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12 July 2014

The Weekend Chronicle

I've added the latest blog post to my new layout. Next week, the new layout will be at lexandliv.com. Just waiting for the giveaway to end before I do something potentially catastrophic to my site.

My latest blog post here

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09 July 2014

Working on a New Layout

Working on a new layout this week and have migrated my blog over to Wordpress (hope to debut it after the giveaway ends). Naturally, all of the text and images are a mess now, so will spend some time working on that AGAIN.

In the mean time, I won't be updating the blog in this space until I've applied the new layout (saves me from having to import the blog posts again) but will keep the giveaway post active until it ends on Monday.

When I do publish a new post, I'll provide a link from this blog.
If you'd like to check out the progress on the new blog format, have a sneak peak. But I just started on it last night, so I have quite a bit of work left to do.

Thought I would share a lovely quote I came across today

It took me four years to paint like Raphael 
but a lifetime to paint like a child. 

-Pablo Picasso

Image Guernica, by Pablo Picasso

08 July 2014

I Didn't Know I Needed to Worry About Lead, and the Case for Handmade Toys

You may surmise from the title of this post that I'm a proponent of well made toys. Given a choice, I'd select a few quality toys over a mountain of plastic junk. Unfortunately, the reality is that my house is currently OVERRUN with the latter. I don't know how it happened exactly. What I do know is that I'm not the main culprit, mmmkay?? It seems that with every birthday, holiday and just-because celebration, my kids receive so much STUFF. And of course, sentimental hoarder that I am, I cannot throw out any object that has any significance to my kids. You should see my dried dandelion/ leaf/ acorn/ rock collection that Alex has kindly curated in my honour.

But a couple of weeks ago, something happened that stopped me in my tracks and forced me to confront this spiraling trajectory of craptoy madness. We had just finished my daughter's 12 month doctor's checkup. Vaccinations had been administered, measurements taken; we showed off our little words and pearly whites. Then we waited in the lobby for the results of the lead screen test as we recovered from the insult of those nasty shots.

I'm an obsessive worrier by nature, always seeking out the next topic over which to anguish. So, if I wasn't worried about the lead test, you can imagine how low down on my radar that concern was. Except that when the doctor emerged with the results of the finger prick test, he was a little uneasy. Olivia's test was above that with which they're comfortable. Not high enough to warrant the government turning my house upside down but high enough that the test needed repeating. He said it was possible she'd handled something liked a piece of printed paper that could cause a falsely high reading. We could repeat the finger prick test in a month, or we could go in for the dreaded venous blood test. I wasn't about to wait around for a month, wondering if my daughter was playing with some lead contaminated toy. So, I opted to take my poor baby for the blood test. I'll spare you the awful details of that experience but it took forever to find a vein. All I could think was "what do people with really sick children go through if I'm so traumatised by this experience?"

Stupidly, we went in for the blood test on a Friday, so I had to wait out the weekend for the results, which they didn't have until Tuesday. In the interim, I removed almost all of Olivia's toys and books from her little play area. And I don't think the plastic toys will return. I couldn't bear to post on this blog that week, thus the lull for the last few days. I could barely muster a normal conversation, let alone be creative.

Thankfully, the blood test was negative- completely negative. I honestly have no idea what happened; why the finger prick test was positive, and how reliable it is in the first place. I can only hope there are more false positives out there than negatives.

During my short stint as a lead expert (you know, between Wednesday and Tuesday), I discovered some very scary facts about lead content in toys. Although it is illegal to add lead to paint in the United States, lead paint is ROUTINELY discovered in toys imported from China, even by companies such as Fisher Price. Yes, there are Elmo toys out there that have been recalled due to lead content! But even scarier than this fact is that is NOT illegal in the United States to have lead in plastic toys. Yes indeed, you read that correctly. BPA in plastic = BIG NO-NO but LEAD is A-OK! Please tell me which bureaucratic stuffed shirt is responsible for letting that one slip through the cracks! Why is the EPA more concerned with taxing businesses for rain runoff than protecting our kids from the deleterious effects of lead?

Although the biggest source of lead exposure in children in the US is from lead paint in older homes, another major source of concern is cheap jewelry/ trinkets and children's toys. Beware of old or heirloom toys also, as many will have been manufactured using lead based paint.

I'm obviously NOT an expert but this is how I plan to minimise my children's risk of exposure to lead and other harmful substances in their toys. Purchase toys made in the USA and in the EU, using quality materials, preferably unpainted/ unstained wood and organic fabrics (Etsy is a treasure trove for non-toxic wooden toys but be aware of the seller's reputation). Minimise exposure to plastic or questionable materials where possible, though the Lego and Playmobil toys will stay. I also plan on keeping a more watchful eye on printed materials and books that Olivia is so fond of putting in her mouth. Board books are not suitable teething toys. And something I've long wanted to do but continue to put off for no good reason- make some of the kids' toys.

