Monday, December 16, 2013

Everyone Needs A Little Sparkle for the Holidays :: A Molly Suzanne Review

Fitting back into your 'normal' clothes after having a baby is a strange thing. Some of it fits, and some of it ... well let's just say I don't know how I ever wore it before. Everything is just different. But around the holidays, there is no excuse to wear sweats and tanks, so this Momma has spent a fair amount of time (and money) outfitting herself with some new threads that compliment my new body. 

Lucky for me, my collection of accessories still fits just fine, and I love to dress up any outfit, especially at the holidays with some extra sparkle and bling! 

If you haven't shopped Molly Suzanne's extensive collection of accessories, you need to check out her shop ASAP! The shop is chock full of clothing and accessories that are perfect for the holiday season. As soon as I laid eyes on the Charlotte Necklace, I knew it would add the perfect amount of sparkle to any holiday party outfit this season. I had to have it. 


This past weekend was a particularly busy one. I had a holiday party, family party and a baby shower, and I wore this necklace with two of my three outfit selections. There are so many awesome ways to style this classic, chic and fabulous piece, but here are just a few of the ways I've worn it so far this season!



At just $24 (plus FREE shipping!) you cannot go wrong with this, or any of her other gorgeous and affordable pieces! And, if you place an order between now and tomorrow, Tuesday, December 17th at 12PM EST with standard (free) shipping, you will receive your order in time for Christmas! Perfect for a last minute statement piece for yourself, or a stocking stuffer gift for friends and family.

Happy Shopping!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Getting Snowed In. Literally.

I have always loved a good snow storm. I get addicted to the news every time they're calling for a big snow, and I'm almost always one of the only people who are disappointed when the meteorologists are wrong, and we end up with just a dusting. I love the idea of getting snowed in. With nowhere to go, life has a way of slowing down and allowing us all a little time to relax and enjoy each others' company. Plus, I love any excuse for my husband to stay home from work with us!

This past weekend, we had plans to travel to NJ to visit my family and help celebrate my best friend's 30th birthday. We knew there were lingering talks of impending snow on Sunday night, but assumed that it wouldn't turn into much, and we would make it home midday Sunday in time to catch the second half of the Ravens game. 

When Sunday morning came, we took our time getting ready, feeding the baby and packing the car. We got on the road right around 11AM in hopes that we would arrive home some time between two and three that afternoon. About forty five minutes into our trip, just as we were getting onto the NJ Turnpike, I received a text message from one of my besties, who happened to be traveling the same route, about two hours ahead of us. She mentioned 'snow' and 'road closures,' and we knew immediately that we needed to find an alternate route. There was no way that Gavin would hang out in his carseat for hours on end, especially if the car wasn't moving. Not to mention he was sharing the backseat with his 65 pound, furry sister.

We decided the best alternate route would be the PA Turnpike. The traffic looked lighter, and we figured we were going to run into snow regardless. And, we were right. It seemed as soon as we began driving west, the snow got worse by the minute. All the sudden we were on an unfamiliar highway in a mini blizzard.

My least favorite thing about snow is driving in it. And, being that this was our first time driving in winter weather with a baby, I will admit that a bit of panic began to set in. I knew we were not making it home for several hours. And that was if we really tried. I was ready to throw in the towel and head back to my parents house where it wasn't snowing, but B was determined to at least keep heading in the right direction. Luckily, my brother goes to Villanova, and we were headed right for him. I quickly contacted him to make sure he would be around for most of the day, and we decided that we would at least make a pit stop there so we could feed Gavin, gas up and get something to eat ourselves.

When we reached our exit, and pulled onto the more local roads that led us toward campus, I was truly worried we would get stuck. The snow was coming down fast and hard, and there was not a plow in sight. Thankfully, we made it into a covered parking garage near my brothers apartment. I was able to feed Gavin while B and my brother went to find some food. And the snow wasn't letting up. I was hearing reports that several inches had already fallen at home, and I just knew it wasn't a good idea for us to try and get back on the road. 

So, to Google I went in search of a hotel that was close by and would allow our little family, including the dog. Much to my surprise, Residence Inn Marriott's allow pets, for a small additional fee, of course. But at this point, we just wanted to get somewhere safe and warm, and try to wait it out. 

We checked into our room a short time later. The hotel was only five minutes down the road from where we met my brother, so it worked out nicely, and there were no real dicey situations on the short drive there. It took us a while to get settled. We ordered dinner, and B ran out for diapers and dog food, both items that we did not overpack for what we thought would be a quick, three hour ride home earlier that day. 

Finally, we were all inside and settled. Gavin took a nap and we caught the end of the Ravens game on TV. I couldn't help but laugh as we sat there in a hotel room on a Sunday afternoon while the snow continued to fall outside. There was something adventurous and cozy about the whole thing. There wasn't much for us to do, so we just spent time together as a little family. We played with Gavin and watched Four Christmases. We even grabbed a beer from the front desk. And later, after G was asleep, we went back for the tiny little ice cream treats we had spotted earlier. 


