Our Work-In-Progress Gender Neutral Nursery

If you know me in real life, you know my husband and I have decided not to find out our baby’s gender before it’s born. Kind of like our own little pot of gold at the end of the not-so-fun rainbow that is labor.

But even though we’re waiting to find out this big detail, the one thing we can’t wait on is putting the baby’s room together.

We’ve gone through SO many evolutions of Pinterest boards ideas on what a gender neutral nursery could look like for us, but we’re finally starting to find our groove: A mix of blues and pinks, mid century designs and birch-color woods, and a super light grey wall that makes me happy and relaxed whenever I walk into the room.

We have a LONG way to go, but it’s finally starting to feel more like a room for a baby instead of just a second bedroom. Will post a full reveal when it’s done, but for now please look past the lighting—it’s one of the things we’re replacing.

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Still trying to decide what colors or patterns to do for the changing pad cover and crib sheet. Was thinking maybe a black and white pattern, or grey, or maybe even a gold pattern like gold arrows. Any thoughts?

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Mom-Gear Crush Monday: Lily Jade Diaper Bags

So. There’s a lot of stuff to buy when you’re adding a baby to your family. Like, a lot a lot. Especially when it’s your first.

And while most of it has been challenging to figure out (What changing pad should I get? Do I really need to spend hundreds of dollars on a crib, or is an IKEA one OK?) The one thing I knew I wanted even before I was THINKING about getting pregnant was a Lily Jade diaper bag.

Weird, right? I’ll tell you why it’s not.

First, let me start off by saying that full disclosure: I don’t own one of these bags…yet. That’s why this article is part of my Mom-Gear CRUSH series, and not the “products-I-love” series, which I’ll be starting post-baby.

So yeah. I don’t have one yet, but I’ll tell you why I want one and why you’ll probably want one too:

  • Biggest reason: it looks like a designer handbag vs. a diaper bag. Listen, if you love the canvas totes with the cute animals or monogrammed initials and all that, that’s great for you, but it’s not for me. I want a bag that is functional AND fashionable, and lucky for me, that exists with Lily Jade.
  • Back to it being functional…inside it has a removable (machine-washable) organizer that has tons of pockets for all your baby gear, and it comes with a changing pad.
  • They’re convertible. Most of the bags offered can be worn three ways. Especially this one that I covet, which you can carry as a satchel, a cross-body, or wear as a backpack. Brilliant.
  • They’re built to last. They’re made of full grain leather that can hold up from babyhood through preschool.
  • Lastly, if you do the “girl math” they’re not that expensive. OK, yes, I acknowledge that the $340 price tag on most of the bags can seem like a lot for a diaper bag—especially when there are other bags out there that cost a lot less. BUT. This is something you’ll use every time you go out with your baby and it was designed to make your life easier. And if you break it down, if you use this bag from babyhood through their toddler years and beyond, it’s really like buying an $85 diaper bag every year, and that’s only if you end up using it for only one child.

So, there you have it. My bag obsession. Hopefully I’ll get my hands on one soon to give you a real review, but this baby is due in April and we still need to buy our other necessities (like a carseat) first.

What was your favorite baby gear buy, or which item gave you the most trouble on deciding what to get?

10 Tips For Buying Your First House

To say the hubs and I “stumbled into buying our first house” sounds kind of insane, but that’s basically what happened. Lemme explain. One day I was engaging in one of my favorite Internet pastimes: poking around Zillow.com “just to look.” Most of these perusals just end up with me: a) longing for a house we can’t afford or b) aching for the non-renters life while reminding myself how nice/easy it is to just call maintenance to fix our [insert-major-appliance-here] at no extra cost to our rent.

But on this one auspicious day, something different happened: I found a house that was *perfect* for us. The perfect style (small, but mid-century with plenty of charm,) the perfect neighborhood (safe and close to a playground for any future children we may have,) and the perfect price. SO perfect that I showed the listing to my husband, and said, “Do you think we could do it? I mean, could we just apply for a loan and put an offer on this house?” He agreed that it was beyond awesome— so much so that he got on the phone with USAA and started the process to get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Long story short, we got pre-approved for a VA Loan (AKA- the loan with no down payment needed thanks to my husband’s Army service), and drove by the house to see if there was any flooding from the heavy rain earlier that day. (Sidenote: We now live in Florida!) There wasn’t any flooding, but there was a “contract pending” sign on top of the realtors sign. My heart sank. I had no idea what “contract pending” was, but in my gut I knew it meant this house wasn’t really up for grabs. I emailed the listing agent anyway, and quickly realized I was right: this house was spoken for.

