Things I Like

Or, I Went To IKEA…So You Don’t Have To

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IKEA is a funny place. (As are the people who go there, but that is neither here nor there.)

On one hand, it’s everything I hate: crowds of people who lack spacial awareness that I have to tune out, a veritable warehouse of stuff you don’t need, a thousand temptations to spend money I don’t have, etc.

And yet.

And yet, I love IKEA. Not just like. LOVE. I want to enter a serious, committed relationship with IKEA. (Except we only go on dates every couple of months. But, honestly, it’s you, not me.)

I love perusing the aisles and imagining each new item styled in my home. I love dreaming up alternative uses and hacks for just about everything in the Marketplace. I love the perfectly constructed sample apartments with their incredible efficiency.

Actually, I also kind of hate those apartments. Because they make me realize just exactly how stupid every New York apartment is in reality. You’re telling me a 300-square-foot mockup is smarter and more livable than my 800-square-foot actual apartment? Awesome. Great. Thanks for the reminder.

MOVING ON.

The point is, I love almost everything about going to IKEA. It makes me feel invigorated. This is me after shopping at IKEA:

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No makeup; all glory. That is true joy, folks.

But I also recognize that IKEA is bonkers. And actually quite unenjoyable for most rational humans.

Which is why I’m here to help.

I recently visited IKEA with some friends (they needed wardrobe systems, I needed a table and some storage items). We all had very successful trips (I really killed it in the “As Is” section, to the tune of a table I’ve been wanting for TWO YEARS at a $60 discount), but the thing I am most proud of is that I actually managed to only buy things I need. That is very difficult to do in places like Target and IKEA. (As we all know.)

But even though I didn’t make any superfluous purchases, I did spot quite a few cool new items for spring that I thought I would share with you all so you can see what they look like in person…without actually having to go to IKEA. For the sake of time, I narrowed it down to my seven favorites.

Let’s begin!

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1. Skoval Wall Clock

You guys? This picture does not even do this clock justice (I know, totally defeating the point of this post). Five years ago, when Joey and I first got married, I was briefly obsessed with the idea of finding a clock for our kitchen wall. I eventually gave up the hunt because I couldn’t find anything with the right amount of charm, style, and je ne sais quoi. But if I had found this clock back then? It would be mine. I actually almost bought this one because I found one in the “As Is” section, but ultimately made the responsible adult choice of only buying things that were currently on my list. For now…

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2. Maryd Tray Table

Why, yes, IKEA is killing it in the minty green items for spring. Thank you for noticing. This sweet little tray table would be a perfect alternative to traditional TV dinner trays, or you could leave it out full time as a side table or night stand.

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3. Strandmon Wing Chair

If I had any need for any kind of accent chair/additional seating (and, of course, by “need” I mean “space”), I would buy one of these chairs immediately. They make such a statement — my friend Michelle and I literally had to stop to talk about them every time we saw one around the store, which was a lot because they work with almost every style of decor. If you want a chair packed with panache (or at least a place to sit that will get people talking), this is the one. Note: Seating experts (AKA, the aforementioned Michelle) did comment that the chairs were not exceptionally comfortable, but they were enveloping and supporting. We both agreed that over time they would most likely become more comfortable. Just wanted to be transparent.

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4. TOCKARP TV Unit

As you may know, space is at a premium in most big city apartments. This TV stand is tres petit (why does IKEA make me French? Je ne sais pas.) and quite stylish. I love mixed materials, and those metal legs with the wood base are speaking my language. (Which, again, is apparently French.)

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5. BILD Poster

Not going to lie, there’s a distinct possibility I will actually buy this poster. It’s SO COOL. And it’s the perfect mix of vintage and modern .And it matches my living room. So…that sounds like fate to me.

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6. DUKTIG Play Kitchen

This was my first time in IKEA as a mom, and BOY do you notice things you don’t notice pre-kids. Like this adorable play kitchen. (And a million adorable art tables with a billion adorable tiny chairs.) They also have a bunch of sets of play food and cakes and tea sets and cooking supplies. And Vivi loves watching me cook, so how much would she LOVE playing with her own kitchen? And I would paint it mint green with gold fixtures. AND I WILL DEFINITELY BUY THIS WHEN VIVI CAN WALK.

