The Orange Slate

| simpler is more |

A Morning at the Fort Worth Water Gardens.

October 25, 2017

Fort Worth Water Garden

Fort Worth Water Garden     Fort Worth Water Garden

Fort Worth Water Garden

Fort Worth Water Garden

When the deep heat of summer really hit, we became hard-pressed to convince ourselves to do anything but spend almost every afternoon at the pool. This made for grand summer memories, even though Mark was essentially immobile for quite a bit of it due to his car accident.

The hours in the water paid off – Miles can swim without any assistance or floatie support and Violet is comfortable and can at least lift her head out of the water when she face plants into an area deeper than 3 inches. 

Fort Worth Water Garden

Fort Worth Water Garden

The immobility this summer though meant that we didn’t spend as much time exploring new local spot as we would have liked. Now that the weather is cooler, the pool is closing, and Mark is more mobile, maybe weekends will hold more exploring. 

A few weeks ago though, in a completely unplanned turn of events, we were forced to spend what ended up being 7+ hours in Fort Worth waiting for some paperwork to process. As we scrambled to figure out how to keep two wiggly toddlers occupied for a bit before an attempt at car naps, the Fort Worth Water Gardens popped up in a Google search of the area. 

Fort Worth Water Garden

I was shocked to discover that we had been missing out on such a gem – Mark grew up in the area and had no idea it even existed. 

The Water Gardens consist of three water formations surrounded by slabs and steps that create this visual of mountains, forests, and deserts. Because the whole area is set below the street level, even though the park is located in the heart of downtown Fort Worth, it feels like you’ve magically fallen into some sort of alternative world. You can’t hear any traffic – just the sound of rushing water and the kind of silence that normally I’ve only experienced outside the city in nature. 

Fort Worth Water Garden

Fort Worth Water Garden

No swimming or wading is allowed, but Miles and Violet dashed around dipping hands and toes in. 

Miles and I hiked down the stone steps to the bottom of the Active Water display and soaked in the sight and sound of water pouring down all around us.

Fort Worth Water Garden

Fort Worth Water Garden

If I had a novel and a notebook instead of two busy toddlers, I would have spent more time at the Aerated Water display, but my two little guys quickly became bored with the fountains because they weren’t able to touch anything in this area.

Fort Worth Water Garden

Fort Worth Water Garden

We spent the most time in the Quiet Water area, which was enormous enough to give my little ones a sense of freedom while they wandered around touching the wet “canyon” walls and splashing their toes in the artificial streams. 

Fort Worth Water Garden

Fort Worth Water Garden

If you are in the DFW area and want a unique backdrop for engagement photos, family photos, or just a fun outing, I highly encourage you to check out this hidden gem!

Continue Reading


How I Painted My Boring Oak Kitchen Cabinets White.

August 22, 2017

How to paint oak cabinets white.

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate  


I recently painted the slightly dated, builder-grade oak cabinets in our kitchen white. This was by far the largest DIY project I’ve ever taken on and it was a ton of work but it was worth every single bit of effort.

Overall, the project took me around 50 hours. In my kitchen, I have 10 double-door cabinet “sets”, a singleton, and an island. (See? I’m so green – I don’t even know what those cabinet “sets” are called! If I can do this, you totally can.) 

This is not really a full set of DIY instructions for this project. There are SO many great posts at there that already provide detailed instructions for this project. Instead, I’ve just provided a brief overview of my process, my supplies, and some tips I garnered along the way. At the end, I’ve provided a list of posts that were invaluable to me and provide great tips and tutorials. 

If I did this project again and applied some of the lessons I learned along the way, I could definitely shave off 30% of the time.

Here are a couple of things you should know about my process and end result:

  • I did not remove my cabinet doors to paint, but painted everything in place.
  • I did not paint the inside of the cabinets. I did, however, paint the inside of the doors and drawer lips. 
  • I did not cover the inside of the cabinet doors with the same care that I painted the outside. I just wanted to make sure that when someone opened a cabinet, the color wasn’t dramatically different. If you look carefully, you can see some spots I could have covered more thoroughly. 
  • I did not sand everything by a long shot, but I did “spot sand”. If there was a particularly difficult piece of grime, wood that was splintering, or varnish that looked less worn (and thus less absorbent) than other spots, I would give it a quick sand. I did not sand thoroughly between coats but I did sand a bit more in between coats, especially if I had drip marks. 
  • Although I did not remove the doors, I did pull out drawers as I painted.  I just set the drawers on the counter (on painting paper). This made both the inside and outside of the drawers and the frame of the cabinet much easier to paint.
  • For corners and edges that were really difficult to reach with my large paintbrush (you’d be surprised how many of these I found in a pretty straightforward, vanilla kitchen!), I just used a tiny crafting sponge to press some paint into place. A tiny paintbrush would have worked equally well (better, probably!), in retrospect.
  • The representative at the Benjamin Moore store and all of the tutorials that I read emphasized “thin” coats. While this is true, I think I took this too literally. The paint I used was supposed to cover in 2 coats and it definitely took at least 3 for me (with a bit of patching afterwards). If my coats had been just slightly thicker, I think the end result would have been a bit smoother and I would have achieved it much faster. This is probably especially important to keep in mind for that curved decorative area on the front of the doors, where I really struggled with consistent coverage.
  • Since I didn’t paint everything all at once and because of the process I used to paint each door, I lost track a couple of times of which cabinet doors were in what stage. If I did this again, I would use sticky notes (maybe color-coded?) or a more methodical system.
  • I still have two false drawer fronts disconnected – the ridiculous snaps holding them into place both broke at the very beginning of the project. They are a HEWUUUUGE pain to reinstall and totally not worth the effort because THEY ARE FALSE DRAWER FRONTS. So I need to get some really fine screws and some caulk and patch it all up still. Can you find the picture that shows the holes in the cabinet?;-)
How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate
Halfway through – SUCH A DISASTER! But I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate
Real Life! The kitchen was SUCH a disaster during this project. Also, word to the wise: do NOT climb on top of the refrigerator without another adult around.

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate

How I chose my paint

I used a “bonding” primer (just Behr from Home Depot that I had in the garage) which is supposed to help with surfaces that are already finished and, most importantly, surfaces that haven’t been thoroughly sanded. I highly recommend using this rather than a regular primer if you don’t plan to sand completely. 

I used Benjamin Moore Advance paint which is specifically designed for cabinets. Regular wall paint in high-gloss would probably work, but I knew my painting project was going to be time-consuming and I wanted it to last. Forever, ideally. The paint was a pleasure to use – it was thick and applied easily and little ridges and bumps disappeared as the paint dried. It was also fast-drying. 

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate
The original “before” – closing day!
How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate
Oooooohhhh the oak!

How I chose the shade of white for my cabinets

I chose Benjamin Moore’s Cotton Balls white paint for my cabinets. Deciding on a white took me FOREVER. Maria Killam and Laurel Bern will never know it, but their posts were so so helpful. I scoured everything they had on choosing a color and white and light and learned all sorts of interesting things about colors and paint. 

I also plugged my paint color into Google images to see shots of rooms that used the paint. For instance, I typed in “Kitchen cabinets Cotton balls Benjamin Moore” and then just scrolled until I found a few images that showed me examples. 

