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Baby’s First Purée

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If WordPress allowed for sub-headings, the full title of this post would be, Baby’s First Purée: A party in baby’s mouth, A pain in mommy’s butt. 

Early motherhood seems to be riddled with moments that were better as fond daydreams than as reality. The greatly anticipated journey through solid foods with Leo has been one of those (…still ongoing) moments that was better imagined than in practice.

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I had planned to share this post weeks ago: my triumphant Pioneer Woman mission of hand-making meals for my baby. Unfortunately, my pioneer woman visions were quickly replaced by the reality that Leo was bewildered and a little grumpy at the prospect of eating food.

I boiled, sautéed, steamed. I mashed and blended. I put away an auxiliary stash of delicious, handmade food in the freezer as I had been told to do.

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At first Leo would apprehensively tongue the purée he was presented with. Then his face would take on a look of confusion and disgust. He would begrudgingly swallow or, just as often, casually expel the contents of his mouth.

Worse than that, each time during the dinner dance, he would utter the animalistic growl of frustration that we’ve come to dread. It’s the sound a meat-grinder makes when you turn it on but forget to put the meat in: metal on metal. He makes this sound when he’s hungry but we’re not meeting his requirements. It happens occasionally at the breast when my milk isn’t letting down quickly enough. And now it was happening…every single time…when we fed him solid foods. It is the sounds of my nightmares.

Needless to say, my dreams were dashed when my hard work of preparing and blending baby’s first purees seemed to go unappreciated.

Perhaps it was the fantasy of a full-bellied, soundly snoozing babe that had me so excited to introduce purees. Perhaps it was imagining Leo’s first foods as a gateway to our whole future together: rife with exotic travels and tastes.

Or perhaps it was ego. Another notch on my “perfect mommy status” belt: nourishing my baby with my body and then by my sweat and elbow grease. Since our breastfeeding journey had led us to supplementation at 4 months, and no matter how much I rationally understand that supplementing is ok as long as baby is getting what he needs that’s all that matters, maybe I thought this was my way of somehow taking back the status I had lost.

Regardless, I felt defeated and nearly gave up on the whole concept until I read that it can take up to 15 times of introducing the same food before baby responds. He’s learning a whole new approach to eating, after all.

So we tried, again and again.

We used prepared foods, sometimes doctored up with cinnamon or paprika from our spice cabinet, to get an idea of his tastes before I would make the foods on my own. And now that he’s graduated to stage two foods…blends…I feel more confident sharing watered down versions of our dinners with him.

He seems to be getting the hang of things. Though there are some foods he still doesn’t care for, there are many that he flashes big smiles at the taste of. I have come to realize the joy that I had originally anticipated in introducing my son to a world of new flavors.

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Therein lies the beauty, of course, of becoming a parent. It is learning that happiness doesn’t come from a perfect, manicured version of mothering but rather, the montage of messy, head-scratching (and head-aching) scenes that we navigate and become stronger as a result of. It is meeting the fear and unpleasantness head on and rejoicing in the ever-present silver lining.

Leo’s First Apple Purée:

  • 2 sweet eating apples (Pink Lady, Gala, etc.)
  • Water

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  • Peel, core and quarter the apples
  • Sautée in a pan with water until soft
  • Blend in food processor until smooth
  • Add a dash of cinnamon

Voila!

Amber Beads for Teething Woes

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For starters I want to clarify that I am no expert on amber beads or teething in general. But, since getting so many questions about how I chose mine, how they help baby, and how to tell if they are genuine, I thought I would share my experience here on the blog.

I’m not sure where I originally heard about genuine Baltic Amber Beads and their supposed relief for teething babies in need, but they have been on my radar for quite some time. It is believed that when worn on the skin, body heat causes amber to release an oil containing succinic acid, which if absorbed into the skin, might act like a natural Ibuprofen, blocking pain and reducing inflammation. This is how wearing a strand of amber beads can help fight teething woes. Of course, when I finally had a baby of my own, I was eager to try a strand for myself.

Was I intrigued by the potential for natural pain management to help my sweet baby get through what can only be a deeply uncomfortable and distressing time? Yes.

Was I also excited to see how cute my baby would look in a tiny necklace? Absolutely.

