Thursday, October 23, 2014

30 Day Challenge : The Wear Your Joy Project

I have a fun project to share with you today! It's a 30 day challenge: the wear your joy project

Inspired by Kelly Rae Roberts' "wear your joy" photos on Instagram, I decided to challenge myself. For the next month, I'll be incorporating bits of happiness into my wardrobe. It's easy when you're staying at home, running to the grocery store, or working at the same old job, day in and day out, to fall into a routine when dressing that takes the fun out of things. Why not spice up your daily ensemble with a fun colour palette, a playful scarf, or an extra layer or two? Even a necklace that you've been saving for the perfect occasion would be a great addition to your daily garb.

One month from today is my 28th birthday, so why not go out with a bang? Each Thursday for the next month, I'll be sharing what I wore that week, along with a few guest appearances from friends who are up for the challenge. I've started a Pinterest board for the Wear Your Joy Project where I'll be pinning inspiration for my spiced-up wardrobe, along with the weekly photos that I'm sharing here on Polka Dot Soup. I would love if you played along! What's the worst that could happen?

Join me in my newest adventure!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Newborn Essentials

newborn essentials: what you really need

As an expectant mama, the combination of a nesting instinct and wanting to be the best mama ever leaves you wanting to be prepared for your new arrival. There is oodles of advice and opinions out there on what to purchase before your newborn arrives. However, many people suggest far more items than you actually need. This is a topic that I have wanted to write about for quite some time, and now five months in, I have the opportunity to share with you what I have learned. I wanted to come up with a list of items that I felt were the bare minimum newborn essentials to acquire. Don't feel as though you'll need to purchase them all yourself! Often, friends and family want to help out and aren't sure of what they should purchase. Feel free to offer suggestions and it will ease their minds.

Here's what you need for your newborn baby:

Feeding Supplies
Even if you decide to bottle or breastfeed your baby before they arrive, nature often has other plans. Especially for first time mothers, try to borrow a nursing pillow. They are a more expensive item, and some mamas don't need them, whether for the comfort factor or because breast-feeding is not an option. Depending on your feeding method, you may require a breast pump, another item that you can borrow. Don't be squeamish! They're incredibly easy to sterilize and since there are so many models, as well as manual and electric, you may not like the first type that you try. My advice is to have a bottle or two that's newborn appropriate, even if you feel as though you'll be breastfeeding.

A Place to Lie Their Head
That adorable baby that you bring home from the hospital needs a place to sleep! Don't worry about the logistics - I've known several babies that have been snuggled in a dresser drawer or Rubbermaid tote and got along just fine. We were privileged to have both a cradle and a crib provided for us. The cradle had been a family heirloom on my husband's side, but our ginormous baby didn't seem very secure in it. We put together the beautiful crib that we borrowed from a friend within the first week of arriving home from the hospital. A fitted sheet or two (and a mattress pad, if you feel so inclined) will get your through in the beginning.

Whether you decide on cloth or disposable, in the beginning, you will need disposable diapers, and lots of them. Newborns go through oodles of diapers, and you will want to stock up. Diapers go on sale regularly, and there are often coupons as well. Never purchase diapers at full price! Before your baby is born, my advice is to purchase from size 1 and up. After your last ultrasound, where they usually estimate the size of your baby, you can decide whether or not you need to purchase newborn diapers. That size is the quickest outgrown, and often many babies don't even fit into them from birth.

Stock up on wipes, too! They're so handy, not only for diaper changes, but for wiping off your newborn's little hands and feet. Their teensy fingers and toes are lint magnets, and strangers also love to touch them, so using a wipe or two is a quick way to clean up.

While in the labour room, one of my nurses asked us if we had purchased a pacifier. When we told her that we hadn't, she advised us to purchase one ASAP. The hospital where I was a patient doesn't condone or supply soothers, but the labour nurse, as a mother, suggested offering it to the baby in the first few days. Some newborns don't take a soother, but if you can get them to, it's a lifesaver.

Car Seat
In order to leave the hospital, you will need a carseat for your newborn. Secondhand carseats are a bit controversial, as car seats have expiry dates and need to be thrown out if in an accident. Make the decision that's best for your family. Our car seat was part of a car seat and jogging stroller set that was an awesome gift from my in-laws.

Sleepers and Onesies
My little one was born in the spring, so she didn't need to layer as much as a winter baby. Babies born in chillier months often need to wear a onesie under their sleeper. Wondering what the difference is between them? Onesies are usually short-sleeved, and snap under the bum. Sleepers are long-sleeved and have legs. Purchase, borrow, or ask for as many teensy sleepers as possible. It's amazing how many a baby can go through in a day, especially in the early days.

Swaddlecloths or Swaddlebags
Many babies enjoy being swaddled. I purchased a pack of Aden & Anais swaddle blankets before Violet was born, and I'm still using them almost daily, five months later. They are such a wonderful multipurpose item: in the summer months, when it's too warm for a heavy blanket, they're a perfect weight. That brand of muslin blanket is quite expensive, but the quality is by far more superior than the non-brand name muslin blankets that I've had.

Cozy Blankets
Before and after our baby girl was born, we were given so many beautiful blankets, from handmade quilts to knitted blankets to cozy fleece and furry throws and everything else in between. If there was ever an item to not ask for or purchase, it's a blanket. Seriously. You'll be up to your eyeballs in amazingly cozy blankets to snuggle your little one in.

