Driving on Highway 1.

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Sharing these last few pics today from our California coast adventure last month. If you ever get the opportunity to drive the coast along Highway 1 - DO IT. You will never regret the views. My prayers have been with our California friends as they endure another round of wildfires. It breaks my heart for those who call this gorgeous stretch of coast home, that they have to deal with the fires licking up on their doorsteps.

A few things I would highly recommend if you’re ever going to do this drive:

- Give yourself a lot more time and buffer than Googlemaps tells you. If you think it will take you 3 hours to get from your point A to point B, budget at least 1-2 hours more so you have time to make stops, get outside, walk around, etc. It will be well worth it! This is not a drive you want to rush. The whole point is to enjoy the drive!
- Pull off on all the coastal highway stops. Okay, maybe not all, but a lot of them! You get the very best views that will quite literally take your breath away. Also, the air is so crispy cool along the coast - it feels so good just to soak in the feeling.
- Stop in Big Sur and walk around! We got lunch at at Big Sur Bakery which has incredible food, but there are lots of quirky little places along the highway to stop in at grab a bite.
- Other places that are well worth the stop but will require some more time and planning are Carmel-by-the-Sea (see more here), Santa Cruz, Monterey and Half Moon Bay.
- The Bixby Bridge (pictured above), is spectacular and really, really worth stopping and seeing.
- Tagging this drive along with a few days in LA or a few days in San Francisco (or Napa!) is really special. If you have the chance to plan the trip that way, do it!

This trip was our last adventurous travel of the year. Now that we are in the home stretch of waiting on our baby to be born (!), I am cherishing these photos and the joy they represent. The next few months will be a lot of cozy days at home in front of the fire place!

Happy Friday to you all!

Packing my Hospital Bag + Prepping for Birth!

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There are so many helpful blog posts about what to pack in your birth hospital bag, but I must admit that I still find myself googling and pinterest-ing it even as I approach this third birth. I’ve had a vaginal delivery (with my first son, Everett), and a c-section delivery (with my second son, Daxton), so I’ve experienced both camps of what is needed for those scenarios. However, with each child I’ve learned a little bit more about what is needed and not really needed in the hospital bag, at least for myself. My bag has been packed and re-packed, so if it’s helpful to you to reference, here’s what I’ve got going on!


In My Hospital Labor Bag:


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Since labor can require different things from the post-delivery experience, I like to pack a smaller tote bag with just a few necessities I like to have on hand strictly for labor. This helps me from needing to dig through my bag of jammies and toiletries when I’m having contractions!

Diffuser + Essential Oils - I’m planning to diffuse Balance + Wild Orange during labor, and applying a mix of Clary Sage, Frankincense and Peppermint to my inner ankles during labor. Plus I have a slew of others I will diffuse in my recovery room after the baby is born.

I’m bringing a few pre-made rollerballs to support labor/delivery and recovery. Here are the recipes I whipped up:

Labor Support: “Breathe”
- 5 drops Ylang Ylang
- 5 drops Clary Sage
- 4 drops Helichrysum
- 4 drops Cypress
- 6 drops Black Pepper
- 2 drops Peppermint
Combine all these oils in a 10ml rollerball and fill to the top with fractionated coconut oil. Massage inside ankles, on lower back and on belly for labor support.

Postpartum Support: “Happy”
- 10 drops Citrus Bliss
- 10 drops Elevation
- 10 drops Frankincense
Combine all these oils in a 10ml rollerball and fill to the top with fractionated coconut oil. Apply to pulse points and on back of neck to wear as a mood-boosting personal fragrance.

Lip Balm
Breathe Drops
Birth Ball - Has been super helpful during my past labors! (This one doesn’t fit in any bag, but we make sure to carry this in when we first arrive at the hospital - as opposed to some of the baby gear that can stay in the car for a bit).
Bathing Suit + Flip Flops - I tend to have back labor, so in the past I found a lot of relief by getting in and out of the shower a lot during labor. Bathing suit just helps for modesty sake, when the nurses inevitably come in and out to do the fetal heart check every 30 minutes.
Massage Lotion - Already been using this throughout pregnancy so I plan to use this along with counter-pressure for my back during labor.
Snacks - I’m bringing a few, mostly for Stevie. I will be ready for some sour gummy bears after this no-sugar diet!


In My Hospital Recovery Bag:


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Packing this weekender tote for the hospital, along with this great toiletry kit I’ve had for like 10 years. These are items I will use after labor and delivery, so they don’t have to come out of the bag until after the baby has arrived!