IMG_0425IMG_0422IMG_0428I am happy to report that we did, indeed, see a difference in Leo since he has begun wearing his amber.

Firstly, the amount of drool that soaked through his shirts while he determinately and indiscriminately chomped on objects noticeably decreased. Drool of course being a huge indicator that your baby is teething because the increased saliva helps to cool-down swollen gums.

Also, his mood was markedly sour when he wasn’t wearing his necklace as he got more deeply into teething. For example, if I would forget to replace his beads after a nap (baby should never wear his strand unsupervised and especially not while sleeping) he would be fussier than his normal post-snooze self.

The above points considered, as well as the fact that Leo cut two teeth before Thanksgiving with little more than stage-one crankiness, has led me to believe that the amber beads work for us.

IMG_0962But how do I know that my beads are authentic Baltic Amber when there are so many fakes on the market?

I did a simple home-test. Here’s how:

  • Mix together a solution of 1 part salt to 2 parts water. (For example, use 1/3 cup salt to 2/3 cup water)
  • Dissolve the salt completely.
  • Drop your beads in the mixture. Plastic and glass will sink, true Baltic Amber will float.

Ta da!

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DIY Natural Disinfectant

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Watching our baby learn how to crawl before our eyes is exciting, but it’s also hair-raising when I imagine him crawling through the grime of these New York City streets that has been tracked into our house. All germaphobia aside, we are pedestrians in one of the worlds yuckiest cities.

To prevent Leo from rolling around in the muck (and to prevent a never-ending anxiety fest for me) I began researching DIY natural disinfectant sprays that are strong AND safe. While there are many “all purpose” cleansers made for hard, non-porous surfaces on the market (re: my beloved Seventh Generation sprays and wipes), there are few that are suitable for fabrics. I really wanted an anti-bacterial solution that would work for our rugs, couches and pillows as well as our countertops and hard floors.
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Essential oils have powerful cleansing properties, but they can be harmful to the skin (lungs, eyes, etc.) if used at full concentration. Naturally, it makes sense to cut the oils with water, which you’ll find in most recipes, although you’ll then need an additional disinfectant agent to strengthen the mixture.

I found recipes calling for hydrogen peroxide, but further research revealed that peroxide may also abrasive to the skin in high concentration. Many other recipes called for pure vodka…which I thought was strange and assumed would make my living room smell like my college dorm.

Finally, I found a mixture calling for witch hazel on Live Simply. Having fallen in love with the magical healing powers and endless uses for witch hazel through my postpartum recovery, it was the perfect addition.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup witch hazel (alcohol based)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 25 drops lavender pure essential oil
  • 25 drops tea tree pure essential oil

You can use any mixture of the cleansing essential oils, including lemon oil. You can omit the tea tree oil if you dislike the smell. Lemon, Tea Tree and Lavender oils are all safe for use around children.

Mix the solution as follows:

  1. Pour witch hazel + desired essential oil mixture into a spray bottle, shake vigorously to blend.
  2. Then pour in the water and shake again.

Be sure to use a glass bottle for the mixture rather than plastic to avoid any risk of the bottle breaking down. Always spot test your fabrics before use on a larger area!

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“Papoum Papoum”

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Papoum Papoum.” The name says it all as it’s meant to represent the tiny heartbeat of a baby or our own happily beating hearts as we think of our little ones. My heart certainly skipped a beat when I discovered this teething doll, named Sweet Pea Baby by creator Sophie Guindon, while poking around Vieux-Montréal on our recent trip.

In the grand tradition of my family traveling across borders before turning one year (my first flight was to France at two and a half months), Leo crossed into Canada at two months. I was turning 30 and Joe’s most recent film, The Sleepers, had been accepted into the famed Fantastia Film Festival. A trip to Montreal seemed to be the perfect celebration of our new parenthood, our shared creativity and my 3rd decade of life.

Joe kept busy during our stay in the great city of Montreal attending his own film’s screening and catching some of the other programs that the 3 week festival had to offer. I split my time between our Downtown Montreal AirBNB and the beautiful streets, shops and cafes of the city—baby-in-tow—meeting up with Joe between screenings for some quality family time.

