October 17, 2016

A #BossBabes Book List + Giveaway!

Although I'd heard of Grace Bonney, founder of Design*Sponge, and own Design*Sponge at Home, I found out about her most recent book on Instagram a few months ago. In the Company of Women is a collection of advice and inspiration from more than 100 female makers, artists and entrepreneurs. Grace is passionate about the creative community and writes in the introduction:
Activist Marian Wright Edelman said, "You can't be what you don't see." Visibility is one of the most powerful tools we have in inspiring people to pursue their dreams and educating them about all the amazing options that exist. My goal with In the Company of Women is to provide motivating and relatable examples of all kinds of women running their own businesses, so that any woman, anywhere, can open to a page and see herself reflected. 
And honestly, I think she's accomplished her goal! She interviewed so many talented women who run their own businesses and has compiled their stories, their successes and struggles, their dreams and goals, and their advice and inspiration in this book. I can't say enough good things about the combination of gorgeous photography and compelling profiles! I'm not an entrepreneur, but I've still found so much to love in these pages. I'm still going through my copy - the format makes it perfect to read a little bit each day.

Before the book came out, I found information about the book tour. I was so excited to learn there was a stop in Atlanta, and I immediately texted one of my friends about going with me. She's an artist, and I knew she'd be interested in learning more about turning a passion into a business! I bought a ticket to the event, which included a copy of the book and a cool tote, and was able to attend last week. I'm so glad I went!

Grace Bonney led the discussion with three inspiring women:
It was a fascinating event! The women talked about what they wanted to be growing up, how they ended up where they are now, dealing with criticism, the lie about work/life balance, the problems with comparison, the challenges (and rewards!) of being a boss, and so much more. If the book tour is coming to your area, I'd highly recommend going. Grace was the perfect panel moderator - giving the discussion structure while still making it feel like a conversation. And I love that each tour stop features a different group of entrepreneurs!

I'd been thinking about recapping the event, but finding out that today is National Boss's Day was the perfect motivation to create this post. I also got a really fun coloring and activity book in the mail last week - Boss Babes by Michelle Volansky - and have an extra copy to give away! So, both of those things inspired me to create a list of books about boss babes from history, profiling boss babes today, and sharing how to become a boss babe.

Explore the books featured on the list (left to right by row):

3. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

9. Do It Like a Woman... and Change the World by Caroline Criado-Pérez

11. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
12. #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

What's your favorite #bossbabes book?
Who is your favorite boss babe?

And don't forget to enter to win a copy of Boss Babes!
* Giveaway is U.S. only. *

a Rafflecopter giveaway

October 10, 2016

September 2016: Recap + On My Shelves

So long, September! I'm a week late with this recap, but I still wanted to post it because September was a pretty good month for me. I'm hoping October will bring fun adventures along with the changing temperature!

1. Empire of Storms - Of course, I have to start with the release of my most anticipated 2016 book! I couldn't wait to get my hands on Empire of Storms, and it certainly didn't disappoint. I raced through in two days - desperate to see what danger awaited these characters! I had a major book hangover after I was done.

2. Welcome, Fall! - Although it's still hot here in Georgia, I'm so happy that it's finally fall! I usually have a harder time saying goodbye to summer, but this year was a little different so I'm glad to put the season behind me. We've been taking family walks every evening after dinner before the baby goes to bed, and it's my favorite.

3. Meal Planning - Now that I'm staying at home, I decided it was time to step up my cooking game. I want fewer last-minute dinners and less take out and more healthy, fresh, homemade meals. So, I found a great resource that's been helping me make plan meals, eat fresh and save money. I'll post more about it soon!

4. Starbucks Addiction - I cut out caffeine from my diet this year, but I treated myself to some Starbucks recently after a doctor's appointment. I've never loved coffee, but somehow it just hit the spot. And now I want it ALL THE TIME! It's becoming a problem, y'all, because I can't afford to have this as a long-term addiction.

Read 6 Books | Favorites:
Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
Winter by Marissa Meyer
Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson
“The world will be saved and remade by the dreamers.”
Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

“Even when this world is a forgotten whisper of dust between the stars, I will always love you.”
Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

“Yeah, but broken isn't the same as unfixable.”
Winter by Marissa Meyer

 “One should never save cake for later when it can be eaten now.”
Winter by Marissa Meyer

“I thought my magic would save us all. But it turns out, all the magic in the world is rubbish
compared to good people who take care of their own.”
Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson
1. What Being a Blogger Says About You by Cassie from The Casserole - I really enjoyed reading Cassie's discussion post on five qualities that most bloggers have in common! While every blogger is different (and blogs for different reasons), I think there's a lot of truth to the idea that there are some commonalities between us.

