Thursday, February 28, 2013

Maxing out my Wardrobe

J. Crew Factory denim jacket, earrings and leather cuff via JewelMint, Gap striped tote,
DV by Dolce Vita Archer sandals, Liz Lange for Target black maxi dress

The other day, I picked up two new black jersey dresses from Target: one short and one maxi. I tried on dresses in other colors and sizes, but they didn't do anything for me. The black ones looked good, so I felt good wearing them. And I'm pretty excited about the blank canvas of a black dress. With a quick change of accessories, either dress can be worn to work, to a baby shower, out to dinner, or just out and about.

Some of my go-to accessories
Even before becoming pregnant, accessories have been my way to mix up an otherwise basic outfit. I tend to buy the classics and then play around with punchy accessories or statement pieces. Now that I'm pregnant, I'm trying to make the most out of my maternity purchases and any "regular" clothing items that still fit. Fun earrings or a stripey scarf can make a black T-shirt feel more glamorous. A leopard belt paired with a polka dot top is much more exciting than the standard-issue tie belt that came with the top.

I don't know if it totally worked, but when I was still trying to disguise my belly, I thought that wearing louder accessories would detract from my mini baby bump. My hope was that people would notice the giant flower pinned to my blazer instead of said bump. Scarves were also super helpful when trying to cover-up my ginormous boobs that seemed to pop up overnight.

Now that I'm further along, I'm getting less restful sleep. So a swipe of red lip balm, heels, or bright pink shoes help me feel more put together. And hopefully detract from the darker circles under my eyes. I'm sure this will also be helpful when our baby girl is here.

Have a great Friday and weekend!

Do you have any go-to accessories that help complete your outfit?

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Exercising for Two

Remember that one time I ran the Chicago Marathon? It's been quite some time since I've talked about exercise, so why not bring it back?

Post-college, I've had an up-and-down relationship with exercising. I'll be really disciplined while training for a half marathon or the one full marathon. But when I don't have a specific goal in my future, I tend to slack off a bit. I'll let work, or most anything, be an excuse for why I can't make it to the gym or go for a run outside. Sure, I'd work out once or twice a week, but I know I function better when I exercise a few more times each week. And yes, I realize there's a balancing act between a legitimate rest day and a made-up-excuse rest day.

When I found out I was pregnant, I had another excuse in my arsenal: first trimester fatigue. Most days, my sluggishness and overall tiredness were legitimate reasons to listen to my body and rest. My doctor told me that the first trimester is "all about survival" and I totally believe it. But there were times that I used my pregnancy as a baloney reason for skipping the gym.

When I think about it, it doesn't make sense. Part of me is still a bit intimidated by the prospect of gaining the recommended 25 to 35 pounds. I know my body knows what's best for it. And I've even seen the breakdown of where all those pounds go: the baby, increased blood and fluids, fat and nutrient stores, etc. But weighing more than my husband isn't a very attractive thought. So you'd think I'd be more diligent in staying active while pregnant.

Once I entered the second trimester, conveniently during the holiday season, my energy started to return and I was motivated to get active again. During more recent prenatal appointments, my doctor continued to stress the importance of exercising while pregnant. She suggested getting some physical activity about 3 or 4 times a week. And of course while staying properly hydrated.

In talking with friends (and reading blogs) with new babies, I heard a common theme that exercising while pregnant helped with labor, delivery, and recovery. With that, I had a new goal: exercising for a (hopefully) easier labor and delivery and faster recovery.

Even though I'm almost into the third trimester (!), I still haven't mastered my pregnancy exercise routine. Yes, I only make it to the gym one or two times a week. But I have been more active around the house. So that has to count for something, right?

As I'm sure you can guess, my pre-pregnancy exercise of choice was running. Some ladies continue to run while pregnant, but not this one. Even in the beginning, I found running uncomfortable. Even if running was comfortable, I have a bit of a psychological barrier. Back in June, I went for an easy, probably not even 3 mile, run. That was the day before I miscarried my first baby. Deep down, I know going for a run wasn't the cause of the miscarriage, but a little piece of me will always wonder. For now, I get plenty of physical activity just walking or using the elliptical machine.

