Beauty & Fashion · Tips and Tricks

Stop Melting Makeup (and get back to enjoying summer)

This is random, but it’s 90 today and it’s so stressful if you need to get dressed up for a baby shower, wedding, birthday party or — you know — WORK, in this kind of humidity. I don’t know what I’d do without these two items on days like this, one pretty cheapie and one more pricey, but both 100% worth it!

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I buy the Baby Skin primer at Target (but you can also find it at Ulta and Walmart) and the Urban Decay setting spray at Sephora in-store or online. I don’t like to wear lots of makeup any day, but when it’s steamy and you have no choice, you really can’t go wrong with these for preventing slide-off. Urban Decay also makes an amazing eye shadow primer and NYX makes the best knockoff version of it.

I used to think these kinds of items were a waste of money, but when I realized how much longer they make makeup last, it made sense — no more reapplying midday or wasting product, especially pricey ones you’ve invested your hard-earned money into.

These aren’t affiliate links, just a couple products I can’t do without in summer. Since nobody can think about cooking in this kind of weather, this is what I’m doing instead. And, if the heat is getting you down, a few inspiring images to remind you why summer in New England is worth waiting for all year: the Fourth of July, lobsters, fried clams, picnics, splash pads, and sparklers. Have a great week, everyone 🙂
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Tips and Tricks

My Top Six Blogging Tips {from #AltSummit}

What a great weekend of learning, networking and inspiration I just experienced at the Alt for Everyone conference! If you’ve never been, Alt (short for Altitude Summit) is a design, social media and blogging conference held every year in Salt Lake City….and again online for those of us who can’t travel cross-country in person because of work, kids or whatever. This was my first year “attending,” and I picked up loads of great information for this blog, for my full-time job, and for work-life balance in general. As bloggers, writers and artists, it’s important to recharge with other like-minded creatives from time to time; you get to hit the refresh button while picking up loads of great business and lifestyle tips, from rethinking your branding and styling to making sure you avoid burnout and screen-time overload.

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The classes streamed pretty late into the evening for East Coasters, but luckily I had a buddy to help me power through.

So what really rang true for me over three days of Alt for Everyone?

IT’S TIME TO QUIT FACEBOOK

Not because it’s bad for my blog–because it’s bad for my life. Letting go of the addiction (if it has become that for you, like it has for me) frees up all kinds of space to dislodge writer’s block, embrace creative hobbies, allow for “boredom brainstorms,” and enjoy your family again, instead of constantly plotting how something will look to the social media universe. Is it more important to help my baby learn to walk confidently, or capture her first steps on video so my Facebook followers share in it? I don’t want to be that person who is so busy cultivating an online persona that I’m missing out on my actual life, and nearing max capacity as I try to juggle my job, husband, daughter, house work, volunteering, hobbies, and exercise alongside blogging.  I’ve been saying I’m going to cut back on Facebook for months. It’s time to actually do it.

YOUR BLOG IS A BUSINESS — TREAT IT THAT WAY!

Don’t sell yourself short! That was my big takeaway. It doesn’t matter how much this blog earns — it’s a business, and it needs the right legal documents (privacy policy, affiliate/sponsorship disclosures, invoicing template, tax ID number) and promotional tools (slam-dunk media kit, editorial calendar, style guide, top-notch photo staging). I learned a ton about the right way to pitch potential sponsors and advertisers, and got a general pep talk about remembering to sell myself, hone my aesthetic perspective and stick by it, and be egotistical in negotiations. This last one should have been a no-brainer for me, because I do PR for a living: it’s critical to save press clips and testimonials to share with potential advertisers. DUH! Now I’m on it.

REPEAT AFTER ME: PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE

According to Jaime Derringer of Design Milk, it can take 6 months (at least) to show a return on your investment in a particular advertising partner. Most brands are willing to wait for you to show them what your blog can do for them, and amplification of your blog posts featuring their brand — on Instagram, Pinterest, etc. — can be just as important to them as actual conversion rates. There are lots of different ad-selling arrangements out there, and it will likely take time to evaluate each one properly and find the most lucrative space and method on your blog for each.