2. 15 Audiobooks That Enhance Your Reading Experience by Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy - I go through phases with audiobooks - obsessively listening for days/weeks and then ignoring them for just as long - but I'm always on the lookout for recommendations. Some audios truly do make the reading experience even better! 

3. Why I Love Hate to Love (And a Teeny Rant on Instalove) by Gillian from Writer of Wrongs - I love this post so much that I wish I'd written it myself. Gillian perfectly articulated what I love about this particular trope and referenced so many of my favorite fictional relationships. Plus, her gifs are legitimately perfect.

Favorite Album: Conscious by Broods
I didn't realize this album came out in June, so I was thrilled when I discovered it on Spotify.
So, it became the soundtrack to my September! My favorite song is probably "Heartlines."

Scandal, Season 5 - I binged the first four seasons of this show right after my baby was born, so I was excited when I realized the most recent season had been added to Netflix. To be honest, I feel like the show has really lost its way and gotten more ridiculous with every season. And yet I kept watching!

The Mindy Project, Season 4 - I finally caught up with this show. I'd made it about halfway through originally, and then I just never made time for it. But I started thinking about it after working on my TV show post in September, and I'm glad I finally got around to it! Now Cassie can stop pestering me about it... Ha!

New Girl, Season 5 - I was addicted to New Girl for the first three seasons, but I eventually stopped tuning in when I felt like I had too many shows going on. I watched the fourth season over the summer, and I was so excited when I got the notification that this season was added to Netflix. Now I can tune in again every week!

Bought: Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn T. Dingman, The Girl in the Castle by Santa Montefiore, Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo and Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (in What I Loved section)

From My Mama: All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth

For Review: We Were On A Break by Lindsey Kelk

Bought for Kindle: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

For Review: Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander and Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier

September 29, 2016

Danger & Deception On Every Page

Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

Release Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Macmillan; Swoon Reads
Pages: 368 pages
Source & Format: Publisher; ARC
Add on Goodreads

Brief Thoughts on Love, Lies and Spies
I hadn't heard much about this book when I requested it from the publisher, but the summary sounded right up my alley and the cover was eye catching. All great reasons to read a book, right? Love, Lies and Spies is set during the nineteenth century. The heroine, Juliana Telford, is more interested in researching bugs than getting married. But her father sends her to London for a season, so she hatches a plan to secretly publish their research... and refuse to become attached to anyone. That's when she meets Spencer Northam, a spy for the War Office. Like Juliana, he's more interested in his work than in marriage, so the two agree to pretend to fall for each other. What could go wrong? While the premise appealed to me, I think the most I could say about this book is - it was cute. I found the story really boring overall, which was disappointing. There wasn't enough spying or action! There was some deception and miscommunication, but not in a fun espionage way. It definitely focused on the romance, but that fell very flat for me. I wasn't invested in Juliana and Spencer - together or individually - because their relationship seemed predictable and rushed. Sadly, this just didn't live up to my expectations.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand and Jodi Meadows

Release Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins; HarperTeen
Pages: 491 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
Add on Goodreads

Brief Thoughts on My Lady Jane
My Lady Jane is unlike anything I've ever read before. It's the story of Lady Jane Grey - the sixteen-year-old girl who got roped into a scheme to put her on the throne as the Queen of England. Her dying cousin, King Edward, planned to name her as his successor to prevent his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, from ruling. Jane had marry Lord Guildford Dudley to secure her position, but it wasn't long before everything unraveled. That's a quick version of history. My Lady Jane, however, imagines that there is much more to the story. It takes a lot of liberties with history as it blends comedy, fantasy, and romance. The summary on Goodreads compares it to The Princess Bride, which seems fitting. But it also should have been my first clue that this book wasn't for me because I hate that movie (I'm sorry, I'm sorry). My Lady Jane is playful, imaginative, and quirky. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and it asks you to forget what you know about history and lose yourself in this alternate version of it. But y'all, I didn't find it funny! It was just a little too silly for me. But so many readers have loved this book, so don't take my word for it.

