Family

ELLE APPAREL HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 2018: KIDS

Kids Holiday Gift Guide 2018

 

Today I’m breaking down all of my favorite gifts I’ve found to give to KIDS for Christmas! Over the years I’ve given gifts that were a total hit, and some I regretted (ie: a forgettable toy with a zillion different pieces).

 

While I tried to keep my list fairly gender neutral…I just have a much better handle on toys my boys love ūüėČ I’ve included many gifts we have given the boys over the years that they¬†actually still play with to this day. The thought of getting a dozen new toys is completely overwhelming. So I stuck to the classics in our house that keep kids attention and that don’t have a million parts to keep track of.

 

 

Kids Holiday Gift Guide 2018

1. THE ESSENTIAL CALVIN & HOBBES¬† || 2.¬†THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN¬† || 3.¬†LITTLE PEOPLE BIG DREAMS: COCO CHANEL¬†¬†||¬† 4. HARRY POTTER SPECIAL EDITION BOXED SET¬† || 5.¬†POCKET MICROSCOPE¬†|| 6. ROCK TUMBLER¬† || 7. TEAMSON MODERN PLAY KITCHEN¬†¬†|| 8.BUBBIMAL BUBBLES¬† || 9. CHILDREN’S PATCH SET¬† || 10.¬†NERF REFILL PACK¬† || 11. MAGNA-TILES¬†|| 12. KNIT BLANKET¬†|| 13.¬†TEDDY BEAR¬† || 14. PLAY-DOH¬†|| 15.¬†WRITING TABLET

 

 

NERF GUNS: Like it or not, we are a nerf gun family. My boys are absolutely obsessed. It’s the toy they gravitate to the most, especially when friends are over. Bradley asked for this clear light-up Nerf gun last year and it’s actually really cool!

 

NERF REFILL PACK: If you’re going to be a Nerf mom you MUST have plenty of bullets. (they are like socks…they like to disappear everywhere)

 

RAZOR SCOOTERS AND/OR MICRO KICK BOARD: My kids play ride their scooters way more than their bikes right now. They are easy to throw in the back of my car and take to the park. Eli¬†loves his Micro Kick Board so much. I love that it’s well made and just his size! And if you accidentally run your car over it like I did last week, they sell every single piece individually so you can put it back together!

 

THE ESSENTIAL CALVIN & HOBBES: My boys are really into comic books. Calvin is funny and my boys crack up over these comics over and over.

 

 

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: Another great comic book Bradley loves. It’s a little more complicated reading level, I would say ages 8+. The movie is also really cute!

 

 

LITTLE PEOPLE BIG DREAMS: COCO CHANEL: Such a beautiful book for girls! I’m all over a children’s book about a fashion designer!

 

 

HARRY POTTER SPECIAL EDITION BOXED SET:¬† We only own a few books, so I think it’s time to invest in the whole series. I wish we would have purchased them all when we started reading them.

 

 

POCKET MICROSCOPE: Cash asked for a microscope last year and he has the best time finding things to inspect up close!

 

 

ROCK TUMBLER¬†: This is #1 on Cash’s list this year. I researched a ton of rock tumblers and this one is made of steel (as opposed to plastic like lots of the others) and I think its the best bang for your buck. This is the model I ordered.

 

 

TEAMSON MODERN PLAY KITCHENS: Such a beautiful toy I would be so happy to have displayed in my house! Think of all the pretend food your little could cook up here!

 

 

BUBBIMAL BUBBLES:  Cutest little bubble blowers- inexpensive and great as a stocking stuffer.

 

 

CHILDREN’S PATCH SET: These patches would be so fun to let your kids add to a jacket or backpack to make it their own!

 

 

MAGNA-TILES: I’m being serious when I tell you we use our Magna-Tile set¬† EVERY SINGLE DAY. They are pricey for sure. But we invested in a large pack last year and they have been such a great purchase. We make letters and castles out of them, and the large pack comes with an idea book my boys always look through for ideas.

 

 

KNIT BLANKET: A non-toy item that can be personal that kids can use to cuddle with for movie nights or at nighttime!

 

 

JELLYCAT STUFFED ANIMALS: I’m not a stuffed animal person. But Jellycat stuffed animals have a special place in my heart because Eli’s dog Ruff Ruff is made by them. It is so soft and cute! We are also huge fans of Bla Blas. I’ve gotten one for each of my kids when they were first born.

 

 

PLAY-DOH:¬† My kids have always loved Pay doh.¬† A classic that helps with their creativity…that doesn’t involve stick slime! ūüôā

 

 

BOOGIE BOARD WRITING TABLET: We put these in our boys stockings last year and we still use these every Sunday at church! For being so thing, they really are durable. $20 might sound a little steep, but we have definitely banged ours up and they still work great. I highly recommend these!

 

 

WALKIE TALKIES FOR KIDS:¬†These have been so fun for my kids! They do go through batteries fairly quick, but they giggle from one end of the house to the other saying “are you there? over! are you there? over!” They are also really fun for family vacations!

 

 

ONTEL MAGIC TRACKS : We have these and they are the best race car track we own! We have purchased so many plastic ones, but this one is so fun because the cars stay on the track and are motorized!

 

 

WOODEN TRAIN TRACKS FULL SET:¬†I think a train set is one of the most important toys for kids. My kids use their creativity to create the tracks and you can’t beat a classic wooden set! These tracks are fun because there are so many wooden brands that are all the same size, so you don’t have to stick to one kind of wooden track. They are really fun to buy a little bit at a time and build up your collection.

