Things I Like

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I really thought moving would give me a lot more to talk about on this little blog. And, well, it probably has. But I’ve also found that I’ve become so busy with getting settled (on top of my already packed schedule of mom-ing, pioneering, working, et al., I rarely have time to sit and work my thoughts into something coherent.

But this morning, Vivi woke up extra early (yayyyyy…) so I was able to knock out breakfast, a workout, and cleaning the kitchen to settle in for our daily viewing of Zootopia and work on a post from my phone. I’m also waiting for a box spring to be delivered, so it’s not like I can run any errands anyway.

Captive blogger syndrome! Great for creativity! Who knew?!

Anyway.

I realized I had been I intentionally cagey about our recent move when a few people remarked to me that they were so curious where we had ended up.

So today, I’m throwing back the curtain: We’re officially Virginia residents. We live in a small town about an hour and a half outside D.C.

And when I say “small,” I mean it.

I’ve lived in smaller cities before. I’ve even lived in small suburbs outside smaller cities. But this is the smallest town I’ve ever lived in.

For the record, I love it almost all the time. I was mentally prepared and oh-so-ready to leave the big city and relax in a slower-paced lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean small town living doesn’t come with its share of challenges.

Con #1: They’re serious about that slower pace thing.

In NYC, you could decide you wanted to redecorate your bathroom and have a contractor over within 24 hours and your new towels shipping from Jet.com that afternoon. Here, I’ve spent three weeks trying to find a handyman willing to make the 20-minute trip to come paint my staircase. And if he wakes up the morning of our appointment not feeling 100 percent? He’s not coming after all. Sorry not sorry.

Pro #1: But people are so. nice.

The checkout ladies chit chat, the town hall clerk calls me “hon,” and the guy delivering my dining table compliments our floors about four times. In short, people move a little slower, it they also use that time to treat you like an actual person.

Con #2: Not everything is quite so convenient.

We’re currently in the market for a second car because very little is walkable around here. My friend lives less than a mile away, and the only way to walk to her is to skirt a major road without any sidewalks. If I want to go to Target, Lowes, or a major grocery chain, I’m looking at a 20- to 30-minute car ride. I can still get most of what I can’t drive to delivered, but I have noticed it typically takes about a day longer than it used to. To switch our water bill into our name, I had to GO to the town water building in person and I couldn’t pay the deposit with a debit card. So I had to walk a block to a nearby bank, but the only ATM was outside in the drive-through. So I had to wait in line with a car, in the 90-degree heat, and then walk back to the town building to get my hand-written receipt. So, yeah.

Pro #2: Convenience is relative.

Life in NY is “convenient.” Meanings, yes, a million things are geographically nearby, but getting to them (let alone enjoying them) is a never-ending struggle. I couldn’t do laundry without strapping a baby on my back and lugging my dirty clothes a block away in a cart. I couldn’t get my hair done without a 30-minute train ride and walking half a mile. If we drove anywhere, we had to factor in up to an hour of time to find parking. Here, I may have to go farther, but there’s rarely traffic and there’s always parking.

Pro #3: More SPACE.

We’re renting the sweetest little townhouse, and I’m totally in love with it. Besides the natural light and extra bedroom for guests, we also have three bathrooms, a basement for storage, and a laundry closet. Basically I feel like a princess. Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our two glorious parking spots right outside.

Con #3: …actually, I’m tapped out.

Okay, okay, I know it’s not actually perfect here. But I was so burnt out on city life, it’s hard not to get a little *heart eyes* when I look around the gorgeous landscape I live in now. Because, yeah, there’s actually a landscape here. And it’s pretty stunning.

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Will I tire of small town living? I really don’t know. For now, though, I’m soaking up the smallness.

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It is amazing to me how much Vivi’s approval means when it comes to my cooking.

Let’s be clear: I don’t let Vivi dictate what we eat in any way. I don’t think toddlers have developed enough palates to know what is “good,” and I think we all know that, if they had their way from the first stages of solid foods, they would just eat bananas and buttered pasta for the rest of their days.

In short: I’m the boss of dinner, and Vivi either eats what I make or doesn’t eat.

Which, of course, means sometimes she doesn’t each much, especially when we’re introducing new foods. The French have a philosophy that if your kid is a picky eater, it reflects more on their character — and your parenting — than any other behavior. I don’t know if I would go that far, but I definitely feel a sense of failure when Vivi refuses a meal or throws some food on the ground (which, in our house, is grounds for ending the meal completely).

It’s my fault her palate isn’t developed enough.
I should have served in more distinct courses.
I shouldn’t have let her have that bite of (insert random snack) an hour ago, it totally squashed her appetite.
I should have cooked it differently.
I’m totally screwing this whole thing up.

