This was my most difficult post to write from our U.K. driving trip because all the destinations could have individual posts of their own. But some of them can be stops along your way to other places and for that reason I’ve decided to put them all into one “English Countryside” post that combines all our visits outside London and Wales.
These areas outside London are such beautiful places to explore. I think you can get a better idea of English landscape and the British people when you wander outside the major cities a bit. Rolling hills, lush forests, and dewy gardens with ancient hedgerow borders abound in this part of the country. It makes for a scenic, relaxing drive. Stopping at little villages for lunch and to browse a shop or two… You could really spend weeks exploring the countryside this way.
Stratford-Upon-Avon is about 90 miles northwest of London, making it a great stop on your way into or out of the city. It’s best known as the birthplace of Shakespeare and for that reason you will see a lot of tourists here. The town is filled with rows of Tudor buildings with gorgeous wood beams. Unless you’re a real Shakespeare lover, you probably don’t need more than a day here. Take in a few sites such as Shakespeare’s birthplace, former wife Anne Hathaway’s cottage, the Church of the Holy Trinity where he is buried, and perhaps the Stratford Butterfly Farm. There are often markets here which can be fun to browse, along with the plethora of cute shops lining the streets. The old pubs make for a historic spot to enjoy lunch. I would recommend traveling through on a Sunday… there’s nothing like a traditional British Sunday roast at an old pub.
Blenheim Palace is a magnificent palace outside London, the birthplace of Winston Churchill and the residence of the Dukes of Marlborough. It’s a sixty-mile drive out of London, so it’s perfect for a day trip. We stopped on our way back from the Cotswolds to see their Christmas market and take a tour through the palace. Each year at Christmas, the ground floor rooms inside the palace are decorated in a festive theme, complete with music, video, and animation. The theme for Christmas 2018 was Cinderella and it was magical; the final room, a ballroom, was decorated as the wedding reception of Prince Charming and Cinderella. I think this would be a great stop for families.
Thornbury Castle is a stunning Tudor castle outside Bristol where we stopped between Wales and the Cotswolds. It’s been restored into a hotel and restaurant and the castle is surrounded by beautiful Tudor gardens with beehives in the walls. You can have dinner here in the former dungeon next to a glowing fireplace; it really is like taking a step back in time.
The Cotswolds were my absolute favorite part of our U.K. driving trip. I love the quiet, quaint villages and the winding country roads framed by hedgerows and fields. Fantastic restaurants and streets full of little shops. Stopping for tea and browsing through antiques and galleries. I’ve listed some of my favorite villages and places to visit while you’re in the area, but the truth is, each village is more picturesque than the last; they just keep getting better and better as you go along. I wish I could narrow them down for you, but it’s really worth renting a car and taking several days to wander through several of them. The Cotswolds is an area meant for leisure… Take your time, pack your wellies for a few romps through the woods, and enjoy.
Lacock is a popular filming location for period TV shows and films because of its unspoiled nature; as you walk along, everything in the village seems like it has been there forever and you get a little lost in time. There were some charming shops, especially on and near the main street. I particularly remember a homemade bath products shop called Quintessentially English, where I bought a few bath bombs to enjoy back at our hotel. We had a fish & chips lunch at The Red Lion pub before driving on.
Lacock Abbey isn’t to be missed. This abbey, founded in 1232, and the architectural elements added throughout the centuries are preserved beautifully and the original cloisters and chapter house are still visible. Lacock Abbey is surrounded by lush grounds and gardens; take a walk or bring a picnic when you visit. You may even recognize the abbey’s interior from Harry Potter and other films.
We stayed just outside of Broadway at a beautiful hotel called Dormy House, where we had our own little cottage to stay for the week. It might be because of this, but Broadway quickly became my favorite village. I loved the wide street (hence the name “Broadway”) and the charming shops. I went back to Landmark for gorgeous British country clothes numerous times and loved hunting for antiques here. There was a fun Christmas market going on here one evening; we got cups of spiced wine and walked along, listening to Christmas carolers. We had so much fun; I’ll never forget that evening.
During the Christmas market, we ate at one of the food stalls where they served mince pies, Raclette, and sausage rolls. But as far as Broadway restaurants go, we ate dinner at the Dormy House restaurant one evening which was romantic and had a “farmhouse chic” atmosphere as they describe it. We also enjoyed dinner at The Lygon Arms, an inn in Broadway with a regal country house feel. You might make reservations for either as they were both full when we visited!
John says if I lived in the Cotswolds, I would live here. It’s not far from the truth! Lady Carole Bamford started Daylesford Farm after converting her family’s land to organic, responsible farming. She started the farmshop and café in 2002 and since then, it has grown into a beautiful destination for those who love organic food, beautiful gifts, and sustainably-grown plants and flowers. You can stay at the Daylesford cottages or at the Wild Rabbit inn and cottages, also on the Daylesford estate. If you’re going to visit, allow time for lunch and check their calendar of events. There was a cooking class, wreath making class, and Christmas reindeer arriving all while we were there. And take a peek at the Bamford Wellness Spa in case you’re in need of a little pampering.
More Cotswolds Villages
I could sit all day and type about the beauty of each and every one of these villages, but just know that so much of the fun of the English countryside is about driving to a new village, exploring the shops, stopping for a leisurely lunch, and taking a walk after. Here are some Cotswolds villages worth exploring: Moreton-in-Marsh, Upper and Lower Slaughters, Stow-on-the-Wold, Burford, Bibury, Chipping Camden, Castle Combe.
“I looked into those green eyes, and well… It was so intense. All Welsh people are intense and mystical. That sense of poetry and wildness in Richard was where I wanted to be.”
Elizabeth Taylor on Richard Burton, “Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry”
What Elizabeth Taylor said about Welsh people, and by extension Wales, is true; I’ve never been anywhere else so mystical and moving. The country is like someplace out of a fairytale. Misty fog swirls in through the greenest meadows and curls up to the rugged mountains where wild ponies roam. The wild Irish sea crashes against rocky cliffs and onto black sand beaches. Picturesque villages framed by dewy glens and trickling streams and romantic islands with cotton candy sunsets. Wales is a truly magical place.