Are you a homeowner rolling your eyes at my cluelessness, or recoiling at the sheer horror of someone wanting to buy a house they’ve never stepped foot in? Both responses are valid, but that’s the story of how buying our first house started. And since I’ve learned a lot since that naïve first night, I thought I’d share some tips to help others be a little smarter about their start:

Tip 1: You don’t need to have 30% down. This was the biggest myth holding us back. Everyone’s financial situation is different, but for us, since we were lucky enough to qualify for a VA loan, it made more sense to get into a loan without a down payment. Even if you do need a down payment, don’t hold yourself to 30%. Put some cash down, and save some in case big expenses pop up, or if you want to find a cheaper house and remodel it to make it your dream. Bottom line: 30% is a lot of money. You know what else is a lot of money? Spending (usually) more money on rent than you would on your mortgage and never seeing that money again.

Tip 2: Find a realtor you love. This is a biggie. Not only is this person going to be your best friend that will look out for you and fight for you, but they’re also going to be the person to console you when the news is not great. I found my realtor through fate, chance, or through a real estate angel—whatever you want to believe in—but for the most part, talk to your friends who have bought homes in the area you’re looking in for recommends. (And if you want more reviews on that person, see if they have any on Zillow.com.) If you happen to be in the St. Petersburg, FL area I cannot recommend Becky McConnell of Keller Williams enough. Seriously, I’m obsessed with her. Besides being just an all-around great person, she’s from the area so she knows a TON about it, and she has great relationships with other realtors, which is helpful to you as the buyer when other agents like working with your agent.

 Tip 3: Work with a mortgage broker. Regular banks are great for car loans and personal loans, but when it comes to a home loan, you want someone who works to get you the best rate, is available to answer questions, and the biggest step— closes houses. If you don’t know where to start with a mortgage broker or even know what that is (I didn’t), ask your realtor for a referral. They probably have someone they trust and have worked with for a long time. In my case, it was Mary King and we would have been lost without her. I don’t have amazing credit (it’s good, but not great) and she got us an amazing rate anyway. (Not with USAA, by the way.) She also helped us as we were making offers to figure out how much our offer would translate to for a monthly mortgage amount. And she made the whole process feel easier than everyone says it is while she was at it.

Tip 4: Help your realtor help you. Even if your realtor is amazing, he or she still has other clients. And you know who knows what you want the best? You do. So definitely make sure you have a meeting to let your realtor know what you’re looking for, but don’t think your job is done after you have that meeting. You still have to be on the lookout. Check out the listings they send you, but also keep vigilant online for new listings, canvas neighborhoods for “coming soon” signs, etc. Yeah, you might look like a crazy stalker driving slowly up and down a few streets, but you also might get in on a listing before the house goes on the market.

Tip 5: Let your realtor handle the communication. If you do happen to find a listing on your own, send it to your realtor and let them call the home’s listing agent to schedule a viewing. Couple reasons for this: 1) it shows the listing agent that you’re a serious buyer because you’re already working with a realtor, 2) Your realtor is in the loop, which is (duh) always helpful, 3) Your realtor might have a relationship with that person and might be able to get you in earlier than if you were just Joe Schmoe working on your own.

Tip 6: When looking on your own, try Redfin.com first. I love their app, and between Redfin, Zillow, and Trulia, Redfin seems to be kept the most up-to-date. Helpful when you fall in love with a house (remember my initial love story with the Zillow home) only to find that it’s not actually on the market.

