Monday, September 1, 2014

Celebrating the Last Days of Summer


Although we technically have almost three weeks left, Labor Day is considered the last official day of summer here in the states.  And as sad as that makes this summer girl, I have a special place in my heart for this day, because it serves as a great reminder to me to get outside and enjoy one of the final days of the beautiful summer weather in all its glory.  Truthfully, it's been a mix of cloudy/rainy and brutally warm in the Chicago area for the last week - but I'll take gray, wet, hot days over the cold, dark, and painfully short days of winter any time.

I'm also a fan of Labor Day because of what it stands for - a day to recognize and celebrate the social and economic accomplishments and contributions of American workers by giving us a day off of work.  Admittedly, a lot of people don't get to have the day off anymore (and that's no fun), but I still appreciate the premise behind it.  As I said in my 'life lesson' post last week, making the time to enjoy life outside of work has become one of my greatest priorities.  So for those of you working, I hope that you have a little time to relax and enjoy the rest of the day once you're done.  I'm gonna miss you, summertime.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hip Mom, Smart Mom, Stylish Mom: Nicolette Gawthrop

Hip Mom, Smart Mom, Stylish Mom: Nicolette Gawthrop

A couple of months ago, I introduced a new series to you guys called 'Hip Mom, Smart Mom, Stylish Mom.'  I explained that when I was pregnant, I thought a lot about what kind of changes would take place in me after the baby arrived, and if it would be difficult to maintain my individual identity and style.  I knew that I absolutely wanted Essley to come first, without question - but I also knew that it was important to continue to stay true to who I was, and to continue to enjoy the things that made me ME, pre-baby.  Well despite much less sleep and free time, a consistently messy home, and a wardrobe that is rarely wrinkle-free or truly clean, I can honestly say that I at least make a conscious effort to be somewhat stylish, to create a relatively healthy balance between work/family/life, and to remind myself that it's neither necessary nor appealing for me to fit into the mold of the stereotypical, traditional mom.  I'm lucky to know (and constantly meet) other moms who feel the same way that I do.  These women are committed mothers who defy convention.  They are true to their kids and true to their families, but also true to themselves.  These moms are hip, smart, and stylish - and I'm thrilled to be able to share, in their words, what makes them that way.

For the third post in this series, I'm thrilled to be featuring another real life friend who is also a blogger.  I met this lovely lady several years back (2008?), well before either of us were moms (or had blogs).  We were introduced by our husbands (then boyfriends), who go way, way back, and we hit it off immediately.  She is raising two beautiful little boys, takes some seriously gorgeous photos, and might possibly be the world champion of scoring cool thrift store finds. Welcome the hip, smart, and stylish Nicolette Gawthrop.

Welcome Nicolette! Please introduce yourself to Bubby and Bean's readers.

Thank you so much for having me, and for considering me a Hip Mom, Smart Mom, Stylish Mom!!!  I'm flattered. My name is Nicolette Gawthrop, I am a Mom of two little boys: Loukas, age 4 and Jasper, age 2. It's a funny thing to call oneself, but I'd say I'm a Thrift-shopper, an Instagrammer, and a documentary photographer. I also hobby-blog about my life as Ozark Mama Deer - mostly my photography and creative writing with some lifestyle-type posts mixed in between. My husband, Jerrmy, is a restauranteur and music festival promoter, and I like to consider myself on the "Board of Trustees" for his various business ventures. We juggle a lot around, here, but try be ourselves, keeping true to our style at the same time.

I've never been a huge fan of being asked to define my style in a number of words, but for sake of time and space, let's do it anyway.  Define yours in three words.   


What is your usual daily ‘uniform?'

I tend to dress based on my mood for the day. Always comfortable, mostly natural breathable fibers. Recently, I’ve embraced the yoga pants cliche and I'm so glad that I have. It doesn't happen often, but I actually love to hit the ground running in what I went to bed in the night before, leggings and a tee - brush teeth, splash my face with water, swipe on some blush and dab some under eye concealer and get the day going. Usually I stick to comfy casual: jeans, a cute tee or button up, and boots or slip on shoes.   Somedays, though, when I’m feeling low, instead of the same ole jeans and top, I go for a dress. I find that when you are facing a rough day, braiding your hair pretty and taking a little extra time to jazz up your look, can put an extra pep in your step.