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On our third day we devoted the morning to exploring Vieux-Montréal and the old port. What became our favorite part of the city was criss-crossed with cobble stone streets, awash in summer blooms and, of course, teeming with tourists and the tacky shops catering to them. Although the old part of the city lacked originality in some of its gift shops, hawking the same wares as all top international destinations (insert “Montreal” on your $10 t-shirt), it made up for it with its galleries and art shops.

Metiers d’art du Quebec caught our eye with its entrance off of the main street in a little side corridor. Designs by local artisans filled the sunlit space, including a comprehensive baby collection. Sweetly embroidered children’s clothes and fantastic, cooky animal pillows were among the most exciting offerings. But the delicate, imaginative Sweet Pea dolls and teething friends were perfectly made for our growing babe.

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Sophie, creator and designer of the PapoumPapoum brand, is a native of Canada. Her vision for these precious, keepsake toys came as she was a stay-at-home-mom and made the first rag doll for her daughter. She then devoted every free moment to creating her original dolls and the business was born. With a background in herbal therapy and a love of the planet, Sophie instills the same morals into PapoumPapoum. The toys are as safe as they are durable, hand made in Quebec using environmentally-friendly materials, like her series of bamboo blanket animals. Uniquely created, each toy slightly differs from others in the same collection, and all are made to love for years and years.

Papoum Papoum… is the sound of a little heart beating, it’s what we feel for a new-born, and it’s also a sound that can trigger a small child’s laughter, the kind that fills the world with sunshine.”

Leo isn’t yet teething so he is still too young to use his Sweet Pea, but I know he’ll be enjoying it sooner than we think. If new parenthood has taught us anything it is that time truly does move too quickly. Another month of his life has already clipped by, filled with his first travels in our blissfully nomadic summer. Now we’ll have his first doll to remind us of these moments and of his first, tender heartbeats. Papoum papoum. 

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Fast Food Fashion

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It was five days after I had come home from the hospital with Leo and sleep was hard to come by. So was clothing. On one particularly upside-down day I found myself wearing a tank dress rolled down to my waist and an old workout teeshirt knotted around my mid-section, holding up the makeshift skirt. It was a disaster and the last thing I needed in the midst of my hormonal maelstrom was something else making me feel crazy. Why the DIY ensemble failure, you ask? I had all-too-quickly discovered that when you are breastfeeding a newborn baby every 2 hours, there is no time to dress and undress. You need the wardrobe equivalent of a drive-thru restaurant. Aka fast food fashion.

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Everybody’s breastfeeding journey is different. Just ask my mom who insists that I was a dream baby who slept well and nursed at accommodatingly infrequent intervals. But when you give birth to the son of a man who as tall as he is handsome you’re in for an adventure. I believe my lactation consultant’s actual words upon learning Joe’s height were, “Oh, shit. Strap in, honey, it’s going to be a wild ride.”

And so I find myself, three months into this “wild ride”, with my son averaging only about an hour off of my breasts between each feeding (except for at night. thankfully he takes after me in that regard…), and getting very creative with the ways, places, positions in which I nurse him.

The most exceptional places I’ve find myself breastfeeding, so far, are as follows:

  • the on-ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge in gridlock traffic
  • friends’ empty Chinatown apartment in the midst of a move
  • the Canadian border
  • parking lot of a rural gas station in the White Mountains
  • Amazon’s NYC conference rooms
  • TJ Maxx

I always have to be ready to serve up a fast food lunch for my son and so long sleeves, tight straps and all manner of restricting clothing is no longer in my wardrobe rotation, rendering half of my closet unwearable. Nor have I been moved to purchase the expensive and completely non-versatile wares advertised as “nursing clothing.”

All hail the season of the tube top as I find this style of dress to be most handy in breastfeeding. Another blessing to having a May baby is that I can get away with wearing as little clothing as possible in these warm summer months. A close second to the convenience of the strapless dress, and best for giving the illusion that you’ve considered fashion when dressing, is the off-the-shoulder look which can transition seamlessly to accommodate a quick feed. Button-down ensembles, like the vintage dress pictured below (poached from my mother’s closet on our recent trip to Maine) are yet another way to discreetly get the job done.

Honestly, I don’t love wearing the modest nursing cover when I feed my baby (though I love and will occasionally use my beautiful swaddle blankets by Aden + Anais) because I can’t see where his face is to ensure the correct positioning. At this early stage in his nursing he is still often falling off the latch and needing to be put back into place.  And so these simple, wearable outfits are the best for accessibility, but also to keep most of my body concealed while offering up the goods.