Tip 7: Go to open houses. Even if your realtor wants to send you to one that’s not in your “desired neighborhood” you might discover that you actually like that neighborhood a lot. Open houses are also a great way to get ideas for what you’d want to do in a home, or discover your deal breakers. Tip within a tip: don’t expect your realtor to accompany you to these. Open houses are usually on Saturdays, which is when your realtor BFF is probably hosting her own open house for her clients trying to sell their home. Send her an email or text to let her know what you thought of the houses—a text especially if you loved it and want to talk about putting in an offer. But overall, just go. It’s fun to look around houses and to have it completely acceptable to open up cabinets and be Nosey With a Purpose. Plus, most open houses have cookies for potential buyers to snack on…if you’re into eating communal food that anyone could have touched…

Tip 8: Be flexible. Just in general, be flexible. Be flexible with what you’re looking for (do you NEED a fenced-in yard, or could you put up a fence later if you found a house that was amazing otherwise?), be flexible with how much you can spend—is $X REALLY your highest bid if going up $5K on your offer means you’ll only be spending like $25 more a month and be in a better position to get the house? And, lastly, be flexible on the neighborhood. Yes, location, location, location. All I’m saying is explore as many locations as possible. We ended up in a different neighborhood not far from where we originally thought we wanted to be, and now I can’t imagine us living anywhere else.

Tip 9: Don’t give up. When we arrived to look at our current house, we knew there were already 3 offers on it. A few days later when the sellers eventually chose the highest offer from the 8 that had been put in, the winning offer wasn’t ours. We weren’t even the second highest offer. But two weeks later, when that first offer fell through, and the second highest offer had already found another home, I happened to see that the house was back on the market (through a Redfin alert!) and called my realtor to see if she could find out what the status was. Thanks to my tenacity and her quick work, we’re in the house we were meant for.

Tip 10: Don’t stress. Easier said than done, I know. When you start looking for real there is a lot to potentially get bummed/worried about. You might feel like there aren’t any houses on the market at the time for you. You might realize you can’t really afford what you thought you could. You might be in a lease and have a hard deadline of finding a home and feel rushed to find something, anything. Trust me, I am the MASTER of stressing about stuff, and believe me when I say it: everything works out the way it’s supposed to. I 100% know that sounds like the biggest cliché you’ve ever heard, but I’m here to tell you it’s true. Everything happens for a reason (second biggest cliché) and you’ll probably realize that house you thought was *perfect* might not actually be the right house after all. Don’t stress— your house is out there. You just have to find it.

Have any questions? Leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll be happy to expand.

 

Note: Everyone’s experience is different, and these tips are based solely on my own. Hopefully you find them helpful, but definitely take your own situation into account as you make decisions for your personal home-buying adventure. 

 

 

 

Playing Catch Up

You GUYS!! This lady’s been busy, which means I have a lot of exciting things to share and share my new knowledge on. And no, I don’t just mean with hair and makeup (although I recently discovered MAC’s Liptensity Lipstick and omgcheckitout.) I’m talking a whole new arsenal of topics to dabble in. Like, celebrating 6 years of marriage (what?!?!), buying our first HOUSE, and probably the biggest on the list…being PREGNANT! (!!!) YEP, you read that right—the lady who doesn’t really like kids (relatives excluded) is having one of her own—and I could not be more excited about it. So bare with me while I play catch up with my own brain to process all the things that have happened in the last few-ish months. Know that posts/tips are coming on all things home-buying and baby-on-the-way-related, but for now, I’ll just leave you with these:

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You’re Probably Wearing the Wrong Bra Size

 

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If you’re a fan of my Facebook page (and if you’re not, now would be a super great time to click that little blue “Like” button on the right) you know I recently went for a bra fitting and had an eye-opening experience. 

No, I haven’t had a baby recently (or ever) and no, I haven’t gained or lost any major weight. So why the rush out for a proper bra fitting? Well, while working on a project for a major bra manufacturer, I learned this startling fact:

85% of women are wearing the wrong bra size.   …85%!!!

We wear bras every day, and have been wearing them since we were young.  SOWHYTHEHELL would this number be so high??

Here are the reasons I can rationalize:

1) Bra Fittings are awkward. Getting shirtless in front of some stranger while she gets all up in your business with a tape measurer is not usually a super fun experience. So most of us skip it.

2) Bra Fittings are not always accurate. Even if done by a pro, one size in one bra may not fit just like the same size in another.

3) Even if you KNOW your correct size, sometimes women don’t want to admit to themselves that their size has changed. Maybe you used to be a 36, but now you’re a 38. So you squeeze yourself into a 36 and tell yourself “it still works.” Same thing with a C-cup woman buying a D-cup bra.

4) Department stores are a mother-bleeping mess. The lingerie section is hugely overcrowded, nothing’s organized and the search for the perfect bra size/style/color/brand can be difficult, if not impossible. (Unless maybe you have 6 hours to spend searching in Kohls, or are one of the lucky people with a very common bra size that is easy to find and always in stock.)

