calling all procrastinators.

last minute gift ideas -- that will still ship in time for Christmas!

Last year, {jv} made his appearance less than three weeks before Christmas. If I was a normal person, I would have done my holiday shopping before he was born... but then again, we had just moved in our new house. (In other words, I was not a normal person last Christmas season!) This year, I have made good progress on my list, but working full-time and chasing a toddler around have made the process a bit more chaotic.

Since I still have a few people on my gift list, I decided to round up a few of my favorite gift ideas and notoriously quick retailers. I also included any promotions they may be running and what the last day for shipping is. Sometimes, if I give myself a deadline, it helps ;) If you've procrastinated a bit like me, never fear -- there are still plenty of amazing options to make the folks on your gift list very happy. I hope these ideas give you the boost you need to get everything wrapped up (literally and figuratively!). xoxo {av}

Birchbox: Gift Subscriptions ship straight to recipients, beginning in January
Design Darling: Last day for ground shipping: Wednesday, December 16th; Free shipping on orders over $200
Follain: Last chance for guaranteed Christmas delivery with express shipping: Sunday, December 20th
Framebridge: $39 Instagram framed Instagram prints; Last chance for guaranteed Christmas delivery: Tuesday, December 15th
Gap: 40% off your purchase through Tuesday, December 15th with code: COZY; Last chance for guaranteed Christmas delivery: Monday, December 21st (free shipping over $50)
J.Crew: 40% off select items; 30% off your whole purchase through Tuesday, December 15th with code: GETGIFTS; Last day for free ground shipping: Monday, December 21st
lululemon: Last day for free standard shipping for most: Saturday, December 19th (some can get away with Tuesday, December 22nd -- see here for more details)
Madewell: 25% off through Thursday, December 24th with code: YOUGOTTHIS; Last day for free ground shipping: Monday, December 21st
Minted: 15% off art gifts and stationery through Wednesday, December 16th with code: GIFTS2015; Last chance for guaranteed Christmas delivery: Friday, December 18th (see more details here)
Nordstrom: Last day for free standard shipping on qualifying merchandise: Wednesday, December 23rd (order by 12:00pm EST)
Sephora: Last day for standard shipping on most merchandise: Monday, December 21st  -- fragrances must be ordered by Wednesday, December 16th (click here for all the shipping details)
Shopbop: Extra 25% off on sale items through Thursday, December 17th with code: BONUS25; Last day for free shipping Sunday, December 20th to ensure Christmas delivery + Amazon Prime Customers get free two-day shipping
Splendid: 25% off through Tuesday, December 15th with code: GIVING; Last day for free guaranteed ground shipping: Thursday, December 17th.
Zappos: Last day for free two-day shipping: Tuesday, December 22nd (see all the details here)

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how to make a holiday cheese board.

how to make a holiday cheese board. #sidinthekitchenholiday

Hello, friends! Remember me? I know it's been a few weeks, but I'll blame it on the craziness of the holidays. We also celebrated {jv}'s first birthday a couple weeks early, so I was nose deep in primary colored balloons and decor for most of November. Speaking of entertaining, I'm so excited to be back to share a little collaboration I did recently with Sid Wainer & Son® in the spirit of the holidays!

Based less than twenty minutes from our home in Rhode Island, Sid Wainer & Son® is a top-notch local supplier of specialty food, cheese, and produce. (I legitimately see their trucks outside all of my favorite local restaurants!) Since 1914, they have worked with the best New England farmers to create a unique and diverse line of products. They also ship many of their tasty goodies nationwide, so thankfully, you're only a few clicks away from having these delicious treats on your table. Read on for a few tips I pulled together on making your own holiday cheese board!

how to make a holiday cheese board. #sidinthekitchenholiday

Cheeses from left to right: Kilchurn Estate® Mustard and Ale Cheddar Cheese, Kilchurn Estate® Sage Derby Cheese + Kilchurn Estate® Krystal Pure Cave Aged Cheddar Cheese // Meats from left to right: Jansal Valley® Spicy Sopressata + Jansal Valley® Cacciatorino Salami // Extras: Jansal Valley® Dried Black Mission Figs, Jansal Valley® Huckleberry Spreadable Fruit + Jansal Valley® Cranberry Honey

how to make a holiday cheese board. #sidinthekitchenholiday
how to make a holiday cheese board. #sidinthekitchenholiday

