Dream Big & Buy The Shoes: 2017

December 27, 2017

2017 Best Of Dream Big and Buy the Shoes

While reading my girl Allison's post and smiling through it I decided to use her idea and do a Best Of Dream Big and Buy the Shoes for 2017 based on analytics. I do love sharing my favorites, but this time it's all about the numbers and YOU.
These are the top posts that you read and commented on in 2017 based on analytics. Let's review...

Number Five- Las Vegas Must List
This post was in my drafts for about a year before taking any action. I love Vegas so hard and it was a little tricky to narrow things down, but SO fun to write. Reading it makes me want to get on a plane and go again right now.

Number Four- Are We Too Sensitive?
It breaks my heart when something sad happens that in turn makes me write a post, but such is life. I'm thankful to have this outlet to turn to and share my thoughts- good or bad, happy or sad. It's also nice to know that when you're not alone when questioning the way you feel.

Number Three- My Favorite Perfumes
Beauty posts have definitely increased in 2017 on the blog, and I'm happy about that because it's something I love. When I'm stressed out and need to just let my mind wander one thing you can find me doing is browsing Sephora, Nordstrom and Ulta online. I could read reviews on products for hours and you will find that the camera roll on my phone is a lot of screenshots of products I want to try. 
I guess I'm a beauty junkie- and that includes perfume. While I'm all about having a signature scent- I do love different smells for different occasions. This was a really fun post to write this year, so I'm glad people enjoyed it!

Something I never thought this blog would be- a Mom blog, ha-ha. Our pregnancy announcement (let me pause in saying that- it cracks me up that this is a thing. Announcing to the Internet and world that you are growing a human) was a big hit on Instagram, Facebook, and the blog. We announced on Mother's Day which was really fun, and I still am obsessed with my husband's creativity on this idea and photograph skills.

Number One- Bella's Birth Story
Awwww- my girl! She was definitely our number one hit this year, and I couldn't be happier about that. I always thought it would be hard having more than one child, and splitting that love. It's one thing I was definitely afraid of if we would have another boy, even though Ethan is technically my stepson. Your love just grows- and almost every day I question how did I get so lucky. 
My pregnancy wasn't easy, and maybe I can quit talking about it in 2018 ;) but it really helped me cope to write during it all. Writing has always been a great escape for me, and the best way for me to express my feelings. 
Her birth story is long- so I feel that I should personally give all of you that read it some sort of award.

Runner Up- Cupcake Or Stud Muffin- Baby Lawrence Gender Reveal
I'm not ashamed to admit that I had this party idea saved on a secret Pinterest board for a few years, so when it came time to celebrate it was extra fun! The reveal was epic and wouldn't be us without something funny happening...thanks Ethan. Big brother will always keep us laughing :) I can't wait to show Bella this when she's old enough to understand.

My Favorites- I can't let the year end without mentioning a few of my favorite posts from 2017.
Bella's Nursery- I had talked so long about this space, so when it came time to finally share it of course I was over the moon. Pink, gold and everything fit for our baby girl- I think you can feel my excitement throughout the room tour.

The Numbers Game- I love, love, love when I see a post going around blogland and everyone starts to join in. This was the case with the numbers game and it was a fun way to share more about me...and in turn get to know more about you- my friends!

I hope that you all have a wonderful rest of the year and stay safe ringing in 2018. I am so very thankful to all of you who support me, show up to read, comment and connect and much much more! You are all so special to me and I love that Dream Big and Buy the Shoes has become such a big part of my life and continuously puts a smile on my face- and that is because of all of you. Happy New Year friends!

December 20, 2017

Oreo Truffles

Last week one of my best friends came to visit from Florida and suggested we make something while she was here. Nothing says getting in the Christmas spirit like spending time in the kitchen.

She suggested we make Oreo Truffles and I was instantly game...because, one- Oreo's and two- I had never made them or tried them before. They were easy to make and I enjoyed the time in between the steps because it made our time to catch up even easier when we weren't focused on the task at hand ;) 

You will need:
1 package / 24 Oreo cookies- finely crushed
1 8 oz. package softened cream cheese
1 package white chocolate candy melts- melted
sprinkles for decoration

To make:
line a baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside
blend Oreo cookies to a fine crumb in a blender or food processor
add the cream cheese until well combined
shape in to 1 inch balls & place on to parchment paper
freeze for 30 minutes
melt white chocolate according to package
dip the balls in to chocolate, place on the baking sheet & immediately top with sprinkles
refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow chocolate to set
keep refrigerated before serving & store chilled for up to 5 days

I'm telling you what- these are dangerously good. The combination of the Oreo's and cream cheese and melted white chocolate...delicious! This is a nice option to take to your holiday festivities that isn't the normal appetizer or traditional Christmas cookie. 
I do recommend making them to take somewhere, because if left in your house you may be eating them for breakfast the week of Christmas...thanks Elisa :) I should have sent some back in her suitcase so I don't gain 5 extra pounds this week!