Cotton Balls is, for me and this kitchen, the perfect perfect white. I’m so happy with it. The oh-so-popular Simply White was too cold for our house and our kitchen faces north so I felt like it was going to look green on me. And I wanted to avoid anything that looked even slightly beige-y. My house is already so beige/warm cream and I wanted to cool it down. Cotton Balls feels JUST WHITE, not grey or cream, but it seems like every-so-slightly warmer than some of the other whites I considered. Not yellow-er, just deeper. Or something.

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate
That top row is just primed. That’s what the in-between coats looked like!

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate
I spy missing false drawer fronts!


As I said, I didn’t paint everything at once. I started on the island, because I had no idea what I was doing. I figured that if I screwed up completely, the island could look different than the rest of the kitchen and it wouldn’t be a disaster. As time and paint that needed to be used up in my tray corresponded, I moved to the other sections. 

I’d suggest that you determine your painting sequence at the beginning and start at the smallest section. That way, you won’t get completely overwhelmed at the beginning. 

Cleaning – First, I cleaned every surface that was going to be painted thoroughly. These cabinets are 16 years old and, after cleaning them, I very much doubt they have ever really been scrubbed. Regardless, the kitchen is a pretty filthy place and cabinets don’t often get cleaned as frequently as they should. This step is the one on I was most diligent. You can re-sand and repaint, but none of the paint will adhere properly if the surface isn’t clean.

To clean, first I scrubbed with a bit of dish soap and warm water and a cloth and dried (avoid letting the moisture really soak in. Then I went back over the surface with a mixture of 1 part vinegar, 1 part water that I heated. (Simply microwave 1 cup water and 1 cup vinegar for 3 minutes.) I scrubbed with this mixture with the steel wool side of my sponge. This accomplished two things: 

  • The hot vinegar mixture REALLY tackled grime, dust build-up, gross sticky residue, and helped wear away a bit more of the varnish (thus providing a little bit of sanding effect).
  • The steel wool provided a bit more texturing of the surface. If I did it again, I would have used the steel wool for the soap cleaning step as well.

Ultimately, I painted with 1 coat of primer and 3 coats of cabinet paint. As I mentioned before, had my primer coat and my first two cabinet coats been more thorough, I think I could have saved myself an entire coat. PRIME THOROUGHLY. I allowed each coat to dry for at least 24 hours in between (although some coats sat there for much longer because of what my schedule allowed).

After a great deal of trial and error, here’s the basic painting sequence that I found most efficient for each coat of paint.

  1. I painted all of the edges that were hard to reach once the doors are open, especially paying attention to the outside side edges of the door on the hinge-side. (These becomes extremely hard to reach once the doors are open.)
  2. While those edges dried, I opened the doors and painted all of the frame. Most of these edges wouldn’t be reached well with a roller. This included flat edges on the hinge-side of each door, around the top and bottom corners, and normally the top lip as well. 
  3. Then I painted the inside, first covering the large flat areas with a roller and then edging whatever didn’t get full coverage with the brush.
  4. The outside of my cabinets has a little trough area – many builder-grade cabinets do. This is what I tackled next, with a brush. This area proved particularly difficult to cover thoroughly, fyi. Pay special attention to the thickness of your coverage here as well as drip marks.
  5. Then I painted the flat edges and the main panel of the outside of each door. 
  6. Of course, I didn’t forget to tackle the trip, the crown molding, the side panels, the bottom panels of the cabinets, and any remaining random edges.
  7. I allowed each complete coat to dry for 18-24 hours before adding another coat. I let cupboards and drawers sit open for 10-12 hours before shutting them.

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate


I switched back and forth between rollers and paintbrushes. I still can’t decide which was more effective. The roller coverage was much faster but it definitely left some weird little air pockets and the final texture wasn’t as smooth as the paintbrush coverage, but the drip marks were fewer. Play around with both and see which you like. In the end, here’s what I used:

  • Behr Bonding Primer from Home Depot
  • Benjamin Moore Advance Cabinet Paint in Cotton Ball White
  • Wooster paintbrushes (I was told that Wooster is actually preferable in some cases to Purdy and they are MUCH less expensive. I loved them.)
  • Dynamic roller brushes – I tried different kinds and naps. I ended up using one for the primer and first coats and a different one for the later coats. Try them out on the inside of the cabinet doors until you figure out what you like. 
  • Paint trays
  • Butcher block paper – I used paper drop cloths from Home Depot but this would work too.
  • I didn’t cover anything in plastic, but in the end, I sort of regretted not properly prepping. I still have little spray marks I’m scraping off from my counters and floors. Covering the counters and floors with this in advance would have been easy and saved me a lot of time (and would be totally necessary if you have dark floors or counters and don’t want a disaster). 
  • A little craft sponge.
  • Hardware – I found mine from Home Depot but I loved the selection on Wayfair as well.
  • A paint spout. 
  • Rags
  • Rubber gloves –  wore gloves for every step of the process. It will totally save your hands during the cleaning process and keep you from constantly having paint marks on your hands during the painting process.

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate

Other posts about painting cabinets white

  • I think this post by Dear Lillie was the one that really turned the tables for me. I thought “I can do this!”. She goes into great detail about two different approaches and how she repainted the cabinets in two different houses. (Also, I could just stare at her room re-dos all day anyway).
  • This post from Remodelaholic was one of three that basically sealed the deal for me. She does not remove the doors for painting and provided lots of specific instructions and tips. It’s worth noting that she used Benjamin Moore Advance paint that is specifically designed for cabinets, which is exactly what I used. 
  • Kate from HouseMixBlog provides the details about painting her bathroom cabinets here and her kitchen cabinets here. She does not remove the doors either, but does more a “cheat” paint job like I did. Her kitchen went from blah to sparkling white!
  • This post is also so helpful and her transformation is breathtaking. She uses the Benjamin Moore Advance paint as well. 
  • Made in a Day hired painters, but the transformation from oak to bright white is lovely. 
  • Jeanne Oliver writes about transforming her kitchen by painting her cabinets using Annie Sloan – I personally have so much peace of mind with the cabinet paint I chose. I feel like it will age well and I love knowing that, aside from cleaning, there is basically no maintenance. But if you’re into chalk paint, you’re into chalk paint. Regardless, her kitchen’s transformation is beautiful and there are some great tips.


Continue Reading


How I Plan Dinner for the Week.

