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Monday, March 31, 2014

Weekend Roundup: This Week's Happy Days

Here's my latest 100 Happy Days in review!

We finally bought our little guy his OWN toothbrush - so he can stop pretending to use mine (and, occasionally, carefully placing my husband's on the dirtiest section of the bathroom floor).

Johnny clearly doesn't think I'm using enough toothpaste.
This is what happens when my husband is in charge of filling out childcare paperwork.

Other gems include:
Q: What would you most like your child to get out of this experience?
A: Care.
Q: What would you like us to know about your child?
A: He's a cool little dude.

Said husband had his last official day of school, ending with a 4.0 GPA and a job he already started!

What does no more night school for him mean for me? Among other things, delicious grilled dinners together again after a long nine months!

What does it mean for our family? All three of us TOGETHER after work! No more evenings spent missing Dad!

I've only ever received performance awards at my job, but this one meant more to me than all of them combined.

Whenever our dog comes around, Johnny imitates his panting ("huh, huh, huh"). Now, when he turns to the animals page in his flap-book, he pants at the dog picture. It's amazing to watch him put things together in his growing little mind!

Bonus: He spent the day with his dad at the pool - hence the chlorine-enhanced hairstyle and shirtless attire.

Finally got some cleaning and organizing done around the house. It's amazing how difficult this becomes when your 1 year-old would love to help by taking everything out and leaving it scattered around the floor for you to trip over.

Want to feel happier? It's never too late to join the challenge! If you don't believe it, check out my #100happydays and prove that if this busy working mom with a dog, a cat, a husband and a 1 year-old can do it, you can too!*

*Seriously, though, why did we get a puppy when I was 8 months pregnant? Feel free to question my logic there...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Better Than a Flat-Iron

Got cowlicks? Live in a humid environment? I've been there. Don't waste your time (or the health of your hair) straightening with heat! Give your straightener a break and try Osis Slick Flattening Liquid for flat locks that behave the way you style them.

No kidding ladies: It was recommended to me by a hairstylist years ago and it works. Smooth it over problem areas or rake it all the way through. I use a round brush to achieve the desired effect.

Happy styling!


Buy it here or check out more hair care tips.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Isis' Style

Here she is - as always - dressed to impress for the work day!

Belt, scarf and earrings from Express.
Blouse from Forever 21.
Watch from Coach.
Shoes from Guess.

PS - See more of Isis' style or learn about her fashion sense and where it comes from!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Could You Work With Your Significant Other?

Could you work with your significant other? Annie and Chris do, so they shared some tips and insight into what it's really like to go to work with your significant other - in the same building - and how they make it work.


Meet Annie and Chris. They are bartenders at The Hut on Fourth Avenue in Tucson. No, they don't work in a corporate office - typically, he works the inside bar and she works the outside bar. But they schedule their shifts together and they live together. So how do they make it work?

What Is the Most Interesting Part of Working With Your Significant Other?
Annie: "Watching each other get hit on. For most people, this would be a relationship problem. But we're very driven by money, so when Chris sees a customer hitting on me he walks by and says, 'Flirt it up, baby! Make that money.'"
Chris: "It's funny to me. People come in and hit on Annie, and I know she'll get a bigger tip. It doesn't bother me, because I know she's coming home with me."

What Is the Best Part About Working Together?
Annie: "I have a sense of security knowing that Chris is here. He has more experience than I do, and if I feel like I have a stupid question I can ask him without risking judgment. He's also on top of stuff - I trust him the most out of all my coworkers."
Chris: "Communication. Because we're so close, it's a lot easier to communicate with Annie than with other people at work. We're together, so we're more in tune with each other. We can read one another's needs and moods."
Annie: "We're able to ask more of each other than we could anyone else. And we help each other more readily because we have the common interest of getting everything done at the end of a shift so we can go home!"

