Best Swaddle Blanket for Newborns: The “Smarter Swaddle”

Swaddle blankets were the most received item at our baby shower.  Most of our friends gave an item off the registry and then threw in their favorite swaddle blanket.  Every parent seemed to have a favorite swaddle blanket, so I felt like I had a million of them after our shower.

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We tried all of them within the first few days of bringing home our newborn.  Let me just say that I’ve got mad swaddle skills, but they were no match for my little ninja escape artist.  It didn’t matter the material or size of the blanket, he would find a way out of it and scream at precisely the moment his over-tired parents were able to fall asleep.

Picture this… middle of the second night at home, I hadn’t slept well for five nights forever and was recovering from a c-section, hubby was exhausted from working and being up with baby and our post-circumcised baby was angry, painful and refusing to stay in every swaddle we tried.  He WOULD NOT sleep.

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Even the dog had enough!

I had one swaddle blanket left to try.  It was the Smarter Swaddle by Ollie World, which I received for free in exchange for my review.  The packaging was so cute that I nearly cried when I laid my preggo eyes on it.  I wanted to take pictures of it for this blog post prior to busting the swaddle blanket out and laundering it.  After all, I collected enough swaddle blankets to hold out until I was rested, recovered and had time to test the Ollie World “Smarter Swaddle” at my convenience.  Am I crazy?  Yes, I was.

In the moment on that second night at home, I ditched any preconceived dreams that I was going to do this on my terms.  “GO GET THE OLLIE SWADDLE BLANKET!” I cried at that awful moment when we’d both had enough of the crying and desperately wanted some sleep.  Not only is the Ollie Swaddle blanket ninja-proof, it’s easy to use; no swaddle skills necessary.

And just like that…

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My sweet boy calmed down.

A baby that sleeps…

Best Swaddle Blanket for Newborns: I tried them all. Pin now, read later.

Is a happy baby.

Best Swaddle Blanket for Newborns: I tried them all. Pin now, read later.

Other Reasons to Love the

Ollie World Smarter Swaddle Blanket:

  • It rests just below the shoulders, which doesn’t put any downward pull on the joints.  I wasn’t much older than my sweet boy when I first dislocated my shoulder, so this is near and dear to me.
  • Hook and loop closures (kind of like velcro) make it super easy to use, no tucking fabric, no bulky fabric bothering baby, no skills necessary.
  • The fabric quality is amazing.  You all know I sew and my hubby asked if I could just whip up a replica swaddle blanket when the Ollie Smarter Swaddle was sold out. (It’s back in stock here)  I have no idea where to source fabric of this quality.  It has the right amount of stretch to hold baby tight, without stretching too loose or losing that snap back over time.  It has fluid wicking properties, so baby doesn’t overheat when sweaty and it dries super fast in the event that baby spits up a little and actually manages to stay asleep.
  • Easy access for diaper changes by undoing the bottom, but not the shoulders.
  • Looser fit around the hips allows baby’s hips to develop properly.
  • Recently baby boy decided to refuse bottles halfway through finishing them and we discovered that swaddling him calms him enough to take down the rest of the milk.  Amazing that the swaddle works for this after we’ve tried taking breaks, being patient, burping him, different nipples, different bottles, varying nap schedules and different milk temperatures.
  • The adorable keepsake box it comes in.

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The Ollie Swaddle is back in stock.  Get yours for 10% off here.

Want to know what else I thought was a “baby nice to have” that made my Baby Must Have List?  Read all about them here.

Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock: Best Mom Hack Ever

The Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock, aka, the best mom hack ever, landed on my front porch for free in exchange for my review.  I could not be more thrilled for this opportunity.  After trying it out, I will be gifting these at every future baby shower.  To all my future preggo friends, you’re welcome.

My eldest niece was born 14 years ago and there weren’t a lot of mom hacks, or at least we didn’t have Pinterest to tell us about them.  Taking my niece to the grocery store meant schlepping her bulky, heavy car seat into the store.  There was no good way to tote a tot around a store in a car seat.  Either the car seat went on top of the cart (a safety hazard for car seats slipping, carts tipping and for tip toeing moms), or the car seat went in the cart and groceries went…??  Outings were no easy task, especially post c-section.

Fast forward to the birth of my son a month ago, I was not looking forward to grocery store trips.  Fortunately for me, there was a very clever mama on a mission to solve this shopping dilemma.  Lisa Pinnell created the Binxy Baby shopping cart hammock after sharing the same shopping struggles.

Best Mom Hack Ever: shopping with baby made easy.
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Binxy Baby: AKA Best Mom Hack Ever

The shopping cart hammock holds babies up to 6-8 months of age (until they are able to sit up on their own).  At a whopping 7 pounds, in the photo below, my little guy loves it!  He is strapped in to the harness and enjoying the sites around the store from the best seat in the house.  Binxy Baby isn’t just convenient, it’s safe and it’s been tested for all current safety standards.

Binxy Baby fits standard grocery carts.

Two will fit side by side in most carts for multiples and there is still plenty of room for groceries underneath.  Shout out to moms with multiples, anything to make their lives easier!

Genius mom hack makes shopping easy!
To the candy aisle Ma!

My newborn is still able to sleep anywhere and light enough to lift in and out of the car seat easily.

In the future, when I don’t want to wake him or the weather is too cold to transfer him out of his cozy car seat, Binxy Baby has a strap to safely secure the car seat at the level of the cart.  This keeps the car seat low enough to see over (without tip toeing) and all the groceries still fit below.

Shop Binxy Baby:

I couldn’t be happier to recommend this product to my fellow mamas. Be sure to follow this link to save 10%.

Looking for more great baby products? Check out my new mom registry must haves. Spoiler alert, Binxy Baby made the cut!

