Pesto 2 Ways

April 27, 2016
Anyone else a pesto lover?  I love the fresh flavor of homemade pesto and it's great because you can use all sorts of different items to make it.  I never buy pre-made pesto because it's much cheaper to just make it yourself and it's also a great way to use up some things in you fridge.  I normally just wing it when I make pesto and throw everything into the food processor, but here are the basic requirements: 

greens (arugula, spinach and/or basil)
nuts (walnuts, almonds or pine nuts)
parmesan cheese
lemon juice
olive oil
salt and pepper

For ingredient amounts I loosely follow the recipe here.  I often go a bit heavy on garlic and parmesan cheese because, well, who doesn't love garlic and cheese?

I discovered the blog Two Peas and Their Pod while browsing Pinterest a few years ago and I've found that their recipes never disappoint.  Their chickpea, pesto, tomato and mozzarella salad has become one of my favorite lunchtime recipes that I eat often.  Chickpeas are really filling and even though I often eat them straight out of the can I really like how they taste when coated in yummy pesto.

Image via Two Peas and Their Pod.

My new favorite way to use pesto is another Two Peas and Their Pod recipe.  Crispy gnocchi with pesto is as delicious as it sounds and if you've never crisped up some gnocchi then you are missing out!  I ate two whole servings of this recipe because it was so stinking good. 

Image via Two Peas and Their Pod.

What are your favorite ways to use pesto?

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DIY Painted Geometric Surfboard

April 25, 2016

When I decorated Jack's nursery I knew I needed to include a few pieces that were a nod to my love of Hawaii.  My husband and I both lived there for 3 years and miss it every single day.  I had a wooden surfboard that I wanted to put in Jack's room but it was kind of a cherry color and I wasn't really crazy about the finish.  I decided to paint it in the same color scheme that I used on the DIY geometric blocks that I shared here a few months ago.  You could do a similar makeover on any sort of item, so don't feel like you have to find a surfboard for this DIY!

This is what the surfboard looked like initially:

The color just didn't go with anything we own, so the first thing I did was paint it white.  I had to use a few coats to make it even and make sure none of the cherry color was visible.

Next, I used wash tape to create some geometric designs.

Then I painted each space a different color.  Here are the colors I used:

Martha Stewart Crafts Multi-Surface Satin Paint in Pea Shoot, Yellow Gold, Chamomile, Sterling and Deep Sea
Americana Acrylic Paint in Bright Orange and Snow White

Initially I used this bright blue color but I thought it looked too juvenile.  Yes, I know it's in a nursery, but you know what I mean.  I painted over the bright blue with a navy blue and I finally got the look I was going for.  Once it was all dry I carefully peeled off all tape.  

Here is what the surfboard looks like now!

I just love how it turned out!  It goes perfectly in Jack's outdoor adventure themed nursery.

For more photos and nursery decorating ideas, check out my other posts: DIY Driftwood and Felt Ball Mobile, Campaign Dresser and Hutch Rehab, and DIY Geometric Painted Blocks.

Note: All of the "after" photos were taken by Sarah Bradshaw for the article I wrote for USAA about designing a baby room on a budget.

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Diaper Bag Must Haves

April 18, 2016

Shorts: J.Crew Factory / Sweater: J.Crew (similar) / Shoes: J.Crew Factory / Bag: (c/o) Hobo Bags

As a new mom I learned very quickly that you can't go anywhere without your diaper bag.  Babies may be small but they really do require lots of equipment.  Because your diaper bag is always with you, it must be well-stocked, large, and last but not least stylish.  Enter the Sheila Hobo Bag!  While this isn't technically a diaper bag, it fits all the requirements because it has lots of pockets and can fit all the baby gear you need.  I like to switch my bags up rather than sticking with just one "real" diaper bag, and I love having this one in the rotation.

Now that you've seen one of my favorite diaper bags, here is what I always have on me when Jack and I go out and about:

1.  Sheila Hobo Bag.  (c/o) This bag is great and has lots of pockets which helps keep everything organized!

2.  Spare Outfit for Jack.  You know babies and always need to be prepared because you never know when one will happen.  I normally carry a romper so that there is only extra piece I'm toting around everywhere.  This cute one was a gift and it's from Winter Water Factory.

