12.18.2014

stocking stuffers for your littles

One of my favorite parts about Christmas is stuffing stockings for Dustin and Olivia. I just love seeing three stockings hanging on our antique hutch and putting tiny little presents in each of them as Christmas approaches. This year, with Olivia being 18 months, I had so much fun finding goodies that I knew she would love and have a lot of fun with but that were still practical too. Below are a few of my favorites. 
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

I absolutely love Tegu and what the company stands for. If you aren't familiar, they make heirloom quality magnetic wooden blocks that encourage a child's imagination and creative play. We actually didn't get the 8-piece travel set for V {1} but instead got her the 24-piece set, but I love the size of the travel set and how easy it would be to slip in a stocking {or a diaper bag for on the go fun!}

There is something so sweet about Matryoshka {Russian nesting} dolls and I always played with them as a little girl at my Grandma's house. I got her a snack cup set {2} and measuring spoons for her stocking and they'll be perfect in her kitchen for play.

It's no secret that I love getting creative at mealtime and I am always on the hunt for innovative and high quality toddler mealtime products that Olivia can use and play with. Oogaa offers spoons in the shapes of trains (3), planes, tugboats & trucks, as well as other mealtime products such as divided plates and bowls. All their products are BPA free, dishwasher- and microwave-safe. 

I am so excited for Olivia to open up her two boxes of Mix & Match cards {4} from Petit Collage and thought one box would just fit in her stocking. They have all different styles for boys and girls and Olivia loves to sit and sort cards so I know these will be a hit! With 24 cards you can mix and match to create silly characters, these will be so much fun. I also love their petit puzzles and they would be great for stockings for 2- and 3-year olds.

This deer by Maileg {5} has always been a toy that caught my eye and I can just picture it peeking out the top of a baby's stocking on Christmas morning. How perfect.

Olivia loves playing with kitchen toys and since Santa is giving her a vintage kitchen for Christmas, I picked up a few sets of fun cupcake molds at a really great price from Home Goods of all places! Any of these would be great for the stocking, but my favorites are the aristocakes, the yumbots {6} & the fresh picked berry boxes

Wee Gallery Art Cards {7} are perfect for younger babes and captivate a little one with their bold black and white images and repeating patterns. With a wide variety of cards to choose from, these are so sweet.

Every year after Christmas, my mom and I scout out all the 50% off deals at tiny little shops and local boutiques and last year we found a bag of Tree Tops {8} for only a few dollars. I packed them away and then pulled them out this year and we have had endless entertainment spinning all the tops on the coffee table and floors! They are so high quality and so much fun for adults and children alike.

Another fun and modern snack container {9} - this one by Boon - it's fun for kids to open and close and holds just the right amount of kix or cheerios for snacktime. I grabbed the pink and purple one for V on clearance at Babies R Us awhile go and know we will get a lot of use out of it. I have been so happy with every product from Boon we've ever purchased. The Odd Ducks {12} are also on our wishlist because Olivia is crazy about ducks {how that started, I have no idea}.

Another idea for a younger babe is a wooden teether. The Kitty is one of my favorites and definitely one I'll pick up in the future when we have another girl! Little Sapling Toys is a fabulous company that offers all kinds of wooden toys and a huge selection of teethers perfect for stuffing a stocking! They also make gorgeous personalized ornaments for the tree.

What's a stocking without a little bit of something sweet? Olivia loves GoGo Squeeze pouches as a midday treat and so I slipped a few in her stocking. 

Finally, I picked up a few Hello Kitty Christmas coloring books and a pack of gem crayons from Target a few weeks ago, and will roll the coloring books up in her stocking with the crayons tucked inside! 

What are you putting in your little's stockings? What are you hoping will be in yours?
I've already snuck a peek at mine {of course, completely by accident} and discovered a new floral iphone case and pom pom maker...and a tube of urban decay red lipstick that was at the top of my list. Surprisingly, I totally don't mind that Dustin didn't wrap them ... or I wouldn't have been able to peek!
Only 7 Days until Christmas! Have a wonderful weekend!

