An Uncomplicated Life Blog: March 2018

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Best Summer Recipes Roundup

These 6 recipes are refreshing, light, and don't require an oven, making them perfect for spring and summer

It's officially spring! We made it through the winter. Hopefully signs of life are popping up where you live - spring shows her lovely face in Texas at the end of Feb/beginning of March, so it's basically feeling like summer already to me here. Which is why I thought, "I want to collect all my great summer recipes in one spot so I don't have to search my blog for them!" Yeah, I follow my own recipes. See, I make them up on a whim and write them down as I go, but that doesn't mean I'll remember how I made it! I dug back up to three years to pull my best summer recipes. That means fresh ingredients, no oven, and a dish that can be left outside in the heat for a bit - or even cooked outside! Here's the best summer recipe roundup from various blog posts over the years:

Fresh, light recipes perfect for summer, summer cooking, grilling marinade, light recipes, healthy recipes, eating healthy, summer season

If you like fresh herbs, this one is for you! I know my mint didn't die all winter long and loves to take over my herb garden, so I already have plenty of it growing. Fresh parsley is the other key ingredient here. It's fresh and meat free, so it's great as a side at a cookout or beef it up with chickpeas for a main course meal that won't weigh you down when it's 95 degrees out.

Keeping in that Mediterranean theme, these Greek chicken burgers are a fresh take on the classic burger. Fresh cucumber, a quick pickled onion and homemade tzatziki sauce (it's SO easy to make yourself!) really make this dish flavorful without a ton of calories - perfect for summer! These can be grilled or cooked on the stove top.

I love mayo. I love classic potato salad. In fact, it's really the only way I like to eat potatoes - I don't care for french fries and a loaded baked potato kinda grosses me out. Even though I love me some mayo, this recipe is as good or BETTER than the traditional. The acidity from the limes and the pickled jalapenos give it a great kick, and there's conventional ingredients like celery and green onions. This will keep outside for hours too, since there isn't anything that can spoil. And it's even better next day, when the oil and acidity can seep into the potatoes.

Beef, Mushroom and Snap Pea Stir Fry
When you get sick of grilled everything, or it's too hot or too rainy to be outside, give this stir fry a try! It's ready in under 30 minutes on your stove top, and features a bunch of fresh veggies. Add whatever looks good at the store or is in season! When making stir fry, I say the more veggies the better.
Lemon-Thyme Pasta Salad
This is another great one if you're like me and have a robust herb garden with a ton of thyme. Thyme was the only other herb besides mint that the cold winter didn't kill off - in fact, it flourished! Fresh thyme MAKES this dish. The lemon zest really brightens the flavor, and much like the Mediterranean quinoa, this can be a great side dish or a main dish if you add chickpeas or navy beans. Just like the potato salad, it gets better the longer it sits, so if you're taking it to a cookout, make it the day before! Just slightly under cook the pasta as the acidity in the marinade will "cook" it the rest of the way. Boom! No mushy pasta salad!

The Only Chicken Marinade You'll Need
I'm not kidding you when I say this is the only grilled chicken marinade you'll need. Ever. It goes with everything and adds a flavor that blends with whatever side dish or whatever main dish you're adding the chicken to. You could pair this with any of the side dishes listed here and it'd be great! Plus it's five ingredients, so it's so simple and impossible to mess up! I like to let my chicken sit in it for at least a few hours. Also, let your chicken come to room temp before grilling and let it rest for 5 mins or so after you take it off the grill before cutting so that the juices stay in the chicken and don't run out all over your plate or cutting board.

Zesty Summer Hummus
This one is capable of feeding. a. crowd! A food processor is a must, but if you've got that, this dish can be thrown together in less than 5 minutes. Literally, throw the ingredients into the food processor, press on, and you've got it. It's SO easy to make your own hummus and amazingly cost effective that way too. This dish cost me all of $3 to make and fed over 25 people whereas store bought is over $5 and will feed 4-6 people. That's some math I can get behind!

