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How to Shop For A Newborn

Now that I’m on kid #2, I consider myself an expert on what you need to keep a baby alive and make your life less of a living hell.

I’m sure all of your mom friends have told you what works for them, you’ve read a 100 blogs and pinned even more photos of your dream nursery, and that’s totally cool- but I’m here to share what works for me. Not everything is the most photo-worthy piece, but I’m guessing you won’t care about that when it shuts up your screaming newborn.

Here We Go:

  • Fisher Price Rock N’ Play. This thing is genius because you can use it from day 1, it supports baby’s head and rocks them while they sleep (which is what they do most of the time in the beginning). It’s portable and we like it best near the dinner table or kitchen so we can keep an eye on her while we’re doing adult things. Yes we like this better than the Mamma Roo, MUCH better.
  • Chicco Portable Baby Bassinet. You’re new $$$ crib may be adorable, but you probably won’t use it for a few months. Instead, your baby will sleep next to your bed (or your in-law’s/night nurse’s bed) in a bassinet. We realized that while you can spend $$$ on a super cool version from Pottery Barn Kids, it’s much cheaper to buy this one AND you can travel with it too.
  • Playtex Diaper Genie Diaper Pail.  Diapers don’t typically smell like death until your baby starts consuming actual food, but you still want to keep the place smelling as fresh as possible. After trying several diaper garbages, this one works best. (BUT our almost 2 year old’s diapers still smell up the place enough to make you cry)
  • Medela Pump and Save Bags and Pumpin’ Pal Flanges (only read this if you plan to pump). I’m one of those over-producing people who has enough milk to feed half the city of Chicago and these bags make it simple to date and freeze milk for later. Flanges are the part of the pump that attach to your boob and when you pump, sometimes you want to sit back and chill. Most flanges make that impossible, and NO ONE wants to sit up straight at 1am. These are angled and let you sit back while you pump.
  • Dr. Brown’s Bottle Warmer.  This thing is so simple you can use it in your sleep, and trust me- half the time you are warming up a bottle you will be half awake. It’s fast, easy to clean and you can set the time to the second.
  • Phillips AVENT Bottle Drying Rack.  The little green grass bottle dryer is super cute, but this thing doesn’t get mold in-between the blades of faux grass. It’s cheap too. As far as brushes go, we like the Munchkin Sponge Bottle Brush.
  • Speaking of bottles, EVERYONE has an opinion on which kind to use. We like Dr. Browns.  Make sure you are buying the right nipple size- they change as baby gets older and eats more.
  • Burp Cloths.  We like aden + anais, but you can honestly use anything. Keep extras everywhere.
  • Phillips Newborn Soothie Pacifiers.  With my first baby, I brought one of those cute little stuffed animal pacifiers to the hospital and wondered why she wouldn’t take it. It’s because newborns need a newborn pacifier- so simple yet how the heck were we supposed to know that?!
  • My Baby Soundspa Sound Machine.  White noise =’s sleep.
  • Swaddle Me Wraps.  Oh you mastered the swaddle? Cool. But instead of fumbling around with a mini psycho, why not just use this. They keep baby wrapped and even a mini David Copperfield would have a hard time getting out. I’m legit pausing to buy two more as we speak.
  • Swaddle Blankets.  Yes, I literally just told you to use something else to swaddle baby, but you need these for other reasons. Use them as an extra layer or breast feeding cover. With baby #1 I bought that apron cover thing and realized it becomes an extra thing to pack and it’s awkward to use- these roll up and take up very little space.
  • Kickee Pants Zipper Onsies (with feet). Here’s the deal- $35 bucks seems like a TON for a onsie when you can get them at Target for so much cheaper, but this brand is SUPER soft and holds up extremely well. You want a zipper because it’s easier and faster to use during changes and you want feet because most babies hate having cold feet. I’d rather cycle thru 4 of these than 15 of another brand and you can re-sell them on baby consignment websites like Kidizen.  
  • BabyBijorn Carrier.  It’s the OG carrier for a reason. This is my best friend- I put her in it when I’m doing things around the house, running errands and would choose it over a stroller 9 times out of 10. I tried some other wraps and got super confused and frustrated- this is straight forward and once you figure it out, it’s a snap. If you live near a Bye Bye Baby- go there and they will show you how to use it.
  • Baby Boppy Lounger and Podster . Get one of each to put around your house. I find them especially useful with adult bathroom/shower time.