As an added bonus? I can integrate them into my permanent wardrobe after my stint in fast food fashion has come to an end.

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Pom-Poms on a Rainy Day

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I bought this wide brimmed Panama hat in the Hudson River Valley at the end of last summer and never had a chance to really wear it because it was the end of the season. As it hung on the wall in my front hallway all winter, reminding me that warmer days would again return, I thought about how I wanted to add some fun color to it to celebrate the coming sunshine. Since its a nasty weekend in Brooklyn, I thought that the best medicine against the indoor-blues would be to create sunny pom-poms on a rainy day.

I love how pom-poms have been showing up on everything from beach baskets to gladiator sandals to straw hats. But instead of buying a piece of the trend, I wanted to learn how to make my own. The overwhelming urge to nest seems to have spilled into the mood to craft, which is great because it is something that I had rarely made time to do—depsite the desire—in the midst of working full time.

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There are many tutorials online showing how to make pom-poms. You can buy kits or make cardboard rings, but the easiest solution I found was using a kitchen fork. I used the steps below to try my hand at making my own:

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The key is to wrap the yarn to the right thickness so that your pom-pom has enough fluff. After you’ve tied-off the yarn ball and you’re done snipping the strands, it’ll be an oblong shape. You’ll need to trim it all the way around to ensure you have a round pom-pom. Tip: if you want bigger poms, use your fingers instead of a fork.

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I opted for warm colors—yellow, pink & orange—to adorn this summer hat, but I have already been thinking up designs for other projects, like a branch wall hanging in the nursery that will feature some blues, greens and aquas. I guess it will be back to the craft store as soon as this seemingly endless rain comes to a stop.

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I’ll be sure to post about the nursery soon, as we’ve been working almost daily to bring it to life.

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Post-Pregnancy To-Do List

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The weather has been gray and rainy and I’m so ready for summer love with our little one. I have been daydreaming about the incredible things I will do after pregnancy. In no particular order, my post-pregnancy to-do list is as follows:

 

  • eat sushi
  • lay on my belly
  • get silly on one glass of rose
  • get all the tattoos (or maybe just one to start)
  • go running
  • take a hot tub or sauna or steam
  • go dancing
  • lift heavy objects for fun, exercise or necessity
  • make, and then drink, homemade margaritas
  • travel*
  • *to a tropical climate
  • drink coffee just for the buzz

Let the countdown begin…

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photo: AJ Garcia

A Fashion Cure for the Baby Bump Blues

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With an ever-growing bump eliminating some favorite outfits from my pregnancy wardrobe, I have had a hard time feeling fashionably relevant lately.  Moreover, the general pregnancy “blah’s” enhanced by the doldrums of winter have been making it difficult to even put in an effort to dress up on some days. That being said, I know all too well that how I look has a direct effect on how I feel. However seductive (and, honestly, practical) it would be for me to spend every remaining day of my pregnancy in stretchy fabrics that transition effortlessly from daytime to sleep time, I feel a lack of motivation to seize the day each time I dress down or, more accurately, fail to dress.

For example, I have been living inside my deliciously warm LL Bean down coat because, why not? It is winter, after all. The coat is a fail proof barrier against the elements and it is the only coat I have left that actually buttons around the baby belly. But, how do I feel when a friend invites me out to a party or an event after work and I am faced with having to show up in pair of glorified pajamas swaddled by a wearable sleeping bag? I feel like skipping the outing and heading straight home to bed, is how I feel. Not so healthy for a person that, while appreciating a lot of alone time, always has an overwhelming sense of rejuvenation when out-and-about. Self isolation imposed by body self consciousness is not going to fly right now, especially when a new baby will certainly necessitate a lot of home alone time come spring.

So, when Rachel invited me to last weekend’s Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show (so thankful that she has her finger on the pulse as I have somehow lost the beat…) my mission was clear: attend show, hunt for treasures, find something that makes me feel like my “old self.” A.k.a a fashion cure for the baby bump blues.

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It only took about 20 minutes of walking around the vast room of exquisitely curated wares for us both to question, “Have we died? Is this heaven?” Needless to say our hearts were a flutter with the seriously gorgeous pieces on sale by vintage boutiques (notably Another Man’s Treasure and La Poubelle Vintage among many others).

