Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mpix 8 x 10 prints on sale

I order actual printed photos only about once a year, and I placed an order with Mpix for a bunch of 4" x 6" photos a few weeks ago. I like having some recent photos on hand to swap into picture frames around the house, or to place in that imaginary scrapbook I never seem to make anymore, or to give to friends who might appreciate a particularly nice picture or two.

I didn't order any large photos this year because I ordered so many over a year ago when I printed a bunch of photos from our European vacation to create a photo collage on our dining room wall. But if I needed some 8" x 10" photos this year, now would be the time to buy them. Order from Mpix between now and Wednesday night at midnight, central time, and enter the code mpix8x10 for 50% off 8" x 10" prints (regularly $1.99, now $.99).

If you've never used Mpix before, let me assure you that the quality of prints is stellar, and if you have any sort of problems with the order, contact customer service immediately and they will rectify the situation stat. In my recent order one of the many photos I purchased arrived obviously bent, so I emailed customer service the order number and photo number, and by the next day my new photo had been FedExed to me overnight. That was a little unnecessary, but appreciated.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Where I've Been: Mountains (of) papers

Two things can explain my absence for the past week:

1) actual mountains
2) mountains made out of papers

Let's start with the fun one first.

Last weekend I took the second trip of my life to Utah. The first trip involved driving cross-country in the summer of 2008 with Matt and hitting many major national parks, including Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, perhaps my most favorite national park. This time I returned to Utah to venture into Park City/Deer Valley for our friend Craig's wedding weekend extravaganza at the Stein Eriksen Lodge, which is exactly as beautiful as the pictures on its website make it out to be. I've never been to a true ski resort before, so this was a special treat, even in the off-season (or, maybe more aptly put for someone like me, especially in the off-season). The suites are ridiculous (the jacuzzi on the deck being a nice touch), the spa is pretty incredible, and the views are about as awesome as you can imagine in your mind.

Here's some hotel porn for your viewing pleasure...
Ain't nothing wrong with a dressing room in a bathroom, that's all I have to say.

Weather cooperated for most of the weekend, and we managed to even get in some outdoor activity. In response to the question, "Hey Stephanie, was that you hiking a Black Diamond at 8,000 feet elevation two hours after your plane landed in Salt Lake City while you were 25 weeks pregnant?" my answer would have to be, "Heck yes!" I deserve a medal. If nothing else, Matt has promised me a T-shirt. I also need to give credit to my friend Megan, who trudged along with me at a literal snail's pace for the last horrible stretch of terrain and without whom I probably would not have made it up the mountain (thanks, Meg!). Diminished pregnancy lung capacity + incredible elevation for a sea-level dweller + led legs = stopping every 10 seconds for the last 200 feet for air.

The wedding itself was of course beautiful. How could it not be, given the perfect surroundings? You might notice in the shot below that I'm wearing a shawl that seems to perfectly match my dress. I didn't bring this shawl myself. Instead, the award for "Best Wedding Favor of All Time" goes to Craig's new bride Annie, who decided to hand out to all the ladies in attendance shawls in a wide array of colors to match virtually everyone's outfits. What a clever idea, especially given the fact that most men do not care about wedding favors in the slightest, and the mid-60s mountain air called for a little something around the shoulders. If you use this idea in your upcoming wedding, give Annie a shout out.

Now, on to the less fun stuff, and here's where the organization part (or lack thereof, as the case may be) kicks in. School in my county always starts on a Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. This means that this year we were back with kids on Sept. 6. With this being the third week of school, it's truly in full swing and the work is starting to pile up already. Try as I might to stay ahead, I inevitably slip behind. I know that if I do a little grading each day I can keep my head above water, as I touted back in January, but sometimes it's just not that easy. It especially didn't help that after taking last Friday off for the wedding I came back to a fresh pile of papers my great substitute collected on my behalf.

Here's my system as it stands now:
1) Collect all the papers from a single class into one folder.

2) Give myself a goal date -- within usually a week, sometimes slightly more -- by which I would like to hand all papers back and empty that folder.

3) Get started grading a few as quickly as possible after collecting the work. (This is where I tend to fall off the wagon. It's those first few that take the longest and are the hardest to motivate myself to begin.)

4) Immediately take the papers I've graded and place them in the outbox for that class, thereby freeing myself of the burden of paper and simultaneously feeling some small ounce of accomplishment.