So that’s my list.

Yes you need other stuff like; diapers, a carseat, stroller, baby wash, bottle wash… but that stuff is more obvious. This is supposed to help you with things that you maybe had no clue you even needed- I wish someone had told me…we would have saved a ton of time and $$$.

Summer 2015 Best Bikinis

1. I live in a city where you can only really wear a bikini MAYBE 4 months of the year.

2. I’m currently pregnant and growing further and further from a “sexy” swimsuit body.

And yet I manage to be completely obsessed with bikinis- to the point that I consider myself a solid  resource for finding pieces in places most don’t think to look.

Here are some of my favorite brands & sites for swim season:

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My friends Meggy and Melissa introduced me to this brand and it’s quickly become one of my favorites for a few reasons. Price: every suit is around $79 bucks- for both the top and bottom. Fit: As a girl who used to wear an XS small top and now needs an XL, I can truly appreciate a suit that adds support and flatters a fuller bust. Color: the neon colors really pop against tan skin and are extremely flattering. 

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Disclaimer- I’m pretty sure this style isn’t available anymore, but before it ran out of stock I also picked it up in gold. 

Don’t fret… almost every single suit on the site is simply incredible. I’m a huge fan of their line of bright solid suits with metal accents and the way these things fit. Nothing is worse that a suit that accents the wrong curvy parts and these do nothing but flatter. 

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Speaking of bright colors, metal accents and the SIIICKEST fit ever- meet French brand Pain de Sucre. 

I stumbled upon this line while in St. Barth’s and was shocked by how flattering their pieces were. There is something about a simple solid suit that fits perfectly that can stand out more than one with a super crazy pattern- not that those aren’t fun too- but when you want the LBD version of a bikini…this is your brand. Luckily they also have an on-line store. 

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Beach Bunny will always be my #1 OG brand- mostly because I was wearing one of these suits (including the above bottoms) when I fell in love with my husband. 

The majority of my bikini collection is Beach Bunny because their suits are; fun, trendy, SUPER sexy and they go on sale often. 

When I say *sexy* I mean it…their bottom cuts range from tiny to dental floss…so this summer most of my Bunnies will be packed away till post baby- but TRUST ME when I tell you that getting back into them is major motivation. 

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Revolve is like an all-you-can-eat buffet of bikinis and swimwear. It doesn’t matter how modest or skimpy you want to go- they have multiple options. 

PLUS- they send you a pre paid envelope with return shipping so you can order as many as you like, try them on at HOME in your mirror and send back the rejects. Because let’s be honest- a suit may look beyond on a model but make you look like a stuffed sausage. (yes, I’m speaking from experience)

And remember- a spray tan makes EVERYONE feel better while trying to find their perfect summer staple.

Just Spin

Soul Cycle is awesome…blah blah- we’ve been hearing about this NYC fitness institution for years thanks to it’s crazy celebrity following and FINALLY Chicago is getting an invite to the party.

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Heavy Metals

The website is live and classes start Tuesday, April 14th- BUT the real reason for this post is because of an event they are throwing with LADY GAGA on April 21st.

Yep- for only 1k you can ride cheek to cheek* with Gaga.

*Well, not really…the bikes directly next to her already sold out for 2500$.

BUT mega fans still get to breathe the same air…and all the proceeds go to the Born This Way Foundation.

How much would YOU pay to ride with your favorite celeb?

