Sizzling Down

Having a little baby has changed my world. I spent what seemed like a lifetime living in a fast paced environment where I could tick items off my to do list and confidently grade the performance of everything that I accomplished in life. 

I have loved and dreaded every minute of being a new mother. Its been a delight to meet other new mothers and I have formed some of the most intimate friendships I have ever had in my life. I'm in utter awe with the human body - to see what a woman can do, and to see her little baby grow and develop with her. I've spent a few months looking straight into a new world with eyes so wide open that I wish I had a pause button to process everything that's hit me. Welcoming Huxley into my world has thrown all my natural response mechanisms up in the air, along with the to do lists (and don't even get me started on my self-evaluating habit). At times its been a little terrifying and I'm pretty certain that I suffered some post-partum depression along the way.

Squirrel Moo started as a side project to meet with and network with inspiring mothers, and I've accomplished what I wanted from it. I've decided to set it aside for now. I want to deeply thank you for all your support along the way - it's been an amazing journey!

How to Stay Well Rounded

Marketers are savvy. When I was pregnant and discovering my new world, a friend joked that she had to stop opening the website links I emailed her – she was becoming inundated with ads for maternity clothes and didn’t want to raise eyebrows at her office. Recently, I’ve been feeling like there’s an ad agency or browser cookie in my phone monitoring my conversations...I’ll be texting with a friend about being a stay-at-home mother, and *BOOM* I’ll get an email from Well Rounded about that topic. It turns out that Jessica Pallay and Kaity Velez, the editors at Well Rounded, are even savvier. I decided to sit down with these Mamapreneurs to discover how they run an incredibly popular online magazine brand and juggle motherhood at the same time (and to not-so-subtly accuse them of spying on my texts, which they promptly denied!)

Jessica & Kaity. Credit: Jonica Moore Studio 

Jessica and Kaity met years ago when they worked in the fashion publishing industry. They became friends and would frequently enjoy nights out filled with cocktails at NYC hotspots. Around four years ago, something changed. Jessica was a little nervous for her next meet up with Kaity, because she was freshly pregnant and didn’t know how to order a virgin cocktail without it being obvious…only to find out that Kaity was pregnant too!

The life-changing journey through pregnancy and becoming a mama is immense. As first-in-your-friends-circle-to-become-pregnant girls, both Jessica and Kaity were relieved to have each other – but also a little surprised that there wasn’t a whole lot of information out there that addressed their needs as modern city women. What does this change mean for your career? For your social circle? And what about the actual physical changes you will go through? The list of topics and unanswered questions can go on.

Together, they wanted to create an online community for women like them (and me, and countless others). It started out as idea sharing – at one point, they met at Eataly for a girl’s date and Jessica brought print-outs of other websites to discuss the industry (I am SO jealous I wasn’t there). After two years of planning, they launched Well Rounded, an online magazine and community for women from pregnancy to beyond.

Well Rounded covers a number of topics, including one of my favs: #BumpEnvy @WellRoundedNY

Well Rounded covers a number of topics, including one of my favs: #BumpEnvy @WellRoundedNY

Here is my Q&A with Jessica & Kaity:

Q: You had the idea for Well Rounded when you were pregnant, and now you both have little ones who are running around, talking back to you, and beyond their “toddler years”. However, your blog talks to women in all of those stages, including the very early ones. How do you stay focused on addressing the needs of everyone in your audience?

Jessica: You have to remember that we both started out in men’s fashion – so we have always enjoyed being editors from a journalist’s perspective. Our goal was to be a site that women would want to visit in all the stages of this journey. Over the years, we have grown the community of women that we talk to on a regular basis – and we work with a lot of guest bloggers to ensure that we constantly offer advice or tips that are fresh and relevant to everyone.

Kaity: When we were pregnant, there were a lot of personal blogs our there. We wanted to make sure that our content could offer advice and tips to all women, and not just be about the journey we personally went through. There shouldn’t be any time where someone feels judged or alienated – we want to cover every angle, so everyone can relate to our content.

Q: I’m recently a new mother, and sometimes it’s an effort to get into a pair of clean jeans in the morning. You both had full time jobs, new babies, and an idea that you wanted to bring to life. How did you do it?

Kaity: There were so many days and nights where if I had worked on this on my own, I might have lost steam or motivation, or might have postponed something because I didn’t have the energy. Working with someone else holds you accountable. We knew that to make this happen and to push this to the next level we had to be “fully in” – and so we kept at it, and kept each other motivated to really commit to getting to that next level.

Jessica: I don’t think we could have done this without each other. I know it personally helped me to always give my personal best. If we set a time to meet, we couldn’t just back out, because we didn’t want to disappoint each other. There were a lot of late nights, with texts back and forth until midnight, but we knew we were both in it for the long haul and that was a huge motivation to keep going. It helps that we love what we do and we love to know that we are inspiring others. Loving what you do is such an important part of finding success.

Q: Finally, if you had one tip for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would it be?

Jessica: Trust yourself. Being a new mom is filled with so many unknowns and it makes even the most confident among us second-guess our actions. But...what works for someone else might not work for you. Try not to compare and get caught up in what someone else thinks is "right." You're the expert when it comes to your baby, and don't let anyone make your feel otherwise. And there's so, so many ways to be a great mother. 

Kaity: Keep an open mind but and don't compare yourself to others. Only you know what's best for your family!

Whether you are pregnant, nursing, or having conversations with your little ones, check out Well Rounded online to get inspired and learn some handy tips from real women who are going through what you are going through. You can also get some of their best article shares through their Facebook, or follow along on Instagram for #BumpEnvy

This Mama is Wild

When I was pregnant I kept hearing about “this store in Brooklyn” that was a great resource for new pregnant women. When my mother visited from California she constantly forgot the location of the coffee shop on my block but somehow remembered the location of “this amazing store” that she found. Even my friends without babies seem to know that “there’s a baby store, or something” nearby where I live. Wild Was Mama, formerly known as Caribou Baby, turned out to be the kind of place that everyone knows about in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

So naturally I was delighted to sit down with Adriane Stare of Wild Was Mama to learn a little bit more about her, how she managed to launch the store just 18 months after having her first child, and the inspiration for the second retail location on the border of Park Slope and Prospect Heights (now open at 464 Bergen Street).

To the ordinary person it may look like a “baby store” on the outside, but Wild Was Mama is designed as a place for mothers to come and get the support they need starting with pregnancy through post-partum and onto motherhood. Its a subtle difference that only new mothers would understand. Sure, it’s also a retail store that will sell you some pretty damn cute baby stuff, but they are known for offering a range of classes and services (some free) to help make the transition to motherhood easier. And as if on cue, while Adriane was talking to me about how its important to create a welcoming space, a new mother came in because it had started to rain on her walk home and she desperately needed somewhere to stay dry and breastfeed her 5 week old. She nestled on the couch next to us and said she knew she would be welcomed to make herself at home there (and she was).

Wild Was Mama is also known for letting women explore some of the “crunchier” sides of parenting and is often THE source for new mothers to learn about topics such as baby wearing or cloth diapering (and even “Elimination Communication”, which Adriane herself practiced with her boys).  When Adriane became a mother she found that this is what other local mothers were the most curious about and realized that there wasn’t any other place around that provided a space where mothers could talk about their curiosity and compare their questions. 

Here is my Q&A with Adriane:

Q: First off, what is with the name change?

A: I had known for years that the name needed a change, but it took opening a 2nd location to really put the paperwork into motion. We wanted something that could be trademarked, and Caribou Baby was not available. Also, Caribou Baby implies that the store is just a baby store, but we really define ourselves as a store for mothers – it’s all about supporting the bellies and boobs… and vaginas!

Q: Your store is one of the first to really tackle non-mainstream baby care and parenting choices. Why do you think this is such a hot topic with local Brooklyn moms?

A:  A lot of people in New York moved to the city to follow their own path and are used to making unconventional decisions, so they question everything when they go into parenting. They aren’t just doing what their neighbor does. New Yorkers tend to make the conscious choice to have children later in life and have developed strong lifestyle preferences and can afford to make deliberate choices, such as wanting more environmentally friendly ways to bring up their children.... so they will learn about cloth diapering.

Q: Your store is the epitome of a kid-friendly store. Did you always bring your kids to work with you?

A: Actually, I don't! My children are a huge influence for me and a driving factor in how I relate to other mothers… but I don't want my kids to become the focus or take my attention away from the mothers who need help. I want to provide an environment where mothers can make their own decisions and won't feel pressured by my own parenting choices. Plus, now my kids are much bigger they would look like “little monsters” compared to the teeny tiny newborns being brought to the store, and I don't want any new mothers to become overwhelmed or intimated!

Adriane's husband also popped by the store during our chat

Q: What has the process been like to prepare for a 2nd store opening?

A: We had to take a step back and rewire a lot of the business so it was set up for expansion. Opening a 2nd store meant developing a central office and warehouse fulfillment center, and it took a while to find and develop that space, which is now in Bushwick. We also had to think about how to expand and train the staff so that there’s a strong consistency between the stores –it’s important to us to have our strong customer service continued, and to make sure our brand values were consistent. Now that groundwork has been laid who knows but maybe we will open multiple stores down the line!

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

1) There is no kind of parenting that will change your child from being who they are. In my experience, kids tend to come out the way they do, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Having a baby that is cranky, colicky, irritable or hard to settle and soothe is NOT a reflection of your mothering. The more quickly you accept this and learn how to not take it personally, the sooner you will start developing positive strategies to cope and respond.

