end of summer playlist

Let's be honest. Some days with 3 kids, the only thing getting us through the errand-running, nap-skipping, dinner-making, house-cleaning, laundry-folding, "please give your sister some space for the 1000th time" days are dance parties. There is just something about a good song that gets everyone feeling better in seconds. And watching my girls sing in the car, dance in their pajamas after breakfast or in the tub before bed is one of those scenes that makes the long tiring days all worth it. 

Summer is almost over but we are still jamming to a long list of our favorites. I thought it would be fun to share what we're playing these days incase you and yours need to hit the reset button and bust a move too!

Hope your Wednesday is wonderful! XO


Branding & Establishing Your Online Community | #TheMomBlogCollective WEEK 2

Happy Tuesday!! Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! We had a lifestyle session on Friday night and then took a day trip to one of our fav little towns, did some antiquing had a picnic on the river on Saturday. Sunday was a lazy day spent at home, which was just what we needed on a rainy day. We finished the night with big bowls of chicken chili and movies.

 If you missed my post two weeks ago, I shared a bit about a new series I've started on my blog called #TheMomBlogCollective; a handful of my favorite bloggers and I have teamed up to write blog posts twice a month, answering all the questions we get most often related to blogging, instagram, photography, collaborations, motherhood and more. You can find the first post in the series here. You can also search the #TheMomBlogCollective on instagram to find all the other posts sharing on these topics twice a month as well!

{Pretty much the perfect capture of our family; Olivia cheering and excited about something, Poppy clapping for herself and Adaline just a little unsure of what she has gotten herself into}

This week is all about establishing your brand and building an online community. Creating a well-known brand and building an engaged community are two keys to creating a successful blog and instagram and really being able to do a lot with both -- such as collaborate with other bloggers & companies, promote products, get paid to blog and more.

In the Week 1 post, I shared my top 5 tips on starting a blog and instagram and one of the tips was all about picking a blog name. That is really where your branding starts: picking a name that gets people's attention and tells your readers + followers what type of content you will be sharing but also that is memorable and has a ring to it. True story: When I was first launching my blog and trying to finalize a name, I knew I wanted the word "nest" in it because it would primarily be revolved around my home and family, especially as a new Mom. My husband is actually the one who came up with "A Blessed Nest" and as soon as he said it out loud, I knew that was it. It's easy to remember and in just three short words, it defines what I share about: my home, family, faith and motherhood. Remember that your blog name is the foundation of your brand; don't be afraid to play around with the wording until you get it just right.

Another important part of establishing your brand is purchasing your domain so your blog URL matches your blog title. Whether you host your blog through Blogger or Wordpress (or another site), if you want to grow your brand you need to own your domain. That just means that your web address is www.Your-Blog-Name.com versus wwww.Blogger.com/YourBlogName or www.Wordpress.com/YourBlogName. It shows professionalism to companies and makes it especially easy for people to find your blog in online searches. You can purchase a domain through many different sites and pay as little as $9.99 per year. 

A third key aspect of branding is paying attention to the overall look of your blog, instagram and/or other social media accounts. The key is consistency across the board -- both in the name (you wouldn't want to name your blog one thing and set up your IG account with a completely different name; they should be similar, such as A Blessed Nest/@blessednestblog OR identical) and in the design. Creating a cohesive look to your blog layout, in your photos, across all your blog posts, etc. is part of staying consistent. If your blog is bright and airy but your photos are dark and underlit, it will seem like they aren't being done by the same person and comes off confusing to those following you.

Personally, I think the most attractive blogs and instagram feeds are bright and white and easy to look at with the right mix of content and photos. We will be sharing more in Week 3 about instagram specifically and creating a cohesive feed as well as our tips for taking great photos, but keep in mind as you establish your blog the overall look of your blog is a reflection of your brand and you want a consistent look and feel in all areas.

Finally, establishing community around your blog is what builds your brand and in turn, your following and your growth organically so your brand becomes more well known. One of the very best parts about blogging has been seeing the community that I've created around A Blessed Nest, both here and on instagram, and connecting with other young moms in similar seasons of life through the process. I love getting emails from readers that were so encouraged by one of my posts, or a DM from a Mom about how they saw this/read that and it has helped them so much or how they always look forward to something specific that I post or share about. Those are the messages that encourage me so much and without a community, they wouldn't exist.

A few ways to establish your online community are...

1. Start following other blogs and instagram feeds you admire or enjoy! You don't need to follow every single one that exists (because really, that would be nearly impossible), but start by following along with those that you love reading and seeing the most. Interact with them by commenting regularly on their blog posts and instagram or "liking" their photos. I have gotten to know some of my closest blogging friends because I was either first following them or they were first following me and we started interacting through comments and a friendship grew from there over mutual interests and similar life seasons.

2. Collaborate with other bloggers. As you get to know bloggers and find ones that have a similar style or niche as yours, work together. Ask if they would like to host a giveaway together, or to do a collaborative blog post (such as our Mom Blog Collective series), or even to just do a Follow Friday on instagram, where you get a group of 5 moms and create a 4-photo collage (using one photo from each of the other 4 feeds but not your own) to post on instagram on a Friday, tagging them and sharing why you love following along with them. I collaborated with so many bloggers throughout my first year of blogging and still do; getting my name, face and brand out there through these collaborations was a big key to my growth.

