Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Octopus Tentacle Decal in Eleanor's Nursery

Even before I knew I was having a baby girl, I had chosen a nautical theme for the nursery. My theoretical nursery was a vision I had slapped together with dozens of pins from Pinterest. I had seen one in particular that really stood out of an octopus decal above a bathtub.

I knew I had to have this on the wall. I didn't really even look into buying it myself, but chatted with some friends and family about using it for inspiration to paint on the wall.

My brother works for a sign company, and was able to redraw the graphic,
enlarge the image, and then print it off as a decal. The results were fantastic. Once Eleanor was in her crib, it was all smiles. She loves it and is fascinated by it as she stares at the tentacles.

Monday, May 25, 2015

8 Simple Hacks for Your Baby Budget

Since I have nothing but my baby keeping me busy nowadays, there is a strong focus on how she is affecting my budget. I've compiled a few tips for how to hack your baby budget and save money for the more important things like healthcare!

1. Buy (or at least try) generic diapers. 
I was fortunate to receive nearly every brand of diaper in newborn size from the three showers I was given by my friends, family, and coworkers. This allowed me to test out each one. While I had no issues with Huggies, Luvs, or Pampers, I also had no issues with Parent's Choice, which just so happens to be the cheapest diaper sold at Wal-Mart (and is also the Wal-Mart brand). Say what you will about Wal-Mart, but my wallet does enjoy this money-saving alternative and costs as low as $0.13 a diaper versus upwards of $0.25 a diaper for the brand names. I'm sold.

2. Download coupons from Kroger (if you're near one).
I downloaded the Kroger app and have a reminder set to check the latest coupons every Sunday morning. Not only am I saving on my entire grocery budget, but they also have great deals for free and clear laundry detergent (alternative to using the costly Dreft), coupons for diaper creams (I'm embarassed at the amount I have stocked up), and diaper coupons which may help if you go with Huggies, Luvs, or Pampers. The "e-coupons" save directly to my Kroger card, so there's no need to print off coupons. Easy.

3. Buy secondhand clothing.
I rarely purchased anything new the last few months and was lucky to be near a Rhea Lana's consignment sale before my daughter was born and right after. I was able to purchase plenty of essentials for only 30% of retail. Not only do they have thousands of items to choose from, but you also buy high-quality clothing that will be outgrown faster than you can snap up that onesie. Perfect for my budget. Which leads me into number four...

4. Resell baby clothes, toys, and maternity clothes at a consignment sale.
Rhea Lana's also happens to be a place where you can make upwards of 70-80% back on everything you sell there. I've already prepped several pieces of clothing our daughter has grown out of, as well as my maternity jeans, shorts, and shirts. I also packaged up a few headbands, newborn size shoes, and books for the next sale, which will be this Fall. It takes a little time up front to prep the items and enter them into the system, but with a payoff of 70%, it's well worth the effort.

5. Breastfeed your baby.
We all have heard of the benefits of breastfeeding, but it can save you over $1,000 in the first year in formula costs. It takes some time to get the hang of it, but once you do, you can write blog posts without even thinking about it while your baby eats at the same time, ha! But in all seriousness, it's been a great bonding experience for my baby and I with the added perk of not costing me anything. It's always available, warm, and ready to eat.

6. Borrow big items from friends and family.
I have a neice that's ten months ahead of my daughter and have been lucky enough to borrow her clothes. I've also borrowed a few toys and even maternity clothes from friends and family. Everyone would be more than happy to lend out a swing or exersaucer that's taking up their living room if they don't currently need it for their own family. I had coworkers who were offering me strollers, new car seats, baby baths, toys, and much more, all at no cost.

7. Return duplicates of gifts in exchange for a gift card.
I received several duplicates and ended up returning multiple items to Target or Wal-Mart. I downloaded both of their apps and used the scanner to see what items were sold where. Wal-Mart has a return policy of no more than three returns without a receipt in one year, so be sure to pile up everything before heading there. I exchanged these items for gift cards which in turn I used for diapers, bath essentials, and a couple of "fun"items. These really helped out and didn't count against my budget at all.