 

 

WATER WOW! REUSABLE WATER-REVEAL ACTIVITY PADS:¬†I am always buying new color revealing marker sets for Eli because my big boys use them all up! These are great markers “on the go” and they don’t make a mess! Adding a pack of these for Eli’s stocking!

 

 

LAKESHORE PRINTING LOWERCASE LETTERS PRACTICE BOOK: We got these letter practice books for a birthday party last year and I LOVE them. My older boys still struggle with their handwriting sometimes, and these make practicing fun. I have them each take a book and fill up a page with a letter, and then I circle my favorite letter out of all the ones they drew. Eli has learned how to write his name because of these books!

 

 

WATERPROOF RAIN BOOT: perfect for a rainy day, love the coral color.

 

 

DOMINOES FAMILY GAME SET: a classic fun game, my kids love creating fun shapes with them.

 

 

BATH BOMB MAKING KIT: a fun easy craft for your child who loves creating. The best part is she can use her creation in the bathtub!

 

 

SPIROGRAPH SUPER KIT: I think my boys would love these. This could be really fun for keeping them quiet at church.

 

 

GUMMY CANDY LAB SCIENCE KIT:¬†A science experiment with candy?! Cash would die..I’m definitely getting this one for him.

 

 

KNIT REDHEAD DOLL: Such a cute doll!

Casual

6 SIMPLE TIPS THAT MAKE FOR STRESS FREE SCHOOL MORNINGS

6 Simple Tips That Make For Stress Free School Mornings | Elle Apparel Blog

ON BRADLEY: BLACK SWEATSHIRT  ||  BLACK SHORTS

CASH: WHITE ‘A OK’ TSHIRT¬† ||¬† GREY SWEAT SHORTS

ME: NAVY TOP  ||  WHITE PANTS

ELI: ‘OH YEAH’ SWEATSHIRT¬† ||¬† PANTS

6 things I do to help make our mornings less stressful.

Mornings before school can be¬†crazy.¬†Absolute madness. I hate rushing my kids out the door and off to 6 hours of school away from me after a hectic morning with yelling, fighting, and stress. Those mornings are inevitable, but I started doing a few things toward the end of the school year last year that really helped me. I have implemented them this year and it’s made for smoother happier mornings. We haven’t been late or had any yelling in the mornings yet (granted…it’s only been 2 weeks), but I’ve found when I follow these simple steps, our mornings are always better.

6 Simple Tips That Make For Stress Free School Mornings

 

 

6 Simple Tips That Make For Stress Free School Mornings 6 Things I Do That Make For A Smoother Morning 6 Things I Do That Make For A Smoother Morning

 

Spoiler alert: if you are going to have a successful morning, it starts the day before.

 

6 THINGS THAT HELP MAKE FOR STRESS FREE SCHOOL MORNINGS

 

1. PACK LUNCHES/WATER BOTTLES THE DAY BEFORE:

As much as I¬†hate making school lunches, I hate them even more if I have to make them the morning of. It will make us late every single time. The best method for me is to prep their lunch in the afternoon the day before while I am making Eli’s lunch. I already have lunch food out. So it isn’t quite as much of a pain to make. I’ve also tried packing lunch for 2 days at a time. Turkey and cheese rollups keep just fine for 2 days in the fridge and they are pretty fast once you get a little assembly line going.

 

2. LAY OUT THE KIDS CLOTHES THE NIGHT BEFORE:

This is another pre day prep that¬†saves me in the mornings! We’ve found a lot of great boys basic back to school clothes this year at Nordstrom. Having a handful of¬†cute tees that go with a handful of neutral shorts or pants makes it so easy for me to let the boys pick and lay out their clothing each night. Nordstrom has so many great boy basics that are good quality and durable. We already agree on the clothing. So it’s nice to have a lot of good mix and match options.

 

3. GIVE THEM SMALL SET JOBS THEY ARE IN CHARGE OF EACH MORNING:

Toward the end of last year I got into a bad habit of going to bed too late, which led to sleeping in too late. The boys got in a bad habit of waking up too early and watching TV downstairs instead of getting dressed. It just wasn’t a good combination. This year I am forcing myself to get up earlier because I need to be in more control of my kids routine. However, we also tell them that they are in charge of getting dressed, making their beds, washing their face, brushing their teeth, and doing their hair before them can come downstairs (yes, they brush their teeth before breakfast. It’s just more efficient that way!) This gives me time for a quick shower after a run before heading down to help with breakfast and helping them get their bags packed.

 

4. KEEP BREAKFAST SIMPLE:

I’ve tried making a big batch of banana protein muffins on Sunday since they are easy to eat and the boys can grab one on their own. They are also helpful if they need to eat in the car on the way (I don’t like having my kids eat breakfast in the car on the way to school, but its a good option if it comes down to that!). Usually my kids can get their own cereal, but I always give them half a banana, toast with peanut butter, or a muffin in addition to the cereal to give them some good protein. I’ve found that trying to scramble eggs or make pancakes just takes to long for us. So having a few simple options to choose from keeps the breakfast drill efficient.

 

5. SET THE TIME THAT YOU NEED TO START LOADING IN THE CAR:

Not the time that you need to leave. Because If you need to leave the house by 8:15, you won’t pull out of the driveway if you start loading the car at 8:15. I’ve made a hard mental note that we need to be done with breakfast by 8 and start loading the car by 8:10. I’m always running back into the house for shoes, homework, jackets, or snacks and this gives me a buffer of time to do so.