What was the best product you got for baby?

How to Style Fall Layers: Proportions are Everything

Knowing how to style Fall layers is the difference between looking homeless and looking chic. 

  The slightest tweak to proportion makes the biggest difference.

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How to Style Fall Layers:

One trick I use when I style Fall layers is to make sure none of the layers start and end at the same point.  For example, if you want to pair your favorite long cardigan with a cute pair of boots, they shouldn’t touch at exactly the same point.  If they both meet at the knee, go for a shorter or taller boot, so they don’t create a line clean across the body.  You’ll add length and dimension by separating the two.

Take a look at this old picture of me wearing two very different boot styles.

These knee high boots by Vince on the left are my favorite Fall boots, but they just don’t work with this cardigan.  If I wanted to make them work, I could slip into some black pants.  The black pant wouldn’t contrast the boot and they would highlight the jacket for an overall lengthening affect.  The Jimmy Choo biker boots on the right are an improvement overall, but with as short as I am, a bootie or mule would have worked better than both of these shoes.  It’s incredible how much proportions affect the look.

The same tip goes for jackets and tops.  Your jacket shouldn’t crop your waist at the exact same line as your top and pants.

The next time you throw on an extra layer, try it out with a few varying pieces underneath and see what flatters you.  Maybe you’ll do better with a shorter top that adds length to your legs or a longer top if you have a short torso and long legs.

Shop My Fave Fall Sweaters:

Let me know how this styling tip works for you in the comments below.

Ultimate First Time Mom Baby Registry Essentials

The first time mom baby registry is confusing.  Registry checklists tell you that you need EVERYTHING for baby.  And there is no shortage of items to choose from for the first time mom baby registry.  You’re going to rock this mom gig and you’ll figure out the big-ticket items like the car seat and stroller (mine are Uppa Baby).

Below are the picks I consider outstanding for the first time mom baby registry.  I didn’t have a sweet clue which products to choose for my registry, so I’ve included lots of other basics at the end of this post.  If you have any questions about the products, feel free to drop me a note in my inbox or in the comments section!

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First Time Mom Baby Registry Essentials

My Brest Friend Pillow

Growing up, I babysat and nannied in college and everyone had the Boppy Pillow. I remember when it came out and they were all the rage. Of course I registered for one, but I also purchased the My Brest Friend Travel Pillow for the hospital. The travel pillow packs small and inflates for use. I planned to get a lot of use out of it with the traveling we do.  We took a breastfeeding prep course and the teacher recommended My Brest Friend over any other pillow.  I was excited to compare them and see what all the fuss was about.

I used my travel pillow in the hospital and it worked well. I liked that there was back support and the pillow moved with me and baby as we shifted around trying to figure out breast-feeding together. At home, I switched to the Boppy Pillow and realized quickly why the teacher hadn’t recommended it. The Boppy Pillow slid away from me every time I leaned back against my pillows and my wiggly, jiggly baby managed on more than one occasion to slip down the hole in the middle.  #momfail.  I’ll keep the Boppy for tummy time, but as far as breast-feeding goes, it’s My Brest Friend all the way.

Shop My Brest Friend Pillows:

The Ollie World: The Smarter Swaddle

Swaddling has been around forever.  I remember swaddling my niece when she was born 14 years ago.  I registered for a variety of swaddle blankies, thinking my son would look adorable in all of them.  My niece was easy-going baby and pretty much any cute swaddle blanket worked.

My son, not so much.  He is a NINJA.  I was gifted an Ollie World Swaddle in exchange for my review.  In addition to the breastfeeding course we took, we also took a sleep course and the Ollie Swaddle was the first one demonstrated and recommended by the instructor.  Hubs and I looked at each other and said, “Oh good, we have one of those too.”  Beyond that, I didn’t think much about it.  My plan was to get settled at home and check it out when I was ready to write about it.  I hadn’t anticipated how fussy my little one would be after his circumcision.  He did not sleep, in spite of applying everything we learned in class.  At 3AM, we were both short on sleep and desperate.  Our little ninja didn’t stay in any of the blankets we tried.  I wanted to photograph the beautiful packaging before we broke out the Ollie World Smarter Swaddle, but desperate times call for desperate measures.  We slipped baby into the easy to use swaddle and he calmed himself instantly.  He’s basically lived in it since.  All of the adorable swaddle blankets we registered for are now used as burp cloths.

Shop The Ollie World- The Smarter Swaddle (save 10%)

First Time Mom Registry Essentials: The Ollie World: The Smarter Swaddle.  Pin now, read later.
Now that’s a happy baby!

Halo Bassinest

I waffled quite a bit on this one.  Our stroller came with a bassinet, so I debated just purchasing legs for that instead.  Knowing I required a C-section, I anticipated it being difficult to get in and out of bed.  The side wall on the Swivel Sleeper Bassinest lowers for easier transfer of baby from Bassinest to bed.  It also swivels 360 degrees, so it’s very easy to push out of the way, so I can get out of bed without climbing over a regular bassinet. I throw a large changing pad down and change him in it in the middle of the night, so I don’t have to leave the room, sore and exhausted.   I purchased the cheapest Bassinest because it wasn’t that much more than the bassinet legs that went with my stroller bassinet.  It’s all about justifying it right?  Mine doesn’t rock or make sounds, but it’s all we need and more at this stage.  I couldn’t be happier with this buy.

