Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's a good thing Eli is a boy...

...because I would go crazy making bows if I had a baby girl. I just read about this company, Shy Girl Designs from the Design Mom blog. I love the bows and purses sold here! They are based out of Salt Lake, so if you live in or visit the area, you can opt for local pickup instead of paying for shipping. I'm not rushing out to buy one for no real reason, but I think they are so cute! (I love the fabric choices)

And on a totally different subject... I have been on the hunt for cute, comfortable (do these really exist??) but inexpensive heels to wear with my dress to Ben's work party tomorrow. I checked out a few stores without much luck, so I resigned to stop at Nordstrom's tonight and see if I could find something not too pricey. I had great help from one of the shoe salesmen who was not pushy or pretentious (I had no makeup on and I was wearing these shoe/boots that are terrific for walking through the snow, but I felt like I was clomping around very un-gracefully in the store... so nice).

Anyway, I didn't feel judged for my lack of style or finesse and the guy was happy to traipse back and forth so I could try on a million different pairs. In the end, I settled on a cute pair of black pumps with a peep toe with a subtle but fun bow on top. I also bought a pair of SPANX pantyhoes, which I am excited to try out! One great thing - he put my shoes on a stretcher to help the toes not be quite so tight. Great service!

Okay, I'm I'm posting way too much about shopping and products and should post about sweet Eli! He is 7 months old today, so he and I celebrated by going out to lunch at Walker Brother's Pancake House. I got my favorite - the pecan waffles - and Eli got some pancakes, which he really enjoyed. We were there around 1 p.m. and for some reason they seated us in a section near lots of older people... Eli kept smiling, laughing, making cute faces at this elderly man who was smiling right back. It was so funny! It's so neat to have a friendly baby that gets the people around him to be happy - he just brightens up the room. He brings so much joy to my life!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Summary of 2007

I included our blog address on our Christmas card this year that may arrive in your mailbox soon, so I thought I would post a quick summary of where life has taken us this year... (and if you don't think I have your address, email it to me! I would love to send you a card)

  • January-April: I finished nannying for two of my most favorite little kids that I had cared for since they were newborns (4+ years with them!). Ben was busy interviewing for jobs (sometimes braving crazy weather to get to these interviews) and finishing his research and dissertation on how granular materials mix and flow.

  • May 20: After two long days of labor and eventually an emergency c-section, Eli David Severson was born. As he is the main subject of this blog, we are now fully immersed in the care and love for this sweet child. We are so blessed to have this wonderful baby and love him to pieces!! Just today he started yelling "Da da da da da da" over and over, almost in a complaining, frustrated tone. We think it is pretty cute (and funny). We love seeing Eli change and grow and think our chubby, strong little boy is terrific!

  • June: After 5 years of graduate school, Ben completed his Ph.D. at Northwestern, and the commencement speaker was Seinfeld's Julia Louis-Dreyfus - she was thoroughly entertaining! Ben's parents flew out for graduation and for Eli's baby blessing at church, so it was a fun couple of weeks. Ben tried to get as much fishing in as he could before starting work full time. This was also the year of the cicada here in Chicago...

  • July: Ben began his job as a financial engineer with an options trading firm in downtown Chicago. He has now been there for 6 months and really enjoys what he's doing. We were lucky that he started working there just a few weeks before the company celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a very fun party!

  • October: Sarah and Eli took two trips, one to Washington DC and the other to Utah. 3 out of the 4 flights were successful (the leg home from Utah was not great - Eli got some comments from other passengers on the strength of his lung capacity...) Later we had a visit from our sister-in-law Emily and her niece Adele.
  • December: We just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary (crazy how time flies!), and next week we're off to San Diego to be with Ben's family. One of his brothers lives there and we're all ascending on them for the holidays! It is sure to be absolute mayhem but so much fun. Eli will get to spend time with 13 of his 14 cousins (I hope I have that number right!), 12 aunts and uncles, and grandparents. The only family missing is Ben's youngest sister Danielle and her husband and daughter, because she is pregnant and due in two weeks. Two of Ben's other siblings are also expecting baby boys in upcoming months, so soon the adults will be outnumbered by the little kids! We're looking forward to trading our snow and 20 degree weather for some sunshine in California.

  • We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

    Love, the Seversons

    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    I love the camera, Eli loves this caterpillar

    You may think I'm over the top with my camera post below (yes, it does sound like a sales pitch and no, I don't get a commission). But here are some fun pictures to show what you can do with it. You'll notice Eli really loves this worm/caterpillar toy...

    Eli loves to do spit bubbles...

    Yes, he is playing with my toes.

    He nibbles on the caterpillar...

    Kisses the caterpillar...

    Plays peek-a-boo with the caterpillar...

    And eats the caterpillar.

    He is possessive of this toy!

    After his nap he had cute flushed cheeks and tousled hair

    Sweet boy!

