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Cannonball Baby Shower!

cannonball1If there is one thing that our group of friends loves to do, and does ever so well, is throw a party. And I don’t mean your typical chips and red drink cup kinda party. This crew goes ALL out. And I love us for it.  I think that the past 5 years of wedding seasons and babies being born somehow turned us into legitimate party planners. I also think we no longer even know how to throw a ‘regular’ party. I kid you not, for this year’s 4th of July party, my family’s contribution was an actual fruit sculpture. Sometimes I feel like, hey, maybe I don’t have to go 500% on this. And then I laugh, and think, well yea, you don’t have to, but don’t you kinda waaaant to? So anyway, I bring you this past weekend’s baby shower, for the Canavan’s and their incoming Cannonball!

There was a dual-level theme going on here… cannonballs, but with a sort of old school rock n roll feel. Because obviously that’s a thing, right? And you can’t just have one theme. That would be too easy.19490234838_4799b45785_zThe real thing that tied it together was a set of customized “printables” purchased on Etsy from Squawk Box Studio.  They are responsible for all of the print design you see here. (We did the printing, cutting, putting together part.) As always, I can’t say enough good things about Etsy . If you don’t know already, I’d be surprised, but it is the absolute first place to go when you need anything personalized. It’s a great platform that connects real working artists  and craftsman with the everyday person looking to make their Pinterest dreams come true, and it’s my favorite place to shop.19671151502_484c1353e4_z19490269090_a8ef230e90_zWe counted cannonballs, we played the ‘Dont Say Baby’ game, we wrote well wishes on newborn diapers and of course we had flash tats. Party Goddess Mia is to thank for getting together most of the decorations and finding the amazing animal print slap bracelets (!!!) but more importantly, for the genius introduction of temporary tattoos to our party throwing guidebook. That was a a serious crowd pleaser. I was actually sad to see mine wash off 2 days later.19055666824_5c588aa933_z19652043186_7bf67ec1c2_z19682750491_1a1385fcd4_z19678257275_e1650a10f3_zPersonalized decorate-able onesies anyone? Yea, we got that. Family Industries you da best.19055665944_e6d6f7bff8_zAnd yes, we DID label the snacks and salads. The tags were too cute not to use. So hey, maybe you thought that was a pasta salad, but now you totally know it is a pasta salad, and you are dazzled with cuteness.19682743321_b687806e73_z…AND THEN THERE WERE CUPCAKES! I tend to go a little overboard when it comes to cake, and this time was no different. The cannonball theme was too fun not to just run wild with.19057328173_2aee863b84_z19055676214_8ea119d418_z19057325093_c291282547_z19055674944_3b5c0e1565_z

AND GIFTS! (You know you want that wine and cheese t shirt in your size….)19057307043_574389dbf4_z

Everyone went home with a clipping of a Jade plant from the Hopkey family’s backyard. It was the perfect gift to end a special day spent celebrating our growing LA family. xo Cait19490236318_18a352345a_z

we love to multi- task

Happy (belated) International Women’s Day!

Sam and I are fortunate enough to run with a tight knit crew of super talented, beautiful and powerful ladies here in Los Angeles. We get together often and chat daily. We are family. I’m truly lucky to have such a group of supportive, awesome women in my life. A few Sundays ago, we celebrated a little with our annual family photoshoot and some volunteering for the Downtown LA Women’s Center

WOMEN SUPPORTING WOMEN: PART 1
When the opportunity arose to do some “good” together, we jumped at the chance. The “Snack Pack” program through the LA Women’s Center was an easy, inexpensive and effective way for us to help less fortunate women in our local community. We bought enough food to fill 90 lunch sacks, each with a PB & J sandwich, bottled water, fruit, string cheese & granola bar. (The Center provides you with ‘menu guidelines’ for the sacks.) Then we got together to assemble them. I dropped them off at 2:30pm at the Center in Downtown’s Skid Row, and it was as simple as that! They were promptly handed out as a to-go dinner that the women can bring with them to wait in line for a bed at one of the other shelters for the night. Oftentimes a person that waits in line for a meal at dinnertime misses their chance to get in another line for a bed for the night. And honestly, that’s a choice no one should have to make.

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DSC_1017DSC_1018DSC_1059 Hi Charlie Girl. I see you peeking over Mommy’s shoulder! Something like this is an easy, fun way to get the kids involved with volunteering too. Ours were still a little young still for the job, but hey, they can claim they’ve been volunteering since birth on their college applications!