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Release Date: January 26, 2016
Publisher: Penguin; Viking BFYR
Pages: 482 pages
Source & Format: Borrowed; Hardcover
Series: Lady Helen #1
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Brief Thoughts on The Dark Days Club
The Dark Days Club caught my eye one day while I was scrolling on Instagram. Someone posted a photo of a finished copy, and I immediately wanted to read it. The cover and endpapers looked so fantastic in real life! I managed to find a copy at the library a few days later, and settled in with this Regency adventure about Lady Helen Wrexhall, a young woman who discovers a dark side to London when she learns that it's infiltrated by demons. I haven't read a lot of historical fantasy/paranormal, but I was definitely intrigued by the story. I have to praise the author for the sheer amount of research that must have gone into this novel. It was evident that she wanted to accurately portray the time period, and I certainly appreciated it. However, I think the level of detail may have contributed to my issues with the pacing. The book felt overly long at times, and it took forever for anything to happen. I occasionally found myself skimming passages. And honestly, I just didn't enjoy the paranormal aspect of this book. The stuff about the demons - how they hide, how they feed and how they're killed - did not interest me one bit. 

Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer

Release Date: June 2002
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; HMH BFYR
Length: 7 hr and 26 min
Source & Format: Bought; Audiobook
Series: Bloody Jack #1
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Brief Thoughts on Bloody Jack
A few months ago, I was trying to figure out how I wanted to use some Audible credits that I had saved up. I was researching audiobook and narrator recommendations, and I kept coming across mentions of the Bloody Jack series and narrator Katherine Kellgren. The summary intrigued me and I loved the sample I listened to, so I took the plunge! In eighteenth-century London, Jacky Faber is finally able to leave behind a life on the streets to become a ship's boy aboard the HMS Dolphin. But there's a problem... Jacky is a girl. Will she be able to keep her secret from the rest of the crew? I won't give away the answer to that question, but I will tell you that this was such a delightful read! The narrator was absolutely fantastic, and listening to the book definitely enhanced my reading experience. The dialect made sense and the characters came to life with Kellgren's performance! As for the story itself, it was filled with adventure and intrigue. Jacky was a plucky heroine that I couldn't help but root for, and the secondary characters were quite memorable, too. And now I'm so excited to see what happens in the next book!

September 27, 2016

Ambitions for Autumn

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic and invite everyone to share their answers. I'm so obsessed with lists - so I obviously love this feature!

Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR

My TBR is ambitious, but I'm going to do my best to make a dent in it this fall! This season calls for fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction, so I grabbed ten off my shelves that I'm most looking forward to reading:

1. Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff - I received an unsolicited copy of this book from a publicist, but I'm actually intrigued by this dual timeline historical fiction debut about a mother and daughter.

2. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - I've been meaning to read this ever since it came out, but I just keep putting it off. I think it's finally time to dive into this story of sisters - and I love that it's set during WWII.

3. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave - When Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended this title, it immediately piqued my interest. Yes, it's another WWII story. What can I say? The time period fascinates me.

4. The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams - I read my first book by Beatriz Williams earlier this year, and I can't wait to finally read more from her! I'm glad she's got an extensive backlist to keep my occupied.

5. Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier - I adore Marillier's Sevenwaters series and Shadowfell series, so I have high hopes for this book. And it's perfect timing, too, since a new book in this series comes out in November.

6. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo - I waited to read the Smoke & Bone series until the last book was coming out so I could binge them all. That was my plan with this series, too! So, it's finally time to return to the Grishaverse.

7. The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry - Berry wrote one of my all-time favorite books, so I pre-ordered this as soon as I heard about it. I wasn't in the mood for it this spring and decided to save it for the fall. YAY!

8. Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner - Although I wasn't crazy about the second book in this series, I'm hoping I'll be a fan of the ending! But I've just got to refresh my memory first...

9. The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh - The first book left me anxious to get my hands on this sequel, so I don't know why I haven't actually read it yet! I need to get motivated and see how this love story ends.

10. Winter by Marissa Meyer - My plan was to re-read the series before this book came out, but I only made it through Cinder and Scarlet before getting sidetracked. But I finally finished Cress, so this is my current read!

What's on your TBR?
And what should I read first?

