baby registry essentials.

Posted on: Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Baby Registry Essentials | Ann-Marie Loves

Now that I have almost a year of parenting under my belt (what???), I feel like I have a pretty clear understanding of which items I consider to be essential in caring for an infant. Life most first-time moms, I looked to others to help me navigate the overwhelming world of baby products…there are so many options, it’s a wonder that anyone can make a decision! Here are the items that have made my life easier over the past eleven months:

Baby Registry Essentials | Ann-Marie Loves

1. Britax Travel System. I did a lot of research when I was car seat and stroller shopping, and given our budget (less than $500) and my desire to have an all-in-one travel system (car seat, base, and stroller in one), I decided on the Britax B-Agile stroller and B-Safe car seat. I love the Britax because it’s easy to maneuver, it folds up with one pull of a strap, and it’s a cinch to get the car seat on and off of it. I also love that the stroller works from infanthood well into toddlerhood. I think the biggest selling point for me was the fact that I didn’t have to buy any extra attachments to connect the car seat to the stroller; everything I needed was included in the travel system. If you have more than one vehicle in your family, I would highly recommend purchasing an extra car seat base so you can easily move the baby from one car to the other without the hassle of base reinstallation. (When we have baby number two, we plan on getting the Britax B-Ready stroller since it can accommodate more than one seat!)

2. Soft Gear Changing Mat. When I was in the market for a changing pad, I wanted something that would make for easy clean-up and not require any extra laundry, so when I discovered this particular model, I was sold. We have loved ours since the day we brought Briar home from the hospital. It cleans like a dream, it doesn’t slide around on the table, and it adds a fun pop of color to the nursery.

3. Ergobaby Carrier and Boba WrapThese two items are serious lifesavers, especially since I am a work-at-home mom who needs to be hands-free most of the time. I first invested in the Ergo (assuming that I would only need one carrier) but even with the infant insert, it felt way too cumbersome for Briar’s tiny little body during the first three or so months. That’s when I decided to try out a wrap and thankfully, it turned out to be exactly what we needed. The snug fit and cozy fabric were perfect for keeping Briar close without being too overwhelming. However, as soon as Briar got a little bigger and developed neck strength, the Ergo became our mainstay. It’s super easy to pop on and off and the weight feels evenly distributed.

4. Fisher-Price Whale of a Tub. We started off by bathing Briar in a Puj, but despite the amazing concept (seriously, genius!), our sinks were not ideal for that style of tub. That’s when we decided to try out the whale tub. Sure, it’s bright and clunky (everything I was hoping to avoid in baby products), but it has seamlessly transitioned from newborn to infant and beyond! (While you’re at it, be sure to add baby-friendly bath products to your list. I recommend anything made by California Baby and Honest!)

5. Baby Gap Footed One Piece Pajamas. Sometimes I feel like Briar’s personal thermostat; I’m constantly checking her feet and hands to make sure they are not cold! This is why I love Baby Gap’s footed pajamas. I never have to worry about Briar’s feet escaping her blanket and freezing in the middle of the night. Another reason why I prefer these soft and snuggly pajamas over others? The zipper! I can’t even begin to tell you how tedious snaps can be during a 3 am diaper change…! Stock up on zippered pajamas.

6. Summer Infant In-View Digital Color Monitor. Despite my initial hesitation to move Briar to her crib, I felt a lot more comfortable leaving her in the other room knowing that I could watch and hear her on the monitor. This particular model isn’t anything too fancy, but it has worked perfectly for us. I love being able to see Briar when she wakes up in the middle of the night and gauge whether or not she needs me without having to get out of bed. (My only complaint about it is that the battery dies fast, so in order to get through a whole night, I leave it plugged in to the charger. It’s not a huge issue, but can be tricky if your bed isn’t near an outlet.)

7. Aden + Anais Swaddle Blankets. Buy as many of these as you possibly can! I remember thinking the price point was a little steep for such thin, gauzy blankets, but I assure you: it is money well spent. Briar was born at the height of the summer heat, so we put her in a diaper and then swaddled her in an Aden + Anais blanket every single scorching night. I was so terrified that she would overheat, but she did great! Even if your baby is born in the dead of winter, they are amazing swaddle blankets and can also be used as burp cloths, car seat covers, changing pads on the go, and nursing covers.