What's the Biggest Challenge?
Annie: "I talk to him differently than any other coworker. I'm more demanding and don't feel like I have to be polite with him. I don't worry about the usual workplace etiquette, and I worry sometimes that it might affect our relationship."
Chris: "We don't really get to see each other as much as you would think. When we're at work we're doing our own thing, and when we're not at work we're exhausted."
Annie: "I know this will sound annoying to some people, but one of the hardest parts is that we love our dog. Because we work together all the time, we're never really home enough to be with him."

Could you work with your significant other? Most people say no! (My husband said he couldn't listen to me talk all day and all night.) Take the poll or share your thoughts below!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is Powder Sunscreen Effective?

There are many options when it comes to sunscreen, so here's my review of Colorescience Sunforgettable, one of the many powder sunscreens on the market. (There are more options at Ulta.)

Yes, you should be putting sunscreen on your face several times a day. It's hard to remember and kind of a pain, but more than 90% of the visible changes commonly attributed to skin aging are caused by the sun.*

I've always kept some good old Neutrogena Visibly Even sunscreen in my purse to reapply throughout the day, but a good friend and my dermatologist recommended the powder stuff, so I decided to try it. I got mine at Specialists in Dermatology, but you can buy yours here even cheaper.

Powder vs. Liquid:
The biggest difference here is preference. I don't wear a lot of foundation or concealer, so I don't mind rubbing a moisturizing sunscreen on my face throughout the day. Some people don't want to dislodge carefully applied makeup, and Sunforgettable won't.

  1. Sunforgettable is water-resistant, which isn't true for all sunscreens.
  2. It is extremely easy to apply. You don't have to worry about streaks you didn't rub in, or wash your greasy hands off afterward.
  3. It's powder - not oily - so if you have oily skin it actually works like a blotting strip and doubles as a sunscreen.**
  4. Sunforgettable is refillable, so the price point goes down after your initial purchase.
  5. It claims to be safe for children to use. I probably won't, because even though none of this information alarmed me, I won't use anything on my child unless the FDA is 100% convinced of its effectiveness.
  6. It provides light foundation coverage, so you can wear it in lieu of makeup. One of my friends puts it on before she goes to the gym.

The only real con here is that I actually have dry skin, so I kind of miss the moisturizing effect that regular sunscreen provides.

I've saved a little bit of time using powder sunscreen, and in our busy lives that can make a big difference!

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Suggestions? Leave a comment! A lot of people email/text/message me about my posts, but the bigger the discussion, the more of us benefit from knowledge and experience. I love you, reader, but others want to hear your insights too!

PS - Learn everything I learned from the dermatologist here.

*Sources: The Skin Cancer Foundation and Colorescience.

**Bonus: You don't get greasy residue on your screen when you use your phone!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Weekend Roundup: This Week's Happy Days

If you haven't already joined the 100 Happy Days Challenge, come get in on the fun! Here's my happy week in review.

Johnny can't stop hugging and we are LOVING it!*

Hugging Daddy

I got an unexpected gift from my two favorite boys! My husband painted the mug and Johnny put his handprints on it.

It sits on my desk, and this makes me smile every day.

One of my coworkers showed me this cartoon and it now hangs in my cube. It's nice when people know and accept your extroversion - even to a fault.

My son was in the car almost all day, so seeing him run around and giggle afterward made me happy.

Had a great, productive day at work. It motivated me and I felt inspired to change futures and lives!

With 7 school days of school left, my husband already has his first commercial electrical job starting Monday. (Hooray! and phew!)

St. Patty's Day Celebration! Our family is very big and very Irish. My Aunt Petrea does corned beef and cabbage like nobody's business. Here is Johnny soaking up the love (and attention) with his cousin Kathleen!

Seriously, the 100 Happy Days Challenge makes you FEEL better. Get on board, and track my progress here!

*He wraps his arms around your neck and says "Ahwudgu," which (roughly translated) means I love you. How much happier can you get?!

Friday, March 14, 2014

What Is Oil Pulling, and Will It Make Your Teeth Whiter?