Another pre-pregnancy regular was hitting the weight room. It was generally a combination of free weights, machines, and body work (squats, push ups, abs, etc.). I lifted a little bit during the first trimester and have made a conscious effort to continue strength training now that I'm in my second trimester. Emily over at Daily Garnish wrote a few posts about exercising while pregnant and I followed her strength training workout the other day. She put it perfectly:
"I have to be careful to not push myself too far, and always make sure to stop when I can feel my body straining too hard or tiring too quickly. The goal now is not to make it difficult, but rather just to keep my muscles engaged and body moving. While I have significantly reduced the weight I lift for each exercise, I’m still lifting enough that it’s keeping my muscles toned and my body healthy."
One of the bigger changes I made to my workout routine was adding swimming. I started swimming in the summers around age 8 (as evidenced by the cute picture above) and swam competitively (i.e. year-round) from sixth grade through senior year of college. Once I finished my last event (the mile) at conference, I basically retired from swimming. That's when I picked up running. Since I wasn't running while pregnant, I was looking for a little variety. Particularly of the low-impact variety. Swimming became the perfect solution. If I thought I was walking slow, I'm now swimming at a snail's pace in comparison to my college years. But I'm taking it one lap at a time and listening to my body.

Overall, I can tell that being active while pregnant has been beneficial. I put on about 20 pounds (gulp!) in the first 20 weeks. Some of that may have been due to holiday over-indulging, but I know part of it also had to do with my lower activity level. Since exercising more, my weight gain has been much more gradual. Plus, my blood pressure is more normal. During the first trimester, it was a little bit high, though it could have been due to general anxieties of being in a doctor's office and wondering if my baby was OK.

Thanks so much for continuing to read my pregnancy- and baby-related posts! Are there any sorts of posts that you're missing? I'm currently brainstorming a DIY project to share.

Note: I'm not a doctor or exercise expert. Please consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine, especially if you're pregnant.
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Red Carpet Ready

Emerald Strip Drops via Bauble Bar, Boutique 9 Orseena Art Deco Sandals,
Kate Spade Emerald Anastasia Clutch and Badgley Mishka gown via Rent the Runway

Happy Friday! It's been a busy work week, so I can't wait for the weekend to arrive. We don't have much planned, so a night at home with a rented movie and big bowl of popcorn is probably in our future. John and I aren't huge movie buffs, but we've seen a few of the 2013 Oscar nominees: Django Unchained (just him), Les Mis (just me), Lincoln, and Flight. If I was hosting a dressy Oscar viewing party, I'd love to wear this Badgley Mischka gown from Rent the Runway.

After my great experience with Rent the Runway in November, I'm looking for any excuse to rent another dress. Maybe I'll pick one out for a baby shower or fancy night on the town with John. By the way, Rent the Runway is perfect for moms-to-be! When searching for a dress, just click on "Bump Friendly" under the body type options. Other dresses that aren't under "Bump Friendly" might also work, but you'll have to dig a little more to find them.

I was 10 weeks pregnant when I rented the dress for the Denver wedding. Of the dresses in my closet that fit (there weren't many), I knew I would be self-conscious the whole time. Thanks to Rent the Runway, I felt gorgeous without buying a dress I might not wear again.

Are you watching the Oscars this weekend? Any favorites of the nominees?

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Think of the Savings: Financially Preparing for a Baby

Over the weekend, John and I took a field trip to the big box baby stores to look at some of the big ticket registry items in person. Mainly the stroller, car seat, carrier, and high chair. Armed with recommendations from friends and the Tyckled Tales baby checklist, I thought we could make quick work of the trip and zap a few things onto our registry.

Well....the registry is up, but there's nothing on it. (Doh!)

Turns out, walking through the store and creating a registry can take 2 to 4 hours! (Gah!) And I'm a horribly indecisive person. So I'm going back and meeting with a "Registry Consultant" to finally put things on the registry. Since John and I already decided on the biggies, he doesn't want to be there when I have a meltdown about the merits of different pacifiers. I already had a mini freak-out that not knowing which co-sleeper was better meant I wasn't ready to be a parent. Yes, completely irrational. But then I cried a little (thanks hormones!), read some of MODG's baby gear posts (honest and entertaining), and felt much better. For one, she had and hated the co-sleeper we struggled with at the store.