YOU NEED TO BE USING RICH PINS

This I already knew, but had been avoiding. Rich pins are especially critical for food bloggers, because they allow recipe embedding right in your pin, meaning nobody can override you as the original source. I had been thinking about rich pins as something that would take me more time, not necessarily prevent other pinners from stealing my content without attribution. Now I’m definitely adding this to my to-do list. Read more about how to do rich pinning here!

NURTURE YOUR CREATIVITY & REAP THE BENEFITS

Ideas I loved:
  • Mood boards are my friend. Am I drawn to black and white? Bright colors? Rustic? Masculine? Modern? Lived-in? Feminine? Joy Cho posted a great example this week of how to do this in writing about developing her latest collaboration with Target.
  • Create a secret Pinterest board with examples of blog templates, photo styling, and color palettes that you love.
  • Imitate with abandon to get the ideas flowing…but throw the imitation away before you publish a ripoff. Redraft, and watch something even better emerge.
  • Analyze those you idolize (as a musician, I know this intrinsically). Look for patterns you love — just like in music — and replicate the sensibility.

AUTHENTICITY COUNTS

We’ve all heard it before: authentic content is king. Turns out, that’s because it’s true. Brands are looking for good engagement from your readers and lots of genuine content…not necessarily high page views or tons of previous sponsored posts (that can actually be a red flag, because you may appear un-discerning). For someone like me, that read as a challenge, because my page views have been skyrocketing lately but my ad revenue and my engagement have flat-lined. So now I have a very real charge for the months ahead (in addition to the redesign I was already planning!) Hand-in-hand with authenticity is the notion of consistency. Don’t leave your readers wondering when you’ll post, or why your photos and overall post format vary so widely in design. Be organized and predictable!

THERE WERE ALSO SOME VERY QUOTABLE MOMENTS.

A few of my favorites, from the webinars I took:

“Be a visual DJ”

“Boredom gives you the best ideas”

“When you don’t have butterflies, it means you are doing the same thing over and over.”

“Study your heroes” and “follow your competitors!”

“think like a marketer”

“fake it ’til you make it”

“start thinking like a window dresser” and “create an environment that people want to visit often.”

***

That’s it! I learned so much more, applicable to this blog, my day job and my creative life, and I am definitely feeling motivated, empowered and excited to take things to the next level in all these areas.

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Special thanks to instructors Laurie Smithwick of Leap Design, Raphael Aquino-Jose of Bing, Jenner Brown of Lumineux Films, Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society, Whitney English of Whitney English, Melanie Burk of Caravan, Chris Gardner of Curbly, Rachel Faucett of Handmade Charlotte, Amy Christie of This Heart of Mine, Alison Faulkner of The Alison Show, Monique Malcolm of Antisparkle, Kelly Beall of Design Crush and Susan Brinson of House of Brinson.

***

Did you go? What did you learn? And if you are from Boston and you participated in #AltforEveryone, do you want to meet up for coffee and debrief/network/commiserate over our long task list?!?!

Baby & Toddler · Recipes

Labor-inducing pizza

In honor of my sister-in-law and cousin, who both had babies this week (hi little Keon and Cedric!), I’m re-posting the homemade pizza recipe that I just had to make the night before I ended up having Georgia, prompting one of my good friends to dub this dish “labor-inducing pizza.” 

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Here’s the original recipe from 2012, which I’ll repost below. Little did I know when I made up this pie that it would become “the pizza that brings on labor.” If you’re past your due date and getting desperate … could it hurt?