Shop Swivel Sleeper Halo Bassinest:

 

Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock:

I received a Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock in exchange for my review.  I took it for a spin today and my baby absolutely loved it.  Post c-section, it’s so much easier using the Binxy Baby than lugging the car seat into the grocery store or wearing baby the whole time.  I should note that the Binxy Baby will hold a car seat strapped in and secure, if you’re wanting to go that route.  I’ll try that one day when I don’t want to wake him by getting him out of the car seat.  Baby had a great time checking out the store and being rocked by the cart; he didn’t even mind pushing his feeding a little late.  The only downside, I was in a hurry to get home and feed him and so many moms stopped me to ask about this product.  Next time I’ll plan ahead for that!

Shop Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock (save 10%)

First Time Mom Baby Registry Essentials.  Pin now, read later
Loves shopping with mom!

 

First Time Mom Baby Registry Essentials. Pin now, read later
He’s clearly a fan of the Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock.

Lil’ Sidekick:

No parent has ever enjoyed the game of throwing things on the floor as much as small children.  Lil’ Sidekick allows your little one to explore gravity without you bending to the floor and feeling the need to clean everything thrown at the dog.

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Líllébaby Baby Carriers:

Shop Líllébaby Carriers:

I did a ton of research on baby carriers and I was thrilled that the crowd pleasing brand, Líllébaby, let me try out two different carriers.  I like the Lillebaby wraps ($10 off) because they feel great on.  They are so comfortable.  I also received the All Seasons carrier ($10 off) (black and white stripped carrier below).  The All Seasons is unique because it’s nicely padded and structured for easy wearing and it has flaps that fold down and allow baby to stay cool or zip up for those chilly nights.  With the stark contrast in winter weather from my home in Arizona to visiting family in the midwest, the All Seasons Carrier is a must-have.

Shop Líllébaby Carriers (save $10):

Owlet

Owlet’s slogan is “Love more.  Worry less.”  That’s exactly what we do.  Monitoring our little boy’s oxygenation and heart rate while he sleeps gives us the peace of mind we need.  My husband and I both work in critical care and one of the most difficult parts of our job is turning off the monitor.  As long as we can see the vitals, we know the patient is okay.  This paranoia definitely spills over to raising our child.  The technology is available to ensure your littles stay safe, so why not take advantage?

*Literally while I was writing this blurb, his oxygenation dropped for the first time ever and I raced back to the bedroom to check him out.   He turned out to be fine, but I’m really glad we had the sock on him.  It served as a reminder that things can happen outside of our control.  Life is precious.

Shop Owlet:

DocATot:

As you read above, I’m a little paranoid about SIDS.  It happens to good parents who do everything right.  DocATot is another product that makes me feel safe every time I put little booboo down for a nap.  I’m working from home these days and I have the luxury of putting him in the DocATot right next to me while I work.  The DocATot is easy to transfer around the house and serves as a consistent sleep lounger for him, while I can keep an eye on him.  I love that the bolsters keep him from rolling over.  He’s a strong little ninja and when he’s hungry, he manages to turn sideways in his Bassinest and pin himself against the wall, which is okay because it’s mesh.  I feel much safer putting him down in his swaddle in the Bassinest and DocATot over a traditional crib.

Shop DocATot Loungers (save $10):

First Time Mom Baby Registry Essentials: pin now, read later
He’s happy in his DocATot and I’m happy for safe sleep.

Lorena Canals Machine Washable Rugs:

Pinterest has raised the bar for nurseries.  There is endless design inspo for gorgeous rooms your little one will barely appreciate before outgrowing it.  Let’s face it, the nursery is really for us nesting moms.  It makes us feel good.  Lorena Canals Rugs make the best sophisticated children’s rugs because they check the boxes for beautiful decor, quality and functionality.  I fully expect accidents, spit ups,  and spills to happen in our nursery, especially through the toddler years.  I have no worries at all now that I have a Lorena Canals rug.  Little man is free to be a kid and his messy moments.  These beautiful rugs go in the washer and dryer and come out looking new.  I am so thankful to have received this rug in exchange for my review.  I’ve test run it through the washer and dryer once and it still looks great.  Don’t be fooled by this adorable face, his diaper is loading and I’m worry-free!

First Time Mom Baby Registry Essentials: Machine Washable Rug

I also love that Lorena Canals Rugs support the Sakula project, which helps provide schooling to children in India.  If you’ve been following for a while, you may know that hubby is East Indian and we have traveled to India to visit family.  There are so many children in need, so this cause is near and dear.

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PullyPalz Pacifier Holder:

PullyPalz Pacifier Holder , as featured on Shark Tank.  MoMo the Monkey straps to the car seat handle or play mat bar and provides endless entertainment as your little one reaches for paci after paci.  Our little one is a bit young for this toy right now, but I know he will love it.

 The Original Cushy Close Door:

Babies have a unique ability to sleep through dogs barking, phones ringing and children running through the house, but the second you try to tiptoe out of the nursery to catch some sleep, they hear everything!  The Original Cushy Closer Door Cushion keeps the door latch from clicking and allows you to escape the room like the stealth cat you know you are.

 

 In case you were wondering about the other wonderful things on my registry…

Shop My First Time Mom Baby Registry:

Mom’s don’t forget to throw in a few things for yourself. Becoming a mom is a huge freaking deal and I loved it when a few people brought gifts for baby and for me. You’re going to go through a massive shift in hormones as your body gets used to not being pregnant and you deserve to feel pampered.  Whether you register for it or not, it’s a good time to pick up a bottle of wine, new pj’s all the nursing essentials (if you’re planning to breastfeed) and maybe even a few home face masks to give you that, I’ve been to the spa skin when, really, you’ve not slept in days.

First Time Mom Baby Registry Gifts For Mama:

What was your best new baby find?  Comment below!

Pregnancy Update: 38 weeks. Only a Few Days Left

It’s been a while since my last pregnancy update.  Earlier this week, I turned 38 weeks pregnant and I can’t believe how quickly the third trimester got away from me.  Between baby showers, putting the finishing touches on our new home, twice weekly doctor’s visits, decorating the nursery, getting our lives ready for Baby Boy, working and blogging, I feel like I just revealed the pregnancy yesterday.