There are many schools of thought about what makes a good cheese board. A curated mix of flavors and textures is crucial to concocting a crowd-pleasing display for your next party. When Sid Wainer & Son® sent over these treats, it took everything I had not to eat it all before I took the photos. In no particular order, here are a few thoughts that were swirling around in my head on the topic...
  • Some people simply place a block or wheel of cheese on their cheese boards. If the cheese board you're making is for a small group of people (who are familiar with one another), I think that is perfectly appropriate. However, if you're creating a cheese board for a larger crowd, cutting the pieces in advance can make a big difference. There is less pressure on your guests to cut perfect slices. More people can also cycle quickly through the cheese board.  
  • Make it your goal to include a diverse set of flavors that work in concert. I loved that the folks at Sid Wainer & Son® included cheeses with different flavor profiles. You want to make sure you have something for everyone. (Speaking of which, check with your guests to accommodate any food allergies or situations -- your pregnant friends can't have some common cheese board accouterments and neither can your friends who adhere to a gluten-free diet. You can easily make some substitutions to fit everyone's needs.)
  • If your cheese board can't accommodate all of your treats, pull out a few small bowls which can swoop in and save the day. Along with a few sliced figs, I placed crackers and almonds in other bowls to keep it all organized. 
  • Even though winter is almost here, my rosemary plant is still thriving. I cut a few sprigs to use as a garnish in those small bowls and on the cheese board itself. If you don't have your own plant, you can easily snag them at your local grocery store -- or a large bundle from Sid Wainer & Son® here. Not only are they wonderfully fragrant, these sprigs add a pretty pop of green to your cheese board. (Fun fact: I love rosemary so much that I asked to include it in my wedding bouquet. It is a symbol of remembrance. My grandmother's name was also Rosemarie, so it has extra significance for me.)
  • I placed the Jansal Valley® Dried Black Mission Figs, Jansal Valley® Huckleberry Spreadable Fruit + Jansal Valley® Cranberry Honey on a separate cheese board to keep the mess at a minimum. As your guests are assembling their bites, they can add a fruity finish without disrupting the flow of others around the cheese board.
how to make a holiday cheese board. #sidinthekitchenholiday
how to make a holiday cheese board. #sidinthekitchenholiday

While my tips aren't necessarily groundbreaking, I hope they give you a few new ideas for the next time you pull together a cheese board. Thanks again to Sid Wainer & Son for spoiling me with these delicious goodies. Now that I know they ship nationally, I know a way to make someone's day this holiday season. I mean... who wouldn't love a care package full of cheese? xoxo {av}

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This post was sponsored by Sid Wainer & Son®. I was provided with the products shown above, in exchange for sharing this post with my readers. All opinions are my own -- and I carefully curate which brands appear on {long distance loving}.

minted art print giveaway.

When we moved into our house nearly a year ago (where does time go?), I always knew I would have some trouble filling certain "holes" in our decor. One such hole? The large space above the tub in our master bathroom! It took me months to finally decide upon a solution. With the help of Minted, I was able to fill this blank space with something beautiful and perfect for the space!

In case you didn't know, Minted now offers large scale art prints which help make those mysterious voids in your decor history! The print I chose (Savannah Lands by the uber-talented Emily Jeffords) was the ideal solution to our window-less master bathroom. Since much of our bathroom is gray and white, I needed a pop of color without completely overdoing it. I couldn't be more pleased with the final look! (FYI: I chose the 54" x 40" framed print, which filled the space without a hitch.)

Minted is incredibly generous and is offering to give one long distance loving reader an art print of their choosing. The winner will be able to choose one framed print of the size and scale that will fill their "hole" on their own wall -- up to $325! From photography to modern art, there is truly a print for everyone. See their complete collection of fine art here

To enter the giveaway, hop over to my Instagram for two easy ways to win! Best of luck! xoxo {av}

Please note: This giveaway is only open to residents of the United States, 13 years old or older. Entries will be cross-referenced. The giveaway will end promptly at 8:00pm EST on Sunday, November 1st. The winner will be shared on the original giveaway post on Instagram. Should you have any additional questions, please email me.

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This post was made possible by Minted. In agreement with sharing information about their brand and promoting their products, I was provided with this art print. As always, I only share about brands I truly love and support on long distance loving. Thank you!

give yourself grace.

316 days ago, I met my precious {jv}. It feels like yesterday and a million years ago at the same time. Over ten months into this motherhood journey, I have found myself reflecting quite a bit in recent days. I ordered the invites for {jv}'s first birthday this week, though it hardly seems possible that he is any shade older than three months. It is cliché to say that time passes in a blink, but his smiling face is proof it does.

I have written this post over and over in my head for months. It has had a myriad of titles: ten things I would tell my pre-baby self or what I would tell my friends without kids. None of them stuck. If there is anything I have learned in the past 316 days, it is this: every experience is unique, but in some way, shape or form, they are also all the same. Every delivery has a story, but the end result  (99.999% of the time) is a happy baby. Some of my friends have had tremendous success with breastfeeding; others couldn't manage it, no matter how hard they tried. Certain babies roll over at eight weeks, but some take five months. Whatever the tale, the experiences are shared. 

I went back to work when {jv} was 14 weeks old. Now, when I look back on my maternity leave, I barely remember how I filled my days. In a strange way, it is a sort of blissful unknown. Most of the late nights (and early mornings) all fade together. Around five months, a switch clicked and we got into a much better rhythm. While we still don't have a perfect routine, I try to be out the door with {jv} at 7:30am. We typically walk back in the door together around 5:30pm. I cherish those two hours before he goes to bed. During those hours, I ignore my phone, my work email, and everything else. They can wait. When I am with {jv}, I have made it my mission to be all in. While I may not get as much done as my pre-baby self, I know I am investing my time in the right places. I am far from perfect (and still have a lot to learn), but I am getting there.

If I could go back and tell myself one thing, it would be this: give yourself grace. As a perpetual perfectionist, I figured I would bounce back and be my old self in no time. (Breastfeeding burns calories, right?) I gained weight with the pregnancy I lost before {jv}, which I didn't lose between pregnancies. It took me a full nine months to shed those pounds, plus those I gained with {jv}, and really feel (almost) like myself again. Even though I ran until the week before I delivered, I am still slower than my pre-pregnancy self. I am definitely a work in progress.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a sweet reader who said she missed my posts. It made me happy and sad all at the same time. I miss blogging, but pulling back has been a necessary evil since I went back to work full-time. My blog has always been a respite for me: a place to express myself and a place to find clarity. While I have given myself grace in other areas of my life, I haven't here. I am not going anywhere, I simply have made the choice that my family comes first. It is hard to see others rocket to blogging or Instagram fame, while I hover at the same numbers for a month. However, I have to remind myself that 5, 10, 25 years from now.... none of that will matter. My family will.