3. Remember that a community is different than an audience; an audience passively watches (or in this case, reads) whereas a community interacts, shares and participates. You want those who follow you and read your blog to be people that interact with you, share your posts and tell others about your blog so your following grows, right? To have this -- a community that is engaged, interacts and shares -- you need to be sure you are doing the same. Interact with your followers. Comment back. Open and reply to DMs when you can, even if you can't get to all of them. Sometimes I do an instastory and get 50+ DMs in a matter of minutes. Obviously, I don't have the time to reply to every single one (at least not right in that moment) but I open one or two and respond to a question or comment and without fail, I get the same response every time -- "Thank you so much for responding!" or "I appreciate you getting back to me so quickly, thank you!" etc. etc. When you genuinely interact with those who follow you, whether by replying to comments on your blog, instagram, emails or DMs, your followers will recognize that and your community will grow. 

4. Share the content of other bloggers. Just as you would hope others would share your posts, do this for others! I love sharing articles or blog posts that really resonate with me within my blog posts or on my Facebook page. When people post on instagram asking about who you love following, tag your favorites and share why! Remember that as you help others be seen, be heard and grow, you will grow alongside them. You will reap what you sow.

5. Be genuine. Perhaps the most important piece of your branding and building a community is to really just be genuine by being yourself. Remember that blogging, instagram, social media...it's not a competition. We are all just trying to put our best foot forward, connect with each other and create memorable content that encourages, uplifts and inspires. Not everyone will read your blog or follow along or love your posts, and thats okay. I'm not doing what I do for the approval of others; I'm doing what I do because I love to do it! Being genuine in your writing, your posts, your photos and your interactions with your followers is what draws people to you. You can tell pretty quickly whether a blogger is down to earth and genuine or not; staying true to who you are and being real with those who follow along is going to get you far!

You can find all the posts sharing on this week's topic below:

I hope that was all helpful and gives you some new ideas for branding and building community around your blog! Be sure to leave a comment sharing what you'd most like to read about in this series, either here or on instagram! XO


life lately & exciting news

We are almost halfway through August and I am convinced that the more babies I have, the faster time flies. Olivia starts school in about a month, so we have been enjoying all that summer still has to offer. Lots of playgrounds, splash pads, park picnics and evening walks before bedtime; the girls love putting on their jammies and going on a "pajama walk" after dinner. They bring their flashlights along (even though it isn't quite dark out) and love to sing bedtime songs on the ride.

As for us, Dustin is still super busy at his job, putting in 50+ hours a week right now. I hosted a baby shower on Sunday for one of my best friends to celebrate her first baby arriving next month and planning our Fall family calendar is in full swing! Dustin and I are leaders in a marriage group in our church (this will be our third year doing that) and then we host a small couples group in our home once a month with our best friends, so we are excited for the kickoff of that. The two moms groups I am a part of also start up again next month, which is always something I look forward to as Fall approaches.

We have family photos this upcoming weekend and then the State Fair is just two weeks away, which is one of the very best (and most delicious!) parts of summer here! We are hoping to get to the waterpark at least once this month, back to the lake for a weekend visit and then check out a few new parks with friends over the coming weeks. 

In other exciting news, I recently accepted a part time job at our Chiropractic Wellness clinic. Ever since we started going there, I have wanted to work there and be part of the amazing team, especially because I have such a passion for holistic health and pursuing a natural lifestyle and whole-heartedly believe the reason our girls are such great sleepers, so healthy/rarely sick, generally in great moods, great eaters etc. is because they have all been adjusted since birth. 

It is an all-women run, Christ-centered clinic and you guys, aside from being a Mom it is my dream job! My official title is "PR Creative Director" so I will be there every Monday afternoon for team meetings, event planning, event promotion, new product launches and demos, etc. and then I will be working from home as it works with my schedule doing their newsletter, social media and focusing on their online presence. They have been amazing at working with my schedule and accommodating to my needs in having a young family. In every way, I can just see God's favor and plans all over this new opportunity and am so grateful for the new adventure. I love staying home with my girls, but also wanted to do something that was just for me. Something I didn't have to share. But without being away from them more than one afternoon a week, because I would just miss them too much. So it's a great balance of "me time" and getting to pour my gifts and energy in to something I love doing, while being surrounded by women I look up to and can learn from. 

Are you still loving summertime or getting excited for Fall?! We have been doing some pumpkin baking lately and the cool weather that comes and goes in the evenings has been so refreshing, but I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to the lazy days and slow mornings that we enjoy around here while school is out. Lots to look forward to but loving every minute as it is right now!! Happy Wednesday! As always, thanks for reading!! XO


Top 5 Tips on Starting a Blog & Instagram Account | #TheMomBlogCollective Week 1

I'm so excited to share a new series I am starting here on my blog called #TheMomBlogCollective. Twice a month, a group of 10 of us will be sharing a blog post on the same topic -- related to blogging, instagram, working with brands, creating sponsored posts, photography, motherhood and more. More than almost anything else, each of us get asked how we started blogging, what tips we have for someone looking to start, how to work with companies for sponsored posts and more, so those questions are the starting point for our series. 

Each month we will feature different guest bloggers in addition to our core 10. My favorite part is that while we will all be answering the same questions and writing about the same topics, it will give each of you a wide variety of perspectives. We each have a different blogging style, photography style, schedule and more so it will be a great opportunity to read everyone's posts and then figure out what works best for you. And if you have a topic you'd love to get an answer to in our series, search the hashtag #TheMomBlogCollective on instagram and comment on any one of our photos under that hashtag to let us know! You can also leave comments on our blog posts.

To kick off the series, we'll each be sharing our Top 5 Tips on Starting a Blog and Instagram Account

I began blogging in 2013 very casually, after my first daughter was born and I found myself as a Stay at Home Mom with extra time on my hands during naps. I wanted a way to connect with other moms in similar seasons of life, while also sharing my journey as a new mom and having something to look back on as Olivia grew. I also started an instgram account around that time, though I had very few followers and I basically posted whatever I wanted, bad filters and all. Over time my blog and instagram evolved to become so much more than I imagined they would be, and in 2015 is when I really feel like I got serious with building my brand and following and reaching out to work with companies I believed in and admired. So here are my Top 5 Tips!

