lifestyle, Personal, Recipes

I’m currently on another Vegan journey. I’ve been a vegetarian my entire life and have tried a few times to go vegan without long-term success. Ten times out of ten I fail because… You guessed it, CHEESE.

Did you know that a chemical in cheese, called casein, has been found to trigger the brain’s opioid receptors and trigger an addictive response? This makes total sense to me personally, but also makes sense when I hear others failed in going vegan due to cheese.

Vegan options have come a long way in a short time. Options for vegan cheese used to be limited to one or two brands at your local grocery store that did not melt and did not taste right. Now, you’ll likely see several brands and options at your favorite health food or modern grocery stores. Even Aldi has their own brand of vegan cheese and I actually really like it! I used it today on vegan pizza bagels and it actually got MELTY. A win, for sure.

If you’re thinking of going vegan, or trying to stay vegan, here are some tips I can give from personal experience:

  1. Find a vegan cheese you like

As I mentioned above – cheese is like kryptonite for so many people that try this path. Try different brands of vegan cheese and stock up on what you find you like, so you don’t find yourself in a cravings state of weakness. Also, get yourself some nutritional yeast to sprinkle on everything. Vegans use it like a parmesan cheese replacement, but you can put it on everything AND it’s good for you!

2. If you used to eat meat, start by making the same meals you used to make, but with vegan meat options

I feel like people generally have this idea that vegans eat lettuce and fresh veggies and that’s it. If you go from eating meat every day to eating raw veggies and salads, you’re not going to make it. There are SO many vegan meat options out there nowadays that there really is no reason to eat meat, and also no reason to just eat raw veggies (unless you’re into that). If your weekly recipes before going vegan included chicken salads for lunch and pasta w/ meatballs, and tacos, for dinners, then start your vegan journey by making those same meals but with vegan meat replacements. Making too big of a shift is where people get turned off or fail. Learn to make what you’re already comfortable with and you’ll thank me later.

3. Try a meal subscription

You may have read my previous post about Hungryroot. If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know how to start a vegan diet, or if you’re having trouble coming up with meal ideas, give Hungryroot a try. You can set your specific diet preferences (vegan, vegan & gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.) and shop by recipe. I currently pay about $60 a week. For the quality of product, the delivery to your doorstep, and the reduced stress of not having to plan meals-it is beyond worth it. Plus, you can cancel or pause any time you like.

4. Keep a list of “safe” restaurants in your phone notes

Doing some research is key here. Look at your local restaurants and look at their menus. Try to analyze what foods you could order vegan or with minor modifications to make it vegan. Have a Taco Bell problem like me? You can order vegan! Think, tacos with black beans or refried beans, lettuce, tomato, hot sauce, guac… Love getting Potbelly’s for lunch? Look at their salads, think “I could get this without chicken, without cheese, and add chickpeas for protein…” Make a list of your “safe” restaurants in your phone that you know you can eat at so you’re never caught in a situation where your friend or SO wants to go out to eat but now you have to 1. research for 20 mins or 2. cave and get McDonalds “just today.” As you find vegan options at restaurants that you like, add them to your notes so it’s easy to order for next time without analyzing every ingredient on the menu again.

5. Remember why you started

There are several different reasons you may have chosen to or want to go vegan for. It could be a humane/moral thing, an environmental basis, or even a health reason. When you feel like you want to cheat or give up, you need to pause and put yourself back into that mental space that made you want to start. Did you watch a documentary about the agriculture industry that made you want to save the animals? Did you feel inspired by Earth Day posts and wanted to lower your carbon footprint? Try to journal it out and take a few minutes to put yourself back into that headspace.

lifestyle, Personal, Uncategorized

2021 Goal Check!

Today is February 1st, and a Monday! There is extra “fresh start” energy in the air!

Last night I sat down with a journal and touched base on my 2021 “resolutions”/goals to see where I’m at. I think it’s super easy to set these goals with the “New Year New Me” vibes at the beginning of January, but for many people, they taper off by the end of the first month. I felt like I did a lot of sporadic things this month that generally were on track with my goals, but felt like they were scattered and I couldn’t visualize the totality of my progress unless I sat down and wrote it out.

I HIGHLY encourage you to take some time today and list out the things you did in January that aligned with your 2021 goals. Don’t leave anything out! For me, my list included things like:

  • Took care of my body by attending overdue doctor appointments
  • Bought an exercise bike and hit 150 miles in January
  • Cleaned up my eating habits
  • Made time for skincare
  • Made time for spirituality
  • Read more books
  • Hit one large life goal! (dream car)
  • Worked on budgeting/saving

Next – I challenge you to list the things you did in January that did NOT align with your 2021 goals, so you can see what to eliminate for February. For me, this included things like:

  • Ate fast food when I shouldn’t have
  • Ordered too many sugary drinks from Starbucks (this hurt my money and health goals)
  • Skipped workouts when I didn’t need to
  • Compromised valuable sleep time scrolling on my phone

Lastly, take a moment to journal out what you want your February to look like. Are you going to be more consistent with your workouts? Are you going to reach a specific goal at your job? Are you going to focus more time on family?

Don’t let your New Year energy fizzle out. It’s a new month, a new work week, a new day, and a new opportunity to show up as the person you want to be!

February, be kind to us all!

Feel free to share some reflections on your new year goals below!

lifestyle, Recipes

Vegetarian Gluten-Free Tacos Three Ways

This blog post is dedicated to my VIP subscribers, Lindsey and Alex, who are dipping their toes into the vegetarian world in 2021. If you haven’t seen some of my older posts, I am lifelong vegetarian since, quite literally, I was in the womb. I asked them what recipe they want to see done on the blog first – Lindsey picked tacos. So, here are my simple vegetarian, protein-filled, gluten-free tacos done three different ways!

TORTILLAS!

First, get the tortillas going. I use soft corn tortillas as they are typically gluten-free. Just check the ingredients and make sure their is no gluten flour added to the corn mix! I heat a nickel-size olive oil in a small pan, and cook one tortilla at a time while I work on the rest of the ingredients. Cook until it slightly browns, flip, remove from heat. Add another bit of olive oil for each tortilla. I cook them this way because it crisps them up and helps prevent them ripping and spilling your taco everywhere.

PROTEIN!

My all-time favorite is using Gardein beefless crumbles for the meat. They are vegan and gluten-free, and cook super fast. I put some olive oil in the pan, dump the frozen crumbles in, and add 1 full packet of gluten-free taco seasoning. You can add a tiny bit of water or more olive oil as the crumbles heat to keep them juicy.

Second-best: regular ole canned black beans. Pro-tip, when you’re out to eat at a mexican restaurant, they have black beans. Ask if you can do tacos with black beans, or whatever your usual order is, subbing in black beans. I microwave my black beans for 60 sec. or you can cook in a pan until heated.

Last but not least: pre-packaged and seasoned Tex-Mex jackfruit. I throw a little olive oil in the pan and then empty the jackfruit package into the pan. If it’s pre-seasoned and marinated, you likely don’t need to add much. Cook until heated through.

TOPPINGS!

Add whatever you normally like on your tacos! I did butterhead lettuce, fresh salsa, fine-shredded Mexican cheese, avocado slices, cilantro and lime squeezed on top!

My biggest tip to anyone looking to try going vegetarian or vegan, is don’t try to jump from eating meat regularly to this idea of a vegetarian who eats only veggies, fruit and drinks green juice every day. You won’t last. Start simple by making the usual meals you eat and subbing the meat with one of the countless amounts of veggie meats you can find today.

Questions for a lifelong vegetarian? Comment below or DM me on instagram!

lifestyle, Mom Stuff, Personal, Recipes

The Meal Service You Need in 2021

Photo from Hungryroot.com

I have gotten so many questions on my Hungryroot subscription so here is my full review now that I’ve been using it for a few months!

I have been searching for a while for a meal service that had a good selection of healthy gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian recipes. A lot of the popular meal service companies have vegetarian plans, or gluten-free plans, but rarely a good selection of recipes that are both. Hungryroot was the first one I’ve found that has a large amount of gluten-free and vegetarian recipes. On that note, you can customize the recipes you can choose from based on your own dietary needs. They provide the 10 minute recipes and the raw ingredients – so the meals are not prepped/pre-packaged. Hungryroot is essentially a half-meal plan, half-grocery service.

