Thursday, February 27, 2014

Baby Girl's First Birthday Party Ideas

Baby Girl Birthday Party Doc McStuffins Theme
My baby girl turned one this month.  Everyone says it AND boy is it true, but time sure flies!
We had a wonderful party.  Pictured above are some of my favorite details.

I am guessing you are reading this post because you either follow me already (I LOVE YOU BTW) OR you are looking for birthday ideas for your little one.  Either way, I think it is best if I just dive in and share where I got everything:

Doc McStuffins Party Ideas for Your Baby Girl's First Birthday:
  • Cupid Kabobs - Super easy to make.  I wanted a healthy and visually appealing alternative to the fruit salad.  Enter these adorable cupid arrows made of strawberries, blueberries, and cuties.
  • Funnel Cake Cupcakes - What a dream!  These darlings were made by a dear friend and were super delicious.  Especially dangerous since she made them bite-size.  I think I had at least 10.  Yikes!  Highly recommend though.  I loved that they were fun and different.
  • Hot Air Balloon - Inspired again by Pinterest, I set out to recreate this mini hot air balloon.  I bought the basket at Michaels and the tulle, ribbon, and balloons at Party City.  Very easy to make and a memorable photo, I think!  :)
  • Baby Girl's First Birthday Outfit - Ordered this outfit on Etsy!  Definitely had to plan ahead since the maker seems to be in high demand, but it was well worth it.
  • Flower Headband - Another Etsy find and Kaelani amazingly wore it the entire length of the party.  I liked it because, unlike the outfit, I knew I could use the headband again for other special occasions.
  • Favorite Things Chalkboard Canvas - Probably something I will never use again BUT I still LOVED it.  It was so fun to display at her birthday party, and it is a beautiful keepsake to remember all her favorite things at this precious age.
  • Custom Doc McStuffins Cake Topper - I was not blown away by the quality on this one (I think I was expecting more vibrant colors) but I thought it served its purpose.  My friend made this delicious banana cake and was able to easily transfer this image on top with Kaelani's name.  I did feel like it was a nice touch to have it say her name.
  • Colorful Pom-Poms - I bought these Martha Stewart pom-poms at Michaels.  In hindsight, I do not think I needed them, but they did make for a nice photo op.  The pops of color were gorgeous.
  • Dr. Seuss Happy Birthday to You Book - I used this as a creative guest book.  I had each guest sign it and leave Kaelani a message.  I thought it would make a great keepsake, and I think it worked out really well.  
  • Desktop Plaque of Baby's Monthly Photos - And as I mentioned in my last baby post, I ordered this plaque on Shutterfly to display her monthly baby photos.  I loved how it turned out and feel like it is a nice durable keepsake, as opposed to my original idea of printing out the photos and clothes-pinning them to some string, as I had seen here.
Overall, I felt like it was a hit.  Hope you enjoyed this proud mamma moment of mine.  I know I found a lot of inspiration on Pinterest and Etsy.  I hope this post will inspire some new ideas for your baby's first birthday party.  If you would like some more ideas, then please feel free to follow me on Pinterest.  

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

How to Lose Weight While Working Full-Time - Part 1: The First 30 Days

Working Mom Baby Weight Loss
How to lose weight while working full-time.  Or how to lose the baby weight.  These are popular hot topics.  And yes I understand there are fads and people trying to sell diet pills, supplements, and fitness programs.  I am not trying to sell anything.  And no, I am not a health expert either.  I am just sharing what worked for me to potentially inspire you or give you ideas of how you might start or continue your weight loss journey.

I personally had my daughter a year ago this month.  It has been hard, and I have been trying to lose weight for the last year.  I am finally starting to see some results.  In 30 days, I lost 14 lbs and 12 inches.  I am not saying that's easy but it can be done, and I wanted to share what finally tipped the scales in my favor.

