1.29.2016

friday favorites

Happy Friday! Who else is beyond excited that the weekend is finally here?! It's our first weekend in quite some time that Dustin isn't working so us three girls are extra happy campers. 

I wanted to round up a few of my Friday Favorites to finish off the week. Friday Favorites are the posts I have some of the most fun putting together and a great way to kick off the weekend!


1 // I absolutely love the letter boards from Letter Folk Co. The company is run by husband & wife team Johnny and Joanna. Their mission was to repurpose and reimagine yesterday's letter board for today's home. I love the creativity their letter boards allow and the freedom to change them out as little or as often as you like. I asked Dustin to start leaving me notes on our Poet board before work...I'll keep you updated on the progress of that! ;)

2 // I had a rare opportunity yesterday afternoon to run a few errands solo and one of my weekly stops is Target & Trader Joe's. I came across these Method Foaming Hand Soaps in collaboration with brooklyn-based designer Rebecca Atwood and seriously, I bought two of every scent. We are basically foaming hand soap hoarders around here and I love their sleek, modern and muted look. Herb Garden is in our kitchen and I can't get enough. They're triclosan-free {many scented soaps on the market contain it and it is thought to be a hormone disrupter among other things} as well as gluten-free, phthalate-free, extract free & hypoallergenic. I also picked up Sandalwood & Sea Spray. You know you're an adult when you get excited about foaming hand soaps, right?!

3 // Another item I discovered that I didn't even know existed was the new set of shampoo + body wash and conditioner by Honest. We are lovers of lavender in our home in every way possible. Their original shampoo + body wash and conditioner are staples in the girls' bath time routine {as well as their bubble bath} and I was so excited to see they released similar versions in a calming lavender scent. Because by the time bathtime rolls around, we all need a little calm in our lives. Did I mention we do bath time at 10am?!

4 // With Spring right around the corner I've been picking up a few new pieces for the girls' wardrobe and my go-to spot to shop is Mini Boden. I love the overall look and style of their pieces and the quality is so much higher than a lot of other places I've bought from in the past. Olivia still has tops from a year and a half ago that fit and look brand new. I bought both of their newly released sweatshirts for Poppy for Spring and next Fall and just love all their new Spring pieces for little girls. You can save 20% off plus get free shipping + free returns on your first order now through February 6th using the discount code 9H3E at checkout. PS I basically want to buy this reversible top in the event I ever have a boy...dinosaurs are just the best.

5 // Last but not least, I've started a new hashtag on instagram @blessednestblog called #MyMotherhood2016 that I'm really, really excited about. I wanted to create a space where Mamas in the same season of life can connect with other Moms in an authentic, transparent and honest unfiltered way. So much of the time I think what social media portrays is so far from real life. As Moms we compare ourselves to everyone else and wonder if our lives will ever live up to those we are looking at through tiny squares. All the while they're doing the same with ours. Motherhood has so many ups and downs, challenges and victories and often takes us on a rollercoaster ride of emotions on a daily basis. I want us to share in those together and build each other up through them. I would encourage each of you to post regular photos of YOUR motherhood. What does it look like? What are you going through? What struggles have you been having and what joys have you experienced lately? What does motherhood look like through your eyes, in your home, with your family? My hope is that it will minimize the loneliness that we so often face as moms and stay at home moms especially. I've asked 50 of my favorite Mamas to join in over the next week and share their Motherhood and I would love to hear from all of you. To join in, simply post a photo of what motherhood looks like for you and use the hashtag #MyMotherhood2016 with it anytime; tag me @blessednestblog so I can see it! And whenever you need some encouragement, click on the tag and scroll through to see what other Moms are facing to know you're not alone in your journey. We are all fighting the same battle and after the same goal...to love our children endlessly and in the best way we know how. That looks different for everyone, and that's the beauty of it. Instead of comparing our lives and our stuff and the beauty we share through photos, let's join together to create community & foster hope & cultivate encouragement amongst ourselves. 

Have a wonderful weekend!! XO

1.27.2016

life lately

We're counting down the days to Spring and warmer weather around here. Life lately has been moving at a nice and slow pace. Most days with the girls are spent at home...lots of time in the bathtub (two hours yesterday was a new record), reading our favorite books and rarely getting out of our pajamas. Dustin has been working a lot of overtime because the project he's on has been super busy lately, so my days are much longer than usual and weekends are pretty low-key since he's at work.

We celebrated my 26th birthday on Sunday with a morning of donuts, souffl├ęs and snuggles on the couch with our girls. That afternoon my parents came over and my Mom cooked my favorite homemade meal, Chicken Wellingtons, and then we had german chocolate cake and played charades. Charades is one of my favorite birthday traditions; it's so much fun to see my parents play and Olivia thought all our acting was hilarious.


