Surviving the Newborn: My Must-Haves (part one)

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Now that Miss Maeve is leaving her 4th trimester behind (cue equal parts sigh of relief and sobbing), it’s given me some time to reflect on the newborn baby registry gear and home items that have been most-beloved by our family. To begin with, I’m sharing some of the larger, big-ticket items that made a huge difference in our lives, and peppered in some of the smaller bits that were super useful in the early days. There are far too many for a single post, so stay tuned for further installments!

Newborn registry must-haves
Nuna Pipa Car Seat: Stylish and safe, the Pipa is one of the lightest-weight and comfortable-to-carry carseats on the market. It has a revolutionary “dream drape” with SPF protection that keeps baby safe from the elements and harsh sunlight; which closes down over baby with magnets! Genius! It installs with tremendous ease, and has the added safety of a “load leg” which minimizes downward rotation in the event of an accident. Maeve loves her carseat, and I love that I can trust that she’s as safe as possible whenever she’s in it. It also has nice little clips on the sides to hold the straps away while you load/unload baby, which is a lifesaver when trying to transfer a sleeping baby without rousing the beast within.

Jujube BFF Diaper Bag: Because I’m a big advocate of babywearing, I wanted a diaper bag that wasn’t worn across my body and would accommodate a baby sleeping on my chest. Enter the Jujube BFF, which is a convertible backpack that can also be used as a shoulder/cross-body carry if desired. Best of both worlds! It’s also machine washable, which is unusual but absurdly practical. The fabric is super luxe, and there are pockets a’plenty to organize everything you need for a day out with baby. The straps are super comfortable, and even when it’s packed to the gills, I’m happy to wear it for hours on end without a sore back. Plus, the patterns they offer are some of the cutest on the market, in my opinion. If I could afford it, I’d have a few different styles to rotate!

Solly Wrap: Speaking of babywearing, how could I leave out my wrap? Having a baby in Los Angeles, in July, made many commercial baby carriers much too hot for daily use. I mean, who wants to carry around a human furnace, wrapped in sweatshirt material, in the summer? Unlike others, the Solly is made of a comfortable, breathable t-shirt material, and holds baby snugly and safely against my body. Being able to plop Maevie into the wrap when she’s super fussy calms her down instantly, and it’s a great place for her to nap when she’s feeling clingy but I want to be able to be productive and have my hands free. It’s also the perfect place for her when I’m walking the dogs, so I don’t have to deal with a stroller and two leashes!

Stokke Sleepi Mini Crib: We chose the Stokke Sleepi Crib system for Maeve for a few reasons: a) it’s solid wood and sturdy construction makes it likely to last many years, and hold up to the abuse she’s sure to launch on it over time; b) it converts from a bassinet to a full-sized crib, to a toddler bed, to a twin bed, and then to 2 chairs, even! It has many lifespans built into it, making it a great value; c) it’s freaking adorable; d) we scored it during their annual sale, when you can get the bassinet with full-sized crib extension kit for the price of the bassinet during non-sale times. It’s a beautiful piece of furniture, and the wheels make it very convenient to move around. Stokke has a high resale value, so if we decide to move onto another sleep option in the future, we’ll get a great return on the investment.

Bugaboo Cameleon3 Stroller: Paul is a car guy. He used to race, and values comfort and luxury above all else in a set of wheels. So when it came time to choose a stroller, I knew he’d want to be involved in the process. We thought we had a stroller picked out, abut when I went to a local Bugaboo event, I was floored by it’s quality. It rides like an absolute dream, thanks to it’s sophisticated shock system, and it can turn on a dime, making it easy to navigate in small spaces. It folds and unfolds with minimal effort, and comes with a beautiful bassinet that converts into a stroller seat once baby is old enough. I walk a LOT with Maeve, so having a comfortable, convenient stroller makes a big difference in my days. After using the Bugaboo for a few months, I can safely say I’ve become a bit of an evangelist for their brand. It’s absolutely the best on the market, in my opinion, and worth every penny. (Plus they also have quite a high resale value, which makes it a wise investment.) I’m such a big fan of the brand, they invited me to become a Bugaboo Brand Ambassador!