8. Mini Speakers + iPod. There was much trial and error when it came to finding the right “white noise” system for Briar. We were gifted the Sleep Sheep and as adorable as it is, the sound only plays for 45 minutes. So then we tried playing a lullaby video from YouTube on my iPad, but it would inevitably turn off at some point during the night. Finally, I decided to dust off my old iPod, invest in $15 speakers, and play an ocean waves track on repeat all night long…bingo! Even though Briar still doesn’t sleep through the night, the ocean sounds definitely muffle outside noise when when the rest of us are still awake.

9. IKEA Antilop High Chair. In my experience, you don’t need a fancy high chair with all the bells and whistles. Babies really just need a safe and sturdy place to sit and learn to eat table food, hence, the $20 IKEA high chair. Money well spent.

- Other items to note: a breast pump (find out if your insurance will provide one for you before you purchase! Mine was 100% covered); grooming kit, thermometer, and infant Tylenol (these are the kinds of things you will want on hand!); a cute (but not cutesy!) baby book; and most importantly…diapers, diapers, and more diapers!

homemade iced coffee.

Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2015

Homemade Iced Coffee | Ann-Marie Loves

As the temperature continues to rise and Briar continues to wake up in the middle of the night, one thing has become crystal clear: I NEED ICED COFFEE. As much as I love hot coffee, I’m more than happy to switch over to the iced version during the warm summer months. I love it in the morning with my breakfast but I really love in the afternoon when my energy begins to slump…it’s the perfect pick-me-up! Recently I had been going through the Starbucks drive-thru (God’s gift to moms of babies) on an almost daily basis, but I realized I could save a lot of money by making it at home. So! I did a little research and experimentation and found my favorite new way to get my caffeine fix.

Homemade Iced Coffee | Ann-Marie Loves

What you’ll need:

- 1/3 cup of coffee grounds (anything but instant coffee)

- 4 cups of water

- Cheesecloth

- Two pitchers or carafes

- Saran wrap

Homemade Iced Coffee | Ann-Marie Loves


Pour 1/3 cups of coffee grounds into a pitcher or carafe. Then, heat up 4 cups of water on the stove for about a minute (no need to boil) and pour it on top of the coffee. Once both the coffee and water are in the carafe, cover the top with saran wrap and leave it on your counter for at least eight hours.

Homemade Iced Coffee | Ann-Marie Loves

After eight hours, remove the saran wrap and cover the mouth of a different pitcher or carafe with a few layers of cheesecloth. Slowly pour the coffee over the cheesecloth and let it filter into the second pitcher.

Homemade Iced Coffee | Ann-Marie Loves

Finally, fill a glass with ice and then pour in the coffee and any other flavorings (I like a splash of milk and the tiniest bit of homemade simple syrup) and enjoy! I store my pitcher of coffee in the fridge and cover it with saran wrap to preserve the taste. It usually only lasts a day or two before I find myself drinking it all up and starting the brewing process all over again! So good and so easy.

P.S. My daily coffee routine and coffee stories from my Utah days!

as of late | june edition.

Posted on: Tuesday, June 23, 2015

As of Late | June Edition | Ann-Marie Loves

Banana romper for the win!

Writing in my journal again and feeling clarity about the things I want for my life.

Wearing these clearanced Anthro pants, um, everyday? They’re so comfy!

Dreaming up Briar’s first birthday party. (I can’t even believe it’s already that time…!)

Catching up on the Real Housewives of New York. Because these are the kinds of things that I do with my life.

Writing out a summer bucket list.

Planning on spending this summer in the pool. Not only am I obsessed with the way Briar looks in her cute swimsuits, but the combination of the water and the sun knocks her out for almost a full night of sleep! My least favorite season just might become my new favorite ;)

Making my own iced coffee (recipe this week!) and drinking it whenever I need an afternoon pick me up. It is WONDERFUL.

Going for daily walks at golden hour and taking photos of all the flowers glowing at sunset. It’s sort of my new thing.

Listening to Atomic Moms, Jonathan Foust, and Totally Mommy / Totally Married these days. Having several episodes of new-to-me podcasts in my queue is kind of my dream come true.

Feeling so grateful that Briar survived her first (and hopefully last!) double ear infection. She’s been sick a handful of times in her short ten months, but never with high fevers and zero energy. My poor baby.

Wearing my Birks again this summer and feeling so grateful that a.) they got me through the swollen feet phase of pregnancy (the only shoes I could wear!), b.) they are comfortable as HECK, and c.) they are miraculously still in style. I’m a Birks believer.

Switching up the furniture arrangement in our bedroom and feeling new energy flowing through.

briar’s scrapbook | part four.

