Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Dear Readers,

Remember how fun Halloween used to be?  When you would spend weeks and weeks thinking about what you were going to be and how exciting it was to get all dressed up for school?  Well I do.  And it makes me a little sad that those days are past.

This year, despite coming up with what I thought was a tremendous idea for family Halloween costumes - Star Wars characters!  Me: Princess Leia; Hubby: Luke Skywalker; Baby: Yoda; Oscar, our chihuahua with a Napoleonic complex: Darth Vader - we in fact did not dress up.  Instead, I ordered Baby the equivalent of  a ham and cheese sandwich for a costume - a pumpkin costume from Carters.  Boring, serviceable, inoffensive.  Oh trust me, he looked completely adorable.  Anything on that baby is adorable, but it wasn't clever or unique.  In fact, nearly every, single baby on Facebook was wearing the exact same costume.  Alas.

One of the big reasons we didn't get into Halloween too much this year is that Baby is, well, 8 months old.  He doesn't "get" Halloween just yet.  All I've actually done to get in the spirit is buy candy, which I've selflessly been eating for the last week in an effort to spread Holiday cheer.  But, as I left for work today my mother came to the rescue.  She had kindly brought me a Halloween poncho (part Christmas sweater, part tree skirt, it truly is a sight to behold).  But she brought something else for herself that I loved - a Halloween fascinator!

YES.  Made popular in the States by the recent Royal Wedding, fascinators are all the rage!  And why not? They're whimsical, don't require the commitment of a full hat and yet provide all the flair you need to dress up any outfit.  I was sold the moment she tried it on. (And, let's be honest here, a little jealous.  How come I got the Mexican Fiesta Halloween Poncho?)

The brilliance is that all you need is a great fascinator and you're that cool, festive mom when you pair it with a flattering, all-black outfit.  Love it!  Etsy and Amazon have some fun options I'm considering.  Next year, I'll be ready, with bells (or webs, or whatever) on!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Fierce and the Fabulous

Dear Readers,

When I was pregnant I got very tired sifting through maternity clothing designed for extras on Little House On the Prairie or Chloe Sevigny on Big Love.  I appreciate that pregnancy is not the time to experiment with wearing a fringed bra top and jorts, but I still wanted to look young and directional in something that did not feature tiny flower print or pastels.  In truth, when you feel like you may hurl in the shower, it's at least nice to know you have something cute waiting for you when you can finally make it into your closet and out the door.

Alas, these items didn't seem to exist unless you wanted to mortgage your house and buy out all of Isabella Oliver (and I did, I really, really did).  Unwilling to fully commit to financial ruin for the sake of fasion, I feared I would instead be relegated to sister wife looks and that all hope was lost when I discovered ASOS.  ASOS is like H&M, Zara and Forever 21 mixed with a few overpriced brands you can easily ignore.  It's fresh, trendy and mostly budget friendly clothing for women of all shapes and sizes, including the pregnant variety.  Now, a warning: I ordered many, many things and nearly all of it went back.  But with free shipping both ways (a blessing and a curse, truth be told) who cares?

The one dress I kept was an adorable maroon swing maternity dress that I wore to death with black tights and heels to work and parties, feeling fabulous and cute.  And now I'm considering a few of their winter, non-maternity dresses that hit all the "F's" for the upcoming Christmas Party Circuit - you know, flirty, fun, fierce and forgiving as it has been discovered egg nog and ham don't mix well with tight or low-cut (ahem, bandage dress wearers).  Another major bonus?  Though they don't have reviews, they do have a "Runway" tab, so you can see the clothing in action.  Genius!

What are you waiting for?  Check it out, and get your fierce on!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sale Alert!

Petunia Pickle Bottom 60% off until Oct. 31, 2012!  Click here for great baby bags!

Move over, Martha!

Dear Readers,

A long, long time ago I enjoyed cooking.  Along with my two-hour daily workouts, healthy, fresh cooking evaporated from my daily repertoire sometime during law school.  As a result, all my husband has ever heard is me saying "Oh I used to workout and cook all the time!" but all he's actually ever experienced is an exhausted wife watching reality shows and suggesting he have cereal for dinner if he's so hungry.

