Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advice for New Moms: Green Street

Dave and I are back from Florida and this week we've got not one but two guest posts coming in my Advice for New Moms series. Today, I'd like to welcome Fran from Green Street. Fran is a fabulous mom with an equally fabulous sense of style and I'm sure you'll find her advice as helpful as I have. Take it away, Fran!

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Congratulations Averill - I am very happy for you and your husband for your upcoming new addition!  Thank you for inviting me to participate in your series.  I have a 3 year old son who is the love of my life! While three years is certainly not a long time, it definitely feels like eternity since my days of cradling a newborn. My mind is a bit foggy, but there are some things you will never forget.

Most Indispensible Product:

Hands down - swaddling blankets!  If I had to recommend the best swaddling blankets out there, it would be aden + anais muslin swaddling blankets.  They are lightweight and breathable (100% cotton), sized generously and have a wide selection of beautiful designs.  This will save you from a lot of sleepless nights! (But, learn how to swaddle tightly!)

Nursery Must Haves:
Land of Nod changing pad covers.  

And, don't forget the Diaper Dekor Plus which is very good at controlling odors!

At a very young age, my son listened to music.  I would always have music in the back ground while caring for him.  I love Music Together's collection of songs.  And, when your baby gets older, they have classes to enroll your child in.  They're fabulous!

And, the last nursery must have to complement your nursery design (which is fabulous, btw) are the Land of Nod eco-friendly wild and wheelie animals.

Most Useless Product: were the sleep wedge and positioners (at least for me)!
If I had to do it over again:

I would have bought a calendar and recorded all the milestones (even the littlest of milestones).  At a later date, I would then transfer all the dates to a journal so I would have a record of my son's baby years.  Moreover, I would have taken a picture of him every month in the same position so I could see the progression of his growth over the year!  

Well, Averill, I have no doubt that you'll be a wonderful mommy!!  Best of luck to you and we can't wait to see your little boy!!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year. I absolutely love the holiday's emphasis on family, gratitude and (of course!) food -- especially since those same virtues don't come with the attendant stresses of gifting and performance anxiety that Christmas inevitably seems to put everyone under. After a stressful fall, I'm particularly thankful this year for what I do have: my health, the support and love of my husband, family and friends, and the anticipation of getting to spend next Thanksgiving with a new addition to our family. 

Dave and I are off today to Florida to see his family. Whether you're traveling or staying at home, I wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings.

Photograph courtesy of MarthaStewart.com.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nursery Design: The Beginning

So I'm over 24 weeks into my pregnancy, which gives me less than 16 weeks (or 3.5 months for those unaccustomed to measuring time in weeks) to decorate Baby Boy Conn's nursery. To give you an idea of what we're starting with, above is a shot of the soon-to-be nursery. I had considered cleaning the room out first before taking a photo, but I thought I'd best be totally honest with you guys. As you can see, the room is our currently storage room, chock-a-block full of leftover furniture, hand weights, Christmas gifts and baby clothes (largely courtesy of my sister, soon-to-be Auntie Babs).

So the first task, obviously, will be to clear out the space, donate/sell the unwanted furniture and install the ceiling fan that's still sitting in a box on top of that old IKEA ottoman. Once that's accomplished, the room will truly be a tabula rasa for my nursery vision.

As mentioned in previous posts, I've decided to go with an orange and aqua color palette for the nursery, accented with plenty of white. The dominant patterns will be stripes and the alphabet (or typography, really), both of which are currently en vogue but also happen to be (male) child appropriate.

The first task will be repainting the room from its current greige to a soft aqua; I'm thinking of going with Benjamin Moore's Seabrook, but I need to get a sample up on the walls before I make the final call (yet another task for this weekend!).

All of the major furniture pieces will be white and relatively modern in style. Given how dark the room is, I didn't want to drag it down with dark, heavy furniture. The Sparrow Crib from Oeuf has the fresh simplicity that I'm looking for and in person it seemed sturdy and well constructed (added bonus: this one will also convert to a toddler bed, buying me an extra year or two before I have to spring for his "big boy" bed). The Bam six-drawer dresser is similarly clean lined and the sort of piece I can see using in an older child's room in a few years time.