1. Just Do It
I get asked most often "how do I start?" and my answer is always the same -- just do it! Even if you have no idea what you're doing, get started. I had no clue what I was doing (and knew nothing about the blogging world) when I began back in 2013. Heck, I barely even read blogs! Almost everything I have accomplished was self-taught, day by day and one piece at a time. I didn't know anything about HTML, SEO, instagram, social media, or what the mom blogging world even involved. I just decided to jump in feet first and go for it. The sooner you start, the better.

2. Pick a Blog Name
Something to continually keep in the back of your mind as you begin blogging is that one of your ultimate goals is to "create a brand" -- this will help you grow, establish relationships with other brands, get paid to blog and more. We will be sharing more on this specific topic in a few weeks, but as you grow, your brand is what you will be known for, which is why picking a blog name that fits with your brand is so important. Choose a name that is easy to remember, has a ring to it, isn't too long, and in just a few words tells your readers what you will be blogging about. For example, A Blessed Nest. It rhymes and is only 3 words long, but it tells you that I will likely be blogging about my home and/or family. Picking a solid, catchy name from the beginning is key.

3. Pick a Hosting Site and Template
Most bloggers either host their blogs on Blogger or Wordpress, both of which have advantages and disadvantages, for example Blogger is free and Wordpress is not. You can select which you would like (google "blogger vs. wordpress" for some more information) and create a blog at your preferred location. You can then buy a pre-made template inexpensively with all the HTML online or from Etsy (unless you are very experienced in it) that you will then input in to your blog's formatting and it will set up your blog to have the exact look you want, including the font, layout, and more, without having to write all the HTML yourself. If you hire a professional web designer you are going to pay much more, but you can find some pretty simple and classy layouts on Etsy for $30 or less. The easier your blog is to navigate, the better. I always lean toward a black and white theme, lots of white space, and easy to read fonts, because it is not only better for my readers but also more professional, something to consider when you begin approaching brands.

4. Start Blogging!
This may seem obvious, but the only way to build a blog and following is to start blogging. Decide what you want to focus your blog on, which should go hand in hand with your blog title, and start. Even if you have no one reading your first few posts, keep writing. I'm pretty sure less than 10 people followed me on instagram when I first began and my photos would get like 3 likes. Ha. Don't let that discourage you if you are starting with no one following along. Remember that ultimately you are doing this for yourself, as a creative outlet, or a way to connect with others, or to document your journey as a Mom. While blogging is a lot of work (and a lot more than I think most people realize), I blog because I love doing it. I've always told myself if I ever get to a point where I no longer love what I'm doing, I will stop. 

5. Put Yourself Out There
This is one of the hardest parts when first starting because it can be scary to share who you are and what you are writing about for fear of being judged or criticized, but creating social media accounts that go along with your blog -- or picking one specific account to focus most on (mine would be instagram) -- is a great way to begin making your blog known, and connecting with other bloggers to collaborate and build a following. Having a go-to social media platform that aligns with your blog (for example, with a similar name or the same name) will be the foundation for building your brand, cross-promoting your blog posts and working with other brands. Influencer-marketing is so huge right now and is primarily done on instagram, so if you are unsure of what social media platform to pursue, that is a great place to start. After you create an instagram account, you can begin by following bloggers you love and whose style you admire. Just by following along with them you will learn tips and tricks along the way. Being active and engaging with those you follow and those who follow you is another way to become better known. Remember that growth for your blog or instagram doesn't happen overnight, but if you continually put forth genuine, authentic content, you will be seen and become known.


summertime essentials & more

Happy Friday! I'm pretty sure my blog thinks I have broken up with it because I don't think 2 weeks between posts has happened since I started blogging in 2014, not even when one of my girls was born!! My time catching up here is totally lacking these days, as we are out and about almost 7 days a week, enjoying the beach or park or backyard, pool party playdates and then spending time as a family in the evenings when Dustin is home from work. I am just trying to soak up every bit of summertim! So if you're still here I appreciate you sticking with me and hope you have been enjoying your summer as much as we have!!

So a few things I want to share today! First of all, even though it's almost August (seriously??), we have about 5 more weeks of summertime here before Olivia starts her 2nd year of preschool in mid-September. So I wanted to share my favorite summer essentials, most (if not all) of which work year-round! 

I also wanted to get feedback from you guys on what posts you'd really like to see as we move toward Fall, both here on my blog, on instagram @blessednestblog and in my instastories. Do you want to see more easy weeknight recipes like I've been posting? More motherhood stuff? Natural lifestyle? More on children's books? Our schedule as a family of 5? Our home? Can you guys please do me a huge favor and leave a comment below with some of the things that are most important to you so I can be sure this space is always filled with what you most enjoy seeing and reading!

And last but not least, I wanted to share a little bit about something that is close to my heart. A local friend of mine, Jen Jacobs, is an incredible Mama to 4 little ones (ranging from 8 months to 5 years) and was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, with a tumor near her brainstem that is inoperable. There is going to be a huge auction held on instagram @forjenjacobs, from August 25-30. There will be so many incredible items to bid on, including a 4Moms Moxi stroller (for those of you who entered my giveaway but didn't win), baby carriers and slings, clothing and accessories from the best of the best baby + kid shops, gift cards donated by so many neat brands, and more! So if you are looking to get a few new items for Fall, baby gear or something for yourself or a gift, you can do so by bidding at the end of August and supporting Jen and her beautiful family because 100% of proceeds go directly to her. You can follow along with the auction page here and updates will be posted on there!!