I am a big fan of teeth whitening, so when I first heard of oil pulling I wanted to know: What kind of oil? How does it work? Why is it called oil pulling?

Lucky for us, my friend Jennie took the plunge and I'm here to tell you everything you want to know!

What Is It?
According to Jennie, "You swish with raw, organic, cold pressed oil (coconut, sunflower, grapeseed) in your mouth for 20 minutes. It is supposed to have numerous positive effects for your dental health and some say overall health."

Read more with Wellness Mama.

How Does It Work?
Jennie: "...Magic? I've read a bunch of articles and such saying that it can make your teeth whiter. It helps remove plaque and bacteria by mixing with your saliva. It's been 4 days and I have noticeably whiter teeth. I have something called fluorisis, which means I was exposed to too much fluoride and it stained my teeth. Traditional whitening methods never worked for me. The strips, and even professional dental procedures never really got my teeth super white."

More insight into how it works.

What Is It Like?
Jennie: "It is a little weird at first. I use coconut oil and I hate the 15-20 seconds or so before it melts. Once it does I'm good. I do it on my way to work! I don't think time of day really matters, but 20 minutes is a fairly good chunk of time for our culture, so just like exercise you fit it in whenever you can."

Why Should You Try It?
Jennie: "Really, don't be afraid to try it. Since it's all natural stuff, unless you're allergic to the oil, there are no adverse side effects. If you see no results you are really just out the cost of the oil...and maybe your time."

Here are 3 more reasons why you should try it.

What Are the Results?
Jennie: "Thus far, I like it! I've read some people give up teeth brushing altogether ( and just use the oil to clean their mouth. Since it removes bacteria it helps with freshening breath as well. It won't be minty but I think after awhile it keeps it neutral. Like I said, if you don't like it you're really only out the cost of the oil and even then you can still use it to cook with or for other beauty things."

Anything We Should Know?
Jennie: "DO NOT spit it in the sink! The oil can clog the drains just as dumping bacon grease down the drain does. I've read you can spit it in the toilet but a lot of people do it in the trash can."

Why Is It Called Oil Pulling?
Honestly, it could use a better name. My initial mental picture was something extreme, like putting motor oil in your mouth. If you want to learn the origins, here you go.

This is something I plan to try, and a great alternative when something as simple as white strips don't do the trick. What do you think of the oil pulling phenomenon? If you have comments, questions or suggestions, please share!

PS - Check out how I've been whitening my teeth for years.

Source Photo

Sunday, March 9, 2014

2 More Toddler Toys We Love!

My First Crayola Mess-Free Fingerpaint & Paper

Sometimes it's hard to think of activities you can do with a 1 year-old, which is why My First Crayola Mess-Free Fingerpaint & Paper is a fun idea.

It's the type of thing you hope exists when you're a first time parent: finger paint that only shows up on special paper. If your toddler smears it all over himself or anything else, the worst that happens is some mild stickiness. It smells like Play-Dough so Johnny wasn't tempted to put it in his mouth. Buy it here.

At first the paint bottle was the most interesting part for my toddler, but eventually he got the hang of it.

Elmo's World First Flap-Book Library

My son loves interactive books. These flap-books are perfect because he gets to lift the flaps while we're reading.

Toddlers have short attention spans, and these books keep it to a few words a page. The themes are also great (balls, puppies, babies, food) because he can relate them to his every day life. Buy them here.

See more toddler toys!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Best Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo I Ever Had

I have to share this recipe for hands-down the best chicken fettuccine alfredo I've ever tasted!

My husband is one of the best cooks I know. While my recipes rely heavily on butter, garlic and bread crumbs, he is wildly creative and if something can be grilled, he will grill it. This makes all his food more flavorful and healthier.


Half a box of fettuccine noodles
2 chicken breasts
1 red pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons Grill Mates Montreal Chicken seasoning
1 fresh minced garlic clove or 1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Serves 2.