I also nearly finished filling up the open shelving that Dustin built in our dining room with some of my favorite dishes, cake stands and mugs. It's been so much fun to rearrange everything and choose our bowls and mugs each morning from them. A few weeks ago I shared that one of our goals this year was to complete a DIY project every month. Our February kitchen project is getting rolling this week as Dustin picks up wood after work and I stain it during nap time...any guesses what we'll be making? Can't wait to share!


Hope you are all having a lovely week and staying warm! Here's a fun little morning treat that can be made in just a few minutes for your little ones. All you need is toast, peanut butter (we use honey PB), blueberries & banana slices. Olivia loves "baby bear totes" as she calls it and it makes the regular mornings around here a little extra special! Have a wonderful Wednesday!!

1.21.2016

challenges + victories with two

The blog has been extra quiet lately, as I've been spending so much of my time off my phone and away from my computer. One of my biggest goals for 2016 was to be fully present with my daughters anytime they're awake during the day. And it seems when they're napping, I am too. I've been squeezing in afternoon naps every chance I get. The cold winter and frequent gloomy days make for feeling sleepy 90% of the time and when the weather warms up and the days brighten in Spring, we are hoping to be out and about as much as possible. So I figure, sleep now while I can and store it up, right? If only it were that simple.

Now that Penelope is just over 4 months and I'm looking ahead to Olivia turning 3 in May, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the past few months since we welcomed our sweet Poppy and what's changed, what hasn't and our new normal as a family of 4.

In a lot of ways, having two is much easier than I expected it to be. That's not to say it's always easy, but maybe it's more that my expectations were that it would be way harder than it has been.

The transition from one to two is often talked about as being very stressful, overwhelming and one that will turn your world upside down. As a Mama of two you are now required to split your time & attention between two tiny souls whose needs differ greatly from one another. Meeting a toddler's needs and a newborn's needs require two different sets of skills in many ways, but equally a lot of the same -- selflessness, patience, love. And while I'm a firm believer that the first 6 weeks with a new baby (no matter how many you have) is always a bit of a world-turning-upside-down experience, having two isn't nearly as difficult as everyone made it out to be.

I thought it would be helpful to share a few of the challenges I face on a regular basis with two and also share some of the victories.

c h a l l e n g e s

1 / One of my biggest challenges is actually one that never crossed my mind before Penelope was born: Poppy waking Olivia up. For the first two months, we had Penelope in our bedroom, which shares a wall with Olivia's room. All of our bedrooms are in the same corner of our home, which makes it equally convenient + stressful. Of course, I was quickly able to pick P up to nurse in the middle of the night when she woke, but sometimes it took her awhile to settle and I constantly stressed out about the noise waking Olivia up. 

I shared all about our sleep training here, and touched on the fact that we did a modified cry-it-out with both girls beginning around 4-6 weeks after breastfeeding was well established. As Penelope is falling asleep (especially if she's overtired), she cries very loudly for 5-10 minutes and then is totally out. BUT those 5-10 minutes feel like an eternity when you're constantly making sure your toddler isn't woken up. 

The way we have worked to remedy this is by making sure Poppy is put down for naps and to bed before Olivia is, so by the time Olivia is ready to sleep, Penelope has settled. Disclaimer: This only works during the day if the girls' nap times are very close together, which is always my goal but not always reality (more on that in a moment...) but thankfully has been pretty consistent at bedtime since we put P down around 8/8:15pm and Olivia around 8:15/8:30pm. We have also used a bassinet that we can move around the house in different areas for nap time, so if Olivia is a solid hour into sleep and I'm just putting P down, she can sleep in our living room or basement. 

2 / The second challenge is just getting them both to nap at the same time so I can get a break. The simplest way to put it is that some days it happens, other days it just doesn't. I try to structure our days in a way to set myself up for success in this area (getting them up at the same time in the morning, spacing out Penelope's feedings to overlap with Olivia's mealtimes, etc) but some days it just ain't happening. This is an area where I try to keep my expectations low so I am pleasantly surprised when their entire 3-hour nap overlaps. Because when that happens, I feel like I won the lottery.

3 / A huge challenge I've struggled with lately is making time for myself and taking care of myself. Do you ever feel that all you do all day is take care of everyone else, and then by the end of the day when they're in bed, you're too exhausted to take care of yourself? Taking bubble baths is one of my favorite ways to unwind and relax, and for the past week at the end of the day I found myself feeling even too tired to do that. Too tired to sit in a bathtub and not move. Seriously?! Let's just blame that one again on the weather. But self-care is an area I am really striving to shift focus to this year -- I want to give myself time to do those things that rejuvenate me, relax me and reset my mind and body for another day of motherhood, whether big or small and NOT feel guilty about doing it! Reading a chapter in a book I enjoy, flipping through my favorite magazine for a few minutes in peace and quiet, taking that bubble bath, napping when they nap, etc. I think as Moms we constantly battle the need to put our children first and the need to take care of ourselves and the guilt that often comes along with that, and it's definitely a learning process.

