5 Tips for Making Easter Baskets for Your Kids

I know, Easter was last Sunday but I made the girl’s baskets Saturday night so this post isn’t late when you think about it that way. Just pin it and dig it up next year when you’re scrambling for DIY basket ideas like I know you will. This was my second attempt but  I learned from my mistakes last year so these are keepers. I don’t think I’ll have to make baskets ever again. Here are 4 things to keep in mind when creating your own baskets.

Grab what you like then figure out how to make it work. I loved the flowers in the can but I didn’t know how exactly I wanted to incorporate them until I got started. They worked out perfectly with a little glue and dots from the lettering kit in the middle of each one.

Think function. These baskets weren’t Easter specific, just colored ones I found at Michael’s. Harper’s basket from last year was too small and the handle was so low that we couldn’t get books to fit inside. When they get older we’ll put shirts and other grown up goodies in there, I think the size of these baskets will work for that phase too. (Note: Post-’bunny’ we got baskets well until high school. It was just a fun tradition that I’ll do with my girls too.)

Bigger is better. The basket I made last year had lettering that was way too small so I grabbed these oversized ones and I’m so glad I did. They’re more sturdy and they stuck perfectly to the uneven texture of the basket.

Simple doesn’t mean plain. There are only two elements I used here- flowers and letters and they look great. Their function is to hold gifts and candies so they’ll look better once they’re filled anyway.

Down with glitter. I’m not a fan of glitter on things for kids anyway because it transfers onto their hands and always ends up in their eyes and mouths.

Ester Basket Essentials
Everything was found at Michael’s, the glue gun, paper flowers, and lettering.

IMG_8605
Their middle names are on the back with more flowers.

I’m not especially crafty (honestly, or else I’d already have a glue gun) and it only took me about 30 minutes to put them both together.  They’ll last a long time and will be used every year like Christmas stockings so for me, the extra effort was totally worth it.

Best Beauty Buys at Trader Joe’s

When Trader Joe’s opened three (!) stores here in Colorado everyone was buzzing- even those who had never stepped foot into one were excited to see what all the hype was about. I knew what I was in for having lived in Arizona and California where I enjoyed all that TJ’s has to offer, but the things I was most excited about weren’t food (or wine..) related at all. It’s the cheap face washes, soaps, lotions, and oils in their concise beauty aisle. Here’s a rundown of a few along with their can’t-beat prices.

Top to bottom, left to right:

Spa Face Wash with Tea Tree Oil: This light castile-like soap cleanses skin and leaves a tingly fresh feeling behind from the tea tree. It’s a great basic cleanser for day and night and all skin types.

Moisturizing Shave Cream: This is one of my favorite shave creams. It’s so rich that a tiny amount goes a long way, this tube will last me several months.

Nourish Spray Sunscreen SPF 50: You can’t do much better than $6 for a big can of SPF 50. You can spray down the whole family all summer long.

100% Pure Jojoba Oil: I LOVE this oil so much that I used to buy several of and bring them back to Colorado whenever we’d visit CA. I don’t know what it is about this body oil but it’s a perfect balance of hydration and slip. You can even rub it on your eyes to pre-cleanse to remove eye makeup or use it on your face. It’s that good.

All-In-One Facial Cleanser: I haven’t used this cleanser but at $6, another great deal.

Coconut Body Butter: I bought this and I’m obsessed. The smell of coconut is intoxicating to me and this has a balanced scent that’s sweet and tropical.  It’s the best bargain I saw, $5 for a body butter that’s normally sold for $20 at other stores. A must-have for sure.

Nourish Oil-Free Antioxidant Moisturizer: A good, lightweight all-purpose moisturizer for those who are looking for something basic and effective.

20140418-082658.jpg

6 Tips For Taking Family Photos With Toddlers & Babies

Fact: Most of those adorably posed, perfect looking family photos hide a secret most people will never know. The day was most likely a total mess. We’ll ours was anyway.

Our good friend and celeb photog extraordinaire Jensen Sutta came to our house the other day to photograph our family. They were our first formal pics as a foursome and I didn’t really know what to expect. As it turns out I over-planned on some things (poses!) and under planned on others (pretty much everything else.) I have some tips below so you can learn from my mistakes. Some of it is toddler-centric but most of it will help with kids of all ages.

Ditch the over planning:

Pinterest does have a lot of ideas but let them be just that- ideas. You can’t overplay a series of shots that your kids may not be agreeable to. It’s about capturing the moment, joyful play, and real smiles. Pick the clothes (casual or more dressed), and the setting (park, backyard, studio), and let your photographer lead the rest. The pic I like best was on marshy grass (with my heels sinking in) on a little tiny hill right by our fence. Not a sweeping, movie-worthy setting and certainly nothing I would think to choose but he make it look really cool.

Plan it around nap times and meals:

You want rested, fed, happy kids so stack the deck in your favor going in.

20140417-125326.jpg

Bring along snacks:

Harper is so enchanted with crackers right now. I think they would’ve gone a long way to bribe her into sitting still, smiling, not running, or whatever else we needed that she didn’t do.