Here are the Things that Helped Me Lose My Baby Weight:
  1. Variety in Workouts - I get bored easily, and I think our bodies do too.  Over the last month, I definitely mixed it up.  I mostly did videos, specifically Turbo Jam, TurboFire, Les Mills Combat, and ChaLEAN Extreme.  I also threw in some spin classes at The Rush in Carmel Valley with my coworkers.  I think you have to find a workout that works for you.  To quote Chalene Johnson, I have found "my soulmate workouts" in the above mentioned videos and classes.  Once I get into them, they are fun, and I enjoy the music and can lose myself in them.  That is what you need to find in order to stay motivated.
  2. MyFitnessPal - Everyone says it, but I think that's because it is simply true.  You need to have a food journal to track what you eat.  I love MyFitnessPal because it is an app on my phone.  It easily keeps track of my calories, and even when I am dining out, it has many restaurants and fast-food places already programmed in there.  Whether you keep a written paper journal or log it electronically, visually seeing how much you are eating and the quality of your food choices can be powerful.
  3. StrengthsFinder - This was a big one for me.  We have leveraged this personal development tool in the workplace, and I LOVE it.  It helps identify your top 5 Strengths.  It is the concept that you can exponentially excel by working on your strengths, rather than trying to improve your weaknesses.  In order, here are my Top 5 Strengths:  Harmony, Empathy, Competition, Maximizer, Responsibility.  So basically, I want everyone to be happy.  I connect with others.  If we are "all good," then I will compete with you like crazy.  I like to help people maximize their potential, and once I commit, I feel a deep responsibility to follow through to the end.  So, my point is that you need to figure out what your strengths are and leverage them accordingly.  For me, the key was going to be Competition.  Enter the next bullet point.
  4. Biggest Loser Competition at Work - As part of a New Year's Resolution, someone suggested we start a Biggest Loser competition at work.  That person just posted it on the intranet, and then interested parties chimed in with suggestions on rules and guidelines.  We settled on a $100 buy-in, winner take all with a 30, 60, and 90-day weigh-in with the final one for the pot.  We modified it later to give $100 to the winner of the 30 and 60-day weigh-in winners.  I am by far the smallest competitor in the group, but I wanted to lose my baby weight, and I knew Competition was in my Top 5 Strengths.  Even if I did not win, I figured it would be great motivation for me to lose some weight.  Some of my colleagues tried to talk me out of it, since guys can typically drop weight faster and because they had more weight to lose, but for me, it only made me more determined.  It was a percentage of weight loss, and after running the numbers, I felt like I had a decent chance.  Especially after one of my coworkers said I was not even considered competition, it was on!  We had our first weigh-in this week.  And guess what?  I won!  Against all odds, I lost 9.5% of my body weight in 30 days.  I am a firm believer that if you set your mind to do something and you work hard, then you can achieve it.
  5. Spousal Support and Agreement - My husband is super supportive, and by that I mean, willing to eat whatever healthy recipes I come up with and my own personal cheerleader.  You need to surround yourself with individuals who make you feel good and support your healthy lifestyle.  The second part of this bullet point or "the Agreement" that really helped drive my results came about after I guiltily ate a whole sleeve of thin mints one evening.  You know how it happens.  I could easily eat a whole box in one sitting.  It becomes mindless, and then you just feel bloated and gross afterwards.  Enter the best decision I made during the last month.  I agreed to pay my husband $5 for EACH Girl Scout cookie I ate.  It worked.  I think I had a total of 3 cookies for the whole month.  It was just a steep enough price that I decided it really was not worth it.  And now, I have extended this agreement to anything that I know is unhealthy, like cupcakes, cookies, donuts, etc.  I can call it off anytime, and even my friends were like, "He's not here.  He doesn't have to know," but I would know, and I am a person of my word.  So this Agreement works really well for me.
  6. Accepting the Schedule - I work full-time, and I am also a wife, a mom, a sister, a friend, and a daughter.  With that comes a lot of responsibilities and a desire to spend time with my family and friends.  I fought it for a while, but after reading a fair amount of articles, I finally concluded that the most successful people workout before the crack of dawn.  So yes, I wake up at 4:45am every morning, and that time is mine.  I roll out of bed, put on the workout clothes I laid out the night before, and I pop in a DVD and workout in my living room.  I find that if I wait till later in the day, it just does not happen.  Things get in the way, interruptions happen, and I want to spend time with my husband, play with my daughter, have lunch with my friends, and meet my parents and sister for dinner.  Life gets in the way if you don't plan your workouts.  So bite the bullet and workout before you go to work.  I promise you will never regret getting up and working out in the morning.  "I really regret getting up and working out this morning," said no one ever.
Now, it is obviously a journey.  I still have 2 more weigh-ins to go at work.  I am excited to see the results and will keep you posted.  I gained about 45 lbs over the length of my pregnancy.  I was lucky and was able to lose about 20 lbs a month or so after my daughter was born.  The last 25 lbs have been the stubborn ones where the above components have really come into play.  Try changing just one small thing at a time.  You would be surprised how much it can make a difference.


