IKEA Play Kitchen Hack

February 13, 2018

For Christmas my parents wanted to get Jack a large present, so I suggested getting him the IKEA Duktig play kitchen.  He always had fun playing with his friend's toy kitchen so I thought he'd enjoy having his own.  The Duktig play kitchen is nice and sleek (very Scandinavian in design) and it's also only $99, so that's the one we went with.  It's cute as is, but there are also boatloads of "hacks" on the internet that jazz it up a bit.  I found this one on Pinterest by Jenny Collier that was pretty simple and not overly colorful so I decided to use it as a guideline.  I love some of the colorful DIYs I've seen but I knew this would stay in our living room which is already colorful enough.  For the full step-by-step DIY be sure to check out my inspiration!  I should have bought 2 cans of white spray paint rather than 1, so there is still some of the natural wood color showing, but I'm happy with how it turned out.  An instagram follower said the touch of natural wood added some warmth, so I'll go with that :)  And instead of the faux subway tile backsplash that was on Jenny Collier's inspiration kitchen I just used more of the marble con-tact paper.  (I tried my hand at drawing the subway tile lines but my hand is not steady enough and it looked horrible.)

For the kitchen tools and play food I chose this darling white cooking set and this food (large assortment, pretty cute and cheap).  I found some wooden fruit in the Target dollar spot and I keep it in a copper and brass colander I found at a thrift store a few years ago.  This one is very similar if you want to get the same look.  We also have a felt basket of food from IKEA that I think is really adorable.  It doesn't seem to be available anymore though but this new version is even cuter.  Oh and the rainbow stacking toy on top of the kitchen is one of Jack's favorite toys.  You can stack it all different ways and make tall towers with it and tunnels for driving cars under as well.  He's obsessed!    

Now I need your help though, I haven't bought any dishes, cups or eating utensils yet because everything I've found has been super girly!  I'd like plastic because I don't want Jack to break ceramic ones, and I don't want wood because I know Jack will want to put water in the cups.  I also want them to be cute enough to deserve a full time home in our living room.  If you can recommend some cute ones that aren't ugly primary colors or girly colors please let me know!  (I'll probably get these utensils, I just haven't bought them yet.)

Product Sources:

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Turning a Nursery into a Toddler Room

February 12, 2018

I tried to keep Jack's room a nursery for as long as possible, but once Jack learned how to escape from his crib I had no choice but to convert it to a toddler room.  Today on Progressive Insurance's Life Lanes blog I'm sharing some easy ways to make the transition from nursery to toddler room an easier one, whether your ready for it to happen or not!  Head on over to Life Lanes for the article.   

I was paid for the article I wrote for Progressive Insurance but all thoughts and photos are my own.

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Favorite Items from Costco

January 29, 2018
I've never been into wholesale clubs because buying in bulk just seemed a little crazy to me.  I've changed my tune now that we are living in Hawaii though, and we are now proud Costco members.  The gas is cheaper by an astonishing amount, it's the closest grocery store to our house and going there makes more sense than driving all the way to the nearest military commissary, and buying in bulk has made me get better at meal planning.  I still pick up random groceries at Target because some items just don't make sense to buy in bulk (we have no room for 60 waffles in our freezer, oddly enough) but I've come to really enjoy the things we purchase from Costco.  Here are some of my favorites:

1.  Kirkland Signature Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  We go through olive oil very quickly (cooking, dipping, salads) and this stuff has a nice taste and I like how large the bottle is.

2.  Kirkland Signature Balsamic Vinegar.  This is the smartest bottle of balsamic vinegar ever.  When you remove the cap a little spout pops out.  It's so cool!  Well, as cool as balsamic vinegar can be.  I use this on salads with olive oil and reduce it to a glaze for scallops (my go-to scallops recipe was a Pinterest find years ago and it's the only way I fix them.  So stinkin' good!).

3.   Kirkland Signature Organic Apple Sauce.  I like these little pouches of apple sauce because they're great on the go.  Jack is obsessed with them.

4.  Kirkland Signature House Blend Medium Roast.  We buy the whole bean coffee and I grind some every few days and keep it in a flip top mason jar next to the coffee maker.  It's roasted by Starbucks and has a great taste.

5.  Kirkland Signature Supreme Diapers.  With 2 children in diapers we go through them quickly.  The Kirkland brand diapers are great quality and work well for our toddler and infant.

6.  Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice with Garlic.  This come in 6 pouches and you just microwave it for 90 seconds and it's ready to eat.  I go through this really quickly because it's so yummy and quick to fix.  I like it with chicken, shrimp, veggies and even on salads sometimes.