5) Squeeze in a paper here and there to grade during lunch, in between classes, while students are working silently for five minutes in class...whatever works. Realize, though, that ultimately I work best at grading papers when I can give myself a sustained stretch of about two hours of uninterrupted scribbling.

6) Stay late at least one day, such as today, in order to finish off a stack of papers and finally check something off my list. Get to know the night crew custodians. Even with all this, wind up not meeting all my goal dates for returning papers and accept the fact that perhaps I am setting myself up for failure with unrealistic goals.

7) Prepare to collect more papers, you know, the next day. Sigh.

I know this is part of the job of being an English teacher, and I know I chose this career, so I'm not trying to say, "Woe is me." Instead, I'm wondering what insights other teachers can provide. I especially know that once Baby Awesome-rod arrives and I go back to teaching, whenever that may be, I am not going to be able to stay late, nor am I going to want to devote much of my evenings/weekends to the paper load. So, right now I consider myself in training before I go on maternity leave to try out some new systems as a trial run. I cannot let papers control my life once I have a baby to raise (and play with!).

So, fellow teachers  -- because I know there are a lot of you out there -- what do you do to keep your head above water?

And to those of you non-teachers out there, what task in your line of work is similar to grading papers, and how do you manage those seemingly un-manageable tasks? I am certain you have some strategies that could apply to my situation.

I would LOVE to hear your advice!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Real Simple drawer organizers for the win!

No matter how organized we may be, we all have that space in our house that needs some help. More likely than not, that space is something behind closed doors, as in a closet or a junk drawer. Having conquered the junk drawer in the kitchen in April when Jen at IHeart Organizing issued her challenge, I thought I should organize my sock drawer next. You know, that sounds like a ball, right? Isn't "I'm busy organizing my sock drawer" right up there with "I'm busy washing my hair" in terms of lines girls would tell guys as code for "I really don't want to go out on a date with you"? (Back when I was on the market I was a bit more direct, known for telling one boy in particular that it was the worst date of my life and he should never call me again....I digress).

If you're needing to actually organize your sock drawer (and not simply avoid the prospects of a bad date) pick up a pack of these Real Simple Drawer Organizer Sets. I got my three-piece set at Bed Bath and Beyond for $4. The $4 I shelled out for this little helper is right up there with the $4 I spent on our new desk cord organizing system as some of the best money I've ever spent on a simple yet effective solution.

I guess it's more accurate to call this my "hosiery drawer" seeing as it really holds my old-lady knee-highs and my more stylish tights and leggings. These are really items I use during the cooler weather months, so in an effort to take stock (pun intended) for this fall/winter, I wanted a better system for seeing the goods. I've noticed for me that when items such as my necklaces are clearly visible and not piled on top of one another I'm more likely to use what I own.

I'm loving this new system and I think I'll be buying another set to organize my real sock drawer soon.

(In a life update from last week, after my rant about my doctor's receptionist's behavior on Friday I'm happy to report that my appointment on Friday was totally normal. Not only is everything going well, which is what matters most, but also my doctor was somewhat in disbelief that her receptionist called me to cancel my appointment since my doctor never asked her to do that and she couldn't figure out why the receptionist was behaving in such a way. My doctor does schedule appointments at 4:30 and even later, she does leave voicemails, and she sounded like she would be giving the receptionist a talking to. At least my doctor did not sanction such behavior and I can continue to have faith in her.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Things I don't understand

Today is a rain day. More like a flood day. Which is why it's 10:15 a.m. on a Friday during the school year and I am blogging. We have had some intense rain in these parts, so much so that some rather serious flooding has occurred in parts of our county and canceled school. I don't believe I've ever seen something like this in my lifetime of living here. Fortunately, most people are safe and it mostly appears to be blocked roadways that are creating the biggest hassle.

I also happen to have a regular doctor's appointment today with my OB. It was scheduled for 4:30. The receptionist in my doctor's office suggested the time a month ago when we made the appointment.

Which is why now I am a bit miffed. Matt got a voicemail a few minutes ago saying that my doctor's office had been trying to reach me and my appointment was canceled. Really? They'd been trying to reach me, so they left my husband a voicemail on his cell phone? With no direct line to my doctor's office (a fun piece of HMO bureaucracy) I called the generic number and then pressed about 20 buttons only to be put on hold several times.

When I finally reached a human, she said, "Oh, we're not canceling your appointment. Why would we cancel your appointment?"

I don't know, you tell me. You called me!