Top 10 Summertime Essentials

We have 3 mats from Gathre and we love them all. We have one maxi circle, which we primarily use in our backyard (since it's pretty big to haul around) and then we have two midi squares (a floral print and a grid print) and I bring them everywhere. They are the perfect size for me and the girls when we go to the park, beach, on a picnic, etc. All 5 of us can fit on the midi size but if you're looking to really spread out (6-8 people), the maxi is perfect for that, just not quite as portable unless you have an extra big basket in your stroller or an extra set of hands ;)

Our favorite place for finding gorgeous heirloom quality bonnets is Briar Handmade, and the added brim on many of their bonnets is perfect for summertime sunshine. One of my favs for Della is this Rust one, totally gender neutral and such a timeless color. We have so many Briar bonnets that we've had since Olivia was a baby, so it's been fun to pass them down to Poppy and Della as they grow.

Melissa & Doug Sand Toys. The girls could probably spend the entire day playing in the sand, whether at the beach or our favorite local nature center that has a huge area for sand & water play (where we were yesterday on a playdate!). I recently picked up these sand toys and the girls are loving them: seaside nesting sand pailssandbloxsand baking set and sand cookie set

For sand toy storage, I am loving this beach mesh bag, perfect for shaking out the sand and it folds up into itself to save space.

This Wet-Dry Bag is perfect for all our summertime outings; I also love that it's super neutral and totally practical.

I searched high and low for the perfect beach bag that would fit not only suits and multiple beach towels, but a small cooler for mine and the girls' lunches, the girls' water bottles, extra clothes, snacks (of course), beach shoes and more and I settled on this Saltwater Canvas one. I ordered it in June and love it so much; many of my friends have ordered their own after seeing mine. Rather inexpensive, so functional and easy to clean/shake out before leaving the beach.

This lunch box for packing mine and my girls' lunches for a day out and about. My glass containers stack perfectly and there is still room for icepacks. I love that there is a zipper pocket in front, which I store a travel pack of our fav Parasol wipes and extra utensils. Then there is a mesh pocked on one side, where I can put snacks that I don't want to get cold or crushed inside, like pouches, apple chips, crackers etc. Lightweight and just the right amount of space for day trips.

We spend a lot of time in the backyard and the girls are always wanting to sit on our patio chairs but for Poppy they are still a bit too big. I picked up these Melissa and Doug folding lawn chairs for the girls (matching of course, as to avoid any arguments of who sits in which) and even though they are little bright for my taste, the girls LOVE them and I love that they collapse for easy storage, unlike most kid chairs that are stuck the size they are and then need to be stored all winter long. They come in a few styles, just scroll down to the bottom of the linked page to see all the options!

This flower sprinkler

This blow up pool. The sprinkler and pool are two of the girls' favorite purchases all summer. Fun fact: I didn't have an air pump on hand when I was trying to get the pool set up for the girls one morning and Dustin was at work, so I decided to get creative to use my Dyson hair dryer to blow it up and you guys, it was amazing!! I used it on the level 3 power (the highest) and coldest temp setting and in minutes it was set to go. So if you're ever without an air pump, give your hairdryer a try!

Hope you guys are having the best summer and enjoying every minute!! I may not be on my computer or phone as much as I used to but I know I'll never look back on this summer and feel I missed out. I will remember this time as always being right there next to my girls, watching them make memories, getting my hands wet, my feet in the sand and just being present with the three little ones that mean the very most to me. And blogging during nap time ;) I hope you are able to do the same!! Have a wonderful weekend! XO


friday favorites

Happy Friday! It seemed like Monday dragged on with the girls' interesting behavior... (seriously, was there a full moon??) and then the rest of the week  just flew, and I can't believe Friday is already here!! We spent all day at the beach and on a nature walk with friends (11 kids total and 4 of us Moms) and now the girls are napping so I'm catching up on laundry before we dinnertime.

Here are a few Friday favorites to kick off your weekend!

one | Our favorite Briar Handmade bonnets are on sale this weekend for their semiannual sale, so it's the perfect time to stock up. All 3 of our girls have worn these since birth, and they are timeless and heirloom quality, so they are the perfect keepsake to pass down from child to child. There are lots of gender neutral options and the brimmed bonnets are perfect for Summer! To shop their sale, simply visit the website, pick your favorites and checkout, no code needed. All the prices are already reflective of the discounts and domestic shipping is also free.

two | I absolutely love this newly released quilt from Little Unicorn and am 150% sure if I ever had a baby boy, it would be my first purchase for him. I grew up going fishing all the time with my Grandpa and I love the simplicity of the quilt, the serene colors, everything! 

three | Our favorite classic & simple bows for Adaline are from Billy Bibs. They come in a regular and mini size, and Della wears the regular but the mini would be so sweet on newborn babies. We love everything from Billy Bibs, including the gorgeous handmade bibs, but the bow sets are just so darling and make a thoughtful gift for showers and new Mamas. You can save 15% off your total purchase through the end of July using code BLESSEDNEST15 at checkout!

four | Our favorite backyard sprinkler for summertime

five | I picked up these jammies for Olivia and Penelope and these for Della to match earlier this week when Gap had an additional 40% off the sale prices. The sizes are pretty picked over now but they are so cute!! Poppy loves Minnie Mouse, even though she has never watched the cartoon or really seen anything about her. There is also a long sleeve version here for cooler weather ahead this Fall and a matching footed version here and both those you can grab at 40% off since they're not already on sale, using the code NOW at checkout. Always be sure to enter the code PLUS10 at checkout if you're a cardholder to get an extra 10% off every purchase. AND if you're a Silver cardholder, you can select the 3-5 day shipping option for $7, enter the code MYCARD at checkout and it will take the $7 off so you get free shipping, no minimum, on every order.