 

6. MAKE THE DRIVE TO SCHOOL CALM AND POSITIVE:

This can be¬†harrrrd if you are running late. But I’ve learned to shift my mindset. The drive to school is where you can make up for any of the stress of fights trying to get out the door. Everyone is bucked and not moving, so I try and take this time to do positive affirmations with my kids. Many times this is when we have our morning family prayer. Or if I’m just at my wits end, I’ll turn on kid music so I don’t have to talk! Whatever you do, those minutes are a precious cool down/prep time for school. Build up your child’s confidence, tell them they will have a wonderful day, give them happy positive words they can take with them throughout that day of school.

 

SHOP THIS POST:

 

thank you to Nordstrom for sponsoring this post

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BACK TO SCHOOL DURABLE KIDS JEANS THAT WORK WITH ALL BODY TYPES

in partnership with Abercrombie Kids, all thoughts and opinions are my own

My favorite kids denim that work for all body types | Abercrombie Kids ON BRADLEY: BOYS CAMO TEE (on sale for under $10!, he is wearing a 9/10)  ||  ROYAL BLUE HOODED SWEATSHIRT (love the narrow fit)  ||  ULTRA SOFT SWEATPANT JEANS (he is wearing a 9/10 and is tall and lean, fit type: regular)

ON CASH: BOYS TIGER FLIP SEQUIN TEE (he is wearing a 7/8  ||  CLASSIC BUTTON UP PLAID TOP  (on sale for $20 right now!)  ||  ULTRA SOFT SWEATPANT JEANS (he is wearing a 7/8 and is a husky build, fit type: regular)

ON ME: SIMILAR DISTRESSED DENIM  ||  BLACK MOTO JACKET: SOLD OUT, LOVING THIS SIMILAR ONE

 

SCHOOL IS COMING

What?? I can’t really wrap my head around this. Am I sad? yes. Am I excited? also yes. We have had such a fun carefree summer. The boys swam in our pool almost¬†every single day and they played their fare share of Fortnight (…thank you for the introduction to this game Garrett…). They also started piano lessons and quizzed each other on math flash cards (mostly so they can sweet talk me into playing Fortnight afterward).

 

My favorite kids denim | Abercrombie Kids

 

So back to school shopping is upon us. This can feel stressful and overwhelming…but it doesn’t need to be. I don’t know about you, but the number one clothing item that my kids blow through are jeans. I’ve tried lots of different styles of jeans, and there are a lot of jeans out there that wear holes in the knees lightning fast (not just because my boys play hard) and plenty that I bought and couldn’t get my boys to wear because they told me the jeans were too uncomfortable.

 

My favorite kids denim | Elle Apparel Blog

YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN OUR DRESSING ROOM..

So this year I took my boys into Abercrombie Kids and we tried on EVERY single pair of jeans they had (you think I’m kidding? I’m not. Our dressing room had 5 granola bar wrappers and the content of my entire purse all over the ground when we were finished…thank you Eli). It took over an hour but I FOUND THE JEANS. Like..THEE jeans. The shape, fit, and style of jean that worked well on¬†both¬†Bradley and Cash.

 

My favorite kids denim that work for all body types | Abercrombie Kids

KIDS JEANS FOR ALL BODY TYPES

The thing about these two is that they are best friends and have completely different body types. Bradley is tall and lean and rocks skinny jeans. The problem is I try to pass his jeans on down to Cash, and Cash’s huskier build doesn’t work with super skinny jeans. I was thrilled when I found the ultimate kids jeans that fit both of my boys perfectly and felt like a comfy pair of sweatpants. This means I can pass Bradley’s jeans on to Cash and Cash’s jeans on to Eli!

 

Abercrombie Kids - My favorite kids denim that work for all body types | Elle Apparel

These jeans are actually called “Sweatpant Stretch” jeans.

They are made to move and bend and stretch right along with your kids! That means less holes in the knees and a longer wear. The jeans are soft like sweatpants but also thick and durable to last a nice long time.

Abercrombie Kids has a lot of really cute back to school kids clothes too. Right now they are having a 40% off sale on select styles (like Bradley’s camo tee on sale for under $10)

 

My favorite kids denim that work for all body types.

Cash about died and went to heaven when he saw this Tiger flip sequin tee. He is constantly fiddling with things (pens, legos, paper…he always wants to be touching something and inspecting things), so the fact that he can change the color on the tigers face was the¬†ultimate¬†for him. I love that they made this sequin tee with a boy design!

If you tryout these kids jeans for your kiddos let me know what you think! I was so happy with the quality/fit of them, and this will keep me from spending more money on pairs of jeans that won’t last me very long!