Robe - I’ve never met a robe I don’t like, but I picked up a new one (ugh, sold out already), for this new baby experience!
Nursing Tanks (2)
Nursing Bras (2)
Butter Pants + Cozy Sweatshirt - Basically the softest things I’ve ever put on my body. This is probably what I will wear when I go home from the hospital. And for every day afterwards forevermore.
Socks/Slippers - I got these socks in the Babylist registry box and I fully intend on using them ;) I personally don’t like the idea of wearing my slippers at the hospital to walk around because I don’t like to think about what has been spilled on those floors before. But I’m bringing both, just in case!
Toiletries - shampoo + conditioner packs, lip balm, moisturizer, toothpaste, deodorant and some makeup.
Pillow - I like to have my own because it’s so firm (I also double up my pillow cases, because again, hospital funk freaks me out).
Phone + Charger - I got this extra long cord just in case the plug is far away. Plus its sparkly. This is such an extra kind of item, not really necessary ;)
Camera - I like to take some photos with our big camera while we’re in the hospital! Those first few days are irreplaceable and I always want to relive the sweet moments that we have with just the baby.

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In the Diaper Bag:


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I’m planning to continue using this bag that I got when Daxton was a baby, and in it I tucked a few first things for the baby. The hospital will have the basics so you really don’t need a lot here, but it’s fun to have a few soft, personal things for your little one.
Baby swaddles - These muslin ones are tried-and-true and am excited to try these bamboo ones!
Burp Cloth
1-2 Take-home outfits
- I like to have a few sizes, just in case. And you want to make sure these outfits have actual legs/feet so that you can safely strap them into the car seat when you leave the hospital.
Mittens, socks and a hat!

Diapers + Wipes - Just in case for the car ride home!
Pacifier
Nipple Cream! - This stuff is truly the best.
Nursing Pillow
- Mine won’t fit in the bag, but it’s something that we can leave in the car until its needed!

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One thing I like to do, in addition to all of this, is keep a list of “last minute grabs” in the notes section on my phone for when its actually time to leave for the hospital. On that list currently? Glasses, pillow, hair gel, phone charger and birth plan.

I also like to have a little gift “from” the baby for the boys, when they come to the hospital to meet him. It’s just a fun little toy for each of them, but I think it helps them from feeling like the baby is getting all the attention.

Even though I like to use my own selected products for postpartum care, I don’t plan to bring a whole lot of that to the hospital. It’s such a short and fleeting time that you’re there (no matter what kind of delivery you have), that I just go with the flow and use what they offer up (mostly.) The only thing I’m pretty adamant about it having my own nipple butter, because I really really don’t like the lanolin stuff they have there. But they really do cover you and the baby so well, so there’s no need to pack a ton of diapers and wipes and all that jazz.

We are seriously on the countdown now! I would so appreciate your prayers for me and my family as we head into these last few days of this pregnancy - we are all so ready to meet our baby boy! Thanks for being on this journey with us ;)

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Exploring in Carmel.

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Trekked out to the West Coast trek last month, when I was 34 weeks pregnant (!!!) and savoring the last bit of travel adventure while celebrating my BFF’s beautiful wedding out there. I shared about our morning watching the sunrise over the vineyards in Paso Robles HERE, and I also wanted to share a few pictures of the romantic and dreamy town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Carmel is a sleepy European-inspired village on the coast, boasting plentiful art galleries and coffee shops and fancayyy boutiques. There isn’t one destination spot that you MUST visit in town, it’s more of a place to wander and eat and drink along the way while exploring the windy streets and all they have to offer. We got juice twice here (I loved the Clean & Green), shopped around and went back and forth on whether we should get the boys souveniers (do they really NEED another stuffed animal that says a city name on it? I think not.), pretended to be art connoisseurs gazing at the assortment of mediums on display in the ubiquitious galleries (we know nothing about art. I just know it when I like it.), and of course, we wandered down to the ocean, which is a sweet walk down the street from the village.

There is simply nothing like the Pacific Ocean - the ever-reaching sapphire waves carrying the frosty, frothy water to my squeamish toes. It’s always shocking to me how VERY COLD the water is, probably because like most East Coast southern gals, I’m most comfy with the bath water that IS the Gulf of Mexico. And while the Pacific always stuns me with its frightfully cool temperatures, the views are the true marvel. California really does harbor some of the most treasured coastal views.