Best Kitchen Gadgets on Amazon
Want to make cooking this summer more FUN? Then check out these great gadgets, easily available on Amazon. I highly recommend the juicer, because most of these summer recipes have some sort of citrus in them, and this thing makes juicing them a breeze. Sharp knives are a must. And if you have a charcoal grill, there's something in here you ABSOLUTELY need for grilling success!

Summertime is nearly here, and it's time to start getting your grill ready to be fired up all season! These are all great recipes for being outdoors, using fresh veggies and herbs, side dishes for cookouts and even a great stove top stir fry for when you're over the heat or for a rainy day. Summer is the season to enjoy fresh flavors and be outside! Enjoy all these great, fresh, bright flavored recipes. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Where To Travel Off The Beaten Path In Texas

Want a destination with two major airports, sports, cultural events, is budget friendly and has that classic Texas charm?

Back in my 20's, I traveled ALL the time. Especially after graduate school when I got a great paying job, but still had a low cost of living (whoohoo roommates!) and no real obligations other than my student loans and rent. Now my life looks a lot different with two kids, but I still manage to do quite a bit of travel, although it looks a bit different. By that I mean I do a lot more regional travel. It's been a big surprise, but getting to explore more of Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and my first trip to Arizona has been a blast! Texas in particular has been full of surprises, likely because it's such a massive state and covers to much topography. Here's a great pick of where to travel off the beaten path in Texas.

Surprise! It's right in my own backyard in the Dallas metro. Arlington, TX is about a 45 minute drive southwest of of where I live in the city center. Now, I've mentioned plenty of times on my InstaStories that I rarely venture out to the suburbs; I feel like I have everything I need in a 20 minute drive radius of me here in the city. But it's great to go explore and see new things, right? So I packed the car full of food, fuel and water in case I got lost (kidding! Not really...) and ventured down to check out what Arlington was all about.

If you're a sports fan, you know well that one of the biggest, most popular teams in the NFL plays at AT&T Stadium located here. The Texas Rangers also are housed in Arlington at Globe Life Park. One of the coolest things about both those stadiums is that they host far more than just sporting events; they're home to a ton of cultural events. There are art fairs and auto shows and even heritage festivals. Back in December, we went to an outdoor German Christmas Mart, complete with German food, music and goods to purchase from local artists and craftsmen.

In addition to sports and cultural events, Arlington has Six Flags, the massive amusement park. You can see the towers and roller coaster tracks from I-30, the freeway that takes you right to all three of these massive attractions. I'm in the minority by NOT being an amusement park fan. The height alone of some of those rides gives me the shivers! They do have a water park though, and as soon as my kids are old enough to get on some of those rides and attractions, I'm all up for that. As long as they're not too high...

I wanted to go off the beaten path of Arlington to see what else there was besides the "big three" (AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Park and Six Flags). I found some signs directing me to downtown, and thought that would be a great place to start. It's small, but it's size doesn't lack for charm! I found a great theatre, an old school barber shop, a brewery, restaurants, salons, and more! There was art and sculpture everywhere - likely because the University of Texas at Arlington is basically right across the street from downtown. There's art an museum and an outdoor pavilion that hosts free concerts all summer long!

I was impressed with all that I saw from this community. National-level attractions, higher education, art, outdoor community gathering spaces, great food, local brews, live music and more! If you're looking to get off the beaten path of Texas travel destinations, you've got to check out all the attractions Arlington has to offer.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Debunking Skincare Myths

Tracking Pixel

Playing the game "Two Truths and A Lie" to debunk some old skincare myths that will result in your healthier skin

This post is sponsored by Dove Beauty Bar. All opinions are my own.

Who's ever played the game Two Truths and A Lie? I remember growing up going to sleepovers at girlfriend's houses, and playing that game (and Truth or Dare!) until the wee hours of the morning. I feel for those parents who hosted us, as I'm sure we were shrieking with giggles and kept everyone awake all night long... I was a girly girl, and we'd pour over teen fashion and gossip magazines, talking about makeup and fashion and skincare. From the time I could shower independently, my mom always bought me Dove Beauty Bars. I'm not sure if she knew some of the science behind the product or if she also grew up with them or both. That said, today I'm debunking some skincare myths with that fun childhood game, two truths and a lie. Let's play!