Last Sunday did not go as we had planned. Not even close. But, we will never forget Gavin's first snow storm. It is a fun little memory that we made as a family that I will cherish. But, you can bet that I will never try and do the drive to or from NJ without tons of diapers, extra dog food, and lots of snacks!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Growing Up In Jersey Has Its Perks

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Barilla, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #JoytotheTable  http://cmp.ly/3/8vNxcO.


It is true. I grew up in the land of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. And, although most of what you see on their show is fabricated or scripted, one of the genuine things is the amount of Italians that live there. And the food. Oh, the food. Say what you will, but New York and New Jersey know how to do Italian food. In fact, the lack of genuine Italian food (and pizzerias!) is one of the things I miss most now that I live in Maryland. Every time we visit my parents in North Jersey, we have pizza at least once, and we always stock up on bagels to take home with us.

I may only be about 2% Italian myself, but fortunately for me, I grew up with lots of Italian friends and neighbors, and over the years, I was able to pick up a few of their delicious family recipes. Recipes for Stuffed Shells, Lasagna and Vodka Sauce, just to name a few. They are some of my favorites, and ones that I hope to commit to memory so I never lose them.

While I was out grocery shopping last week, preparing for the impending snow storms that were getting ready to slam us here in MD, I had comfort food on the brain. Because what tastes better than a fresh, out of the oven lasagna, or a homemade soup, when you're stuck inside while the snow falls? Of course, I headed right for the pasta aisle and located my favorite brand. I scooped up a box of Barilla Lasagna Noodles and Barilla Marinara Sauce, knowing they would be the perfect staples for one of my favorite, passed down recipes.

Lasagna is one of those meals that always seems overwhelming, but it really is pretty quick and easy if you have the right recipe and ingredients! One of my best friends was nice enough to share her mother-in-law's recipe with me, and I will never make lasagna another way again! It was that good. 


New Jersey 'Italian' Style Lasagna

You Will Need:
1 box Barilla Lasagna Noodles
2 jars Barilla Marinara (or Tomato & Basil) Sauce
1 jar full of water
EVOO
2-4 cloves minced garlic
Half of a white onion, chopped
1/4 - 1/2 cup white wine (optional, but I think it made the meat juicier!)
1lb. ground beef or turkey
1 15oz. container of Ricotta cheese
1 bag shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 bag shredded Parmesan cheese
Italian bread crumbs
A pinch or two of Italian Seasoning
Salt & Pepper to taste
Vegetables of your choice (we used sauteed zucchini and baby spinach.)


Begin by chopping your onion. Add some EVOO, the onion and 2-4 cloves of garlic into a large sauce pan. Saute this mixture until the onion are softened, then add your ground meat (I used lean ground turkey this time). Once meat is browned through, add 1/4 - 1/2 cup white wine (optional) and allow to cook down for a few minutes. 


Then, add both jars of Barilla Marinara Sauce. Fill one of the jars about 2/3 full with water and add the water. Stir well. If the sauce seem to thick, add a little more water. If it is too thin, add a small can of tomato paste. Next, add Italian seasoning (parsley, oregano and basil) and salt & pepper to taste. Allow your sauce to simmer on low for 20-30 minutes.

Begin boiling your pot of water for your noodles while the sauce is simmering. Once the water reaches a boil, add your Barilla Lasagna Noodles. Only leave the noodles in for a few minutes. Once the water begins to boil again, give the noodles a minute or two, and then take them out quickly. You want your noodles to be firmer than al dente before going into the oven.

While my noodles were cooking, I washed and chopped some fresh zucchini and added it to a warm pan and sauteed it over medium heat until it began to soften. Once the zucchini was softened, I added a handful of baby spinach and sauteed that for a few minutes until it began to soften. 

Then, turn off all of your heat and begin layering your lasagna.


Start with a thin layer of sauce, and top with one layer of lasagna noodles. Top the noodles with a layer of ricotta, followed by a sprinkled layer of mozzarella and a dash of shredded parmesan. Next, I added a layer of the veggies to half of my tray and topped the entire layer with another round of sauce. Add another layer of noodles on top of the sauce, and repeat the cheese/veggie/sauce layer. Repeat until you run out of your noodles. Then, add bread crumbs and remaining parmesan cheese on top.

Once you have completed your layering, put your lasagna into an oven heated to 350 degrees and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the top appears lightly browned and it is warmed all the way through at the center.

I completed our meal by warming a piece of sourdough bread and serving alongside each slice of lasagna. 


The noodles were cooked perfectly, and the combination of sauce, cheese and vegetables made the flavor robust and delicious!