Buy your golden ticket here.

Slam Dunk Kale Artichoke Dip

(Thought I’d share from over at TheWifeyKitchen.com!)

Considering the fact that 40 million Americans fill out NCAA brackets- I’m assuming at least a few of you will watch the games and attend a viewing party or host friends…am I right?

That got me thinking about a recipe that travels well, and is at least SEMI healthy….and this dip is the answer.

I made it for my family over the Christmas holiday as an appetizer and even my brother was a fan, so I tweaked it some more and if I may say- it’s delicious.

Plus, it’s green…just like my team THE MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS!

Slam Dunk Kale Artichoke Dip

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What You Need/Grocery List:

  • either a can of quartered artichoke heats or a healthy serving of artichokes from the salad bar.
  • a bag of spinach and/or a container full of spinach from the salad bar.
  • a bunch of kale- I get mine pre chopped from Whole Foods salad bar. You can also buy your own and chop it
  • a small container of Greek Yogurt- PLAIN. I like to use the 2% fat version
  • 1/2 cup of light mayo
  • 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • a head of garlic
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • either a fresh round load of bread or crackers/bread for dipping
  • a blender or food processor
  • a round or square baking dish- oven safe

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What To Do:

  • pre heat your oven to 350 degrees, cut off top of garlic and place cut side up , wrapped in tin foil and drizzled with olive oil in the oven for about 30 mins. When the garlic is soft enough to squeeze- it’s done.

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and after

and after

  • sautee 2 tsp olive oil , kale and spinach for about 5 mins or until everything is “wilted”.
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pre wilting

  • dump the mixture into a blender, add the artichoke and garlic and pulse until blended

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  • return this mix to a bowl and add your cheeses, yogurt and mayo- and a dash of salt and pepper as needed- stir until it’s all one happy family

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  • layer into your baking dish, sprinkle some extra cheese on top
  • bake – un covered- for around 25 mins or until the top begins to get golden brown

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  • (IF USING ROUND LOAF) cut off top, scoop out middle and break or cut into pieces. Pour dip into bowl and serve with pieces for dipping.
  • Otherwise- serve with tortilla chips, or crackers and track that bracket without starving!

* STEP BY STEP VIDEO COMING SOON*

Chicago’s Best Blowdry Salons

How do you choose where you get your hair/nails/tans/fitness/facials done? Friend recommendation? Magazine? Yelp reviews?

I’m completely guilty of using Yelp, even though I know that owners of these places create fake accounts and post glowing reviews.

So guess what? I decided to start posting reviews here- since I’m the kind of person that will try almost everything.

Today it’s all about the blowout bar trend that has FINALLY hit Chicago.

Back in the day, a blowout used to cost whatever your stylist’s rate was- and one stylist I used to go to charged 95 bucks! If you’re like me, 95 dollars is a lot to spend for something that you will most likely ruin by sleeping on or working out the next day. And if you wanted extensions clipped in or your hair curled…the price kept going up.

Aside from cost- the other major issue with getting a killer blow out was time. I remember going to a Gold Coast Salon here in Chicago, waiting for an assistant to shampoo me, then waiting for my stylist to finish the client before me, then sitting for a 45 min blow-dry. 1 hour and 30 mins is NOT ideal.

Which is why I’m such a fan of blow-dry bars.

PROS:

  • get you in and out in under an hour
  • provide a “menu” of styles – which eliminates guessing games and getting lost in translation
  • one set price, usually $40
  • one person washes and styles you- eliminating time and extra tip
  • normally open early and late

CONS:

  • businesses need to accommodate for steady stream of customers and hire MEH stylists
  • you most likely will get someone you’ve never met, who doesn’t know your hair and what you like

Chicago BlowDry Bars and what I thought:

Blowout Junkie

  • friendly staff
  • on-line bookings
  • provides an i pad with both a style menu and magazines to read
  • they provide at home services as well, I’ve yet to use
  • I’ve never had a bad blowout here- in fact I’ve had some of the best. They’ve worked with my long hair and short as well and always done a fantastic job.