Which one is the lie? Take a guess and I'll tell you near the end of this post so you can see if you were right!

1.      You should cleanse deeply and gently
2.      You have healthy skin when it feels soft, nourished and moisturized
3.      Extra scrubbing and washing is necessary for oily skin

Growing up, I had sensitive skin - I still do in fact. Additionally, I've passed it along to one of my kids. Dove Beauty Bar was the ONLY product I could use on my skin that wouldn't make me break out in a rash or get itchy. I remember learning this lesson the hard way when I took a shower at a friend’s house after swimming. The chlorine from the pool combined with the soap that their family used resulted in flaky, dry skin. I itched all day and was miserable! From that moment on, I followed in my mother's footsteps and only used Dove.

It's no wonder Dove Beauty Bar is the only thing my family's sensitive skin can tolerate - it's made with a quarter moisturizing cream which replenishes skin nutrients  lost during the cleansing process. That means the Dove Beauty Bar doesn't leave behind that tight, dry feeling that other soaps can, which can be a sign of dry skin damage. I know I for sure had that issue after swim lessons at my friend's house! And boy, was that uncomfortable. Here are some other fun facts about Dove Beauty Bar and your skincare:
  •         A recent Dove survey found that 86% of dermatologists report that the “squeaky clean” feeling means your skin might be stripped of the moisture and nutrients it needs
  •         Unlike basic soap bars, Dove Beauty Bar gently but effectively cleanses, leaving soft, smooth skin
  •         Dove Beauty Bar is sold at mass, food and drug retailers nationwide
  •         Dove Beauty Bar is the #1 Dermatologist recommended Bar andthe #1 Pediatrician recommended Bar

Now that I'm a parent myself and have clearly passed along my family's sensitive skin genes, I'll teach my boys to use Dove Beauty Bar, so that they can properly take care of the biggest organ in their body - their skin! Everyone deserves to have healthy, clean skin. And with the price point of Dove Beauty Bar, everyone can, because it's affordable and effective!

Ok, back to Two Truths and a Lie... Did you guess it right? Number 3 was a LIE: Cleansing your skin appropriately once or twice a day is enough to keep your skin healthy, no matter if its oily or not. Dove Beauty Bar creates healthy skin through the mild cleanser formula of DEFI and the signature ¼ moisturizing cream. I can tell you from experience, as a teen with acne prone skin, that over cleansing and over scrubbing did not help clear up my skin. In fact, it just made it even more irritated. Number 3 is definitely a big ol' skincare MYTH.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Dove Beauty Bar.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Berry Cresent Roll Galettes

Pillsbury Cresent Rolls make these galettes extremely easy to make!

This post is sponsored by Pillsbury. All opinions are my own and this is my original recipe creation.

I've said it before and I will say it again: Baking is NOT my strong suit. Cooking? Yes, I'm happy in the kitchen all day but the exact science behind baking that requires me to actually measure out ingredients is simply maddening. Which is exactly why I take all the help I can get when it comes to baking! This berry Crescent Roll galette recipe combines the ease of a pre-made product with some fresh ingredients that results in an easy, incredibly tasty baked good.

If you're hosting an Easter brunch this year, this is the perfect recipe to serve alongside my ham, leek and potato frittata! It brings an element of sweet in to your menu - yet it's not too sweet because of the marscapone cheese. This is a great "party food" because you can eat it with your hands, standing up "cocktail" style, or with a fork and knife at a seated brunch. It takes about 30 minutes to make them, including the baking time, so you won't be stuck in the kitchen while your guests are enjoying the party. You can also make these the night before if you want to keep things super simple.

One of the biggest perks of living in Texas is access to FRESH fruit, year round. I remember the fruit in Minneapolis was... Rather sad in the winter months. If you're stuck dealing with less than ripe fruit, I've got two tips for you. 1) put your fruit in a brown paper bag in the counter top for a day or two until the fruit is ripened a tad more and 2) use an additional teaspoon of sugar in the marscapone cheese mixture to help sweeten up under-ripe berries.