Labor-Inducing Pizza (aka, my Pizza Rustica)

INGREDIENTS

  • One pre-made round pizza crust (I used Archer Farms ultra thin & crispy pie, from Target. You could try any brand you like.)
  • 1 large tomato or 2-3 plum/roma tomatoes, sliced
  • a handful of basil leaves, torn by hand
  • 1/2 ball of fresh mozzarella, broken into chunks by hand
  • 1 cup of pre-shredded parmesan/mozzarella mix (again I used Target)
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • non-stick spray for the pan (or use olive oil)

DIRECTIONS

Start by spraying your pizza pan with non-stick spray or olive oil. Preheat oven to 400.

In a non-stick saute pan, stir-fry the sliced red pepper and onion until translucent and browned, about 10 minutes. While this is cooking on the stove top, assemble the rest of the pie.

Place pizza crust on the non-stick pizza pan and dot with olive oil; spread around evenly to coat crust.

Place tomato slices evenly around crust, then top with torn basil.

Add the fresh mozzarella on top of the basil, breaking off chunks by hand.

When the pepper and onion are done, distribute onto the pizza; top with shredded mozzarella/parmesan.

Cook for 10 minutes at 400 or until browned. Serve with spinach salad and enjoy!

Beware: if you DO go into labor after eating this, as I did, be forewarned that there’s just enough of a kick to, ahem, hurt your throat coming back up. And if you’ve never had a baby and are just now learning that labor makes you puke…well, I’m sorry. But it’s better someone told you.

Did you like this recipe? Check out my other easy, homemade pizza recipes here and here. And, a new way to work with pizza dough. Looking for a good pizza tray to use in the oven? I like this inexpensive, non-stick version that cleans up easily and won’t scratch when you slice your pie.

Baby & Toddler · Pregnancy · Tips and Tricks

Maternity Fashion

Now that I only have a couple weeks to go, I’m realizing that I am really going to miss being pregnant. Don’t get me wrong: I’m anxious for the foot swelling, heartburn and frequent potty breaks to stop, but there’s also a part of me that can’t believe my baby will be here any day, that I have to learn to breastfeed, and that pretty soon I won’t have a little buddy kicking, hiccuping & rolling over inside my belly all day!

36 weeks.
36 weeks.

I really enjoyed shopping for maternity clothes, too, so when I finally had to stop buying them in order to focus on nursing wear and baby’s layette a couple months ago, I felt bummed. I like to think I’ll be pregnant again someday, but one never knows what life has in store!

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37 weeks. Mid-heat wave.

I’ll do a post soon on what we learned while registering for baby stuff, but for now I want to share the tips I picked up over 9 months of pregnancy while shopping for maternity wear. Obviously I’m very focused on what works for petites, but a lot of my advice goes for any mama-to-be. And, as always, I LOVE hearing your comments and ideas.

First trimester

It took ages for me to “show” in an obvious way, but somehow I put on what felt like a spare tire the instant I took a positive home pregnancy test. I felt pudgy immediately, so all my skinny pants went right to the back of the closet. Then, once morning sickness kicked in around 7 weeks, anything constricting made me doubly nauseous and had to go. So, to feel more comfortable, I transitioned to leggings, jeggings and dresses/skirts very early on. As I got closer to 12 and 13 weeks at the end of my first trimester, I phased in some (borrowed) pants and dresses one size larger, since I needed the looser waist but not a full belly panel yet. Two helpful things at this stage: a belly band, so you can stay in your “regular” jeans without letting everyone know you had to unbutton the waist to sit down, and maternity hosiery. Yes, hosiery.

The BeBand. Helpful in the first trimester, and I’m told post-partum as well.

Everyone laughs at me when I talk about preggo pantyhose, but they were a total lifesaver for me when it was still cold enough out that I needed to wear tights or nylons every day to work but couldn’t suffer through the tight waistband without getting sick. They helped me eke a couple more weeks out of my regular (one size larger) skirts and dresses before I had to give ’em up for maternity clothes.

Two recommended brands for maternity hosiery: Assets, the lower-cost version of Spanx (made by the same company and sold in Target and on Amazon) and Motherhood Maternity. I bought a couple full-length hose in black and nude for winter, and then shorts like these were helpful for smoothing out the bumps under lighter-weight dresses come summer.

