1.30.2015

valentine's day favorites for littles

Sunday marks the official start of February and all I can think about is Valentine's Day! It has always been one of my favorite holidays and because we don't give Olivia candy, I rounded up a few of my favorite gifts for your littles that are not only practical, but super fun and inexpensive.

I'll be sharing my top picks for Valentine's books next week on the blog but included one of our favorites here! 

All the items below are from my favorite places, including some fabulous handmade shops like Stay & Co {2), Little Sapling Toys {4}, Replay Recycled {5}, Sleepy King {6}, Fun Bites {7}, Oogaa {10} & Daily Snugs {11} 

Olivia loves books and rubber ducks so those were of course at the top of our list for 2015. I can't wait for her to play with her ducks in our new soaking tub! I almost always get her new pajamas for holidays since they're so festive & fun and some days we spend all day in our jams! The 'Love Monster' {11} is one of our favorite new handmade finds this year and is so sweet! Olivia loves carrying it around by the arm and giving it kisses. For a newborn or young baby, how lovely is the striped hat {2} & wooden heart teether {4}? Perfect little gifts that will get plenty of use! 

What are you giving your littlest Valentines this year?

1.27.2015

shop spotlight | fancy free finery

All things floral is one of my love languages {along with bubble baths + brownies}, and Olivia seems to be following in my footsteps, considering her first official word {other than mama + dada} was 'pretty' because of the fresh flowers we always had in our home. At 20 months, she is still drawn to flowers as much as I am, and our week is rarely complete without a trip to Trader Joe's to pick out a bouquet for our kitchen. 

I'm also dreaming in flowers because they are my favorite sign of Spring, something I am very much looking forward to after a long, cold winter. But today's feature is all about flowers you can wear, and the handmade flower crowns from Fancy Free Finery are truly works of art in themselves.


Fancy Free Finery is owned by Katie, who hand makes wool-blend flower felt crowns of all sizes, newborn through child. Her designs are whimsical, playful, feminine and classy. Her color schemes are top notch and her pieces sell out as soon as they are listed, they're that good. Katie sent us a beautiful crown for Olivia to wear around Christmas {below}, and I loved that it wasn't traditional green + red, but rather warm and cozy tones reminiscent of the holidays.


In all her crowns, Katie offers silver, gold or green leaves, or a mix of both. Every single flower is meticulously made by hand and each crown is heirloom quality, but ever so soft, comfortable to wear and durable. There is just something so perfect about seeing your little girl wearing one of Katie's floral crowns. They capture the playful essence of childhood and make special occasions even more memorable, but are just as perfect for everyday wear. Katie recently created a gorgeous custom floral crown for Olivia to wear for her Spring photos, inspired by the dress I just can't get enough of!


Katie shares her story below

"I started my business on a whim, honestly. I had always been a crafty person and even after multiple moves in my early twenties had accumulated quite a massive collection of arts + crafts supplies. Last winter, I got restless and decided to purge my closet sized studio in our current rental. I had a bunch of felt, so I scoured Pinterest looking for ways to use it. I had always wanted to sell something on Etsy, so I listed about 13 crowns, using the cheap acrylic felt from big-box craft stores. They all sold! I used my earnings to buy some good quality wool-blend felt and suddenly what was supposed to be a cleaning purge has turned into piles (and bits) of felt all over our place."
"I make each felt flower by hand in our apartment in Southern NH, about 45 minutes away from Boston. Each mum is hand-rolled, each rose hand-formed, and each carnation and forget-me-not hand-sewn. I am a one woman crew and put a lot of care and thought into each of my designs, in addition to working full-time as a preschool art teacher. I am thrilled to be using my background (and college education) in the Visual Arts as I take on a new adventure, owning a small business."
"The best part of owning a small business throughout my first year has been the connections I have made. The handmade community is amazing! I have found my own little niche over on Instagram and have learned so much about social media, marketing, customer service, and so on from these other female shop owners. Not to mention, I'm inspired daily by their creativity and motivated by their (and my customer's) responses. A community of females supporting each other and supporting handmade feels so amazing. It's a spirit of collaboration, not competition. I feel like I'm a part of something."
"It feels so special to be a part of so many of my customers' little girls' milestones and celebrations. Many of my sales have been custom crowns, one-of-a-kind and designed especially for special events and photo shoots. I work with each customer on their custom crown to match a certain outfit, party theme, or wedding bouquet. Holidays are also super fun to design for! This past year, my felt flower crowns have been a part of birthday parties, weddings, blessing ceremonies, not to mention they are soft and wearable enough to be a part of little everyday moments as well. I have loved being a part of so many fun and fancy-free moments throughout the year!"