Whether you are a parent or not, give yourself an extra dose of grace today. As a queen of to-do lists, I know it isn't always easy to put them aside. Ten years from now, we won't remember the deadline we missed -- but we will remember the moments we shared. (I'll step off my cheesy soapbox now.) Thank you for sticking with me, through thick and thin. xoxo {av}

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pantone color report: spring 2016.

pantone spring 2016 color report // graphic by @luvfromafar

Happy weekend! I know it has been a hot second since my last post, but I promise it is because I have a lot of great stuff coming your way very soon. I have also been giving myself the time I need to adjust to this whole working mom gig, without feeling like I always have a computer in front of me when {jv} is asleep. Thank you for bearing with me ;)

It has become a bit of a tradition for me to illustrate each spring's Pantone Color Report. I like to see how the colors all work together, as well as how they vary from year to year. (See for yourself -- here are the reports from the last three years: 2015, 2014, and 2013.) While Pantone hasn't released the color of the year yet (I'll update this post when they do), I don't see any runaway surprises like last year's Marsala. I think this year's top ten colors are a solid mix. Some years, the colors are all very muted or extremely bold. I actually like that there is a little of both for Spring 2016.

What are your favorites from the bunch? 
I'm loving on the classic blue with a muted finish, Snorkel Blue, and the bright and bold red, Fiesta!
Lots more soon! xoxo {av}

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easy + homemade sweet potato chips.

easy + homemade sweet potato chips.

Last Sunday, I posted a photo of a tasty tray of homemade sweet potato chips on Instagram. We are currently in our third week of the 21 Day Fix -- and I was in desperate need of some "snacky" foods. We referenced our handy Fixate cookbook and decided to try our hand at homemade sweet potato chips.

21 day fix approved sweet potato chips.

I am not a Beachbody coach, but I am trying hard to follow the 21 Day Fix Eating Plan. As a notoriously picky eater, this has proven to be a difficult task. However, seeing the results (only 2/3s of the way through the program) are encouraging me to keep going. When I say I needed a snack, it wasn't because of hunger. It was simply because I missed some crunchy afternoon goodness. (You're talking to a reformed carb addict.)

21 day fix approved sweet potato chips.

We adjusted the Fixate recipe ever so slightly by adding a few shakes of cinnamon on the finished product. On a different tray, we tried cayenne pepper. I preferred the cinnamon, but it was nice to have a little something spicy too. The possibilities are truly endless for this 21 Day Fix-approved recipe! I plan to make these long after the program is over -- not just because they don't break my calorie bank. The delicious snackability makes them the ideal treat for upcoming Sundays spent watching football with friends and family.

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (we used only one large + it filled two full trays!)
  • 2 teaspoons of extra-virgin organic coconut oil or olive oil, melted (truth: we added a touch more than 2 teaspoons-- which deviates a bit from the 21 Day Fix official recipe)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • desired spices (we used cinnamon + cayenne -- separately!)
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F.  Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a mandolin to slice sweet potatoes very thinly. Place the sweet potatoes on lined baking sheets in a single layer. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 2-3 hours, depending on desired crispiness. Remove from oven and shake a bit of your desired spices on top of the finished sweet potato chips.

If you follow the recipe strictly, it is equivalent to half of a yellow container and half of a teaspoon on the 21 Day Fix program. A serving equates to roughly 75 calories. This recipe serves 4, requiring 10 minutes of prep and up to 3 hours of patience for the baking chips.

I have to admit I'm entirely obsessed -- and cannot wait to make these chips again! If you make them too, be sure to tag me on Instagram. Have you tried the 21 Day Fix? I'd love to hear your experiences! xoxo {av} 

*Recipe adapted from Fixate

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how to build better pinterest boards (and why you should).

how to build better pinterest boards (and why you should!)

I remember my first introduction to Pinterest in early 2011. A new blogging friend told me about it over lunch and she offered to invite me. I joined and immediately fell in love. The concept was novel: one place to keep all your inspiration online. In the ensuing years, Pinterest has grown to be so much more than just a place to pine over pretty homes or get hungry from scrolling through recipes. It is a serious traffic generator for blogs, brands, and businesses. If you're a blogger, you know how important it is to have a strong presence on Pinterest, both with the content you create and the content you're sharing.

While I don't have a million followers, I have invested a great deal of time and energy in curating my Pinterest boards over the years. However, it wasn't until recently that I decided to put thought behind my board descriptions. Why? I always thought my board names did enough. However, I realized that the method behind my madness may not always be as apparent for others as it is for me. 

I did some research to support this effort. Board descriptions can be captured by search engines, which means you could be attracting a wider audience with a few simple keywords. With the more advanced search features now available on Pinterest, they tell us that solid board descriptions will also help when someone searches within the site. If you're into SEO (aka search engine optimization), your SEO efforts shouldn't end on your blog -- they should extend to your pins and board descriptions as well.