I also found that I outgrew my regular bras extremely quickly. This was due in part to my cup size changing (woohoo! I’ve always been a 34A!) and also partly to the unexpected way your rib cage broadens ever so slightly during pregnancy (boo, that makes me feel fat). I wasn’t prepared for that physical change, which made most of my button-down work shirts impossible to wear past 8 or 9 weeks. Also, having been smaller-chested my whole life, I hadn’t ever dealt with needing meaningful support for the twins … but pregnant boobs are a whole other matter, and they can’t handle a flimsy bra. Sore, achy and expanding, they need a bit of help and TLC. I lived in sports bras, especially overnight, and then started wearing the Genie Bra, which was a godsend. I’m still wearing them at 38 weeks.

I bought mine at Target, but later found even better prices (3-pack for $19.99) at Burlington Coat Factory.

KEY ITEMS AND TIPS FOR MONTHS 1-3

  • Buy maternity stuff early and often so the options are there as soon as you need them. Sign up for every free e-mail list and/or store credit card available for places you like. I carry a Banana Republic credit card, which can be used at Gap & Old Navy too, and I got on frequent-buyer lists for those stores plus Destination Maternity. Do it and watch the coupons flow into your mailbox.
  • Be aware that smaller sizes (4 and under) sell out extremely quickly when it comes to maternity wear, so if you see something you like and it’s available in your size, just buy it. Be further aware that “petite” maternity clothes are usually just sizes 0 through 4, not clothes tailored for petite bodies like you might expect. So be prepared to get a few things hemmed.
  • Grab plenty of sports bras for sleep & sturdier bras for everyday in a cup size larger. Buy these as soon as you find out you’re pregnant so they’re on hand the minute your girls need extra support. The swelling and soreness can be staggering.
  • Leggings and jeggings. Maternity options (I liked Old Navy’s, both under- and over-the-belly) are great and cheap.
  • A couple of skirts and dresses one size larger than you normally wear.
  • That said, buy maternity clothes in your regular size. Don’t listen to sales people and relatives who tell you that you need to “go a size up.”
  • 1-2 elastic waist sweatpants/shorts or fold-over yoga pants for lounging (and exercise, if you’re feeling up to it). Fold-over yoga pants can take you from week 1 to 40 and into post-partum.
  • Long tanks and shirts for layering & covering any pooch.
  • Invest in some new, comfy underwear. You’ll find yourself wanting things that are seamless, with good coverage, and which aren’t too flimsy or tight or stringy. Cotton is best. Plus, you don’t want to stretch out your nice stuff! My absolute, hands-down favorites: these from Gap, with a couple close runners-up from Destination Maternity and Target.

  • A belted trench is expandable in front and conceals the belly for quite a while. This is good for keeping things mum, but bad when you’re on the subway and just wish everyone could tell you’re pregnant so they’d give up their seat before you throw up all over them.
  • Don’t be afraid to move into maternity wear, especially underthings, as soon as you need them. You’ll be a million times more comfortable. There’s no correlation between gaining too much over the entire pregnancy and needing maternity stuff early on. I had to shift into maternity jeans and pantyhose even before 12 weeks, but I’ve gained a healthy 20 pounds so far with just a couple weeks to go. Just avoid tops & dresses with side ruching if you’re keeping the news under wraps at work.
  • If you have bad morning sickness like I did, diversions are your friend. Think textured and fun-colored tights, pretty scarves, long necklaces and lip color that pops. These distract from a sickly pallor.

Second trimester

Truly, this is the golden time. You are finally showing, so nobody thinks you’re just eating too much pasta anymore, and you probably aren’t so big that things such as bad balance, swollen ankles and heartburn are plaguing you yet. You’ve likely stopped making a million trips to the bathroom and thus are sleeping better, so your “glow” is in full swing & maternity clothes are looking GREAT on you. Enjoy it while it lasts.