First, marinate the chicken using olive oil, vinegar, oregano, Montreal chicken seasoning, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Put all the dry spices in a bowl, then add the oil and water and whisk together until it becomes a watery paste. Dunk each side of the chicken in the marinade and cover with saran wrap in the fridge for at least an hour.

Your marinade ingredients

Put the chicken on the grill until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. You can use a regular meat thermometer or a digital one like we have (one of the advantages is being able to set a timer so you can focus on other things while your food is heating up outside. Slice the whole red pepper in half lengthwise and grill until heated through. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and the pepper into inch-long strips.

Grilled chicken and red pepper. Very hard not to eat before everything else is ready.

Cook the fettuccine according to package directions.

For the sauce, my husband very loosely follows a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (14th edition). If you don't already have it, buy it here. It has a recipe for just about anything you want to cook, and we use it as a reference guide any time we're cooking something new.*

Melt 2 whopping tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and add the cream.

There has been a lot of confusion in my house over the years about the difference between whipping cream, heavy cream, heavy whipping cream, etc. Here's a pretty good explanation of the breakdown. We used the stuff pictured below from Walmart.

Add the salt, pepper and minced garlic and bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat. You want to keep a gentle, rolling boil going for the rest of the process, which can be tricky so give it your full attention because scraping burned whipping cream off your stove is a huge pain - take it from me.

Boil gently for 3-5 minutes (the longer it boils the thicker it will be; and remember that it will continue to thicken up after you take it off the stove). Add the parmesan cheese and sliced red pepper and stir.

Pour the sauce over your pasta and then add the chicken to top it off. Here's your finished product:

Sooo good.

Take it from everyone who's tried it this way: it's amazing. Grilling the chicken makes a huge difference in the flavor, and I would rather eat my husband's than Olive Garden's any day.**

*Though I love Pinterest for many things, the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook is much more reliable. I've ended up with some scary-looking foods that don't remotely resemble their gorgeous pictures on Pinterest.

**No disrespect to Olive Garden - their food is delicious.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Update: Trading Screen Time for a Healthier Family

I had every good intention when I decided to give up my smartphone during family time, and I'm counting on you guys to keep me honest. So I'll tell you: it's not as easy as I thought it would be.

Johnny getting an early start on the screen time addiction

I took the day off, and I never considered the amount of work-related correspondence I engage in when I'm not at the office. In the grocery store my husband pointed accusingly at my phone while I texted.

"What are you doing?" he asked, gesturing to the child in our shopping cart.

It also took a lot of restraint not to check Facebook and obsessively track my blog stats. I did my best, and we had a great day. But when my husband left for school in the evening, I knew what I had to do. I plugged my phone into the charger in the bedroom upstairs and went into the downstairs playroom with Johnny.*

The first toy he seized was his beloved soccer ball. Luckily, our playroom is big, so I decided to play catch with him. (Bear with me while I parent-brag - my 16 month-old not only throws balls directly to us, but he also dribbles the soccer ball with a dexterity he certainly didn't inherit from me.)

I discovered several things during this roughly 30 minute activity.

(1) When I used team-sport jargon like, "Johnny, I'm open! Throw it over here!" he was into it. It felt like we were playing a real game (without rules, of course).

(2) He got the hang of throwing the ball and waiting for me to throw it back, as opposed to chasing it.

(3) He really enjoys watching me run from one end of the room to the other. Consequently, if at any point I stood still, he nudged my leg with his hand to encourage me to dart across the room and throw him the ball.

(4) Apparently I haven't high-fived him enough in the past few months, because every time I tried he gently kissed my hand.**

(5) I am really out of shape. I broke a sweat within 5 minutes.

(6) Most importantly, my son and I laughed so hard we could hardly breathe (again, I'm out of shape).

Sorry I don't have any pictures or video, but as you know that was against the rules - and it would have broken our focus. We had a blast!

See the origins of this endeavor here.

P.S. In the spirit of honesty, I did jump on my phone once he was asleep (I'm weak!). So here are some links that made me laugh (or smile) this week.

