LA BELLA VIA

My Revamped dressing space

HOME DECORMonique BellaviaComment

Ok, so, this closet revamp has been a project with many little projects added into one big project! I've been having this itch for months to minimize my wardrobe, and create a modified capsule for myself. In the end I was unsuccessful in creating anything resembling a capsule collection for myself. I've come to the conclusion that true minimalists are the only ones who can really achieve that. I like too many trends to even come close. One day I'm boho, the next I'm clean and traditional, and then the next I'm androgynous 90's.  I was however, able to part with all my "extra baggage" if you will. I literally went through every single article of clothing, shoes, and accessories I own and purged. I managed to only hold on to things I'm actually wearing often and managed to fit all my belongings in my one space. No more switching and storing clothes for the season! With all this purging and organizing I really needed a space I could store EVERYTHING in one spot. I needed to change my "office/dressing room" into a fully functional closet/dressing room. I looked at the container store options and really the only DIY option they had was the ELFA. I really didn't like the industrial look of that one. If this had been going in an actual closet and not a room with windows maybe it would have worked because it is really customizable and adjustable. But since my new "closet" is really a spare room off my master with so many windows and it doesn't feel closet like, I wanted something more finished looking. Container store does have a closet service they offer where they come to your house and measure and assess your needs and then basically order a custom configuration, but I wasn't prepared to spend that type of cash. So I went with IKEA PAX! And I am SO SO happy I did! I think people either love or hate Ikea. I think I definitely err on the love side. I've never been afraid of Ikea furniture. I actually enjoy building it. I also know there are some things you buy and just know it will only last a year and other things you buy and will last many years.  I think you really have to know how to shop that store to really get a painless experience. But I'm really standing behind this closet system! If you want an affordable custom look, DO NOT BE AFRAID OF IKEA. I'm going to break down my Pros and Cons and also some tips if you want to venture down this path for a "custom closet"

The Pros:

  • Ikea has a built in platform on their website that allows you to configure your own closet in a 3D format. It's very cool and very easy to use. You can print your shopping list directly from the site and go in and order everything you need seamlessly!
  • The PAX system is very customizable, the possibilities are virtually endless!
  •  It comes in two different heights so if your space has a lower ceiling like mine did, you have an option that will work for you.
  • The quality is really really good! I wont say great because it's obviously made from MDF but, most stuff is these days. You'd be hard pressed to find a real wood custom closet that wont cost you a small fortune.
  • The soft close drawers are a dream!
  • They have so may accessories and add ons that work with the system that truly makes you feel like you're getting a custom closet, like a pant rack, shoe shelves that pull out, jewelry trays, lights, etc etc
  • It's really easy to put together! I mean really easy. It's just time consuming. I did this on my own and I ran into ZERO issues. But it did take 6 hrs.
  • You can easily DIY this to look like a built in with moldings and doors. There are so many tutorials on Pinterest!

CONS:

  • While it's fully customizable the base box only comes in two widths. So it may or may not fully cover your entire wall
  • It's completely DIY so if you hate to build stuff you're going to have to pay someone to do it for you
  • To use the online app they have in their site you need to be a teeny bit tech savvy
  • The finishing paint can easily be scratched if you have to remove a shelf and put it elsewhere.
  • The website can be a bit finicky saving your plans. Whenever I logged into my account and I went to the "MY PLANS" section nothing was there. I had to search for PAX, and click any item, then click the "customize this item" button on the right in blue, and then when the app opened up I was able to open my saved plans. This was annoying, but just a minor annoyance.      

PRICE: For my configuration I paid $814.04. I also bought two smaller KALLAX in the high gloss white for $49.99 each and a long one for $69.99. So in total my new closet cost me $984.01.

TIPS:

  • MEASURE!! Then measure again and then once more. You need about 4" clearing from the height to ceiling for it not to scrape the ceiling when going up. Hence why I had to go with the shorter version. It worked out for me since I planned on storing my bags on top anyway
  • USE THE ONLINE APP!! This gave me a visual so I knew I would like my final closet!
  • Print out the visual reference of your customization from the online site before you build. They don't include this in your delivery, but I found it was necessary so I knew where all the pieces went. I printed it all at the store because I don't have a printer. They have computers you can print yourself from!
  • Read the assembly instructions BEFORE you even pull out anything from the box. I actually read the instructions online before it was even delivered so I was 100% sure I could handle this project
  • When adding drawers under a hanging bar don't forget to add a solid flat shelf to your configuration so it's not empty space over a drawer with stuff in it. Looks way cleaner with the shelf on top.
  • Pay for the "Pick and ship". This means you hand over the print out of your shopping list from the configuration app to the person in the closet section, and they give you a ticket to pay with and then you leave the store and wait for the delivery day you chose, while they pick everything you need from the warehouse and put it on a delivery truck. This ensures you don't forget anything! And its only around $150
  • Spring for lights! They really give you that custom feel and are very easy to install. I went with the "STOTTA" (not included in my final price because I added them later) and put one in each wardrobe box
  • You don't really need to buy doors right away. You can always add them later
  • The pant rack is my jam! Get one!
  • DON'T USE A POWER DRILL. I've made this mistake on many pieces of DIY furniture and when the screws go in too fast you risk damaging it. I didn't make that mistake this time and it all worked out perfect. Took a while but I'm happy I did it this way.

