baby items you (i) actually need :: the first year

Last month, the food blog Eater published a post about editor Andra Zeppelin’s “Personal Denver 38.” For each city covered by Eater, there’s a list of the “Essential 38 Restaurants.” This is my go-to resource for where to eat. But I loved the idea to feature people’s personal lists, because everyone is a bit different. Different food preferences, different neighborhoods, different lifestyles.

The same is definitely true for baby items. (I can tie any topic back to food, apparently.) There are so, SO, many lists out there about the “essential” baby items. But what that person needs isn’t necessarily what I need. And what I need is not exactly what you need. Someone in a city needs different things than someone who lives in the country or the suburbs. You get my point; there are a few universals, but most baby stuff is a matter of choice depending on your lifestyle, parenting preferences, and more.

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Before Cameron was born, I spent a lot of time thinking about what we’d actually need for him and whether or not we needed anything new. I’ve written about some of my thoughts regarding all the stuff marketed to parents; all the stuff we’re made to think we need to successfully raise our children. I struggle with this. A part of me strives to be minimalist, but I also feel an urge to have the “right” stuff to make my life “easier.” Carefully selecting quality, useful items can indeed add to your life. But I’ve come to realize that too many material things makes me feel overwhelmed. It can be hard for me to focus on what really matters when the living room is a cluttered mess.

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When Willa was a baby, I discovered we actually didn’t need anywhere near as much stuff as I’d thought we would. I was shocked to realize how little we used a stroller. People always talk about how expensive kids are, but for the first several months of her life, I felt like she didn’t cost us anything!

Before she was born I’d tried to take a “less is more” approach to my registry, but we still somehow ended up with way too much stuff. We’ve since gotten rid of some of those things, but we’ve held on to most and continue to use them since we already have them. And I’ve of course bought new things. But. If I could go back in time and only buy or ask for the stuff that’s absolutely a necessity, here’s what I’d recommend to my former self:

Convertible car seat. Unless you are lucky enough to live in New York City, you probably drive sometimes. And if you’re going to drive with your baby, your baby needs a car seat. Your baby does not, however, need an infant seat. The car seat companies just want you to think that they do. That way, you’ll eventually buy another car seat when your baby outgrows the infant seat. I didn’t realize this before Willa was born, but there are lots of “all-in-one” car seats on the market. Meaning, one car seat that you use from birth until they no longer need a seat or booster of any kind. We’re a fan of the Diono Radian because it’s one of the narrowest on the market and also because it folds flat for travel. (It is not, however, the lightest!)

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Prefold cloth diapers. Babies need diapers. (Well, actually, you could go the Elimination Communication route, but that is a whole other topic that we don’t need to get into here.) I’m a fan of cloth diapers primarily for economic reasons. There are lots of debates about whether or not they’re better for the environment than disposables (I’m inclined to think they are), but it’s impossible to debate the fact that you save money by using cloth. The first time around I went with All-in-One cloth diapers because they seemed easiest, but experience has made me realize that prefolds and covers are a better bet. If one or the other gets worn out, you can replace them for relatively cheap, and most adjust small enough that you can use them from day one. I highly recommend econobum, but if you have a bit more of a budget, the Flip “diaper system” is awesome (so glad Alli recommended them to me!). And be sure to get some diaper cream too, as well as bamboo liners so you don’t ruin your cloth diapers with the cream (these are also good if you’re squeamish about poop and want it to be thrown into the toilet easily). Oh and make sure you have a diaper-friendly detergent. I love Nellie’s. You need so little that I only went through two bags in the 2.5 years Willa was in diapers. See, economical!

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Cloth wipes. I use these for everything. Diaper changes. Runny noses. Spit up. Ice cream hands. I love these particular ones because they are soft and have held up well after hundreds (thousands?) of washes.