Pregnancy Update:

38 week pregnancy update!
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How far along are you?

I’m 38 weeks and 4 days.

How big is peanut? 

He’s a the size of a watermelon and it sure does feel like I’m carrying a watermelon.  If a watermelon could kick my ribs and punch the nerves in my pelvis.

Total weight gain/loss? 

Too much!  I’m excited to have my body back and get into a healthy routine.  Who’s excited to do this with me?

Sleep?

I’m still sleeping ok.  The first two trimesters, I didn’t have the hot flashes and night sweats that I had pre-pregnancy from the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.  Unfortunately the night sweats have made a full fledged return for the third trimester.  It’s not any different than the sleep I had pre-pregnancy, so I can’t complain. Sheex sheets definitely help with temperature control.  Sheex sheets are stretchy, athletic wear-like sheets.  They’re warm enough, but if you sweat like me, they wick it away to cool you off.  They also don’t wrinkle and so, so freaking soft.

Best moment this week? 

I had my very last ultrasound on Monday.  It was a bittersweet moment.  I’ve watched my little boy grow and develop every week on ultrasound and now it’s come to an end.  He was awake and playing with his cord.  It’s so cute to see him pulling on the cord and chewing on it; having a blast in there.  To curb the pregnancy emotions, I ordered an Ultrasound Memory Book that will fit all of his ultrasound photos.  I’m going to put them in order and save them for the days I miss having him so close.

Symptoms? 

I have all the typical aches and pains of pregnancy at this point.  I’m not sure if the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome makes it worse or not.  Joint pain is kind of my baseline, so it’s nothing I can’t handle.  It’s been worse in the last week, but I’ll be delivering on Monday.  I can do anything for a few weeks.

Swelling continues to be an issue.  At this point, none of my rings fit and I’m just hoping that most of my weight gain beyond the standard 25 lbs is fluid.  It definitely looks to be that way, but we will see!

Food cravings?   

I haven’t had any.  I’ve been trying to eat foods that are good for baby, but I also don’t feel like cooking, so…

Food aversions? 

Everyone says that as the pregnancy comes to an end, eating becomes more difficult due to the baby’s size.  Our little guy is predicted to be almost 8 lbs, but I’m still eating like a champ.

Gender? 

Oh Boy!

Labor signs? 

My amniotic fluid has been high throughout the pregnancy, which causes an “irritable uterus.”  Lol, leave it to me to have an irritable uterus.  Irritability has caused more cramping and contractions than usual.  I’ve actually had a lot of contractions since 22 weeks.  I’m kind of over it.

Belly button in or out? 

Still in!

What I miss?

I miss being a regular sized person.

I miss walking into a room and not having people flock to me, stare at me, touch my belly, ask me how I am…  It’s part of the experience and most of the time I am overjoyed to share how things are going.  It’s the bad days when I’m exhausted, painful and having a ton of contractions that I just want to go unnoticed.  I’ve had a few people reach to touch my tummy expecting to feel kicks and instead they feel a rock-hard contraction.  It’s awkward for both of us.

Of course, I’m going to miss the swooning over my belly when it’s gone.

What I’m looking forward to? 

I’m very happy for the pregnancy pains to come to an end, but I’m also sad my little boy will be separating from me.  I know our bond will continue to grow in ways I can’t imagine, but isn’t that the natural order of things?  Kids grow up and grow into their own identities spending their lives evolving from the little peanut that was once a part of their mother.  Birth marks the first of many milestones.  I just want to lie on my side, cuddle my belly, talk to my boy and stop time.

Although, I could not be more excited to meet this little guy.  I can’t wait to see him and learn his personality.  Thus far, all I’ve had is my imagination and all the ultrasounds and 3D imaging.

I don’t have words for how excited I am to meet him.  My heart is full.

 

First Trimester Maternity Fashion: What to Buy, What Not to Buy

First trimester maternity shopping is a mixed bag.  First time mamas walk around the house pushing out their bellies and longing for an adorable bump.  The second time around, you spend the entire first trimester sucking in your gut, telling yourself you can still get into your skinny jeans.

It’s difficult for first-time mommies to decide what to buy.  Prepared or not, as soon as that little stick turns pink, the body starts going through major changes.  One day you can hide it and the next, you’re belly is so bloated, literally nothing in the closet fits.  Beyond the bump, there’s the boobs.  Suddenly none of your bras fit and how the heck are you supposed to know what size they’re going to stay?  New clothes and new bras… this could be a disaster for the preggo’s wallet.

Relax… All you need in the first trimester is a few staples that will grow with the pregnancy.  You’ll be more comfy and you can rest easy knowing you didn’t waste money on non-essentials.  Your body deserves comfort, but it’s better to wait for most items.  Your bump won’t be big enough for big maternity dresses for a while and you need to see how your body is going to grow.

I thought I would be one of those moms who only gains 25 lbs and is all belly.  That’s sort of true; I’m all belly, but I retained a ton of fluid.  A couple of my first trimester maternity fashion finds did not last me through the third trimester.  I’m here to make sure your first trimester maternity shopping spree is successfully carries you through the end.

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First trimester maternity fashion guide. Pin now, shop later.
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First Trimester Maternity Staples:

Faux Leather Maternity Pants:

Faux leather pants are a going out staple of mine.  I paired faux leather pants with all of my non-maternity blouses for the majority of my pregnancy.  It was like I wasn’t even wearing “special” clothes.

8 months pregnant: Best Maternity Buys
8 months pregnant.

