Monday, May 21, 2018

An Fun End of School Year Interview for Kids

An Fun End of School Year Interview for Kids

Some of you might remember at the beginning of this school year when I shared a fun "interview" I put together with questions for Essley, with intentions of asking her the same questions on the last day of school (which was last week). The post received a lot of traffic and was pinned quite a bit on Pinterest, so I decided to share the questions and answers here again. (And if you want to see the original post and her answers on the first day, you can do that right here.) Some of her responses were exactly the same, and others had changed. And once again, they were a combination of funny and endearing. It's just amazing to me how much she's grown since the beginning of the year. I can't wait for all of our adventures together over summer break.

1. What is your name? Essley.
2. What grade are you in? Threes Preschool and next year I'm in Pre-K because I'm big.
3. How old are you? 4.
4. What is your favorite color? Pink.
5. What is your favorite thing to do at school? Play with the building blocks and play with my friends.
6. What is your favorite activity outside of school? Ballet, Tap, soccer, gymnastics, theatre and all activities but not swimming lessons.
7. What do you want to be when you grow up? A dance teacher.
8. What is your favorite food? Pizza.
9. How old is your mommy? 30. 16.
10. What is her job? Working on blog posts.
11. What is mommy's favorite food? Salad and beer. You like beer mommy.
12. How old is your daddy? 19.
13. What is his job? He's a Stage Manager.
14. What is daddy's favorite food? Sandwiches. Sometimes he eats hotdogs.
15. What do mommy and daddy like to do? Go to movies and IKEA and to daddy's work.
16. If you have brothers or sisters, what are their names? Crispy. (His name is Emmett.)
17. How old is your brother(s) (and/or sisters)? 2.
18. What is your brother(s) (and/or sisters) favorite food? Mac and cheese. He's a little piggy.
19. What is your favorite toy My dolls and Owly. (Her favorite owl toy since she was a babe.)
20. Where do you live? By Chicago.
21. What is your favorite thing to do? Playing with my mommy.
22. What is your favorite place you've ever been? The Children's museum and California.
23. Who is your best friend? Mommy and Livie and Kinsley and Madison and Harper and Sophie and Peyton and all my friends.
24. What is your favorite animal? Zebras and tigers and dogs.
25. If you could have anything you wished for, what would it be? To have tons of animals that I can take care of.

If any of you use these question to interview your preschoolers or grade schoolers, I'd love to hear some of their replies!


Thursday, May 17, 2018

6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In

6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In
Thank you Cameron Hughes for sponsoring this post. Wine and dine your way into summer and raise a toast to everyone’s favorite season!

Like most parents of young children, there is little in life I love more than going out on a date for some quality alone time with my husband. Dates don't happen often, but when they do, they're pretty great. Last month Robbie and I had plans to go out for some drinks and food, and when discussing where to go, we realized that since having our daughter four and a half years ago, we had not had a single evening alone in our own house. Not one. We'd gone out to movies and for dinner and to see live music with friends, but we hadn't enjoyed time at home as just the two of us in close to five years. I mean, I love my kids with all my heart, but that's a little ridiculous, right? So we decided to try something different. We made a call and rearranged our date night out so that the kids would go to my mom's for a few hours while we had a nice evening date in. And you guys, it was glorious.

Since then, we had another stay-at-home date, this time in the afternoon to celebrate the fact that warm weather had finally arrived to the Chicagoland area.  It was so nice to just relax (both outside and inside with the windows wide open!) and have a casual evening enjoying our favorite wine and snacks, toasting to the upcoming summer season.

A couple of weeks later I was out with some girlfriends and was telling them what a wonderful time we had, and several of them mentioned to me that they'd started doing more date nights in as well. We ended up sharing our tips and ideas for stay-at-home dates with one another, and there were so many great ideas that I thought I'd share some of them here with you too - specifically summertime-inspired casual date-in ideas, since summer is (woohoo!) right around the corner.

6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In
6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In

1. Have a summer movie marathon. One of my friends has an actual movie screen set up in her backyard that her family uses to watch movies in the summer. (I am very jealous.) The first weekend it warmed up this year, she and her husband had a date night at home, snuggling on a blanket in the grass with popcorn and watching movies together. I thought this was a pretty fantastic idea, and although we don't have a movie screen in our yard, we'll be recreating it in our living room with our windows open and a marathon of our favorite summertime flicks.