September 23, 2016

Adoption, Apparitions, Abuse, Amnesia & Anthropomorphism

Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany

Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Washington Square Press
Pages: 344 pages
Source & Format: Publisher; Paperback
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Brief Thoughts on Somewhere Out There
I had Amy Hatvany on my radar after Cassie kept raving about her, so I was thrilled when a copy of this book showed up on my door. What perfect timing! I was immediately intrigued by the first sentence of the summary: What happens when two sisters who were torn apart when their young mother abandoned them -- and grew up in tragically different circumstances -- reunite thirty-five years later to find her? Doesn't that sound traumatic? I immediately dove in and finished the book on the same day. I was so caught up in this story of two sisters, Natalie and Brooke, and the ways their lives are forever changed once they're separated. It was absolutely heartbreaking! I was angry at so many people in this book - at different times and for a variety of reasons. So, I can definitely say that I was emotionally invested in the story. I was glad that it focused on family and sibling relationships because that made it stand out from a lot of what I typically read. It was a heavy story, and I probably would have given it a higher rating if not for that ending. The abruptness felt unfinished to me, so I ended the book feeling frustrated instead of satisfied. It was probably the most realistic way to end it, but I still didn't like that part of it.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review. 

Release Date: May 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins; Harper
Pages: 400 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book
Series: Libby Lomax #1

Brief Thoughts on A Night in with Audrey Hepburn
I love the Golden Age of Hollywood in general, but Audrey Hepburn will forever and always be my favorite actress from that time period. When I spotted this cover while browsing Goodreads one day, I was intrigued. I noticed that it went on sale for Kindle one day, so I figured I should give it a shot! A Night in with Audrey Hepburn is the story of Libby Lomax, a down-on-her-luck wannabe actress. In the middle of watching Breakfast at Tiffany's for the millionth time, she notices Audrey Hepburn sitting beside her on the couch - offering wisdom on how to get her life in order. The premise obviously requires you to suspend your disbelief, but it sounded cute to me. I was hoping for a fun, frothy beach read, and it was that to an extent. But, unfortunately, it ended up lacking enough substance for me. The heroine was just a bit too immature, and the secondary characters all seemed very one-dimensional. The romance was annoying, but that's partly because Libby was blind to the fact that the right person for her wasn't the shallow but hot actor she just met. As for the addition of Audrey Hepburn, I wanted to love it but it just didn't work for me. I don't imagine her being anything like the way she's portrayed in this book. So, sadly, this one didn't work for me.

Release Date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Atria Books
Pages: 373 pages
Source & Format: Publisher; Paperback

Brief Thoughts on It Ends With Us
I'd never read anything by Colleen Hoover before, but I'd been curious about her books for a while. When a copy of this arrived at my door, I figured it was meant to be. It Ends with Us tells the story of Lily Bloom. You get two see two aspects of Lily's life - the present day where she falls in love with a man named Ryle, and the past where she meets her first love, Atlas. In the present, she's opening a business, making new friends and working to overcome her difficult childhood. In the past, you'll see what made her home life so painful - and why everything went wrong with Atlas. Honestly, I had a bit of a rocky relationship with this book. I read the first 100 pages and set it down. The dialogue made me roll my eyes, the romance seemed a bit too "instant," and some of the plot made me cringe. But curiosity got the better of me, and I picked it back up. I wanted to know what happened next! I finished the book the same day - racing through the dramatic story inside. I'll give Hoover props for a gripping and emotional plot, but I still felt like the book was uneven overall. I couldn't get over how unrealistic many things seemed (Ryle as an expert neurosurgeon, for one) and how weird the dialogue was (do people really talk this way?). I admire what Hoover was trying to do with the subject matter and can see why readers get swept up in her stories, but I have more issues with it the longer I think about it.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review. 

Release Date: June 2011
Publisher: Penguin; Berkley
Pages: 496 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Paperback

Brief Thoughts on What Alice Forgot
I'd already read two of Moriarty's books, The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies, and liked both of them. I thought they were addicting reads, but neither one left a lasting impression on me. They were cleverly plotted and well crafted, but they were missing that special something that makes a book a favorite. So, I wasn't intending to read anything else by Moriarty. But I couldn't resist What Alice Forgot when I found it for $3 at the used bookstore. The premise intrigued me too much to pass it up:
Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.
So imagine Alice's surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to a hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over -- she's getting divorced, she has three kids and she's actually 39 years old. (from Goodreads)
I'm so glad the summary made me pause because this was my favorite Moriarty! Unlike the other two books I've read by her, I felt like I was able to develop more of a personal connection with this story. I liked that it primarily focused on Alice since Moriarty's books usually have a larger cast of characters. There are other perspectives in this book, but Alice was always at the heart. I think that helped me become more engaged, and the fact that the story was more relatable made me more emotionally invested. I couldn't wait to see what would happen next and couldn't stop thinking about it after I was done. It made me think about my own life and imagine how I'd feel in Alice's shoes, which is usually the sign of a good read. I'd recommend this book if you're looking for something enjoyable and thought provoking!

