Things I Like

A funny thing happened when I decided to planning my blog posts: I started seeing potential projects everywhere.

A bunch of leftover bottles? That could be some kind of cool vase, right? A messy closet? A total how-to waiting to happen. By choosing to try to be more creative, it seems I switched my brain into constant maker/doer/creator mode.

The same is true of when I go shopping for my home. Typically, I’ll have an idea in mind based on something I’ve seen in a magazine, on HGTV, on Pinterest, or in a friend’s home, and I do what I can to bring that idea to life. In the past, I might just buy what I wanted, but now I actually look for ideas that I can create.

Then again, sometimes I’m also just struck with inspiration.

A few weeks ago, I was strolling through Target for items I needed for our master bedroom redo (as one does) when I decided to take a spin down their crafting and DIY aisles. One of their sub-brands, Hand Made Modern, was having a 20% off sale, so I decided to peruse in case there was anything I could use. In the ceramics section, I spotted an unfinished vase/container and a small octagon-shaped tray. Immediately, I knew they would be perfect details for our new nightstands.

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The paint was on sale, and I was excited to find a gold paint and a rose gold paint. If you know me, you know I love gold. And if you REALLY know me, you know I love rose gold.

I knew I wanted to turn the container into a pot for succulents and the tray into a jewelry tray. I started by taping off an asymmetrical line on the container to give it a dip-dyed effect. For the tray, I created a heart stencil out of a piece of tape.

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It took about three thin coats of Hand Made Modern’s metallic acrylic paint to achieve the opaque finish I wanted. Be sure to peel away the tape before the paint dries to avoid pulling off any paint later on.

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I gave each piece 48 hours to dry before handling. The paint says it takes about a month to fully cure, but I knew, even in use, the painted parts of my ceramics wouldn’t get a lot of handling.

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I also used a Sharpie to add a little message on the jewelry tray. Because who doesn’t need a daily compliment from their decor accessories?

The final results were exactly how I hoped they would be:

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And they look even better in their new homes on our newly painted nightstands.

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Not bad for an impromptu DIY, right? So what have you been making lately?

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You guys know how I feel about baby stuff. But you know what is actually one of the most difficult parts of creating a baby registry for your first kid? You honestly have no idea what you will need.

Sure, sure, there are 8,000(,000,000) blog posts out there telling you what you should REALLY register for (cough), but the thing is, until you’ve lived with your baby, you can’t really know which products are going to save your life and which are just going to take up room in your already-too-tiny apartment.

That fact is one of the reasons why I love momma makers. Moms who start their own businesses creating products for other moms just seem to really get it. They’re not trying to make your life harder (you get enough of that from leaky diapers, ya know?); they actually want to solve a real problem you will really have.

Plus, who doesn’t love an entrepreneurial hustler, amiright?

You guys know my friend Haley, maker of the are-we-sure-they’re-not-magic Beluga Baby wraps? Well, through Haley I was connected to Lorene of Glitter & Spice. And what “why didn’t I think of that?” amazingness has Lorene cooked up for moms? Teething. Jewelry.

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Think about it: Little ones will chew on just about anything they can get their chubby little hands on when they’re teething. Necklaces, being that their location puts them in prime grabbing location, are one of the most popular options. So why wouldn’t you wear a necklace that doubled as a safe teether?

But before you start imaging something cheesy strung around your neck, you should know that, um, Lorene’s pieces have been in Vogue, Glamour, and Harper’s Bazaar.

Yeah, they’re that cute.

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She also has traditional teethers in cute shapes, like the super popular Cookie Teether. Trust me, it never stops being hilarious watching people freak out when they think you’re handing your three-month-old an Oreo.

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I won a necklace from Glitter & Spice in an Instagram contest, but I was so charmed (PUNZ) by the products that I couldn’t help but order a second necklace and a bracelet. I can’t even tell you how many times Viv is fussing and I just hand her the bracelet to gum for a while. Instant toys are the best kind of toys.

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And if you’re worried your kid won’t realize your new necklace is actually for them, don’t be. I literally had JUST snapped mine on, and Vivi immediately started chowing down. There’s something about those 100% silicone beads that they can’t ignore.

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Finally, the products are really safe. Lorene uses silicone that is BPA-free and has no phthalates, lead, or PVCs, and the wood beads are organic and untreated. Because you have other things to worry about (see: aforementioned leaky diaper).

Ready for the best part? I have a discount code for you! Enter JUSTINE20 during checkout for 20% off your Glitter & Spice purchase. Who doesn’t love a little savings? Trust me when I tell you they’re worth every penny. (And seriously, did I mention how cute?) Happy shopping!

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*contains affiliate links

My mom has been in town for the last few days (and my dad over the weekend), so I’ve been able to accomplish a lot around the apartment that I’ve had on my to-do list for a while. One of those big tasks was redecorating our bedroom. I’m going to do a full reveal, but I also want to share a few of the smaller projects that make up the whole room. Today, we’re talking floral arrangements.

One of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had was when I was the Flowers Editor for a wedding magazine. I know a fair amount about flowers already from my mom, but my job was basically to look at beautiful bouquets all day, forecast the trends, schmooze with the top florists from around the city, and receive bouquets occasionally from vendors who wanted to impress us. I’ve never had so many fresh flowers around in my life.