I hope all this was a bit helpful for anyone on the fence about an IKEA PAX closet system. I LOVE mine! If you have any questions please feel free to shoot me a message or leave a comment. And follow on IG @Suite35.

xo M

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The Little White Desk

HOME DECORMonique Bellavia1 Comment

I recently switched my "office" into a functional closet/dressing room (post and pics to come!) with a small desk in case I do ever need to actually work in private. While the transformation is a work in progress I have chosen a desk! I wanted to share some awesome finds for the perfect little white writing desk. I had originally picked out THIS desk from west elm that was aesthetically what I was looking for AND the perfect size, but not the price point I am looking for. $400 for a desk that I will barely use just doesn't seem logical right now. So I did what I always do, online hunt! Here are some awesome picks for the perfect little white desk (other colors are available for most of these!) that wont break the bank.

 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 //

Glossier product review from a tired Mama

BEAUTYMonique BellaviaComment
glossier.jpg

       I'm going to preface by saying I like to try new products. Not often, but maybe twice a year I'll switch things up in my routine because my skin just ain't feeling it anymore. Now that I'm 9 months postpartum with my second little bundle, my hormones are out of control from breast feeding, and just the normal emotional roller coaster that comes with being a mom of 2 or just a mom of one! Not to mention the exhaustion! I started to get some serious acne. The cystic, under the chin kind, and all over the forehead kind. Not cool! Anyway, after scouring the internet for a new product line of make up and skin care, Glossier popped in my head. Most reviews are 5 star for the brand and after trying them out I totally agree. This stuff is like a dream for a mom with NO time for a full face of makeup in the morning. Everything is easy to apply, light, and leaves my skin looking and feeling like I'm still 25. Here is my run down of what products are essential and my personal feels on them.

1. THE BALM DOTCOM: OK, at first I was like "umm no, this stuff is just like Aquaphor in a cute little tube, not worth it" BUT, then, after wearing it over night on my lips and during the day and never having to reapply I'm obsessed. It seriously locks in moisture. That being said. I wouldn't use this on my face for any dewy look (from what I've read, a lot of people have done that). In fact I tried that, and I got little red bumps on the sides of my eyes where I applied. I think my face is too sensitive for something so thick. But I will use this on my lips daily! The tinted version is amazing too for a subtle hint of color.

2. MILKY JELLY CLEANSER: I like this as a make up remover. Not as a face wash. My skin didn't feel clean enough with just this alone. I'd rather just use coconut oil to remove my make up and then use a lather. I do however like this as a quick morning rinse in the shower because I wont be removing any make up, and it feels moisturizing, and not harsh.

3. PRIMING MOISTURIZER: Love this stuff. It's light weight, non greasy, and build-able so I can use more at night when I need it and less in the morning when I'm going to add make up.

4. PERFECTING SKIN TINT: OBSESSED. This stuff is the perfect lightweight tint. I had to order two colors to get a color I liked. I did Medium and Dark and I mix them together for a perfect glowy, slightly bronzed, but still natural look. I had been using my Make up forever HD foundation, but after a few months realized it's way too much coverage for me. It looks like one flat color face and then I have to go and add blush, bronzer, etc etc to make it work and then It always looks like a full face of make up (which is fine for nights out) and it takes too much time. This tint makes my face look more natural, it evens tones, but allows my natural flusheness to show through. I LOVE it. It's also build-able so I can add more in places that need more coverage. If you like a real true, full coverage foundation, this is not for you, but if you like that natural, dewy look, then this is a winner.

5. STRETCH CONCEALER: This is the softest smoothest concealer. It's not too tacky and I love that. It's not the fullest coverage but it works for me. It wont work on the reddest of blemishes, but it's perfect for under the eyes. If you wear liner or mascara on the bottom lashes I highly suggest a setting powder over it under the eyes because I've noticed some bleeding when I wear more make up with it.

6. BOY BROW: YES YES YES. I recently had my brows microbladed so I don't need to use a pencil really to create a shape. Sometimes I do if I want a more "made up" look, but every day all I need is a little color definition on my hairs and something to keep it in a place, This does the trick! It makes them a little bushy looking which I love! If you don't have much of a brow and need to form a shape you will still need a pencil with this stuff.

7. HALOSCOPE: This is the créme de la créme of highlighters! It doesn't give you sparkle. It gives you glow. I probably would still use my Benefit highlighters for nights out, but this is exactly the natural dewy look for day time that I need! I use both Topaz and Quartz together. Topaz under the cheekbone for a defined look and quartz on top of the bone for a highlight and then I add a touch of Narz Maui stick on my apples for a hint of pink blush.

8. GENERATION G LIP COLOR: I like this stuff. but I also really like my other lip stuff. So I think this is not something I need, but nice to have. I like that it's sheer but still matte. Not many lip products have that combo.

9. THE SUPERS: Ok, I saved this for last because OMG how did I live without these serums before?? I bought the 3 pack and I seriously love all them. SUPER PURE has been a godsend on my postpartum acne. SUPER BOUNCE gives my skin a surge of moisture, and SUPER GLOW just enhances my skin's texture. I layer super pure and super bounce at night after washing my face and then I apply the moisturizer over it. In the mornings I put SUPER GLOW after rinsing my face and then add moisturizer and then make up. After a week or so I've genuinely noticed a difference in the brightness and how clear my skin is.