The plans start at $59 a week. I started at about $100 a week, then went down to $80 a week, and now I’m at $59 a week for now. I will probably go back and forth between about $60-$80 a week from now on. You can skip or reschedule deliveries whenever you want. The pricing depends on the amount of “servings” and meals you choose. However, once you select your plan (say you choose 2 servings each, 2 lunches and 3 dinners), your plan converts to Hungryroot “credits.” This is key! Here’s why:

You can edit your delivery based on recipes or groceries. The way I get more meals for my money now is I sort the recipes (I shop by recipe) from lowest credits to highest credits. So, instead of getting 3 meals that are 12 credits each, I can get 7 credit meals and get more meals for the same plan. You can also fully shop groceries only with those credits. I aim for 4-5 recipes, 2 servings each, and I normally have 1-2 credits left to add grocery items, like dressing, a pack of ramen or a snack. Here’s a snippet of how I browse through recipes by credits. The 28 credits is for my current $60/week plan.

The recipes are divided into categories of stir-fries, pastas, flatbreads, market plates, grain bowls, warm bowls, sandwiches, tacos, burgers, wraps, salads and bakes. The ingredients include fresh produce, some popular health brands, and Hungryroot’s own branded items. Some of my favorite popular brands they carry regularly are Beyond Meat, Banza pasta, Lotus Foods Ramen and Nutpods. A few of my favorite Hungryroot brand items include their Four Cheese Gluten-Free Tortelloni, Superfood Tomato Sauce, Cashew Cheddar Sauce, Spicy Refried Red Beans and their Hearty Tofu Veggie Burger. With my pre-set dietary preferences, I do not view the meat and gluten options when I select my recipes, but you can browse their current options on their website without setting up an account.

My typical weekly delivery will include a salad, tacos, grain bowl and a pasta, with maybe a couple snacks or extra packs of ramen.

You have a certain day each week you have to edit your delivery by. If you forget, they will choose the recipes for you based on your dietary preferences. This comes in handy for me so much because I often forget to choose my recipes by the deadline!

What I love:

  • The convenience of not having to shop, especially with a baby and during Covid.
  • It is so worth the money to me to not have to plan out each meal, easily select a few recipes each week, and have them show up at my doorstep.
  • I can’t accidentally overspend at the store. If you set me loose in Hyvee to get stuff to make a homemade pizza, or do pasta night, I can easily drop $60 for that one meal. This prevents me throwing random unnecessary stuff in my cart that will go to waste (and I’m really trying to limit our food waste!).
  • The pricing is constantly adjustable and you can skip a week when you don’t need it.
  • All my meals are balanced and have a healthy portion of protein, whether broccoli, protein pasta, beans, tofu etc., which is so important as a vegetarian.
  • The products, especially Hungryroot’s own brand, are so tasty, healthy and have good ingredients. A lot of the products they carry are also organic.
  • Their packaging is insanely eco-friendly down to the ice pack which doubles as plant food??
  • The recipes only take about 10 minutes which is ideal for this working mama with long work days and a long commute. Matt also doesn’t mind prepping dinner for me some days because it’s so easy to do!
  • Hungryroot is sustainability focused!

What I don’t love:

  • The delivery service they use is kind of sketchy. We have had some strange characters deliver and they always fly up the street in creepy unmarked vans LOL
  • I’ve had a few deliveries with missing items that showed they were checked off on the inventory sheet in the box but weren’t in there
  • I would like if the website adjusted more to what I usually order. For instance, I typically order tacos, pasta, salad and grain bowls. I never get any of the thai food with peanut sauce or stir-fries. Just not my style. When I miss the edit deadline though, I always end up with stir-fries and peanut thai food that I literally never pick (still within my restrictions of gluten-free/vegetarian). So, it would be nice if it sort of tracked my preferences better.
  • There were a couple weeks where their recipe selection was unusually limited. I don’t know if it was Covid-related or not but I haven’t noticed that issue again in a couple months.

Overall, my verdict is – I will be sticking with Hungryroot for the foreseeable future! I am addicted to the convenience of not only the cost-friendly delivery to your doorstep, but also the convenience of having pre-planned, simple and balanced 10 minute recipes within my dietary restrictions. For a busy mom, I have yet to find something that fits my needs so well.

If you want to give Hungryroot a try, you can use my referral code S7CAXUEN for $40 off your first delivery!

Let me know in the comments if you have any specific questions I can answer!

lifestyle, Uncategorized

Shopping Small & Local – A Holiday Guide for my Genoa/Sycamore/DeKalb Friends

Prairie State Winery (Genoa/Sycamore)

Prairie State is a yearly stop for me – and it’s easy to snag from their Genoa location, or in the “local wines” section of Hyvee (Sycamore). The thing about Prairie State wine is they are ALL good. Even people who don’t typically like Reds (like me) will love their holiday hit – Holiday Red. They also have other holiday wines including Merry Berry (my favorite), Winter White and Winter Warmth. Whether you’re looking for a table wine to bring for your Christmas host, or for a small gift for a friend, boss or family member, a craftily-wrapped bottle from Prairie State will make the perfect gesture. They run about $15 and under per bottle.

The Enchanted Valley Farm (Genoa/Kingston)

This the cutest little hidden gem in Kingston and they’re doing a special four-days-only Holiday Gift Shop event! The gift shop will be open 11/28, 11/29, 12/5 and 12/6 and they are only allowing 2 people, or a private group, in at a time with masks for a safe, anxiety-free shopping experience for all. You can also shop by private appointment, or do curbside pickup or free local delivery! A perk of shopping here is they offer a boutique shopping experience with select goods from several crafters and other local small businesses as well.

Herb/o/logy (Genoa/Kingston)

One of the featured available local brands at Enchanted Valley is Herb/o/logy. My mom actually introduced me to their products in our Christmas stockings a year or two ago! Herb/o/logy is a plant-based, natural skin-care collection with lotions, lip butters, soaps and more. I personally recommend the lip butter balms!

Genoa Guest House (Genoa)

Genoa Guest House is another hidden gem that I’ve been dying to check out since I first discovered it earlier this year. The Genoa Guest House is a fully-remodeled, eco-friendly home built in 1888 that offers a unique and charming Bed & Breakfast deal. Get your parents a two-day stay and give them a mini-vacation after a year of travel bans. You can also purchase a gift certificate, or try their “Pick Up On The Porch” this holiday season!

Cassie’s Popcorn (Sycamore)

Don’t forget about our iconic little popcorn stand in downtown Sycamore! Don’t know what to do for a grab bag gift? Swing by for some gourmet popcorn, throw in a good movie or streaming gift card with some candy. Or, sub some of that Christmas candy for your kids with some yummy popcorn under the tree or in their stockings! It would also make the perfect little treat to put out at your Christmas gathering.

Mardi Gras Lanes (Sycamore/DeKalb)

Fun fact – I’ve been a bowler since I was in the third grade. I grew up at Mardi Gras Lanes and it’s still owned and operated by the same wonderful people. As you can imagine, Covid is making it difficult to operate an indoor sport facility. Luckily, you can get an e-gift card here for a perfect stocking-stuffer for your family bowler, or for a promised future date night or family night to look forward to!

Rustic Roots Sycamore (Sycamore)

Rustic Roots is the cutest home decor shop located in downtown Sycamore. You can shop in-person or online here.

Coroco Coffee Roaster Collective (Sycamore)

For the coffee lover in your life. Grab a bag (or more!) of their unique roasts and pair with a cute mug, and maybe a gift card! This would also make a great grab-bag or co-worker/boss gift. For your SO, purchase one of their coffee subscriptions for 3 months, 6 months or a year for delicious, carefully-crafted roasts delivered to their doorstep.

Sweet De-Lights (Genoa)

Need a dessert to pass at your (Covid-safe and ~small~) Holiday gathering? Reach out to Sweet De-lights in Genoa for a custom dessert. You could also order some sweet stocking stuffers (think cookies, cake pops, chocolate suckers…) AND – she makes the super-popular hot chocolate bombs! (Seriously – look at how awesome her Thanksgiving hot chocolate bombs were!)

Bleu Palette Art Studio (Sycamore)

Bleu Palette is woman-owned and operated by a long-time family friend! It’s one of Sycamore’s hidden gems, located on 23 a little north of State Street. Bleu Pallete usually hosts in-person group painting classes but is temporarily doing online-only events, artist consulting and commission work, and ART KITS! She sells art kits for only $22 which would make a perfect gift to keep your kids busy during our Covid Christmas. Kits are being re-stocked December 1st!

Blumen Gardens (Sycamore)

If you haven’t been to Blumen Gardens yet, wyd?! Their warehouse shop is loaded with unique finds that would make great gifts for anyone. They are having a Small Business Weekend Sale this weekend through Monday (11/30), featuring 20% off fresh greens, wreaths, porch accessories, poinsettias and more!

Sara Jennings Photography (Sycamore)

Know of someone who will need family photos or maternity photos soon? Purchase a gift certificate from Sara Jennings Photography! She is currently offering 20% off sessions AND gift certificates through 11:59 pm on 11/29 (but only for the first ten clients to purchase!)