4 / Finally, I've faced the challenge of engaging + interacting with each of them equally and purposefully during the day when they're both awake. With Penelope, it's important that I spend time holding her sitting up in my lap (head/neck strength), doing tummy time, playing with toys with her (since she's still too little to do much on her own) and of course, feeding her. With Olivia, I want to be able to actually play with her...not just take care of Penelope while she plays by herself. I want to sit in her kitchen & order food, cook alongside her and play pretend. I want to do puzzles with her, her favorite ABC flashcards and sticker books, meeting her needs for that one on one time. I know every day I won't get equal time if I break it down minute to minute, so I focus more on the quality than the quantity. When I do have an opportunity to just focus on Olivia, I make sure I am fully focused on her. Not distracted but engaged and giving her quality time. One way we've begun overcoming this challenge is by reading lots of books. Olivia loves having books read to her, and it's an activity I can have Penelope in my lap for or laying on her playmat while Olivia sits next to me and we read together. And I know that as Penelope gets a little older and can sit up/crawl/walk etc., that there will continue to be more activities all three of us can do that engage both of them.

v i c t o r i e s

1 / My biggest victory is being in a great day to day routine with the girls. Olivia operates heavily on routine, so that has been a huge key for success as we've reached a new normal over the past few months. The first 6 weeks were incredibly challenging for many reasons, but one of the biggest being that it threw us all (including Olivia) out of our routine. I've noticed the better and more consistent my routine is with them, the fewer meltdowns Olivia has. She has grown to understand the day to day activities, plans, and knows for the most part what to expect each morning when she wakes up. And I know I'm at my very best on a predictable routine as well.

2 / Another victory is getting the girls to bed at the same time each night so that Dustin and I are able to have some time together. While there is sometimes a bit of variation for nap time, we've made a very purposeful effort to get both girls down within 10-15 minutes of each other, since it's our first chance all day to be together and alone. Once Poppy started having a very consistent bedtime (around 3 months), we were able to achieve this and it made each day (and night!) much easier. All day I look forward to the time I will get uninterrupted with Dustin once the girls are asleep.

3 / Victory #3 has been staying involved in outside activities, probably more for my own sake than the girls' sake. Being a Stay at Home Mom can get really lonely (a topic I think few moms ever share about), and I noticed that if I had gone a few days without getting out of the house and in conversation, having quality time with other moms in a similar season of life, I would grow pretty sad pretty quickly. As women we are built to need each other and we crave those deep, intimate friendships in one another. Staying involved in my weekly morning bible study and MOPS group, though sometimes challenging when the weather is freezing and I'd rather sit at home in my pajamas instead of packing two girls up with coats and hats and mittens, has been a huge victory and really lifted my mood.

4 / Finally, possibly my biggest victory is watching as my relationship with Olivia has grown so much. I had her all to myself for nearly two and a half years, but then when Penelope was born, a bit of shifting took place and for the first 6 weeks, Olivia spent much more time with Dustin than with me. I remember listening to them playing or reading books before bed as I sat and nursed for what felt like hours. My heart broke a little bit that I was missing out on making those memories with her, and I wondered if our relationship would ever be what it once was. As time went on and we settled into a great routine, Poppy was able to sleep and eat on a much more consistent schedule and I was able to map out blocks of time each day where it would be just me and Olivia making memories. Our relationship now is even better than it was before Penelope was born; we have so much fun together and I feel so grateful that I'm the first person she sees every morning and the last one to tuck her in at night.

///

I'd love to know what challenges you faced as you transitioned from one child to two and what your biggest victories were as well! I hope everyone is having a wonderful week! XO

1.19.2016

homemade valentine's poptarts

I've shared my homemade poptart recipe on my blog in the past here & it's always such a popular one. These mini hearts are so fun & festive and you can customize them in any way you want! We've made full size ones, mini rectangular ones & more! Being that we're three weeks from Valentine's Day, it was the perfect opportunity to get out our heart cookie cutters and get a little messy.


homemade strawberry poptarts

for the pastry

+ 2 cups all-purpose flour {I used Cup4Cup gluten free flour}
+ 1 TBSP sugar
+ 1 tsp salt
+ 1 cup {2 sticks} unsalted butter, cold {but not frozen}, cut into roughly 1'' squares
+ 1 large egg
+ 2 TBSP milk
+ 1 additional egg, whisked {for assembling pastries}

for the filling

+ 3/4 cup of your favorite jam or preserves

for the frosting

+ 1-2 TBSP cream cheese, softened
+ 1 cup powdered sugar
+ juice from half a lemon
+ 2-3 drops of food coloring of choice

instructions

1. Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt; pour into large food processor. Add pats of butter one by one and pulse until butter is pea-size and dough mixture holds together 