Fast-forward to today and our baby is now eating solids.  Do I buy him baby food?  Only if we're travelling, and then only if it's organic.  That's right - I'm that annoying mother who makes food from organic veggies and (catch this) veggies from our very own garden.  Meanwhile, my husband and I are eating hummus on crackers left-over from some long-ago party with a side of old Halloween candy and a glass of cheap wine.  The discrepancy is not lost on me.  I saw this and realized that, horrors, someday very soon our baby would be eating with us and perhaps I could stand to bump up my food game as well.

Enter  A friend of mine turned me on to this fantastic website and I LOVE IT.  Decision overload is an issue for me, especially by the time I reach the grocery store and absolutely by the time I get home. What to buy?  I don't know.  What to make?  I don't care.  Now, I have a weekly shopping list of 20 items that makes 5 recipes.  So, along with a few staples in my pantry I can make easy homemade dinners every night in around 30 minutes! (toot! toot!)  They cleverly even have vegetarian and gluten-free subscriptions in addition to their "classic" recipe options.

The pluses are endless: shorter shopping time, cheaper grocery bills, less waste, healthier dinners, and an actual answer to "what's for dinner" instead of a snarky "I don't know - what are you making?"  Another plus - a return to loving to cook!  In the past few weeks I've made homemade enchilada sauce,  roasted my first two chickens (side note - even if it grosses you out you really do have to clean them out...), and even made chicken stock and tomato soup from scratch.

What's that you say?  Check out that overachieving Martha Stewart?  Well, there are still nights when I don't cook, and I truly believe that cereal is a viable dinner option.  But things are improving.  And that is truly a "good thing."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Flying Solo

Dear Readers,

Recently, my 7 month old and I embarked on our first-ever mommy and baby commercial flight.  That's right - I flew solo.  We had already been on several successful trips with little one (sans commercial flying/security), so I  took a deep breath, hoped for the best and decided to buy a ticket and fly with a lap child.  To prepare, I read up on what the airlines required, Googled "flying with a baby" and figured this would be a challenge but, obviously, people do it all the time.

After a lot of agonizing, planning and debating, I did the following:  I booked us on Southwest for the 2 free checked bags, careful to select flights with good schedules.  I packed one big suitcase filled with (too) many things for the both of us and checked that along with baby's car seat.    My carry-on was a big diaper bag and the actual baby, who I strolled around in his travel stroller before gate checking said stroller.  I debated using our BOB, or placing him in his car seat attached to a stroller and gate checking all of that, but finally landed on using our Maclaren travel stroller since it's lightweight, easy to fold and, let's face it, if anything happened to it I'd be upset, but not "how DARE you!" upset.

On the day we left we got to the airport extra early and checked in with no problems.  We even got his baby boarding pass without having to show his birth certificate (which was good, since I couldn't find it the night before and came armed with his shots record instead after 3 long hours of trying to think where a sleep-deprived crazy new mother would have thought to put such a document).

Everything went well, but not everything went as expected.  So for those who have yet to fly commercially with a child, the following counts as my "unexpected" list of occurrences.  May it be helpful to you in the future when you too fly solo:

1.  Everyone was super nice.  Seriously.  Everyone from the TSA people to the passengers were super nice and helpful.  The thing is, almost everyone has children, somewhere, who they've traveled with, sometime.  As such, everyone seemed to see me and know "that woman needs us to be nice and helpful."  And they were right.  Belief in humanity restored.

2.  Your baby will spend time unattended.  Yes, that's right.  It's not bad parenting, it's the rules. I was trying to load everything onto the security scanner with one hand, but that was not working.  So I turned to the TSA monitor and asked her to hold my adorable 7 month old for a quick second while I loaded the stroller onto the conveyor belt.  The woman practically leaped backwards and said "We canNOT touch your child."  So I put baby on the floor, loaded everything up, retrieved him from whence he rolled, and walked through the body scanner.