Dutailer Prestige Motorized Reclining Glider: Among the many mom’s groups that I belong to on Facebook, one of the most oft-heard pieces of advice were “invest in the most comfortable glider/recliner you can.” So, I took that advice to heart and we splurged on this bad-boy. Rather than having to force the ottoman back in and hoist yourself up out of the chair (which can be tricky when holding a sleeping newborn), the motorized recline/incline function glides you into position smoothly and quietly, which makes a huge difference when you’ve just spent an hour getting your cranky baby to sleep and don’t want to disrupt her. It also sports modern, stylish profile compared to many of the overstuffed and bloated baby chair options out there, so it blends in beautifully with our living room furniture. Pro-tip: we ordered ours from Bed Bath & Beyond, and used the 20% off coupon, which brought the price down to what the non-motorized version of the chair would cost. Score!

Sonos Speaker System: White noise is a sleeping baby’s best friend, but one of the issues with many of the white noise machines on the market for kids is that they turn off after a specific (and often short) amount of time, which can: a) disrupt a baby’s sleep, or b) make it harder for them to put themselves back to sleep if they wake in the night. The Sonos System is run with your smartphone or computer, so you can control the speakers from anywhere in the house; and integrates with various music sources like spotify, pandora, amazon and itunes, so you can play any of your music at any time. Albums or playlists can be played on repeat, so your white noise is guaranteed to basically never end. We used a “Rain for Sleeping and Relaxation” album for ourselves before baby, and now also for Maeve, and it works wonders. We literally leave it on 24/7 in our bedrooms. It’s also great for regular life, no baby required.

Yoga Ball: Babies love to be bounced. Think about it: they lived for 10 months in your belly, and every time you moved or walked around, they were being gently bounced and sloshed around in their wee habitat. So, when your newborn is going through a growth spurt, or gassy night, and won’t stop crying… the ball is your best friend. I made the grave error of waiting 6 weeks until I got my own yoga ball for Maeve, but as soon as it arrived, everything changed. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Get yourself a ball, yo. (Bonus: bouncing on the ball is great for leading up to labor and managing pain during labor. More on that in another post.)

A&A Easy Swaddles: So many swaddles that are designed for convenience involve velcro, which I find to be highly disruptive to a drowsy baby in the middle of the night. And my leggy lady’s gams were often quite constricted by the sizing of these styles. But the Aden & Anais Easy Swaddles use a simple snapping system that’s much quieter and convenient, I think. And they have roomier leg sacks for kicky babies like mine to have freedom to move. Plus, they’re made of the signature A&A supersoft muslin, which breathes beautifully and is so gentle on their skin. These swaddles quickly became favorites in our house!

Mamaroo: Maeve is a baby who likes a lot of motion in her ocean, and the Mamaroo is a favorite swing among the mamas in my family. It’s got several settings for different sways, and can be controlled by your smartphone so you don’t have to get up every time you want to change the setting, speed, or sound option. It’s the perfect place for baby to hang out while you eat, and the mobile has been one of Maeve’s favorite conversation partners since she learned how to coo.

Rock N’ Play: While it feels a bit like overkill to have two swings in the house, lugging the Mamaroo between our living space and bedroom was getting quite tedious… and sometimes Maeve only wanted to sleep in motion. My mom generously gifted us a RnP with motorized rocking and a vibration feature, which folds away nicely when not in use, so it didn’t take over the bedroom. Maeve loves napping in her RnP, and the vibration feature is wonderful for helping her slip back to sleep after waking from one cycle, which is key for a baby learning to sleep longer over time. Now that she’s older and doesn’t require motion as often as she did during her younger, fussier days, she still naps in her RnP whenever she’s unswaddled, because it’s sunken and cozy and somehow helps contain her moro reflex better than a flat surface does. Rock N Plays are also notoriously useful for babies with bad reflux issues because they can sleep in there at an incline, if that’s something your little one struggles with.

Kind Bars: Nursing a young baby is hungry work. You’re up at all hours, and chained to whatever you’re sitting in for eons on end. That’s where a snack station comes in handy, and I found Kind Bars to be the best kind answer for these late-night or early morning snack attacks. They’re hearty and healthy and easily the most delicious snack bar on the market. The fiber and protein are super essential for new moms. I personally love the Sea Salt & Dark Chocolate, and the Apricots, Almond & Yogurt flavors. Plus, nuts are good for milk production – so it’s an extra excuse to chow down! If you plan ahead, you can even make your own!

