I’ve always adored maternity photoshoots. I think the pregnancy body is such a beautiful thing. We didn’t budget for a professional shoot but as I got further along in the pregnancy I realized I really wanted to have some sort of photo keepsake while Siena was still in my belly.
I chatted with my old boss and dear friend, Jill Neil, who has an eye for photos and is really creative and she agreed to take some casual photos of us with our nice camera. We went to Malaga Cove at Palos Verdes, the same location that we exchanged our vows a year prior. So pleased with how the photos came out! Here are our favorites from our maternity photoshoot!
As I turn 40 weeks pregnant and am about to start my 10th month (yes you read that correctly) of pregnancy, I want to reflect on this journey before my little makes her arrival and then it will all be a distant memory!
I was very fortunate to have a great pregnancy experience. Was I emotional at times – of course, did my body ache every damn day – yep and did I feel completely large and not so in charge – you bet. But I counted my blessings every day that I did not experience morning sickness or complications that required strict bed rest.
Though I currently sit here extremely uncomfortable and am trying to do everything in my power to get this little girl to come out, I know I will miss being pregnant.
Here are 9 things that I truly believe helped me to enjoy and cherish this experience.
I’ve always been an active person but I could not have gotten through this pregnancy without consistent exercise. Even on days when I felt like my hips were going to fall apart, after a workout – I always felt better, both mentally and physically. I worked out 4-6 days per week from month 1 through month 7. A variety of barre classes, dance class, yoga and pilates. Of course as the bump got larger I had to add in more and more modifications, but that didn’t stop me. Once I hit 8 months, I scaled back to twice a week as I was getting more and more dizzy spells. Then at 9 months, I only took prenatal yoga here and there and then finally at 38 weeks my only activity was walking and slow (very slow) stair climbing. Key here is to listen to your body – you know it best. While pushing your limits can be effective when working out – while pregnant is not the time. Take breaks, drink lots of water and modify modify modify. Apparently all this activity is supposed to help during labor – I sure hope so!
Body Pillow If anyone asks me what I couldn’t live without during pregnancy, this would be the first thing out of my mouth. Because of past problems with sciatica and back issues, as soon as my hips starting shifting a little the pain was terrible (around 4 months). The pillow I used specifically is the Leachco Back ‘N Belly Contoured Body Pillow and for someone who normally is a back or stomach sleeper it was a life (and sleep) saver. Keep in mind this pillow is HUGE and if we didn’t have a king sized bed I’m not sure it would have been feasible. We nicknamed it “my boyfriend” since it was like sleeping with another person in between us. There are other pregnancy pillows out there, I know some of my friends liked the Snoogle, but I wanted something that I could easily switch sides and could give me back and belly support at the same time. I ended up sleeping with the open side at my head so I could use my own bed pillow and found that much more comfortable. It is a little pricey but trust me – WORTH IT.
Almond/Coconut Milk I was very diligent about taking my prenatal vitamins as well as Calcium/Fiber/Iron supplements daily. However, with calcium and protein being very important nutrients during pregnancy I looked for ways to get as much as I could. One way that really worked for me was to drink a protein shake every morning. I discovered almond and coconut milk early on and mixed this with my favorite chocolate protein powder. Delicious and easy way to get calcium and protein each morning! This milk is great b/c it has 50% more calcium than dairy milk and it’s so yummy!
Jersey Dresses Maternity fashion is different for everyone – each women’s body responds differently to pregnancy and everyone is comfortable in different things. However for me – jersey dresses were hands down the most comfortable and flattering item to wear throughout! I got pregnant in April but didn’t start showing until late August/September. Living in LA and especially during a very HOT summer/fall these dresses were perfect.Plus how easy are they to make it look like you tried. Layer a blazer or cardigan for work, or wedges and a statement necklace for social events and you are out the door!
Murad Skincare Products I am fortunate to work for a company that sells a quality product that actually works! During the first trimester I only used cleanser and moisturizer but after that I went back to my normal skincare routine which consists only of Murad products. Pregnancy hormones are all over the place and it can wreck havoc on your skin. Sure there is the pregnancy ‘glow’ which I believed I had but I also accredit this to the Murad products I used while pregnant. My staple is the new Hydro-Dynamic Quenching Essence – lightweight but really hydrating.