12.12.2014

quinn popcorn {best of the nest}

One of our favorite snacks has always been popcorn. For years the only kind we made was air-popped, since both Dustin and I knew enough to know that microwave popcorn was full of junk that neither of us wanted to put in our bodies. We didn't even give microwave popcorn a second thought. 

That is until I read about Quinn in a local food magazine, and after a positive review I was interested to give it a try and see for myself. I picked up a box of Real Butter & Sea Salt and knew it would be the perfect addition to our weekend movie night. After the first taste, we both knew it was all over. This stuff is crazy good.


Read more about Quinn Popcorn below

Kristy, founder and CEO of Quinn, started Quinn Popcorn with the mission of cleaning up microwave popcorn, and now she creates snacks that are defining simple, honest, and transparent food. 

Her innovation lead to reinvented microwave popcorn, the first chemical free microwave popcorn on the market, and her new Quinn Popcorn Farm-to-Bag supply chain transparency program is another first. Kristy shares her story and mission in a 2 minute video here: http://www.quinnpopcorn.com/popcorn-reinvented/cleaning-up-food/
In 3 years Quinn Popcorn went from an attic based start-up to a national product found in thousands of stores across the US. The mission is just getting started as Kristy continues to push the boundaries of natural foods.


Microwave Popcorn Reinvented:
+ The first microwave popcorn free of synthetic chemicals
+ Pure Pop Bag - The first compostable and chemical & plastic free microwave popcorn bag
+ Organic Popcorn, expeller pressed oils, rBST free dairy
+ Innovative flavors like Parmesan & Rosemary, Vermont Maple, and Real Butter
+ Spice pouches make for fun, hands on popping and allow for better ingredients

Farm-to-Bag Popcorn:
+ The first snack to offer a completely transparent supply chain
Non-GMO Certified, organic coconut oil, organic dairy
+ Snackable Superfood Flavors - Kale & Sea Salt, California Olive Oil, Organic Coconut Oil
+ Low calorie {less than 40 calories per cup}


what we love about Quinn || 
+ Real ingredients {Non-GMO corn, RBGH-Free dairy & no preservatives}
+ I love knowing exactly what is in the food I'm eating, and Quinn offers that -- the ingredients {and even the locations they are from!} are listed right on the box 
+ I love the convenience of microwave popcorn but the quality of something so much more
+ I love that the oil and flavorings are something you mix in yourself {the 'pour & shake' concept} -- and I know it will be so much fun when Olivia is a little older and she can help by shaking the bag 
+ Each flavor stands up to its name in an exceptional way - you get exactly what they say and exactly what you want!


microwave popcorn flavors ||
+ real butter & sea salt / 'crazy idea #764: microwave popcorn with real butter' -- no butter flavoring, just rich and smooth butter the way it should be

+ parmesan & rosemary / what more needs to be said? its just that good. {more here}

+ vermont maple & sea salt / 'like a fresh stack of flapjacks that you can eat with your hands' / sweet, salty & slightly addictive ... a bit like kettle corn but with smooth maple syrup {more here}

+ hickory smoked cheddar / double smoked paprika is combined with Kentucky made cheddar to make this popcorn rich without being over the top {more here}

+ olive oil & herbs / using California grown and pressed olive oil, basil, oregano, tarragon and a little garlic, this popcorn is said to be like fresh, super deluxe garlic bread but remains the lowest calorie popcorn Quinn makes {more here}

+ just sea salt / this flavor showcases the organic, Midwest grown butterfly popcorn for its natural crunch and corn flavor and is the perfect canvas to add your favorite toppings or to eat as is - pure and simple {more here}


+ kale and sea salt / green, sweet and salty - a light superfood with an addicting crunch.... {more here}

+ popped with extra virgin coconut oil / light simple popcorn with a hint of coconut

+ california olive oil / full, rich olive flavor - low cal and delicious

+ cheddar & chipotle / cheddar popcorn with a little smoky kick {more here}


our favorite flavors || We tried every flavor of the microwave popcorn except Olive Oil & Herbs since it wasn't available anywhere near us / We tried 3 of the 4 farm to bag varieties as well ... Find our favorites below!