5) And lastly, some people just don’t know they’re wearing the wrong size—including me.

 

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So how can you tell if you’re wearing the wrong bra size—especially if you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing?

This isn’t a perfect bra size diagnosis, but it’s a good starting point. Ask yourself:

1) Does the fabric between your cups lie flat against your skin? If not, the cups may be too small or the style may not be right for your body.

2) Where’s your band? The band should lie straight against the middle of your back below your shoulder blades. If it rides up, the band size may be too big.

3) Is anything digging in? If the band or straps leave marks, it may be too small.

4) Does your “cup runneth over”? Your chest doesn’t need to be completely covered, but your cleavage should look flush with the part of your chest contained in your bra—and not bulging or spilling out.

5) Where’s your wire? The underwire should lie flat against the skin without moving away from your body.

After realizing I was most likely wearing the bra size, I dug out the measuring tape from under my bathroom counter, did an at-home measurement and headed into the department store with my new correct size and unwavering hope of finding a better bra.

ANNNNND then I got into the lingerie section, and it was a mess like I described above. I searched for 30 minutes for my size in the JUNGLE of bras, finally found ONE in my size, and it didn’t fit. So I tried on 7 more that were “around that size” and none of those fit either. So then I got frustrated/pissed/annoyed, left, and scheduled a fitting appointment with a lingerie boutique in town.

OK yes, lingerie boutiques are usually a little more expensive (think $70-$80/bra.) But it’s a small price to pay for something you’ll wear every day, and will make you look and feel better. (Not to mention that wearing a properly supportive bra now is way cheaper than getting a breast lift later.)

Fast forward to the fitting. My bra fitter explained that at their specialty shop they don’t use measuring tape because they find it to be inaccurate. Instead, she’s trained to just look at someone and know what bra size they should be.

As soon as I took off my shirt and she saw me in the bra I came in with (one of the Victoria’s Secret bras I’ve been buying for years) she said, “Oh yeah. We’re going to get you some help.”

Please take a moment to cue this sound effect in your head: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ytCEuuW2_A

Before I could make a “frowny face” she was handing me several bras in the right size to try on.  Apparently the band size I had been wearing was too big and the cup size I’d been wearing was too small.

Without getting too specific on letters and numbers, here’s a quick visual of how different the cup size I WAS wearing (in green) was from the cup size I SHOULD be wearing (in black.) Note that the underwires of both bras start at the same place.

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I’ve been wearing the wrong size for YEARS, people!

So…if you haven’t had a bra fitting in a while, do yourself—and more precisely, your TaTas—a favor and go get one! If you’re in the Kansas City area, check out Clair de Lune. And if you’re not, just Google or Yelp search for “bra fittings” in your area and make an appointment.

Fittings aren’t that bad, trust me. And the feeling of proper support is life-changing. Ok, maybe not life-changing, but you can definitely tell a difference.

So much so you’ll want to tell others about it. 

I’m sorry, IKEA

If you had been to any of my apartments between 2007 through 2013, you probably could have sworn you stumbled into an IKEA showroom.

Example A: My dining room in Dallas. Everything is from IKEA except for the tequila from Mexico.

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It wasn’t necessarily because my own design aesthetic was so stylishly modern and put together; it was  simply because 95% of my apartment would literally be comprised of finds from the famous Swedish store.

Example B: My downtown loft in Dallas. Everything in this room is from IKEA except for the picture on the wall.

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I used to spend a lot of time at IKEA, especially when I lived in Atlanta where the nearest one was only five minutes away. Maybe I’m letting my nerd side show, but it was a fun outing to stroll through the showroom floor set-ups, get inspired, dream of the house I’d someday design with an IKEA kitchen (complete with a dishwasher that blended in with the cabinets), and then polish off the trip with a plate of Swedish meatballs or a cone of frozen yogurt for a buck.

And in the same way I can’t leave Target without somehow spending at least $40, I’ve found I can’t leave IKEA without something in hand. So, once we had all of our living room, dining room, bedroom, and office furniture secured from the put-it-together-yourself-makers, we started adding the IKEA textiles and  knick-knacks to “make it our own.” Pillows. Rugs. Bedding. Lamps. Frames. Planters. Fake orchids. Tea lights. If they sold it, we probably had it.

