Choose Your Own Adventure

As a chronic over-thinker, my brain is easily muddled by other people’s opinions. When an effort to connect and share joy is reciprocated with a rapid gunfire of doubt, I recoil. I find my energy, passion, and clarity swept away like a punch in the stomach. I question my actions and I question why I ever share my mind space with those who do anything besides lift me higher.

criticism quote roosevelt

I must learn that people will hand you negativity more often than praise; that I shouldn’t let the fears and anxieties of another seep into my thoughts.

I must remember that my intuition is usually solid and while it’s important to consider those around you, it’s also important to tune out the overflowing bouquet of opinions of others if they are continually making you feel small.

Strength. Stability. Confidence. Trust your gut and forget the rest.

Egg Inspiration

While our Easter weekend festivities won’t likely involve decorating eggs this year, here is a little inspiration for those of you who will be getting egg-crafty. I’ll be busy wrangling my 3 month old into the cutest pair of suspenders you ever did see.

easter eggs, egg decoration, painted eggs, design easter eggs, design worthy easter eggs, modern easter eggs


painted easter eggs, painted eggs, flower eggs, polka dot easter, polka dot easter eggs


easter egg decoration, easter decorations, funny easter eggs, design worthy easter eggs, hollow easter eggs


easter egg inspiration, gold easter eggs, golden eggs, gold and pastel, pink and gold, design easter egg


All images via pinterest.

Bunny Puppets and Other Easy Easter Crafts

Making an Easter basket for a 3 month old baby may sound a little ridiculous to some people. Yeah, I know. He won’t remember. He also can’t eat candy, bite off the head of a chocolate bunny, or go on an egg hunt. If you think any of those things are enough to stand in my way of a good craft project, we clearly haven’t met.

These little bunny puppets are incredibly easy and are perfect for stashing amongst the books and fake grass. Henry is just starting to pay attention to stuffed animals and puppets (Lamb Chop is his BFF), so I figured these would be fun for a few hundred rounds of Little Bunny Foo Foo. Plus, he can keep them forever.

bunny puppets, bunny finger puppets, easy craft idea easter, kids crafts easter, easter diy, easter puppets

First, draw or trace the outline of a bunny on one piece of felt to make a template.

easy easter craft, easter puppets, diy bunny puppets, felt bunnies, felt animals, easy easter crafts kids

Then, use your template to cut out 4 layers of felt per bunny. I used white and gray with two layers of pink in between.

bunny puppet, easter puppet, simple easter craft, kid craft easter, bunny craft easter, bunny project, easy bunny puppet, felt bunny, felt animal diy

Stitch around the edges, securing all 4 piece of fabric for the body. Sew the ears separately, using two layers of felt for each.

easter crafts, easy easter craft, easy puppet diy, craft ideas for easter, easter bunny diy

Make sure to leave the bottom open and then stitch on some whiskers, a nose, and an eye. Finish it off with a cotton ball tail!

easter crafts, diy bunny puppet, easter puppet, easy craft idea easter, kids crafts easter, craft project easter

If you’re feeling extra inspired, make a big plushie carrot. All kids want veggies for toys, right?

easter craft ideas, felt carrot diy, felt veggies, felt veggie, felt crafts, easy crafts easter, carrot plushie

And, for the baby book…

babys first easter, carrot foot craft, foot carrot, Foot carrots, naturally.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Brown Thumb

I’ve always been in total awe of the people who can keep plants alive and thriving. I’ve only kept a few plants alive longer than one season, always watering them too much, not enough, or forgetting to save them before the seasons change. I honestly don’t know exactly what I do wrong, but I’m determined to figure this out.

houseplants, succulents, window plants, hanging plants, succulents design, home decor plants

I dream of hanging plants, mini succulents lined up in a row, windowsill herbs, and maybe even one day a vegetable garden?  Perhaps I have my sights set too high. I suppose it’s smart to stick with indoor plants for now and work my way to the outdoors.

If you have any tips on keeping plants alive, herb/vegetable gardening, or a good book or magazine on the subject- drop me a line!