Towels and Facecloths
We go through a pile of facecloths in our house! We use them for spit-up cloths, since they're so much smaller than the typical cloth and are easy to toss in the laundry. One great quality towel should be all you need. We received several as gifts, but my favourite is an organic cotton hooded towel that actually dries our baby off! Some of the thinner towels just seem to move the water around.

Take your time and research what brands you would like to use on your baby. I found it to be a big decision for me, as I didn't want to expose my newborn to any chemicals that were unnecessary. I chose Burt's Bees for a body wash and shampoo, and a fantastic local company, Anointment, for an all natural diaper cream. I also chose Anointment's belly butter for stretch marks, which smells amazing. As far as lotion goes, I have only used it on V a handful of times since she's been born. She had a couple of dry patches on the tops of her feet that went away after the first few weeks. Babies often have enough natural oils to stay moisturized on their own.

Laundry Detergent
I had planned on using our all-natural, unscented laundry detergent on all of our baby items. I quickly came to find that smelly newborn laundry really does need the intensity of baby laundry detergent in order to remove odors. We don't use hot water when doing laundry, so perhaps if you do, natural detergent will be enough for you.

Optional items:

Diaper Bag
I chose to purchase a diaper bag, but often you can get away with a large purse or overnight bag. Try to choose a unisex style that's suitable for any gender of baby or parent.

Changing Pad
We purchased an awesome changing pad for the top of our baby's dresser. More often than not, we have changed her on our bed, as it's more convenient for us.

A note on the topic of gifts: 

Don't ever feel as though you have to use something that was given to you or your baby. There's pressure to your gifts, but make the decision that's right for your family. If you don't want to use a particular product on your newborn, that's your choice as their parent. Whether it's a bath product with harsh chemicals, or a wool blanket that will irritate their skin, your baby relies on you to make the decision on their behalf. End of story!

I hope this list is a help to those of you with a newborn or a baby on the way, in the immediate future or "someday". Anything else I'm forgetting? Is there a particular brand or style of newborn essential that you feel is best? Let me know what your favourite items are in the comments!

Enjoy this post? Feel free to pin it for future reference!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cozy Evenings In

There's nothing like curling up with a warm drink on a chilly evening, is there?

Even though our beautiful leaves have started to fall, I feel like cozy nights in are just beginning. I've begun planning two events for some of my local gal pals, both of which will occur in the evening. Hosting an event in the fall seems the most festive and fun to me! Tidy up your space, light a few fragrant candles, prepare a yummy snack and a warm drink, and let the guests start rolling in. Once I get further along in the planning stages, I'll share some ideas with you. I can't wait to design the invitations! Casual get-togethers often seem like they only require a text or phone call for an invite, but getting a paper product in your hands with the event details is so much more fun!

How about you? Any fun events in your not-so-distant future? Do share!

Monday, October 20, 2014

How to Give Gifts on a Budget

budget gifts and ways to save on giving

My friend Rachel and I were discussing recently how expensive gift giving can be if you are on a budget. Over the years, I have learned a few tricks that have saved me a dollar or two while still being able to provide fun, unique gifts for friends and family. Giving is one of my "love languages" so it's important to me, even when times are tough. Sometimes, it's necessary to drop a pretty penny for a special occasion, but often times, you can give a thoughtful present that doesn't break the bank.

Here are my nuggets of knowledge to help you get started with giving while sticking to your budget:

Have a gift box
I would be a hopeless case if I didn’t have my gift basket. Anytime I spy the perfect gift for a particular someone, or even a generalized little goody at a great price, I purchase it and stick it in my gift basket until an event arises.  Use any good-sized basket or sturdy box to stockpile small items in advance.

Support local
I love purchasing small items from my local farmers markets to give to special people in my life. Purchasing knitted dishcloths or a jar of gourmet jam or hot sauce supports local makers and pairs beautifully with another little gem for a just-right sized gift for a friend. Christmas fairs and local shops are terrific as well, but keep your budget in mind.

Don’t forget the Big Box
A few of my favourite big-box stores, like Chapters and Winners, have terrific clearance sections. Chapters is one of my favourite sources for deliciously scented candles and honestly, I can really only afford them when they are on sale. Winners is a great place to find smaller items, like paper straws and stationary. When you find a bargain, stock up! Chances are, you have family friends in different circles that won’t realize that they are receiving the same set of cloth napkins or lovely mug as another friend.

Support charities or causes
Often, you’re asked or inclined to purchase items in support of a charity or cause. It’s the perfect opportunity to pick up a gift or two. Recently, I’ve purchased gifts for new babies in my life and my niece’s birthday from an Instagram auction in support of a baby girl and her mama that needed the extra funds. I get to donate money that I had set aside for gift-giving to support a terrific cause and still get the gifts that I needed. Double whammy!

Make it yourself
A handmade gift is my favourite gift to give or receive. I don’t often have the extra time to make something with my own hands. Once in a while, when I have a spare moment or two, I love to create a few handmade items or cards to add to my gift-giving stash.

Always be on the lookout
When I travel, I love to keep my eyes open in local stores and markets for small souvenirs that would make a great gift. By purchasing items while traveling, it satisfies my urge to shop while keeping it practical.  Another bonus: it’s an awesome way to support the local economy in the locale that you are visiting.

I hope that these tips and suggestions can help even one of you to feel less daunted by gift giving. Giving and receiving gifts is often our way of showing that we love someone, so it's important that we don't feel drained by the process. Let me know if you have any tricks that you would like to share in the comments!
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