While silk dresses, high waisted trousers and fitted camisoles called my name aplenty, the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show was not the place to shop for maternity wares. But stylish coats, big in size, easy to transition to post-pregnancy and a welcomed alternative to my aforementioned LL Bean puffer, offered the wardrobe edge I was looking for. I tried on a few coats that were totally “me,” but that were only almost able to fit around my bump. I realized, instead of donning a piece of clothing that would only make me yearn for a flatter tummy, I wanted to celebrate my current shape. It wasn’t until trying on a 1960’s stunner from Thriftwares of Brooklyn that I learned this was possible. The subtle bell shape of the double-breasted leopard coat (pictured above) offered room enough for my belly and, magically, when Rachel tried it on, proved to maintain a chic shape even on a much smaller frame. Thus, my how-Stella-got-her-groove-back coat was discovered.

Alas, today it is raining in NYC so I left my new favorite piece at home. But it is sure to bring me many joyful, winter days of pregnancy and beyond.

If you’re interested in checking it out, the next Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show will be the weekend of April 7th and 8th.

Advance tickets can be purchased here.

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Oh, Boy!

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As I write this I think, perhaps, next time around, when we are asked whether or not we want to know baby’s gender, we’ll decline. Of course, it is incredible to be given a better picture of what your precious child will “be,” but in this, my first pregnancy, I was unprepared for just how confusing such news…or lack of news…would be.

At 19 weeks, just before taking holiday vacation up to Maine to be with my family, we went to our regular monthly check up with the OB/Midwife group practice. After hearing a healthy heart beat (thank goodness…) and receiving a positive bill of health for the month, the midwife asked us if we’d like to know baby’s gender. As we had already discussed and had decided that, yes, we did want to know as soon as we were able to know, we agreed. The midwife told us, after a moment of inspection, that we were 80% sure to be having a girl. At the news, I began laughing and nearly crying with joy. A girl! Of course, they say every mother secretly harbors the wish to have a girl, but I was surprised at just how elated I was at the news. Perhaps it was the news of a girl that made me so happy, or maybe was simply receiving, for the first time, a clear picture of how our future was forming, day by day, within my ever-growing tummy. Moreover, the news seemed to affirm everyone’s hunches that I was carrying a girl. Momentarily it felt that we–friends, family, even Joe and me–were clairvoyant and that the world isn’t such a mystery after all.

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The holidays finally came and when sharing the news with my family we were met with gleeful yips and giggles. “A Girl! Yay!” I too, felt giddy each time we shared the news. Giddy to be bringing another strong lady into the world, giddy that this girl would have an exceptional, patient, kind and brave father to listen to her and to love her. I always told Joe that I believed it took a very special man to be a good father to a girl and that I thought he was this kind of special man. He agreed that having a baby girl join us would be the perfect fit.

During vacation I started having some light symptoms of a typical, mild pregnancy side effect–i’ll spare the details–and decided to get it checked out at the local clinic just to make sure all was well. There at the clinic, where all turned out to be well, we received another sonogram prognosis of baby girl. It seemed a sure thing at this point and visions of brown curls, sun dresses and prom corsages began dancing through our heads as we started to call baby by the name we had chosen for her.

I was scheduled for my 20 week anatomy scan upon returning home to Brooklyn. Joe was back to school and couldn’t join me at the morning appointment which seemed inconsequential as we had just had two sonograms in very close succession where all looked fine with baby and we had an almost guarantee of the sex. As I laid back in the dimly lit room and let the technician begin scanning my tummy I was the most relaxed i’d been before any of the many appointments thus far in the pregnancy. I felt like I knew everything I needed to know, so I could let go and let this routine scan run its course. The technician asked if I’d like to know the sex of the baby and I told her that we’d already been informed that we were most likely having a girl. Five minutes and many scans later she asked, “Who told you that you were having a girl?” “Well, one midwife and one doctor,” I sputtered off almost too quickly and a bit indignantly, “Why, do you think otherwise?”