 

ON BRADLEY: BOYS CAMO TEE (on sale for under $10!, he is wearing a 9/10)  ||  ROYAL BLUE HOODED SWEATSHIRT (love the narrow fit)  ||  ULTRA SOFT SWEATPANT JEANS (he is wearing a 9/10 and is tall and lean, fit type: regular)

ON CASH: BOYS TIGER FLIP SEQUIN TEE (he is wearing a 7/8  ||  CLASSIC BUTTON UP PLAID TOP  (on sale for $20 right now!)  ||  ULTRA SOFT SWEATPANT JEANS (he is wearing a 7/8 and is a husky build, fit type: regular)

ON ME: SIMILAR DISTRESSED DENIM  ||  BLACK MOTO JACKET: SOLD OUT, LOVING THIS SIMILAR ONE

 

 

 

Casual

HELLO SUMMER

SWIMSUIT TOP AND BOTTOMS VIA MODCLOTH | FLAMINGO | SUNGLASSES (SOLD OUT, SIMILAR COLOR AND STYLE)
Yesterday was Bradley’s last official day of kindergarten, and that means that summer is here¬†in the Barlow house! It certainly felt like summer. We baked in the 90 degree sun at the park after school! Poor B was really sad for the year to come to an end. He loves school and loves getting to be with his friends.
This weekend I am going to put together a summer bucket list with the boys and write down everything we want to do while school is out. I really want to try to get out to the beach a few times a month. We loved spending so much time on the beach while we were in Hawaii, and the boys love it.
I wore this suit from ModCloth while we were in Hawaii last week, and I love it! I saw the suit in person about a month ago, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. When we booked our trip for Hawaii I knew that was one that needed to come with me. The pink and chartreuse are so cute and vibrant, and it is one of the most flattering high-waisted suits I’ve ever tried on. ModCloth makes so many really cute unique suits. I was pouring through all of their swim options and saw so many cute suits I had never seen before (like this one and this one). And I just couldn’t resist bringing along this blow up flamingo. Even though Garrett rolled his eyes at me, it was so fun to float around on at the beach. We made quite the spectacle on our way down to the ocean, but we had the cutest flotation device in all the land, so we didn’t care. ModCloth also had this cute watermelon float that I almost got instead!
Happy summer!

 
in partnership with Modcloth

 

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Dressy

THANKFUL “MOM”ENTS

 

This Mother’s Day I am thrilled to be partnering with Teri Jon and Nina Shoes on a beautiful campaign that pays tribute to mothers everywhere. I have a very close relationship with Teri Jon, and I love what they stand for. They want to make every woman feel special and beautiful, and their dresses do just that.

I was lucky enough to be interviewed, along with four amazingly talented women in this video. It makes me tear up every time I watch it! I honestly get goosebumps at how special it is; you have to watch it!

Being a mom is my favorite job, hands down. You can see exactly how much it means to me in the video below..

Earlier this week I posted on¬†Instagram¬†encouraging everyone to share about the love for our mothers or what being a mother means to us by posting your own image/video with the hashtag¬†#thankfulMOMents. Teri Jon has created a page on their site specifically for these posts, and they will automatically be loaded onto their site. The goal is to inspire women around the world to spread the love this Mother’s Day and show the world our gratitude for mothers and women everywhere. Now this is a cause I can definitely get behind!

photography by Sara Halpern Photography

In addition, Teri Jon is giving away a dream wardrobe prize! One lucky winner who posts using the hashtag #thankfulMOMents, tags 3 friends, and enters their email on Teri Jon’s giveaway page will win an amazing Teri Jon dress for themself and their mother/best friend! You can read more about the entry details¬†here.

Thank you to Teri Jon for sponsoring this post and for helping spread the love to moms and women everywhere!  

Family

AFTER THE BUMP SERIES: SIMPLE TRICKS FOR GETTING BACK INTO SHAPE AFTER HAVING A BABY

Women’s bodies are pretty incredible. We grow babies in our body, we push the babies out of our body, and we feed the babies…with our body. That’s a lot of work our bodies have to go through! Adjusting to life with a newborn can be busy and stressful. The desire to hit the gym and start exercising again, while great, can sometimes seem impossible. I’ve set my alarm for 6 am for two weeks in a row now, every night with the intention of getting up and working out from 6-7am before I need to get the boys ready for school. I’ve actually gotten up and done that one time in the two weeks. Sometimes I feel like if I don’t get to the gym by 6, my opportunity to exercise and be healthy is over for the day because now I need to get kids fed, dressed, driven to school, grocery shop, feed the baby, on and on.

After having Eli, I’ve realized that just because I can’t make it to the gym everyday doesn’t meant that I can’t be healthy. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned to fit into my everyday life while taking care of kiddos.

Exercise wherever you are.
Taking care of a baby isn’t for sissys. All day long you are hauling a 20+ lb baby carseat from the house to the car, from the car to the grocery store, back to the car into the school, etc.  You are loading heavy groceries into the car, lifting your stroller, pushing your stroller up the hill to the school, carrying a baby on your hip, helping a toddler see over a tall fence, etc. I’m on my feet constantly and all that heavy lifting is definitely a workout!

If you haven’t had a chance to hit the treadmill, take your kids to the park and walk/jog next to them on the walkway. Sometimes I do stroller squats around the park while Cash plays at the playground (hold onto the stoller with both hands and lunge with each step you take). Park a little further from the school and make yourself walk up that hill for afternoon pickup. Incorporate exercise throughout your day…and chances are, you’re already getting a pretty good workout just taking care of the baby!


Invest in quality workout clothes.
I find it a whole lot easier to get out and exercise when I have workout clothes that I actually want to wear. Being already dressed in comfy running shoes or a cute sweat-wicking top makes it easier for me to get out and move around more. And get some nursing friendly options too! I’ve been looking all over for a good nursing friendly sports bra. I finally found this front zip sports bra at Zappos and I ordered it immediately.  It was at my house in 2 days (free shipping!) and now it is so much easier to nurse Eli after a workout.