Berry Crescent Roll Galettes

- 1 package Pillsbury™ Crescent Rolls (there's 8 in there, so feel free to double this recipe for a larger Easter party!)
- 2ox mascarpone cheese (half a 4oz container)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg
- fresh berries of choice
- honey to drizzle on after baking

PRO TIP: If you've got an electric hand mixer, you're in good shape! If not (I sadly do not), let the marscapone cheese sit out on the counter to warm up a bit - I'd say for an hour to enable it to fully come up to room temperature. This will make it far easier to blend in the other ingredients.

In a mixing bowl, whip together the marscapone cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla. The mixture should be smooth and look like pudding. Pop open the crescent rolls and arrange the triangles out on your baking sheet. It's extremely important your baking sheet has a raised edge! The marscapone cheese will run out of the crescent roll galette, and you don't want to have to clean it off the bottom of your stove.

Put a small dollop of the marscapone cheese mixture in the center of the triangle of the cresent roll. Add your fresh berries. I used 3-4 raspberries and about 5-6 blueberries per galette. You want enough to show, but not bake out of the galette. Fold the two corners of the crescent roll over the cheese and berries. Bake at 350 for about 11 minutes, or until the galettes are golden brown.

Remove immediately to a cooling rack that has parchment or wax paper underneath it. Drizzle honey over the galettes while their still warm, allowing the honey to run off and get on the paper under the drying rack. That makes cleaning up the honey easy - simply toss the parchment or wax paper when you're ready to serve your berry crescent roll galettes. Enjoy!

easy baking recipe, Easter brunch recipe, cresent roll recipe, fresh fruit
Like it? Pin my Berry Crescent Roll Galette recipe!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Favorite Books I've Read In 2018

We're about to close out the first quarter of 2018, and I'm sharing the best books I've read so far this year

You know that weird phenomenon (that might be a strong word for it) that happens when you start to do something, or buy something, you notice everyone else is doing it or has bought it too? Like when I got my new car last spring, I had never noticed it on the road before. After I drove it off the lot, all I saw were Infiniti QX60's! They were everywhere. I think it's been proven (proven!) that it's more of you being aware of said thing, and not that more people are actually buying or doing it, and you being aware of it makes you notice it more... But anyway, one of my goals for 2018 was to read at least a book a month, and I've proudly exceeded that goal! The only reason that makes me proud is that it means I'm putting my phone down more, and turning the TV off at night earlier to get some quality reading time in before bed, and I think we can all agree that's a great thing. I've rounded up my favorite books that I've read so far in 2018 in case you're looking for your next book to read. *affiliate links used*

quick reads, entertaining books, easy books to read, adult fiction

If you're like me, this title is totally off-putting. Which is why I picked it up to read the back in the first place. The concept of the book is FASCINATING. It's historical, and written as journal entries from a fictional historical figure. History went one way, and this book was written as if history had gone the other, from the perspective of the historical figure. I love anything American history, especially on Westward Expansion and the Frontier AND from a woman's perceptive. The writing is merely ok, but the concept was so intriguing to me I finished this one in about two weeks! If you love social history, this one is for you.

PS - I just learned there's a sequel to this, and I'm totally ordering it!

This is all about what happens when a dysfunctional family gets together to vacation. Every character is relatable, and every family member has some real struggle they're trying to get through, and the family itself has collective issues it needs to work on. If you want a relatable story that will make you feel like your own family isn't as crazy (or, isn't as abnormal, they're probably still crazy), this is a great, quick read!

Four words best describe this book: Nail biting page turner. I think I finished it in a weekend. The movie, if you've watched it, does NOT do the book justice! Not even remotely close. It's a murder mystery, and layers are revealed as memories come back to the alcoholic main character. I like how this story isn't linear, but rather told in circles as those hazy, booze induced memories come back to the main character, and as the character narrating the book changes and we get different perspectives from different people. I think I finished this one back in 2017 but it's so good, I had to put it on this list. And if you're just getting into reading as a hobby, START HERE. Because you'll polish this one off pronto and ignite your love for reading again.