And while I love the idea of surrounding our home with fresh flowers on the daily, it’s simply not practical. But I do love the look, which is why I’ve embraced silk or artificial blooms.

The trouble with artificial flowers is that, often times, they look…well, fake. And that utterly defeats the purpose. So I’ve come up with a few rules to selecting the best-looking faux flowers for your home.

Don’t forget to pay careful attention to your color choices.

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In general, I have a really hard time finding flowers in primary shades that look realistic. It’s just a tough job to create a dye the same color as what you find in nature, and the primary hues lack the depth you see in the real thing. It works for wreaths or displays that need to be seen from a distance, but otherwise, I say skip reds, blues, yellows (except in the case of sunflowers), and even most oranges.

Do embrace pastels and jewel tones.

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Pastels are almost always a safe bet when it comes to faux flowers because — surprise! — they closely resemble a lot of real flowers. But if you’re looking to make a statement, go for something in the jewel tone family. At least it’s another natural color.

Do opt for texture.

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Big fluffy flowers are easier to fake than anything more architecturally shaped. The softer petals will all blend together in a big puff of flowers, give the appearance of softness and texture without triggering anyone’s attention that they’re not real.

Don’t be afraid to think beyond flowers.

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Cherry blossoms, pussy willows, and other stick-like options are great for adding height or finishing off more modern decor. Plus, they just tend to look more authentic. This is a great option for first-time faux flower buyers because it’s really hard to mess up.

Don’t forget your greens.

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Real life flowers always have greenery, so your faux displays should too. Greenery is also another option if you’re not ready to jump on the flower bandwagon just yet. Plus, they tend to look more real as well.

Don’t do this…ever:

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Natural colors, remember? Just trust me on that one.

Now…for the arranging!

Do select a variety of flowers in the same color family.

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Don’t worry about matching your flowers exactly — that’s not how it happens in nature! A variety of blush shades creates a romantic blend that looks more realistic as well.

Do trim your stems to fit your container.

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Just like you would a real bunch of flowers, use wire cutters to trim the stems to fit your container for easier arranging.

Do pick a focal point.

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Create cohesive bouquets by picking a showstopper centerpiece (in my case, a large peony) and arranging your supporting flowers around it. Then tuck in a bit of greenery to finish off the look.

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Ta da! I’m pretty pleased with how the whole thing turned out.

Do you decorate with faux flowers? What are your best tips for making them look more realistic?

Or, How I Organized My Desk Drawer for Less Than $15

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Yikes. Am I right? Just looking at a picture of our desk drawer stresses me out. So you can imagine how I felt actually living with that mess.

But despite being a fairly organized person in general (okay, I’m a little bit of a freak), there was something about our desk drawer that had me stumped for, well, let’s call it a calendar year.

While this drawer is actually significantly better than the one on our old desk (which was tiny), the bigness of it tended to backfire on my organization habits because it was essentially one big space, meaning everything in it shared that space all willy-nilly like. As a result, it became the bane of all type-A types: the junk drawer.

Finally, I decided enough was enough. On my recent trip to IKEA, I kept my eyes peeled for desk organization items. But I also knew I didn’t really want to spend a million dollars on a fancy organizational system. I just wanted something simple, pretty, and budget friendly.

That’s when I spotted these. These cute little bowls would have worked well enough on their own, but I decided to try to think of a way to personalize them/make them look more expensive if possible.

I also started to peruse IKEA’s vast selection of silverware drawer organizers (a great option for office supplies and jewelry, as well as cutlery), when I suddenly remembered that I actually had a silverware organizer tucked away in a closet at home. We had used it at our old apartment, but it was too wide for the drawers in our new place. So I bought two of the bowls and decided to simply upcycle everything else I needed.

And that, my friends, is the definition of budget friendly.

A few days later, I dug up the old silverware drawer. It was totally fine — no broken parts, the right size — but the bronze color clashed with the mint bowls.

And THAT was when I decided this was a job for gold spray paint.

I am no stranger to spray painting things gold. (Cough.) In fact, my husband has said, on occasion, that everything in our apartment is gold. (This is a gross exaggeration. But I get it.) So at this point, I consider myself a bit of a pro in what to do. I purchased some primer and some metallic gold spray paint and got ready to get in to it.

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Cue my instant disappointment when I realized that the primer I had purchased was defective. Any attempt to spray the paint resulted in the can just spurting paint everywhere. Not cute.

I was about to give up on my project for the day (and had started racking my brain for a new project to fill this week’s post) when I decided to, you know, actually read the instructions on the gold paint’s can.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Krylon gold spray paint boasts the ability to stick to virtually every surface, INCLUDING PLASTIC AND METAL.We were back in business.

Three thin coats later, and I was left with these beauties:

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Note: I taped off the bottom of the bowls to keep them white, and I am very pleased with the effect.

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The one thing that was kind of annoying was that the gold spray paint dripped a bit, which was only really noticeable in the bowls:

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This could probably be avoided by a) using a can with a more even spray nozzle or b) being more careful, but ultimately I decided the bowls would be full anyway, so no one would ever know.

Then I set to work organizing the aforementioned junk drawer desk drawer.

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Not bad, right? Let’s get a close-up:

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Now, not only do I not dread opening the drawer, but it actually feels a little bit luxe. And I got that feeling of luxurious organization for less than $15! Not bad at all.

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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!