Two books I've come across recently to aid in that capacity, that are really exciting (perhaps only to me?). The first is to satisfy Alex's obsession with zoo life. Knit Your Own Zoo, by Sally Muir. We purchased it last week and, to say that he is ecstatic about it, would be an understatement. The second will be released next month. The Making of a Rag Doll, by Jess Brown- complete with patterns for making your very own Jess Brown ragdoll and clothing. Perhaps you've noticed my obsession with Jess Brown dolls? I simply cannot spend over $200 on one though, especially not for a one year old with a penchant for tearing stuff apart. I've found a great online store, Organic Cotton Plus, for organic fabrics and notions that appears to be very reasonably priced too.

So, stay tuned on that front because I plan on sharing my efforts at non-toxic toy making with you. I'm also going to be reviewing the books I mentioned- let's see if I can manage to wrangle an advanced copy of that Jess Brown book!

Don't forget to enter the FRESHLY PICKED GIVEAWAY!
(open internationally; free shipping within USA only)

Images: Jess Brown Dolls, Manny & Simon organic toys, The Making of a Rag Doll

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07 July 2014

A Freshly Picked Moccasin Giveaway!!

freshly picked moccasin giveaway lex and liv lexandliv

Have you been bitten by the Freshly Picked bug? I've been admiring these moccasins (popular with celebrity babies) for so long and was so excited to have had the chance to review them recently.

And now, one lucky reader will have the opportunity to enjoy a pair of these lovely handmade leather moccasins through our Freshly Picked giveaway. They're available in feminine, masculine and gender neutral styles. If your babies are all grown up, they also make a lovely baby shower gift.

All you have to do to enter the giveaway is sign into the Rafflecopter widget below with your email or facebook account (don't worry, your email address will only be used to let you know you've won the giveaway), head on over to Freshly Picked's website and let us know in the comments section below this post which colour is your favourite.

For more entries to the giveaway, you can follow Lex&Liv and Freshly Picked on social media. Be sure to register your entry by clicking the "+1" tab next to each option on the giveaway widget (please be honest; if you indicate that you have followed but fail to actually do so, your entries will be disqualified).

Here is a quick demo on entering the giveaway.

* Shipping is only free for US residents. International winners will be subject to shipping charges. You can still enter the giveaway but keep that in mind :-)
** To be eligible for this giveaway, you cannot have won a pair of Freshly Picked moccasins within the last 60 days.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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05 July 2014

A Freshly Picked Moccasin Review

I was beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to review these heirloom moccasins from Freshly Picked. I'd long admired the brand from afar and was quite looking forward to seeing what all the buzz was about. The moccasins arrived in a lovely protective cloth bag, a small peak of the little treasures held within. 

I didn't waste any time putting them on Olivia's tiny feet, and I think she was as taken with them as I was. 

It makes me so happy to see her crawling around in them. Although she isn't walking unassisted yet, I suspect they will get much use in the coming weeks as her first walking shoes. They are also really versatile- we've gone for the demure vintage look in a lacy white dress from BabyGAP, but sometimes we pair them with cheeky jeggings.

I'm obviously completely in love with them but, in the interest of objectivity, I've prepared a list of pros and cons to consider. 

These are some of the reasons you should invest in a pair of Freshly Picked moccasins

  1. They're handmade, in America, and you'd be supporting an American small business, rather than a large corporation that manufactures their goods in third rate facilities overseas.
  2. The quality is unlike any baby item I've seen. They truly are jewel-like in their beauty and quality. The gold dot leather is so soft. I wrote to them to question whether they were in fact 100% leather, as stated on their website. It turns out that the leather on the top portion of the shoes is a different grain than what is used for the sole; it's so soft that it feels unreal.
  3. They manufacture their shoes using the softest, quality leather.
  4. No matter how hard your baby tries, that shoe is not coming off without your assistance.
  5. Soft soled shoes are excellent for baby's foot development. It's basically like walking barefoot but with stylish protection.
  6. Over time, your baby's footprint will mark itself on the bottom of the shoe, like a record of their growth.
  7. The design of the shoe enables you to purchase a larger size than required because of the elastic opening. The leather stretches too.

The cons:

  1. There are other handmade moccasin manufacturers in the USA using the same leather hides, at a lower price point. 
  2. They're more of an indoor shoe. Because there is no reinforced sole, I question how well the moccasins would hold up and protect little feet on stones or other sharp objects you'd encounter outdoors, like glass. 
  3. It's not indicated whether the leather hides used are chromium free. I've already contacted the company to ask about the chemicals used in the tanning/ dyeing process and they're inquiring with the leather supplier. The baby market is a high risk one, so I do feel that they should have had this information readily available. These shoes may spend a considerable amount of time in your baby's mouth during the teething stage. I would love to know if there is an option using vegetable tanned and dyed leather (though they would surely not be as cute as the metallic styles).
  4. I wish there was a bit more variety in their mocassin designs, perhaps without the characteristic fringe. 

I see many more pairs of Freshly Picked moccs in Olivia's future. Overall, a great brand with which I am very much looking forward to collaborating in the future. And, by the way, have you seen their new Caryall bag? The platinum colour is my favourite! Such a stylish alternative to the traditional diaper bag. 

I'm going to be hosting a giveaway for a pair of Freshly Picked moccasins on Monday. Don't forget to enter!