Pack yourself healthy snacks.
I am always throwing fishie crackers and granola bars in my bag for the boys to snack on.  If you don’t have something for yourself in your bag, chances are you are going to get starving (especially if nursing) and you are going to eat the extra bag of fruit snacks because you don’t have anything else. I always have a bag of nuts in my bag. They are filling and healthy. I buy this jar of unsalted nuts fills up two of the nut containers perfectly. It is so yummy!

Keep taking your vitamins.
Just because you aren’t pregnant anymore doesn’t mean you should stop taking your prenatal vitamins. I also take 3 of these biotin pills to help with my skin complexion and post baby hair loss (because hormones be crazy!).  I take one Fenugreek pill everyday because it helps with my milk supply. I tend to lose my milk after 9 months, and this supplement has really helped keep my supply up. It might not be necessary/beneficial for everyone, but it has helped me.

Drink tons of water.
I’ve never been a big water drinker. It has no taste to me and it’s so hard for me to force myself to drink water. I’ve been flavoring my water with Mio and now I drink so much water! My guilty pleasure is the Mio Energy (black cherry flavor) mixed with a squirt of Mio lemonade. (it tastes like strawberry lemonade!) The Mio Energy gives me a much needed caffeine boost throughout the day. I know it isn’t the best option, because it does have an artificial sweetener, but I just do one squeeze into a giant thing of water…much less than the recommended serving. And it’s got to be healthier than Diet Coke, right?!

Prep your meals beforehand.
Diet is a HUGE part of getting and staying healthy. I always heard that and believed this, but it wasn’t until I started cutting down my sugar intake drastically that I actually saw how much diet helped even when I don’t have time for intense workouts.  If you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat (leannebarlow), you probably know that I eat pretty much the same thing everyday (with the exception of dinner). I’ve streamlined my diet so that I know exactly what I am going to be eating that day and barely have to even prepare it.

The trick is to do it all on Sunday night. I prep my breakfast and lunch Mon-Fri on Sunday nights. That way I can just grab the pre-made tupperware from my fridge and inhale it as I feed my own kids. I’ve listed out my recipes for breakfast and lunch below…


For Breakfast: Overnight Oats

1/2 C Old Fashioned Oats
1/2 C Greek Yogurt 
(I love this Strawberry-Honey one. I just buy a quart of it at the grocery store)
1 tsp chia seeds 
1/3-1/2 C Almond Milk
(I use the unsweetened kind. I do a little less than 1/2 cup. If it’s too dry when I go to eat it in the morning, I just add a little more)

Pour all the ingredients into a tupperware, mix it all up with a spoon, and stick in in the fridge. I make 5 at a time, so I do it all really quickly and don’t really use exact measurements. They last about 5-6 days in the fridge, so its perfect to make for the whole week. In the morning I just chop of some bananas or strawberries into it and add a small scoop of jam or a little honey and mix it all up. The chia seeds and the oats absorb the milk overnight, so it’s the consistency of oatmeal. Eating cold oatmeal might take a little getting used to, but I’m hooked! And it keeps me full till lunch. 
For Lunch: Chicken Sausage Veggie Bowl
2 packages of Chicken Sausage (the Italian Style is my favorite)
2 C uncooked brown rice or quinoa 
4 zucchinis (I do 2 yellow and 2 green)
3 sweet potatoes
Garlic Powder (to taste)
Salt/Pepper (to taste)
Feta Cheese
1 can of Roasted Red Peppers (I buy the ones that are pre sliced so I don’t have to chop them up each time)

This makes enough for 7 days worth of lunches for me. 
On Sunday night I cut up all the sausage links (I cut them all along the center length-wise first, then across about 1/2″ wide), and throw them all in a big skillet with some EVOO to brown. While they are cooking I put my rice in the rice cooker, and I chop up all my veggies. I cut up my zucchini the same way I do the sausages, along the center and chopped. I peel the sweet potatoes and slice them 1/2″ thick, then cut each in half both ways, kind of like a mini pizza. Once my veggies are cut, I let them sit out on the counter for a bit so they all have a chance to dry from being washed. If I store them while they are still wet, they will get moldy faster. Once they are fully dry, I throw each one into a gallon ziploc bag with a paper towel inside (to absorb any extra liquid). I store all my cooked rice/quinoa and my cooked sausage in 2 separate tupperware containers and throw them in the fridge too. 
When it’s time for lunch, I put the rice/quinoa in the bottom of my bowl (I do a little more than 1/2 a cup), and top with about 1/2 C of sausage, and about 1/2 C zucchini and 1/2 C sweet potatoes. Then I stick it in the microwave for 4 minutes. This is long enough to cook the veggies so I don’t have to dirty another pan just to cook them! Then I sprinkle lots of garlic powder, salt and pepper over the veggies, add a little feta cheese and roasted red peppers, and mix it all up. 
I’m not a huge cook, and I came up with this recipe bit by bit over the past year. I wanted a way to eat lots of veggies but not have to take a lot of time to cook them each day, and this way works!
 ——————————————-
So don’t be too hard on yourself! It’s hard work taking care of kids, and chances are you are getting more exercise then you are giving yourself credit for! 
*Photography by Kendra Maarse Photography. In collaboration with Zappos.
Casual