Getting ready for a baby is reminding me more and more of planning for a wedding. It's an extremely emotional process (with bonus hormones). The baby industry is willing to sell the latest and greatest item for your child at a premium because "don't you want the best for your child??" It's similar with weddings because "it's your big day." Plus, there's a period of time when it's a little too early for planning and then the urge to nest (or pick out wedding flowers) creeps up on you and Holy moly, I need to do everything nooooow!

Fortunately, we've been financially preparing for our baby girl, some before she was even a twinkle in our eyes, which makes me feel better about her arrival:

I got a new job: The hours and salary are much better than my previous job in public accounting. Plus, the commute is shorter, so I won't be as far away if there's an emergency at day care.

We refinanced our mortgage on a house well within our means: We're pretty close to the breakeven point of recouping the fees, so refinancing a year ago was obviously a good decision. Even if we only made the required monthly payments over the 30-year term of our mortgage, our savings are about $51,000 compared to our first mortgage.

We could refinance again, but have decided to make additional principal payments on our mortgage instead: We were already paying $100 more towards principal each month on our first mortgage. If we paid the same amount each month after refinancing (in essence, $236 in additional principal payments), we have the potential to save almost $63,000 over the term of our mortgage. But we've decided to be ambitious and throw extra money towards the mortgage, lowering overall interest payments and the length of our mortgage. Once our baby girl is here and we have a better idea of our new monthly expenses, we'll reevaluate our monthly mortgage payments as well as other expenses.

We got life insurance: Both of our employers offer a group term life insurance policy, but it's pretty tiny compared to what we would need if something were to happen to either of us. Discussing life insurance is a few posts in and of itself, so look forward to more information in the future.

We've talked about putting together a will: Nothing like the upcoming birth of your child to think about your own mortality. This is still an item to tackle on our "to do" list.

We talked to real people about baby necessities: As alluded to above, the registry checklists at the big box stores have way more stuff than we'll actually need and use. Real-life parents have shared recommendations about what actually works so we can minimize some of the crazy baby expenses and clutter. This also helps cut down on excessive researching.

That being said, we're still doing our research and planning/budgeting accordingly: As of now, I'm planning on going back to work, so we're checking out day care options in our area. [Hint: the Quality Counts Online Child Care Search is a great way to find Illinois DCFS licensed day care centers and homes for those in Illinois. There are probably similar search resources for other states.] Day care will affect our diapering decision (disposable vs. cloth), though I know cloth is a big money saver. And I'd like to breastfeed because of the great health benefits with the bonus cost-savings.

Finally, we're borrowing, buying used, and registering for baby items: A big thanks (and advanced thanks) to family and friends who are helping keep our out-of-pocket expenses down! You better believe we'll also be checking out garage sales and the twice a year consignment sale at a local school.

If you're a parent (or parent-to-be) how have you "thought of the savings" when it comes to kids?
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Friday, February 15, 2013

Team Pink

Old Navy striped top, Gap Long and Lean jeans, Ikat TOMS,
Gap striped onesie, Tiny TOMS pink Mary Janes

I have all things baby girl on the brain. We're going to start the daunting task of registering this weekend, or at least make a few decisions about some of the important items. As of now, we only have our estate sale dresser, a rocking chair (at my parents' house), and some clothes and a baby carrier already gifted to our baby girl. We also have our eye on a crib and BOB Revolution jogging stroller. That means we have about five thousand more decisions to make! Help!

What do you have planned this weekend?

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Last Minute Valentine's Day Gifts

Happy Valentine's Day! Do you have plans made with your sweetie? Or maybe you're all set to have a girl's night in. Tonight might not work schedule-wise for us, so we'll fit in a dinner over the next few days. It's a toss-up between two restaurants: one with a lobster stuffed avocado appetizer or one with awesome burgers and truffle fries.