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7. SKURAR Noticeboard

When I first saw this little board, it was hanging in a super girly bedroom mock-up and I immediately thought, “Now THAT is a cool way to display jewelry.” Then I realized it was actually a pretty little bulletin board, but, honestly, if it were mine, I would TOTALLY use it to display jewelry. Who posts bulletins in their bedroom anyway, amiright?

So, there you have it. You know, telling you guys to buy things is almost as satisfying as buying them myself. This discovery could be a total budget saver for me.

Have you braved IKEA lately? What are you coveting? Are you also one of those freaks who loves the terror of IKEA?

I’ll admit, when I first got pregnant, I didn’t really think I would travel all that much after the baby was born. Well, at least not for the first year or so.

It’s not that I thought I would suddenly stop wanting to see new places — I just wasn’t keen on schlepping eight million baby accoutrements onto a plane or across the country.

Then I was reminded that babies fly free for only the first two years of their life (and so does their carseat and stroller and apparently all the carry-on liquids you want). And after that, we would have to start budgeting for flights for three. On one full-time salary and one work-at-home-mom salary.

HAHAHAHAHA.

Needless to say, I now don’t really think we will travel all that much (at least by plane) after the baby turns two. Well, at least not until she’s old enough to remember where we go.

The point is, we’re trying to get our free flights’ worth while we can. So as our fifth wedding anniversary approached, Joey and I started making plans to visit the place where we got engaged.

Now, those of you keeping score at home may remember that I actually got engaged in Vancouver, so WHY AM I TALKING ABOUT SEATTLE? Well, if you were a true long-time reader, you would also remember that the vacance d’engagement* began and ended with a few days in Seattle, whereupon it became one of my favorite cities. So simmer down.

*not a real French term.

The point is, we began our anniversary trip in Seattle as well. We only spent a couple of days there, but I thought it might be helpful to share our favorite spots (new and old) that are also baby friendly, in case you are considering a trip with a little one.

NOTE: I am not calling this “The most original list of things to do in Seattle.” These are simply mom-tried-and-true places where you won’t feel out-of-place or unwelcome when you stroll in wearing a Baby Bjorn. Just wanted to clear that up before someone gets all snarky and superior in the comments. It’s Seattle; I know you’re hipper than I am.

We begin our adventure with dinner on our first night after touching down around 5:30 p.m….

Get dinner at…Ba Bar.
Vietnamese street food gets an upscale twist in this cozy haunt. The food is fresh with Pacific Northwest ingredients, the drinks are fresh-as-heck versions of your favorite classics, and the atmosphere is noisy enough to accommodate a fussy, jet-lagged baby while still intimate enough to make you feel like a cool mom out with her friends.

After dinner, go to bed. It’s after midnight your time. (Probably.) The next day…

Get breakfast at…Top Pot.
I’ll be honest, this is not where we got breakfast. We got breakfast at this place called Ludi’s that Yelp told us was really good. But, I’ll be honest, Yelp and I are on tenuous terms after that recommendation. Because it was fine, but not somewhere I would recommend for a vacation breakfast. You know what I WILL recommend? Doughnuts. And maple bars. And other magical breakfast confections you can find at Top Pot. Go there. And, for the love of sucrose, get something with sprinkles and take an adorable Instagram photo with your baby.

Then wander…Pike Place Market.
Yes of COURSE it’s cliche, but hear me out: The market is a fantastic place for babies. They can be as loud as they want (a local fishmonger is guaranteed to be louder), there are tons of things to look at, and you will never find someone more fascinated by the gum wall than an ankle-biter.

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Get lunch at…Matt’s in the Market.
To me, a trip to Seattle without a stop at Matt’s is sacrilege, so there’s no way it wasn’t going to end up on this list. Fortunately for you, trusting reader, it really and truly is a good place to take a baby. (Who knew??) It’s got a buzzy atmosphere that won’t be broken up by a few tiny shrieks (noticing a pattern here?), and the waitstaff is pleasantly patient with littler guests. There are also a ton of windows, which is a plus if you’ve got a baby who needs lots of things to look at or she gets bored and cries. Speaking hypothetically. The one flaw? No changing tables in the bathroom. (What’s up with that, Matt’s?) But there is a counter where they put the hand towels where you can set up shop without too much fuss.