2) Parenting is the wilderness. Each new family is made up of unique parts, and there is no one perfect or "best" way. There are only your instincts and experimenting how to move forward. If something doesn't feel right to you, it probably isn't right for you. If something feels okay to you, it probably is okay for you. When in doubt, I like to ask myself "if I were alone in a shed in the middle of the woods with only my baby in this very moment, what would I do?" This applies for questions of sleeping, feeding, soothing, carrying, playing. 

3) PLEASE hire a postpartum doula for yourself after birth! Ask for it on your registry, save up the cash for it, do whatever you gotta do... but hire a woman who can come to your home and really, truly tend to your whole family. No matter how easy your birth was, or if you have parents coming into town to help, there is nothing as healing and necessary as a professional postpartum doula (that you have chosen and actually trust) who will listen to your needs and connect you with resources. Even if you don't think you will need it! As a culture, we are so used to doing things by ourselves and afraid to trust, ask for help and be at the mercy of others. But when you have a baby, it's as if you yourself have also become a baby too. Show yourself some love and hire someone who can help give you what you need, so that you can give your baby what they need.


Learn about classes and services at Wild Was Mama, or visit one of their (now) two Brooklyn stores in Greenpoint and Park Slope. Or you can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram

A cut and more

I’m a curly-haired girl and my hair is completely unpredictable - I’m the kind of person who gets nervous whenever I walk into a hair salon. But imagine being a toddler that’s terrified of scissors, or never had a haircut before. And then imagine that toddler’s mother – watching their nervous little one about to have their first haircut AND probably having unrealistic expectations of what their hair is going to look like afterwards. Now imagine that you are the owner of that salon, trying to make sure everyone leaves happy – sound stressful? Not to Eda!

Photos courtesy of  Yuxi   Liu   (@oyuxi)

Photos courtesy of Yuxi Liu (@oyuxi)

Eda is a mother of three and the owner of Edamama - a local Brooklyn hair salon and activity center for little ones.  The first thing I notice is that Eda is extremely laid back and friendly – it should come as no surprise that she tells me the key to success is creating a welcoming atmosphere. When I walked into Edamama, I immediately noticed the underwater story, which Eda’s first two children dreamed up, along with its “characters”– an octopus, a mermaid, a yellow submarine, and “Sharky” the shark. Edamama offers an expansive children’s library and weekly activities and classes – from “Puppetsburg” (a puppet show in Williamsburg) to singalongs, and “Little Yoga Hour.” Mothers can bring their children for the sing-a-long and then can later bring them back to the “place with the octopus” – a place that they now love and trust – to get a haircut. It’s what Eda calls “a happy place”, and she’s planned these details intentionally in order to create the best possible experience for everyone.

Eda wasn’t always in the children’s hair salon business. Prior to Edamama, Eda spent many years managing global brands in advertising – wooing clients, pitching businesses and endlessly working on campaigns. With a third child on the way, she realized that she wouldn’t be able to give her work the attention it deserved, and she’s not one to “half ass” anything. She opened her own business, one that brought her closer to her world of motherhood, and she’s now “100% all in.”

Photos courtesy of Mariliana Arvelo @ Stylish and Hip Kids Photography

Photos courtesy of Mariliana Arvelo @ Stylish and Hip Kids Photography

Here is my Q&A with Eda:

Q: You had a successful career in project and brand management in advertising. How did you transfer skills from the corporate world to running a small business?

A: I came from a world of brand building, so I harnessed everything I had learned to properly build my own brand. I spent a long time thinking about the strategy and working through every detail, and knew what things would be important to me. Even the little details, like the characters in here, were thought through. My kids helped me come up with the characters, but I wrote full character briefs before I had them painted on the walls and turned into hanging papier-mâché art. I also came from an industry that’s very service-based – but instead of servicing clients, I am now making sure that all the mothers that come in here are very happy. Parents worry, and as a mother I totally understand that. My job is to make sure they don’t have to worry. More than half of my time is spent making sure that customer service is the best it can be.

Q: How do your children feel about the business?

A: My children have always been a part of the business, right from the start. The underwater theme was their idea, and they helped me with the characters. They have been involved in building the business, and it’s been a great bonding experience. The children love coming to the salon, and they are also proud of me and all I’ve accomplished, which is an incredible feeling. At school one day, my daughter was finishing a paper where they had to fill in the blanks. One of them was “My mom is _________” and she put “My mom is amazing” – it filled me with such joy! I want them to feel proud of the salon and to be happy with it. It’s something that’s become very fulfilling.  

Q: You have three children and a small business – how do you do it!?

A: I was pregnant with my third child, my youngest daughter, when I signed the lease on the space...and it was a lot of work, juggling two children, a pregnancy, and a new business! I had a C-section with her, and I had to be back in the salon a week later. Sometimes when you are working at that kind of pace, you have to forgive yourself if you drop the ball on something. The saying “it takes a village” is true and my employees have become part of my village and I am so grateful for them. It’s like running a show every day and you need to be prepared for the weirdest things to happen – because they WILL happen! You just have to keep reminding yourself that you need to turn up and do your best every single day. That’s all you can ask of yourself. It’s hard sometimes, but it pays off.

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers and small business owners that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

1) Owning your own business is a 24/7 commitment. I was aware of this before we opened the store, but what I did not realize is the significant shift it created in our family life. I don't get to see my family as much as I used to on the weekends as those days are the busiest days for the business. And I am at the store. Instead I take two days off during the week to compensate the weekend family time. I would advise others to think through the impact of owning their business on the family life and be aware of potential shifts before committing to it.

2) Make sure your partner is on-board with your commitment and what it means for him/her. I'm so lucky to have my amazing husband who always had been encouraging and helpful. I would not be able to do what I am doing without him.  Because of him I have the piece of mind about my family and can focus on the business.

3) Make time for yourself to rest, sleep and workout. I think the first thing to fall by the wayside is me-time. In order to not to burn yourself out you need to carve time for yourself.

Visit Edamama at http://www.edamama.com/, or Like them on Facebook and Instagram!

March is the new January, right?

Wait, where has the year gone?? I took a break from blogging over the holidays to seemingly wake up and find that its almost spring. 

The last few months with my little one has been an eye-opening experience. I feel like I blinked and now he's four months old and so much more of a little boy already. He's a giggly little wriggle-butt who is constantly aware of the world around him and wants to be a part of it. I've been relishing in the extra sleep he's given me and enjoying lazy mornings with him, constantly posting his cute little face on Instagram @SquirrelMoo . The days have been long, and the weeks have gone by quickly - something that I'd always heard would be the case. 

But the time has come to get back to blogging and I'm re-energized to talk to more Mamapreneurs!

 

These boys are all I need this morning (and sleep, I always need more sleep) 💙💚💜

A photo posted by Z e i n a M u n a (@squirrelmoo) on

 

When I started to write about Mamapreneurs I was still pregnant and fascinated by the businesses around me that I didn't know were run by new mothers. Now that I have a baby I'm suddenly aware of all the businesses that are designed for women like me to be more comfortable in their new skin. Its been a great way to learn about my community and see how women can help each other throughout this journey (because we all know we need that help and friendship)

So look out - in the next few weeks I'll be posting about the local Brooklyn businesses I've been frequenting, and the amazing Mamapreneurs that run them. I hope you enjoy!

For your Brooklyn Kitchen

Taylor felt the rumblings of change in Williamsburg in 2006 when her L train daily commute started to become more laborious. The rezoning of the neighborhood had been approved and the current tenants, and fellow L train riders, were bracing themselves for more than 40,000 new residents to move in. With a love of cooking under her belt, and an intuition that Brooklyn would become the next culinary hotspot, Taylor and her husband Harry created the first home-cooking store in the neighborhood. The Brooklyn Kitchen outgrew its space so quickly that their daughter Moxie was only six days old when she visited the construction site of their new (and current) location, which had expanded to include a permanent cooking class space and a partnership with The Meat Hook butcher.

The Brooklyn Kitchen is now well known as the cornerstone for finding all of your cooking needs – from homemade pasta machines and kitschy cookie cutters to specialty cooking ingredients such as Anita’s vegan yogurt– you are bound to find anything and everything you would need to impress the guests at your holiday potluck this year. Or if you aren’t much of a cook, you can pick up that last minute DIY gift for your friend who obsesses over home cooking sites. They also have delicious treats that you can’t walk past without stopping – like their amazing ice-cream fridge, or all of the Brooklyn-made chocolates, caramels and sweets that you are willing to fork over a premium for. Or you can walk in there, like me, and buy these lobster mitts so that you can sing “Under the Sea” while drinking wine and cooking your Christmas turkey… but I digress…

The Brooklyn Kitchen also has gained immense popularity with foodies through its incredible range of cooking classes. Their original knife skills class is a must for every budding chef, and their pig butchering class often has a waitlist. They also host a rotation of creative cooking classes that are perfect for a date night or bonding experience with friends – including sausage making, Pizza with Roberta’s, and “Mystery Box”, a class where students compete in a Chopped-like competition with secret ingredients.

Taylor constantly looks for fresh ways to bring the wonders and joy of cooking to busy New Yorkers and is looking forward to celebrating the 10th Christmas of the store being open this year. Over those ten Christmases, she’s also brought up Moxie and Frank, who are now six and two respectively. Here is my Q&A with Taylor:

Q: What was your inspiration for opening a cooking store?

A: Harry and I have always loved cooking and we wanted to share the joy and wonder that cooking brings. We hope to inspire people to eat better and enjoy home cooking and all of its benefits. In this day and age, so many people have jobs that are in front of computers or related to technology. If your job is to make a website or app, at the end of the day there’s something very satisfying about making something tangible with your hands, like a quiche that you can eat and share with friends and family  – it’s therapeutic in a way! We’ve found that people really crave that kind of creation, and people love to cook.