Posted on: Thursday, June 18, 2015

Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza

We’re already to part four of Briar’s scrapbook and I am still loving the process. I made this particular page using Dear Lizzy products and it was a fun way to utilize some of my favorite photos from the past several months in a single layout.

Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza

This page incorporated some of my favorite divided page protector techniques: placing embellishments on the top of the plastic and splitting the same photo up amongst multiple pockets. It always feels like a bit of a puzzle putting everything in it’s place!

Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza

I’ve been asked about how I print my photos and here’s my simple answer: I do what works best with the resources I have on hand. Since we moved in January, I haven’t gotten around to replacing the cartridges in my home printer (I have no idea why?), so I just order prints from Target instead. There are pros and cons to both options, of course. With a home printer, I can customize the size of my photos based on my project with a few simple clicks in Photoshop, however, it always takes way longer than I anticipate it will and it uses up a ton of ink. By printing straight to Target, I don’t get to customize the sizes (well, aside from 4 x 6″) and I have to pay every time I need prints, but it’s so nice to have a huge stack of photos to pull from when I sit down to work on this album each week.

Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza

Supplies: Messy Book album + page protector // Serendipity Sticker Roll // Pleather Bow // Serendipity Patterned Paper Pad // Fine and Dandy Paper Pad // Gold Foil Thickers // Circle Punch

P.S. Part One, Part Two, and Part Three of Briar’s scrapbook album!

thoughts on baby weight.

Posted on: Friday, June 12, 2015

Thoughts on Slowly Losing Baby Weight | Ann-Marie Loves

I’ll be honest: the baby weight has not exactly fallen off.

Half of it disappeared without any effort on my part (thank you, nursing), but the other half? Well, that’s on me. The surprising thing is, I don’t mind as much as I thought I would. Sure, there are many days when I wish I could be back to my pre-baby size, but the majority of the time, I’m just in awe. Not only did I create and sustain another life, but I’m continuing to feed that life. WITH MY BODY. I’ve come to realize that this is an incredible gift that should never be taken for granted.

Even though I’m still hanging on to a little extra weight, I feel great. I love taking Briar for walks, throwing her up in the air, and getting on the ground and playing on her level. I love that I’m back at my favorite gym, taking my favorite classes several times a week, and keeping up with the rigorous routines like I did pre-baby. I’ve been working out consistently since I was fourteen, so exercise is a huge part of my life. I went on daily walks all throughout my pregnancy and even picked them back up about a week after I had Briar (although the first time I stood up and tried to walk after giving birth and being stitched up, I thought my workout days were officially over! HA! #thingstheydonttellyoubeforehand). I’m also enjoying lots of leafy greens, whole grains, and of course, red wine (and Friday night margs!) shared with my favorite company. Of course, there is plenty of room for improvement, but I honestly do not have the mental bandwidth these days to be as disciplined as I once was. I know that this is a very short season of life and I would rather focus on how amazing it is be Briar’s mom instead of how amazing it would be to have a flat stomach again.

I am very aware that the things I say about my body will be the filter through which Briar sees her own body, so it’s extra important to me to set a good example for her. Life is meant to be enjoyed, thigh gap or not.

just the two of us.

Posted on: Thursday, June 11, 2015

Our Pre-Baby Lives | Ann-Marie Loves

The other day I was looking through photos on my hard drive and stumbled upon a forgotten folder I (cheesily) called “Just the Two of Us.” When I was pregnant, I had made a conscious effort to document our lives as they were. John and I both knew our days as a twosome were numbered, so I wanted to capture those leisurely days for us to look back on in the distant future.

Our Pre-Baby Lives | Ann-Marie Loves

Well, that distant future is now. I sent John a few of these images and quickly texted him, “Remember this??”

Our Pre-Baby Lives | Ann-Marie Loves

His response: “Oh, how we were missing something in our lives and we didn’t even know it.”

Touché, husband. Touché.

workspace wednesday | quick fixes.

Posted on: Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Workspace Wednesday | Quick Fixes | Ann-Marie Loves

Life goes in cycles. For awhile, I am super organized! I am working out everyday! I am on top of my inbox! I am feeling like a well-oiled machine! But inevitably, I began to let clutter accumulate. I choose sleep over morning workouts. I let my emails pile up. I feel, well, less than stellar. But like Elise says, it’s important to respect the ebbs and flows. In the back of my mind, I know I will always get back on track, but sometimes I just need a little boost to get there.