what Fancy Free Finery is known for || heirloom quality handmade wool-blend felt flower crowns in various sizes: full {10'' base + 10 flowers} / mini {7.5'' base + 7 flowers} / pixie {6'' base + 5 flowers} ... they are available in newborn through child {pictured in this post are the full crowns}

what sets Fancy Free Finery apart || the quality of each crown, the tiny details within each flower and leaf {Katie hand glitters every leaf, hand rolls every mum, hand forms every rose and hand sews each carnation and forget-me-not}, how comfortable they are to wear and their one-of-a-kind look and style

how to purchase || Katie's next product release is next Monday, February 2 at 5pm EST / All her crowns will be listed in her Etsy shop HERE


Katie has so generously offered to give away a Valentine's themed crown to one lucky Blessed Nest reader! To enter, simply complete the steps below in the Rafflectoper. Giveaway will run from Tuesday, January 27 through Monday, February 2. The winner will be mailed the crown directly and have it in time for Valentine's Day! All entries will be verified and the winner is responsible for contacting A Blessed Nest within 24 hours of being announced or a new winner may be drawn.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

1.22.2015

roseola

I wanted to share something that we recently went through with Olivia in hopes that it may shed some light on a frustrating situation for another parent, or bring peace of mind to you if you go through the same thing and feel that you aren’t getting the answers you are looking for.

Let’s back up and start at Sunday.

SUN 1.18 || For a girl that is never sick, Olivia woke from her afternoon nap with a temperature of 100.4 … Even for me, as an RN, it was a bit alarming because it seemed to come out of nowhere. I am home all week with Olivia and the only children she is exposed to are in the nursery at church when I go to my weekly bible study {our Mama + Me class hasn't started yet}, which the past week consisted of 3 kiddos her age who seemed completely healthy. Does anyone else quickly glance around the nursery when you're dropping your little one off, just for peace of mind? After a quick dose of Tylenol and some ice water, her temperature dropped back to normal. Hooray. 

MON 1.19 AM || I woke her Monday morning {after she had slept 12 hours straight, which is long even for her} and discovered she had another 100.4 fever; same measures were taken. Her energy level was lower than usual and she had a very small appetite but didn’t appear ‘sick’ in the traditional sense. As I got her dressed on Monday after her morning bath, I noticed about 8-10 small red bumps on her stomach in an area of about 3-4 inches. Nowhere else. Chicken pox? Or just a random rash? How would she have gotten chicken pox? I didn’t quite know but thought I would watch it. As long as it wasn’t getting worse, I wasn’t too concerned.

MON 1.19 PM || She woke from her afternoon nap again with a fever – 100.3 / Spots were spreading across her entire stomach – flat, red. She didn’t appear to be itching them and I’m not entirely sure she even knew they were there. But I knew, and I set up an appointment for Wednesday morning at our clinic just to confirm it was nothing serious.

TUES 1.20 || No fever when she woke. Last sign of fever was Monday PM. Appetite still low and energy level low. Spots spread across entire stomach and a few random spots on arms/legs. Not itchy, bumpy or fluid-filled but spreading. Still no idea what could be going on because it didn’t add up to be chicken pox but I wasn’t familiar with any rashes that ran their course the way this one was.

WED 1.21 AM || Wake. Bath. Getting her dressed for her doctor appointment and noticed splotchy pink rash all over her forehead, extending behind her ears. This was new. Looked nothing like the spots on her stomach and this literally came up over night. Head into the doctor and as I’m getting her undressed, notice the same blotchy, pink rash all over her neck/stomach. Nurse mentions first that it looks like measles. Great, that’s comforting. After waiting anxiously over an hour to see her actual doctor, the diagnosis ‘Scarlet Fever’ is brought up. In simple terms, strep throat + severe red rash head to toe {although the blotchy rash hadn’t spread to her arms or legs yet}. The treatment is a host of antibiotics {something we really try to stay away from} and comfort measures. However, after two rapid strep tests that both came back negative, that couldn’t be it. If the strep bacteria was in her body causing the scarlet fever {it gets its name from the appearance of the red rash}, it would have shown up on the tests. Back at square one.

WED 1.21 PM || After spending the entire afternoon at the clinic, the doctor came to the conclusion that ‘Olivia has a viral infection that she is having an allergic reaction to’ – she put her on 7ml of Benadryl every 6 hours and said within 2-3 days, it would be completely gone. To be honest, I walked out of the clinic more frustrated and confused than when I walked in. I had absolutely no peace with the diagnosis and even less peace with giving her Benadryl. We try to steer clear of traditional medicine as much as possible because so much of the health care system {and this is coming from a RN!} is all about a quick fix – slapping a diagnosis on a child and prescribing them something. My gut told me there was more to the story and that it just wasn’t adding up. If she had a virus like the one the doctor was concluding it was, she would have more symptoms than just a rash. She hasn’t really appeared sick at all – just low energy and low appetite, which can often be accounted for due to growth spurts. Fever had been gone since Monday and she didn’t show any other classic symptoms. If it was an allergic reaction, wouldn’t she be bothered by it? Wouldn’t she be itching it?