My husband was beyond thrilled to see one of our favorite comfort foods come back to our kitchen after a long hiatus. This family recipe has definitely become one of our family's favorites, so I am delighted to be able to share it with all of you! 

Be sure to shop your local Safeway and pick up any and all of the Barilla ingredients that you will need to make this at home. There is even an in-store promotion running right now! Get $1 off the purchase of ONE (1) box of Barilla® Lasagne and ONE (1) Barilla® Sauce! 

And, if you're looking for more kitchen inspiration, check out the Barilla Facebook page!  


Yayy, Jersey!! :o)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

'Tis the Season ... for Baking!

Tracking Pixel This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of PAM Cooking Spray.

This time of year always gets me in the mood to get back into my kitchen and bake some yummy treats for my family. I could also attribute this to the nagging pregnancy sweet tooth that hasn't gone away, a postpartum remnant that I am certain my husband is still fond of!

This time of year also always sends my stress levels soaring, as I commit to party after party, and all of the cooking, baking and shopping that goes along with it! I do love a full calendar, and all of the extra time with family and friends, but I tend to let some of my responsibilities wait until the last minute, as I watch of mountain of to-do's pile up in front of me with only a few short weeks until Christmas Day.

No matter where I go during the next three weeks, you can believe I will more than likely have a dessert and/or dozen cookies or three with me when I leave the house. Because who doesn't love to munch on yummy treats while catching up with friends and family? Or is that just me? Have you ever tried to make a quick batch of cookies and forgotten to prep your trays with PAM Cooking Spray? I have definitely been there, and few things pain me more than throwing freshly baked cookies into the trash.

I am a long time lover of PAM Cooking Sprays. We pretty much always have at least one can in our pantry, and use them most nights while cooking dinner. They are also a favorite of my husband for grilling! Now, the new formula allows Original, Butter and Baking PAM Cooking Sprays to leave up to 99 percent less residue than margarine and bargain sprays. This means your dishes will come clean even faster, leaving you more time to spend with family and friends, and less time in your own kitchen (or someone else's), scrubbing the dishes. The new formula also has zero calories per serving. Double bonus!

If you're anything like me, you are probably making your shopping lists and planning out what to bring to each of your holiday events this year, so I thought I'd help you out and share one of my favorite new dessert recipes with you! A recipe that would not be the same without PAM Cooking Sprays

Apple-Cranberry Crisp (original recipe found here)

Ingredients
PAM Butter No-Stick Cooking Spray
6 large Granny Smith or other (tart) baking apples (I used Golden Delicious and they were great!), peeled and cut into cubes; 6 apples = about 8 cups
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cups (about 1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into sections

Begin by preheating your oven to 375. Spray your baking dish generously. Add your apples and cranberries and set aside.


Next, add brown sugar, oats, flour and cinnamon to a food processor, cover and blend until mixture is smooth and fused well. Add butter cubes and pulse well until the mixture become coarse and crumb-like.


Add your crumb topping on top of your fruit, spreading out evenly. Spray with PAM Butter Spray until topping is evenly coated and moistened. Then, bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping becomes golden-brown and the filling appears bubbly.


Finally, preheat your broiler. Once it is finished baking, broil your dessert for 1-2 minutes, or until the topping is a nice, even golden brown. 


Voila! Simple, easy and super delicious! The flavor and colors of this dessert make it a perfect addition to any holiday table. 

And, now you can enter to win a beautiful holiday baking kit valued at $50! A winner will be selected at random and awarded 1 Full Size PAM Cooking Spray and gorgeous Le Creuset Baking dish in time for Christmas! Please read through terms & conditions of the giveaway listed below. 

This giveaway will run from TODAY (12/5/13) through Wednesday, December 11, 2013. A winner will be selected and announced on December 12th!

To Enter: 
Leave a comment telling me how you will use PAM Cooking Sprays in your kitchen this holiday season!



Terms & Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE DOES NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. INTERNET ACCESS AND VALID E-MAIL ADDRESSES ARE REQUIRED TO ENTER.

Promotion DescriptionBy participating in a Sweepstakes on Our Love Nest the Blog, each entrant unconditionally accepts and agrees to comply with and abide by these Official Rules and the decisions of Massive Sway (“Sponsor”), which shall be final and binding in all respects. Sponsor is responsible for the collection, submission or processing of Entries and the overall administration of the giveaway. Entrants should look solely to Sponsor with any questions, comments or problems related to the Sweepstakes.


Promotion begins at the time the blog post announcing the Sweepstakes is published on the Blog and ends midnight PST on December 11, 2013. 

Eligibility:  Open to legal residents of the U.S. who are physically located in the U.S. or the District of Columbia who are not a minor (as defined by state of primary residence) usually a minimum of 18 yrs. old. Sponsor and parents, affiliates, sales representatives, advertising and promotion agencies, clients and each of their respective members, officers, directors, employees and contractors (including participating bloggers) (collectively, the “Promotion Entities”), and members of their immediate families and/or persons living in the same household as such persons, are ineligible to enter the Sweepstakes or win a prize. Void in all jurisdictions other than the U.S.


