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My Must-Haves

My Must-Haves

A few weeks ago I posted about the Free People Ottoman Tunic - naming it as sincerely, one of my favorite things on earth, and something I find myself reaching for weekly during the winter months here in Pittsburgh. That kind of spun into an idea about posting my favorite things - things I find myself washing weekly and/or using near daily. It took a few weeks but here we are! A few years ago I put together a gift guide for the girl who is hard to shop for... and this takes the place of that nicely!

  1. Athleta Conscious Crop: I have this in about 5 colors and I wear them constantly. There's another option for larger cup size, but this is amazing for me and I love the cut of this top, paired with high waisted leggings.
  2. Align Leggings: I've tried a lot of leggings and these remain my absolute favorite, and absolutely worth the investment. I wash mine constantly, don't bother air-drying, and they stand the test of time and HIIT/Barre classes... when they're intended for yoga, so trust me... worth it! I sized up during pregnancy and they didn't stretch out at all. I've heard there's a shortage on these, so if you're shopping for them, purchase now! 
  3. Nobull Knit Runners: I've tried a few pairs of the Nobull Runners and the Knit Runners remain my favorite. Perfect for running (my feet never hurt), and great for HIIT classes as well. The all white color was a fun purchase and I've used a Magic Eraser to keep them clean.
  4. Energy Bra: My go-to if I'm not in the Conscious Crop. Sometimes you need a legit sports bra and this one is perfect. Again, can be washed a million times.
  5. Ottoman Slouchy Tunic: again and again and again. This is worth the money. The Amazon Dupe is good but not as good.
  6. Easy Lulu Sweatshirts: I've found that these cropped sweatshirts are my absolute fave for errand-running and beyond.
  7. Washable Jackets: I don't have this specific jacket but I have an older version that's a heavy sweatshirt material. Great to toss on after a workout and something that's washable but warm is critical for me.
  8. Balega Socks: In my mid-thirties I've discovered if I wear crappy socks to run, my feet will hurt. Cool! These are the best socks. I always ask for some for Christmas and they're washed on a near constant basis as well.
  9. Fanny Pack: Listen I'm embarrassed about how often I wear my fanny pack but with three kids it's so much easier to toss this baby on, across my chest, and go about my life with my fanny pack instead of a beautiful, expensive purse.
  10. Initial Earrings: Jeff got me initial earrings from a small business in California a few years ago and they are awesome. I wear them everyday. These aren't the same brand as mine, but we can't find it, so - these look amazing and not irritating.
  11. Align Shorts: It was the summer of bike shorts but I still find myself reaching for mine for indoor workouts at home. I size up one size from the Align Pants for these.
  12. Great Aerie Jammies (Top): I like that the pants are high waisted and I never find myself getting too hot in these. I sized up in the top as they do shrink a little.
  13. Great Aerie Jammies (Bottom)
  14. A fun, bright sweater: I have this sweater in a different color but I find myself wanting this lime green version. Great with jeans & sneakers or perfect with faux leather leggings and combat boots. Half tuck and go about your life. Easy and fashionable.
  15. Abercrombie Jeans: friends recently encouraged me to give Abercrombie denim a try, and the short length fits me perfectly. This particular fit is a personal favorite.
  16. Mini Uggs: my treat to myself this year, these were sold out all last year. These Uggs bring me great joy. I love that you can see a bit of ankle with these so you're not one thick leg, and they're still as comfy as ever.
  17. Golden Goose Sneakers: another guilty pleasure that I know people have strong feelings about. I'll tell you this, I've never regretted a single GG purchase. They make me feel a little more hip about my life.
  18. Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer: When my skin wasn't as nice, I didn't love this product. Since I've been able to get my skin under control, it's my go-to. Just enough to even out your skin and give you a nice finished look. It also has SPF, win-win.
  19. Easy, Comfy Bras: haven't worn underwire in years and don't plan to again, ever. These are comfy and the right price.
  20. Aviator Nation Sweat Set (Top): we sell these at Pure Barre Mt. Lebanon and I love them so much. An investment for sure, but there's nothing better than a complete sweatsuit that has you feeling good and looking "complete". I got my first set to wear home from the hospital after having Goldie and they've been in the wash weekly ever since. No shrinking, just perfect. You could easily wear the top with denim too.
  21. Aviator Nation Sweat Set (Bottoms)
  22. Our Place Always Pan: the best pan around. Non-stick and safe. Currently on sale for $99. Don't wait! Makes an amazing gift as well!
  23. Daydreamer Tees: this brand of t-shirts is my absolute fave. Again, purchased after I had Goldie and I've been washing weekly ever since. I buy a size up for an oversized fit. Perfect for a half-tuck and works in a variety of settings. Easy to style. A bit less expensive than the Bing counterpart options.
  24. Cates Tee: my go-to easy cropped tee. I have a few of these and they pair perfectly with high-waisted leggings or jeans, and they're also the perfect weight to wear under a sweatshirt or sweater.
  25. Dawn Powerwash: a bizarre thing to put on here but seriously has changed the game for me when it comes to dishwashing. They recently came out with a free and clear version that likely isn't as clean as it should be, but it's a great start until cleaner options come available. You just spray, wipe, then rinse... it got some serious stuff out of my Le Creuset the other night!
  26. All Bright C Serum: my daily love. I put this on before I moisturize and it wakes me up and brightens me up. If you haven't tried, it's the absolute best. Start small and work your way up in terms of use.
So that's that! Did I miss anything? Probably! But these are my absolute faves right now. Hopefully this helps you, or your significant other, shop for Christmas!
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Molly Knorr
Our Visit to the National Aviary Here in Pittsburgh!