Then visit the…Seattle Great Wheel.
Relax, I’m not recommending you take your baby on to some wobbly wheel of doom. The Great Wheel really is pretty great, with each seat actually being a little pod/room that you can get all to yourself if you want. The ride around lasts about 15 serenely quiet minutes, perfect for sneaking in a nursing session or a nap. And the views can’t be beat.

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And while you’re there, head left to the…Seattle Aquarium.
Um, hi. Why did no one tell me how perfect aquariums are for babies? Here I was, all like, “Babies can’t appreciate science.” When, in reality, they don’t have to. (And, actually, they probably can.) All they have to appreciate is looking at cool stuff. And aquariums are PACKED with cool stuff. They are already designed for kids, so everything from running to touching to getting raucous is actually ENCOURAGED in most areas. The Vivster could not have been more charmed by every single creature she met. Still not convinced? Consider this: Those giant walls of fish? They look exactly like TV screens, meaning your baby’s eyes will be drawn to it like a magnet. Except your mom group isn’t going to secretly judge you for letting your kid stare at one for an hour. Everyone wins.

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Get coffee (and charge your phone) at…Seattle Coffee Works.
Honestly, you can get coffee anywhere. This is Seattle — it’s all pretty decent. I’m only including this particular spot because it also had outlets and bench seating where, if you spread a blanket, a particularly obliging baby could spread our and catch a few Z’s. This is not true of every coffee outlet. (Lookin’ at you, Starbucks across the street.) And if your baby won’t sleep here, grab a latte, plop the kiddo in a baby sling or carrier, and hit up a few shops on 5th avenue (Seattle-version). If your kid is anything like mine, she’ll be out like a light in no time.

Then grab dinner at…Local 360 Cafe & Bar.
When you first walk into this place, it won’t scream “baby-friendly” to you. (That would wake the babies. YUK YUK YUK.) The main floor is all bar and tiny tables packed pretty close to their neighbors. But never fear! There’s a whole second story, where somehow all the noise seems to blend into a pleasant hum of conversation (even if your baby’s contribution to that hum is just a lot of whining). Plus, the wait staff LOVES babies. At least, everyone we encountered did — and nothing makes you feel more comfortable than that. Plus, the actual food? To. Die. Do not skip dessert.

Now, go home and put that baby to bed. You’re both jet lagged, remember?

The next morning, get brunch at…Six Seven Restaurant at the Edgewater Hotel.
I know you probably didn’t actually sleep in (you have a baby), but let’s call this breakfast “brunch” just so you feel like a semblance of your pre-baby self, shall we? This gorgeous hotel might feel a bit formal for an infant, but if you book an earlier reservation (we started around 9:30 a.m.) you’ll avoid a rush of people looking for an adults-only meal in favor for a mostly empty dining room and spectacular views you can enjoy sans judgy eyes. Tip: Order any egg specialty with crab in it, feed your kid a squeezy pack, and high-five your fellow adult for scoring a grown-up meal. After breakfast, take a jaunt along the coast to work off the food and get you all some fresh air before you head out.

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So, technically that’s two days, right? Feel free to mix and match the recommendations to fit your own timeline.

Did I miss your favorite baby-friendly place? Share it in the comments. And happy trails!

Joey, Vivi, and I just got back from a long weekend in Lake Placid for a hockey tournament, and I’m looking around my apartment thinking, “MAN, do I have a lot to do!”

So what do I do first? Write a blog post, of course. #priorities

For a while now (let’s call it three months), I’ve been meaning to do a blog round-up of my favorite must-have new baby items. It’s a rite of passage for all mommy bloggers, and I actually found them useful when I was creating my own registry for the Vivster. Because, as we’ve discussed, there’s a lot o’ baby crap out there. A mom’s gotta be choosy.

While there are plenty of baby products I could list that I actually did use, here are the five that made the biggest difference in Vivi’s first three months of life.