My father-in-law gifted this to me for Christmas a year or two ago. Which is somewhat hysterical because there are several pornographic scenes, one of which is at the outset of the book! I'm sure he wasn't aware of that. Anyway, sex scenes aside, this is another great murder mystery. It wasn't as face paced as The Girl on the Train for me, but the plot twists kept the pages turning. Fair warning, if raunchy sex scenes make you uncomfortable, don't read this one! I was shocked at the first one I read, then just knew it was a part of the storytelling and got used to it.

This is the third book by Liane Moriarty I've read. Honestly, Big Little Lies was my favorite (and the HBO series, in my opinion, absolutely did the book justice - and the second season is coming out soon!). Her books all start out rather the same: With the revelation that something big has happened, suspense leading up to what that big thing is, and the drama that happens before and after said big thing. This book is no exception to her writing style and her book writing formula. It's well written, it's relatable, it's entertaining, and the suspense draws you in right away.

If you're looking for some entertaining reads, this is a great list of my favorite books I've read so far in 2018. I've got something for everyone on here: Family drama and recovery, historical heroines, sexy murder mysteries, drunken murder mysteries, and a a good general life and relationships mystery. Put one (or all!) of these on your "to read" list this year!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Mindful Shopping

In a world where we have 50 different options of any one thing, be mindful about the way you shop!

Mindfulness, intentional living, being present - all super trendy buzzwords right now, right? The thing that cracks me up about that is that these concepts are anything but new. In fact, they embody modern folks attempting to get back to a simpler time; their roots; a calmer space. I love that people are realizing this and taking action! A great place to start the mindfulness process is during the shopping process. In this case, I'm talking grocery shopping. What you put into your body on a daily basis directly impacts your overall health as well as the health of the environment. Choosing items that are local, organic and grassfed are great keywords to look for when shopping mindfully.

I remember the day I got committed to eating locally, organically and/or grassfed (in the case of animal products). I had just finished my yoga teacher training, and had completed a daily journal of what I ate and how it made me feel, both immediately and several hours later. It turned out, eating organically had a huge impact on how I felt afterwards! In terms of immediately, the first thing I wrote in my journals was the TASTE. These items simply taste better.

One of the biggest - as in, shockingly different! - areas of taste difference was grassfed beef. In Minneapolis, I rarely ever bought beef because I just didn't care for it. After moving to Texas, where a good portion of the U.S's beef is raised, and after discovering the "grassfed" secret, it's absolutely my favorite meat. Now, I'm mostly vegetarian and I eat this way to reduce my environmental impact. But I joke with my friends that I'm a vegetarian who eats beef a handful of times a month because grassfed beef, especially locally raised here in Texas, is just so dang tasty. The difference between grass and grain fed is truly astounding.

The same goes with dairy, which isn't a surprise since it comes from a cow. Grassfed dairy has a different flavor all it's own. It's like eating you've been eating food all your life, and one day you're introduced to salt, and you're like, "What is this magical substance that just made all my food taste 100 times better?!" That's the difference between grass and grain fed dairy products: Night and day.

There are two big objections I hear regularly when I mention mindful shopping. First, is that organic is a bunch of bologna because everything is made up of chemicals and chemical compounds so it's all the same. It's true everything is made up of chemicals (we're all comprised of the periodic table!) but the way in which those chemicals form (naturally, man made, etc) have different outcomes. One of those outcomes is in the taste of the product. Want tastier food? Try organic!

The other is the cost. I always say, sure - I may spend slightly more on groceries now. But I'll save more on my medical bills later by eating healthily! Plus, I've got an Ibotta offer for you to get cash back on grassfed Horizon Organic milk, which is totally affordable at Walmart. Yes, Walmart offers affordable organic options! I challenge you to a taste test: Buy your regular milk and use this Ibotta offer to get some Horizon grassfed milk. Try them back to back. Send me an email if you don't immediately notice the taste difference!

While local, organic, mindfulness, and being present are all big buzzwords right now, they all point to a return to our simpler roots. Less technology, more togetherness. Fewer chemicals, a return to traditional farming practices. Less artificial, more taste. Practice your mindful shopping by picking up some Horizon Organic grassfed milk! Take my taste test challenge and experience the difference yourself.