Several more holds later, a woman named Michelle came to the phone and told me that she tried calling me on my home number (note, we do not have a home number) and my cell phone and my work phone and I never picked up. So she left Matt a message.

I said, "Could you please leave me a message on my cell phone in the future?"

Michelle said, "I'm sorry we can't leave voicemails."

I said, "You left my husband a voicemail."

Michelle said, "That's because we couldn't reach you."

Oh. My. God.

Then Michelle said, "Your doctor doesn't schedule appointments for 4:30, it's too late for her, so we need to change it."

Please note that none of this has to do with rain or flooding. This has to do with my doctor's normal schedule, at least according to Michelle. Funny that I got an email a few days ago reminding me of today's 4:30 appointment and telling me that if I need to change my appointment I'm responsible for doing so well in advance of the appointment.

I did not have a chance to say, "That would have been useful information a month ago when the receptionist booked me for 4:30." But I digress.

Turns out they want me to come in earlier in the day. Can do! I have the day off, and so does my husband, after all.

Then once we set the new time for today Michelle said, "Why weren't you picking up your phone? You need to pick up your phone." At this point she was yelling at me, and I am not exaggerating. This went on for longer than would ever be appropriate.

Finally I had a chance to say, "Normally I am not near a phone during the day, but if you leave me a voicemail I will get it immediately" [thanks to the wonders of Google Voice and the fact that all my voicemails go straight to email that I can access anywhere!]

Michelle said, "We can't leave voicemails."

Oh. My. God.

I said, "Could you please put a special notation on my account that I would really, really like for you to leave voicemails on my cell phone, otherwise I may not get your message?"

In order to get rid of me, Michelle said, "OK!" with the most obvious sarcasm I have ever heard.

I had a list of five questions to ask my doctor at today's appointment, but I definitely know what I will need to address first. This (and this) is why people hate HMOs. Good thing (so far) I like my doctor.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nursery progress: Paint, curtains, furniture

Today marked the start of the school year and therefore the official end of my summer. It also meant that yesterday was our self-imposed deadline for finishing off items on our summer bucket list. Most of the major items left on the list had to do with the nursery, seeing as we spent the majority of the summer doing everything else around the house in preparation for getting to the nursery last.

The nursery was a perfect blank slate in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint. A week ago Matt and his dad spent several hours painting the nursery Behr's Silver Screen color. As they were applying the paint I kept thinking (and eventually said out loud), "This looks blue." When it dried, I said, "This looks purple." Either way, it did not look gray. The color was not bad per se, but it would not have gone well with the red, orange and bright green accent colors we are trying to use to add color to the nursery. So, for the first time in my life, I decided we had to repaint a room a new color. Friday afternoon I painted two samples over the Silver Screen walls: Behr's Silver Drop and Dolphin Fin. Saturday morning we settled on Dolphin Fin. Even though this color appears to have more yellowish undertones, this wound up being the perfect color to match the curtains I'd already made (and to match the vision I had in my head).

Silver Drop (top) and Dolphin Fin (bottom) layered on top of Silver Screen.
Fortunately, after having painted five other rooms in our house, we are pretty fast at painting and we've learned from our mistakes (our biggest secret: wipe the sides of the edger tool with a wet paper towel between every application to avoid getting paint on the ceiling and the need for the oh-so-nasty touch ups). We also own lots of the paint supplies we would have needed to buy, saving us a little cash. Our paint budget broke down as follows:

Nail hole filler -- $2.48
Paint samples  -- $6.17
Paint -- $63.96 (for two gallons, thanks to me changing my mind about the color)
Edger tool -- $4.97
Edger refills -- $2.54
Total cost of painting supplies: $80.12

In early July we found a solid wood dresser on Craigslist in need of refinishing. Though we'd never refinished a dresser before, we (Matt) thought we could take on this task thanks to the handy post about refinishing a dresser (though, granted, a veneer dresser) on Young House Love. I went to Home Depot to pick up the supplies one afternoon, which wound up being right when the mid-August earthquake struck the east coast. I was standing in the paint aisle grabbing the white paint we'd need when suddenly the roof started rumbling (and even visibly shaking) and then cans of paint fell around me. Fortunately none fell on me or anyone else, and minutes later I found myself in the sandpaper aisle, you know, picking up sandpaper, because that's what you do right after an earthquake -- carry on.

