12.28.2015

top 10 baby + child products of 2015

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! We enjoyed a simple few days of special traditions, including our annual lasagna Christmas Eve dinner at my parents' house, candlelight service, strawberry cheesecake, Christmas day at our house and my uncle's famous homemade peanut brittle. A big tin of it is my gift from him every single year and I always look forward to it. We ate entirely too much good food and stayed up way too late playing card games. It was cozy, simple and as stress free as it can possibly be with two little ones. We opted not to do many gifts this year and instead focused on teaching Olivia about giving to others and the experience of the season (cutting down & decorating our tree, making a gingerbread house, reading Christmas books, singing carols, etc.) as well as the reason we celebrate -- Jesus' birth. It was wonderful to have a small little celebration with those I love most dearly and I vowed to leave my tree up another week or two, since Olivia and I both love having it lit all day and night! 

As 2015 comes to a close, I thought it would be fun to round up my favorite baby + child products from this past year. I stepped from the "toddler world" into having a new baby in September and have come across so many incredible new products for both of my girls, some of which weren't even around in 2013 when I had Olivia. A few of these have been long time favorites and others are ones I've discovered in the last three months since Penelope was born. They are the best of the best and staples in our everyday life with our girls.
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10

-- 4moms bounceRoo --

4moms is one of our absolute favorite brands. From their mamaRoo, which Penelope loves, to their breeze playard and more, everything by 4moms is sleek, modern, well-designed with busy Moms in mind and most importantly, incredibly functional. One of their newest products, the bounceRoo is a lightweight, portable infant seat with 3 unique vibrations. I most often use it for Penelope in the bathroom when I'm giving Olivia a bath and need two free hands. I also place it in the kitchen while I'm cooking dinner. I love that I can easily move it from room to room (with one hand!) and always have a comfortable place to set her. It provides just the right amount of motion to comfort and settle her and takes up so little space, I can fit it just about anywhere. I love the overall look and Penelope loves batting at the toy on top. It was so easy to assemble and runs on batteries, making it cordless and something I don't ever trip over. It has come in  so handy transitioning from one to two and my favorite part of all is that P is so happy when she's in it!

-- owlet monitor --

I was introduced to the Owlet only weeks after Poppy was born and immediately fell in love with the concept; for those of you who haven't heard of it, the Owlet is the first baby monitor of its kind that can actually alert you if your baby stops breathing during sleep. It uses the technology of pulse oximetry and is incredibly user-friendly, plus the peace of mind it offers Dustin and I as parents is priceless. You can read my full review here and purchase your own an exclusive promotional price here.

-- tubby todd lavender lotion --

If there ever was a lotion so yummy that you basically could eat it and want to sneak it out of your child's room and use it for yourself, Tubby Todd's Lavender and Rosemary lotion is it. Oh my goodness, the first time I used it on Penelope after her bath I just about fainted. It's the most delicious scent without being overpowering and I put it on her all day long just so I can smell it! Even better is that it's made with all natural ingredients that are safe for the whole family, plus its super creamy and makes skin so soft. All four of us use it (yes, even my husband!) and we just love it. I always keep extra bottles on hand because it's just that good.

-- angelcare bath support --

This was a product I discovered during my first pregnancy and loved! Made to be used directly in a bathtub, the bath support is ideal for babies from newborn to 6 months. Designed for comfort and safety during bath time, the angel care support is a product I have relied on since bringing each of our girls home. A few features I love -- the mesh material allows water to drain easily and it dries quickly after use, it's ergonomically designed for baby's comfort with soft-touch material and contour shape, and it's super easy to store and even hang up; its lightweight and makes bathing your babe extra easy. It comes in blue and pink and is my go-to gift for new moms because of it's excellent price point.

-- ostheimer wooden toys --

I shared all about my love for Ostheimer wooden toys a few months ago in this post and our feelings about them have only grown since then. In our living room -- the main place we spend our time during the day -- we have a rustic square coffee table with ample storage underneath. I have baskets and bins of Olivia's toys in it for easy access and day after day, week after week, the toys I find her playing with more than any other are her Ostheimer figures. We have the forest & farm sets but there are so so many darling ones! They are beautifully handcrafted in Germany with incredible attention to detail and overall design. I love that they're wood -- sturdy, well made and so pretty that I don't mind when they're left laying out. For Olivia's 3rd birthday in May, more of these are at the top of her list! She just loves them.

-- aden & anais burpy bibs --

This product was one of my husband's top picks and to be honest, we love everything from A&A. These bibs are perfect for keeping baby clean and dry during burping, bottle-feeding, eating & more. They are made of the softest muslin fabric which seriously gets softer with every wash. We still have sets from when Olivia was a baby that look brand new, and I love that they snap instead of velcro. It doubles as a no-slip burp cloth because of its contoured shape to fit on your shoulder and is ultra-breathable. Plus the patterns can't be beat. I recently added this one to our collection and just love it!

-- dockatot --

Another new product I came across shortly after Penelope was born, the DockATot is absolutely amazing. Created in Sweden, the DockATot is a multi-functional lounging, playing, resting and snuggling dock for your babe -- perfect for at home or on the go. We seriously use ours every single day, and I loved being able to pack it up and bring to my parents' house on Christmas Eve so Poppy could take her afternoon nap away from home. It can be used for co-sleeping, changing, tummy time, and more. Plus it has a built-in handle making it extra easy to carry from room to room as you follow chase your toddler. You can read my full review here, but if you are looking for an incredible innovative product for your little one, the DockATot is it. It comes in two sizes -- the Deluxe (for babies newborn-8 months) & the Grand (for babies and children 9-36 months).

