Staying on Track - Free Weekly Printable!

/ /  Meal planning, goals and chores for the week - all in one easy printable  / /

In a desperate attempt to get myself a teensy bit more organized, I threw together a little weekly printable to try and stay on track. There's daily spots for to do's, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cleaning - because despite being adults we clearly need a chore chart around here. Up at the top is a cute little banner to add in 3 goals for the week. I purposely made these spots small in an effort to keep the goals themselves also small, because who needs to try and make lofty goals on a Monday amiright? I'm also really into the phrase "Don't stop, get it, get it" right now for absolutely no apparent reason, but it looks fun at the top of the page so I'm going with it. I will probably evolve this over time, and I'd love to add color but don't have a color printer at home right now so black and white will do for the time being. 

If you'd like to download a pdf of the chart to print yourself, just CLICK HERE. I'd love to hear if you use this to stay on track!

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! - Custom Designed Holiday Cards!

/ /  Want a totally custom holiday card designed for your family? Pick me, pick me!  / /

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It's November, and even though it's almost 70 degrees outside (I'm not complaining), it is officially time to start thinking about the holidays! I for one cannot wait for Christmas this year, since I imagine it will be 1,000 times more magical for us because of the munchkin. I am so looking forward to singing Christmas songs with her and decorating the tree and having our now-annual homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast Christmas morning. And don't even get me started on babies in Christmas pajamas. ALL the heart eyes for that, my friends. 

Something else I always look forward to is designing our Christmas card, which is bound to be extra easy this year because I have the most adorable baby on the planet to feature on the card. And since I love designing them so much, I thought this year would be perfect to offer up my design services to others if they're interested! 

Thanks to getting family photos taken by my lovely cousin Sam earlier this year, I had lots of adorable pictures of my niece and nephew and other family members to use for mockups. I also work with a fantastic printer who has super reasonable pricing so I've included design and printing together in the pricing below for added convenience!

DETAILS:
Custom Holiday card design

- customer provides photo(s) and desired wording for card via email
- 1-2 designs will be emailed to customer to choose from
- 1 round of minor revisions may be requested (complete redesign will incur additional costs)
- cards will be 5x7" and printed on 100# cover weight stock
- QTY. 50 cards, designed and printed = $80 (pricing can be provided for larger quantities)
- pickup cards in Naperville or Oak Park; additional cost for shipping
- envelopes in desired color = $30

Drop me a note at cakesandlouie@gmail.com if you're interested - I'd love to help spread the holiday cheer for you and your family!

One Room Challenge: Very (Very) Little Progress

My progress on the extra bedroom makeover has essentially been non-existent lately while I try to miraculously find time to paint the room, and given that this weekend is jam-packed full of Halloween fun, I don't see it happening anytime soon. I also hadn't really thought about the fact that the room is directly across from Adeline's, so while we get big stretches of evening time in between her bedtime and ours, we can't very well be making a ton of noise just a few feet from where she's sleeping just because I want to redo a room. I'm not all that surprised that painting a room we don't use isn't a top priority, but I do hope we'll manage to get it done soon since the rest of the room will be fairly easy to put together from there! We did recover the headboard in the floral fabric I originally planned for and while it looks lovely, I know it will look even more incredible with a moody green on the walls.

Part of the holdup is coming from us trying to get our big bathroom remodel going sooner than later - we've been talking about it since before the munchkin was born and struggled to find a contractor we were comfortable with. We have a family friend that's going to tackle it with Dan so while it's bound to take a little longer, it will finally be done! I spent a good chunk of today clearing the dresser in the big bathroom out and moving toiletries into our small master bath that we'll be using during the remodel. This also turned into purging our linen closet so medications and first aid supplies and whatnot from the big bathroom could be stored in there for awhile. 

Oddly enough, this all ties into the One Room Challenge since I decided that the dresser from the bathroom will go in the extra bedroom!

So yes, our big bathroom is big enough that I had a full sized dresser in there, which has been fantastic since the only storage when we moved in was the old (broken and gross) vanity. The hubs snagged this dresser from a church remodel before we even met, so it's been through a few moves with us and is one of my favorite pieces of furniture in our entire house. It's been great for toiletry organization, but I'm excited to put it back in a bedroom and have it there for a bit of extra storage and for guests to use!