I'm a little behind on responding to comments and reading and hope I get caught up before Christmas! Since I won't be back here to post before then- I hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend with the ones you love. I am so very thankful for each and every one of you that reads, comments and supports Dream Big and Buy the Shoes and you're one of my greatest gifts each and every year.
Have a Merry Christmas friends, xo!

December 18, 2017

Bella's Newborn Pictures

I'm so excited to share baby Bella's newborn pictures with you today. I had so many ideas in mind, but one thing you quickly learn with pregnancy and being a Mom is that everything doesn't always go as planned.
I wanted to do Bella's pictures soon after she got home from NICU so that she was still in that tiny newborn size....well, weeks later and she still is. Our schedules with the photographer and Chuck's work just weren't lining up for the whole family to get done the first time. So, we opted to do pictures of Bella and then have family Christmas pictures taken a separate time where the guys could get individual pictures with Bella and some of us together too.
Our photographer asked me that morning if I wanted to get some with Bella, and I wasn't feeling totally ready to do that, but decided I would. I was on the fence about maternity pictures and Chuck had talked me in to getting them to document this special time. Since I was in the hospital that didn't happen, so I took advantage of some Mama and Bella time with pictures.
These pictures totally capture Bella's sweet laid back personality. She is a really chill baby most of the time, unless her reflux is bothering her...poor girl. Her eyes melt me and her expressions make me smile and laugh- I'm so thankful we have these pictures.
Snuggling with my sweet girl is now one of my most favorite things to do, and I think these pictures say it all. I adore being a Mom!

I had an outfit in mind for our family newborn pictures, before we changed our mind to do them for Christmas. When the day for pictures came for Bella and I, I opted to go with something I wear all the time...black. They say to wear light colors for newborn pictures, but I just wanted to be me and feel most comfortable..especially just a few weeks after giving birth. 

 I just love her little face and could eat up this stage of life forever. I saved my favorite for last..our little cupcake Bella full of sugar, spice and everything nice. We can't wait to tell her all about how much sweetness she's added to our lives. 

Thank you Aubrey Marvin Photography for capturing these pictures we will cherish forever.

December 15, 2017

The Best Hot Chocolate Recipes

One of the things that was on my Christmas To-Do List this year was to make some boozy hot chocolate, and I couldn't let you or myself down and not share some delicious recipes.
I mixed in some non-boozy ones because Christmas is a time to remember and after one too many cups of spiked cinnamon hot cocoa, you may not want to move off the couch to do anything else. I've done my due holiday diligence and tested each and every one of these- most have come from my own experimenting and some with outside inspiration, but they're all delicious. So let's dig on in and get to sipping something nice ;)

First- my recipe for homemade hot cocoa- this will make 5 cups.

You will need:
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup hot water
1/8 tsp salt
4 cups milk

To make:
Combine the cocoa, sugar, water, and salt in a medium saucepan.
Over medium heat, stir constantly until the mixture boils. Cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
Stir in the milk and heat, but do not boil.
Remove from the heat and stir well. Serve immediately.
Spiked Cinnamon Sugar Hot Cocoa
Add 1 part Cinnabon Pinnacle Vodka & a drop of vanilla extract and stir with cinnamon stick
Top with marshmallows and cinnamon sugar

Spiced Chocolate Hot Cocoa
Add a dash of cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne pepper and nutmeg 
Top with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips

Nutella Lovers Hot Cocoa
Add 2 spoonfuls of Nutella and a pinch of salt
Top with mini marshmallow, chocolate syrup and cookie crumbles

Mint Mocha Hot Cocoa
Add 1 cup of brewed coffee, 1 part Peppermint Schnapps or peppermint extract and stir
Top with whipped cream, mini marshmallows and candy cane bits

Gingerbread Hot Cocoa
Add 2 tbsp brown sugar, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, a dash of allspice & nutmeg and stir
Top with mini marshmallows, whipped cream & a gingerbread cookie


You can get my mug and other awesome seasonal things to get you in the spirit by shopping the widget below. I'm thinking Santa needs to bring me another Home Alone sweatshirt ;)

Have a wonderful winter weekend friends! What's your favorite hot cocoa to make?