I debated about whether or not to spring for a changing station -- in many ways it seems like an unnecessary expense -- but ultimately I've decided to go with Stokke's care changing station for several reasons: (a) I absolutely adore how tall it is -- the height is way more comfortable for me than the standard dresser or changing station; (b) I'm giving cloth diapers a go and as such will need a designated station near the bathroom for optimal efficiency; and (c) once the kiddo is out of diapers (and the sooner, the better in my book!), this piece can function as an open bookshelf or even a small desk with just a few minor adjustments.

The other major purchase will be a rocker/recliner. I absolutely love the lines of Jennifer Delonge's luxe rocker and the punchy aqua velvet would inject a stylish note into the space; however, I may end up going with a different (but similar) piece that I can test out in person as this baby is, alas, only available online.

For bedding, I'm keeping it simple with Giggle's orange striped crib sheet and forgoing a bumper altogether [aside: a new study indicates that you're better off without one for safety purposes]. The darling aqua/orange blanket not only coordinates with my color scheme but features a pair of darling dinosaurs. (Dave and I were both big-time dinosaur fans as children so I'm rather hoping BB Conn will feel similarly rather than developing an obsession with, say, monster trucks, to which I cannot at all relate.) I'll also be transforming the Alphabet Tales fabric from Osborne & Little's new Zagazoo collection into throw pillows, crib skirt and a pelmet box for the lone window.

To liven up my beige carpet, I'll be laying down DwellStudio's peppy draper stripe rug, a great buy at $200 for a 5' x 8' (and I prefer a cotton flat weave -- much easier to keep clean with a baby than anything too plush!). Among other accessories (yet to be chosen, I'll be honest), I'm thinking of going with this fun orange lamp from Jonathan Adler. Art wise, I've long loved Binth's alphabet poster, with its vintage style and soft orange, blue and gray colors, so of course I snapped it up the first chance I got to actually use it. I'm also adding a pair of letterpress prints from Sycamore Street Press and a beautiful Noah's Ark print from Bold & Noble (not shown in the collage).

Stay tuned for updates over the coming weeks! In the meantime though, happy weekend!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guest Post at Cottage and Vine

Today you'll find me guest blogging over at Cottage and Vine. This week Rene has been featuring guest bloggers' gift ideas for just about everyone on your list and today she's asked me to share some of my top gift picks for men this holiday season. Please stop by and say "hi" -- and, of course, feel free to share what's on your shopping list this year (I'm always looking for more ideas!).


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Advice for New Moms: (Chef)uality

Today I'm thrilled to welcome my dear sister-in-law Dani , the blogger behind the fantastic food video blog (Chef)uality and mother of two of my all-time favorite kiddos (yes, they also happen to be my nephew and niece, but I'd still argue they're unequivocally awesome and I give Dani tons of credit for how they're turning out). And so, it's little wonder that I've asked for her advice and sage wisdom this week -- and you can bet I'll be pumping her for more info. when I see her over Thanksgiving. [I'll be honest though, I already told my OB that I'm down with the epidural!!]

* * *
Dave & Averill,

It's a boy! Congratulations! I am sure you are sick of hearing the whole "your life is going to change" spiel from family and, if it has happened to you, random strangers. I remember when I was pregnant some random desk clerk at Hertz lectured Micah and I for 15 minutes on how things will never be the same, and how we just can't imagine it now, how much he wasn't prepared and, well you get it. Unless you are totally clueless you can probably assume that OF COURSE your life is going to change. People have probably also inundated you with advise regarding what to expect during delivery, how to care for a newborn, and so on. Here are some things people may have not told you, some serious, some not, and some totally random, but it's information I wish new moms shared with me!

- You do not know how much you love the little Conn until you hold him in your arms; your heart will melt when you see him in David's.