3.  Light Outer Layer for Jack.  I always carry a light outer layer in case it gets chilly outside or we go into a store that has its air conditioner going.  My go-to has become a chambray button down because it goes with all of Jack's pants that have stripes or patterns on them.  (Similar ones here and here.)

4.  iPhone 6s.  Naturally, I always have my phone on me in case Jack does something cute that I need to take a picture of :)

5.  Baby Wrap.  I always have a wrap with me in case Jack gets fussy.  I normally do all of my shopping with him in a wrap because I like being able to move quickly and have my hands free.  This one is a Solly Baby Wrap but I also really love the Baby K'tan.

6.  Lamaze Pirate Toy.  This plush toy is super cheesy looking but Jack is obsessed with it.  It's soft, the jacket and feet crinkle, it rattles, and it's nice and colorful which keeps his interest.  Plus there are lots of different pieces to chew on.  He loves to play with it when he's in the carseat or stroller.

7.  A Snack for Myself.  I'm pretty much always hungry so snacks are a must.  Walnuts, almonds, crasins, cereal bars, string cheese, apples, and pears are my go-tos.

8.  Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf.  I've had this scarf for almost 5 years and it has become my favorite non-baby baby item ever.  It's one large rectangular piece of stretchy and soft fabric that has snaps on the ends so you can turn it into an infinity scarf.  I use it as a blanket to keep Jack warm, a blanket so we can sit on the ground, a nursing cover, a scarf for myself, and a carseat cover when it's sunny or cold outside (or when Jack is sleeping).  It's the most versatile thing I own!

9.  Diapers and Wipes.  I normally keep these in a clear ziplock bag.  Fancy, right?  I like to keep them in a bag so that they are always together and also so I can easily see if I'm running low on diapers.  I know I'm supposed to say I use Honest Company diapers and wipes because they are cute...but they are expensive so we use whatever is on sale.  Right now we are using Pampers Diapers and they seem to work well.  The wipes are Sam's Club wipes that we bought in bulk.  Not as soft as Pamper's wipes but they still work well.

10.  Wallet.  When I buy a wallet I expect it to last a long time.  This Kate Spade one has been used non-stop for 2 years and it still looks brand new.  I prefer a leather wallet in a dark color because they are durable and you can't tell if they get dirty.  (My wallet is no longer available but here is a similar one.)

11.  Extra Pacifier.  Jack isn't a total pacifier addict but he really does love the darn thing.  We use Philips Avent Freeflow Pacifiers.  They seem to stay in his mouth better than soothies and Nuks.  We use a pacifier clip so I don't have to break out the spare all that often, but I always carry one just in case.  These come with a little sanitary cover which is nice.

12.  Nursing Pads.  Not gonna lie...I leak when my milk lets down.  Now that my boobs are pretty regulated I don't have spontaneous letdowns anymore, but if I nurse Jack on the go I always slip a nursing pad into my bra on the unoccupied side in order to prevent a leaky mess.  I used the Medela and Lansinoh pads at first but now I just use the Target brand nursing pads and they work just as well (and are cheaper).  I tried the reusable pads but I didn't find them very effective.

13.  Bandana Bib.  Jack has started teething although he doesn't have any teeth yet.  He doesn't drool a whole lot right now, but I always carry a bib just in case.  I like the little bandana bibs because I think they're cuter and a little trendier than normal bibs.  I bought a pack of 3 from H&M and they work great and were very affordable.

14.  Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Bag Dispenser and Bags.  These bags have saved my life more than once.  They are good for dirty diapers if you can't get to a trash can, but I've ended up using them more often when Jack has a blowout and I need a place to put the dirty outfit.  These bags are great and I love the handy little dispenser.

15.  Burp Cloth.  Jack doesn't really spit up much anymore (hallelujah!) but these still get a lot of use.  Great for wiping up drool, preventing a leak if I forget a nursing pad (yes, I've been known to shove them in my bra more than once), and for the occasional spit up.

16.  Hand Sanitizer.  Great for cleaning your hands after changing a diaper if you can't wash your hands immediately.

17.  Lip Balm.  I hate having dry lips so I always have Vaseline, Burt's Bees or Aquaphor in my bag.

18.  Sunglasses for Myself.  I always have sunglasses with me.  This is my most favorite pair ever and I've had them for over 4 years and I still haven't lost them which is pretty much a miracle in my book.  They are Ray-Ban Wayfarers and they are black and brown so they go with everything.  (Similar here.)

