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!