*I never go into the downstairs playroom without my phone. What if he does something adorable and I don't catch it on video? What if he stands in the perfect light and I don't capture the image to share with all our friends and family? Or... what if his next word is "IPhone," as my aunt Peg suggested the last time I posted one too many videos?

**He high-fives his dad all the time. Definitely need to do this with him more, so he doesn't strictly associate Dad with playtime an Mom with hugs and kisses.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Links That Made Me Laugh

Note: I changed the language on my page but not on the links, so don't click if you don't want any bad words on your screen. #momtomom

1. 6 Things Every Extrovert Secretly Has to Deal With
Favorite Line: "Being an extrovert is a full-time social job that requires you to entertain the crowd, so when you suddenly stop doing what you’re supposed to do, you’re gonna get boo’d off stage."

2. Jim Gaffigan on Hot Pockets
Favorite Line: "Will it burn my mouth?" "Oh, it will DESTROY your mouth."

3. The Story Behind "Love You Forever" Is Probably Not What You Thought
This actually made me tear up - not laugh - but it's definitely worth sharing.
Favorite Line: "It was very strange having a song in my head that I couldn’t sing."

4. 35 Pictures That Will Mess With Your OCD
Favorite Line: "Time to rewrite some notes."

5. Dude Wears Yoga Pants, Tricks Guys Into Thinking He's a Girl
There is no favorite line. Just watch and smile!

Happy Friday everyone!

1. My friend Susie posted this. Extroverts do have complex thoughts! With that said, my mom (an introvert) always says of us social butterflies: "If they're not interrupting, they're not listening." Point taken.

2. A coworker sent this to me because I am disgusting and eat a Hot Pocket every day for breakfast. Judge away!

3. A short but beautiful story.

4. Another gem from Susie!

5. From my friend David, who always manages to make me laugh, even from miles away.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Trading Screen Time for a Healthier Family

Lent is upon us, and I thought long and hard about this before I decided to commit to it... I am giving up the use of my Smartphone while in the company of my husband and son.

There are too many times in recent memory when I half-listened to a story or missed an adorable moment because I was scanning through Facebook, Pinterest, Buzzfeed, Instagram or Twitter.

A few months ago my husband and I were sitting side by side, each of us scrolling through our IPhones, and I paused.

"Why don't we pay attention to each other?" I suggested.

He half-jokingly replied, "Why? We have IPhones."

Joking aside, it's true. Sometimes while we're having an interesting conversation one of us asks a question. Soon enough the other is googling the answer and by the time we find it, neither of us cares anymore and the conversation came to a halt.

Christmas Eve 2013:
My family, showing Christmas cheer by interacting with anyone but each other.

Last Saturday as we all sat in the playroom I was scanning through my phone. My husband and son were playing and I was vaguely aware of Johnny's squawks while I browsed away. Finally I turned and saw him gazing up at me, arms outstretched, begging for my attention. He wasn't grasping for my phone, which he sometimes does - he was grasping for me. It is that memory that made me decide:

The precious few hours a week I have with my boys are more important than anything a stranger or acquaintance has to say on social media.

If it's important, I will see it later.

Smartphones are great, and they have practical purposes. I'm not saying I won't search Google Maps if we're driving somewhere, or that I won't check the weather when we're discussing plans to fly a kite. If an emergency phone call comes through, I'll pick it up.

But for the next 40 days, my phone will stay away (maybe in my pocket - baby steps) while I think about the little things we sacrifice this season in order to honor the greatest sacrifice of all.

Are you giving up anything for Lent? Have you ever made a commitment to ignore social media for your family? Please share your thoughts and stories!

P.S. I've made commitments before, and it's important to know what you're getting yourself into (but so worth it if you do). Read about the #100happydays project here, and join in the fun!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Using Toner to Disguise Your Roots

We've all been either too busy or too broke to fit in a trip to the salon when we need to touch-up our roots.* I have your AMAZING short-term solution: using toner to blend roots with your highlights!

