Life

An Apartment Patio Garden.

April 13, 2015

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When we moved south and into our current apartment, I was particularly excited about trying a potted garden. I’ve tried to grow the occasional potted herb, with varying and unexciting success.

When we lived in our last house in D.C., we planted a few ground plants, but I kept my potted herbs inside on the windowsill (where they didn’t flourish in the least) because, although we had a small yard and porch, we lived in a very urban area with a lot of foot-traffic at all hours of the day and night. The idea of eating herbs that had been exposed to our street always made me a little nervous.

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Patio Garden |The Orange Slate2

This year, I was excited to give gardening a real effort and eat the fruits of my labors. We have a narrow catwalk  and I knew that growing anything in the space would require a little bit of space strategy.

It warms up early in Texas and so a weekend afternoon in March found me in the garden department of Home Depot. After a lot of brainstorming and help from Pinterest, and arranging plants in pots and then rearranging (and with a lot of help from Miles) I ended up planting two flower-pots and three herbs. They fill all of the extra corners on our catwalk, but there is still room for a bench and so now we have a mini patio area.

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Patio Garden | The Orange Slate4

Even though garden is tiny, we’re already using the herbs (basil, rosemary, and oregano) in our meals on an almost daily basis, which makes me way too excited.

The flowers (impatiens, mums, and a Gerbera daisy) seem to be doing great*. Our catwalk has a nice full view of the sun for about 1/3 of the day and nice shade for 2/3, so I think I just lucked out with an ideal location (although sometimes the impatiens seem to get a little wilty in the afternoon if I don’t remember to scoot them back into the shade), but I’ll credit my black-thumb-turning green, my obsessive hovering, and the “magic soil” that the Home Depot staff convinced me to buy.

Here’s to gardens and eating what we plant! Tell me about your gardens. Do you have space for a big garden or do you have a patio garden? What do you like to plant?

*Some of these photos were taken on the day I planted and some were taken a few weeks later.

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10 Favorite Baby Registry Items: The 3-6 Month Edition

March 24, 2015

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Chances are that, if you are preparing for a new family member, you are registering for (and receiving) baby clothes, toys, and equipment that will see your baby past early infancy (0-3ish months) and into older babyhood and even the early toddler days.

The gifts of clothing that carried Miles through the 3 month and even 6 month marks was such a blessing. It was just nice to know that I had a foundation of clothing that would fit him as he grew so that I didn’t have to add “Go buy an entire infant wardrobe” to my list as soon as he outgrew that “NB” size.

There were other items, too, that I wished I had registered for, simply because it would have saved me a frantic Google-research induced trip to Target.

So here are a few suggestions for registry items that will carry you well beyond those initial infant days. (It’s important to note that we live in a very small apartment and this list reflects our need for items that maximize space and function. For instance, we still don’t own a highchair. That might be a helpful addition for an older baby that lives in a house with more storage options, but we simply do not have the floorspace.)

1. Bumbo Seat.

The Bumbo chair was a lifesaver during that awkward time while Miles wanted to sit and got bored lying on the floor (and hated tummy-time) but couldn’t sit without help. It gets Baby up off of his back and helps him get a new view. Miles outgrew his seat for a while (hashtag baby rolls), but miraculously just started fitting in it again and so now, we have the added bonus of using the Bumbo seat as a high-chair.

(Note: The Bumbo seat, like any baby toy, is not meant to be used unsupervised or beyond a point where your baby feels comfortable and happy. Your baby should never be left in it for long periods of time and you should always check with your pediatrician if you have questions about your child’s safety or readiness for a particular item.)

2. Camera.

I was so grateful for our great camera (similar to this one) and my mom’s larger, fancier Nikon during Miles’ first few days. We have countless pictures from the collective iPhones, but I treasure the early beautiful shots taken of him on real cameras. This is especially important if you are not doing a formal shoot with a professional photographer, since you still will want photos with a resolution high enough to allow you to print larger sizes later.

3. Fisher Price Space Saver Swing and Seat.

Many people use these for their very young infants, but Miles didn’t like his swing until he was a little older. He was an inconsistent napper and, at a few months of age, would often only sleep in the Ergo or in my arms. On troublesome-nap days when he was discontent lying on the floor, the swing freed me to get a little work or housework done with him happily swinging at my feet.