All in all, this product line is for the "un-makeup" girl (totally just made that up btw) It's not for the girl that likes the full face Kardashian look daily. I love that look for nigh time, but for day, a more natural approach is where I'm at. It's perfect for busy moms who want to be able to apply something quick and effortlessly. I'll also note that I no longer use my sponges or brushes. I think that was adding to my acne. Instead I used clean fingers. The make up is super easy to apply with fingers too!. This is all I've tried for now, but I intend on trying out the new mask duo soon! Stay tuned for that!  This is not at all a paid post (because really, I don't have that street cred!) But I do have 20% off code for anyone that wants to try out some of their goodies! This is the link------->   http://bff.glossier.com/eW_VT

DIY Dining table refinishing project

DIY, HOME DECORMonique BellaviaComment

So this dinging table has a little story. I bought it right after we bought our house 2 years ago. It sat in my parents garage for about 2 months while we paitently awaited work to be done on our house so we could move in. Online I fell in love with the simplicity of this table. It was the perfect size for our small dining room, it had these beautiful rounded spindle legs. It was farmhouse-esque but also modernish. The color was a distressed black/brown so it didn't look totally brand new and shiny but would still go with some of the more glam pieces I had left over from our old apartment. When we finally opened the box, the top of the table was defected. Or at least I thought it was! It looked as if instead of randomly distressing the wood on the table top someone took a giant eraser and just put very large marks on it. it was awful! But It had already been 2 months and I wasn't sure there was anything I could do about it now. I emailed the company I purchased it from and they agreed it was not at all what was advertised on the website. They gave me a refund and told me to keep the table cause shipping would be way to expensive. The table is beautifully constructed and it's a heavy solid wood so this was a total score! I knew the table needed to be refinished but at the time I was 6 months pregnant and have never properly refinished anything in my life, so I decided to quick fix it and added a quick layer of black paint over the top. it worked fine. Fast forward 2 years later and the black paint is scratched and peeling and just awful! I decided it was time to tackle the dreaded project. And I'm SO SO glad I did!. Here's the progress of the table...

Zuo Era Soma Table with defects

This is the table after I opened the box and realized the "distressing" was horribly done. It was a sad moment!

 

Table right before stripping

You can see here my slapped on paint "band-aid" had started to peel off. And now we STRIP!!

Phase 1

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 2

Phase 3

Phase 3

And now on the the finished product!!!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE how my first stripping/refinishing project turned out! I used a product called Citristrip to strip the paint. It's an all natural stripper made from orange peels and I loved working with it. The company states you can even use this product indoors, but because of the mess stripping creates I wouldn't recommend that. After stripping you need to "de-gunk". That's not a technical term but it's pretty much what I had to do. There will be a layer of waxy residue that if you try and sand off will just stick to your sand paper and get pushed down into the grain of the wood (I learned this the hard way). There are a few ways to go about de-gunking, the method I used was with some steel wool and denatured alcohol. Worked like a charm. Then you move on to sanding. After you sand with a coarse grit, wipe away any dust and then sand with a fine grit to give your wood a smooth finish. Then wipe away any more dust and you should be ready to pre-stain and then stain. Pre-staining is super important to ensure your stain goes on nice and even.

Products used:

My DIY kitchen makeover!

DIY, HOME DECORMonique Bellavia3 Comments

About a month ago I decided I had enough with our dated kitchen. It was so drab and dark, and I never felt comfortable in there. My husband and I talked a lot about our kitchen for the last 2 years we've been in the house. We know we want to gut it. We want to change the entire lay out and knock down some walls including a load bearing wall which is a HUGE project. Pricey probably doesn't even begin to describe what our kitchen dreams would be like. So we knew it would be a project put on hold. Also our kitchen wasn't THAT bad. OK, aesthetically yes, it was depressing, but functionally it was actually decent. Our cabinets are original and in fabulous shape, someone somewhere along the lines did add in a newer granite counter top and stainless steel sink and even though I would have never chosen the two, it still is updated and in great shape. Also our appliances while a bit dated, are not original and totally fully functional. So I decided a face lift is what it needed. So I got to work!

AND NOW!

This make over took me about a week to complete. I used Nuvo one day Cabinet Makeover and even though it states you can do this in 8 hours, that's pretty much impossible if you want a really well done outcome. I did this SOLO as well so that added some time to the whole thing. These are the steps I followed:

  • Remove hardware, doors, and hinges. If you are going to re-use your hardware make sure to put them in baggies and label them clearly. I was not planning to re-use so I just tossed them all in a baggie together
  • Fill old holes and drill new holes for new hardware (if using new hardware) before sanding. I didn't do that. I sanded first then drilled the next day so I had to go back and re-sand. Not fun. Also if you want a really easy way to drill new holes with perfect precision, use a template like this one to measure for you. Saves time and stress!
  • Clean the frames and doors thoroughly with something like TSP.
  • Sand your cabinet frame and doors with a fine grit sand paper.
  • Clean everything again to remove dust.
  • After this I was ready to paint! You can prime them first. I didn't, but I would have if I hadn't forgotten to buy the primer during one of my 10 different trips to home depot! ugh.