Baby carrier. I read somewhere recently that baby carriers aren’t just for attachment parents, they’re for parents who like to get sh*t done. You can either hold your baby and get nothing done, or you can wear your baby and get stuff done. Especially when you have a toddler doing the most dangerous thing feasible at the playground on your first outing with the new baby. You need a carrier. Also, babies are tiny. They like to be held close. (Ok, maybe I am a bit attachment-y.) I have two favorites: the Solly wrap and an Ergo. Get both. (The Beco is a close 2nd to the Ergo, but if you only get one the Ergo is a better choice because it’s good for toddler carrying too.)

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Bloom Alma Mini Urban CribThe American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in their parents’ room for the first 6 months. With both kids, we’ve had them in a Pack-n-Play in our room and then we’ve moved them into a crib in their own room. However, during those first months I always stress about where they should be napping and if I’m providing continuity (or does it even matter?). If I had to do it all over again, I’d buy one of these so I could keep it in our room at night and wheel it down the hall or wherever for naps etc. Folded up it’s approximately the same size as a playard anyway, and much prettier. Not to mention it looks much more comfortable.

Bottle(s). Nothing drives me more crazy on a wedding or baby registry than “sets.” Knife sets. Sets of pots and pans. It’s a racket! No one needs both a 6″ and a 8″ chef’s knife. But anyway. Bottles. Here’s the thing about bottles: your baby can’t drink out of more than one at a time, right? And, once emptied, they shouldn’t be left sitting for long or the milk residue will grow bacteria (see useful breastmilk storage/use guidelines here). So. You might need a few bottles. But you don’t need 10. And if you’re not going back to work full-time, you probably only need one. Ok fine, two.

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Blankets etc. Similar to bottles, you do need blankets, but probably not 15. I have 8 of these aden + anais ones and it’s way more than enough. I could get by with just 4. Make sure you read the material content of what you get though, because aden + anais blankets are now sold at Target and other stores and they’re not all created equal. Get the real deal ones. I also recommend sleep sacks. You don’t want to skimp in the sleep department.You can swaddle with blankets, but at 2am when you’re sleep-deprived the velcro version is pretty fantastic. When you baby gets a bit older, this one is awesome because it can be used as a swaddle or not, depending on what they like.

Clothing. Your baby needs clothes. But they grow super fast in the first year and you don’t need the added stress of making sure he wears all his cute 3 month sized outfits in one week. You’ll likely get plenty of clothes as gifts, but if you need more, Goodwill is the bomb. And I love thredUp too. Also of note: sets of white onesies seem to be ubiquitous, but I have no clue why. A pooping baby and a white wardrobe? Stock up on dark-colored basics, like these.

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Highchair. I believe it’s super important to include babies with you at the table for meals, and to do this you definitely need a highchair. (Ok, you can have them sit in your lap, and if your baby will sit with you and let you eat your food, I am insanely jealous. Mine won’t. They need straps.) I like chairs that don’t have trays, so you can put your baby at the table with everyone else. Which exact chair you get depends on your table/eating situation, but it’s hard to go wrong with the Stokke Tripp Trapp. It resells on Craigslist for almost retail because it’s that awesome. I also love Phil&Ted’s chairs. We have this one, which was discontinued, but their newer model looks fantastic, and Inglesina makes a good one too. Great for counters, travel, restaurants, etc. I also like the totseat for travel.

Eating accessories. In my limited experience, babies do need a few items in addition to their highchair to help facilitate meals. I do, however, try to limit how much plastic we bring into our lives and baby eating items involve a lot of plastic. Whenever I buy new things I try to stop and really think about if it has to be made of plastic. A place mat? Yes. A place mat is a good idea, especially if you have a table that could be damaged by excess crumbs and food scraps. I’m a big fan of this one because it sticks to any surface (several of them have suction cups which don’t work on wood or any porous counter/table). We don’t, however, have much by way of plastic dishes or utensils. Willa loves using the espresso spoons that came with our flatware, and I also have some wooden spoons that we use a lot. Around the house I give her food on small plates we already own. However, when she was first started eating I did buy one plastic plate and one plastic bowl from Goodwill. And don’t get me started on sippy cups…I’m a big fan of regular glasses…but I did really liked this cup as her first sippy (although beware: it leaks!), and I’m hoping my bottle-hater will take to it in a couple of months. For some reason “they” try to make parents think that kids need all kinds of special items for eating (fancy Disney plates, for example!?) but chances are you already have some small plates on hand as well as a cup or two that it won’t matter if it breaks. You also need a few bibs. I like these because they’re plain and the velcro doesn’t wear out after several washings (I hate, however, that they’re labeled “boys.” They’re primary colors!)