Preparation H Wipes/Suppositories: If you read my (overly-candid) post, “What I Didn’t Expect About Expecting” over at Club MomMe’s blog, you know that I was already suffering from ‘roid rage before giving birth. But after 4 hours of pushing, you can only imagine what kind of horrors lay beneath me. (Though, please, don’t imagine that. Once seen, it cannot be unseen. Trust me.) If this happens to you, don’t just ignore them and hope they’ll go away. Prep H will be your new best friend. And if that isn’t enough, ask your doctor for a prescription steroid suppository. That stuff, quite literally, saved my ass. And that’s all we’ll say about that.

I’ll be sharing more of our favorites from the newborn stage, along with the things that I’m falling in love with now that she’s less squishy alien and more of a fully-developed human… so stay tuned!

 

{Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links, which help support this blog.}


Korean Wife Camp: Welcome!

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Welcome to a new column that I’m very excited about: Korean Wife Camp!

marrying into korean family

I’ve never had much of a culture of my own. I come from a Greek/Euro-mutt background, if you trace my blood lineage. I don’t belong to any one religion. And I’d say that culturally, I relate most to having been a born-and-bred Chicagoan. And believe you me, I had a thrilling time indoctrinating Paul into my world via Italian Beef sandwiches, Chicago-style hot dogs, deep dish pizza, and a city/skyline tour when we spent 2 weeks in the ole windy city last summer. (and gained about 10 pounds each! So. Worth. It.)

But Paul is first generation Korean-American. His parents immigrated here just before he was born, with no family or friends in Los Angeles to rely on. And after his father abandoned them both when Paul was just a baby, his mother Michelle had to work multiple jobs, while trying to learn English, to support her in raising Paul all by herself. And she did a BOSS job of raising him, by the way. She is a true hero of a woman and mother.

As a result, Paul’s primary language growing up was Korean. And to this day, when he and his mom get together, they speak Korean to each other. Michelle does speak English quite well, but it’s clear that she’s much more comfortable speaking in her native tongue, and spends most of her free time with Korean friends (when not spending time with her Argentina-native husband, Edgar). Fun fact: Michelle is an amazing ballroom dancer and scratch golfer – both skills she took up after Paul left home for college, to distract her from her sadness that he had moved out. She often stays out dancing until the wee hours, partying it up with her girlfriends in Koreatown. So cute, you guys.

Koreans have a huge amount of pride in their culture and it’s preservation and legacy, after having defended against many years of Japanese occupation and attempted assimilation. As well they should!

I have great respect for the Korean culture, so it’s very important to me that I learn as much as I can about it, to support the cultural legacy through our growing family by learning the language, preparing their foods (oh my god, the yummy foods!), teaching our future children about it, and taking them on trips to get to know their extended family there. My first trip is coming up this October, when we spend 16 nights in Seoul as part of our honeymoon! I can’t wait!

Over the past year, I’ve been learning, researching, practicing, exploring and trying as much as I can to become more schooled and comfortable in my position as the wife and daughter-in-law in a Korean family. And as the future matriarch of 1/2 korean children. And I figure, I’m not alone in this world… so I’ll share my journey, resources, and (best of all), recipes here. Thus: Korean Wife Camp was born!

Stay tuned… the first installment is coming up shortly!

 


Our Farmer’s Market Lifestyle: FarMarCore

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local, organic, seasonal eatingFrom left to right:
Back row: asparagus, mixed green lettuce, artichokes, bacon, pork chops
2nd row: mixed green lettuce, cheddar cauliflower, satsuma tangerines, persian cucumbers, baby broccoli
Front row: ground breakfast sausage, hot and sweet italian pork sausages, black cod, eggs, pork chops, sirloin steaks, ground beef, strawberries

One of my favorite things about life in Los Angeles is the year-round availability of seasonal, fresh food through our local farmer’s markets. And on Wednesdays, we can walk out of our gym after our morning workout, and literally be steps from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market – one of the biggest and best markets in the city, shopped by local yokels and some of the hottest chefs in town, alike. And on Saturdays, a smaller version pops up, but with more meat purveyors.

