Sunday, April 24, 2016

Baby Boy's Bright, Travel-Inspired Nursery

Baby's Bright Nursery

Baby's Bright Nursery by ericajackson

Baby boy's nursery is already turning out to be a lot brighter than the rest of our house, thanks to a vintage yellow campaign dresser I found on Craigslist. He was still about the size of a peanut when I found it, but I could just imagine the drawers filled with his little cloth diapers and onesies. Here's what else I've got planned:
  • The dresser will also serve as his changing table, and I'm leaning toward this Keekaroo changing pad because it can be easily wiped clean and I don't have to mess with fabric covers.
  • Cribs can be seriously expensive, but I found this one at Walmart, of all places. I love its midcentury modern look, which fits with the rest of our house, and that it converts into a toddler bed. Plus, it's on sale now, so I got a great deal on it.
  • I don't love the look of gliders or rocking chairs, and I wanted something I could use after the baby (or babies) grow up, so I searched for big, comfy chairs that match the rest of our decor at home.
  • We're planning some big adventures with our little one, and we're hoping he loves traveling as much as we do. For the art and decorations, we're searching for pieces inspired by our favorite places, like this Lisbon print and Mexican bunting.

Friday, April 22, 2016

My Remote Work Life

Most people I know have no idea what I do for a living—even my close friends and family members. Many seem to think that I don't have a "real" job at all, since I don't go into an office every day, and they struggle to believe that I could have a thriving, fulfilling career without leaving my house.

So here's the truth: I've been working remotely (30-40 hours) for a Boston-based content marketing firm for two years now, plus freelancing for a number of publications and companies on the side. I've had some tempting opportunities for positions that would require me to return to a traditional workplace, but honestly, I don't know if I can go back. I feel grateful every day that I can work when, where, and how I want.

After seven years of working in traditional offices, I was more than ready to make the switch to remote work. I loved my editor jobs at publications in Charleston and Boston, but I always felt trapped and a little bit stifled by the 9-5 grind.

The thing about what I do is, it doesn't really matter where I do it. Writing and editing can be done anywhere with an internet connection, but for me, I do it much better when I can choose the setting and do it on my own terms.

Here's a look at one day this week—a pretty typical day—in case you're curious, or considering making the switch yourself.
  • 7:30 a.m. Alarm goes off. I grab my phone and start scrolling through emails, news and social accounts while I wake up. (This is a habit I'm trying to break.)
  • 8 a.m. Stumble downstairs, let the dogs out, and make coffee. Now that the weather's warmer, I take my coffee out onto the front porch with my laptop and start planning out my day (I use Stickies on my desktop) and sorting through work emails.
  • 9 a.m. I don't have any morning conference calls, so I hop in the shower, get dressed, and walk the dogs up the street to peek in on our renovation project to see how it's progressing, taking pictures for the blog. I then head home, make some scrambled eggs with sliced tomatoes, and decide where I want to work for the morning.
  • 10 a.m. I have an office that I share with Todd, but I like to move around when I'm working. Right now, I tend to switch between the front porch and a table on the back patio, since the weather's so nice. I set up my laptop and notebook outside and start working my way through the day's tasks, taking a quick conference call with a New York-based writer at noon.
  • 12:15 p.m. We've been in D.C. for the last four days and I haven't had time to grocery shop, so we decide to try a new-to-us deli downtown for lunch. We take our laptops to make it a working lunch but find out they don't have wi-fi. Luckily, we have hotspots on our phones so we keep working for an hour after lunch while watching the action on Grace Street.
  • 2 p.m. Todd has a meeting, so we head back to the house and I set up shop with my laptop and iced coffee on the back patio. I work through some editing projects and call in to the Boston office for a company-wide Skype presentation while soaking up the sun and watching the dogs roll around in the grass. 
  • 3 p.m. I keep working through my to-do list, but sometimes I'll switch to freelance projects in the late afternoon, depending on my workload and meetings schedule. This usually involves research, phone interviews, writing, and sometimes in-person interviews around Richmond. 
  • 5:45 p.m. I force myself to turn off my laptop and do a bit of tidying up around the house while Todd finishes his workday—watering plants, cleaning the kitchen, laundry, and vacuuming. 
  • 7:30 p.m. After a walk, dinner, and running some errands, I settle onto the couch for some TV time. I have an article due tomorrow so I work on it while half-watching House of Cards.
  • 9:30 p.m. The pregnancy fatigue sets in, so I head upstairs and prep for bed. I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies until I can't keep my eyes open anymore.
I know this lifestyle isn't for everyone, and I do miss the camaraderie of office life sometimes. Who knows, I may even decide I'm ready to return to it someday. But for now, I'm just happy to have this flexibility—especially with motherhood approaching.