My great grandmother immigrated from Wales and our family still lives there, so we like to visit when we can. We drove up from London, stopped in Stratford-Upon-Avon (will cover this in my Countryside blog post), and continued on into the mountainous northern region of Snowdonia National Park.
Palé Hall is an incredible castle on the edge of Snowdonia National Park where Queen Victoria once stayed; you can even sleep in her room. Palé Hall has an award-winning restaurant and fantastic afternoon tea. But the real gem, in my opinion, are the breathtaking views of the countryside and woodland surrounding the castle. When I woke up each day, I opened our windows and felt like I was living in Downton Abbey.
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia Park is nearby and you can get as adventurous as you like. Since that day was a bit chilly, we chose to drive through and stopped to take some photos along the way, but I’d like to return in the warmer months to do a little hiking and see some of the wild ponies up close. There’s also a famous rack-and-pinion railway that can take you to the top of Mount Snowdon, the highest point in Wales.
Wales is known as the castle capital of Europe. At one time, over 600 impressive castles stood over Wales’s green valleys. More than 100 Welsh castles still remain. Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy, and Harlech are some of the best preserved and greatest examples of 13th and 14th century military architecture. On this trip, we visited Harlech Castle’s tourist center and climbed all the stairs to the top of the turret where we could look out over the Irish Sea. If you visit Wales, you must stop to see at least one of these incredible pieces of history.
One of my favorite things about Wales is the abundance of beautiful, quaint villages to explore. A few favorites? The charming village of Beddgelert in Snowdonia National Park. The romantic island of Angelesey where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge began their lives as newlyweds. The seaside town of Aberystwyth where Catherine Zeta Jones spent her childhood summers. And the city of Swansea, specifically the beachfront Mumbles area, where you can admire the waves crashing onto the beach while you enjoy an ice cream cone from Joe’s Ice Cream Parlour. Brecon Beacons is a beautiful national park near Swansea with lots of history and places to explore.
London has a special spot in my heart since I lived there as a little girl andno one does Christmas like the Brits. Here are a few of my favorite things to do in London at Christmastime.
First things first. You’re in London, so you need a proper tea. The finest traditional British tea? Many would say The Ritz, which is a bit fancy and makes for a special experience in such a lovely hotel. This happens to be my father’s favorite afternoon tea. Surrounded by glittering chandeliers and mirrors, you can enjoy tea at the only U.K. hotel with an actual Tea Sommelier. Note: You may want to dress up a bit for this tea; I wouldn’t go in tourist clothes.
If you’re looking for something a bit more modern, you might like the afternoon tea at the Corinthia. With a Baccarat crystal chandelier overhead and a recently updated tea menu, you might feel ready to swear allegiance to the Crown and never look back! Note: This is also a spot where you’ll feel more comfortable in a bit dressier clothing; not a tea spot for tourist clothes.
One of my favorite hidden gems near my old stomping grounds is tea at 11 Cadogan Gardens. Traditional, quaint, and cozy, this hotel is a spot where you can wear jeans if you like. The tea is beautiful and can be enjoyed in front of the hotel’s cozy fireplace. After your tea, have a walk around nearby Sloane Square to burn off those scones!
There’s something special about streets of beautiful British shops, where the shopkeepers still take pride in wrapping up your purchases with lovely boxes and bows. Whenever I come back to the hotel from shopping in London I never want to unwrap my treasures because the packaging is so pretty. It makes for perfect gifts to bring home to loved ones.
Although Harrods has changed a bit in the past ten years or so, it’s still one of my favorite places to browse. The Christmas windows and holiday decor are like nothing you’ve ever seen and inside you’ll find floors upon floors of the most gorgeous, luxurious things. Don’t miss a walk through the Food Hall and a stop at the Fish & Chips bar doesn’t hurt either. And be sure to snap a photo outside with the Harrod’s sign in the back… Extra points if you catch a double decker bus behind you!
Take a step back in time as you walk through Burlington Arcade, an original shopping mall dating back to 1819. The holiday decor is lovely, as are the shops! I always stop in to Penhaligon’s for some new perfume or bath products, Mulberry to browse the leather goods, and hunt for treasures at the many jewelry shops.
The highly Instagrammable Covent Garden is the quirky sister of these shopping spots. There are plenty of flower-laden photo opps here. And besides shopping, you can grab a bite to eat as well. Petersham Nurseries is a favorite of mine!
Take a little walking tour of the following: Carnaby Street, Regent Street, Bond Street. Of course, all the spots I’ve mentioned above have impressive holiday lights as well. When I was a little girl, we would walk around the major department stores at night to look at their holiday windows lit up. There’s usually a cart nearby selling hot chocolate or roasted chestnuts to warm you up!
One of the most-Instagrammed spots in London at Christmas? The tree and ice skating rink outside the British Natural History Museum. You don’t have to ice skate to snap a great photo of this view with the impressive architecture of the museum towering above, but it’s more fun if you do. There is a small market with a carousel nearby that little ones will appreciate. The British Natural History Museum is incredible and free (donations welcome) but can get quite busy, so time your visit accordingly to avoid crowds and long lines.
This was such a fun nighttime date! Winter Wonderland is the most wonderful festival set up inside Hyde Park during the Christmas season. There is a Christmas market, holiday lights galore, arcade games, food and treats, carnival rides, and even little bars and restaurants with live music set up throughout. If you’re in London during this time of year, do not miss this. It’s so well done and any age group will enjoy the festivities.
Where To Stay
For traditional British charm, choose The Stafford. This stately hotel has just the right blend of elegance and charm. Rooms are comfortable and cozy and the hotel is well situated for walking. Both their breakfast and room service were delicious.
If you want to go for a bit more glamour, stay at the Corinthia. The hotel is luxurious and has a sort of contemporary chic decor. Their tea is incredible and the hotel is also in a great location for walking.
A couple other mentions… The Berkeley in Knightsbridge is my family’s personal favorite. And I’ve been hoping to stay at the newly renovated Belmond Cadogan Hotel in Chelsea, which I’ve heard great things about. For dining, you can’t miss Maroush on Beauchamp Place – it’s been my favorite since I was a little girl!
