The Real Deal Baby List

19 months! How can it be that it’s been so long since the birth of Augustine?! The last year and a half have flown by, and with that countless of onesies, shoes, and rattles. Edging ever closer to two, I’m now thinking back at all of the good things, and useless things, I acquired in preparation for my little bundle.

When August was first  born we were living in a spacious one bedroom, complete with three rescue pets. Fast forward 19 months later. Now the five of us (August, Peanut, Butter, Tomato, and I) live in a vintage 2 bedroom with way more leg room, and yet, we’ve actually down-sized since adding square footage. I’ve found that the adage “less is more” truly is the way to go. Less stuff means less to wash, clean, trip over, and, the most important thing, it means less clutter. So with that context in mind, here are my favorite “I can’t live without you” items that I’d recommend to any urban parent, as well as a few things I’d urge you to leave off your list.

Must-Haves

Sniglar Crib: When looking at cribs I was overwhelmed by the clunkiness of even the most modern of designs. Many people advised against getting a crib – saying to use a pack and play or  to co-sleep. But with my brood of critters, and need to keep the design of my space flowing, I decided that a crib it would be. I was hoping to find something sleek, simple, affordable, and small enough to fit into my bedroom alongside my queen size bed and vintage dresser. And then I found it. August’s Singlar crib, from the mother of all square-foot-savvy design houses: Ikea! Not only was it sleek and lovely to gaze upon, the space conscious design allowed me to squeeze it into my bedroom without any problems. It also has that gorgeous sanded beech wood that I knew I could pop some color on in a snap. I can’t praise the design (and value!) of this piece enough. Plus – since it’s Swedish – you don’t have to worry about the materials being comprised of toxic chemicals like flame retardants. Yuck! And once he’s old enough for a bed – this beauty will convert. Can you see just how in love I am with this thing? Go get one or put it on your registry!

A Rocking Chair: This is something I didn’t have, didn’t think I’d need, and now that I do, I wish I had scored it sooner. Having a designated nursing and “let’s get ready for sleep” spot has significantly helped with August’s routine. And the reason I recommend going retro with a rocking chair instead of a glider is that it will take up less space and with all the milk sprays of the early days of nursing, you don’t have to worry about the upholstery soaking up all those wayward liquids, so keep that in mind should you be considering a glider. Our rocking chair was scored second hand from my apartment’s previous inhabitants. I found a cushy pillow and seat cushion to strap on it and it works like a dream. I find that it puts me to sleep just as easily as August!

Vintage Dresser: My vintage dresser is one of my all-time favorite furniture pieces, both pre and post baby. Picked up from a Craigslist add, this classic piece has six sets of drawers, a nice wide surface, and a detachable mirror. Once pregnant I knew that I’d need a place to change the babe, but didn’t want to buy something new. So the dresser it was! Adding a foam changing pad to the top, and emptying the drawers of my stuff to make way for the baby’s, this furniture piece provided the perfect place for flipping diapers, clothes, or just having a coo fest in the mirror. I also love knowing that further down the line, once he’s potty trained, I can reclaim it for use in my own bedroom. So it’s an item that will far outlive the early infant years.

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City Kid: Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Now that August is walking – well, more like running – I’m always looking for new ways to engage both his brain and brawn. And with the weather slowly turning from dry and hot to rainy and cool, I’m also looking for fun indoor spaces where he can burn some energy while engaging his imagination. So where to go? One of my favorite Chicago gems: the Nature museum!

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum has been in their current space since 1999 but has been a part of Chicago’s history for more than a hundred years. An interactive educational space for people of all ages, the museum’s mission is to create a positive relationship between people and nature. Sounds like the perfect place to me!

Just a stone’s throw from the Lincoln Park Zoo, the museum sits north of Fullerton Avenue and is surrounded by a gorgeous (and hilly!) prairie restoration complete with hiking trail. It’s the perfect place to stroll your toddler before entering the museum itself. The fresh grassy smells are enough to make you want to escape the city for good. But we know that’s never going to happen, right?! At least we have a bit of ancient flat lands to explore in our urban backyard! Continue reading

Finds: Etsy Gift Ideas

etsy: handmade gift ideas

With Christmas nine days away – there’s still time to gather up a few more handmade goodies for that very special someone. To help inspire you in your shopping quest, I’ve gathered some of my very favorite Etsy items into a list for you to sneak a peek at.

Each of these one-of-a-kind pieces will delight even the choosiest of gift recipients. From housewares and jewelry to bath products and lingerie, hopefully you’ll find something that is just right for the last person on your list. If you see something that catches your eye – be sure to scoop it up today so you can still make the USPS shipping deadline.

