fall + our new routine + life lately

Happy Thursday! It seems like the past two weeks have flown by and here we are, almost done with September. We are getting in to a new routine, which has been such a nice change of pace and one of the many things I love about Fall. In addition to the leaves changing & apple cider-everything!

Olivia started school two weeks ago and goes 3 days a week, one half day and two full days. Her Fall session of swimming (one afternoon a week) kicked off this week and AWANA started last week as well! This is her first year attending AWANA and so far she is loving it. If you aren't familiar with it, it is a weekly group for kids ages 3 and up that meets in local churches (ours is where she attends preschool and where I attend MOPS) for one hour each week (usually on Wednesday nights) and teaches kids about the Bible, works on scripture memorization and includes a workbook plus games & activities. Last night as I was tucking her in she quietly said, "First John four ten. God sent His son" -- It totally took me by surprise and melted my heart; that was the first scripture she has ever memorized and after only one week of AWANA. Watching your child learn and make connections is such a good feeling!!

Both my Mom groups have also kicked off this month; I attend one at our church one morning a week and then I have MOPS every other Friday morning. I find staying connected with other Moms in similar seasons of life is a huge key in my well-being. Getting out of the house, even if I am tired, and bringing the girls along to the childcare to play with their friends is so important. It gives me a break from them, gives them a break from me and creates connection & builds friendships. If you aren't involved in any Moms groups like that, see if you can find one in your area. I look forward to them every week!! 

Having Olivia in school three days a week has been a total change for me; some mornings when Olivia is at school and Della is napping, it's just me & Poppy and it feels like I have just one kid again! I can't even imagine how I will feel when all 3 are in school and how much I will miss them. But soaking up that one on one time with Penelope has been one of the most special parts.

Outside of that, we have been enjoying the gorgeous Fall weather we've had lately. We've made multiple trips to our local orchard, been cooking & baking all our favorite Fall dishes and getting outside as much as possible. Della is so quick and tries to eat just about every leaf she sees whenever we're outside so I have to be on my game with her!! She is crawling at lightening speed and pulling to stand (cue the tears). We also witnessed earlier this week as she climbed up stairs! I don't remember Olivia or Penelope being this active at such a young age, but my guess is that she is just trying to keep up with her big sisters!! 

Finally, if you follow along with me on instagram @blessednestblog, you have probably seen that I recently started a new account for essential oils! We have been using EOs for just over two years now and they have made an incredible difference for us in our home, family and overall health. I've gotten so many questions about them and how they've changed our life so I thought it was about time to start sharing!! I'll be starting to post regularly on there all about how we use them, what my favorites are, how you can get your own & more. You can follow along @blessednestessentials and I'll be adding helpful information & regular blog posts on the topic to my essential oils tab here.

So that's all for now. Hope you are having the best week and a wonderful start to Fall!! We've got our windows open, the girls are napping and Dustin is picking Olivia up from school. We're throwing garlic chicken on the grill tonight and baking some acorn squash and then planning to take a walk after dinner with the girls in their new pajamas, a favorite tradition of ours year round!!

So far I'm loving Fall, Olivia is loving school, Della is loving to climb + crawl & Poppy just loves playing with all her big sisters toys when she's gone!! :) As always, thanks for reading & following along!


our fall bucket list

Our favorite season is here and even if it isn't "officially" Fall yet, it most certainly feels like it in our house! The girls have loved wearing cozy jammies to bed and sleeping with their bedroom windows open and I have a never-ending list of all the fall recipes I want to start whipping up. A few of the leaves have already started turning here and some have even fallen to the ground so I spend the majority of my time outside these days making sure Della doesn't eat them when I'm not looking ;)

We have already visited our local apple orchard to kick off the season, a family tradition we started last year on Labor Day. There is so much to look forward to in the days and weeks ahead, even just the simple afternoons spent in the backyard on our gathre mats with quilts & stacks of the girls' favorite books. I love the cooler weather, cozy sweaters, dressing the girls in boots, tights & hoodies and of course putting Della in our favorite bonnets. Olivia is at such a fun age where she is right by my side for all the activities and genuinely appreciating them as much as I do. I cherish the time spent with my girls and especially love watching as my first baby girl has grown to be my best little friend. We are looking forward to carving pumpkins, roasting the seeds, visiting the orchard about a dozen more times and bringing home cider licks to enjoy after dinner.

I always love reading about what other families look forward to most this time of year so I thought it would be fun to share our Fall Bucket List! 