+ My absolute favorite flavor is Parmesan & Rosemary -- it is a rich mix of flavorful parmesan with a hint of rosemary which adds depth of flavor ... why is Parm so amazing on popcorn? Seriously, I could eat it 7 days a week! 

+ Dustin's favorite for microwave popcorn is a tie between P&R and Real Butter & Sea Salt, which was the first flavor we tried and a classic that is just so good

+ For farm to bag, the Kale was our #1 - super fresh, crunchy and a great snack any time of day {or night!}


We can't get enough of Quinn Popcorn and everyone we've introduced to it has fallen as hard as we did. Talk about major success on their end -- and well deserved in every way!


coupon code || Save 15% off your entire purchase using the code QPLASTMIN and receive free shipping on orders over $29! If you order by Monday, December 15 your 'corn will be to your doorstep by Christmas! / Start shopping here

giveaway || Kristy has so generously offered to give away a prize pack from Quinn to one lucky winner, including a box of parmesan & rosemary, vermont maple and olive oil & herbs / Simply complete the steps below in the Rafflecopter to enter. Giveaway runs from Friday, Dec 12 through Thursday Dec 18. Winner will be contacted via email and must respond within 24 hours to claim their prize or a new winner will be selected. All entries will be verified. Have a wonderful weekend!

12.08.2014

shop spotlight | my dear fellow co.

I have a confession: I am a collector hoarder of stationary. Cards and art prints are my jam. Boxes and boxes of beautiful cards just waiting to be written sit organized in our basement closet. I frame them, display them, mail them and save them. Every card my husband has ever given me {even the very first card he gave me when I graduated high school in 2008} has been saved, read, re-read and cherished. 


There is just something so special about paper goods, especially in place of electronic communication. There is a feeling so lovely that comes when hanging up a handmade art print in your home for the first time and then seeing it every day, or mailing out a festive card to a friend across the country. My favorite shop for said prints and cards? My Dear Fellow Co. 


Based out of Dallas, Texas, My Dear Fellow Co. is made up of a husband & wife dream team - Samantha and Aaron Johnson, who founded the company in March of 2014. Samantha and Aaron strive to produce paper goods of the highest caliber by maintaining a clear focus on detail and excellent design using the highest quality materials available. All the paper goods are hand crafted and assembled at the company's studio in Dallas and printed on FSC certified, 100% post-consumer recycled paper made from renewable energy.


Samantha is the creative mind behind the matchless combination of design, color and style. She is a graphic designer and illustrator whose focus is to create designs that are whimsical and original. Her husband Aaron focuses on the day-to-day operations by managing the professional direction of the company.


Read more about their story below

"My name is Samantha Johnson and I am the designer and owner of My Dear Fellow Co., a paper goods brand based out of Dallas, Texas.  I work along side my husband, Aaron, who helps with the management of the business. 

Aaron and I met in college about 5 years ago. He has a degree in business, and I have a degree in graphic design. I guess you can say we are quite the perfect match for My Dear Fellow Co.

One of our greatest priorities is to produce high quality eco- friendly paper goods. All of our products are proudly made in the USA, and we use the finest materials out there. We have our paper goods professionally printed locally in Dallas to ensure product quality and consistency, and all products are hand crafted and assembled in our studio. 

I have always had a passion for illustrating and designing my own handmade cards. A lot of my inspiration comes from vintage children’s books, and I love incorporating that nostalgic feel into my cards. I draw my ideas on paper and then transfer them to the computer and finalize the design using a drawing tablet. 

My hope is that My Dear Fellow Co. will inspire people to bring back the lost art of sending handwritten cards to their loved ones. We hope you enjoy our products made with love from Dallas, Texas!"


what My Dear Fellow Co. is known for || specialized paper goods, stationary and art prints with vibrant colors and unique designs, handmade by a husband and wife team in Dallas, Texas

what sets My Dear Fellow Co. apart || I absolutely love the one-of-a-kind designs of all the prints and cards and the fact that this shop is run by a husband and wife team which each have their own roles and strengths but that work together so perfectly; the high quality of each product also sets My Dear Fellow Co. apart.





coupon code || Sam & Aaron are so generously offering 20% off your total purchase now through December 15 for Blessed Nest readers using the code BLESSEDNEST20 / start shopping here

giveaway || enter below to win 1 art print of your choice and 2 cards of your choice from My Dear Fellow Co. / giveaway is open to residents in the US and runs from monday dec 8 through sunday december 14. the winner is responsible for contacting A Blessed Nest within 24 hours of being announced or a new winner will be selected. all entries will be verified.