19.  Sunglasses for Jack.  I saw these adorable tortoise shell wayfarer-style sunglasses at Carter's and had to get them for Jack.  Surprisingly he doesn't mind wearing them.

20.  Water.  As a breastfeeding mom I'm thirsty ALL THE TIME.  I always have a water bottle with me so that I stay hydrated.  This is an old glass lululemon water bottle but you can find a similar one here and here.

Not Pictured:  Reusable changing pad.  I always use one in public restrooms because you never know what is on the changing table...

Head on over to City Peach, Inspired By..., The HHS Feed, and Tiffany Style to see how these stylish ladies use their Sheila Hobo Bags and to see their diaper bag essentials!  Oh and be sure to check Instagram at 7PM EST to find out how you can win a Sheila Hobo Bag of your own!  

Thanks to Hobo Bag for providing me with this wonderful bag!  I only collaborate with companies and products I truly love.

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Recent Thrift Store Find

April 13, 2016

It happened again.  I found another thrift store treasure without meaning to.  This past weekend my husband, baby and I went to brunch with some friends.  The restaurant was a few blocks from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, so we swung by after brunch because I hadn't been there in a few weeks (since finding this amazing dresser).  I just love the thrill of walking into a thrift store.  There is this feeling of possibility and excitement because you never know if you'll find a great item moments after walking through the door.  I strike out a lot, but sometimes I find treasures!

The vanity was sitting in a long row of furniture.  I was so happy when I stumbled upon it!

This particular trip I found another faux bamboo piece of furniture!  It was a Henry Link Bali Hai vanity that was in great condition.  For those of you who love vintage faux bamboo furniture, you've probably heard of the Henry Link Bali Hai collection.  It's from the late 60's/early 70's and has developed quite the cult following.  You can even find it for sale on websites like Chairish and One King's Lane for well into the triple digits (I've seen this exact piece for $999).  I hadn't run into any Bali Hai pieces before so I'm glad I finally did.  The hardware is really pretty and I love the delicate lines of the faux bamboo detailing!  

This vanity cost $30.  Needless to say I snatch it up quickly.  I don't need a vanity but I think this piece would serve as a great console table or entryway table.  Once I got it home I did a little shuffling of our furniture, and it is now our bar table.  I'm not crazy about the soft yellow color so I'm going to paint it once we move to Kansas this summer. 

I believe I've hit the limit when it comes to faux bamboo and campaign furniture now.  I don't want my entire home to be from the 60's and 70's so I'm going to cut myself off.  I think I'm going to start keeping an eye out for some real hardwood antiques now.  I think it's important to have a mixture of styles and eras in your home so that it looks collected and eclectic rather than cookie-cutter or stuck in one particular decade, so now it's time to add some true antiques to our home.  Hopefully I'll have some good luck in Kansas! 

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Adventures in Babywearing

April 11, 2016
Exploring West Point in a Solly Baby Wrap.

If you are a new mom and you are not a babywearer, then you are definitely missing out.  Tom was skeptical of the whole thing and thought it was just a crunchy, hippy thing that I had gotten sucked into, but quickly became a convert.  Here's why:

You have your hands free!  Whenever Jack needs attention but I need to get stuff done, I put him in a wrap.  That way he's happy because I can attend to him easily and I can also fix dinner, tidy up, fold laundry, etc.  It really is the best.

It calms your baby down.  Whenever Jack gets fussy I put him in the wrap.  It really is like magic.  Early on, the "witching hour" for Jack was between 5 PM and bedtime (7:00 PM), so I pretty much end up wearing him that entire time.  If he gets fussy I just pick him right up and put him in the wrap and he calms down immediately.  I'm truly amazed at how effective it is.  Even if you snuggle your baby and try to hold them tight, you still don't get the same result.  Trust me.  Tom was very reluctant and really didn't want to even entertain the idea of babywearing, but now he wears Jack almost every time I leave the two of them alone. 

Jack's first trip to Whole Foods in a Solly Baby Wrap.

Shopping isn't quite so stressful.  I've tried shopping while pushing Jack in the stroller and shopping with him in a Binxy shopping cart hammock (which is genius, by the way), but nothing works as effectively as babywearing.  It really is stressful trying to grocery shop when your child is crying or right on the verge of a melt down, and when this happens I inevitably end up forgetting at least 5 key things that I really needed, even if they are on my list.  When I shop with Jack in a wrap or the Ergo though, he sleeps peacefully while I feel like a super mom who has mastered life.  (I feel that way temporarily...I'm knocked back down pretty quickly once we get home and I get spit up or peed on).