August 17, 2017
Dinner Menu planning that works
Menu-planning is one of those elusive domestic tools that so many people swear by and that I never could really figure out. Last fall, though, something clicked.
I’m the primary planner and preparer of meals around here. In an ideal world, I love cooking and browsing through cookbooks and food magazines and plating and serving. In reality, with two little ones under 3 last fall, the late afternoon and early evening became a sort of nightmarish part of the day. For whatever reason, it was the most stressful, the most chaotic, the least pleasant. Anyone else? 
Easy Menu dinner planning  
 I began to realize that if I didn’t come up with a clear plan, dinner time was going to be stressful and chaotic and no fun ever again, or at least for another three years. Our grocery budget was out of control, we were wasting a lot of food, I was wasting a lot of time (see “wasting perfectly delicious food because we forgot it was in the fridge”), and nobody was having a good time.
Well, my toddler probably was. Possibly my 4-month-old who has loved to eat since she first saw daylight. But nobody else.
My meal-planning process, as most of my plans, began too elaborately and optimistically. The last year or so has seen serious edits to the process, but I can confidently say this: IT IS WORKING.
We still can’t figure out where exactly our grocery budget goes. But we now waste SO much less food. Dinner time is not UN-stressful, but it is far less stressful. Mostly, I never ever ever find myself wondering “What the heck should I make for dinner?” at 5:23 p.m. 
I never do this anymore because I already did it at a different time that week, one more filled with convenient brain-space and pretty food inspiration and a sense of the week’s flow and less full of the hangry stressful grumpings of harried adults and the frantic shrieks and sobs of the hungry heathen zombies that replace my cute children around 4:30.
Normally, menu-planning happens at naptime on Sunday afternoon these days – it used to happen on Tuesday evenings. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHEN IT HAPPENS. My menu-planning session normally takes a grand total of about 15 minutes MAX. It has taken as few as 5.
Easy Menu dinner planning 2
I am not planning a wedding or a fundraiser. I am planning 7 (and really, closer to 6 or 5) reasonably nutritious and not-completely-boring dinners for two adults and two tiny humans. My greatest pitfall in this process has been over-planning and over-thinking.
I sit down with one or two cookbooks (The Kinfolk Table is one of my favorites) and some food magazines, our schedule for the week, my computer, and my grocery/menu notebook. Also, I always make sure that I have a a good pen because there is nothing less inspiring than a terrible pen.
I always try to build in the following:
  • At least one meal that can serve two nights in some way. [link to recipe]
  • One night of eating out  or takeout (not necessarily fancy – just not me cooking or cleaning.)
  • Any groceries we already have. 
  • The assumption that at least one night we will be spending with another family or some friends – sometimes this includes an actual prepared meal that I have to plan for and sometimes this includes four adults throwing grapes at children and hoping it counts as dinner, so this might be accommodated in different ways.)
  • Only one new recipe.
  • A couple of meat-less meals like this hearty salad.
  • A few really familiar meals that I know I can prepare quickly while managing a multitude of distractions and serve without a lot of hassle or stress. 
My pile of cookbooks, my recent magazines, and my Pinterest board for “Food & Drink”  are my muses during this process. 
This sounds really complicated, but once I found my rhythm, it became pretty effortless and definitely fun. Here are my steps for planning out our meals:
Easy Menu dinner planning 3
  1. Write down all of the days of the week.
  2. Check the refrigerator and pantry so that you can build the menu around food you already have.
  3. Plan your grocery list as you go – so for each recipe/day/meal that you assign, check to see what you have and what you need and write it down immediately.
  4. Figure out the one big new meal or recipe that you plan to make.
  5. Decide which night makes the most sense for the most involved cooking.
  6. If the one big meal or recipe can serve two evenings, then make a note for the next night as well. If the one big meal can’t, then pick which two nights in a row it makes the most sense to have “grouped”.
  7. Decide which nights are “easy” dinners (normally for us, several of these are meatless or familiar routine recipes). 
  8. Fill in the remaining nights with familiar recipes. Mark one night as “eat out!” or “takeout!”. If we don’t eat out on exactly that night, then I just shuffle. The numbers matter – the exact night doesn’t, necessarily.  
Don’t get too caught up in the process. I’ve learned that as long as I make sure I have 4-5 meals planned for the week, my dinner woes tend to be solved. 
So here’s what a week might look like if I meal-plan on Sunday:
  • Monday: Some kind of marinade or spice rub on chicken and quinoa.
  • Tuesday: Quesadillas (using the leftover chicken from the night before) [This would qualify as an easy night]
  • Wednesday: Homemade pizza [Not meatless for us this week, but it could be]
  • Thursday: Mexican Quinoa [This is my EASIEST go-to one-pan meal. It’s also meatless.]
  • Thursday: This butternut squash and quinoa salad.
  • Friday: A frittata along with leftovers from night before. 
  • Saturday: Plans to eat out.
  • Sunday: Pasta with pesto, Parmesan cheese, veggies (whatever I can find to throw into a pan).
That’s it! In reality, I end up planning and making fewer meals than this every week – we’d probably eat the leftover pizza from Wednesday on Thursday. Also, depending on the season, Mark or I might have a recurring church commitment on one of the evenings which means that the other parent just throws fruit, nuts, and maybe some hummus and pita bread at the children and calls it dinner. 
If you plan a meal that doesn’t happen, make that meal the first meal for the next week’s plan. In the example above, Sunday night’s meal would be Monday night’s meal for the following week. This minimizes grocery waste and mental energy.
I order my groceries online based on this menu (another post about this coming soon!) and voila. All done. So much time and headache saved with just a tiny bit of planning.
What are your tips for getting dinner on the table with a little bit more celebration and a little less headache?
Curious about how simplicity and celebration can be part of your home? Send me an email or sign up for my newsletter by inserting your email into that box in the upper right corner. There are few things I love talking about more!

Continue Reading


My Simple System for Organized Email.

August 9, 2017

My Simple system for Organized Email Title

My Simple system for Organized Email

I have dealt with a lot of email over the past decade. In graduate school, we lived and died by email, both as students and TAs. Entire semesters of coursework would sit in my inbox for weeks at a time.

When I worked in a Congressional office, the staff would literally process and respond to thousands of emails every day collectively. My inbox would see hundreds of new emails a day, easily, most of which required a response. 

I get fewer emails today than in years past, but I still get far more emails a day than I care to read. As someone who works from home, I rely heavily on my email. Email is my primary method of contact with co-workers throughout the day. If my email is disorganized and too many messages sit in my inbox, I start to miss tasks and information and then a domino effect follows. 

No matter what you do – small business owner, stay-at-home parent, consultant, freelancer – you probably rely heavily on your email too. Or at least have insurance and the city utility company sending you notices that you shouldn’t miss.

I was in line the other day when the woman at the cash register next to me showed the cashier her inbox … I think she had something like 11,000 emails in there. None of us should be receiving (or staring at) this sheer amount of correspondence. 

A system is totally necessary for my peace of mind and effective work-flow, which overflows into my ability to be fully present with my kids and husband when I’ve checked out of work. I bet a system would help you be a little less stressed and a little more effective too.

So let’s talk about email for a second.

My Simple system for Organized Email 3

(I’ll credit my husband in part for this post. He’s been at Inbox Zero since…forever. Since he was in middle school, probably. He’s ridiculously organized when it comes to email. And even though none of the rest of us can actually achieve that, it’s hard to live with someone as organized as him without a few habits rubbing off. His system convinced me to get some control over my inbox several years ago, which in turn inspired this post.)

Whether you have 1000 emails in your inbox or 11k, it’s TOO MANY. Picture your inbox as a physical box. In your house. It should have – a few pieces of mail in it. Not thousands. 

Think of it this way: email is a system that provides you with information that you act upon. It’s not some elaborate lazy filing system (guilty! Haven’t we all treated our inboxes that way?)

First, I’ll give you my quick system for *keeping* my inbox under control. Then I’ll give you a few more quick pointers for getting yours in line.