Entry: Leave a comment on the Blog post to enter for a chance to winFacebook comments will not be counted as a valid entry.


Winner Selection: The winners of the Sweepstakes will be selected in a random drawing by Our Love Nest the Blog from among all eligible Entries received throughout the Promotion Period using the selection tool indicated on www.ourlovenestblog.com . The random drawing will be conducted by Sponsor or its designated representatives, whose decisions are final. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible Entries received. Winner will be notified by email at the email address provided in the Entry Information after the random drawing. Potential winner must accept a prize by email as directed by Sponsor within 48 hours of notification. Any winner notification not responded to or returned as undeliverable may result in prize forfeiture. No substitution or transfer of a prize is permitted except by Sponsor.


 Prizes:  The prize for this Sweepstakes is a kit with an approximate retail value (“ARV”) of $50including:


  • Full sized varieties of PAM Cooking Spray
  • Le Creuset Pie Dish

Only one prize per person and per household will be awarded. Prizes cannot be transferred, redeemed for cash or substituted by winner. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole and absolute discretion to award a substitute prize of equal or greater value if a prize described in these Official Rules is unavailable or cannot be awarded, in whole or in part, for any reason. The ARV of the prize represents Sponsor’s good faith determination. That determination is final and binding and cannot be appealed. If the actual value of the prize turns out to be less than the stated ARV, the difference will not be awarded in cash. Sponsor makes no representation or warranty concerning the appearance, safety or performance of any prize awarded. Restrictions, conditions, and limitations may apply. Sponsor will not replace any lost or stolen prize items. Prize will only be awarded and/or delivered to addresses within the US Only. All federal, state and/or local taxes, fees, and surcharges are the sole responsibility of the prizewinner. Failure to comply with the Official Rules will result in forfeiture of the prize.

Privacy: All entrants acknowledge that if they are chosen as a winner, certain of their personally identifying information may be disclosed to third parties at least as required by law, including, without limitation, names and mailing addresses on a winner’s list. All personal information submitted as part of the Sweepstakes may be shared by and between the Promotion Entities, and each of the Promotion Entities will use such information in accordance with their respective independent online privacy policies.


Limitation of Liability: Sponsor is not responsible for any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by website users or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Sweepstakes or by any technical or human error, which may occur in the processing of submissions in the Sweepstakes. Sponsor assumes no responsibility for any misdirected or lost mail, or any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay of operation or transmission, communications line failure, theft or destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of, Entries. Sponsor is not responsible for any problems or technical malfunction of any telephone network or lines, computer online systems, servers or providers, computer equipment, software, failure of email or players on account of technical problems or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website or combination thereof, including injury or damage to entrant’s or any other person’s computer related to or resulting from participating in the Sweepstakes. If, for any reason, the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes beyond the control of Sponsor which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, then Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes. In such event, Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, perform the random drawing from among all eligible Entries received prior to or after such cancellation, suspension, or modification.


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of PAM Cooking Spray.
For more information, visit http://www.pamcookingspray.com.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Are You A 'Christmas Person?'

For pretty much my entire life, or at least as far back as I can remember, Christmas was more than just a holiday, it was an entire season. Christmas music was tolerated and almost expected shortly after Halloween was over, and decorations often came out before Thanksgiving Day. 

Preparing for and celebrating Christmas for close to six weeks is normal for me. I cannot say the same for my husband. In his world, Christmas should barely even be mentioned before Thanksgiving dinner is over. Just last week, I was minding my own business, prepping us a light breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, streaming Christmas music to my hearts content, when I hear some sarcastic comment coming from the other room about 'celebrating the wrong holiday.' It is the endless battle of opinion in this house. When to start the shopping, the decorating, the overall preparation. And while I want us to make our own traditions as a family, I can't help but get excited and into the Christmas spirit every year when the calendar turns to the month of November.

Over the years, B's heart has softened up to the idea of enjoying a glistening fake tree almost just as soon as the turkey and stuffing leftovers are packed away in the fridge. He humors my Black Friday shopping obsession, and I think he even sort of likes the music. Maybe.

The Christmas season is magical. It's contagious. And the wonder of the season only grows once you have children. I feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve, bursting with excitement to celebrate Gavin's first Christmas in just a few short weeks. Sure, I may have gone overboard in the gift department, knowing the kid will never remember, but I want to start making Christmas as special for Gavin and our future children as my parents always made it for us.

So, is it a crime if I try and kick off the celebration a little early than may be considered 'socially acceptable' to many? What do you think? When do you start celebrating the holiday season?

