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A review of the Lauretta top

>> Thursday, September 20, 2012

While browsing through the Milan Maternity store, the first shirt that jumped out to me was the Lauretta top. How cute are those buttons on the sleeves?  I knew I had to have it.  So, naturally, it was the first top I ordered from the Milan Maternity site, and I'd love to share here just why I love it so much more now that I own it.

I've compiled a list of important features in maternity/nursingwear and organized my review with those guidelines in mind below:

- Style:  This section is an obvious win just by looking at the Lauretta top above.  Just because you are trying to fit a pregnant body doesn't mean you need to wear a tent.  And the Lauretta top oozes with trendy fall fashion to me.  I picture it with a pair of cute jeans, a pair of boots, a printed scarf, and a cup of hot chocolate on a crisp fall day.  Perfection.

- Comfort: I border on being size medium or large in different brands, so it is always a gamble on where I'll fall in a new brand.  I ordered this top in a medium, and was second guessing my choice when I saw how small it looked in the box.  However, once I put the top on, it was completely stretchy and oh-so-comfortable.  I wore this through a full day of work, chasing after my toddler, errands and grocery shopping, and even giving my dogs a bath, and it still felt comfortably stretchy without becoming loose or baggy, like so many other maternity shirts of different brands.  When I read in the item description for the top that you can wear this AFTER you have the baby, I was questioning just how nice the shirt would look at that point.  But I can tell you right now after wearing it, this is 100% a shirt I can and will wear after I deliver my child.  It has enough stretch to make it look like a normal, ruched shirt, even at the end of the day.

- Modesty:  (Yes, this is a feature I look for!)  Most maternity tops I have from my first pregnancy were not designed with increased chest size in mind.  I constantly felt like I was either showing too much or looking like a nun, with no in between.  The Lauretta top does a wonderful job of keeping everything in the right place and being modest while still looking young.  A+ in this category!

- Nursing:  Since I am still nursing my toddler, the nursing access feature was one I was able to try immediately, instead of having to wait until I give birth to baby #2.  I also own a few nursing tops from my first child, and let me tell you- this top is WAY easier and more convenient than anything I have!  The cowl neckline lifts up and the lower seam of the neckline folds down (you can see the seam in the picture above) in order to give you discreet nursing coverage.  My main problem with most nursing tops is that the panels/openings try to be so discreet that there is too much fabric, and it interferes with baby's nursing.  None of that problem here, as the stretchy fabric moved away where I wanted it to, and stayed put without me constantly having to mess with it while my son was nursing.  Excellent!

Overall, the Lauretta top is high on my list of maternity/nursing shirts, and probably the number one shirt in my closet that I am reaching for now that the weather is getting a bit cooler around here.  My only complaint?  Make it in more colors!!! :)


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Dressing Your Pregnant Body

>> Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Being pregnant is a blessed time in your life whether you're sick and tired all the time or not, that little love is growing inside of you giving you that pregnant mommy glow. However being pregnant doesn't always make you feel like a glowing mommy to be, especially when it comes to fashion and dressing your body. The more woman I talk to the more I realize that a lot of woman don't feel fashionable or gorgeous during pregnancy and they definitely should. I think part of this reason is that we don't know how to dress ourselves, many hide behind over-sized t-shirts that don't fit or show off that bump, making them feel bigger than they really are.

Let me just say before I say anymore.. I'm not one of those pregnant ladies that don't gain any weight during their pregnancy, I start out fairly small and immediately gain a lot of water weight only to gain 50+ pounds each and every single one of my pregnancies before it's all over with. Let me share a little something with you that I've learned now that I'm on my fourth pregnancy. No matter what your size you can dress and look good. How you ask? Let me tell you.. forget everything you looked good in before pregnancy (this may not be for all) especially if your body is warping into something new. Just because everyone else looks good in it, doesn't mean it's for you. Find the appropriate size, try on as many pieces as you need too and if it doesn't look good and that's the trend, don't wear/buy it. Don't be afraid to show off your bump.. after all it's a baby in there!

Here's a few apparel tips that might help you no matter what your size.

Ruched sided shirts look really great on many woman, accentuating the bump and helps hide any rolls that may start on the side. You don't have to buy tons of different sizes because a lot of times ruched sided shirts will grow with you. This is a life-saver for me because I go from a small to a large x-large and who wants to buy all those sizes?

Under the belly waisted shirts, you know they get tight around the bottom. I like these especially as I get bigger. You don't look like your shirt is just going out and then straight down. Shows off the bump which I love! 

Don't be afraid to wear panties that slim you, but are made for pregnant woman and will stretch with your body. There is no reason you can't keep things slim and looking smooth. Throw on a camisole under your clothing just to slim things out, doesn't show as many rolls (I love this whether your pregnant or not), camisoles are a must!