Shop the photo: faux leather pants with a sequin maternity top, black stretch jacket, Chloé Hudson bag and wedge booties.

Shop Faux Leather Maternity Pants:

 

Maternity Jeans:

There are maternity hacks out there to help you stay in your pre-pregnancy jeans longer.  I did a post on my favorite technique.  Read the full post here.  This trick worked well to give me a little variety in my wardrobe, but I can’t express how glad I am that I went ahead and purchased a pair of maternity jeans.  Jeans are a must have for my casual days and I want to be comfortable.  There are so many uncomfortable aspects of pregnancy and denim should not be one of them.  I wasn’t aware that there were so many styles of maternity pants.  Maternity jeans are not one and the same, there are 3 different types.

Inset Panel Maternity Jeans:

Inset panel pants have a regular closure; they button and zip just like your non-maternity jeans.  Stretch is added in the front pocket area.  Denim material is replaced with stretch panels behind the pockets, so they will stretch quite a bit.  That said, this type of pant is best earlier in pregnancy. I have a pair of inset panel pants and around six and a half to seven months, I wasn’t as comfy in them anymore.  The pants sit really low below the bump, so they are harder to keep up later in pregnancy.

One solution for saggy bottoms would be a belly band.  The belly band worked for me, so I didn’t have to give up on this first trimester maternity find.  The major benefit of these pants is that they totally look like regular pants.  You can tuck in a longer shirt in the front and there’s no weird “maternity” panel showing.

Shop Inset Panel Pants:

Demi Maternity Pants:

The in-between pant is the demi pant.  Demi maternity pants have a thick (usually around two inches wide) elastic band that sits below the belly.  They aren’t the full panel that you think of when you hear “maternity pants,” but they are more supportive than the inset pant.  I wore my demi pants, comfortably, through the majority of my pregnancy.  They would have made it the duration if I had sized up instead of ordering true to size early.

Shop Demi Maternity Pants:

Full Panel Maternity Pants:

These are the pants that have the full panel all the way up to the ribcage.  The aren’t so comfy earlier in pregnancy because the bump doesn’t fill out the panel, but they are the most comfy of the three toward the end.  I opted not to splurge on these.  It’s hot in Arizona and I decided that I would rather tough it out in the demi pants.  It’s a personal decision though.

Shop Full Panel Maternity Pants:

Maternity Bras:

Bust size fluctuates a lot throughout pregnancy and makes bigger changes after the milk supply comes in.  During my first trimester, none of my bras fit comfortably, but I was hesitant to purchase new ones.  I came across the nursing sleep bra and purchased a few.  Wow.  What a solution!  Sleep bras are made to be super soft and comfortable, so you can sleep in them undisturbed.  Though I’m not yet a nursing mama, I imagine sleep bras are necessary to hold breast pads and prevent leakage straight onto pajamas.  They also happen to be perfect for the first trimester tenderness and size fluctuation.  They don’t offer a ton of support, but a tight, binding bra that hoists the girls up is not exactly appealing during sensitive moments.

I haven’t shopped nursing bras outside of sleep bras, but the helpful ladies at Nordstrom informed me that it’s best to come in for a fitting sometime after the first week or two postpartum (so the choices below will get you through that) and Nordstrom will also attach nursing clips to any bras new or old.  You can have them turn your favorite, most comfortable style into a nursing bra, even if it isn’t offered as an option.

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Dresses:

Armed with well-fitting pants and comfy bras, the first two trimesters will be a breeze. Shift and t-shirt dresses also go a long way. I wore all of my looser non-maternity dresses into my third trimester. It wasn’t until the 3rd trimester that I relied heavily on maternity dresses. Thankfully there are inexpensive and stylish options out there. I purchased a couple of maternity dresses early on that weren’t heavily ruched on the sides (that will look baggy in the beginning). I am still wearing them at the end of my pregnancy, so they were a great find.

Shop Non-Maternity Dresses:

Shop Maternity Dresses:

What was your best first trimester buy?

Eyeshadow for Beginners: + Tips To Modify Based on Eye Shape

Eyeshadow for beginners is a step by step tutorial for applying eyeshadow for the beginner beauty enthusiast who feels just plain lost when someone says, “cut crease” like it’s a skill we all have.

It’s just eyeshadow basics without all the jargon and unattainable perfection.

Save it for later… Pin it.

Eyeshadow for beginners. Pin now, practice later.
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Eyeshadow for Beginners Tutorial:

The Final Look:

Eyeshadow for beginners tutorial. Pin now, practice later.

Eyeshadow for beginners tutorial. Pin now, practice later.

Eyeshadow for Beginners Products:

Primer:

At minimum, you should be using concealer on your eyelid before applying your eyeshadow.  Concealer or a good primer will neutralize the color of your lid giving you a fresh canvas.  The benefit of a good primer, like the Too Faced Shadow Insurance Primer I used, is that it adheres to the eyeshadow, so the eyeshadow applies more easily (you use less) and it lasts longer.  If you don’t have much eyeshadow left on your lids by the end of the day, you probably need a different primer.

Eyeshadow Palettes:

Am I crazy because I’m a beauty blogger who doesn’t spend a ton on the latest eyeshadow palettes?  I just can’t get down with that.  I love my drugstore finds and they work so well that I can’t justify spending more.  That’s not to say that I haven’t tried to expensive stuff too; I have.

CoverGirl TruNaked Goldens Palette:  I picked this palette up about a month ago and I’ve been getting a ton of compliments on my eyeshadow with these colors.  Perfect for the natural Summer glow.  I used the second from left (see image in widget below) for the base and the color just to the right of it as the medium tone.