My Simple system for Organized Email 4

  1. If my inbox has more than one page of emails, there are too many. Once there are too many, I block out time to process, delete, file, etc., until I’m back down to one page. Is zero emails realistic? Maybe not. But one page should be. My gmail has 50 emails on a page. There’s no reason I need more than 50 emails in a “current” state at any one time. If there are more than that, it just means I’m way behind and need to spend some time knocking out tasks.
  2. Someone (maybe Michael Hyatt?) once write that you should only touch an email one time. Although I don’t *always* abide by this rule (I’ll note the exception below), I try to do this for most of my emails. First of all, most of your email is junk. Do you really want to give your time and energy to junk email? I don’t.  Touching each (most) email once helps me save A TON of time. When an email comes in, I open it (or read the subject line).  If it takes less than 3 minutes to process, I do one of three things (exception below):
    • Delete immediately.
    • FILE (more details on this below).
    • Add to an active to-do list AND THEN DELETE. Just following those simple steps should help you immediately take back some control over your inbox.
  3. About that exception above. I’ve organized my email settings so that my work emails and personal all come to one inbox. Some people function better with several inboxes but I can only manage one with any sanity. Some of my work emails require more than one touch. Sometimes I’m waiting on a response or a status update or need another team member to respond before I can execute a step. Regardless, these, personal actual correspondence, and emails that take more than a few minutes to process are basically the only emails that are allowed to sit in my inbox (and really, if I followed step #4, that shouldn’t be happening much either) until a scheduled regular daily (or several times a week) time when I sit down and tackle them. NOTHING should sit in your inbox indefinitely.
  4. Remember Step #2 above, where I talked about filing? Make files for your archives. Some of mine are things like “Photos of the Kids that I need to print” or “Trip to Cancun.” I have individual files for various clients whose emails I need to still access. I also have a file where I dump all of my “read this when I get time or while I watch Netflix” (I highly highly recommend this kind of file – a “non-crucial but I’ll get to it eventually” pile. Then you can actually get to it eventually without constantly weeding through it.). Even for those random emails that you kind of want to read but don’t have time, but might later – HAVE A FILE.
  5. Remember Step #3 above? Never ever go through your email without your to-do list and your calendar. As you delete, write down tasks and appointments. Need to follow up on something, produce something, schedule something?  Most of us use our inbox as a sort of loose “to-get-to” list. Folks, this won’t work. If it doesn’t go onto the calendar or turn into an actual task to execute with a deadline, it’s not going to happen. If it’s not one of these and it doesn’t go into your “read later” file, then delete it. 

That’s it! That’s how I keep my email under control.

Ok. But what about those 11k emails in your inbox right now? How do you even start? 

My Simple system for Organized Email 2

  1. First, start with the new emails. Don’t tackle the old.
  2. Create 4 or 5 basic folders to begin – “Work,” “Friends,” etc. Once an email is on your to-do list or calendar, archive it in the correct folder or delete it. 
  3. Touch every email that comes in today ONCE. Get it on your to-do list and delete. When in doubt, unsubscribe. 
  4. Did I mention unsubscribe? All of those lists, ads, promotionals – unless you literally wake up excited to see that email in your inbox, unsubscribe.
  5. Do this with every NEW email that comes to your inbox this week. Then slowly start working your way backwards. 

Do you feel less overwhelmed yet? You should! If you are still experiencing email paralysis, there’s hope. I’m working on a list of 100 ways to escape email paralysis. As soon as it’s completed, I’ll send it your way – just provide your email here

Inspired and ready to simplify other areas in your life? Start with this collection of posts.

Continue Reading


A Late Summer Egg and Potato Salad

August 3, 2017

   Egg and Potato Salad Recipe

Egg and Potato Salad Recipe 2

The title of this post could be “It’s just too dang hot” or “Eating without Cooking: A Summer Campaign”

It’s HOT now. That’s 85-90 temperature range where we were hovering last month? Psh. For amateurs. Our heat index is hovering near 110 every day. It’s above 90 by 10:30 a.m. IT’S HOT, FOLKS.

Did I mention that our AC completely died at 10:00 a.m. a few weeks ago, on one of the hottest days yet, as Mark lay trapped on the couch with a broken ankle waiting for surgery and I stared at two toddlers, innocently waiting for me to serve their every need and entertain their every whim.

Now I know EXACTLY how the pioneers felt. All we needed was a bear scratching at the window to complete the picture.

Egg and Potato Salad Recipe 3

My point is, I feel like turning on the oven, at this point, is simply tempting fate. It’s just too hot. I don’t want to add extra heat, or touch anything hot, or eat anything hot (grill excepted). Also, did I mention that Mark has a broken ankle? He’s recovering from surgery nicely, but he’s supposed to keep all weight off of his foot which means that dinner time finds me – solo. Very solo. Not the eating part, just the cooking and cleaning part, which can be tricky.

SO. Bring on all of the Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds with pretty food that looks like it doesn’t require cooking and makes me feel cool and is easy to clean up. Bonus points for leftovers.

The Kinfolk cookbook and the July editions of Bon Appetit and Real Simple have been great resources for low-fuss, low-indoor-heat recipes over the past couple of weeks.

Also? BRING ON ALL OF THE SALADS. We are basically subsisting on protein-packed salads at this point. This one was a total winner. Healthy? Check. Easy? Check. Possible to re-create for leftovers without too much hassle? Check. Instagrammable? Check Check. Miles and Violet even ate bits of it (although hard-boiled eggs are not their favorites, but adding pesto has helped encourage them over this hump in the past. As has making something completely different, like a hot dog. #lazymomdontcare)

Here’s the only salad you may ever need again during these dog-day months. Dinner will be extra simple if this is eaten outside. 

  Egg and Potato Salad Recipe 1

Egg and Potato Salad Recipe 4


3 hard-boiled eggs

2 cups leafy greens (kale, at least by itself, is going to be too hefty. Mix in some spinach, arugula, butter lettuce – you get the picture).

1/2 lb little pretty potatoes (steakhouse will work)

Generous handful of cilantro

2 tbl chopped dill (ish)

3 stalks of chives

This dressing


Coarsely ground sea salt


Bring a pot of water to a boil. Boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes (depending on their size – mine were steakhouse and 20 worked well). Let the potatoes cool. (This is a good time to peel your hard-boiled eggs). Wash all of the produce and pat dry. Distribute the leafy greens between two plates. Slice the potatoes thinly in half, quarters, rounds, thirds – whatever makes sense visually for the size and shape of your potatoes and distribute over the greens. The point is to spread out the “potato-y-ness” and expose the texture inside.

Slice the peeled hard-boiled eggs and arrange over the potatoes.. Toss chives, cilantro, and dill generously over the plate. Add a small sprinkle of coarse sea salt (one or two quick twists of the grinder should do the trick) and a bit of pepper. 

The salads can chill like this for a bit if you’re not ready to eat. When you’re ready to eat, add the dressing – don’t be stingy. Enjoy!


Continue Reading


Children’s Clothing, A Fashion Documentary, and Some Suggestions for Ethical Shopping.

