First birthday gift ideas

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Hard as it is for me to believe, I am about to have a one year-old. My kid's first birthday is only a couple of weeks away. And so, of course, I'm thinking about presents, and not just presents for my specific kid, but what make good gifts for this age group. I clearly remember all the times, pre-kid, when I would go shopping for a gift for a friend's child or a family member and look at all the possibilities and feel distinctly overwhelmed. So, I decided a blog post about first birthday gift ideas was in order.

And, lucky for me, I have an expert on hand to consult! My friend E., who gave me all that great advice about what I needed to have on hand for a new baby? She's back and better than ever, this time with advice about the best and most useful toys for those between one and two (her boys just turned two last month). And, as before, she's comprehensive, insightful, and all-around brilliant.

1. Musical instruments, especially percussion
I know a lot of people are shaking their heads already, and I won't pretend I'm not one of them. Just what my already loud kid needs, a drum! But the truth is that toddlers bang on things, and they might as well be getting early exposure to instruments in the process right? There are a million and one options in this category, but here are a few I like (click the picture to go to Polyvore for information on each item):

First Birthday #1: Instruments

2. Music to listen to
I'm not at all well-versed in this category, but I have gathered a few recommendations:

First Birthday #2: Music

3 Art stuff
I'm super excited about this category. There are lots of art supplies for which 1-2 is just too young, but some are safe for the younger set, as long as you don't mind a mess! Some ideas:

First Birthday #3: Art Supplies

4. Vehicles or stuff with wheels
Another category I am excited about. I don't know if it's my internal gender stereotyping coming out or what, but I am super drawn to vehicle-type toys for E. And there are so many great options!

First Birthday #4: AThings with Wheels

5. A big dishtub or something, for "washing" toys/dishes, and practicing pouring
This is one I never would have thought of, and I don't think it necessarily requires suggestions. My plan is a dish pan or two from the dollar store, or something re-purposed from around the house.

6. Tub toys, like boats
We're very into this category lately at my house, since the bath is E.'s favorite thing. We actually have a couple of these toys:

First Birthday #5: Bath Toys

7. A couple of really cool alphabet, colors, seasons/weather, vehicle, family, and parts-of-the-body books - toward the end of year one, books about feelings are good, too.
This is category in which I can see certain of E.'s grandparents going a bit nuts! And honestly, I'm tempted myself. There are amazing books available for small children these days. These are just a few:

First Birthday #7: Books

8. A couple of good stuffed animals/dolls.
A doll is something I never really thought about getting for E.--in truth, I'm a little bit creeped out by them--but he loves the ones in day care, so it's definitely on my list. None of the options I've seen thrill me overly much, but here are a few ideas:

First Birthday #8: Dolls

9. A small stepstool, for looking out of windows or reaching things
We actually have one of these that was Mark's when he was a kid, which I love. It has his name on it and everything. That said, if you were on the lookout for one, these are some I'd consider:

First Birthday #9: Stools

10. Cards with pictures on them (not necessarily flash cards) - photos or drawings of people or animals. (These get destroyed, so don't get too attached to them or spend too much money on them.)
Isn't this a crazy good idea? This is the kind of thing I never would have thought of, but I can totally see the appeal. And the possibilities are so endless. Another smart thing my friend does is puts flashcards in those pocket photo albums, creating sort of flip-books for her kids, who love them.

Here are a few ideas:

First Birthday #10: Cards

11. Jars and bottles
Here's one I wouldn't have believed had I not seen it with my own eyes--babies/toddlers LOVE jars, bottles, tubs, and tubes! And you can just give them a cleaned out version from whatever you've got--water, jam, peanut butter, shaving cream...the sky's the limit! You can also fill a bottle with glitter, water, food coloring, small toys, or a world of other things for sensory play--there are a couple of these in E's day care and he loves them. Just make sure the cap it on tightly!

12. Scarves and hats
Dress up clothes! I swear, the joy of dress up clothes was one of my Top 10 reasons for having a baby. I am so very, very excited about them. But again, there's no need to spend a ton of cash here, or even buy anything--the kid will be just as thrilled with old stuff you've got around, or thrift store stuff. I cannot wait for E. to get interested in this type of thing.

13. Kitchen stuff (doesn't have to be toy-kitchen stuff - Tupperware containers, silicone spatulas, old pots and pans, empty spice containers)
Once again, your cast-offs are probably going to be the best of these toys. That said, who can resist play food and dishes? Some of my favorites:

First Birthday #13: Play Food/Dishes

14. Big balls and little balls/bean bags for throwing
Over the past few weeks, balls have become HUGE at my house. E. can even say "ball" now. And there are so many varieties of balls to choose from!