There was nothing terribly unique about the swing we got. There are super fancy ones available, but we were more interested in finding (again) something small and easy to store. (And I couldn’t justify spending $300 on a baby swing….)

5. Board Books.

Early on, there were only two books that captivated Miles at all. One was a collection of high-contrast pictures for infants, and one was his (still absolute favorite) Farm book. At a few months of age, Miles started to pay a little bit more attention to books. He continued to love grabbing at the pages, which made board books ideal, but also liked to cuddle with us while we read to him. (Now he’s old enough to know when he likes something and demands reading time, but that’s another post.)

So here are a few of my favorite classic board books for babies to start their library:

6. Porta-crib.

This is pretty dependent on a given family’s lifestyle, but we travel a lot. The first bed Miles slept in was a porta-crib. My mom and I each have a version of the original Graco Pack ‘n Play. They are easy to set up, easy to pull down, light, and a  breeze to store. A friend also let me use her BABYBJORN Travel Crib when I was in DC recently with Miles and I loved it.

7. Diaper Bag.

I always swore I’d never be “that mom,” that I’d somehow trek around without a diaper bag. Oh, Naivety, thy name is Emily. Mercifully, we were given a beautiful monogrammed diaper bag for Miles that I now adore (although I can see outgrowing it at some point, since it’s a little on the small size). If I did the whole thing over again, I’d look for something gorgeous like this JJ Cole Satchel Diaper Bag.

8. Play blanket.

Swaddling and receiving blankets are wonderful and soft and washable and everything good, but eventually, an older baby will need something larger and more durable for actually playing on the floor, like this Muslin Blanket.

9. Simple toys.

An older baby in the 3-6 month range doesn’t need a huge arsenal of toys, but definitely will enjoy a few simple sturdy (chewable!) toys. Miles’ favorites included his stuffed cat, his bright squeezable ball, his elephant lovey (for bedtime), the plush textured animals that came with his gym, and his colored rings. Here’s a quick helpful list of a few toys that would be great for any baby’s collection:

10. A baby scrapbook album.

I am so excited to continue working on Miles’ scrapbook, but I sort of wish I had set up a plan before he was born so that it would be easier and less time-consuming to maintain right now. The Project Life Photo Pocket Pages system is perfect for busy new moms and I’m using it for Miles for now, but a digital book or a journaling system will all be equally special. Figure out what memory-keeping method works best for your family – preserved memories of your baby’s early days will be such a treasure later.

That’s my .02! What am I missing? What “essential” item did you buy that you never ended up using for your baby?

Shopping for an infant? My original baby registry list is here.

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10 Favorite Infant Items to Include on your Baby Registry.

February 19, 2015

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Registering for a new baby is such an exciting process, but at the same time, it can be so overwhelming. The options, reviews, blog posts, and even the advice just flood in. Especially as a first-time mom, it’s impossible to know what to expect and it’s hard to gauge exactly what your baby, your lifestyle, and your new family are going to need.

I remember feeling so blessed and loved through the showers, gifts, and advice of our friends and family during my pregnancy, but my eyes glazed over during the registering process. It was exhausting. Now I’m so excited to be on the other side of the equation as some of my dear friends are preparing for their additions.

Disclaimer: we live in a tiny apartment and I knew that space was gong to be at a minimum when I was registering. This list reflects a need to maximize space and function.

1. Fisher-Price Rock n’ Play Sleeper.

This item literally saved our lives and our sanity. When Miles was three weeks old and we had just moved into our new apartment, he refused to sleep on a flat surface. We took turns holding him every hour of the night for two nights in a row. I almost had a nervous breakdown. How was it possible that our baby literally wouldn’t go to sleep??

The next day, we marched over to Target ready to pay any amount of money for products that would promise to put our little alert baby to sleep. But the Rock-and-Play saved the day without a huge investment*. Bonus, it’s also tiny and easily portable. It fit nicely next to our bed and we started carrying it with us on overnight car trips.

Note: I called our pediatrician to make sure that it was ok for Miles to sleep all night in the Rock-and-Play. Because it keeps the baby’s head at an angle, it could potentially be a poor sleeping choice for a brand new infant that can’t lift his or her own head. Always check with your pediatrician about your baby’s sleeping arrangements.