In the meantime, I’ll keep buying succulents and pretending I’m doing something right.

Life with Henry

Nothing can really prepare you for having a baby. Sure, all of the advice, reading, and helping hands come into use when you’re navigating sleep training and tummy troubles, but no one can fully ready you for the overwhelming amount of love that you will feel.

baby photography, family portraits, mom and baby, newborn pictures, jacqueline barkley photography, leenig

This love isn’t always quiet and snuggly, cooing with joy and loving gazes. It often rears itself in worry, constantly checking for breathing sounds, triple checking the carseat, and studying infant CPR charts. You worry that you are worrying too much and then, one news story later, you realize you aren’t worrying enough.

newborn photo session, newborn photos, newborn pic ideas, leenig

Sometimes your love rears itself as neglect. You instantly don’t have the time for those things that don’t matter. Time wasting, people pleasing, and carelessness seem like the biggest misuse of your heart.

newborn photos, newborn photo session, daddy and baby, baby pictures, baby photos

And no matter how much you try to preserve relationships with those that you love, phone calls will be cut short, emails will linger in your inbox, and you’ll find yourself telling your husband that you miss him, even if he’s sitting right next to you.

family photos, family pictures ideas, baby picture ideas, newborn photo ideas, newborn pictures, leenig, jacqueline barkley photography

So, although it may seem like a struggle sometimes, like the most enormous sacrifice, I can’t imagine my life any differently.  For the same way my husband completed my heart with his love and friendship, Henry has completed us both by turning us into a family. And nothing has ever felt more important.

Photos are courtesy of Jacqueline Barkley Photography. If you live in the Chicago area and are looking for a photographer, I highly suggest using her. She is incredibly intuitive and natural and I am so glad we used her for this experience.

Newborn Gear

With Henry being our first, we really had very little idea of what we were going to need to help us (and him) adjust to this new life. Everyone tells you something different and every baby has unique needs, but also what works for your life, house, or car could be totally different than someone else.

Through a lot of amazon review reading and friendly advice, we ended up with a good lineup of gear. For the most part, we have fully used what we have and don’t have much that we totally didn’t need. We really tried to stick to the basics and didn’t splurge on a bunch of clothes and toys that newborns really don’t care about. Everything was about comfort, safety, and simplifying our lives (while looking good, of course).


newborngear1. Zip-up sleepers make for easier diaper changes when you’re fumbling in the middle of the night and trying to keep the baby asleep. They’re also helpful when you aren’t quite proficient at the over-the-head move or wanting to deal with a bunch of buttons.

2. This Medela Breast Pump is so worth it. We originally had a cheaper one, but after realizing we were in it for the long haul with breastfeeding, we invested in a Medela.

3. Henry has loved sleeping this Rock ‘n Play. I think it has to do with its cradling, snuggly nature.

4. The Puj Tub makes giving kitchen sink baths easy and comfy, plus it simple and design-friendly.

5. This vintage light-up globe gives just the right amount of light for late night diaper changes while keeping the nursery in sleepy mode.

6. These big, gauzy Aden + Anais blankets make the best swaddles and are great for laying down on the floor or covering the car seat to guard baby from the elements. If there was one thing I could tell new parents to get, it’d be these.

7. The Britax Travel System has been perfect so far. It’s simple, safe, and super lightweight/compact for being a full size stroller and car seat. It will also grow with us and should be useful until Henry is 4 or 5.

Our favorites are already starting to change now that Henry has hit the 2 month mark and is getting to be more active. What do you think is a newborn must-have and what should we get for this upcoming stage?



Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

You want to know why moms love slow cooker recipes?  It’s because there is SOMETHING about 5 pm that drives a child into prime cranky mode.  I know, my son is only 2 months old, but his mood-swings are like clockwork.  I can only imagine what will happen once you add a full school day, more kids, dentist appointments, piano lessons, and soccer practice. Tackling dinner during naptime or the night before really seems to help make life a little easier.

This Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe is easy and a classic.  Serve it up with some mashed potatoes, carrots, and maybe a bit of whole grain mustard and you’re all set.

corned beef and cabbageOh, and St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow. That gives you JUST enough time to pick up these ingredients on your Sunday grocery store run. Make a little extra and you can also make sandwiches all week.

crockpotcornedbeefRecipe for Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

5 lb Corned Beef Roast (with spice packet or already seasoned)

1 large onion, quartered

1 head green cabbage, cut into thick wedges

For serving: buttery carrots, mashed potatoes, whole grain mustard, Irish soda bread or sourdough

Line bottom of slow cooker with onion and place roast on top with the fat side up. Cover with just enough water to cover the meat, making sure not to add too much. Place lid on top and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

In the last 20 minutes, add the cabbage and cook until barely softened. Remove meat and trim excess fat and thinly slice against the grain or shred with fork.

Serve all layered and pretty or throw it all in bowls and hunker down on the couch. Slow cooker cooking at it’s finest.

Last Minute Oscar Party

This time of year is painstakingly dull. The holidays are over, spring is nowhere in sight, and it’s still way too damn cold. I’m all for grabbing onto as many things to celebrate as humanly possible, especially if they include wearing fur, eating popcorn, and drinking champagne.

In my dream life of having my best pals nearby, I would throw together a last minute Oscars party. We’d make the popcorn way too spicy, have to send Brian to get us more wine, and would probably end up talking way too much to even watch The Oscars.

SOMEDAY this will be reality.  In the meantime…

oscar party outfitCasual/fab outfit choices (details here).

Oscar-popcorn_full_600Popcorn 5-ways


DIY gold heart pinata


Printable Oscar ballots


DIY balloon awards

Can I please?

Mommy Juice: PB + Banana + Kale

We keep getting asked what the biggest surprise has been after having a baby.  Sure, we could say we are surprised at how crazy in love we are or how our lives have completely changed, but that’d be a lie. We always knew that this baby would make us incredibly happy.

green smoothie

What we didn’t expect is for our little guy to be such a piece of cake.  Yes, there have been moments (hours) of fussy crying, we’ve each been peed on WAY more than once, and everything around the house has to be done in small bursts during naps, but that’s the easy part. The tricky part is figuring out how to properly care for yourself in the midst of it all.  Without a clear, calm head and plenty of stamina for baby bouncing, you could easily lose your mind.

pb kale banana smoothie

Keeping yourself in tip-top shape for newborn life is a must. Not only do you need to be able to drop everything you are doing to change a diaper or sing another round of baby beluga, you’ve also got to be a sole source of nutrition for a teeny, tiny, hungry tiger.

A good amount of protein, frequent snacks, and lots of hydration keeps the milk supply up and the number on the scale going down. It’s a tricky, tricky game, but it can be played. I’ve probably been eating better than ever, even more so than when I was pregnant since there aren’t the monster sugar cravings and any kind of processed food has become totally repulsive.

peanut butter kale banana smoothie

Smoothies like this are helpful when I know I will only have one arm free for consuming my calories. It’s got healthy fats, protein, fruit and vegetables all in one.  It also doesn’t require a bunch of prep time that might have be be abandoned halfway through and it keeps my energy level high and my guilt level low.

Reaching for healthier convenience foods (smoothies, green juice, fruit, yogurt, luna bars) has helped to fill in the gaps between salads, whole grains, and the insane amount of chicken I’ve been eating and, so far, I think it’s working.  I’ve been getting smaller, Henry’s getting bigger, and we’ve both been healthy since delivery day.

If any other moms/humans/readers/health geniuses out there have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear it.  In the meantime, I’ll be sippin’ on one of these.

Recipe for Peanut Butter + Banana + Kale Smoothie

1 tbsp peanut butter

1 handful kale

1 ripe banana

1/2 cup almond milk (or more if you don’t like it thick)

Blend peanut butter, kale, and banana in blender or food processor until smooth. Slowly add almond milk until desired consistency is reached.