As for gifts, we might forgo them this year to save for Bebe. But for those looking for last minute gift ideas for their guy, maybe a one of these items will fit the bill:

  1. If your significant other is anything like mine, he'll greatly appreciate this non-iron shirt from Banana Republic. Less trips to the dry cleaners and less time ironing in the morning!

  2. If chocolate is one of the first things that comes to mind when you think Valentine's Day, the chocolate malts in the Widmer Brothers' Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout are sure to please. And the addition of raspberries will keep things a little sweeter. If he prefers something a little lighter or hoppier, stop by the nearest (better) liquor store and ask for a recommendation.

  3. John (and even I) was skeptical of The Art of Shaving. But he received a travel size set of the Sandalwood shaving collection as a groomsman gift and was hooked. So for last Valentine's Day, I gave him the full-sized Sandalwood shaving cream. He'll love the close shave and you'll love the manly scent. The Art of Shaving can be found at Macy's, Sephora, and their own free-standing stores.

  4. If your guy has a sweet tooth, pick up or bake one of his favorite treats. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and these smoked porter cupcakes with salted caramel cream cheese frosting will make a beeline to his heart.

  5. Cashmere socks are something a guy will appreciate, but never buy himself. I've bought some for John through Gilt, but it's obviously a little too last minute for that.

  6. Would your guy like to try his hand at homebrewing? Swing by your nearest beer and winemaking store to get a homebrewing kit! The one pictured is from Williams Sonoma. The product page doesn't say "Internet only," but you might want to check if it's available in the store before making a special trip.

  7. Finally, if you're looking to spice things up in the kitchen, create a signature spice rub. Wrap up a mason jar full of spice rub and he'll be good to go.
Do you have any last minute gift ideas to share?
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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Case for Rewarding Yourself

Clockwise from top: Nautical Sparkle, Party Dots, hello! Stripes,
Anchors, Sparkle Stripe II, Colors 201

Over the weekend, I joined the wonderful world of iPhones. An iPhone 5, if you're wondering. My contract was up so I thought it was time to make an investment in my blog and Etsy shop. Yes, this phone will be partially for personal use, but it's also part business expense.

As a saver by nature, this phone is a bit of a splurge. So I also see it as a way of rewarding myself for my hard work and success with the shop. Making it into Woman's Day is a big accomplishment! Same with 149 sales in less than a year and a half.

Sure, some "other" financial blogs might see this as lifestyle creep (i.e. earning more, but also spending more), but I should be able to enjoy my hard-earned money every now and then! It's all about focusing on the big wins instead of sweating the small stuff. We're doing really well with our savings and are working on paying off our mortgage early.

How have you rewarded yourself recently?
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Friday, February 8, 2013

Layering with Leggings

Anthropologie rugby pointelle cardigan and sea shingle necklace,
Gap maternity tank and leggings, Frye Regina booties

Leggings. This is one article of clothing I practically banned from my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. Running tights were fine, but leggings just didn't seem right. Maybe it's because I've seen too many people wearing them the wrong way. But like my change of heart to the chambray shirt, I finally came around to leggings. And boy, I had no idea what I was missing!

Leggings (when they're thick enough) are all sorts of awesome! They're stretchy and beyond comfortable. I broke down and bought a pair of capri maternity leggings on the day we were driving to Cleveland for Thanksgiving. The weather was slightly warmer, so it made for a comfy car ride. Depending on the weather, I'll wear the capri leggings with my sparkle TOMS, some other sort of flats, or tucked in boots with knee socks.

Once Winter decided to stick around for good, I went out and bought a longer pair of leggings from my favorite preggo store. And I have to say, I prefer the Gap leggings to the ones I got from Target. They're softer and a bit thicker. Plus, as of now, I'm liking maternity pants that are lower on my belly vs. having the full panel.

As for leggings in general, I try to wear them with longer tops or sweaters that at least partially cover my butt. I like my butt and all, but I don't think the whole world wants to see it. And I don't want to share it with them. I'm also really digging leggings because they give me one more outfit option. And that's golden when getting dressed with a belly and extending a maternity wardrobe. I'm still able to wear some pre-preggo tops that are longer or stretchy and have longer, open-front cardigans that will fit at any size. And, of course, cover my butt :)

How do you wear leggings?