Release Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 320 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book

Brief Thoughts on Lily and the Octopus
I had no interest in this book until I noticed it was on sale for $1.99 for Kindle. What can I say? Sometimes I'm impulsive, especially when the price is right. This is the story of Ted and his dachshund Lily. One day, Ted notices an "octopus" on Lily's head, and it acts as the catalyst for everything that happens next. I don't want to describe the way the book is written because I feel like it will sound even weirder than it is, so I'd recommend reading at least a chapter to see for yourself. The story is more about Ted than Lily, and he did get a little tiring at times, but I found it quirky and moving overall. However, there was one point where I completely lost interest in the book. When they searched for and battled the octopus, I was scratching my head and trying to figure out how long that section was going to last. It was just too far fetched for me and, yes, I realize I'm saying that about a book where the dog can "talk" to its owner. That scene and the sheer number of times Ted refers to the octopus (it got so old after a while) were my two biggest issues with the story. My favorite moments were the ones where Rowley truly captured the unique bond between a human and their pet, like when the narrator muses:
To focus, I think of how dogs are witnesses. How they are present for our most private moments, how they are there when we think of ourselves as alone. They witness our quarrels, our tears, our struggles, our fears, and all of our secret behaviors that we have to hide from our fellow humans. They witness without judgment.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this book! I'd be most likely to recommend it with reservations if you're an animal lover or are in the mood for something a little quirky that will tug at your heartstrings.

September 22, 2016

So Obsessed With: The Baby Edition #2

I posted the first half of my 50 favorite baby items yesterday, and the fun continues today! It was overwhelming trying to pick stuff for our baby registry, especially because I wasn't sure whether items were a need, nice to have or not worth it. I'm focusing on the first two in my list of favorites - things we needed and/or have enjoyed. If it's not worth it, I didn't even mention it. The list is generic but links to my specific recommendations.

If you missed it, check out The Baby Edition #1.

26. Burp Cloths - I asked a friend who already had kids for her feedback on my registry, and I'll never forget one of the first things she said: "You're going to want more burp cloths." She wasn't kidding! These Weegoamigo Muslin Minis ($35) are my favorite - and the Green Sprouts Burp Cloths ($25) when I can find them on sale.

27. Bottle Warmer - This seemed like a "not worth it" when I created my registry, but I was wrong! If you formula feed, you could skip this product. But we love our Kiinde Kozii Warmer ($70) because it works with all bottles and follows CDC and USDA guidelines to safely thaw and warm breast milk. I definitely recommend it!

28. Drying Rack - Before I was pregnant, I'd spotted the Boon Lawn Drying Rack ($25) at Target and thought it seemed cute. The accessories are so fun, too! It's nice to have one of these for all the random bottle and breast pump parts that need to dry... and there are more than you'd think.

29. Dishwasher Basket - All of those bottle and pump parts have to get clean. If you're sticking them in the dishwasher, you'll probably want this item. We have this Born Free Dishwasher Basket ($8), and it fits nicely in the top rack. You'll probably want a bottle brush ($7), too, for hand washing. And you might want a sterilizer ($12).

And don't forget: You're definitely going to need bottles if you're using formula, but you'll want them on hand even if you're breastfeeding. My biggest tip? Don't buy a bunch of a particular kind until you've tried them with your baby. Some babies are picky! This is one thing that I think is hard to figure out ahead of time.

30. Diaper Changing Station - I registered for this Skip Hop Diaper Changing Station ($30) randomly, but it's one of our most-used baby products. We bought a second one - that's how much we love it! We keep one in the diaper bag and the other downstairs so we don't have to go to the nursery for every diaper change.

31. Baby Carrier - This is one of the items on my list that could be a need, a nice to have or a not worth it depending on who you ask. For me, it's not quite a need but I'd highly recommend getting one. My friends recommended the Ergobaby Carrier ($140), and I'm so glad they did. We use ours a ton, and our boy loves it!

32. Backseat Mirror - At a car seat safety class, a police officer told us that backseat mirrors could potentially be dangerous in a car crash. I listened to everything he said... but I still went out and bought this Cozy Greens Baby Car Mirror ($25). I don't like driving and being unable to see what my baby is doing!

33. Car Seat & Stroller - Infant or convertible? Frame, full size, travel system, jogging...? You can spend a lot of time researching car seats and strollers! Lucie's List was a great resource to help me understand the different options initially. We ended up with the Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System ($350) and are very happy with it.

