Friday, January 31, 2020

Friday Finds

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Thursday, January 30, 2020

January Budget

I share my clothing budget here every month. My budget per month is $350, which may seem like a lot to some people or a little to others, but for me feels just right. I include all of my clothes, coats, shoes, and accessories in that budget, but not athletic gear, pajamas, or intimates.

Yeeks the first month of the roaring '20s is complete!! It flew by over here (don't they all?) and I felt like I hadn't bought anything, and then I checked my Pinterest board and I guess I bought kind of a lot! Jeff and I got a big Nordstrom gift card for Christmas so a couple of things came from that (along with a cake server because that's an adult thing to buy right?).

Here's what I bought in January:

Sam Edelman Mules - $119.95, used gift card $0. I've been wearing my leopard Sam Edelman mules nonstop, so I decided to get a pair in black too. It turns out Sam Edelman makes basically all of my favorite shoes, everything is so comfortable! These instantly class up any outfit I pair them with, definitely a good purchase.
Knotty Raffia Fan Earrings - $42.00, used gift card $0. I definitely didn't need another pair of statement earrings, but I couldn't resist these! They're nice and light and will be so fun once things warm up a little.
LOFT Bobble Heart Sweater - originally $59.50, on sale $29.75. I picked this up in stores when I was returning stuff after Christmas, and it was love at first sight (sorry, couldn't help myself). I literally just hopped away from writing this to leave a review on the site for it because I saw a few negative ones and I love it so much. I haven't had any issues with pilling, and it isn't itchy at all for me and I'm usually super sensitive to wool. You can see it on me here.
Freshly Picked Belt Bag - $59.00, used gift card $0. I got it in my head that I definitely needed a belt bag so I could be hands free with Mia, and ended up ordering this one which is technically a diaper belt bag. I did bring it on our trip to Florida and found it a little cumbersome for travel. I didn't really want to wear it while I was sitting, so I had to take it off and put it back on a lot. But I definitely still think it will make sense for park days and running after a toddler. The color in person is beautiful, a slightly darker tan than in the photos.
LOFT Tunic Sweater - originally $59.50, on sale $29.75. I was looking for a great basic to wear with leggings when I work from home, and this fit the bill! I actually bought this in the pale pink color, and then got home and realized I have like five pale pink sweaters now. So, I guess I'm set for spring!
Madewell Floral Dress - originally $138.00, on sale $99.99. This was 100% a post-Christmas sale impulse buy, but it was so cute when it got delivered that I had to keep it. I plan to break it out for a date night this weekend with black tights, black booties, and a long cardigan. We're headed to Bar Roma because I've basically been dreaming about their lasagna for the past year. It was one of our last dinners out before Mia was born, and I've been dying to go back!

Total spent: $159.49
Total saved: $97.51

For February, I've got my eye on some of Vineyard Vines' new arrivals, I paged through their latest catalog and everything so freaking cute! I'm hoping that since I was under budget this month I can justify an expensive purchase to myself. I also just ordered this sweater from Old Navy with a gift card from last Christmas I just found, I've been loving the "cardigan as a sweater" look so I'm excited to give it a try.

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Motherhood Monday: Our First Flight with Mia

So last week was a bit of a doozy for us - on top of our first flight with Mia, I came home and immediately turned around and flew out on a business trip the next day! But I know that's not what you're here to hear about. You want to know how that flight with Mia went.

Well, it was both better and worse than we expected. Better in that the logistics went pretty well. We had no problems checking our stuff, getting through the airport, getting our stuff on the plane, or getting Mia into the rental car. What we did have issues with was keeping Mia behaved on the plane.

We've only done one round-trip so far so we're definitely not experts, but I wanted to share what worked for us (and what didn't).