What is different (if anything) about your style/wardrobe now than before you had kids?

I would say my wardrobe has evolved quite a lot since becoming a Mom. Mostly, accessorizing my outfits has become somewhat limited - especially at the peek of baby wearing, and breastfeeding when little fingers start to pull on earrings and necklaces or they get entangled in wearing the kid, and carrying the bag with all the kid’s stuff. Also, most of my decisions about what to wear daily are based on feeling comfortable while sitting to nurse, nursing accessibility, how hot and sweaty I might get while carrying a kid and most importantly- I gage how much I will feel irritated if my garment gets stained. My kids tend to view my apparel as an extended napkin (the other napkins around here, besides real ones, are their shirts.) So basically, I try to express myself through my style as much as possible without compromising my Mom role. It’s a terrible feeling when you don’t want your cute kid to crawl all over you or pick them up to carry them because you don’t want to get your get up messy, and it’s equally awkward to do floor play activities in certain styles of pants or skirts. Obviously, it’d be easy to just wear scrubs or athletic apparel (I’ve recently embraced yoga pants days) but I also find that expressing myself through the way that I dress is something that I value. There was time in the very early days of motherhood that I actually went through my wardrobe and purged some of my very favorite non-practical pieces in the spirit of “I’m a mom now,” and I don’t think that has to be the case. Your children deserve to have a happy parent who is comfortable being themselves. Sure you may have to skip the heels, and tone down the accessories but I think it’s important for kids to see parents being them.

What do you wear when you go out with your husbands or girlfriends? Are your outfits different or the same as when you're hanging with the kids? 

I tend to stick to comfortable, easy looks with some flare. I like to save my white clothing items and things that are hard to “mom” in for date nights. I don’t get out for evening engagements too often, but when I do- I wear heals, I happily don’t have to consider breastfeeding and I add extra jewelry and make up.

What are your top three wardrobe staples?

This is a tough one.
-Comfortable jeans.
-Swedish clogs
-Stylish Tee shirts (I have splurged on a couple J.Crew linen and cotton tees that look great and are a put-on-and-go easy look)

What are your favorite places to shop for clothing that you'd suggest to other hip/smart/stylish moms? 

A majority of the clothing I wear is thrifted or purchased at this crazy warehouse buyout place where I find Free People and Anthropologie, cast offs that often need repairs and are from the previous year’s season. I love to score on the J.Crew %-off-sale sales, and sometimes GAP. When I am thrift shopping I look for vintage specialty items, made in USA, organic cotton/natural fibers and finer designer labels -which happens- it’s amazing what you can find out there- and no, I don’t thrift with my kids. I also love eBay for finding swedish clogs and fancy boots. I always do eBay searches before I buy full-price footwear. It’s pretty rare that I buy full-price items, but when I do- it’s always from local shops, here, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We actually happen to have some of the greatest boutiques. Northwest Arkansas happens to be a pretty fashionable area!!! I would suggest checking out your local resale shops and sign up for email reminders of jcrew clearance sales for staples and statement tees! Their items are always a treat, especially heavily discounted.

What are your favorite places to shop for baby and/or kids clothes?

I do love the independent Etsy shop specialty items made by moms, and I like to shop local (we have a few really great kids’ boutiques around here, as well, but I’m quite practical about the cost of clothing items for kids- which often end up getting stains, and are outgrown quickly. So, I do a lot of thrifting, and I find items on eBay. eBay is a glorious market place, in my opinion. Otherwise, I wait for sales and rarely pay full price, and because I save so much with the thrifting, I can sometimes splurge on a $20 shirt or fancy pair of leggings (which my boys love) and buy nicer shoes and just mix and match and snazz up a thrifted pair of vintage shorts or top that I paid $2 for. My favorite kids clothes makers are: CrewcutsGapLittle Hip SqueaksMama Case PrintsMini BodenTea CollectionKate Quinn OrganicsAmerican Apparel, and Smafolk, and for PJ’s: Hanna Andersson (which I often buy on eBay.) There are some other brands that I super love right now, like Mini Rodini, Bobo Choses, and Nico Nico, but they aren't in the budget. I'll be searching for leftovers from the last couple seasons on eBay for sure. My criteria for kids clothes, again, is comfort and I try to buy only 100% cotton. We rarely put the boys in jean material because they are so active and it doesn’t move well. The boys love their Salt Water Surfer Sandals, New Balance, Vans, and Sperry "boat shoes" they call them, as well as their RAIN BOOTS. I found reasonable Hunter Boots and Joules on… you guessed it, eBay this last year and I tend to feel comfortable buying quality items in my oldest boy’s size because they will be passed on to little bro.