So, reluctantly I gave her a dose of Benadryl on Wednesday night before putting her to bed. I continued to think about what I was missing and prayed that God would show me what was actually going on. I found peace in knowing He is our Ultimate Physician and that Olivia was in His hands through all of this. As a Mama, it’s heartbreaking to see your child in any kind of pain, especially when you don’t have a clue what is actually causing it and therefore no real, permanent solution.

THUR 1.22 AM || Second dose of Benadryl upon waking. Breakfast + bath. Then I noticed the rash had spread all the way down her legs. It appeared to be getting worse, not better. I knew the diagnosis was wrong and Benadryl wasn’t the answer. She was more irritable than before and now, thanks to me, extremely sleepy from the Benadryl. What could this be? I was so frustrated that I asked Dustin to come home from work to help me out. On his way, he called a friend/mentor of ours from church to ask for prayer and insight {he also has a daughter named Olivia}. Well, that phone call was the answer to our prayers and we now knew what was going on.

Roseola.

Roseola is a {generally} mild infection that affects most children by age 2. The Mayo Clinic states, “Roseola is so common that most children have been infected with roseola by the time they enter kindergarten.” The condition typically causes several days of a high fever, and then when the fever finally breaks, a rash covering most of the body. 

It finally made sense. Two days of a high fever which started very suddently. Once the fever subsides, a rash typically appears. It may consist of small pink spots or patches. The spots are generally flat but some may be raised. The rash, which isn’t itchy or uncomfortable, can last several hours to several days.

Other S&S include: fatigue, irritability in infants/children, mild diarrhea and decreased appetite. Check, check, check and check. There is no specific treatment for roseola; it is just something that, like most things, needs to run its course. Allowing your child to get plenty of rest and helping them stay hydrated is especially important. The good news? Once your child has had roseola, he/she will have lifelong immunity to it, which is important because it is spread easily {through respiratory droplets}. I am guessing a child in the nursery last Tuesday had it and the parent didn’t even know it, especially if it was between the fever disappearing and the rash starting. Some children don’t even develop a rash, so it may go completely unnoticed.

---

Sometimes the most alarming thing is not knowing what is going on with your child. My heart ached for a diagnosis so badly, just so I would know what to do and how to make it better. This past week taught me {even more than I already knew} to ALWAYS trust my gut. I knew it wasn’t anything the doctor suggested it was, and I saw that often times {especially with childhood rashes}, they are playing as much of a guessing game as a medical professional as I am as a parent, because there are just so many types of rashes and countless causes.

As I sit here writing this, I am feeling so grateful for friends who have older children and can shed light on something we are going through now that they went through when their children were Olivia’s age.


Olivia is now sound asleep napping, and I have officially thrown out the Benadryl. Modern medicine has its place but in this instance, it just didn’t fit. This afternoon I spoke with my naturopath who reminded me that rashes can actually be a good thing – they are a sign that the body is getting rid of something bad. In the same way, a fever indicates that the body is fighting something off, so while it’s important to control the fever, by completely suppressing it 24-7 with medicine, you aren’t allowing the body to develop immunity to whatever the body is trying to fight off. The body is so complex and even as an RN, sometimes I am clueless when it comes to my own child. Convenient, huh?

I hope this brings understanding if you have a similar experience. I purposely chose not to post pictures of Olivia’s rash but if you are curious as to what roseola looks like, simply do an image search online for it. I am in no way diagnosing your child and I still suggest that he/she see his primarily physician, but I wanted to share our story incase you are walking the same path, now or in the future. I also hope that if any of you do experience something similar, you are able to trust your gut like I did, take a second look at the big picture, and spend your time caring for your child at peace, knowing it’s mild and will soon pass. 

1.20.2015

white chicken chili

Lately, my go-to meal has been soup of all sorts. We love soup in our house and I love that it makes great leftovers for a few days after. Olivia could eat soup 7 days a week, just like her Mama.