When I was a little girl, my mom would decorate my bedroom for Christmas. I had a garland with ornaments and pink velvet bows hanging over my head and a little tree with my favorite ornaments in the corner. I remember feeling so special when I put on my holiday pajamas and got into bed. Even though Georgie is far too little to understand Christmas or even remember the decorations, my mom and I wanted to create a little Christmas magic in her room. (Mostly one of us would watch Georgie while the other decorated!)
I’ve had a lot of people ask about the ribbon in my main Christmas tree and I did it exactly how I ribboned Georgie’s tree, just on a larger scale. You’ll need to get wired ribbonfrom a craft store like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. The key is to cut pieces between 8-24 inches, depending on your tree, and tuck them into the branches at random diagonals as if they are woven throughout the tree. Do this after you add your lights but before you put any ornaments on.
The ornaments came from Hobby Lobby, Target, Caitlin Wilson Design, and Neiman Marcus. There are far too many to link individually, but I did link one of my favorites in the slide below. I also linked these darling holiday houses I used to make a little snow village for Georgie; they’re absolutely darling and you could really add them anywhere in your home. I added some snow fluff and vintage-inspired bottle brush trees for a little charm. I linked most of the snow village setup in the slide below.
Georgie loves looking at her girly Christmas tree and little snow village each day. And I have to admit, I appreciate having such a pretty view as I spend so much of my time in her nursery with her. Feeding her, changing her, and rocking her while I enjoy pretty holiday decorations has been a blessing throughout these busy new-baby weeks.
If slide above is not appearing, please click here to view and shop items pictured in this blog post.
Out of all my content, travel guides are probably my favorite to write and create. I love sharing the little details that make a destination truly special. I spend hours going through photos I’ve taken, trying to find the one that conveys the spirit of a place best; one that gets it just right. Which is why I was a little sad I wasn’t able to share our incredible driving trip through the United Kingdom with you last year, even though I had the best reason possible.
Upon returning from our trip, I discovered I was pregnant with Georgina and began experiencing morning sickness almost immediately. I had planned to wrap gifts, pack up our car, and work on my travel guides while on the way and while at my family’s home for Christmas. But I soon found out it was nearly all I could do to sit in the car and not be sick. I had serious morning sickness nonstop well into February. And by then, spring was around the corner and it seemed strange to share photos of chilly London and Christmas in the Cotswolds, so I waited and am happy to share with you a year later.
If you like this type of content, I’ve created many different travel guides you can search in the search bar or and browse in the ‘Travel’ category on this site. I also documented a similar driving trip through France – you can find the detailed itinerary here with links to travel guides for each destination.
This trip was less structured than our France driving trip because I lived in London when I was young and my mother’s family still lives in Wales, so I was more familiar with these places than the ones we visited in France and we didn’t need travel guides to interpret and explore new sites. And this trip was all about a cozy Christmas journey through the United Kingdom. Personally, I love the U.K. during the winter because their winters are very mild, all the holiday decorations are up, and the pubs feel extra cozy on a damp, chilly day. While our France trip focused on a spring/summer vacation, this trip is focused on seeing Christmas sights, venturing out to a few Christmas markets, and being cozy. Enjoy!
Is there a better place to experience the holiday season than London? I think not. The windows are bedecked in the most tasteful holiday decor, the doormen are wearing wool uniforms with gold buttons, and there are Christmas markets and holiday events galore. We stayed at the classic Stafford Hotel in London which was within walking distance to everything we wanted to see, but the newly opened Belmond Cadogan Hotel is also on my list since its in my old stomping grounds. I’ll touch on all my favorite holiday stops in the city in my upcoming London Christmas Travel Guide.
Allow a few days in the city to soak in the magic of Christmas done the British way, then head out toward the countryside to relax, stopping at Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford-Upon-Avon for lunch and a bit of a walk. I suggest stopping through on a Sunday when you can enjoy a delicious Sunday roast at one of the original pubs; there’s nothing like a cozy pub meal on a chilly day. There was a charming Christmas market going on when we passed through as well.
Continue the drive from Stratford-Upon-Avon into the northern part of Wales where fluffy wild ponies wander in beautiful Snowdonia National Park. Stay at Palé Hall, a stunning castle with an incredible restaurant tucked into the misty edges of Snowdonia. Wales is a romantic, mystical place; there’s something very special about it that you’ll feel as soon as you arrive. Waking up at Palé Hall felt like an absolute dream, from breakfast served bedside by the fireplace to seeing the ponies in the field and the forest surrounding us outside our windows.
Allow a couple of days to explore Snowdonia Park, walk through the impressive Harlech Castle, and meander the Isle of Anglesey where Prince William and Duchess Catherine lived when they were first married. I loved the seaside village of Aberystwyth where I purchased Welsh gold jewelry from the family-owned jeweler, Rhiannon. And I’m quite partial to my great grandmother’s home of Swansea, where wild waves crash against the vibrant seaside village known as Mumbles.
As you make your drive toward The Cotswolds stay at Thornbury Castle, an actual Tudor castle set amongst original English gardens dating back to the 1200’s. The castle has a fantastic restaurant nestled in between stone walls with a cozy fireplace, so there’s no need to venture out for dinner.
While on your way from Thornbury Castle, you may want to make a few stops in the English countryside. Bristol and Bathare main cities along the way, and I wouldn’t miss the charming villages of Castle Combe and Lacock.
The Cotswolds were probably my favorite part of this trip. John and I both love the country; pulling on our wool and wellies and mucking about if necessary. We enjoyed the more peaceful pace of the Cotswolds, the charming villages, and quaint restaurants. During this time of year there are Christmas markets galore here – I think we went to one in nearly every village we visited. With spiced wine and holiday carolers and little stands selling cozy things, it’s definitely worth making the rounds.
We stayed in our own cozy little cottage at Dormy House, which manages to create a space that simultaneously captures the quaint nature of the Cotswolds with the sumptuous interiors and fine dining of a luxury hotel. You’ll feel torn between having a slow morning, a day at their beautiful spa, and dinner at their restaurant… Or going out and about, exploring the charming Cotswolds villages. Luckily, you can do both. Dormy House is outside the village of Broadway, which was my favorite we visited. But I would allow at least a few days to visit the surrounding villages such as Chipping Campden, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Norton, Burford, and Upper and Lower Slaughters. Allow a half day for lunch and shopping at the exquisite Daylesford Organic Farm near Kingham.