7.  Kirkland Signature Prosecco.  
Enough said.  Great price and great taste!  I like mine with a little St. Germain liqueur in it :)

8.  Artisan Blends Roasted Garlic and Black Beans Tortilla Chips.  These chips used to be sold at regular grocery stores and labeled as Tostitos brand and they were our FAVORITE chips.  They seriously don't even need salsa.  We were so sad when they were discontinued a few years ago but then we discovered that they are now sold at Costco by this new name.  They are addicting and I can't stop eating them when they are in the house.  They're too good!

9.  Sweet Kale Vegetable Salad Kit.  I throw out the dressing and just eat the greens in this salad kit.  (I save the pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries for snacks.)  These greens are great with all sorts of toppings, like chicken, chickpeas and anything else you could think to put on a salad.  I also sauté them and serve with pasta or rice bowls.

10.  Kirkland Organic Almond Butter.  I'm definitely more of a peanut butter girl but I like to bake with this (great in this banana almond butter muffin recipe) and put it in oatmeal.  It's delicious and is a great price.    

11.  Stonefire Mini Naan.  We buy the giant pack of these and put them in the freezer.  I'll pull them out when we need them and make pizzas.  Sometimes I'll do hummus pizzas with veggies and feta (I heat up the naan in the oven then put the toppings on), or regular pizzas with spaghetti sauce and cheese.  Jack will eat 2 of the normal pizzas when I make them, which is saying something because he's so picky.

What are your favorite things to buy at Costco?

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Friday Things

January 26, 2018
Happy Friday y'all!  I figured I'd do a quick post to share a few updates on things and answer a couple questions I got asked these past 2 week (primarily on Instagram).

1.  The striped swimsuit I'm wearing in this photo is from J.Crew.  I got it last spring but they're still selling it right now and it's fully stocked in all sizes and also in red/white stripes!  Get it while you can!  The quality is fantastic and it's easy to nurse in (if you're breastfeeding like I am).  Pretty much every swimsuit I've purchased in the last 6 years has been from J.Crew or J.Crew Factory and I cannot recommend them enough.  

2.  The "mama" necklace I wore in this picture was from the most adorable shop called Scout Southern Market in Beaufort, SC.  Beaufort is so charming and Scout is by far my favorite store in town.  I searched the internet and found the exact one I have!  Here is the link to it, plus it's also made in silver.  I really love mine and know any other mama out there would love it too! 

3.  I've been using my Wildbird Ring Sling a lot lately, as you may have noticed in some recent Instagram posts.  I think it's all baby-dependent so if your baby likes facing inwards (like most do, I think) then they are wonderful. Caroline always contorts her body to try to face forward so I almost always have to use a hand to keep her supported.  I carry it with me in the stroller though because it's so easy and quick to put on when she gets fussy and wants out of the stroller ASAP, and when I take Jack to preschool I carry her in it so I can drop her off quickly at the Y and then I don't have to shove a bulky carrier into a small locker while I work out.  I primarily wear the Ergo 360 when we are out playing in the field so that I can have both hands completely free.  She is able to face forwards and likes it a lot.

4.  I am SO glad that Jack is in preschool now and it's working out really well for him.  He still cries every time he gets dropped off but he calms down pretty quickly after I leave and whenever I catch a glimpse of him playing and learning I can tell he's having a lot of fun.  I think he's even a little more verbal now and willing to try to say more things.  I mentioned on Instagram a few days ago that he even will say mama now!  It's not directed right at me but if I say "say mama" when he needs me then he will repeat it.  It's certainly progress!  He says dada now too.  He's the youngest in the class despite being one of the tallest, so I think the other kids are confused as to why he doesn't talk yet.  It hurts my heart that he's behind, but I don't think he even notices.  Hopefully he will start to open up more and more and learn to communicate.  Early intervention and preschool and all the work I do with him should be helping, right?  Motherhood is so tough sometimes, especially when you're dealing with delays and unknowns.  

Well I guess that's it for now.  I hope you all have a great weekend!  