Should you want to make your profile more search engine friendly, click on the gear in the upper right hand corner of your Pinterest profile. You'll see the option to Edit Settings. Click through there and you should see the Search Privacy option. You will want to make sure your settings are open to search engines. If you want your profile to be open, it should look like the image below.
I invested a good hour in crafting descriptions for my 44 (current) boards on Pinterest. I focused on giving a light-hearted but informative description for someone who may be newly discovering my account. I kept with the style of writing I use throughout all of my pins. My hope is that these descriptions will illustrate the thought and effort I put into my boards.

Last but certainly not least, I made it my mission to make sure all of my pins are properly sourced. I wanted to ensure that my followers know they can pin from my boards with confidence. I included the simple line: (all images linked to original source) It may not seem like much, but I can hopefully continue to spread the message that proper sourcing is absolutely essential within a social media machine like Pinterest.

While Pinterest analytics tell us a great deal, they may not tell us what searches bring us to our profiles. Even still, I think it is worth the effort to invest the time in your Pinterest profile. In doing so, you will build better boards -- and will hopefully attract more followers as a result. I know I appreciate other pinners who are intentional about their boards, so I imagine others do too. Thanks for indulging me in this geeky post -- and I hope it inspires you to spend a random hour (while watching mindless TV, perhaps?) updating your boards to make them the best on the block! I'd be happy to answer any questions in the comments section :) xoxo {av}

If you want more posts on Pinterest by yours truly, here are a few favorites:

kid-friendly living rooms.

kid-friendly living rooms.
left column:  top - middle - bottom   |   right column:  top - top middle - bottom middle - bottom

When we moved in our last apartment, {cv} agreed to adding an amazing glass coffee table to the mix. My naive (and non-parent) self didn't think about the potential long-term hazards of such a heavy and rigid piece; I was just blinded by all its clear and simple beauty ;) Now that {jv} is crawling (!!!), I know it is time to finally address the elephant -- er, the glass coffee table -- in the room.

The living space in our new house is definitely open concept, so I'm running into a number of design challenges. We have a large sectional (with two equal sized arms), which I positively love. However, it raises the question about whether to find a square table or maintain the current rectangular shape. There is also a small part of me which loves the idea of a round tufted coffee table. As you can tell, my indecisiveness is out in full force. Unfortunately, I can't delay the process much longer. The little one crawling around our main level needs to stay far, far away from the rock solid edges of our current coffee table. The sooner I make a decision, the better.

After some extensive hemming and hawing, I am leaning more toward a square or round option with a little cushion. I pulled a few of my favorites here. Whenever I do these product round-ups, I do them so you can avoid the lengthy research. My pros + cons lists were to elicit your help in choosing one for our space ;)

10+ kid-friendly ottoman + coffee table options for your living room.
Dorel Living Hastings Tufted Ottoman via Wayfair: $228.99 + free shipping; 38.75" square (Pros: leather, nailhead detail // Cons: lack of options, questionable leather quality for the price)
Skyline Furniture Linen Tufted Cocktail Ottoman via Wayfair: $311.99 + free shipping; 35" square (Pros: well-reviewed, linen is a plus // Cons: feet are more detailed // Note: this is strikingly similar to the Elliot Ottoman offered by One Kings Lane in a few different colors at a slightly higher price tag of $409)
Restoration Hardware Cooper Upholstered Square Ottoman: $335 to $845 + $199 shipping; 36" square (Pros: extra simple design, available in a number of colors and fabrics // Cons: lack of storage, potentially too simple in design, high shipping cost)
Home Decorators Collection Mila Ottoman: $359 + $60 shipping; 42" in diameter (Pros: wicker look will go with any decor // Cons: cats and wicker don't always mix)
Home Decorators Collection Farrow Round Tufted Ottoman: $359 + $55 shipping; 36" in diameter (Pros: leather adds a little masculinity to the decor // Cons: smaller size, not all that elegant looking)
Seagrass Coffee Table via Wisteria: $379.99 + $125 shipping/handling; 42" square (Pros: uncomplicated and versatile // Cons: cats love seagrass...)
Ballard Designs Hayes Round Tufted Ottoman: $399 to $759 (shipping cost unclear); 36" in diameter (Pros: extensive color options, hidden storage, well-reviewed // Cons: smaller than I hoped)
Home Decorators Collection Custom Abingdon Upholstered Ottoman: $519 + $15 shipping; 36" square (Pros: lots of color and fabric options // Cons: assembly required, not in love with the multi-ball feet)
Home Decorators Collection Riemman Ottoman: $519 + $60 shipping; 39" in diameter (Pros: uncomplicated shape, simple ball feet // Cons: few color options, many of which are microsuede -- not my favorite)
Cara Round Ottoman via One Kings Lane: $579 (shipping cost unclear); 39" in diameter (Pros: available in a number of colors (via search by product name) // Cons: too many "buttons", a bit short at 16")
Ballard Designs Carmel Cocktail Ottoman: $589 to $904 (shipping cost unclear); 45.5" square  (Pros: hidden feet, plenty of colors and fabrics // Cons: may just feel too big)
Serena & Lily Chelsea Ottoman: $895 + $150 handling; 43" square (Pros: endless color options for both the fabric and feet // Cons: high handling cost, no storage)
Blu Dot Paramount Ottoman via Wayfair: $899 + variable shipping cost; 40" square (Pros: simple, streamlined design // Cons: limited color options, may be too modern for our space, silver feet may not match our decor)
Pottery Barn Caden Leather Square Ottoman: $1099 + $40 delivery surcharge; 42" square (Pros: lower storage, nailhead trim // Cons: maybe too rustic or masculine for our space)

The number of option seems daunting, but gathering them in one place makes it feel less frightening. I would love your input on the matter, along with any other tips you have for making your living room kid-friendly. I am all ears! xoxo {av}

my return to small town life.