Olivia loves crafts and art of all kinds so I am excited to do some special crafts with her as well as find some that I can include Poppy in, beyond just coloring with crayons. Every year we love going on walks and collecting leaves for art, you can see in the photo above her hand is full of them that she found at the orchard! Creating leaf families or collages using lots of different colored leaves is definitely on our list.

I also have always wanted to make homemade apple sauce (using this recipe), not just because it looks & sounds amazing, but because I can just imagine how incredible our house will smell all afternoon! A few other favorite Fall foods in our home are chili & cornbread, roasted acorn squash (topped with a little bit of sea salt & brown sugar) and hot apple cider, steeped on the stove in a big pot with lots of mulling spices. We host a small group in our home every other month and hot apple cider is always a hit for entertaining too.

When Olivia and I have some time at home just the two of us (usually during the afternoon when her sisters are sleeping), we go straight to the hammock in the backyard to snuggle up and either just relax or read together. I am looking forward to doing that with her as long as we can, with our coziest quilts and some pumpkin snacks.

Whether you keep it super simple or go all out for the season ahead, I think there is just something so magical about this time of year. Having little girls to share the season with just makes it that much sweeter. So thankful for our family and all the good things ahead!! What are you looking forward to most this Fall??


Tips for Better Photography / #TheMomBlogCollective Week 3

Happy September!! One of our favorite months of the year is here and we are beyond excited. We kicked off the month by celebrating our 5th anniversary on September 1st, spent the weekend at the state fair and apple orchard, and then I took Olivia on a special lunch date because she starts school next week. We ended our long weekend with chicken chili and a pajama walk around the neighborhood, came home to all the windows open and a cool Fall breeze rolling in. And of course finishing off the apple turnovers we picked up at the orchard yesterday morning.

If you've been following along for awhile you have probably seen the series I launched on my blog and instagram in the beginning of August called #TheMomBlogCollective, where each week I team up with a handful of my favorite mamas and we answer the questions we most often get related to blogging, instagram, motherhood & more. Today is the third post in our series and it's all about photos and editing. We'll be sharing our favorite tips and tricks for editing photos, our go-to apps and even how we get our kids to cooperate in front of the camera (read: bribery). You can find my first post here and the second post here.

So 99% of my photos on my blog & instagram are shot with my iPhone 7 plus. I have a DSLR but rarely reach for it, especially when my arms are already full with three kids. From time to time I do use my DSLR, but I am still learning how to shoot manually and how to edit the way I like. So to keep it super simple, I make sure my iphone is always near me when I am hoping for -- or trying to capture -- a special moment.

I think the two biggest keys to taking great photos are (1) having natural light and (2) the editing. Whenever I can shoot in natural light, I take advantage of that. In the Spring & Summertime and even in to Fall, that most often means being outdoors. When that isn't an option, say for instance if I am photographing a product in the middle of Winter, I make sure to shoot in the brightest & lightest places in our home, which is usually my kitchen. Having natural light minimizes the need for editing and makes your job as the photographer easier. I think of having natural light as someone else doing the work for you ;)

The second key is the editing. My favorite app for editing on my phone is VSCO, but I also like Afterlight. I almost always brighten my photos, add warmth and tweak the contrast and saturation.

Below is an example of a photo I took yesterday at the apple orchard of Adaline which showcases the original photo (1) and how I edited it to create the final photo (4). It was about 11am, I had lots of natural light and I positioned her underneath a tree where she would mostly be in the shade but some sunlight would be peeking through, one of my favorite things to capture in my photos when I am shooting top down. 

She is the happiest baby so getting her to smile was pretty easy (in between her trying to eat the leaves...) but when my girls aren't cooperating, I have a handful of go-to phrases and jokes that always make them laugh. Sometimes Dustin or I will tickle them or I'll just pretend I'm going to lunge at them to tickle them and that gets them smiling and laughing authentically and then I snap snap snap.

1. I start with the original photo.

2. I put a filter on it using VSCO -- I vary my filter depending on my subject and the overall feel I am going for. This is A4, which creates a very vintage look. 

3. Next I added warmth and a tiny bit of brightness; this is very subtle but something your eye may be able to pick up on. 

4. Finally, I modified contrast and saturation to create a brighter color and more vibrant feel, which is most noticeable in her bonnet and the yellow leaves around her.

Everything I have learned about photography, editing and capturing the simple everyday moments and turning them in to beautiful photographs is truly self-taught. I am not an expert by any means, and I really just learn as I go. Find an app you love, practice with different filters, play around with editing and over time you will find your style and what really pleases your eye. 

Of course, as Moms we often envision the "perfect" photograph of our children and rarely do they just sit all in a row and cooperate. If only it were that easy!! 