Q: The store is full of some fabulous brands. How do you stay on top of sourcing the best of the best?

A: A lot of the best brands come by us through word of mouth. Harry and I also travel – to Chicago for homewares or San Francisco for the Fancy Food and Good Food Awards, where we learn about some of the country’s best brands. There’s a lot of amazing food brands being born out of Brooklyn and we can taste and meet a lot of these brands locally, but we also learn about some amazing brands across the country through the Good Food Mercantile. We also love cooking ourselves so are constantly learning about the best new items out there through the food community.

Q: Your children feel like the store is their second home. How have you helped to distinguish it as a business?

A: It was very important to teach my children that things in the store don’t automatically belong to them. When Moxie was three or four years old, she grabbed a scale from the shelves for someone at school. It was then an opportunity to explain the economics of running a store – that we buy things from other people and then sell them. So things in the store aren’t “free” and she just can’t assume that they will replace themselves. It was especially hard for her to grasp at first because we have become family friends with a lot of the people we source materials from and her teachers and our friends are customers at the store, but it was an important time to make sure she could understand that. It’s also very cute as she’s gotten older and she takes a lot of ownership in the store – she will tell people that she “works” at the Brooklyn Kitchen!

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

  1. “This is Now.” I actually have that tattooed on my arm and it’s a line from the book “Little House in the Big Woods”. Nothing will ever be the same as it is right at this time, so treasure it now.
  2. Move on. When your little one has just tried shrimp for the first time and vomited on the dog and you have your hands full, realize that it’s going to be fine and move on. Don’t sweat the small stuff because it will pass.
  3. Take care of yourself. Find the time to carve out time for yourself and zone out– even if it’s just a few minutes a day!

Visit the The Brooklyn Kitchen to stock up on your needs this holiday season, or sign up for their newsletter online for inspiration for cooking all year around!

C is for Cookie Exchange!

The holiday season is a great time to reflect on the things that you feel incredibly lucky for. I’m constantly in awe of my amazing husband and still can’t believe the little bundle of joy that we welcomed to the world just under two months ago.

I’m also incredibly grateful for my local mama’s group. Brooklyn has a fantastic online community of mothers and I’ve been so lucky to meet the amazing and inspiring women that I have featured on my Mamapreneurs series.

In the spirit of holiday cheer, my sub-group of mamas got together last Sunday for a cookie exchange. It was really nice to see everyone together, with husbands and partners along for introductions, and I came home with a brilliant little collection of holiday cookies that I’ve been eating all week.

I'm constantly appreciative of the support my mama's group provides. We have shared intimate birth stories and we have all helped each other with support and advice through the grueling first weeks of motherhood.  Having a group of women in a similar situation has taken the pressure off 2am Google searches which leave you twitchy and paranoid. We will all be there for each other as our babies start to crawl and then walk. Above all, I now have a new group of friends that I can call, text or email on a daily basis about the random baby-related thoughts that pop in my head and they get it.  

Oh and the cookies were great (I may or may not be eating one as I type this right now).

Ho-Ho-Holiday Mamas (Part Two)

Introduction: The babies in my mommy group all were born between September and December and are progressing through the same stages of development. Since we began motherhood within weeks of each other, there’s been some chatter as each new mother figures out what she will do when her maternity leave is over – whether it’s daycare or a nanny, extending unpaid leave, or not going back to work at all. Most of the mothers dread the end of their maternity leave – who ever feels ready to leave their baby after three months? However, I recently met two mothers in my group who aren’t taking an undisturbed three month maternity leave at all: these mothers run their own businesses that rely on gift giving during the holiday season, and that means being active now! While most of us are trying to catch a few hours of snooze when we can, these moms are working at home to get their businesses through their busy season. Here’s a two-part series of what I learned from these mothers.

 

PART TWO:

Allison loves giving and receiving presents so much that she started a gift-giving business, VelvetCrate, with her sister Amy. A VelvetCrate is a box of curated goodies that you can order online for your loved ones for any occasion. Using VelvetCrate makes giving gifts easy and quick – there's a rotating selection of packages available in a number of themes: Holiday, For Him (new!), Just Because, Celebrate, and Love. While the themes stay the same, the contents change up seasonally to include new combinations. The Crate options range from $50-85 (including shipping) and come in a pretty little package with a custom message so that all you need to do is place an order. Since the items have a hand-selected touch and come from small shops it makes a great present for that friend who spends a lot of time on blogs, Pinterest, and Instagram drooling over everything

Just Because

For Him

Celebrate

Contents from Holiday. Photos courtesy of velvetcrate.com

Allison's sister Amy oversees the shipping and operations out of Kansas while Allison runs the marketing – including web management, sales, photography, email marketing, and social media (@VelvetCrate) – out of her apartment in Brooklyn. She also has a heavy hand in product selection, which sounds like pretty much like the BEST JOB EVER as it takes her to major markets around the country to source new items and has her spending a lot of time learning about cool new boutique businesses. Recently, since Allison now lives in Brooklyn, some of the “crates” have included some local Williamsburg favorites such as Liddabit Sweets and Salty Road Taffy. VelvetCrate also produces a number of corporate orders – in fact, their first corporate order for the holiday season happened the day Allison went into labor with Rose, her little 10 week old daughter!

Here is my Q&A with Allison:

Q: Product sourcing sounds like a lot of fun! How do you keep the packages fresh?

A: You’re right! Product sourcing is one of my favorite parts about VelvetCrate, although it does take a lot of work. We keep our selections fresh by updating gift packages and the brands we use every season. Of course, there are some gifts that remain timeless and popular, such as candles and notecards, so we try to find the most up-and-coming brands to use for those products. We also create fun special-edition themed crates that change frequently too, like the FOR HIM VelvetCrate we recently launched. When we first started VelvetCrate, our packages were all very similar, but over the past year we’ve worked to have more variety with the gifts, and in our price points. This summer we launched The VelvetCrate Shop, where you can now customize your gift package too!

Q: The holidays are a busy time! How do you manage with a newborn at home?

A: It’s been a challenge, but I am making it work! The holidays are definitely our busiest time, but it’s fun and the adrenaline rush (and coffee!) help keep me going. For the past year before Rose arrived, I worked hard to create and maintain a work-at-home schedule since working at home even WITHOUT a baby can be hard, but that schedule has now gone out the window now that baby is boss. When Rose is napping during the day, I use that time to be as productive as possible, and in those few hours here and there, I work harder than I ever have. Like most entrepreneurs, I work at night and on the weekends too.

Q: Your first corporate order came in the day that you were in labor with Rose – tell us all about it!

A: She was born in mid-September, and in retail world, that’s pretty much when the holidays start. Shortly after I was induced that morning, we received an inquiry for a large custom order, and we had to move on it fast. Since I couldn’t use my computer from the delivery bed, I was texting with my sister like crazy from my phone. I had an epidural, so fortunately I was able to work right through those early contractions. Luckily, everything was completed and approved hours before Rose arrived later that night!

Get ahead of the game this holiday season by using VelvetCrate to gift those around you. You can check out their gift packages online or get inspired on their Instagram and Pinterest pages!

Ho-Ho-Holiday Mamas (Part One)

Introduction: The babies in my mommy group all were born between September and December and are progressing through the same stages of development. Since we began motherhood within weeks of each other, there’s been some chatter as each new mother figures out what she will do when her maternity leave is over – whether it’s daycare or a nanny, extending unpaid leave, or not going back to work at all. Most of the mothers dread the end of their maternity leave – who ever feels ready to leave their baby after three months? However, I recently met two mothers in my group who aren’t taking an undisturbed three month maternity leave at all: these mothers run their own businesses that rely on gift giving during the holiday season, and that means being active now! While most of us are trying to catch a few hours of snooze when we can, these moms are working at home to get their businesses through their busy season. Here’s a two-part series of what I learned from these mothers.

 

PART ONE:

Liz has been making and selling hand-crafted clocks since 2007. This year, she and her husband welcomed Bodhi into their world. Bodhi is now ten weeks old, and he will be just over three months old when Christmas rolls around, which is long after Liz will have finished making many batches of hand-crafted clocks to be mailed off to online buyers or sold this Sunday (Dec 6th) at the Etsy New York 8th Annual Holiday Handmade Cavalcade at Chelsea Market.

Liz’s clocks are made from recycled bicycle parts and paired with reclaimed textiles or topographic maps. Liz started the business when she lived in Portland and continued it through moves to Oakland and NYC.  She connects with bike shops locally and regionally to source worn out gears and then transforms them into functional and unique clocks.

Liz, who used to be a pre-school teacher, initially started making her clocks for friends, family and other teachers she worked with until the word got out and demand increased through word of mouth. Most of Liz’s business comes through her Etsy shop but she also can be found at a few major markets each year (such as Renegade Craft Fair) and her products are sold in a select number of stores around the country, including By Brooklyn. Priced from $39 – $85, Liz’s clocks are a great gift for that friend who loves handcrafted and one-of-a-kind items with a story behind them – after all, no two pieces are the same and custom orders can be personalized.

Here is my Q&A with Liz:

Q: What was your inspiration to start making clocks and how did you decide to launch your craft into a business?