12.05.2014

cranberry orange muffins {gluten free}

I had a lot of people inquiring yesterday about the muffins I had posted so I wanted to share the details! They are some of the most delicious muffins we've ever had and the best part? Not only are they gluten free but they are super easy to make, since each batch starts with a pre-made mix from my favorite gluten free bakery, Brody's 579. 


You can read all about Brody's 579 in a recent Shop Spotlight here
To purchase the mixes {including the Cranberry Mix}, visit the website here.

Any mix can be shipped directly to your door and made in less than half an hour. Pictured is the Cranberry mix with my own twist on it -- I added 1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice and the zest of one orange to the batter before baking and then topped the muffins with extra zest right out of the oven. Easy, right? A festive treat for Christmas morning or any time of the year. I have plans to make them again soon and top them with homemade candied orange peel. Talk about mouth-watering.



All the muffins from Brody's 579 make a great breakfast, snack, or midday treat. We even freeze them individually {they stay so fresh!} and take them out one at a time when we want them. Olivia and Dustin both love them as much as I do and I love that they're gluten free. I'd highly recommend placing an order for the holidays to make entertaining extra easy. Other favorites include Banana, Banana Chocolate Chip, Chocolate & Pumpkin. Happy weekend baking!

12.04.2014

festive florals

The trend I am loving the most this season is florals. Who says florals are just for summer? Clothing lines and handmade shops alike are both killing it with festive floral pieces and I just can't get enough. I even have a floral phone case on my Christmas list. Find all my favorites below.


The floral baseball tee {1} is just too good, and it was the first purchase with my gapCASH yesterday. It's lovely in every way and I can't wait to use it as a transitional piece from winter into spring. I love the mix between casual and feminine.

I am also loving the basic floral onesie {3} and matching sherpa lined floral jacket {4}. Perfect for layering and keeping cozy as temperatures drop.

A few weeks ago, I picked up a few classic books with covers by Anna Bond {6} when they were all 50% off at B&N and I just love the look of them for a nursery, young girl's room or anywhere in our home. I love reading longer books to Olivia a few pages each night and these are perfect. 

With lots of my close friends expecting, I couldn't resist the gorgeous floral knit blanket {7} from Lou Lou & Co. I'm not so secretly hoping I have an excuse to keep it for myself for a little lady in the near future. It's just darling.

Our all-time favorite pajamas come from Hanna Andersson and I love the exclusive collection offered by Serena & Lily. Made of organic cotton in beautiful patterns and with a lifetime warranty, these are the best of the best for your babe {8}.

The vintage floral leggings {10} are one of my favorite finds from this whole collection and would be the perfect pairing with basic tops and neutral jackets for winter.

Finally, this sherpa lined floral vest {12} is one of our winter staples and has been since mid-October. Super cozy but not bulky and a piece Olivia wears almost every day! It's now sold out online but I've still seen it in stores {similar here}.

A few of my other floral favorites by some of the best handmade shops in the biz? 

floral sailor bows from free babes
floral bandanas from the bird & elephant
floral crowns from fancy free finery
& of course, these moccs.

Happy Thursday!

12.01.2014

shop spotlight || sigikid

As a very little girl, my best friend was my teddy bear. I grew up with it and it seemed that everywhere I went, my teddy went with me. I knew I wanted to give Olivia the same opportunity to form a bond with her own teddy and when I saw the Sweety Bear from sigikid, I knew I had found what I was looking for.

I am thrilled to be featuring sigikid in today's Shop Spotlight; with a wide range of products for the littlest of babies to the busiest toddlers and even for young and older children alike, sigikid offers the highest quality products perfect for the modern day family. They are all so unique and filled with character and that is perhaps what I love the most.