- You will take pleasure, secretly, of another child having a melt down in a public place.
- You won't be able to sit and have a nice meal at a restaurant for at least three years.
- No matter how hard you try, your house will turn into Kiddie World.
- You will become an expert one-handed (and dare I say no-handed) driver.
- From now on, quiet will never be a good thing...It usually means mischief is going on.
- You will be scared when your child has a fever, and think the worse. This goes back to the whole neurotic thing.
- Your medicine cabinet will soon look like a Walgreen's pharmacy.
- Inevitably, you will compare your child to another child.
- As the kids get older, the happy hour gets earlier.
- Yet, the first time you go away for an adult mini-vacation, and sit to enjoy some peace and quiet, all you will think about is how much you miss the chaos.
- If you are considering it, go natural! Birth that is. It's the most painful experience. You will curse and cry but you will feel like superwoman afterwords. Get one of those exercise balls, the one you use to do crunches, straddle it, and bounce. I swear that when I did this, I did not feel a single contraction! Swear!
- Diaper caution: Be wary! Boys have great aim!- You actually won't mind when some baby poo accidentally gets on your hand.
-No sleep will leave your short tempered, not to mention feeling like a zombie.
- There will be days that you will feel like a failure.
- There will be days you will cry, not from joy, but from frustration.
- There will be days you will feel like the world's worst mom.
- Routines are invaluable, start one immediately.
- You will become totally neurotic.
- No matter how much experience someone else has, you will believe that no one can take better care of that baby than you.
- Watch out! Mom circles are like being at a mid-week brunch at some yuppie country club. They constantly boast, brag and compare. Choose your mom friends wisely.
- Moms that breastfeed can have a "holier than thou" persona. It is so obnoxious! (I can say this, because I breast fed.)- You will fight with David more than you ever have. (I never really understood the whole "We are having a kids to save our marriage" deal.) But don't worry, your relationship will become stronger.
- Don't feel guilty when you start comparing yourself to other moms.

So here are a few things that I have saved me in my journey through motherhood:

The nurse at the hospital sold Micah and I a copy of this DVD and it pretty much saved our life. You will watch it and wonder how the heck these strategies will work, but they do! It's so amazing you will actually be tempted to "perform the magic" to an audience. I don't say this often, but skip the book, and get the DVD.

There's nothing I enjoy more than laying in a hammock, so I could only imagine how the little peanut feels bundled up in a baby sling. I pretty much had a fourth trimester of pregnancy...that's how much time Cayden spent in this thing.

 Of all the baby books I have read, this one was the best. The authors are witty and their take on parenting is so refreshing. The overall message is that your baby doesn't need a ton of crap to be happy, it just needs you. They share funny stories, and practical solutions, on temper tantrums, sleep, pacifiers, siblings, and so much more.

This book pretty much transformed me from a walking zombie to functioning mother.

I highly recommend the Britax Marathon car seat. We have been through a few and this one is amazing. You will never have to purchase another one since it is appropriate for children 5 to 70 pounds! It also doesn't hurt that they have super cute design options!

You are going to be so tired from sleepless nights. Get a co-sleeper so you don't have to get out of bed every three hours. When baby wakes, you just grab, nurse, and fall asleep. It pretty much rocks.

Ikea rocks when it comes to kids!

As soon as the peanut turns into Picasso, frame his art! It's my favorite part of the kids' room.


Monday, November 15, 2010

DwellStudio Stationery

DwellStudio has recently teamed up with Tiny Prints to launch a new line of paper goods. The clean, crisp modern designs combined with the fresh color choices perfectly channel the brand's home and baby offerings. Above is a selection of holiday card designs that I think are particularly charming. Even better, many of these have coordinating gift tags and address labels, ensuring all your paper needs are met for the coming holiday season. And, of course, the brand made famous for beautifully designed options for the nursery has a deep selection of birth announcement cards on offer as well -- and I'm making a mental note to revisit the site next spring for just such a purpose.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Advice for New Moms: Emily A. Clark

Today's sage advice on motherhood comes from Emily of Emily A. Clark, interior decorator, mommy of three, and DIY-genius. I'm particularly grateful for all the "what not to waste your time/money on" advice that's been featured in so many of these guest posts (including this one!). In fact, I'm off to delete some more items from my registry now.