Back to London
On your way back into the city, I would suggest stopping to tour Blenheim Palace and visit the city of Oxford. Blenheim always has an absolutely stunning Christmas display throughout the house (you can purchase tickets ahead – it’s worth every penny) and had a charming Christmas market going on while we were there. I would plan to visit Blenheim in the morning and leave after lunch, stopping in Oxford in the afternoon, and planning to arrive back in London in the evening. I would allow another night or two in London before you leave since there’s inevitably something that couldn’t be squeezed into the first stay.
When I first thought about Georgina’s nursery I knew that, first and foremost, I wanted this to be a room that could grow with her. I also wanted to capture my own style; all things classic, European influenced, and most of all… cozy and comfortable. But I also wanted to incorporate the things that inspired me while I was pregnant with my daughter. During my pregnancy, I felt especially drawn to gardens; I would browse the picturesque English country gardens in magazines (my camera roll is full of them) and walk through our local garden center endlessly, breathing in the floral fragrances and admiring the newest blooms. I even had my baby shower in a Victorian conservatory at the Denver Botanic Gardens. My love of gardening comes from my father and his father before him… And being out in nature, amongst the flowers, has healed my spirit more times than I can count. My hope for Georgina – my little “Bunny” – is that she appreciates nature as much as her ancestors have and that she allows it to restore her and give her peace when she needs it most. I hope that when she feels lost, she can return to nature and find herself again, as I have.
I hadn’t expected to get pregnant so quickly, so I hadn’t done any preparation whatsoever. When I realized I was pregnant, the “nursery” was still an extra storage room filled with shelves of craft materials and PR boxes and the closet was full of my out-of-season clothing. It took my mom flying out a few times and helping me empty the room, donate the furniture and clothing, and sort so many photographs and mementos to finally get the room ready to decorate. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her – it felt so overwhelming at the beginning, but my mom is a saint and helped me through it. Luckily, this coincided with my nesting and as we went through everything I realized something important… Less clutter means more happiness. It’s true. The more things we hauled away to donate, the happier I became and the more clarity I felt in my mind. It’s one of the main reasons I don’t blog the same way I used to, featuring new clothing and items every day.
Once we emptied the room and closet, I began working on Georgina’s closet organization; you can see a blog post on this here. And then someone came to prepare the walls for wallpaper and fabric trim. I’ve included the “before” photos in black and white below.
The final step was the “install” – window treatments, moving in furniture, and adding the finishing touches with decor. DeWitt Designs (along with my mom!) created the perfect dream garden for my little girl; it’s now my favorite room in the house. I was concerned about the small size of the room, but I was surprised to see that the window treatments and beautiful furniture actually made Georgina’s little nursery feel much larger and more open! I still find myself walking into it in disbelief, unsure if this room is really the same one that was lined with shelves of ribbon, boxes of photos, and piles of new beauty products just a year ago. It’s incredible to see the transformation. We all love to spend time in Georgina’s nursery; it really is such a peaceful, tranquil space for us to enjoy.
Most of the items in Georgie’s nursery are custom from DeWitt Designs. If you’re interested in the draperies, light fixture, crib, bookcase, dresser, chair, side table, or dresser/changing table you will need to contact them to order and discuss color/paint/design options. A few things I like about these pieces are the bookcase, which has dimmable lights to showcase items on the shelves, soft-close doors, and slide-out shelves in the lower section for easy access to toys and books. The chair has a removable Sunbrella fabric slipcover to make it durable and washable in the event of stains and spills. The changing table topper removes to become a dresser Georgina can always use. And the light fixture was custom painted to make the colors a bit softer in line with the rest of the room and includes moveable magnetic crystals. I do know the wallpaper is called “Romey’s Garden” by Zoffany and we used a sweet fabric trim to create a less formal feel than crown molding.
We were given such sweet gifts from friends and I’ve even incorporated items from my own childhood room in Georgina’s nursery, but I’m including the sources for absolutely everything I could find after the second set of photos below.
Please note the pillows and blankets are taken out of the crib when Georgina naps in it. We hope to remove the front crib panel and turn this into an upholstered reading nook when Georgina is older, so we wanted the pillows to match and I honestly don’t mind taking them out each time she sleeps; I think they look beautiful when the bed is made!
Thank you so much for the kind words of congratulations you’ve left me on my Instagram since I’ve had Georgina. I feel like I waited for the “right time” to enter this season of my life and now I’m not sure why; motherhood has been the most beautiful experience and I’ve never loved anything or anyone the way I love my daughter. I am so grateful for each day with her – even the tough ones – and I never want to take one minute for granted because I realize we are beyond blessed to have this happy, healthy little girl in our lives. Sometimes when I’m holding her as she sleeps I could swear my heart is actually melting; she has changed me in the best ways possible.
I’ve had a few people ask if I’ll be sharing my birth story and I’ve decided not to share that part of my experience. When my husband and I went on our hospital tour, the birth concierge suggested we wait until after we were home to share anything about the baby on social media. My husband and I thought it was a great idea in terms of safety but also a way to thoroughly enjoy the birth of our daughter without having to immediately respond to countless text messages, etc. We only told our immediate family members when we went into the hospital. And it was the best thing we’ve ever done.Those two nights in the hospital with our new baby girl were cozy and sweet and we felt cocooned in the love of our little family of three. There are some things that are just too precious to be shared with the world right away and the birth of our first daughter was one of them for us. I had a wonderful birth experience and will forever cherish that time of my life. When we got home, we reached out to more friends and families, posted Georgie’s birth announcement, and let everyone know it was okay to share photos. Everyone is different, but in our share-everything-immediately world those few days of privacy felt so wonderful. I would recommend any pregnant mama consider doing this.