Is remote working something you'd like to try, or do you love going to the office every day?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

20 Weeks: Halfway There, Living on a Prayer

Bump's first wedding at 19 weeks.

We usually track pregnancies by trimester, but for me, reaching the halfway point is a lot more significant than making it through the first trimester. The past 20 weeks have been challenging, frustrating, slow-moving, and thrilling all at the same time. Here are some highlights:

The Symptoms. I think I really lucked out in this department—no morning sickness! I did, however, experience quite a bit of general nauseous feelings around mealtimes in my first trimester. Fatigue turned out to be my biggest issue, and I took a daily nap (sometimes more than one) for most of the first trimester—I just couldn't keep my eyes open. I've gotten my energy back, but now I'm experiencing a lot of nasal congestion (especially at night), backaches (especially at night), shortness of breath (stairs kill me!), and occasional heart palpitations (scary, but my doc says it's normal).

Cravings/Aversions. While I didn't puke in my first trimester, there were a couple of close calls when I forced myself to eat something I didn't really want. After that, I decided to listen to my body and follow my cravings and aversions. For the first trimester, I was grossed out by most meat (especially cooking it), eggs, and a lot of vegetables—basically all the healthy stuff I should have been eating. Instead, I was craving carbs, carbs, and more carbs—pasta, French fries, bread, cookies. Basically all the crappy stuff that my body didn't need. Now that I'm further along, I'm craving lots of fresh fruit, Mexican food, and the occasional steak.

Exercising. Yeah. No. I tried working out twice and got weird cramping and bleeding so I stopped. I take walks now.

Dressing the Bump. I grew out of my skinny jeans within the first few weeks, so for my first trimester I lived in yoga pants, loose T-shirts, and baggy boyfriend sweaters. After a few months, I was so sick of feeling like I was walking around in pajamas I started searching for maternity clothes. I ordered a whole bunch of jeans, made a depressing trip to a maternity store in a local mall, and generally bemoaned my weird new body. Luckily, as the bump has grown, I've been able to find a few key pieces that make me feel human and even, some days, a bit cute! I really love these jeans, maxi skirts, and my trusty Madewell tees are still getting a lot of play. (I'm hoping to avoid maternity shirts as much as I can.) Also, I got a haircut and color at 18 weeks and that helped me get out of my frump slump.

The Lowlights. I've been lucky to have things fairly easy, but there have been some tough times along the way. Dealing with the weight gain and changing body image has been hard, especially as some people have made insensitive comments and I've fallen into the trap of comparing my body to other pregnant women's. There have been some serious scares too, including some bleeding that had me rushing to the doctor for an emergency ultrasound (though all was well). It's also tough to find myself suddenly powerless to help in the house-flipping project we're working on. Todd is doing most of the work while I'm sitting on the couch buying light fixtures.

The Highlights. Despite the lows, there have been some really happy moments so far: Hearing baby's heartbeat for the first time. Finding out, to our surprise, that it's a boy! Feeling him move for the first time in the middle of the night and waking Todd up to share. Shopping for clothes, and hanging them up on tiny little hangers in his nursery. Wrestling with strollers at Babies R Us with Todd. Making our news official and getting such wonderful, truly touching congrats from family and friends. 20 weeks to go. Let's do this!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Quest for Cute Unisex Baby Clothes

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to start shopping, but I was limited to buying unisex clothes until I knew what we were having—and that isn't always an easy task. Most baby stores are clearly divided between "girl" and "boy," and the small unisex section tends to be pretty drab. It took some digging to find things that I liked.