Cracker Jax (DeKalb)

Cracker Jax is loaded with fun finds. A new and vintage boutique in downtown DeKalb, Cracker Jax has SO MUCH to look at, I just know you’ll find at least one gift while you peruse the beautiful rooms. My favorites are their crystals, incense, sage and aromatherapy collections!

Studio One Salon & Spa (DeKalb)

This goes without saying, but this year has been incredibly stressful for everyone. A gift card to Studio One would make a perfect gift for your loved one to de-stress with a massage, facial, mani/pedis, you name it.

The Forge of Sycamore (Sycamore)

Perfect for a gift or for your small Christmas gathering. Pick up some cans (or growler!) of The Forge’s craft beer and give as a gift with a gift card, or order some of their amazing pizzas and apps for your ~covid-friendly~ holiday get-together.

OpenDoor Coffee (Genoa)

OpenDoor Coffee is the cutest family-owned coffee business in Genoa. Pair one or two bags of their coffee beans with their cute mug and a gift card and you have the perfect gift! A gift card would also make a great stocking-stuffer.

OutMatched Gaming (Sycamore)

Stop into OutMatched Gaming on Small Business Saturday to check out their sale! They offer board games, sports cards, figurines, Magic the Gathering cards, Pokemon cards, New Release Comics, graphic novels & more!

Sugar on Top Bake Shop (Genoa)

Sugar on Top is a Genoa favorite and offers so many treats, including cakes, pies, cupcakes, cookies and more. Think stocking-stuffers or a dessert gift for your host! They are currently utilizing curbside pick-up too!

lifestyle, Mom Stuff

Etsy Christmas Shopping for Baby

Looking back at 2020, it’s clear to see why there’s a bigger-than-usual push to shop small this Christmas. I’ve put together this Christmas List for Babies from Etsy shops only to help you shop small this holiday season. Just click the links to shop!

Personalized Wooden Name Puzzle with Pegs – Montessori Baby Toy by SouthBendWoodworks in Southbend, IN (Price varies based on number of letters)

Personalized Wooden Name Puzzle with Pegs Montessori Baby image 0

Nutmeg Baby Swing from Sweet Swinging, Iowa (Starting at $100)

Nutmeg baby swing Christmas gift baby shower gift image 0

Baby Boho Rainbow Wooden Teether from ModFox, Beebee, AR (On Sale for $14.40)

Baby Boho Rainbow Teether  Wooden Ring Teether  Neutral Baby image 0

Minky Neutral Rainbow Blanket from GoldCactusShop in TX (Starting at $26)

Minky Neutral Rainbow Baby Crib Blanket Neutral Rainbow Crib image 0

Baby Crinkle Toy from PiccoloPesca in Minneapolis, MN ($13)

Baby Crinkle Toy Busy Mom Toy Plush Teething Toy Plush image 0

Maplewood Play Gym with Macrame Toys from SimpleToyCompany in North Dorr, MI ($89 for all pieces – can buy individual pieces!)

Maple wood play gym with macrame toys play gym for baby wood image 0

Pixie Hat and Booties Set from LiliasDesign in Spokane, WA (Starting at $35)

SET Pixie hat and booties 0-6 months Wool Alpaca Gift Set image 0

Baby Toy Blocks from BabySewLovable, PA (Starting at $20)

Baby toy block baby shower gift baby rattle teething toy image 0
Baby toy block baby shower gift rainbow teething toy rattle image 0

Knit handmade toys from LynnMichelleDesign in Ohio (Starting at $17)

Christmas Tree  Handmade Soft Knit Toy  Pebble Fair Trade  image 1
Rudolph  Handmade Kids Soft Toy  Pebble Fair Trade Gift  image 3

Baby’s First Christmas Toys Set from Legacy Learning, IL (On sale for $27)

Baby's First Christmas Toys Christmas Tree Teething Toys image 1

Crocheted Baby Bear Lovey by Cindy’s Crocheted Keepsakes in AZ ($27 – multiple colors!)

Bear lovey Baby lovey Childs lovey image 0
lifestyle, Recipes

Gluten-free Apple Pie Bars

Apple-picking season is upon us. If you’re like me, you LOVE going to the apple orchard (shoutout to Jonamac in Malta, IL) and picking a bag full of apples! But then you get home, and you’re like – what am I going to do with all these apples?

Here’s your solution: gluten-free apple pie bars. I’m not a huge baker, but these are so easy and simple to make!

Ingredients for the gluten-free crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour (I used half rice flour and half almond flour)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (cubed, cold)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • A couple pinches of salt

Ingredients for the filling

  • 3-4 medium Apples (use different colors!)
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • Squeeze half a lemon to finish it off

Putting it all together:

  • Oven at 350 degrees. Prep baking dish with unbleached parchment paper.
  • Combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, butter and vanilla into food processor. (If you don’t have a food processor, I used my ninja bullet and manually pulsed it. It worked perfectly!)
  • Press dough into bottom of baking dish. Save some for some crumbles or cut-out shapes/designs on top.
  • Bake the crust for 15 minutes.
  • Slice apples and combine filing ingredients in a bowl. When the crust has cooked for 15 minutes, pour filling onto crust.
  • Crumble dough or add crust designs to top of apples.
  • Bake for another 35-40 minutes.
lifestyle, Pregnancy

7 Healing Crystals for Pregnancy

Despite being used for their healing properties for thousands of years, crystals are definitely having a moment right now. Have you been curious about this new crystals trend? Have you wondered how to use them in your own life? In this post I’m going to do a simplified overview of how to use healing crystals, and then I’ll highlight seven different crystals you can benefit from during pregnancy.

The idea behind healing crystals is that each crystal or stone has its own energy. That energy interacts with our own energy, which in turn can have different healing effects.

To properly prepare to use a crystal, you need to first cleanse a new crystal to remove any energies attached to it from the store. You only want the inherent energies of the stone to remain when you use it. I normally do this by soaking them in water for at least a day (natural stream water or rain water is best, but tap water is okay if it’s all you have). Be careful with this method as water can corrode/rust certain stones. You can also sage the crystals, but be sure to be extra thorough!

Once your crystal is cleansed, you can “charge” the crystal. Some people skip this step but I prefer not to. Charging the crystal is exactly what it sounds like – you’re energizing the crystal to power up its natural healing properties. You can charge your clean crystals by placing the next to a selenite stone, or placing them on a selenite charger. You can also leave them out overnight to charge in the moonlight.

Once your crystal is cleansed and charged, it’s time to set your intentions, or “program” the stone. People do this in different ways. I simply do a form of meditation. I play some meditation music on Spotify, relax as much as I can, then I pick up the stone and meditate with it in my hand. While holding the stone tight in my fist, I silently speak into existence what I want the stone to help me with. Once you feel as though you’ve sufficiently set your intentions with that stone, it’s ready to use!

To “use” the stone, you can simply carry it with you (close to the body). You can take it out and hold the crystal when you need it. You can also meditate with it in your hand or place it on the chakra that stone is connected to. If you ever want to “reset” the stone and use it for a different purpose, sage the stone, charge the stone and set your new intentions.

Now that you know the basics of using healing crystals, here are my seven crystals to use during pregnancy:

1. Rose Quartz

Rose quartz is often referred to as the love stone. It radiates a gentle energy that promotes bonding between mom and baby during and after pregnancy.

2. Clear quartz

Clear quartz is a neutral crystal that can be used for virtually any purpose. If you’re interested in healing crystals but don’t want to buy a ton – start with a clear quartz and program it for whatever intention you have to aid in your pregnancy.

3. Angelite

This stone is perfect for you if you believe you have guardian angels and want to encourage your connection with them during your pregnancy.

4. Amethyst

Amethyst is a favorite of mine as it has so many different uses, is widely available and budget-friendly, and is a beautiful purple hue! During pregnancy, it can help with insomnia, relaxation, protection, pregnancy headaches and can promote positive pregnancy dreams.

5. Unakite

Unakite aids with anxiety and stress during pregnancy. Promotes peace, patience and bonding. It is also believed to help with skin elasticity (think stretchmarks!) Keep this stone around for your labor as well.

6. Black Tourmaline

Black tourmaline is a powerful protection stone. If you want to ward off any type of negative energy during pregnancy, whether it be from other people or spiritually, this is the stone for you.

7. Carnelian

Referred to as the “stone of fertility,” carnelian is directly related to the sacral chakra and reproductive organs. Use it to manifest health and strength of your reproductive system before, during and after your pregnancy.