3.  Unstrap for take-off.  I brought my Ergo baby carrier to carry baby around after I gate-checked my stroller, and so that he could sleep in it on the plane (he LOVES sleeping in the Ergo).   No can do. Several blogs I had read even said to skip the stroller and ONLY use a carrier.  (An idea; can be a little exhausting.)  The flight attendants were on me immediately to take the straps off for take-off and landing.  I seriously have no idea why, since if we crashed it's not like I'd be likely to think "thank goodness my child wasn't strapped to me" but those are the rules all the same.

4.  You are always stronger than you thought possible.  A long time ago I attended Arnold Schwarzenegger's inauguration as Governor of California.  I remember him trying to tie in his former Mr. Universe glory by saying "just like weight lifting, you are always stronger than you thought possible" and then saying something about lifting up "Cal-ee-forn-ia" to new heights.  Well, I, like the former governor, discovered that despite lifting nothing other than an infant and a fork these last 7 months was able to wear a sleeping child, drag an enormous suitcase, and push a tiny stroller laden with a large diaper bag with a precariously placed car seat quite a distance to meet my husband in a waiting car.  And if I can do it, trust me - you can do it too.

Bon Voyage!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The "F" Word

Dear Friends,

Once upon a time there lived a pregnant young professional princess who longed for the day she would become the fairest super mommy in all the land.  Part of being the fairest super mommy in all the land was breastfeeding your beautiful baby so that he or she would grow up to be a clever, healthy prince or princess.  To prepare, this princess took a breastfeeding class, talked to all of her fellow super mommy princess friends, and bought everything needed to breastfeed in a modern world: lanolin, pads (disposable and reusable), nursing tanks, Swedish Boob shirts for stealthy feeding in public, a Hooter Hider, and a $300 pump designed for super mommy's on the go.

This young professional princess did indeed have a beautiful baby boy who latched perfectly in the hospital.  "Hooray!" thought the mommy.  "Soon I will be the fairest super mommy of them all!"  Just to be extra safe, this mommy went to lactation classes once or twice a week at her hospital to weigh her beautiful boy and to learn and share breastfeeding tips.  At the first such meeting, the super mommy felt very smug.  Her tiny baby boy had gained weight and was doing well.  "Hooray!" thought the mommy.  "I am the fairest super mommy of them all!"

Then, the super mommy attended a lactation class the next week and discovered that her beautiful little prince had not gained even an ounce.  "How could this be?" thought the super mommy with only 10 weeks left of maternity leave.  "I've fed my baby every hour!  I've done everything right!  I've read all the breastfeeding blogs and books - whatever is the matter?"  Seeking help, the mommy asked the old lactation consultant for advice.  Rather than helping the old lactation consultant said to the room full of fellow mommies "What does everyone else here suggest?" The other mommies shouted: "Feed your baby more often!" "Pump!"  "Drink more water!"  "Eat more often!"

But the super mommy had been doing all those things.  She felt despair and through tears said "But I've done all that, and it was working before."  Further, had the super mommy wanted help from these lay mommies she had plenty of super mommy princess friends she could have asked.  She wanted help from the old witch, er "Lactation Consultant."

Finally, the old lactation consultant, careful not to use the "F" word ("formula") said, "Your baby is not getting enough to eat."  The super mommy, feeling very un-super, looked down at her crying baby boy and had a revelation.  She wasn't producing enough milk.  He wasn't colicky   He was starving.  Oh, but how could she have not known!  Tearful, she swept out of the room, designer baby bag in tow.  "I am the worst mother in all the land" she cried.  "I don't even have the power to feed my own baby and the poor thing is hungry!"

Luckily, some fellow mommy princesses were nearby and recognized the un-super mommy from prenatal yoga.  They came to her aid and showered her with help and understanding: "We have low production too!"  "We supplement!"  "Try Playtex Vent-Air bottles and Similac formula."  "He will still grow up to be a prince."