Now that we know we're having a boy, though, I'm finding that I'm still drawn to unisex clothing. Not only are these pieces that I know we can reuse whether our next child is a girl or boy, but I realize that these classic basics I've managed to find so far are more my (and Todd's) style. As our kids get older, of course I'll encourage them to explore their own personal style, but for now, I'll enjoy calling the shots.

If you're in the market for unisex baby clothes—whether you're not sure what you're having yet or they're simply what you prefer—here are some of my favorites so far.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Elephant in the Room

When Todd and I decided we were ready to start our family in the summer of 2014, I ordered a little stuffed elephant on a whim. I placed it on a shelf in our living room, where it became a symbol of hope for our future child.

As the months passed, we continued to wait, our disappointment and frustration growing. Eventually, our elephant in the room came to represent something else entirely: Our failure to be able to do something that seems so simple for so many people, and our fear that, no matter how hard we tried, it may never happen for us.

It was two days before Christmas when we got the gift we'd been waiting so long for: a positive pregnancy test. Sitting in front of the Christmas tree, we watched in disbelief as the double lines appeared, and there were a few minutes when all we could do was stare as the wonderful reality sank in.

I took a test every day over the course of the next week, and placed them all — each one progressively darker — in the elephant's tiny arms.

Today, the elephant sits in its rightful place in our baby boy's nursery, waiting for his arrival. We still have a lot to do to prepare over the next six months, but baby's first toy will be more than ready to welcome him to the world.

P.S. I shared a bit more about our infertility journey with The Washington Post. Check it out here.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

5 Things I Loved About Paris... and What I Wish I'd Done Differently

There's a reason Paris is the No. 1 tourist destination in the world: The city is breathtaking, with some of the most incredible food, architecture, shopping, and culture you'll find anywhere. I've been hoarding photos from our September trip, waiting for a rainy day to sift through them and get nostalgic. Here's what I loved most about our trip, and what I wish we'd done differently.

1. We ate well and often. We didn't have a bad meal in Paris. I did my research and had a list of places that I wanted to visit, but more often than not we trusted our instincts and enjoyed some truly memorable meals throughout the city. We started most days with cafe and croissants, ate a whole lot of croque monsieurs, and when we got tired, we stopped for wine, pastries, espresso, or ice cream.

2. We stayed in an apartment. Because we were in Paris for over a week, we knew we wanted to at least pretend to have the experience of living there. We wanted to go to the market and cook dinner in our kitchen, to lounge in our living room, and watch the world go by from our balcony. Our fifth-floor walk-up in the Latin Quarter was a fun place to call home.

3. We didn't let the weather get us down. I don't know if it was just the time of year, but we got a lot of sudden rainstorms during our trip. So many, in fact, that we often found ourselves literally running from the rain (and more than once, we didn't make it). While we had our share of sunny days too, we made the most of the gloomy ones by strapping on our rain gear, heading out to explore, and ducking into shops and cafes when things got really wet.

4. We biked to Pere Lachaise cemetery. This was one of my favorite things we did in Paris. While the first part of the trip was dicey by bike (see below), as we got closer to the famous cemetery, the streets got narrower, quieter, and more typically Parisian. Inside the gates, the cemetery was showing the first signs of fall. I couldn't take enough pictures.

5. We wandered at night. Paris can get frantic during the day, especially in the major tourist zones. But after dark, the city takes on an otherworldly quality. We walked the grounds of the deserted Louvre, found a brass band practicing along the Seine, and slipped into boisterous cafes to share the evening with Parisians. Our late-night wanderings meant we didn't see much of Paris in the morning, but je ne regrette rien.

OK, maybe that's not entirely true. There are a few things I wish we'd done differently, like...

I wish we'd skipped the Eiffel Tower. We visited the tower and even went to the top on our first trip to Paris years ago. This time, the visit felt more obligatory, and we found ourselves frustrated by the hordes of tourists crawling around the grounds. There was also a lot of construction going on around the tower, so we got caught in a bottleneck trying to get there. If you ask me, it's just as enjoyable—if not more so—to take in the view from other vantage points throughout the city.