2. In a small separate bowl, whisk together 2 TBSP milk and 1 egg

3. Transfer dough to large bowl and add milk+egg mixture; mix with your hands until just combined {it will feel sticky but try to work milk+egg in as best you can}

4. On a floured surface, transfer dough and knead carefully until it becomes less sticky

5. Divide the dough in half and work to roll each half out to form 9''x12'' rectangles

6. Once rolled, divide each rectangle of dough into nine squares roughly 3''x4'' {or more/less depending on size of poptarts} / use a sharp knife to make clean cuts & don't be afraid to use a ruler if needed!

>> If making them using cookie cutters, simply roll all the dough out and cut out as many of your desired shape as possible, keeping in mind you will need an even number; when I made the hearts, I got 25 pop tarts total {50 individual pieces} using this recipe <<

7. Using a pastry brush, brush the whisked egg over half of your poptart squares

8. Top each half with a spoonful of your filling and lay the other half on top, sealing edges by pressing a fork into each side {be careful not to overfill!}

9. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown {oven times may vary and I left mine in closer to 25 minutes}

10. Remove from oven and carefully transfer to a cooling rack; let cool completely before frosting

11. To make the frosting, simply mix all the frosting ingredients in a bowl until well combined; add more lemon juice to thin it out and more powdered sugar to thicken it according to preferences; drizzle generous spoonfuls of frosting over cooled poptarts and if you want to get extra fancy, top with sprinkles!

{If this sounds like too much work, you can always buy store-bought pie crust and roll it out to the same 9''x12'' rectangles and cut as directed}




1.14.2016

creating a cozy corner in the nursery

One of my favorite ways to decorate the girls' rooms is with clothing & accessories...special pieces I already have on hand that allow me to personalize a space to each of my little girls. Instead of storing them folded in drawers or hanging in closets, I put clothing on display using decorative hooks and functional wall decor.


Dresses of course are perfect for hanging up and I love them paired with bonnets on hooks. Both of the girls have lots of bonnets on display in their rooms, which I love because they often grow out of them fast. After a dress is too small, I love hanging it up as a reminder of the season they wore it in and all the memories that were made. Olivia wore the sweetest pom pom dress for my maternity photos last Summer and even though it no longer fits her, I have it hanging in her room on a "big sister" hanger. It's so special to me to see it often and remember the day we took those photos and it adds a fun and unexpected pop of color to her room.

This 3 piece wire basket with hooks (above) is one of my all-time favorite ways to display clothing and accessories in a nursery. You can fill the baskets with shoes, headbands, or any other accessories you have. I also love this vintage gold arrow with hooks, which is currently sitting in a box in my closet waiting to be hung somewhere. I've just about used up every square inch of wall space in each of their rooms but I know I'll have it when I need it.


Another place to find fun wall hooks is The Land of Nod. These little bow hooks are spread throughout both Olivia and Penelope's rooms and are perfect for everything under the sun! And this nightingale wall hook is darling too. And because I'm always dreaming of what I can do next, I recently stumbled upon these gallery wall art rails and I love the idea of hanging up their artwork in a playroom or even their own room! Olivia loves painting at school and we always put her pictures on the front of our fridge. Every time she sees them she gets the biggest smile across her face and wants to point them out to everyone. The art rails look like they would be the perfect way to display it! 

For hangers, my favorite come from Handcrafted Affairs. Beth is one of my dear friends and makes the sweetest custom hangers. A few of our favorites are ones that say "big sister," "little sister," "penelope bae," "poppy," "olivia bea,"  "#ootd", "dress up," and more. If I'm going to hang up dresses, it's so special to have them on personalized hangers. 

You can also use decorative baskets to hold crib sheets, blankets, soft toys and more to create a feeling of coziness in your child's space and keep drawers clutter-free. If you decorate with your little one's special clothing and accessories and love how it turns out, be sure to post a photo on instagram and tag me @blessednestblog so I can take a peek. I'd love to see what you do! Hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far! XO

1.11.2016

our weekend

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. As busy as life can be, we are making a very conscious effort to slow down in 2016 and commit to less activities, fewer plans and more time just spent together. Our weekends lately have been spent at home, usually in our pajamas, making memories as a family of 4. Sleeping in, eating long and slow breakfasts, watching as our girls laugh and play. My very favorite kind of days. 