I gave my cabinets 3 coats of paint. I did one coat a night. Spreading it out like that is really unnecessary, but it helped me keep my sanity. I felt less pressure and was 100% sure it would be dry when applying the next coat. Thankfully I was able to lay out all my doors in the basement so they weren't all in the way upstairs. It all sounds like more work than it was. In reality I felt like this was a very easy project, just a bit time consuming. The hard part came when trying to re-install the doors on the frames. I was using new hinges and since my cabinets are super old I couldn't find the right ones at any hardware store. I had to order them online. And even those were not a 100% perfect fit. But I managed to drill new holes even after everything was painted, and there was little to no damage done to my precious paint work. My tip: test your new hinges before painting anything and if new holes need to be drilled, do it first! As for installing the handles and pulls, when reading reviews on the hinges I purchased, a lot of people said they had to buy new screws to fit because their doors were thicker or thinner. Mine were a perfect fit. Just test all new hardware first!

  I have to say I liked the Nuvo cabinet paint. I'm not an expert painter so I don't have much to compare it to, but for me it worked. It dried fast, it was nice and thick so you didn't have to apply a ton of coats to hide a darker cabinet. 3 coats worked fine for me. Another tip, the paint kit comes with a roller and a brush. The brush will be streaky and uneven and you will need more than 3 coats of paint to cover a darker cabinet like mine, and the roller will leave tiny little bubbles/bumps. What I did was I applied each coat with the roller then smoothed out the bubbles with the brush. It worked like a charm! I got a nice smooth and even coat all over!

Here are my sources for this kitchen:

  • Cabinet Paint: Nuvo Cabinet Kit in Titanium White: $70 (I bough two kits, but I only needed one)
  • Drawer pulls: $2.19 each. This was a total STEAL compared to what you find elsewhere. And these are heavy solid metal! I highly recommend this brand of hardware.
  • Bar Handle: $24.75 for a 5 pack: Another total STEAL!
  • Hinges: Make sure you buy the correct hinge for your cabinet and test them first!
  • Rug: this was an ebay find!
  • Vintage Mid Century clock: Another ebay score
  • Reclaimed wood shelves: I found this seller Chris Csonka on etsy and I can not say enough just how wonderful he was to work with. He answered all of my questions, and even used the exact stain I requested (this one is minwax Early American).
  • Handmade Iron shelf bracket: Another Etsy find. This seller was also awesome! The brackets are solid thick, heavy iron. We love them!
  • Mini island/kitchen cart: This one is solid and really well made. It was also very easy to put together. Originally I had planned on purchasing this kitchen island from Ikea and I was just going to stain it, but I found this one during Target's 4th of July furniture sale and the difference in price was minimal, when you added in shipping from Ikea because NO store by me carried stock of them.  Also this one has two shelves AND drawers unlike the Ikea one so it was a no brainer.

And that's it for my DIY Kitchen Makeover!! Hope some of these tips are helpful!

NOT 2 INGREDIENT PANCAKES (but just as easy)

RECIPESMonique BellaviaComment
ToddlerPancakes

I love pancakes. Something about soft fluffy indulgent little cakes on a Saturday morning smothered in maple syrup and topped with fresh berries just makes me smile. Since my little guy is 15 months old going on 16 and has been on solids for quite some time I'm constantly trying to create healthy twists on favorites to give him. I had tried that two ingredient pancake recipe that was floating around pinterest and was not impressed. It's basically 2 eggs for every banana and you mix, and then fry...yea, that didn't quite work. I was left with a flat dead looking "pancake". For a family that likes to indulge on a Saturday morning, that was not going to work. So I decided to improve on the idea, and I'd say what I came up with worked pretty well, and they are super tasty and much fluffier than the 2 ingredient pancake. Emerson LOVES these pancakes. I serve them to him with unsweetened apple sauce and berries. I'm still holding off on offering him sugar, but the apple sauce is the perfect dipping sauce for these.  I'm not going to lie and say they are like a super fluffy buttermilk pancake because that's not at all what they are. They really are in a category of their own. But they are GOOD. Really good, and really healthy and best of all I can freeze them and have pancakes on hand for a whole month! A total WIN!

ToddlerPancakesindish

Ingredients for a huge batch of mini sized pancakes (about a months worth to freeze):

  • 6 Medium to large ripe bananas
  • 12 organic large eggs
  • 2 tbs flax seeds (optional)
  • 2 tbs hemp seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 1/2 cups organic gluten free rolled oats (I like Trader Joes)
  • cinnamon to taste (optional)
  • 1tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • coconut oil for cooking

Take all the dry ingredients and put them in a food processor and make a flour out of them. Mash the bananas with the vanilla until they are pretty smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the mashed banana and mix until fully incorporated. Spoon the batter onto a hot pan sprayed with coconut oil and flip when little bubbles start to form. Finally, ENJOY!

EmersonEatinPancakes
Fingerfood


My Baby Must Haves

BABY PRODUCTSMonique BellaviaComment

It's been just about a year since I've had Emerson, and before I had him I spent months pouring over recommendations for baby items and what to register for. Many things I purchased or received as a gift I used but other things I barely used or didn't use at all. After a whole year I think I've come up with a list of items that are a total must have. There are other necessities as well, such as bottles, breast pumps, swaddles, and diapers but there are so many brands and I just felt like the those things can be chosen on preference. These items are ones that I just couldn't foresee myself surviving the first year without. OK, that's dramatic I would have survived but these things just made it a whole lot easier!