So grateful that Stevie and I had a few days to wander here. We gawked at the sprawling, oversized succulents, drank the boujee coffee, discussed what it would be like to raise our kids here (in a word - EXPENSIVE), marveled at the interesting trinkets while we window shopped. It was just so NICE being together, being slow, exploring again. Before we had kids, our travel looked a little something like this (although back then we were much more fast-paced - this pregnant tired mama has learned to slowwwwww dowwnnnnn). It was fun to resurrect that exploratory spirit for a bit. Just a bit.

P.S. - Fun story about the first time I visited Carmel HERE.
P.P.S. - Fun IGTV vid from our trip HERE.

Sunrise in the Vineyard.

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We trekked out to California a few weeks ago to celebrate the wedding of one of my dearest, oldest friends! Along the way, Stevie and I planned to see/do a few special things and take advantage of one final trip before our baby boy arrives (so soon now!) We woke up early one morning in Paso Robles and decided to watch the sun rise over the vineyards. Because when you’re on East Coast time and nothing can keep you asleep, then you chase that sun rise! We grabbed coffee at our hotel oh so early, hopped into our rental car and drove out toward the tiny bit of light that was beginning to illuminate the wine country of Paso - it is SUCH a stunning place and home to dozens (maybe even hundreds?) of new wineries over the past 20 years or so (move over, Napa!) We found a beautiful vista and drove up into it, though knowing that we didn’t want to trespass on land that, A) wasn’t ours and B) wasn’t necessarily open to the public (remember, it was the crack of dawn!) Someone was working at the entrance of this particular vineyard (I don’t even remember the name!), and after he and Stevie exchanged a few Spanish words, we had permission, and we journeyed up, up, up!

Made it just in time. The sun crested over the hills and saturated the vinyards with every shade of the palest yellow, then marigold, then brilliant burning red. It was a sight to behold, something I will never forget.

I’m doing my best to take stock in these kinds of moments, especially as I near the end of this pregnancy and I feel such a strong shift of seasons coming my way. I know what a new baby entails - long nights, blurry days, a year passes in an instant. I’m anticipating what I know is coming, along with all the unexpected that will most certainly come along with his arrival! I can’t wait to get to know another baby boy of mine… my two boys are so different and such incredible people, who have changed me and taught me so much. I can’t wait to see what little man #3 has in store for our family. I truly feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

I have a few other things to share about this trip, including our drive up the 1 and some time in Big Sur and Carmel, so I will post those things this week while they are still fresh on my mind :) Also, a little IGTV film if you’re into it!


Chicken Tortilla Soup (Instant Pot Recipe!)

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I use my Instant Pot weekly around here and because it is SUCH a kitchen game-changer, I want to share more recipes that are Instant Pot-friendly! If you aren’t familiar with the Instant Pot, it’s basically a superhero version of a crockpot - you can make sweet potatoes, chicken, rice, you name it - in 20 minutes. If it’s 5pm and you have no dinner plan and only frozen chicken in your freezer, put down the takeout menu - you seriously can have dinner cooked and ready in under 30 minutes! I promise! The best time to buy an Instant Pot is around Labor Day/Black Friday because of the major discounts, but if you are ready to make this dinner tonight, you can snag it here (I use the 6-qt. version for my family and we always have leftovers, FYI).

This is my new favorite recipe to make in the Instant Pot - this super flavor-packed chicken tortilla soup!

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Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients:
- 1 package chicken thighs or tenderloins
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 32-oz. box organic chicken stock
- 1 can diced chilies & tomatoes
- 1 can pinto beans
- 1 can northern beans
- 1 can black beans
- 1 jar tomatillo salsa
- 4 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 packet ranch seasoning mix
- 1 tbsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
toppings: diced avocado, tortillo chips (Trader Joes makes an awesome Frito knock-off!), shredded cheese and sour cream

Method:

1. Drizzle 4 tbsp. olive oil in bottom of Instant Pot.

2. Place thawed chicken tenders in bottom of instant pot, separating them as best as possible.

3. Add in all the spices on top of the chicken, including the ranch dressing packet (still looking for a “cleaner” version of this - let me know if you have ideas!)

4. Add 1-1.5 cups chicken stock.

5. Select “pressure cook” and make sure the time is set to 12 minutes. Close and lock the lid and make sure the valve is set to “sealing”.

6. Once chicken is finished with the pressure cook cycle, use a fork and knife to shred the chicken.

7. Then add in the rest of the ingredients! The beans, diced chilies and tomatoes, beans, tomatillo salsa and remainder of the chicken stock.

8. Serve topped with diced avocado, some shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream, along with some broken up tortilla chips. Dinner is served!

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