six | On Mondays in July you can get a free kids meal with the purchase of any burrito/salad or order of tacos at all participating Chipotle restaurants! That is one of our favorite spots for quick, quality Mexican food and being able to get the girls' meals free is just a bonus!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!! XO


best of the nest | house of belonging

One of the very first purchases my husband made on Etsy was a wood sign with lyrics to one of my favorite David Crowder songs; it was a gift for my 24th birthday in 2014 and we have it hanging on our dining room wall, I see it each night as I sit down for dinner with our girls and I still love it just as much as when it first arrived.

A year later, I purchased another sign (here) from the same shop to hang above Penelope's crib that still hangs there today, featuring one of my favorite quotes of all time.

Over the past few years since first discovering House of Belonging, their gorgeous handmade signs have made their way in to our home and have become treasured keepsakes that reflect our family, our faith and our rustic yet classic decor style. I recently had the opportunity to add a piece from House of Belonging's new collection to Adaline's nursery and chose this vintage alphabet sign.

I love the classic chalkboard colors, the beautiful script and the timelessness of the design. It was the perfect piece to hang above Della's (now outgrown) Moses basket, another special heirloom we'll always hold on to.

House of Belonging was founded by Tiffini, a Mom to 5 grown children and one teenager still at home. After experiencing many hardships in succession from a young age, she pursued Jesus and journaling, which ultimately led to her healing, new beginning and passion for creating each work of art.

An entrepreneur by trade, Tiffini also has the biggest heart of anyone I have ever had the privilege of working with. She is so incredibly kind, talented and encouraging. Her heart for House of Belonging is that it connects people to God's heart -- building homes, families and lives through the power of words.

There are so many pieces from House of Belonging that I love...you really can't go wrong with a single one. But a few of my favorite signs are below:

finest, loveliest, tenderest sign -- we have this one in Poppy's nursery
"let her sleep" sign
little houses sign -- we have this one in our hallway
less house more home sign
as for me + my house sign
ladies love a gentleman sign -- how perfect for a little boy's nursery!!
whatever is true sign -- one of my favorite verses, Philippians 4:8
I am His sign -- you can select "son" or "daughter" for this one, so beautiful

Tiffini is such a joy to work with and with new pieces continually being released, I am always finding signs to add to my wishlist. I've teamed up with House of Belonging to give away a $150 shop credit to one winner to pick out a sign of their choice! Head on over to my instagram feed @blessednestblog to enter. Leave a comment below for an extra entry sharing why you'd love to add a HOB sign to your home! Giveaway runs today through Sunday July 16. Winner will be randomly selected and announced on the original instagram post within 48 hours of the giveaway ending and will then have 24 hours to claim their prize.

Happy almost-weekend!! 


what we're reading this summer

We are always adding new children's books to our collection and yesterday on our day date, Olivia and I chose a few new favorites to bring home. We try to go on a date just the two of us at least once a month, and it usually looks like this: a refresher to share at Starbucks, a trip to her favorite local bookstore, lunch at Chipotle, grocery shopping and then a fun new activity at home together while her sisters nap; yesterday we made strawberry rhubarb crisp and then did watercolors. Now having 3 little girls, I just cherish the one on one time I get to spend with my first baby girl. 

Here is what the girls are reading & loving right now.

Poppy is 22 months and she is the board book queen. The bottom bookshelves in her room are overflowing with board books and she insists on reading 10 every night before bed. Of course she's so cute when she says the words and points out everything in the pictures, so I always comply. Her favorites right now are the Jane Foster board book series. She especially loves Jane Foster's Animal Sounds and Jane Foster's ABC and Jane Foster's First Words.

Another favorite right now is So Many Feet, a colorful board book that teaches all about different kinds of animal feet with fun and quirky illustrations and simple facts. I shared in last week's Friday Favorites post they are also loving Gotta Go Buffalo, which is a board book that has flaps to lift on every page. Due to Poppy's excitement of ripping basically every flap off, they have been taped and retaped about 50 times but it remains a favorite, especially before nap time. Poppy points to it on the shelf and yells, "Buppalo! Buppalo!" on the daily.

Olivia chose the book I Wrote You A Note by Lizi Boyd, which has been on repeat since we brought it home. Boyd's charming illustrations are easily recognizable (we love her book Flashlight, especially for summertime) and the story is so darling, all about a note a little girl wrote to her friend that got passed along from animal to animal and the adventure it had as each animal put it to use in one way or another. 

You can find all our favorites listed and linked in my A-Z Lit List post here. As always, if you have favorite books to share, I'd love to hear them! Hope your week is off to a great start!!


friday favorites

We are still pretending the long weekend hasn't actually come to an end by continuing our grill-outs, beach days and backyard fun. Dustin went back to work on Wednesday after a 4-day weekend and is staying very busy. His days are long (he told me he got up at 3:50am yesterday morning to get to work by 5:15am, no thank you!!) so we have been trying to make the most of the evenings together as a family, especially when the weather is so beautiful. 

We had a really fun, low-key 4th of July with lots of pool parties, friends & family, campfires & s'mores, burgers (on pretzel buns, my favorite!), popsicles, a few beach trips and fireworks. My Dad bought the girls sparklers and snaps and they had a blast with those all weekend long. I remember doing both as a little girl so it was fun to watch them make the same memories.