-- under the sea playmat --

Entirely for fun, this playmat was one of Penelope's Christmas gifts and I just love how sweet it is. So many playmats on the market these days are bright, plastic, loud, noise-making products and I love how simple and fresh this playmat is. It's full of fun sensory activities for babies and is super cushioned so it's comfy for baby to lay on. Penelope has enjoyed many hours on it since we gave it to her and I love that I can leave it out because it's a piece of art in and of itself.

-- halo sleep sack swaddle --

We were introduced to these when Olivia was born and they are a nighttime staple around here to keep Penelope sleeping safely, securely and peacefully. While I love traditional swaddling blankets, I find that they aren't secure enough for long periods of sleep because even when swaddled tightly, they can be busted out of. I love these swaddle sleep sacks because they are safe, comfortable and stay put, plus are designed to swaddle arms in or out. We swaddled both the girls from Day 1 on and these are gold. The swaddling sleep sacks are made for up to 6 months (or until your baby shows signs of rolling), and after that you can use traditional sleep sacks by Halo. They come in all sorts of fabrics, including muslin and chamois. They keep Poppy warm and toasty, comforted because of their swaddle feature and safe during nighttime sleep. PS They also have this style which allows for quick diaper changes without unswaddling. Ahhh-mazing.

-- boon grass drying rack --

Last but not least, a fun and inexpensive product that makes life so much easier. The Boon Grass Drying rack is a modern and fresh take on drying racks -- made to hold all baby's accessories, including bottles and sippy cups, utensils, pump supplies and more. It's perfect for the countertop, comes in multiple sizes and has the cutest accessories. I love that the water drains into the lower tray and I can empty and wash it easily. Another fun gift for new Moms and something that I've grown so used to using, I don't think I could live without! 

Hope everyone has a wonderful last few days of the year. Hard to believe we are in the single digits for counting down to 2016. XOXO

12.18.2015

friday favorites

Things have been a bit quiet this week on the blog front, as I've tried to take a few steps back and focus the majority of my time on my family as we are in the final digit countdown to Christmas. There is something so magical about celebrating this season with children...seeing the excitement in Olivia's eyes, dancing with Penelope in my arms by the light of the tree, building gingerbread houses, drinking cocoa & watching Christmas movies...so many special memories are being made and I am just so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that I get to make them all with my little family of four. 

We've been in the swing of gift-wrapping, errand-running, tree-trimming & cookie-baking this week and I thought it would be fun to share a few of the things I've come across lately that caught my eye and that we have integrated into our own home and traditions. 

F R I D A Y  F A V O R I T E S 

1 / Have you heard of The Giving Manger? I stumbled across it a few weeks ago and loved the idea so much. Dustin and I gave it to Olivia as one of her (early) Christmas gifts this year and it has been so sweet to teach her about the true meaning of Christmas and the spirit of serving others. It's an interactive family tradition that comes with a storybook, wooden manger, straw & baby Jesus. It encourages doing acts of service (whether big or small) for those around you -- people in your own family or people you don't know at all. For every kind act, you add straw to the manger and on Christmas morning, place baby Jesus in it full of love and service. Olivia is at an age where she wants to do so many things (hello, miss independent) and it's been especially fun for her to add straw to the manger after doing something nice for her baby sister, like tucking her in with a blanket or reading a story to her.


2 / Dustin and I decided to build Olivia a dollhouse for Christmas instead of buying one and from the initial drawing with measurements to buying the wood, cutting windows and doors, painting furniture and decorating, it has been such a fun labor of love. It is a gift I know she will always treasure and something that we'll keep in our family for generations. My favorite way to decorate is with the gorgeous florals from Rifle Paper Co. Their wrapping paper sheets make perfect dollhouse wallpaper and seriously, floral is always the right choice. 

3 / When I meet people for the first time, I should probably introduce myself and say, "Hi. I'm Megan. And I'm addicted to wall decor." Because seriously, if it exists and can be hung on a wall, there's no doubt that I will find it. Yesterday I had the privilege of running errands solo and taking my time more than usual at Target and I came across a few pieces I knew would be perfect to finish off the final (empty) corner of Penelope's room. And I'll be the first to say it, Target is seriously stepping up their wall decor. I don't ever remember it being this good in years past. This rustic wooden shelf with hooks just leaped in to my cart and even though as he was hanging it, Dustin said "I could've made this," I would recommend it ten times over. Yes, making things is fun (see #2) but some things are just better less work when they're store bought.

4 / Starting on Wednesday, Gap + Old Navy began offering crazy good discounts for cardholders and stacking all my regular discounts on top of being a silver cardholder, I was able to get $250 worth of clothing for both Olivia and Penelope for only $35. Yes, $35!! A few favorites from my order are this floral windbreaker, the cutest onesie & this gorgeous scoop-neck graphic tee I've had my eye on forever that finally was available in 12-18 for P to wear next Fall! This darling dropwaist dress also made the cut for both girls to match in.