Monday, March 5, 2018

What's Shifted In Blogging

Blogging has come a long way in the nearly four years since I began. It's not the same. I'm breaking down the big blogging shift that's happened in the past few years

It's so odd to me that I can start feeling a particular way about something and feel like it's "just me", that I'm on some proverbial island of thoughts and feelings, all alone. Then when I open up to friends or family about what I'm thinking and feeling, it turns out everyone (ok, or just most) looks at me like, hey! I was thinking the same thing! I feel the exact same way about that, and thought I was the only one! Recently, blogging has been "that thing" for me, where I was feeling a particular way about it and about how the year is shaping up, thinking I was alone on "Paige Island" about it but when I opened up to some blogging friends of mine, it turns out we're all on the same page (pun intended). I'll open up a little bit about those thoughts and feelings, but I really want to focus on what's shifted and how that effects all blogs and bloggers - and the readers and followers of those blogs.

blogging has changed in 2018. Here's how to be a great blogger despite the monetization shift

I remember when I decided to be a "stay at home mom" with Henry. I thought, oh my gosh, I HAVE to have *something* to do besides kid stuff all day! I need a creative outlet. I want to keep my resume relevant in case one day I decide to go back to work for someone else. I had written a few articles for other blogs but had always wanted to start my own and do my own thing. So I did. My first week "home" from work, I started working on creating this blog. I didn't read any how-to articles (sure wish I had!), I wasn't tech savvy, I just jumped in and started DOING it. I was a writer by trade and a marketer by profession. I picked up photography along the way. I learned how to make a decent pin for Pinterest. I still outsource technology because have you ever seen HTML coding? Holy moly...

It was fun! I wrote about whatever I wanted. Mostly fitness, organic food, DIY and crafts, baby/pregnancy and random thoughts I had. Basically, the same kinds of content you see here now, with far crappier photos and no - I mean ZERO - SEO abilities. I learned what a keyword was, I learned to incorporate more photos into my posts, then I got signed up with public relations companies, and I started to earn a living blogging. "This is the best job everrrrrrr!" I thought.

Somewhere in late 2015, Instagram became the "it" girl of blogging. Some bloggers completely ditched their blogs all together to focus on their Instagram feeds, making thousands of dollars off affiliate sales from schleping the clothes they were wearing in their perfectly staged photos. And hey, good for them! But it became THE thing you had to be good at to be a monetized blogger. If you didn't have a "k" after your follower amount (meaning, 10k, 20k, more more more followers) brands didn't want to work with you. They specifically started looking for influencers with 10k-100k followers because some market research company said that was the sweet spot for the biggest influence.

One of the candid shots on my Instagram feed

Instagram became a game. Your feed had to be consistent in color, but it had to have a variety of angles and patterns. White bright light everything became the norm. Staging everything became the norm. Then not only was it on Instagram, it was on blogs too. "How to host the perfect tailgate party!" would be a blog post title, filled with pictures of a catered (likely professionally) party, balloons, party favors, perfectly dressed bloggers and their perfectly dressed kids in their perfectly white house. Suddenly this perfection was on Instagram infiltrated blogs, it polluted Facebook feeds, you couldn't find a non-perfect pin. 

Here's the thing: Real people don't live like that. Sure, those balloons make a cute photo, but who the hell goes and spends $150 on balloons for an effing TAILGATING party?! Yeah, nobody, that's who. Unless you're a blogger and need a good photo-op. You know how we throw a tailgating party? Like the rest of America: Oh hey, that game is on! I'll make a dip and pick up some beer at the grocery store. You figure out who's coming and order the pizza. Sound good? Cool. Yeah, I'll try to remember napkins... Oh wait, we still have some Christmas ones, those will work!

No balloons. No catering. No color-coordinated outfit with perfectly curled hair and a cute hat. And if I had a white sofa, which I don't, it would have a sheet on it, because you already know that dip is going to get everywhere.