Pack a little kit:

If you’ll be outside walking around it pays to grab a little bag and throw in zippy cups, sunscreen, snacks, safety pins for clothing fixes, and even toys. Anything to keep them happy since you’re basically asking them to be in a play environment (like outside or a park) but not necessarily play.

20140417-125313.jpg

Practice:

We didn’t prep our toddler enough. A little role play taking photos (because we usually take candids) would’ve gone a long way so she understood what was expected and what was happening. Make it a game and reward for standing still, kissing daddy on the cheek, or good smiles. We only have a few photos of Harper looking at the camera and giving a real smile. I wish there were more.

Make sure the clothes fit:

When we first tried Harper’s skirt on just days before the shoot it was a little big but nothing major, but once she was running and moving around it was literally on the ground. A quick try on doesn’t tell you how the clothes will function in real life. I should’ve let her wear it around for a while so I wasn’t running home for pins mid-shoot.

20140417-125306.jpg

Ultimately though we got some beautiful pictures that we’re thrilled about. Next time, I’ll be better prepared.

Johnson’s Baby: What I’m Using These Days

Part of the fun of being an ambassador for Johnson’s Baby is all the great stuff I get to try. Having two girls under the age of two really has me running so I’m faithful to the products that work best and make life easier. A few I received recently I’m really loving and are worth telling you about.

Little Harper has always had a tough time falling asleep. She sits on our lap and we rock her until she’s sleeping which regularly takes an hour or more at night. Since this eats into Mike’s and my night together, you can imagine how much we really want to speed this process up. We’re slowly starting to get her to doze off in her crib, but until that whole process is up and running we’re happy to find other ways to get her relaxed enough to get to sleep quicker. Since it has been working pretty regularly, I know it isn’t just coincidence that the Soothing Vapor Bath really helps. It’s a liquid you pour into the bath that gives off an aroma that reminds me of that Vicks menthol scent but lighter, and it’s made to calm fussy babies, help stuffy noses, and encourage relaxation. When we use it she leaves the bath more relaxed and falls asleep much quicker than the nights when we don’t use it or if we bathe her in the morning. Nothing instant of course, but noticeable. I’ve used it in my baths too because I just love the scent and it’s so much less expensive than other bath salts I’ve bought that are basically the same thing. I’m already exhausted all the time, so the calming effects are essentially lost on me.

20140331-220616.jpg

The other thing we’ve been using all the time is their Shampoo & Conditioner combo made for thin or straight hair. At two years old little Harper is still rocking a short pixie which she pulls it off perfectly. While we wait for more hair to sprout, this shampoo/conditioner really softens and bulks up her hair. I was using a body wash before because I didn’t think it mattered, but this really seems to give her locks a little boost.

20140402-215025.jpg

Oh- and I’m still using their original baby shampoo to remove my eye makeup every night (just a dot of it on a damp cotton pad does the trick), as well using it to wash my makeup brushes. I also use it on Frisco and Meatball! It’s a total all-purpose cleanser around here.

Full Disclosure: All products were sent to me to try but no additional compensation was given. Opinions posted are my own and I select what to (or not to) write about.

How Our Dog Went From Hating Kids to Being Our Daughter’s Best Friend

Here is 21 month old Harper and our JRT Frisco doing what they do all day; loving, playing, kissing. They have a special bond and he really looks after her. But it wasn’t always that way.

20140223-201823.jpg

In Frisco’s almost 11 years, he had only met a handful kids before our own. The first time we realized how serious his fear of kids was happened about 10 years ago when a kid came over out of nowhere on a walk and tried to hug him. He snapped and bit. Nothing serious but it was enough to scare us from allowing him to get close to kids again. We’d test him every now and again by keeping him behind the glass French doors of Mike’s office outside our living room when friends would have their kids over. We’d have them casually walk by to see if his feelings changed. They never did and his strong reaction of jumping against the glass and barking like crazy stayed the exact same with each attempt. Our attitude for so long was pretty much ‘it’s fine because we don’t have kids’ so we’d hide him in our room for parties and go on with life. Until I got pregnant.

One of my first few thoughts after the general shock of finding out I was pregnant wore off was literally oh shit. What about Frisco? We were on our third trainer at that point. The first idiot sprayed his eyes with vinegar to show his dominance over the dog (even when he was just sniffing him since he wasn’t aggressive toward adults) which caused him to squint and rub his red eyes for days after. He also walked him over to a yard with two barking dogs (yeah, he also freaks out about other dogs especially on walks) then he yelled and yanked on his leash repeatedly while Frisco lunged and barked. This went on for several minutes until I had tears in my eyes, it was brutal to watch. We knew we didn’t like what he was doing but he made us promise we wouldn’t get in the way of his training since that was the biggest challenge he said he faced- unruly owners. Frisco had a hard time breathing after all the yanking and force and he coughed and wheezed for several days after. I cried that night. We didn’t protect him and I’m sure he was scared.