5 Things New Moms Need in the First Three Months

 

1. Beluga Baby Wrapbelugababy.ca
I’ve already gushed to the moon and back about how much I love this bamboo cotton wrap from Beluga Baby, but it was especially helpful during Vivi’s “fourth trimester.” During the first three months, babies are still adjusting to life outside the womb, so anything you can do to mimic the uterus (white noise, movement, swaddling, etc.) helps to ease this transition. Now, the wrap is especially helpful when Vivi isn’t feeling well or just needs a bit of help calming down from a tantrum. (Plus, you can still get 15% off of your own wrap with code STOPME — the code is good until February 15th. And due to the exchange rate — Beluga Baby is a Canadian company — U.S. shopper can get an additional 25% off right now. So get on it!)

2. Mommy’s Bliss Grip Waterdrugstore.com (also available at most drugstores)
Honestly, if I could make this products 2 through 5, I probably would. Our little girl had a tough time with gas and reflux, especially in the first three months, and this stuff made a world of difference. I like that it’s made from food-based products (fennel and ginger extract, primarily) because I’m as cautious about over-medicating my kid as I am over-medicating myself. Vivi actually really liked the taste, which made the process even easier. I can’t tell you how many times we were able to cure her hiccups or get an especially difficult burp out. (Oh, the tiny successes of parenting!)

3. Keekaroo Peanut Changing Pad, giggle.com
I purchased this changing pad after hearing my friend Madison say repeatedly that it was the best thing they had ever purchased for her daughter. And let me just say, it lives up to the hype. Not only does the rubbery surface make it super easy to clean if (and WHEN) your baby blows out a diaper or doesn’t wait for a new diaper to go to the bathroom, it’s also super comfortable and doesn’t slide around on the dresser we decided to use as a changing table. And now that Vivi is a bit more mobile, the raised sides keep her in place during changes.

4. Puj Flyte Compact Infant Bath, target.com
I debated quite a few baby baths before ultimately deciding on the Puj, and I’m so glad I did. Not only does it quickly turn any sink into a tub for Viv, it’s also incredibly lightweight and folds or hangs up for easy drying and storage (ideal for those of us in tiny apartments). Now that we’re traveling with the baby more often, it also makes it easier to pack so Vivi can get her bedtime bath anywhere.

5. Deluxe Sit-Me-Up Floor Seat, burlingtoncoatfactory.com 
Vivi has always been the kind of baby that wants to know what is going on around her. The only problem was, she was too little to sit up herself, meaning we either had to hold her all the time (including during meals) or let her cry while she would lie on a blanket on the floor. Even her swing seat was too reclined for her to be able to see what we were doing around the apartment. Then my mother-in-law got us this soft chair. And, can I just say, we use this reclined seat at least four times a day. Vivi loves that she is sitting up like a big girl and can watch me move around the room and kitchen, and I love that she is comfortable and can keep herself occupied for a few minutes with the toys on the tray. Seriously, this one was life-changing.

I feel like as soon as I hit publish, I’m going to remember at least three other must-have items that I forgot to include on this list (oh, mom brain!) but I can definitely stand behind these five products.

So tell me, what did I miss? What were your must-have items with a new baby?

two month old baby

While I do feel like the first two months of Vivi’s life have gone by quickly, I also feel like they haven’t. Sure, a lot of the (at times restless) nights blend together into one long blur of feedings, but there are also a lot of crystal clear moments. Moments of joy (the first time she smiled at me!) and moments of “oh Lord, this is never going to end…” (see previously mentioned restless nights).

Fortunately, the good still far outweighs the bad. Yes, I’m still occasionally doused in puke or frustrated when I can’t find a cause (and therefore a solution) for a screaming fit, but by and large, Vivi is a happy, social baby, and I love being able to watch her change and develop every day.

So what is my 2-month-old doing these days? Well, I already mentioned the smiling, but it bears repeating because it is so. freaking. cute. It’s completely Joey’s smile (despite her having my mouth), which I think just makes me love it even more.

She’s also babbling a lot more, discovering new sounds (and, unfortunately for me, new cries) and becoming more and more interactive each week.

And she’s growing like a weed. Her size three-month leggings are starting to look like flood pants on her gangly little legs, and she’s filled out quite a bit in her belly and cheeks. (Yes, it’s just as cute as it sounds.)