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Sunday, February 9, 2014

How to Follow Up on Your Resume

Job Search Tips
You have applied for a job online, and now you are anxiously waiting for a response.  There must be something you can do to increase your odds of getting an interview right?  So, how to follow up on your resume or application?

I feel like, somewhere, I do not know where, someone told all applicants that the best way to follow up was to call and say something like this, "Hi, my name is Jane Doe, and I just wanted to call and make sure you received my application.  You never know with technology whether it went through.  The role feels like it was written for me.  I would really appreciate if you could call me back at 123-456-7890."  Or they might say they would like to find out more information before they even apply.  How does that sound to you?  I get calls and emails like this all the time.  I hate to say it, but maybe once or twice out of the hundreds of calls, did I ever not receive the application due to an actual technical problem, and I honestly do not have the bandwidth to talk to someone who has not even applied yet.  This voice mail/email tactic is ineffective at best.  Please do not use it if you wish to get an interview.  Instead, please consider the following tips.

How to Follow Up on a Resume or Application:
  • First AND Most Important, Please Read My Post on How to Write a Resume AND Actually Get a Response.  This will be your BEST CHANCE at securing an interview simply by writing an effective resume.  You will not even have to worry about following up on it.  Recruiters will read your resume and call you for an interview.  
  • Leverage Your Connections and Get Another Employee to Refer You.  Your SECOND BEST bet to get your resume seen is really to have an employee of the company send it directly to the hiring manager and/or HR.  At that point, you make it relevant.  There is a relationship there that will usually persuade a review and a response.  It cannot perform miracles though, so if you are ultimately not a fit for the specific role you are inquiring about, please respond gracefully.  It will reflect better on you and allow you to still be considered for future roles.
  • Assume the Company Did Receive Your Resume or Application.  It is safe to say that technology does work most of the time, and this thinly veiled excuse can sometimes be a pet peeve for HR Recruiters, so do not use it.  If you actually had an issue trying to figure out how to submit your online application, then I would suggest you ask a friend before asking the recruiter.  Every interaction you have with your prospective employer is a reflection on you as a potential employee.  Not being able to figure out the job portal may incorrectly be interpreted as being technologically challenged, and thus marks you as an undesirable job candidate.
  • Do Not Tell Them You Are Perfect For the Role.  This might seem like a good idea, but it carries an air of arrogance.  Candidates do not ultimately know what the company is really looking for, and they also do not have insights into what the competition looks like.  Humility when addressing the job requirements will go a long way.  Job Descriptions are usually poorly written, and what the company is really looking for is intangible.  It could be related to the specific hiring manager's work style, the company culture, or specific industry experience.
  • Do Not Argue With the Recruiter.  This is why most recruiters and HR professionals do not respond.  If someone actually tries to give constructive feedback, please do not argue with them.  It can be seen as combative and will only serve to frustrate the recruiter and prove to them that you were not a good candidate or that giving feedback is never a good idea because it is only met with defensive arguments.  Legally companies have to be vague because of liability.  Some feedback can be misinterpreted or taken out of context, and many recruiters have been burned for trying to be nice and honest in responding.  Please respect that they are doing their job and selecting the candidates that best fit the company's current needs in the role.
  • Please Do Not Apply for Everything.  It is almost a given that if a candidate applies for every opening at the company, then the recruiter knows they are simultaneously not qualified for anything.  A jack of all trades may seem appealing, but think of it this way.  Would you hire a General Practitioner to operate on your brain, or would you rather have a Brain Surgeon?  Companies are trying to hire Brain Surgeons for their open Brain Surgeon positions.  Be selective about what you apply for, and make sure your experience is relevant for that role.
Finally, if you are set on leaving a voice mail, email, or LinkedIn message with the Recruiter, HR person, or Hiring Manager, then I will leave you with this:

An Example:

"Hi John, my name is Jane Doe.  My friend Bill Smith in Sales is always talking about how much he loves working there.  I recently applied for the open Marketing Analyst role posted on your website.  I know you are a very busy person, so I just wanted to let you know how excited I am about the opportunity.  Even if I am ultimately not selected for this role, I would love the chance to meet you for coffee.  I am always looking to connect with other local professionals and am really interested in your career and accomplishments.  I hope the search is going well, and I hope I get the chance to connect with you soon.  Again, my name is Jane Doe, applying for the Marketing Analyst role, and my phone number is 123-456-7890."