Eight months ago, we moved into our new home -- thirty minutes from the conveniences of a city. {cv} and I made the conscious choice to remove ourselves from the hustle and bustle. Though we grew up in small towns roughly a thousand miles apart, our early years were spent in the confines of a town which has less inhabitants than some New York City apartment complexes. I miss some of the conveniences of the city (like good sushi and my favorite dry cleaner), but I relish the quiet of our small town life. 

To frame up this discussion, it is important to give a little background. All my life, I have been an extreme extrovert. I introduce myself to strangers in elevators. I chose to go to a school where I didn't know a single soul. However, in the last year, I noticed that I don't need that social interaction in the way I did ten years ago. To be honest, I am having a hard time deciphering whether our move, motherhood, or age has made me more of an introvert. 

Stranger still, I don't hate this conversion of sorts. My husband is an introvert, through and through. It is highly possible he is rubbing off on me. While I still love my short stints in cities -- be it for travel or work, there is something deeply peaceful about pulling into our driveway and leaving the craziness behind. Living in this deeply "social" world, however, you are never really that far from the constant firestorm of reminders that my world is much different than many of the people I follow on Instagram or elsewhere. 

The hardest part of this shift just might be the fact that, as petty as it sounds, my life seems less "Instagram-worthy" than those who live in more happening places. I fear that my followers will find my quiet life boring and feel compelled to press that unfollow button. As an extrovert, this is based in my desire to be accepted -- something which I have struggled with my whole life. (Everyone wants to be part of the cool crowd, right?) I realized recently that the sooner I accept that not everyone will like that small town life, the better off I will be. I love the life I've been given. My new introverted side reminds me that my family and my friends matter most. More importantly, I know I cannot determine my self-worth based on the approval of random strangers on the internet. 

In the midst of this self-reflection, I wondered (honestly) why anyone reads here. In the beginning, I shared a great deal about surviving our long-distance relationship. I posted collages about outfits I wanted to wear. I had a never-ending fount of creative energy. In the last few months, I have recoiled a bit to determine what it is I want to do with my blog and how I can bring some sort of good from it. I have always said that I won't waste your time with worthless posts, so my goal is to continue blogging with intention. Small town life may make my Instagrams a little less exciting, but I still have things to share -- which I hope will help you, inspire you, and encourage you in your own life. Bear with me as I get that footing, but I promise: I'm not going anywhere.

Somewhere, deep inside, I always knew I was best suited for small town life. I grew up in the small town John Mellencamp so famously sang about in 1985. When I left that small town in 2003, I would have never guessed you would find me back in the boondocks. I loved my formative years in southern Indiana, but I was ready to escape -- as most 18-year-olds are. Finding myself back in a small town 12 years later, I am more than content to share this 'slower' world with our son. We still have plenty to discover in our new small town, but we will get there. For now, I will remind myself that good things take time. I will always have a place in my heart for the years I spent in DC and Providence, but this coastal small town life is fine by me. As I learn to navigate life with this new (yet somehow familiar) perspective, I am so grateful to have you along for the ride. xoxo {av}

seven tips for your first flight with your baby.

how to prep for baby's first flight

Before {jv} arrived, you could find me in an airport at least once a month. While it doesn't make me a black belt traveler, it does mean I have a few frequent flier miles behind my name. I haven't flown since I was 32 weeks pregnant, so I must say I was excited to take to the skies again. {jv} took his first flight at 6.5 months. While it didn't go perfectly, his first two flights were much better than I expected. I owe it all to the village helping us raise {jv}. In preparation for our trip, I crowd-sourced a few tips from my most trustworthy (and well-traveled) mom friends. Some of these tips come from those conversations; others come from our first-hand experience. Here are a few of my takeaways...

1) Invest in gate check bags for your stroller and car seat. Germs are prevalent on airplanes, so this extra layer of protection can't hurt. It also means you lower your risk (ever so slightly) of banged-up baby gear. (One thing to note: some baby gear requires the "branded" bag if you want to cover any damage. We have the UPPAbaby G-LUXE; if carried in this bag (and registered with UPPAbaby), all issues will be remedied in the first two years.) Gate checking bags is free -- and your items are way more likely to reach your final destination if you walk them down the jetway yourself.

2) Speaking baby gear, do your stroller and car seat research. I had too much faith in Uber Family and blindly thought they would have infant car seats available. Unfortunately, they only have forward-facing car seats (which do not work for our current situation). I didn't discover this until the week we were to leave. I had to scramble big time to figure out a solution. (We ended up bringing our Maxi Cosi Mico AP Car Seat, which we buckled directly into any cabs or ubers. As for the stroller, we found a floor model of the Maxi Cosi Kaia Stroller. It had a removable car seat connection, which made it easy to snap in quickly. It also made {jv} more comfortable on longer walks when we could leave the car seat at home. The Maxi Taxi was another compatible solution -- essentially a Snap N Go made especially for our brand of car seat.