Oh and can we just talk about these donuts for a moment? I've never been a huge donut fan but my husband has totally converted me. There is a local bakery (read: three minutes away or in other words, dangerously close) that sells the best, no fuss, classic donuts. They are basically Olivia's favorite treat ever and I'm thinking about theming her next birthday around them. Talk about making her 3 year old dreams come true.


This year I wanted to focus on being completely present, especially our girls. Penelope just turned four months old yesterday and I'm convinced it's going even faster than it did when Olivia was her age. I don't want to miss a thing. I tell her everyday she can stay this tiny forever and I'll never hold it against her.


In a lot of ways, having two is a lot easier than I thought it would be. There are always those days where you are convinced you would never be able to handle a third, but most of the time things are pretty smooth sailing around here. I even snuck a nap in on Friday afternoon, my first in who knows how long. And even in the chaos, I am trying to soak it all up. Being their Mama is such a gift.



Another recent weekend accomplishment was building some open shelving in our dining room. I sketched out what I wanted and in a few hours last Saturday, Dustin brought it to life. The hardest part was actually deciding what color to stain the wood. I went back and forth between so many and finally settled on Early American by Minxwax...I love how it turned out and that it will pair well with anything I put on them. I also love the rustic look of the black pipes combined with the natural wood and bonus: open shelving makes for wonderfully functional decor. Open shelving DIYs are all over Pinterest and I love that you can easily customize them to your home and wall size simply by choosing your own length, shelf width, pipe diameter, etc. We used 1/2 inch piping and the shelves themselves are 6 feet long, with 10 inches between them. Once they were complete, it was so much fun to pull out dishes that have been hidden in cabinets for so long and little by little, it's filling up!

One of our my goals for 2016 is to complete a minimum of one DIY each month, so it looks like we can check it off for January! I love the ones you can complete start-to-finish in one weekend. Because during the week at home alone with two kids, who has time for that?! 

To see more peeks at what we're up to and other projects we're working on, be sure to follow along on instagram @blessednestblog. Oh and today kicks off my biggest giveaway yet with over $1,400 in prizes from all my favorite shops to thank each of you for following along with our little family. Be sure to head there to enter! XO

1.05.2016

living more simply & keeping minimal in mind

I haven't purchased a new piece of clothing for myself in nearly 6 months, with the exception of a warm black vest for winter that I got for $5 by stacking discounts at Old Navy (because Dustin accidentally donated my old one, which had lasted me 4 years and still had some life in it) and a few scarves. See those boots I'm wearing? I got them 3 years ago last August. They are the only pair of boots I own aside from my Uggs, which are more out of necessity through winter than anything. My nearly $150 peacoat was purchased on Black Friday in 2013 for less than $20. It's not because I can't or even that I don't want to, but because I am striving toward only buying what I truly need.

Life looking in from the outside of social media can be deceiving. In a world driven by consumerism and especially in a country plagued by possession-obsession, we are constantly being told we need more. More stuff, more money to buy said stuff, more space to store it, more time to devote to it, more stress because of it. I don't know about you, but when I step back and think about that it nearly makes my stomach turn. This life on Earth is so, so short in comparison to Eternity. This life is a fleeting moment in the grand scheme of creation & existence. I don't think it's wrong to occasionally desire (or even own) nice things. We have a beautiful house we have made our home, a place my family and others enjoy being in. A place my heart is full and I can be at peace. A place filled with the most meaningful, cherished things. And we are not immune from wanting "nice" things any more than anyone else is. But it's when stuff becomes more important than people that there is a problem. When your desire for stuff is stronger than your desire to seek the Lord, to devote time to relationships, to be present with your children...in my opinion that is when it is wrong. 

Perhaps our desire for a more minimal lifestyle sprung from my upbringing. As many of you know, I'm an only child. I grew up being loved and cared for by two very hard-working parents and grandparents. Because of my only-child status, I was pretty much able to get whatever I wanted. I didn't need to share it because I didn't have siblings and if I wanted it, I was given it. Even if I didn't need it. Sure, having nice things was great. But what I really wanted deep down more than anything else? I would have traded all the "stuff" for these two things: a sibling (or a few) and more quality time spent as a family. Making memories. Being together. Always having a sister or brother to play and laugh with. Experiences. Photos of times together that I could look back on fondly. Don't get me wrong, I had a wonderful childhood and upbringing and was blessed with four of the most incredible people playing a role in that: my own parents and my maternal grandma and grandpa. But what I miss most now that I'm grown? The memories I made with them. The times I spent baking with my grandma and licking the spoon of brownie batter in the kitchen. The times my grandpa would take me fishing and we would just be together in quiet, no need to say a word to fill the peaceful silence. The memories of growing up on a farm and taking care of the animals alongside my dad. The fun and laughter my mom and I always shared when we were together. I don't miss the stuff. In fact, I don't ever even think about the stuff, or what I had or what I didn't. What I wanted or what I got. I think back on the memories and the times I shared with the people I loved and that loved me. I want more of that, not more stuff.