I prefer shopping for crystals in-person, so you can choose specific stones you feel drawn to or feel a connection to. If that’s not an option, shopping online works too! My favorite local shop has a vast online store you can shop here: https://www.crystal-life.com/

*Always discuss health concerns with your physician

Pregnancy

Baby Registry Checklist

Starting your baby registry can feel overwhelming. Most moms making a registry are making one for their first child and have no idea where to begin (like me). So, we go down the Google rabbit hole, reading article after blog post after article trying to figure out what we NEED need, what we kind of need, what we can buy later/what is unnecessary.

I spent a lot of time researching what to add to my own registry but didn’t want to write this post until I was a little into the newborn phase so I could REALLY tell you what you need and what you don’t.

The first step in creating a registry is deciding where to create your registry. I was torn because I wanted to create a Target registry for most things but also wanted to add thing from baby boutiques, Etsy, Amazon, Walmart, etc. So, I ended up looking into Babylist. Babylist allows you to add items from virtually any store to your one Babylist registry. And, when your friends and family shop it, each registry item has a price widget that shows them price comparisons for the same item on other websites, ensuring they don’t overpay. Other neat features of Babylist are the gift tracker, the free Hello Baby Box, free insert cards for your baby shower invitations, cute baby progress updates and 15% off registry items from the Babylist store after your shower. The way Babylist works with adding items from multiple websites naturally encourages online shopping which is helpful to your guests during Covid.

Once you set up your registry, the hard part begins – what do you add?! Here is my list, broken down by level of necessity from my own experience. The “Newborn Necessities” are what I consider the must-haves for the newborn phase. The “Nice to Have” list are not necessities but are convenient, or are things you can hold off on getting until after those initial newborn days of feeding, sleeping and repeating. I’m including links for certain products I particularly like!

Newborn Necessities:

  1. Infant car seat
  2. Bassinet
  3. Changing pad and covers
  4. Baby monitor
  5. Bottles and bottle brush
  6. Breast pump (check with your insurance what they will pay for) and supplies if breastfeeding (milk storage bags, nursing pads, nipple cream)
  7. Bottle sterilizer or sterilizer bags
  8. Formula and nursery water (if not breastfeeding or preparing for potential supplementing)
  9. Burp cloths (cloth “diapers” like these are my favorite to use as burp cloths) and bibs
  10. Diapers
  11. Wipes
  12. Baby safety/grooming kit with thermometer, nasal bulb, hair brush, nail clippers
  13. Baby bath tub, shampoo/body wash, lotion
  14. Hooded bath towels and baby washcloths
  15. Swaddle blankets or velcro swaddles
  16. Medicine cabinet stock (vaseline (necessary for circumcision healing), gripe water, (a MUST have) gas drops, baby Tylenol/Motrin, Desitin, non-talc powder, saline drops, chest rub, Pedialyte, teething ointment).
  17. Onesies in multiple sizes (preemie, NB, 0-3, 3-6 mos., 6 mos., 6-9 mos.) (*I recommend at least having a few preemie onesies/nightgowns since preemies are usually unexpected! They’re so cheap and will be a lifesaver if your little one comes early. Trust me – the last thing you want to be doing while baby is in the NICU/special nursery is online shopping for preemie clothes so you can dress them in something from home. Keep the receipts and you can return if you don’t use them!).
  18. Pants/leggings in multiple sizes
  19. One piece pajamas/nightgowns in multiple sizes (preemie, NB, 0-3 mos., 3-6 mos., 6 mos., 6-9 mos.)
  20. Other seasonal apparel depending on when baby is due (summer outfits, sun hat, swimwear, winter coats, bunting bag, etc.)
  21. Diaper cream
  22. NB beanies/hats
  23. Socks
  24. Stroller or travel system with infant carseat
  25. Carseat/stroller cover (for sun protection)
  26. Crib, mattress, waterproof mattress cover, crib sheets
  27. Lounger like Dock-A-Tot, Snuggle Me pillow or Boppy Lounger (different from Boppy nursing pillow)
  28. Diaper bag
  29. Baby swing or bouncer
  30. NB pacifiers
  31. Mirrors for backseat
  32. Shades for car window

Nice to have:

  1. Clothing other than onesies/pants/sleepers (undershirts, shorts, tops, sweaters, dresses, rompers, mittens, undershirts).
  2. Owlet sock (I highly recommend this product – it allows you to fall asleep with some peace of mind. Especially with having my LO in the mid-level NICU for two weeks, I was used to being able to monitor his oxygen levels and HR).
  3. Boppy/nursing pillow
  4. Playard
  5. Diaper pail
  6. Booty brush
  7. Postpartum supplies
  8. Moby/Boba wrap or other carrier
  9. Bath thermometer
  10. Baby laundry detergent
  11. Baby dish soap
  12. Baby bug spray
  13. Baby sunblock
  14. Booties (shoes not necessary until baby is walking)
  15. 2 blankets thicker than swaddles
  16. Nasal aspirator
  17. Books (signed with personal messages from your guests if possible!)
  18. High chair (baby won’t need for a while)
  19. Home safety items (not needed until baby is on the move!) such as gates, outlet covers, cabinet/drawer latches, furniture anchors and bumpers, toilet lock, etc.)
  20. Shopping cart cover
  21. Baby clothing hangers
  22. Walker
  23. Bottle drying rack
  24. Bottle warmer
  25. Nursing bras if breastfeeding
  26. Chair for nursery
  27. Dresser for nursery
  28. Night light
  29. Cool mist humidifier
  30. Noise machine (I use lullabye, white noise, ocean and nature noise playlists on spotify)
  31. Wipe warmer
  32. Hamper
  33. Teethers
  34. Lovies/Toys
  35. Toy storage
  36. Stroller/carseat toy attachments
  37. Stroller/carseat rain cover
  38. Mosquito net for carseat/stroller
  39. Play gym
  40. Pacifier clips
  41. Bottle bag
  42. Car/trunk caddy
  43. Boogie wipes
  44. Face/body wipes
  45. Crib mobile

Moms – what were your must-haves or favorite products when you brought your LO home? Drop a comment for our new mamas!

lifestyle

Five Clean Skincare Staples for Moms

As a new mom, the last thing I think about in a day is myself. I forget to eat most days. I lose track of when I’ve showered (gross, I know). Dry shampoo is my best friend. I leave the house with no makeup and rocking loungewear. I’m sure all moms can relate.

These five clean skincare products make is easy and affordable for the busy mom to still take care of her skin – and if it’s all you manage to slather on in the AM (like me), you can feel confident running out the door with a naked face.

  1. Origins Ginzing Refreshing Eye Cream

Eye creams can get super expensive. The full size version (0.5 oz) is only $32.00 and will last you a lifetime. A little goes a long way. They also make this on-the-go mini tube for $25.00. I’ve been using this product for years and have tried many other eye creams. This one is my favorite because not only does it immediately brighten and add a glow to your dark bags under your eyes, but it contains actual caffeine from coffee to ~literally~ wake your eyes up. So, for all those days you feel like “I need to soak my eyes in steaming hot coffee” – this will do the trick without the irreparable burns. Vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and verified Clean at Sephora. Also, the little glass jar can be re-used instead of tossed!

2. Honest Beauty Vitamin C Radiance Serum

Like eye creams, serums can get expensive as well. This full size tube (1 oz) of vitamin C serum is only $28.00 and lasts a while – even with daily use. I love this serum because it is “clean” (made without parabens, BHT, synthetic dyes, phthalates, mineral oil & synthetic fragrances) and it stays on all day. Most days I only use my Origins eye cream and this serum and that’s it – no makeup. But at the end of the day when I wash my face, I can fee the serum is still there. It also has this iridescent shimmer/glow to it that instantly brightens your whole face. On top of the Vitamin C – it contains artichoke extract (minimizes pores) and hyaluronic acid.

3. First Aid Beauty 5 in 1 Face Cream SPF 30

I’m a big fan of First Aid Beauty and have been for a while. Their Ultra Repair Cream is my go-to moisturizer in all seasons. This 5 in 1 Face Cream takes everything I love about their Ultra Repair moisturizers and adds in sun protection, preventing wrinkles by filtering UVA/UVB rays with Zinc Oxide. For $40 you get a solid weapon against all the icky stuff that ages your skin. Vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, recyclable packaging and verified Clean at Sephora.

4. Mad Hippie Hydrating Nutrient Mist

If you don’t know about Mad Hippie, they are a top natural skincare company that also focuses on conservation efforts. All Mad Hippie products are free of Parabens, synthetic fragrance, dyes, petrochemicals, PEGs, and SLS, and are cruelty free! I love this product because a full size spray bottle (4 oz) is only $20 and it’s fast to use while loading your skin with good stuff. I spritz some on in the morning and/or before bed, or throughout the day for a refresher (if I’m not wearing makeup). This spray is loaded with natural antioxidants and moisturizers such as milk thistle, resveratrol, green tea, white pine bark and pomegranate seed extract, to give your skin a fast and easy spritz of pure, healthy goodness.