As soon as Olivia saw the bear sitting on our kitchen counter, she was drawn to it. I love the bright colors and patterns of the arms and legs but the familiar brown face and body that is extra soft and cuddly. I handed it to her and she gave it a big hug and then a wet kiss on the nose. Since then, we don't go anywhere without it and it's the perfect playtime and nap companion. The quality is outstanding and even with all the adventures the two of them go on, I know the bear will stand up to it all.

Read more about sigikid below in an interview with Eva {CEO of the sigikid US branch and daughter of the sigikid founders}

 How and when you started your business

sigikid was founded in 1968 in Germany by my parents. Back in the day, there were not many plush toys available that were really soft and cuddly. Most toys were in fact quite stiff and naturalistic looking. My parents saw an opportunity for soft toys that were safe, cute and cuddly, but that could also be machine-washed and handed down to the next generation. They were also convinced that cuddling and playing is a fundamental need you never grow out of. Over the years sigikid became the go-to brand in Europe for “playfully different” plush toys, dolls, rattles, music boxes, and organic baby toys made with the highest quality materials with a focus on imaginative and contemporary design.
Where your shop name comes from
My mother’s nick name is Sigi (pronounced with a hard g, as in “garden”), short for Sigrid. And my brother is the first kid, thus sigikid! sigikid took off in 1968 and is still today a true family business, with my brother at the helm in Germany and my husband and myself as his business partners in the US.
What inspires you
Our main inspiration is good design. And with good design we actually mean, the best design possible. Good design doesn’t have to be complex or complicated. Simple forms and shapes drive our products. There is just something about the sigikid toys that feels intuitively right for children. Our toys are old-fashioned in the sense that they are not battery-operated and don’t make any beeping sounds. And we don’t produce anything that could be remotely perceived as aggressive or confrontational. Our toys’ faces have gentle, kind features that are hand stitched, not air-brushed. sigikid toys simply encourage imaginative play.
What products do you have the most fun creating
This is an easy one: It must be our designer plush line, called the BEASTS! sigikid in Germany employs a design team. As a special challenge and treat, the designers can let their creativity go wild and crazy and design their heart out with the BEASTS. It is really fun to see the first sketches that then turn into a sigikid BEAST.
What have you found most challenging or rewarding throughout your business journey?
There is an abundance of toys out there at very low price points and with low quality standards, in terms of durability, design, look and feel. Even though many parents have become much more quality-conscious of big items like strollers, cribs or high chairs, toys are often an afterthought and viewed as disposable. At sigikid, we strive to counter this notion. We’d like to see parents be more demanding when it comes to what their kids play and cuddle with. Quality, design, sustainability, machine wash-ability – these are all key attributes for a well-made toy.
Overall what has been the best part of owning your own business?
It is a true blessing and a lot of fun to work in the toy industry! We really feel that we can make a difference with our products that counter the trend of poorly designed toys. We are very excited about bringing old-school toys with a modern look to the US.
Sharing about yourself personally – education, hobbies, family, etc.

My husband and I met in graduate school (in Monterey, CA). Back in the day, we had no idea that this would lead to what is now sigikid-usa. We feel very fortunate that we can continue the family business that was started more than 45 years ago in Germany. We have a 4 year old who is already learning about what it means to be an entrepreneur (even though he probably thinks that everybody has a warehouse full of plush toys to play in). He is the ultimate toy tester! And he is the one who reminds us that working is just another form of playing if you are only passionate about it.

what sigikid is known for || one of a kind plush toys and animals that are cuddly, safe, and made for play and imagination; high quality products designed with a child's world and perspective in mind that are set apart by their features {innovative design, sustainability, machine washable & hand-stitched finishes}

what sets sigikid apart || Just looking at the wide selection of products online and the ones in our own home and Olivia's nursery, the modern and creative design is what sets them apart, alongside the passion that Eva and her husband Lucian have -- the same passion passed down from Eva's parents, the sigikid founders / I absolutely loved reading the story of how sigikid came to be, how the name was chosen and what they are most passionate about as they create each product. The toys and plushes are 'playfully different,' as Eva said. They are the kind of product you want to invest in, give to your children, or wrap up as a gift to a new baby or young child. This is because of that passion, which drives each design and carries each product to such a high level of quality and value.

my favorite products || Olivia never took a pacifier but instead always loved having a little blanket to carry and hold. I found so many sweet options for this and just love them all / In addition to the bear snuggly {pictured above}, I love the organic dog snuggly {below} and the mouse snuggly.