What started for us as a weekly trip for our fresh vegetables, has evolved into our main grocery outings for the week – including meat, fish, and eggs… all from small local farms that we feel wonderful supporting. *Pats self on back*

Santa Monica Farmer's Market

I was a vegetarian from 1997-2012, and a vegan from 2009-2011. Now, I’m a pretty voracious carnivore… but with a crushing conscience. I’m all: “give me the beef! But did this cow have a nice life?!?” Like some kind of existential carniv-angst. Since going back to meat, I’ve struggled to reconcile all the horrors of factory farming industry against my appetite and what makes my body function best. I’ll admit it: I’m a huge meat snob.

We had already eradicated farmed fish from our diets, relying solely on whatever was wild, sustainable, and on-sale that week at the market. And for a while, I was content buying meat from Whole Foods, thanks to their meat rating system… but I always harbored deep abiding fantasies of buying an auxiliary freezer, and signing up for whole shares of animals from local farms. I pictured us, sitting down to dinner, able to think of Old Bessie, grazing on the fields of some idyllic local farmland, all happy and anti-biotic free, and say a little thanks to her for the delicious steak. Or saying a grateful prayer to the spirit our sow Porky, for the yummy bacon. I dreamed of raising backyard chickens, clucking busily away, as they laid our breakfast’s healthy, humane, happy eggs.

Alas, we own a condo, with a freezer is barely big enough to manage all the many quarts of homemade stock we keep on hand, a terrace that would not give any chicken a very happy life, and persnickety neighbors who would not much care for any carefree clucking so close to their homes.

… for now.

But! We quickly realized our farmer’s market is so much more than just organic, local, seasonal and delicious fruits and vegetables! There are purveyors of beef, heritage pork, fresh fish caught by independent fisheries, and super fresh eggs laid by sprout-fed, happy chickens, too! And the more we dabbled into these delights, the better we felt about our diets, our ethics, and our connection with the community. So we grab our reusable produce bags (like the good hippies we are) and head there twice a week.

Santa Monica Farmers Market 3(source)

I’m sure you’re thinking, “but Dana! Doesn’t that cost like a hundred million dollars every week!?!?” But the answer, my friends, is NOPE. It actually kind of balances out!

The salmon, for instance, is $3 less than the usual sale price at Bristol Farms, a whopping $10-$30 less than the regular price. And it’s absolutely the best salmon we’ve ever had. Fresh from the Alaskan waters of the Atlantic, scaled, filleted, and de-boned to perfection – and we buy it from the fisherman himself! The beef is around the same price as we were buying it at Whole Foods, and way more tasty and tender than anything we’d ever had from grocery. The pork, eggs and chicken are all decidedly more expensive – but the difference in taste is enormous, and the confidence and comfort we get from knowing the source, and it’s superior nutritional content makes it absolutely worthwhile to us. Plus, the affordability of the produce we buy helps make up for those more luxurious expenses, because it’s almost always less expensive than store-bought prices.

And that’s how we came to adopt a FarMarCore lifestyle. Yeah, it’s a word I made up. But in my defense: A) I love a good portmanteau. Can’t resist the chance to make one if the opportunity presents itself. (see “carniv-angst, above); and, B) Everyone and their mother are adopting the suffix -core… appending words to connote a rebellious, anti-mainstream lifestyle, social movement, type of music, style of fashion, or genre of film (see: nerdcore, normcore, mumblecore, beardcore.) And that’s kinda what we’re doing, shirking the mainstream grocery chains in favor of local, seasonal, independently-run farmers for the majority of our food. FAR-MAR-CORE. It’s totally a thing now. Hashtag it, bitches.

Anywheeze: if you’re in the area, or are headed to another LA market soon, here’s our favorite vendors + products to keep an eye out for. Most of them roam to various markets throughout the week:

peads and barnetts pork
Pork – Peads & Barnett’s: Locally-Raised Heritage Breed Pork– Specifically Mangalitsa, Middle White and Pure Berkshire. Oliver, the owner, is adorable… and it’s simply the best pork I’ve ever had. We especially recommend the sausages and the baby back ribs. SO INCREDIBLY GOOD. I never was much for pork, until we discovered Peads & Barnett’s. Now it’s easily our most often consumed meat each week. Oliver also sells beautiful pincushion and protea flowers, if you want some beautiful florals to accompany your pork!*