A: When I was working as a preschool teacher, we often used recycled materials in the classroom to make new and beautiful things. I was inspired by children’s creativity and how they see possibilities in all things. I come from a family of artists - between the 5 siblings we have a photographer, animator, musician, a children’s art educator, and a clock-maker! We often gift one another things we make so one year I made each of my siblings clocks as Christmas gifts.  They were a hit and soon friends and friends of friends were requesting clocks.  So, in the fall of 2007, I decided to open an Etsy shop and soon thereafter I realized I could make a business selling them to the public.

Q: How have you prepared for this holiday season, and what’s different this year now that you have a newborn at home?

A: I spent a lot of time this summer sourcing materials and building inventory knowing the arrival of a baby would impact my ability to work tirelessly through the holiday season.  By doing a lot of prep before Bodhi arrived, I was able to get ahead of the game.  The process of making clocks happens in stages so now that he’s here it actually lends itself nicely to a newborn’s schedule.  For example, I can work on designing clock backgrounds or packaging up orders during those stretches when he’s napping.  It’s all about being as efficient as possible with my time. I also had to realize that I wouldn’t be able to do as much this first year as a new mother and I shifted my sales goals to accommodate that reality. In past years, I would participate in a number of holiday markets but I made the decision to only do one in-person market this year as they are so time consuming and require a lot of energy. The NY Etsy Team Show this weekend is the only market I have committed to this December.

Q: It’s a lot having a newborn at home. Have you thought about taking a “pause” for just this season?

A: Absolutely.  There are certainly times when I wish my sole responsibility right now was caring for Bodhi. If he was a spring or summer baby I would have been able to take more time off in the early months, but the reality of my work is that it includes a busy holiday season.  When I feel overwhelmed, I just remind myself that my professional choices are what will allow me to spend more time with him in the long run.   Unlike other working mothers, I don’t have to worry about finding care for him when I go back to work.  It definitely requires some creativity and flexibility but I wouldn’t want it any other way.  And as for “pausing”, I try to make that practice part of my everyday as I sit and marvel at this sweet little person we welcomed into the world.

If you are in Chelsea this weekend, don’t forget to swing by and say hi to Liz at Etsy New York 8th Annual Holiday Handmade Cavalcade. Or check out her Etsy store to see which clocks are available online!

A Time to Give Thanks

Hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving, filled with lots of food, love, and friends. Today, I am feeling especially for my amazing husband and our new baby boy.

Here they are wearing their matching t-shirts that I made them when I was pregnant. Aren't they just the cutest?

Who would you like to give thanks to today? 

An American Family Affair

Pam Reed is part of the husband-and-wife team behind Humboldt & Jackson, the “American Tasting Room & Event Space” that opened on Independence Day 2014 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Pam and Bill Reed met as high school sweethearts in Philadelphia, and were thrilled to introduce their daughter, Mela, to the family two and a half years ago. It was while walking around with Mela, still in a baby carrier at the time, that they discovered the space that would become their next joint project.

Bill Reed already had a hand in many local and beloved neighbourhood establishments – Calexico, Budin, and most notably his partnership in Brooklyn Star. So it wasn’t a surprise that their new space quickly landed itself on the Brooklyn Hot List. Humboldt & Jackson very purposefully calls itself a tasting room as its ever-changing menus let customers enjoy a culinary road trip through America’s fifty states. Here you can try some of America’s best craft and microbreweries through their rotation of tasting flights, themed events such as bottle exchanges and cask tappings, or at one of Brooklyn Brewery’s monthly dinner parties held at their location. The bar serves wines, also often on tap, from lesser known wine production states (did you know that all fifty states produce wine?) and they have most recently introduced whiskey tastings to the party. You also can keep your palates satiated with shared and small plates of cheese and charcuterie, among guest chefs’ dishes and special nights. I recently had the pleasure of attending the hugely popular kitchen takeover by the famous Roberta's pizza team when the pizzas sold out every night.

Pam, who also has a day job in fashion design and purchasing, created all of Humboldt & Jackson’s logos, menus, and aesthetics for the space and utilizes her design skills in all of the event planning they do for public and private events. The space can be booked for birthday parties, baby showers, bridal showers and even weddings (another Mamapreneur I spoke to had such a good experience with their baby shower that they plan to have their one year birthday there as well). Working a day job, being involved in the restaurant industry, and bringing up a toddler is an around the clock job, but Pam has an optimism and excitement about her that makes it look effortless. The most inspiring part of her story is that she and her husband have the non-stop pleasure of working with each other constantly through their collaborations at the bar as well as through parenting their little one. 

 

Here is my Q&A with Pam:

You guys had always wanted to open a bar or restaurant up - how did you decide on the corner of Humboldt & Jackson?

We were walking Mela around the neighborhood when we passed by a space that used to be called Cozy Royale, a traditional Italian catering hall. We hadn't really paid noticed it before and they happened to have an event that night. It reminded us both of a place we knew growing up in Philly where we used to sneak glasses of wine as teenagers and we decided to pop in to check it out. While we were there, we started chatting to the owner. She told us about her business and how she'd like to eventually move on and was looking for someone to lease the space out. Something just clicked and less than two years later the space was leased, gutted, renovated and open to the public!

You are getting more and more requests for private events in your backroom. How do you see this part of the business growing?

The space is really flexible for all sorts of events, and we are very flexible on what can be brought in and what we will provide – if someone wants to bring in their own chef but needs the the kitchen staff to help with clean up – we can do that. We are still a relatively new space so are very competitive and flexible with pricing and can work with different budgets. We have a list of outside vendors that we can recommend and work with, or people can source the vendors themselves. Planning and designing events is one of my favorite parts of the space and I would love to eventually do it as my full-time job. 

In order to support the family you’ve maintained a full-time day job in fashion. Tell us a little more about what you do “during the day”?

My expertise and experience is in designing trim, closures, clips, and hardware for major accessories brands – I've worked with Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Express, and Under Armour to name a few. It gives me a chance to keep the artist/design side of myself alive and work with different clients with different styles and aesthetics. My design job also gives me the chance to travel – I frequently fly to Europe and China to look at materials and visit factories. It's a lot of fun but it can be tiring and its hard to be away from Mela for one to two weeks at a time. Luckily, when I'm in NYC, my job lets me work from home and that gives me a chance to get a break and catch up with the family. 

On the note of traveling, you nursed and breastfed Mela for one and a half years while taking international business trips to Paris and China. Any advice on breastfeeding and having to travel for work?

Planning is the key! I have become a master at inventory planning! You can go into my fridge and see everything organized by day. I start to pump more regularly ahead of the trip to increase flow and start having inventory built up so that I leave my husband with enough milk for Mela. However, once you get into that routine you need to continue pumping at that pace so that means continuing to pump while on flights – and I've even done it between two sleeping men! And then I have all this milk to bring back with me – usually through security and on the plane which is always an interesting experience having to negotiate with security and securing overhead space! 

You work with your husband, Bill, on projects that take up almost all your night and day – your little daughter as well as a business. How do you make it work?

It is so important that we constantly work as a team. We've been together for so long that we have learned to understand each other and support each other. Because I have a day-job and he is running the bar we are often working on different schedules and different hours. It's very important for us to take time for ourselves and have our own date nights so we can appreciate the time together. We will often book a nanny or plan a weekend where Mela can be taken care of by the grandparents for the whole weekend in Philly – and that gives us some time to spend together and live our lives. It's so important for us to take care of ourselves so we are happy and can take care of her better. 

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

  1. Damn, this is hard on so many different levels
  2. Enjoy sleeping when you can. You will never sleep the same again, probably for the rest of your life
  3. Pretty much everything with kids is a phase - so if you are worried about something your baby is doing or not doing, in a few weeks, you'll forget it even happened or didn't happen, even though in the moment, it's all consuming 

Swing by Humboldt & Jackson (434 Humboldt Street, Brooklyn) for your own date night or follow their Facebook page to hear about the next guest chef pop ups and special events. 

An Ode to Doulas

My son is now almost four weeks old, and I keep thinking back to my labour with a little bit of awe - each time I'm asked questions about how it went, it feels more and more like I'm talking about a fond memory than recalling the gory side of it, which I think people secretly want to know all about. I was told that this would happen - that the "will this never end?" part of the day will fade away through a hormonal "erasing" of the memory. After all, if birthing a baby was that bad then women wouldn't keep doing it.

My birth was fairly "average" in the grand scheme of things. I have heard all the birth stories from the mothers in my mommy-group, and I was lucky to have had an uncomplicated birth, but it definitely wasn't quick and pain-free. However, each time I tell people how it went, it seems the “fun” elements make their way into the story - on the day I went into labor I went to the farmers market to walk off my early contractions (and yes, I bumped into more people than I would have liked), our cabbie was dodging Central Park horse carriages and got pulled over for running red lights en-route to the hospital (and the female NYPD cops who pulled him over were encouraging and offered us a police escort like in a sit-com), and I had an insatiable craving for a vanilla milkshake all through the "pushing stage" (which was fulfilled immediately after by my amazing husband). But the one part of the story that I will never neglect to include is that I felt absolutely loved and supported throughout my entire labour because of the amazing "birth team" I had that day - my husband and my doula

So, what exactly is a doula? The word "doule" is an ancient Greek word that means "a woman who serves" and is used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides physical and emotional support to a birthing mother. A doula is not a midwife or a doctor, and is not trained to give medical advice, but is more like "that wise woman who knows a thing or two about having a baby". She's an expert at knowing how to make the mother feel her best, and knows how to help her feel confident and strong during a very difficult time.