I also love the entire Sweety collection, including the Sweety bear that Olivia has as well as the fox, and the kitty cat {pictured below}. They are seriously so soft head to toe, one of the many reasons Via loves carrying hers around.

I have been so impressed with this company and am privileged to be featuring products that are not only beautiful but have become such favorites for Olivia. With unmatched quality, thoughtful design, and one-of-a-kind products, they are sure to become a favorite in your family too.

coupon code || sigikid is so generously offering Blessed Nest readers an exclusive coupon code to save 15% off their total purchase now through December 14 using the code 'blessednest15' // start shopping here

giveaway || enter below to win a $50 shop credit to sigikid to choose your own toys and plush animals / simply complete the steps below in the rafflecopter to enter. giveaway is open to residents in the US only and will run from Monday, December 1 through Sunday, December 7. all entries will be verified.


happy Monday!

11.26.2014

broken, not shaken.

On Monday morning, a beautiful care package arrived on my front steps from a dear friend -- filled with cocoa, a candle, journals, a blanket and a letter. I sit wrapped up in the beautiful blanket now as I write this, and this post has been on my heart since last weekend and I am now just finding the right words.

---

In the end of September, we received word that my husband's Dad - my father in law - had gone missing. He was suffering from severe depression since the death of my husband's older brother last November {2013}. I truly cannot imagine the pain of losing a child, and our hearts broke when we heard the news, knowing he had been carrying the weight of that loss of his oldest son for almost a year. We kept up hope and spent time in prayer for revelation as to where he may have gone, but two weeks later, he was found after having taken his own life. Watching Dustin lose his father ... knowing he had lost all hope and felt he couldn't continue on living...the pain was almost more than my heart could take. Indescribable. But all we could do was take it day by day and walk through it together, trusting that God would work it all together for good even though none of it made sense to us.

The funeral came and went, a few weeks passed and while life certainly wasn't back to normal, we were doing our best to keep our heads up and surrounding ourselves with our closest family and best friends, seeking peace and moving forward.

Then, last weekend on Saturday night, we received a call that my cousin had been in a car accident, along with her two young children, and was in very critical condition. That same night, she passed away from her injuries. The next day, her beautiful 6 year old daughter passed away from hers, while her son remains in critical condition.

---

How is there even a way to explain the heartbreak over the past two months within our families? The reality is ... there just isn't. There are so many people who are mourning over all 3 of these sudden, tragic deaths. There are 3 people who left much too soon, who still had full lives to live. And my heart is still so broken; I cannot fathom the pain everyone else is feeling, knowing the pain I'm feeling. But through all of this, the phrase 'broken, not shaken' has continued to play through my mind. There is a song that says, 'When I am broken, You are not shaken; God You are faithful.'

'In the valley of the shadow of death
If I'm with you, I will not be afraid..
You are hope for the hurting heart
You are rest to the weary soul
When I am broken, You are not shaken;
Through trial, pain and fears
You keep count of all my tears
When I am broken, You are not shaken
Lord, You are faithful
God, You are faithful'

None of this came as a surprise to God, even though it did to us. In a hundred years I could never have imagined that within one year's time, 4 people in our family would be gone... 2 from each side and all very suddenly. I could never have envisioned so many funerals and all around the holidays. But God knew. And God is faithful. And while these tragedies have the Enemy's fingerprints all over them, God will turn these ashes into something beautiful. I have witnessed first hand His faithfulness through it all. Seeing as friends deliver meals, gifts and flowers; receiving countless texts, phone calls, and messages of all kinds. Opening packages, reading cards and letters ... each and every one reminding us that we are being thought of, prayed for, and remembered. I think when someone walks through a tragedy, one desire is just that they are recognized. That someone takes a moment out of their own day to say, "I'm here for you. I can't imagine what you are going through. And I am praying for your family." To know that others acknowledge the grief we are feeling and that our pain isn't brushed off. 