I can usually tell my roots are getting bad when some random guy asks, "Petrea, are you a natural blonde?" Yes, of course, my hair naturally grows in dark and becomes blonde at the ends. Sigh. So frustrating. But when you're on a budget and a $200 trip to a professional is out of the question, this quick fix works!

What You Need
My friend Vanessa is the one who brought me this great solution, and I trusted her with my extremely fragile (and prone to turning orange) hair. I was so anxious while she applied the products I thought I would pass out, but it looked great! Turns out all you need are a few simple things, and they're available at Sally Beauty Supply:

On the right is Wella Color Charm Liquid Permanent Hair Color Toner. On the left is Salon Care 20-Volume Clear Developer. You will need both.** It's important to note that you are not using dye or bleach (so if you're terrified of home dye-jobs, fear not!). It's also important to note that you are not using this product for its intended purpose. Toner is the product they put on your hair after you get highlights done at the salon. Its purpose is to tone down any harsh contrast or brassiness. It's gentle enough to be applied directly after your hair goes through a pretty intense process, so breathe easy: it's not going to hurt your hair.

You will also want a comb, some plastic gloves, and something to apply the toner. I used a kitchen utensil - a basting brush - but I'm sure they have more hair-specific options at Sally's.

More great news: I bought everything I needed for $10.99!

1. Wet and towel-dry your hair.
2. You need to mix two parts of the toner with one part of the developer. To keep it simple, I dumped the toner in a bowl, then filled the empty bottle twice with developer and mixed it all together.
3. Apply the toner to your roots, but don't be afraid if some of it gets on the highlighted part of your hair. Remember, the toner is blending everything together, so that actually helps.
4. Let it sit for up to 30 minutes. I waited the whole 30 this time, but the first time I was so nervous Vanessa rinsed it out after 15. The overall look is so blended and subtle it really didn't make much of a difference.
5. Wash your hair and condition as usual. Or use a deep conditioner, which the Sally's employee recommended to me. I used Ion Repair Solutions Effective Care Treatment, and you can buy a one-time use package at the front counter at Sally's.


 How much do I love you, reader? Enough to post a pic with no makeup.
It's Saturday, people.

If you're not a seasoned hair DIYer, you may need to enlist help. My husband (God bless him) applied all of this to my head, muttering the whole time about how he wasn't responsible if it fell our or turned orange.***

And I am thrilled to announce that neither of those things happened. I love it. No, it doesn't look like I went to the salon and touched up my highlights, but it looks a heck of a lot better.

Granted, the hair in the top picture isn't even brushed.
It's Saturday, people.

I hope you'll trust me when I say this is a totally gentle, effective way to disguise your roots. I am extremely protective of my hair after a college roommate put Quick Blue bleach on my roots and they turned orange and all my hair broke off.

If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments section, and (for the next few months) enjoy not having to answer the question of whether or not you're a natural blonde!

P.S. Check out products for your fragile hair and find out the cheapest way to get whiter teeth.

*I say this assuming Kim Kardashian isn't reading, because I watch that show and she doesn't ever seem to be either.

**Write down these product names, and be clear and specific at the store. There is a huge variety when it comes to this stuff, and you don't want to grab the wrong thing.

***He still remembers 2011, when I got a bad haircut and talked about it for an entire year.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

10 Ideas for Decorating a Nursery

I didn't do much to decorate my son's nursery before he was born. I pretty much had a bassinet and a changing table when we brought him home from the hospital. While other expectant moms were buying up every charming little knickknack to put the finishing touches on their nurseries, I was eating all my meals in bed wearing maternity stretch pants while binge-watching Mad Men on Netflix.

I was uninspired. It wasn't that I didn't feel connected to the baby growing in my belly; I did. It was just that I didn't know him. I didn't know his personality (aside from the fact that he was very active in there, and still is now). Maybe some moms feel like they know their little ones in the prenatal stage, but I didn't.