Matt picked up a $20 electric hand sander on Craigslist earlier this summer in preparation for this task. We have at least one other piece of wooden furniture that we plan to refinish soon, though we probably have even more projects awaiting us in the near future now that we sort of know what we're doing. The main discoveries we have regarding this project (because we can't say too much beyond what the folks at Young House Love already told you):

1) Painting a refinished piece of wooden furniture is a lot more fool proof than staining one. Paint is forgiving; stain is not.

2) Paint still requires about four coats, even when you use a wood primer, before it really looks uniform.

One more discovery, unrelated to the manual labor that went into this project: World Market has lots of cute knobs. I had been drooling over expensive hardware from Anthropologie, but I couldn't commit to spending $8-$10 per knob when I needed six. At World Market I found knobs identical to this one, this one, and this one, all at $3 to $5 per knob. Also, it worked in my favor that World Market sent me two $10 birthday coupons, so when I found the knobs I wanted, they were quite reasonable. I went with these painted ceramic knobs that match the color scheme in the curtains:
Our dresser budget broke down as follows:

Wooden dresser  --  $40 (Craigslist)
2 packs of sandpaper --  $8.54
4" paint roller --  $4.97
4" paint roll 2 pack -- $4.97
Primer for dresser -- $7.98
White paint for dresser --  $10.88
Knobs for dresser -- $16.44 (World Market)

The dresser is actually not totally complete. We need to put a sealer on it, but Home Depot does not sell any low or no-VOC sealers, so we will probably purchase that online soon. As of right now we've spent $93.78 on the dresser project, not counting the $20 we spent on the sander that we'll be using a lot in the future.

It was so nice to get the curtains I made up on the walls, especially after I installed the decal. I never had a chance to show you the curtains in their finished state. Here's a view of the nursery from the door.

Our budget for the curtains broke down as follows:

6 yards curtain fabric -- $100.74 (Jo-Ann Fabric) -- a big splurge!
2 packs of hem tape for curtains -- $5.98 (Jo-Ann Fabric, but now I know it's way cheaper to buy on Amazon)
Curtain rob -- $13.99 (Target)
2 packs of 1.5" curtain clip rings -- $14.38 (Bed Bath and Beyond)
Total spent on curtains: $135.09

In addition to the dresser, we also bought the crib and a chair for the nursery. We went with the Baby Mod Olivia crib that is stylish and modern and not-too-expensive...and from Walmart, of all places. Confession: Matt and I hate Walmart so much that we decided to have the crib shipped directly to our house and pay the extra $10 rather than drive down the street to pick it up for free after it got delivered to the store. So, the crib came in at $324.85 when we added shipping and taxes. If you're new to this whole baby thing as we are, you may be surprised to learn that when you buy a crib you do not get a mattress. We have our eye on a foam Sealy mattress that is in the $100-$120 range, so we'll get that sometime soon.

We also bought a chair at one of our favorite local furniture stores called Belfort, which is really an entire strip mall that has been converted into a furniture mecca. I'd been researching chairs for a while but couldn't find anything an appropriate size and cute style for under $800. Because we planned to spend somewhere around $1000 for the nursery, an $800 chair clearly would not make the cut. The chair needed to be upholstered and glide, but I didn't want a traditional-looking wooden glider. So, I was thrilled to find this green upholstered gliding and rotating chair for $225 (marked down on clearance from $500). The color was not my first choice initially, but once I compared it a fabric sample from our curtain I realized it fit the color scheme perfectly, and I will probably buy/make a pillow to bring some additional life to this chair.
The view from the chair...

Our nursery is a relatively small space, with little room remaining for any additional furniture. I would like to get a small bookcase, but it might need to be an exceptionally thin, vertical bookcase that could fit in one of two tiny remaining corners. We also need to decide if we're going to take down the closet doors and make another set of curtains, or if we're going to deal with this...

Not bad...

This might give you a better sense of the space, from one wall to another.

We're still going to work on the furniture spacing issue and decide if we need to spend more time and money making more closet curtains. Ultimately, though, now that summer is over, at least the major components of the nursery are complete. I'm going to make a crib skirt, we'll add shelving and/or bookcase solutions, and we'll decorate with fun pops of color, but all that can happen over the next few months. So far with 85 percent of the nursery complete we've spent $900.93 (and not nearly as much time as I thought we would have by now) getting to this point. Summer bucket list victory!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Nursery progress: Dali Decal installation

It's been a busy nursery-focused weekend, and part of this weekend involved learning how to install a wall decal. A few weeks ago on my 30th birthday I won my very first blog giveaway, a $25 gift certificate to Dali Decals. I decided to go with the bird branch decal. Not only was that the popular choice among my friends (most of whom told me so in real life, not in blog life) but it was also Matt's favorite choice. Matt rarely expresses opinions over decorating decisions, and when he does (and I'm on the fence between two options) I tend to go with whatever he thinks is best so he can have a role in setting up our home.