** Freshly picked was kind enough to provide a pair of moccasins for this review, though all statements and opinions are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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02 July 2014

Master Bedroom Refresh

Time to step away from the nurseries for a new project!

Danielle, the winner of my design giveaway has requested a "master bedroom refresh." The room has a really good foundation- lovely moulding details, wooden floors, and large windows on two walls which let in morning sun. The decor is a little sparse at the moment and Danielle would like some help warming the space up a little. The room is a little over 150 SF; I hope to have a floor plan to share in the next post but, for privacy reasons, have elected to withhold the bedroom images for now.

The walls are already painted Benjamin Moore's Palladian Blue (above) but they're flexible on changing the colour. We're likely going to stick with cool hues- pale blue, navy, apple green and white; crisp white sheets with some embroidery details, perhaps a little pattern thrown in. I suspect that we'll dedicate the bulk of our $1000 budget on a new headboard, bedding, nightstands and some lighting. Danielle would also like to add a small chair for TV watching, a larger area rug and a new TV cabinet, if possible. Our budget is a bit tight, so we'll concentrate for now on the main focal point of the room, which is the bed, and revisit our selections should we need to cut costs to add in other items.

Here are some of my inspiration images for the space.

Melanie Turner Interiors, via Veranda
Love this ^^ classic bedroom by designer Melanie Turner. It's a little more conservative than what we're going for but I think the colour scheme is really fresh. Love the white bedding with accent pillows. I think classic white bedding is the way to go. Not only are white sheets more economical and, in my view more sophisticated, but white bedding can be dressed up with colourful accent pillows and throws.

PB Grand Embroidered Sheet Set in Black, 280 Thread Count ($139 for Queen Size)
PB Grand Embroidered Sheet Set in Lapis Blue, 280 Thread Count ($139 for Queen Size)
PB Organic Sateen Sheet Set, 350 thread count ($150 for queen size)
These sheet sets, all from Pottery Barn, are great options. Not over-the-top $500 sheets but a great quality everyday option that you won't be afraid to put in the wash.

Image by Kimberly Chau, for Style Me Pretty Living

This beautiful bedroom, care of Bailey from Peppermint Bliss, shows a beautiful upholstered headboard with crisp white bedding. The border on the pillows add a touch of colour to the all-white linens.

We can achieve a similar look with these border shams ^^ from Pottery Barn, in navy or green.

Bunny Turner's Guestroom 
In this bedroom ^^, all white linens are dressed up with gorgeous patterned headboards and graphic wool throw blankets. I really love the colour scheme in this room- the floral headboard stops it from feeling too masculine. Though I personally prefer to keep the main components (in this case, the headboards) more neutral, there are other ways of bringing in pattern through pillows, decor, and art.

I really like the patterns and colours in the bedroom above, which keep the lovely wall panels from making this bedroom feel too formal. Wall paneling gives a room a really polished, high end look. We put it in our master bedroom a few years ago and it was the best decision for our awkward cathedral ceiling. In our case, the trim paneling is 5 ft high, and it helped to unify disparate wall heights and break up the taller walls a little. But for lower ceilings, you could continue the paneling to the top, or even put in a piece of trim on the ceiling about 12" from the wall, and continue the wall colour to give the space a loftier feel.

This room ^^ is a great example of using decor and plants to bring warmth into a room (though I think I would have replaced some of the greenery with a simple orchid). Also, a really lovely bedroom, with a great colour palette and beautiful monogrammed linens. Love that mirror!


Speaking of mirrors, if you can't put one above a dresser, how about above a bedside table? ^^ I feel like I should be the spokesperson for Pottery Barn but even something like these frameless mirrors add a bit of dimensions to the bedside table.

You may have picked up on one or two common themes in these bedrooms, one of which is the tailored look of the upholstered headboards. Perhaps it's because I have a very impractical iron bed that no euro pillow is capable of rendering comfortable. This family does have a dog, and though he's not destructive, I think it's something to keep in mind when selecting fabric and colours, should they decide to go this route. An upholstered headboard with a washable slipcover might also be a good option.

Though I have to say, love the shape and the wide range of durable fabric options of PB's Ardley Headboard ($599). The Lewis Headboard comes with an optional slipcover. It's going to eat up most of our budget, so I'm going to investigate other options- some great possibilities in the $300-$400 range at One King's Lane!

More to come on this master bedroom update in the coming days.


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30 June 2014

Red, White and Blue Desserts

Fourth of July is fast approaching and the fantasies of strawberry and blueberry, paired with whipped cream, are in full swing. I had considered coming up with a recipe for a patriotic trifle but Faith Durand, of the Kitchn, has done all of the hard work for me and produced this most wonderful looking trifle recipe. Feast thine eyes!

This, plus a few more delicious Fourth of July inspired desserts to try.

Red, White and Blue Trifle, at the Kitchn

Blackberry and Meyer Lemon Pavlovas, at Honestly Yum

Summer Pavlova, at Eat Boutique!

Strawberry- filled Patriotic Cupcakes, at Wishes and Dishes

Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries, at Fifteen Spatulas

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