Our Tips for Flying with a Baby

1. Check what you can right away

We took an Uber to the airport (and Jeff installed our toddler travel car seat in about 5 seconds into the Uber - nice work Daddio!), got out, went directly to the United counter and checked everything we could. Our car seat went into a travel bag and got checked for free (it counts as an exception item). We also checked our travel crib and one big bag with clothes & toiletries for all three of us. We have status with United so these were also free. This left us with just a diaper bag, my purse, and the travel stroller to take through security and onto the plane.

We could have brought the travel crib on as one of our carry-on items, or gate-checked the car seat, but decided not to make it any harder on ourselves in terms of trying to carry a million things through security and around the airport (very nice since our gate got changed three times!). Both the car seat and the crib came out at baggage claim unscathed.

2. Buy travel baby accessories 

We debated back and forth on what we should buy for this and upcoming trips. Was a travel stroller worth it? Should we just rent a car seat with our rental car? Answer: yes and yes.

We ended up buying this travel stroller, which folds down to the size of a carry-on suitcase and can open and close with one hand. I can't say enough how convenient this was - between quickly getting Mia in and out of it, going through security, getting her onto the plane, carrying it up and down the stairs at our hotel, etc. Normally you would have to gate-check a stroller, but it was so nice instead to be able to bring ours onto the plane and have it immediately after we got off. The stroller was even great for going out to eat, because we could fold it up and put it under our table. I would highly recommend a travel stroller like this, and am planning on keeping it in the car now instead of having to take her giant everyday stroller in and out of our trunk for every trip.

We also decided to buy this car seat as our travel car seat option. It's really lightweight and inexpensive, and is super easy to install. Renting a car seat for the three days we were away would have been the same price as buying this car seat, so it was basically a no brainer in terms of cost since we will use it on multiple trips. I didn't even really consider bringing our expensive everyday car seat, since I would not have felt comfortable checking it, plus it is heavy and large.

As far as a travel crib goes, we had to bring ours as the B&B we were staying at did not have a crib we could borrow. I bought this one when Mia was teeny-tiny, knowing that we would use it for naps at her grandparents' house as well as for air travel. I picked it because it's lightweight and compact, but also will work for Mia as she grows. The mattress is directly on the ground so there isn't a weight limit, and the dimensions are different than a normal pack'n'play. It's longer and narrower, so hopefully should work for our 95th percentile baby for a long time. When Mia was a newborn, we used the bassinet kit, but now she's just in the regular crib.

We did not bring our travel high chair, mostly because I didn't think it was necessary to lug another item around. Everywhere we ate had a high chair, and I just brought some of these disposable placemats to put Mia's food on.

3. Consider getting baby her own seat 

With a baby under the age of 2, you can choose to buy baby her own seat, or bring her onboard as a lap baby. Our plane was small (just 2x2 seats) and the flight was only two hours, so we decided to save the money and just bring her on as a lap baby.

I felt like we did everything right in terms of getting Mia on the plane. We tried to wear her out by letting her crawl all over the airport before the flight. Mia sleeps every three-ish hours, so it was impossible for us to time things so she wouldn't need to nap, but I tried to time things out so she'd be getting tired as we got on the plane. I gave her a bottle right before take-off to help with ear pressure and to help her drift off to sleep. We sang a song like we usually do at home, and I closed the window so it would be dark. But baby girl would NOT nap. She would drift off for a minute, and then wake up screaming. We eventually gave up on the napping thing and just tried to distract her instead. She was sometimes happy and sometimes distracted by the kind passengers sitting around us, but she mostly was pretty squirmy and unhappy.

Even when she was happy and even though Jeff and I could pass her back and forth, it still was a lot to have a 10 month old on my lap in a teeny airplane seat. If I were to do it again, I would 100% buy her a seat and bring her carseat onboard for her to sit in. Mia sleeps really well in her carseat, and I think if she had her own seat she would have been happy and napped.

We have another flight coming up at the end of April, fingers crossed Mia enjoys that plane ride more!

Have you flown with a baby? Any tips for our next flight?

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Friday Finds

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Travel Bags

With all of our travel this week (we flew down to Florida for a wedding over the long weekend and I'm currently in San Francisco for work) I've got travel bags on the brain!