5. Honest Beauty Makeup Remover Wipes

I’ve tried a bunch of makeup remover wipes and I, along with many women, always go back to the Neutrogena makeup remover wipes because nothing seems to work as well. I just recently tried these looking for a clean option for wipes and I was thoroughly impressed. They remove makeup and grime just as well as the Neutrogena wipes and come without all the nasty chemicals! They also smell ten times better and don’t run you extra money for the clean ingredients ($7 for a pack of 30). Free of parabens, silicones, synthetic fragrances and pthalates, and always cruelty-free.

Drop your favorite clean skincare products below!

lifestyle, Personal, Pregnancy

My Virtual Baby Shower

Covid-19 has really thrown a wrench in every pregnant mama’s journey. We’ve had to re-set our expectations and adapt to a new way of doing things while pregnant, which unfortunately has meant a lot of replanning, cancelling or postponing of baby showers. I’m sure you’ve cried at those videos online of surprise drive-by showers like I have. Or maybe it was just my hormones…?

My mom, mother-in-law, sister and best friend had been planning my baby shower. It was going to be at the Ellwood House, which is a beautiful local and historic property. About 60 important women in my life were going to be there. They had done so much work and then this struck – so they re-grouped and planned something different.

At first, when my mom brought up these “virtual showers” that people do, I was not on board. I was just depressed and mopey and blah. I gave myself about a day to feel sorry for myself and then it was time to get on board with the new plan. We looked at websites and businesses that claim to specialize in virtual showers. We looked at using Zoom or other group video chat forums. After lots of research, we decided to utilize Facebook. And it was probably the BEST choice we could have made.

I’m half writing this to tell you about my shower, but also for you to take notes on how to do this yourself! I know a lot of states are opening up, but there are still plenty of women who aren’t feeling comfortable with large gatherings (understandably so). Hopefully this helps you!

First, we had to notify everyone we sent an invite to that we would be hosting the shower on the same day and time as planned, but on Facebook. We created a private Facebook group and invited all our shower guests to the page. I was kept off the page until the day of the shower! So, before I saw the page, they had posts and games started that were getting all the guests excited for the big day!

Some post ideas:

  • Link and pin your registry
  • Play with Facebook polls and have everyone vote on things like, who will baby look like? What sex will the baby be?
  • Baby pictures of the parents-to-be
  • Game cards to be printed and used during the “Live” shower
  • Posts asking for how guests met the mom/dad/parent to be, or asking for advice for the parents to be
  • Guess baby’s due date
  • “Guess how many” games – for example, we posted a large baby bottle full of animal crackers and had everyone guess how many for a prize

We also wrote a personal letter from Matt and I to our guests to post on the page before the shower, explaining how the Facebook Live event would work and thanking everyone for being so supportive and flexible with us during this pandemic. I think this is an absolute MUST, especially if you have older family who aren’t super tech savvy.

My MIL also went “Live” a few days before the actual shower which let people get familiar with viewing the Live, and she answered any questions that people had about the Live shower.

We used Babylist for our registry and had everything shipped to our house. So, my mom, MIL and sister came over and opened all the shipping boxes and wrapped every single gift. A true labor of love… There were a lot!

On the day of, my mom, MIL and sister came over and decorated our living room for the big event. We then went live and opened all our gifts with breaks where we played games and this mama got a break! We were able to monitor our guests’ live comments on our phones as we went along and could respond to the camera, almost like we were all together. It lasted about two hours and could not have gone better!

Winners were announced for all the games and they will get Starbucks or Amazon gift cards from my amazing shower planners. We are also sending out small favors with our thank you cards, so the only thing missing really was food. All other aspects of a baby shower were brought to life virtually!

I cried when I first saw the living room full of gifts. I cried during and after the shower. I was an emotional mess – because we felt so grateful. Yeah, it sucked not being able to hug and see everyone in-person, but the love and support we felt from everyone joining our Live and seeing all the posts on our Facebook Group from everyone was overwhelming in the best way.

After the shower, we posted pictures of the shower and of baby’s nursery, as well as thanked people for gifts that showed up after the fact. I can still go on the page and re-live the magic of that day! And if anyone misses the Live, it stays up as a video post so they can watch it later when they have time.

I hope this helps any mamas who are planning a virtual shower – and if you have any questions at all, comment below or DM me on instagram!

Personal, Pregnancy

What’s in our Nursery

Hello, friends!! I’ve gotten a lot of questions about stuff in Brooks’ nursery from posts on my instagram stories, so I decided to make a blog post with all the links you need to shop.

Let’s start with the crib and dresser!

A loooot of research went into what crib to get. My mom and grandma were generous enough to go in on both together, but kept me a part of the selection process while we researched safety and reviews on basically every crib in existence.

My checklist for the crib included: modern, white, convertible, good reviews and safety ratings, Greenguard Gold Certified, around $200 and a known brand. This Carter’s by DaVinci Morgan 4-in-1 Convertible Crib checked off everything on the list! It’s only $179.00 and the back of the crib will turn into a stylish headboard by the time we convert it to that level. It’s sturdy and does not have a weird paint smell which many moms worry about!

The dresser is the Storkcraft Brookside 6 Drawer Double Dresser which I can’t find in-stock anywhere! We ordered it from Wayfair for about $200. A comparable Storkcraft dresser with similar safety features is linked here.

The beaded light fixture was super popular with you guys – it took tons of research to find one that wasn’t over $200. This Safavieh beaded pendant light is only $175 and actually gives off plenty of light. I love it – Matt did NOT love installing it though!

The rug linked here is also Safavieh (I love this brand) and comes in four color variations and tons of size variations. Ours is the beige/ivory and we ordered a 4′ x 6′.

The chair and pouf are also from Walmart! The HomePop Accent Chair comes in several colors and is a great price for the quality, ringing up at $130 when we ordered. (Price varies). Ours is the color cream. I was surprised by its quality.

The pouf is linked here and is only $40 in the color Ivory. It also comes in several colors (price varies). It makes the perfect foot rest with this chair!

Our curtains are from Target and are an unbeatable price. Buying curtains can be so expensive especially when you have to usually buy per panel. These Chenille Chevron Light Filtering Curtains come in a set of two and are a quality, heavier fabric that lets just enough light through but not too much. The set of two are only $35 and they come in grey and light blue – white is currently sold out.

The LAST addition to the nursery I really want to share is our name sign for above the crib! We ordered from CarpenterFarmhouse on Etsy and went with the 30″ sign, which came to about $70. You can customize the paint and font colors too!

And for a dose of reality: here is the current state of affairs in the nursery! Nesting has begun!

Personal, Pregnancy

Pregnant in a Pandemic

So many of us have landed in this unusual, unexpected and terrifying place. Some are in their first trimester, terrified of having a suppressed immune system during this. Some are nurses and bankers and grocery store workers still reporting to work. Many are going to OB appointments alone, cancelling gender reveal parties and baby showers, doing all their long-awaited shopping online. Some are delivering a baby in the midst of this, unable to have their mom, dad, sister and support systems present. None of this is in the “what to expect” books. None of this is normal.

You know what makes it worse? Shamers who are NOT pregnant during this, telling us what we can and can’t grieve, because we should just be “grateful.” I’m here to tell you that you can be grateful for your baby on the way and still grieve all the things we are missing out on. You can be grateful and still angry that we had these joys taken from us or altered. Nobody has the right to tell you how you should be handling this and how you should be feeling during this unanticipated obstacle of your pregnancy.

As a bit of comfort, however, I’m also here to remind you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There’s something comforting about being scared and unsure with other unsure and scared people. It’s like walking into class on the day of a massive test, and having everyone else tell you they didn’t study and are going to bomb the test too. It doesn’t change the fact that you are going to bomb that test, but it’s oddly comforting to know there’s a group of you feeling the same. We are here, we are scared and uneasy, and we are an untapped army of support for each other. Let’s have open, honest and real conversations and be there for each other.

My husband and I have been working from home for a few weeks now. We just closed on our first house a little less than two weeks ago. So, I was stressed before all this started. Being an attorney can be stressful. Working full-time in a professional career while physically uncomfortable, emotional, hangry and sleepy can be stressful. Buying a house for the first time is stressful. Packing and moving is stressful. Pregnancy on its own is stressful. Having an anxiety/panic disorder on top of all this (and being unmedicated due to pregnancy) is what you would think would be the cherry on top. BUT NO – NOW let’s throw in the plot twist of a damn unprecedented worldwide pandemic and you have the perfect recipe for a complete mental breakdown.