Coastal Scents Smokey Palette:  Coastal Scent Palettes first dropped into my life via my Birchbox account.  I love the variety of colors I get for the price.  The shadows are pretty pigmented too, so that means I don’t kick up a lot of dust trying to get enough color on my lids.

Coastal Scents Revealed 2 Palette:  I used the color one shade lighter than black as liner.  There’s a hint of purple in it, which is gorgeous next to blue and brown eyes, but especially flattering to all my red-headed sisters.

Brushes:

A set of good makeup brushes is worth the splurge.  I wasn’t totally convinced of that for a long time.  Mostly, I used free brushes that came with special promotions for products.  Usually those brushes aren’t great quality and are smaller travel-sized versions of the good ones.  After years of using whatever came my way, I finally started replacing them one at a time and I noticed a huge difference.  With good brushes, my makeup applies easier, I use less of it and they are more gentle on my face.  In the video, I used a makeup wipe to clean off eyeshadow shades when I switched colors because I don’t have a huge set of brushes.  I want to note that this is purely for changing colors and it does not count as disinfecting your brushes.  Clean brushes are so important for reducing exposure to bacteria.  For more info on cleaning your makeup brushes, check out this post I did; spoiler alert, my method leaves them disinfected and they dry fully over night.

Blending Crease Brush: Hands down one of my favorite brushes.  I love the way this brush picks up product and drops just the right amount without smudging it too much or kicking up eye shadow around my eye.  This is probably why I insist on wiping it off and reusing it.

Pro Angled Liner Brush:  I can’t live without this brush.  If I could use only two on my eyes, it would be the Blending Crease Brush and the Liner Brush.  Totally saves my day when I want winged liner, but I don’t have time for the perfect precision of wet liner.

Smudge Brush: Important for smokey eyes and for slightly smudging liner to give your eyes a softer look.  A good one, like this one, will be tightly packed and soft on your eyelids.

Fan Brush:  This brush does a great cleanup job without damaging your hard work.  I’m so glad I finally figured out what this was for.

Contour Brush Set:  If you’re looking for a whole set of eyeshadow brushes, it’s cheaper to buy them as a set than individually.  This is actually the set that I have.  After replacing a few of my face brushes, I realized that I really did need the whole set and I couldn’t be happier with my purchase.

Shop All the Products:

 

What tips do you have for the beginner beauty enthusiast?  Comment below!

 

Blowout Spray Giveaway! Previously Featured on The Luxicon

Blowout spray is one of my favorite recent finds.  Seriously, how did I survive without this?  You don’t want to miss out on this giveaway!

Free Blowout Spray!

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, then you have seen the Caviar Anti-Aging Miracle Multiplying Volume Mist literally work miracles on my hair.  Not just mine either, my husband loves this stuff too.

Giveaway: Blowout Spray! Pin it and don't forget to enter!
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ICYMI: The Full Post on How to Achieve a Professional Blowout at Home.  Get the full details complete with video demonstrating how to use the blowout spray I’m giving away.  Not feeling lucky?  You can shop the products below if you’d rather not take your chances.

Shop Home Blowout Products:

Enter the Giveaway below, but don’t forget to use all the entry options for additional entries:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Formal Maternity Dress for Maternity Shoot or Shower

Shopping for a formal maternity dress was the last thing I wanted to do as my body approached new never-before-seen limits.  When I was eight months pregnant, my MIL hosted an evening garden party/baby shower, eeek let the panic begin, how would I find and fit into a formal maternity dress without spending a fortune on tailoring.   I’m a fashion blogger, so I needed to make sure this dress was OP.  Wait.  “Eight months pregnant”, “on point”, “formal” and “maternity dress” do not go together in the same statement?  I wasn’t sure how to accept the challenge that, admittedly, I’d created in my own head.  I wasn’t even sure I could stay awake for an evening party, let alone “impress.”  Most of the time I felt tired, sweaty and like I could pee myself at the drop of a sneeze; not exactly the perfect combo for entertaining and modeling a formal maternity dress.

There comes a point in every pregnancy when you just can’t hang.  Swollen legs make even maternity pants too tight and a growing waistline combined with fluctuating bust size make it impossible to plan ahead.  I had a few options.

How to Shop for a Formal Maternity Dress:

  1.  Do a massive maternity haul from ASOS and keep whatever works best.  See what I bought below.
  2.  Use Rent the Runway and potentially find a formal-enough non-maternity dress that doesn’t read Shamu.
  3.  Give in to “maternity” style and wear something skin-tight and ruched to the max or a moomoo so loose it resembles an actual tent.

I ended up following through with options one and two.  Option three just isn’t me and at 5’1″ I could easily look as wide as I am tall, so super tight and super loose weren’t spectacular choices.

My first attempt at finding a formal dress was through ASOS I absolutely love their maternity wear.  In ASOS maternity clothes, I feel like myself, which is hard to do when you’re wearing “special” clothes.  ASOS has some beautiful formal dresses, but the one I was banking on didn’t fit at all and I wasn’t willing to splurge on a dress that I would certainly only wear one time.  So here’s my haul.

 Formal Maternity Dress Haul:

Styled properly, several of the dresses were appropriate for fancy dinners or daytime showers, but what about something more formal, like an evening shower packed with fancily-clad guests or perhaps a formal wedding?

On to option number two!  Rent the Runway has been my fashion savior time and again.  This time it wasn’t just the seemingly endless dress selection that saved the day.  First of all, they offer “bump friendly” as a body type to narrow your options and also sort dresses by trimester.  This helped me through the first 6 months of pregnancy, but at 8 months I faced a different set of challenges.  My baby is healthy size and I have a tendency toward fluid retention even without being pregnant, so by 8 months I had surpassed the point that I could easily tell if a dress would fit by sizing guides provided.  Another challenge pregnancy presents is that you don’t know what size you will be if you plan ahead a month or even a few weeks, but if you wait until the last minute, you could end up dressless and naked really isn’t an option!  After spending hours clicking through reviews with photos of one formal maternity dress after another, I stumbled upon gold.