This is when I really started rocking my full maternity wardbrobe, and was glad I’d bought most of the pieces early. Here’s my punch list of essentials:

  • Jeans, skinny and boot-cut
  • Dress pants, at least 1 pair black (I got 2, one tailored for heels and one for flats, plus a gray pair)
  • Leggings, at least 1 pair black
  • Tights, 1 black and one sheer
  • 1-2 tunics, ideally 3/4 sleeve for versatility
  • 6+ shirts (cover the basic colors, then go for stripes or patterns)
  • 5+ tanks (I like these and these)
  • 6-8 dresses that can be layered with sweaters and cardigans in winter and spring, then worn alone in warm weather
  • At least 1 pencil skirt (Gap makes a nice one) that works for office or casual (I needed more for work, so I bought blue, gray and black).
  • 2 or 3 maxi dresses (they look adorable with denim jackets, they hide cankles and they conceal inelegant seating positions)
  • Exercise tank, pants & jacket
  • 2-3 pairs of shorts (I got denim and white; gray or khaki would have been my next choices. I only really needed 2 because I only wore them on weekends).
  • Use what you already own when it comes to cardigans, jean jackets, belts and coats, unless you’re hitting your third trimester in winter. The “maternity versions” are not cut that differently.

Third trimester

It’s here before you know it. Suddenly you’re more awkward than you bargained for, and outfits are less about what’s pretty than what’s easy to put on, easy to sit in, and comfortable for puffy legs, sore backs and itchy bellies. Demi panels probably aren’t too comfortable for you anymore, but full panels may irritate your stretched-out skin. It can be a battle. Sometimes under-the-belly options actually start to feel better. My recommendation is to wear whatever is comfortable and don’t try to hold yourself to any pre-pregnancy standard (or even what you could wear in the second trimester). And take seriously any doctor’s recommendation to put your feet up, wear compression socks, etc. Probably the worst part of this trimester won’t be looking bad, but having to work hard to get dressed every day. You won’t be able to bend over very well, and clumsiness will have reached new levels. Check out this ingenious product one woman designed to overcome this awkward phase:

Undergarments you can put on lying down!
Undergarments you can put on lying down!

Work

3-4 skirts, 6-8 dresses and maybe 2-3 pairs of pants should give you enough outfit combinations if you’ve been stocking up on accessories, tanks and cardis all along. That may sound like a lot, but by waiting for markdowns or buy-one-get-one sales, I nabbed several of my dresses and skirts for $10 or $15 each. I picked up a few more chic pairs of flats since I found heels uncomfortable once I started showing and my balance went off, and again I made good use of maternity nylons and compression trouser socks underneath it all. Since I was pregnant December through August, I relied on long sweaters and flowy blouses early on, transitioning to maternity skirts and pants by February and then mostly maternity dresses from April onward since I was always running hot. Other than when we had a series of heat waves, running hot was kind of nice after years of toting a pashmina everywhere because I’d always be cold! Key for me was making sure I had one “public speaking” dress for days when I had to give a presentation, teach or otherwise get up in front of people. For me, that was this Gap dress:

Exercise

I already did an extensive post on prenatal fitness, but I’ll just reiterate that there ARE good maternity exercise clothing options out there, and they aren’t pricey either. I made good use of my existing elastic-waist pants until I was about four months along, when they started to roll down in the middle of Zumba class (oops!) Then, I picked up a full-panel pair of capris from Motherhood Maternity, plus a couple maternity tanks made of moisture-wicking material from Old Navy. Leggings rounded out my fitness wardrobe for gentler classes or at-home yoga & walking around the neighborhood.

