Friday, October 30, 2015

What I Learned // October 2015

And just like that October is over and we're entering into the holiday season! I can't even believe it. Before we head into planning our Thanksgiving menus, here's what I learned in October.

The secrets to delicious chocolate chip cookies. My mother-in-law graciously shared her tips with me for perfect cookies, and I successfully made a batch this month. One of the things I had been doing wrong was allowing the cookies to cool on wire racks rather than directly on the counter. Game changer! One evening over these cookies + milk, Caleb said, "I'm so glad you learned how to make cookies like my mom."

The postpartum wardrobe is all about the accessories. I've resigned myself to the fact that until I'm done nursing, I just won't be able to be back to my pre-pregnancy size. To make do until then, I'm adding in all the accessories to brighten up my wardrobe of basics.

Running with a friend pushes you to go faster. My friend Jessi and I signed up for a 5K as a goal to get our butts back in shape after having babies this summer. We walk together once a week, but we've never run together, and I've always just run by myself. Our 5K was a couple of weekends ago, and we stayed together the whole time! Jessi pushed me to go faster than I normally do, and we ended up finishing with my fastest 5K time ever (even pre-baby!). I'm still pretty slow, but it encouraged me to know that I can push myself to go a little faster than I'm normally comfortable with. More thoughts on running here.

I do not like Brussels sprouts. I didn't have high hopes that I would, but I roasted a bunch to try out anyway. They were weird and not as gross as lima beans, but not something I would like to eat again. Also, I learned that it's really hard to pronounce the "s" at the end of Brussels when you say Brussels sprouts without sounding like a weirdo. I just kind of slur them together.

I am more easily spooked since becoming a mom. I started reading the newest Kate Morton book this week, and I am getting too freaked out to read it in bed at night! And it's not even scary by any means! It's a little suspenseful like all of her books, but for some reason this one is making it so that I can only read it during the day. It is very good, by the way, so if you love her books, definitely pick this one up!

Did you learn anything in October?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Macaroni & Cheese

I've recently been going through my cookbooks, looking for new recipes to try out as well as trying to determine which cookbooks I'd like to hold on to and which ones I never use. The Gourmet Cookbook is most definitely in the "to-keep" pile; everything I've made out of it is absolutely delicious. I tried the mac & cheese recipe out about a month ago, and I loved that I could subtly taste the Dijon mustard in the sauce. If you're looking for a mega cheesy recipe, this is not it, but it's delicious and creamy and perfect for these rainy fall days.

Macaroni & Cheese
for topping:
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 cups panko or coarse dry bread crumbs
1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 4 oz)

for cheese sauce & macaroni:
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 3/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 1 pound)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound elbow macaroni

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish.

Make the topping:
Stir together butter, panko, and cheese in a bowl until well combined.

Make the sauce:
Melt butter in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat. Whisk in flour and red pepper flakes and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes to make a roux. Whisk in milk in a slow stream, then bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer, whisking occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in cream, Cheddar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Remove pot from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper to prevent a skin from forming.

Cook the macaroni & assemble the dish:
Cook macaroni in a 6-quart pot of boiling salted water (1 Tbsp salt per every 4 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water and drain macaroni.

Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl, then transfer to baking dish (mixture will be loose).

Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni. Bake until top is golden and bubbling, 20-30 minutes. Serves 8-12.

source: recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook

P.S. More mac & cheese recipes.

Monday, October 26, 2015

What to do with leftover Halloween candy

If you're stuck with lots of extra candy after this week and need a few ideas to use it up (besides shoving it all in your mouth piece after piece), I rounded up a few recipes that I wouldn't mind trying. Here's the cheat sheet, with recipes at the links below:

(source: candy pictures from Wikipedia + respective brand websites)

Friday, October 23, 2015

On Running with a Baby

I've concluded that running with a baby has to be one of the most taxing of exercises. Let's think about this for a moment. You're pushing a baby in a stroller. For me, that means a 15-pound baby, a 25-pound stroller, and a 10-pound carseat. I'll do the math for you: that's 50 pounds I'm pushing up and down hills. On top of all of the weight you're pushing, you're carrying all of the weight that's still clinging to you from being pregnant with that now 15-pound baby. (I'll spare you the details on exactly how much that still is for me.) And, if you're breastfeeding, you're also carrying along your baby's next meal.