June 22, 2017

Ethical Kids Fashion     

 Dressing Children Ethically 7   Dressing Children ethically 10  Dressing Children Ethically 12

A few years ago, Mark and I watched a documentary on Netflix called The True Cost. We watch tons of documentaries and this one promised to be interesting, but we didn’t really watch it because of any specific interest in fashion – I honestly knew very little about the fashion industry beforehand. It’s not exaggeratng though to say that that 90 minutes forever changed the way I think about shopping.

Ethical shopping is one of those tricky areas. I know there is so much more to fair labor laws or ethical consumerism than simply slapping standards onto factories or widespread boycotts. Especially when dealing wth countries where laws and social norms (i.e. child labor) and infrastrcture and income is so vastly different than ours, there isn’t an easy solution to so many issues. It would be the height of arrogance to say I even knew what the solution or even really what the “problem” is.

All of that is to say I don’t think any of us are going to solve the fast fashion crisis (and it is a crisis) or international child labor injustices (which is a significant aspect of, but not the entirety of, the fast fashion ethical discussion) today or tomorrow or even in our lifetimes. 


Dressing Kids Ethically 2

Dressing Children Ethically 4

Dressing Children Ethically 3

Just because I can’t solve something neatly and slap a bow on it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a responsibility to be a better steward of the resources at my fingertips. I can’t pluck all of the children out of Bangladesh clothing factories and hand them private school educations, but I can make sure that I am spending my money thoughtfully, that I’m consuming in a way that models good stewardship for my children, that I am being consistent with our family’s values in the way that we consume and shop. 

Dressing Children Ethically 5

Dressing Children Ethically 6

In case you have been thinking about this issue as well, or in case you’ve never thought about it and are overwhelmed trying to find a starting place, here’s a very few ways I try to shop for clothing for our children a bit more thoughtfully.

  1. Buy LESS. Simply holding up a big yellow light on shopping for my children has given me enormous peace. I just try to curb the impulsive “oh my gooosssshhhh Violet would be so cute in that!”. Do I still buy impulsively on ocassion? Of course. But I try to avoid constantly acquiring new cute accessories ever time I walk through Target’s doors. I try to focus on the question of need rather than adorable (everything my babies wear looks adorable on them, so….;-) ). Do we need that right now? Do we have something similar or that will “work” equally well? Am I actually buying in season or for an event or weather that’s not really going to occur? It’s amazing what simple delay and a few occasional moments of passing over that impulsive urge to toss it in the cart will do for the budget. It also helps our home stay organized and uncluttered, so triple win!
  2. Buy clothes that will actally be worn a number of times. It may just be my little ones’ personalities, but they are incredibly resistant when it comes to clothes that are bulky or itchy or cumbersome or hindering. As in, screaming, whining, writhing, all-out-meltdowns from clothing that they dislike. And honestly, I could talk for a long time about the issues I have regarding putting our children in clothes that hinder their ability to just *play* freely and comfortably anyway. So when I’m shopping, I ask myself a few of these questions:
    1. How many times do I really think he/she will wear this?
    2. Can they play freely and comfortably in this?
    3. Can I let Violet or Miles just be themselves in those clothes or will I be ultra-picky about when this will be worn and stressed out about dirt and crumbs and wear when he/she is wearing it?No matter how cute an outfit is, if you’re child is uncomfortable in it, the numbers of times that he or she actually wears it is going to be limited. 
  3. Buy clothes that are high quality, that will wash well and last. Over time, I’ve learned which brands produce clothing that seems to last longer and wash/wear well. This relates to #1 – if clothes last longer and fade and wear slowly, the there’s less need to buy again.
  4. Buy items that can be mixed and matched easily and then be realistic about how many outfits a child needs. This is sort of like thinking in terms of capsule wardrobes for children. (If you’re interested in actual capsule wardrobes for children, Pinterest has some really helpful suggestions.) For instance, Miles had two pairs of overalls last summer that worked really well for him. He was comfortable in them and they matched every shirt he owned and he realistically wore them probably four times a week between the two pairs. We just rotated and washed. So if he’s wearing two pairs of pants four days a week, that only leaves a need for a few more outfits. This is something I’m still working on since quantity stacks up so much more quickly than I think it will, but I am trying to pair down the number of outfits we have in rotation because in reality, my children settle into the same clothing rut of 3-4 outfits that I tend towards as an adult. 15-20 outfits, most of which can be interchanged, is just silly, excessive, and means that some cloting never gets worn at all, especially at the age when children change sizes so quickly
  5. Discover some companies that engage in ethical production practices and turn to them often. I’ve compiled a list of companies I trust below to help you jumpstart the process. Is it practical to expect to know about the background, sourcing, and practices of every child’s clothing company? Not unless you have a lot more time than I do! But depending primarily on a few brands will help cut down your research time and ensure that your money is being spent on companies that you want to support.

Dressing Children Ethically 11

Dressing Children Ethically 9

Here’s a quick breakdown of brands that I trust and where I try to turn first when shopping for children’s clothing. 

  • Hannah Andersson – This company is at the top of my list. Their clothes are soft, comfortable, last better than almost anything else I’ve purchased. They also have demonstrated that they are thoughtful about their factories, sourcing, etc. The company has been around for a long time (my mom used to shop for us from their *catalogue* – remember those?) and their customer service is top-notch. They are based in Portland. Whenever I talk to someone about HA, the response is “They’re so expensive!” And if you just buy from the catalogue, they are. However, they consistently have great sales and their sales and clearance prices are absolutely competitve with other brands, especially if you do the initial work of checking sizes, planning ahead for seasons, etc. 
  • Burt’s Bees  – Cute soft clothes for babies and ethically sourced and produced. My only qualm about their clothing is that the colors and patterns seem a little boring after a while and for whatever reason, they don’t seem to wash or last quite as well as other brands. For babies that grow quickly though, their onesies and outfits are soft and perfect. The link leads to their Amazon pieces, although they have a real site also – the prices seem better on Amazon for some reason?? And who can argue with the free shipping, if you have Prime?
  • – American-based and American-made. Primary was founded by two moms who couldn’t find clothes without ridiculous logos or labels and were frustrated by the lack of choices regarding simple basic quality play-clothes. I love the colors of their clothes and have been thrilled with everything I’ve purchased here. They run sales freqently and with a markup only slightly higher than your average Target piece, there’s no way to lose. 
  • Boden – Boden has a children’s line that is beautiful. The clothes are a bit pricey and I prefer the girl’s line to the boy’s selections, but I’ve been really happy with everything we’ve purchased here. Their sales are not as frequent but if you keep an eye on them, they can be very fruitful. 
  • Carter’s – Carter’s is, unfortunately, NOT a company that has made a particularly big deal outof sourcing or fair labor practices. So I do purchase less from them (or their lines on Amazon, which is where the link leads) than I otherwise would. However, their clothing last through washing, drying, and my children’s rough-and-tumble play better than almost any other brand (Hanna Andersson excepted – and this is a close tie). So if you’re at a point where you are simply trying to minimize some consumption while maintaing a VERY reasonable children’s clothing budget, start here. Buy some cozy sweet basics and they will wear well for an entire season (or longer. My children have rarely actually *worn out* anything from Carter’s. They just outgrow it.)