Beef – Rancho San Julian: 100% grass-fed beef, from cattle all born and raised on Rancho San Julian, never fed corn or soy. Each cow is of traceable heritage, raised humanely and grazed on a rotational system out on the hillsides of Santa Barbara. The beef is dry aged and delicious. We especially love their NY strips, rib eyes, and sirloins. (Wednesdays)
– Novy Ranches: 100% grass-fed, free range, born-and-bred Angus cattle raised by a veterinarian and his family with great love and care in Northern California. Their care and feed produces a highly nutritious, healthier meat than those fed corn and soy. Dry aged aged 21 days to perfection. Absolutely delicious. (Saturdays)

Eggs and Chicken – Lily’s Eggs: Lily’s 400 hens are the sole proprietors of several acres of open pasture, roaming freely. What we love about Lily’s Eggs is their dedication to the humane treatment of animals and their fierce commitment to quality production. We buy the sprout-fed variety, which come from four different breeds of chickens, and makes for a lovely assortment of eggs that not only taste great, and are packed with nutrition… but also look great on a counter-top, where they can be stored and double as decoration! And their fresh chicken is to die for. Succulent, juicy, and antibiotic/hormone-free, humanely raised, openly roaming.

Salmon – FishWife Salmon: We were falling over ourselves with excitement when we found Ryan selling his sockeye salmon at the Saturday market. He, himself, captains the vessel that catches thousands of pounds of wild sockeye in Bristol Bay of Alaska. How much closer to the source can you get? The fish is gorgeous, pre-cleaned, filetted, and flash frozen. And less expensive than anything we could buy at Bristol Farms or Whole Foods. Even on sale.* (you can also order online through his site, even if you’re not local!)

Misc. Fish – Community Seafood: This is a membership service that brings in the freshest catches from independent fishermen, varying by week according to what was most recently caught. They have a small amount of fish available to non-members for a couple dollars more, and we’ve tried their ridgeback shrimp (meh) and their halibut (absolutely incredible). I’m a bit too picky about seafood to subscribe to a CSA like this… but it’s a great option for people who have less persnickety palates.

Butter – Organic Pastures Dairy: If you’ve not yet cooked with raw butter, you’re in for a treat. The smell of it melting in a pan is almost too much to bear. It’s nutty, rich, creamy, and tastes so wholesome it’s like the cow is just chillin’ in your backyard. Made from 100% USDA certified organic, Grade A, raw milk of super premium quality from cows that are pasture grazed 365 days a year.

Bread – Bezian’s Bakery: Don’t be put off by the pro-sourdough propaganda posters all over his stand. This bread is made with virgin organic wild yeast, resulting in a probiotic fermented sourdough that’s the best we’ve ever had. I’m not gluten intolerant or anything, but am often left feeling slightly “nervous” inside after eating breads. Not Bezian’s! And he swears that it’s tolerable to people even with gluten sensitivities/allergies. Just not to those with Celiac. And they offer many unique flavors, all delicious (except the tea – skip that). It’s worth trying, even though his stall look cray.

Lettuce – Fairview Gardens: Absolutely the most tender, crispy, juicy, refreshing and delicious organic lettuce blends we’ve found. I swear, we eat like ten times more salad than ever before since happening upon their pre-washed, bagged mixes. It just makes life so easy, and so tasty.

Apples – Cuyama Orchards: They’ll only be around another week or so until the fall, but their Pink Lady apples have been a staple in our house for months. Crisp, juicy, always organic and delicious, every week.

Berries – Harry’s Berries: Definitely a splurge, but oh, so slurgeworthy. Their strawberries are like ruby jewels of sweetness. We consume them like rabid animals.

Tangerines – Regier Family Farms: Clementine season is almost over, but their little tangerines are absolutely phenomenal. (Hint: pick the golf-ball sized fruits for the best flavor.) After a brief break until mid-May or so, they’ll be back with peaches, which I’m sure will be just as good in their own peachy way.

Meyer Lemons – Garcia Organic Farm: I can eat these babies by the slice! They taste like tangerines and lemons had a delicious baby. We start every day by drinking a glass of water, with a half lemon squeezed into it. Good for our livers, our acupuncturist says. And this makes it good to the very last drop.

Broccoli and Cauliflower – Gloria’s Fruits and Vegetables: Sweet, tender, and clean-tasting, their broccoli (and baby broccoli) are hard to beat. And their cauliflower is always firm, fresh, and often available in heirloom varieties like cheddar (yum), or the gorgeously fractal romanesco.

*These vendors can be found at Santa Monica Farmer’s Market exclusively.