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE HOLIDAYS


At the beginning of December, we sat down as a family and made a list of all of the fun Christmas activities we wanted to do throughout the month leading up to Christmas. I’ve done this with the boys for the past 3 years and it really helps us feel like we soak up the joy of the season without the month passing us by before we even get to really enjoy it. 
I try to get most of my shopping and decorating done in November so that we have time to do small simple activities with the kids. One of my favorite activities is cuddling up in some comfy clothes and reading christmas books to the boys while listening to Christmas music. Our house was built in 1913, and our fireplace doesn’t work anymore (boo!) and our house gets pretty dang cold. I grabbed a warm sweater for Cash and some soft sweatpants for Bradley from Gap Factory to wear around the house. I couldn’t believe how inexpensive it was, so I added a sweater and lounge pants to my cart for myself. (my pants are only $16!) I haven’t shopped at Gap Factory online before and I was blown away by the prices. I love that I could get a little something for all of us to keep cosy while we do our fun Christmas activities. You have to browse through their site and see these prices!
Here are a few of the other activities on our list that we have done this year.  My suggestion is to keep the activity simple but build up the excitement for your kids. Even something as simple as reading books by the tree can become a fun memory for them. 
  • Make gingerbread houses
  • Drive around to see Christmas lights
  • Read Christmas books
  • Listen to Christmas music (every night!)
  • Drink hot cocoa
  • Write letter to Santa
  • Ready the nativity story from the bible
  • Ice skating
  • Christmas countdown chains
  • Tree lighting at The Americana 
  • Donate old toys to the thrift store
  • Visit Santa
  • Make teacher gifts
  • Bake/frost sugar cookies 
in collaboration with Gap Factory
Beauty

THE GIFT OF RELAXATION- 3 TIPS FOR A STRESS FREE DECEMBER

The holidays are always crazy. There are so many fun activities to go to and parties to attend…but preparing for them takes a lot of time and energy. Three years ago I was tired of being so stressed out the entire month of December, so I made a few changes in how I prepared for holiday parties and it has made such a difference! I’ve followed suit every year since then and I am really able to enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas, rather than spend them stressed out and frazzled.

I look forward to holiday parties probably more than the average person. I love getting dressed up and going to parties! But the truth is I’m usually trying to get dinner for the kids, pick up the babysitter, nurse the baby while putting on my makeup, etc. So even getting ready (my favorite part) can become stressful!  Today I’ve partnered with GLAMGLOW to share 3 things I do early in the month of December to make getting holiday-party-ready stress free!

GET A MANICURE
After having Eli I struggle to even find time to paint my nails! And even if I do, they end up chipping 2 days later because I’m constantly working around the house with my hands. So early in the month of December I get a gel manicure (either with Eli in my baby wrap while the kids are in school, or early in the morning on a Saturday when Garrett is home). It is so nice not to have to try and paint my nails last minute as I’m running out the door.

GIVE MYSELF A GLAMGLOW MUD MASK
I used to never ever go to bed without washing my face. But so many late nights have taken their tole, and I’ve become guilty of quickly scrubbing my my face with a makeup remover wipe and climbing in bed. My complexion tends to be dry and uneven because of this, so I’ve been using this GLAMGLOW mud mask all throughout this month. My favorite mask is the GLAMGLOW YOUTHMUD Tinglexfoliate Treatment mask. It’s a quick application and I only have to leave it on for 10 minutes. So I throw it on before I nurse Eli at night, a time where I can actually sit and relax. The mask starts working right away and gets tingly, and my skin is super clean after I wash it off. I can tell a difference in the tightness of my skin as well. I’m so paranoid about getting wrinkles, I love this aspect about the mask. The results are instant! By spending just a few minutes taking care of my skin with GLAMGLOW, my skin is fresh, glowing, and ready for holiday party makeup. The great thing about these masks is that they don’t interfere with any other skincare products, so they work great for all skin types (which makes for a perfect gift as well!).

DO MY HAIR AND MAKEUP FIRST
I always have a million things I’m trying to take care of before I leave at night for a party. On the days that I leave my hair and makeup very last, I’m always the most stressed and wishing I had more time to spend on it. This year I started to do my hair and makeup early in the day and it has made a big difference. Sometimes I will have my makeup completely done and my hair curled before I pick up Cash from preschool. This probably sounds crazy, but I have the most free time in the mornings while the kids are in school. By the time dinner rolls around, all I need to do is freshen up my lipstick, blush, and spray my hair a bit. So get yourself ready first and I promise you’ll enjoy your night a whole lot more.

created in partnership with GLAMGLOW
Family

HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: HOW TO SHOP HER STYLE

Girlfriends, Mommas, sisters, your hairdresser, your brother’s new girlfriend….these¬†are the people I love to shop for. I’ll take any excuse I can get to get something pretty and wrap it up to make it even prettier. I love the idea of thinking about the specific woman I am shopping for and really honing in on her personal style. My mom’s style is minimal and dainty. My sister-in-law is girly and chic. My girlfriends and I are doing a secret santa this year, and the friend I picked has the most impeccable classic and timeless style.
Nordstrom is my one-stop-shop for all these women and their various styles. I love that I can go to one place and find the perfect dainty earrings for my mom, on-trend floppy hat for my sister-in-law, and classic clutch for my girlfriend. I don’t have to worry if I get the wrong size or color, because with Nordstrom’s fast and free shipping and returns and exchanges, I can relax and knowing that they will be sure to get the gift that us just right for them without any hassle.
I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite gifts and grouped them by style, so hopefully it gives you a good direction when finding the perfect gift for the women on your list. All of my picks are $100 or less (most of them less than $50!).
Shop my picks by clicking on the item or the text links below