    Tired but happy eyes after a long day!

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    In Love with my Nikon D40

    About 6 weeks before Eli was born, I stopped by a Ritz Camera on a Saturday afternoon to check out the different digital SLR camera options. I had wanted a DSLR for a long time, and in my pregnant, impulsive state I was even more tempted - after all, we were having our long-awaited baby and would need a good camera to capture his every move! I didn't go in to the store thinking I would buy one - I had done a lot of research online and just wanted to try out a few different brands/kinds to see what I liked the best.

    Well... two hours later (and armed with tons of great info from this college-aged girl/salesperson who knew everything about photography), I had fallen in love with the camera I now have today. :) Ben was busy at school finishing up his dissertation, but I called him to ask his opinion about whether this was a good idea to buy now. He was too stressed to sit on the phone and go over pros/cons with me so he just said, "Do what you think is best," and went back to writing. Of course I thought it was a good time to get it so we would have time to learn how to use it before the baby arrived...

    After 6 months+ of heavy use, I am SO happy with the purchase! I love the Nikon D40. It is the entry-level Nikon DSLR, and is the smallest and lightest of the brand's DSLR cameras. It's comfortable to hold (others are really bulky/heavy), pretty simple to use, and takes great pictures. It has 6.1 megapixels, which is a good size but small enough to not use up so much of your computer memory (versus the ones that have 10-12 megapixels - those will eat up your hard drive space twice as fast).

    There is no shutter lag (a huge plus when photographing kids) and indoor pictures don't have the shadows/weird lighting that a smaller point and shoot camera often produces. The manual settings aren't too hard to use either. I called the Nikon customer support line this week and the person was very knowledgeable and taught me some valuable things about the camera in just a few minutes! Anyway, if you get a DSLR, these are what I consider the essentials:

    • The camera body and lens kit - I have the Nikon D40 with the 18-55 mm lens (there are more specifics but this is a basic description). (I am getting the 50 mm 1.8f lens for Christmas, which I am very excited about, but I don't think it's necessary when you first buy the camera)

    • External flash - I have the Nikon Speedlight SB-400, which is an affordable, compact flash that attaches to the top of the camera unit. It can be tilted in 4 different ways (to "bounce" the flash from something like the ceiling, providing more natural light in the pictures) and makes your camera battery last longer on one charge (the speedlight uses 2 AA batteries, totally separate from the camera).

    • High-speed memory card - I would get at least a 2GB memory card because you tend to take a lot of pictures (since the camera is capable of taking many pictures really fast).

    • Camera bag - I like using an over-the-shoulder camera bag. I wouldn't recommend a backpack if you plan on taking the camera in and out of the bag a lot, because it's a pain if it's on your back. However, a backpack would be great if you're a big hiker or plan on having the camera out for long periods of time and don't need to keep putting it back.

    • Extra battery - the Nikon D40's rechargeable lithium battery lasts a long time (especially when using the speedlight), but I like having two batteries so one is always charged and ready to go.

    • Warranty - we didn't get a warranty on our very first digital camera (this is our third) and it came back to bite us. Cameras are fragile (especially DSLRs) and endless things can happen to them...

    Some other things to note - it's taken me a few months to become really proficient with the camera, so if you do get one, don't expect it to be something you can use without reading the manual. I finally bought the Nikon D40 Digital Field Guide by David Busch and it has been VERY helpful in learning the more advanced features.

    Also - DSLRs don't come with video functions, so it's still nice to have a compact camera with video or a camcorder. I still use my compact camera (we have a Sony P200 that is a few years old) - I keep it in my diaper bag since it's so small - because the Nikon is bulky and not easy to bring along when we go somewhere. Also - DSLRs still have you look through the viewfinder, not on the LCD screen like we've become accustomed to with compact digital cameras. Not a big deal, but it takes some getting used to if you've used dig. cameras for a while.

    And lastly... I was really pleased with Ritz. You can buy things cheaper online and sometimes without tax, but I was glad to do this big purchase at a reputable camera store. My purchase came with free prints, photography classes, and if I ever have a question, I can stop in at a Ritz or Wolf Camera store and they are happy to help you. If nothing else, I would buy the camera and lens from a store like Ritz and then order the accessories/extra parts online for a better price.

    P.S. - If you're already into photography, you probably know about Photoshop actions - but if you don't... check out this blog to learn about them! I haven't ventured into using them yet, but will start looking for free ones online...

    Making Things Happen

    I have always been a big believer in being proactive, writing letters, talking to managers, calling companies, etc. when I feel that something could be improved. I've done this with airlines, restaurants, retail stores, online stores, and often with the city where I live (someday I'm going to run for city council or other local office so I can really make things happen!).

    With that said...