8. Purchase books and toys from thrift stores.
Fill your child's library up with gently used books from Goodwill. It may take some digging, but I was able to find several classic board books for less than $1 each. I even found two baby sign language books. Regular prices for books can be expensive and an entire collection of books can be costly. I was lucky to have two large boxes from childhood to add to our bookshelf, so that helped, too. I can't wait to see which ones will be her favorites.

Do you have more hacks? Share below!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hava Baby Sling Review

I had read about all of the benefits of babywearing and even sat through a quick intro class at the B.I.R.T.H. Fair held in Houston when I was a few months pregnant. After knocking on the door of my coworker to visit her and her two month old son a couple of weeks ago, I was greeted by a happy mama wearing a happy baby—yep, wearing him—in a sling.

I was curious as to which brand sling it was since I knew of them, and watched her as she easily adjusted her baby in a few different positions. I had received a Baby K'Tan from my baby registry, but found that it was probably one size too small for Eleanor and I. It felt like I was shoving her into a tight outfit (and we all know how terrible that feels!). Once my coworkers told me how much she loved her Hava sling, I was intrigued.

The next day, I went to a craft show with my mom, and I asked my husband to load up the heavy, bulky stroller. My husband mentioned that he leaned it away from her so it wouldn't roll around in the backseat during turns and hit her carseat. This thing was huge, I'm telling you! Once we stopped the car, I dreaded unloading it. After I dragged it out of the trunk of my hatchback, I fiddled with the straps and secured her in under a full minute. I attached toys, my stroller bag, and unlocked the brake. We were finally ready.

And after five minutes, she started to cry at the top of her lungs. Nope. I ended up pushing an empty stroller for thirty minutes while my mom carried Eleanor in her arms. This wasn't going to work. That night, I knew I was sold on the Hava sling. After checking out their Chic options, I settled for the Claudia design, which was on sale for $69. Hey, I like a bargain and it was gorgeous (see below).

I couldn't wait to receive it in the mail and was ecstatic to try it on. The first few tries were a little tough, as I wasn't confident in the size I had purchased. Luckily, every purchase comes with a super helpful DVD which includes instructions (you can alsoview it in its entirenty on their YouTube channel). I loved the aluminum rings, and the fabric, which was thick enough to feel secure but also thin enough to be breathable and not super hot (a must here in Texas!). The sling also featured a padded shoulder and the "rails" (top and bottom of the sling) are padded, too, for optimal comfort. I can even wear Eleanor up to 35 lbs, well into her toddler years.

Two days after I received the sling, I made my way to their store, Nurtured Family, in north Houston thinking I would switch it out for a smaller size. The woman working at the store was more than happy to grab a sample sling and demonstrate how to wear my baby (thank you!!!). It turns out I had the right size and didn't need to switch it out. At least I was now armed with a few positions that would work for us and was now much more confident. I also bought a car adapter and some extra membranes for my breastpump, so the trip was well worth it.

On our way home, we stopped by a nursery to pick out a few trees for our backyard. I grabbed the sling and in less than 15 seconds, I slipped Eleanor into it, just as I had been taught by the Nurtured Family employee. My "tail" of the sling was a little long, so I wrapped the end of it around the rings to cover them with the extra fabric. Eleanor was comfortable and content while we shopped, and after about 15 minutes, I looked down to see that she had fallen asleep.

I highly recommend the Hava slings and can't wait to wear her through to toddlerhood in this. The comfort is beyond amazing, and I know it will be a memory I hold dear as she ages. Feeling so close to her while providing her with soothing attention is extremely important to me. I believe it was well worth the price and looks like it will last us through a few good years. I may even get a second one later on just for a different fabric option.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Buy This House for $150 (If You Write the Winning Essay!)

While watching the news last week, I saw a story about a house selling for $150. That's right. Only one zero. You have to submit a 200 word essay and you'd be responsible for the title and taxes if your essay is chosen. The seller is looking for 3,000 submissions (which would mean he would sell it for $450,000!). The house is a super cute with two bedrooms and one bath in The Heights of Houston. Even though we just moved in to our home six months ago, I considered submitting an essay just for the hell of it.