Cross your fingers for me that we get a random burst of productive energy (and time) to get some paint on the walls so I don't completely fail the One Room Challenge! ;)

One Room Challenge: The Before

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I'm participating in the One Room Challenge with Calling it Home and hundreds of other bloggers, and I've decided to take on our extra bedroom and pack it full of color and pattern! I posted some general plans for the room already, and today I'm sharing the "before" photos which are, well, a hot mess to say the least.

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The bed is rarely made, especially since the munchkin spent most of September battling colds which means I spent most of September sleeping in her room with this mattress on the floor. (I'm fully aware that this is a little extreme, don't judge.) You can see the DIY headboard here, and I can't wait for it to be recovered with a bold floral!

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The major mess in the room is our bins of winter clothes and newborn-3 month stuff that's already been outgrown (tear!). Usually the bins are stacked in the closet, but we've been having that infamous in-between Chicago weather where you never really know how to dress and that always means I end up pulling bins out of the closet in the morning when I'm chilly and digging around for a sweater. We moved the bins into our room this evening to start switching out seasonal clothes, so basically for the time being I've just created a huge mess in our room too ;). 

The hubs will be taking his recliner to work or try to sell it so the wingback I'm planning to paint can replace it, and the old Ikea Expedit shelf will likely go in the closet with some bins to organize things that we don't need all the time but don't want all the way in the basement.

Lots to do here, but I'm excited to get going this weekend when I have some more time! First up is finishing clearing the room out and picking a paint color, and I'm also planning to take a trip to the fabric store to see if I find something I like for the headboard so I can order online before too long if not.

One Room Challenge: Guest Bedroom

Much to the hubby's dismay, I decided about a week ago to jump in on the latest One Room Challenge, joining Calling It Home and bunches of other bloggers in transforming a room in a matter of weeks! Weekly posts are put up every Thursday to show progress, with the big reveals from everyone coming at the end. 

I decided to take on our extra bedroom because since we don't use it all the time, it's a great space to have a little fun and play with color and pattern. Since the first weekly post is meant to show plans, I stressed out and spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to put together a mood board of sorts for the room, and ended up not getting a post up last Thursday for the kickoff. In other words, I'm already behind on a big project and given our full time jobs and the adorable little munchkin that rules our lives these days, it's bound to get a little crazy in the next month or so trying to get it all done! Thankfully, as much as I want to participate in the challenge, I've learned to go with the flow a little better since becoming a mom, so if the room isn't 100% finished at the end I've promised myself I won't be too bummed. 

Photos of what the space currently looks like will come soon, but for now - here's some of the plans I have for the room!

MUST HAVE #1 - COLOR: As I mentioned, I'm looking to really go bold with the color in this room, because why not?! Here's some inspiration.

MUST HAVE #2 - PATTERN: We already have our queen bed from our first house in the room with our DIY upholstered headboard, but it's currently a boring beige color so I'm planning to spruce it up by recovering it in a large floral. I love this fabric as an option.

The other main piece of furniture in the room right now is Dan's old recliner, which he has begrudgingly agreed to *finally* let go so I can make the room pretty. The plan is to replace it with an upholstered wingback chair, which I currently have 2 of in the garage from staging our last house for selling. I grabbed the pair for $50 off of craigslist and haven't had success reselling them, so I'm planning to try painting one of them using one of the many tutorials that pop up in my Pinterest feed from time to time. 

The rest of the room will be rounded out by accessories I grabbed at Target and some easy art on the walls. I'm also brainstorming what we can do with the closet - right now there's not even a clothes bar in there, and depending on how the wingback fits in I may replace one of the nightstands with a small dresser for future guests.

So there it is - plans are on the blog so I have to at least try to make this whole makeover happen, right? Wish me luck!

Tips for Meal Planning Success

We’re big fans of eating out in our household. It’s quick, provides lots of options, and doesn’t require much thought or planning. But good gosh does it get expensive. And if I’m being totally honest, even with the abundance of places to grab a bite literally around the corner from our house, I’ve gotten bored. Yesterday, I stopped by Panera to pick up a late lunch for myself and after ordering a measly half sandwich and a teeny little cup of mac & cheese and then being given my $10+ total (seriously?!?), I was over it. We plopped ourselves down on a blanket outside in the perfect weather while I ate my overpriced food and did some serious meal planning for the week.

For now the goal is simply to not eat out. Moving forward as we get better about planning, I’ll work towards cutting even more costs and eating cleaner and healthier. I’m hoping we can keep this up and I can hold myself accountable by posting our plans here on the blog. To start, I’m sharing a few tips I’ve learned from attempting meal planning in the past!