And so it was that the super mommy discovered that she had the power to feed her baby after all.  She went to CVS, purchased bottles and formula, fed her beautiful baby boy and a magical thing happened: he stopped crying.  Suddenly, he was full and happy and growing.  And super mommy was thrilled.

And that's how the young professional princess truly became a Super Mommy.

The End.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Heya, Sweetheart

Dear Readers,

Three years ago (Lord, really?) I was in NYC with my girlfriends for Halloween.  NYC has a way of making those of us who live elsewhere feel frumpy the minute we touch down.  However, the worst was my realization that yes, the entire world had moved on from bootcut jeans to skinny jeans and leggings and I alone was wearing ugly, large-bottomed jeans designed to "balance out" my hips and thighs.

Since that time, I've happily adopted leggings (or as my friend refers to them "a fat girl's best friend").  Paired with a long-ish top and flats or boots you look instantly passable and "now."  Skinny jeans, well, that's a different matter all together.  I'm not larger than a lot of people I see in skinny jeans.  It's more that I can just never justify the price tag of designer skinny jeans with my current lifestyle.  If I'm not in work clothes, I'm either in sweats at home or leggings out.  But I missed jeans, so I kept trying to find some reasonably-priced  "skinny" jeans that didn't make me look like Jabba The Hut or a pudgy teen.

And then I discovered the Old Navy Sweetheart Jeans.  The over-promoted Rockstars are for prepubescent girls.  The Sweethearts, however, are for women like me - women with curves who want something cute, basic and cut so that you don't have to wax to wear them.  Put them on with cute flats and top and "presto" - you're one hip Mama! And at $30 a pop, buy them in every color and be the envy of your less clever friends.  Love it!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Mother of Invention

Dear Readers,

So, yes, obviously I online shop.  A lot.  And one of my favorite sites is  I am convinced that there is a group of multi-million dollar mama's out there designing this stuff just for babysteals, and I thank them for it.  Ladies, your ingenuity makes my life, and my baby's life, better and better-looking:)

Sometimes I wish I worked for babysteals.  I'll be out, using one of these niffy items and people ask "Where did you buy that?  I want one!"  I could sell like a crazy woman.  Sadly, babysteals has but one item on sale per day (though they come back, usually).   If you're hard up, most of the stuff on babysteals is found on other websites.  BUT, babysteals has everything at a discount - usually 50% off!  I love nice things and I love a deal, so really, the website is like crack for me.  And I'm bringing you down with me!

IMO, the best of the best includes:

1. The RoSK woobee plush blanket.  Rain or Shine Kids ("RoSK") blankets are plush blanket on one side, wind/water resistant fabric "tarp" on the other with cute little ribbons on the sides so you can affix the blanket to your stroller, Baby Bjorn, car seat, etc.  Minus the ribbons I envisioned such a blanket for myself in college.  I thought of calling it a "blarp" (blanket/tarp...I know, not catchy).  Anyhow, clearly RoSK beat me to it.  Alas.  But I have benefited from their ingenuity   My baby was born in February and it helped keep him cozy despite the wind and the rain.  In the summer it was great for lying on the grass.  Tons of cute colors so no matter what you'll find one you like.

2.  The Tie Chair.  The Tie Chair is essentially a large flour sack that fits over the back of almost any chair and has ties that you wrap around your child to keep them from falling off.  It is a tiny, portable high chair and it works wonderfully!  You can spoon feed your child while they're in it or, when they're bigger, tie them in so they can eat with you without risk of keeling over.  And it smartly comes in the most adorable patterns - chevron, dots, etc.  Now you can visit any restaurant, any house, anywhere and know you won't have a lap child washing his hands in your soup.

3.  The PishPosh Mommy Caryall Organizer.  This little bag allows you to use any purse or bag as a diaper bag.  It's basically a purse organizer designed to hold baby stuff - bottles, wipes, etc. With its wealth of outside and inside pockets any fashionable bag can become a diaper bag.  I also love loading it up and tossing it into my stroller so I don't have to deal with a huge diaper bag on the handles.  Again, cute colors and patterns galore.  Oh mommy gear, why must you be so TEMPTING?!