Belly Movements I know every mom can relate to this one. Once you get past the shock that you are growing a live human inside of you, the movements you feel inside your belly are absolutely magical!! Anytime I started to feel ‘over it’, she would kick or roll around and it would remind me that I’m carrying a special life inside me. I will definitely miss this after I give birth!
Positive Attitude This one is really important. It’s easy to give into the aches, pains and suffering that come along with pregnancy. Lord knows I’ve done my fair share of complaining! But it’s really important to stay positive and enjoy every moment. A close friend told me that a positive pregnancy makes a happy baby and I completely believe it!
Husband Have to give a shout out to my DH (Darling Husband). I personally think he was lucky that I wasn’t completely off my rocker with hormones during this pregnancy – however he has dealt with everything really well and has been supportive. From supporting my nesting instincts, helping me put on and take off my shoes, to being there for me when we had to put down our beloved dog, Drama, when I was 3 months pregnant, he’s shown me that he is truly my rock and is going to be a great father.
Veteran Mama Support This one comes in many forms, but for me personally, I am so fortunate to have had so many friends give birth within the past couple years so all advice was fresh in their minds and very much appreciated. Of course the love and support from our families and friends who do not yet have children is also appreciated and does not go unnoticed! We just feel so lucky to have so much love around us and it’s really helped me on this journey.
Alright there you have it. Back to my Netflix movie binge!
It’s incredible how strong the “nesting” desire is when you’re pregnant. Ever since I entered the 3rd trimester, the main thing on my mind has been cleaning, organizing and decorating the nursery. It’s literally all I want to do. Fortunately we live in a 2 bedroom apartment (albeit small) so Siena will get her own room however we had to transform the office/storage room/Jeff”s closet into a nursery. When you live in an apartment that has ZERO storage space (not even a broom closet or pantry) this proves to be a challenge!
It’s not 100% done yet (will it ever be for my nesting self? probably not) but here is our pink, white, gray and gold nursery!
Custom name wall decal: Etsy
This seller was fantastic, and she gave me extra heart decals which I scattered throughout the nursery.
This is one of my favorite corners of the nursery. The shelf/wardrobe is an Ikea hack that I found on Pinterest.
Shelf: Lack Shelf
Metal Wardrobe bar: Bygel Rail
We spray painted the rail gold and then screwed it to the bottom of the shelf. Super easy and functional DIY since we don’t have any closet space for Siena!
On the shelf I included gifts from loved ones including a custom painting from a college friend, an “S” made by my mom (see my baby shower post for other DIYs), a photo book made by a good friend for my SD shower that includes photos of me while pregnant and signed by friends with well wishes. A box that includes notes from co-workers with advice and encouraging words to get me through those first few weeks, and other sweet gifts.
In my opinion, it’s so special to decorate a room with items that mean something to you versus just random decor that you think is pretty. The onesie you see hanging in front over the changing table is one of my absolute favorite onesies that I can’t wait to put her in! It was a gift that I registered for from etsy and customized to say “My guardian angel is a dachshund”. We had to put down my beloved doxie, Drama, in July and I know he is watching over little Siena.
The book holder is an Ikea hack that I also found on Pinterest. I painted it white and hung it lower to the ground to complete a lovely reading nook.
I love playing dress-up so naturally I love Halloween. The past couple of years I’ve done my best to create a couple’s costume idea that still allowed my DH to not feel like he has a costume on, while still being creative.
Here are the Halloween costume ideas from over the years:
Being 30 weeks pregnant I wanted to find an office friendly costume that was still relevant to my expectant mom status – this one was a hit!
Shirt – Etsy – I pinned a flower to the baby’s head since I’m having a girl
Black pants or skirt
Face makeup (white and black makeup and pink lipstick)
Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin
That same year I wanted a different costume to wear to the Halloween party we were going to but also wanted to choose something that made sense with a big belly. This one has to be my all time favorite so far!
Winne the Pooh
Dress in Mustard – you could also wear mustard colored leggings and a long mustard tee depending on the weather where you live.