Frankela Albury was my birth-doula. Frankela is a NYC birth doula servicing the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and parts of Northern NJ. Frankela can be reached at girlsgroup2007@gmail.com or you can follow her on Instagram @mydoulababy

Frankela Albury was my birth-doula. Frankela is a NYC birth doula servicing the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and parts of Northern NJ. Frankela can be reached at girlsgroup2007@gmail.com or you can follow her on Instagram @mydoulababy

There are two types of doula - a birth doula and a post-partum doula. Some doulas are trained to do the role of both. A birth doula will help the mother throughout the birth - meeting with her before the baby is born to help her with her birth plan, educate her about the process, and to be there on the day to help provide comfort measures during the difficult and painful part of the labour - almost like a birth coach. It's very much an emotional and physical job. Frankela, my birth doula, had the best poker face - and her calmness helped make every situation seem perfectly part of the plan. She also had the most magic hands and helped massage away my contraction pains for over 12 hours. The birth doula will also help provide the same kind of emotional support for the father, who is likely to be very overwhelmed in the process. Frankela and my husband worked as an unbelievable team and my husband and I cannot even imagine how the day would have gone without her. 

A post-partum doula helps once the baby is home - and can walk the new parents through newborn care, help the family adjust, and can provide an extra set of hands for meal preparation and light household tidying. Tia, my post-partum doula, made sure that my husband and I were well rested, fed, and helped get us through our weekly agenda with all the calmness we didn't have walking out of the hospital. She took us through our baby's first bath at home, baby wearing, helped talk me through the emotional distress I was experiencing during painful breastfeeding, and took the time to make sure I felt like I was doing an amazing job and that I took each day at a time.

Tia Dowling was my post-partum doula. Tia also provides infertility advice/support and birth doula support. Tia can be reached at metoodoula@gmail.com, or on  Facebook  or her  website

Tia Dowling was my post-partum doula. Tia also provides infertility advice/support and birth doula support. Tia can be reached at metoodoula@gmail.com, or on Facebook or her website

Some studies show that having a birth doula can mean a lower chance of medical interventions (use of Pitocin, emergency C-sections, etc) and shorter and less painful labours. Having a post-partum doula can help you through the hormonal journey you experience the days after your birth and keep you from having an endless rollercoaster of meltdowns in the first week with the inevitable bouts of depression that can kick in once your baby is home. There's an *endless* amount of resources online that will list the advantages of having a doula and I will happily recommend having a doula to any mother because a doula will make having a baby in a cold large city feel like a warm hug and welcome to motherhood.

So THANK YOU to both Frankela and Tia and I'd like to raise a glass to all doulas out there who help millions of mothers go through this amazing journey!

Coco-nuts for Yogurt

It took Anita Shepherd more than two years to fine tune the recipe for her coconut-based yogurt. After turning vegan seven years ago, Anita spent her pastry chef career mastering vegan desserts and finding plant-based alternative ingredients for crowd-pleasing dessert recipes that were typically heavy with creams. But the one thing that just kept stumping her was how to make the perfect vegan cheesecake and how to substitute yogurt in a recipe. Her drive to solve the problem resulted in her pulling together a business plan to start her own yogurt company. And of course, as fate would have it, Anita’s business loan was approved at the same time she found out she was pregnant with Ramona (now 9 months) which makes Anita one of the most merciless deadline-slaying and goal-conquering mamapreneurs I have met: she literally launched a business during her pregnancy and has already expanded the company to include 7 employees less than a year later.

A typical vegan yogurt has between 12-20 ingredients, often included to keep the cooking process cost competitive with mass-produced yogurts. Anita’s yogurt has only 3 ingredients in comparison (coconut milk, coconut water, and live probiotic cultures) which makes it less “heavy” and gives it a more “true” yogurt consistency. Sure, that comes with a premium price, but it’s a no-brainer choice for many chefs who care about what’s going into their food or everyday customers that want to control what’s going into their bodies. The yogurt has the delicious tanginess and texture of a true creamline Greek yogurt paired with a rich natural coconut smell and taste that will make you want to jump into a bathtub of the stuff. After watching Anita pull together a trifle for Food Curated, I dived into making my own lemon cake and the results were delicious.

The price premium and niche has not held this yogurt back. In less than a year on the shelves, Anita’s yogurt can be found in several high-end stores, including Whole Foods and Dean & Deluca, and also in local specialty stores such as Brooklyn Kitchen, Union Market, and Brooklyn Fare. She’s amassed a number of food service clients, who use her product regularly in their cooking, such as Smorgasburg heavy hitters Lumpia Shack and Chickpea & Olive, and meal deliveries services such as Blue Apron and Barley & Oats (also a postpartum service). While her yogurt is often used to keep a meal vegan-friendly, she even has a chef customer who uses her yogurt to marinate chicken, as the coconut seeps in to create a flavor he can’t get elsewhere.

In September, Anita introduced “grab-n-go” versions of her yogurt – 4.5 oz containers with fruit on the bottom (mango or blueberry) that are rolling out in stores as the perfect snack. This expansion will open her up to a world of new customers but she’s mainly looking forward to spending more time with her growing little girl, and can’t wait until the day that she can share the business with her.

Here’s my Q&A with Anita:

Becoming pregnant and implementing a business plan happened hand in hand for you. How did your pregnancy drive you through the process?

In this day and age, there’s pressure on women to think about how they can also be providers of the family and having a baby accelerates that, especially in NYC where you need two incomes per household. There’s also something beautiful about leaving a legacy or some kind of “inheritance” for your child that you have created. I like the idea of creating a brand my daughter could one day take over, if she wishes, as a family business. Also, my due date was the ultimate deadline! It felt like whatever I did not get done might not happen after that day, and I wanted to make it the best it could be. Fortunately, I found out that life keeps happening even after baby, and things that did not go according to plan eventually worked themselves out with the help of others.

You had a short amount of time to pull everything together - to build a kitchen, processing facility and launch yogurt on shelves. You were fighting against time and a growing bump. What did that involve?

The due date meant I had a lot to do – I had to run around town looking at large industrial warehouses and work spaces, research and negotiate prices from large processing equipment, stay on budget, stock up on supplies, oversee the build-out, and also hire and interview staff who would come on as I was about to go on maternity leave – which is intimidating in itself and takes a lot of drive.

Manufacturing is kind of a "man’s game" at this point and for the first time I was negotiating deals and overseeing work by men who mostly deal with other men—but my pregnancy helped me feel powerful, which was vital in that situation. The next priority was to have employees trained and ready to go for when my baby arrived – all this with a short deadline is tiring, but the excitement kept me going. I had to make tough decisions every day to keep it moving.

Fortunately for me and my business, I had a crazy influx of Pitocin in my last trimester. The same drive that helped me decorate and have the baby’s room ready in one week helped me turn the floor plan for the factory into a reality. It is amazing what female hormones can accomplish, and I think that all of this was possible because of, not in spite of, being pregnant.

At the end of the pregnancy you had a rock star manager in place and a day of training to get through… and you had a surprise that day. Tell us about it!

It was a week before my due date. I’d had two contractions that morning but assumed it was false labor. I bought a bag on wheels on the way to work so I wouldn’t have to carry my stuff, thinking that would help the feeling go away. The production manager and I were going over the production process in detail and what to do if I was gone, but the contractions kept coming, so I tried to breathe through them while we completed the training day.

I began to time the contractions. Oh no. It was the real deal! Stalling, I tried to play it off like I was just being weird (like suddenly getting up and walking in circles) but it was becoming more noticeable. That evening my uncle came to help fix a piece of equipment and his friend’s wife immediately noticed I was in labor and pointed it out to everyone in the room! That’s when my husband took me home.

Has having had a baby helped make you more organized and goal-oriented?

In the first months nothing mattered but her.  It would be snowing like crazy outside and we would just be tucked into our cocoon of love, not going anywhere, just watching the world go by. This physical separation helped me to remove myself and “pause” to make better decisions. And I had the luxury of doing so by phone while the newly-assembled Anita’s Yogurt team got the job done. Things that would have freaked me out, or sent me into panic mode no longer did so. At times I worried that I was becoming “numb”, but looking back, I was just more even-keeled-- and still am.

My due date was the ultimate deadline, but now that I have Ramona I have to self-impose time restraints and deadlines in order to not miss out on mommy time. I’ve played around with my schedule –working long hours one week in order to create more space to enjoy baby activities and meet-ups after deadlines. It’s still a work in progress.

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

  1. Stay in bed as much as possible for two weeks after the birth.  (To be fair, my Doula did tell me this and I did not listen.) Do not get up and try to do stuff like cook, clean, organize or hang out with guests just because you feel okay. I almost caused myself permanent damage by doing too much stuff. You just have to switch off that part of your brain and embrace the idea of doing nothing. My therapist called it “nesting.” Give yourself all day to nest with your little baby bird! And listen to your Doula.
  2. Make sure you have fluids (including but not limited to water) to fuel you and keep you hydrated during labor. I was running out of steam toward the end and my hubby remembered we had apple cider in the waiting room. He fed it to me and I think this helped with the last pushes.
  3. Buy baby clothes at least one or two sizes too big—especially if you plan to use cloth diapers. Babies grow exponentially and those cute newborn outfits may not see the light of day. Ramona is 9 months now and some 18-24 month sized baby clothes fit her like a glove. Most baby clothes run small, and do not account for the added bulk of cloth-diapers. I’m also big on hand-me-downs, both taken and given. I love the idea of passing on a cherished item. Ramona’s winter coat has been in circulation among family and friends (including me) since the 60s and we love it all the more for that reason.

Find out where you can pick up a tub of Anita’s on their website, or follow along on Facebook and Instagram for cooking ideas and food inspirations! 