I'm finally feeling set in terms of suitcases and what I bring on a plane. I love my carry-on bag (I have the carry-on size) and use it whenever I travel for work. I love that the sections inside allow me to be better organized, and I always fit an amazing amount of stuff inside. I have the same bag in the checked-bag medium size, and love that for when we're going on a longer trip. These do get marked up when you check them, but I just use a magic eraser to get any marks off.

For shorter trips when we're driving, I usually use this weekender bag (also comes in a twill here) - it's so beautiful and looks way more expensive than it is. I had a crazy pattern one of these that Mia commandeered and I never loved the pattern but loved the size and functionality, so I was super excited to see it available in solids! I actually got the black color with a black monogram and it looks so chic. This is what I grab when we go for a night at the in-laws house or a roadtrip with our friends. I rarely bring this on a plane because it gets heavy to carry around on your shoulder!

I also love using my Transport Tote as my personal item on a plane. I have the zip-top version, which is clutch on a plane when you don't want all of the random things you've packed rolling all over the place. I like to alternate between reading / watching videos on my iPad mini and listening to podcasts or playing games on my phone, so I love having this little tech envelope inside of my purse so I can easily pull out all of my electronics (plus a credit card so I can buy myself a snack box ;) and leave my larger bag under the seat.

While I'm set on suitcases and totes, I'm on the hunt for some solutions for my toiletries, makeup and jewelry. The bags I use have been in rotation since I was in college and are basically falling apart. I've long admired the Truffle bags, they are such chic bags for easily getting through the TSA! I bought one for Jeff's sister last year and was so jealous when I saw it in person, I wanted to keep it for myself. But for Christmas my sister-in-law asked for a Dagne Dover bag, and having seen it in person I definitely am looking at ordering one. It has a couple mini mesh bags inside of it for keeping stuff organized, and the whole thing is waterproof and can be wiped clean. 

Here are my picks for the best travel bags:

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Friday Finds

Happy Friday!! Right now we are on our FIRST FLIGHT WITH MIA so wish us luck and maybe be waiting for us at arrivals with a stiff cocktail haha. I have always heard that it's easiest to fly with kids before they can walk, but Mia started standing up and has been doing lots of cruising over the past two weeks so this could get interesting.

We are headed down to Florida for a wedding over the long weekend, and I am crossing my fingers and toes we get some nice weather! Then as soon as we get home on Monday I'm repacking to head off on my first business trip since the doctor told me to stop flying when I was super pregnant at the end of 2018. Wish me lots and lots of luck.

Here are the finds this week - a few ways to make your cold weather dressing more fun!

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Some Winter Basics

Coat - J.Crew / Sweater - J.Crew Factory / Jeans - Madewell / Mules (also available here and here) - Sam Edelman / Bag - Tory Burch / Sunglasses - Amazon

An outfit post, oh my! I know, I know, I haven't been living up to the whole style blogger thing as of late. It's a whole lot harder to run outside to snap a few photos when we have to get Mia down and out too, and honestly since I mostly work from home now I'm not getting dressed a ton anyway. 


I had to share a few of my new favorite things with you. Because what kind of friend would I be if I didn't share? 

I've been wanting another wool winter coat, because as much as I love this one I feel a little silly with the faux fur collar in all situations, like when we dress up or when it happens to be 30 degrees in May in Chicago. I ordered and returned 5 or 6 coats this fall until I came upon this one. It's cute and simple, but the details like the gold zipper and ribbed cuffs really elevate it. I also am loving the warm camel color - I've always wanted a camel coat! As far as sizing, I'm in my normal J.Crew size in a tall. It's slightly more fitted than the Chateaux parka but still an a-line. 

Then we have the jeans. It's amazing, I get compliments on these every time I wear them. The button fly is surprisingly flattering even though I carry my weight in my mid-section. They are a 9" high rise, which for me goes right above my belly button (I have long legs and a short waist). I went down one size, and honestly could have gone down two because they stretch out easily. I am wearing a tall, and every time I wash them the ankles get a little more frayed making them a tiny bit shorter. The frayed ankles do look a little weird with booties and winter boots, but are really cute with mules, loafers and sneakers. 