As I grew older and moved off to college, my own apartment & eventually my own home when I got married, I realized that all the "stuff" I had was so unnecessary. What was I to do with it now? These nice toys from my childhood, clothing I had accumulated as a teenager that had gone out of style but was barely worn, gadgets of every sort that I never needed to begin with. I didn't want to keep it and lug it into my new (and empty) home, so I was forced to sift through it little by little and part with it. Spoiler alert: it ended up being a heck of a lot of work. And as it goes, our humanity only lasts a certain amount of time. As time went on and my grandparents and other loved ones passed away, I watched as my parents and family members had the task of sorting through their belongings, albeit minimal (probably because they grew up in a generation driven less by consumerism and more by survival) but still a task. A time-taking task. A task that took time away from living.

So you could say these experiences shaped me. They taught me what I do want for my life and what I definitely don't. What I want for my children and what I don't. What habits and behaviors I needed to overcome and what new ones I needed to develop. They have taught me the importance of thinking through each purchase, being sure what I am spending my money on is truly necessary (and not just for the sheer fact of buying), and discerning each and every thing I bring in to my home and in to my family's life. Dustin and I came into our marriage with relatively few things but even so felt it necessary to minimize. A few times each year, we began sorting through our closets and ridding our home of our possessions. We weren't living "simply" by any means when we first got married in 2012, as I still had more clothes than I could wear. But as we've grown and matured more, been given wisdom we sought after, and as my heart has been shaped and changed by the Lord, I have began to part with more and more stuff, not only of my own but of my family's.

Have you ever noticed as you get rid of stuff and clear out your home, you clear out your mind? Funny how that works, isn't it? Consumerism -- as much as it consumes our space and time -- consumes our minds. Our thoughts. And not even to mention our money. There are so many blessings that come with staying home with my girls (a dream I've had for as long as I can remember), but one of them being that for the most part we are a single income family. Yes, that is a blessing. Why? Because we are required to be wise with our money. The money Dustin earns (and works hard to earn) is valuable to us. Once our tithe and offering is given, how are we going to choose to spend and save it? On stuff that is going to grow old, break, rip, and eventually be tossed out or given away? Or stored in a box and quickly forgotten? We have learned enough to know that is not our desire. I want the money we spend (after we have saved) to be on memories. On experiences. On laughter and moments that are truly priceless. On quality over quantity. I want the money to benefit and bless others, to be invested in our children's lives and futures, and to be given to organizations that stand for what we believe in and whose values align with our own. At the end of the day, we choose to live a more minimal lifestyle because of how much more peaceful it is. Less stuff = less stress and a better quality of life. Why?

+ We have more time with our daughters. As their Mama, no matter how much time I spend with them (even an eternity), it will never be enough because of my crazy unending love for them. Give me every second of every minute for the rest of my life with them and I will still always want more.

+ We have more time with each other. We spend less time cleaning, taking care of stuff, repairing stuff, buying stuff, etc. and more time on dates, in conversation and investing in our marriage relationship. I am not forced to work outside the home and Dustin isn't forced to work overtime, weekends or evenings. If we are given an opportunity to do so and feel led, we do. But it is out of choice rather than necessity.

+ Decluttering my home and my life has shown me that I don't need stuff to live a good life. I don't need things to give me peace. I need God to do that. And no amount of stuff could ever fill that void I would have without Him.

+ We are able to adopt a mindset of putting others first. As you get rid of your own things and have the 
resources to bless others, you develop a habit of it that soon becomes second-nature. You would rather give something to someone else, treat a friend to dinner, surprise a loved one with something they have been needing than buy something for yourself. 

+ Finally, the influence we have on our children. I don't want my girls to grow up with tons of stuff. With baskets and boxes of toys, closets full of more clothes than they could ever wear, and with a sense of always needing what's new, what's nicer/better/fancier. I don't want them to move from one toy to the next to the next carelessly. I want them to be creative, to imagine, to use what they have in new ways, to wear their favorite shirts and pants until they can no longer be worn because they have been played in, washed and rewashed and so many memories have been made while wearing them. I don't want them to grow to expect or demand gifts at special celebrations throughout the year like birthdays and Christmas. I want them to cherish what they have, use it for all its worth, and to be taught that life is about living, not about consuming. I want to give them an experience of those holiday celebrations rather than give them stuff. For example, baking cupcakes as we prepare for Olivia's birthday, building a gingerbread house and picking out a tree at Christmastime, etc. 