Baby Registry Must Haves to get you through the first year and beyond

1. Aiden and Anais Burpy Bibs - I know these things are everywhere, always on the "must have list. But really they are a must have! they are perfect with a new born to burp with and I use them now for when Emerson is eating a smoothie pouch on the go. Saves him from getting food all over his clothes and it's nice and soft!

2. Infantino Squeeze station - This is one of those things you wouldn't know you needed until you have it. Kind of like an automatic car starter. I've used this thing ever since I started feeding Em foods. I would puree the food, use this little station to put the food in the baggies and then freeze. Now I use the station for smoothies! I can see myself using this for a long time to come.

3. Squooshi reusable food pouches - These things are great! I HATE wastefulness. It's one of my biggest pet peeves in life. I even have re-usable zip lock bags that's how much I hate it. So these bags are great! I've been using them over and over since Em was 4 months old and they hold up great and don't leak! If your going to use the baggies for your baby to feed him or herself with, make sure to get the spouts too!

4. Boppy baby lounger - We had the Mamaroo, a bouncy chair, a bassinet, a vibrating thing, but THIS thing was a life savor. For some reason my son hated the mamaroo till about 4 months or so. He also hated being flat on his back so this pillow lounger was perfect for him. It kept him at a slight incline so he was comfy and it was small and compact I just took it everywhere with me.

5. Ergo Baby carrier - I did not have this one. I had the Baby Bijorn, and the K-tan sling. But I wish I had gotten this one instead. I loved my K-tan sling but I could only use it for a few months. The Bijorn is complicated and kills my back. I recommend the Ergo over the others.

6. LeSportsac travel set- I hate diaper bags. I've been through 3! I've only found one that is semi decent but that one just goes back and forth to my Nanny's because it's really not that cute. In the end I started using a Louis Vuitton speedy 40 or a big tote. These little pouches are great for organizing. I use the largest size to hold all his diaper changing stuff and the smallest bag for first aid type stuff and the medium size I throw in a change of clothes or some toys.

7.  Safety 1st Bath Tub - The is our second baby bath tub. Our first one was great but was meant for him to just lay in where the water just hit underneath him. Once he started sitting up we needed something that he could sit in, move around in, and pay a little like a real bath. Our tub was still too big for him but this was just perfect. In the end I wish we had registered for this instead of the infant bath because this comes with the infant seat as well.

8. Nose Frida - Way better the bulb aspirators. So easy. My son still hates it no matter what but this does the job.

9. Munchkin Sound Projector - This machine does way more than just play sounds but I only use it for the ocean sound. My reason for putting this on my list is that it has an option for continuous play. Which is great! My son wakes up if it happens to go off so to have it play continuously is key! I'm sure there are others that do this but this one is the one I have and it's perfect.

10. Levana Oma - This device gives a new parent peace of mind. You clip it on your baby's diaper and It alerts you if there is no movement after 15 seconds. I wouldn't have gotten even a wink of sleep in those first few months if it wasn't for this thing.

11. Halo Quilted sleep sack - These sleep sacks are great for when transitioning out of the swaddle. They keep baby warm and cozy. My son sleeps so much better with this on.

12. Jelly Cat - These stuffed animals are so unbeliveably soft. My son has a few but he loves his bunny and doggy. They really do help him sleep better! He rubs it all over his eyes when hes sleepy and snuggles it in bed. Plus they have the cutest animals!

13. Ciao baby portable high chair - I did not register for this chair but my boss gave it to us at my shower and it's one of the best gifts we've received. It's small enough to leave in the car and bring anywhere and everywhere. We use it ALL THE TIME.

14. Baby Zen Yoyo "umbrella" stroller - This is the best stroller invention ever. This thing folds up to the size of carry on luggage and even has a tote strap built in for easy carrying. It's super light weight and unfolds in the snap of a wrist. Literally, it unfolds like a yoyo! We purchased this one because we would be traveling and while I love my City Select it's just way to complicated for traveling.

15. Guava Lotus Travel bed - Also something I'd consider a best invention ever! It takes literally 2 minutes to unfold and fold away. It's SUPER light weight and it's all breathable mesh. We use this everywhere we go. We used it while on vacation recently and it made nap time on the beach and by the pool super easy. I recommend buying the sunshade and the quilted sheet with it as well. If you are going to purchase one use this code to get a free cotton sheet!  http://guavafamily.refr.cc/CBP6KLF  It's also on promo right now for $60 off! Go scoop one up!

Home Made Sweet Potato "puffs"

RECIPESMonique Bellavia3 Comments
Puffs

Emerson is 11 months old and he just loves to feed himself. I'm always looking for yummy healthy things to give him to snack on in his high chair while I'm bustling around the kitchen or something I can bring on the go. I came across a few homemade puffs recipes and I decided to create one of my own using my sons two favorite foods: sweet potato and banana. They were so yummy even I had a few!

puffs
  • 1 very large organic sweet potato or 2 medium ones
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup of coconut flour (or flour of your choice)
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
  • 3tbs coconut oil
  • 3 tbs coconut milk ( or another milk or water)
  • 2 tbs date puree - you can follow my recipe here. (optional)
  • Cinnamon to taste (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350. To get the sweetest flavor out of your sweet potato and banana you have to bake them. The sweet potato should be done in 45 min- 1hr depending on the size and banana could be baked for about 20 min. When it's all done throw everything in a food processor or blender and mix it till it's nice and smooth. You can use a zip lock bag with the corner snipped off or a pastry bag to pipe little "puffs" on a baking sheet (I used this one). Bake for 15 min and store in the fridge. They stay fresh for about a week.