DSC_0995DSC_1060This is definitely something we will be doing a few times a year. Hopefully next time we can get more people involved and add more snacks to the bag! If you are interested in doing something like this yourself, contact the Center here!

WOMEN SUPPORTING WOMEN: PART 2
As an artist and photographer, I’ve always been inspired by strong, independent women and fascinated by the various ever-changing roles all of us ladies play everyday. And I regularly make this particular group of ladies model for me. They are always game to get dressed up and have a little fun, thank goodness. Usually there’s some sort of crazy costume or theme I have in mind, but this time, I wanted to celebrate us, as us. An annual portrait.16433713387_53e94535f7_k16615072716_a3c5e908f8_k16641003075_9941290380_k16639996602_cb5919eb4f_k 16640002912_a69b8e73b4_k16641010895_efa35eb1b3_k

It’s funny how hard it can be for me, who would rather be behind the camera or covered in makeup and a wig, to take studio portraits. But I think they came out great. And I know they’ll look even better to me when I’m 70. xoCait

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Baby Food Recipe: Minty Melon Purée

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The introduction of foods has been quite the journey. I’ve come to realize that if there’s fruit involved, Finn is much more interested in eating. Can you blame him? Of course, he’d rather experience a touch of sweet compared to the taste of veggie purées. I’m still committed to making 90% of his food and I whole-heartedly believe that home-cooked meals from locally sourced, organic produce is 100% more nutrient dense than store bought, factory processed baby food. To keep Finn interested, I’ve started to play around with blends by mixing fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and herbs. Cantaloupe is in season so I decided to mix it with cucumber, spinach, mint and coconut oil. The result was a tasty treat that he literally devours with joy, and, I can feel happy knowing that he’s not JUST eating fruit. Unfortunately, I had complete mommy-brain and totally forgot to actually take a picture of the purée; so, instead, here’s a picture of Finn eating. Imagine a green fruit smoothie – that should be the desired consistency and look of the completed recipe.

Minty Melon Purée Recipe

1/2 organic melon (I used a Sugar Cube because it’s in season at the farmer’s market and insanely delicious)
1 organic cucumber (peeled)
1.5-2 cups organic, raw spinach
1 tablespoon organic coconut oil
1 tablespoon fresh, organic mint leaves

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until you have the consistency of a purée. Divide into 2 or 4 ounce glass containers. Put 1 or 2 containers in the fridge and freeze the remainder for quick and easy meals in the weeks to come.

 

Throwing a baby shower…

14678108651_6e0bebdb86_kIS SO MUCH FUN! I may have gone a little overboard planning a party for the arrival of my best friend’s baby gurl this past weekend. But it was worth it. Seeing as it was my first crack at throwing a baby shower, I didn’t really know when to say stop. But I couldn’t help myself. I was like a kid in a candy shop! After throwing my fair share of wedding related parties, it was like going into uncharted waters. I literally went down a Pinterest blackhole and ended up in Etsy heaven.14494570010_78b6896c5e_kThe theme was easy. This little girl already has an insatiable craving for cakes, cookies and ice cream, so an ice cream sociale seemed appropriate. Plus who doesn’t love a party that ends in cake and ice cream, right?14701113903_8d6d20bd9c_kPlus, an ice cream theme lended itself nicely to a pickle bar too. And again, foolproof. Who doesn’t love a pickle bar?!14681219625_aafff64d98_k14494540748_9ed542c57a_kWe did a few classic games but the real hit was the onesie decorating station! All you need is some scrap fabric, scissors, washable fabric glue and a needle and thread and BAM, you got yourself an instant craft circle.14677992101_54e2457c2f_kSeeing as all I can think about are all the ways I will spoil the little chickadee once she is born (because that’s what aunts do after all), I thought filling her mommy with 7 layers of cake and an ice cream sundae bar was the best way to start!14494515079_2c0d8d8957_k14494510948_b44f69b7d3_kAnd my favorite part about having cake and ice cream for dessert on a Saturday? The Sunday morning breakfast cake I get to have! xo Cait14678804634_b45ea4ee12_k

Mindful Baby Products for a Healthy Lifestyle

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Our modern world is full of toxins and nutrient-poor food which is why it’s more important than ever to be conscious and thoughtful about the products and foods we introduce to our most precious, yet vulnerable little babies. The rise in Contemporary Chronic Childhood conditions (aka the 3Cs) like autism, allergies, ADD, mood disorders, digestive disorders, tooth decay, cancer, obesity etc. are directly caused by the rise of toxins and nutrient-poor foods that cripple many areas of the body. As a new parent, I try my hardest to be discerning when it comes to baby products and I try to maintain that same mindset that I apply to skincare and food. Below is a short list of some of the essentials that we just can’t live without:

1. Sage Spoonfuls Glass Jars – It seems like all baby products today are made from plastic so when there’s a glass or wood option, please choose these! Glass is always the healthier choice, especially when it comes to food and milk. Plastic leaches toxic chemicals including estrogen. For an eye opening read that will inspire you to overhaul your kitchen, please click here. When I make my weekly batches of baby food, I use these jars to portion our all serving. I leave two jars in the fridge and then I store the rest in the freezer.