I wish we'd stayed in Le Marais. I chose our apartment in the Latin Quarter because it was central, and rented a place in Montmartre at the end of our trip. But I really wish we'd just gotten an apartment in Le Marais. This medieval neighborhood is by far my favorite in the city, with some of the coolest shops and restaurants we ran across. Every day I found myself wanting to return there over other areas, and wishing we could begin and end our days on its colorful winding streets.

I wish I'd mastered Velib. I had visions of zipping around Paris on an adorable Velib bike, but here's the truth: It was terrifying. Paris is a massive city with some insane drivers, and somehow we kept finding ourselves trying to navigate the most high-traffic areas during the busiest times of day. More than once I jumped off the bike in frustration and refused to ride it any further, which in turn frustrated Todd. I still think if we'd stuck to the quieter arrondisements, I would have fared better.

I wish we hadn't eaten out so much. I almost can't believe I'm admitting this, but we got a little burnt out by eating out in Paris. French food is decadent and rich, and it's also expensive—we spent $50 on lunch more than once, and much more on dinners. By the end, I was dying for a salad or some grilled veggies. I wish we'd cooked more in the apartment and had some simple picnics. I also wish we'd branched out more into other cuisines—one of our favorite meals was at a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese place in Montmartre.

I wish we'd day-tripped. In all, we were in Paris for nine days. And while there was plenty to keep us busy for much longer than that, I wish we had hopped on a train and experienced some other parts of France. Paris is exhilarating and inspiring, but it can also be overwhelming in its scale, and it would have been nice to take a breather in a smaller village or a chateau in the countryside.

That said, I'd go back in a heartbeat. Thinking of visiting yourself? Check out my blog post on seven great Airbnbs in Paris, plus my Paste magazine round-up of 10 more.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The 10 Things I Wear Almost Every Day

Over the last few years, I've accepted the fact that I'm completely predictable when it comes to getting dressed in the morning. I look past about 75 percent of my wardrobe and reach for the same few pieces that I really love to wear. My typical uniform may not be worthy of a street style snap, but I generally feel comfortable and confident in my clothes, and I wish I'd embraced this style of dressing years ago. Here are the 10 pieces that get the most wear in my wardrobe.

1. J. Crew's Toothpick Jeans — These jeans have been my go-to for a couple of years. I own four pairs in different colors, but the black is my favorite—I wear them at least three days a week.

2. Target Odell Leopard Ballet Flats — At just $15, I usually buy these flats two pairs at a time. They're lightweight, super comfortable, and they add a bit of pattern to my mostly solid wardrobe.

3. Madewell Slub V-Neck Pocket T — I've bought many V-necks over the years, but I love this fit so much I got it in at least half a dozen colors.

4. Vintage Leather Coach Purse — I found this at a thrift store years ago and have been carrying it ever since. I'm always browsing for new bags, but I can never find anything that I love more than this classic piece.

5. Flannel Shirts — In the colder months, I wear flannel almost daily. The above shirt is a favorite from J. Crew (last season), but I've found great (and much more affordable) flannel shirts at Old Navy and Forever 21.

6. Derek Cardigan 7021 Glasses — I've gotten so many compliments on these glasses over the years, and I love the subtle punctuation marks.

7. Striped Shirt — You didn't think I could do this roundup without including a striped shirt, did you? I rarely invest a lot in these because they get so much wear. I've found good ones at H&M, Target, and J. Crew Factory.

8. Aerie Undies — TMI? Too bad. I spent years searching for a pair of undies that were cute, fit well, and didn't cost a ridiculous amount. These are my favorites, even if they do come from a teen store. I buy them five pairs at a time.

9. Grey Grandpa Cardigans — Nope, they're not remotely sexy, but long, grey cardigans see a lot of play around here. I usually find them at The Gap and wear them until they fall apart.
10. Forever21 Cat-eye Sunglasses — My sunglasses get a lot of abuse, so I skip the expensive brands and buy them in bulk at Forever21. Most pairs cost around $6, so it doesn't matter if they eventually get scratched or broken in the bottom of my bag.