EDIT: These puffs won't bake like a traditional cookie or even a store bought puff, but will have a slightly mushy/chewy texture once bitten into.

The most natural sweetener

RECIPESMonique BellaviaComment
Medjool_Date_Puree1.jpg

Hi, my name is Monique and I have a sugar addiction. OK there I said it. A bit dramatic; yes. But seriously, I have an insane sweet tooth! My husband and I eat healthy. We have found the "diet" (a lifestyle really) that has worked for us. We eat whole real foods. Nothing from boxes or bags or pre-made dinners. We cook, we drink about a gallon of water each a day and we exercise. But I still have this one teeny tiny obstacle that I can't seem to overcome. My sweet tooth. I cannot go a day without a sweet snack. The problem is that once I cave, I almost always over indulge. It's such a problem that after every meal I always feel as if I need to finish off with something sweet. My husband doesn't have this problem (lucky him). I know it's OK to indulge here and there and I like to live by the 80/20 rule, but deep down I know my sweet tooth is a bigger problem than I would like to admit.  I NEVER feel good afterwards. I get bloated, gassy, sleepy, sluggish and irritable. Even though I know I will inevitably feel this way afterwards, my sweet tooth always wins over my logic.

     With all that said I have been seriously trying to make adjustments to this terrible habit. For instance I have switched from coffee to tea because with tea I can drink it with little to no sweeteners. Baked goods are out of the question in my house because I will polish off the pan before the thing has time to cool! BUT, I have discovered something that changes all that. It may not fix my sugar addiction problem, but I like to think it helps in some way.

  Medjool Date pureè. The easiest thing to make and is the perfect refined sugar swap. I add it to any baking I'm doing instead of sugar and I get all the sweetness without the guilt. It's also super easy to add some sweetness to green smoothies with this on hand. Aside from being the perfect all natural sweetener, medjool dates are filled with nutritional benefits. They have a ton of fiber, and are rich in magnesium which works as an anti-inflammatory, vitamin B6 which improves brain function, and they are fat free to boot! If you're like me and need some sweet treats try keeping this in your fridge as a go to instead of the sugar!

What you'll need:

  1. Package of Medjool Dates
  2. About 1/2 cup of water (depending on how large your package of dates is)
  3. A food processor or blender

Some people soak their dates first, I don't. My pureè came out just perfect so I don't see a need to do that. You have to pit your dates first. After you're all done with that just add them to a food processor with the water and let it blend them all up till it's nice and creamy. You can store it in your fridge in an air tight container for up to 6 months!

Lately...

LIFEMonique Bellavia1 Comment

I don't think I ever fully understood the reality of how much time just flies by after you have a baby. I cannot believe that right now I'm planning Emerson's first birthday. How has it been almost a year already?! It's amazing though how easily we settle into parenthood. I remember feeling like I wasn't sure I would ever feel at ease being a mom. When Emerson was just a tiny little thing, I was so scared of everything. Scared of failing, scared I'd make the wrong choices for him, scared I'd never settle into my new role comfortably. But as the months tick on by (feeling more like weeks), the fog just sort of lifts.  I feel like this is a role I was meant to play. This is the purpose of my life.

    Emerson's personality just shines brighter each day. Today he hesitantly attempted to stand on his own. Such a little thing, a tiny little move, him gently lifting his hand away from mine to steady himself. I didn't know if it was possible for your heart to swell with pride and break at the same time. But mine did. For sure, I felt both those things. An intense pain to stop time, and keep my little baby a baby for much longer, and also this pride of being a mommy to this amazing little soul. After he lifted that little hand, and had a fit of giggles and smiles because he was just so impressed with himself, he wobbled and fell down into my arms. All was right again. Back in my happy place with my baby folded in my arms with a huge smile on his face. I hope he knows I will always be there to catch him.

Bone Broth

RECIPESMonique Bellavia7 Comments

We're deep into cold and flu season and I've already been sick twice! Just a common cold so it hasn't been the worst but not fun either. My Husband NEVER gets sick. It's beyond me how we can share a bed and he is immune to it. He decided we needed some good old bone broth to boost our (my) immunity and help cure me of my sickness. Now if you don't know just what bone broth is, it's basically just what the name says; the broth of animal bones. There is an abundance of benefits of bone broth. It's rich in minerals and antioxidants, It helps digestion, boosts immunity, and detoxifies, and it's plain old delicious on cold winter days. Here's my husband's recipe. You can sub any animal bones for the ones he used but make sure it's from a healthy animal. Grass fed and organic is best to get the best nutrients out of it. We happen to like beef more than chicken because you get a more dense flavorful broth. Also you get a nice gelatinous broth with beef. That may sound weird, but when the broth gels, that means you've really sucked all the marrow out of the bones which is just what you want!