5 / Finally, something I have always enjoyed is playing games -- board games, card games, you name it and I'm into it. Before we had Olivia, a huge tradition of ours was playing games with my parents. The four of us would stay up into the late hours of the night playing games. My mom would make caramel corn on the stove and round after round, we never grew tired of it. After having babies we found it to be much more difficult, since really they have to (both) be sleeping to fully devote our attention to the gameplay. On Thanksgiving we were able to play games with my parents all afternoon while they napped and again in the evening after they went to bed. Our plans for Christmas day are no different, and my Mom is always bringing over new games she's been introduced to and wants to share with us. The game I couldn't get enough of on Thanksgiving is called Qwirkle. It's the perfect mix of strategy, forward thinking and problem solving. It's easy to learn and play but requires skill to win, and those games are my absolute favorite!


I hope everyone has a wonderful and relaxing weekend! Many hours over the past weeks have been spent laying on our couch looking at the tree, enjoying peace and quiet after the girls have gone to bed and reflecting on why -- and more importantly whom -- we celebrate this season. There are so many things to do + see + places to be this time of year but my favorite place is always at home with each other and our girls, enjoying being together and making memories. They are my gifts this year and every year. Being Dustin's wife and their Mama is a dream come true.

12.11.2015

sleep training + our tips

Penelope turned three months old yesterday and I go back and forth between feeling like she was just born and that we've had her forever. The best combination. I just love being her Mama!


I've had a few people ask about Poppy's sleep routine so I thought I'd share it below.

We loosely based the routines for both our girls on the BabyWise method:
+ implementing parent directed feedings (PDF) every 2-3 hours versus feeding on demand 24/7 whenever a baby cries
+ establishing a routine of feed / wake / sleep
+ putting baby to bed while they're still awake
+ letting baby cry it out -- though we do a modified CIO (details below)

 For us, this was incredibly successful. I personally operate best with a routine and being able to anticipate and plan my days (and nights!) so we implemented the four components with both Olivia and Penelope in the same way(s).

I first want to say that routines, feeding patterns and infant sleep can be a controversial subject and I understand every baby is totally different, so what worked for us may not work for everybody. And thats okay! Hopefully, if nothing else, you'll get a look into how we do it around here. My hope is that it will help you in your own home even if in a small way. 

Right now at 3 months Penelope sleeps on average from 10pm to 10am. I call her my little night owl, because even if she doesn't eat much in the evenings, she just wants to hang out until about 9:30/10. I've tried putting her to bed by 7:30/8pm and then she seems to be up way more often, so for me keeping her up a bit longer in the evening almost always benefits in a full night of sleep for both of us.

She began naturally sleeping about 8 hours through the night around 8 weeks and added about an hour a week up to 12 hours straight (now 12 weeks).

Below I outline the four pillars of BabyWise we used:

IMPLEMENTING PARENT DIRECTED FEEDINGS FROM BIRTH TO 8 WEEKS+

Because we were in control of her feedings every 2-3 hours for the first 6 weeks, Penelope was already used to a routine of spaced feedings by 8 weeks (which is when BabyWise suggests your child will start sleeping through the night). Had I been nursing her 24/7 consistently day in and day out, that is what she would expect (this is referred to as on demand feeding in the book). Why would she want to sleep through the night at two months (or at any age for that matter) if she knew I would nurse her all night long?! Even if babies aren't hungry, we all know they love to just hang out and suck. There were obviously periods of time (especially the first 2 weeks) where I would nurse and nurse and nurse, because I know her demand on my body would increase my supply, especially right as my milk was coming in. But just because she would cry or fuss didn't mean I would automatically feed her. Babies cry for so many reasons and even now I have times where I think she may be hungry but I move her to a different room (change of scenery) and she chills out for another hour without being fed! Just because she would cry did not mean she needed to be fed. And by spacing out her feedings -- my being in control of when she was fed -- she was already used to that routine.

ESTABLISHING A ROUTINE OF FEED / WAKE / SLEEP

The second biggest takeaway I gained from BabyWise was the pattern of feed / wake / sleep during the day. Growing up I had always been taught that after you feed a baby, you put them to sleep (no idea who taught me that but I feel like that was always the norm?!), but according to BabyWise, instead of doing that you give a baby wake time after each feeding during the day -- to increase their alertness and (hopefully) improve the length of their naps & nighttime sleep. During the night if a baby wakes for a feeding, you obviously do not give wake time, you simply put them back to bed after feeding.

PUTTING BABY TO BED WHILE THEY'RE STILL AWAKE

BabyWise also discusses the importance of putting your baby to bed while they're still awake...this helps them to self-soothe and learn to put themselves to sleep without devices (a swing, carseat/car ride, rocking, nursing to sleep, etc). Even though in the short term it was harder, I've seen with both of them that in the long term we are really benefitting. Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) Penelope will fall asleep nursing and I'll let her snooze a bit on me because hey, baby cuddles are the best thing ever, but then once I put her down for bed in her bassinet, she almost always wakes up (noticing she's no longer on me/in my arms) and then has to settle herself.

LETTING BABY CRY IT OUT 

For the first 6 weeks with both girls, I didn't implement any strict routine because seriously, life is crazy. Even I would probably have gone nuts had I been trying to schedule my newborn, and you're talking to someone for whom scheduling is pure bliss. So we started when they began to get on more of a natural feeding+sleeping schedule around 7/8 weeks and start sleeping longer stretches because they've gained enough weight to sustain them, plus they're used to somewhat spaced feedings.