Christmas 2007

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Holiday Helper :: Hooray For Less Dog Hair!

http://r.linqia.cc/966e23d

 Lately, it seems as though I can almost never keep my floors clean. Although having hardwood floors throughout 75% of your house is nice, it can sometimes be a pain when you dog's black hair can be found in every corner of every room, just blowing around as you walk by. And don't even get me started on the post-pregnancy shedding. It is insane. With a new baby that is spending more and more time on the floor learning to roll and play, I have made every effort to keep my floors vacuumed and swept as often as possible. But, with the holiday season in full swing, I have found less time to keep up with some of my daily household chores, and believe me when I say, the hair is everywhere after just one day!

I have tried basically everything. From steam mops to Swiffers and then some. But, my questions was always 'isn't there an easier way to keep up with all of this?' And now, my friends, there sure is! 

Allow me to introduce you to my new best friend ......

http://r.linqia.cc/35610ca

When the iRobot Braava 380t arrived on my doorstep, I jumped for joy! This powerful and smart little gadget is small enough to weave around through the rooms in my house, around rugs and under furniture, and powerful enough to sweep away all of my dog hair woes! iRobot Braava 380t Floor Mopping Robot dry or damp mops virtually any hard floor surface with disposable or reusable microfiber cleaning cloths. Designed for quick cleaning, Braava systematically covers your entire floor in a single pass. With both mop and sweep functions, the Braava really is perfect for any home.

Now I can get down on the floor and play with Gavin while the Braava sweeps away the dust and hair in the next room. By far my favorite feature is the NorthStar Navigation System, which functions like an indoor GPS and helps your Braava keep track of where it's already been and still needs to go. It can clean a large area in a single cleaning session, so it will work in large and small homes, and uses Wall-Following Technology allowing the Braava to clean right along walls, baseboards and in corners. The Braava will also clean under any piece of furniture it can fit underneath, and the super quiet motor will not even wake your napping baby in the same room! Trust me, I've tried it many times. Plus, it even contains cliff-detecting sensors to help it avoid stairs, area rugs and carpet transition. The Braava can dry mop up to 1,000 square feet with one GPS cube (double with an additional cube) and up to 300 square feet of wet mopping in one job. It comes with a reusable microfiber cleaning cloth, but can also be used with the disposable Swiffer pads that you probably already have lying around! 

http://r.linqia.cc/35610ca
http://r.linqia.cc/35610ca

If you have a dog like mine, who's afraid of vacuums, you can set the Braava to sweep and then watch your dog play a little game with it for the next 15 minutes!

The Braava could not have arrived at our home at a more perfect time. Now, I can worry less about cleaning my floors, and focus on decorating our Christmas tree, playing with Gavin and wrapping presents! The holiday season is so jam packed, and can be stressful when trying to cram everything single thing into short time period, so make it easier on yourself, Mommy's! The iRobot Braava would be the perfect gift to find tucked underneath your tree this year!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Meeting Santa. I Am So THAT MOM.

Last week, I took Gavin with me to the mall to make a return at the Gap. Errands have become a pretty regular occurrence for us, and I have gotten pretty awesome at feeding G on the go, AKA in my car or the women's lounge at Nordstrom.

It was an unusually slow day, so of course we walked around and perused the racks at Baby Gap before finally making our return and buying three new items. As we walked back into the corridor, I noticed that the Santa Station was practically empty. The wheels in my head began turning immediately, and I quickly bolted back into Baby Gap and straight to the clearance section.

Ten minutes, and another $20 later, we were headed straight for the Nordstrom lounge for a quick feeding session and a wardrobe change. 

About a half an hour later, we were headed back towards Santa. There was still no line so we were greeted by Santa and both of his little elf helpers with a warm welcome. I chose the cheapest photo package they offered, and scooped Gavin up to get him ready for his first professional photo shoot. 

Suddenly, a quick thought ran through my head, 'Pam, are you really going to be THAT Mom that takes your son to meet Santa two weeks before Thanksgiving at the MALL?!' Thankfully, I decided to let that thought slip right by and continued on my merry way. 

Of course, at not even four months old, the Santa costume didn't phase Gavin at all, but he sure seemed a bit confused about his overall whereabouts at the moment that I plopped him into Santa's soft lap. 


My precious little boy met Santa for the first time at just 3 1/2 months old! I didn't have much time to prepare mentally for this memory making experience because it was such a spur of the moment decision, but I think that was part of what made it so special. Dressing him up in the Nordstrom lounge and then making a fool out of myself trying to coax a smile while he sat mesmerized on Santa's lap made me feel so happy and whole. 

My little man and I were building memories together on a random Tuesday afternoon. Sometimes, the spontaneous adventures turn out the be the most fun, and that was definitely the case last week. 

After we met Santa and received our very first 'token' of Gavin's First Christmas, we headed off to the Nordstrom Cafe for a light lunch to round out our day. 