So we've got a 50-pound load you're pushing, extra weight you're carrying from pregnancy, plus essentially a picnic for the baby strapped to your chest. And, if you're like me who barely exercised during pregnancy, you are pretty out of shape.

All of that is physically demanding and quite a workout. Now let's add in the mental workout of this situation. As you're running through your neighborhood, smiling and waving at neighbors and for the love just trying to push that dang stroller up that hill, you are also constantly aware of what your baby is doing and anticipating what your baby might need. Ok she just spit up, grab the burp cloth and wipe that nastiness off her little chin. Oh no, she's starting to fuss. Quick! put the toy snail in her hand. Ok that's not working, squeeze the snail's head a few times so it squeaks. Ok whew, she smiled. We're good.

And then, right when you've finished a couple of miles and you're starting to get a cramp in your side, the baby finally falls asleep. And so you just keep running. Because, sleeping baby. That elusive evening catnap finally won over the fussy baby and you can't stop running now. You run a couple more miles so that the baby will sleep and wake up ready to play happily during dinnertime.

And then when you put the baby down for bed that night and finally have a chance to log your exercise into your weight-loss app, you do a happy dance when you realize you have just enough calories left to treat yourself to a tiny bowl of Häagen-Dazs mint chip ice cream. And in that moment, you decide those extra miles were totally worth it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

3 Subscription Boxes Worth Trying

Do you receive any subscription boxes in the mail? I got Birchbox for a long time, but after a while I stopped enjoying the products they were sending, so I canceled it. I've debated back and forth on signing up for Stitch Fix, but because I'm so picky, I don't like the idea of potentially being out $20 and not ending up with any items. But! these three boxes I would actually be interested in trying, because I think they would be worth it! 

Evereve Trendsend
A couple of outfits that you can mix + match. Plus, you only pay for what you keep!

A lifestyle box with items for fashion, beauty, food, home, and fitness. I love the variety!

Cute + unique notecards for those of us that still send snail mail.

Do you already receive any of these? What's your experience - yay or nay?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Why Not Me?

A couple of weeks ago I received Why Not Me? in the mail, and as soon as Madeleine was in bed for the evening, I sat down on the couch and started reading it. I loved this book! I also read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, but I have to say that this new book of Mindy's is even better. I laughed out loud more than a few times, and I even read several parts to Caleb because I thought they were so funny. Laughing and reading good books are some of my favorite things to do, so put them together and I'm pretty much going to love it. Mindy shares a lot about her life that I didn't know and found very interesting. If you find her funny and like her show or enjoyed her other book, definitely pick this one up!

Disclosure: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. The review and opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Decorating the Nursery

This post is included in Wayfair's campaign #NurseryTale: sharing the story behind my favorite nursery pieces. Find more great nursery pieces at

Several months ago I shared Madeleine's nursery reveal, but today I'm sharing a little bit more about the story behind some of the pieces in Madeleine's room and my tips on decorating a nursery.  The entire nursery was a labor of love, and it was such a joy to bring together my vision for the room as we anticipated the arrival of our precious daughter.

Choose a theme or a color scheme. There are a ton of nursery theme ideas on Pinterest you can browse through, or you can simply choose a color scheme you'd like to go with. I wanted Madeleine's nursery to be a space that was calming and feminine, and one that she could continue to enjoy and grow into, so I decided to choose a color scheme rather than a specific theme. I chose a soft pink for the walls, white furniture, and accents of gold and black. If you've chosen a rug, curtains, bedding, or something else that has the specific colors you'd like to incorporate, choose your paint color after you've picked out those items. It is much easier to find a paint color to match the room than later trying to find curtains that match already-painted walls!

