Our new bedside tables

29 May 2018

Hello, friends! I hope you had wonderful Memorial Day weekends! Ours was great — we stayed local and filled our three days with some of our favorite things and people. We also visited two new-to-us spots that will definitely be making it onto my forthcoming Raleigh city guide, including our new favorite pizza!

I’ve got a fun little bedroom update for you today. You may recall from this post that I was on the hunt for a pair of small dressers to replace our bedside tables and house June’s clothes, which we keep in our bedroom for simplicity’s sake. After much internet searching and deliberation, we finally pulled the trigger, and I wanted to share! But first, the before:

bedside tables

I am not even going to show you John’s side, because it was a HOT MESS of books and electronic cords.

After considering many options, including this gray petite option (too short for our bed height), this weathered piece (wasn’t sure if the wood would look cheesy), this pretty modern piece (too expensive), this simple Ikea piece (maybe a little too modern), and this lovely navy piece (John wasn’t sold on the blue), we ended up going with a pair from Birch Lane.

bedside table dresser

Sadly, I can’t find them on the website right now, but they were about $500 for the pair and from a company called Longshore Tides.

That corner is looking much better, no?

floral curtains

Here’s John’s side — thankfully, the more solid dresser hides his cords!

master bedroom

Inside, I have a few personal items in my top drawer, but all three are filled with June’s current wardrobe (anything out of season or that she’s waiting to grow into is stored in her dresser upstairs).

full drawer

John’s side will store baby boy’s clothing — his drawers are mostly empty for now!

empty drawer

So happy to have everything off the floor – only took us two years!!

Now, here’s where I need your help: I’m not in love with the drawer pulls, but am not sure what to replace them with…

Simple antique brass?
Simple white?
Beautiful milk glass or clear?
Floral? (Probably too girly…)
All white petals?

Any suggestions or favorites, my friends with excellent taste??

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Marvelous Money: the cost of our first year with a baby

23 May 2018

Three years ago, I wrote a post about preparing financially for a baby (my most-requested Marvelous Money topic at the time!). I promised in that post to revisit the topic at some point in the future when I actually had children, and I’m so happy to do so today! My angle: what it actually cost us to add a baby to our family in the first year.

Several of you have shared that you think of me as a “big sister” going a few steps ahead of you, which is wonderfully sweet and a title I take seriously. I want to share these numbers not because you’ll be able to copy and paste them into your own life, but because if you’re thinking about having children and wondering how it will affect your finances (hand of my younger self raised high!), it is incredibly hard to find useful numbers.

I hope this post offers some hope, helpful perspective, and fodder for conversation with your spouse! :)

First, a few details about the parameters I chose:

— Our daughter was born in January, which is excellent for sharing numbers, since we budget every dollar on an annual basis. I’ve included all of the June-related costs from 2016 here (unless otherwise noted), as well as the June-related costs from 2015 that we incurred while preparing for her arrival.
— I have not included the retail price of gifts we received, items we borrowed, etc. here — just what we actually paid out of pocket. Obviously, there is a HUGE range of prices for everything baby-related, and it can make a big difference how much you buy used or buy at all. This is not meant to be a universal cost breakdown but just a glimpse at one family’s expenses based on our unique circumstances and priorities.
— I did not include any healthcare costs, as those were paid for by savings in our HSA and I don’t consider them “out of pocket.”
— I did not include “shelter” costs (i.e. our mortgage) or transportation, since we would have had those anyway. I also did not include any portion of our grocery budget, because it did not change in June’s first year with us.

That should cover the preliminaries! Here’s the breakdown, with explanation following…

cost of first year with a baby

Birth: This included our birth class and our doula.

Books: I bought four pregnancy and parenting books – my favorites are here!

Childcare: This is by far the largest portion of the total, but I have not even an iota of regret about spending this money! There is almost nothing I would rather spend on than making sure June is safe, loved, and well cared for when we’re not with her, and we were so happy with the school we sent her to for her first year. This covered about eight months of care post-leave.

Clothing: We were incredibly lucky to receive LOTS of hand-me-downs from Nancy and my sister. The majority of the rest of June’s clothing was purchased at my favorite twice-a-year consignment sale, with a few additional special items here and there. I think this is a category where we saved a lot of money, especially considering we had a girl – ha!

Diapers and wipes: We almost exclusively used Water Wipes and Up&Up diapers and were very happy with both.

Feeding: This included our Kiinde supplies and some formula. Thankfully, breastfeeding dropped this category wayyy down!

Gear: This category included everything that we didn’t borrow or receive as a gift, including our baby monitor, our bassinet, a console for our stroller, a convertible car seat, baby gates, and more. You can read about some of our favorite gear at different ages in these posts!

Nursery: This was the only category whose total surprised me a bit, but we did have several large expenses that added up! The good news is that these purchases were the LEAST important, so they could easily be forgone if you’re on a tight budget. Larger purchases included the light fixture ($120); the glider, fabric, and upholstery ($475); a quilt for the twin bed ($110); and the Liberty fabric for the crib skirt ($154 – that stuff ain’t cheap!).