This summer the weeks are just flying by and I feel like I am on my phone, blog and instagram much less than usual, which is so refreshing but also leaves this space here extra quiet. So I thought I'd share a Follow Friday to kick off your weekend!

one || One of our fav brands, Childhoods Clothing, released their new camp line yesterday and there are so many pieces I am loving but the new skirts with pockets are darling and perfect to wear all Summer into Fall. I also love the short sleeve henleys, especially the Camp Green color, which I can't wait to put on Poppy!

two || If you've seen any of my grocery tour stories you will know we love cookies. One time all the girls were having meltdowns as I was checking out at the grocery store and the lady felt so bad for me that she gave me a kitchen sink cookie to take home and we are now totally hooked on them. Our Whole Foods had samples out of these white chocolate macadamia nut cookies when we went grocery shopping earlier this week and you guys, they are so good. I picked up a pack to bring to our beach playdate today but not eating them beforehand took all the self-control I had.

three || I feel like the girls live in their swimsuits these days and we are either running through the sprinkler, headed to the splash pad or spending the day at the beach. I picked up these hooded cover ups for Olivia and Penelope (in white) and they have been so handy for all our summertime adventures. In the mornings before we head out, I dress the girls in their suits and cover ups, and then coming home they just wear the cover ups and I can easily rinse the girls in the tub before nap time. All I have to pack is an extra diaper for Poppy and a pair of underwear for Olivia instead of bringing a change of clothes for each of them on top of everything else I'm lugging along. They are warm and cozy without being too hot and the girls love putting them on and zipping them up on our way out the door.

four || This book is the girls' current favorite. Poppy has so much fun lifting the flaps, so much so that I think they have been taped back on about 50 times. All day long I hear the girls saying the cute phrases from the book and I just have to laugh out loud every time. A great summer read with bright colors and such fun illustrations!

five || Our favorite latte bowls were just released in a gorgeous bright blue SLATE color that scream summertime. We have a handful of different colors and love them for everything under the sun. We also love their latte mugs.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend with lots of fun in the sun!! XO


best of the nest | 4moms moxi stroller

I've shared about 4moms in the past and showcased a handful of our favorite products of theirs -- including their high chair (a total game changer), classic breeze play yard, mamaRoo and more. We recently added their new Moxi stroller to our lineup and I almost feel like I'm not cool enough to be using such a cool stroller. 

There are so many fun features the 4moms Moxi stroller boasts that set it apart from all other strollers on the market, including pathway lights and taillights, rear wheel generators, an LCD dashboard that displays distance, speed, temperature and calories burned, convenient storage, a one-step fold, smooth ride and more.

The first thing that caught my eye about the 4moms Moxi stroller is the overall sleek look it has. Perhaps the neatest part is that, in addition to looking amazing, it has the ability to transform for every stage of your baby's life, from a newborn to infant to toddler and young child, and fits in with every step of your parenting journey.

The actual seat can be used as a bassinet when your baby is born, and if you opt for a travel system, it is compatible with both the 4moms self-installing carseat and a variety of other carseats with easy-to-use adaptors and accessories. Many other strollers have a separate bassinet attachment (which takes up space in your car...something I think about often with 3 kids) but with a few simple changes, the seat converts into a cozy bassinet that is perfect for a baby to relax, stretch out in and sleep comfortably, without having to lug any extra attachments around.

When used as a traditional seat, it can be parent-facing (which I love when my babies are still tiny so I can see their sweet faces) or forward-facing, so your baby or child can see everything around them. It also sports a one-hand lever recline with three recline positions. The straps are easily adjustable as your baby grows and the 4moms Moxi has a 5-point harness for safety, plus a nice padded seat for comfort.

The stroller itself is self-charging via the rear-wheel generators, so the LCD dashboard is powered as you walk and it can even charge your cell phone on the go. It also comes with an AC power adaptor for charging. The front wheels have swivel-locks for rough terrain and there is both front and rear wheel suspension, so it's a nice smooth ride wherever you go.

I also love that it has a 5-position handlebar that is easily adjustable (something I look for in every stroller because I always want it at the top height for comfort), a canopy with a pop-out shade for sunny days and privacy, and extra storage not just underneath the stroller in the large basket but with a dashboard bag and convenient cup holder. I always use stroller hooks to hang my diaper bag off the back to keep the storage basket free for a cooler, gathre mat or picnic blanket and that creates even more space when I'm on the go, a necessity with 3 kids. 

We have been using the Moxi for both Adaline (5 months) and Penelope (21 months), though Olivia (4 years) fits as well, she just prefers to walk and run whenever we're out and about. The Moxi stroller can be used from birth up to 55 lbs and has an easy one-step fold. All the fabric is machine-washable and can easily be removed when your stroller needs a refresh. 

What I love most about 4moms is that they take traditional baby products and reinvent them to fit the lifestyle of parents today, which in turn makes life as a Mom a little easier. Their newly released Breeze GO play yard, similar to their Breeze Classic but slightly smaller to make travel extra easy, opens and closes in one step, something no other brand play yard on the market can do. The 4moms high chair, which we have been using since Poppy was 6 months old, has a magnetic tray that can be put on and taken off with one hand (perfect for when you have a baby in one arm...) plus a magnetic tray top so 4moms dishes stay in place. It has been so much fun to bring a new stroller along on all our summer adventures and Adaline and Poppy seem to love it just as much as we do!

Head over to my instagram @blessednestblog to enter to win your own Moxi stroller from 4moms. Giveaway runs today through Sunday, July 2, 2017 and winner will be randomly selected and announced on the original instagram post within 48 hours of the giveaway ending. Open to US residents only. Earn an extra entry by leaving a comment on this blog post and then letting me know you did so over on instagram! 