What do you think?  If you were the recruiter or hiring manager would you respond to the first message or the one directly above?  Put yourself in their shoes.  If you had 500 resumes for one open position.  How would you want to hear from a candidate?

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Baby's First Birthday - Party Check List

Monthly Baby Photos

My baby's first birthday is coming up, and I cannot believe how fast it has gone.  I know everyone says it, but I do not think you really believe those words of wisdom until it actually happens.  I really wanted to find a way to creatively display her monthly baby pictures at her birthday party.  I just found the above desktop plaque (I think Shutterfly needs a snazzier product name) and am so excited to get it in the mail.  I had also toyed with buying an antique frame and using twine and clothespins (like an old style photo processing look and feel) but perhaps got too rational and starting thinking about future storage of such a keepsake and economy of space.  Enter the above solution.

Now, I do not know about you, but I am feeling a lot of anxiety and pressure around hosting my baby's first birthday.  I know she will not remember it, and that it is really just a party for the adults.  However, maybe it is because I am a working mom and have working mom guilt, BUT I somehow feel like the execution and detail of this event somehow reflects how good of a mom I am.  I know that is not true, but it is not stopping me from really trying to make this event special.  I let her first Christmas pass in December and was very disappointed in my lack of preparation and attention to detail then, so I am going for it today.

These are some of the details on my Baby's First Birthday Party Checklist:
  • Cute Birthday Outfit and Matching Headband
  • Chosen Color Scheme (Purple and Teal)
  • Theme (Doc McStuffins)
  • Cake Topper
  • Smash Cake
  • Custom Birthday Chalkboard of her Favorite Things
  • Easel to Display Chalkboard
  • Doc McStuffins dolls and other items for decor
  • Purple Table Cloths
  • Purple and Teal Pom-poms in different shades and sizes
  • Personalized banner kit for her high chair
  • Birthday Banner
  • Balloons
  • Flower arrangements
  • Menu (hopefully in a 8x10 frame)
  • Food and Beverages
  • Bags of Ice
  • Plates
  • Cups
  • Silverware
  • Napkins
  • Dessert Displays - tiered stands and platters
  • Dr. Seuss Birthday Book for guests to sign
  • Pens
  • Photo Display (mentioned above from Shutterfly)
  • Music
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • High Chair
  • Basket??? - Would love to recreate this photo if I find the time ;)
Baby in Hot Air Balloon

Most of my shopping has been done through Etsy and Amazon.  Thank goodness for Amazon Prime free shipping.  Did I miss anything?  If so, please let me know.  I also have a Pinterest page for inspiration:

Feel free to check it out or leave me some of your favorite ideas in the comments below.

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Healthy and Easy Party Snacks

Fage Knorr Easy Recipes

Looking for some healthy AND easy party snacks?  Well, this is going to be short and sweet because as reflected in the title, these are super easy to make.  Pictured above, I simply cut up some bell peppers into strips and placed them in a Ziploc bag (I am not hosting so this is perfect for transportation).  For the dip, I simply mixed a packet of Knorr French Onion Mix into some Fage Nonfat Greek Yogurt.  And because the container of yogurt has a nice lid, it made for easy storage and transportation!

Healthy and Easy Party Snack

These were a first for me.  I had 4 apples and wanted to try a new recipe.  Enter Cinnamon Apple Chips.  I simply cut up the apples (as you can see I am not a perfect apple slicer), placed them in a Ziploc bag, added some cinnamon and sugar, shook it up, and placed them on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Popped them in the oven at 200 degrees for an hour, flipped them and cooked for another hour.  They smelled delicious!  I sampled a few before they were done, and even then, I probably could have eaten them just as they were.  

Do you have some fun and different healthy recipe snacks?  
Please do share.  I would love to hear from you.

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