* * *

I'm so happy for Averill and her husband on their impending new addition.  It's hard to believe that in six short years, I've become the mother of three.  Watch out, Averill!  While I still don't feel like I exactly know what I'm doing, I have learned a few things along the way that I'm happy to share. 

My favorites:

Baby Gap's "favorite bundlers" are the absolute best, softest gowns I've found.  My babies lived in these for the first few months of their lives.  They are extremely washable and so easy for those middle-of-the-night diaper changes.  I would highly recommend stocking up on these.

I started off with the deluxe, super-padded highchair for my first baby.  By the second baby, it was a nasty mess and so bulky that it was always in the way.  When my third baby was ready to sit and eat, we ditched the big highchair and went for this small, sleek model from IKEA.  You can buy the padding, if you want it.  I use it without so that it's even easier to wipe down.  It's lightweight and small enough to tuck away in the corner. 

Let me start by saying that not one generic diaper or wipe ever touched my first baby's bottom.  Name brand all the way.  Fast forward to my third baby, and I'm not sure she's ever seen a real "Pamper."  It's definitely an individual decision, but for me personally, I can tell absolutely no difference in the generic vs. name-brand diapers--except for the price.  I'm still using Parent's Choice (Wal-Mart's brand) diapers and wipes with my third, and it hasn't seem to slow her down :)

Bumbo Baby Sitter Aqua #B18-A - High Chairs & Booster Seats

The "Bumbo" seat was a lifesaver for me.  As soon as they could hold their heads up, I popped them in one.  We kept it on our kitchen counter (this is technically against the rules!) while they were really little (always supervised, of course) and even took it out to eat with us.  The baby is happy because he feels like he is up and a part of what's going on.  Mommy is happy because she actually has both hands free to eat/cook/etc.  It's a win-win!

While sippy cups won't come into the picture for a while, these by Gerber are my absolute favorites.  We've gone through lots of cups in our house, and these are the only ones I've found that don't leak and hold up during lots of dishwasher cycles.

I Could've Done Without. . . .

I was adamant that I had to have a $25 wipe warmer on our first baby registry.  In truth, I used the thing for two weeks and threw it out.  It dried out the wipes and the baby didn't seem to care either way.  I think he just wanted a clean diaper. 

While some moms swear by a changing table, I never had one. I just felt like it was another piece to take up space and I honestly ended up changing my babies on our bed, the floor or (gasp!) our living room ottoman.  If you feel like it's necessary, I would go for one of the covered, contoured pads that you place on top of a dresser so that you could remove it later.

My best advice. . . .

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I thought it would be a great idea to pre-invite everyone from work, neighbors, friends, etc., over to see the baby as soon as we got home from the hospital.  Little did I know, I would be a hormonal, emotional, nervous wreck.  I was exhausted but felt like I had to clean the house, put on make up, and wash my hair every time we had another round of visitors.  Oh, and did I mention I was also struggling with feeding the baby?  I was a mess and definitely learned my lesson.  With my second and third babies, I turned off the phone, stayed in and spent the time getting used to our new family.  It's a precious time and one that you should cherish with your husband and baby. 

Best of luck, Averill!  You'll be a terrific mommy.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Annie Selke's Ranch

This month, House Beautiful wrapped up its series chronicling designer Annie Selke's transformation of a dated ranch into her home. I'm an avid fan of renovation shows, so it's little wonder I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Annie's journey each month (if you haven't been following, you can read all eight installments HERE). What I loved most though was how well Annie was able express her own personal tastes and style while still staying true to the mid century, casual feel of the original home. Ranch homes, when done well, are extraordinarily warm and comfortable -- and this home was certainly done well.

The exterior of the home was repainted a rich chocolate brown, the awkward front porch removed, and new windows were installed. My favorite touch though of course is the pink door, which hints at the sense of whimsy and touches of femininity that Annie brings to mid century style inside.

A recurring element throughout the house is really clever storage, like the floor to ceiling build-ins along the back wall of the dining room. I love the mix of woods here, they create interest and warmth while staying with a relatively modern color palette. I also think it was essential to maintain the lighter blond wood floors throughout the main level, it adds a casualness that you can't achieve with darker stains (and keeps that wall of cabinetry from looking way, way too heavy).