Thermometer. Self explanatory. But don’t waste money on a fancy pants one. Rectal is the most accurate.

Skip Hop Treetop Friends Activity Mat. Part of me wants to say that a baby doesn’t really need any toys. And that’s somewhat true. But, your life will be easier if you feel like you have a designated place to put your baby down. And this activity mat comes with 5 awesome toys, which makes it a good deal. Also, I recently discovered that almost every single one of my closest mom friends has this exact item. So that is pretty significant.

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That’s it! But I’m certain I’m forgetting something essential. So you tell me: what are your “must haves?” What could you have done without that surprised you?

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32nd ave farmers’ market

Thankfully, my annoying sickness only lasted about 24 hours, so by Saturday I was back in action and my parents came down for a re-do last hurrah. There was no baseball game, but we made our own fun. We enjoyed sushi takeout for dinner on Saturday (before they return to the land of no sushi) and on Sunday morning we decided to hit up the 32nd Avenue farmers’ market. We’ve been super excited that a farmers’ market opened in our ‘hood this year, but hadn’t yet had a chance to really check it out. I went down there with Willa and the dog a few weeks ago, but despite their omnipresence at every farmers’ market in the nation, navigating a market with a dog and a toddler is NOT easy. Also, when I was there I’d just had a big breakfast, so I didn’t need anything to eat. And I didn’t have any cash, which doesn’t really fly at a farmers’ market.

So this time we left the dog at home, had plenty of adults to wrangle the toddler, and purposefully went hungry. There were so many good things to try! Lots of samples from people making their own jams and pierogis and whatnot (all “handmade” with “local ingredients” of course!) and several food trucks. There were also a few cool coffee carts/vans/wagons that I’ll try next time. (Reminder to self: must go to the market both hungry and uncaffeinated.)

DSC03867DSC03868^^willa’s in the middle of saying, “let’s go get some food!” and that’s indeed what we were about to do. we hit up the japanese hawaiian truck, pacific bonsai, and it was superb!^^

DSC03874 DSC03899^^top: blackened mahi mahi lettuce wrap / BBQ pork slider. bottom: beer battered fish taco / chicken katsu and egg breakfast taco. my favorite was the lettuce wrap. it was all the right kinds of flavorful: spicy, sweet, and grilled.^^

DSC03872^^a rare family shot!^^

DSC03878DSC03886^^aiko pops for dessert. willa and my mom loved the coconut nutella, but dan and i were partial to the coconut anise. only problem was they melted even faster than the average pop on a hot day. willa didn’t seem to mind though!^^

Overall it was an awesome place to spend a couple hours; lots going on but at the same time not overwhelmingly crowded. And we had a lovely time with my parents.

My only complaint: they need to get recycle bins! It hurt my heart to see so much paper and plastic being thrown away.

a weekend in minneapolis

I spent last weekend in Minneapolis. “I.” Not “we.” My first significant time away from W. Of course I missed my family a great deal, but it was wonderful to spend some time on my own and to see dear friends. I think it’s so important to continue to prioritize yourself sometimes after you’ve gotten married or had kids, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. I was proud of myself for making this weekend happen, and I felt lucky to have the chance to focus on my friendships and myself. The weekend was full of serious and silly conversations, laughs, hugs, many moments of just sitting down because I could, and lots of good food.