Red tee shirt – I just used one I already had and tucked it under so it looked like a crop top.
Plastic Flower Pot – wrote HUNNY (with the backwards N) with a sharpie and used yellow paint along the top. Then filled with yellow tissue paper.
Pooh Ears – I borrowed these from a good friend but they have headbands out there or you could try to make your own!
For a finishing touch I used brown/gold makeup and painted my nose black.
Yellow Polo Shirt
Ideally red mary jane shoes would have been perfect but I told my husband he was fine in any sneakers he wanted to wear.
A finishing touch would have been a red balloon but we didn’t have time to pick up.
Lumberjack and Tree
My husband already had a pretty solid beard and wasn’t a fan of an elaborate costume so this was a great masculine angle that still allowed me to be crafty!
red and black flannel shirt
Beard (real is preferred!)
Hunter green tee
I glued leaves all over the tee with hot glue, then took a couple of stems and stuck them in my boots (no glue required). For the headband I took wire and twisted it around the leaves, then glued some leaves to bobby pins and pinned them into my hair as well for extra effect.
Birthday Boy and Pinata
This was a year that we didn’t have any set Halloween plans but I had the urge to be crafty regardless (of course) so I came up with a couples costume that literally required my husband to wear normal clothes with the addition of 2 simple props! We ended up going over a friends house for a casual Halloween get together.
Long camisole (long enough to be a dress)
2 party hats
First I cut the streamers into pieces all about the same length. Then hot glued the streamers on, starting at the bottom and working my way up. It’s really important to put some cardboard inside the dress before gluing on the streamers to stretch it out – otherwise they will tear when you put it on. If you can be super careful with the hot glue gun then you can glue them on while you wear the dress (this is what I ended up doing!). But again – be really careful not to burn yourself!
Then I glued smaller strips all around the party hats – and there you have it, a pinata!
Deviled Egg (not pictured)
This is one of the easiest office-friendly costumes that costs almost nothing. Cut an oval out of yellow felt. Then add glue to it in a balanced pattern and sprinkle red glitter on the glue while still wet. Once dry either glue the felt to the shirt or safety pin it if you want to be able to wear the shirt again. Then buy a cheap pair of devil ears and pitch fork and voila – you are a deviled egg!
Hope that helped spark some creativity- would love to hear your ideas in the comments!
My family threw us a baby shower at their home in Virginia over Labor Day weekend and it was fantastic! Loved helping my mom with all the last minute details. It was so much fun and it was a big success.
Displayed pom poms, letter S and onesies on a clothesline on the fireplace mantel.
Chalkboard sign. I highly advise using chalk markers instead of the huge sidewalk chalk that we did. It was so hard to write with! I tried my best though
Instead of a guest book we opted to ask guests to sign a onesie with fabric markers. We welcomed them with a framed most recent photo of Siena. You can also see behind the onesie the favors my mom made for guests to take home. They are glass votives with pink polka dots and tulle glued around so they look like ballerinas.
We had a station set up that allowed guests to decorate a custom onesie, bib or burp cloth for Siena. Of course I couldn’t resist my favorite The Office quote.
Being 100% Italian with family living in Italy, I’ve been fortunate to have been able to visit Florence many times in my life. This trip was extra special because it was our honeymoon and I also was able to visit with family as well.
We stayed in a great 2 bedroom 2 bathroom Airbnb right across the street from Mercato Centrale and a short walk from the main train station. I highly recommend this location as it was a short walk from all the great sights in Florence.
Here is a list of my top 10 reasons to visit Florence.
It’s the perfect home base in the Tuscany region
Great and easy to use Train system connecting other cities/towns
It’s Piazzas (plazas) are beautiful and plentiful
You can enjoy a beer or glass of wine anywhere
To experience the “other side” of the Arno
The Markets (San Lorenzo Market (Leather) and Mercato Centrale (Cheese, Meats, Olive Oil, Etc)
Panoramic views are everywhere and very accessible
The history, art and architecture is unique and incredible
It’s a large city but without the hustle and bustle
Arriving in Cinque Terre was like stepping into the most beautiful dream. Translates to “Five Towns”, each of these towns has something unique and wonderful to offer. Out of all the places we went to in Europe on our honeymoon, Cinque Terre was hands down my favorite.