TIPS for MEAL PLANNING:

1. MIX IT UP: This is key for me, though not for the hubs. He can (and will) eat a ham and cheese sandwich every single day for lunch and be perfectly happy, but I will absolutely and positively fail by Tuesday if I don’t mix it up a little bit to keep things interesting. For lunch specifically - I have to be excited about what I have, or it’s way too easy to join someone else to grab tacos or the aforementioned expensive turkey sandwich.

2. PREP AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE: Last night, this meant cooking a few chicken breasts in a grill pan, making a big pot of quinoa, chopping up produce, and making my lunch for today so I could just grab it in the morning and go.

3. RIP OFF FAVORITES: There’s a little café across the street from my office that makes fantastic salads, but at $10-12 a pop it adds up quick. So, I bought all the ingredients at the store to make essentially the same salad myself. Making it on my own provides the bit of variety and excitement I mentioned before, and while it’s not as cheap as a ham and cheese sandwich every day, it’s still a definite cost savings over eating out.

4. PLAN EVERYTHING: Between breastfeeding and the medication I’m still on for my vision, I am a hungry hungry girl these days (and it shows in my waistline… oh well). Add to that the fact that Adeline goes to bed so early, so we’ve been eating dinner pretty early as well… and then by 8 or 8:30 I’m hungry again and end up eating junk. Knowing that we will likely want that extra something in the evening, we bought a few peaches this week to share instead of wolfing down 2 bowls of late night cereal like I usually do. I also grabbed fruit for afternoon snacks when that 3pm lull hits and I’m still at my desk for a few hours before dinner.

5. TREAT YO SELF: Adeline’s daycare is closed this Friday, so Dan is staying home with her and they’re going to meet me for lunch out that afternoon. Treating going out one day as a “reward” for not eating out the rest of the week gives me something to look forward to and makes me more likely to succeed.

Boobs for the Win

/ /  Six months of the most unnatural natural thing in the world  / /

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On September 6th, our little bitty munchkin turned 6 months old. We didn't take photos to celebrate because the poor thing was fighting a miserable cold and running a fever so she basically slept all of Labor Day weekend away, but I did a little mini personal celebration in my head because you know what else Adeline's half birthday meant? 

I DID IT.

I made it 6 months breastfeeding. And let me tell you - it was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I've hinted at it before on the blog that I didn't really want anything to do with breastfeeding when I was pregnant, so making the decision to give it a fair shot and then actually managing to keep it up was kind of huge for me. So huge, in fact, that I decided I needed a blog post all about it tooting my own horn. It's long, and it probably mentions boobs more than you were planning on reading about today. You're welcome.

Here's the thing. I never really had boobs to begin with - we're talking barely-there A-cups on a good day. And thanks to teenagers being total assholes, this meant that I got made fun of a LOT growing up. The most notable of the ridiculing would be when I was called "board chest" by a guy for the entire summer leading into high school (he later asked me to homecoming and I laughed in his face, so there's that at least), but he was far from the only one that took note of my body skipping over certain parts of puberty. So fast forward a decade and a half later to when I got pregnant, and I can assure you that I wanted nothing to do with spending literal HOURS a day with my boobs as the center of attention. I actually asked my doctor at one appointment if boobs as small as mine could really manage to sustain life and was honestly shocked when she said yes (and also grateful that she didn't laugh at me for asking). It didn't help that everywhere you turn these days there's an article or a blog post or a friend or a total stranger reminding you that "breast is best!!!" and formula is frowned upon by basically the entire world. Let me be clear - this is bullshit, and the only person that should have any say whatsoever in how you feed your baby is YOU, but I digress. I still read all the articles even though they made me feel like garbage for even considering formula. I smiled and nodded when people gave me their unsolicited opinions about it all. At one point when I was feeling somewhat optimistic about the whole thing, I signed Dan and I up for a 3 hour long breastfeeding class and then threw a major temper tantrum the morning of it because I changed my mind and did NOT want to go. We still went, I was a huge brat the rest of the day because of it, and later on I told Dan that while I understood the benefits to both me and the baby, it was ultimately my decision on whether or not I was going to even give it a try.

And then Adeline came 5 weeks early and landed herself in the NICU. 