A Secret Garden

Kimberly Sevilla spent 15+ years designing and building window displays, trade show displays and museum exhibits for high-end clients such as The Smithsonian, Barney’s, Cole Haan, Calvin Klein, Burberry, Mac Cosmetics, Kenneth Cole, and the NFL. These projects required a high level of attention to detail (Kimberly can correctly eyeball which PMS colors are in a flower display!) and often required 24 hour overnight production installations (think: LOTs of 2AM phone calls). It was during one of these 2AM installations with a 6 month breast-fed baby girl at home that Kimberly knew she needed to make a change in her life.

In 2008, less than a year after her daughter Lavender was born, Kimberly opened up Rose Red & Lavender, a floral studio and organic garden center in dedication to her daughter. She knew the risks were great – she was leaving a lucrative guaranteed job...in an industry that she had built a great reputation in... to run a local neighbourhood shop during a major economic recession (and with a newborn at home!) But she knew that she had to make the change to be the kind of mother she wanted to be.

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With a degree in Biology & Chemistry, training in Design (FIT/Parsons), and years of experience in public gardens and urban space, Kimberly wanted to introduce Williamsburg to the world of gardens and beautiful event displays. At the time, there wasn’t much of an interest in roof-top farming, the high rises had not quite exploded on the Williamsburg waterfront, and most of the people who walked into her store were simply “nervous about killing their plants.”

Today, Rose Red & Lavender does regular event planning for corporations as well as private celebrations, and Kimberly was preparing for three weddings on the weekend we chatted. They hold public classes that cover a range of topics - from flower design and flower crown making, to mouse taxidermy, terrarium building, and dreamcatcher weaving. Kimberly has also made a conscious effort to engage the community. She’s worked with the local schools that her children attend to allow students and parents the chance to connect with the earth – she once hosted one hundred five-year-olds to show them different types of mint and how each looks and feels (I had some serious kid envy hearing the story). Her work has been featured in NY Magazine, Real Simple, The Knot, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Kimberly has two children – Lavender, aged 7, and William, aged 5 - and a very successful business that she is aiming to expand.

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Here’s my Q&A with Kimberly:

The corporate environment and the peers you left behind are very different to the clientele that you work with today. What were the kind of pressures you faced in the corporate world?

In the corporate world I was surrounded by men who were married with stay-at-home wives and men and women who were uninterested in starting families. After the birth of my daughter, I felt like there was a double standard - I was made to feel “guilty” when I needed to leave at 6PM, yet it was perfectly understood and acceptable that a man living in the suburbs needed to catch the 5:30 NJ Transit or LIRR. Once a colleague of mine with a new puppy asked if I was going home to “play” with my baby when I was leaving to feed and care for my baby. It was high-pressured and intense. I was so protective of my clients that I even had my smartphone with me while being taken into the OR for a c-section!

Even in a much more community environment you still had a baby to take care of and a business to get off the ground. How did you make it work? 

With my daughter, I had a nanny and kept my day job for the first year. When my son was born, something had to give, so I quit my day job and relied a lot on baby carrying. He was with me after he was born in the shop for the first six months. I really enjoyed taking him with me to wholesalers and spending that time with him. I really missed out on the first year with my daughter because I was working so much. Even so, it wasn’t easy. I once had to reschedule a client meeting with a bride because my baby was sick and she wasn’t sympathetic - the wedding was her priority and she didn't know how a mother would feel when their child is sick. Having said that, most people have reacted positively and enjoy seeing a baby in a flower shop!

Now that your children are a little older has it become more fun having them in the store?

They love coming to the shop and I try to find smaller jobs for them to do, like putting price stickers on items. They really take ownership in the place and are proud of it.  My daughter loves talking to customers and going with me to farms and nurseries to help select plants and flowers. Sometimes I bring her when we are dropping off bridal bouquets. Lavender thinks the brides are so beautiful and really enjoys seeing the dresses and the bridal parties getting ready.

What is your design aesthetic and how do you tackle planning other people’s visions, such as weddings?

It is my job as a designer to create something that is beautiful and that tells the story the client wants to tell, using my skills and expertise to go beyond something they may have imagined. I like combining unusual colors and textures and letting the flowers have a dialogue with each other. I also like using unconventional materials like twigs and peppers mixed with more conventional flowers like roses to create something that is unusual and dramatic. I know I have done my job well when the client’s mom walks into a room I have done and says “this looks just like my daughter” That’s when I know that I nailed it.

You’ve been a mother and business owner for seven years, and have done a fantastic job at both. What does your future look like?

Now that my kids are both in school and are a little more self-sufficient at home, I feel like I have the room to change gears and expand my business. Originally it started as a lifestyle business that would allow me to follow my passion for gardening and flowers while being close to my children. Now I am making sure that it runs more self-sufficiently so that I can expand the business. One amazing thing is that I have been able to take more and more vacations and not worry about the shop. I have also been able to attend business classes, go to networking events and have more vendor and client meetings off-site.

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

  1. Be yourself. As a mom you are always questioning what you do and how you are doing it - allow yourself to be comfortable and allow yourself to make mistakes.
  2. Make friends with other moms. It can be lonely being a new mom, and story time at the library, going to the park and mommy-and-me meetups and classes really helps you to get through the first few months. If you own a business, seek out other moms who are entrepreneurs. The moms I met when Lavender was a baby are still my friends today.
  3. Carve out time for yourself. It can be hard to have time for yourself when you have young children, with babies on call 24 hours a day. Find some time for yourself, take a yoga class, get your hair done, or go on a bike ride - anything that will get you out of your routine so you can clear your head!

Learn about classes, book a consultation, or shop for super cute flowers arrangements at Rose Red & Lavender. Or take inspiration from their Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

Being Part of Da Hui

Let me first start off saying this - Brooklyn Baby Hui has saved me during my pregnancy. It’s been an amazing resource for all my curiosities, I have met some amazing friends that I’ll become new moms with, and I have met almost all the mothers in this Mamapreneurs series through “Hui” (as it’s affectionately shorted to). I am eternally grateful for Penny, who I will be featuring today, for her role in keeping the Hui community going and keeping it a place that feels warm and safe for all my unanswered concerns and questions. 

Brooklyn Baby Hui is an online group of parents who support, inspire and empower each other in the challenge of raising children through sharing experiences, stories and resources. It is a members-only Yahoo Group based in my neighbourhood of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Hui (based on the Hawaiian term “da hui” which means group or club) was founded by Yvette in 2004 as a way for a small group of moms to plan outings. Yvette eventually moved away and Penny took over moderating the group in 2007 – and has since been joined by friend and fellow mama Jess. Its not just a "mommy group" - and it’s even got some street cred: earlier this year NYC police were able to nab a serial groper based on the power of the group who put together enough evidence and testimonials to take action. 

Let's pause to think about what it means to have an online community that’s been going for 11 years: In 2004 the main social community was MySpace, the iPhone had not yet been rolled out, you probably cried over Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, and Britney Spears’ “Toxic” was still playing on the radio. Williamsburg was not “hipster” (and certainly not yet “gentrified”) and real estate prices were $269/sq ft (the neighborhood is now renowned for being one of the most expensive in the city).

A lot has changed in 11 years but there’s one thing that hasn't: new moms have the exact same questions and concerns they have always had. Sure, the clientele has shifted (there’s more chatter on the comparison of costly night nurses, and more questions coming from waterfront properties), but when it comes down to it new moms just want to know how they can make sure their babies are eating and sleeping enough.

Being a Hui moderator is no easy feat. There are over 6,000 members and 2,000 messages a month, which can mean 50-100 emails a day to approve. There’s been multiple offers to buy out the list, and there has been considerations to charge a membership fee like some other communities do but in the end Brooklyn Baby Hui remains a free service that is run by unpaid staff, Penny & Jess. Penny is lucky to work mainly from home (shes an interior designer), because being a moderator can take over 2 hours of her day. Every. Single. Day. She would never complain though – the rewards in helping others through this difficult stage of life are well worth it. 

Here’s my Q&A with Penny (also affectionately known as “xo Penny, Mela 9”)

One of the most distinctive things about Hui is that each post *must* be signed with your name, as well as your child’s name and age. How did this tradition start?

It started organically with that first group of moms. We’ve kept the tradition by requiring posts to be signed in that way. We feel it really fosters a sense of community, and it makes it easy to recognize each other on the playground and around the neighborhood. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone because I recognized the mom and baby name combo being called across the park! It’s also interesting and helpful for others to see the perspective on certain topics in relation to a child’s age.

Being a new mom is tough – there’s a lot of crazy hormones, no sleep, and everything is changing every minute. What is your favourite way that Hui helps moms through this time?

Hui helps new moms by being a free resource, run by local mamas. If a new mom is having nursing troubles at night, she can get instant responses with tips to try, who to call, when the next La Leche League meeting is. We’ve had posts from parents whose child is having a rare/scary/unidentifiable medical issue, and amazingly someone else has been through it and can offer insights and comfort within a few hours! When a mom is exhausted and at the end of her rope and just needs to vent, the list is there.  Getting advice and commiseration from your actual neighbors, with children of varying ages, is invaluable. And we’re so happy to help new mamas meet each other in real life, by starting up the sub-groups seasonally. Sub-groups let mothers who are expecting at the same time or have babies at the same age to meet to have the support they need for free.

Not all topics are met with shared enthusiasm. In fact, some conversations can easily turn into major “mommy drama”. Can you tell us about some incidents in the past?