Once he was born and became my sweetheart, my love, and my everything, I was unstoppable when it came to decorating. I spent most of his naps hammering, hanging, setting up and adjusting. Suddenly I knew him very well and I wanted everything he saw to make him happy.*

Here are some of the products and ideas I put together for our nursery. If you're feeling uninspired and want to get moving before your sweetheart arrives, you can peruse this (and Pinterest, of course) while eating all your meals in bed wearing your (amazing in the last trimester, BTW) maternity stretch pants.

1. Hooks for Hats and Jackets
I got this adorable hanging coat rack at Ross, which is a great store but can be pretty hit-or-miss. You may not find this exact product, but it's a good place to browse when you're out of ideas. The hooks are painted with colorful planes and cars, which fits loosely into the theme of my nursery: choo-choo trains.

2. I Love You Alphabet Picture
This is something I made myself, though I stole the idea from Pinterest. I put the alphabet into a Microsoft Word document, and with some relatively painless formatting I lined up the letters I, O and U. I changed the color of those letters to highlight them, and I used clip art to change the O into a heart. Print, frame, and you're done!

3. Train Wall Decals
My mom picked these up at Target. Caveat: they are kind of a pain to put up. I chose to place them high, near the ceiling, so I had the leverage issue working against me. They also don't automatically and flawlessly adhere to the wall, so it takes some patience. I found what works best is dampening the wall with a wet washcloth before you put the decal on it.

4. My First Year Frame
This was a shower gift, but you can find them almost anywhere. I put it up while most of the slots were still empty, and it helped motivate us to take his picture every month for the first year.

5. Train Set
My mother-in-law made and painted this for us. My nursery would not be what it is without tremendous help from both grandmothers, by the way.

6. Framed First Moments Photo
My husband snapped a picture of me holding our newborn son seconds after they handed him to me. It's one of my favorite pictures because it perfectly captures the moment (my tears; holding him gingerly; his tiny screaming face). Of course, I don't necessarily want to display my appearance after 36 hours of labor to every houseguest. So my aunt Bonnie, a photography whiz, edited the picture to smooth my tangled hair and de-red my face a little bit.

7. US Map
I found a neat kit at Staples that includes a US and world map (I have one in the nursery and one in the playroom) and stickers that indicate places you've been, places you want to go, and places where friends and family live. I think this will be more fun as Johnny gets older, but he already likes to gaze and point at it.

The sports paraphernalia came courtesy, again, of my mother-in-law (they live near Chicago, so my son is a legacy White Sox fan).

8. Man Chair
My Dad bought us this adorable chair and footstool at Babies R Us. A father to two girls, he declared, "This is a man's chair." So he was peeved at my sister's reaction: "Maybe we can embroider the baby's name on it!"
We sat Johnny in this chair every month for a photo op during his first year. It represented scale as he grew, and was pretty cute to boot.

9. Train blanket
A great solution to an empty wall is to hang a quilt on it, rather than stashing the quilt in a drawer (babies don't use anything but swaddling blankets for a long time, anyway). My aunt Bonnie made this quilt and it was too beautiful not to display. Below it is the pack'n'play so many people swear by. I put my son to sleep in the bassinet part occasionally, but he mostly hated the contraption** once he could sit up.

10. Rocking Chair
I like to have heirlooms, especially anything handmade, around the house. My Bedstafar (translation: Grandfather - for those not of Danish descent) was an excellent woodworker. He built this rocking chair when I was a baby. It's not a "man's chair," and I actually had to put it away for awhile because of my child's current Let's Climb On Everything; Safety is for Suckers! phase. But I love that this chair was made his great-grandfather, and I like to think Bedstafar will see my baby rock away in it before he's too big.

Do you have decorating tips for a nursery? Please share!

*This is around the time my Pinterest addiction got a little bit out of control, only to be reprised when we bought our house.

**Note: Pack'n'plays are probably great for most infants, but my son hates being constrained. As previously mentioned, he is extremely active. Also, the name is deceiving because setting it up and packing it in are both pretty challenging.