So we do a modified version of Cry It Out, beginning around 7/8 weeks:

Put baby down / Set phone timer for 15 minutes

After 15 minutes, if baby is still crying, check on baby but don't pick up -- I put my hand on her chest to let her know I'm there, offer her a pacifier if it fell out, sing a lullaby, pray over her, check diaper, etc. -- I interact without actually picking her up.

Leave / Set phone timer for 15 more minutes

After 15 more minutes (a total of 30 minutes since she was put down), check on baby. If baby is still crying and doesn't seem to be settling, feed if needed. After feeding, put back down and start routine over in 15 minute increments.

It's very rare that Penelope (and Olivia for that matter) was crying after the first 15 minutes, and even more rare that they cried for a full 30 and needed to be fed. I know as Moms we can almost always distinguish a "winding down cry" from a hunger cry so I listen closely to determine if she's just tired or if she truly needs to be fed again. When she is overtired, she cries very fiercely and I have to resist the urge to intervene immediately and give her the opportunity to settle.

Two and a half years into parenthood with Olivia and three months with Poppy, I've learned that it's okay (even though its really, really hard) to let Penelope cry it out because if all her needs are met (dry, fed, safe, warm, etc.) and it's bedtime, she needs to learn to get to sleep without my help or the help of a device. She will eventually outgrow her infant carseat, her swing, etc. I can't depend on those devices long-term so I only depend on them very sparingly in the short term.

And the 15-15-feed has really been helpful for me to set limits -- it helps me give her a chance to settle herself and at the same time, helps me to not feel like she'll be crying for a long period of time without my intervention. I typically lay her in her bassinet in her room, set my timer and leave. I focus on keeping busy for those 15 minutes so I'm not just sitting and listening to her cry. Cue the emotional breakdown from postpartum hormones! I learned the hard way on that one, so now I find distracting myself is the best method and then checking back on her when my timer goes off. To this day, Olivia (who we did the exact same method with) is a great sleeper -- 9pm to 9am and a 2-3 hour nap every afternoon without fail.

I also should say -- I think a big key to solid blocks of nighttime sleep around 8 weeks with both of them was that by that point they had reached a weight (about 10-11 lbs) where they could sustain longer sleep periods without eating every 2-3 hours. Obviously, if your baby is healthy, was born full term and steadily gains weight, that component will happen naturally. I know a lot of babies tend to cluster feed before bed as well, as a way to "store up" for a long sleep. They eat eat eat and then sleep sleep sleep. Both girls did this off and on but not consistently 7 nights a week. I did however let them do this as needed because again, supply and demand.


PENELOPE'S CURRENT ROUTINE

Once she's up in the morning (usually around 10am), she eats shortly after and then I focus on wake time. She's still so little that there's not a lot we can do, but she loves sitting in my lap and looking at me, laying in her crib looking at her bird mobile, laying in her dockatot by the Christmas tree and looking at the lights, or doing tummy time in short increments. Because she sleeps in, I don't give her a morning nap unless she's up much earlier, like 7:30/8am. If that's the case, then she usually naps 10am-12pm.

If she wakes around 10am, I focus on keeping her awake until about 12:30/1pm and then feed her again before her afternoon nap. She sleeps anywhere from 2-4 hours and it really depends on the day, her morning, etc. I put her down awake after feeding her, she cries for about 10 minutes and then is sound asleep. Olivia did the exact same thing -- she would cry for 10-15 minutes and then be totally out! Funny how they're so alike in that way.

After she wakes, I feed her again (usually between 5 and 6pm) and then more wake time. Around 7pm as Dustin is getting Olivia ready for bed, Poppy gets a bath and usually chills there for close to an hour. She loves bath time. She is fed again around 8/8:30pm, a little more wake time and then put down around 9:30/10pm, awake. She usually cries pretty fiercely for 10-15 minutes and then is out like a light! Her smiling face and fluffy cheeks greet me in the morning and it starts all over again!

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Yikes! That was a lot of information and required a lot of brain power. Our routine is so natural now having done it twice that sometimes I forget it! Does that even make sense?! I know there are a million ways to sleep train and ultimately, whatever you are doing with your baby is the absolute best way. There is no right or wrong, this is just what has worked for us!! I hope reading this was helpful and as always, if you have any questions for me, send me an email or leave a comment below! Have a wonderful weekend!! XO

12.09.2015

winter tree farm mini session

Two weeks ago we did a mini session with our photographer Ashley at a local tree farm. Talk about a magical setting. She began photographing Dustin and I back when we were engaged in 2011 & this session marked #13 since we met her. Every single photo is just so dreamy...This may just be my favorite session yet. 


Happy Wednesday, friends!! XO

12.07.2015

best of the nest | JORD wood watches

"The value of a watch is not in being able to tell how much time has passed, but in being aware of the need to make that time count. Moments are bigger than minutes and your watch should tell more than time." 

As a wife, homemaker & busy Mama of two, how much more true could that be? Life these days is so, so busy (did I say busy yet?) But I don't want time just to pass by without me noticing, I want to seek out the moments that make up the everyday. I want to live those moments and make every one of them -- especially those spent at home with my daughters -- count. Because we all know time is the worst thief, and we can't slow it down no matter how hard we try. So instead of fighting against it, I've made it my goal to make time work for me -- to challenge myself to find those moments within the minutes that make up each day and to live intentionally with the time I have.