2. Cook (and eat) a summer-inspired meal together. On our first at home date night, we made our favorite summertime pizza (pesto sauce, mozzarella, olives, and fresh tomato) together and enjoyed it together, slowly and blissfully uninterrupted! And it was so refreshing not to have to deal with reservations or noisy restaurants or overpriced bills. We just had a patio put in (you can see some sneak peeks in these photos; full reveal coming soon!), and I can't wait use our grill and (hopefully!) have several summer date nights in cooking and eating dinner out there.

3. Enjoy a summer concert in the comfort of your own home. Because Robbie works in the music industry and works at well over a hundred concerts each year, when he's off duty, he much prefers to watch them from home by live streaming. (As someone who has been to many hundreds of concerts and music festivals myself, it's hard for me to admit this, but these days, so do I.) It might not feel quite the same as actually being at a live show, dancing on the grass under the stars, but I can confidently say that there is something pretty awesome about being able to stretch out on your sofa, cuddled up with your significant other, just the two of you. (And there are no lines for the bathroom!)

6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In

4. Take a long romantic walk. I guess this isn't technically something you do at home, but after our recent afternoon stay-at-home date, Robbie and I took an hour-long walk around our neighborhood as the sun was setting, and it was kind of magical. There isn't much more romantic than a sunset, and it was perfect for having real conversation away without the temptation of screens, while enjoying all of the things that make spring and summer so wonderful.

5. Have a backyard picnic. We have picnics with the kids all the time, but it's been years since we've had one by ourselves. One of my girlfriends and her partner recently did this and said it was on her favorite date nights ever. They threw a blanket down in their backyard and ate cheese and fresh bread and olives in their bare feet under the stars. I mean, how romantic is that? It's definitely on my summer to do list.

6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In
6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In

6. Open a bottle of your favorite summer wine and just relax. This one is my favorite, and it's exactly what we did on our most recent stay-at-home date. Robbie and I are both constantly going (I'm sure most of you can relate), and even when he's home and not on tour, we very rarely have even a few minutes of down time to spend together. When we were trying to decide what to do for our date, we both agreed that a couple of glasses of Cameron Hughes, some super easy summertime snacks, and some time to just hang out outside together sounded absolutely blissful. And it was! For us, there is nothing better than a casual, simple date. And we love Cameron Hughes Wine for the same reason - it's all about what is in inside the bottle. There's no fancy label, their website is simple and easy to navigate, and the wine is high quality and delicious but still affordable. And Cameron himself samples thousands of wine samples a year (they say "he tastes the bad stuff so you don’t have to" - love that) and only selects the best wine to bring to his customers. That's my kind of wine company. And this is my kind of date. (Psst... Use code INEEDWINE18 for free shipping when you purchase 3 bottles of wine at Cameron Hughes!

6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In
6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In

Have any of you done a date night in recently? If you have any other great ideas for summertime stay-at-home dates, I would love to hear about them. Happy almost summer, friends.

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Our Health As Women (And What I Did To Take Responsibility For Mine)

The Importance of Women's Health
This post is in partnership with Everlywell. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby & Bean possible.

As adult women - whether we're moms, grandmothers, daughters, career badasses, students, wives, girlfriends, single babes, or all of the above - we tend to put ourselves on the back burner while we take care of other people and other things first. So many of the conversations I have with my girlfriends revolve around what we're doing for our kids, our jobs, our partners, our homes, etc., - but only occasionally do we talk about things we're actually doing for ourselves.

I've noticed as I've gotten older that one area where this especially holds true is health. I am constantly focused on my kids' health and my parents' health, encouraging healthy lifestyle choices and doctor check ups and all around wellness, when in truth, I very rarely think about my own health. When your daily to do list feels endless and involves taking care of multiple tasks and people, it's not easy to prioritize yourself, and things (like your health) don't feel like immediate concerns. But just because it isn't easy doesn't mean it's not incredibly important. I do go to the dentist twice a year, and have my annual visit to the gyno, and (eventually) go to my primary care physician if I'm sick. But as I get older (I swear I blinked and suddenly entered my 40s), I am realizing more and more that my health is just as important as the health of the rest of the people I love - even my kids. In fact, if I want to be the best mama I can be to my little ones and continue to be active with them, one of the most crucial things I can do is own my health as a woman.