Remember, when you shop handmade, you’re supporting an individual rather than a large corporation. So be sure to include at least a few unique artisan creations under your Christmas tree!

Happy handmade shopping!

An Indie Biz: Photo Magic

Pierogi Picnic: Made in Chicago Clothing & VintageAs I sit at my computer late on a Monday night I realize that I am way way way overdue. Not for returning my library books – but for writing a post on running an indie biz! So here’s my much belated installment – and it’s all about photo editing.

Let’s say you’ve developed a beautiful new line of products and are ready to introduce your creations to the world. You’ve painstakingly planned the shoot, took the time to set up quality lighting and have captured a great set of photos to show the masses.

Now what? 

Don’t even think for a second that once your photos are logged and stored on your SD drive that you’re free to frolic about. Your next task as a handmade business owner is to make those pics magical. And I’m not talking pseudo-well-done they get a passing grade magical. I mean stop-em-in-their-tracks, make-heads-turn, kind of attention. Sure – paying a pro to do the dirty digital work can seem promising – but there’s nothing more fulfilling than empowering yourself to take that DIY step to enhance pictures on your own.

So before I sit back to tackle the 300+ photos I snapped of new Pierogi Picnic gear recently, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite tricks and short cuts for photo editing on the fly. Continue reading

An Indie Biz: Etsy’s New About Page

So I did it – I hunkered down last night to create my “About” page on Etsy.

Deciding how to embody your brand in a neatly wrapped box and bow was quite the ordeal – which must explain why I’ve been putting it off for the past week. From the moment I read the announcement I cringed, knowing that my over-the-top detail-oriented brain would implode at the possibilities. The questions that boggled my mind included: What kind of dialogue should I use in the description? How can I fit my life story into such a small space? What photos do I choose to include in the revolving banner? Should the copy be more polished? Goofy? Down-to-earth? Continue reading

An Indie Biz: Keeping Things Fresh

One of the most important, albeit difficult, things for an indie biz is keeping your website alive with activity. Not only should we always be in a state of dreaming and crafting – we need to be using our creativity to make our virtual spaces fun and exciting. What’s the use of handcrafting that adorable new product if your new audience forgets to visit your .com? In the internet age, staying fresh and memorable is the key.

With all the talk of social media this, and Twitter that, it’s easy to get caught up in the new wave of marketing techniques, while forgetting the 21st century basic: your website. Many of your supporters will ‘like’ you on Facebook and follow you on Pinterest, but what about that new fan? If they’re new to virtual networking they may not be headed to the latest and greatest networking page. Instead, they’ll google you and land straight on your .com. That’s why it’s so important to regularly update your site.

Sure you can have fun new posts about your latest inspirations (that’s me to the ‘t!’) but are you changing your layout regularly? Are you enticing the reader to explore your pages? Are you uploading new buttons, photos, banners and other elements to captivate the viewer? Continue reading

An Indie Biz: Planning 2012

As I sat musing about personal resolutions for 2012 this past weekend I couldn’t help but melt in Pierogi Picnic’s as well. Naturally, during this season of reflection, all of us our contemplating our dreams for the next year. But how do we keep these goals sorted while still retaining a passion for our creations?

Last year I compiled a set of questions for indie business owners to answer following the end of a fiscal year to help center their goals for the next twelve months. Keeping the 4 Ps in mind, product, presentation, passion, and plan, the queries below help to structure ideas and ambitions into bite-sized pieces. To help keep my own business resolutions focused, I’m going back to these questions to help me frame my thoughts for Pierogi Picnic in 2012.

1. Before anyone can take on the arduous task of planning 365 days of their future, one has to look back to see what worked and what didn’t in the recent past. What were your greatest successes of 2011? 

One of my hopes for 2011 was to really streamline the creation of items for the Pierogi Picnic Etsy shop. I was tired of making items in multiples, be it colors or sizes, only to find that the online audience was not receptive to that particular design. What I started to do instead was make ‘samples’ of new items, take photos in multiples, and then list the items as custom orders. A shift within the Etsy listing structure helped to enable this further by providing a ‘made to order’ field in which to categorize a listing. The result was fantastic! I was able to come up with basic designs like the “Green Girl” bathing suit, and then let the customers choose their hue via a color wheel. One of the biggest surprises was that many Pierogi Picnic shoppers chose a color I least expected – green! I wouldn’t have had the insight to make the swimwear in advance in this shade – so having the custom listings available proved beneficial to me and fans alike! Continue reading