Our Visit to the National Aviary Here in Pittsburgh!

This summer is all about getting out and about with the kids. After last summer, being stuck at home (and also super pregnant!), I am determined to get my kids out to experience Pittsburgh - we have been making a point to get them to fun, new playgrounds and make quick trips to the Strip District or other cool places where they can walk, run, and explore. I was so excited when the National Aviary reached out to me about coming and checking out their new season, Journey to Africa Presented by Peoples. Truthfully, I hadn't been to the Aviary since a field trip in Elementary School. For one reason or another, I hadn't thought to take the kids to the National Aviary for a day trip, but I have neighbors and friends who have memberships and absolutely love visiting, so I was beyond pumped to check this out with the kids!

We made plans to go down on a hot Wednesday afternoon and I grabbed my mom for support with the kids. Because it had been so long since our last visit, and the Aviary has changed so much since then, we didn’t know what to expect, but we did check out the website in advance to learn a little more about what we'd be seeing.

Upon arrival, the kids LOVED the penguin habitat! There are fun tunnels so the kids can get unique looks at the penguins and we loved seeing Marge, the newest penguin! Bodie could have stayed here all day, and frankly, that's what happened. I let my mom go off with Bodie and kept Georgia and Goldie with me to move on to the Sloth Painting Encounter. Talk about a unique experience! Georgia LOVED Valentino, the Two-toed Sloth, and it was so cool to learn about him specifically. The expert staff at the National Aviary was looking for ways to keep him active and engaged during the pandemic, so they decided to teach him to paint! Sloths have long arms and curved claws and are naturally good at grasping objects, including a paintbrush. Valentino held the paintbrush in his claw and moved the brush against the canvas. Georgia was able to choose colors for her painting and for Bodie's painting, and we are obsessed with the results. I plan on framing them and putting them in the kids' bathroom! We learned about why sloths can swim slightly faster than they move out of water which was a big time question Georgia wanted to ask - we are so grateful for the patience of the staff with my little lady's many questions and making it so interactive! If you have a kiddo that's into sloths (what child isn't??), the Sloth Painting Encounter is definitely worth your while to check out. You can purchase tickets in advance here, and it does include your entry into the National Aviary for the day as well. There are other cool encounters available, I know my kiddos would love the Jr. Zookeeper or Jr. Penguin Encounter!

Next, we moved on to the rest of the habitats at the National Aviary. It was SO nice to see people out and about, visiting and having a good time. The National Aviary is following guidelines from the CDC. Fully-vaccinated adults don't need to wear a mask, and we kept a mask on Georgia and Bodie while we were there since they are unvaccinated. Georgia was so excited to see the flamingos, they are her absolute favorite (she even wore her flamingo dress!). She talked to a parrot, got to see some really unique species of birds (a TOUCAN!), and was REALLY pumped to see the bald eagle! We saw a Great Argus showing off his feathers and making the craziest noises trying to impress his lady friend. Georgia hasn't stopped talking about it! The birds come so close to you and the staff was so friendly and interactive.

It was truly a magical afternoon spent at the National Aviary, and it belongs on any list for parents trying to fully experience Pittsburgh, or looking for an easy way to spend an afternoon. In terms of parenting there, there are nice, clean bathrooms, the AC was pumping beautifully, and there is a little snack bar as well with a nice place to sit and eat. It's a great way to beat the heat and see something new. There's an adorable playground right next door, and Federal Galley is so close for a fun and easy lunch. And, I've been dying to try Happy Day Dessert Factory! I mentioned above that it's not a place that comes to my mind immediately, but that's certainly not the case anymore. It was an awesome experience and we look forward to visiting the National Aviary again soon!