The Secret to Finding a Formal Maternity Dress Guaranteed to Fit:

Guaranteed to fit and flatter
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I’d heard of convertible bridesmaid dresses before, you know the ones with the straps that can be fastened a million different ways to suit your bridesmaid’s personality.  What I didn’t realize is that there are dresses made to fit sizes 0-12 in both regular and long hem options.  That meant that this dress claims to fit every body size between 0 and 12 and offers two different lengths.  Was this too good to be true?  The dress is also available in a size up that fits sizes 14-24 and comes in regular and long as well.  How could this be?  I immediately dove into customer reviews.  Surely the photos of real women, representing such a wide range of sizes, all wearing the same size dress would shed light on the truth.  The truth was, the Oyster Classic Convertible Gown looked spectacular on every single one of them and there were even a few preggos pictured.  Being the disbelieving skeptic I am, I ordered the dress a month early to check out the hem length and construction.  The dress passed my thorough examination and proved to be a beautiful formal maternity dress (without looking “maternity”).  I scheduled it for delivery for the shower.  Not only did I feel special in a wonderful way, my dress was on point and I managed to not sneeze and pee on myself.  The evening was a complete success and I felt that same “princess” feeling every time I get all gussied up.

Why the Oyster Classic Convertible Gown is the perfect formal maternity dress:

Formal Maternity Dress guaranteed to fit and flatter.

The straps can be fastened any way you want.  I chose to go with a traditional look instead of doing an asymmetric one shoulder or something else that would have been more trendy because I needed the bust support.  The adjustable straps create the fit around the ribcage and bust, which is how the dress can be made to fit such a range of sizes.

Formal Maternity Dress guaranteed to fit and flatter.

The fabric is heavy enough to curve around the body and add shape and dimension, but it also moves beautifully.

Formal Maternity Dress guaranteed to fit and flatter.

The wind picked up a little during the shoot and I couldn’t help wanting to twirl.

Formal Maternity Dress guaranteed to fit and flatter.

The hem was slightly long for me, so I had to wear heels.  Naturally, I had to go with the only heels that I can survive all night in.  Every woman needs a pair of nude heels and a pair of black heels that she can wear for a few hours.  More on finding that perfect pair in a future post, but what if that pair is not great for grass, cobblestone or uneven pavement?  I have the perfect solution.

Formal Maternity Dress guaranteed to fit and flatter.

Notice the caps on my heels?  They add surface area to skinny heels, so I don’t sink into the grass or get stuck in sidewalk cracks and sewer grates.  I prefer the starletto brand best because they fit different sized heels.  I wore them all night and never rolled an ankle or sunk into the grass.  Read all about them in this post I did on heel caps.

The Oyster Classic Convertible Gown is available for rental in champagne and blush.  Looking to purchase the gown instead of rent?  I can understand why, because the dress will always fit.  I found a similar gown from Anthropologie and there are more colors available.

Shop Convertible Gowns:

Happy shopping!

Nighttime Skincare Routine: What you Actually Need to Know

Your nighttime skincare routine may seem a bit overwhelming at first, or more than a little annoying if you’ve been at it a while, but it doesn’t have to be. You know what I mean, you look at your products and just think, “I can’t.” and then deep-seated regret sets in when you awaken to  eye lashes clumped together like a venus fly trap.  

Why is it so blasted hard to commit to a regimen?

I absolutely loathe standing over the sink to wash my face.  I always imagine washing my face like Rebecca Gayheart in those iconic 90’s Noxzema commercials, but it more closely resembles when I was a kid and my sister would unkink the hose right before I took a drink.  Seriously, water everywhere.  It may be because I’m short and no matter how hunched over I am, water runs down my elbows toward me, but it could just be that I’m a hot mess.  I refuse to get a step stool for my bathroom (they go in the kitchen, laundry room, master closet and the garage).  Needless to say, I didn’t last long-standing at the sink.

I tried applying face wash to my dry face and using a hot towel to rinse it off.  This option was definitely a good one.  I love the way the hot wet towel opens up my pores and it only takes a few rinses of the towel before my face feels squeaky clean, without drenching my pj’s.  Still, it’s a lot of effort on those days when I just can’t.

I tried washing with makeup removing towelettes, but they leave a bit of a residue.  I’ve read that they aren’t the most hygienic way to wash before bed and that may be why I seem to get more breakouts with these.  Not exactly the results I was looking for.

Thus began my search for the perfect routine.

What makes for a nighttime skincare routine you can stick to?

  • Doesn’t break the bank for you.
  • So refreshing that you actually want to stay consistent.
  • Yields results.  What better incentive could you have?
  • Convenience.
  • Fun. (ok that one might be reaching).

If this nighttime skincare routine seems like the magical unicorn of skincare, I hear you, but I’m not bullshitting you.  I have tried countless products and methods to get to unicorn status.  It’s so easy that even my husband does it with me, usually without groaning or complaining.  I find it so amusing when I hand him the bottles out of order and he corrects me.  Ladies, this has its advantages, I have made the deal with him that I would stay out later than I wanted to, if he washed my makeup off and did my routine for me before bed.  We really are that annoying “team couple.”

The Easy Nighttime Skincare Routine:

At the point in the evening that I’m ready to start washing my face and getting ready for the next day, I’m usually so beat that I want to just climb into bed.  Aren’t we all?  The middle ground I found was washing my face in bed with all the right products.  Yes, you heard me, I climb into my fluffy cloud of a bed, wash my face and layer all the products while watching tv.  Honestly, the few minutes I spend handing product back and forth to my husband as we unwind from our day has genuinely become something I look forward to.