We took the train from Pisa into La Spezia and then a commuter train into Riomaggiore, the southernmost town of the 5. Riomaggiore is one large hill so if you have very heavy luggage this isn’t the ideal place to stay. Fortunately since I packed light, this wasn’t an issue for us. Many people choose to see all 5 towns in one day — as a day trip. This is completely feasible as we traveled to all five in one day. However if you want to relax and really take in the culture I recommend giving yourself at least 2 days. We stayed 3.5 days total and it was perfect.
I highly recommend the B&B we stayed at —Cinqueterre Residence. We had a private patio with a view of the town and ocean and surrounded by lemon trees separating you from the guests next door. Breakfast was included (croissants, bread, fruit, meats and cheese, juice and coffee) in the price. Run by a family, the hosts were kind and accommodating.
Here is a little bit about each of the 5 towns.
On a very steep incline with one main road, this town seemed to have the least amounts of tourists (besides Corniglia). Climb to the top of the town for amazing views. Make sure you go to Bar e Vini a Pie de Ma for drinks and to watch the sunset. Seats are first come first serve and they don’t serve meals so plan to come here for a pre-dinner drink. After all Italians don’t eat dinner until 8pm or later. This was the town we stayed in (see above for details) and we loved it.
This is the largest of the 5 towns. Monterosso has a huge stretch of water and a sandy beach to relax on. Don’t forget to check out the il Gigante statue at the northernmost end of the beach. There are more tourists here but that means it’s the best place for souvenirs (unfortunately we left our full bag of souvenirs under our table during lunch in Vernazza #FAIL). If you’re going to other cities in Italy, then I highly recommend getting souvenirs here because you’ll find more unique items that you can’t find in the big cities.
Many call this the most aesthetically beautiful town and I agree – it’s quite gorgeous. It is the one of the towns you most often see on post cards of Cinque Terre. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. The best view of Vernazza is on the hike from Monterosso. I love hiking and this was my favorite hike I’ve ever done. The hubby said the same. We were in awe at how beautiful everything was.
We ate outside at a pizza place right by the marina – yummy food (arguably the best pizza we had in Italy) and a great view! The father/daughter we were sitting next to us heard us speak English and struck up a conversation – turns out they are from Virginia (we’re from Maryland). The daughter goes to JMU (James Madison University) and is currently studying abroad in Firenze (Florence). Such a small world!
This was the least crowded town and we weren’t surprised once we heard you have to climb up 365 steps to reach it. Fortunately a bus arrived right after we got off the train and we took that to the top. I believe its 2.5 Euros per person to ride to the top but we used our Cinque Terre Card that we purchased earlier that morning. This town definitely had the best ocean views – breathtaking. There is not much to see in the town otherwise, we spent about 20 minutes there and then climbed down over 300 steps back to the train station to our next destination.
This town has my heart. Could have admired this charming postcard view all day. We spotted a cliffside restaurant and stopped for a drink and formaggio (cheese) board and admired the bella vista. Never wanted to leave.
If I had to choose a favorite town…I’m not sure that I could! Vernazza and Manarola were the most beautiful, I loved the beaches of Monterosso, the culture of Riomaggiore and the quaint old town feel of Corniglia.
Don’t forget to try and buy a bottle of limoncello! Cinque Terre is the best place in Italy to buy this. Cheers!
“I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I love Paris, why oh, why do I love Paris?
Because my love is near
I love Paris in the spring time…”
We spent 3.5 days (April 8-11) in Paris and I couldn’t be more in love with this city. We stayed in a great airbnb in the La Marais area, a historic district in the 3rd arrondissement. The tiny studio is just that — tiny, but oh so charming with it’s 6th floor view and large red french door entryway to the building. On the corner of our street is our favorite morning cafe, Le Voltigeur (45 Rue des Francs Bourqeois) that does some creative cappuccino art.
The weather fortunately was great – a little chilly at night requiring us to wear warmer jackets but we only had 1 day of rain. From all the research I did prior to, it rains VERY often in the spring in Paris. We had two days that we could have worn a dress and flip flops and been comfortable!