How do you 'balance' everything you have going on (work, kids, family, life!) while still keeping a sense of style?

My sense of style is a very much an intrinsic part of who I am. I don’t think I go too much out of my way thinking about it… it just kind of happens. It helps to keep our wardrobes pared down to the items we love best and have favorites around that are easy to lauder and readily available. I actually consider care instructions when I purchase items. I learned really early on that washing clothes when you are a mom is a bit more necessary than before kids. Like I said before, my clothes seem to resemble a napkin to my little guys. And I wouldn’t say that I’ve got the balance part down, but I do prioritize taking a shower and getting dress almost every single day. If nothing more than it makes me feel good and therefore translates into higher spirits all around. Like, I said before- your kids deserve to have a happy parent and to know the real you!

What is your ultimate favorite thing to do with your family when you have some downtime?

We love to EAT. My husband is a chef/restaurant owner and we are pretty obsessed with food. We take our kids to all kinds of food places and they are becoming pretty good diners. Our other favorite is adventure/travel, which we try to do a couple of times a year. And when we travel…you guessed it- we love to eat.

Thanks again to the wonderful Nicolette for being our third hip/smart/stylish mom!  Make sure to pay her a visit to her blog, Ozark Mama Deer.  You can also find her on Instagram, where she recently garnished some attention by becoming one of IG's suggested users.  Go Nico!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Our Favorite Kicks for Mini Feet

Those of you who read here often and/or follow me over on Instagram are likely familiar with how much we love Freshly Picked.  They're good folks.  They featured our birth story on their blog earlier this summer, we teamed up with them for a giveaway last month, and Essley has worn their shoes in a couple of outfit posts with me over the course of the year.  They're down to earth, kind, hardworking, and motivated by a positive mission.  And their founder and owner, Susan, is a righteous babe.  She started the business in 2009 with $200 and her own bare hands, and has grown it into a well-known, incredibly successful company that has been featured on television and in all sorts of magazines - with a product that is worn by thousands and thousands of kids and babies worldwide (including some pretty famous ones).  Oh, and despite the growth, each pair continues to be made by hand here in the U.S.  Pretty great.

Today, I'm going to share with you a little about why we like them - along with some of my favorite pictures of Essley rocking them.  Although I'll do the occasional review around here, I like to keep them pretty limited.  That said, if there is a particular product that I genuinely adore, especially if it's made by a company who I feel good supporting, then I like to spread the word.  This is one of those products.  I didn't get paid to write this post.  We just really dig these guys, and their shoes too.

Essley's first pair of Freshly Picked moccasins (Swimmin' With the Sharks) arrived while I was still pregnant, from a giveaway that I'd been lucky to win.  I'd had my eye on their shoes for her for quite some time, thanks to their adorably stylish design.  I was even more impressed once I'd received them and was able to see the quality in person.  As soon as Essley was big enough, she started wearing them on a regular basis.  A few months later, FP generously sent another pair for her to wear (this time we opted for the Goldenrod).  Once again, the quality was consistent, and they were even more beautiful in person.

Essley tends to kick shoes off almost immediately, but she doesn't do this with her FPs.  I'm guessing it's because they're comfortable for her - the leather is soft and molds to her little feet (which allows for better foot development), instead of feeling stiff or too structured like most baby shoes.  In fact, they stay her on feet through pretty much anything.  And at almost 8 months, she is constantly rolling and scooting and beginning to crawl, moving her feet all over the place.  The design of FP's moccs is somewhat genius, really.  Each shoe features a hidden piece of elastic that allows for the shoes to go on (and be taken off) easily, yet still fit snugly to the child's foot while on.  We like this.  A lot.

My Style // Bubby and Bean

As a new mama, it's nice to discover certain baby products (wearable items included) about which you can feel confident in terms of quality, consistency, and aesthetics.  I like being able to know that as Essley continues to grow, and begins to walk and become even more mobile (yikes!), I can count on Freshly Picked for her everyday shoes.  It's almost time to go up a size, and I'm trying to decide which color to get next.  I should add that they've also recently added some seriously gorgeous carryall bags to the mix (hello, Christmas list!).