Note: I am not being paid to promote any of these farmers, nor am I getting kickbacks or anything from them other than possible hugs. I just really want to share their great work with the people of LA, and encourage others to explore their local farmer’s market as an alternative to store-bought groceries.


BPA Be Gone! 10 ways we’re kicking plastic to the curb.

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This article published by Mother Jones last week was a frightening reminder that we don’t know the whole story about BPA and how the chemicals in plastics affect us. It seems that even so-called “BPA-free” plastics are not safe. And I promise I’m not going all tin-foil hat on you. These allegations are backed up by some pretty significant science.

In fact, a lab called CertiChem ran extensive testing on 18 everyday plastic items from places like Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us,  and found that a quarter of the items “came back positive for estrogenic activity. These results mirrored the lab’s findings in its broader National Institutes of Health-funded research on BPA-free plastics.”

“CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA.”

This type of hormonal exposure is incredibly dangerous, and I want none of it. And while it’s unclear if we’ll be able to see or pinpoint it’s effects in our lifetime, this statement particularly affected me, and influenced our decision to make some drastic changes in what we use in our home:

“A chemical like BPA reprograms your cells and ends up causing a disease in your grandchild that kills him.”

Fuck. That. Noise. To that I say…

NOT IN MY HOUSE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

I fully support LN Smith‘s idea that “every dollar you spend… or don’t spend… is a vote you cast for the world you want.” And the world I want encourages companies to give a shit about the safety of me and my family. But not all of them will, so we’re spending our money on those that do, and trying to avoid shopping with those who don’t.

Here’s some of our favorite plastic-free gear for the kitchen, where minimizing BPA exposure matters most.

bpa-free glass stainless options kitchen bottles storage

1. 4-Ounce Jelly Jars: these are as versatile as they are cute. Just perfect for small batch jams, snacks, salad dressing, spices, pills, or individual portions of almost anything. Also perfect for traveling with. I put lotions, my homemade deodorant, and hair ties/barrettes in these little jars and pop ’em in my travel bag. Easy peasy, and all under the 4oz. TSA maximum for liquids!

2. Half Pint Mason Jars: we use these for canning, but also to store small-batch dry goods like popcorn, seeds, sauces, nuts, etc. They are also great for using as vases to hold flowers, or certain produce items that want to be upright. And a great size for loose craft items too!

3. Quart-Size (32-oz) Wide Mouth Mason Jars: Maybe the most versatile size of our collection, these are awesome for storing large-batch stocks, since they can be frozen. Or we store produce in them, with a small square of damp cloth, in the fridge. (Here’s an awesome guide on storing produce without plastic, for more ideas.) I also like these for keeping leftover dried pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous, etc once the bag is opened. I keep my whipped coconut oil in one of these on my bathroom vanity for body lotion. I use them for storing our homemade almond milk. And, as you know, they’re the perfect size for making/storing my homemade laundry lube.

4. Half Gallon Mason Jars: oh, how I love my big daddies. These are brilliant for storing larger amounts of dried goods that we get in bulk – like flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, washing soda, borax, etc. Also great for brewing large batches of sun tea, or infusing waters.

5a. Flip and Tumble Reusable Produce Bags: these always come in my canvas tote with me to the farmer’s market, so I don’t have to use the plastic bags provided there. These have such a fine mesh they can also be used to pick up dried goods in bulk like rice. Then when I get home, I can transfer them to a jar for long-term storage.

5b. Simple Ecology Organic Cotton Mesh Produce Bags: with a wider-gauge weave, these are sturdy as hell and hold produce like a mean m-fer. Also a staple for our weekly farmer’s market trips.

6. Snaplock Tempered Glasslock Storage Containers: tempered glass means they can go from the freezer to the oven and not crack on you, so these are multi-talented like crazy. We use them mostly for storing leftovers and packing Paul’s lunches for work, but they can also be used to freeze portions of stock or lasagna or whatever you like… ready to be reheated in a snap. And speaking of snaps, the lids are the most secure I’ve tried. They snap on and over the lips of all 4 sides for an air-tight and water-tight seal.

7. Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle: These guys come with us to the gym or out shopping, filled with water. Lightweight, unbreakable, and dishwasher safe… they’re perfect sports bottles.