DSC02791^^cupcakes! we stopped at cocoa & fig for some treats, and i of course ate more than my share.^^

DSC02822DSC02818DSC02815^^on saturday afternoon we did some antiquing. alli scored a cool old record player cabinet turned coffee table, while i found some great maps at hunt & gather. i could have stayed there for hours!^^

DSC02828DSC02825^^for dinner we hit up the rabbit hole, which was pretty darn amazing. basically an updated take on korean street food and “funky cocktails.” (don’t mind the blurry photo of me, the restaurant in the background is in focus, and that’s the important thing to see!)^^

DSC02830DSC02832^^poutine with kimchi, brussels sprouts, and mackerel. the brussels sprouts were the best dish of the night, i thought. i’m always a sucker for brussels sprouts and i’ll eat an asian preparation of them every day of the week. so. good.^^

DSC02833^^cheers! to for years and years of friendship and frequent visits.^^

DSC02842^^snow! i totally forgot what serious snowbanks are like. in denver, snow never stays around long enough to accumulate, but the very opposite is true in minneapolis. i snapped this shot as we were walking to patisserie 46 where i had the most delicious pain aux raisins.^^

DSC02844 DSC02846^^after staying in and making khao soi on sunday night, we wrapped up the weekend with another sweet treat: sebastian joe’s oreo ice cream. i was amazed to see such a packed place amidst the cold minneapolis weather, but apparently everyone likes their ice cream. and it was mighty good.^^

this weekend + last, in pictures.

DSC02642^^last weekend we went up to fort collins to see my parents, and started the visit with a lovely drive around horsetooth reservoir. it was super windy but really pretty.^^

DSC02654^^beer tasting and mr. potato head playing at equinox. a box of toys at a brewery is a superb idea! it was a really fun place, and great if you’re a hop-lover, but i regret that equinox beers aren’t my jam. too many ales.^^

DSC02665^^strolling through old town. W had her eye on the furry friends in the window of this pet store. she let herself inside and would have stolen one if i hadn’t intervened.^^

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DSC02711^^up next: new belgium. it was CROWDED. but they offered up some great beers. much better than the ones they bottle and distribute, IMO.^^

IMAGE_2090^^this friday night, we rode our bikes to billy’s inn for dinner. this is the only picture i took, but it was a lovely evening. we’re so excited to have a bike seat for willa now, and she loves it. she also loves helmets, which is fantastic. i think it’s mostly the buckles.^^

IMAGE_2089^^the big thing on our calendar for this weekend: ikea. we spent 4 hours there on saturday morning, stocking up on furniture to outfit our basement. that place is maddening. but so great at the same time. we took a lunch break (which was a first for us, we usually try to just power through which does not actually go well), and i have to say i greatly enjoyed the lunch we got for $8. no meatballs, but salmon, eggplant lasagna, and mac + cheese. plus free tea and a cinnamon roll. it kept us sane amidst the ikea crazy.^^

DSC02726^^after a long day at ikea, dan and i went out to dinner at session kitchen in platt park.^^

DSC02731 DSC02733^^overall, the food was great! and the portions were much more generous than you find at many restaurants these days. i would say, however, several dishes lacked flavor punch i was expecting given their concept and vibe. the best dish was definitely the perogies and asparagus, with “frank’s red hot butter” (basically chicken wing sauce) and crispy potato skins. it was innovative and well-balanced. i pretty much licked the bowl clean. they also had cronuts for dessert. i’ve yet to have the real deal, but these were delicious!^^

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DSC02756^^on sunday morning, dan got up before 6 to get us voodoo doughnuts! we’d been wanting to try them for months, but didn’t want to wait in the line that still is around an hour long. no wait at 6am. we aren’t interested in voodoo’s crazy concoctions, but their more tame doughnuts were seriously solid. i’ll always be a mighty-o loyalist, but these still made my day.^^

DSC02753^^this girl was a big fan too. her favorite: the sprinkle doughnut. so she can pick off each sprinkle one by one. she calls them “rice.” dessert rice i suppose?^^

costo. + thoughts on bulk shopping

Breaking news: I joined Costco. Yep, bulk city. The Kirkland Empire.