3) Carry on back-up outfits for your little one and for you. It should come as no surprise that you might need an extra outfit for mishaps with your babe, but don't forget about yourself. A lap-held infant could easily transmit their outfit malfunction to you, if you catch my drift ;) It's better to be safe than sorry, even if it takes up a little room in your carry-on. Speaking of said "mishaps", bring a diaper bag dispenser. It takes up virtually zero space in your bag, but what it lacks in girth, it makes up for in smell prevention. One other expert tip from a sweet friend: ask for an airline-provided blanket to be sacrificed for the dirty job and act as a changing pad liner. Most flight attendants would be happy to help -- and point out the changing "table" in the lavatory. (These disposable changing pads are also great in a pinch.)

4) Pack a sense of humor. Traveling with a baby isn't a walk in the park, but it isn't impossible. {cv} and I shared a few laughs throughout the process -- thanks to some of {jv}'s loud bodily noises and awkwardly timed bathroom visits. We took it all with a grain of salt: he won't always be this small and portable. (One day, he will cry and actually be able to vocalize his frustration.) We decided to accept the little embarrassments and move on... because we will likely never see our flight mates ever again. Once they walk off the plane, our baby will be a distant memory.

5) If at all possible, take the necessary steps to get TSA Pre. At roughly 38 weeks pregnant, I waddled into our local enrollment center for my interview. It was an incredibly simple process. I hadn't reaped the benefits of that afternoon until this past weekend. We were able to skip the lines and bypass much of the hassle of going through security. I'd call this a serious win when you have a baby in tow.

6) Whether you're breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, be ready for time away from much of your gear. Feeding (however you do it!) on the ascent and descent can help prevent some ear irritation. Pack a lightweight nursing scarf or a few extra bottles (with ample formula) to ensure you're covered for extra time on the tarmac or in the air. When {jv} turned six months, I transitioned from exclusively breastfeeding to formula feeding (which requires a whole post in itself). I wanted to make sure I wasn't without necessary fuel for our little man, so I used a formula dispenser and filled for three feedings beyond what I anticipated. I'm sure it was overkill, but I've been stuck in an airport enough times to bring an insurance policy or two. (This will help keep your nerves at bay, which relates closely to my last tip!)

7) Leave your nerves at home. Babies play off of the environment around them. I notice it on crazy work days, but when I'm stressed, {jv} is too. The morning of his first flight, I was pretty exhausted after some last-minute packing, so I was too sleepy to be anxious. On {jv}'s first flight, he fell asleep ten minutes before we boarded our flight while I was wearing him in our Ergo. He stayed asleep for half of the flight, only waking up because of the beverage service cart noise right by his head. He required a bit of entertainment from the two of us for the duration of the flight, but we made it without any crying episodes. We had a more stressful boarding process on our flight home -- and {jv}'s behavior reflected it. Our flight was slightly delayed and he was overtired. The first twenty minutes of the flight involved some serious fussiness, but he finally gave in to his heavy eyelids. (We tried a combination of a bottle and a pacifier to satisfy him.) I can't help but think that he fed off my anxious energy on the way home. I'm going to try even harder to keep my nerves in check on future flights.

As an aside, these are a few posts from fellow bloggers which helped me maintain my sanity: Beth (from Ocean State Styled) is fresh off of a transcontinental vacation to Greece and has plenty of fantastic tips for the plane and beyond. Jane (from In The Pink and Green) had her son the same day I had {jv}; she has already traveled extensively with her little guy, so I was all over her travel post. Last but certainly not least, Lauren (from Aspiring Kennedy) has been my traveling-with-kids role model for 2+ years. I positively love this post she shared about adapting to travel with kids in tow.

Whether you have a brand new baby or might in the future, you can pin this post for future reference -- or to pass along to new mom friends. Please feel free to add your own anecdotal advice in the comments below as well! I know some of these tips may change depending on when what age you first travel with your baby, but these tips are a good start in preparing you for baby's first flight! xoxo {av}

P.S. Make sure you ask your flight attendant for a memento from the flight for your little one's baby book!

life lately.

Hello there! Remember me? I am so sorry for dropping off the face of the earth for the last few months. (Didn't you know that the face of the earth was this blog? I kid, of course.) Truth be told, the transition back to work after maternity leave wasn't as seamless as I thought it would be. When I'm not working, I'm making the most of my time with {jv}. Even though he has a somewhat regular bedtime these days, I don't feel like I have the "free time" to share posts like I imagined in my head. I have plenty to share in my drafts folder, but I refuse to put up content that isn't quality -- just for the sake of posting. I did a "life lately" post a few months ago and loved that I was able to share a ton of random thoughts in one place. (Since new mom brain is also in full effect, I decided that a random compilation of thoughts is an acceptable practice. My brain always seems to be on ten different tangents (at once!), so it only makes sense. Without further ado, here is a window into my life lately... xoxo {av}

P.S. As always, if you want the most recent updates (and shall we say "micro blog posts"), my Instagram is the place to find them!

-This satirical article from The New Yorker about Pinterest cracked. me. up. In the months since {jv} was born, I have spent much less time perusing Pinterest. While I miss it, I do find myself less inhibited by the pressure to make my life look "just so". My home won't always be ready for a photographer to stop by -- and I'm more than fine with that ;)
-Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, it doesn't feel right to let it pass without a yearly reminder about my own experience with melanoma. If you're in the market for sunscreen this year, here is a round-up of my favorites. (I have a few new sunscreens to test out this summer, so I will be sure to report back.) I also appreciated this honest perspective from Jacqueline Weppner about her battle with skin cancer after the birth of her daughter.
-On the topic of returning to work after maternity leave, I found this discussion around the cost of childcare fascinating. There is so much more work to be done on this topic. I'll leave that there.
-Sharon Holbrook read my mind with this one. I can only blame the hormones so much now, but this post makes me tear up each time I read it. I live quite a distance from most of my friends (and a good portion of my family), so Sharon's words definitely struck a chord.