Pick out the big pieces. It's easier to decorate and fill in the spaces around the furniture, so we worked on selecting the furniture for Madeleine's nursery first. We wanted a crib that was a little bit more modern, and we love the convertible crib that we selected. After much searching, we finally found the perfect glider at Wayfair. Caleb designed and built both the bookshelf and the dresser/changing table, and we hope that Madeleine will be able to use these pieces for years to come. Think beyond the initial baby stage and choose furniture that can be used for several years, whether it's a convertible crib, a dresser that can also function as a changing table, or tables and shelves that can be used throughout childhood.

Incorporate handmade items. We really wanted Madeleine's room to be filled with very intentional pieces, which resulted in a lot of handmade items decorating her room. In addition to the furniture that Caleb built, the basket of blankets on Madeleine's shelf is full of handmade blankets, made by one of Madeleine's aunts and one of her great-aunts, as well as several that I made. The hairbands that sit on top of Madeleine's bookshelf were all made by family and friends at one of my baby showers. The tassel garland was made by one of my friends and was used as a decoration at one of my other baby showers. I love looking at these pieces and remembering how our family and friends were so excited for us and showered us with so much love as we were expecting our first baby, and as Madeleine gets older it will be special to share with her how much love went into her room and the pieces in her room. Handmade items are what can set your nursery apart from others' nurseries, and it's also fun to think about the time, effort, and love that went into creating each item.

Make it personal. The wooden signs that hang in Madeleine's room are also very special to me. The signs above both the crib and the changing table are custom pieces made by a dear friend who runs Olive + Grey. Above the changing table are three signs that say baby in English, Chinese, and French. This has great significance to me as I lived in China for several years as a child and have spent many years studying and speaking Chinese. I also studied French for several years, and Caleb took me on a dream-come-true trip to Paris several years ago. My degree is in international politics and I love for traveling, so it's only natural for me to hope that Madeleine will love foreign languages and appreciate foreign cultures like I do.

Make it practical. Even though as an infant Madeleine can't really get into anything, I still wanted to set up her room in a way that would function well when she is mobile and getting into things. The shelves are open and low so that she will be able to reach for her toys and books, but the top shelf is reserved for items that she shouldn't be getting into (headbands, the lamp, etc.). We left a good amount of floor space in the room as well, so that as she gets bigger and enjoys playing, there will be plenty of room for her to spread out and play on the floor.

Let the room grow with the baby. I had planned on making Madeleine a mobile before she was born, but she was (thankfully!) born a little bit early, and I never got to make it. Now that Madeleine is in a stage where she loves playing and enjoys watching anything that moves, I finally got around to making a simple ribbon mobile for her to look at while she nurses. Now we just need to hang it up! It will be fun to continue to incorporate new items that Madeleine will enjoy as she hits new developmental milestones and continues to learn and enjoy new things in her environment.

What tips do you have for decorating a nursery? Decorating Madeleine's nursery was definitely one of my favorite projects I've ever done! Thanks for taking a peek into her room. All sourcing information is below!

sources: paint: Behr in "Hush Pink" | curtains: Land of Nod | crib: Target | crib bedding: Target | blanket: crocheted by me | wooden signs over crib: Olive + Grey | glider: Wayfair | pillow: Target | Love Never Fails print: Lindsay Letters | bookshelf: designed by me + built by Caleb, inspiration from Oeuf + CB2 | tassel garland: made by a friend as a baby shower decoration | lamp base: Target | lamp shade: Target | | gold flower bowl: Home Goods | hairband organizer: Home Goods | floral heart print: Rifle Paper Co | piggy bank: Target | black rugby stripe bins: Amazon | wooden rainbow stacker: Melissa & Doug | wooden birdie stacker: gifted | wooden alligator: Buy Buy Baby | wooden zebra: Pottery Barn Kids | dresser: designed + built by Caleb, inspiration from Pottery Barn Kids | white + black basket: gifted | changing pad cover: aden + anais | wooden signs over dresser: Olive + Grey 

Monday, October 12, 2015

5 Products I'm Using Every Day

I love trying out new beauty products, so there is a constant rotation through my bathroom of new hair, makeup, and skin care products. While I try many things that I like decently well, the true test of a great product is if it stays in my regimen for more than a couple of weeks. These 5 products are ones that I am using every. single. day. and have been for several months now.