Walking on the beach with Jack in the Baby K'Tan.

Snuggles!  It really is the sweetest thing to look down and see your baby content and snuggled up against you.  It makes my heart melt every time, and I've taken an embarrassing number of selfies while wearing him because his little face just looks so cute snuggled up to my chest.

Hiking with Jack in the Ergo Baby Carrier.

A curious baby can see the world.  Jack often falls asleep while I'm wearing him, but he also likes to turn his body so that he can see what's going on.  He is a very curious baby who doesn't like missing out on anything, so this is a great way for him to see new things.  We play in front of the mirror, we look at the art on the wall, we talk about what I'm fixing for really is great and even though he's young I like to think that he's learning and soaking it all in.

Ok so now that I've shared why I like baby wearing, here are the carriers and wraps I love and use almost daily:

Solly Baby Wrap.  These wraps are great because you can adjust them to fit your body and your child.  Plus they come in many different colors and patterns!  I wear this one if we are just running one errand or going to the mall.  You just have to be sure that the straps aren't twisted! 

Baby K'Tan.  My cousin gave me this as a gift and it has become my go to way of wearing Jack.  It's similar to the Solly Wrap once its on, but rather than one long piece of fabric it's made of 2 loops of fabric and then a separate sash.  It isn't one size fits all though, so you have to make sure you get the right size.  I wear a medium, although I'm sure a small would work too.  I use this one when Jack is having a meltdown and time is of the essence.  It's also great for running errands.  I tried to put the Solly Wrap on in a parking lot one time and didn't like how I was unable to prevent the long fabric from touching the ground while I was tying it.  The Baby K'Tan isn't as "hip" or as pretty as the Solly Wraps, but it's much quicker because there isn't anything to tie.  I think its amazing and it has become a quick favorite! 

Ergo Baby Carrier.  This carrier is great for going on walks and hikes.  It's more supportive than the other two wraps.  Tom wears this one often because he says the Solly Wrap is too complicated.

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Recent Trip to West Point

April 6, 2016
If you follow me on Instagram you likely saw that Tom, Jack and I took a trip to West Point on Easter weekend.  For those of you who are new readers, I'm a 2009 West Point grad and I served 5 years on Active Duty in the Army before transitioning to the Individual Ready Reserve.  Our trip up to West Point was special for a few reasons.  First, I got to visit my late husband Dimitri, who was buried there after losing his life in Afghanistan in 2011.  Secondly, Tom and I ran the Fallen Comrades Half Marathon in which Dimitri was honored at the 1 mile marker.  Thirdly, this was both Tom and Jack's first visit to my Alma Mater!  It was fun to show them around and tell stories from my time there.  Finally, it was Jack's first Easter and we got to attend church at the beautiful Cadet Chapel.

The first thing I always do when I get to West Point is visit Dimitri in the cemetery.  It's always an emotional event but it helps me experiences the sadness at the beginning of the trip so I can spend the rest of my visit reflecting on the happy memories he and I have from our time as cadets.  This excerpt below is from my post on Instagram that I posted after visiting him.  I'd normally write something new but I feel like I summed up all of my emotions pretty well in this post, so I thought I'd share it with you here too:

"Today I got to introduce Jack to the brave man I loved for 5 years and was married to for 6 short months before he was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.  I don't know what I'll tell Jack about Dimitri as he gets older because he will never completely understand this part of my past, but I do know that Jack would have loved Dimitri and Dimitri would have thought Jack was hilarious and so cute.  This little boy of mine was not the baby I originally dreamed of having but I sure do love him with my whole heart and I'm thankful every day that I get to be his momma.  I hope that with time I learn to walk this tightrope of life with balance and grace as I remember my past, embrace my present and look forward to the happy days of my future with this little family I've created.  I'm so thankful I got to love Dimitri and I'm so thankful that I get to love a man now who is ok with supporting me and taking this picture even if it was a little uncomfortable for him (although he'd never admit it if it was).  I know my past and I are intimidating, fragile, and difficult sometimes, but God sure did know exactly who I needed when he put Tom in my life."