First Birthday #14: Balls

15. Walker or push toy
This is another category that is growing in popularity at my house, and again, so many great options available! We have the one I show here with the blocks in it, and it is much loved.

First Birthday #15: Walkers/Push Toys

16. Blocks
Once again, a popular choice at my house, and something of which there are endless variations. Also, fun for adults! Some I like (several of which we have):

First Birthday #16: Blocks

Wow! Tell me that wasn't helpful!? I'm so excited to have this list to refer to, both for my kid and for future gift-giving. Thank you so much, E!

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Dress You Up: Sarah

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20130528_173834_zps4822da29.jpg

I'm excited to be back in the Dress You Up saddle this week, featuring my friend Sarah (that's her, above, with her darling little girl). This is what she has to say:

I'm an 18, short and stuck between regular sizing and petites. I'm at home, and would like to break out of my jeans, v-neck plain tshirt, hoodie uniform. However, big jewellry, scarves etc are a bad idea with little kids, paint and glue.

I also live in Canada wear it is cold 9 months of the year and I don't find fitted blazers warm enough.

In the summer I need a sun hat of some kind, that doesn't look awful, but protects my very fair skin.

I love to dress in blues, greens, pinks and purples. I hate the colour orange and pretty much refuse to wear it.

After I asked her a few more questions, I also learned that Sarah needs nursing-access, doesn't mind skirts, needs flat shoes that are available in wide, and has a persistent issue with getting a good pants fit on her apple-shape. Her reliance on hoodies is partially for warmth and partially for pockets--the hood isn't required. Finally, Sarah is in the early stages of her third pregnancy, so clothes that will help her transition into and back out of her maternity wardrobe would be helpful.

My first thought when someone tells me they have a "uniform" is that there's a reason for that--they've found something that suits their needs. It may not be the most flattering or attractive option available, but I think the basic bones are often a good place to start. In Sarah's case, she typically wears jeans, a v-neck t-shirt, a hoodie, and flat shoes. Given that she spends all day running after small kids, in a cool climate, those choices make a lot of sense, and I don't see why she should stray too far from them. That said, I think there is a room to make huge improvements while making fairly small structural changes. So, I've created some alternate jeans-tee-hoodie ideas:

Nothing wrong with jeans & a t-shirt (Twink #1)

This outfit contains all the pieces Sarah is currently wearing--jeans, a tee-shirt, a warmer layer with pockets, and flat shoes. But the pieces are selected intentionally, rather than haphazardly. The jeans are Slim Boyfriend Jeans from Old Navy. I think these might work for Sarah for a couple of reasons--they boyfriend cut is often good for an apple shape, because it's cut larger in the waist and smaller in the seat/legs. These are available in a ton of sizes, up to size 30 online. They do have a 32" inseam, which will likely be too long for Sarah, but they're intended to be cuffed, so they should be easily wearable without hemming. The t-shirt is also Old Navy, the Watercolor-Graphic V-Neck Tee, and I recommend it because it's the same style Sarah is wearing now, but the pretty watercolor graphic adds visual interest. I'd recommend layering over a cami or tank, particularly if the V is deep, just for an added little pop of color/pattern. I've also added color/pattern pops with the green and pink patterned sneakers--Keds Celeb Geo and my hands-down favorite part of this outfit--and the colorblocked pink canvas bag (Nine West Sasha). Finally, I'm giving Sarah another versatile option to consider instead of a hoodie--a light, fitted jacket. This one is the Kory Jacket from Woolrich. It meets Sarah's need for warmth and pockets, but it won't add bulk and the cut in just above the waist will be really flattering. Finally, the only jewelry is a watch in a fun color--combines another pop of color interest with an accessory that actually has a function!

More not-quite-jeans-and-a-hoodie (Sarah #2)

Again, same basic ideas, but a more put together look overall. This time, I replaced the jeans completely with Calvin Klein Cotton Roll-Tab Cargo Pants. Because Sarah is petite, I'd recommend she not roll these to capri length, but leave them full length, but either way would work. The roll over waist should be great to transition into pregnancy, too. Her t-shirt is replaced by another jersey top, this one with a drawstring empire waist and striped pattern (from Old Navy). I think the cut would be great for someone with Sarah's build, and again, it would transition easily into early pregnancy. Plus, it's going to feel just like a t-shirt, but look a bit more polished. The hoodie is replaced by an open-front jersey cardigan, complete with requisite pockets--I think these would be a great option for Sarah, as they're easy to throw on, pull off, and stuff in your bag as needed. And speaking of the bag, I love this bag so much. It's from the Celia Birthwell line at Uniqlo and I want one. It's big and canvas and washable, so I'm thinking it would be great to go on errands, to the park, to the library, etc. I love the pattern mix between the striped shirt and the floral bag. The shoes are chosen for practicality, too--easy slip-ons--but I've gone with a moccasin rather than a sneaker here just to make the outfit appear a little tiny bit less "athletic-inspired." For jewelry, I've gone with a turquoise pendant (Lucky), but any other fairly simple accessory would work just as nicely.