Pants/Jeans - so many.. find the correct fit. If you want to wear skinny jeans make sure they aren't too tight and if you have bigger thighs pair them with flat boots to balance them out. My thighs get big during pregnancy so I find skinny jeans can be touchy. A nice boot cut is classic and can really make you feel good, go with a darker wash. Find pants that are going to stay up and yes this can take some work. High panels, low panels, no panels, find something that's going to stay up and feel comfortable and you'll look great!

Accessorize - it's hard to buy tons when pregnant when your body is changing a lot but jazz it up with a scarf, necklaces, earrings, bracelet and it can change up your entire look. Enjoy being pregnant and don't feel like you have to wear over-sized baggy men's t-shirts. You're beautiful and you should feel great too!


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Road Trips with Children

>> Thursday, September 13, 2012

My husband and I both love road trips. We love the time in the car to do nothing but chat. We love how much the landscape can change over the course of one day on the road. And we love ending up in a place that is so different than daily life. This passion is something that we wanted to pass on to our kids. We’ve gone on a couple of road trips now with children and I’ve learned a few things along the way…some of them being invaluable to us. I wanted to share, because I can’t imagine road tripping without these tips!

Our most recent road trip we took was just last month, and we drove Banff, Alberta. It was a 17 hour car ride (one way) from where we live in the Portland Metro area.

Image via Yours Truly!

·         Research and Preparation- Preparing to go on a road trip well before you pack up the car is crucial to having a flawless journey. Because we wouldn’t have the use of our cell phones (including GPS, the ability to look up restaurants, etc) once we crossed the Canadian border, I made sure that I printed off directions to and from all of our destinations. I researched what was allowed to cross the Border, the money conversion rate and the best place to get it converted, and possible places to stop along the way in case we needed a break. I wrote down any and all numbers and important information that I might need (hotel confirmation number, phone numbers of family members we were visiting, etc) and put these in a manila envelope along with passports and birth certificates. I also included in the envelope a writing pad to keep notes on anything I wanted to remember, like funny quotes from my children, cool things we saw, and even how crazy slow the speed limit seemed.

*Did you know? That as long as you are travelling as a family, children under 16 do not need passports to crossinto Canada, only birth certificates. Again, this is only if they are travelling with both parents.

·         Rent a car- This is something that we choose to do when we travel because not only does it save our old minivan from hundreds of miles, but I don’t have to detail it before and after we leave. We drive a 2000 minivan, and the one we rented was (by chance) a 2012 with only 8,000 miles on it. If we were going to drive our van, we’d have to do an oil change, a tire change (which we should probably do soon anyway) as well as a maintenance job on it. All of this adds up rather quickly. I did a LOT of research and deal hunting and got a minivan for about a third of the going rate. With the money saved because of better gas mileage, and the extra room with stow-and-go seating, we were very happy with our decision!

·         Dollar Tree Toys- Before we left, I took a trip to the Dollar Store and loaded up on cheap toys and games to keep the kids entertained when they needed it. I was actually surprised at how much I didn’t use these, but I was so grateful I had them when they were starting to get on each other’s nerves!

·         Bagged Snacks- I loaded up on snacks because what is a road trip without them? Before we left I divvyed them out and bagged them in little snack size bags. Whenever the kids wanted a snack, I would let them pick which snack they wanted, then passed it back to them.

·         Pick-Up Gripper- This thing was a life-saver. This trip was the first time ever using it and now I cannot imagine not having it in the car with me, always. I used it to pass back snack bags, grab a snack bag that was empty or needed to be opened, pick up dropped water bottle lids, etc. It made it so I didn’t have to go spread eagle across the mountain of luggage we had in our van to meet the needs of the kids.

Image via HERE
·         Books on CD – My kids love to read. We decided that for this trip, instead of watching DVD’s in the car, we would listen to books on CD. We went to the library and picked out about 15 different books that they could pick from. We listened to Charlotte’s Web, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Henry and the Paper Route, Magic Treehouse series, and Adventures in Odyssey. The instant one book was done, the kids would beg for the next book to start. I love that they got zero screen time while on vacation, but even more so, I love that this fed their love of reading.

·         Map of the journey- I printed off a Google Map illustrating our drive for each day. Where we’d start, where we were to end, and any planned stops along the way. I highlighted the course, laminated them, and stuck them on a binder ring. This way, when the kids asked “Are we there yet?” or “When are we going to get there?” I could show them on their map. They would put X’s where we were so they could see how far we’d come, and how much further we had to go.  With how young they are I didn’t have high hopes for this. It worked shockingly well.
Image via HERE

·         Bingo- I found some free printables online for road trip bingo. I printed off and laminated them, and stuck them on the binder ring a well, for them to mark with a dry erase to their heart’s content. The kids had so much fun looking out the window for silos, trucks pulling trailers, horses, and trains. Again, this one kept them more entertained than I thought they would.

Because of all of the prep work and research that happened before our trip, the entire vacation was really relaxed and low key. I didn’t have to stress over my van making it, bored children, or being lost without Navigation. We were able to be flexible, but had a plan, which ultimately all led to the best road trip we’ve ever taken with children!