The open u-shaped kitchen has the same sleek cabinetry and hardware of the dining room. All in all, this room is functional, clean and would appeal to a wide range of buyers at resale.

The main living area is bisected into two distinct sitting areas by a two-sided fireplace (this large area was actually once two smaller rooms that Annie combined for an open, great room feel). The two areas though remain connected with the same Dash & Albert indoor-outdoor rugs, a similar color palette and taupe sofas. I love the wall of windows and doors across the back wall -- there's just so much lightness here, the effect of which is only enhanced by the white walls and blond wood.

I love how Annie paired more traditional wingbacks with an iconic mid century piece like the bench (which also keeps the sitting area open to the rest of the house -- I always hate looking into a room and staring at the backs of chairs or sofas!).

The rough-hewn wood coffee table adds an organic element to all the straight 1950s lines. Plenty of throw pillows in fun sherbet colors break up the expanse of taupe linen on the sectional.

The artwork above the stairwell just makes me so happy. The light fixture adds a cool 1950's Sputnik-style touch.

Unlike the main living area of the house, the master bedroom's palette is fairly subdued, though the high doses of glamour courtesy of the large tufted headboard, chandelier and gorgeous triptych of de Gournay wallpaper (that Annie salvaged from the dining room of her last house) keep things interesting. I love the combination of the clean-lined, more modern buffet and chair with the ultra-glam headboard and lighting. It's a great balance that works extraordinarily well in a master bedroom where you're often dealing with two distinct personalities and styles.

Is there anything more appealing in a bathroom than tons and tons of white and gray marble? It's almost a guaranteed home run. The glass mosaic tile on the back wall is a nod to the house's mid century roots and brings in the warmth that's often missing from all-marble baths.

The blond cabinetry is sleekly modern and relates well to the horizontal tile on the opposite wall. And of course, who wouldn't love all that storage?

Annie set out to convert the basement into a welcome retreat for her teenage daughter. I love the exuberance of the colors and patterns -- it's very Missoni to me. The mural was inspired by a detail in a Japanese kimono in the V&A's collection.

The other side of her daughter's room is equally bright and energetic. Annie swapped out standard basement windows for larger ones (and presumably dug out around the foundation to accommodate them) -- though probably not inexpensive, the overall effect is worth it as it eliminates the dark, dank feel of most basements.

Selke had the bathroom tile laid vertically rather than horizontally to make the 8' ceiling in the bathroom feel taller.

The mudroom leading to the garage provides Annie with ample storage for winter clothes and dog accoutrement. Love the striped door leading to the garage.

I've never really thought about decorating a garage (organizing one, yes, but not decorating). This one though is so lively, clean and organized though that I'd be a lot more inclined to spend time in one though (presumably doing all those household projects I keep saying I'll do but have yet to get around to). The striped wall (which Annie did with leftover paint from the rest of the house) reminds me of Alice Supply Co., which carries some truly adorable household items (brooms, dust bins, hoses, etc.) that would work perfectly in Annie's space.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What's in a name?

To borrow a line from Shakespeare, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But what about a little boy? While I'm normally the type of person who makes quick, confident decisions, I find myself almost completely immobilized when it comes to naming my future son. I'm afraid of making the wrong decision, of saddling my son with an overly popular or trendy name, of having the other parents in my son's class silently wondering "what were they thinking?" In short, I'm feeling overwhelmed here folks. And, to be honest, Dave hasn't been much help as he's preferred to veto names rather than offer up suggestions or provide any ringing endorsements.

At the start of my pregnancy, the proverbial question was "what are you having?" Now, the question has become, "what are you naming him?" Even my OB/GYN asked me the question at my check-up last week! My answer so far has been a noncommittal "we're working on that," but I know that I'd like to sort that out before I get to the hospital -- if not long before that so that I can get my family and friends off my back. After all, they're desperate to start monogramming!

There are a few things that I know: (1) I'd like to use at least one family name, if not two; (2) I'd like a name that works as well for an adult as it does for a child; and (3) I want a name that fits with our last name (Conn), a task that's tougher than I'd thought.