Basically, I’m insane.

But just when I’m convinced I’ve blown it and she’s only going to eat meatballs for the rest of her childhood, we have a meal that goes perfectly. She eats every bite of shrimp and rice and broccoli without any fuss and asks for more broccoli (this seriously happened!), and suddenly we’re all going to be just fine.

Im always on the lookout for veggie-packed recipes to make sure Viv gets as many servings as possible. I posted on Instagram about some veggie muffins I make for Vivi, and a few people asked for the recipe, so I’m sharing it here. Enjoy!

Zucchini + Carrot+ Apple Muffins

2 zucchini, shredded with excess moisture removed
3 carrots, shredded with excess moisture removed
1 apple, pitted and shredded with excess moisture remove
(For all of the above, I run them through my juicer and use the dry pulp. Just be sure to remove all apple seeds before juicing.)
1/2 cup apple sauce (no sugar added)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the wet ingredients in a medium bowl, then add dry ingredients and mix until well combined.

Scoop into ungreased muffin tin (I use papers). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tops are golden and inserted knife removes cleanly.

The muffins are very soft from all the veggies, so I suggest freezing what you don’t eat right away and thawing when you want to eat them so they don’t spoil. They are much more savory than sweet, so add a dollop of honey butter if you need a bit more sweetness.

Adapted from The Lean Green Bean.

Let’s get one thing straight: I am not a lipstick person. It has always been the one cosmetic that I’ve shied away from, and even in recent years (when I’ve become admittedly more into makeup), it has been a struggle to find anything that a) I like, b) is comfortable to wear, and c) actually stays on my mouth.

So, when I tell you that I like these four lipsticks, you should know that years of searching have gone into finding them. Respect.

I don’t wear lipstick every day, or even every week, but here are the shades I find myself reaching for whenever I do want to look a little more put-together.

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My nude lip….Beautycounter Lip Sheer in Twig.

Remember when I said I don’t wear lipstick every day? This is the one exception. I haven’t tried Beautycounter’s other lip sheers, but if the Twig shade is any indication, they are perfection. Creamy, moisturizing, and with build-able color that looks as great as it feels.

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My pink lip…Marc Jacobs Le Marc Creme Lipsticks in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

I got this lipstick as a free gift from Sephora, and I was immediately in love with it. The texture is really nice and not drying at all, and the color is bright but still pretty universally flattering. I wear it a lot more in warmer weather, but it’s a good semi-neutral pop to have in my back pocket. (LITERALLY.)(Not literally, it would probably melt.)

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My mauve lip…Buxom Big & Sexy Bold Gel Lipstick in Sultry Mauve.

Despite what the name implies, you do not immediately turn into a sexpot when you put this lipstick on. I actually find it to be really subtle, almost like a brighter version of my natural lip color. Great for almost every season, this is the anti-lipstick girl’s answer to bolder purple-y hues.

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My red lip…Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Fiery Red.

True life: I have always been deeply intimidated by red lipstick. It always looks so great on other people, but on me, I always felt like it to too loud, too pink, too orange, too…something. So I resigned myself to a life of neutrals (and secret lipstick envy of my braver friends). And then I got this version (again, in a trial set from Sephora). You guys. It is actually a true red, not too anything, and it somehow looks exactly right with my super pale skin. My favorite thing about it is that I barely have to wear any other makeup and my whole face looks brighter and more pulled together. Efficiency!

Of course, there’s one thing that helps every one of these looks (and really, any lipstick) look even better: white teeth. I’m fortunate that my teeth are naturally pretty white, but as a coffee addict drinker, I had definitely noticed that my chompers were looking a little worse for the wear. My dentist confirmed that my teeth were healthy, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t use a little boost.

So I was pretty excited when Smile Brilliant reached out to me about doing a blog partnership. Their teeth whitening kit is different from other strips and pastes I had tried in the past because they create custom whitening trays exactly fitted to your smile. Here’s how it works:

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First, Smile Brilliant sends you a kit to create your custom trays. It seems a little intimidating, but all you have to do is mix two putties together, put them in the blue trays, and then bite down for a minute.

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Next, after letting the trays dry overnight, you mail them in a pre-paid envelope back to Smile Brilliant for them to create your teeth whitening trays. The custom whitening trays will arrive about a week later.

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Then you’re ready to start whitening! The process has two steps, whitening and desensitizing. The length of time you spend whitening will depend on your own sensitivity, but I typically left my teeth whitening gel on for 50 minutes to an hour (AKA, the length of a TV show on Netflix). Then, the desensitizing gel goes on for 15-20 minutes, and I found that it really helped with tooth sensitivity. You can view a really simple how-to video by another blogger here, and here are some things to know before you whiten.