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A Fitness Journey: The Importance of A Supportive Partner

January 17, 2018

I sat here at my computer for a while trying to figure out how to start this post, and it finally came to me in one blunt thought: "it takes two people to make a baby and it's going to take effort from both of those people if the mother wants to get back in shape afterwards."  This thought has been on my mind because I'm right in the midst of my postpartum journey after baby #2 and I know how much of a struggle it can be to lose the weight.  I'm extremely lucky in that my husband and I have always run and exercised together so he knows just how important it is for me to get back into shape.  He never makes me feel guilty when I say that I'm going to go run and I need him to watch the children, and if I say I want to run but the day starts slipping away from me he'll say "didn't you say you wanted to go run?  I can watch the kids, you take your time."  He is always encouraging and always there to help me however I need him to.  Heck, when I told him I wanted to run a marathon before Jack turned 1 he was fully supportive and even ran 20 miles with Jack in the stroller so that I he could keep me company on my longest run.  That's a true partner.  He's seriously the best husband ever and I thank God every day that we stumbled upon each other at work so many years ago (and coincidentally our first real conversation was about distance running).  Having a partner who is both willing and able to help is monumental in getting back into shape.  Even though our daughter still won't take a bottle (and wouldn't take a pacifier for the longest time), he always encourages me to get out the door even if it means that he'll end up standing with a crying baby the entire time.  I am so incredibly thankful for my husband because I know all husbands aren't naturally so supportive.  

It's easy for a mom to feel guilty for taking time for herself but one thing I've learned in my scant 2+ years of being a mother is that you have to fill your cup up if you're going to fill up the cups of your family.  I know that I feel so much better after a workout and I also end up with more patience with my children (here's looking at you, Jack) and more energy to play with them and accomplish other tasks.  It's so easy to fall into the trap of "oh I'm to tired to work out," especially if your husband isn't on board.  I see the term "mom guilt" thrown around on social media all the time, but y'all, you should not feel guilty for trying to be the best version of yourself!  I know that I was always proud (and I still am proud) that my mom was the fit mom who could run around and play with us and also still wear a bikini and look amazing after 2 kids.  I also knew that one day I wanted to be exactly the same type of mom that she was so now's my chance to make it happen.  I guess the point is, if you're worried that spending time away from your child so you can work out will hurt them, believe me, it will do just the opposite.  They will learn healthy habits from you and they'll also be so proud that you are their mom!

I have many friends who don't make themselves a priority, even though they're dying to get back in shape and lose the baby weight.  And I have read on countless medical/pregnancy websites that if you don't lose the baby weight within a year that weight will likely become permanent...so time is truly of the essence!  It's so easy to become complacent when you throw your whole self into motherhood, but if you're struggling you've got to figure out how to get support from your partner so that you can take time for yourself.  

If you're in that situation, does your spouse know you want to get back into shape?  Does he know you're struggling?  Sometimes men aren't quite so good at reading in between the lines and may need a frank discussion about it.  If you are good at finding excuses for yourself maybe you could tell him you need encouragement to get out the door.  ( I know I do sometimes.)  Explain to him that you will be a better wife and mother if you take time for yourself to work out and his support is essential.   Honestly, it may not have even crossed his mind.  Sometimes Tom will say "did you want to work out today?" and then I'll remember that it's been a few days and immediately jump on the opportunity.  (Although to be honest sometimes I'm too tired and say "nope.")  And if the support you need is for him to be on board with joining a gym, let him know and then get your money's worth and actually use it!  Marriages are a partnership and they work so much better when both people are on the same page.  To be fair though, don't make him feel bad when he takes time for himself to go workout.  Tom is an extremely dedicated runner and I know he feels better and is happier when he runs about 6 times a week, and I don't begrudge him for having that time to himself...and honestly most of the time he takes Jack with him in the BOB so it gives me a little break too :)  Like I said, the man is the best. 

What has your postpartum fitness journey been like?  I'd love to hear!  And if you're struggling to get back into shape after having a baby talk to your partner about it.  Having a partner that's on board is such a game changer! 

And just a little note: I'm about 4 and a half months postpartum and still have 5 pounds to go before I'm at the high end of my "happy and fit weight" and still have lots of toning up to do.  125-130 is where I like to be, and I know these last 5 to 10 pounds are going to be stubborn ones!  
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Tips on Designing a Nursery

January 15, 2018

Today I'm sharing a few nursery design tips over on Progressive Insurance's Life Lanes blog.  It's easy to get carried away when you're shopping for cute things for your baby's room, so I'm talking about how I marry function with style and when to splurge and when to save.  Head on over to Life Lanes to check out the article!

I was paid for the article I wrote for Progressive Insurance but all thoughts and photos are my own.

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Life Lately

I haven't done a life update here in forever so I figured I'd take a little time and share some things that have been going on.  