Below are a few ways we aim for minimal living in our home:

+ Each of our girls has a single 4- or 6-drawer dresser, which holds a combination of necessities (medicine, toiletries, blankets, etc) and clothing. We don't use their room closets at all for their clothes. If I can't fit it in their drawers, I don't buy it. If it's not a piece of clothing of theirs that I absolutely love (I'm talking, if I wouldn't try to save it in a fire...), I get rid of it by reselling or donating. As time goes on, I am getting better and better at making those decisions before I buy something rather than after.

+ I am very very particular when it comes to their things, since they are too young to discern for themselves. We rarely buy toys for either of them, but when something is given to us (say at a birthday or holiday), I ask Olivia to choose something of hers to give away. ONE IN, ONE OUT. We have tried to adopt that with every single thing in our home. Anything that comes in (with the exception of food and basic necessities), the equal amount goes out. In addition to that, every few months I ask Olivia to select a few of her things to get rid of. I explain to her that there are children all around the world that don't have any toys or stuffed animals to cuddle with and ask her to choose some of her things to give to those children. Whether she is aware of what she's doing or not, this habit is one I plan to continually instill & reinforce in each of my children. 

+ You would think with two little girls and almost 3 years since our first daughter was born, I would have boxes and boxes of clothing kept to pass on to each additional child. Truthfully? I've held onto less than a dozen pieces of Olivia's and resold the rest. I learned first hand it doesn't make sense to do this anyway, because my daughters were born in two completely different seasons -- one in Spring and one in Fall. The newborn clothes I had of Olivia's were meant for hot hot weather, and there was no way I would be able to put Poppy in them in October and November here. The money I have made reselling accumulates in my PayPal account and is used for (1) investing back into supporting handmade, which I am very passionate about because I am supporting moms like myself and families just like mine, (2) purchasing gifts for others, and (3) buying something I truly want without having to put it on a credit card. It is more a process of trading than anything else. If I have something I no longer want/need, I am able to sell it to someone who will use it/benefit from it at a low cost, and then use the profit to buy something I do truly want or need. I am also able to save additional money and pay bills that come with owning a home without working outside of it. 

+ When we do spend money (say on gas, groceries, a date night out, cable & internet bill, etc), we put it on our one credit card that earns us rewards where we actually shop. The rewards we earn then in turn buy the clothing we do need for ourselves and our daughters as the seasons change. Every few months, I purchase a handful of high-quality new clothing for them that will last and be season-appropriate. I am often able to use rewards, stack discounts and get everything at little to no cost. At the end of the season or as we are transitioning into a new one, I go through everything and resell what no longer fits or what I don't plan to hold on to for future babies. I am learning to be very, very discerning at what I do buy, which makes it easier to get rid of stuff. The less stuff I buy and the more I love it, the less stuff I have to get rid of and the more likely I have a handful of pieces I truly treasure and will hold on to for the future. I mentioned it in the first point above, but we have what I call a "fire rule." If I own anything that I wouldn't genuinely try to save in a fire, I know I can part with it. If I am faced with a decision as to whether I want to buy something or not, I ask myself, "Would I try to save this if my house was on fire?" It sounds absolutely hilarious, and in some ways it is. But it's a good test of whether I truly will cherish what I am deciding upon or whether I just want to buy something to buy something.

+ I am always keeping my eyes open for a need I can fulfill in others' lives when I discover I want a change in my own. For example, toward the end of my pregnancy with Penelope, I knew I wanted to update our living & dining room furniture to more reflect our style. When we got married and moved in to our home, the furniture we had were basic pieces Dustin had purchased and while they were functional, I wanted to invest more in making our house a home and part of that began with only owning what truly showcased our style. I never want to own stuff just for the sheer purpose of owning it. So, we began with searching for new end tables and set of lamps, a new coffee table and rug and new dining room table and chairs. We resold our end tables, lamps, and coffee table as well as the rug. That right there provided for a portion of the money necessary to upgrade. When it came to our dining room table, I found the one I wanted the day before I was due at an incredible price. We're talking a $500+ table for less than $150. My best friend, who had just bought a new home with her husband and two boys, had been telling me the day before that she had found a table and chairs she liked and was hoping to buy the following day. After finding my own table, I came home to tell Dustin about it and get his opinion. I knew if we wanted to buy ours, we needed to do something with our old set (which in reality, was brand new because of how little it was used). Then it hit me. I called my friend to ask her if she had bought her new dining room set yet and she said she was headed out to get it within the hour. I proposed the idea of giving her ours; not only did it better fit her style than our own, but it would save them hundreds of dollars since they wouldn't have to buy a new one. I was able to bless her with something she actually needed and in turn, was so blessed because of it. If you seek him and ask, God will give you the opportunities to bless others in the neatest ways (like giving someone a dining rom table!) and will position you to have those "everything worked out perfectly" moments. Those are the best!