That being said, I’ve been focusing SUPER hard on what is helping me through this and what is not. I’m no expert here – just an anxious pregnant lady learning by trial and error – but I think some of these tips will work for you too.

Distractions

Okay – hear me out. I don’t care if this is the best psychological way to technically deal with this. All I know is this is helping me. Keeping moving and busy. Keeping my mind focused on anything other than the negatives. Netflix, podcasts, reading (all e-books and audiobooks are obtainable from your couch – no excuses), cleaning, housework, pinteresting, creating/editing your online baby registry, adult coloring books, board games, cooking new recipes, online shopping (for baby, for nursery, for yourself…), blogging, creating, starting that side hustle you’ve always talked about – KEEP YOUR MIND BUSY. Downtime just sitting and thinking can lead to a downward spiral of negative thoughts and soon, you feel the walls closing in. It’s okay to set time aside to think about what’s going on and to watch the news/scroll twitter and facebook for updates, but you don’t need to fill your day with it. In fact, you shouldn’t.

Check these out:

Dave Hollis – Get Out of Your Own Way E-book

You Are Fucking Awesome: A Motivating Swear Word Word Coloring Book for Adults

Joanna Gaines’s Magnolia Table Cookbook Volume 2 (releases April 7th!)

Avengers Monopoly

Limit News Intake

This stems from where the previous section left off. In the beginning of this, I was spending ALL DAY – I’m not kidding – all day, every day scrolling and refreshing twitter and facebook with the news on in the background just soaking up every bit of chaos there was to soak up. After this became noticeably unproductive and unhealthy, and I was catching my anxiety spiking while reading, I realized I needed to limit my intake. It was hard at first because I felt like if I wasn’t refreshing my twitter feed constantly, I would miss out on the latest social distancing recommendations and the latest political press briefing (a weird FOMO). To my surprise, limiting my exposure did not lead to the world ending. Some days I will watch the president’s and governor’s press briefings, other days I will catch the recaps of the briefings on twitter or from my husband and mom. If I notice a certain person on my facebook feed is posting things about Covid-19 that aren’t helping my anxiety, I mute them. If I notice I’m reading tweets and my anxiety starts spiking, I close out. If I am having a conversation with someone about Covid-19 and it’s not beneficial to my mind, I cut it short. Protect your mind and well-being unapologetically. Limit your news intake to what is necessary to stay informed.

Gratitude Journaling and Meditation

I used to write in a gratitude journal a couple years ago but haven’t since. I originally started when I read Rachel Hollis’ books – Girl Wash Your Face and Girl Stop Apologizing. Unfortunately, I struggle with being a morning person so that morning practice slowly faded out of my life. I was inspired by other women on instagram (it can actually be a good thing sometimes) to pick up gratitude journaling again during this crazy time.

You don’t need a fancy gratitude journal to do this. I made Matt do it this morning with me and gave him a notebook and told him what to journal based on my gratitude journal’s guides. Do this first thing in the morning, with a cup of coffee and some meditation, massage, ocean waves or nature sounds in the background (Spotify has unlimited options).

  1. Three things you are grateful for today. Get detailed!
  2. Someone you are grateful for today:
  3. Today I am: (perfect for feelings or manifestations!) “Today I am strong, invincible, powerful…” “Today I am stressed, but optimistic…”
  4. Three goals or intentions for today:

If you want to order your own guided gratitude journal, check these out:

Green Inspired Simply Grateful Journal – $12.00 at Target

Erin Condren PetitePlanner – Gratitude Journal $14.00

If meditation is more up your alley, check out this post on the 15 Best Meditation and Mindfulness Apps for 2020.

Give Yourself Grace re: Productivity

I added these screenshots because they are IMPORTANT. If you are working from home and you feel stressed that you aren’t being productive enough or you’re finding it hard to focus – give yourself grace. We were abruptly uprooted from our daily routines and are learning to adapt to a new way of life in a scary time and are expected to not miss a beat with our jobs. Be patient with yourself, do your best, and remember the above!

Also important – stop comparing yourself to the bloggers on instagram who seem to be living their most glamorous lives during this. Their job and source of income is literally based on posting and promoting a glamorous daily lifestyle. We could all achieve that too, if we were being paid mass loads of money to post on instagram. We aren’t. Don’t feel inadequate for getting through your day without doing pilates and making a picture-perfect whipped coffee drink for instagram.

Take a Walk!

The best thing I’ve incorporated into our daily routine is a walk around the neighborhood first thing when we get up (observing social distancing of course!) We live in a neighborhood now full of kids and families, and there’s something comforting about seeing everyone else at home, kids out riding their bikes and drawing with chalk, dads playing basketball with their kids. Take it all in. It restores a sense of normalcy.

While out – watch for decorated windows and doors and chalk messages on the sidewalks! We have a lot of #hearthunt participants in our neighborhood where people are posting colorful hearts on their doors, some naming people they are thankful for in these times, like nurses, teachers, first responders, etc.

Create a Pregnant Mama Support Squad

If you don’t already have a few other pregnant mamas you can talk and vent to, find them! If there’s someone from high school who is also pregnant right now, but you haven’t talked in years, reach out! Ask them how they are doing and form your own little web of pregnant mama support. You may have a great support system already, but there’s something special about having women to talk to who are going through this at the same time as you. If you don’t know anyone pregnant – I’m here! Message me!

If you are a pregnant or new mama right now – comment below with what’s helping you cope through this!

Personal, Pregnancy

20 Weeks!

It’s absolutely nuts to think we are officially halfway through this pregnancy! I can’t necessarily say it’s flown by, since the first trimester felt like an endless drag of illness and survival mode. But I’m definitely not ready for the next 20 weeks to fly by either!

We still have so much to do. We are moving at the end of March, so the nursery can’t be started. We won’t know the gender until our reveal on Saturday, so we haven’t really bought much for baby. I feel like I still have a million books to read and a ton of learning to do before baby arrives. Not sure 20 weeks will be enough time…. But also, not sure I’ll ever be fully “ready” for such a big, new thing.

We are 7 weeks into the second trimester and I can tell you, the promises of the second trimester being the best are true. I feel great. I am still exercising (just swimming and walking for joints and labor prep). I have gained back the weight I lost with pneumonia and morning sickness and am the heaviest I’ve ever been – in the best way! For having a joint disorder, I’m doing pretty well keeping my dislocations and joint slips to a minimum. And my favorite perk yet – I can finally call myself a morning person! I have always been one to sleep heavy and deep; anywhere, any time. On weekends my husband and I would sleep til about 1 PM. I think baby is trying to prepare me for when he/she arrives, because I’ve been waking up early (around 5 AM) and getting a jumpstart to my day, which I’ve never been able to do. Rachel Hollis, author of Girl Wash Your Face and Girl Stop Apologizing, often talks about the benefits of getting up early and jumping into the day. I finally see what she’s talking about! There’s something spectacular about giving yourself time to fully wake up, sip coffee, scroll instagram, read a magazine – write a blog post 😉 – get a headstart on your work for the day, do a little more with your hair and makeup sometimes. It helps me feel like I’m maintaining a little more control over my life in this moment of a lot of big new things coming at us. In addition to all the positives, I am feeling a little more difficulty with bending over, walking long periods and getting fatigued more easily.

One of the highlights of the past week I can’t fail to mention, is I am finally feeling baby move! I found out I have an anterior placenta (where the placenta is between baby and the front of your stomach instead of back towards the spine) which makes it more difficult to feel baby early on. Typically, they say you will feel baby move between 18-25 weeks, later if it’s your first. I felt baby move during the 19th week – and it wasn’t like anyone described. People and literature tell you it will feel like tiny gas bubbles or flutters. My first movement I felt was a massive somersault or flip that about knocked me out of my work chair. Since then, though, it HAS been a lot of flutters, bumps and kicks! After waiting month to month to check on baby with a heart doppler, it’s so nice to have reassurance throughout the day that baby is good and moving in there.

We had our 20 week ultrasound yesterday – and let me tell you – my bump best friend was right. It was absolutely mind-blowing! For those who don’t know, for a normal pregnancy, you typically have an ultrasound around 8-10 weeks, and then await for another at 20 weeks which is the full anatomy scan. They look at all the little details of baby, including the lips, the fingers, the bones, the sex. Then they measure all the parts of baby. The 20 week is important if you skip genetic testing because they can see any deformities or complications with baby. They can see where your placenta is, check the placental insertion, see how baby is turned (which doesn’t really matter this early). Luckily, baby was looking great and our technician was able to see what the gender was, even with our baby moving around like CRAZY. I do have to go back to get more images of baby’s head, because baby’s head was so low and we couldn’t get he/she to move the head for different angles (even with jumping jacks!). It is mind-blowing to see this baby inside of you, moving, kicking, flapping its hands, and thinking – “I am growing this!” It was probably the first time I fully realized that I’m having a freaking baby! I also realized I shouldn’t have a Starbucks Pink Drink before an ultrasound because then baby won’t sit still.