One of my favorite moms that Dan works with told me a story when Adeline was a couple months old about how she once described motherhood to a friend by comparing it to when you see a lioness being fiercely protective over her cubs. She explains it much better than I'm doing here, but the point is that the second I saw my baby being wheeled away from me to go get hooked up to a bunch of monitors I got REAL protective and immediately didn't care about anything else except doing whatever I could possibly do for her... and at that point, it meant accepting the fact that I was going to be spending a LOT of time with my boobs in the future, because I knew that breastmilk was the very best thing for her. I couldn't hold her nearly as much as I wanted to, I couldn't stop her from needing to spend a whole day under the lights for jaundice, I couldn't avoid the tests she had to get, I couldn't take away the feeding tube that ran through her nose into her stomach, I couldn't take her home. But I could pump, every 2.5 hours around the clock, to get as much milk as possible to go into the feeding tube and do exactly what I never thought it could do - sustain life.

One of the benefits to the extra time in the hospital was that I had lactation consultants available to me several times a day, so by the time we got home Adeline and I had sort of established latching and I was starting to get a handle on what worked for us. We also never had to deal with nipple confusion since she had to take bottles in the hospital, which I hear is a blessing in disguise. We were cleared for straight nursing by the pediatrician a couple days after getting home (instead of having to measure milk precisely into bottles to know exactly how much she was getting), and that was that. I was a breastfeeding mama, and I couldn't believe it but for the most part, I didn't totally hate it. Funny how life surprises you sometimes, huh?

We have definitely had our ups and downs - like how around 7 weeks I was all "check me out we totally have this breastfeeding thing down, I'm a rockstar mom" and then Adeline suddenly decided she had no clue what she was doing anymore and would freak out and throw her head around unable to latch until we were both in tears. There was Easter at my gramma's house when she was just a few weeks old - I went upstairs to a bedroom to nurse and thanks to my previously mentioned teeny boobs, between my shirt and my bra and her fancy dress there was just too much in the way and the poor thing couldn't actually reach so I had to basically strip the 2 of us down while she screamed bloody murder with my entire extended family downstairs. She also peed all over the futon while I was changing her diaper after that which I can assure you did a serious number on my mom ego. Then there was going back to work and getting into the routine of pumping at the office. My VERY FIRST day back and the VERY FIRST time I pumped at work I was having one of those few and far between moments where I felt like "I can totally do it all! Look at me with my career and my baby!"... and then when I went to pull my nursing bra back up I realized the pump had been leaking the entire time and my bra was soaked. I texted Dan in a panic and he had to interrupt Adeline's nap to pack her up in the car and bring me a new bra in a grocery bag so I could change. I mean, come on

At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if all of our neighbors have seen me half naked since I basically spent my entire maternity leave without a shirt on because it's just easier and who's actually looking to make things any harder when you have a newborn, am I right? I've also nursed Adeline in a few parking lots, in a mall, in a random alley in the city (in the car, don't worry), and in a booth at a Houlihan's, so there's probably a lot of other random people that have seen my boobs as well... and you know what? I don't really care. It has (somehow) worked for us despite all of my pessimism about it, and for that, I am really really proud. Between the special bras that get in the way, and the nursing covers that don't work, and the nipple cream, and the pads to make sure you don't leak while out in public, and the pump that makes you feel like a cow being milked, and everything else that comes along with it, I think it's sort of obnoxious for anyone to insist that breastfeeding is totally "natural," but it IS pretty incredible, so there's that.

So here we are at 6 months - I've officially made it the standard amount of time that the American Academy of Pediatrics majorly suggests, and in that funny way that things work out I'm not in a terribly huge rush to quit. I made a deal with myself that at 6 months I wouldn't beat myself up anymore if I don't have time to pump twice at work or if I want to go to bed before pumping at the end of the night, and I'm slowly starting to adjust to letting go a bit and have gone out a few evenings leaving Dan to do bedtime with a bottle. Adeline has had some formula here and there since I went back to work and doesn't mind it, so we've gotten into a pretty good routine of just going with what works day to day. But I adore the time I get to spend with her nursing in the morning and at bedtime - even more now that I am back at work and only get to see her for a short time each day during the week - and it is so incredibly clear to me that it's a huge comfort for her, which has been really encouraging for me as a new mom.

Oh, and - I can't possibly end this without a MASSIVE thank you to the hubs, who has been the biggest encouragement through all of my ups and downs with breastfeeding, and who has also probably filled no less than 1,000 cups of ice water for me since I literally become parched the second I start nursing or pumping and NEVER remember to get water beforehand. I won't hate you if you say "I told you so."