So today I wanted to share my favorite soup that is incredibly easy and so full of flavor ... White Chicken Chili. We make ours in a large dutch oven on the stove, but it could also be made in a crock pot kept on low for a few hours. And of course, we top it with fritos because, well, fritos.

white chicken chili

what you'll need
» (1) can great northern beans, rinsed + drained
» (1) can black beans, rinsed + drained
» Approximately 3 cups cooked chicken or 1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded by hand
» (1) 15 oz jar of high quality alfredo sauce
» 1.5 cups of high quality chicken broth
» (1) 4 oz can diced green chilies
» 1.5 cups frozen corn {we love fire-roasted}
» (1) cup shredded monterrey jack cheese
» (1) cup shredded pepper jack cheese
» (1) cup sour cream
» (1) small yellow pepper, chopped
» (1) small red pepper, chopped
» (1) medium onion, chopped
» 3 cloves garlic, minced
» 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
» 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
» 1 TBSP cumin
» olive oil or coconut oil for cooking vegetables 

what you'll do

» In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil or coconut oil over medium heat; add chopped onions, yellow pepper, red pepper, green chilies and garlic, being careful not to burn; sauté until tender + S&P to taste

» Add frozen corn, great northern beans, black beans and shredded chicken

» Add chicken broth, sour cream and alfredo sauce, stirring until well combined

» Add cheese and stir until combined + melted

» Finish with white pepper, cayenne, and cumin to taste + top with cilantro, fritos or salsa verde

Enjoy!

1.14.2015

toddler toys we're loving

With a few weeks since Christmas, we have been enjoying playtime with all of Olivia's new toys and I wanted to share our favorites for this age {19/20 months}. Her big gift this year was a vintage kitchen and in this post I shared some of my favorite kitchen accessories to go along with it. I have a few more play kitchen pieces on my radar for her 2nd birthday in May, including a wooden fondue set and wooden mixer. Seriously, can we play kitchen all day? 
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 

Here is a round up of our favorite 6 toys from Christmas! 

Each year, we have a tradition that both Dustin and I choose a gift for Olivia independently of each other. It's just something special that allows us each to pick out something for her on our own that we think she'll enjoy. Dustin chose a 24-piece Tegu magnetic block set {1} and then a week later, I won the Tegu Magbot! We have been playing with both sets and loving them. They are so much fun to build with and create new things. Olivia loves that they stick together and if not you're familiar with the company, it's a really great one to invest in because they make heirloom quality magnetic wooden blocks that encourage a chid's imagination and creative play, all while supporting responsible harvesting, local communities in Honduras and education for children in Central America.

Olivia loves games and sorting + organizing {most definitely a trait she inherited from her mama}, so I thought the Charley Harper memory game {2} would be a lot of fun. It has been as big of a hit as I had hoped it would be! She loves looking at all the animals and birds, and they are so vibrant and eye-catching. They are fun for her to sort, line up, flip over and I'm looking forward to using it for many years to come with her as she learns more and understands what a memory game is.

Whenever I can buy wooden toys, I opt for that over plastic. This Forest Friends wooden puzzle {3} by Petit Collage is our new favorite. Not only is it the most adorable puzzle, but the figures can all be set up to play with. Olivia loves animals and this is such a high quality, well-made toy. {you can sign up for the petit collage email list + receive a 20% off coupon to apply on your total purchase}

Olivia is learning her letters and colors right now and the wooden alphabet puzzle by Janod {4} has been the perfect toy for doing so! She loves figuring out where each of the letters go and I ask her to pick out letters by color and she really enjoys doing that too.

By far, one of the biggest hits of all her Christmas toys has been her Janod Circus storybox {5}. I bought it on a whim when it was super cheap on Amazon and was so happy that I did! It is a sturdy box that also serves as a circus scene backdrop and is filled with wooden toys. The box doubles as a carrying case for all the pieces and it is so much fun to set up and play with. Every time we head to Olivia's playroom, her circus is the first thing she goes for. I love that it's portable, colorful and wooden. It is so darling and makes a great gift for your own child or for a birthday party!

Finally, the vintage kitchen {6}! Of course this was the star of the show and it is so much fun to watch Olivia be creative. She loves playing with her tea pot and cups, cutting all her veggies and stirring soup in her pot. We are so glad we went with the white because it matches our decor flawlessly and has a crisp, clean look to it! I'd highly recommend this kitchen.

What are the toys your toddlers are loving right now?

1.01.2015

2015 reads {january lit list}

Happy New Year! 

Our house has been cleaned top to bottom, Christmas decorations are all put away and our tree has officially been taken down, hooray. It feels so good to have everything refreshed and even though it is bittersweet to pack away all the holiday decor, it will be even more fun to pull it out again next Christmas.

The day after Christmas, I put all of our Christmas books away and was so excited to fill Olivia's bookshelves with new picture books that I knew she would love. Below are my top January picks for children's books, all of which have quickly become favorites in our home.


The Loud Book!
Julia, Child
Francis, the Little Fox


The Goodnight Book {V's all time favorite}
Just Ducks
Max's Mix & Match
What Do You Do With An Idea?


Stuck
If I Wrote A Book About You
Hug Me
And Away We Go!


Current Board Book Favorites 

A Book of Sleep
Creatures
The Biggest Kiss
We're Going to the Farmers' Market
You Are My Baby: Pets

Stay tuned for my top picks for Valentine's books coming in February! Wishing you all the best year yet! We are so excited for what is ahead in 2015!

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