December 13, 2017

5 Pregnancy Necessities

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #NatureMadePrenatalDHA #CollectiveBias

Pregnancy is such a joy, but can also be an overwhelming time. There are so many "must have's" and directions, but I've come out of the experience with a narrowed down list of my necessities. All of these suggestions are independently my own and are not affiliated with any companies mentioned. 

A large tumbler or water bottle- I can't stress how much better I felt when I really stayed on top of my water consumption. I took my 22 oz. tumbler with me everywhere and used a water tracking app called Water Tracker that is really easy to use. It reminds you with notifications, that you can set up to track your water and to drink, drink, drink! and I still enjoy using it, it's a great free app.
Nature Made® Prenatal Multi + DHA Vitamins- Sam's Club is my go- to for big hauls on school snacks, household essentials and things like vitamins and toothpaste that we use all the time. I love that the Nature Made Prenatal Multi + DHA Vitamins are a softgel that are easy to take, because some pills and vitamins can be hard to swallow- especially with pregnancy nausea. 

  • Nature Made Prenatal Multi + 200 mg DHA is guaranteed to meet our high quality standards – it is made from carefully selected ingredients under strict manufacturing processes
    • Clinically proven absorption of folic acid and iron
    • One per day dosage
    • Easy-to-swallow softgel
  • You should start taking a prenatal 6 months before you start trying to get pregnant
    • Take with food
    • Provides essential vitamins and minerals (before and during pregnancy) including Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Iodine, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D3†
    • Provides 200 mg DHA which may help support fetal brain and eye development †
    • “Free from”:
      • No Synthetic Dyes
      • No Yeast or Starch
      • No Artificial Flavors
      • Gluten Free
      • Clinically proven absorption of Folic Acid and Iron
    • Folic Acid is an important B Vitamin for Women of Childbearing Age and Pregnant Women – Plays a critical role in the proper development of the baby's nervous system.†
    • Adequate folic acid in healthful diets may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a neural tube defect.
You can learn more about NatureMade on their YouTube channel which is really nice, especially when it comes to what you're taking while pregnant. 

A good pillow- Some people prefer full body pregnancy pillows, or sleeping with one between your legs. For me, I just needed a firm standard pillow and found some that are heaven sent from a Groupon deal. Whatever it is that you prefer, make sure it lasts, because a good night's sleep is a so important when your pregnant- believe me, you want to soak up every ounce of sleep that you can before baby comes.

An open mind- I say this because, you just don't know the journey ahead of you. While I absolutely loved being pregnant, my (almost) 9 months wasn't the easiest. From being high risk to seeing specialists, you really have to have an open mind about things. It's not easy to hear scary news, especially about your own baby...but having an open mind and facing each day as it comes will really help in the overall adventure of pregnancy. This is one of the things that doesn't cost you money ;) so make sure to take care of yourself so that you can take care of the baby you are carrying.

Comfortable clothing- There are a lot of different items out there that will be recommended- from belly bands to the must have dress or leggings. I personally didn't need to buy one piece of clothing- so I would recommend waiting until you need the items before buying them, so that they don't go to waste. Read reviews- lots of them, and get advice from other Mom's who have worn certain items. My must have's were comfortable maxi dresses, shoes and leggings- I lived in maxi dresses this Summer while pregnant. A big bag to tote all your necessities is also a great item to have- I always had snacks, a water bottle, my planner and to do list on me...no small bags here!

Put your health first with NatureMade at Sam's Club and these other pregnancy necessities. What would you recommend to a pregnant Mom?

†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

December 11, 2017

What NICU Life Is Like

I won't pretend to be an expert, or that our stay was even that long. What I am, is a Mom who had to watch her baby fight a battle I would never wish on any child.

You can read all the articles, get all the stories, and fill your brain with tons of information on premature babies and what happens in the NICU. I'm first hand telling you that none of that will prepare you to watch your child with tubes in their nose, IV's in their skulls, alarms being triggered from breathing difficulties, and much much more.

I was very fortunate to hold Bella for a few minutes after she was born. That was something that I was not prepared to do- the doctors and nurses don't want to over promise and under deliver so I was told handfuls of times not to expect to hold her after delivery because we just didn't know what would happen. As I sit here writing our story, I realize that the first time Chuck held our baby was in NICU when she was hooked up with wires to several different machines. I can't imagine what he felt the day she was born and not getting to experience that. So many other parents have been through it too- unfortunately premature babies often require pretty immediate care after birth so the whole take a family picture in the delivery room and special family bonding moments don't always happen.