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One of my dearest friends is a huge (HUGE) fan of Costco. Ever since I met her, she’s told me about all the amazing things to be found at Costco. From jeans to snowmobiles! (Ok, I might be making up that snowmobiles part, but you get the point.) Anyway, I’m pretty weirded out by giant box stores, but I’m also a huge fan of a good deal. So today, we made a trip west (to the ‘burbs, obvi) and entered the store along with 500 of our closest friends. (Honestly, wouldn’t you think 2pm on a Thursday would be an off time? Apparently not.)

Here are my initial thoughts, to be amended and contradicted in the future. I probably once claimed I’d never even join Costco, so clearly I’m a complicated lady.

Pros:

  • Organic items. Organic blueberries are a staple for us, and they’re SO EXPENSIVE everywhere else. We’d been hoping they’d be cheaper at Costco, and indeed they are. $8.99 for a 3lb bag, which is phenomenal. I also snagged a good deal on organic soymilk and organic tofu. Word on the street is you should keep your blueberries and soy products organic, so I try to do just that.
  • Free samples. Why yes, I have indeed been wondering what raw hemp seed taste like. As well as whole grain pancakes. So I’ll take one of each and dip my pancake into the hemp seeds (that was Willa’s approach).
  • Double child seats in the cart. Uh, genius. I always wondered where the second kid was supposed to go. And, for a change, Willa actually sat in the seat. It could have been the free samples, but perhaps it was also the ample room?
  • No bags. I like what they’re doing with the no bags at check out thing. But they certainly make their environmental footprint elsewhere…

Cons:

  • Bulk. Obviously this is what Costco is all about, but come on, who can drink 2 gallons of milk before it goes bad!? I guess if you have a large family, but couldn’t they sell an individual gallon somewhere in the store for those of us with just one milk-obsessed toddler? You need an extra fridge and freezer not to mention pantry to shop there. Some of the products just seem to be too bulk-y for anyone’s good. Which leads me to point number two…
  • Waste. As someone who’s borderline obsessed with thinking about where waste goes, the amount of packaging found in Costco made me incredibly anxious. I wanted to buy some dried seaweed, but why do they have to individually package every 10 slices? And the bananas need to be in a plastic bag? And those two bottles of oil need to be attached by a plastic ring AND coated in plastic wrap? I could go on an on. Costco’s target market is individual consumers (right?) so why so much packaging? Moreover, there were no recycling bins to be found and all the free sample PAPER cups were going into trash bins. Come on, Costco, don’t you know that Denver is only capturing a fraction of recyclable materials? And as a Seattle company, I expect more. And this doesn’t even consider the amount of items consumers are probably wasting once they leave the store. No one needs everything in bulk.
  • Payment options. You can apparently only pay with a debit card, or one of the credit cards that partners with Costco. So no Chase points for me. Boo.

I will definitely be back to Costco occasionally. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to make up the $55 annual membership fee. Perhaps on blueberries alone. But I’d love to hear from others – what do you think about Costco or bulk shopping in general? Do we actually save, or do we just buy more?

vintage furniture shopping

The past couple weekends, we’ve been shopping for used furniture. Vintage. Mid-mod. Old. Whatever you want to call it. It’s not-new, local, and pretty much all-around awesome. And finally, FINALLY!, our house is starting to move in the direction of looking furnished.

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I don’t do well with furniture/decor shopping. It’s not that I have a completely terrible sense of style; I just can’t pull the trigger. I’ll see something I like, but then hem and haw over whether or not it’s what we need, and ultimately I’ll close my computer or walk out of the store empty handed. Furnishing our house has been slow going.