Gavin will never remember the first time he met Santa, or any of his first Christmas experiences, but I certainly will, and that little Tuesday afternoon is one of the sweetest memories that we've made to date.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Getting 'Holiday Ready' Around the House

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Cottonelle, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #CottonelleHoliday  http://cmp.ly/3/8vNxcO.

This is our first holiday season with a little guy in tow, and it is bound to be our busiest one yet. Between Thanksgiving dinners, baby showers, Christmas parties, Black Friday shopping, football games and traveling to see family, our calendar is pretty much full and December hasn't even begun! 

Every year around this time, the housework just seems to get away from me. The weekends are non-stop and I am practically falling into bed by 9PM most nights during the week. Chalk it up to being a 'newbie' in the Mom department, but the first things to get looked over are often the simple chores that I normally take care of. But, the lack of of tidiness catches up with me quickly and I end up doing it all anyway. The only difference is there is more mess to take care of a few days later. 

During the holiday season, we often have family and friends visiting or stopping over. Just yesterday we had another couple over to watch the Jets vs. Ravens game, so I did my best to scramble Saturday evening to straighten up. Because, the honest truth is that my house hasn't been clean enough for real guests since Gavin was born. 

The last thing anyone wants to worry about when entertaining is keeping your paper goods and bathrooms stocked. I hate for my guests to run out of toilet paper or towels, so I make sure to stock up to avoid any mishaps or emergencies. And, since I am the only one in the house that seems to understand that toilet paper rolls need to be changed (roll facing down, please!), the job always seems to fall in my lap. And if it's my job, I'm going to do it the way I want to!


So, on one of my recent trips to my favorite place ever, Target, I scooped up a 12 pack of Cottonelle Triple Roll, confident that it would last us through the holidays and beyond. 


I am already thrilled with the quality and quantity of each roll! The material is soft, thick and quilted, and the rolls really do last longer! I am already spending less time refilling our bathrooms and am able to enjoy our guests, worry free!



Thanksgiving week is upon us, and Cottonelle (and Target!) has already become a must-have brand in our home for the season. And, right now when you buy a Cottonelle Triple Roll 12 pack or larger, you get a FREE box of Kleenex! Totally stocked bathrooms all at once! Print the coupon here, and head off to Target ASAP, because it is only while supplies last!

Next time you're at Target, which for me is about twice a week, pick up a 12 pack of Cottonelle and save yourself the frustration of worrying about your bathrooms this season. After all, we all have tons of shopping, wrapping, socializing and snuggling to do over the next month, and I am happy to check off as many monotonous tasks as I can.

And, get excited ... Christmas is ONE MONTH from today!! 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Motherhood Has Already Taught Me A Few Lessons. Mostly About Myself.

When I was pregnant with Gavin, I thought surely I was well prepared for this whole 'motherhood' thing. After all, I had a solid history of babysitting, had read lots of books and blogs, and had picked my Mommy friends' brains until they were tired of hearing from me. All I could think about during the last few weeks of my pregnancy was delivery this baby and how much our world would change once we met Gavin. 

What I didn't know was how hard the transition would be. Motherhood is hard, and I am not ashamed to admit it.

Somewhere in all of the craziness and excitement of getting ready to welcome your first child, you get swept up, and you forget that motherhood is a full time job that no amount of reading, practice with other people's children, or observation can really, truly prepare you for. It is exhausting, it is humbling, and it tests you in ways you never even knew possible.

During the first few weeks of Gavin's life, I was adjusting to the lack of sleep, breastfeeding, a constant revolving door of visitors, and surviving alone at home while keeping myself, the baby and the dog alive. My personal adjustment period was a bit rocky. I was on a roller coaster of emotions, and I felt like all I did was feed Gavin all.day.long. Call it a dose of 'baby blues' or just call it a new Mom who was mourning the loss of a good night's sleep. 

Motherhood has forced me to look in the mirror and see some of the things that I don't love about myself. I am definitely lacking in the patience department, a good night's sleep is the best medicine, and I can actually go almost a full 'work week' with one shower, my hair in a bun, and sporting the same two pairs of leggings. It's embarrassing, but true. A lot of days, I actually feel bad for my husband when he walks through the door and I still look as tired and ratty as I did when he left for work that morning.

But, I think the toughest part of being a mother is accepting the fact that the life you knew before is no longer. This blog has struggled, and I have made work deadlines by the skin of my teeth. Some days, I just barely survive until B walks through the door. I am behind on housework, TV shows, and basically everything that qualifies as 'productive.' And, for someone like me, that is a very tough realization to come to. I can't do it all. Lots of days, I am lucky if I set and attain ONE goal. And I will admit that sometimes that goal is just to take a shower, or to remember to pull chicken out of the freezer so we don't have to eat pasta for dinner again.