I placed my order on August 23, and a week later I had the decal waiting for me on my doorstep. The decals come with easy-to-follow instructions that involve about nine steps. Larger decals, such as the one I ordered, require following the long version of the instructions, while the smaller decals can be installed in just about five or six steps. From start to finish it took me almost exactly one hour to install our decal. I thought I would need Matt's help, but for me this wound up being a one person job. Matt has done a lot over the past few weeks to set up the nursery, so I was happy to give him a break.

The first step was to grab some painter's tape and get the decal arranged correctly on the wall. Then I took a long piece of painter's tape and hang it down the middle of the decal, creating an "anchor" point. Our tree branch actually came in two pieces, so I took photos of the process using the smaller of the two branch pieces.

The decals are manufactured so that they're sandwiched between two pieces of adhesive. One piece of adhesive is a thick paper backing and the other piece is a thin transfer paper. Once my decal was arranged on the wall with an anchor point, I folded the decal in half over the anchor point and separated the thick paper backing from the decal.
Then I cut off the thick paper backing from the first half of the decal. After that I pressed the decal and transfer paper directly onto the wall.
Once I removed the remaining painter's tape I simply removed the remaining thick paper backing and pressed the other half of the decal and transfer paper to the wall.
The most detail-oriented piece of the process came next. I had to slowly pull the transfer paper away from the decal. The Dali Decal instructions recommend doing so by folding the transfer paper over itself as you move across the decal. I tried this tactic, and it worked well for me.
Minutes later, what I was left with on the wall looked like a real, actual decal!
I repeated this process with the remaining, larger section of the tree branch and had just as much success. The only challenge to this part of the decal installation was getting the tiny twigs at the end of each branch to stay in place while I was peeling the transfer paper away from the decal. I had to press some of the twigs back into place against the wall, but it wasn't difficult to fix.
The orange birds and green leaves came on separate sheets of paper, so I got to choose where to place the birds along the branches. It was a fun surprise to receive four bird decals rather than just the two I thought I'd be getting based on the pictures on the Dali Decals website. When installing both the birds and the leaves I followed the instructions for the small decal installation and simply peeled off the thick paper backing before placing the decals on the wall. Then all I had to do was stick the decal and transfer paper on the wall and peel back the transfer paper. This was very easy to accomplish with the birds. This was a pain in the butt with the leaves. Each individual leaf is basically a small dot decal. I managed to keep them all on the transfer paper, but then peeling them away from the transfer paper once the decals were on the wall took some time because lots of individual leaves wanted to stay stuck to the transfer paper.
An hour later, I was really pleased with the look of the decal on the large wall above where the crib will go.
The decal came to $65, but with my $25 blog giveaway gift certificate, a $3.25 coupon and another $5 off for signing up through the Dali Decals website, our nursery decal came in at $31.75. I can't say that I'll ever order another decal in my life, but if I do I can now recommend this company and I can say that installing a decal is a simple one-person, one-hour task.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Maternity clothes are a pain (a second round of pregnancy observations)

In my 15th week of pregnancy I shared with you some of my first pregnancy observations. Now that I am rounding out week 22, over half way through this pregnancy, I thought it would be fitting to share a few more observations. Plus, this work week has been worse than expected and therefore other household tasks I would write about have fallen by the wayside, with hopes that we'll take advantage of a quiet Labor Day weekend at home to tackle the remaining items on the Summer Bucket List.

Picking up where we left off...

Observation 6: People really are nicer to pregnant ladies.
Once you have a fairly obvious belly, people really will go out of their way to help out, let you cut in line even though you never asked (and really don't need to), offer their seat, etc. This all probably goes with the whole "pregnant women are delicate flowers" mentality a lot of people adopt. Although I am a fiercely independent person and I don't ask much of others, if you want to let me cut in line at the sandwich counter, I won't complain.