So yesterday, as I was staring down a mile-long to-do list and wanting nothing more than to lose track of time on Instagram, I emptied out my overstuffed backpack and got reorganized. I went through all the junk that had collected over the past few weeks and pared it down to the bare essentials:

For Briar: Sophie the Giraffe, a clean pacifiier, and a pacifier clip.

For personal hygiene: deodorant (I always keep this on me! you never know!), an eyelash curler, my favorite mascaranail polish for last minute touch-ups, lipstick, and a band-aid.

For traveling: sunglasses, headphones, iPhone, keys, and wallet (with all the dollar bills neatly stacked and facing the same direction…a little trick I learned from one of my favorite books, Money, A Love Story!)

For sustenance: an apple and gum.

For no real reason: washi tape!

The simple act of cleaning out my bag and knowing I have everything I need in it’s proper place made a huge shift in my energy. Suddenly, my to-do list didn’t seem so daunting anymore!

Other quick fixes:

Paint my nails. This often means touching up old paint jobs that I have neglected. It takes maybe two minutes (plus drying time) but it makes me feel a million times better.

Make the bed, do the dishes, clean off my nightstand. Small household chores that often get relegated to the backburner make a BIG difference when they’re tackled immediately.

Clean out the car. I have a tendency to let water bottles roll around the floor, receipts pile up in the cup holder, and sweaters accumulate in the backseat. Taking ten minutes to empty my car and start fresh is almost as nice as realizing I have a full tank of gas (isn’t that the BEST feeling?).

P.S. I share many more productivity tips in my e-course, Make It Happen!

briar’s scrapbook | part three.

Posted on: Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza

I’m beginning to find a really good rhythm with Briar’s scrapbook. Once or twice a week during nap time, I surround myself with all my favorite supplies, put on Keeping Up the Kardashians on my iPad (I can’t quit it!), and get lost in crafty land until Briar wakes up. It’s a great way for me to zone out for a bit and remember how fun this hobby can be. Plus, blog fodder! Win win.

Also, I’m now at the point where I’m ready to start throwing in random photos from various weeks of early Briar-hood. After all, there’s only so many photos of my puffy, exhausted face from our time in the hospital that need to be on the internet. (You know how it is.) So this week, I made two pages featuring the last of the hospital photos and the start of the thousands (milions?) of photos I took once we got home.

Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza

For the left page, I split four vertical 4 x 6″ photos into four respective pieces and placed them in the pockets of a Messy Book page protector. I’ll admit it took a little math to figure out how to do this evenly, but somehow I managed. Once all the photos were trimmed and glued into place, I treated each photo as a separate “page” and embellished them accordingly. (Looking at these early photos of Briar makes me laugh; she used to sleep ALL THE TIME…how do we get back to that?! Ha!)

Supplies: Dear Lizzy phrase tape // Basic Grey Highline papers + letter stickers // Dear Lizzy “Hello” Stamp // Flair Badges // Black pen

Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza

Baby Scrapbook | A Beautiful Mess Messy Book | Ann-Marie Espinoza

For the right page, I created a layout featuring a photo of Briar at six weeks old. I decided that I would not worry about making sure everything is chronologically accurate, so if I skip back or forward a few weeks, that’s a-okay with me. This page incorporated all of my favorite colors and more importantly, my favorite scrapbook paper print of all time…Amy Tangerine’s flower paper! Gah, I just want to wallpaper my life in this pattern. It’s absolutely perfect. I did some fussy-cutting (P.S. I despise that term) to trim the flowers and frame the photo. Additionally, I busted out Kelly Purkey’s wooden alpha stamps and stamped the most fitting title I could think of. I reflect back on those early exhausting weeks and I have to admit….I don’t miss them! I love my ten month old Briar who can eat solid foods and take long naps and entertain herself while I load the dishwasher. It just gets better and better :)

Supplies: BasicGrey Aurora papers // Dear Lizzy heart paper // Amy Tangerine flower paper // Amy Tangerine stickers // Dear Lizzy “XO” stamp // Kelly Purkey Wooden Alpha Stamps // My favorite black ink pad

P.S. Part One and Part Two of Briar’s scrapbook album!

42 weeks in | 42 weeks out.

Posted on: Friday, May 29, 2015

42 Weeks In // 42 Weeks Out | Ann-Marie Loves

Today Briar is 42 weeks old, which means she has been out in the world as long as she was in my belly! CRAZY.

I loved being pregnant and honestly felt great right until the very end…including those extra two weeks. I never want to forget the mystery and the magic of the first baby. There’s nothing quite like it! While I do miss those long, leisurely weeks by myself spent dreaming about the little one kicking inside of me, I can hardly imagine life without Briar by my side. She is truly the brightest spot in all of my days.

mom style | moms of infants edition.