When Bella was born, luckily she only needed some oxygen support when she was admitted to NICU and after one day she was already off of that. We knew our girl was strong, but she was about to show us just how tough she was. The first time we visited after the whole day of her arrival I already realized what a monotonous procedure just getting to your baby was going to be. It's a long, long walk down the hall to reach the NICU area. You then have to pick up the phone and dial in and say, "Hi, it's the Lawrence's here to see Bella." I remember the first time I visited without Chuck,  and picked up the phone and said "It's Emelia, Bella's Mom...I'm here to see my baby" and breaking down crying walking in because I just wanted to walk in and see Bella without all this crap of introducing myself on the phone multiple times a day. 
After you are buzzed in, for obvious reasons you need to scrub down and wash your hands. Then it's another walk to her station...luckily, not too far. After only a few days, whoever was done washing first wouldn't even wait for the other person anymore...you just want your baby. Bella was in an incubator at first, so we would enter her room and stand over her...she was usually asleep upon arrival, and we would just watch. There are little doors at the top and bottom on each side of the incubator, and we would open them and hold her hand or touch her to let her know we were there. Then, we would sit and wait. Wait for her to move or to wake up or for a nurse to come by or the doctors to do their rounds.

Of course, the first day we wanted to have all the answers- give it to us straight. How is she doing? How long do we think we will be here? What are the biggest challenges we're facing?
I know this isn't the norm, but our reports were always pretty good. Bella was doing great, she didn't need much and they thought we would be home well before her due date. To be honest, after the bedrest I don't know how I would have been able to mentally or physically deal with more of that hospital or this type of life in general if they told us it would be a while. I would do anything to keep her the safest she could be, but I was just sick of being anywhere near the hospital.
There were days that I could have made that walk from the parking lot to her room with my eyes closed, and most of them I wondered how I was going to make it there for the third or fourth time in a day because energy was severely lacking. I was living on caffeine, and kind of still am...but getting to her as quick as I could was what kept us going. On the walks to her room we usually said most of the same things "why is it so far?" and "hopefully only a few more days of this".
I remember the first time the nurse asked if we wanted to change a diaper and being scared. I didn't want to do something wrong with all the wires attached to her, and most of the time for the firsts I stood back and watched. Being nervous to hurt your baby or do something wrong is a really shitty feeling. I felt bad enough that I wasn't there 24/7 and then add saying no to interacting with your baby, and you feel like the worst parent in the world. I began to wonder if I would ever have that attachment to her...of feeling connected, because I really felt like not being able to hold her without being watched over or reminded not to move the chair too far to pull on an alarm...I didn't feel like her Mom. I felt like I was some lady who came and went, who was always racing against the clock to be there and not miss something, but also hate sitting in that chair just watching and wondering when we could resume a normal life.

We knew there was certain requirements she would have to meet in order to come home, and with each big check off the list I felt like throwing Bella a party. She moved from an incubator to an open crib fairly quickly, she was getting tubes removed left and right, she was growing and gaining weight, and the only thing really holding us back from home was her feedings. She would fall asleep easily and couldn't take a whole feeding on her own without use of her feeding tube and it killed me. At night I would pray for her strength to come, but for her not to be pushed because I didn't want any type of setbacks. The doctors and nurses told us it would just click one day, and they were right. Two days before she came home her feeding tube was removed and to see my baby's face without anything attached to her made me so freaking happy. I could see every little piece of her without obstruction and I just wanted to snuggle her non-stop.  The nurse that evening told us we should bring her car seat in and it was the one of the best things we had ever heard- Chuck and I looked at each other beaming.

The car seat test is pretty much the last check on the list before leaving NICU. Your baby is placed in their car seat for a timed test to see if they can sustain their breathing and function normally. The next morning I went in and saw the paper sitting on the counter. I immediately sent Chuck a picture and we knew it was game time. The doctors did their rounds that morning and usually they came right in her room, but that day they didn't. I heard them speaking to one another outside though, and they said there was no more need for Bella to be in NICU- just let her go home where she could thrive.
I sat there bawling my eyes out as quietly as I could until they came and told me directly. The words we had waited to hear were finally relayed "It's time to go home."

Our friend and wedding photographer, Rob had wanted to come take pictures of Bella in NICU. His daughter had spent some time there when she was born, and a friend of his had photographed them leaving, and he had always wanted to do it for another family. We are so grateful to have these pictures to tell our story of Bella's NICU graduation day.