Below are a few ways we do invest the money we have:

+ In our tithe and offering
+ In partnering with various ministries around the country
+ In savings accounts for ourselves and each of our children
+ In high quality organic food 
+ In our health via essential oils, regular chiropractic care, supplements, gym memberships, etc.
+ In professional photography
+ In others around us
+ In short weekend trips as a family or a couple (we took a babymoon in June 2015 and I had the best time with Dustin just being together, playing games, making memories and laughing.)
+ In worthwhile books for ourselves and our girls

So all this to say, that is our goal for this new year. To continue to live with a minimal mindset and simplify in every area. It is a constant, ever-changing process. If I don't consciously strive for it, I can easily fall in to the trap of buying more and more and more stuff. Because I am human and imperfect and as humans we often get our priorities a bit mixed up, especially as we are inundated with ads, sales, constant consumerism and live in a culture where we compare ourselves to others and what we have to what everyone else has. I want to stop comparing, to make memories with my family and to teach my children the importance of what truly matters in this life. I want the things I own to serve an important purpose or be very, very, very special. Lovely. Cherished. Treasured. Something that I look at every single day and smile. A piece of art or furniture that tells a story and reflects our style. A book that benefits my marriage, parenting or relationships. A home that is filled with laughter, music and dancing, the aroma of good food cooking, peace and joy. A closet with only my favorite clothing, a dresser with only the most special pieces of my daughters', a bedroom with empty space for a clear mind instead of clutter, and toys that are well-loved, require imagination and inspire a playful childhood. That is what we are striving for this year and every year. And I hope if you made it this far in my post today (this may be my longest blog post yet!), you are able to walk away with something you can apply to your own life. I know the desire to live more simply is not just in our own home, but in the homes of many of my friends and family. These are just a few ways that it has been successful for us and the benefits have been 100-fold, as we choose to live for what matters and not be consumed by what doesn't. 

Hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far!! XO

1.01.2016

friday favorites

Happy New Year! The girls went to bed way before midnight last night but Dustin and I stayed up camped out on the couch, watching a movie with popcorn in hand until the new year arrived. Real party animals, I tell ya. We've been cleaning and getting ready for a fresh start in 2016. I finally parted with my tree today and even though packing away all the ornaments and unstringing the lights is bittersweet, I love how open and clean and spacious our living room is. I love decorating for Christmas but there is something so wonderful about putting everything away and starting with a clean slate at the start of every new year!


Today I've rounded up a few of my favorite things for a Friday Favorites post. My 26th birthday is this month and Dustin surprised me with a mini shopping date to pick out a few fun pieces to kick off the month. We also recently revamped our entryway and I wanted to share one of my favorites pieces that went into it!

1 // I'm loving this 9-slot rustic wooden shelf we put up in our entry a few days ago, not only for it's overall look but for how practical it is. With little girls, we always have hats and mittens floating around and it's the perfect place to stash those random items you need every day on your way out the door! 

2 // I've been starting to think about planning Olivia's 3rd birthday and am always on the lookout for vintage cake + cupcake stands. With two little girls, you can never have too many. I love putting little ones like these gold-rimmed ones & these color-cut ones throughout our home for mini desserts, decor, on display in open shelving in the kitchen or even in our bathroom with soap & lotion on top!


3 // We had a really bright and colorful spoon rest for the past year but I loved the simplicity of this white one (above). A great price and changes the look to something fresh + clean for the new year! Bonus: there are the cutest matching measuring spoons, muffin pan & rolling pin! Just give me all the pretty kitchen accessories and I'm one happy camper.

4 // I'll be the first to admit I'm not a huge potato fan...I absolutely love sweet potatoes and certainly, good ol' classic french fries paired with a cheeseburger, but other than that I'm typically not a fan. My husband & parents, on the other hand, love potatoes. So for some time now I've been on the hunt for a new way to serve them. These Crash Hot Potatoes by the one and only Pioneer Woman are so, so good. We add loads of rosemary and shredded parmesan to ours and they make a wonderful side dish to turkey (we had them on Christmas), steak or chicken. The best part? The next morning, you can bake them a second time or fry them in some olive or coconut oil and pair them alongside eggs for a hearty breakfast. Yum.

5 // We have been fans of Little Unicorn since I first got a summer poppy quilt for our Poppy and these new hooded towels they recently released are so darling. I can't wait to get one for each of the girls, since bath time around here is a daily highlight!

I hope 2016 is off to a wonderful start for each of you!! We have a low-key weekend ahead with hopefully a fun little DIY and lots more baby snuggles. XO

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