    We have lived in our condo for 5+ years now, and each winter we get a nice accumulation of snow. The city requires residents and businesses to clear their sidewalks, yet there has always been this stretch of sidewalk near our building that is NEVER cleared! (And then the sidewalk on either side is totally clear) It drives me crazy and drives many other people crazy as they walk down our street to the train or hospital. But now that I have a baby and am slipping and sliding carrying my big bundle, I finally became fed up and called the city.

    (here is the cleared side of the sidewalk)

    (here is the annoying patch of icy snow)
    It turns out that the sidewalk is the responsibility of the city-owned golf course! (this is an urban golf course that crosses a few busy roads - we are grateful to have the view of the golf course with open space rather than another brick building). My assumption is that whoever was clearing their sidewalks thought that this small stretch was the responsibility of our condo building (but in the summertime, that grass is cut by the golf course people so I figured it wasn't).

    Anyway, it's a shame I didn't call sooner! I'm happy at least that they are going to come take care of it and we will no longer have this awful icy patch. For all of you who have something you're frustrated with, call or write a letter! You'll feel better. And maybe even get some results!

    (Eli's happy too - can you spot his two lower teeth? :)
    And one random addition to this post - I was just searching for some of my freelance articles to post on my blog (see sidebar) and found my Luvabulls article (where I tried out for the Chicago Bulls dance team and wrote about it) posted in a basketball forum - too funny!

    Friday, December 07, 2007

    Getting Messy, Cleaning Up

    Here are some pictures from this week:

    What to Wear to a Holiday Party?

    Ben's work throws amazing parties, which is cool, but a little stressful!! A few days ago, he brought home a beautiful invitation for the Annual Holiday Soiree for later this month, and it says the attire is cocktail chic.

    I can imagine what other people will wear, but I'm having a hard time picturing what I can wear to this! It's tough since most dresses that would fit that category are short, sleeveless, and bare. I have a black, short-sleeved dress, but I can't decide if it is exactly right for the occasion (I got it in the summer). I googled "cocktail chic attire" and this is one thing that came up (under a wedding site):

    Cocktail Attire: Dress as you would for a fancy cocktail party or a fancy dinner out on the town. This attire is similar to that indicated above for Evening Weddings, but with an emphasis on sophistication. Women should strive for elegance and chic, rather than sweet or pretty dresses. Men should dress to be their most dashing (although tuxedos are not appropriate).

    and under Evening Weddings, it says - Dress as you would for a nice dinner out. Men should wear suits, women should choose dresses, skirts or elegant suits. Select darker, more sophisticated colors and fabrics than you would choose for a morning or afternoon wedding. Jewelry can be more elaborate, and women would probably choose to carry a small evening bag rather than a purse.

    So as you're out shopping in these next few weeks, let me know if you see any dresses that might fit this description! Do any of you have a favorite store (physical location or online) that you are able to find dresses that aren't totally bare but suitable for things like this? This is all very out of my element...

    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    Winter Weather and More Research on Baby Carriers

    Last weekend - we had freezing rain, sleet, and snow (we had frozen rain on our windows). Tonight we had another snowfall and it may continue tomorrow! With temps in the 20s and 30s, it definitely feels like winter.

    I can already feel myself going into hibernation mode - if I leave the house and come home to a street packed with cars (so I'm then forced to park on a side street, not so close), I am less inclined to want to leave again... (carrying my solid little Eli, the diaper bag, and any other bags from our outing is not so fun/easy with distances longer than a block!)

    Look at this chubby kid!! I think his forearms are expanding :)
    So I keep researching baby carriers. (This is for you Ashley!) I am on this quest to find something that will help me as I schlep my little guy around and will hopefully prevent complete isolation since Chicago winters tend to last through April! Here is an update with my latest findings:

    • Beco Baby Carriers (shown below) - they are coming out with a new design, the Butterfly, in January. Here is some info that I found on the new Butterfly. I'm torn because I think the Beco 4th Generation (the current model) is well-liked and looks nice too! But...

    • From the blog w/ the Butterfly info, I learned about the new CatBird Pikkolo (shown below). This is very similar to the Beco, but the base of the carrier (where the baby sits) can adjust in widths w/ a cinch cord. It has memory foam shoulder straps and got a good review here. You can wear it in the front, side, or back.

    Decisions, decisions...

    Monday, December 03, 2007

    Neat Puppet Show - this is impressive! (set to "What a Wonderful World")

    My Favorite Boots

    This is random, but I couldn't stop staring at these boots in the Garnet Hill catalog, then I looked them up online and searched around for a minute to see if there was any sort of amazing coupon code to make them cheaper. But alas, my favorite new boots are $248 and even with the $50 off coupon code that I found at RetailMeNot... it's just not low enough to justify splurging on them. (I could buy 7 Sam's Club-sized boxes of diapers for that same price!) So I'll just pine for them on my blog instead :) Aren't these cute??? I especially love the boot in brown.

    Giraudon Lugged-Sole Leather Boot