In this week's Best of the Nest series I'm so excited to be showcasing a company that makes beautiful and one-of-a-kind wood watches. Yes, you heard me right: wood watches. JORD Wood Watches is a company run by artists, designers, marketers & minders. They are focused on creating timepieces that are modeled after a modern lifestyle, so their watches were right up my alley. They value sustainability, efficiency, and experiential living; they make their watches for people who don't just have somewhere to be, they have somewhere to go. How can you not love a company with that kind of a motto?

JORD offers a wide variety of both men's and women's watches, including very sleek & classic styles such as the Frankie Series as well as more modern and bold timepieces such as the Cora Series and Sidney Series, featuring finishes of rose gold and crystals and wood combinations of red sandalwood and mother of pearl.


The Sidney Maple & Rose Gold watch immediately caught my eye; the rose gold offers the perfect touch of femininity and the light maple just makes this watch shine. Though I have to be completely honest and say that if I could pull it off, I would most definitely try to rock the Dover series watch. I love the look of the copper face in contrast with the rich, dark ebony wood. That one might be the perfect watch to get for Dustin this Christmas...because I mean if he's not wearing it...I could, right?!


What I love most is that every little detail is considered when you purchase a watch from a company like JORD. I'm all about the little things and they are too. They package their watches in wood boxes, of course, that are equally as beautiful as the timepiece they hold. They use the highest quality materials and most vibrant, outstanding woods.


The watch itself is incredibly easy to put on. Easy as in I can put it on with one hand on my way out the door with a baby and toddler in tow. And the icing on the cake is that their customer service is off the charts (a serious must in my book, because these days its pretty rare to find). It's nearly impossible to wear a JORD watch in public without somebody noticing. And if I'm not watching closely, I find Olivia slipping it on her tiny wrist and ooohing and ahhhing over it the way I do. Girl after my own heart.

You can find access the entire selection of JORD watches using the links below & find answers to any other questions you may have on the FAQ page:

And be sure to follow along with JORD on social media to stay updated on their current products, new releases, special offers & more:
Twitter || Instagram || Facebook || Pinterest

Hope you're all having a wonderful start to your week!! XO

Wood Watches For Men

12.04.2015

25 Books of Christmas | December Lit List

One of my favorite things is filling the girls' book shelves by theme & season and pulling out all their Christmas books when December hits always fills my heart. There are so many fun traditions to do with books this time of year so below are our top picks straight from Poppy's nursery shelves!





Santa's Favorite Story // A wonderful way to share the true meaning of Christmas

The Very First Christmas / Purchased at Hallmark Stores in 2013...My Grandma Bea recorded this for Olivia's 1st Christmas -- if you haven't heard of the recordable story books, they are an incredible way to preserve a precious memory, and even though she's gone now, she'll always be able to read a book to the girls



The Spirit of Christmas // a new one we got this year that is so, so good to teach children about the true meaning and why we celebrate
In My Forest // A fun finger puppet book that Olivia just loves reading
The Story of Christmas // another excellent one sharing the Christmas story in simple terms for young children to understand


Do you have any favorite books this time of year? Olivia and I love to read books all day long and now that Poppy is here, Olivia always "reads" out loud to her...ohh it gives me all the mama feels. 

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! We're hosting a game night tonight and alongside my best friend, I'm hosting a girls' Christmas Cookie Swap on Sunday night, so it should be a fun weekend! Dustin and I are also working on a very special project for Olivia that I can't wait to share more about soon! xoxo

12.02.2015

best of the nest | smitten for the wee generation

Dustin and I were just talking this past weekend about how everything with kids is more work -- like going to cut down our own Christmas tree with both of the girls in tow, which I insist on doing because I love the authenticity of it but ends up being lots of work especially when we choose to do it right before nap time! But one thing that shouldn't be work? Holiday shopping and decorating. Yes, for many it's stressful and can be overwhelming but I try to focus on finding a few places I can buy from (bonus if they're online so I can do it from the comfort of my own home!) to get everything I need, for my house and for all the gifts going under the tree. That's why I'm so excited to be sharing one of my favorite shops in this week's Best of the Nest series! For us busy Mamas, it's a great one-stop-shop to check off all the gifts on your list for babies and kids of all ages!

Smitten for the Wee Generation is a curated online boutique offering a wide variety of toys, keepsakes, decor & more...all from the best of the best brands. They've got something for everyone...every age and every occasion, but my favorite time of the year to visit Smitten? Christmas of course. I love discovering toys that Olivia will actually enjoy using and learn from, not just something that will sit in her room and collect dust. I love all the unique options that Smitten for the Wee Generation offers. I also love their home decor, like this darling Maileg garland + this house advent calendar.

Below are my top picks for gifts and stocking stuffers for all the little ones on your list!
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17

At two and a half, Olivia has been all about learning her letters lately. Her favorite word to spell is SNOW, and she calls "W" a "double" which melts my heart every time. We gave Olivia the colorful letter puzzle (10) last Christmas when she was 18 months and she loved it as much then as she does now. My top pick for her this Christmas are the Alphabuild Magnetic Blocks by Kid O. (12). The magnetized blocks of varying sizes snap together to form upper case letters of the alphabet and the white borders can be used as a guide so your child can see the individual letters coming together. Not only can they be used for letters but also to build shapes and familiar objects. I am so, so excited for Olivia to get these and start using them!