Oh, there has definitely been drama over the years! Sometimes it’s not a topic you’d expect, like schools. During one flare up a few years ago, there was one mom who was creating false email accounts to agree with herself! My partner Jess is really good at sniffing out those email trails. There are definitely a few subjects that always have the potential to get touchy, like "Cry It Out". But many times the thread comes up with no drama. It’s good to remember that many moms on the list are newly post-partum, and can be particularly raw and sensitive; nervous, exhausted and really hormonal.

Because of the nature of how sensitive the topics are, and how trusting people are, it’s important that there is a social fabric in place that protects the group. Tell us more about the guidelines to keep this a sacred place for moms.

A few years ago, we starting asking for potential new members to complete a questionnaire, asking for their phone number, where they live, names and ages of children or due dates, how they found out about the list, etc. We check them out to the best of our abilities, sometimes we call randomly if something seems suspicious or we need verification (but that's very rare). And it’s another reason we insist upon the proper sign off. We also started charging a small fee for Commercial Posts. This has drastically reduced the amount of spam we get, and kept the commercial posts relevant to our listserv.

Your daughter is 9 years old now, and you have seen generations of “new moms” since being a new mom yourself. What inspires you to keep taking such an active role?

Motherhood completely changed me. I had no idea how much love and fierce protectiveness I would feel for this perfect new being. It changed the way I viewed everything. Knowing how much this list helps so many new mamas, like me, inspired me to take it over when it was ready to shut down. So many women don’t have a support group in NYC when becoming a parent. Many of us don’t have family in NYC, and don’t have parent friends yet. It can be very lonely and confusing in those first few weeks and months. Having a community to reach out to is crucial, even if it is online. And because we are local, parents meet in the neighborhood and become real friends. Through all the years of running this list, many of the same threads come up over and over again: is my baby eating enough? sleeping enough? Why am I having problems nursing? How can I go back to work? All any mama wants to know is “is my baby ok?” It’s universal. And I’m happy to be a part of a community that will give you confidence and comfort.

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

  1. Sleep when baby sleeps. Really. It’s more important than doing chores. Every mom I know wishes they’d done that sooner!
  2. Trust your mama instincts and listen to your baby. You’re a team! All the answers are there. Just follow her lead.
  3. Enjoy! You will not believe how much you can possibly love another human being when you become a mama! It is life-changing, mind-blowing, earth-shattering stuff!

xo Penny, Mela

 

Brooklyn Baby Hui also has a Facebook page and there is a separate list run for dads (independently) for all new parents in Williamsburg and Greenpoint (Brooklyn). If you don't live in North Brooklyn, there are plenty of other online support and neighbourhood groups and I highly recommend that you join one!

 

 

On Breaking Backs and Breakin' Boundaries

Renee's story could start in many places, but the launching pad to me, and what makes her a tough cookie, is that Renee’s story starts when she broke her back in a gymnastic training/teaching accident.

Spinal injuries are up there on my list of major fears. I think of Bane “breaking the Bat” in Gotham City (comic nerd alert!), and while Renee’s experience didn’t have the Christopher Nolan treatment, it was still unpleasant. She couldn’t feel her legs for six hours and didn’t know how long that would last, and when she was seen by doctors, she was told that she would need a spinal fusion (in fact seventeen separate doctors said that would be her only option). She was told she wouldn’t be able to dance or perform again (she’s a former junior Olympic gymnast who had put years of sweat and tears into training) and that she would be unable to have a natural childbirth and to expect difficulties during pregnancy.

But, like I say, Renee is *ONE TOUGH COOKIE*. She wouldn’t hear no for an answer, and in the process she learned a lot about what it takes to heal yourself and others. The healing process was long, but she beat the odds and did it her way. Fast forward to today, and Renee runs her own dance studio and fitness center, Breakin Boundaries. She has two little boys who are four and a half and two years old (she delivered both naturally and continued to teach/dance up to 8 months into both pregnancies). As a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA), her expertise is in helping individuals with serious injuries through movement therapy. She’s also an Applied Behavioral Analyst (ABA) and has extensive experience in working with children with autism, which she was inspired to do after her cousin was diagnosed at two years old.

Her business’ goal is to inspire people not to be afraid. Her studio is known for Zumba, but offers an array of classes from dance-related (Hip Hop & Capoeira), aerobic-focused (boot camps & kick boxing), wellness and fitness-inspired (pilates & barre), to downright playful (wanna learn Burlesque with me at Rock N’ Stilettos, anyone?). The classes all have something in common: get ready to do some self-healing work, to literarily and figuratively let your hair down, sweat it out and make some friends.

Renee and her husband come from large Italian families, so we met at her newest local Piadine, an Italian coffee shop, lunch spot and specialty good store all-in-one. Here’s my Q&A with Renee:

After your training accident, seventeen different doctors recommended that you get a spinal fusion that would have required a lifetime of follow-up surgeries. How did you decide to ignore their advice, and what tools did you use to recover yourself?

Surgery would have limited my range and mobility.  Over time, the wear and tear of a spinal fusion would put tension on the rest of my spine, which would eventually need attention that I was not mentally or physically prepared for. I researched all types of pilates until I came across IM=X Pilates (Integrated Movement Xercise), and used this form of rehabilitation. I called the Institute and became certified myself so that I could understand the fundamentals (the owner of the facility had a similar story). At the time, I had completed my pre-requisites for LIMS and began my first module at Laban Movement studies program.  I used techniques from the Bartenieff Fundamental Exercises which help re-pattern the body, with themes such as internal/external intent, learning to let go, using space harmony and spatial awareness to move through the environment. I incorporated these methodologies, and still do, into my everyday life.

You became an Applied Behavioral Analyst (ABA) after caring for your autistic cousin. How did you make that decision and how has that helped in your Certified Movement Analyst (CMA) work?

Watching a child struggle day in and day out made my back injury seem so small. I was off work at the time (due to my injury) and it gave me the opportunity to give myself to someone else. Learning about Autism from multiple clients, I began to understand their wants and needs before they did. I was doing great work that I was actually good at, and I was helping children and families who needed it more than I did. For the first time in a longtime after my injury, I felt alive again! The power and beauty of these children gave me the courage to regain confidence in myself. I didn’t know what to expect when I entered into the Laban Movement Analyst program. I think my initial expectations were that I would do some exercises and learn how to move better and move on. But, this was way more than I ever imagined it would be, and it took me to a place of vulnerability. Yes we moved, and cried (oh I cried) as each layer was peeled away. What most don’t realize is that trauma (physical, emotional or mental) creates a barrier that blocks you from healing. It can be paralyzing. It was for me. As I was finishing up my 5 year module program to become a CMA, I decided to write my thesis on Autism and the application and theory of Laban and Bartenieff Fundamentals.  One of the greatest things I learned was that children with autism and I shared a common truth – we were afraid of the unknown.    

Due to your former injuries, you were told that you would need to use pain medications through both of your childbirths and that a cesarean might be the only option. What did you use as pain-management techniques to avoid both, and how had your prior healing/training helped?

Due to my injury, I was more afraid of an epidural then I was of having a natural birth! I physically and mentally prepared myself for the most amazing experience and what our bodies were built for. I continued teaching classes until I was eight month pregnant, as staying fit and moving while pregnant is helpful for having an easier birth. I continued to utilize my breathe support in all my classes, and I implemented certain Laban/BF techniques in my everyday life - for example I utilized imagery and visualized the baby moving under the pubic bone with my breath, and allowed my breath to take the baby where he needed to go. I also made a lot of conscious changes in the way I moved: walking with my legs hip width apart, with vertical alignment, and dropping my sacrum while walking up the stairs. I prepared myself for a c-section in an emergency if it was for the best and the safety of my newborn. But, for those who really want to know, I couldn’t sit still – I was actually dancing in the labor room! Second position plies and stretching was what my body needed for the all-natural birth. We are stronger then you think. I call it mind over matter!

You had two little boys after you launched your own business. How did you juggle motherhood demands while expanding your business?

This had to be one of the scariest things at the time. All I could say every morning was “How? How am I going to do this today?” But, when a fire is burning inside and passion takes over, I believe anything is possible. Life happens!  My first-born was there from the moment I opened my doors. I offered classes for children in addition to my already established adult classes. And yes, there was the pack n’ play in the corner – my boys are great at sleeping through blasting music! Managing time and scheduling meetings with a breast-feeding newborn was a struggle. I am not one to sugarcoat anything, so I chalked it up to “this is me, take me for all I have or nothing at all”! When the time was right all would fall into place. Fast forward, now that both of my angel faces are in school, I am able to offer morning classes as well. 

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

  1. Give yourself permission! Permission to let go, permission to forgive yourself and permission to be present!
  2. Stay true to yourself, believe in your abilities, and don’t be afraid. JUMP and, when you do, jump high!
  3. Self-care is the key to a successful rich, full, happy, life! Have NO regrets. It all meant something!

You can take a class with Renee or at Breakin Boundaries by checking out their class schedule online, or following her on Facebook and Instagram.

GREAT DEAL: Renee is offering a *FREE CLASS* to any new clients who shows a copy of this post. Now go get your dance on!

Ink and Mama Inklings

Karen Glass is a tattoo artist that runs her own successful tattoo business. She's also a musician (singer, guitarist and songwriter), illustrator-painter and, most importantly, mother to *adorable* Bianca who is almost 8 months old.

Karen grew up in a large family, one of seven children, in Pennsylvania, and was thirteen when her youngest sister was born. She vividly remembers her mother's all-natural and nurturing childhood philosophies on parenting, which she has since adopted with her daughter: She practices co-sleeping, is an avid fan and advocate of cloth diapering (she loves her experiences with DiaperKind), and she herself had a home birth in her Greenpoint apartment.