-We've been in our new house for six months now -- and we're still not completely unpacked. Oops? I blame it on my inability to be away from {jv} or my pump for much longer than four or five hours. I need to find a few more storage options for books and a variety of accent tables to round our our space. I don't want to unpack things just to move them again (I'm all about efficiency here!), so those things will remain in their boxes until I have what I need. (If that isn't this first year, maybe we don't need the contents of the box after all...) I will say, however, that the packing system I shared last fall worked like a charm for finding things we needed from random boxes. Small victories.
-You know what small thing makes me feel like I conquered something big? Framing recent photos! We ordered a few framed photos from Framebridge and I'm obsessed. They can print directly from your Instagram feed (and the prices are reasonable too!). I am always a sucker for packaging and the Framebridge crew knocks it out of the park there as well. Do yourself a favor and frame a few of your favorite Instagrams (or photos just hanging out on your camera roll). You'll be so glad you did!
-Slowly but surely, we're crossing little projects off our list. Hanging {jv}'s gallery wall and our bigger pieces of art was a step in the right direction. Since I can't forget about everything I see on Pinterest, I'm working to round out some of the "tchotchkes" and little vignettes. I would love some off-the-beaten path places / websites where you've had good luck. I don't want something super cookie cutter, but I also want to invest in something which won't end up in a box in the basement in 18 months. Send along your favorites -- I'd be forever grateful!

-I can hardly believe the baby in the picture above is mine. I feel like he graduated from newborn status in the blink of an eye. {jv} is sitting up like a champ, though he still hasn't quite mastered the whole rolling over business. I won't complain though -- he can entertain himself in one spot for a little while longer. I know I'll be chasing him soon enough! (If you have kiddos, did they do some things "out of sequence" too?)
-{jv} joined in our annual Memorial Day weekend on the Cape! I was excited to break out this playard (that the kind folks at Delta Children sent us this winter) for a few days away. We have a larger playard from 4moms (which we have handy on the first floor of our house for easy diaper changes), but I was thrilled to have something a bit smaller for his first year. If we're staying somewhere other than a hotel in his first year, I can guarantee this will be in use. It's lightweight but still sturdy -- and the price is super attractive too.
-In the months since {jv} arrived, there has been a large influx of stuff in our house. I found this post a few months back and it made me feel better about our decision to not buy out the toy store. While I want him to have whatever his little heart desires, I think there's a limit as well. (I may do a post down the line on what toys you really need -- because, let's be honest, the options are limitless!)
-When I wrote my last "life lately" post, I asked for tips on pumping while at work. Though I never thought I would get pumping down to a science, I have managed to make it work and I am just about two weeks away from my "goal" to breastfeed for six months. In my day job, I spend a ton of time on the road which makes pumping super difficult. In a perfect world (and one where I worked in a cubicle!), I would try to keep breastfeeding exclusively. I am hoping to transition to a first feed + a dream feed combination, supplementing with formula during the day. If you've made that move, I would love to hear more about your experiences (and if you have any tips!).
-Last note about my "ladies": my supply has started to decline in the last few weeks, as I've been away from {jv} for longer stretches because of work. I always thought lactation cookies were just a disguise for eating cookies, but I believe the hype. With limited time to bake, I took the easy way out and bought a pack of the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies from Milkmakers. Let's just say I'm going to have a hard time not ordering these cookies once I'm done breastfeeding ;)
-One final plea for my fellow mamas out there: what tricks worked for you with teething? {jv} has had a few early mornings the last few days and it kills me not to have a good answer.

my new mom uniform.

creating your own new mom uniform.

This weekend, I am thrilled to celebrate my first Mother's Day! I have so many posts on my brain about the journey to motherhood (and how my life has changed since I got here). As of late, I'm feeling all the feelings about being a mom. Instead of a novel on how the last year has changed me, I decided to round out the week with a more light-hearted post about my mommy weekend wear.

Truth be told, my new mom uniform doesn't look that different from what it did before {jv} arrived. The big difference? My little guy has an eye for sparkly things, so I can't wear much in the way of necklaces, bracelets, or earrings. While it simplifies getting dressed, I sometimes feel a little "plain jane" without them. Without further ado, here are the necessary components to my new mom uniform:

ON TOP: Since I'm still breastfeeding, I need a top that isn't impossible to get up over my chest when out in public. I am loving the length of these crinkled gingham J.Crew boy shirts. If I feed {jv} on the go, I'd prefer not to show everyone my lower back -- so longer shirts that also open in front are clutch. (Want a more cost-effective option? These Old Navy button-downs will do the trick.) I know I'll have to re-evaluate this top once the warmer weather decides to stay, but for now, these tops work beautifully. I typically sport one of these maternity tanks (from Target!) underneath my top. Yes, I said maternity tank. I love their length and I don't think I'll ever buy a "normal" tank again.