Shoes

Don’t push it here if your back is hurting, no matter how far along you are. Things can go from bad to worse really quickly if you ask too much of your body or ignore what it’s trying to tell you. With pregnancy, there’s no such thing as “powering through!” I thought just because the shoe still fit on my feet, it wouldn’t cause problems, and learned the hard way that this is how pregnant women end up with hammer toes, calf cramps and blisters. Key pieces:

  • Roomy walking shoes/sneakers
  • low work heels
  • plenty of cute flats
  • flat boots for winter/rain
  • If summer, pretty sandals with room for your feet to grow a bit. Make sure the heel isn’t too high (like a low wedge). I love Bare Traps.
  • some micro liner socks for when your feet get bigger and start to rub the inside of your existing shoes.
Some of my favorite purchases: Bare Traps (top), Payless flats (left), sock liners from DSW, and Skechers GoWalk slip-on sneakers (no socks required).
Some of my favorite purchases: Bare Traps (top), Payless flats (left), sock liners from DSW, and Skechers GoWalk slip-on sneakers (no socks required).

Sleep

Want to know what I did? I got some hospital scrubs at a uniform supply store (Army-Navy outlets will have them, too) and just let the waist out bit by bit as I got bigger. They can be tied anywhere that’s comfortable for you, which cannot be said of some other pajamas that will pinch right where your full bladder is. I also used my husband’s undershirts to sleep in (granted, he’s 6’4″ so they’re like a nightgown on me) or just stuck to under-the-belly cotton shorts and a sports bra. Pregnancy turns you into a furnace and our bedroom already runs hot because of the way our house is built, so there were no footy fleece PJs for me. If you’re struggling with heartburn or back pain, invest early in a full-length body pillow made for pregnancy. For $50, it will change your life.

Weekend

In the winter, I wore leggings and jeans with flats or low boots. My favorites were my skinny pair from Old Navy, a versatile boot-cut pair from Gap, and these black leggings with a full panel, which had great support and smoothed out the bumps nicely. In the summer, I wore a few non-maternity skirts that had foldover waists, as well as shorts, and this fabulous Old Navy bathing suit for beach days.

Things I didn’t have to deal with

  • Special occasions. I’m not sure how I got away with not having any weddings during this gestation, but boy do I feel lucky!
  • Winter. And thank God — maternity winter coats are hideously expensive.
  • Travel. Because instead of a babymoon, we had to remediate mold from the inside of our bathroom walls. However, A Cup of Jo has some great tips on planning your babymoon, from picking a location to packing well.

PREGNANT BEAUTY

And by this I mean, “shortcuts to getting ready when you need 12 hours of sleep” and “minimizing your routine NOW before the baby comes.”

Moisturize. Not just your belly and your chest, which are so prone to stretch marks, but the rest of your body and your face as well. Hydrating your face well can help keep hormone-induced breakouts at bay, and slathering lotion on the rest of your body is a good habit to get into so you aren’t caught off-guard by the intense itchiness that can come on without warning when your baby decides to have a growth spurt. All that stretching can make you want to scratch yourself to death, and it can show up overnight!

Eucerin’s smoothing repair lotion has a pregnancy-safe AHA in it, which promotes moisture retention while gently exfoliating. It’s also fragrance free and extremely soothing. I used it all 9 months and didn’t get a single stretch mark.

One thing that just came on the market which I should have tried: sprayable lotion. When I think of all the acrobatic maneuvers I performed every morning just to get cream on my legs when I couldn’t bend over anymore…..

Try dry shampoo. Most likely, your hair will be thicker, so you can get a second or third day out of a blowout. I used this tactic to grab some extra sleep!

Pay for pedis. Eventually you’ll have no choice because you won’t be able to reach your toes, but I found that this $25 worth of pampering made me feel a zillion times prettier. Just don’t get the massage part in your third trimester because rubbing the pressure point between your heel and ankle can bring on contractions.

File nails daily. They grow so fast, you really have to in order to keep them looking neat. Or, do I what I did occasionally — get a manicure and have them trimmed very short with a polished, pretty nail color, so you get a break from all that maintenance. This helps keep a good shape to your nails, too. I liked having a manicure to feel professional whenever I had to get up and talk in front of people and knew the bump was distracting.