If you have a baby or infant, snuggly animals (2, 15) and blocks are always my top picks. They last and can be used in so many ways. I love the classic wooden block set (13) as well as the modern and beautiful Triada Block Set (14) that I want to play with myself! Since about a year old, Olivia has loved playing around with matching and memory games, even if at first she didn't understand the concept. The Alice in Wonderland memory game (9) is so brightly illustrated and definitely fun for little ones to learn with and play. I also love the Baby Milestone cards (8) to give as a gift to an expectant Mama or to put in your new baby's stocking. 

For pretend play, the Janod Espresso Maker (3) looks like so much fun! That might be making it's appearance in Olivia's play kitchen. And of course, what little one doesn't love making music? Whenever we visit the bookstore Olivia manages to find the toy xylophones (so random, right?) and I love this wooden one (16) both for its function and colors! You can also find a toy tamborine here. Puzzles are great for quiet time when I'm taking care of Penelope and I thought this robot puzzle (6) was adorable! Whatever you're looking for, it's safe to say that Smitten for the Wee Generation is a perfect place to start!

And because the gift ideas from Smitten are endless, you can save 20% off your total purchase from Smitten for the Wee Generation today (Wednesday December 2) through Friday December 4 using the code BLESSEDNEST20 at checkout! AND be sure to head over to my instagram @blessednestblog to enter to win a shop credit to pick out your own favorites on me! Hope your week is wonderful so far!!

11.30.2015

olivia + penelope's christmas list 2015

For the past two years, Olivia has received one special "big gift" at Christmas and then smaller gifts to go along with it. Last year, we got her a vintage play kitchen and she absolutely loved it. You can find my full post here with all the details, including our favorite kitchen accessories. 

This year, being that we have two little girls to shop for (a mama's dream), I wanted Olivia's big gift to be something that Penelope would one day use too. I found some fun dollhouses online (like this modern pear one), but finally decided it would be the most fun to build our own! Olivia doesn't have a doll house and I wanted something classic, sturdy, made of wood and a piece that I wouldn't mind looking at every day, so Dustin and I designed a four-story one that he built over the weekend. I'll spend the next few weeks painting & decorating it, that's the fun part. I also picked up a handful of my favorite Maileg mice, some neutral furniture {4, 6} and a few other fun accessories for it. I plan to add lots of homemade pieces too! 

 At Christmas we focus on "Something you Want, Something you Need, Something to Wear & Something to Read." The dollhouse takes care of the first category for both of them so all that was left was selecting a few things that I knew would get a lot of use. Pajamas always make a fun and easy gift and I got Olivia a few pairs {2} for less than $5 each when I used all my discounts at Gap + Old Navy. My parents gave her a pair of warm boots as an early gift {8} and Penelope an itty bitty pair to match {9}! I picked up a few fun new bath toys, including this white origami boat {7} from one of my favorite shops, Smitten for the Wee Generation since they take baths every day and quality bath toys are hard to come by. All the favorites the girls have now are by Boon, Inc. 

One of my favorite gifts to give each of my girls is a new dress {1}, whether for everyday wear or special occasions. I chose two from one of my favorite handmade shops, Swallow's Return and can't wait to put V and P in them. 

I found this adorable icecream set {10} in my search for a few kitchen toys and I loved it (I wanted to play with it myself!), so that will be a fun new addition to Via's kitchen. I also have my eye on this wooden coffee maker. Anything that involves pretend play is right up Olivia's alley, and I thought this wooden doctor kit {17} was darling. I especially love that it isn't plastic!! As far as gifts for a babe that's as young as Penelope is, I focused on a mix of practical and playful, including a new crib sheet {13}, our favorite art cards from Wee Gallery {14}, a wooden croissant teether {15} and of course, a bird rattle for our little birdie {16}. 

When friends & family ask what they can give the girls, I always say that books are perfect (they'll never grow out of them, are rather inexpensive and there is such a variety to choose from) or anything to encourage imaginative play. This new book about always being yourself {12} is so, so cute. I can't wait to start reading it with them!

Finally, as you're on the hunt for gifts for your little ones, these links below might help:

Hope everyone's week is off to a wonderful start! And stay tuned for some fun giveaways coming this month on instagram featuring items from the girls' wishlist! xo

11.25.2015

advent calendar roundup

I believe there is no such thing as having too many advent calendars, especially with little girls around. And now that Olivia is two and a half, she loves opening gifts and has so many favorite things, especially stickers. This makes it extra easy to fill our advent up, with inexpensive and homemade treasures.


Below are my top picks for this year's advent calendars. I love how neutral and classic they are, making them work with any decor. If you want something a little brighter, I shared a festive colorful one we picked up a few weeks ago here


1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Hands down, our favorite from this round-up is #6 from Smitten for the Wee Generation. We have it hanging in our living room and it's beyond darling. Truthfully, I love every single thing Maileg makes. There is also this one that is similar and slightly smaller, perfect for a child's room! I'll be featuring Smitten for the Wee Generation on the blog with a coupon code and giveaway next week, so if you have your eye on something, be sure to check back!

Do you have a tradition of using an advent calendar to countdown to Christmas?

11.23.2015

best of the nest | minted holiday card reveal

A few weeks ago I shared that I've had the privilege of working with Minted this holiday season to design our Christmas cards and I revealed my Top 5 favorite holiday card designs in addition to the one we went with. Today I'm so excited to finally reveal our cards!