And of course, that leads us to the mules. How much can one talk about loving a pair of shoes before she starts to sound a bit crazy? But really, these are one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes in my closet, and I wear them just about every chance that Chicago lets me. They go with surprisingly just about everything in my closet, and have the ability to take a basic outfit to the next level. I love them so much I'm thinking about ordering them in black too. 

Is that enough incoherent rambling about one outfit? Okay cool thanks, let's call it a day :) 


Coat - J.Crew / Sweater - J.Crew Factory / Jeans - Madewell / Mules (also available here and here) - Sam Edelman / Bag - Tory Burch / Sunglasses - Amazon

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Motherhood Monday: Our Favorite Baby Gear at Nine Months

Okay, so Mia is not nine months anymore, but when I wrote this she was so I'm counting it!

I also shared my favorites for the newborn stage and at six months (look how little that squish was!) and still love and use everything that works for her at this stage (you know, so no more swaddles or Dock-a-Tot). I do have to note that I got a full refund on that Skip Hop Activity Center (from Skip Hop even though I bought on Amazon!) because some of the attachment toys won't stay attached. We still use it every day though, so I can't really complain.

At nine months, Mia started get into a sitting position by herself, and then crawling and then pulling up all within a few days, and is now wreaking havoc on our living room. She's also now eating mostly finger foods, but still will go for pouches and purees if we give them to her. Here are a few of our favorite things right now:

Oxo Tot Travel Spoon - This thing is so clutch for feeding Mia when we're out and about. Sure, it's just a spoon in a case, but it means you always have a clean spoon with you when you're feeding on the go, and don't have to waste plastic bags to put your spoons in. We bring this to grandparents' houses too, who don't have tiny spoons on hand.

Baby Buddy Secure-a-Toy - Mia is in the "accidentally on purpose" dropping things phase, and while I try to be chill about her toys landing on the floor, I'm decidedly not chill. These little straps can connect just about any toy to just about any surface, like her stroller, car seat, high chairs, shopping carts, etc.

Taggies Crinkle Toy - Mia has loved anything that makes noise since she was large enough to express an opinion, and she also likes the tag best on basically any toy we give her. I mentioned these loves to a coworker, and she suggested Taggies, which are toys covered in tags. We keep this in the car to keep her occupied, and she'll just go back and forth sticking all of the tags in her mouth.

Wegreeco Long Sleeve Bib - Talk about a Type A mom's dream! This bib is waterproof and basically completely covers her clothes so there's no mess at meal time (well, until she discovers rubbing food in her hair). I've tried a few of this type of bib, and this is the only one that fully covers her neck (some of the others are too big there), has velcro that always stays closed, and is actually waterproof.

Playpen - If you follow me on Instagram you've probably seen this playpen all over my stories. I was worried about babyproofing our condo because everything is decidedly not babyproof (why did we decide to buy all furniture with sharp corners and wrought iron legs?!) and decided a playpen was the solution. But not just any playpen, I wanted a really big one, something that could give Mia space to play and hopefully enough space that she would actually stay in the playpen. Well this little baby does the trick - it's roughly the dimensions of a queen mattress! It is from China and I was a little iffy about the materials, so I put this playmat in it (almost a perfect fit!). I also added a Queen mattress pad underneath to cushion it when Mia tips over. Long story short, while Mia is actually in there alone right now happily playing with her blocks set, she usually requires a mommy or a daddy to join her in the playpen. We are much happier to do so now that it's comfy - you can usually find me laying down in there with a pillow and blanket on a weekend morning!

If I Were A Bunny Book - I love everything that JellyCat makes (their stuffed animals so soft!) and we have a few of these "If I Were A" books, and the bunny one is definitely the best! It's full of textures, and Mia especially loves scratching the little bunny paws. She will turn through the pages of this book over and over.

