hit the spot.  Even Alton Brown is a fan.  Check out the artwork on the back wall that states, "When Queen plays, Freddie pays!"  A few months ago, I was lucky enough to be first in line when a Queen song came on and my drink was free!  Open daily 7am-5pm.

The hubs ordered a customized breakfast at Blacksmith last weekend.  He asked for a few avocado slices so clearly they do not skimp.

Common Bond has a bright, airy space on the corner of Westheimer and Dunlavy and is definitely my favorite place in Houston for delicious pastries and artful desserts.  Even their to-go boxes are beautifully branded and would make for a super hostess gift filled with croissants, macarons, or mini tarts.  With a full bakery and kitchen, you can enjoy your coffee with a variety of gourmet breakfast and lunch choices that change daily.  The parking lot fills up fast and lines are frequently out the door.  If you can avoid the breakfast or lunch rush, this is a great spot for a mid-morning meeting.  Breakfast is served 7-10:30am, lunch is available from 11am-3pm, and weekend brunch is 9am-3pm.  Closed Mondays.

Located on Heights Boulevard, EQ Heights or Equilibrium Social House opened earlier this year taking the place of previous coffee spots, Boulevard and Waldo's.  The classic bungalow that houses this little shop has been renovated and filled with some beautiful furniture including a gorgeous reclaimed wood communal table by Heights shop Mod-Tops.  This place is setup like your neighbor's comfy living room.  They really won me over when I found an Architectural Digest on the table.  The tricky part was trying to skim it while simultaneously bouncing a sleepy baby and sipping a latte.  Open daily 7am-9pm.

Revival Market, on the corner of Heights and White Oak, is part coffeeshop, part restaurant, and part butcher/market.  Landon and I walk here in the mornings at least once a week.  Owned by the same duo responsible for the always-packed Coltivare down the street, Revival has great coffee (free drip on Monday mornings!) and a delicious menu filled with locally sourced ingredients.  Very family friendly and dogs can always be found on the patio (I once saw a Great Dane and a St. Bernard squeezed under the same table).  Open daily, they recently started serving dinner Tuesday through Sunday.

More local ideas to come after we make the move in a few months!  What are some favorites in your area?