The next guy was well, I guess worthless douche sums it up nicely. He wasn’t aggressive but looking back he had no experience in dog aggression and had us do inane training exercises like making Frisco sit or lay down mid-walk which of course Frisco did perfectly every time to earn his treat. He said that this calmed him and taught him to obey so when kids came around he’d defer to us. Not so much. Nothing changed and we grew more frustrated and worried that we’d never get the help we needed.

Then by some miracle I got to talking with a client whose makeup I was doing when she mentioned how she trains aggressive dogs. She didn’t live in Colorado but she just met someone who did through a workshop so with newfound hope I set up a time for Jen with Dances With Woofs to come by and see if she could help our Frisc.

Right away I knew she got us. She was loving to Frisco and used praise and treats instead of any type force. She explained that he was aggressive because he was afraid and not to mistake his loud, boisterous behavior for confidence. Any force or harshness would only scare him and could make his behaviors worse. We started slowly with waking calmly past other dogs first from a distance then getting a little closer so he stayed calm. We also taught him a flight response since he was programmed to fight instead. We were giving him options for new behaviors and we could see that it was working. Now fast forward a year or so when I became pregnant. We had done some work with kids – getting Frisco calm while walking him around a busy park – but nothing too intimate. He definitely wasn’t visiting sick children at the hospital or whatever. A few weeks before my due date we rehearsed Harper’s arrival like a damn school play. Sniff her hat, plug in the pheromone diffuser thingy, give treats, pet him, let him maybe sniff her, live happily ever after. Done. But when the time came what actually happened was; walk in the door, Frisco sees the baby, he jumps up in the air repeatedly trying to snap at her in our arms while barking and going as crazy as we’ve ever seen. Oh God, we hadn’t planned for this at all. we had to put him (and our other dog Meatball whose temperament is perfectly neutral) in Mike’s office while we could get our barrings and devise a new plan.

We let him calm a bit and tried again. After all, he hadn’t laid eyes on a baby in years so maybe he was in shock or mistook her for a baby bunny or some shit that calls for this sort of crazed reaction. Here we go- treats in hand, diffuser plugged in, hat sniffed, come on out. Same. Terrible. Thing. In fact every time we tried this over the course of a week his reaction never changed. Just as loud, just as strong, just as scary. I felt hopeless. This along with the c-section recovery, postpartum depression, and general WTF-ness that comes along with being a new mom made those few weeks hands down the darkest of my life. I broke down sobbing to Mike because we both knew what was inevitable. Frisco would have to be put down. He wasn’t adoptable – a dog who hates kids and other dogs? We knew his fate.

After a few weeks Jen came to see us. We had been tethering a long leash from his harness to various furniture so he could be out with us and not locked up in a room all the time. He was sullen and confused which only made us feel more guilty and terrible about the whole thing. She gave us some very basic things to do; give him treats and praise for even looking her way and keep him walked and exerted, along with a few other things to get him feeling better about his new roommate. She told us to hang in there and not give up on him, she had hope. Her encouragement and help was just what we needed. I ran out of hope that he would be with us even another month. The stress was so great and the threat of him constantly looming was too much for me. But we weren’t ready to give up on our Frisc and we started doing exactly as Jen said. After just a few weeks we started making little tiny steps forward. We sent her pictures like this one of the first time Frisco got close to Harper without jumping up at her.

20140223-211749.jpg

We’d take turns cuddling the dogs while the other had the baby. Mike took this of me napping with them.

20140223-212036.jpg

And then one day this happened. I’m pretty sure I was crying.

20140223-212339.jpg

Eventually the tethering stopped and our trust started to build. The more mobile she became the more she wanted to hug and kiss him. We taught her how to pet him nicely and never let her touch him without us- until one day she did. We gasped and watched as he gently licked her and walked away. It was the beginning of their friendship as it is now which is so sweet. We trust him 100% with her, something we talk about often and are still amazed by. He has come such a long way that when we brought Everly home he was basically like *yawn* another baby? Who cares.

20140223-225409.jpg
Frisco, waiting outside Harper’s door while she sleeps.

Jen totally made it possible for us to keep Frisco in our lives. She helped to brighten his little soul and make him a more confident guy. She did the impossible- she taught an dog new tricks and for that we are so grateful.

20140223-214436.jpg

SHEMERGENCY KIT: The Perfect Bridal Shower Gift!

If you’re married and had an event planner for the wedding then you know that they always have these little emergency kits on hand filled with everything from tampons to chalk to make sure that any problem that arrises can be easily fixed. Such is the idea behind Pinch Provisions Shemergency Kit which contains 40 essentials for any beauty emergency. It’s a great bridal shower gift or just a good gift in general. Forget Fix-A-Flat, this is what you really need to have in the car at all times.

pinch provisions

Includes 40 essential items: folding hair brush/comb, mirror, hair spray, clear elastics (2), bobby pins (2), earring backs (2), hand lotion, nail clipper, emery board, clear nail polish, nail polish remover pads (2), mending kit, safety pin, double-sided tape strips (5), lint remover, stain removing towelettes (2), static remover, breath freshener, lip balm, single-use dental floss (2), pain reliever, deodorant towelettes (2), tampon, adhesive bandages (2), facial tissues, blotting tissues, tweezers, and blister balm. $35

shemergency