Things things things

If everything goes according to plan I will have another child at some point in time.  With this in consideration I’ve made a mental check-list of things that I would do differently.  Isn’t it great that we often have opportunities to be better the second time around?  As someone who likes her world to be orderly and calm it bothered me that I was all over the place after I gave birth to my son.  Some of that can be attributed to the pressure of experiencing motherhood for the first time but in other ways I was ill-prepared.  So let me take away some of the guesswork and advise you on how to be a pro.

This is not a new concern of mine and you can find my post on baby clothes here.  The main principle that both articles emphasize is that part of being ready means that you don’t skimp on the necessities.  I was too careful and always felt that I could manage without.  You know what the reality of it is?  That person advising you to focus on the basics is not the one nursing at all hours of the night.  So put in the time to do the research with mommy blogs and others who offer valuable insight into not making it harder on yourself.  Please, the next time around I will ask for the epidural shortly after changing into my dressing gown and know that everything will not go smoothly, but it’s my reaction to these situations that matters.  So here’s some baby gear that I could not live without and other products that are the first on my shopping list when the occasion calls for it.  I’ve categorized them as now and then, and though it’s far from comprehensive, it is a start:

NOW

1. Sleep Sheep

Because infants hear your heartbeat and swooshing of blood while in the womb, they are not particularly fond of silence.  This little lamb will provide soothing background noise for the first few months and many years to come.  My son is two and half and still falls asleep to the sound of rain each night.

2. Robeez

Made of genuine leather and a team of talented artists, these little slippers will help keep socks on when they’re young and keep their toes warm once they’re more mobile.  Because they stretch as their feet grow, you will be able to use a pair for even longer than you intended.

3. Baby Bjorn

My son has always liked human touch and is a snuggle monster still.  So he loved to be right next to us when we were out and about.  The reality is that I’ll be caring for our child mostly on my own next time so I will also think of getting a body wrap for when our next child is very young.  Bjorns should be used only when they reach the specified weight.

4. Bogs

These boots are comfortable, waterproof and durable.  Toddlers will love the shorter ones for their first winter and the taller boots are great for the boys.  Their lovely designs are also winners in my book.

5. Pottery Barn furniture

Their pieces are well-constructed and certain items, like bookshelves can be in your child’s room right up till university.  If their tastes change you can also transfer them to the guest room and not be too worried about it.

THEN

1. Aden & Anais

These breathable swaddlers made of 100% cotton will not overheat your newborn.  Though they are on the pricier side they literally are first on my shopping list for when the time comes.  About two sets should do it.  They’re excellent for wrapping your child when they’re transitioning to sleeping on their own.

2. Bouncer

They love to lounge and this gives you a chance to fold some laundry or just chill out.

3. Bassinet 

I would get one both for my stroller and for placing in our room for the first few weeks.  I believe that Health Canada recommends that newborns stay by their parents’  bed for the first six weeks.

4. Stroller organizer

This allows you to not have to carry a purse when you’re out and about.  There are pockets for your cellphone, credit cards and coffee.

5. Pottery Barn bedding

My next nursery is going to have a theme and a Pottery Barn sheet set.  We love our current Peter Rabbit collection sheet and pillow sham and will complete it with the quilt and bumpers.

6. Comfortable seating

You truly need a comfortable seat in the nursery.  Whether you choose to nurse or bottle-feed it’s important to have a chair that you can hold the baby in.  Buy one that you wouldn’t mind using in another room.

7. Dresser/Change table

I would not have a separate change table but instead have a change-table item to place on top of a dresser.  That way you can remove that item when it is no longer necessary.

So there you go.  And remember no matter what, enjoy this time and know that you are so very loved.

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Baby Beckham

I feel like mothers-to-be are less anxious about shopping for their daughters compared to their sons.  Perhaps it’s because we’ve been dressing ourselves for decades we feel that we have it down pat.  One of the indulgences we have as a parent is a transference of our own style, for at least a little while, on the little man or the little lady.  I’m sure that there are those who don’t really care but for someone who finds this stuff fun, it was an opportunity.

Everyone will tell you not to go crazy on the clothes because they’ll grow out of it soon enough.  That is both true and untrue.  If you are planning on having another child the items you purchase now will be the hand-me-downs.  So, when you commit to the piece ask yourself, will I care about this one, two or three years down the road?  Also, if you’re serious about using it again then you need to invest a bit on quality.  Certain companies wear and tear better, minus the paint and tomato sauce of course.  There is also the matter of quantity.  If you don’t buy enough you will be harder on those outfits and by the time round two comes along they might not be as presentable.  So, with this post I’m going to advise you on how to achieve all three things: design, quality and quantity while being smart about it.

First and foremost, if you are having a son your life is easier already.  There are fewer options available for boys and you won’t be as tempted by those little dresses.  God help my husband if we have a daughter down the road.

Design

It’s a fact that everyone copies everyone when it comes to children’s clothing.  The most beautiful is Boden.  This British company has honestly the best eye when it comes to creating bright, colourful and aesthetically pleasing pieces.  But it comes at a price.  The worst value is JCrew kids.  Do not even go there, even with the deals.  So if you want the style without hurting your budget I would go with the Gap.  I always go with the Gap.  Their designs are minimalist and beautiful without being too precious.