I have not read anything to says that your nighttime skincare routine needs to take longer than a few minutes.  There’s no evidence that shows you need to allow each product time to dry.  Actually, to the contrary, most dermatologists will tell you that skin is pretty absorbent and there isn’t really any good reason to allow it to dry between products.  Your skin will absorb the same amount of product anyway.  So let’s get into what products you need to use.

Makeup Remover:

I used to think that as long as I took my eye makeup off, it didn’t really matter what product I used.  They’re all pretty much the same.  Rookie mistake.  Recently I found, Tatcha Pure One Step Cleansing Oil and this stuff really is magical.  I can’t say enough about the ease with which this stuff removes my eye makeup and waterproof brows makeup.  It’s so good, my husband was super impressed, remember he has tried to remove my makeup before and I’m sure you can guess he was subject to shouting, “Don’t rub my eyelashes off!”  I gently massage Tatcha Pure One Step Cleansing Oil onto my eyes and the makeup just melts off.  I remove the excess oil with the ultra soft and gentle Shiseido Cotton squares.  See my full review here.

I’m so excited about this one that I’m giving it away. Enter here. enter here. I have not found any better options that are budget friendly, so comment below if you have one. I’d love to give it a try, but for now, this splurge is worth it to me.

Micellar Water:

After the makeup is removed, I need to get the excess oil from the makeup remover off.  Micellar water is a great “in bed” option for this.  It’s thin, effective and doesn’t add residue.  I add a bit of micellar water to a soft wash cloth and go to town on my face.  My face feels like a fresh, clean canvas for the rest of the products.

Shop My Favorite Micellar Water Cleansers:

Toner:

Toner is probably one of the most over-looked and underrated products.  Toner is an important part of any morning and nighttime skincare routine because it rebalances the pH of skin after washing it.  Skin needs natural oil to help keep the pH regular.  After washing and removing natural oils, the pH is stripped.  Toner is necessary to balance the pH and restore your skin to a more natural state prior to the application of morning makeup or nighttime skincare products.  Fortunately, toner doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective.

Shop My Favorite Toners:

Besides the four amazing toners above, I also really like Thayers Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera, $8.70, from Amazon. The convenience of ordering with one click is everything and it works well too!  Witch Hazel is good for oily skin prone to breakouts, but this one also seems a little more gentle, which my skin definitely needs.

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nighttime skincare routine decoded for the best results.

Acne Products:

Between toner and serum is where I place acne products whether I’m at a point with my skincare that I need a daily additive or just spot coverage. My favorite products contain benzoyl peroxide.  I tend to get cystic acne from stress and hormones, and these products knock it right out.  Kate Somerville makes my favorite lifesaving acne products.  The Anti Bac Clearing Lotion works well on breakouts and under makeup, while Eradikate is a paste I’ve used on bigger pimples before bed and it knocks them down to a size I can cover, if not completely resolving them.  In the past, I’ve used prescription strength retinol and tried countless other products, but these two products are all I have needed for a few years now.  With these babies, I don’t need prescriptions.  Read my full post on adult acne.

Serum:

Serums penetrate deeper into the skin for better hydration and many of them leave skin feeling supple and firmer than regular moisturizers.  They also dry quickly, given that they soak in deeper.  I’ve been using Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair off and on for years.  It’s a great product that has been around forever and it’s really good for a lot of skin types.  I made the switch a few bottles ago to belif Peat Miracle Revival Serum Concentrate because my skin lacks tensile strength and it makes it feel more supple.  My latest serum find came in my Play! by Sephora box, a monthly sample subscription service.  I’ve never used anything by Korres before the Golden Krocus Elixer, but glow my gawd this stuff is great.  At $98, I haven’t purchased the full bottle yet, but every day my sample size grows more empty and I’m filled with regret for not yet making the purchase.  Not only has my skin felt stronger and more supple, but it also looks radiant.  It may be responsible for what most have been mistaking as a pregnancy glow.  My skin has been dull and dry with the pregnancy, but not since the Golden Krocus Elixer entered my life.  Kiels offers a reliable lower cost serum option.  All four serums below are worth trying and definitely yield results.

Shop My Favorite Serums:


Moisturizer:

Following your serum with moisturizer is the double whammy your skin needs to soak it all in over night and look fresh in the morning.  Customizing your moisturizer to your skin type is very important.  If you have dry skin, you’re going to want to work in a heavier moisturizer, whereas oily skin would call for something lighter.

Shop My Favorite Moisturizers:

My fourth moisturizer pick is so new that the sites I use to make these fancy shopping widgets for you aren’t even carrying it. Secret Sauce Clinically Advanced Miraculous Anti-Aging Moisturizer by It Cosmetics has lots of claims of grandeur, such as 207% of women experienced better hydration and other exciting clinical results. The impressive pearlescent, halographic packaging satisfies the unicorn lover in me while the diamond powder listed in the ingredients makes me chuckle a bit because my husband always says, “better be made of diamonds,” when something is ridiculously expensive. At $68, it is the splurge of the group, but the bottom line is, it works.  Thank you Play! box for introducing me to the best products to feed my worst addiction. My skin has had fewer fine lines, less redness and uneven color since I started using it and I’m only just about done with the sample size Sephora sent me.   It’s no wonder people keep telling me I have a pregnancy glow, a glow that just recently showed up 7 months into my pregnancy.

Eye Cream:

Lastly, eye cream tops of the nighttime skincare routine.  The specific needs tend to change over time, but eye cream remains a nighttime skincare staple.

Shop My Favorite Eye Creams:

Do you love washing your face at night? Comment below.