Happy Friday!

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Feeding the Belly

I thought I would share a little how my diet is looking these days. While I'm not a nutrition expert, I hope it's helpful. If nothing else, these pregnancy posts will be good for me for future reference.

Within 5 minutes of telling John's parents I was pregnant, his Mom (a registered dietitian) had already lent me some pregnancy nutrition books. I took home "Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom's Healthy Eating Guide" and read through it pretty quick. Yes, there's the daunting list of things to eat (only 300 extra calories and so much extra protein, fiber, calcium, and more!) and avoid, but it's shared in an entertaining manner. And about half the book is recipes.

But well before sharing the big news, I started taking prenatal vitamins. My doctor gave me some samples during my annual lady check-up this past spring and I alternated those with my regular daily vitamin (plus iron) until they ran out. At that point, I switched to prenatals full-time.

Since I spend the majority of my week at work, my lunch and snacks have seen the biggest changes. Gone are the daily cold cut turkey sandwiches. In its place is generally some sort of leftovers. Last week I had some of Smitten Kitchen's mushroom bourguignon (amazing!). Other times I'll make a batch of something like pasta salad with veggies and chicken. And then there are times I run out of ideas (or time) and buy something.

In general, I've noticed that I crave variety with my food. Which I take as a sign that I should be eating a variety of foods to fulfill my (and my baby girl's) nutritional requirements.

As for snacks and other "lunch accessories," I've started to bring some extra fruit with me as a snack. In the past, I might just bring the banana to work. Now, I bringing the banana and some clementines. During the first trimester, I brought a small bag of almonds instead of the extra fruit. I've also swapped out a cup of yogurt for a cheese stick. Fortunately, I never had morning sickness. There were times that I felt a little queasy, but I would eat a snack and the feeling would go away.

One constant from my pre-pregnancy lunch is the presence of some sort of granola or nutrition bar. Right now, it's the super nutrient packed Good Greens bar in a wide variety of flavors. These things are pretty much the perfect pregnancy snack! The taste is far superior to other protein bars; plus they have 100% of your daily fruits and vegetables, 10 grams or so of protein, Omega 3's, antioxidants, and probiotics. They're also organic, gluten free, vegan, and raw. We discovered them at the Cleveland marathon expo in 2011 and have been hooked ever since. I keep an extra in my purse and in my desk for back-up.

So far, I haven't had any crazy cravings or flat-out food aversions. Sure I eat the occasional cookie, dessert, or bagel at work, but nothing out of the ordinary. If anything else, I've been disinterested in foods. During the first trimester, it was mostly coffee and the crust of one brand of wheat bread. I was telling my Mom about my disinterest in coffee and she said the same thing happened with her when she was pregnant. I started to drink coffee again during second trimester, but only with cream. Previously, I used to have it with cream and sugar. And yes, it's the recommended 12 ounces of coffee or less in a day (less than 200 mg of caffeine). And that's usually every other day.

As for other disinterests, I've had no desire to drink beer or any sort of alcohol throughout the whole pregnancy. It must be my body's way of telling me what to avoid. I'll smell what John is drinking (sometimes taking a small sip) and don't want any more. Though a glass of wine is starting to sound good during the second trimester.

While I haven't had cravings, pizza always sounded good during the first trimester. During the second trimester, I've been really into dairy. Like, I had to move the pasteurized triple-cream cheese and crackers away from myself during Christmas. I've also been drinking skim milk like it's going out of style.

On the flip side, I've been "enjoying" a bit of acid reflux after meals in the second trimester. Yes, eating small portions more frequently helps, but sometimes I'm hungry! I inhale my food and later regret it with a side order of burping and bloating. And let's just say that slower digestion makes me (and John) sometimes wish for a fart patio a la Portlandia.

Finally, I've been trying to drink plenty of water. Per John's Mom, if I'm thirsty, it's too late. And your urine should be the color of light lemonade. And as she told Oprah, the lemonade should be made with one lemon!

How did your eating habits change during pregnancy? Or did you make changes to your diet to prepare for pregnancy?
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