That being said, I began sharing photos + videos of our baby girl when I felt ready and now I probably overshare. I am with her 24/7 and have never felt so proud of or attached to anyone – ever! She’s just wonderful and I’m happy to share the things we love with you. If you haven’t had a baby before, the hundreds of websites and pages of baby products can be overwhelming. Ultimately, “what works” will be up to your little one to decide. But these are the products and brands making us happy right now.
This is an area where my husband and I were a bit naive. When we were freshly engaged and house hunting, we found our home and were thrilled that it had a second bathroom upstairs “for the kids”. What we didn’t think about was that children generally need and prefer a bathtub versus a shower, so that second bathroom has become John’s domain and Georgie will share the master bath with me. Not ideal, but it works for us while she’s small and he and I don’t mind having our own bathrooms.
Bath Tubs… Between one and two months, we transitioned from sponge baths to baths in this delightfully soft little flower that fits perfectly in my bathroom sink. Georgina loves bath time now. I have this infant tub ready to go in my bath tub for when she’s a bit bigger and can no longer comfortably fit in the sink.
Bath Products… In the first few weeks after having Georgie I could tell she was having issues with dry skin – common here in Colorado’s arid climate. So I began looking for a non-toxic baby product and found the Pipette brand. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with the Pipette Baby Shampoo + Wash that cleanses without fragrance and without drying my baby’s delicate skin. And after Georgie’s bath, I rub the Pipette Baby Oil onto her hair, forehead, arms, and legs. It’s become our little spa ritual and Georgie loves it. The dry skin she had on her scalp and forehead disappeared after only two applications and her skin feels so much more supple. The oil is my favorite, but the Pipette Baby Balm melts into an oil and is great to keep in the diaper bag for hydrating on the go. I use it on my hands since the constant hand washing really dries them out.
Bath Linens… Baby skin is so delicate, I recommend using organic baby wash cloths to gently wash them in the bath. I use the Burt’s Bees wash cloths; they have one smooth side for the face and one slightly more textured for dry scalp skin or dried spit-up, etc. I wrap Georgie in this little unicorn towel after her bath to keep her warm while we do her spa time! One of my best friends gifted her this unicorn robe for when she’s a bit bigger.
Favorite Bath Products
The Basics… I’ve used Water Wipes for years now to help take off my makeup at night and I continue to like them to change Georgie’s diaper for the simple fact they are fairly clean so I feel safe using them on my baby. I also like the Pampers Aqua Pure baby wipes. We are currently using Pampers Swaddlers diapers, although I’ve become increasingly curious about the Coterie brand I’ve been hearing about lately. Let me know if you’ve tried it.
The Gear… It’s been so crucial for us to have a diaper changing station on each floor. Upstairs we have a furniture changing table and use the Ubbi Diaper Pail, which is great because it contains any scent but the opening slides open so I can also toss anything else I need to such as clothing tags or wrapping. Downstairs we have a Pack N Play where I change her and she can take a nap; these aren’t beautiful by any means but they are so functional and can grow with your child to become a playpen. We use the Arm & Hammer Munchkin Step Diaper Pail downstairs solely for diapers and wipes because it twists shut each time you close the lid. I prefer the Seal and Toss Bags as opposed to the really long ones because I think it’s just nasty to keep diapers in the house that long.
When I asked about baby products, people were really split on the idea of a baby wipe warmer. I decided to get this wipe warmer and try it out… And I love it. Every baby is different, but Georgie really hates being cold. She doesn’t like getting out of her bath, being changed, etc. So having the wipes at least room temperature makes her more comfortable. And I love the night light feature on the one I have; it’s been great for nighttime diaper changes and feedings.
On The Go… One of my most reordered items have been these disposable waterproof changing pads. We actually use them to cover our changing areas in the house because sometimes your little one will start to go once you take their diaper off, so it saves constantly washing the changing pad and makes me feel like the changing table is a bit more hygienic. But these are truly a lifesaver on the go! I can toss a couple in my bag and change Georgie on the backseat/trunk of my car or just place it down for extra peace of mind on a public changing table. These disposable baggies are great for tossing in diapers and wipes as you change your baby in the car or anywhere else without a nearby trash bin. I just tie up the bag like a doggie bag and once I see a trash bin, I drop it in.
When I was pregnant, I went through each and every drawer in our house and donated or sold about half my clothing, shoes, holiday decor, and craft materials to make room for this baby girl and her things. And I am so glad I did. Because babies take up much more room than you think… And buying clothes is more fun when they are mini sized and half the price of mine!
Sizing… When Georgie was brand new, most of the clothes I brought to the hospital didn’t fit her. Carter’s was one of the only brands whose NB size actually fit – and it was great to be able to snap them up at Target or Buy Buy Baby. Looking for a brand that runs big? Try Feltman Brothers.
Mittens… This was something people told me I didn’t need, so I didn’t buy before I had Georgina. I soon realized Georgie needed them when she started scratching her face during her sleep and when she was upset. I began putting the No-Scratch Mittens from Lou Lou & Company on her; I left them on her pretty much nonstop until she was about a month and a half, then I switched to only using them at night. She still wears the Carter’s brand mittens at night because they’re a bit bigger.
Diaper Covers… One of my must-haves if you love putting your little girl in dresses is a ruffled diaper cover so her diaper isn’t out if her dress comes up. Feltman Brothers makes beautiful diaper covers as well.
Convertible Gowns… Gowns are a great way to save some time changing your little one’s diaper at night. These convertible gowns by Kissy Kissy can be slid up for a diaper change, but can also be snapped as a romper so your little one can go in the carseat. The Magnetic Me outfits are great too; they quickly fasten shut with magnets instead of snaps.
Favorite Clothing Items
Favorites… When I was pregnant with Georgina I had these visions of her room with just a few neutral, possibly wooden, aesthetically pleasing and beautiful toys. I love the toys from Scandiborn and Pottery Barn Baby. But Georgie likes a lot of entertainment and stimulation during her days (my mom finally told me, “this baby is just bored!”) so I gave in and got some hideous bright plastic toys that she’s absolutely delighted with. Her absolute favorite? This Kick & Play Piano Gym she plays with at least twice a day (the batteries have already worn out once!) She can touch the hanging toys, smile at herself in the mirror, listen to the music, and kick her feet which light up the corresponding piano keys. We’ve also been playing with the Linkimals Moose and Linkimals Llama – both musical, with lights and catchy songs. Her favorite books have been the ones about various baby animals and their lives – she’ll laugh while I read them over and over to her. A Little Owl and A Little Fox have been particular favorites.