It will take 7-10 treatments to see full results, but I noticed my teeth started looking significantly whiter after the third treatment. I really liked how the trays were custom fit to my teeth, so there was no sliding and the treatment gel stayed right on the surface of my teeth. They were very comfortable, so I didn’t even mind wearing them for an hour. It was a little hard to capture the change in a photo, but my teeth are at least a shade or two whiter (before on the left):

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PLUS, Smile Brilliant is hosting a giveaway where you can win your own whitening tray creation kit and whitening/desensitizing gels! Click here to enter. But if you just can’t wait, you can also use the code stopmeifyouveheardthisone to get 5% off a kit at Smile Brilliant’s website — easy-peasy. Happy whitening!

Whitening kit provided as part of a partnership with Smile Brilliant. Opinions my own.


Professional Teeth Whitening

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I’m not typically that into “mom” jewelry. There’s this weird phenomenon that happens when you tack the adjective “mom” onto fashion. Typically, it gets, well, less fashionable. It’s as if it’s not enough that you’ve given up your body, your time, and your life in general — now you need to sacrifice your sense of style, wearing your new title as a badge of honor, as if to say NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MY KIDS, NOT EVEN LOOKING CHIC.

Of course, every good mom does think her kids are wildly more important than looking chic. It’s just…the two things aren’t mutually exclusive? At all? You can very easily have both?

…Bueller?

The point is, I like style and I love anything that makes me think of Vivi, so I’m pretty excited when I find something that technically qualifies as mom jewelry that I would also want to buy even if I didn’t have kids.

Which is also why I became immediately obsessed with the company Pixley Pressed when I discovered them through a friend’s Instagram.

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Pixley Pressed was started by a woman named Shawnie in Orange County, California after she became a mom. I was fairly delighted to discover that she started the shop after having a baby in an effort to remember who she was and do something for herself. Because, girl, that is exactly what your jewelry says to me. Shawnie’s collection includes bracelets, necklaces, rings, and more, but I’m a big fan of the customized necklaces.

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I wear my Vertical Bar Necklace pretty much every day. It’s sleek, simple, and goes with literally every outfit. But my favorite part is (ironically) what makes it my “mom” jewelry: The necklace is hand-stamped with Vivi’s birthday. Shawnie can customize her pieces with any (short) important message, whether that be a wedding date, a name, or even a latitude/longitude coordinate. I love the idea of adding on to my necklace with a bar for my wedding date, and even the birth dates of any future kiddos. (Still not pregnant, sorry, just thinking ahead!)

Basically, I think this might be the perfect gift for all the new mommas in your life. Because, yes, you’re a mom now. And that changes everything…except the fact that you still think your jewelry should be totally gorgeous.

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*Necklace provided for review. Opinions my own.

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Time seems to go infinitely faster once you have a baby. Everyone tells you this, but it’s a hard thing to believe or even really imagine until you’re in the thick of it.

As a perpetual planner, I probably make it worse by always thinking about what’s next — where we’ll go, what we’ll do. I’m not the best at being in the moment.

Joey is not like me. He’s so much better than I am at being content and enjoying the moment he’s in. He’s always telling me to savor and worry about what’s next when it happens.

Sometimes it drives me crazy…but mostly because I know he’s usually right.

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I actually gave Joey a watch on our wedding day. He had always told me about a watch he had growing up that told him the ocean tides (he grew up surfing), but it had broken. I came across a newer version when hunting for the perfect gift and immediately knew it was what I would give him. That was over five years ago, and, until recently, it was still the only watch I ever saw him wear.

So when JORD reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in featuring another watch from the company, I knew immediately who I wanted to get it for.
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Joey had always liked my JORD watch, and I was so excited to get him one of his own. And as soon as I saw the DOVER Koa & Black style, I knew we had a winner. I still catch Joey admiring the visible gears as they click around, tracking the time.

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Joey and I may not always be on the same time scale, but there’s no one I’d rather spend my time with. I’m so grateful to have him by my side, passing the time and reminding me to enjoy every moment of this crazy adventure we’re on as parents.

Love Joey’s watch? Then I’ve got good news! JORD is doing another watch credit giveaway. Click here to enter for the chance to win a $75 voucher — even if you don’t win, you’ll still get a $20 credit. Then start picking out your watch here.
Luxury Wood Watch

We don’t have a lot of friends with babies who live near us, but we DO have a lot of friends with babies in Long Island. One thing I’ve always liked about that whole crew is how they put a lot of work into putting together fun parties for the kids, giving them a chance to play and make new friends even at a very young age. Now that Vivi is getting older (and actually appreciating other kids), I was excited to finally take our turn in planning a fun get-together for a few little ones.