I read this article recently about how 'new Mom's get nothing done,' and finally, I felt better. You mean I am not the only one who can't keep it all together anymore? I'm not the only one who struggles, who gets frustrated, who cries and even feels like I have nothing left at the end of some days? 

Gavin is by far my best work. He is growing changing, thriving, and I don't give myself enough credit for that. I am so grateful that I am able to stay home with him every day, and although I don't often get a break from this new full time job, the rewards are so much greater than I have ever experienced before. 

I am fervently praying for more patience, more time in the day, and most importantly, the ability to accept that I can no longer live and die by my to-do lists. Perhaps this is the lesson that I was meant to learn all along.

Monday, November 18, 2013

It's the Most Wonderful Time ... For Some Shopping!

Has anyone else already started their Christmas shopping, or is that just me? As soon as Halloween is over each year, I get the itch to start making my lists and shopping for the perfect items for my family and friends. Since I have a few names on my list that require a bit more time, creativity and planning, I am always looking for new ways to surprise them. 

Today, I am excited to share this shopping event with you. One of my college girlfriends just started selling Stella & Dot, and as soon as she told me about it, I hurried over to their website and started browsing for some fun and stylish holiday pieces. Stella & Dot is a great way for ladies to style themselves with fantastic jewelry. The line features jewelry of all kinds and all prices from fabulous statement necklaces to dainty rings and earrings. Best of all, half of the line is under $50!


 How awesome is this Rebel Pendant necklace? Perfect for dressing up any outfit, and festive enough for the holiday season!


Why wait until the busyness of the holidays shows up... start shopping now! The 2013 Holiday Line was just released with some beautiful pieces to jazz up any outfit for a holiday party. During the months of November and December, there is a special trunk show event going on. The Trunk Show Exclusive Deal for those shopping a November/December trunk show is: Spend $50, get 50% off of the featured pieces! Perfect deals for the holidays!


During the busy holiday season, there are always cookie bakes, cocktail parties, and even spur of the moment dinner parties to attend. I always love to show up with a little hostess gift, if possible, but most of the time, I don't have anything unique and fun on hand to wrap up and bring with me! When I saw this 'ready, set, gift!' deal, I was excited that I had the opportunity to stock up on some adorable and fun gifts that would make the perfect stocking stuffers or hostess presents this season!


Are you excited yet? Well, the deals in November and December were so much fun that I asked Steph if I could host my very own online trunk show just for my readers and friends! Starting today, and lasting through December 9th, you can shop my trunk show and take advantage of all of the deals above, and more!


Feel free to share the above invitation with your family & friends as well! The perfect opportunity to shop from home before the craziness of the holiday season is really upon us.

Best of all, if you love the jewelry and want to become a stylist yourself, it's a great time to get started. The company is featuring a great Jumpstart program that rewards stylists with hundreds of dollars in product credit.  Contact Stephanie at svbarringer@gmail{dot}com if you have any questions, or if you're interested in joining a wonderful company that makes working fun!

Once again, you can start shopping my Online Trunk Show TODAY here. Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gavin @ 3 Months

On Halloween, Gavin officially turned 3 months old. That old saying 'babies don't keep' just gets truer by the day. He barely resembles the tiny, squishy baby he was just two short months ago. My phone is chock full of pictures of him going through his every days. Even two days makes a difference with this boy.

We dressed up for Halloween two different times, perfectly appropriate for your first Halloween, right? While Gavin did make the cutest Superman I have ever seen, I just couldn't help but also put him in the monkey 'suit' that we had on hand while we greeted trick-or-treaters on Halloween night.

Gavin's cheeks and thighs are getting chubbier by the day, and his personality is really starting to shine through. Most of the time, he is pretty happy and a joy to be around. But, this month's newest thing is signs of teething on and off a few days per week. The drooling and shoving of fists into his mouth is constant, and we have started giving Baby Orajel and a touch of Tylenol a try, when need be.


Weight/Height: We don't take him back to the doctor until December 10th, when he will be more than four months old, so I'm not sure! If I had to guess, I would say he is somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 pounds or so? He is definitely getting heavier, and I think it may be time for me to invest in a scale because I'm constantly curious!

Hair & Eyes: His hair is coming in more and more and holding steady at a light brown color that sort of resembles his Daddy's. Swoon. His eyes are more like mine and have a sort of greenish/silver/hazel tint to them.


Diapers: We are in size 2s full time now, but we did experience our first blowout since the switch this weekend, so we will see how long we last. I am hesitant to buy another large box of 2s before trying a size 3 to see the difference.

Clothes: Sadly, Gavin has outgrown every piece of 0-3 months clothing in this house. He is in 3-6 month Old Navy, Gap and Mini Boden, and already fitting into some 6 and 9 month things from Carter's and Polo!