Softsoap Basil & Lime Hand soap // This has got to be the best hand soap I've ever used that you can purchase at a big box store. I have a really sensitive nose, so I am very particular about what kind of hand soap I use, since I can smell it long after I've finished washing my hands. My mother-in-law had this soap at her house over the summer, and I immediately knew I needed it. I've stocked up on it in case they ever decide to stop making it.

Bath & Body Works Aromatherapy Body Cream in Eucalyptus Tea // My aunt brought me a sweet gift bag of several items right after Madeleine was born, and this body cream was one of them. I've been using it on my hands every night when I get into bed since Madeleine was about a week old. It really is very calming, and I love that this scent will forever remind me of those early days when Madeleine was so tiny and new.

Olay Regenerist Luminous Tone Perfecting Cream // It's so hard for me to find a moisturizer that I love. I lean towards having dry skin, so I want it to soak in and moisturize without leaving my skin greasy. This cream is not heavy at all, but it leaves my face feeling so smooth. Bonus: it smells SO good (notice a trend here??).

Dove Advanced Care Nutrium Moisture Deodorant in Caring Coconut // I don't know if it's just me, but since becoming a mom I sweat like nobody's business. Between carrying a heavy carseat with a growing baby in it, to having said baby right up against me eating every few hours, I am constantly hot. I've used Dove deodorant for as long as I can remember, but this newer line of the nutrium moisture is my favorite. It goes on really smooth and--you guessed it--smells good. It smells better than that powdery scent of most deodorants, but the scent isn't so strong that it's trying to act like your perfume.

John Freida Beach Blonde Smooth Seas Detangling Conditioner // I really like John Freida products for my hair, and I think this might be my favorite one yet. My hair gets really tangly and just a small amount of this conditioner detangles really well. It's also lightweight, which I need since my hair is pretty fine. It has a minty scent to it which is really refreshing and energizing.

Do you already use any of these products? What are some products that you are using every day?

P.S. More 5 Things Posts

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Five Things Every Day

shared last week that I was loving this series, and today it was an honor to have a guest post included in the series! Lauren is one of my favorite people ever. I'm not even kidding - she is one of my sisters and one of my best friends and one of the godliest women you'll meet! Her blog always encourages me (as does her instagram!). You can read my post here, and be sure to read all of the posts so far in the series here! Even if you don't have daughter (or kids), this series is full of valuable lessons for anyone. Head on over to Lauren's blog!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Madeleine // 4 months

Since becoming parents, what we've been told more than anything is that time goes by so quickly. We can't even believe how true that has been. A year ago yesterday we found out that I was pregnant, and today our sweet Madeleine turns 4 months old! It has gone by so incredibly fast. 

We love this girl more than words can say! She was an extremely squirmy infant, and she has only gotten more and more wiggly! Madeleine does not like to sit still and loves to play, be read to, be sung to, and just be with her Mommy and Daddy. She loves being outside and gives us the best smiles. Madeleine adjusted to a good schedule early on, and that has helped her to be a very happy and content baby. After a rough start to nursing, we are very thankful that she is now a good eater! She also has been sleeping through the night since she was 11 weeks old. This girl makes us laugh so many times a day. Our lives our fuller because of Madeleine, and we praise God for giving her to us!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Links for your weekend

What are your plans for this rainy fall weekend? With the forecast the way that it is, I think it's pretty safe to say we will be staying inside! It looks like it will be a weekend of movies + college football, fall-scented candles, and dinner in the crockpot. Hope you stay warm + dry this weekend!

How cute is this closet turned nursery?!

I'm not a huge fan of the Adam Lippes for Target line, but I can get behind these shoes.

Would you walk across this 1,000-foot glass bridge? I definitely would NOT.

I'm looking really forward to reading this blog series.

A cute Halloween costume idea for both adults + kids.

I love this idea of having a focused collection that you can also use.

New Yorkers, rejoice: Chick-fil-A is comin' at ya.

What a beautiful birthday party.

Just finished Mindy Kaling's new book last night - I loved it!

(image via)