Another option for a hoodie (Twink #6)

My next option doesn't meet Sarah's need for a pocketed top, and I am sorry about that, but I loved it too much not to include it anyway. This mixed floral print cardigan (Old Navy) is so darn cute! I paired it with a plain colored tank with an embellished neckline (no need for a necklace) from Dex and super versatile boot cut jeans (Old Navy). Again, I couldn't resist a little pattern mixing, with striped flat espadrilles (Old Navy) and an on-trend wrap bracelet (Target). This outfit might be a little fussy for Sarah's day-to-day at home, but I think it would be perfect for a step up from that--training, events, etc.

Dressier Jeans (Twink #4)

This jeans option is also a bit dressier, but I think it would still fit into Sarah's life. The jeans are a darker version of the bootcut ones from Old Navy mentioned above, which automatically makes them look a little bit more "formal." The fit and flare tan top, from Old Navy, is one I love for Sarah--I think the seaming would be super flattering on her and I love the slightly graphic pattern and the pops of pink. To meet Sarah's need for a warmer layer, I've paired it with a boyfriend style cardigan, complete with pockets, in a similar shade of pink (Target). I think Sarah would really like this style of cardigan, as it would provide her with a cozy over layer, but still allow her to look a little more polished than she would in a hoodie. I finished this look off with super-femme details, just to give it a little bit of a princess feel. The enamel collar necklace is almost-but-not-quite a statement necklace, and I think it would provide a nice contrast with the top--it's from Pink Mascara. The earrings, however, are almost Victorian rhinestone flowers, from Wet Seal--no need for things to get too graphic and modern! Finally, I LOVE the slingback shoes, which both look "dressed up" and comfortable/easy to wear. They are from Maurice's.

I know Sarah's climate is a cold one, but I can't resist a couple of summer looks. I'm really into the idea of shorts right now, for anybody who cares to wear them, and I think Sarah should consider a shorts option to liven up her summer wardrobe.

Summer casual chic (Twink #3)

These Forever 21 "Destroyed Bermuda Shorts" are so much fun. They're a nice long length, with the option for more or less cuffing as needed, and have a reasonably high waist. I'd suggest buying them on the big side, maybe 1-2 sizes bigger than usual, for a super casual and slouchy look. I've paired them with another thing I think Sarah should consider--a peasant blouse as a cool, comfortable alternative to a t-shirt. This one is from Old Navy, and I think the color, called "Pollywog" would be gorgeous on Sarah. The shoes I'm suggesting here are the ubiquitous Toms--they don't work for me, but I'm told they're really great for people with wider, flat feet, and they certainly look chic with a casual summer outfit like this one. The real winners here, though, are the hat and the bag. The hat is an alternative to the floppy summer hat--a natural straw cowboy hat from Dorothy Perkins. I love cowboy hats with non-cowboy ensembles so very very much. And the colorful straw bag, from Old Navy, just tops the super summery vibe off so nicely.

Another nice alternative is a skirt:

Nothing wrong with a hoodie (Twink #10)

This skirt is a basic, above-the-knee khaki number from Old Navy--super versatile. I've paired it with another t-shirt alternative, a casual, patterned smocked blouse from Old Navy (which I think would transition in and out of pregnancy really easily, too). I'm also adding an optional cover layer for Sarah, since she gets cold, and what is it? A hoodie! I maintain that there is nothing wrong with a properly fitting hoodie, and this light-weight, fitted version from Target, in this great pink color, would work perfectly for Sarah. For shoes and jewelry, I gave a subtle little nod to the current trend towards nautical themes, using navy slip ons by Keds, basic silver hoop earrings, and a delicate silver anchor necklace by Go Jane. The big leopard print bag, from Mango, is another nod at trend, while still being useful for a busy mom and day care provider like Sarah who has lots of stuff to carry around.