Karen is also a *total badass*. In the last year, she and her family have been through major changes. She opened a private tattoo studio at the same time that her husband opened a new Bushwick bar, Our Wicked Lady, which is a multi-purpose space for both happy-hour seekers (it has an awesome rooftop serving delicious cocktails and food) as well as rehearsal spaces for musicians and artist studios for rent. However, when the bar’s opening was delayed due to city paperwork and red tape, Karen took on the opening of her own business and having a baby girl all while being the sole financial provider for the family.

Karen takes appointments at her studio for custom designs that can be described as illustrative traditional Americana with a feminine twist, and her tattoo sessions often last 3-4 hours (something that I can only imagine was exhausting in her third trimester). She’s built up an impressive clientele list through word of mouth, touring tattoo conventions, and through her prior experience working in Park Slope. When the dust settles she hopes that her band, Bugs in the Dark, can play again more regularly and maybe even start to tour again (for now they are enjoying brewing up new material).

Images courtesy of @karenglasstattoo (Instagram)

Here is my Q&A with Karen:

You started the process to become a tattoo artist in 2008. What are the stages to getting to your level of expertise?

During my apprenticeship, I learned the technical side of tattooing, which includes building machines, practicing on grapefruits and doing simple tattoos on friends. I also learned a lot about running a small business as I managed the shop during my apprenticeship. Additionally, I spent all of my free time improving my drawing skills and developing my own style. All the while, I was building my own clientele that allowed me to eventually work out of my own private studio.

You launched your own studio with your business partner, Sophie, after touring many tattoo conventions together. What kind of work goes into conventions and how were they beneficial for you?

The year before I got pregnant, I worked conventions in Austin, Philly and Long Beach, CA. Conventions are a great way to network with artists and shops in other cities, which can help establish a way to work while traveling. Conventions are also great for expanding your clientele for traveling. My private studio partner Sophie and I were convention buddies. I did my last convention the day after I found out I was pregnant and I've had to take a break from traveling since.

You've been through an enormous amount of change in the last few years: you launched a business, had a baby girl, and your husband and band mate opened his own bar, Our Wicked Lady, at the same time. How did it all work?

The timing wasn't ideal, but we figured out how to get through it. I worked full time into my 9th month of pregnancy; paying our bills while my husband worked to open his bar. Bianca was born in February and Our Wicked Lady opened in July. The months between were tight, but we made it through by knowing we were working towards something great. The key for us is always remembering that we're on the same team.

Being an artist and a musician, you naturally have a very cool look and style that's unique to you. How did you handle the world of maternity clothing?

I got two pairs of maternity jeans at H&M (one black, one blue). I also got a pair of leggings and a few maternity tops. I was still able to layer with a lot of non-maternity jackets and cardigans and adding a cool pair of comfy boots to the mix made me feel great. I loved the way my pregnant body looked - my bump was such a fun accessory!

How did having a baby effect your work schedule?

Tattooing with morning sickness wasn't easy and luckily that only lasted a week or so for me. Now that Bianca is born, I'm only working part time. When I confirm appointments, I tell my clients that we'll have to take a break during the session so I can pump and have a snack. My clients are totally understanding and always ask to see photos of Bianca. It's a tough adjustment going from being a very career-driven person to working part-time. I couldn't be happier with the choice I made to become a mother, and at the same time, there is still a deeply ingrained drive in me to produce results and further my career. I am still settling in to my new balance with it all.

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

  1. Ask for help if you need it. We had serious breastfeeding challenges and I wish I had hired a lactation consultant right away. Also, ask for the help of friends and family to clean or do the dishes for you (instead of them holding the baby while you do dishes!!).
  2. Sleep is more important than a clean bathroom. Nap with your baby whenever you can.
  3. Follow your instincts! They are powerful and usually right on. Feed your babies on demand and comfort them when they need it. There's no better way to bond and enjoy your child.

To learn more about Karen, visit her website at http://www.karenglasstattoo.com/, or follow her on Instagram at @karenglasstattoo

Black and White and #Tagged Allover

Its hard to ignore that there's a major trend in baby nurseries at the moment: the monochromatic Black and White nursery. I'm also guilty of getting sucked into it, and it's easy to see why - the colours are neutral, the gender is neutral, and it goes well with grey which has been the colour du jour for so long.

I don't know enough about decoration trends to make any real intelligent observations beyond that, but after flicking through so many photos of black and white nurseries I started to wonder - is there any benefit to the baby, other than being #onfleek, of having a black and white room?

#blackandwhitenursery on Instagram

Babies are born without fully developed adult vision, and they go through multiple stages of visual development in their first year. Initially, their world is mainly black and white and their range of focus is about 8 - 12 inches, which is the perfect distance to gaze lovingly into mother's eyes while breastfeeding. A baby's eyes will get a little more savvy over the next few months, and their hand-eye coordination will kick in to get them through the next stages of development. By about 5 months old, babies are able to see a full range of colour and their eyes are able to process depth perception, which is crucial for them when they start to crawl. By about a year old, a baby's vision is up to par with a normal* healthy adult (*types the person who is in denial that she should be wearing glasses on a daily basis). 

But between 0-4 months, they generally will not really be able to tell the difference between subtle shades of colour. Initially they are better at focusing on brightly colored or high-contrast items. Stimulating the baby's vision and giving them something they can focus on (with black and white items) is good for helping them get through important developmental milestones... but they will soon need more colour around them to keep up the progression. However, a number of advice columns will also argue that you don't want to stimulate a baby too much once they start to process colours as they can become agitated when overwhelmed.

It's hard to really get a consensus about what that means for your nursery. It seems that black and white items with high contrast patterns are important in the beginning months, but that it's really only relevant for objects that will be 8-12 inches away from the baby's face (the Montessori school system developed a "Munari" crib mobile for ages 3-6 weeks which is a black and white mobile made from 2 dimensional geometrical shapes). Once you pass this initial stage, it seems important to keep your baby more stimulated and to introduce more colours as they can handle it, which I would imagine will happen naturally as you take them more and more outside of the nursery anyway. 

I'm not going to over think it and will continue to enjoy #blackandwhitenursery on Instagram. Sometimes it feels a little like rolling the dice, but maybe I'll get some of these decisions right one day.

 

What's a "Mamapreneur"?

After the initial excitement about being pregnant had passed, I suddenly felt exposed to an unknown future for my career. We live in a city that’s so driven by career success and ambition that it’s hard to appreciate that being a mother can be a “career” in itself. Would I have time for two jobs? And if so, would I be able to do them both properly? I had worked my butt off for the last 10 years, so deciding to leave a salaried job “indefinitely” was not easy. I found myself justifying that “I’ll be working on a new project next year – my baby”.

I’m still not sure what my plan is after the baby is born, but in this journey of self-discovery I have been blown away by the community of local business-savvy mothers I have met who have become a huge inspiration to me. These aren’t just regular working mothers (which is a feat in itself!) – these are women who have put themselves on a tightrope of vulnerability and have become mothers while running their own businesses. 

I’m calling them “Mamapreneurs” and this section of my blog is dedicated to them. I hope you enjoy their stories - whether you are a mother, a business owner, a Brooklyn local, or someone who is simply inspired by what others can do and achieve when they put their minds to it!

Preggo Creme Brulee

Everyone wants to know what strange pregnancy cravings I've had. Do pregnant women really want to eat pickles and ice-cream at the same time

Truth be told, my cravings haven't involved unusual combinations of food but more of an unadulterated and unstoppable *need* for sweet things. Sort of like a drunk teenager with no inhibitions - when my pre-pregnancy self would have asked "is sugar before bedtime really a good idea?" my pregnant self asks "DO WE HAVE MORE ICECREAM?"

In my first and second trimester, I focused on packing my meals with nutrients that were good for the baby - reading all the superfoods out there and making my way around town to eat them (did you know bone-marrow is a secret pregnancy superfood?). Once my third trimester rolled around I was starting to slow down and was physically running out of room in my belly. And then the acid reflux started. And that feeling of always being full. Skipping meals started to sound good, so I wasn't going to berate myself if the only thing I wanted was a brownie and three chocolate croissants (true story).

So I was delighted when I came across a Smitten Kitchen recipe that I could modify and produce in less than 15 minutes that was "healthy". I've been calling it Pregnant Creme Brulee.

I use a small ramekin for an individual portion and layer the following:

  • A layer of plain greek yogurt to line the bottom. I use 0% fat because that's usually what its in the fridge, but use what you have!
  • A few berries pressed into the yogurt. Raspberries and blueberries are super easy, but chopped peaches are also nice (just a bit more watery)
  • Another layer of greek yogurt to fill in the gaps and to create a smooth flat surface
  • A very healthy dose of brown sugar. I use cane sugar, but the clumpy type of brown sugar can work if you have a little patience in spreading it out evenly

I put my broiler on the highest setting and make sure the rack is as close to the broiler flame as possible (a brulee torch would be much handier). Throw your little delight into the broiler for a few minutes until the sugar bubbles and looks like its burning. Remove with an oven mitt, and dig in when its cool enough to touch! I personally like it with everything a little warm and mixed up  but its definitely not the prettiest dish if you leave it in too long.

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How exactly is this "healthy", you ask? Greek yogurt is a great source of calcium, protein, and gets you important pro-biotics that are vital in a pregnancy diet. Not only are berries pretty, they are packed with vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber. And brown sugar is pregnancy superfood, too! Just kidding - but its tasty and at least you know the source of your sugars in this snack, and you can control the amount you put in.

Bon Appetit!