Pregnancy Holiday Gift Guide

Some little growing baby is apparently still not ready as we approach T minus 3 days to due date. I am trying my best to remain somewhat active but it’s not easy. Yesterday we took two walks (both combined probably equaled a mile) and I practiced my prenatal yoga moves. Today we drove out to Brunswick  Nature Trails and with a couple breaks I was able to walk for almost an hour. That directly resulted in 2 snacks and a 45 minute nap. I haven’t gotten off the couch since. Being 10 months pregnant has made me oh-so-fascinating.

Spending a lot of time on the couch directly affects the amount of time I spend on the Internet and has now resulted in a pregnancy gift guide. Because let’s get real, I have no idea what new moms need but I do have a few thoughts on nice gestures for pregnant ladies. With the holidays approaching, and pregnancies everywhere I look these are some things that came to mind.  (First thing to realize, all stages of pregnancy are not alike. Nor are all pregnancies are alike but most have a few things in common.)

First trimester gifts:

Sweet almond oil or Palmer’s cocoa butter– In the first trimester it was nice to get into the habit of lathering up my belly. My first trimester was in the warmer months when I didn’t feel like a thick lotion so I used sweet almond oil in the beginning. Later when the itching (re: stretching) really began in the belly region the cocoa butter brought a lot of relief.

Belly band– One of the first things your medical provider tells you is that eating for two is not a thing but even if the first trimester you start to fill out. This is mainly due to bloating. I was first asked if I was pregnant at only ten weeks. The belly band my sister sent me was so convenient. It’s basically a tube top to keep your pants up and it’s essential for life.

Bra extender– I really wish I had known this was a thing. In my pre-pregnant, ignorant life I didn’t know that your rib cage expands. So insane.

Trail mix or snacks you can easily carry- While I still tend to keep a snack within easy reach, it was necessary for survival in the early weeks. There were many times where I was sure I would either puke or collapse if I didn’t get food. One of the nicest, simple gifts I received early on were some small, yummy snacks to keep in my bag.

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A bucket of strawberries isn’t a practical snack to carry around but look at this tiny belly! I think this was 11 weeks. 

Second trimester gifts:

Some sort of enormous body pillow- I am incredibly cheap and had planned to sleep the rest of my pregnant nights with my carefully arranged six pillows when basically a stranger gifted me a giant body pillow. Life changer! Now I know I wouldn’t have survived without it.

Prenatal yoga gift card- I started prenatal yoga at about 28 weeks but I wish I had done it the whole time. There’s something about being in a class for and with other pregnant women, all preparing for the same thing, that feels like the safest place I experience on a regular basis. For Wilmington, NC residents- Longwave is the only place in town with  prenatal yoga classes in the evening.

A lifetime supply of La Croix- Most of my first trimester was spent partly in hiding, partly asleep. When I reentered the world I had no idea what to drink when out and about. Y’all, the answer is La Croix. It’s the easy answer, I know, but just go with it.

A cutie outfit- As the second semester approaches the third, the cute bump feeling fades into big blob. Almost all of my clothes during pregnancy have been handed down to me, thank goodness, but that also means I’ve spent the last 6 months in clothes I didn’t pick out, aren’t necessarily my cup of tea, and at times barely fit (because pregnancy). My mom gifted me a couple cute dresses of my own choosing this fall and it was a total pick-me-up. Highly recommend. Old Navy Maternity, Motherhood, Seraphine and Pink Blush were the sites I perused the most.

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I’ve outgrown this favorite from Seraphine but I loved it. 

Third trimester gifts:

Massage- Because everything hurts.

Bubble bath- Because everything hurts.

Cookie dough & endless movies- Because everything hurts.

Comfy pajamas- Because nothing fits. I’ve been wearing the same ratty black leggings every day for the last months and they are the best thing to ever happen to me. I will never let them go.

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Welcome to my third trimester uniform. 

I’ll just be hanging out, feet up and Netflix on until there’s more to report.

 

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The Waiting Game

I’d like to write about things other than pregnancy right now, but at 1 week and 4 days until our due date I actually can’t think about anything else.