Another basic Sarah may want to consider replacing her hoodies with is a jean jacket. They are so versatile and on-trend. I particularly like them with dresses, and came up with a couple of nursing-friendly jean jacket+dress ideas for Sarah:

Another dress possibility (Twink #8)

I love this for it's versatility. The jersey dress, once again from Old Navy, has a great basic pattern and a super flattering, belly-reducing cut, emphasizing the narrow part of the body above the natural waist. It should be easy to pull on, wash and dry, and move around in. It's paired with a basic, dark denim jacket (Target). For maximum versatility, the sandal (Miss Selfridge Easy Tan Summer Sandal) and the bag (Forever 21 Canvas Saddle Bag) are both really neutral, but I've added a touch of whimsy with this adorable Alice in Wonderland Charm Bracelet, from the Disney Store. I love charm bracelets--they're just playful enough while still dressing like a grown-up.

Consider a maxi (Twink #2)

I know, I know, there are adages against petite women wearing maxi dresses. I think they're crap. There is no reason a petite woman can't wear a long dress, especially one that is one solid color, like this pretty purple example (Old Navy). The dress isn't a petite, but I noted a 5'1" commenter saying it was the right length for her, so I think it would be fine for Sarah. I like maxis because they are cool and comfortable, and you can do the things you do in jeans in them with very few issues--including playing on the floor with kids. Maxi dresses are also great summer pregnancy wear. Finally, it's a natural pairing with the denim jacket (same one as above)--casual and summery and chic. I finished off with really simple, neutral accessories: a cloche style straw sun hat (Old Navy), a saddlebag style purse (Target), and flat metallic sandals (Asos). It stays on-trend and fun with a little armload of bangles--the ones I chose are from Wet Seal, but any would work.

So what about remixes? I thought of a few off the top of my head. For day-to-day:

Sarah Remix 1

Sarah Remix 2

Sarah Remix 4

Or a little dressier:

Sarah Remix 3

Oh, that was fun! Thank you so much, Sarah, for participating. I hope some of these ideas are helpful! Now, who's next? Send me an email if you want to be on the list!

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Makeup Splurges & Saves

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I recently replaced almost all of my makeup, and I've slowly been adding new things. This time around, I am really trying to give economical drugstore products a fair shot, and I've been pleasantly surprised by a few of them I've tried. Right now, these are my top recommendations for "saves":

Makeup Saves

1. Maybelline SuperStay 12HR Lip Stain, ~$6: I have this Maybelline stain in the "Cool Coral" shade, and I've been really impressed with the staying power. No, of course it doesn't actually stay on for 12 hours as promised, but it gets me through coffee drinking until lunchtime, which is more than any other product I've tried. It's a little bit drying, but not too terrible, and easy enough to pair with a gloss. I also really like the slightly spongy wand applicator, as it makes it easy to apply without getting it all over (and thus staining my face). I would definitely put this stuff up against higher priced counterparts like The Balm's Stainiac ($17) and Benefit's BeneTint ($30).

2. Physicians Formula Eyebrightener Multi-Colored Eyelighter, ~$8: I bought this multi-shade eye brightener by Physician's Formula in "Natural Eyelight" on a complete lark, because it was on sale and I had a good coupon that left it under $2, and I was desperate to find something to make me look a bit more awake. And I love it. It doesn't have great staying power, but layered over eye primer it does fine, and the tones work perfectly, making me look not like I am wearing a bunch of shadow, but just like I have slept recently. I've been wearing this a couple of times a week (when I want a less-is-more look) for the last month or so and I am really happy with it.

3. Revlon Age Defying with DNA Advantage Cream Makeup SPF 20, ~$12: I bought this makeup completely by mistake. After Allie recommended Maybelline Instant Age Rewind "The Lifter" at Wardrobe Oxygen, I wanted to try that, but I misremembered her recommendation and bough this similar-looking Revlon product instead. And I really like it! It is not the perfect foundation--I am still on the lookout for that magical product that is full-coverage, but lightweight, doesn't make me look shiny or dry, and doesn't clog my pores or come off on my phone--but it's every bit as good as a lot of the spendier options I've tried, and I prefer it over several of them. I try to use something a bit lighter with a bit more sunscreen on most days this time of year, but when my skin really looks like it could use some help, I reach for this product. I got the "Bare Buff" and it's a good match for my very-slightly-tanned face.

4. Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Fast Dry Nail Color, ~$4: I've been a huge fan of Sally Hansen Insta-Dri polish for ages, and I keep coming back to it after I try other things. It goes on smooth, dries fast, lasts well, comes in tons of colors, and is cheap! What more could you possibly want? I've been experimenting lately with higher-end polishes (mostly Julep), and they're also nice, but I still think I like this stuff better. I have it in at least a dozen shades.