Thanks for letting me share a little about my favorite baby shoe brand with you guys.  If you're looking for a new pair of kicks for your little one, or a genuinely great gift for a niece, nephew, grandkid, or friend's child, I truly can't recommend Freshly Picked highly enough.  You can find out more about them (and browse all of their delicious colors) on their website.  You can also find them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Moccasins c/o Freshly Picked.  Yellow romper c/o Runaway Pony.  Orange and white headband c/o The Line

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Baby Schedule (+ a Printable Calendar)

My Baby Schedule (+ a Printable Calendar)
This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Sharpie, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #SharpieClearview

One morning last December, when I was nearing the end of my pregnancy, I woke up in a state of panic.  After a dream where I'd missed Essley's first appointment with her pediatrician because I was so overwhelmed with first-time-mom-to-a-newborn craziness, I was convinced that I'd forget about absolutely everything I'd have to do for her in real life too.  I spent the next hour downloading a myriad of apps to my iPhone that each claimed to be the perfect 'baby schedule guide.'  They came with reminders, calendars, alarms, and more.  I was confident that with all of these apps right there in my phone, I'd be prepared and never miss an appointment, feeding, nap, or play date.

When Essley was born, I religiously updated all of my handy mommy scheduling apps - for about a week.  As sleep deprivation mounted, I realized how much work it was to remind myself to enter and check things off in my phone, and the app usage started to dwindle.  By the time she was two months old, I'd deleted all of them.  I knew that my memory was pretty much the least reliable way to keep track of everything, so I started scribbling notes with pencil onto my work calendar.  It didn't take long for me to come to the conclusion that combining baby tasks and work tasks into one daybook was a bad idea as well.

By now it was already well into spring, and going out and grabbing another 2014 planner was no longer an option.  So I sat down and my computer and designed a monthly calendar in Photoshop that I could print out and devote exclusively to Essley.  This was a huge help - it was so much easier for me to just have her schedule right in front of me, and it was good to know that if I screwed up, I could quickly print out another copy.  I noticed recently, though, that the calendar days where we had a lot going on were looking awfully jumbled.  We introduced solid foods a couple of months ago, and I've been writing down what she eats for each meal, which was starting to blend in with appointments and other plans.  So I decided to take things up a notch, and headed over to Walgreens to grab a pack of Sharpie Clearview Highlighters.  And, with their help, my trusty baby schedule instantly became a whole lot more organized.

I assigned each of the four different colors to a different category of tasks: yellow for food, pink for play dates, orange for appointments (pediatrician, etc.), and green for miscellaneous plans.  Then I highlighted all of the tasks and events I'd recorded based on their respective colors.  I'm telling you guys - a little color coding can suddenly make your schedule appear infinitely less hectic.  The Sharpie Clearview Highlighters are so great too, because they don't smear (woohoo to that!), and they have a clear tip, which allows you to see exactly what you're highlighting as you move the marker across the text.  I'll also confess that as much as I am attached to my phone, I much prefer to look at physical paper in front of me when it comes to calendars.  And when I can make that paper look somewhat cute, it's a bonus.  Creating these little baby schedules feels more like an art project to me now.  I'm all about giving everyday organization a creative vibe, and what used to feel like a chore is now actually kind of fun.

For those of you with babies (or older kids too), you can download and print out the monthly calendar that I created right here.  It's a very simple design, but I created it that way in an effort to allow for lots of customization.  Print it out, go grab yourself some Sharpie Highlighters, and report back to me with how much more organized you feel in a couple of days.

Do those of you who keep baby/kid schedules have any other organizational tips for keeping everything on track?

Thank you for supporting Bubby and Bean by allowing me to post occasional sponsored content. All sponsored posts feature products or services that I genuinely feel would be of interest to my readers.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Career, Family, and Life Lessons: What I Learned From Closing My Business After 15 Years

When You Love What You Have, You Have Everything You Need

Last week, I posted about my decision to close my eco-clothing business, Mountains of the Moon, after 15 years.  (You can read the full story here.)  For a final farewell sale, my employee Kari and I decided to offer 75% off for two days.  Sales had been so poor over there that even with the huge discount, we expected to get a dozen orders, or maybe two dozen at most.  And because of that, we were completely unprepared logistically for the days that followed.  I was also unprepared for how those days would affect me emotionally.  Awfully dramatic sounding, isn't it? With all of the horrible, truly terrifying things going on in our world right now, this is, of course, absolutely nothing.  But to me - on a personal level - it resulted in a big ol' life lesson.  It may sound like little more than an especially crazy week at work, but the experience ended up being pretty profound.