2. Baltic Amber Teething Necklace  – Just when you think you’ve found your groove, your little one begins teething. There’s little relief, and we’ve found that frozen watermelon juice popsicles and his amber necklace help with the pain. Please note that these necklaces are meant for wearing and not chewing. We prefer to wrap the necklace around his ankle when he sleeps at night.

3. Mothers Lil Helper Odor and Stain Remover – This cleaner is a miracle worker. It’s a non-toxic, natural liquid enzyme that organically removes stains and odors and is safe to use on any surface that can be cleaned with water. I’ve used this all-purpose cleaner on everything you can imagine, plus, it’s safe for use around pets and children.

4. Life Factory Bottles – I can’t stress enough: glass, glass, glass.

5. Holle Organic Baby Formula – Breast is always best and despite returning to work, I’ve managed to maintain the breastfeeding for the past 8 months. Unfortunately, a business trip to Austin depleted my frozen stash so I needed a back up option for daycare (just in case he’s still hungry). In my opinion, there’s no formula that can come close to the nutrition that breast milk offers but I did my research and Holle Organic Baby Formula was the only one that I felt comfortable using; it’s a German company where the organic rules and regulations are much stricter than the US. Unfortunately, it’s not readily available in the US, so I order it through Amazon. For a more comprehensive read and the reason I chose this brand, please click here.

6. Water Wipes –  I love these wipes because they are 99.9% water with just a drop of grapefruit seed extract. They’re simple without any harsh chemicals.

7. Infant Probiotics – I had to take antibiotics during labor so I made the decision to start Finn on probiotics from the start. Designed specifically for infants, Natren’s Life Start probiotic supports the gastrointestinal system and creates a healthy digestive environment. When you have a healthy digestive system, you absorb more nutrients which leads to better brain development. Did you know that 80% of your immune system is located in your gut? Create the best environment possible.

Collect Memories, Not Things

Collect memories, not things: this was the mantra of our trip to Ojai.

The fashion fast is underway and so far, I don’t miss shopping one bit.My husband has never been surprised before, so I took the opportunity to arrange for his best friends and their darling son to join us for a weekend getaway. Instead of opting for the typical hotel vacation, we stayed at the Mediterranean Villa amongst chickens, goats, beehives, fruit trees and lots of greenery. The owners of this special abode greeted us with homemade granola, organic coffee, fresh citrus and handmade soap. We tended to the animals, collected fresh eggs in the morning, picked plums from the trees, milked the goat and played badminton. The weekend was jam packed with wine tastings, golf, walks on the trails and a trip to the Farmer’s Market for fresh Ojai pixies. We drank champagne and ate pizza in the kitchen nook while talking about traveling the world. Of course, the trip would not have been complete without a  visit to my favorite essential oil producer. I can’t wait to get into the kitchen to start crafting with this taste of Ojai.

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We Survived Week 1

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I can’t believe it. After 41 weeks of cooking my little meatball, our son, Finley Townes Samuelson, is finally here. We survived the first week and what a whirlwind the whole experience has been. The entire labor and birth experience was very different than I expected. I was pretty scared to embark on the journey. Every birth video I’d ever seen just looked so painful and traumatic and I dreaded having to go through the pain, lose my cool and basically just have a bunch of strangers up in my space. All of my fears were unwarranted, the experience felt like a coming of age and while I feared that my husband would never look at me the same way again; I was truly amazed by how he stepped up to the plate, and showed me nothing but love and support. Yes, there was a lot of pain but I did it and that fact basically puts everything else in my life into perspective.

My first thought (besides uncontrollable crying and joy once he was born) was “now what”. I had spent so much time focusing on pregnancy and birth and now all of that had passed and we had our little nugget to take care of. Our first day home was nothing but chaotic. My dog was going crazy, we had stuff all over the house and no time to unpack and settle in from the hospital, there was no time to prepare meals and we were both just so exhausted. My first attempt at a shower was a complete disaster and I had no idea how I’d ever put the pieces of my life back together while taking care of a newborn. Luckily, each day gets easier and the insane amount of love I have for my little bean is so overwhelming that it makes all the chaos worth it.