Invest in a good razor. You’ll be shaving a lot more often, if you’re like me! I ended up getting those razors with the shaving cream built in, like Schick Intuition. It was just easier.

STORES

I was willing to shop anywhere that had stylish clothing that fit me, within my budget. I saw no need to pay full price for anything when you can sign up for friends & family programs for free at almost every store on this list. There’s always a sale somewhere if you wait a day or two!

My favorites:

Old Navy. Always having a sale at some point! Their rewards rack up really fast, and their prices are super reasonable to begin with. I got several dresses here that could switch between work and play, plus my two favorite lightweight sweaters. I know I said to just use your regular cardigans, but every now and then you’ll have a day when you want to be able to pull something cozy around the belly. Here is that cozy something:

Also comes in black; I have both.

Motherhood Maternity. People criticize this store for being lower quality than they’d like. I disagree — I had no issues with their stuff, got great compliments on their dresses (most of which are priced below $40) and was actually able to find professional pants in several colors, hemmed for my height. When it got hot, this is where I went for cute shorts that didn’t break the bank.

$34.98

Gap Maternity. In my opinion, great for basics like tanks, leggings and jeans. Prices can be steep for non-sale dresses and skirts, especially since similar styles can be found elsewhere (Old Navy, Target) for less.

Not bad

  • Ann Taylor Loft Maternity. Styles offered were great-looking. But everything I ordered from here went back — why? Three reasons: 1) Pricy. They had the worst sales of all the retailers I shopped. 2) Small sizes (4 and under) sell out instantly — and I mean by 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning when new inventory comes in or a sale is on. 3) Poor fit. Their so-called “petite” maternity items are no such thing, and the one pair of cropped black pants I purchased from here required $20 in hemming to fit properly. I shouldn’t have bothered for the limited use I got out of them.
  • Liz Lange for Target. They don’t carry a lot of variety at any given time — maybe three dresses, two styles of tank top in a few colors, and a handful of shirts and pants — but when you hit on something flattering, it’s good quality and priced well. I got my workout jacket here as well as a couple work dresses.
  • Asos. I just wish I’d discovered this website earlier in my pregnancy. Very reasonably priced for on-trend stuff.
  • Baby Depot/Burlington Coat Factory. Their stuff is pretty cheap, I’m not gonna lie. But for weekend t-shirts or lounge wear, you can’t beat it. They carry a smallish selection of maternity wear right next to their baby department, which is worth a look as well.

Didn’t have much luck

  • Consignment stores. They almost never get in a good selection of clothes for sizes 0 and 2.
  • H&M Maternity. Cute stuff, all of it way too casual for what I needed.
  • The plus-size department. Obviously. Why do sales people suggest you look here when you ask if a department store carries maternity clothing? Mark and I could never get over this.

Throughout my 9 months of pregnancy, I shared my favorite preggo finds on a Pinterest “maternity fashion” board. Check it out and follow me!

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If you want a chuckle, check out this article on the 12 things you miss most during pregnancy. One thing on the list that I definitely agree with is the ability to wear cute shoes. Even before my feet got too swollen to fit into any of my shoes (seriously — I literally have been wearing black Old Navy flip flops for two months straight) I found that heels were too totter-y, anything strappy cut off circulation, and half the rest just looked different (a.k.a., unflattering). It remains to be seen how much my feet will shrink back down to normal size after I give birth, but I’ll keep you posted. A wise husband (mine) once said, “don’t worry if your feet are permanently bigger. Won’t it be exciting to get to buy some new shoes?” CHA-CHING!

Recipes

Pizza Rustica

This is my favorite pizza recipe to date. I made it last weekend to have on hand for a crazy week coming up, and Mark ate 90% of it in one sitting (so much for me taking it for lunch!) Luckily, the pizza dough came in a two-pack, so I just whipped up another one. It’s less than 20 minutes from chopping block to table, making it fast AND healthy. Serve with a spinach salad and you’re set!

Pizza Rustica

Serves 2. One pizza = 6 slices. Hands-on time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes.