We’re at the point where every time I make a sign of discomfort (which is a lot) Tyler thinks we’re going into labor. Regardless at our appointment this week, our midwife indicated there was no reason to think we were going anywhere fast. She even let us know that they would let us go until December 28th if the baby didn’t come first. Oh good. I’m super pumped to hear that. I bought this baby a Christmas day outfit so… let’s hope he or she is here to wear it!

I have to admit that while my pregnancy has been very smooth sailing, my attitude recently has plummeted. I really like to be a busy lady. I like projects and crafting, especially at this time of year, and I’ve had to cut all of that out. Standing for more than a few minutes or walking the dog around the block has become challenging.  Each night after work I stay close to the couch, which drives me a bit crazy. I know I’m very lucky to not be on bed rest or have some risk to be watching out for but this very normal pregnancy can still a pain in the butt (and back and legs).

We’re making things bright and cheery around the house with our Christmas tree already out and watching movies each night. Tyler also came home yesterday with safe-to-eat cookie dough which I am trying not to eat all at once. In the meantime I’m finally finishing the Elena Ferrante novels and getting ready to start Land of Love and Ruins by Oddny Eir. If I can’t travel the world right now, at least I can read books from Italy and Iceland. Tip: Pregnancy is best undertaken from the bathtub with a book in hand.

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Clara is also doing her part for holiday cheer. 

Third trimester survival plan:

  • Prenatal yoga at Longwave– My yoga instructor is also a labor & delivery nurse. I keep wishing they offered this class more than once a week!
  • Baths with bubbles- Bubbles are technically optional but it makes things feel more luxurious.
  • Tea- I make a point to drink a ton of water each day but I also have a schedule of tea throughout the day. It starts with Earl Gray (where I pretend this gives me energy) and then goes to peppermint, lemon ginger or chamomile throughout the day. Although I drink all sorts of brands, I’m really into this Winston-Salem tea company, Chad’s Chai, right now. Gotta support the hometown!
  • All the movies- From Christmas classics to action flicks, keep them coming! This week we’ve watched everything from A Charlie Brown Christmas to Armageddon.
  • Reassurance that I’m not only pregnant lady drooling away out there- Feel free to read this “Top 10 Things They Should Warn You About Before You Get Pregnant”. It makes pregnancy seem really attractive.
  • Working from home- I’m incredibly lucky to be allowed to work from home when I can’t hack it at the office. Recliners make for way better chairs than my office provides. Also they come with dog cuddles.
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There’s not a lot of room to spare in our chair but Clara finds it all. 

I’ll leave you with this bright spot on our tree to really get in the spirit. It’s probably the highlight of our tree.

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1988, y’all. 

Kiddo DIY Gifts

To wrap up my holiday homemade, handmade, local gift series, I’ll end up with little girl themed gifts. If you want to find out about local Wilmington gifts, holiday ornaments for friends and coworkers, or my annual Christmas panic you can read past posts.

Last year my nieces received scarves and jewelry boxes with earrings (jewelry was purchased). This year my youngest niece, Holland, asked for books, lip gloss, “world peace”, “nothing”, and “me” (meaning herself). She’s eight. The last three were hard to work with so I opted for books and lip gloss. I will do anything I can to encourage the girls’ reading so I bought three books off her list.

The ten year old, Georgia, also wanted lip gloss, which worked out as the recipe I found, made six little pots. I opted for a pink, shimmery, peppermint kind. This felt right up their alley.

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Pros and cons of this craft-

Pros:

  • It was really easy and took no time. All I needed was a microwave, a bowl and a spoon in terms of equipment.
  • The hardest part was pouring into the pots quickly so it looked nice. Didn’t look nice? Put it back in the bowl and microwave again. Easy. Done.
  • The color looks really nice in the pots but is subtle (if noticeable at all) on your lips. Very appropriate for a young person. It also feels very smooth and soothing.

Cons:

  • I didn’t have most of the ingredients I needed to make this. I bought the peppermint oil (not cheap but I can use for other things), a box of little plastic containers (so…everyone’s getting lip gloss for next Christmas), beeswax pellets (I also want to make candles so not a big deal) and sweet almond oil. I already had the shea butter. If I end up not using these items for other things then this is an expensive gift. If I do, then it’s incredibly cheap.