This week is Women's Health Week, so I thought it would be the perfect time to share my personal story with you about something I did (and am doing) to take responsibility of my own health as a woman.

The Importance of Women's Health
The Importance of Women's Health

My hormones have been all over the place for over 5 years now. This is because since April 2013, I have been either pregnant, or breastfeeding, or both. Yep. 5 years. (As I type this, I am at the very end of my breastfeeding journey, as Emmett is almost fully weaned. But it's been a long one.) I always had regular menstrual cycles before getting pregnant, but after years without periods due to pregnancy and breastfeeding, when I finally began getting them again, I noticed they weren't as regular as in the past. They lasted for less time, and did not come at regular 28 day intervals anymore. My PMS also seemed to be much more intense than in the past. On top of this, I know that while it is likely still years away, menopause is on the horizon. Since even a slight hormone imbalance can affect how you feel, your menstrual cycle, your metabolism, your libido, your sleep, and your overall mood, I started to think that it would be in my best interest to take charge of my health and to check my hormone levels. So I ordered Everlywell's Women's Health Test.

The Importance of Women's Health
The Importance of Women's Health

Everlywell's Women's Health Test is a comprehensive hormone panel for women at all stages of life, that can tell you if different hormones are balanced in your body, or if there are imbalances that could be preventing you from feeling your best. It tests for a variety of hormones known to be instrumental in women’s health: Estradiol, Progesterone, LH (Luteinizing Hormone), FSH (Follicle-Stimulating Hormone), DHEAS, Testosterone, Cortisol at four times throughout the day, TSH (Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone), Free T3, Free T4, TPO (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies). I'd taken Everlywell's Breastmilk DHA Test last fall, and was impressed by how easy it was to take and how quickly I got my results (which fortunately were in normal range). I couldn't wait to get this one in the mail.

When I got my test, I registered it online and read over the directions. The test itself began with my taking a blood sample (super easy; just a prick and a few drops on a piece of paper) at the beginning of my cycle. Then a couple of weeks into my cycle, I took another blood sample, as well as saliva samples at four different times throughout one day. I filled out a simple form, packed it into the provided box, slapped on the return shipping label, and dropped in the mail. About a week later, I got an email that my results were ready.

Twelve of my levels were in normal range. Three were not. First, my FSH (Follicle-Stimulating Hormone) level came back slightly high. This usually indicates a decline in ovarian reserve, which was not surprising to me considering my age. (And I'm fine with that, as we are 100% done having kids!) Next, my Free T3 (a hormone made by the thyroid) level showed as being slightly low - but so very slight that it's likely not enough for any sort of concern. There was one hormone level though that was a little more out of normal range than the others - my Progesterone/Estradiol Ratio, which was 80 and should be between 100 and 500. I had no idea what this meant, so I read more about it on Everlywell's site. It explained how reproductive hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone, maintain a delicate balance, and that both hormones can affect fertility, as well as your metabolism and mood. Estradiol is the primary estrogen, and your progesterone to estradiol ratio can help assess whether you are more predominant in estrogen (which apparently I am, as my ratio is low) or progesterone, if your ratio is high. I actually have an appointment with my OB/Gyn next week and am looking forward to bringing my results with me to my appointment and learning more about this imbalance, and what (if anything) I need to do to correct it.

The Importance of Women's Health
The Importance of Women's Health

After a long time of putting my own health toward the bottom of the list, I feel really good to be doing something proactive (taking the Women's Health Test and discussing the results with my doctor). I am empowering myself (so important!), but I'm also doing the right thing for the people in my life (especially my children) by taking responsibility for my health so I can be at my very best. I chose to share my specific results of this year with you guys in hope that that it will inspire you to take the test as well, in honor of Women's Health Week. If you do take it, I'd be happy to talk with you about the test or share more specifics about my results. I'd also love to hear some ways you've taken responsibility for your health (it will motivate me to continue to do the same!). And if you'd like to take a Women's Health Test (highly recommended!) or another of Everlywell's tests, you can take 15% off your purchase with code BUBBYANDBEAN.

The Importance of Women's Health

Thank you for letting me share my personal women's heath journey with you!


Monday, May 14, 2018

Our Master Closet Before and After

Affordable Master Closet Renovation Ideas
Thank you California Closets for sponsoring this post.