I have codes for discounts at Hannah Andersson (20% off of your first purchase), Boden (20% off of your firstpurchase), and Primary (free pjs if you spend a minimum of $50!) that I will gladly share. Just enter your email into that box on the right and I’ll send all three codes over. 

Have you watched “The True Cost?” What did you think??

Dressing Children Ethically 8



Continue Reading

Friday Links

Random Links on a Monday.

June 19, 2017

outdoor play 3

The thing about working from home is that this actually translates to “I work from anywhere, anytime, day-or-night.” I’ve worked from countless vacations and away-for the weekends and other people’s “days off”. Then one day I realized I wasn’t sure I knew how to actually take several days in a row off. I was constantly checking in, no matter where I was or what I was doing.

kitchen decor flowers outdoor play    

I didn’t really know how to stop. Attempting to unplug from work gave me anxiety, fueled by the emails that I watched trickle in asking for this or that while I attempted to take time “away”.

So I’ve made it a goal to take some defined time completely away from work every few months, like a normal person with a normal job. My time away doesn’t necessarily perfectly correspond (or correspond at all) to our time vacationing or visiting family, depending on other factors, but no matter where I am, it has helped my state of mind SO much to just practice the fine art of checking out regularly. 

Today, I’m still in Michigan with my little guys but I’m also checking back in to my work email. I don’t ever want to take for granted how blessed I am to be able to have created this kind of schedule and possibility – that I get to be the one to feed my babies breakfast and snuggle them early in the morning and get them ready for their day while still maintaining some semblance of a career built on things that I can do well and enjoy fit around the things our family’s schedule demands and needs.

outdoor play 2
(Fun Fact: We took some of our wedding shots on this rock 4 years ago!)

links 6

All that is to say, while I had time away from work, I had a chance to catch up on lots of random bits and pieces. Whenever I’m reading or scrolling or researching or “researching”, I snag screenshots or links and throw them onto my desktop. Eventually I file these in my Evernote notebooks or pin them or whatever. I finally had a chance to do this yesterday and this post is basically a conglomeration of a bunch of cool totally unrelated things that have been sitting on my desktop, combined with a bunch of random adorable pictures of Miles and Violet playing at my parents’ home. 

granola homemad

outdoor play farm


This laundry room! It’s a big space but I think something similar could be done to a smaller room? (via The Home Edit Pinterest board)

This book on creativity is on my list as is Daily Rituals. I just finished Shauna Niequist’s Present over Perfect and it basically wrecked me. Like this quote: 

“I want the stuff in my life to be light, easily managed, simple, so thtat the best of my energy is free for people, dreams, creativity; so that we can make memories around the table, eating meals on those white plates; so that I can run after my kids in one of a half-dozen striped shirts;  . . . How we live matters nad what you choose to own will shape your life, whether you choose to admit it or not. Let’s live lightly, freely, courageously, surrounded only by what brings joy, simplicity, and beauty.”


On the fiction front…I’m struggling. I feel like I’m getting my fiction fix mainly from tales like King Jack and the Dragon (which, by the way, I’ve accidentally memorized. So I’ll find myself doing the laundry or making beds or something and all of a sudden, I’m chanting “Jack, Zak and Caper were making a den . . . .”) Love the book. DON’T love having it emblazoned in my brain. 

outdoor play farm 2

On a side note, I’ve finally committed to using my Kindle app on my phone more consistently for reading and I’m reading quite a bit more. It’s a tiny screen and kind of a pain, but I’m not comitted enough to e-reading to purchase something bigger yet and it helps me make the most of those random minutes. I don’t love being on my phone to read because I feel like it’s a bad example or something to my little guys, but I’ll figure that out later. For now, I’m reading actual books at a pretty fast clip again and it’s magic.

I’m trying to figure out ways to turn our very suburban square four-fence backyard into something that looks like this. Too optimistic that it could happen in the next 8 weeks?;-)

Now that I’m almost finished with the kitchen cabinets, I’m gathering ideas to make our super-boring hallway a room that I like more (can you like a hallway?). This hallway is so casual and cute. (via House Mix Blog) 

I made granola last week with this recipe, but I used melted butter instead of coconut oil. It was perfect – light, crunchy, flaky. I may never buy cereal again. 

I love love love her travel photography of her children. 

Continue Reading


26 Tips for Flying with Toddlers and Babies.

June 15, 2017

Toddler Travel Tips       


Flying witha toddler - 7


Flying with a toddler - 8 


My 2 and 1-year old have flown quite a bit already. At last count, Miles, who will be 3 soon, has been on 28 flights while Violet has been on 13. Most of them have been domestic flights and none of them have been overseas. But we definitely have had time and practice for establishing a system and “best practices” for our time in airports. 


Our last flight was maybe the first time I’ve flown with one or both of our little ones and felt like “Hey, we’ve got this!” Mark and the rest of us flew out on separate flights, but went to the airport together and were able to spend our pre-airport time in one of DFW’s airport lounges which made the whole trip a lot more exciting and fun (even for the grownups;-))  . I am that crazy mom that never lets my kids touch the toys in the waiting area or the play area of the restaurant or whatever, but in line with my philosophy about normal household rules being suspended during air travel, I let Miles and Violet play in the kids area of the lounge and they went to town on the fun toys and cushions. 


I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything about traveling with little guys, but I feel like we do it constantly, so here’s a random collboration of some of my best tips. I’ve also written about flying with infants here and here before, but flying with two toddlers (mostly as a solo parent), is a different ball-game, so it probably merits its own list.


I’d love to hear from you – what did I miss in this list? What is your best tip for flying (especially solo!) with little guys? 


Flying with a toddler - 4

Flying with a toddler-9




1. When traveling, I read somewhere once that the easiest way to deal with schedules and naps when traveling is to stick to a regular schedule as closely as possible and to use the time-zone of the destination.

2. So if we’re flying during naptime, I plan for naps on the plane. It’s a great way to kill time. The caveat is that my babies have always been pretty reasonable about falling asleep on the plane if it’s near naptime or bedtime. If your toddler or baby will not nap on an airplane, then fly early enough to make naptime irrelevant or fly late enough so that they can nap before-hand.

3. Once we land, we use that time zone. So if we fly from Dallas to California and it’s two hours early, bedtime is still as close to 8:00 as I can push it (even though the little guys will feel like it is 10:00). There is obviously always some flexibility here but it helps to have the new time zone as a goal-post and kids normally adjust to a new time zone very quickly. Adding an extra meal or a snack into the day sometimes helps get us to a bedtime that’s later than it should be.

We have never been one of those families that buys the seat for the infant. If you are, you’ll want to bring your car-seat on board instead of your stroller (see below). All of the advice below is applicable mostly if you have an infant-in-lap or an infant-in-lap and a toddler in a seat.


Flying with a toddler - 1



4. Most airlines will let you carry a dedicated bag for each child for free, plus your personal bag and/or carry-on. My advice? Don’t. Unless you have one adult whose entire purpose is that of a sherpa. The last thing you need when flying with little ones is a ton of stuff to juggle. I normally carry one generously sized personal bag and put everything we need for the flight (AND ONLY THE FLIGHT) in it. Sometimes I tuck a small purse inside so that I can more easily access my wallet and personal things, sometimes not.