Broth Straining
Broth with Fat
bone broth
bone broth soup

What you need:

  1. 2-3 medium sized beef bones (a butcher may even give you these for free!)
  2. Veggies- large carrot, turnip, celery, ect.. (basically any veggies that work for you)
  3. 3-4quarts of water (enough to cover the bones)
  4. 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  5. slow cooker

Add all the ingredients above and cook on low for 24 hrs (yes really 24 hrs). When it's all done you'll have this delicious smelling dark amber liquid. I don't care for the animal fat that gets released so I let it chill in the fridge over night and allow the fat to harden. In the morning I just break up the fat and strain it all out (you can, if you like, save the fat for cooking). This stuff is delicious and it can be used to make so many other dishes. I even add it to my 9 month old's baby food. My husband takes cold shots of the gelatin in the mornings, I add it to smoothies but my favorite way to have it, is to sip it nice and hot! Here are my favorite toppings for the perfect cup of hot bone broth:

  1. Chives
  2. Dash of turmeric
  3. Sprinkle of salt
  4. Thyme
  5. Cilantro
  6. Avocado.

The perfect winter treat!

9 months

LIFEMonique BellaviaComment
He Loves his bath time!

He Loves his bath time!

I'm a day late but this little man is 9 months old as of Jan 26th! Where does the time go?? Every day we are completely amazed by this little boy. Everything he does puts a smile on my face or makes me laugh. He is truly our little gift from god. Lately he's been a babble monster. He likes to talk to his little stuffed animal friends at 3am. You'd think that would be the most annoying thing on the planet. I mean, who wants to be up at 3am listening and watching a baby babbling away in the baby monitor? But its not. It's actually pretty entertaining. Listening to him have full on conversations with his little crew in his crib is quite hysterical. My husband and I will take the monitor and prop it on our chest and just giggle in bed watching what we dubbed "The Emerson Show." Aside from being so talkative lately, Emerson is showing signs of being ever so fearless. He has such a strong determination about him. He sees something he wants and he is determined to make it his. NOTHING will stand in his way. I can see his spirit coming through in all he does and watching it flourish is probably the best thing ever!

Here's a little video I made on my iphone.

Bye Bye Winter Skin!

BEAUTYMonique Bellavia1 Comment
Winter Skin.jpg

My skin is typically problematic. It's not the worst, but I do struggle with some cystic blemishes here and there. Since I've had my son, my skin has been up and down. Dry, oily, acne prone, and at times smooth and glowing. It changes daily! The winter does a number on everyone's skin. Harsh wind, and cold weather, we could all use a little refreshing in that department. It's super easy to do little natural things at home that are very cost effective. These two items are a staple in our house so its a no brainer. Just rolled oats and coconut oil!

  1. Add a little of both to a small bowl (I never measure)
  2. Heat it in the microwave till it's a paste (not a liquid).
  3. Gently rub into skin in circular motions and let it sit for 5 min or so.
  4. Rinse.

       You can do this nightly, but if it's too time consuming you can try this awesome mask. I add coconut oil to my hands just before rubbing in and I finish with a light layer of coconut oil.  In the morning I wake up with glowing skin! So far this winter I have gone through it with not a single big problem to deal with and no dryness!  I loved this product so much I had to get one for my sister for Christmas and she has also agreed, it's pretty damn awesome. It leaves the skin super soft, hydrated and refreshed. My new skin care routine is so simple and my skin is looking better and better.

Two Thousand Fifteen

LIFEMonique BellaviaComment

         A new year, a new start. Leaving behind 2014 is bitter sweet. In 2014 we welcomed the birth of our beautiful baby boy Emerson, we bought a house, and I believe, 2014 was the year my husband and I grew significantly. Not physically of course, but, as individuals, as a couple, and as parents. The changes I feel in myself are so big it's hard for me to wrap my head around sometimes. I see these changes in my husband as well. It's a weird thing to realize one day "I am a grown up". I turned 31 this year and I can honestly say 2014 was the year I grew up. I am a mother, a wife, a caregiver, and as my husband dubbed me "household CEO" (although I still like to bestow him with that title).           

        Everything has a different meaning now. I mean EVERYTHING. Things that were once in the forefront of my mind are so insignificant now, and things I never imagined myself thinking about, are ALL I think about now. It's not just becoming a parent, it's being a wife, and now a home owner. You know the saying "shit just got real?" Well, it sure as heck did! And in such a short amount of time too.

        I think part of us growing up is also coming to the realization that no one knows what's best for you but you. You spend your teens and early 20's one foot in adulthood and one foot still dependent. Then, even when your two feet in adulthood you reach back every once and a while. Because sometimes making huge decisions on your own is flat out scary! But together my husband and I have learned that WE are each others council. We both come from loving supportive families that have given us strong foundations to make good decisions. This past year taught us that with what we learned from our families, together, we know what's best for us. 

     2015 and beyond is looking so bright for us Bellavias. So bright I need some sunnies to think about it! (so corny I know!) But it feels great to be heading in such a positive direction with my little tribe. Nothing in the material sense but, spiritually, emotionally, and health wise. We are committed to living a life of positivity all around and It's lookin' and feeling good!  The hubs and I have some very specific personal goals that are exciting for us to reach as a family. I have some personal ones I'd like to accomplish on my own and I know my husband has a bunch of his own as well (some involve crickets, but I wont even go there!). For right now though, on this first day of 2015 I'm going to soak up every last minute of today, with my little clan. Were gonna eat some good food, hopefully a nap for baby, and some good old conversation about our dreams with my soul mate. Happy New Year's everyone!

A few shots from our Holiday...