In my first post I talked about one of the reasons I love Minted so much is their support of independent artists, which leads to the widest selection of unique and creatively designed cards for all events, occasions and styles. TODAY ONLY for Cyber Monday, you can save 20% off your holiday card purchase using the code CM2015 at checkout! 


For our Christmas cards, I chose the Triple Monochrome design. I love being able to incorporate photos into our cards and something that initially caught my eye with this design was the ability to have three photos on the front, since I always have such a hard time deciding my favorites! I also loved the division of the top and bottom so I could have one in black and white and two in color. Minted also offers the ability to have a single photo or photo collage printed on the back of your cards, so I was excited to integrate one more photo of Olivia and Dustin -- those two are the very best of friends. 


I chose a wavy border to add some elegance and always love including our girls' middle names on cards. You can shop the design I chose here and find all other holiday card designs here. You'll have options to customize your wording, border, backing, envelopes and more! I love love love the brown Kraft envelopes with this card (and all Christmas cards, really!) because there is just something so childlike and special about Kraft paper. Maybe it's the song about brown paper packages tied up with string...or just that it's rustic and different than standard white. Either way, I just love the overall look of these, how personal we made them and the extra touches.

And if you create your holiday cards this year with Minted, I'd love to see them! Don't forget to use the code CM2015 at checkout and be sure to tag me on instagram @blessednestblog with your final product! Shop all holiday cards here. Hope everyone's week is off to a great start!! XO

11.20.2015

best of the nest | lollaland

I'm pretty sure Olivia is a sippy cup connoisseur...and has been since she was less than a year old when we introduced a straw! We've tried many different cups and always seemed to end up with leaks, spills and messes everywhere. And then we discovered the Lollacup!


A modern sippy cup that is made in the U.S. by Hanna and Mark Lim -- parents themselves who struggled to find a quality straw sippy cup for their first daughter to use with ease. So, instead of continuing their search, they invented their own! They created a straw cup with all of the features they value in a children's product -- easy to use, easy to clean, made in the USA and safe for everyone in the family. Two years after Hanna came up with the idea for her Lollacup, her and her husband appeared on Shark Tank and began a partnership with Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec. From there, the company grew tremendously and what was once Lollacup turned into Lollaland, where Hanna and Mark offer mealtime sets, glass baby bottles, and more, in addition to their classic Lollacups! 
Olivia loves her Lollacups and I love how easy they are to clean! They are designed with a flexible straw that has a weighted end that anchors in the liquid to help young children drink effectively even when tilted. The straw is valve free, making it easy for them to sip. The handles are easy for even the smallest of hands to hold and can be removed in seconds, allowing the cups to fit in diaper bags, cup holders and more! 
Aside from their Lollacup, they offer fun mealtime sets (which include a plate, bowl and dipping cup) in two different color ways and glass baby bottles! You can also purchase their bowls and plates individually and select from a whole rainbow of colors.
I love the modern look of all of the Lollaland products and it's clear they were designed with children in mind. I think the best products are always created by parents themselves, who sought out a solution to a problem they discovered and along the way, created an innovative product. All of their products come in modern packaging and are all set for gift-giving! And to kick off the weekend, I'm so excited to be teaming up with Hanna to give away TWO Lollacups to TWO lucky winners in your choice of color! Just head over to my instagram @blessednestblog with details on how to enter! Have a wonderful weekend!

11.18.2015

best of the nest | owlet monitor

How many times have you stood by your baby's bassinet or crib and watched to see if their chest was rising and falling? Or listened closely to see if you could actually hear them breathing? In all honesty, I've lost track of the amount of times I've done that with both our girls. 

Even as a second time Mom and Registered Nurse, in my mind there are never too many steps you can take to assure your baby is safe...and even when you take those steps, it's normal to still have anxiety no matter how many babies you've brought home, because we're human. That's why I'm so excited to be featuring the Owlet Baby Monitor in this week's Best of the Nest series. It's so good that watching their ad actually gave me chills!



how it works
The Owlet Baby Monitor uses pulse oximetry, the same type of technology that hospitals use to check heart rate and oxygen saturation. When you're at a checkup or in the hospital, you've probably experienced having a clip placed on your finger with a tiny red light -- that light shines through your skin and the amount of blood flow and oxygen levels are estimated based on how much light is transmitted to the sensor.

Owlet is designed to sound an alert if your child's heart rate dips too low, rises too high, or if their oxygen level drops below a preset threshold; the alert comes through the base station and the Owlet app. The alert strategy was determined by a team of pulse oximetry specialists, pediatricians, neonatologists and pulmonologists and over 100,000 hours of testing went in to developing the monitor! 

why it's different

We've used video monitors with the girls since they were both born, but of course a video monitor only works if you're looking at it. Designed with two parts -- the Smart Sock (the piece you place on your baby's foot) and the Base Station (the piece you place by your bedside), Owlet is the only monitor that uses hospital technology to alert you if your baby stops breathing. 

Additionally, Owlet is a smartphone compatible baby monitor. But for added safety, Owlet is also designed to function independently of your mobile device. The Smart Sock and the Base Station connect through low power bluetooth. Even if your phone battery dies or your home Internet goes out, the Base Station will still alert you if your baby stops breathing.

what's included
+ Smart Sock with electronics (in three sizes to grow with your baby)
+ Base Station and corresponding charging cords
+ Exclusive access to the Owlet app





I've been using our Owlet since it arrived both during nap time and bedtime. I move the base station to wherever I am in the house while Poppy naps in her crib or bassinet and then keep it beside my bed at night. I love the size of it, how lightweight it is and how few cords are involved. I also love how user-friendly the entire system is, especially when my parents are sitting the girls. The app is so convenient because I can pull up Penelope's stats even when I'm out of the house when she's napping. The perfect way to check in without even having to make a phone call.