And you might want: You may have noticed that I'm missing a baby staple: a pack 'n play! Our baby slept in his crib from the very beginning, so we haven't needed one at home. And we actually bought the Chicco Lullago Travel Crib ($100) to take to the beach, and it was perfect. It's sturdy, portable and a little cozier.  

34. Rocker and/or Swing - We were torn on registering for this item because I wasn't sure we'd really need it. And some of them take up a lot of room! We decided against a swing and settled on this Fisher-Price Deluxe Rock 'n Play ($90) based on the reviews. It was nice to have - though we didn't use it a ton.

35. Stuffed Animal - If I'm honest, this item is on the list because of my love for it. There were two stuffed animals I just had to buy when I found out I was pregnant: this Jellycat bunny ($25) and a knit blabla (the black and white puppy). I'm hoping that one of these will end up being our boy's favorite!

36. Animal Blankie - Now, this item is definitely one that our boy adores! My sister got him this Bunnies by the Bay Security Blanket ($30), and he loves snuggling up with it. The velour blanket with a silk edge feels so soft, and it's the perfect size. He'll snuggle it, chew on it, and reach for it when we hold it in front of him. So cute!

37. Pacifiers - There are so many pacifier options out there, and I know some babies are picky about them. This Wubbanub ($15), which is just an Avent Soothie ($4) with an animal on it, is the only kind we ever tried. Our baby loved it! We don't go anywhere without this paci - and he loves holding the giraffe, too.

39. Blankets - I don't know if this is true for everyone, but we got a lot of baby blankets as gifts. We received a few handmade ones, and those are my absolute favorite. But I always keep one of these Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddles ($35) in our diaper bag because you never know when you'll need a light blanket!

39. Exercise Ball - You're probably wondering why in the world an exercise ball ($17) made it onto my list... Let me explain! Our baby hated tummy time at first, so I searched online for ideas to tips to make it less miserable. A few places suggested incorporating an exercise ball, and it actually worked for us!

40. Activity Gym - This isn't a necessity, but we liked it! The Skip Hop Activity Gym ($75) was our choice, and we were pleased with it. The variety of sounds, textures and colors made it entertaining and engaging for our boy. I did feel like he outgrew it quickly (the toys hung too low), but we've found a variety of ways to use it.

41. Bouncer - And now we arrive at our baby's favorite thing: the Bright Starts Bouncer ($33). Once he figured out how to kick his legs, there was no going back. He was so happy sitting in this thing - bouncing away! We don't use it as much lately, but I'll still reach for it any time I need him to be contained for a bit.

42. Pillow - I almost put the Boppy Nursing Pillow ($40) in the Feed section because it's great for breastfeeding, but it worked here, too! Another tummy time article suggested using a pillow to help, which was great advice. It helped him learn to lift his head and develop his muscles. And now he's a tummy time pro!

43. Jumper - Now that our baby has great head control, we figured it was time to introduce a new toy! We got this Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo ($105), and it quickly replaced the bouncer as our baby's favorite activity. It only took him a day or so to figure out how to jump in it, and now he's so obsessed with it.

44. Interactive Book - While we love having books to read aloud to our baby, there's something to be said for an interactive book that he can play with a little more. This Jellycat Fishy Tails ($17) fabric book is soft and filled with fun colors and textures. Our boy loves grabbing all the different tails!

45. Links - One of my friends recommended getting these Bright Starts Links ($5), so I bought them. They seemed boring to me, but clearly I hadn't been around enough babies. If I could only get one toy on this list, it would probably be this one. Our boy adores these because he can hold them easily and stick them in his mouth. 

46. Teether - There are so many different kinds of teethers out there, and you probably can't go wrong no matter what you choose. But I love giraffes, so it was a given that I'd want Sophie La Girafe ($24). I just think it's so cute! She's easy to hold and has lots of parts to chew on (ears, horns, legs, etc.) so she's become a favorite.

47. Musical Instrument - We got this Fisher-Price Kick and Play Piano ($16) to help with tummy time, and we pull it out every day. Whether he's kicking it with his feet or pushing the keys with his hands, our baby loves watching the lights and listening to the sound! He also likes this Bright Starts Safari Beats Musical Toy ($12).

48. Mirror - Getting a mirror was another tummy time suggestion, and it definitely worked for us. We got this Floor Mirror ($13), and it was exactly what we needed! I like that you can see a clear reflection in it. Our boy watches himself and smiles, and it's so cute. He likes reaching for the crinkly leaves and spinning ladybug, too.