Playroom Plans… I keep a fabric box of small toys and books downstairs for Georgie, but my husband and I have quickly realized we need to create a designated space for the clutter she loves. Her nursery is finished (photos coming soon!) and there’s not much room for lots of toys, so we’ll be using one of the other small bedrooms for a very simple playroom and space for my laundry drying racks. My thinking is I’ll be able to do lots of laundry while she plays with her toys. Any suggestions for toy storage or furniture you love? I think we’ll only need a bookshelf and some type of furniture with drawers or bins.
Stroller… We spotted my stroller last year in Harrod’s before I even knew I was pregnant. We were walking through the store and I commented on a beautiful Silver Cross Wave stroller, even giving it a push around the floor. It was so beautiful I knew I wanted it as our stroller when I found out I was pregnant and I adore it. It rolls smoothly, comes with both a bassinet and toddler seat, easily accommodates my diaper bag in the basket below, and folds down to fit in my car’s trunk. It also comes with a rain cover, bug net, cup holder, and you can add on a parasol as well. We’ve taken it to the shopping mall and the pumpkin farm and everywhere we go, we get compliments on it; it’s just a stately, elegant pram. I have seen and tried out a lot of strollers on the market and I can confidently say it is the best stroller out there – I will never use anything other than Silver Cross. Two things I would suggest are the stroller hook for hanging your purse or shopping bags on the handle bar of your stroller, and a stroller organizer for tucking in smaller items like your phone, keys, and a burp cloth. If you live in a cold climate like we do, you may want to look into a shearling stroller liner (I have the color “Milk” from Binibamba). It really does keep your little one nice and toasty when it’s a bit chilly out.
Carrying… I didn’t know I would love babywearing so much. Carrying Georgina makes me feel so close to her; it reminds me of when I was pregnant and she was safe inside. She enjoys it too because she almost always calms and falls asleep when I’m wearing her. My favorite carriers are the Ergobaby using the Infant Insert which is easy to put on myself and feels really secure for long walks. It has a pouch for my phone and keys and is made of really strong, thick material that can get a bit warm, but hasn’t deterred me. I prefer the Ergobaby for long walks outside and for wearing for lengthy periods of time when I’m doing things around the house such as laundry, dishes, etc. I also have an Artipoppe carrier which, in my opinion, is the most beautiful carrier on the market. The Artipoppe carrier comes in really fun patterns and is much lighter than the Ergobaby. It’s a bit more difficult to put on myself because the straps need to cross behind my back. Georgina feels quite comfy in it, but it doesn’t hold her quite as securely as the Ergobaby does, so for that reason I prefer it for quick jaunts; grabbing groceries, picking up a few things at Target, and recently, through a museum exhibit.
Car Seat… I chose the Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 Infant Car Seat in Sand. I liked the light weight of this car seat, its great ratings and reviews, and the anti-rebound bar. But honestly, I don’t have much to compare it to because car seats are one of those things you really have to use every day to accurately review. I don’t have anything bad to say about this, I guess I’m just not as obsessed with it as I am with my stroller. It probably doesn’t help that Georgina doesn’t love being in her car seat the way most babies do – she cries when taken in/out of it and sometimes even cries throughout the car ride. (It could be interesting when we try to do our usual lengthy road trips with her!) When it’s time for Georgina to transition into a toddler car seat I may switch to another brand or one of the swiveling car seats to make getting her in and out a bit easier.
A major topic requested by you. I am by no means an expert on sleep and I think these decisions are up to every parent to make. Personally, I’m not really into intense scheduling; I don’t think it’s healthy to live with zero flexibility and to be honest, I am not organized enough to run our lives down to the minute. Let’s just say I like a routine but not schedules. That being said, Georgie started sleeping 6+ hour stretches on her own starting at 4 weeks old and now averages 7-9 hours a night. She fights daytime naps like I did as a baby, but at least my husband and I don’t feel like zombies all the time. Here are a few things that have helped us encourage Georgie’s sleep habits.
Sleep Essentials… We do eat-awake time-sleep cycles throughout the day about every 3-4 hours – I follow Georgie’s lead but this is what works for her right now. We keep the lights dim and everything relatively quiet starting about an hour before we’re going to put her down for bed while I bathe her, put her into fresh pjs, and give her a nighttime bottle. And this is key… I keep herwarm. I keep our house temp above 70 degrees and either put her in fleece pajamas or top her onesie with a sleep sack. We also use a white noise machine my sister-in-law gave us that Georgie loves for both daytime naps and nighttime sleep. She also usually likes a pacifier as she goes to sleep (I like these glow-in-the-dark pacifiers for nighttime) and if she fusses during the night I just replace it and she usually goes right back to sleep.
Bassinet… This was a highly requested topic! Without a doubt, I would say the most crucial aides in helping Georgie sleep through the night have been the above “essentials”… But I have heard people who swear the bassinet is the make-or-break factor in their baby’s sleep. Georgina sleeps in the Snoo – which is a sleek and streamlined smart bassinet and its footprint is much smaller than other brands, meaning it can fit right by my bed. But I have yet to sleep a night with it turned on. The first night we strapped Georgie into it and she loved the gentle motion and white noise, but when her crying increased the Snoo began shaking her vigorously (which it is supposed to do) and it only made her progressively more upset until she was full-out screaming and I could barely get the Snoo turned off quickly enough! This was hard for both her and I to experience and that’s why I chose not to turn it on after that. I think your experience could be different if your child slowlyyyy ramps up their crying, but Georgie seems to be a 0-60 kind of gal. Now that Georgie is a little older and sleeps through the night with only a few gentle fusses in the early morning, I may try strapping her in and turning it on because she does like white noise and gentle motion when going to sleep and it could get us an extra hour or two of sleep in the morning. I believe in what the doctor who designed the Snoo espouses and because we were gifted the Snoo by my mother-in-law we can keep it and use it again with our (hopefully!) next baby. Snoo also has a rental system if you prefer not to buy one.