Less is more. Unless you are going to be on a looooong flight, be brutally realistic about how much stuff you need in that one bag

5. Essentially, DO carry:

Enough bottles, formula, milk etc. for the actual flight time as well as the pre-boarding and luggage-waiting (and post-airport drive if that’s long).

  • A couple of diapers and wipes
  • An extra onesie or small outfit, because they day you don’t will be the day you have a disaster during take-off. Also, if you have plans immediately after landing, you can easily change their clothes and shed the airplane yuckies without digging into your luggage.
  • A FEW familiar toys for the flight. Wooden bead necklaces, small board books that can be cleaned later, and our Viking vehicles are always a big hit, as well as any naptime toys or blankets that are the norm (if you want the kiddos to nap)
  • Small snacks. It’s easy to go over-board here. Snacks are essential but small kids eat small portions. Bring food that isn’t sticky or ultra-messy. Goldfish, cheerios, pretzles, dried fruit, etc. Double points if they can hold it while they eat.
  • Anti-bacterial wipes. I love these.
  • Empty water containers to fill after security for the little guys. We have these toddler-size Contigo jugs for water. They never leak and even Violet, who refuses to use a straw, likes to use hers.
  • A water bottle for the parent or parents. 
  • A phone charger.
  • Your phone.
  • Headphones if your kiddo will wear them. 
  • A trashbag (see below)
  • An empty ziplock to store anything particularly soiled
  • A nursing cover, blanket, or sarong for nursing babies.

6. DO NOT carry:

  • An absurd number of diapers that you will never use. The likelihood is that you will not be stuck in the airport for 3 days. If you are, airport shops carry diapers. Plan accordingly.
  • Tons and tons and tons of extras. The frustration of sorting through too much stuff will always outweigh the convenience of that one tiny thing that you brought just in case and actually used that one time.
  • Toys that make noise.

7. The one thing I do always pack is a trashbag, because who wants to use those airport changing pads? This probably makes me the weirdest parent in the world but ohhh my gosh never. I find a dark empty airport corner, lay out a trashbag, lay the changing pad on top of it, and voila. Diaper changing station. When we’re done, I just flip the trashbag inside out so that it’s ready for another emergency change if one arises.

8.We normally check our carseats with our luggage. Is this remotely risky, since the airline could lose them? Sure, but they could lose them at the gat too. If we were traveling overseas, we might not do this, but for domestic flights, it has never been a problem. If the toddler (Miles is) is big enough to require a purchased seat, I just let him sit in the seat, buckled, without a carseat. If your children are the kind that will happily sit in those little stroller wheely things and you can check your stroller, or you definitely want your toddler in a car-seat, great. I always prefer to fly with my ultra-light, collapsible stroller.


9. This is where the magical carseat bags come in handy. I love ’em. I’ve tried a few different brands, but these bags are cheap, durable, and great. Use them a few times and then replace them. I love arriving, knowing that I’m puting my kids in clean {to them} carseats, rather than seats that have been touched by who-knows-who and placed who-knows-where. Yeck. If you are concerned about your carseat getting tossed around, just attach some packing material to it inside the bag to cushion any falls.

10. TSA will let you carry bottles through security. They get a little annoyed once you start hauling jugs of milk for toddlers through, but if you have a baby and a toddler, you can normally pull off an extra cup of milk (I like to bring my own along because it’s hard to find whole milk in the airport EXCEPT at Starbucks, which always carries it). However, if you pack things in small amounts, they won’t even make you open the bottles. For two toddlers, I normally take two empty water bottles/cups to be filled after security and two milk cups, which TSA check’s with their little magic wand things.

11. I also never travel with my computer in my carry-on these days. 1. It’s a completely useless appendage on the plane with two little ones and 2. It’s another thing to pull out during security. We don’t own an iPad (yet?), so the only electronic I have with us is my iPhone.


Flying with a toddler - 2


Flying with a toddler -5



12. Go through the Global Entry process and get TSA pre-check approved. Children under 12 can fly with parents or guardians that are TSA pre-check approved

13. Make SURE that the gate agent places your pre-check approval on your boarding pass, “infant on lap” on your boarding pass if you’re flying with a child sharing a seat, and “pre-check” on the boarding passes of any other children under 13. We’ve experienced several variations of mistakes made on this front. One of them resulted in me waiting in line at security with a toddler and a six-week-old, discovering that my infant wasn’t on my boarding pass at all, and returning to the front desk after waiting for 20 minutes in a security line. NOT FUN.

But once you are TSA pre-check approved, security becomes SO much easier with little guys. You just literally walk on through. They check the liquids and the stroller. Bam. All done. 


14. Buy a light stroller. We like to keep our baby equipment pretty minimal, so our main stroller is this double Zoe, which is light and easily folded and unfolded with one hand. It makes flying with two minis a cinch. If you normally use a heavier stroller, make sure you travel with one that is light. Several of the airlines have changed their stroller regulartions and will only let you take light small strollers to the gate. On our first flight with Violet, American Airlines had just changed their rules and took our stroller, leaving us to carry both kiddos through DFW.




15. If you have a toddler that can walk, use the time right before boarding to let him run, jump, spring, whatever. Burn some energy. 

16. I normally change baby diapers immediately before boarding so that I can avoid an in-flight change if at all possible.

17. I also normally do a quick assessment of my bag at this point to make sure the things I need at the beginning of the flight haven’t shifted into the dark depths of my bag.


18.If you have a baby, board with him or her in a carrier or wrap so that your hands are free for your toddler, stroller, bag, whatever. Our Ergo has been ridiculously valuable for this – I have used it for boarding past 1 year with both Miles and Violet. I put Violet on my back for the first time during this last trip and she loved it. If your kiddo will sit contentedly on your back, even better.


19.Miles normally sits in the stroller until the end of that boarding passageway. He has flown a ton and is super accustomed to boarding and all of that, but if you have a toddler that tends to run, this is where it’s a good idea to maybe hand him off to the flight attendants while you fold up the stroller. Either way, fellow passengers are normally enormously understanding and helpful for those occassions when I’ve needed an extra hand.


20.Once we get to our seats, OCD parent that I am, I whip out an anti-bacterial wipe and wipe down the backs of the seats, the armrests, the window (BECAUSE THEY WILL LICK THE WINDOW) and the trays. Am I weird? Oh yes. But it gives me a slight peace of mind on the flight to know that I at least tried to clean off the millions of creepy airplane germs as Violet frantically tries to eat the armrest.


Flying with a toddler -3




21.The airlines won’t let you keep an Ergo or any kind of carrier with a clip or buckle attached during take-off. When I’ve had little babies, this has been an issue because sometimes they’re asleep and WHY WOULD YOU WAKE UP A SLEEPING BABY AT THE BEGINNING OF A FLIGHT? If this happens, just unlatch the latch behind your neck. Your baby will think he or she is still cozy and secure and the attendants can’t argue with this.


22.The beginning of the flight is the best time to nurse or give your baby a bottle if it coincides with their normal schedule. It will alleviate any ear pressure during take-off and mine normally fall asleep which is a double win.