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Quick Tips for Morning Sickness During Pregnancy

>> Monday, September 10, 2012

Morning sickness.  Ugh.  Just hearing the words brings back flashbacks.  While morning sickness can be somewhat reassuring if you've had any early complications in your pregnancy, it is never fun, and- for some women- can be downright miserable.  Here are some quick tips to help you get through:

- Try everything.  Every woman and every pregnancy is going to be different.  Things I tried my first pregnancy didn't work the second time, as well as things that hadn't worked the first time, did sometimes help the second pregnancy.  Things like ginger gum, ginger ale, sea bands, ginger tea/drinks, crackers on the bedside table, eating something small first and something bigger second, trying preggie pops/drops and many more recommendations were all things I tried at some point in either pregnancy.

- Try to rest as much as you can.  If this is your first pregnancy, do your best to get to sleep earlier at night.  If you already have children, don't be afraid to ask for help.  A spouse/partner, friend, or family member may be able to give you a hand with your older child in order for you to get some rest.

- Drink as much water as possible.  Decreasing dehydration can help you to avoid nausea.  Pregnant ladies who are dehydrated may experience more nausea than pregnant ladies who are well hydrated.

- Learn your own body.  There were days during my first and my current pregnancy where I was physically unable to accomplish anything.  There were days where I did call off of work, put on a cartoon for my son at home so I could lay down, or take some time at work to stop and get a snack or rest my head on a desk for a few minutes.  Your body is telling you something when you feel that sick.  While our culture sadly rewards those who 'push through the pain', this is not one of those cases.  Take care of yourself and your body/baby!

- Don't be afraid to ask for help.  There are some medications your doctor can give you for morning sickness if it becomes excessive.  There is no shame in admitting you need help to continue to do your daily tasks.  

- Take comfort in the fact that, in most cases, morning sickness doesn't last forever, and you will get through this.  I promise, the end result is far more rewarding than the path to get there!


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Gardening with Children

>> Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Even though we live in a townhouse, we are fortunate enough to have a garden. We have friends behind us that don’t use their back field, and they've allowed us to use it to plant a garden. I cannot even begin to explain how grateful I am that we have this opportunity to teach our children to work hard and see the benefits of their efforts.

We all work together planting, watering, weeding, harvesting, and composting. The kids get to help pick what vegetables we will plant each year, and they get to help pick what we use the produce for. We have yellow and green zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, artichoke, asparagus, corn, rhubarb, raspberries, blue berries, strawberries, blackberries, and plums.  Most of the time, our kids wouldn't want to try some of these foods. But since it came from our garden, and the kids helped care for it, they dive in at eating it!

My all time favorite dessert that uses produce from our garden is my Raspberry Rhubarb Crisp recipe:

Raspberry Rhubarb Crisp

4 cups brown sugar
4 cups flour
3 cups oats
1 3/4 cup melted margarine
2 Tbsp cinnamon
5-6 cups rhubarb, raw and diced
1-2 cups raspberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla

Mix first 5 ingredients until crumbly. Press half of mixture into greased 9x13 pan. Cover with rhubarb. Cook sugar, cornstarch and water until thick and clear. Remove from heat; add vanilla to syrup and pour over rhubarb. Sprinkle raspberries over the rhubarb, then sprinkle the remaining crumbly mixture over all and pack lightly. Bake at 350° for 45-55 minutes. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream!
(note: the "crisp" part of this recipe is doubled. I prefer it this way. If you half everything,  use 1 cup of butter.)

We've found some creative ways and new favorite recipes to incorporate our garden produce into all of our daily routine

Parmesan Crusted Zucchini

Olive Oil
Bread Crumbs
Parmesan Cheese

Coin zucchini. Dip it in olive oil, then bread crumbs, then parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until Golden Brown.  Another variation is, instead of using olive oil, use a beaten egg. Also delicious!

Zucchini Lasagna
Recipe from HERE

3 pounds large zucchini, scrubbed
1 quart spaghetti sauce or thick tomato sauce
1 cup bread crumbs
1 pound ricotta cheese (more, if you like - the original recipe calls for 2 pounds)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano, basil
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 pound mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated

Slice zucchini into long, semi-thin slices. Cook in boiling water just until limp, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. (If you cut your zucchini really thin, don't boil for as long, or even at all. You can do this if you don't have enough zucchini, or if you want the zucchini flavor to be less prominent.)

Combine ricotta, eggs, parsley, seasoning and half of the parmesan cheese and half of the bread crumbs in a bowl. Set aside.

In a 9x13 pan, spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle with a quarter of the bread crumbs. Arrange layer of zucchini over this. Spoon half of the reserved ricotta mixture on top of the zucchini. Sprinkle with half the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the rest of the zucchini over this, layer more tomato sauce and the rest of the bread crumbs and top with remaining ricotta mixture. Top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until top is brown. Let stand 20 minutes before cutting. 

If you try these recipes, I'd love to hear how they turn out for you. And, I'm always looking for new recipes to try, that allow us to use our produce. If you have any recipes that you swear by, send them my way!


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