Finally, I love how comfortable the Smart Sock is on Poppy's little foot, and that three different sock sizes are included to grow with your baby and get the most use out of it. I love knowing this is a product I can use for many months ahead! Our Owlet gives me added peace of mind when I'm trying to rest myself, knowing that my little lady is breathing just fine.


I don't know if its because I'm a Mom, because I've studied and worked in the healthcare industry, or both, but I am so passionate about this product. I haven't stopped talking about since it arrived. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it to every single person I know! It is going to be so far-reaching and life-changing for parents all around the world and I truly believe it will change the course of infant safety during sleep.

Because this product has had such a positive impact in our home and given us such indescribable peace of mind, I'd love for you to get your own!
Blessed Nest readers can purchase an Owlet at an exclusive promotional price by shopping the link below!
// purchase your own Owlet here //


AND to make your day a little bit sweeter, I would also love to give away an Owlet Baby Monitor to one of you! Head over to my instagram @blessednestblog for your chance to win your own. If you don't have personally a baby, the Owlet would be an incredible gift to give an expectant Mama! The giveaway will run from Wednesday November 18 through Tuesday November 24 and all entries will be verified. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on the original instagram post within 48 hours of the giveaway ending.

Be sure to follow along with Owlet below!
Hope you all are having a wonderful week!

11.17.2015

best of the nest | ostheimer wooden toys

I grew up living on a farm. My dad owned his own business and had a hobby farm on the side on his land. My childhood was filled with more animals than most people can imagine. Of course we had traditional farm animals like horses, ponies, pigs, geese and ducks. Lots of cats, always little kittens and two collies. Bunnies, chickens and baby chicks. But we also had animals that most people don't have on a farm. Living out in the country, there were white-tail deer in high numbers and when a fawn had lost it's mother, the DNR would bring them to us to care for. I grew up bottle feeding fawns in my backyard, watching peacocks strut across our acreage and tending to animals of all shapes and sizes from a very young age.


That's why I'm so excited to be sharing one of my favorite companies with you in today's Best of the Nest series. This company not only hand makes and sells the most beautiful wooden toys that are both timeless and encourage a child's imagination, but that also has a rich history and uses the highest quality materials. Based in Germany, Ostheimer Wooden Toys have quickly become Olivia's go-to play item, whether alone or with me or Dustin by her side. And to be completely honest, these toys are unmatched.




Ostheimer wooden figures all feature a consciously unpretentious design; with their elementary shaped forms and colors, all figures create scope for imaginative playing. Thus, each figure correlates with a childlike view of the world. Ostheimer is convinced that good, high quality products for children can only emerge from a profoundly responsible attitude. And I've seen first hand, these products are undeniably good.


From the moment I came across Ostheimer, I knew their pieces were right up my alley and that they would be right at home in ours. I've shared many times that we just love wooden toys; I love the creativity they require and the imagination they encourage. I love that they are timeless -- heirlooms that last and last no matter how many hours of play. I love that they don't require batteries or outlets and the only sounds coming from them are the ones Olivia creates.



I love watching Olivia's imagination come to life as she lines up her horses, has her cat chase a mouse, bends cows to eat the grass and chatters as if the animals are having a conversation with one another. They are the perfect size for her hands to hold and because we store them in an open basket, I love that we can move them between rooms effortlessly for play anywhere; the invitation is always there for her.


Sometimes her play is virtually silent as she has a serious look on her face, determined to organize each animal just the way her heart desires. Other times I hear her saying "tweet tweet" under her breath and glance over to see her holding birds in her tiny hands. Less is more has always been our theory when it comes to toys; quality is so much more important than quantity. Because I've often found the more toys a child has, it seems the fewer opportunities they have to be creative. I never want Olivia to play with something for a few minutes and knowing she has countless other toys, to quickly move on to the next. Give her a basket of Ostheimer toys and she's content all afternoon. It opens her eyes and sparks her mind; and to think, every animal, every tree and creature started from a single piece of wood and a vision, cut and carved with human hands.


Ostheimer offers a wide variety of wooden toys, including family & farm figures, animals of forest & meadow, wild animals from around the world, fairy tale worlds and more. All of the Ostheimer pieces are crafted by hand, beginning with the initial design process to sawing, sanding and painting, to finishing with an immersion organic oil bath to protect the surface and retain the color, all before carefully packaging to send to children all around the world. 



I know every single one of these pieces will be something all of our children play with, starting now with Olivia and eventually Penelope and all of their younger siblings in the future. There is something so special about holding these pieces in your hand, about seeing your child's creativity and love of play come to life as they arrange and rearrange each animal, bird and tree just as they see fit. 

That's why I'm so thrilled to be partnering with Ostheimer to give away not one but two forest sets to two lucky winners! Head over to my instagram @blessednestblog to enter and be sure to follow along with Ostheimer below:


To shop for Ostheimer wooden toys in the US, simply visit Bella Luna Toys. And I know a few new friends will definitely be ending up in a special two year old's stocking this Christmas. Happy Tuesday!

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