I knew Georgia was getting a desk for Christmas so I wanted to make her things for her room. I painted a small wooden tray black (pink and black are her colors) which in retrospect I wish I done a bigger one or made it glittery. To go with it I took two heavy paper mache letters (her initials) from a craft store and painted the sides black. On the front I used a large sheet of pink glitter adhesive paper (basically a giant pink glitter sticker) to brighten it. On the functional side these could be book ends, otherwise they’re decorative. She was a fan.

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For some reason this picture won’t turn. I hope you ge the drift.

 

 

They worked well with the two inexpensive translucent pink glasses to be used for pencil holders. At Target I found a pack of mini desk items such as a mini-stapler, mini-scissors, mini-tape, etc (all in purple) and at World Market I picked up a cute notepad and mini clothespins in different colors. Perfect for the desk which is more fun than functional.

The best part of these gifts? I got a hug after the girls opened every single one.

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I tried hard this year to simplify. No complicated crafts. No multi-month projects. This equals no tears or frustration! All in all I think it was a success! Hopefully I can keep this up every year…

My Unreasonable Obsession With Gift Baskets

I don’t know many people my age who love gift baskets. I don’t think many people really think about gift baskets. I mean, why would you?

I do. Often. It’s my favorite kind of gift to give. One of the very best gifts we received for our wedding was a honeymoon basket from Tyler’s mother. It was a large beautiful rectangular basket filled with everything we could have wanted for our road trip honeymoon: a tablecloth, two cloth napkins, two candles, a bottle of champagne, olives, cheese, crackers, summer sausage, smoked salmon and a beautiful handmade card. It was incredible. (Forgive the lack of photo. I was a little distracted at the time. )When we received a small monogrammed cheeseboard and knife from a friend, we were completely set. We loved our gourmet driving snacks of salmon and cheese and upgrading our meals with candles and cloth napkins at night.

This basket was the catalyst for me. Since then I’ve given three wedding baskets and I won’t be stopping any time soon. I have no idea if the recipients enjoy receiving them as much as I enjoy making them but at least I’m having fun!

This summer two friends were planning a honeymoon road trip and I was inspired to make a similar basket to the one we received. My mother has an excess of baskets and she was kind enough to give me a few. I took a medium rectangular one and filled it with a mustard yellow polka dot picnic cloth (made from an old curtain I had), two navy cloth napkins, a bottle of bubbly, scones, homemade apple butter and a small pouch that contained plastic cutlery and wet wipes. Plastic cutlery and wet wipes are two items that I consider mandatory for a road trip. You need them if you’re going to avoid eating unhealthy gas stations snacks (or to wipe away the Cheetos). Unfortunately the photo of this basket was lost in a tragic I-forgot-the-passcode-to-my-iPhone-and-had-to-have-it-reset incident.

The next two baskets were for celebrations on the same weekend. So much love in such a short period of time!

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This basket was for a lovely couple that chose their wedding weekend hashtag as #keepingupwiththewoneses. Adorable. Don’t be concerned though. Their last name is not Wones. I don’t think I could handle that. To pad the basket (another gift from my mother) I used another curtain from my apartment in Austin. I didn’t line it to make a nice tablecloth. If I put more thought into it, I would made it into a table runner.

I’m all about gift baskets including something tasty, something to drink, something practical and something cute. Their go to alcohol is Tito’s vodka, so I had to include a bottle. I added a jar of my peach jam to give it a homemade tasty feature. For a while I had been wanting to support my friend and former coworker, Caroline Robe, by purchasing one of her beautiful handmade wooden kitchen items. This basket gave me the opportunity to purchase her salad spoons. Aren’t they beautiful? Then to make the basket fun I added a succulent in a jar by The Coastal Succulent (keep it local) and an embroidered hoop with their wedding hashtag. Unfortunately the embroidered portion took longer than I would have liked and the gift was late. It had vodka in it though, so who cares.

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This basket was for one of my oldest friends and her husband. Knowing her as I do I knew that a gift should be carefully chosen. She’s practical but likes her practical items to also be aesthetically pleasing. She’s recognizes thoughtless or impersonal gifts quickly. They are also moving and I did not want to add to the stress of their packing. Luckily my gift basket strategy would fit the bill.

You’ll recognize the fabric from the other basket. I had more than one window at my Austin apartment and therefore more than one curtain. The basket was one I had been gifted from my mom again.