5-minute mango peach salsa

I am always trying to find simple ways to make our go-to weeknight meals a little more exciting, so tonight I'm making shredded chicken tacos and topping them with a mango peach salsa that took me (literally) less than 5 minutes to throw together!

What you'll need:
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped into small cubes
1 ripe peach, peeled and chopped into small cubes
1/2 red onion, diced finely
Cilantro to taste, chopped
Sea salt

What you'll do:
Mix your mango and peach together in a bowl, add diced red onion and the juice of half of a lime; add in chopped cilantro (however much or little you want) and a sprinkle of sea salt before serving

I made mine ahead of time so it could chill in the fridge; add more fresh squeezed lime to taste and serve on tacos or chips on the side! Hope you're having a wonderful week so far!! XO


friday favorites

Happy Friday! We have a low-key weekend ahead which we are all looking forward to after a full week. There are thunderstorms in the forecast tonight and tomorrow and I'm looking forward to just relaxing inside, watching movies and making some homemade icecream with the girls tonight! We have been out having fun in the sun all week so a little stormy weather is welcome, I love how cozy it makes the house feel and rainy weather is the best for sleeping! 

To kick off your weekend, below are a few Friday Favorites!

This two-piece fishy outfit from Tea Collection that Della is wearing is one of my favorite things to put her in for warm summer weather. It's available in sizes 3-6 months (what she is wearing above) to 18-24 months and is currently on sale plus an additional 25% off using code JELLIES at checkout. I also love this blue version. The bloomers are ruffled and wash after wash, the outfit still looks brand new. Tea is one of our favorite places to shop for the girls, they have such unique travel-inspired prints!

I recently got these polka dot shorts for Olivia and they are so darling. You can save 40% off the regular price using the code HAPPY at checkout and if you're a cardholder, an extra 10% beyond that when you also enter the code PLUS10, so they come out to be under $14. If you're a silver cardholder, did you know you can always select the "3-5 Business Day Shipping" for $7 and then enter the code MYCARD at checkout and it will take the $7 off, so you get free 3-5 day shipping on every order, no minimum?! I love this for when I just want to order one or two things instead of having to reach the $50 minimum for free shipping.

You guys have been sending me so many messages asking about what kind of car seat cover I posted in my stories last week and it's the new carseat canopy by Little Unicorn. I got the prickle pots design for Della but they have a handful of super cute ones!

These think king brand hooks are my favorite for attaching to my stroller and hanging my diaper bag. It's so nice when I can hang it, have access to it easily and then it frees up my storage underneath for a cooler, blanket, sand toys, etc., especially when we are out and about for the whole day and I pack basically everything we own. I just ordered a second set for our new stroller so I wouldn't have to switch them between the two and just love them!

I love this set of changing pad covers. We have polka dot bedding in all the girls' rooms (find my fav crib sheet here) so this would be a fun match and seriously, those whales are so sweet!! I don't need any more changing pad covers (we have a few of these ones in gray that we got when Olivia was born) but I have a few friends having babies this summer so I have been eying them for gifts! Also, if you don't already do this, I love to layer Poppy and Della's crib mattresses with a waterproof pad, crib sheet, waterproof pad, crib sheet, etc. This makes taking the top layers off extra easy and I love not having to take the mattress out and put new sheets on every time I do laundry.

Hope you have a wonderful and restful weekend!! XO


5 simple ways to eat more naturally

I've done a lot of grocery tours and sharing easy weeknight meals we're making in my instastories lately and the questions I get more than any others are...

What is your food budget?
How do you eat organically on a budget?
What do you typically spend on groceries each week?
Do you meal plan? And if so, can you create a post on how you do it?

I sat down with my husband and together we came up with 5 ways to make eating healthy, high quality food simple and budget-friendly. To be honest, I don't really meal plan far in advance and I also don't have a firm "budget" when it comes to groceries. I go to the store with a few ideas of what I'm going to make that week (I have about 15-20 meals I rotate through regularly each month) and I get my basic ingredients for those meals and then always try to incorporate things that are on sale or in season. I don't go in to the store planning to spend X amount of dollars, or trying to stay under X amount of dollars. I basically know what it costs for our family of 4 (soon 5, once Adaline starts solids) to eat organically + naturally and often stay within that range, but for every family that may look a little differently depending on the ages of your kids, portion sizes, if you double meals to make leftovers, how often you cook at home, how often you eat out, etc. 

If you are looking to make simple changes and eat more natural, organic foods without feeling like you have to stress out and break your budget, here are some tips.

1. Buy locally and seasonally whenever possible

Any time I see an item is "locally grown" in the grocery store, I buy it. The closer to home it was grown, the better the quality (and often the lower the price). I also love going to Farmer's Markets all summer long and into Fall; not only am I able to support local growers, farms and their families but I am also able to get fresh, quality produce at a fraction of the cost it would be in a store. Cooking with the season is also a fun way to incorporate ingredients that are readily available, making them lower in cost. For example, making dishes with squash and pumpkins in the Fall and meals with fresh berries and produce in the Spring and Summer saves you time (looking for ingredients) and money. You are going to pay way more for strawberries in the middle of Winter than you are in the middle of Summer because when they're in abundance the prices are lower.