All photos used here courtesy of Michael Faix who is actually an Aviary Employee. Thank you, Michael, for educating us AND photographing us!
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Molly Knorr
An Honest Review of the SNOO

An Honest Review of the SNOO

I was very on the fence about the SNOO. It had also been four years since my last baby and I was very used to getting good sleep. I'm one of those people that really requires 7-8 (...or more) hours a night and I'm not my best self with a lack of sleep. So I had taken notice when influencers were using SNOOs. If you don't know much about the SNOO, it's a bassinet that has white noise and motion set up. You can limit both of these, but ultimately, as the baby fusses and cries, the white noise goes up and the motion goes up. There's a "preemie" setting to limit the motion and we actually never had to move up from that. The best way I can describe the SNOO is, you know in the middle of the night when your baby is fussing and you're like... I have changed you, I have fed you, I have burped you, what could possibly be wrong? And you're shushing and bouncing and doing anything in your power to make them stop crying? The SNOO will do that work for you.

Before I get any further: obviously I'm not a sleep safety professional. This is me sharing our experience with the SNOO and you should absolutely do your own research on what you and your pediatrician deem as safe for your baby. 

I tossed something up on my Instagram story this past summer asking if it was a sleep prop. If you're unfamiliar with the term sleep props, it's really anything that assists your baby in sleeping that you need to wean them off of. Think, pacifiers, swaddles with the arms in, etc. In my head, I was worried about purchasing the SNOO and having to wean Goldie off of it, setting myself up for failure when she moved to the crib.

I had a surprising amount of people reach out with questions and pointers. Ultimately, a friend reached out and said she didn't use the SNOO more than once, but was willing to sell it to me! I loved this, because the price tag on a brand new SNOO is significant and this sort of took the pressure off for me, given it's my third and final child - it felt irrational to buy such a high-priced baby item (my attitude on this has completely changed and I hit on that below).

Ultimately, the SNOO changed my life. Goldie was able to put herself down by about 4 weeks. She would go down happy, drowsy, and drift to sleep without much of a problem at all. After the initial newborn phase, the SNOO helped us get into the swing of things and find our flow. She would go down around 8, was up twice a night for feedings (which is highly reasonable and necessary as my kids aren't born super big), go right back down after her feedings, and would wake around 6am. I genuinely attribute her calm demeanor to the SNOO. Is it possible we got lucky? Of course. But her sleep is really great now (or at least fair, in my eyes! Up once... if ever, and in the crib), and if I was having a baby, would I find a way to get a SNOO? Absolutely.

I'm really wordy, but here are some tips and tricks (THANK YOU ALLIE!) that were shared with me, some things we learned, and what we followed:

  • I still tried to do the eat, wake, sleep cycles I learned in Babywise with my first two kids. That is your cornerstone, always, within reason. Newborns love to sleep and they can be hard to keep awake for feedings, do your best!
  • Goldie didn't really nap in the SNOO in those early days, we were doing virtual school and Bodie was all over the place, it just felt safest to have her sleep in the pack and play downstairs in her swaddles. This was particularly relevant until she got her days and nights straight (you should expose your child to lots of bright light during the daytime until they get it).
  • You should absolutely turn on the motion limiting setting initially, the standard motion feels WAY too quick for a newborn. We don't need to launch your baby anywhere.
  • You'll need a specific sleep sack for the SNOO, find some here. These are amazing because they keep the baby on it's back. I found that Goldie started to break free from the swaddle, and there are directions for safely keeping him or her on their back and swaddled differently, right here. I had two of the sleep sacks in each size and three of the bassinet sheets.
  • Hope to have your baby falling asleep on their own (in the SNOO) by 6-8 weeks. Good sleep is only good if your baby is learning to put themselves asleep or back to sleep on their own. If you're constantly nursing to sleep, you'll never get there (are there exceptions? of course - some people are blessed with excellent sleepers... my three kids aren't like that). 
  • The SNOO connects to your phone, you can turn it on and off there, but there's also a button on the side that controls the SNOO if your partner doesn't have the app. I honestly didn't realize I could use the button until about 6 weeks : ). The app tracks your sleep and the data is really fun to dig into if you're into that sort of thing!
  • The SNOO is loud on the floor below. We have hardwood in our bedroom and I was always kind of shocked at how loud it was downstairs when the SNOO was running. Nothing that would interrupt our very loud home, but if you're in an apartment it may be a bit of trouble?
  • Once her schedule was somewhat intact (I think I fed on-demand for the first 8 weeks, then it probably took another 2-4 weeks to fall into a true groove), I started to try to have her nap in the crib as often as I could so she could get used to putting herself back to sleep without the SNOO. If she was having a really bad nap day or I REALLY needed to get stuff done, I'd have her nap in the SNOO. Even now, she's sleeping in the crib full-time, but if she only naps for 30 minutes, sometimes I can get another 30-45 minutes if I toss her in the SNOO.
  • I'll hit on weaning below.
  • Initially, I was using a little pillow because of the risk of a flat head with the SNOO. You shouldn't really use these because if there's a problem with neck mobility or a flat head, you need to address those problems! Thankfully Goldie has been pretty good about moving her head all around, but I did turn the SNOO once or twice a week so she wasn't falling asleep facing the same direction every night, just as you'd put them to sleep facing different directions in the crib.
Here are some questions submitted on Instagram I am happy to answer:

Q: The SNOO is really expensive. Do I purchase, rent, or buy secondhand?
A: It is an investment, but there are few things I'd rather invest in than safe sleep for my child and good sleep for me. There are benefits to each of these above options. By purchasing it yourself, you have access to the warranty and the opportunity to sell it when you're done (they really keep their value, from what I have seen). If you're expecting your first child and hope to have more children, my advice is to absolutely buy one. 
If you're on the fence about it, then rent it or buy it secondhand! It is my understanding that with rentals, you end up paying a lot after cleaning fees, but I can't honestly speak to that. However, I feel like I'd feel unnecessary pressure to get the baby out of the SNOO? You may rush it to save money here? Just a thought. 
Buying secondhand is what we did. Check Facebook groups. It was so easy to have the former owner reset the serial number so I could easily access the app and we got it set up. Ours is getting ready to go to another home. : )

Q: How long can you use the SNOO for?
A: Six months or so. Goldie is starting to look pretty big in there and she's average sized. I believe the protocol for sleep in a bassinet, at least per my pediatrician, is as soon as your baby can roll over, you should be moving them to a safe crib. Like I said, she's still in there when we are extending her nap, but generally speaking, 6 months.

Q: Would you pay full price for the SNOO?
A: I hit on this above but at the risk of beating a dead horse, I'd pay double the full price for what it gave me. I'm genuinely sad I didn't have this product for my first two kids. I slept on an air mattress in Bodie's room for 6 weeks when he was born like a full-blown psycho. There were times that Jeff and I were like, this product makes us feel like we could have six kids. We are stopping at three.

Q: How did weaning go?
A: at four months old I turned on the wean setting (similar to the motion limiter, this all lives in the SNOO's settings). What does the wean setting do? It turns off the all night motion and only turns on when the baby is upset. At that point, we were barely using the motion anyway - this was perhaps a lucky coincidence. Once I felt comfortable enough with how her naps were going in her crib, at around 5 months I moved her to the crib overnight. The SNOO is still there if I need it.

Q: Can I achieve good sleep without a SNOO?
A: Of course you can! The SNOO didn't exist in 2014, to my knowledge. I read the creator's book though, and a lot of his principles helped us. Georgia was a wonderful sleeper - I followed the Babywise method religiously (TakingCaraBabies before it existed basically, she just packaged it a little bit prettier). Bodie was not a great sleeper. That said, our house is chaotic and so is our schedule. With therapies and school, Goldie doesn't have the luxury of guaranteed daytime naps in her crib or bassinet. The SNOO gave me control over nighttime sleep. Reading Babywise before your child arrives is a smart move, in my opinion - to learn the ins and outs of baby sleep. So yes, it's a luxury purchase and an investment, though it's not a necessary one. Here's our current schedule at five months:

7:00AM: wake & feed
9:00AM: nap
10:00AM: feed (this is occasionally a little later!)
12:00PM: nap
1:00PM: feed
3:00PM: nap
4:00PM: feed
6:30PM: feed and wind down
7:00PM: sleep for the night
*occasional wake in the middle of the night to feed.

All in all, I hope this helps! It's been a long time coming! I wanted to review once we had successfully lived through the wean, which was my biggest fear! It wasn't near as scary as I made it out to be. I'm always happy to talk through the use of the SNOO over on email or through DMs. Let me know!

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Molly Knorr

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