Still posting iPhone selfies, with my less than ideal mirror #reallife

I miss when blogging was for the AVERAGE person. Now it only seems like the wealthy can become bloggers. You've gotta get the DSLR camera, and buy the catering, and paint your house, and get a full length mirror, and have the perfect outfit, and the perfect hair, and buy the damn balloons. And affiliate link it all so that everyone else will buy those things in their perfection envy! It didn't used to be like that... Blogging has shifted. It used to be a bunch of creative people sharing their ideas, recipes, thoughts. You didn't need a white marble kitchen to get hired to by a food delivery service to take pictures of you cooking their pre-planned menu. You didn't HAVE to post an Instagram photo that perfectly matched your feed. You wrote about what ideas you had, and if your kitchen wasn't idea for filming, you shot there anyway. Do you think the Pioneer Woman started with a $200,000 kitchen?! Nope.

Blogging has shifted from idea and thought sharing to simply telling people what to buy so they look as perfect as the blogger. 

There was a whole lot of criticism going around about bloggers lately that I wrote this post about. I think this post is just in continuation of the second part of my argument. I miss the old days of blogging that weren't focused on perfection and materialism. We shared our ideas and focused on great content, but didn't stress if we didn't spend $150 on balloons to "get the best shot." We didn't only ramble off crap for people to buy so they *could* look as pretty as us. We made pretty photos with what we had, not going out of our way to buy the crap that everyone else was/is using for a photo prop. Man, those were the days. 

I started blogging to share ideas and have a creative outlet. Not to be competitive or perfect or portray a life I don't actually live and try to sell you on it. Literally, make you believe it and make you buy it. I wish more bloggers would get back to their "why" and stop focusing on what everyone else is doing, what's trending, and how they can make an extra buck off Instagram. It'd make blogs a heck of a lot more fun to read! The shift in blogging is making it a lot less fun to be a blogger, and a lot less fun to read blogs. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

What You REALLY Need For A Newborn

There's so much on the market geared towards newborns; here's what you REALLY need when you have a new baby

I was helping my sister out with her baby registry a few weeks ago, as she sent me a "HELP ME!" email from all the choices, products, and frankly - baby crap that exists out there. It's been two years since I've had a newborn, but oh how I still remember those days. Breast feeding, running on an hour or two of sleep a night, dealing with an infant who sleeps all day and is awake all night... They tell you you'll miss those days when they're gone, but I'm here to tell you NOPE. I sure don't! The newborn stage is the worst. Parenting actually gets fun after the baby is about 6 months old, but that newborn stage is for the birds. In light of that, here's what you REALLY need to survive those first few months with a newborn. *affiliate links used*

what you really need on your baby registry vs. what's nice to have on your baby registry from an experienced mom's perspective

When I was coming up with this list, thinking back on my newborn baby days, I realized that there were things that you absolutely NEED, and then things that I found to be a lifesaver but weren't a universal need. I personally needed them, and if I ever have more children I'll be sure to stock up on them again, but calling it a need is a stretch. But, ahem, I know the difference between need and want. So. I'm going to create two sections: A need section and a want section, although I'm sure most other bloggers would tell you all these things are dire needs!

If you're forming a registry, click the image below to get one started on Amazon and then all the links below will transfer to it. Easy!

What you REALLY need for a newborn:

Swaddles and swaddle blankets - Swaddling the baby at night is a lifesaver, and velcro swaddles make it so that your baby can't wiggle out of it. Trust me, no matter how many lessons you've taken, you'll never be able to swaddle like the nurses at the hospital and your baby will escape, wake up, and scream about it. The swaddles are great at night, and during the day we used the muslin swaddle blankets for naps or to lay on the ground for tummy time. We still use the swaddle blankets to transition Otto out of a sleep sack and to a blanket and pillow sleeping situation.

Onesies - when the baby is brand new and you're figuring it all out, don't bother dressing your baby in a full outfit. Trust me, they'll just spit up on or poop in it. We only dressed Henry in a onesie for about the first 3 months of his life. Get short sleeved onesies for spring and summer babies and long sleeved oneises for fall and winter babies (then use the swaddle blankets to cover their legs). It results in less laundry and less work when you're changing a diaper every hour or two! Which brings me to...