Jack (turned 2 in November) started with an Early Intervention Program that same month.  It was a long route to get there (we moved and switched Tricare regions and then had a long wait to see the developmental pediatrician and then another long wait to start receiving Early Intervention services through Easter Seals), but I'm glad we made it through the gauntlet.  He is very far behind verbally and cognitively and he is seen 3 times a month at our home by a teacher and once a month by a speech therapist.  He has started using more sign language and attempts to say more words than he used to.  His vocabulary is limited to things like "car," "choo choo," "baby," "ball," "bird," and a few animal noises (no "mama" yet, sadly) and he does not string together words yet either.  He will occasionally say "dada" which is really sweet.  And he actually pointed at a photo of me and said "mama" but hasn't said it to me directly yet.  We also started preschool last week which I hope will help with socialization and learning to follow instructions from other adults.  It has been difficult to find preschools here in Hawaii that aren't astronomically priced and don't last all day like daycare, so we finally found a place (the YMCA) that I'm praying will be a good fit.  He cried like crazy on Wednesday but only cried a little of Friday, so we're already making progress there.  On Friday I dropped him off at preschool, put Caroline in the child watch (free for 2 hours a day!) and then I worked out in a gym for the first time in forever.  I did my go-to treadmill workout (I talk about it on my highlight reel on Instagram Stories if you're interested) for 5 miles and then I did a whole bunch of weighted squats and lunges and ab exercises.  As I sit here writing this a day later I am SORE!  I think this will be so good for all of us and I'm happy we finally found a place that checks all the boxes.  

happy boy after his 2nd day of school

Jack learned how to climb out of his crib just before Christmas so we had to put the toddler rail up on his bed.  It's been a big adjustment but he's handled it surprisingly well.  He always follows us to the door when we put him to bed but after a minute or two of banging on the door he stops and eventually finds his way to his bed.  The first night he fell asleep in front of the door, but after that we've had no issues at all.  He wakes up a little earlier now but yesterday he slept past 7 so I think he may be back to his normal schedule.  

As far as Caroline goes, she is 4 months old now and smiles and laughs and rolls over from back to front all the time.  She finally mellowed out a bit just before she hit the 4 month mark and she is fun and pleasant to be around now.  She used to cry the second she was put down, hated being worn, hated pacifiers...hated pretty much everything, but she really turned a corner at the end of December and doesn't mind any of those things now.  Right around that time she decided to stop sleeping through the night (she did 12 hours straight from 8 weeks old to nearly 4 months old) and now she wakes up 2 or 3 times a night.  I hope that it's just a phase since she's been going through so much developmentally.  She watches Jack all the time and tries to reach out and touch him.  Jack loves her so much and gives her spontaneous kisses and head pats all day long.  He isn't jealous of her at all.  She also just found her toes which is adorable.  She has the chubbiest things and I hope she never loses them.

Taken with my new phone and not edited at all.  I'm amazed by the quality!

On Friday I upgraded from an iPhone 6 to an iPhone 8 Plus and the difference is amazing!  I love the portrait mode on the camera and all the photos are so much more vivid than they were on my old phone.  I also just learned that there is a free Lightroom app for editing photos and I'm hooked.  Have I been living under a rock?  Why did no one tell me about this!?  It's so good if you haven't tried it before.  I have the normal apps like A Color Story and VSCO but typically do the manual edits on iPhone photos in Instagram (not the filters) but this app lets you tweak things even more which is great.   

running Diamond Head right before Christmas (wearing new favorite shorts)

As for me, I'm still trying to get back in shape after giving birth 4 months ago.  I only have a few pairs of shorts that fit and it's driving me nuts.  I have about 15 pairs of lululemon speed shorts (acquired between 2011 and 2012 and I still love them) but they're all too small still so I went to lululemon right before Christmas and discovered that they now make the shorts in a high rise version.  The Speed Up Shorts in high rise are a lifesaver and eliminate the muffin top I still have.  I wear a 6 normally at lulu but bought these in an 8 for me to wear until I fit into my old shorts again.  I also recently bought new sneakers at the outlet mall and really like them for running.  I always wear New Balance and bought the Fresh Foam Arishi shoes in a gray/silver color and they're awesome (if you like a lower profile running/everyday shoe) and are a very good price too.  I just realized they come in a blush color that's really pretty so I may order those now and wear them once I wear this pair out. 

I'll try to do these updates a bit more frequently because I know a lot of people have been wondering how Jack's speech progress has been going.  If you want to hear about any random topics let me know!  Hope you all had a great weekend!  

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