Fly By Summer

/ /  Realizing just how busy "normal" can be  / /

Well friends, it's been a hot minute hasn't it? I guess in the grand scheme of things a month between blog posts isn't that bad for me, but I'd definitely like to write more often. The thing is, being a new mom is pretty insane, and while I'm loving it just as much as ever, I've quickly learned just how fast the days can fly by. Thankfully, we sort of loosely have a schedule these days, which helps me stay sane almost all the time. This is largely due to Adeline slowly but surely coming out of a HELL of a 4-month sleep regression, which made for a really tough few weeks. Given how well she slept from the get go and the fact that I was on leave when she was a newborn, I can honestly say that July was the hardest month I've had so far as a mom and I do NOT handle sleep deprivation with grace. 

My weekdays have been pretty full of commotion thanks to being busier at work than I think I ever have been in my entire career, and trying to fit in 2 pumping sessions between half a dozen meetings a day means that most days by the time I take a second to breathe it's 3pm already and I have a stack of things piled up on my desk to sign off on before I leave at 5:30. I'm not complaining - I love my job and how it's constantly changing and providing me with new creative opportunities - but I can't say I would mind it if I didn't get an average of 150 emails a day all the time ;).

Outside of work, I try to keep things as stress-free as possible, mostly because we only get a little windows of time with our munchkin during the week and I want to soak in as many minutes with her as I can. I SO look forward to the weekends with her, and we've enjoyed the summer weather with a couple farmer's market trips, lots of BBQs at my parents' house and a few outings for things like the Fourth of July and my birthday. 

Buuuuuut, I don't really know how to just let myself relax, we have lots of excitement coming up over the next few weeks. We're hosting a happy hour for my department this week, friends from out of town for part of the weekend, my extended family for a BBQ in early September following the Lungevity Breathe Deep walk to raise money for lung cancer research, and my father in law's 60th birthday bash the weekend after that. Wish me luck! And given some fun projects we've done around the house lately, I really do hope to blog more in the coming months. Here's to the beautiful weather sticking around for it all! 

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Nordstrom Anniversary Sale! Early Access Spoils

/ /  All the goodies I snagged with Early Access!  / /

It's time for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, and truth be told I don't usually really care because designer clothing on sale is still waaaay out of my budget. This year though, I decided to take advantage of my Nordstrom debit card and splurge a teeny bit, and treated myself to a few quality pieces at fantastic price points. Unfortunately, given my fluctuating size lately I have NO idea if the clothing items I ordered will even fit, but I'm excited about the potential for a couple new pieces and am also thrilled with the beauty products I picked up! The big spend here is definitely the fancy pants Donna Karan Cashmere Mist deodorant set - this stuff isn't cheap but I'm a sweaty girl and it gets rave reviews so we'll see if it's worth the price tag. And of course, if all else fails, there's still a set of super cute socks for the munchkin that I absolutely cannot wait to put on her with a little dress in the fall. Shop my finds below!

My Bookshelf: 26 Kisses

I've got a lot of super talented friends - artists, photographers, designers and the like. But the pre-teen book nerd in me has to admit I never really thought I would know an author. Books were always such an escape for me when I was younger, and the people that wrote them were like celebrities to me. You know how when you were a kid if you ran into your teacher out in public it was the weirdest thing because you never really realized that teachers were also just regular old people with regular old lives like the rest of us, grocery shopping, walking their dogs and doing things with their families on the weekends? Maybe that was just me, but that's sort of how I always felt about authors too - they were people in my head who never really escaped their author photo and who clearly were only put on this earth to write stories for me to lose myself in.

Decades later, here I am working in publishing and meeting authors on a regular basis at work events and around the office. Don't get me wrong - I still sort of fangirl a teeny bit sometimes, but I've learned to keep my cool for the most part. And then!!!! Suddenly a good friend of mine (also a colleague) told me she was publishing a book and I got all awkward about authors again. Little old me HANGS OUT with someone who has a real live book that people can buy in stores? In my mind, Anna Michels, you're pretty much famous.

So my pal Anna wrote a book, and I thought it was only right that I blog about it since I devoured it during the last few naps of my maternity leave and absolutely loved it. Anna's debut 26 Kisses chronicles a summer full of kisses - one for every letter of the alphabet - for Veda, who's trying to get over an unexpected breakup. I don't want to spoil too much, but I have to share that Veda has a cat named Fat Snacks and her mom does Prancercise, so obviously the entire story is amazing. It is an absolutely perfect summer read, whether you're lounging on the beach, staying cool inside with a drink, or packing reading material to take on a weekend road trip. 

I can't recommend 26 Kisses enough, and in honor of Anna's book, I thought I'd pull together a little roundup of kiss related goodies - enjoy!

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