Plus, not going to lie, I really wanted an excuse to dress Vivi like a penguin.

And thus, my plans to throw Vivi a zoo-themed party were born.

Now, Vivi is only about a year old, so I wasn’t going to go too crazy. I wanted to keep the guest list as close to ten kids as I could, and I was less concerned with planning organized activities than I was for creating a fun theme and having good snacks. (And, you know, the aforementioned penguin costume.)

Here’s a run-down of what we did, ate, and wore for all you other party animals out there.

The Location

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^^The closest to “safari chic” I will probably ever get.

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I did actually consider having the party at a real zoo, but given the young age of our guest list, I ultimately decided it would be better to just create our own version in Joey’s parents’ backyard. They graciously offered up the space, and I set to work creating activity stations for the little guests (as well as just making sure there were a lot of toys around to keep short attention spans occupied, from bubbles to play tables and beyond).

I painted a few signs to hang around the yard to differentiate the areas, and my sister drew some animal prints leading up the sidewalk with chalk to guide our guests to the yard.

The yard also gave us room to have a few different areas for adults to sit, including tables, benches, and swings. (Because moms and dads gotta relax too, ya know?)

The Stations

What were these stations, you ask? First, I present The Monkey House.

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monkeyhouse

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Okay, okay, so basically all I did was cover the swing set in fake vines (I got mine on eBay) and add a few stuffed monkeys (thank you, Mom, for finding all my old Beanie Babies!) for effect. But, come on. That’s a pretty cute monkey house, right?

Next up, we have The Aquarium.

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A water table, a kiddie pool full of plastic fish, and a handful of bubbles (plus some cute sea life stick-ons from the party store), and we were under the sea.

Finally, there was The Petting Zoo:

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I originally intended this to be the area that even the youngest tots could play in, but those horsies turned out to be a big hit with the older kids as well. (Plus, clearly the Boges was into it.)

What we ate

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Of course, everyone knows that decor is nice but a party is only as good as it’s food. The menu included PB&J sandwiches cut into animal shapes, Annie’s Mac & Cheese in Silly Sea Life shapes, a cucumber snake with homemade tsaziki, a hummus lion with bell pepper slices, a watermelon hedgehog, and fruit kabobs. I also put together an animal-themed trail mix for some of the tables.

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For dessert, I created Jell-O “aquariums” topped with Swedish Fish and funfetti cupcakes with animal toppers. Viv especially enjoyed her first cupcake (clearly).

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To make sure grown-up bellies were full as well, I asked each guest to bring an app and served a “jungle juice.” Because, let’s be real, we had all probably earned it.

The photo booth

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To be totally honest, the kids probably kept their costumes on for approximately half an hour. (But GOSH were they cute!) Predicting this, I welcomed each guest and then promptly directed them to the photo booth to make sure they got a pic of their little cutie dressed as their favorite animal.

To create the booth backdrop, I created a jungle of tissue paper poms (tutorial I used here) and cut-out paper leaves. To create the cage, I purchased an oversized picture frame from Michael’s, removed the glass and back piece, and strung rope-like yarn to create the bars.

Pro tip: I highly recommend a group photo at the beginning of the party if possible. By the end of the day, everyone is tired and dirty, and getting the kids to cooperate will be harder than ever. Look how cute they were when they first arrived!
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Once the pictures were taken, costumes could be ripped off, water could be splashed, cupcakes could be smushed in faces, etc. Save yourself the trouble and get the pictures done early.

What we wore

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As I said, my main priority here was getting Viv dressed as a penguin. #MomGoals

The create her costume, my mom actually took a larger penguin costume, cut off the belly and wings, and sewed them onto a black onesie. She turned the head into a little cap Vivi could wear, but it really only lasted for the pictures. (To make up for it, I drew a little yellow beak on her nose using costume makeup.) I also added a pair of yellow tights from Lunaby Baby to complete the look. She killed it, I must say.

As for Joey and me, we decided the most appropriate attire would be that of zoo keepers. Basically, we wore a lot of khaki and sun hats I found at Costco. It was surprisingly effective.

The favors

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What’s a party without a little something to take home? The best part about having a small guest list is that you can go a little more creative with the favors. Each kid took home an “adopted” animal and a box of animal crackers to keep the party going.

One other fun extra? I also created a Snapchat geo filter for the party. Totally gratuitous, but it was $5 and pretty cute! (Learn how to make your own here.) Here’s what it looked like:

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Cute, right?

All in all, we had such a blast at Vivi’s first party. Thanks again to all her friends (and their cool folks) for coming out to join!

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And a special thank-you to Aunt Yoyo (AKA, my sister Joelle of Figment Art Photo) for photographing the whole event!

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