I am by no means an expert at this whole motherhood thing but here are a few things that have helped me survive the first week:

1. Placenta Encapsulation:
I know, sounds weird, cannibalistic and unpleasant, BUT, I really think it helps. My dear friend, Ida Reid, is a doula in Los Angeles and offered to encapsulate my placenta to help with postpartum healing. So why not, right?  Consuming the placenta can help balance hormones, restore iron, assist the uterus to contract, reduce post-natal bleeding, increase milk production and increase energy levels. I can honestly say that I have not experienced any baby blues and considering the fact that I’m not really sleeping, my energy levels are manageable.

2. Family Support:
It takes a village to raise a child and I believe it takes your mother to help you get through the first few weeks with a newborn. I’m not sure how we’d survive if we didn’t have the help of family. My mother is in town for 3 weeks and while we baby Finn, she babies us. She’s on hand to help run errands, cook meals, clean and do all the things that keep our lives from completely falling apart while we manage feeding schedules, dirty diapers and naps (because that’s what sleep is like now…naps).

3. Gifts of Food:
I love to cook and we’re already planning our first family outing to the farmer’s market tomorrow but I couldn’t possibly fathom cooking food the first week. If you’re looking to send a gift to a welcome a new family member, send food. I never really thought about this before but I was so thankful that other folks (who have clearly been through this) sent us food.

4. Lactation Consultation:
There is nothing like breastfeeding and I honestly think it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had always heard the no-sleep stories but it’s seriously no joke. A newborn needs to feed every 2-3 hours FROM THE START OF THE FEED. That means that if he starts to nurse at 9pm and nurses for 45 minutes, by the time we put him down, change diapers, and maybe clothes, we’re waking him back up to eat at 11pm. And thus, the cycle continues. Add pain from a bad latch on top of the schedule and lack of sleep and you  have something close to torture. By day 3, I needed some serious intervention and sought the help of a lactation specialist at the Pump Station (mecca for new moms). While there’s still some pain, we’re in a much better place and things are getting so much better.

5. Belly Bandit
This is a compression belt to help your uterus contract. You can only wear it when standing or laying down but it definitely works. I can actually see my waist coming back again!

6. Space
Give yourself the physical and mental space to just be with your new family. This is easier said than done for me. My initial instinct is to put my life back together, figure out routine and get back to all the things I was doing before. This is totally impossible and it’s okay to take the space to just be a new mom and enjoy this time….forget everything else.

 

 

 

 

Maternity Leave 101

Maternity leave can be a tough road to navigate and understanding disability and the various levels of job protection can make a woman’s head spin. While HR should provide a comprehensive explanation of all the laws and regulations, most of the time, even they can omit precious facts about job protection. If you’re like me, and come from a smaller company without HR, learning my rights was something I really had to take upon myself. I’m the first female employee to go through pregnancy at the company, therefore, maternity leave was a learning process for everyone. I decided to take a seminar to learn all the facts about maternity leave in California (each state is different). Below is a brief breakdown of what I learned. I tried to keep it as concise and to the point as possible. This is a precious time in our personal lives and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when balancing work, pregnancy, birth and a newborn. Hopefully this information helps you understand a bit more about job protection, disability and maternity leave.

First things first!

There are two different categories of acts that make up maternity leave: Job Protection and How To Get Paid While On Leave

I’ve broken down each act into these two different categories since they are separate from each other…

Job Protection 

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA):
– 12 weeks of  leave with job protection (does not need to be taken at one time)
– Employer is not required to pay you, just hold your job during this period and maintain your health insurance
– Only applies to companies with 50 or more employees

California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
-Also called the Baby Bonding act
-Kicks in after Disability (PDL)
-Additional 12 weeks of leave with job protection (does not need to be taken at one time but does need to be taken within 1 calendar year)
-Employer is not required to pay you, just hold your job during this period and maintain your health insurance
-Only apples to companies with 50 or more employees