ON BOTTOM: I protested destructed denim for ages, but I finally broke in late February. These toothpick jeans from J.Crew had just the right amount of character; they were also shorter in length, so they looked cute with sneakers. Most of the sizes are gone, but many retailers are carrying similar styles these days. (This pair from Old Navy isn't destroyed, but I still dig them.) I know many people who swear by leggings, but I generally leave my leggings to work-out wear.

ON FOOT: As pictured above, these New Balance sneaks are the thing of dreams. They bring some pizzazz in my wardrobe when accessories are out. Slip-on sneakers have also become a go-to because they're about as easy as they come. (You can call me boring, but I bought this pair of classic Vans.) I also adore my Supergas. Even once the weather warms up, you'll find me in sneakers 95% of the time. I need to be sure-footed when I'm running around with {jv}. 


If I'm not in this uniform on the weekends, I'm typically in some sort of workout gear -- or athleisure, as they're calling it now ;) This get-up, combined with my abbreviated beauty routine, is an easy way to feel put-together without being overdone. I'll have to switch things up a bit when summer comes around, but I have a feeling it might involve this chambray popover and some colorful shorts ;)

Pulling together this post sparked the idea for another post about dressing for the "fourth trimester" (aka the three months after birth). Are there any other topics you'd like me to explore as a new mom? (Or anything you'd like me to explore in general?) Now that I'm getting in a groove with {jv} and work, I'm finally finding more time to blog. When I do post, I want to give you relevant and helpful content, so it'd be great to hear what you'd like to see! I'd also love to hear what's a part of your weekend (or new mom) uniform. xoxo {av}

P.S. If you're newly pregnant (or know someone who is), I wrote this post on building a maternity wardrobe just for you. If you're staying active during your pregnancy, you may also like this post on my favorite pregnancy workout gear. If neither of things apply to you (but may one day), hop on over and pin them for future reference!

#goodnights, every night.

This month, {cv} and I faced the dreaded four month sleep regression headfirst. With the exception of what I will affectionately refer to as the "daycare cough", {jv} is slowly but surely getting the concept that he sleeps in his room and we sleep in our room. When The National Sleep Foundation approached me to do a #GoodNights Spring Cleaning Challenge, I didn't hesitate for a second. With as much as we have been focused on our little one's sleep, it was time to pay attention to our own. 

I never struggled with sleep before the 38th week of pregnancy. I'll admit I was one of those lucky "head hits the pillow" sleepers. When baby {v} arrived, my sleeping world was rocked -- and I don't mean in the glider in our nursery. When we made it out of the fog of the first six weeks, I started paying closer attention to {jv}'s sleep but neglected my own.

Thankfully, the National Sleep Foundation came to my rescue. If anyone knows sleep, it's them. I did a little research before we began our "spring cleaning" and I learned so much about the importance of a good night of sleep. I loved these design tips and worked to employ many of them in our space. It makes perfect sense, but clutter is a subtle sign of chaos. Making a few adjustments to your nightstand can be particularly impactful. (Pro parent tip: we added a basket below each of our nightstands to collect the miscellaneous baby items which end up in our room.)

In looking to improve my sleep, I found out that much of what we were doing to help {jv} learn to sleep through the night would also work for us. I also made a concerted effort to stop using my phone after a set time; if I needed to use it, I made sure the brightness of my screen was dim. After this challenge, I determined my bedtime should be roughly 45 minutes earlier than I had previously been hitting the hay. I am no longer half the night owl that I was. Let me tell you: those extra 45 minutes of sleep are crucial when you're a working mom (or anyone!).

SOURCESStacked Crystal Glass Lamp - Exotic Angel PlantPlanter - Candle (no longer available, but similar here) - Rope + Glass Ball - Wicker Basket - Marble Coaster (DIY -- see more info here) - Nightstand (no longer available via West Elm) - Headboard - Bed Linens (no longer available via Matouk)

As an added benefit in this challenge, I received a few eye-opening products from PureCare and Exotic Angel. These National Sleep Foundation partners provide thoughtful solutions for better sleep. Before the #GoodNights challenge, I never thought to swap out our mattress or pillow protectors. Adding a bit of aromatherapy created a calm environment to ease into a deep sleep.  I loved that the lavender scent wasn't too overpowering, as it sometimes can be. The eucalyptus scent also helped with my intense seasonal allergies. All in all, this simple switch made a big difference.

Unfortunately, we couldn't keep the gorgeous Exotic Angel plants out at night -- or else our deep sleep was interrupted by curious kitties. Even still, they brought a burst of life in our tranquil space when they did grace our nightstands.

coral + grey bedroom.

Decluttering our nightstands and keeping technology at bay wasn't the easiest, but it definitely paid dividends in our sleep. While I know they're not 100% accurate, my Jawbone UP24 band showed a vast improvement in the soundness of my sleep at the conclusion of this challenge. (I'll take it!) I don't want to give it all away, so be sure to check out my post with for the results of my #GoodNights challenge. Regardless of your life stage, sleep is the cornerstone of health and happiness. Our nights may not be perfect with a baby in the house, but we are making the most of the quiet hours we do get ;) If you're spring cleaning, don't forget that your nighttime routine might need a little dusting too. xoxo {av}

P.S. The whole "sleep when the baby sleeps" thing is bogus. Am I right?

This post was sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation. On occasion, I will partner with brands and organizations to bring fresh and relevant content to {long distance loving}. I chose to partner with the National Sleep Foundation because sleep is such a crucial part of the first year of parenthood. All opinions are my own.