Even though we had our 20 week ultrasound, Matt and I won’t know the gender until this Saturday when we have a small reveal get-together with some immediate friends and family. Matt and I chose to find out with everyone, but now we are regretting it seeing this little envelope with our baby’s gender sitting on the TV stand. It’s so hard not to open it! My best friend had her gender reveal last weekend and it made me so excited for ours! And I’m always feeling so excited, grateful and blessed that this baby, whatever gender, will have an amazing soul to grow up with.

I’m so excited to share baby M’s gender with you all come this weekend! Stay tuned!

Personal, Pregnancy

How to Fight Morning Sickness

If you read my previous post, you know that I had my bout of morning sickness in the first trimester for about 8 weeks – the same 8 weeks I was super ill. It was a terrible cycle – I was so nauseous I couldn’t hold down fluids (not even water) so I wasn’t helping myself get better. The violent coughing from the pneumonia made it impossible to not puke. So, as you can imagine, I tried just about every trick in the book to help combat the morning sickness. Here’s what worked for me:

Ginger Ale

Ginger ale has always been my go-to when hungover. People say it doesn’t actually help, but the ginger taste, ice cold and carbonation has always helped settle my stomach in all situations. I kept a stash at home, in my car and at work and drank it almost exclusively for weeks. The sugar intake was probably bad, but it was either that or be dehydrated which wasn’t an option for baby.

Ginger Tea

Herbal teas are tricky during pregnancy because, well, herbs are tricky. Mixed herbal teas tend to have several different herbs so you’ll find yourself googling a million herbs and their safety relative to pregnancy while standing in the tea aisle. Go for pure ginger and lemon, or ginger honey tea. Or, get a pregnancy-specific ginger tea like this organic, caffeine-free orange ginger tea from Pink Stork. As always, consult with your doctor.

Ginger Tummy Drops

There are many brands of tummy drops, but I prefer ones with a strong ginger taste (can you tell that ginger was my go-to?!) Try these Raspberry Ginger drops from Pink Stork.

Sea Bands

I’ve had major motion sickness issues my whole life, so these bands were not new to me, but I didn’t think to use them for morning sickness until they came in my first Bump Box!

Basically, they are wristbands with a metal ball that presses gently on the inside of your wrist for targeted acupressure that helps relieve nausea.

Tons of Water

This may be obvious to some, but staying overly-hydrated helps a ton. I ended up keeping a big bottle of water next to my bed and would drink as much as I could in the morning before I sat up or tried to move.

Crackers and Water on Night Stand

This wraps in with the above, but keep crackers on your night stand with your water as well. Munch on them in the morning before you start moving.

Don’t Drink While Eating

This was a tip my family doctor gave me. If you’re having trouble holding food down, eat your meal without any water or beverage, wait a while, and then drink. It helps prevent vomiting.

Bland Foods

Just like when we were kids with the stomach flu – the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet is key! I ate a lot of cheerios, plain crackers, and plain vegetable broth or ramen noodles, applesauce and toast during this phase. Anything is better than nothing. Avoid foods with strong aromas!

Pregnancy

What I learned in my First Trimester

I’ve been debating if I should make one post on this topic or break this down into multiple posts, because there’s truly so much to talk about. Consider this post an over-arching summary of what I figured out along the way, but expect more posts to come getting into the nitty gritty details of it all! Let’s talk about the bigger things I discovered during my whirlwind first trimester of my first pregnancy:

Your Immune System Dies

I feel like this is one of those things that is assumed to be common knowledge that I was completely unaware of. (I’ve had a lot of moments like this so far). When you become pregnant, your immune system typically weakens which not only makes you more susceptible to illness, but prevents you from getting better like you normally would.

I experienced this first-hand when I got the flu in November. My PCP told me to just wait it out and I would be fine. I never got better. The flu turned into pneumonia when I was across the country after my doctor told me I was fine because I didn’t have a fever. I called them to tell them I was extremely ill and needed a prescription for some kind of antibiotic right away (this was two weeks later!). They fought me saying “you had a virus, we can’t give you antibiotics” – completely ignoring my new symptoms. By the time I got home to Illinois, the pneumonia had turned into the beginning of sepsis (where the infection spreads into the bloodstream which can cause organ failure and kill you quickly). I was then admitted to the hospital for three days, worked on recovery for about a week, and THEN – the pneumonia came back!

I have had the flu many times before in my life. I have never struggled recovering like I did here, and I have NEVER been so sick in my life. The entire sickness period lasted almost my entire first trimester. Invest in a stockpile of germex. Take it everywhere. Get your flu shot. Stay away from sniffly friends, family and co-workers. Don’t let them tell you “I’m fine, it’s just allergies.” Up your vitamin C. Don’t feel weird for wearing a medical mask on public transportation. Be selfish and protect yourself, and baby!

Early-detection pregnancy tests

When you’re actively trying to conceive, you want to know ASAP if it worked this cycle or not. I bought a few rounds of the early-detection pregnancy tests that claim to tell you 6 days before your missed period. None of them worked. I even tested the day before my missed period and they were negative. So – I went to a Halloween party and had a couple glasses of wine. Then my period never showed up! Turns out I was pregnant, but I had to wait for a couple days after my missed period for the positive results. If your early detection test is negative – wait and try again!

OBGYN appointments

The first few appointments I had with my OB – I felt like a total idiot. My first appointment, they did a full gyno exam and I was not aware that would be happening. That bothered me. I hate going to the gyno and need to mentally prepare for it, so when I walked in and they told me to strip it down – I was pissed! So, expect that! Also, nobody told me I need to show up to each OB appointment with a full bladder, because they test urine every time. (This might not be true for all doctors, but mine does). Also, when I had my early ultrasound at 8-9 weeks, I brought my husband. We were so anxious to see baby was okay since I had been so ill. I pictured the ultrasound as a usual tummy ultrasound. NOPE. Matt got to sit in the room while I had a vaginal ultrasound, which neither one of us expected! I feel like all of this is so routine for OB doctors that they forget to inform you what to expect at your appointments, so don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re like me and need to know what you’re walking into at all times.

Morning Sickness: When will it end?

When you first find out you’re pregnant, one of the first things many of us do is start ordering books, researching blogs, following podcasts, etc. All the reading and information out there says that your morning sickness will end by the second trimester. I was surprised to hear from so many women in my life that that wasn’t true. Many women have morning sickness well into the second trimester, or even throughout their entire pregnancy! Luckily, I was the rule and not the exception. I had morning sickness conveniently (or maybe inconveniently?) at the same time I was extremely ill, so I got it all over with at once! By about week 10 my morning sickness was calming down. By the second trimester, it was gone. Just know, every pregnancy is unique and you may experience ongoing morning sickness. So, I recommend finding out what works for you – whether it be ginger tea, nausea candies, sea-sickness wristbands, munching on crackers in bed before you get up in the morning, etc.

A lot of medicine is actually safe for pregnancy

Like many women, as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I tried to jump off all my meds right away. I always thought that you should avoid taking any medicine while pregnant because, well, it’s just better that way. I went off my anxiety meds and stopped taking my daily Zyrtec and occasional Benadryl. I was totally on-board with this whole “natural pregnancy” train. Well, I quickly got over that when I landed in the hospital and got loaded up with antibiotics, Tylenol, Benadryl (because I was allergic to the antibiotics), etc. Throughout my time in the hospital and my ongoing care, I’ve learned that it’s actually okay to take certain medicines when you’re pregnant and baby will be just fine. Typically, all OB doctors have their “safe list” and will give you one at your first OB appointment. Getting over my fear of taking medicine while pregnant has helped a lot during this pregnancy. I still try to limit any medicine intake, even though the medicine I’m using is safe. But let my traumatic hospital stay help you – you’re not a bad mom-to-be if you pop some Tylenol or a Benadryl here and there.