Orders poured in within a few minutes of when the newsletter announcing our closing sale was sent.  This alone would have been overwhelming for the two of us (in an awesome way, of course), but that was just the beginning.  Our inventory system crashed because of the massive influx of orders, and we quickly realized that our website was still making sold out items available for purchase.  Now we had to manually go in after every order and update inventory, email customers to let them know which items they ordered were unavailable, and manually issue refunds through our credit card processor and PayPal.  And that is a very oversimplified explanation of what actually happened.  We became increasingly more confused and overwhelmed with time, so I stopped and spent several hours typing up spreadsheets to get everything organized.  This helped tremendously, but there was still no end in sight.  I worked close to 20 hours the first day with zero breaks except to nurse Essley, and Kari worked nearly as long.

The second day of the sale, my internet went out for half of the day.  Perfect timing, right?  As Kari pulled and packed order after order, I had to use the tiny keypad on my cell phone to email customers, update the website and spreadsheet, etc.  The scene was comical, really.  I also watched days worth of Bubby and Bean work pile up and fall to the wayside as I focused everything on Mountains of the Moon.  If Robbie hadn't been home to take care of Essley, I'm pretty sure I would have been in the midst of a full-on nervous breakdown by that point. I questioned my choice to offer such a huge discount, knowing that in the end, we'd be working this hard just to take a loss.  By night, Kari and I had both reached a point where we were so fried we became useless, and had to stop.  The days that followed the sale were long, and were spent tying up loose ends, packing, and shipping orders well into the night, until eventually, we caught up.

Last week was my busiest and most stressful work week of the year.  Times ten.  And in the middle of it all, I realized some pretty important stuff - stuff that I already knew because it's obvious, really, but that I'm not sure I fully believed until now. I do want to say that I was (am!) incredibly grateful for the outpouring of love that my clothing business received last week, from long-time customers and friends who had been with us since the beginning, and new customers as well. And I was, am, and will continue to be grateful for everything I experienced over the years because of that little company that I started right out of college. But here's the thing. I remember when Mountains of the Moon was that busy all the time - without a 75% off sale.  And I can't believe I ever allowed myself to work 80 hour weeks like that.  I worked my life away for many years you guys, and I didn't even realize how unhealthy it was.  My income was better, yes.  And maybe I could buy nicer things, or travel more, or whatever.  But I don't know how I functioned.  Last week really reminded me how grateful I am to have started the Bubby & Bean blog and art shop - and how much happier I am at a job that is still full time but doesn't consume me.  Actually, grateful doesn't begin to describe it.

Career is important to me, and always has been.  But my family and the ability to enjoy life have become infinitely more important. I was a complete stress case last week, to the point of tears on a couple of occasions.  But this is a good thing.  Because now I'm 100% sure that I made the right choice to move on. A tough economy and slowly decreasing consumer interest in eco-friendly goods are not positive things, no matter how you look at them.  However - the way that they affected my business (and subsequently forced me to make the decision to close it after so long) is something that I now know ultimately led to my quality of life increasing tenfold. So yeah. Maybe everything does happen for a reason and all that stuff.  All I know is that I've never appreciated where I am quite so much as the present.  I love what I have... So I have everything I need.

Before I go, I'm going to make sure you know how grateful I am for you, as well.  Because without you, there would be no Bubby & Bean, and maybe I'd still be caught up in those 80 hour weeks at my other company.  So thank you.  Thank you for buying art prints and holiday cards from my art shop, and for supporting the boutiques who carry my art and cards, and for reading this blog, and for allowing me to partner with brands on sponsored posts and offer sidebar ads so the blog can help support my family.  Part of the reason I'm able to work without giving up my entire life these days is because of this, and therefore, because of you too.

And that concludes my deep, dramatic thoughts for today.  If you got this far, you're a champ. We'll be back to the fun stuff tomorrow. Promise.
Top image art prints available here.

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