All this to say, God is faithful. He has blessed us in so many magnificent ways through prayer, through people and through his Word and supernatural revelation. We may be broken, but God is not shaken. And that is so comforting to my hurting heart.

---

Finally, as we approach the holidays and begin with the celebration of Thanksgiving tomorrow, despite the tragedies, our family has so very much to be thankful for. 

We are thankful for every single person who has stood by us, whether in person or in spirit. For every single prayer. For every comforting word. For everyone who has listened, come over, offered their time, resources, energy, and love. For everyone who has reached out, from near and far. For everyone who has sent anything, and for those who have acknowledged us or our families and what we are going through. 

I am thankful for my own family, knowing that every day truly is a gift. 
I am thankful that when I am broken, God is not shaken. 
I am thankful that God will make beauty from these ashes.
I am thankful that God hears the cries of our hearts and our broken hallelujahs. 


11.25.2014

handmade holiday gift guide for toddlers

I absolutely love supporting handmade businesses and shopping small, and knew most of the presents under the tree for Olivia this year would be just that. 

Below is my 'handmade holiday' gift guide for toddlers with quick links to purchase directly from each shop. Some of these items we have and some will be featured on the blog in the coming weeks and months, while others are already under our tree. I can't help but fall in love with every single one and just love gifting handmade.


This instagram inspired wooden camera {1} is one of the last things I have to buy before Christmas for Olivia. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it! Wooden toys have so much charm and this one is no exception.

It's no secret that we are huge fans of Replay Recycled and all their products; these colorful snack stacks {2} are the perfect addition to any gift for your own toddler or for a friend's little one; they would make great stocking stuffers and I love that not only do they keep snacks clean and dry, but Olivia loves playing with hers in her kitchen bin.

This wooden push taxi {3} from Manny + Simon is a toy that has been on my list forever; I just love the modern appeal and think it would be perfect in any child's playroom.

Olivia's new best friend is her Sweety Bear {4} from sigikid; I have always wanted to give her a special teddy bear because I grew up with one, but I wanted something that was one-of-a-kind. Though I planned to save it for Christmas, the day it arrived she saw it sitting on the counter and reached for it. As soon as I gave it to her, she hugged and kissed it and the rest is history. Coziest friend ever.

We are big fans of Petit Collage and as soon as I saw the Mix & Match cards, I scooped up the Fairy Tales set {5 / pictured} and the Little Miss Dress Up set. Olivia loves to sort through play cards and it will be so much fun to sit and play with these. There is a wide variety of sets, perfect for boys and girls.

I shared that we are giving a Swankaroo backpack {6} to V on her Christmas Wishlist a few weeks ago. They are handmade by the sweetest mama, Kendra, and I adore the overall look and size, perfect for a toddlers most important toys and snacks on the go and great for encouraging responsibility.

I have been on the hunt for quite some time for a great set of table and chairs and this set by Melissa & Doug {7} is a top contender. We have a perfect spot for it in our living room and it will be great for Olivia to be able to sit at it for meals now that she is out of her high chair, draw and paint on and have tea parties of course. 

Quite a few Janod toys are under the tree this year for Olivia, and while we have the house shape sorter, this shape sorting quiz {8} was another we were looking at and just loved. Shape sorters are great for babies 6+ months but now that she is a little older, she really enjoys learning the colors and shapes beyond just the basics.

Have you guys heard of ezpz yet? It is a new company run by wife and Mama of 3, Lindsey, that makes the Less Mess Happy Mat {9}, which is perfect for toddlers to make mealtime more enjoyable and keep cleanup a breeze! A practical gift that is equally as fun. {Stay tuned for a full feature coming soon!}

Because Olivia is always on the move, comfortable high quality shoes are a must-have. The Rose Gold moccasins {10} we have from Freshly Picked are our all-time favorite. They are included in the Black Friday sale which starts today, and definitely a great neutral option for all seasons and styles for your little lady. Olivia wears hers every single day.