Diapers - you can cloth diaper, or you can go traditional. I tell every future new mom to NOT register for a lot of one brand or one size! You never know how big your baby will be and s/he could grow out of the newborn size in a week. Each diaper brand has a different cut/shape too, and you never know what brand will work best with your baby. Henry wore Babyganics but was such a big baby, by 12 months he was out of their size 6 (Babyganics runs super small, BTW). Then he switched to Pampers. Otto got chemical burns from Pampers, so he wears (to this day) Honest Co. We tried an Honest Co overnight diaper on Henry and it leaked (multiple nights in a row!). See what I mean about different diapers for different babies?! Even if this isn't your first baby, this one won't be the same as your last. I recommend buying a small batch of each brand to see what works best for your baby.
Burp cloths - Oh, how I want to link some of the adorable burp cloths that are out there! There are so many beautiful trendy ones. But guys, when fabric has a print on it, it tends to not absorb well. These plain white cloths absorb everything as it comes out, which means less will end up on you. Pretty they are not, but practical and useful they are indeed. And when it comes to vomit, you want to be practical.

Bottles - Even if you're breastfeeding, you'll come to a time when you'll need to be away from your baby for a few hours and you won't want to leave whomever the caregiver is without a pumped bottle. Bottles, in my experience, are like diapers, and every baby has a preference. Henry used the Philip Avent glass bottles (he was only breastfed for 3 months). Otto took to the Medela bottles as he was breastfed/I pumped for him for a long time. Once I tried to get him to take one of Henry's glass bottles and he spit the nipple out and looked at me like I was crazy. So just like you want a mini-sample of diapers, you'll want a mini sample of all the major bottles. I'd register for 3-4 different brands, figure out which one baby takes, and then buy 6+ of them. (These are also super popular but we never used them.)
Pacifier - even if you don't introduce one right away (I'm still not sure if nipple confusion is a real thing as both my kids got pacis in their first week and both nursed with vigor) a pacifier is a life saver for better sleep. True, your child may form an attachment to it that you'll later have to break (neither of my kids had this happen. Both gave up their pacifiers about the exact same time they were done nursing) but whatever habit is formed is worth the extra sleep you'll get in those first few months. These cute contraptions keep the paci in your baby's mouth.
Bassinet - even if you want to do crib sleeping or co-sleeping immediately, having a bassinet is a must for naps. Newborns sleep a lot and having a bassinet you can move from room to room is essential so you can keep an eye on the baby while you go about your day. Rock n Plays are great because they're easily transportable and have an incline if your baby has acid reflux. There are Moses baskets that are flat-lying (better for baby's soft head) and have handles for transportation. And the Halo looks amazing for night sleeping in the same room as you.

What's NICE to have for a newborn:

A swing or a bouncer - I feel like babies either like to swing or bounce, but rarely both. Both my kids were swingers (ha!) I'm linking the one we actually have because it's amazing. You can swing side to side or front to back, there's a mobile and there's music. There's also an infant insert so it's not too big, and everything is easily washable (hello, vomit!). This is a bouncer by the same brand, and the bonus to it is that it's far cheaper than a swing. It's also more easily movable so the baby can stay with you as you move about the house. Full disclosure, we never had one of these because my kids took to the swing right away.

Pack n Play - we set this up in our master suite so that we'd have a changing table in our room, making those frequent night feeds easier. This is also great for naps and essential for travel. It is SO nice to have more than one changing station in the house!

Nursing pillow - I SWEAR by this brand! It has back support, headrest for baby in the actual nursing position, a washable cover, pockets to keep nipple cream and other things in and a belt around you so that it's secure. There's even a version for twins - how cool is that?! The Bobby was crap - because it's round the baby rolls around and is hard to keep stable while nursing.

Get the need list and you'll be all set for that new baby! Get the needs and nice to have items, and you'll be fully prepared. We didn't get the swing until Henry was a few months old and I was SO glad when we did! We got the pack n play shipped to us before Otto was born, and having those multiple changing stations turned out to be essential with two kids on two different nap schedules and all the night feeds.