Jumping in

LIFEMonique BellaviaComment

I can't believe it's been almost a month since have been back at work. I guess lack of sleep will blend weeks and weeks together to form one big blob of I don't know what.

         I don't think I was fully prepared for how hard it would be to go back to work full time. And if I could press rewind and start all over I wouldn't do it cold turkey. I would start slowly, couple days here and there. Get my feet wet until I was fully submerged and it no longer felt like it was shocking my system. But that's just me.

          Week two was the hardest. Most people thinks it's probably week one, but no, it's definitely week two that really takes a toll. See, during week one your still high on showing off those baby pics and wearing clothes without spit up or poop for entire days. Sure, leaving your little bug is painfully hard. It doesn't feel natural at all, but week two is when it gets really really hard. I guess because it's final. You just think to yourself, wait, this isn't going to change, every day I will leave him and be here in this office - Every. Single. Day! Its daunting, and seriously hard to swallow.

                      I know it's easy to say "then quit and stay at home" well for most, the number one reason why that's out of the question is it's just financially not feasible, but for others, being home all day doesn't feel quite right either. It's like, when I'm home all day I feel lost and alone, and all sorts of weird. I also felt like I couldn't be the best mom I could be without the other part of me, the work me. But being at the office also feels all sorts of weird. Like something is missing. There's a giant hole right smack in the middle of my chest every day all day. I guess most women probably battle this internal fight. Your nurturing maternal side vs your strong independent woman side. It plain old sucks.

           Then there is the pumping and breast feeding juggling act you have to throw in the mix! Nature naturally fills you up with these happy little endorphins when you breast feed so that you'll grow to like it and look forward to it. It's pleasurable in a way that's really hard to put into words (after you get past that god awful painful first month). To watch my son be nurtured directly through me is just an incredible feeling that I wish upon every women. Its empowering, reassuring, and just feels so right.  But then reality and modern life has to go and screw it all up by making women go back to work 12 weeks later! So we buy these shmancy gadgets called "breast pumps" to come and replace your little babe and suck the milk out of you a few times a day. It's awful. It's painful and it's stressful squeezing in the time, trying not to rush, making sure you fully empty your breasts, and the big one; hoping against all hope that you are providing enough to feed your babe. I totally get why women give up. It's hard! I won't even get into my bouts of mastitis, milk blisters, and oversupply cause the list goes on.

         Regardless of how sleepy I am, how sore I am, how stressed I am, I will continue to give it my all for as long as my body will allow me, because I know one day when he's big enough to ask me about his early days I will sigh and dream of this wild and exciting but very short time in his life. The good, the bad, the ugly. I'm embracing all of it because for me this is mommy hood, a new exciting adventure and I wouldn't wish for it any other way. I hope all you new Mammas, and Mammas to be feel as incredible as I do in your new roles. No matter if it's full time mommy, or working mommy, whatever mommy you choose to be is the one that will fit perfectly.

Working Girl

Monique Bellavia1 Comment
12 weeks flew right on by and I am officially entering in the grown up work world again tomorrow! I am an emotional mess about it. On one hand I am so excited to be back in the city doing what I love, having grown up conversations without being covered in spit up or baby poop. But on the other hand the thought of leaving my baby in the care of someone else and missing those milestones and not getting those smiles and giggles all day is killing me. One thing is for sure, I will not feel guilty about wanting to have my own life and career. It's so bitter sweet but If I don't do this, and at least give it a really good shot, I know that in 5 years when Emerson is in school I will regret that missed opportunity, and that is something I don't think would be fair to me or him.
      I am wondering how this juggling act will be. Right now since I am breast feeding I haven't put Em on any schedule. I just feed when he's hungry, let him nap when he's sleepy, and go for walks when he's awake. I haven't let my husband do any night feedings, mainly because I've become so hooked on the closeness and bonding I get while nursing him in the middle of the night. But now real life starts. Up at 5 am, out the door by 6:45, back home by 6, bath time by 8....how we are all going to adjust to this new schedule, only time will tell.  John has been nothing but supportive and I know he's going to be so helpful in the mornings and evenings. We're both going to be a mess the first week, but It will get easier. If it didn't every other working mom out there wouldn't do it! Wish me luck on my first day, any and all advice is more than welcomed!

Our Big (little) Arrival!

Monique BellaviaComment
             6 weeks ago we welcomed our first baby into the world. Life has completely changed forever. Little Emerson Cole Bellavia surprised us a week early. I honestly did not believe I was even in labor. I really thought I would go late! But to my surprise my water broke at work, only ever so slightly. I work in the Empire State building, so I left for the hospital as per Dr.'s orders. Even though I was convinced I was still not in labor. No contractions no nothing! John left work and met me at Penn station. Well, on the walk there my water broke for real! Waterfalls in the middle of Manhattan. So I waddled faster to Penn, more waterfalls. This continued till I finally made it there and sat on a bench till our train came. Still no contractions. When we got to the hospital I was only in labor 8 hrs, and then he arrived! It was surreal and not at all how I expected it to go. I had it pretty easy for my first time, and I am so grateful for that. Emerson has flipped our lives on it's head. Some days are stressful, some are easy breezy, but we are taking each one as they come. We are completely obsessed. I can honestly say I have never experienced a love like this one. This goes way beyond unconditional. It's painful how much I love this child. Life could not be any better!