Lovevery Block Set - Mia got this as a Christmas gift, and I had to include it here because it's already a love!! The set includes a bunch of blocks that fit into a little box of course, but the blocks can also turn the box into a car or a wagon, there is a shape sorter, and there are little people for building and playing house. Like other Lovevery products there are instructions on different ways to use the blocks at each stage, and we keep joking that we are currently at Stage Zero because Mia mostly just wants to eat them. I love how well designed these are though and can tell we will be playing with them for years to come.

Retractable Baby Gate - Our house is all stairs. Like really, if you stand in our foyer you can see four different staircases. I was initially freaked about this, until I realized I just needed to block Mia's access to the foyer and we'd be safe. That entryway is a little wonky though, really wide and not straight, so I wasn't sure how to block it effectively. With a retractable gate, we can easily pull it across the space, and then it retracts to take up basically no space if we need it to. Mia hasn't tested the strength of it yet, but I've rammed into it a few times and am impressed so far - we just bought another to put downstairs.

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday Finds

Whew, well this was a week. I had the Sunday Scaries almost a full week early for coming back to work from Christmas break, and I was right in those worries.

But it's Friday now, so let's not dwell on that! Instead, here are my pretty pretty picks for this week. All of the sudden I aspire to be a person who can look cool in a belt bag, because honestly, even my cross-bodies can get annoying when I'm out and about with Mia. Being truly hands free? Now that's the dream. Belt bags (err, fanny packs) always remind me of my mom, because obviously she always wore one in the '90s, and it was always full of snacks. But those snacks were for her, not her kiddos, because she would get hangry trying to wrangle us at the pool or Six Flags or where-ever. Sorry Mom, just outed you ;) And now, I dream of having an easy access snack holder just for me.

(EDIT: I ordered the belt bag. It is surprisingly cool looking, aside from a buckle that is smack dab front and center. I got the butterscotch color, which is more of a brown/tan in person. Definitely keeping it. Watch out, other park moms!)

one / two / three / four / five

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

December Budget

Every month I post about my clothing budget. My budget per month is $350, which may seem like a lot to some and a little to others, but feels just right for me. You can read my thoughts on my 2018 budget here.

And another year of budgeting in the books! I usually publish a follow-up post for the year in total sharing my favorites and misses, but honestly I don't think those posts are that fun to read. Instead, here's December for you, and I'll share a little recap of my overall spending at the bottom of the post.

I'm still so drawn to sparkly big earrings, even though I very rarely wear them these days (since there's currently a member of my household who wants to rip them out of my earlobes at every chance). But I just couldn't resist with these two! I was in the store to make a return, and these were so pretty they just called to me while I was waiting in line. But besides those, I feel like I made some good, practical purchases this month. I've been wearing everything else on repeat!

Here's the damage for December:

J.Crew Funnel Neck Sweatshirt - originally $59.50, on sale $29.75. I saw this in stores and had to try it on. It looks really luxe in person, but is lined in fleece so it's so soft and cozy inside. I've been pairing it with faux leather leggings to look dressed up when really I'm basically in pajamas. It also looks super cute with another layer peeking out underneath, like a striped tee or some plaid (like I wore it here)!
LOFT Embellished Fabric Drop Earrings - originally $34.50, on sale $13.80. These are so pretty and sparkly, and not too heavy for my ears!
LOFT Fair Aisle Pom Pom Hat - $39.50, on sale $17.77. Sadly this is sold out, because it's so freaking cute and it's really nice and thick and warm (so important for those Chicago winters!). Still linking it for you in case it comes back in stock. Otherwise here is a similar one, or here's a cute pink one.
J.Crew Lodge Coat - originally $365.00, on sale $182.50. I. Love. This. Coat. In case you couldn't tell. I kept not buying it (and trying other coats instead) because I was sure it wouldn't work on my body type. But somehow the swingy, a-line shape is surprisingly flattering! It's so gorgeous in person too with the gold hardware and the beautiful camel color. I wore it here and here.
LOFT Star Drop Earrings - originally $34.50, on sale $18. I really wanted these last year but missed out, so I was excited to snag them. Super cute in person, and once again not too heavy.
Daily Ritual Scoop Neck Tee - $18.93. I've had a couple other Daily Ritual jersey tees, and decided to add this one to my closet since the sleeves on my other long sleeve black tee shrunk. It's a great basic for layering under cardigans and scarves, and for wearing over leggings.