I had journaled my entire time on bedrest in the hospital and debated doing the same thing for Bella. Most nights I was too exhausted to recap it all, and after a few days had passed they all kind of ran together in my mind. To be honest, looking back...I'm kind of glad I didn't. While I will want her to know how strong she was and what she overcame, I don't want to remember every little detail. It's not a fun place to be and the journey is something we will never forget no matter what. The important parts are the one engrained in my mind, and all the sad moments I don't want to relive past this post.
I wish I could give someone who ever has to go through this some advice...but I really can't. Every story is different and there is no right or wrong thing to think. It's rough, and the things you are feeling are OKAY.
We are so very thankful that Bella's NICU stay was short, in the grand scheme of things. 17 days is not 100- which is the stay some have to endure. Those walks to her nursery to change a diaper are so much better than the walk from the hospital parking lot to the NICU and not having a time limit to hold her is the greatest part of my days. There's so many times I look around my house and know I could be doing something else, but I'll set everything aside and just lay with her and look at all her features. The cute nose that needed oxygen on her first day of life, her little head that took an IV in it because she liked ripping it out of her hand, and her little lips that were once hidden in part due to a feeding tube. I will never forget where we started, but I am so happy to be where we are today.
The last walk down this hall, this time with our baby in our arms. There will never be enough words to describe this feeling.

Thank you for your support throughout our journey, we appreciate your kind words so much.

December 8, 2017

Favorite Recent Amazon Purchases

Some of my favorite posts to read on the Internet are what you bought- whether it's from Amazon or Nordstrom...I wanna know. 

So, today I'm sharing some of my favorite recent purchases from Amazon, because life revolves around Amazon Prime ;) I think this will be a reoccurring post going forward, because I really enjoy sharing my honest opinions on a bunch of random items.

10 piece food storage containers
After pulling out a ton of cooking ingredients last week to prep for Thanksgiving I got a little overwhelmed with all the bags and containers, so I hopped on Amazon and ordered these. I took some time to organize everything better and be more prepared when in the kitchen. There's a nice variety of sizes and I stored everything from sugar to granola and everything in between. The lids come off easy and there are two options on either side of the lid to pour things out.

Water Wipes baby wipes
I wanted to try these wipes for Bella because they are fragrance and alcohol free. We had some other brands that were gifted to us, and while those work...I really am liking these better. Anything that is safer is a thumbs up in my book, and while I would use a few of the other wipes in one diaper change to feel like she was clean enough, I only need one of the water wipes.

King of Christmas 7 foot flocked tree
Last year I decided we needed a new family tree. If you've been reading her a while you know that I am a pencil tree fanatic. We have 4 of those and our family tree is always a full size one. We love to do real trees, but honestly they can be such a mess too. I had been wanting a flocked tree for years after one failed attempt to do one myself, and ordered a beauty from Amazon. The price for this tree is such a steal and I am in love with it. We have all our family ornaments that we have collected over the years on it, and some red and gold ribbon and gold bulbs. I now want a flocked pencil tree and am keeping my eyes open for a deal after Christmas for that ;)

Babyganics hand sanitizer
Another alcohol and fragrance free baby purchase for the win! I keep one of these on Bella's changing table for a quick clean after changing her diaper and one is in the living room for easy access. I also purchased a travel one for the diaper bag and love that this doesn't dry out your hands.

Woolzies dryer balls & essential oil
If you can sense a theme around here, it's one about trying to be a little safer where we can. I have read for a while about how bad dryer sheets can be for you. Finally, when it was time to prep for Bella's homecoming I did some laundry and ordered this set from Amazon. The price was right to test out the whole dryer ball and oil thing...and we are loving it. The dryer balls work really well and this oil smells great and I only re-apply it to the dryer balls about every 3-4 loads. The laundry smells nice and we are being safer on our bodies...it's a win-win!

Kojie San Skin soap
This was purchased months ago, but I wanted to give it some time before I shared an honest review with all of you. Well here it is- go order this soap now. I have switched from all my other facial cleansers to strictly this for everyday normal use. While I would see some reside left when using a toner or some micellar water after cleansing before, that doesn't happen now. I still have some skin issues- large pores and all the woes that come with combination skin...besides all that I feel that my skin has never felt better. I highly recommend this, but a tip- order early....it takes forever coming from China, but it's SO worth it.

What have you purchased from Amazon lately? Share your great finds with me ;)