I also know that we've narrowed down the potential universe to four possibilities...okay, at least I think we have. And since Dave and I have been testing these names out on friends, family and co-workers to gauge their reactions, I thought I might as well open the vote up to a wider focus group, if only to get a more accurate reaction. Bear in mind of course that I reserve the rights to ignore everyone's input altogether or even to go in an entirely different direction.

Here's a quick rundown on the origins of the names (in no particular order) that are still in the running:

William Evander: Named for two men in my mother's family (William Evander Averill and William Evander Hall), the former being my own namesake. William has also been a common name generally in my mother's family -- in fact, both my maternal grandfather and my uncle are Williams (though they went by Bill and Wendell, respectively). Unrelated but nonetheless interesting is that Evander is Greek for "good man" and a deific king in Roman mythology. The classicist in me loves that. Downside: William is uber-popular; Evander may conjure up images of boxer Evander Holyfield.

James Michael: Named for Dave's father Jim and my father Mike. Pretty simple, really. Downside: Both James and Michael are popular (though less so than William); feels rather uncreative on my part.

Graham Kirk: Named for both my uncle and great-uncle, the latter of whom was killed in WWII. Kirk is Dave's middle name as well as his father's. Downside: No workable nickname for Graham (that could be good though, too).

William Moultrie: Named for this guy, a direct ancestor of Dave's through his paternal grandmother. And, as noted above, William is a frequently used name in my mother's family. Downside: Again, William is uber-popular.

And now you get to vote. Of course feel free to leave me comments explaining your vote or even if you've got another name you'd like to throw into the ring.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Advice for New Moms: Pink Wallpaper

Today I'm thrilled to welcome back Shannon Darby, designer, mom and blogger behind Pink Wallpaper and The Designer's Attic. I've been a huge fan of Shannon's killer sense of style for a few years now, so it's little wonder that I'm completely in love with all the products she recommends here. It's great to know that there are plenty of functional -- yet still stylish -- baby products available on the market today.

* * *

{Taylor's nursery, designed by Shannon}

Thanks so much for inviting my to participate in your "new mom series" Averill!  I am so excited for y'all and your soon-to-be new addition!  I am Shannon from Pink Wallpaper and I just had my second baby, a little boy, 4 months ago.  As much as I would like to say I am a master at parenting, I can assure you I am far from it!!  So I thought I would share some of my favorite baby items that I have in my home.  As far as the advice part- well, get your rest while you can because it's a crazy world out there once that bundle of joy arrives. :)

My Fav's:

Fitted crib sheets from Dwell Studio- LOVE them....they are cute, affordable, and make great backgrounds for picture taking :)  I have a couple of these because you need more then one for when those diapers leak!

Bla Bla's are the cutest stuffed animals, hands down...I also love the rattles and mobiles. Stacking blocks from Dwell Studio- great because they are soft and not to mention adorable for your baby to play with!

Dwell Studio's changing pad covers- best looking ones around and very well priced (I promise i don't work for dwell, i am just a huge fan of their stuff!).

aden + anais muslin swaddle blankets are wonderful!  Love how light weight they are -- perfect for swaddling at night or for a blanket when they are in the swing or on a stroll.....

I have both of these high chairs: the nano is great for 4-18 months.  When they first are learning to eat, a tray is a must b/c it gets super messy and it's nice to have the leather seat that can be wiped off easily. another added bonus for this high chair is that it folds up and can be stashed away. then we graduated to the tripp trapp chair- LOVE this chair.  It looks stylish, can grow with the child, and comes in a rainbow of colors.

This bath tub ROCKS!  Super cheap and the best baby tub I have ever used.  My son can't roll out of it when I am bathing him and it keeps my hands free.  My baby has super sensitive skin so we only use dove's unscented soap to bath him...our pediatrician's recommendation.  And after bath time, a hooded towel is a perfect way to keep him warm (and cute)!

Like I said, I am no expert....my baby isn't sleeping through the night and the lack of sleep sometimes makes me crazy....but I forget about it all in the mornings because he is as sweet as they come and loves his mommy!! Best of luck Averill....I can't wait to see that adorable baby boy!!

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