49. Rattle - We have several different rattles, but this O'Ball Rattle ($7) seems to be the favorite. I think it's because it's the easiest for him to hold and shake on his own. As for his favorite rattle sound, we discovered that he instantly calms when we shake one of these Farm Animal Rattle Blocks ($34). Aren't babies weird?

50. Tags/Teether/Sound - I didn't really know what to call this type of toy, but it's basically anything that has a variety of things going on. This Bright Starts Snuggle and Teether ($8) makes a crinkly sound our baby seems to enjoy and has teether feet that he likes to chew. This one is great to keep in our diaper bag for a toy on the go.

Stay tuned for future updates 
on favorites as our baby gets older!

September 21, 2016

So Obsessed With: The Baby Edition #1

I don't think I'll ever forget how I felt the first time I walked into a baby store. Nick and I thought it would be fun to go and browse around... Well, we were wrong. It was so overwhelming! When I got home, I spent hours searching Pinterest and reading blog posts with baby registry suggestions. I wanted some direction because there is a LOT of stuff associated with a baby and so many versions of each of those things! 

After my baby was born, I started thinking about making my own list of favorite baby products. And while I'll link to specific items that I've used and like, I tried to make the list itself more generic. If you're an expectant mama reading this list, let me be clear: you don't need everything listed here. These fifty items definitely go beyond the "basics," but I tried to highlight "need" vs "nice to have" in my description for each item. 

PS: If you're anything like me, let me pass along some advice: don't feel like you have to research every single thing. That was my biggest challenge when registering because it made me so indecisive! 

1. Footie Pajamas - Most of the time, my baby is wearing one of two things (depending on the temperature): footie pajamas or a onesie. Cute baby outfits are fun, but footie pajamas like these are my go to for hanging around the house! If they use zippers instead of buttons, those are automatically my most used.

2. Scratch Mitts - My baby always wanted to have his hands near his face, and he kept scratching himself because I was so nervous about cutting his nails. We put scratch mitts on him pretty often in those early days! Our one pair of goumikids mitts ($12) were my favorite. The velcro around the wrist helped them stay on.

3. Socks and/or Booties - You don't really need shoes, but we did find ourselves using socks whenever he was just wearing a onesie. The only problem? Sometimes he'd kick them off! That's when I'd turn to these Zutano Booties ($21) because the snaps helped them stay put. Not a necessity, but I was happy to have one pair.

4. White Onesies - I'd read not to buy very much newborn-size clothing because babies outgrow it quickly... and then I ended up with a tiny baby. I didn't have anything that fit him! We ended up buying lots of white onesies, especially these long-sleeve ones with built-in mitts ($12), and had him in those most of the time. 

5. Drool Bibs - I didn't start using these until a little later on, but they've come in handy now that my baby drools so much more! Any bib will do, though I happen to think these bandana bibs ($22) are some of the cutest. And now that my baby has figured out how to stick part of the bib in his mouth, he's a fan of wearing them.

What you don't need: You don't really need shoes or a ton of "outfits." And I'd recommend waiting to buy most seasonal clothes (like swimsuits or sweaters) until your baby is here. I had some summer clothes I'd already washed that ended up being too big because my baby didn't wear 0-3 months clothes for quite a while.

6. Monitor - This was one area where I got so caught up in researching! Did I want a video or sound monitor? Video, for sure. But then what brand? I finally picked out out this Infant Optics Monitor ($170) based on reviews and have been really pleased with it. It's easy to set up, works well and has a nice picture and sound quality.

7. Swaddles - I registered for several different brands, but my boy was too tiny for most of them! A nurse at the hospital recommended these SwaddleMe Pods ($25), and we adored them. They zip up so they're so easy to use! Once he outgrew those, we used the SwaddleMe Original ($25) until we stopped swaddling.

8. Nightlight - It only took a few middle of the night feedings before I realized that I wanted a nightlight! I needed to keep the room as dark as possible so I didn't wake the baby but bright enough in the room so I could see. I bought this nightlight ($12), and it's perfect! I love being able to adjust the brightness.

9. Heart Rate & Oxygen Monitor - This definitely falls into the splurge category because it's not a necessity. But I saw an ad for Owlet ($250) on Facebook one day, and I couldn't get it out of my mind. Monitoring my baby's heart rate and oxygen level while he sleeps offers me peace of mind that's worth every penny.

10. White Noise Machine - Several of my friends recommended using a white noise machine so my baby would associate it with sleeping, and I'm so glad they did! We turn this one ($50) on at night and during naps, and it's simple little signal to my boy that it's time for bed.