23. Now that Violet is older and only nursing during a couple specific times of day, our system is a little different. Miles gets headphones (wireless – how cool is my 2-year-old) and my iPhone once we take off. He snuggles up with his paci and stuffed elephant and tends to be perfectly content that way for at least an hour. This is what happens when you starve your children of technology during normal days.;-)


24. Unless it’s time for her mid-day nap, in which case she’ll nurse and fall asleep, Violet is pretty content to play on my lap, read a book with me, sing, snack, whatever. She’s 14 months though and this is honestly THE WORST age for flying. When they don’t have their own seat, they want to crawl and climb, and they can’t move. It’s torture for everyone involved. Just keep them occupied and entertained. Snacks always help. At this age, a bottle or paci during take-off will still help with ear pressure.

25. If you can take advantage of airport lounges, do so. Depending on the individual airport USO policies, military families can often access the USO even when not flying with a military spouse. Check the benefits list on your credit card. You may be able to access one of the other airport lounges. The extra space to let little ones burn off some pre-boarding energy, the slightly-more-private space – totally worth it with kids.

26. Make flying fun! Bring snacks and juice treats that aren’t usually allowed. Break the household electronics rules. Sing. Play silly games. Chances are that your little ones will love flying. It’s a huge adventure for them. They love the activity, the vehicles, the novelty. Miles talked about our last flight every day for two weeks before we boarded. Just relax. Flying with kids can be stressful and it is definitely a lot of work, but with a little preparation (and a lowering of all germaphobe standards, Hi Self), it can be just another memorable experience you and your little ones get to enjoy together. 

 Hungry for some more ideas? Hailey writes a lot about their family’s current travel project and this post about a day in Paris with a toddler is full of great general trips for traveling with toddlers while Ashley Ann’s posts about traveling with her kids are just incredible, period. 

Flying with a toddler - 6

Continue Reading


The Only Frittata Receipe You May Ever Need.

June 6, 2017



Breakfast has always been taken seriously in our home. We have always used slow mornings to make a big breakfast or to saunter over to one of our favorite breakfast spots. Because of this spring’s weird work schedules  (and mostly because of Mark’s travel schedule), big breakfasts and slow mornings on Friday have recently become a dependable, comforting routine around here. 

Normally I will mix up some waffles (with Miles’ eager assistance). We’ll add fruit and yogurt and pour-over coffee and then we’ll bask in the coziness of our almost-weekend, almost-another-week-in-the-books morning before the day begins to roll. Mark and I will linger over the table and sip our coffee. Miles and Violet will wreak havoc in the living room, wandering back occassionally for another bite of something. 




This past Friday, I added a frittata to the spread. The frittata was perfect. Other things that morning? Not so much. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I burned my hand in an idiotic move trying to style the table for a shot before we sliced in it. Next, the syrup bottle shattered in the microwave. 

Meanwhile, we’ve been painting our kitchen cabinets and so our kitchen around the styled Instagram shots actually looks like a construction zone, with every cabinet at a different stage of priming or painting. 

BUT. After attending to the burn and cleaning up the glass, we sat down to THE MOST DELICIOUS FRITTATA. Seriously, add this one to your arsenal. The salami adds just the right touch of salty crunch to it and the potatoes edge it just a little closer to a satisfying hash. 



The Only Frittata Recipe You’ll Ever Need


4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 a red onion, chopped finely

1 cup frozen chopped potatoes

3 tbs. olive oil (I normally use this kind)

7 eggs

1/2 whole milk

1/2 grated parmesan cheese + a bit of reserve to sprinkle on top.

1 tsp. pepper

5-7 slices of hard salami, chopped

1 tbs. oregano (I use fresh, but 1 tsp. dried can substitute)



Heat up the olive oil in a large oven-proof saucepan . Make sure the pan is coated thoroughly. Add the onions, garlic, and frozen potatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 400. Saute until the potatoes are browning and the onions are transparent.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs, milk, 1/2 of cheese, and pepper together. Add the chopped salami and oregano to the pan. Allow it to saute for 1-2 more minutes.

Add the eggs, stir the mixture gently, and let it cook on medium heat until the eggs begin to set at the eggs. Sprinkle the remaining reserved cheese on top and move the pan to the oven.

Cook for 11-13 minutesin the pre-heated oven or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. After removing the frittata from the oven, allow it to sit for 3-4 minutes before serving. 



Potato-Onion Frittata (via Martha Stewart)

This Vegetable Frittata (via Bona Vita)

Greens, Eggs, and Ham Frittata (via this issue of BHG)



Continue Reading


Balloons and Pom-Poms.

April 26, 2017

If you are not the kind of person who likes cupcakes, baloons with confetti INSIDE, the happy spring colors of green and pink, adorable babies, and snap-happy mothers, skip to the next post. You’ll want to skip this one. 

In the randomest of trivia, both of my children’s birthdays fall on holidays in 2017. Violet’s first birthday fell on Easter and during a trip to Michigan so we celebrated with the sweetest family-and-friends-like-family party the day before Easter, on a day that magically turned into a freakishly sunny, warm day.  (leading to a birthday present in the form of a first sunburn, no less). 

Spring baby birthday_1








I love first birthdays (and baby birthdays) around here for many reaons. Probably part of this has to do with the fact that we tend to invite very few actual other children (part of this has evolved naturally from the timing of my children’s birthdays, which have historically made it hard to track down available little friends) and instead, we turn it into a fun mostly-adult party – win all around. 

Miles’ birthdays, which he shares with America, have always been so fun to plan and decorate for, but there is just something about a spring birthday for a baby girl. I may have gone a litte overboard shoppig Amazon’s party section, but the result was just as dreamy and blossom-y as I could have hoped.







My mom had these little cup-cake topper ladies tucked away for an appropriately festive occassion and what is possibly more fairy-like than a little girl’s flower party? I tried a new cupcake recipe and my mom applied her frosting magic.

I don’t love the present-opening scene at childrens’ parties and we are attempting to only bring toys into our home very intentionally, so we requested that guests just bring their merry selves (a request with which people mostly happily complied). My parents gave her a special gift, her very first real doll; Mark’s parents sent flowers; Mark and I and a few family members had a few special little gifts for her that we gave her at different times during the week, but it was honestly so relieving to not add frantic present-shopping and wrapping to my to-do list and to be able to focus on the event and the food and the people.



(Probably important to note that I was just snapping pictures of people mingling on the deck and Violet spontaneously began practicing her princess wave. It was equal part hilarious and concerning.)



My poor children. We’re totally doing this for all of the rest of the birthday parties forever. 

Violet, who hates all headbands and hats, refused to cooperate and wear her pink polka-dot party hat. 





Miles and Violet look they are plotting an escape here. “Just keep smiling, girl. We’ll sneak out the back door in about 14 second here when they blink.”


I’ve listed most of the sources and/or similar items below in case you want some party inspiration to show up at your door. Bonus tip: if you want to keep a baby or toddler occupied for hours, just order a few of those fluffy pom poms and toss them around. Need a birthday present? Show up bearing a dozen. You’ll be the favorite parent at the party. Violet would have been perfectly content to chase them all day.



*Balloons with confetti (similar)

*Streamers (similar)

*Party hats





Continue Reading