You're welcome!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Not Your Mama's Baby Gear

Dear Readers,

A very good friend of mine once said "all babies need is a boob and a blanket."  Fair enough.  Gear is for the parents.  But good gear is priceless if that means a nap, a shower, and a sleeping/happy baby.

As you know, I'm big into form.  But having a baby makes you a believer in function.  These items are the best of both.  Oh, and just FYI, we are big travelers.  Always on the go, hate to say "no" to things, so we needed gear that could help make baby happy en route and once we arrived.  This stuff fit the bill and then some.

Here are the "tops" for me:

1. Maclaren Rocker.  It rocks, it vibrates, it's fully adjustable and comes with carrying handles.  What more can I say?  Babies small and large are happy as a clam in it.

2.  Ergo Baby Carrier.  Sure, you look like a bit of an Earth Mama in one, but that's what makes it cool.  What's even better about it is that your baby can nap and get up and nap again in it happily while you do amazing things, like sit on the beach-side patio at the Del Coronado receiving guests and drinking cocktails for an entire day (true story).

3.  Baby Bjorn Travel Lite Crib.  It's not the biggest puppy, but it opens in seconds and is so light and compact, you can take it anywhere.  I am not mechanically inclined and I was sold the minute (make that 5 seconds) I put it together.

4.  Petunia Pickle Bottom Diaper Bag.  At first I thought these were nifty but not "me."  I wanted something that looked like a fabulous bag that just "happened" to be a diaper bag.  Then I decided to carry a Louis Vuitton Never Full around with baby gear in it before realizing that I was ruining my favorite tote.  So finally I broke down, discovered that they have a million new patterns and bought the Petunia Boxy Backpack in St. Germain.  It's wipe-able, has a fold out changing station, millions of pockets AND you can wear it as a backpack.  No, it's no Louis, but it's the Cadillac of baby bags.

5. diapers.  Adorable patterns.  Free wipes.  Ships to your door.  A "green" option and most importantly, they don't leak!  What more could a fashionable mommy and baby ask for?

Get it and get going!

Maternity Clothes: The List

Dear Readers,

As you will learn, I am always on the search for things to make me look and feel fantastic.  When I was pregnant, that was no exception.  I was not one of those women who figured "Oh I'll just make my husband's shirts work with this band around my pants, making me look homeless/really fat/unisex."  Some girls can pull that off.  I'm curvy, tall and buy into the "look good/feel good" association a little too much.

Anyhow, when my good friends were PG as well, I created a list of my favorite clothing items.  Now that I'm post-pregnancy I can assure you that maternity clothes are NOT a waste of money.  Funny thing - your figure doesn't pop right back.  Well, mine didn't.  I'm not a supermodel.  And if yours did, good for you.  Keep it to yourself.  I was ever so thankful to have a few well-made items to wear to the pediatricians.  So even if I was a bit of a basket-case those first few months, I was always greeted with "well you look good!"  Oh, how deceiving a good pair of black pants can be.

On to the list!  The following got me through work, bars, BBQs, dinners, cocktails parties, fundraisers, showers, etc.  In my experience it's all about the shoes, jewelry and your existing cardigans and jackets to make it through in addition to the items below.

Best/most necessary/most useful items IMO:

1.  Black dress pants from Gap.  Best investment ever.  Wore them my whole entire pregnancy (and may still be wearing them...)

2.  Black maternity leggings and tanks from Target "Be Maternity" (the Target version of Ingrid and Isabel).  Wore them/wear them CONSTANTLY.  So comfy and I loved the material.

3.  One quality long tank top from Isabella Oliver in black.  I wore this about four times a week my entire pregnancy with pants and skirts and various non-maternity and maternity sweaters, jackets, etc.  