Quality

This is another area in which the Gap excels.  Almost every single weekend there will be a sale that you can take advantage of.  This means that their price tag is often below Carter’s and Joe Fresh who rarely have sales.  The products stand up to multiple washings and even dearly loved items can be extra clothes for daycare or the diaper bag with your next child.

Quantity

Now this is when you have to watch for sales.  Maybe it’s just me but I always find that I buy pajamas and pants in bulk while I practice more careful consideration when purchasing the tops.  With a couple of jeans, cords and khakis you are set to go.  Old Navy makes excellent pants and Carter’s is the king of fleece pajamas.

Timing

I find with boys clothing that they get less cutesy with time.  It’s like they have child psychologists and mothers on their design team because your little man will transition from lambs to dump trucks seamlessly.  But no one really discusses what to exactly look for at each stage in development.  So here we go:

0-6 months

Much of their days in this phase will be spent in pajamas so don’t worry about quality here.  For quantity Carter’s offers the best options and their prints are fantastic.  They may be cute but don’t get too drawn into the jeans, khakis or flannels.  Have a few in hand for outings or dinners but if they hurt your pocketbook don’t worry about it.  There will be lots of time to dress like a Beckham.  This is also when you should go gender neutral.  Beige and white will be your best friends!

6-18 months

Now, this is when you can start introducing the onesies, sweatpants and cotton shorts.  Since they are more active they will be most comfortable in these sets and you don’t have to worry about exposed bellies.  I also start to incorporate sweaters for special occasions.  Brand-wise I would advise Gap or Osh-Kosh.

18 months +

This is the most fun phase and sets the tone for the principles that you’ll follow going onwards.  I have two categories: house clothes and regular clothes.  When he is at preschool or out in society I dress my son in chinos, jeans or cords.  Many of these have cotton lining in them to keep them warm and is soft against their skin.  Also, elastic waists work well with their growing bodies.  For the tops I purchase graphic tees and sweatshirts.  I favor the crew neck because who actually like napping in a hoodie?  The long-sleeved cotton shirts are great for layering and for when the weather is transitioning in the spring and fall.  In the summer I follow the same guidelines with t-shirts and shorts.  When you’re at home the comfy pants come out in full-swing.

Personal style

Ever since he could speak I have allowed my son to choose between two choices when it comes to his pants, shirts and warmer layering material.  This serves two purposes: one, it gives him agency when so much of his life is guided by his parents and two, it trains his eye on color and material.  It is never too early to raise a man who knows how to care for himself.  This is why I would suggest that you buy graphic shirts because he can identify and name the objects too.  Obviously the truck shirt may be more popular than the French stripes but I sneak in the navy and white whenever I can.  Of course this is all within the realm of your style too.  Lets not go crazy here.

Limits

My last piece advice is to know how much you’re willing to spend.  Once you’ve participated in a cycle or two of discounts you’ll be able to define this for yourself.  For example, I mostly buy shirts within the $6-12 range, pants that are $10-$15, sweatshirts that are not more than $15 and sweaters that are mostly $20.  Once you know your parameters it becomes a breeze and it’s fun.  Easy peasy.

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Fabulous

A part of me feels that fashion articles are redundant because the concept of personal style is, well, personal.  But I am the first to clamber over advice on how to dress, especially if it is being peddled by French women.  Guiding principles never hurt anybody.  Do I believe that everyone has their own fashion sense?  Yes.  Do I think they always look good?  No.  But it’s not my opinion that matters, it’s your own.

With my interest in sartorial culture I have learnt a thing or two.  So here are a couple of my strategies on defining what works for you:

1. Look

I’m always looking at fashion blogs, images and items to be purchased online.  I do this for two reasons: I love beautiful things and I want to train my eye.  I want to decisively pick items that could work in several different combinations and builds on what I currently own.  Know what’s in your closet and maximize their value by changing things up and using them again.

2. Listen…

to your gut.  Pulling off that outfit is all about how you carry yourself so if you feel like a million bucks chances are that someone will think so too.  But wear those clothes mostly for yourself and keep it real.  When I gained my freshmen 15+ during undergrad I was in denial and kept on buying the smaller sizes.  Trust, it does not help the muffin top to have your jeans be a corset.  Accept the larger number and do what feels right for you.  Do you want to be smaller?  Great.  Do you love the curves?  Perfect.  Just own it.

3.  Don’t be a fashion plate.

I buy quality items and they are classic, clean and minimal.  They are often in neutral shades because I have a high aversion to looking like a table cloth.  Simplicity never gets old.  The very worst street style images consist of individuals who have adopted every current trend in one outfit.  They’ll have the high bun, running shoes, leather tote, larger watch and fedora.  All at once.  It’s too much.  Stagger out the fabulousness.

4.  But be yourself.

This past summer I asked my husband for his opinion about an outfit and he said “well at least it doesn’t have holes in them.”  I’m lucky in that I rarely have intervene when it comes to his appearance.  He’s fashionable and having his tall, lean, strong build does not hurt either.  So I love that I have a partner in crime when it comes to these things.  Do I agree with his opinion about distressed jeans?  No, because I like them.