Ingredients

  • One pre-made round pizza crust (I used Archer Farms ultra thin & crispy pie, from Target. You could try any brand you like.)
  • 1 large tomato or 2-3 plum/roma tomatoes, sliced
  • a handful of basil leaves, torn by hand
  • 1/2 ball of fresh mozzarella, broken into chunks by hand
  • 1 cup of pre-shredded parmesan/mozzarella mix (again I used Target)
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • non-stick spray for the pan (or use olive oil)

Directions

Start by spraying your pizza pan with non-stick spray or olive oil. Preheat oven to 400.

In a non-stick saute pan, stir-fry the sliced red pepper and onion until translucent and browned, about 10 minutes. While this is cooking on the stove top, assemble the rest of the pie.

Place pizza crust on the non-stick pizza pan and dot with olive oil; spread around evenly to coat crust.

Place tomato slices evenly around crust, then top with torn basil.

Add the fresh mozzarella on top of the basil, breaking off chunks by hand.

When the pepper and onion are done, distribute onto the pizza; top with shredded mozzarella/parmesan.

Cook for 10 minutes at 400 or until browned. Serve with spinach salad and enjoy!

I really liked the Archer Farms brand from Target, because it’s a thin-crust pizza that is low in fat and cooks up quickly. Also, it comes with two pies in a pre-made package. My recipe easily doubles if you buy twice the tomatoes, red peppers and onions (or use from your garden), and if you use the entire block of fresh mozzarella and the entire 2-cup bag of pre-shredded cheese.

I added a touch of olive oil even though I was using a non-stick pan. I like the onions to almost caramelize…

…and the red peppers to blacken on the edges for tons of flavor.

Done!

Add as many tomatoes as you like. These were some late, sweet beefsteaks from my garden, sliced into smaller pieces. I like to keep them away from the outer edge so the crust cooks up nice and crisp in the oven.

Add the basil next, tearing by hand…

…and then the mozzarella in fresh pieces, which helps hold the basil down.

Add your onions and peppers on top. Sandwiching the basil between layers like this keeps it from burning and bakes the flavor into the whole pie.

Preheat the oven to 400 and top the pie with the shredded mozzarella and parmesan. I used a bagged variety becuase the two cheeses came together in a two-cup package, and I used a little less than half for one pizza and the other half on a much cheesier second pizza a couple days later (after my husband, ahem, polished off the first version like it was a personal pan pizza).

Yup, that’s my comfy bath robe. It helps me cook.

YUUMMMM. When it comes out, it just needs to cool for a couple minutes.

A tip I learned in Italy? Just use scissors to cut pizza. Easy as pie (ha, ha).

Voila! Enjoy your pizza, and make sure you hide a couple slices if you have a big tall husband or anyone else who likes to steal 🙂

Recipes

Zucchini Parmesan

I don’t know how I’ve made it this far into the summer without posting about zucchini. They are so plentiful that it’s almost scary! You go to bed, no zucchini. You wake up, and a FOOT LONG zucchini lurks beneath the branches. Terrifying! Anyway, this recipe is adapted from something my mom has made, which I think originally came from Ina Garten. It’s simple and pairs well with almost anything else you might be having: pasta, chicken, pork chops, you name it. I made it with rotini and homemade tomato sauce earlier this week, and we used the leftovers last night alongside kielbasa with applesauce and sweet corn!

Zucchini Parmesan

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 TBSP olive oil for the pan
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 to 1.5 Cups shaved parmesan cheese (I bought pre-bagged @ Target)

DIRECTIONS

Remove the ends of the zucchini, then slice lengthwise and again into half moons.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet or a large saute pan. Add half the onions over medium-low heat until starting to brown.

Add half the zucchini to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook through (10 to 15 minutes).

Sprinkle with half the cheese and cook for 30 more seconds. Remove to a serving platter. Repeat the process with the other half of the onions and zucchini, so that the second batch helps to melt the cheese of the first portion. Serve warm.