Drinkable item: Brut Rose bubbly wine from Palate– I was told this was a safe and tasty wine

Homemade items: Tomato jam and Strawberry jam (I like to have both sweet and savory)

Tasty items: Pepperoni and Salami that needed to be kept cool but not refrigerated, perfect for a basket. The company is also based in Virginia!

Practical items: A small cutting board from Caroline Robe’s Blasfemme Designs, two cloth napkins and hidden behind the board were plastic cutlery so they could eat the treats on the way home if they wanted.

I think my dream job might be to make gift baskets. So if you know how I can get this going, let me know. In the meantime as you plan your holiday gifts, I highly recommend the often overlooked gift basket. It’s very handy when you’re giving to a group of people like a family or your office.

Happy crafting!

Annual Christmas Present Panic: Balancing Thoughtful Gifts with My Budget

On November 1st I felt the annual panic. Lighted wreaths appeared on the telephone polls outside the wine shop. Target’s Christmas light selection appeared behind the newly discounted candy. We are moments away from hearing the Nutcracker theme on the speakers in every mall, post office and dentist office.

What does this all mean? As a overly zealous planner, it means I need to know what I’m doing for Christmas gifts. Every year I try to balance three key issues:

  1. The Budget- I don’t have a large budget for Christmas gifts, but I love elaborate gifts. There is no logical reason for this but I am always concerned about my gift “not being enough”. Nor can I resist purchasing “the perfect gift” when I come across it.
  2. Homemade- Trying to keep my budget low goes hand in hand with making homemade gifts. The problem with homemade gifts is unless you’re especially gifted (get it?!) you may find that yourself staying up late at night working on overly intricate hand-embroidered items or making gifts that you’re not sure anyone actually wants.
  3. Materialism- Why are we stressing ourselves out over gifts when there are so many people who don’t have anything? Do you actually need anything this Christmas? Are the gifts you’re giving contributing to the closets of the one you love or are they things they will appreciate? There is so much excess in our country. I don’t have any desire to contribute to it more than I already do.

I truly love to give gifts. I don’t always succeed in giving personal, thoughtful gifts but I always try and I like the process. None of this would bother me if I didn’t.

This year (as I do every year) I’ll be doing my best to only give homemade/handmade, local gifts or immaterial gifts. We’ll see if I can do it! I’ll be sharing ideas for you to do the same if it appeals to you. Here’s last year’s Christmas gifts if you need some ideas to get you started!

Best Thursday of the Year

As far as holidays go, I’m pretty easy to please. I love all holidays regardless of what they are or what they stand for. I love occasions, opportunities to sit and chat with family and friends, eat great food, be merry, etc. But there is no holiday like Thanksgiving. Its origins are of course, a little messed up. But its traditions are pretty fun. I love food. I love sitting around the table, laughing and eating, drinking and fussing over the kids. In fact, last year, I enjoyed sitting around the table so much I was eating at the pace of an old woman without teeth. I got left at the table. My whole family moved on, munchkins and mother and all, and I was forced to finish my Thanksgiving dinner alone. Sad, but it’d been like an hour. I can’t blame them.

This year is my second Thanksgiving without my family. The first was in Australia when my Canadian friend and I hosted a Thanksgiving in Perth. This involved first making sangria, commencing drinking around 2, personally reenacting the true story of Thanksgiving, and then sharing a feast with some Australian friends after their work day.  It’s probably my most memorable Thanksgiving yet. On this biggest Thursday of the year, I will also not be able to make it all the way home to the ol’ North State so my roommates and I are having a Thanksgiving Potluck. I’m hoping to start the day with a bike ride, decorating the house and drinking early. This will hopefully not get me in trouble. Nothing like not being able to make it to turkey time. And because we don’t have a TV, no one can watch football after dinner! (This may seem cruel but it’s pretty awesome.)

Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I don’t really mind not being home for it. It’s the kind of holiday that you can enjoy anywhere as long as you have good company and good food. It’s a day when we can say thanks for the good things in our life: good company, someone to love, a support system, employment, a home. This year, I’ll be saying thanks for my new home of Austin, TX, the people who have become my good friends here, a steady job, and a beau.