This spawned a series of technicians joining the first gal and having a look at the precious contents of my belly, no doubt to prove to themselves in someway that they were smarter than the doctors and midwives. “You’re definitely having a boy,” they all informed me in turn as though it was the most obvious thing they’d encountered that day. I wanted them to stop poking and prodding me and turning my world upside down. I wanted Joe to be there to help explain to them that they were wrong and that we were having a girl, or explain to me that they were right and we were actually having a boy. Nothing made sense in that moment and some small, guilty tears began to gather in the corners of my eyes…

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But, after all this–and a few days to adjust–I am coming around to the idea of having a boy. For all the ways that having a girl would make sense to me in an instinctive way, there are just as many ways that having a boy will make sense. For starters, without ever being considered “manly” I’ve often been considered “boy-like.” I love the outdoors, I can hardly sit still in body, let alone in mind and I have a penchant for mischief. In fact, save a few, blessed girls that I have cut my teeth alongside (all sporting their own scabby knees, home-pierced appendages and calloused, bare feet–you know who you are) I grew up amongst a band of boys whom I’ve equally loved, fought with and learned from. I’ve always adored the attention from boys and giving it in return. I’ve felt comforted by their more physical, straightforward ways of communicating. I’ve been challenged and invigorated by their stamina and their strength. Does this mean I think girls or women are any less interesting or less capable? Not in the least. But, it does mean that something in me has always identified with boys, and with those girls that also identified with the boys. Perhaps, for these reasons, having a boy of my own makes the most sense.

I began this post a week ago, and we have since had the second part of our anatomy scan. To the best of our knowledge, we are, in fact, having a boy. I can now see him clearly in my mind’s eye and look forward to our future adventures, and to how much he is going to love his mother. What will happen if baby actually does come out as a girl–which sometimes, though rarely, can happen–you may wonder. I guess knowing or not knowing matters little in love.

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Back To School

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The last weekend of August has come and gone and now, whether we like it or not, we’re in a back-to-school state of mind. Personally, I have never stopped thinking of the passing of time in terms of the school year rather than the calendar year–“last year” will always refer to anything that happened prior to summer, not the months leading up to January–and being married to a school teacher has only solidified that way of thinking.

So, while I may be mourning the waning of summer, I am looking forward to a fresh (harvest) season, cooler temperatures and the inevitable turning inwards that comes with the end of wild-at-heart summertime. Afterall, fall (and dreaded winter) is prime time for cooking, crafting and all matter of projects.

Never having been one for pumpkin flavored anythings–other than actual pumpkin, of course–I can’t say that the promise of autumnal treats reappearing on the menu does anything to ease my season-shifting woes. But, I always get excited for fall fashion and back to school essentials, even if my back to school shopping has changed a lot since the days of number-2 pencils and Lisa Frank lunch boxes.

Walking the NY Now show last week opened my eyes to a lot of really exciting, new designers whose pieces fit right into the fall wish list and I have laid out my favorites for you below!

A quick disclaimer: none of the below content was shot by me and all images are property of the brands. Since I was busy scoping out new jewelry designers for ViewPoint, I merely grabbed the business cards in passing of brands that caught my eye to research at a later date. 

 

Son of a Sailor

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Leather and wooden favorites for the desk and working on-the-go, all hand made in the Son of a Sailor Austin, TX based studio by husband and wife team and their staff.

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Graf Lantz

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Nothing excites me more for back-to-school than the prospect of the perfect, new carry-all. The Graf Lantz collection, comprising of much more than the lovely totes that I picture below, is a design-enthusiasts dream come true. Clean lines, exquisite materials and timeless color palettes. As the about page on the website so eloquently describes: their aesthetic is thoughtful and functional, combining the disciplines of both East and west into subtle, minimal design.

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Bing Bang

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The look-books and inpso boards alone are enough of a reason to visit the BingBang website. Their necklaces, bracelets and all other accessories are light, fun and stackable, but in particular, I am longing for some of their edgy rings to adorn my hands during long hours of pencil pushing and number crunching…aka adulting.

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Hoff

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Busy season for me means a lot of meetings and a lot of travel, which is why these essential, functional leather pieces strike my fancy. Especially on my wish list are the travel wallets that perfectly fit boarding passes and the oragami-reminiscent business card cases that feature one side for my cards and one side for the cards of clients. Hoff also features minimalist totes that are worth a peek.

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Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend and happy pencil-sharpening!

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Featured image via UnSplash.com, Artist Angelina Litvin.