Blowtique

  • rude front desk girl
  • fantastic owners (sometimes they work the front desk)
  • have to call to book an appointment
  • I’ve always had a fantastic blow-dry here as well and I’ve never had the same stylist twice. I’ve also gone in for a “touch up” before a big date and now I’m married to the guy 😉

Blow by Blow

  • on-line booking
  • they provide at home styling options- which I’ve used and she was prompt and did a great job
  • cute salon
  • stylists are always chatting/singing loudly
  • took my mom there and she got a HORRIFIC style job- think tight spiral curls. But the stylist was happy to re blow straight and it looked great
  • one stylist pulls very hard on hair and has ripped out my extensions
  • (aside from the pain) always very happy when I left

Dream Dry

  • I’ve been to one of the  New York salons and LOVED everything about the experience
  • on-line booking
  • I booked with a female, and when I got there they gave me a male (no biggie, but odd)
  • Oribe  & Kerastase products
  • provide an i pad loaded with magazines and styles
  • I booked for an add on conditioning treatment- they didn’t give it to me but tried to charge me for it
  • asked my stylist for “beachy loose waves, or bend to my hair with a deep side part”. He delivered the worst hair I’ve ever seen. My hair looked; limp, scraggly, frizzy and was parted off center. I took a pic but it’s too bad to post…I did send it to my normal stylist who was in shock
  • I will not go back to this location- and they had the BEST YELP reviews by far- which inspired this post.

REMEMBER:

You can go to your own stylist or someone who has a stylist they love for those truly special occasions or if you don’t want to leave it up to chance. For those I recommend: Tina Morales/CM Salon, Nicole/Studio 110, Hans VanDoornick/Maxine, Charles Lord, Aaron Scott/Charles Iferegan, Elle/Tracy Anducci, Alexi/Taylor Reese.

Halloween 2014

I know I’m a week late on this post- but WHATEVER- the costume creation process struck at the last moment- per usual and after that …well…I needed a time out.

We originally had planned to be something else, but in the end we were: Smokey The Bear and a Forest Fire.

only YOU can prevent forest fires!

only YOU can prevent forest fires!

Do YOU want to do something similar?

Here’s how:

I bought a nude colored corset from the shapewear section at Bloomies for the top , then covered it with leaves I collected from the street- placed like a cool top made from leaves would look…I also added matches on the top section of one bust. I glued everything down with fabric glue- the day before Halloween.

close up of leaves and matches

close up of leaves and matches

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I also bought a Devil costume from Amazon and used those chaps and hot pants for the “fire part”. Also part of the “fire”: red clip in hair extensions, fake cigs tucked into the corset and red lip liner with orange eye shadow for the eyes and chest.

Now, onto Smokey- BTW- someone let Al know that this is Smokey’s 75th Anniversary so points for being relevant!

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We actually used a cop costume we bought last year but didn’t use, bought a nose, bear hat and park ranger hat from Amazon- and PRESTO- Smokey the Bear. I added a bit of flair by using black eye liner to trace the *Smokey* on the hat and give it that *ashy* look.

a make your own cookie bar came from JoAnn Fabric, Pillsbury and Oreo Cookies- plus some faux lights from the Dollar Tree

a make your own cookie bar came from JoAnn Fabric, Pillsbury and Oreo Cookies- plus some faux lights from the Dollar Tree

We also threw a pretty impromptu Halloween mini party- and let me tell you- next time you’re hosting anything…hit up a Dollar Tree/Store whatever is in your zip code. I nabbed SO much stuff on Halloween on the cheap.

glow in the dark necklaces, etc make great party fun

glow in the dark necklaces, etc make great party fun

Cost effective and festive? YES PLEASE.

Now, let me start thinking about the 2015 costume…

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