CLASSIC
PHONE CASE  |  SUNGLASSES  | WATCH  |  PERFUME  |  EARRINGS  |  CLUTCH
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GIRLY
PERFUME  |  EARRINGS  |  FLOPPY HAT  |  SUNGLASSES  |  PHONE CASE  |  MONOGRAM NECKLACE  |  LEOPARD CLUTCH
!function(d,s,id){var e, p = /^http:/.test(d.location) ? ‘http’ : ‘https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)) {e = d.createElement(s);e.id = id;e.src = p + ‘://’ + ‘widgets.rewardstyle.com’ + ‘/js/shopthepost.js’;d.body.appendChild(e);}if(typeof window.__stp === ‘object’) if(d.readyState === ‘complete’) {window.__stp.init();}}(document, ‘script’, ‘shopthepost-script’);

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MINIMALIST
WATCH  |  BRACELET  |  SUNGLASSES  |  TOTE BAG  |  PERFUME  |  PHONE CASE

in collaboration with Nordstrom
Family

HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: FOR KIDS & BABY

 

ONE  |  TWO  |  THREE  |  FOUR  |  FIVE  |  SIX  |  SEVEN  | EIGHT  | NINE  |  TEN  |  ELEVEN  |  TWELVE  |  THIRTEEN  |  FOURTEEN  |  FIFTEEN  |  SIXTEEN  |  SEVENTEEN  |  EIGHTEEN

 

  • Eli is drooling and gnawing on his hands all¬†the time now. These teethers from Dr. Brown’s are easy for small hands to hold, and such a cute design!
  • I don’t shop very often in the little girls department….but if I did I don’t know if I could pass these up. Can I get them in my size please?
  • My pediatrician said that I could start Eli on rice cereal. (he has “happy baby acid reflux”. He spits up constantly, but it doesn’t bother him) So many baby spoon designs give me carpal tunnel, but these spoons from Dr. Brown’s don’t hurt my hand to grip, and fit easily in tiny mouths.
  • Bradley has been begging me for a new backpack. We got the one he has now 3 years ago for preschool and its starting to fall apart. This one is quite the upgrade from Lightning McQueen!
  • What comes after rice cereal? Baby food! (stop growing up, stop growing up) This food masher is compact and simple. Meals are always a rush to get everyone fed and happy, so I don’t have time to bust out a whole blender contraption. I’m going to need a masher like this one from Dr. Brown’s that is compact and easy to clean.
  • Both my boys have Natives and we love¬†them. These new designs look like they might be even better. Smaller holes so less sand gets inside, and a washable fabric instead of rubber to prevent odors. ¬†Cash had literally worn holes in the bottoms of his rubber ones, so I might have to try this kind next.
  • Mr. Eli loves his paci, and Mr. Giraffe helps him keep it in when I can’t reach it while driving. I also like that you can unclip the paci and interchange them. He’s a paci snob, so just one kind of paci doesn’t do the job.

 

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thank you to Dr. Brown’s for sponsoring this post
Dressy

A CHRISTMAS CARD TWIST: 3 TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR CARDS UNIQUE

SHUTTERFLY CARD FOUND HERE 
ON THE BOYS: RED & WHITE STRIPED JAMMIES & BABY ONSIE JAMMIES c/o HANNAH ANDERSSON
Family Christmas cards are one of my absolute favorite things to design and send out each year. I know it can be stressful planning outfits and getting ‘the perfect shot’, but I am always so happy to have that stage in our life documented beautifully. It makes all the hard work worth it! 
2015 brought a lot of changes for our family- the biggest change being the birth of our baby Eli. What better time to change things up with Christmas cards, than after adding a new member to your family! Adding a new baby to the family is exciting and new and unexpected, and I wanted our card to reflect that. I’ve loved out traditional family pictures from past years (you can see some herehere, here, and here), but this year I wanted to think outside the box a bit.

I designed our card around the song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. Instead of a pretty setting, I opted to take them in a studio. I originally had the boys holding baby Eli, but I liked it better with Garrett holding him, kind of like Santa is holding the best present of all! I really wanted to run with the theme, and I’m so happy with they turned out! I designed our cards using Shutterfly. They have such beautiful metallic card options, and I love the simple modern design of this one.

I listed 3 tips on how to make your Christmas Cards unique and memorable below…


TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR CHRISTMAS CARDS UNIQUE
  • Think outside the box: There is no rule that says your cards must include beautiful scenery and matching outfits. Don’t get me wrong. I love scenery and matching outfits. But maybe try taking pictures in your kitchen baking Christmas cookies, or reading “The Night Before Christmas” all snuggled up in bed. Or go with a theme like I did. I worried a bit that a theme would be cheesy. But if you are going to do a theme, you must commit to it 100% for the concept to really work. Why not break the mold one year?
  • Add visual interest: If you are going with a theme for your cards, bringing in props can really help elevate the look of it. If you do choose to shoot in a studio, make sure your props are big and bright and will really pop. Taking your pictures outside? Try pulling a piece of furniture outside to sit on, have the kids hold wreaths or balloons, etc. Props add a finishing touch to themed cards. 
  • Go with a candid: If you aren’t quite ready to sway from the typical family photo, try selecting one of the candid shots where your two-year-old is pulling a crazy face while everyone else is cracking up.  As tempting as it is to want one with everyone looking and smiling, it’s the candid shots where personalities shine through. And seeing everyones individual personalities is what gives your card it’s own personality. 


This post is sponsored by Shutterfly. Share and celebrate your family update. Shop Shutterfly for personalized holiday cards that are unique, meaningful and that are just the way you want.