Ultimately, I decided not to submit the essay, but I've pasted it below just because I didn't want to waste any words. After reading the inspection report, I decided the repairs wouldn't be something I would be able to afford, even if I only bought the house for $150 (plus title and taxes). I had originally looked for something smaller, but we ended up in our 1,653 square foot home.

Check it out and submit your essay if you're interested! The deadline to submit your $150 and essay is June 13th, 2015.


Living large in a small space (and on an even smaller budget) has been my goal the past few years. Reevaluating how we lived and ultimately our life story has resulted in some life-changing decisions.

That very idea prompted us to pay down our student debt by tracking every penny we spent in our quest for financial freedom. During our journey, we erased $17,000 of student debt in less than 18 months, moved from Austin to Houston in hopes of finding better jobs, and established the careers we'd always dreamed of in the fields we studied. With these accomplishments behind us, we then expanded our family from two to three and welcomed our baby girl earlier this year. 

This home would suit our minimalist lifestyle and, when paired with my knack for balancing budgets, could prove to be the perfect match for our family—both financially and environmentally. Without a mortgage, we could secure our financial success for years to come and focus on raising our daughter to instill the very values that led us to the path we are on today. We'd love nothing more than to stroll down the sidewalk in The Heights with one less stress.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Settling in to My New Role as a Mother

I had this long witty post all ready to go, and then I clicked the wrong button and it was all gone. No use crying over lost words. Onward we go. I'll try to paraphrase what I had written.

I love motherhood. It's been tiring, and I've had sleepless nights after restful nights. I knew some of what to expect and then was surprised by many things.

I also thought that during my time off for maternity leave, that I would have plenty of time to write blog posts. Ha. Ha. Ha. It's been endless nursing sessions, diaper changes, naps, spit up changes, and laundry. As soon as I think I have a few minutes, I remember that she's almost out of clean onesies or that I really, really need to finish washing the dishes or put them away.

So, please excuse my delay in content. I swear it's on my mind. I keep thinking about what's the next thing I can write. And then my baby cries. Ha! I'll get there soon enough. Keep an eye out for new stuff soon. As time allows!

In the meantime, here's a family picture that we took on Mother's Day.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bunnies By The Bay Gift Set Review

I received an email before my daughter was born from a representive at Bunnies By The Bay. I had been so pleased to hear they enjoyed my blog and they wanted to send me a small gift for the arrival of Eleanor. Before I received the special package, I checked out their products or "harelooms" as they like to call them, and saw so many cute things. I especially loved their plush toys and

I was so excited to see what they had sent and let out a big "Awwwww!" when I saw the items wrapped in tissue paper with carrots. I carefully unwrapped it to reveal a Kiddo Romper Gift Set and a Kiddo Bye Bye Buddy security blanket, both of which were absolutely adorable. I couldn't wait to put Eleanor in the romper, but she was only a few days old when the package arrived.

When we finally could put her in the 0-3 month outfit, we set up a mini photoshoot and dressed her up. Her patience was running thin, as we had several outfits to try on, but we snagged two good photos!

I also ended up putting the little bluebird on her crib between the wall and the side of the crib. She loved to stare at it during the early days of being in her crib and I often shook it since it served as a rattle, too. The security blanket is also extremely soft and cuddly.

The "harelooms" from Bunnies By The Bay include books, toys, apparel, blankets, and gift sets. Check out their site!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Now We Have Everything + Free Digital Print

I had wanted to make a piece of art for Eleanor's arrival that shouted, "We only have ONE kid!" and settled on a design I saw on Etsy. It took me about 20 minutes to recreate in Paint.NET, and I printed up another with my niece's name for her first birthday, as well. I thought it turned out cute and wanted to share!

If anyone wants this print (8x10) with a quick switch of a name, I'd be more than happy to email you a digital file. I won't be able to switch out the colors, but I can quickly pop your kiddo's name in. Email me with your request with one child's name. Or I can send you the one below that simply says, "Then we had you."