Crib… I will talk more about this in my nursery post, but we chose one of the iron cribs from Corsican in an antique ivory color. Our decorator had some of the elements changed to give us the feminine garden look we wanted. This month I’ve begun putting Georgie down for naps in her crib so she begins to get used to it. So far she naps just as well in the crib as she does in her bassinet or the bassinet that comes with the Pack-n-Play downstairs. We hope to travel with Georgie, so I want her to get used to sleeping anywhere… In her carrier, the car seat, the bassinet, the crib. I can’t imagine not hearing her little snores right next to me during the night, so I suppose we’ll fully transition to the crib later on.
Security… Since I hate being away from Georgie for even an hour, security when she’s napping is obviously important to me. My mother-in-law gave us the Owlet camera + sock at my baby shower and I swear by it. We have our own home security, but this gives us extra peace of mind. I can see Georgie, hear her even when out of the app, talk to her, monitor her heart rate and oxygen levels, record sleep patterns, and see when movement or sound is sensed in the room. It’s fantastic. If she happens to fall asleep without me slipping her sock on I can still see, hear, and talk to her.
Hand Sanitizing… I keep Purel foam dispensers stocked around the house – for guests to use on the main floor and for me to use at both of Georgie’s changing tables. I also have Purel wipes in my bag. But for surfaces that Georgie is likely to touch or toys she’s playing with, I keep alcohol-free hand sanitizer wipes handy. These are great if your little one drops a toy while going through the store or if you want to wipe down the handles of their carseat or stroller.
Blankets + Burp Cloths… Aside from handmade items (which we have been lucky enough to be given and Georgina lovesss) we have really been enjoying an organic cotton blanket and a double-sided personalized one my friend gave to Georgie from Etsy. I’m not sure which shop she purchased from, but have a look on the website and see what you can find… Georgie’s has her birth details and her name embroidered beautifully on it. Our favorite burp cloths so far are the muslin ‘burpy bibs’ from Aden and Anais; they’re absorbent and withstand wash after wash. I also really love the little muslin bibs and blankets from Atelier Choux. Aside from being beautiful, their products are also functional; their bibs and blankets are absorbent and wash well.
Bouncers + Swings…
Everyone gave me different advice regarding this category. But most people told me not to buy any of these until I “know what she likes”. Although I’m not sure how a first-time mom is supposed to ascertain this other than… Trying out the products. So we now have two bouncers/swings and I’ve learned whether Georgina “likes” them or not really depends on her mood. Georgie likes a lot of entertainment and stimulation, so when she’s in a good mood she enjoys both of her bouncers and is content to be in them. But of course there are times when she’s fussy and will not tolerate just sitting somewhere. I see babies her age all the time on Instagram who are perfectly content to be swaddled and lay quietly but this just isn’t my baby! She’s a girl on the go. We have this bunny bouncer that lights up, vibrates, and plays nature and lullaby sounds; we keep it downstairs in the living room/kitchen area and I specifically use it to let her relax and kick her legs next to me while I have lunch or we have dinner together. Occasionally I can put her in this while I do a bit of blogging as well – it typically gets me about 15-30 minutes. We were also given the Mamaroo (we use it with the Newborn Insert) as a gift and I keep this upstairs in our bedroom/bathroom so that I can be doing laundry or taking a shower while G is rocked in the Mamaroo, looks at the mobile above her, and listens to the nature sounds it plays. It can get me 30-45 minutes to get things done. Georgie doesn’t take her naps in either of these – they are just for her to chill in so I can have some hands-free time. I know it doesn’t sound like much time, but when it means a daily shower or staying on top of laundry I promise you, you’ll be grateful! I’m happy with both of these and as Georgie gets a bit older I’ll be adding a bouncer table to the mix! I think you really just have to try a few products and find out what your baby likes. If they don’t like them, save them for another baby if you’re planning on having one.
I first ventured into clean makeup by accident; I stopped into a local beauty shop and saw a convenient all-in-one palette. We were about to travel to France and I recognized this as the perfect opportunity to streamline my makeup bag for the trip. It was icing on the cake that the products were non-toxic.
But when I became pregnant a few months later I actively began seeking safer, healthier options for both skincare and makeup. I wanted to reduce the amount of toxic ingredients I exposed my daughter to while I was pregnant with her. But since she was born, I began noticing how many times a day I snuggle my face against hers or kiss the top of her head. The risk of exposing your child to harmful ingredients doesn’t end when you give birth. I’m not too strict about it – I still use products that aren’t 100% clean. But each product I’ve switched out makes a difference.
I apply the cream products with my fingers, except for the foundation which I apply with a BeautyBlender sponge dampened with organic rose water. The rose water helps reduce redness and irritation while boosting hydration. Have you tried any great clean makeup products?
It’s hard to believe it’s been four weeks since I gave birth to my daughter. Looking back, there are so many things that helped me toward the end of my pregnancy and I knew I wanted to share them with women going through the same thing. As with anything regarding pregnancy, please check with your own midwife and/or doctor before you begin taking any supplements or using anything topically.
I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to switch to a completely nontoxic skincare routine during pregnancy, but each product you can switch out during your pregnancy will be a positive change for both you and your baby. I’ve often read that our skin absorbs about 60-65% of whatever is put onto it. You can always switch as your products run out or set aside your old products until after you give birth. I felt more comfortable going nontoxic (with a couple pregnancy-safe options) and I wrote all about my pregnancy skincare routine in this blog post.
I used a variety of supplements throughout my pregnancy – some specifically recommended by my doctor and some I found through doing a little research online. I believe this combination of supplements made a difference in my overall health during pregnancy and some even had an effect on preventing any stretch marks. I would also add that a large amount of water was crucial as well; I’ve never drank so much water in my life! During pregnancy, I drank around 90 oz. each day. It’s important to continue using any vitamins and supplements during your postpartum months; your body has gone through so much and needs the nutrients to replenish those lost during the previous nine months.