When we moved in several months ago, we had just a few pieces of furniture to our name. A modular sectional couch. A bed. Willa’s crib. A much-loved Ikea chair-and-a-half. We’d been waiting. Waiting until we’d bought a place to buy the “right furniture.”  That was an easy cop-out to have random mismatched furniture when we were renting. But now, here we are, finally in that more permanent place and needing to find the “right” pieces for every room. No pressure.

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But these past weekends have been extremely successful. When Alli was visiting, she helped me find an awesome dresser/sideboard. Then, on Saturday, my parents were up for a last-minute babysitting session so Dan and I could do some afternoon shopping. (My indecisiveness gets ten times worse when I’m trying to keep Willa from breaking things!) We fell in love with a pair of Harter chairs that ate up most of our allotted funds, so we weren’t able to get as many things as we’d planned (lights, coffee tables, and accessories are overrated, right?). But these chairs! Man, we love them. Apparently they are designed to “allow any space to become an impromptu work area.” Yep, I’m sitting at one right now.

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I am certainly no expert on Denver’s vintage offerings, but our recent adventures took us to some awesome places that I thought I’d share. There are surely so many other great places in the area. I can’t wait to discover them. Over the next 10 years. Since that’s how long it’ll be before our house is furnished. But I’m okay with it. It’s all part of the adventure.

Red Door Antiques / 4369 Stuart Street / Denver, CO 80212

Mid-Mod Mall / 3434 Brighton Blvd / Denver, CO 80216

Garage Vintage / 776 North Santa Fe Drive / Denver, CO 80204

Mid-Mod Vintage / 7174 West 44th Avenue / Wheat Ridge, CO 80033

IMAGE_1332{cool view from inside mid-mod mall in RiNo}

thredUP

I’m a girl of many thoughts: I love a good deal. I’m too materialist and consume too much. I like reusing and trying to reduce my consumption. I like new clothes! But I have too many already. Ahh!

Thankfully these sentiments can all happily coexist in the world of consignment shopping.

Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit disillusioned with Denver’s consignment scene. Now, granted, I don’t have quite as much time to peruse the shops as I did in Seattle, but still. A lot of the consignment stores seem a tad overpriced in my estimation. I’m not going to pay $50 for a pair of Citizens of Humanity jeans from 10 years ago when they still had the red tags. That’s just absurd. $20? Maybe. A friend of mine visiting from Seattle tried to barter for a skirt that had an unraveled hem, and the consignmentista would not have it. Seriously? Your price is firm on the skirt from 2001 that needs to be sewed?

I’m rambling. The point of this isn’t to complain about local shops but rather to rejoice in the most fantastically wonderful consignment solution ever thought up: thredUP. Have you heard of it? You must check it out. Consignment online! Why didn’t I think of that? Man, I wish I had. I’d be rich! And all my “what am I going to do with my life professionally?” dilemmas would be solved. If only.

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So. Yes. thredUP. It’s the greatest. To buy, it works just like any online retailer. Browse, add to cart, check out. They have a lot of promotions for first time customers etc., so it’s not hard to get a discount on their already reasonable prices. If you want to sell/donate clothing, you can request a bag and they’ll send you a giant green polka dot bag to fill with clothes and shoes etc. I filled up a bag a couple months ago, and while they didn’t accept everything, I made over $80, and the clothes they didn’t take they donated for me. I used my store credit to buy W the warmer clothes she’s been needing since summer is finally subsiding. They have so many great things for $3.49 each! And several items that are new with tags!

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thredUP. Check it out. It’s a great way to buy clothes, especially if you know the size you’re looking for in a particular brand. I have a pair of Adriano Goldschmied cords I love, and I found another pair the same style and size in a different color for a fraction of the retail price!

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Disclaimers: It goes without saying that this isn’t in any way a sponsored post. I am no where near that big time. I just like thredUP, and wanted to spread the word. And I know, I know, shopping online and having a package shipped across the country is not really that “green” and is still pretty materialistic. But it is marginally better than buying clothes that are newly manufactured…