Total Spent: $280.75
Total Saved: $271.18

A look back at my budget for 2019

At the beginning of the year, I set up a budget of $350 per month, but with the leeway to overspend some months as long as I reigned it in the next. It turned out though that I rarely got close to that $350 mark. Here's a monthly breakdown (with links to each post): 

January: $166.95
February: $231.04
March: $149.49
April: $348.61
May: $334.20
June: $269.85
July: $294.90
August: $17.70
September: $404.54
October: $360.44
November: $252.30
December: $280.75

Total Spent: $3,110.77
Average Per Month: $259.23

It's kind of crazy, but this was actually my second-lowest spending total for the year since I started tracking my clothing budget in 2014, even though I "gave myself a raise" from $300 to $350 in 2018. I didn't have that "new new new" feeling, partially because I was so excited to rediscover a good chunk of my wardrobe post-baby.

For 2020, I'm going to keep that $350 number as my monthly budget, and see how it goes. For January I always shop for some warmer pieces to keep things interesting as we enter the season of never-ending sweaters, but I did also order this pretty dress to mix things up for date night (and for our trip to Florida over MLK weekend!).

Want to see more? Check out my budget recaps from 2018201720162015, and 2014.

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Monday, January 6, 2020

How We Take Family Photos Ourselves

Whenever I post stuff like this to Instagram, our friends ask who we had over taking pictures. No one guys, it's just us! This is incredibly simple, but in case you hadn't thought of it I thought I'd share.

Use a tripod

Basically, we go old school and use a tripod! This one is what I used to use waaaaay back in the day with my remote shutter release to capture all of those fun roof outfit photos in our townhouse in the South Loop.

(LOL, sidebar story, I never told you this because I didn't want #stalkers, but Mayor Daley lived in the same complex as us (sidebar sidebar, no I never actually saw him) and whenever he was home there was a cop car stationed out behind the house. So yes, there was basically always a police officer watching me take photos of myself 😂😂. And no, we could not afford a condo in that complex, we were renting on the cheap.)

Now I know a lot of you just use your phones for cameras these days, but I still like to have a separate digital camera. There are a lot of benefits as to the control I have and quality of photos and yada yada yada, but another nice one is that it connects to the tripod. Plus, with all these newfangled digital cameras, they connect by wifi to your phone, turning your phone into a remote for the camera! So I can now line up the shot the way I want it, go get in the picture myself, and snap away on my phone until I see we got a photo I'm happy with.

More tips for taking great family photos with a tripod

  1. Don't try to get everyone to look at the camera at the same time. With little kiddos it's just about impossible! Instead, it can be just as cute to look at each other and laugh, or to have some people looking at the camera and some people looking at each other. Laughing while looking at each other can be weird, so just tell a joke to get those smiles to be real.
  2. Pay attention to the lighting. You want to try to get as much natural light as possible without harsh shadows. I like to have us facing or next to an open window whenever possible, but a window where direct sunlight isn't streaming in. Overhead lights can cast harsh shadows and cause yellow tones, so turn them off if possible.
  3. A little editing goes a long way. Open up your photos in an editing app afterwards and adjust the brightness and contrast for really professional photos. You could do this in iPhoto if you're on a Mac. If you have Photoshop or Lightroom access, use those. In Photoshop, I go to Image/Adjustments/Levels, and then pull the far left slider to the right a little (makes the blacks blacker) and pull the middle and far right sliders to the left a little (brightens the mid-levels and the brights). 

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