Then in 2013 the unthinkable happened: we got rid of almost all of our furniture and moved to a city where the nearest IKEA was seven hours away.

I know what you’re probably thinking: “Is it really considered a city if there isn’t an IKEA within a 2 hour drive?” Rest assured, we didn’t move to the middle of nowhere—we just moved to the middle of the country. And yes, I realize those things may sound like one in the same.

Either way, in March of 2013 my husband and I found ourselves in Kansas City, MO without much more furniture than our bed, and several states between us and the nearest IKEA.

I have to admit, I panicked a little at first. However, as I perused the local stores and Craigslist postings, I not only found great furniture, I also found my design style.

All this time I had been letting myself think I was so creative because my apartment looked like it could be an IKEA model room. But now I realize I wasn’t really being “inspired”; I was just adopting and rearranging IKEA’s style based on the number of square feet in my home and the number of dollars in my bank account.

Without IKEA to lead me, I discovered that I really love mid century modern design. I invested in a credenza from 1965 as my TV stand, refinished an antique end table I found on Craigslist, and purchased a set of mid century modern chairs that I plan to reupholster.

Now, I’m not saying I’m anti-IKEA. I still think they have some great pieces, like my current couch.  I’m just not going to let myself become addicted to buying everything from IKEA, or rely on them to tell me what looks good together.

I even started revamping some of my prior purchases. For example, this is a cart I bought at IKEA back in 2009. It’s been used as an entry table, kitchen stand, and kitchen island in the past.

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After stripping and staining the top, painting the bottom, and adding cork inserts,  it’s a bar cart:

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Slowly but surely, my living space has started to reflect less and less of someone else’s design, and more and more of…me.

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So…thank you IKEA for providing a fun shopping experience and inexpensive furniture that I could fill my home with. That being said, I have some bad news.

I’m sorry, but you probably won’t be seeing a lot more of this girl in your store anymore—at least not in the showroom section for “inspiration”.

But I’ll still swing by for the occasional treat. Because let’s be realistic: where else can you still get a cone of frozen yogurt for a dollar including tax?

Stray Brow Hairs, Be Gone

Have you ever looked in the mirror, noticed a few unruly eyebrow hairs (that have most likely been there for weeks), and stopped your day dead in its tracks to figure out how to quickly make your eyebrows shapely again?

I stumbled upon this dilemma a few weeks ago, and realized I had three options. Well, four if you count doing nothing, but let’s face it: once the problem is identified, there’s no way not to notice it.

So I had three options: 1) Tweeze, which I hate doing and can never seem to get right. 2) Get them waxed, which has been my preferred method of brow hair removal, but it was Saturday night and salon options were getting limited. Not to mention I still haven’t found “my” waxer in Kansas City.  And then 3) Brow threading, which I’ve always been kind of curious about, but nervous about all the same.

It just so happened that there was a Brow Threading place near where we were going to be that night, so I decided to give option 3 a try.

If you’ve never hear of brow threading or seen it in action before, the video on this page will help clue you in.

Basically, brow threading works like this:

The brow threader holds a piece of twisted string (kind of like the consistency of dental floss) in her hands, and in her mouth. Using a rhythmic and bobbing motion, she pulls out lines of hair at once at the follicle level.

(thanks for the image, Wikipedia)

After having it done just that one time, here’s what I can say about brow threading:

1) It’s quick. The whole process probably took about 7 minutes from start to finish.

2) Be prepared to be hands-on. Literally. Because the brow threader is using both of her hands, she may ask you to make your eyebrow taut by pulling the lid down, etc.

3) The end result is surprisingly shapely. Usually before I get waxed there’s a consultation about the shape that I want. My girl just jumped right in, but my eyebrows had a good arch at the end.

4) It costs about the same as waxing. I paid $15 before tip, which is about what I’d expect to pay for waxing at the local salons.

5) It kinda hurts. And this would be my only hesitation of getting it done again. Maybe it’s just me, but waxing kinda seems like a walk in the park by comparison. I had tears in my eyes (and a few “rogue” tears streaming across my temples) by the end.

So the question my friends ask me after hearing that I’ve had it done: would you do it again? And I guess the answer to that is, maybe??  Although I did just look in the mirror, and something has to be done again SOON.