Back in January, when we moved into our new home, I was excited beyond words about the master bedroom closet. It's not a huge space but any means, and it just came with a simple hanging bar and a shelf above it, but after many years of sharing a tiny closet with my husband, the thought of a walk-in was absolutely thrilling. I had all sorts of big ideas about how I'd organize it, fueled by perfectly styled Pinterest photos. But in reality, once I got everything in it, it was a hot mess. And because it wasn't organized well and we didn't really know how to best utilize the space, over time it just got more and more cluttered and less functional. In all honesty, it was starting to bum me out that we had finally had a walk-in closet that looked so terrible and was so difficult to navigate. It was time to get some help.

I decided to reach out to California Closets for advice, and also to learn more about their services for future spaces in our home. I'd heard great things about them, and knew that their professional design consultants collaborate with their clients to create custom designs that not only work with their needs, but also incorporate personal style and budget. My consultant, Jessica, was like my organizational guardian angel. She not only explained to me in detail the different services California Closets offers, she also gave me invaluable tips and suggestions for my own space. Robbie and I ended up  taking a couple of days to use these suggestions to completely redo our closets. And the results were pretty incredible.

But before we get into all of this, feast your eyes on these glorious before photos...

See? It wasn't a very inviting space. In fact, it genuinely gave me anxiety to walk in there.

I'm going to share the after photos in a minute, but first I want to tell you more about what a typical at home consultation with my California Closets consultant Jessica entails. First is an introductory call or email to confirm time, day, address, and details of the meeting. On consultation day, Jessica shows up with a clip board and begins jotting down notes right away, asks whether the client has worked with California Closets before, and talks a little more about what to expect during the meeting. Then she gets to work checking out the space, taking specific measurements, asking a variety of questions, and trying to determined what is most important to the client. When working on a closet project, she usually measures how much hanging space the client is currently using, and the quantity of things like shoes, hand bags, drawers etc. She then takes a round of before photos for her portfolio. After this, she does a recap and goes over everything with the client - from their specific wants and needs to timing to budget. She then uses her iPad and the California Closets app to share examples of similar spaces they've installed, possible accessory and design enhancements, and presents a box of wood samples to see what color scheme the client prefers. She then refers to budget examples in the app, comes up with a preliminary design, and she and the client review it together and make adjustments. Sometimes Jessica also sets up a follow up appointment at the nearest California Closets showroom to present more detailed time and costs. Once designs have been presented and costs have been discussed, she sends the clients the 3D images of their design and asks how they would like to proceed. Pretty cool, right?

As for the specific tips Jessica gave me based on my closet (as seen in two images above), the first thing she suggested was to look into adding more shelving and drawers. We didn't have a lot hanging from the beginning, so she felt that there was still plenty of space to maximize the closet with double hanging sections, full height shelving units, and deeper drawers along the back wall. She also suggested either hanging all of our clothes along the back wall or at least gathered in the same vicinity, like the back left corner, instead of behind the door swing. (You couldn't even open the door the whole way because the shelf/clothing bar was behind it!) She also recommended that we get some smaller canvas lined storage bins to store and categorize items, and get rid of the big tubs and boxes to create a cleaner, crisper overall appearance. And finally, Jessica encouraged us to practice The KonMari Method of organization. This entails removing all clothing from your closet, going through each piece, only keeping the pieces that spark joy, and donating the rest. (I love this!) It also entails hanging heavier/longer garments on the left to lighter/shorter garments on the right. She also recommended trying The KonMari folding technique (which is amazing, you guys.)

And now, our completed closet:

Massive difference, right? And it looks even better in person. It has such a clean, airy feel, and we've been able to keep it neat because it's so much easier to locate and grab what we need. If you have a closet or space that needs a makeover, I highly suggesting scheduling your own California Closets consultation. California Closets offers custom organizational solutions in closets like ours, but they also help throughout the home. So even if you have pantry, media center, mudroom, or garages that needs some help, they can work with you to enhance both purpose and storage potential, and make the space look beautiful. And many locations offer seasonal promotions and financing options (contact your local California Closets for details). They're the best.

Now that our closet has been whipped into shape, I want to reorganize my entire house. I see a California Closets garage consultation in my near future...

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible.. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.