Eating: Five times a day, pretty much to a 'T.'  The time he wakes up for his first feeding each morning sort of dictates the day, but his pattern is pretty close to 6:30AM, 9-10AM, 1-2PM, 4-5PM and finally 6:30-7:30PM before bed. We are both comfortable with this routine and I imagine we'll be doing it for a while. 

He also did great taking two bottles (bedtime and morning) from my Mom when we left him overnight for our anniversary recently. Hallelujah! We haven't mastered having him take a bottle from Daddy yet though.

Sleeping: Gavin goes up to bed in his crib shortly after his final feeding of the night. This typically falls between 7-8PM depending on how well he napped that day. Most nights, he is asleep by 8, which gives B and I some time to watch Breaking Bad enjoy each other before bed. 

He is pretty solidly sleeping 'through the night' at this point. He sometimes wakes me a few times with some crying/whimpering, but giving him back his pacifier works and I am usually back to sleep within 5-10 minutes. Once 5-5:30AM rolls around, he starts rumbling, and I am usually feeding him by 6AM. About once a week, he'll throw me a curve ball and sleep later than I expect, but his pattern is pretty regular most of the time.

Milestones: We think G might be working on cutting his first tooth, although I have heard it could take months for it to actually happen. He is showing all of the signs of teething though, so I ordered him an amber teething necklace (we got this one, recommended from a friend!). 

He is also very active and alert, and I think he might be sitting up on his own by Christmas! He loves any opportunity to sit up in our laps or on the sofa, and has started playing in his Summer activity seat more and more. He also loves to lay on the floor and kick his legs like crazy! He has mastered rolling from belly to back, and we can tell he is close to rolling from back to belly, but it hasn't happened yet. Truthfully, I m sort of thankful for that, at least for now!




Gavin's first official holiday season has begun, and I am beyond excited! I have already started his Christmas list, my Christmas shopping, and brainstorming ideas for new traditions that we can start as a little family. 

What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Celebrating Three Years.

Our third wedding anniversary was this past Tuesday. Our first anniversary since we welcomed Gavin into our family, and I wanted to make sure that we did something special to celebrate since we don't get much time together as a couple anymore. I wanted it to be something more than our go-to dinner date outside of the house.

At the last minute, B was able to book us a hotel room at the Hyatt where we had our wedding reception. It is a beautiful venue in Jersey City right on the Hudson River overlooking a breathtaking view of NYC, and neither of us had been back there since the night of our wedding.

But, booking a hotel room comes with a lot more hoops to jump through than it used to. Luckily, we were able to employ my parents as babysitters for Gavin and Riley. So, up to North Jersey we went bright and early Saturday morning, our little family of four in tow.

My Mom also surprised me that day and treated me to a manicure, pedicure and massage so that I would be relaxed and beautified for our celebration that evening!


What a treat it was to go get my nails done by myself! The peace and relaxation did wonders for my busy brain. 

Later that day we went out to lunch with my family, kicked off a little Christmas shopping, and then got Gavin ready for his first night at Gigi's house without his Mommy and Daddy. Thank God for breast pumps! I finally used some of my frozen stash, and left my Mom armed with plenty of the 'goods.' I also left every other thing I could think of. Blankets, toys, pacifiers, plenty of PJs, a bouncy seat, swing, and lots more. I was so wrapped up in getting Gavin situated and going through every scenario that might happen while we were gone that I barely noticed it had already reached 6PM before we left the house.

With a loving nudge, my parents pushed us out the door, and off we went for our first night away without the baby. At first, three months seemed a bit early to leave Gavin overnight, but the timing worked out perfectly, and I knew how much it would do for our relationship to take the time for ourselves. 



When we arrived at the Hyatt, we checked into our room and got ready to head to dinner. We enjoyed a yummy dinner while overlooking the city skyline, and I tried hard to stop checking my phone every three and a half minutes. 


After dinner, we headed to the hotel bar and spent the next few hours talking, laughing, reliving memories from our wedding day, and being thankful for all that life has already blessed us with. We genuinely soaked up each others' company and reconnected in a way that we haven't had time for over the last few months. 

At one point during our conversation, I thanked B for the beautiful life that he has helped me build, and told him how lucky and thankful I am for all we have been able to do together so far. He reminded me that 'this is only the beginning,' and that statement filled my heart with so much love, hope, joy and anticipation for the many years to come. As we celebrate holidays, grow our family, and cheer each other on through the ups and downs of life, there is no one else that I would rather have as my partner, venturing through this crazy life one day at a time. Together.

Gavin did great while we were gone, and I now have a new found appreciation for grandparents! The night away gave us time to reflect, to laugh, and to sleep! We were both so excited to get home and see Gavin the next morning. It really was the perfect weekend. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy to be back to business as usual at home this week, but I am so proud of us for making our relationship the priority, at least for one night.

I love him more today than I did on our wedding day, and I can't wait to see what else God has in store for us in the years to come!