Being from the Washington D.C. area, I am a sucker for the cherry blossoms. These gorgeous blooms only last up to 14 days and usually peak in March or April – depending on the winter weather that preceded. I was crossing my fingers that the cherry blossoms would be in full bloom while we were there but alas we only found a handful of them (picnic-ed near the one pictured above of course!).
We may not have been surrounded by cherry blossoms but there were flowers galore. Our favorite place to enjoy flowers were at Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens). I highly recommend picking up some french bread, cheese and meats and taking them here to have a picnic and relax and enjoy. Free admission into the park, this is truly a Parisian gem!
Another place to catch floral blooms is Sacre Coer. This roman catholic church means Sacred Heart when translated. Gorgeous views of Paris, flowers everywhere, a carousel and LOTS of steps! It’s free to go inside the church and I recommend you check it out. Gorgeous interior. I don’t have any photos since they weren’t allowed – another reason to check it out for yourself.
Last but certainly not least, flowers are bountiful at the gorgeous flower shops that frequent Paris’ street corners.
I imagine that Paris is beautiful no matter what time of year you go but there is something about the fresh crisp air and fresh floral blooms of springtime in Paris that make it all the more magical.
As soon as we officially booked our 3 week European honeymoon I began my research on everything and anything, including how to pack. Every website urged me not to take too many suitcases as wheeling everything around on cobblestone roads is frustrating is screams ‘tourist’. I decided I was going to challenge myself and pack one medium sized checked luggage for both myself and my husband.
Most important takeaways:
– Plan to do laundry at least once. I packed enough to get us both through 9 days before doing laundry. You’d be surprised how many different ways you can style the same shirt.
– ROLL like there’s no tomorrow. Fold your clothes then roll them tightly together. Not only does this save space in your suitcase but it helps to keep clothes from getting wrinkled. Which leads me to my next tip…
– Packing cubes will be your new best friend. I kept reading about packing cubes but I didn’t really understand the benefits of them until I packed for this trip. They really do save space and make it easier to keep things together. Roll your clothes tightly then organize them into the packing cubes. Here are the ones I bought from Amazon.
– Have a good idea of the weather at your destination. Heading to Paris and Italy, I knew we would be encountering a range of temperatures so I made sure to bring things that could be easily layered for extra warmth. If the weather calls for rain, rain boots or a leather jacket would be lifesavers. I didn’t bring either and I have a feeling that I’ll regret it.
Post Trip Update: We lucked out and only experienced 3 days of rain the entire 3 weeks. I didn’t regret not bringing rain boots and I actually ended up buying a leather jacket at the San Lorenzo Leather Market in Florence. Win-win!
I’m writing this post from the plane on the way to Paris so I’ll be sure to update this post after our trip with any additional tips and tricks for packing and if I have any regrets.
Post Trip Update: We have returned from our trip and I’m happy to report that packing was successful! During our trip we did two loads of laundry and wore every item that we packed. We bought a good amount of souvenirs (one of them being a leather tote bag from the infamous San Lorenzo Leather Market in Florence) and were able to fit them all and still come back with only one checked luggage under 50 lbs. Success!
In 2011 I (Melissa Puleo Sidebottom) started a blog called Chessmen and Coffee as an outlet to share my interests, thoughts, DIY projects and photos with whomever was interested in reading. Unfortunately, it was hacked and my backup file was corrupted so I wasn’t able to restore the site.
Fortunately, I’ve decided to start from scratch and revive the blog again. On that note, let me explain the reasoning behind the blog name.
Have you ever tried Chessmen cookies by Pepperidge Farm? No? Do yourself a favor and pick some up next time you’re at the grocery store. They are butter cookies that taste heavenly, especially dipped in coffee. I come from a long line of dunkers, being Italian – that shouldn’t be surprising. I’ve been dipping bread in sauce and dunking cookies (particularly Galletti, the Italian version of Chessmen) in coffee since I could eat solids. Ok, maybe that’s exaggerating, but you get my drift.
The guilty pleasure of indulging in chessmen cookies dipped in coffee every now and again inspired me to name this blog. I love sharing things, helpful tips that make life easier or more enjoyable and interesting and memorable experiences.