Observation 7: Not all pregnant women are crazy hormonal with intense food cravings, and pregnancy brain is a myth.
I'm sorry, but I think a lot of people exaggerate....well, a lot. Besides wanting to know how I am feeling (the answer: still fine) people want to know what food cravings I've been having (the answer: none) and what kind of mood swings I've been having (the answer: none, though I did want to cry at work today when I could not set up my technology cart which houses a laptop, DVD player, external speakers, document camera, LCD projector, etc., but that has nothing to do with being pregnant). I think it's easy to use pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever you want or be mean to your husband just because you feel like you can. I also get really, really annoyed when I do something wrong and someone next to me says something obnoxious like, "Looks like someone has pregnancy brain!" Umm, no, my brain is exactly the same, you just caught me messing up at something like I normally would non-pregnant, but now you think you're being cute by calling this my "pregnancy brain." I view it as a bit demeaning. Rant over.

Observation 8: You will never be able to predict how others will respond to news of your pregnancy.
A good friend of mine who had a baby in January told me this piece of wisdom, and it has really stuck with me. Having struggled for a tiny bit to get pregnant, I understand what it's like to hear that yet another person you know is having a baby, and yet you're still not pregnant. I have no idea what other people are going through, so I try to be sensitive to that. Perhaps as a result, when you're pregnant some people will distance themselves from you and some people will become way closer to you than they ever were before. Even other people will react in ways you could never predict. I think it's important not to take anything personally, to realize everyone is going through something, and there's no way to predict other peoples' reactions.

Observation 9: Maternity clothes are a pain.
Ok, here's the good stuff. Way before I got pregnant, I vowed that I would buy as few pieces of maternity clothing as possible. I spent a couple years trying to buy dresses and shirts that could be worn non-pregnant as well as pregnant. In retrospect, I did a pretty decent job. The one thing I underestimated, though, was how much I would despise trying to get maternity pants. I knew this is where I would need to splurge. So, while I have purchased six maternity shirts, each of which cost me between $5 and $9 at Gap Maternity (inside the back of some Baby Gaps) and Target's maternity section, I have really busted the budget when it comes to maternity pants.

I did find success with the Belly Band (more specifically the BeBand sold at Target for $16.99). I was wearing one around week 12 to make my jeans more comfortable. I didn't even try to wear my dress pants after week 11 because they are so tailored and they would look ridiculous with the BeBand. Then somewhere around week 15 my weight shifted and I was able to button my jeans without the BeBand for several more weeks. Then I hit week 19 and knew I needed actual maternity pants, especially with the school year around the corner.

Here I am last week at week 21, still sporting the BeBand over some non-maternity shorts. If you're wondering when my belly really, really popped, the answer would be between weeks 20 and 21 (for pictorial evidence, check me out here at week 20).

After many fruitless stalkings of eBay for designer maternity jeans, I realized that no one selling second-hand maternity clothes online appears to have a body in my proportions, so I bit the bullet and bought investment maternity jeans. You might recall that a couple years ago I got hooked on Citizens of Humanity jeans. They are ridiculously expensive, but they fit me perfectly and make me feel good, so they are so worth it. When deciding whether or not to make this seemingly ridiculous maternity purchase (of Citizens of Humanity Dita Petite Maternity Boot Cut jeans from Destination Maternity), I applied the following logic: I will wear these at least three times, if not more, per week (and probably will for a while postpartum, too), and I want something that makes me feel like I look good as I get bigger and bigger. Sold. Even Matt was on board, sort of. I've only had these jeans a few weeks, but I've worn them at least a dozen times, and every time I wear them someone remarks that they do not look like maternity jeans. Mission accomplished!

Here I am today at 22 weeks, sporting my maternity jeans (which I realize are not terribly visible) and a cheap-o shirt from Gap Maternity.

Dress pants have proven to be much more challenging. Thanks to a birthday gift card, I've been scoping out the Loft maternity offerings for a while now. The problem, though, if you look closely at the Loft maternity website, is that literally all of the non-jean pants that Loft carries are online exclusives, meaning you're buying something when you have no clue how it will fit, especially now as your body is changing. This has resulted in some frustrated trying-on sessions at home, where Matt was kind enough to tell me that I did not look good in certain pants (and I genuinely appreciate that kind of honesty). Then you have to return the items by mail only because Loft stores will not accept maternity purchases. The good news is that I found pants I like in the right size. The bad news is that I have to get them tailored and spend more money. Oh well.

My maternity clothes observations boil down to this: dresses and shirts are a piece of cake; pants are a pain in the butt.

What are your favorite places to find maternity pants that actually flatter your body?