But along with Vivi’s advancements, the last two months have led to a lot of realizations about myself and parenting as well.

The biggest being that parenting is probably the greatest exercise in humility you will ever encounter.

There’s simply no room to be cocky as a new parent because your baby is essentially a brand new person every day. Sure, your baby rolled over early and is a champion breastfeeder. But you know what else? She also screams during the entirety of tummy time and projectile vomits when she accidentally eats too much too quickly.

Yup, bet you’re feeling real advanced when your ears are ringing and you’re wiping spit-up out of your hair with a baby wipe. (Because, sorry, you’re not getting a real shower until afternoon nap time.)

At least once a day, I get an awesome feeling of, “I’ve GOT this. I am not a terrible mom — in fact, I think I’m doing pretty well,” but it’s usually swiftly followed by a crushing feeling of, “I am DEFINITELY screwing all of this up. What was I thinking having a baby?!”

It’s those moments when those little moments of eye contact and baby grins really come in handy.

The point is, it’s better to just stay humble. When they go well, maybe take a breath before you start sending out those early admission applications to Harvard. And when they don’t go so well? Try not to take it so personally.

After all, she’ll be a new baby tomorrow.

Being covered in puke and not flinching.

Thinking you cleaned off the puke and noticing half an hour later there’s still some on your forearm.

Taking every toddler toy commercial personally. (Will my baby never walk if I don’t buy that?!)(Answer: Your baby will still walk, psycho.)

Spending most of the day with your nursing bra unhooked before finally hooking it again. Most likely in public. Because you don’t even care anymore.

Planning your DAY around a stubborn burp bubble.

Being either half an hour early or an hour late to everything.

Truly believing all is lost if we lose this dang binky.

A tiny bit of guilt at what a relief it is when someone else wants to hold the baby. (Yay! Five minutes where no one is touching/clawing at me!)

The rush of love (and secret relief) when she really just wants to come back to you.

Reveling in every nap that lasts longer than twenty minutes. (He-llo, brushed hair and a cup of coffee!)

Wondering at least twenty times a day if you’re doing it right.

Praying for the next stage of development.

Wishing she could stay this way forever.

Writing blog posts in the back of Uber cars because it’s one of the few places your baby sleeps soundly.


Guess where I am right now?

I’m a pretty lucky girl in that my husband does most of the cooking in our house. Occasionally, if he’s stressed with work or I’m craving something really specific, I’ll dust off my rusty culinary skills and whip up a little something, but in general, the kitchen is his domain.

Sometimes, though, neither of us is in the mood to do anything after work except to flop on the couch and have someone hand us a meal. That usually results in a sizable Seamless order, but recently we learned about a new option.

I’d like to introduce you to Kitchensurfing, an on-demand personal chef service where you can have a professional chef come to your home, prepare a meal, and clean up before you even sit down to eat. The result? A healthy, often locally sourced dinner in about 30 minutes time, cooked entirely to order.

The view.

The view.

Our chef, Claire, was delightful. She arrived promptly (even getting there a few minutes before we did), and quickly set up and started cooking. Joey and I sat at the table nearby and caught up on our days while the aroma of steak started to fill the kitchen.

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The talented Claire.

Before we knew it, Claire was done, the kitchen was cleaned up, and dinner was served. And, you guys? It was gorgeous.

Dins.

Dins.

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We had the Rosemary Beef Tagliata with Seared Polenta Cakes and an arugula salad with baby artichokes and a balsamic dressing. It was totally delicious.

The most amazing part of this service to us was that, besides being super quick and delicious, it’s not even insanely outside our price-range — at least as an occasional luxury. Weekly pricing (one meal per week) for couples is $59, for a young family is $79, and for a family of four is $95. If you consider what you would spend on an evening out with friends, it’s not that different (and you can do this in your pajamas!). Joey and I could also see using the service again for an anniversary or other special occasion.

My date.

My date.

Interested in trying it out for yourself? Click here to learn more.

Have you already tried Kitchensurfing? Can YOU think of anything fancier than having a personal chef for the night?

[Disclosure: All Kitchensurfing links used above are affiliate links.]