5. NYC New York Color Applelicious Glossy Lip Balm, ~$3: I got a tube of this stuff in the "Big Apple Red" color in my Spring FeverVoxBox from Influenster, and I've been amazed at how much I like it. The color is great, subtle, but nice, and it feels so nice on--buttery and soft and moisturizing. The staying power isn't great, but I've yet to find a lip butter/tinted balm that does have good staying power, at any price point. This stuff is absolutely worth the less than $3 price tag, and I'll probably grab a few in other shades the next time I see them and stash them in my car, desk, etc. for touch-ups.

6. Revlon Colorburst Lip Butter,~$7: Revlon Colorburst is my other favorite tinted balm, and it's not new--I think I might have posted about it here before, and I know other bloggers, including Allie, have written about how great it is. I've got it in three or four shades--Strawberry Shortcake and Sweet Tart are among them, I'm sure, but I can't think of what else--and I reach for them often. Again, the staying power isn't great, but the lip feel is wonderful and they are just the right amount of color for most days.

As much as I'm enjoying bargain makeup, though, there are some things I still think are worth shelling out for. These are the current winners:

Makeup Splurges

1. Sue Devitt Eye Intensifier Pencil, $22: I'm almost certain I've sung the praises of the Sue DeVitt Eye Intensifier pencil before, but I really can't say enough good things about these. I love them so very much. Easy application, great pigmentation, wonderful staying power...they're just my very favorite. I heard a nasty rumor that they weren't being made any more, so I'm seriously considering stocking up. As of right now, I have four colors: Bangalore, Golden Triangle, Surat, and Zaire. The first three are in regular rotation, the last requires some sort of special occasion for me to bust it out.

2. Urban Decay Naked2 Eye Shadow Palette, $50: I was very skeptical of the Urban Decay Naked and Naked2 palettes--$50 for eye shadow?--but I decided to splurge on this one with a Sephora gift card that I needed to spend, and I'm glad I did. Every single shade in this palette is useful, though I am particularly fond of the Foxy (cream bisque with matte finish), Booty Call (shimmering cork), and Suspect (pale golden beige with shimmering finish). And layered over primer, they last all day, looking as if they were just applied. I'm also really glad I chose this palette over the original Naked palette, as I'm pretty sure the last three shades on that one wouldn't have worked for me. I do think, however, that my needs may have been just as well served by the smaller and cheaper Naked Basics palette, as it includes my beloved Foxy and is all matte, and I am really preferred matte eyeshadow lately. I may splurge on that one in the future (it's $27 and includes six shades).

3. Clinique Lash Power Mascara Long-Wearing Formula, $16: I'm a bit of a picky picky princess when it comes to mascara. It has to be dark black, long-wearing, and have a thin, sparse brush. It can't dry my eyes out. It can't clump. It can't flake. And I am extremely fickle. On my last Sephora expedition, a helpful associate recommended this long-wearing formula with a sparse brush by Clinique, and I've been pretty happy with it. I wouldn't say it's five star, but it's a solid four. It doens't flake much and doesn't end up all over my face by the end of the day, and I feel in control when I'm applying it, so those are definite pluses. I would like a bit more lengthening power, but you can't win 'em all.

4. Stila Smudge Crayon Waterproof Eye Primer + Shadow + Liner, $22: The Stile Smudge Crayon is another long-time favorite. Just like the Sue DeVitt product, it is easy application and great staying power that really put this one over the top. Right now, I have it in Kitten and Smoke, and wear both regularly, though the Kitten is maybe a bit light and frosty for my taste. I'd like to try the Antique.

5. bareMinerals READY™ Touch Up Veil Broad Spectrum SPF 15, $22: This is another product for which I have to thank the helpful Sephora associate. I wanted something to cut down on the shine on my skin without making its way into my nice new wrinkles and making me look dried up, and this mineral powder does the job splendidly. I have it in "Translucent," and it really is colorless. It's gives just enough of a matte finish to cut shine, but doesn't make me look powdery. And it has an extra SPF 15, which I like. This is a product I definitely plan to keep using, and I use it almost every day.

6. Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion Tube, $20: You know how I keep talking about layering things over eye primer? Well, this is the eye primer. There are lots of eye primers, and this one is the best, by almost anybody's assessment. I have the original, which is matte and colorless, and that works perfectly for me, but it's available in several shades now, as well, including gold, matte tawny, and shimmering champagne. To my mind, those would lose you a lot of versatility, but I could see how they'd be useful if you were a dedicated user of one or two shades of shadow--layering the color would probably make the staying power even better. This is definitely a product for which I haven't found any substitute that comes even close.

So there you have it, six cheaper ideas, six spendier ones. What are you wearing lately? Any recommendations?

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