And don't forget: Decorating the nursery is so much fun! Here's my favorite crib ($200), mattress pad ($22) and the crib sheets ($38) that were a splurge. Plus, my parents bought the baby a custom quilt from Morgan Kelly Handmade, and it's absolutely gorgeous. I love using it as the backdrop for my baby's monthly photos!

11. Hooded Towels - Is there anything cuter than a baby all wrapped up in a hooded towel after they get out of the bath? I think not. We got two of these Gingham Hooded Towels ($25) from Pottery Barn - I like that they're simple and classic! But any towel will do, and you don't really need more than two or three. 

12. Hair Brush/Scrub - The hospital sent us home with a little hairbrush that we used during bathtime, and it did the trick. But there have been a few times when my boy's scalp has been a little dry, and then I pulled out this Soothing Scrub Wet Brush ($5). It's not necessary - but can be helpful if your baby has cradle cap.

13. Sponge and/or Washcloths - Most baby register guides suggest getting washcloths, but I'm so glad my friend recommended this Natural Bath Sponge ($10). We use it during every bath! It's soft, lathers well and is perfect to rinse him off. Plus, there's less laundry to do if you use it instead of a washcloth!

14. Bathtub - You don't have to get a baby tub, but it certainly makes bath time easier. Our little boy loves kicking and splashing around in his! We like that this Step by Step Bath Tub ($20) transitions so it can be used for your baby at different ages. It's so convenient. 

15. Hair + Body Wash - We were gifted so many different kinds of hair and body wash for babies. We're slowly making our way through them now, but I think the Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo ($8) might be my favorite so far. But that's just because I love the scent! We have lotions, too, but I never use them.

16. Changing Pad - You don't need a changing pad, but I do like having one. Rather than get the kind that needs a fabric cover, I found this Keekaroo Peanut Changer ($99). The surface is impermeable to fluids, so it's easy to wipe off (for those "peeing while the diaper is off" accidents) and limits bacteria growth. 

17. Diaper Pail - I was torn on whether or not to get a diaper pail. A lot of blogs said it wasn't a necessity (which is true), but one of my friends highly recommended getting one. In the end, I'm glad I listened to her. We like the Ubbi Diaper Pail ($70) because it doesn't require a special kind of trash bag.

18. Travel Trash Bags - I grabbed these Diaper Bags & Dispenser ($4) from Target one day on a whim. I just keep them in the diaper bag for those random times when I need to change a diaper on the go and can't find a trash can. They're also useful if your kid has a blowout and you need a bag for his dirty clothes...

19. Diapers + Wipes - Unless you're cloth diapering, you'll need lots of diapers and wipes. Be prepared to spend more than you'd imagine on something that just gets thrown away. Byeeee, money. I've tried several brands but always come back to Pampers Swaddlers and Pampers Sensitive Wipes because they work best for us.

20. Diaper Cream - We use Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment ($15) to protect our boy from diaper rash. It works well! We've got several things of it - one for the diaper bag, one in the nursery, one downstairs... Haha! If we need something a little stronger, I typically reach for Boudreaux's Butt Paste

21. Nasal Aspirator - The hospital gave us a bulb syringe, which the nurses told us to keep nearby in case we needed to clear mucus out of our baby's mouth. Thankfully, we never needed to use it. But clearing out his nose? That's where the NoseFrida ($15) is a must have. It seems gross, but it works.

22. Infant Tylenol - Obviously, don't use any medicine without consulting the pediatrician. But, that being said, it's nice to already have Infant Tylenol ($8) in your medicine cabinet if you happen to need it. We've had to use it a few times, and it works quickly to help our little man get back to normal.

23. Hand Sanitizer - This item is a little random, so I almost didn't include it. But I felt like I had to mention it because we've gone through a lot of hand sanitizer! Early on, we had big bottle in our living room so visitors could use it before holding the baby. The Honest Company Hand Sanitizer Gel ($7) had my favorite scent.

24. Nail Clippers - I absolutely hate clipping baby fingernails, but it has to be done. Those things are like tiny claws! I usually put it off and finally have to do it when my baby ends up with a big scratch down his face... Struggle. We got these Fold-Up Nail Clippers ($4), and they get the job done just fine.

25. Thermometer - So, here's the deal. I've got an ear/forehead digital thermometer ($36) and an oral/rectal/underarm thermometer ($12). I grab the first if my baby feels a little warm. If it shows a fever, then I'll get out the second. Because if you have to call the doctor, they'll want to know the rectal temperature. 

Continue reading with The Baby Edition #2!
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