5. Be reflexive.

Even when it comes to personal style I ask the social motivation behind it.  Hmm, how do I say this with political correctness in mind?  Fashion often involves co-opting articles of clothing that are worn by members of a specific socio-economic status.  The fashionable part is in the contrast.  The distressed jeans paired with the crisp white dress-shirt and Louboutins.  The Madewell plaid that did not come from the thrift shop combined with the J Brand jeans.  So how is this problematic?  Is it respectful?  I don’t know.

Fashion is so easy to discredit.  Those who take themselves so seriously will probably conclude that it’s superficial and there are more important matters to concern themselves with.  Well of course there are.  But being informed about world affairs and looking presentable are not mutually exclusive.  To each his own but being kind of clueless about your physical appearance does not necessarily make you more highbrow.  Sorry.

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Scent of a man

Not being in close proximity to one for several months made me consider how much I love the scent of a man.  When I was living abroad I obviously did not hug a man on a regular basis and so I started to actually long for physical contact.  One time, I was walking down the street in Chiang Mai and a guy that I wouldn’t usually even bat an eye at made me physically turn my head and look after him like a teenager.  As someone in her late twenties, I usually have a mental filter for men in their early twenties wearing a white tank-top undershirt as a shirt, Ray Ban aviators and army shorts.  They do not appear in my radar at all, but this dude smelled seriously good.  So it got me to thinking, why do I love the scent of a man so much?

For me personally, I feel that the perfect man smells like a mix of perspiration and good cologne.  One of my favourite activities to pass time at an airport is investigating new fragrances.  Now, there is a limit to this hobby since I usually feel like I’m going to pass out after a few minutes but there are a few I would recommend.  I like cologne to be more on the fresh side with strong citrus overtones and woody undertones.  Here are a few great ones:

1) Bleu de Chanel

I recently bought this for my partner and he loves it.  The only thing that troubles me is that I am so easily influenced by marketing campaigns.  This ad was on repeat at Siam Centre in Bangkok when I was missing him the most.

2) Calvin Klein Escape

3) Acqua di Gio

Both of these products are pretty classic and subtle enough to suit many occasions.

4) Ralph Lauren Pony collection

The RL brand is founded on the image of clean lines so this also translates into their fragrances.  The Pony collection is fairly new and there are four different variations with subtle differences to suit the scent you’re looking for.

In closing, I would definitely say that the sense of smell can evoke emotion and help us recall memories.  We are living in an increasingly fragrance-free world in North America in the workplace and at certain public places so there may be fewer opportunities to spritz on your favourite scent.  While I appreciate catering to allergic sensitivities, there is something to be said about the ritual of prepping for the night with some perfume behind the ears, looking forward to the fun to be had.  So I say spritz on, but in moderation of course.

A jacket and a purse

I realized that I haven’t written about any actual material things yet, even though my blog is called “Things I like”.  So, I’m going to give my first product reviews a go.

Lululemon rain jacket

I’m pretty sure that they don’t call it a rain jacket (warm up jacket?) and it is currently not available because their outer-wear is for the summer season.  So lets hope that they add it to their fall/winter collection because this might be one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.  It’s on the pricier side ($200) and you might ask yourself, “Why would I ever pay this much money for a lighter jacket?”  We Canadians who live with snow, sleet and freezing temperatures for most of the year will generally consider spending a bit more on the winter jacket because really, that’s all people see of your outfit much of the time from November to sometimes April.  Same goes for the boots.  Well, this jacket, due to its rain resistant material and thicker lining, is so versatile that I have worn it in early spring and late fall.  It is a great transition jacket when you are sick of wearing your winter pea coat and are hopeful that the skies will clear and the country gets some much needed warmth.  It’s also longer so it protects you from the wind and the hood will keep your hair dry and your ears warm.  The cut of the jacket is also form-fitting and sleek so a pair of skinny jeans really looks great with it.  I’ve even worn it in Thailand during the monsoon season on the back of a motorbike!  If Lulu does offer it in the fall I would recommend considering this purchase.

Roots satchel bag

I have never been an over-the-shoulder purse girl because I’ve always felt that it you are going to wear a purse, it looks much better slung under your arm.  I have since changed my mind for several reasons.  When I showed up to a party in Thailand with a wristlet, my friend said that if I didn’t want to get robbed it’s important to have big straps that you can put over your shoulder.  Thailand is generally very safe but it’s always important to be aware.  Anyways, I didn’t actually follow her advice till I came back to Canada and purchased the Roots “Small Venetian Prince” bag in brown natural leather.  It is so liberating not having to worry about where you left your purse and just stroll down the street to run your errands.  The purse also fits a surprising amount of things like my clutch wallet, iPod, sunglass case, iPhone, keys etc.  I even fit a Moleskine notebook in there once.  I chose a worn leather finish because I feel that companies don’t show off the natural beauty of their leather goods enough and I knew that I would mostly use it for casual occasions and to generally get stuff done around the city.  Roots also has great quality leather and friends have said that their bags last a few years no problem.

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