California Disability Leave (PDL):
-Up to 4 weeks of job protection prior to birth of baby (must be disabled by your Dr to qualify). If you do not use these 4 weeks prior to birth, you lose the time (it does not accumulate after the baby is born)
-Up to 12 weeks of job protection after birth of baby. This is totally dependent on how long your Dr disables you. The majority of woman will be disabled by their Dr for 6 weeks after a vaginal birth and 8 weeks after a c-section. 12 weeks after birth will be given for particularly tough births that take longer to recover from (like a broken tailbone)
-Employer is not required to pay you, just hold your job during this period and maintain your health insurance
-There are no restrictions to qualify for this job protection

How To Get Paid During Leave

Disability:
-As long as you’ve paid into state disability insurance through your taxes, you will be qualified to receive disability payments during your maternity leave
-You can begin receiving disability checks as soon as your Dr disables you (which is as early as 4 weeks prior to birth)
-State disability checks pay 55% of your earned income
-You must be disabled by your Dr in order to get paid. Once your Dr clears you to return to work, disability ends
-There is a 7-day waiting period to receive your first check
-You cannot apply for disability in advance, you must file a claim the day that you begin your leave

Paid Family Leave:
-Once disability ends, you will receive a notice about Paid Family Leave.
-You can continue to receive payment checks through PFL for an additional 6 weeks after disability ends
-Like disability, PFL pays 55% of your earned income
-There is no job protection therefore, if you don’t work for a company with more than 50 employees and you are no longer disabled by your Dr, you will no longer have job protection. You can however opt to take more time off and still get paid for a bit more time.
-Fathers can also receive payments if they take off time through PFL

Health Insurance

If your employer offers health insurance but you pay part of the premium, you will need to discuss with your company how to continue to pay your portion while out on leave. Also note, that part of job protection includes the fact that your employer must maintain your health insurance while disabled.

Pumping At Work

Upon returning to work, there are a few rules that your employer must abide by if you choose to breastfeed your baby and thus, need to pump at work:
-Companies are required to have a space for mothers to pump THAT IS NOT a bathroom
-This space needs to be a private room with a lock
-Companies must also abide by your pumping schedule and need to be mindful of the breaks that need to be taken at particular times to pump (this includes not scheduling meetings during these times).

I hope this info, although basic, is helpful as you educate yourself about your rights as a woman and mother in California. I am by no means an expert on the subject but I wanted to share what I’ve learned to hopefully help other women during this confusing time.

 

Countdown to Baby: A Pregnancy Photoshoot

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I just can’t believe it, baby Samuelson is almost here! Looking back, pregnancy has been an interesting ride with few complaints. I managed to keep myself super busy and now that I’m officially in the hurry-up-and-wait nesting phase, I’m finally taking that breather to prepare for his arrival. While physically, it’s been completely necessary to ease up (cue the aches, interrupted sleep and swollen hands and feet), mentally it’s been difficult to separate myself from my usual instinct to go, go, go. Luckily, I’m surrounded by the most supportive and excited group of friends. To commemorate the little man’s arrival, my group of girls decided to celebrate by organizing a day of dress-up; thus, turning me into Mother Earth and staging a fun photo shoot to remember this stage of my life.

Seriously though, is anything more fun than playing dress-up?

We started the afternoon by making flower crowns. For a tutorial, check out our previous blog post here. Each came out so unique and different.

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Next came the make up, hair and paint…

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And of course the painting of the belly.

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Don’t I have a beautiful group of friends?

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Any ideas what we should do for our next shoot?

 

 

 

Baby Shower Extravaganza

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Baby Samuelson is going to be one loved (and spoiled) little man. This past weekend, my best friend and sister-in-life, Mia, organized a beautiful shower filled with so much love, games, diapers, cake and little babies frozen in ice-cubes. Every inch of storage space in my home is now bursting with diapers, and I hear this stockpile will only last about a month. I wanted to share a little recap of photos from the affair, in case you’re looking for inspiration when planning a baby shower.

Make A Wish for Baby Samuelson: Each guest wrote their wishes for our little man on these notecards. When we got home at the end of the night, we sat down and read them all.

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Everyone received an ice cube with a little baby frozen inside. Whoever’s ice cube melts first and shouts “my water broke” receives a prize. These little babies made for some pretty interesting photos at the end of the day.

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Guess the celebrity baby bump. I failed miserably but it was so much fun.

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Little Tadd as a baby.

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Large, in charge and 30 lbs later…I can’t believe the majority of my belly growth is going to happen in the next few months.

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Soon to be Aunt Sheshi and Grandma Lulu, best friends, sisters and loves of my life.

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Sweet Lady Jane’s berry cake, is there any better? I think not…

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Soon to be Grandma Lizzy

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Hands on deck, waiting to feel a kick or a punch

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