Personal care: This category included diaper cream, Nose Frida supplies, burp cloths, a thermometer, body wash, toothbrushes, and other toiletry type things!

Toys, gifts, and fun: Thankfully, babies don’t need too much to have fun :) This category included her beloved action stackers, a few books (we received SO many as gifts!), cups and a ring stacker, and the ukulele we got her for her first Christmas.

If you’re a visual person, here’s the breakdown in pie chart form:

And one with the major categories besides childcare:

There you have it! If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear how our breakdown stacks up to your own spending, or where you were able to save if you also have a sweet baby! Thank you, as always, for being so kind and thoughtful, friends!

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10 of our favorite cheap meals

17 May 2018

As we build our menu each week, there are four basic factors we keep in mind: we want a mix of meals that are inexpensive, quick and simple to prepare, meatless, and that make leftovers. Of course, we also want meals that are healthy and delicious! Not every meal falls into every one of those categories, so we do our best to piece together a menu of seven dinners that feels balanced.

I thought I’d do a mini series covering each of those four attributes, so you can pick and choose which ones matter most to you! Today, I’m starting with ten of our favorite cheap meals!

chana masala

From Cookie + Kate

1. Spaghetti and meatballs. Nothing fancy here, friends! Pasta from a box, frozen meatballs, sauce from a jar, and some sort of vegetable on the side. I LOVE this sauce which is super easy to make, but it does take a bit longer.

2. Taco soup. Mostly canned ingredients keep the cost low on this one. Adding a pan of cornbread doesn’t add much to the price but is delicious :)

3. Baked risotto with sausage and peas. If you think risotto is hard to make, you have to try this recipe! It’s one of our favorites from The Newlywed Cookbook. The roasted vegetables variation is yummy, but we more often make it with crumbled Italian sausage and frozen peas.

4. Chana masala. There is an upfront cost if you don’t already have the spices this recipe calls for, but once you’ve purchased them, you can make this delicious dish many times over! Chick peas as the protein keeps the cost low. I like to top mine with a little plain yogurt, and we do naan on the side.

5. Burrito bowls. Royal blend rice, black beans and pinto beans simmered with canned green chiles, frozen corn, salsa, shredded cheese, and a little plain yogurt – yum! The guac is extra :)

6. Bratwursts and pasta salad. A classic summer meal! I usually make this pasta salad recipe but halve the amount of dressing used. In-season corn on the cob only adds a few dollars to the total.

7. Black bean soup. Again, canned beans are the heroes here! This thick soup is a favorite in the fall and winter. (And totally justifies our possession of an immersion blender!)

8. Beans and toast. This is a recipe from Time for Dinner that I can’t find on the internet (probably because it’s so simple it’s hardly a recipe). This Fun Time Toast is similar, though we don’t usually add eggs. I feel a little bit like I’m in the Depression when I eat this, but that seems appropriate for a favorite cheap meal :)

9. Three pepper pizza. Pizza dough from Publix, jarred pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, chopped poblano, red bell pepper, red onion, and pepperonicis. This happens at least every other week at our house.

10. Grilled quesadillas. If you haven’t tried them yet, know that quesadillas on the grill are about one million times better than pan-made quesadillas. Truly next level. We fill ours with veggies, pinto beans, and black beans, and spread salsa and a little bit of plain yogurt on the top.

I would love to hear: what are your favorite cheap dinners? And which trait matters most to you when menu planning: price, ease, meatless, leftover-maker, or something else?

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Coastal New England style

15 May 2018

I lucked out in the relations department in many ways, but one of my favorite lucky breaks is having my Aunt Nan in my family tree. Not only is she kind, hilarious, and thoughtful, but she is INSANELY talented. Longtime readers will remember that she contributed two of the most special pieces in June’s nursery — the crib skirt she sewed and horse mobile she knit (!) — but they represent just the tip of her creative iceberg.

Liberty print nursery

Everyone who knows Nan has been saying for years that she should open an Etsy shop and share her talent with the world, and I’m so happy to say that she has!! Really, the only question was what product she might focus on, and I love what she’s chosen: the sweetest decorative pillows, with a classic New England spin.

New England pillows

These beauties would be right at home in any camp, cottage, or coastal-inspired interior — Northeastern zip code not required. The quality, of course, is impeccable, all of the colorways are completely customizable (at no extra charge since every pillow is made to order!), and the pricing is so reasonable.

oars pillow

lobster boat pillow

rowboat pillow

I’m so proud of Aunt Nan and couldn’t wait to share with y’all! Isn’t it neat how the internet and platforms like Etsy make it so easy for people to share their gifts, and for the rest of us to support talented people? Truly marvelous, I think :)

P.S. Just for fun, I would love to hear about your most talented (quirky or otherwise) relation in the comments. For example, in addition to Aunt Nan, one of my cousins has memorized the birthdays of almost 50 family members!!

P.P.S. 12 things I miss about New England