Posted on: Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mom Style | Mom of Infants Edition | Ann-Marie Loves

I’ve decided that the next best thing to having my own sister is having a sister-in-law who also doubles as one of my best friends. Over the years, Jamie and I have grown super close. So close, in fact, that aside from our husbands, we were the first people each other told about our respective pregnancies! Jamie and I are opposites in many ways, but we also have a ton in common, including being new-ish moms to baby cousins (born three weeks apart!).

Having infant daughters has naturally changed our personal styles a little bit, so I thought it would be fun to share the products that each of us uses on a daily basis.

Mom Style | Mom of Infants Edition | Ann-Marie Loves

Ann-Marie’s Picks:

+ Fedora Hat // I am such a hat girl and I wear this Cotton On fedora entirely too much! Similar hat here.
+ MAC Mineralize Rich Lipstick // I bought this lipstick in Elegant Accent for my wedding and still wear it as often as possible. It’s just the right shade for enhancing my pale skin without being too overwhelming.
+ Top Knot // Styling my hair is easily my least favorite beauty task (I’d rather shave my legs!), so more often than not, you’ll find a giant bun atop my head. This also means I have a million and one ponytails floating around the house!
+ Rings // The only jewelry pieces that I wear every single day are my wedding ring and a handful of super thin silver bands that John picked out for me on our honeymoon. I feel naked without them! Similar rings here.
+ Poncho // Wearing this poncho instantly makes me feel pulled together AND it is the ultimate cover up for nursing! Similar poncho here.
+ Backpack // A few years ago, I switched from using a standard purse to using a small backpack. This bag carries everything that I need for myself and Briar, plus it keeps my hands free.
+ Dry Shampoo // My hair errs on the oily side of the spectrum (GAH), so I live and die by my Suave dry shampoo.
+ Sunglasses // Okay, if I could only have ONE accessory, it would be sunglasses. Whenever I find a style that I love, I stock up on them knowing that they WILL be dropped or sat on or left behind somewhere. This tortoiseshell pair is my current favorite.
+ Red nail polish // Whenever my nails are painted, I feel more motivated. Strange but true. Tigerlilly is my go-to shade.

Mom Style | Mom of Infants Edition | Ann-Marie Loves

Briar and Luna are finally at the stage where they interact with each other…so much fun to watch!

Mom Style | Mom of Infants Edition | Ann-Marie Loves

Jamie’s Picks:

+ Humble Hilo Bag // This bag is so versatile. I mostly use it for my diaper / day bag, but it’s big enough to be used as an overnight bag, too. I switch between the shoulder strap and handles.
+ Striped Shift Dress // I love the length of this dress and it’s non-formfitting cut. The stretchy material makes it nursing-friendly plus you can never go wrong with a black and white stripe. I’d choose a dress over any other type of clothing any day of the week. Similar dress here.
+ Royal Jelly Body Butter // This body butter does wonders for my dry hands and my under eye area. It’s thick and creamy, relieving dry and itchy skin. I’ll use this alone or mixed with coconut oil.
+ Nail Polish // I’ve worn OPI’s Mod About You off and on for the last ten years. I feel that it complements my skin tone. It’s my go-to color.
+ Coconut Oil // I have found that coconut oil works best with my skin type. I like how light it feels on the skin. It’s gentle and doesn’t make me break out. I use it all over my body, not just on my face.
+ Lace Bralette // I found my current favorite lace bralette at a small clothing boutique near my house for $4.99! It’s soft and stretchy making it nursing-friendly. I also like pairing it with a loose fitting tank. It’s looks much prettier peeking out of a tank than a regular bra does. Similar bralette here.
+ Curling Iron // A large barrel curling iron is my must-have for my hair. It’s not every day that I can wash and blow dry with a little one yelling for Mama every two seconds. When my hair is oily and I don’t feel like putting it up in a bun, I turn my curling iron on and do a few loose textured curls. Spray it with some Big and Sexy hair spray and I am ready to go.
+ Sandals // These Target sandals are comfortable and light, plus they pair well with a maxi dress or jeans and a tank. I live in sandals.
+ Black Mascara // Any black Revlon mascara that makes it into my cart these days is my favorite. I love the look of long lashes. Instant glam!

Mom Style | Mom of Infants Edition | Ann-Marie Loves

Moms, what are your must-have items?

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