Olivia is almost 4.5 and is by far the easiest to photograph, because she basically stands, models for me and loves it. Poppy turns 2 this upcoming weekend and hardly ever stops moving, so she is the most challenging to photograph. Adaline is in the middle -- sometimes she will lay there still, but most of the time she wants to explore & discover everything around her, especially since she began crawling right before she turned 6 months old. 

I usually bribe Olivia and Penelope with snacks that are somewhat healthy but feel like a treat to them and that can be handed to them one at a time, so I'll say "Smile for a picture and I'll give you a treat!" then after they do, I give them one, and repeat. When we have sessions with Ashley, we do the same, and then they usually get to look forward to one special thing at the end of the night, such as icecream or a movie. Olivia is very motivated by these rewards and Poppy could go either way, sometimes she cooperates and other times she wants nothing to do with it. I know as she gets a little older it will get easier, because when Olivia was her age (18 months-2.5/3), she did the same thing and now she is incredibly willing to stand and smile for the camera. Running around is more fun than standing still for a two year old, so if you have a toddler who you find incredibly hard to capture, just keep trying and sooner or later it will get easier! And remember snacks are key ;)

I hope this gives you some insight in to how I capture and edit my photos and as always, if you have specific questions feel free to ask! You can also check out all the other posts today sharing about the same topic for lots of different tips and perspectives! Hope your week is off to a wonderful start!!


fall clothing favorites

I recently shared in a post here about how we keep the girls' clothing to a minimum and aim to have a  capsule wardrobe for all 3 of them. Olivia will be starting her second year of PreK this September and I wanted her to have a handful of Fall staples that I didn't have to spend much money on, but that were cute, comfortable and functional for playing inside & out. 

I love shopping small as much as possible, but I am not going to send Olivia to school in Alice + Ames dresses or Childhoods hoodies. Because the day I do will be the day she comes home covered in purple paint. And those are the pieces I want to last to pass down to her younger sisters. So I splurge on a few 'small shop' pieces each season and then typically buy 8-10 new neutral, layering pieces for Fall & Winter if she has outgrown what I purchased last year. I resell or donate 85% of her old clothing, especially if the season it will fit Penelope for is off, and then I start fresh with new pieces! All this to say, Old Navy & Gap had some goooooood selections this year and I love what I got her so much that I wish they came in my size!!
one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | nine | ten | eleven | twelve

 I love that I can mix & match the tops with the jeggings, black leggings (our fav here) or classic blue jeans. The cowl neck poncho {three} is so darling on and perfect to throw over some of the jersey scoop-neck long sleeve tees we love. I also got Olivia a pair of denim overalls that I'll pair with the long sleeve tees, I just loved how versatile and classic they were. 

Olivia wears 5T across almost all brands but also fits in XS in Girls clothing, so I had fun picking out some pieces for her from that section since I've never before shopped it. I especially love Old Navy's Athletic line, including this bright orchid one (her favorite color!) and this gray open-front jacket that is almost identical to a sweater I recently got from Athleta (here).

I picked up some super basic neutral sweatshirts {four, eight} which will be perfect for school and layering under vests. This one from the girls section with the sleeve stripes totally reminded me of old school hoodies I wore in high school. It's a longer length and so cute on, especially with skinny jeans.

A classic black top {two} is always nice to have on hand and it also comes in the prettiest cowboy blue, which we have this top in. 

Both the girls and toddler section has cute "Fit and Flare" dresses {one} that remind me of Alice + Ames but that I will actually send her to school in ;) I got the classic B&W striped one here and then this mustard one.

The only new bottoms I picked up this season were these olive leggings {eleven} which are easily one of my favorite pieces in her wardrobe and then these go-warm mini-stripe leggings. They look so cute on and they are her first "real" pair of athletic leggings. I plan to pair them with casual hoodies and her tennis shoes {twelve} for school.

I also picked up the ruffle-hem top in gray {five} for both Olivia and Penelope; it is so soft and reminds me of my favorite gray dresses that all 3 girls have worn from Gap since they were just a few months old. Perfect to pair with colorful leggings and tights! I grabbed this hat in ivory for Poppy since the one she had last Winter is way too small (but will soon fit Adaline!) and this jacket and this polka dot onesie {seven} for Della for Fall. I love keeping the girls' clothing as neutral as possible and the black onesie will look so cute with festive tights underneath or a cute pom bonnet!

What items are you loving this Fall?? I'd love to hear your top picks!! Have the best weekend!! We are off to celebrate our 5th anniversary tonight and enjoy some family time on Saturday & Sunday!!

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