The next day Tom and I woke up bright and early for the Fallen Comrades Half Marathon.  It was freeeeeezing and we were ill-prepared for the weather.  We sucked it up though and ran it anyway!  This was my first post-baby race, and at not quite 5 months postpartum it definitely kicked my butt.  West Point is extremely hilly and this was the most difficult half marathon I've ever run, and I've probably run at least 30 of them.  

Before the half marathon.

The West Point jump team parachuted into the football stadium before the race.

My hope was to finish in under 2 hours, but because of the hills I couldn't quite pull it off.  We finished in 2:03.  23 minutes slower than my PR but all things considered I was happy with my performance.

Me with my finisher's medal and the sign of Dimitri that was at the 1 mile marker.

The write-up about Dimitri that was posted at the end of the race.

Some friends kindly babysat Jack while Tom and I ran the race.  It was Jack's first time with a babysitter (that wasn't my mom or dad) and he did great!

With Jack after the race.

After we got cleaned up I took Tom (and Jack) on a walking tour of West Point.  If you've never visited before and you happen to find yourself in New York I highly recommend visiting.  It's a beautiful campus located right on the Hudson River and it's fully of so much history.  I didn't always appreciate the beauty of the campus while I was a cadet because I was always so stressed, exhausted, sleepy and busy...but I sure do miss this place now that I'm 7 years removed.  As they say, "West Point is a great place to be from, but not a great place to be."  

Trophy Point overlooking the Hudson River.

View from the new library.

The next day was Easter so we got dressed up in our Easter best and went to the Cadet Chapel.  We also gave Jack his Easter basket and he seemed pretty interested in manhandling the basket but couldn't have cared less about the contents.  Typical baby, I supposed!

Isn't Jack's little tie so funny?

View from outside the Cadet Chapel.

We had such a great and meaningful trip to West Point and I'm so thankful that I was able to share this special place with my little family.  I hope you all had a happy Easter!

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How to Create a Unique Gallery Wall for an Adventure-Themed Nursery

April 4, 2016

Adventure, explorer and outdoor themes seem to be all the rage for baby boy nurseries right now.  I think this is great because these themes are way more versatile than overly juvenile nursery themes.  I think they're so great, in fact, that my son's nursery is a well-traveled/coastal/adventure themed hybrid.  (I blogged about my inspiration for Jack's nursery here if you missed it.)  These themes have become so popular though that you run the risk of having a nursery that looks like every other adventure-themed nursery if you limit your decor sources to only baby stores.  The Land of Nod, Target, and Hobby Lobby all have really great offerings (like this painted fox head from the Land of Nod, these forest sheets from Target, and this teepee framed art from Hobby Lobby) but the key to a truly unique space is to mix in some vintage and one of a kind pieces too.

For Jack's gallery wall I opted to use some old maps of Hawaii and Key West, art I found at a flea market (the ship and the hunting pieces), a turtle shell and some antlers that I painted and blogged about here and here, art I collected from local artists in Hawaii, a vintage brass lobster, an arrow from Hobby Lobby, a "J" from a flea market, and 2 pieces of art from Small Adventure on Etsy.  It would have been easier to buy everything from one place, but I love how eclectic and unique this gallery wall turned out.  To create a gallery wall for your own adventure themed nursery, start sourcing pieces as soon as you decide on your theme.  It takes a while to find unique pieces, so make sure you don't rush yourself!  Try to add a few three dimensional pieces to make your gallery wall look even more distinct.  Comb flea markets, thrift stores, local art fairs, and Etsy until you find one of a kind pieces that you can group together that you know no one else will be able to completely replicate.

The fly fishing print is from Small Adventure.

The "Animals of North America" is from Small Adventure.

You can find my tutorial for this driftwood and felt ball mobile here.
Once you have all of the pieces you want to use lay everything on the ground so that you can work on the placement of the pieces.  It took me a while to get everything just right.  Then I started hanging pieces in the top left corner and worked my way downwards and over. 

Once you're finished have someone take a photo of you in the nursery while you're still pregnant.  I felt super huge and bloated when this photo was taken, but now I look back on it and remember how miraculous it was to grow this little life inside me.  We are moving in a few weeks and I'm so glad I had this photo taken before we welcomed our sweet baby boy into the world.

Additional Sources: Crib, Star Sheets, Striped Blanket.

Note:  All of these photos were taken by Sarah Bradshaw for the article I wrote for USAA about designing a baby room on a budget.

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