Family

AFTER THE BUMP SERIES: WHAT TO PACK FOR THE HOSPITAL

Packing for the hospital can be tricky. Especially if it’s your very first baby, how are you supposed to know what you will need? For today’s After the Bump series, I’m breaking down how to pack for the hospital so you make sure you have the things you really need, and don’t over pack a bunch of things you won’t use.

First lets talk about timing.  When should you have your bag packed? I think a good rule of thumb is to grab your bag and start gathering a few things together 2 weeks before your due date. There are a lot of items that you use on an everyday basis that you wont be able to pack away that early. Just keep a mental note of where those items are (ie: put them away in the right place each time you use them) so you won’t be stressed trying to remember where everything is when you do go to add them.

Hospital Bag: An a overnight duffle bag like this one is perfect. And a rolling cary-on suitcase works great too. You won’t need a ton of things, so don’t do too big. I always have Garrett pack a separate bag for his items, just so I can keep my bag close by me if I can’t get up and walk to it when I need something from it.

Electronics: So SO important! You (or most likely your husband or family member in the room) will be taking hundreds of pictures. And having every moment captured is such a treasure.  I recommend bringing:

phone
phone charger
portable phone charger: You never know what your battery life will be when you leave for the hospital, and a few times my phone charger cord didn’t reach to my hospital bed, so this might come in handy.
lap top / charger: You might need to clear off pictures from your phone/camera, and it is smart to back up your hospital pictures as soon as possible. You can never be too careful since these are pictures/videos you can never replace!
camera: I upgraded my DSLR to this one and my lens to this one a few months before I had Eli. In my opinion, if you like photography and are in the market for a nice camera, take the plunge and do it before the baby is here. You will want as many amazing quality pictures of them as possible. To me its the only way I can hang on to those first fleeting moments of my yummy newborn babies.
camera battery/battery charger: Make sure it’s fully charged.
back up camera battery: It might sound anal, but we used ours and I was so glad to have it charged and ready to go.
memory card: If your DSLR takes video, make sure your card is large enough to store plenty of video and pictures. Mine is 32 GB.
tripod: This is especially handy if you don’t have someone there to film or take pictures during the birth. Garrett just set up my iPhone on the tripod with this phone attachment and turned on the video, so he could focus on the baby.

Loungewear: You will most likely wear a hospital gown the first day or so in the hospital, so don’t worry too much about clothing. But there are a few extras that you should pack.
robe: When you do get up and move around, a robe is handy to throw on, since the hospital down is pretty ‘revealing’ in the back ūüėČ 
sleeping/nursing bra: You will be nursing. A lot. And you will have your boobs out a lot. But when visitors come, its really nice to have a soft comfy sleeping/nursing bra to wear. These are also so great to wear to bed when your milk comes in. You will get so big and engorged and no bra can be painful. Also, no need to bring underwear. The hospital will get you all suited up in the world most gigantic mesh panties. And you will never feel less sexy in your entire life. 
socks: You never know how cold your room will be, so these come in handy. The hospital gave me a pair after having Eli, but I wore mine while I was in labor, so I’m glad I brought them. 
postpartum band: GET THIS. Get this get this. This is super helpful to getting your body back to normal after having a baby. I start wearing mine in the hospital as soon as I can. For about 6 weeks after having a baby, your bones are still pretty pliable after widening with pregnancy. This band helps pull your hips/ribs/stomach back together. I just velcro mine as tight as I could and I wore it as much a I could stand (including while sleeping). Sometimes the additional back support was nice as well.
sentimental item: I wore my kids initial necklace when I had my last 2 babies and I loved having that little sentimental object to make the experience even more special.
hair tie

Toiletries:

chapstick: They will give you some in the hospital, but I liked having my favorite next to my bed.
deodorant
toothbrush/toothpaste
mirror
makeup: It’s always nice to feel a little put together when people come to visit. Before my two older boys came to meet Eli, I used the mirror I packed and did my makeup. I felt refreshed and more myself.
makeup removing pads: These were so nice to have on hand when I was tired and ready to sleep, but my epidural hadn’t quite worn off so I couldn’t get up to go wash my face.
face wash/lotion
dry shampoo: I couldn’t shower for the first day and a half, so this helped me freshen up!
magazines/books: Each experience is different, but chances are you will do a lot of waiting. Waiting to progress, waiting for the anesthesiologist, etc. Bring a few things to read to pass the time.
snacks: I stuffed my face the entire ride to the hospital, because you can’t eat once you get into the labor and delivery room till after you’ve had the baby. I was STARVING after having Eli and the cafeteria there was closed. I was so glad I had something to eat to hold me over.

slippers: Sure bests walking around your hospital room barefoot. Mine are from here.
comfy top / lounge pants: After I finally got a shower, it felt so good to get into normal clothes. Make sure they are soft and loose. These pants look super soft and comfy, and I wore this top.You will be sore and have those trusty mesh pantie/diapers on, so tight leggings wouldn’t work.

coming home outfit for baby: Such a fun thing to pack! A long sleeved onesie with hand protectors, leggings, a beanie, and socks or crib moccasins worked great for Eli. And don’t forget a soft blanket!

coming home outfit for Mom: This can be a bit tricky. Don’t bring your skinny jeans. I always opt for maxi dresses like this one (and it’s nursing friendly!). They aren’t form fitting and are comfortable to wear.
nursing bra: I have this one and it works great.