8. Aquasana 18 Oz. Glass Bottles: We’re hardcore slaves to our SodaStream machine, but the plastic bottles are so no bueno. Since we haven’t found a great option to replace it yet, we’re carbonating the water in their bottles, and immediately transferring it to these sturdy glass bottles. I also like to use these for iced tea, when I brew a big batch.

9. Cuisinart PerfecTemp Stainless Steel Electric Kettle: RIP, Keurig. We barely knew ya. Yup, had the sucker for about 6 months, but decided there’s far too much heat and plastic involved to feel comfortable about it. So, we’re selling it and pulled Paul’s old stainless steel kettle out of retirement. It has variable temperature settings, heats up in seconds; and the kettle is cordless, so once it’s been heated, you can move with it easily.

10. Glass Bottles With Stoppers, 33 3/4 oz: We use these rarely, but they’re lovely for storing larger amounts of carbonated water. Especially if we have company and want a couple carafes on the table.

…and this is just the start.

Sure, the lids on some of those items are plastic, but their contact with what’s stored inside is so minimal, I don’t mind too much. And hey, baby steps right?

Pretty soon, those baby steps are gonna add up to quite a journey. And we feel pretty great about the direction in which we’re headed.


DIY Gold Polka Dot Wall. Kate Spade would be so proud!

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Not to brag, but let me brag. When I moved into Paul’s condo, he graciously insisted that I take the gorgeous master bathroom as my own – and moved himself into the guest bathroom on the other side of the house. What’s that saying? “A happy couple never has to fight about the position of the toilet seat?” or “A happy couple never has to smell each other’s poop?” or “A happy couple never has to negotiate over who showers first?”

It’s a beautiful concept. I love having my bathroom as a personal haven of hygenic privacy. I have a wonderful jacuzzi tub, and roomy shower, and enjoy luxuriating in one or the other on a daily basis. But, after it being solely inhabited by a single man for the past 2 years, it definitely lacked a woman’s touch. There was nothing on the clean cream walls, and my lady-heart was screaming for girlish decor.  It’s the only room in our home that I can completely control the look and feel of, and it took me quite some time to figure out what I wanted for it’s overall mood.

First, I found this vinyl wall decal at Target, and put it on the wall next to my vanity. I loved the luxe gold calligraphy, and thought it would set a good mood right off the bat.

Then I saw Jordan’s polka dot wall in her studio, and it struck me like a lightning bolt. I wanted gold polka dots on my bathtub wall, and I wanted them NOW. I’m a huge fan of patterns in general, but the dots get me every single time. It’s no secret that I worship at the altar of Kate Spade, and this idea is clearly very inspired by that obsession.

I was going to do potato-print dots, like Jordan did… but my friend Audrey found these vinyl decals from UrbanWalls on etsy for me. I loved the size and uniformity of them, and Paul loved the fact that they’re easily removable without having to re-paint, when we decide to move. So, I ordered up 2 rolls for a total of 100 four-inch dots for the affordable price of $77 CAD / $69 USD, and recruited a girlfriend to help me out on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

We started by cutting out each circle and roughly spacing them out until we decided what looked best. We measured the space from the edge of one dot to the next, which was about 3 inches. It was easy to just use the ledge above the tile to prop them up while we figured it out.

diy gold polka dot wall

Then it was as easy as peeling off the backing, sticking the circle onto the wall into the correct spot, and rubbing them with a straight-edged plastic (we used my Cast Iron scrapers) until they had adhered fully, and we could peel off the front. Since I wasn’t feeling particularly perfectionistic that day, we used the ruler to measure the first and last dots of each row or so, and eyeballed the rest. I chose to do alternating rows, so positioning the dots just above and between the two below was kind of a cinch. And behold! My DIY polka dot wall of glory!

Sure, there’s about two areas that came out a little wobbly and imperfect, but I really don’t mind. It reminds me that I made it myself, rather than hiring a decorator. And the effect of the whole wall is so beautiful and stylish, my heart is happy every time I walk into my bathroom! Look at how the light catches the gold on the dots, and how well the shade of gold complements our tilework!

DIY gold polka dot wall

diy polka dot wall before

All in all, we used 97 of the 100 dots. And if I ever get sick of them, or we decide to sell our place and move… all I have to do is heat the dots with my hair dryer to release them!

I’m so proud of my first big home craft, and love what a big impact it makes for under $70!

Stay tuned for more bathroom decor updates, coming soon!