Stretch Mark Prevention
When I became pregnant I knew I wanted to begin preventing stretch marks as early as possible. Through a little research and experimenting with different products, I came up with a routine that prevented any stretch marks from forming throughout my pregnancy and after. I know I’m predisposed to stretch marks because I noticed tiny silver lines showing up on my hips during middle school when my body began to change; this routine has even faded those lines and I can no longer see them. I just shared my routine with a newly pregnant friend and I wanted to share it with you as well. I can’t guarantee it will prevent any stretch marks (because I do think a large part of that tendency is genetic) but it can only help and hopefully will fade existing stretch marks or prevent new ones from forming during pregnancy.
First Trimester… Begin drinking lots of water and taking fish oil vitamins each day. Then use a creamy, moisturizing body butter like Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter at least once a day. The Shea Butter and Vitamin E begin to hydrate and prep your skin for all the stretching to come. I used this each night as part of my nighttime routine (on chest, belly, and hips) and used it until the container was gone, then I moved on to the below routine.
Second and Third Trimesters… I kept taking my fish oil vitamins, but began using a scoop of this Marine Collagen Powder each day in my morning coffee or smoothie to give me a daily boost of collagen. After my morning shower, I would rub this Mustela Stretch Mark Prevention Cream into my chest, belly, and hips. (I tried to only shower once each day to help preserve the natural oils our skin makes.) And at night I would rub oils into my chest, belly, and hips before I went to bed. Sometimes it would take fifteen or twenty minutes, but I rarely skipped this. I think any oil would work; the important part is massaging more and more into your skin until it doesn’t absorb any more. Some of my favorite oils I used were Biossance 100% Squalane, Osea Anti-Aging Body Balm, Nuxe Dry Oil, and a honey oil by My Sweet Honeybee I picked up at a local market. To keep these oils from staining your clothes or pajamas, try wearing one of these stretchy camisoles or stretchy slips.
I also began adding La Mer The Body Crème on top of the oil at night toward the end of my pregnancy. I’ve sworn by La Mer to heal my skin for years now.
Postpartum… Continue using the rest of your creams and oils on a daily basis until they’re gone – or even after. Your skin is shrinking back and needs to retain its moisture and elasticity. I’m a month postpartum and still use my fish oil pills, collagen powder, and daily oil. I’ve had friends who developed stretch marks after delivery as their skin began to quickly shrink so I think giving your skin some extra TLC postpartum can only help.
Without a doubt, my most worn item during pregnancy was this support belt. I have had a lot of pregnant readers message me on Instagram asking about how to prevent back and pelvic pain and this is it. This wrap helps lift and support the baby and even comes with a removable pack at the back that can be heated or cooled depending on your preference. I wore it all the time during my second and third trimesters.
In the last month or two of pregnancy and postpartum, I really appreciated these soft maternity bra and panties. While not necessary, there was something so comforting about having extra soft undergarments with plenty of stretch.
It’s nice to have soft, cozy pajamas when you’re feeling your least glamorous in the hospital! Depending on your delivery and if you’re planning on breastfeeding, you may prefer a nightgown or pajamas. I treated myself to new pajamas for the hospital and for that first week or two at home when I just wanted to snuggle my new baby. I tried to order pajamas I wouldn’t mind my family seeing me in – the Barefoot Dreams cardigans made them seem a bit more presentable and my baby loved snuggling me when I wore them too.
And for beautiful dresses that feel just as comfortable as loungewear, try Rachel Pally. I have been living in her silky soft pieces!
I read so many “hospital essentials” posts before I gave birth to my daughter. I have to say, I didn’t use half of the things those posts and articles suggested. Every hospital is different, but our hospital provided everything we needed for both myself and the baby. I brought the comfy pjs I talked about earlier, a pair of slippers, and the things I needed to get ready. For Georgie, I simply brought a few newborn outfits and the swaddle and knit blanket I wanted her photographed with since the hospital has a photographer who comes by the day after you give birth.
The only extra things I can recommend bringing are a facial sheet mask to combat dryness post-birth and to make you feel a bit more human. And a soft, warm blanket since the ones the hospital provides aren’t very cozy. I brought this one and my baby still loves snuggling in it with me; I think she remembers feeling that as we snuggled those first two days together.
Without going into too much detail, one of you gave me the tip to purchase disposable underwear for the hospital and postpartum. These are great because they’re more comfortable and functional than the traditional pads the hospital provides.
Lastly, I cannot recommend stomach binding enough. I know everyone is different and you should ask your doctor before using a binder, but it made my stomach shrink faster and helped me feel more secure. I asked my nurse for a binder and to help me put it on in the hospital then as my stomach shrunk I switched to progressively tighter versions. (I wore a similar binder months before our wedding to give me a small waist.) Now there are so many options for postpartum binders and corsets – some even attached to underwear. If you don’t want a full binder or corset, try one of the supportive postpartum tanks or undies to give you a bit of compression.
I knew I wanted to bring some type of gift for the labor + delivery and postpartum nurses in the hospital when I had my daughter. I had seen other people do this type of thing for their delivery and I thought it was such a nice way to thank the professionals taking care of my baby and I. After you have a baby, these are the people that make you feel human again and even show you the proper way to care for your newborn. After having a baby I can tell you thatno one deserves being thanked like these people do! The staff at the hospital did so much for my baby and I.
My mom and I prepared a bin of goodie bags the week before I gave birth. Below I’ve listed what we put in each bag. We tried to think of what nurses who work long hours and are constantly washing their hands might use or like, but you could ask for specific ideas when you do your hospital tour.
Coffee Gift Card
We also prepared a bin of snacks. These snacks can be used by you, your visiting family, and nurses that stop in to check on you. I just chose what I was craving at the time – and had the energy to chase down while 38 weeks pregnant. It’s nice to bring something like this for the nurse’s station as well to share with the other nurses on the floor.
Both of these bins were supposed to be kept in my room but my husband didn’t know and in the hustle and bustle of our arrival he ended up bringing everything to the nurse’s station. I would recommend keeping them in your room because otherwise (depending on the size of your hospital) you might not have enough gifts. We had 2-3 nurses for each 12 hour shift and I stayed in the hospital 2 nights. If you have any complications you may end up staying longer, so keep this in mind. Err on the safe side and you can leave the extras at the nurse’s station when you leave.