2. Grow your own

Obviously, this isn't possible for everyone depending on where you live and what your year round weather is like, but the more produce you can grow yourself, the more you will save each week. Something like kale that costs a lot in stores, can be grown fairly simply (and quickly) in your own backyard. We personally don't grow much more than herbs right now (not sure I can keep a garden alive when I'm chasing after 3 kids) but we have a handful of friends who have farms and large gardens that give our family anything they have left over, and this always is such a blessing. Another way to grow your own (if you maybe don't have the backyard space or are too intimidated or limited on time to start a garden) is to become part of a neighborhood community garden. Often, you pay a small fee monthly or yearly and are responsible for regular maintenance like weeding and watering, but it's an inexpensive way to grow your own produce, share it with others, and also enjoy items other people in your neighborhood are growing. 

3. Shop the sales

Having a variety of your favorite go-to meals with different kinds of sides and proteins allows you to customize your ingredients with what is on sale. For example, if grass-fed beef is on sale one week, I will plan to make meals that include it -- taco salads, chili, etc. If ground turkey is on sale, I'll do a big pan of lasagna, stuffed peppers, etc. Not only does this stretch your dollar because you are getting more than what you would had there not been a sale, but you can buy extra and freeze it as well. If you plan to make fajitas and see that the organic red bell peppers are on sale but the yellow and orange aren't (which actually happens often, that one color is pricier than another), buy the more inexpensive ones. This seems so obvious but when you have a long list and kids in tow at the grocery store, small prices can easily be overlooked but they make a difference in the long run. Be flexible with your meals and incorporate sides and ingredients that are on sale that week, not just the ingredients in your recipe. If you are making a salad for a summer picnic and you plan on romaine lettuce but see that butter lettuce or spinach is on sale, switch your recipe up. Not only is this the smart way to shop, but you get to try new flavor combinations.

I also shop the sales when it comes to my favorite non-refrigerated food, such as Simple Mills almond flour crackers (the tomato basil ones are our fav), Canyon Bakehouse bread (the yummiest gluten free bread I've ever had), and other favorite snacks and pantry staples. I try to keep a variety of things on hand for the girls for lunches, but stock up on the foods we love when they're on sale. If our favorite eggs (pasture-raised eggs by Vital Farms brand) are on sale, I'll buy an extra dozen and hard boil them for Dustin's lunches and egg salad (we love adding in celery, radishes and red onion and using an avocado mayo) for lunches at home for me and the girls. I freeze a lot...including butter, meat, veggies, etc. If it's on sale and something I regularly shop for, I buy it and find a way to incorporate it into meals for the week or freeze it for the future.

4. Be mindful of the "dirty dozen" and "clean 15"

These are two lists that guide my grocery shopping. If you haven't heard of them before, the dirty dozen is a list of the 12 foods that are most highly contaminated with pesticides, so those are the ones you definitely want to buy organically. The clean 15 is a list of 15 fruits and vegetables that have the lowest contamination levels, so if you are on a budget and unable to purchase 100% organic, buy those 15 items conventionally. 

DIRTY DOZEN: Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Peaches, Pears, Cherries, Grapes, Celery, Tomatoes, Sweet Bell Peppers and Potatoes -- Buy all those items organically

CLEAN 15: Sweet Corn*, Avocados, Pineapples, Cabbage, Onions, Frozen Sweet Peas, Papayas*, Asparagus, Mangos, Eggplant, Honeydew Melon, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Grapefruit

*One other thing to note is that some of these crops grown in the US are genetically modified, so buying sweet corn, papayas and summer square organically allows you to avoid this (which is incredibly important)

5. Overlap ingredients

When meal planning and grocery shopping, I plan meals for the week with overlapping ingredients so nothing goes to waste. One box of Spanish rice makes more than I need for one dish, so I'll plan to split a single box into two meals by making stuffed peppers on a Monday and chicken enchiladas on a Tuesday. I also do this often with herbs. Basil is one of my very favorite herbs, and I use it in a warm summer quinoa salad with tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella. Instead of tossing what I don't need for that recipe out, I chop it and add it into breakfast scrambles and chicken dishes. Cilantro is another one; making a few Mexican dishes over the course of a weeks' time allows me to use it all up instead of tossing it out. If I find myself with a lot of extra veggies on hand after a week of cooking but no way to use them all before they spoil, I get out my le creuset and make a big pot of what our family calls "lovely lentils" (recipe here).

As far as meal planning goes, I'm not one of those people who can sit down and plan out meals in 1-2 week blocks, mainly because what I'm "in the mood for" changes every hour. What I buy when I shop and what I cook is based largely on what I'm craving, which comes in handy being married to someone who will literally eat anything I make and cooking for kids who don't have a choice ;) We eat a lot of Mexican food (stuffed peppers, chicken enchiladas, taco salads with grass fed beef, chicken quesadillas, fajitas, etc), a lot of salads (chicken caesar salads, garden salads with whatever veggies I have on hand and Italian dressing, and then salads with butter lettuce, veggies, nuts and salad girl dressing), and a lot of chicken and turkey, beef a few times a month, no pork. We aren't pasta eaters, and in fact I don't think I've made traditional spaghetti in years, other than spaghetti squash with meat sauce (which is one of my go-to meals in the Fall), but we love lasagna (and love the leftovers...even better the next day; I pair it with a side caesar salad and usually steam some kind of green veggie) and anytime we're having something that doesn't naturally have lots of veggies, I try to add sides with what I have on hand in the fridge or freezer. I also keep a big glass bowl (here) of chopped, washed romaine lettuce on hand in the fridge at all times to throw together salads in minutes for my lunches. My girl Kendra over at Hen & Co wrote a post that totally echoes how our family shops and stocks our kitchen to meal plan without actually being a meal planner, check it out here.

I hope that was all helpful and if you have any favorite go-to recipes for weeknights, meal planning tricks, favorite products from grocery stores, etc. I'd love to hear them, so feel free to send me a DM or email anytime! XO

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