This PANTONE Colors board book {11} is a great way to teach your toddler all about colors and we love reading all the descriptive color names out loud to Olivia. A great buy and perfect for this age.

Finally, I am starting to work on a dress-up box for Olivia filled with tutus, crowns and pretend play pieces of all sorts. Wee Three Kids makes hand-crocheted crowns in a wide variety of colors and this new heather and birch crown {12} is a great neutral option, perfect for encouraging your child to use his or her imagination!

What are your favorite shops for supporting handmade?

11.24.2014

25 books of Christmas

Olivia's Christmas List this year included a few special books that will be so much fun to put up on her shelves after the New Year, but until then, I stocked her shelves with our absolute favorite books for winter & Christmas. I wanted a mix of easy to read board books, playful picture books, books about winter + the snow and of course, books about Christmas and why we celebrate.


We are starting a tradition this year of '25 Books of Christmas' // We read Olivia a different Christmas book every night leading up to Christmas morning, where then she gets to unwrap a new Christmas book from under the tree.


The other tradition we have, that my Mama started last year, is that my Grandma Bea {Olivia's Great Grandma} reads a recordable Christmas story and then gives that to Olivia on Christmas morning. It is so special to be able to listen to my Grandma reading a book to Olivia, since I grew up with her always reading books to me. If you haven't heard of these, they are such a great way to carry on a tradition and we plan to do it every year while my Grandma is here with us. Last year, Grandma Bea chose The Very First Christmas and this year she will be giving Olivia this one. {If you're a Hallmark Crown member, which is free, you can purchase any item, get any recordable book for only $19.95 and then an additional 20% off for being a Crown member, so the book comes to about $16}. As you turn the pages, the book is read aloud by your loved one and it warms my heart every time I open it with Via.


25 Books of Christmas {alphabetical}



Finally, each year Dustin and I each choose a Christmas book for Olivia to add to her collection and we each write her our own special letter on the inside cover. Last year he chose Song of the Stars, which is a beautifully illustrated story about Christmas from the animals' perspective. I chose Angelina's Christmas, because I grew up reading the Angelina Ballerina books and just adored them. This year, Dustin chose The Christmas Quiet Book, since Olivia carries the {original} Quiet Book everywhere she goes; I chose Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker. I love the whimsical illustrations and can't wait to get Olivia started in ballet next year!

What books are on your child's shelves this time of year?


11.21.2014

toddler vintage kitchen

Each year we give Olivia one "big" special gift by theme and this year we decided to go with a vintage kitchen. The more 'green' the toys are the better, and I adore wooden toys because of their old school charm and classic look. I am so excited to see what Olivia does on Christmas morning when she finds her kitchen and all that goes with it, and I couldn't help putting together a round up of my favorite kitchen gifts for your toddler, many of which are definitely going under our tree!


Last weekend my mom and I picked up the Green Toys Tea Set {1} and I'm so excited to sit with Olivia and her dolls and have a tea party. When I dreamed of having a little girl, tea parties were most definitely in those dreams. 

The wooden vegetables {2} and fruit set {7} are both so charming; they each come with a cutting board and will be the perfect addition to her kitchen.

I fell in love with the vivid illustrations and simple story of the Farmer's Market board book {3} and love that it will teach Olivia about food and the importance of where it comes from. 

The juicer set {8} and toaster {10} are so much fun as breakfast toys; I love their design and overall look.

Finally, every kitchen needs to be equipped with pots and pans and if you are looking for something other than the classic metal sets, this 12 piece wooden set {9} is a great option.

Hope this gives you a few fun ideas!! XO

11.19.2014

our fall photos

We were so blessed to have our family captured in early October by our incredible photographer, Ashley Marana, in a Fall mini session. This was our 8th {yes: 8th!} session with Ashley and I told her she is most definitely stuck with us for life because we plan to have her photograph our family for years and years to come. She is an absolute joy and I couldn't be happier with how these photos turned out! They are playful and candid and capture real life with our busy little bee so perfectly.


Happy Wednesday!

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