4.  Also from IO a black blazer, black pencil skirt, tunics, black cocktail dress and black wrap dress.  I wore them for work and non-work things.  Very versatile.  (And suddenly my credit cards statements make sense....)

5.  One pair of good designer maternity jeans.

6.  One pair of maternity yoga pants and a few maternity t-shirts to wear to workout/sleep/hang out (check out GAP or Old Navy).

And speaking of favs, while I didn't wear this a TON while preggo, I wore a long, white Isabella Oliver button down dress shirt all the time after I had the baby and nobody knew it was maternity (um, that I know of).

Also, I didn't appreciate my Tory Burch flats so much as I did post-baby.  I looked pulled together while still feeling like I was wearing slippers.

And finally, a little post-baby beauty advice: showering and wearing non-sweats gets you points with a newborn, apparently. 

All can be had online.  Happy shopping!

The Catherine Method

Dear Readers,

Back when I was pregnant I thought "Maybe I should read some baby books."  So I half-read a few books, decided my husband and I were clearly superior to these people who couldn't figure out babies and went back to focusing on my fabulous maternity wardrobe and justifying eating frozen yogurt for meals because, clearly, that's what my body wanted.

Then I had a baby.  I was overwhelmed with how happy I was, how beautiful he was, and how absolutely scared out of my mind I was.  The lack of sleep and crying didn't help.  So I did what any educated person does when they don't know what to do - I read about 45,000 pages on baby sleep.  I even tracked down the leading children's sleep specialist in the United States and decided whatever he charged was worth it if my baby would just stop crying and sleep.

Then I went on Paxil.

Then I developed what I call "The Catherine Method" for baby soothing.  Here it is!  Hope it helps you as it helped me.  (By the way, my baby is a beautiful 7 month old now who is calm, always smiling, takes three naps a day and sleeps 11 hours a night.  New moms - yes, there is hope.)

How to calm your baby: The Catherine Method

1.  Swaddle your baby tight.  (Consider double swaddling - swaddle with a blanket inside a velcro swaddle wrap).
2.  Hold him in the nursing position facing you.  Hold him snugly so he feels safe.
3.  With your free hand hold the pacifier in his mouth (Avent Soothie's are Muffin's fav)
4.  Walk and bounce or bounce on an exercise ball (make sure his head is supported)
5.  Go "shhhhhhhh  shhhhhhh" as you bounce; sometimes sing (something soft and calm you like - he will come to associate the song with sleep)
6.  Keep the room quiet except for any white noise (Marpac SleepMate is the best on the market IMO!) and fairly dark.  Remember, you are essentially replicating the womb (see Happiest Baby on the Block - Swinging, Shh-ing, Sucking, Swaddling, "Shaking")
7.  He will start to stare when he's close to dreamland ("the baby stare").  Then he'll start to look like you do when you're trying to catch up on missed episodes on Hulu but you really should go to bed - head dropping, eyes closing and opening...
8.  At that magical moment, place baby in the swing on low or in the crib on his back - whichever he prefers.
9.  If baby still needs a little soothing, continue the "shhhhh" and alternate patting his tummy rhythmically and rubbing it.  I also found that gently bouncing the baby by pushing on the mattress on either side of him while keeping up the "shhhhh" sounds worked like magic.
10.  He sleeps. (!!!!!)
11.  Rest, mama.  You've earned it:)

PS: For more help, check out The Baby Whisperer by Tracey Hogg and Happiest Baby on the Block.

Well, Hello There

Dear Readers,

Welcome to The Catherine Blog!  What is The Catherine Blog, you ask?  Well, let me tell you - you need it.  Just as you'll need all the things I will post on my blog because this is the place where all things I've found to be fantastic shall be listed together.  Yes - that's it!  This blog is the place I share articles, tips, shops, foods, ideas, anything that has made my life better, brighter, cuter, happier, wiser or just plain "more good."  So, if these good things help you as they've helped me, that makes my day.  If not, well, start your own blog:)  

Thank you for visiting!  See you back here soon!