Caffeine Clarification

Like the medicine situation above, I started tapering my caffeine intake when we decided to start TTC. Law school really put me into a bad relationship with caffeine – I was drinking probably 50-60 ounces a day on average. When I found out I was pregnant, I was down to about two drinks a day. I cut it out completely at this point and SUFFERED. I had a two-week withdrawal period where I was having daily migraines and could not keep my eyes open at my desk. I always just thought you can’t have caffeine when pregnant. Apparently, that is not true, and I really wish I had known that before I killed myself for two weeks! My OB actually told me, without me asking, that caffeine is okay as long as you’re not over-doing it. My further research has revealed that you should stay under 200 mg caffeine per day. So now, I get creative but still keep my intake low. For example, this morning I stopped at Casey’s and filled my coffee cup 2/3 decaf and topped it off with dark roast (lowest caffeine content). long story short – caffeine and coffee is actually okay (as long as your doctor says so for your specific pregnancy) – so don’t let anyone mom-shame you for needing a little boost!

The Great Pineapple Debate

Google will be your best – and worst – friend during the first trimester, and really, your entire pregnancy. I found myself constantly googling if everything was safe (and still do now that I’m in the second trimester!). There’s just so much to know, and it can feel overwhelming. What cheese is safe? Is it safe to go bowling? Is it safe to eat this? What about this? What about this?

One of my first cravings was for pineapple. One day, after stuffing my face with a ton of pineapple, I suddenly got the google urge and of course, a bunch of scary stories popped up claiming that pineapple can cause miscarriage. I researched this endlessly, because obviously I thought I had just done something terrible. Turns out, there are a lot of old wives tales that say pineapple isn’t safe, but there is no medical evidence to support that fact. I also heard Laura from the Big Fat Positive Podcast discuss this – she said she found that you’d have to eat like 7 pineapples in one sitting for anything to happen. The concern comes from a certain enzyme found primarily in the core of the pineapple which you don’t eat anyway. The enzyme, bromelain, is thought to contribute to cervical ripening, BUT, there is no evidence that supports the notion that pineapple is dangerous during pregnancy. As always, confirm with your own doctor.

What did you learn in your first trimester? Let me know below!

lifestyle, Recipes

Vegan Gluten-Free French Toast

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Hey hi hello, Tiana the brunch lover here. You know what’s so frustrating? Going to gluten-free friendly brunch spots but they don’t EVER have gluten-free french toast, and it’s definitely not vegan.

I’ve been experimenting with flaxseed meal as an egg replacement for a while now, using it for everything from cupcakes to pizza crust. I was craving french toast the other day and decided to try using flax meal as an egg replacement for french toast. GUESS WHAT! It actually worked, and it was delicious.

Here’s how I did it! You will need:

  • 1-2 packages Schar Deli Style Bread
  • Flax Meal (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill)
  • Almondmilk
  • Vanilla flavoring/extract
  • Vegan Butter

The key with using flaxseed meal as an egg replacement is always using one part flax meal to three parts water. To make one “egg,” you would typically do one tablespoon flax meal and three tablespoons warm water. You then let it sit for about five minutes, mixing in between, until it forms an egg-white texture. For this recipe, using only one package Schar bread, I did 1/4 cup of flaxseed meal and 3/4 cup warm water. After it began forming an eggy texture, I mixed in about half a cup of cold almondmilk.

Whisking the mixture, I then added a teaspoon of vanilla flavoring to cover up the flax taste (vanilla almondmilk will help with this too!).

From there, you simply dunk the bread in the mixture, being careful to not let it sit because the gluten-free bread will crumble easily, and slap it on a hot, buttered frying pan.

You will use A LOT of butter, as the flaxmeal coating on the bread is very sticky. It might be better on a non-stick pan, but we use stainless steel over here.

Add butter to the pan as needed, and cook to desired browning level. Remember – you don’t have to worry about cooking the egg-soaked bread to the right temperature because it’s eggless!

We topped ours with blueberry preserves and powdered sugar! The blueberry spread compliments the buttery taste of the toast so well! If you’re a plain butter and syrup kinda person, try Walden Farms calorie-free pancake syrup.

Let me know how it works for you! ALSO – comment below with your favorite french toast topping!

 

lifestyle

This is for everybody.. Girl, you gotta take care of your body!

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If you knew my title was from Queen Ari’s song “Get Well Soon” then you already know what this post is about – self-care.

I am a huge fan of staying in and having an evening on the weekend to recharge and rejuvenate. As a young lawyer, I don’t treat myself the best during the week, and I’m sure all my boss women reading this can relate. I stay up way too late, wake up early, don’t drink enough water, skip workouts, fall asleep at least once a week without taking my makeup off, build up tension from five days at my computer screen, and so on…

Us boss women tend to put our career at the top or near the top of our priority lists with our families and loved ones. Fill the middle with going out with friends, side hustles, hobbies, sports/fitness, random commitments, etc. and skim down to the bottom… Yep, there we are! We put our own bodies, our own health and well-being, emotional stability, and joy, WAY at the very bottom of our list. It’s only natural to do this when you’re hustling like we do. I don’t know one boss woman in my life who doesn’t struggle with taking care of themselves as good as she should be. It normally shows up in the form of not sleeping enough, or over-working and not making time for themselves that they need.

THIS is why I’ve started blocking out chunks of time on my weekend to take care of my mind and body. On top of sleeping in and taking yoga on the weekends, I have added at least one night to be alone and do a full relaxation routine. Once you start this routine with me, I think you’ll understand JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out). See: my inspiration for this post – Kourt Kardashian/Poosh.

Declutter

First thing’s first: pick a space to spend your night. Your bedroom, your living room, whatever. Choose it and declutter it before you start winding down. You cannot fully relax in a cluttered space.

Attire

Two things: 1. Fluffy robe; 2. Slippers.

Victoria’s Secret has some robes on sale right now in a variety of colors for $20! These cozy faux fur slippers from Pottery Barn are currently on sale for $13.99 in blush and ivory.

Aromatherapy

If you don’t already have an essential oil diffuser, you need one asap. You can find a good selection at your local TJ Maxx, or even at grocery stores like Hyvee. Here are some other options as well, including the white Pure Enrichment diffuser (the one I own and love) (click the images to shop!):

Pure Enrichment PureSpa Natural Essential Oils Diffuser81BwzlslqJL._SX522_.jpgUltimate Aromatherapy Diffuser & Essential Oil Set - Ultrasonic Diffuser & Top 10 Essential Oils - 300ml Diffuser with 4 Timer & 7 Ambient Light Settings - Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils - Lavender

Start your relaxation process by using a few drops of lavender oil (my favorite) or eucalyptus oil. Other top choice oils for relaxation, sleep, and stress relief are frankincense, chamomile, and bergamot. If you have a himalayan salt lamp, turn it on for an added relaxing glow to your space. (Click the pics to shop):

Bergamot Essential Oil 10 ml

Frankincense Essential Oil 10 mlImage result for vitruvi lavender essential oil

Playlist

My favorite Spotify playlists for this kind of night are “Relaxing Massage,” “SPA Treatment,” or “Ocean Escapes.”

Skincare Routine

Once you have your diffuser and playlist going, and you’re in your cozy evening attire, start your full-out skincare routine. I’m not talking the simple makeup wipe and face wash routine you do when you’re rushing to get to bed – I mean your full. out. routine. Remove your makeup, wash your face with a quality wash, exfoliate, and wax or shave. Save your moisturizer, serums and night creams for later… You’ll be doing a mask! Click my favs below to shop:

First Aid Beauty Face CleanserTULA Purifying CleanserImage result for flawless by finishing touch

Aromatherapy Skin-Safe Oil

This is a way to take your essential oils to the next level. Most essential oils are not created to be applied directly to the skin. What I do is take my wax melts warmer and (making sure it’s free of wax melt residue first) melt down some coconut oil. Then I add in a few drops of lavender essential oil and mix it, shutting off my warmer before the oil becomes hot. Once in bed, I massage this into my temples. (I stole this from my yoga teacher–10/10 recommend).

Heat and Massage Therapy

A must for me is my heating bean bag. I found one here that is similar and lavender scented for added relaxation. I love placing this around my neck and shoulders, down the length or my spine, and on my lower back. For maximum relaxation, wrap your neck and shoulders while doing your face mask and massaging your temples with your oil.

If you are one that suffers from major muscle tension, I recommend investing in an electric massager. I use this HoMedics Shiatsu massager and it works wonders when my back starts spasming (it also heats up!).

Face Masks

A relaxing night of self-care is not complete without a face mask. Try some Sephora Clean verified sheet masks I hand-picked for you below (click to shop):

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Deep Breathing

Once you’re laying in bed, complete with face mask, playlist, temples oiled, all the good stuff, try some deep breathing. All I do is my yoga breathing: breathe in slow and long through my nose, as much air as I can fill my lungs with, and then exhale slow and long until you feel like all the “stale” air in your lungs has left – until you can’t exhale any more air. Think of it as clearing your lungs of stale air and toxins, filling them completely with new and fresh air. This will help clear your mind and reduce anxiety, allowing you to maximize your relaxation.