2. Graco Snug-Ride Click-Connect 35 strollercar-seat and base.

This was not the most expensive choice, nor the most beautiful, nor the longest-lasting on the market, I’m sure. But we absolutely love our Click-Connect set. We used it countless times and still use it on a daily basis. The stroller is light enough for me to easily lift in and out of the car and over steps. The snap-system means that I don’t have to wake Miles up to move him from his carseat when he’s sleeping. (With a demanding sleeper who would consistently sleep in the car if nowhere else, this was a life-saver.) The car-seat base is a lifesaver during the week. If I had to pick another infant stroller, I’d choose this one again.

3.The First Years Bathtub.

I tried to get around this one, ended up buying it, and wish I’d bought it right at the beginning. Bathing an infant can be sort of scary, but this tub has a nice net nest for an infant. It’s not the most space-efficient piece out there (which is why I avoided it in the first place), but it slides easily under a bed.

4.Carter’s swaddle blankets.

Buy all of these. I can’t get enough of Carter’s wonderful blankets. They come in 2-packs; they are soft and big enough to cozily swaddle an infant. They mix and match nicely with the Carter’s clothing so that Baby looks snazzy. They are inexpensive and wash wonderfully.

5.Dream on Me 2-in-1 crib.

This crib is the perfect scale for our tiny bedrooms. It also is narrow enough to slide through our doorways, so when we moved Miles into the other bedroom recently, I (i.e., Mark) didn’t have to reassemble the entire thing. Mark built it in about an hour. The quality of the wood is meh – I don’t think it’s going to last 100 years. I think Miles may outgrow it a little faster than he would have outgrown a bigger crib. But if you’re looking for something that is not enormous or a huge investment and that doesn’t require it’s own zip code, I highly recommend this one.

6.Graco bouncer.

Again, there are bigger, better, flashier versions of this on the market. I wanted something simple and small. This was where we put Miles when we came home from the hospital. He still (at 7 months) likes to sit in it for his meals or while he hangs out and watches me cook or work. The cover is easily removable and washable. We never really used the white-noise function, but the vibrating feature has come in handy.

7.Medela manual pump.

The whole nursing/bottle issue is so personal, but I would never have imagined the use I’ve gotten out of this simple, inexpensive piece of equipment. Miles is entirely breast-fed with the occasional pumped bottle. I was nervous about pumping early on when Miles and I were getting used to the process. But if I had to do it all over again, I would have started pumping earlier. Regardless, this manual pump was a lifesaver on several occasions and allowed me to get some sleep while someone else fed Miles and stockpile a supply of bottles for babysitting or emergencies.

8.Evenflo 4 oz bottles.

This is sort of a given from #7. Miles definitely prefers the tiny Evenflo bottles. I liked the glass, both for cleaning and aesthetic reasons. (They’re so cute and classy!)

9.Infantino gym.

This was one of those “why didn’t we know you need this?” purchases. I wish I had registered for one of these – Miles loved it and has spent so much time on both his tummy and his back on this colorful mat. You can buy gyms that are more chic and sleek, but he loved the colors and his animal “friends”. Also, I loved that you can buy other animals or attachments for it or un-clip the animals and attach them to the stroller.

10.Ergo Carrier.

If I listed one thing on a baby registry, this would be it. We have used our Ergo on so many occasions. It was a little big for Miles at the beginning (but he was a small baby), so the infant insert may have been a good idea. When he was having trouble napping and sleeping, the Ergo came to our rescue many times. I often find myself choosing to take the Ergo places instead of the stroller because it’s so comfortable and convenient for both of us. I wondered if Miles would outgrow it too quickly, but at 7 months (and about 20 pounds), it is still going strong. I’ve also been able to wash it (albeit selectively), which is nice.

Preparing for the next stage as well? Check out my list of must-haves for the 3-6 month phase.

Your turn! What are your infant registry must-haves? What did I miss?

*Disclaimer: There are sponsored links in this post, but I only promote books or products that I actually use, love, or recommend.

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Happy Valentine’s Day! (And Some Relationship Advice)

February 14, 2015

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Happy Valentine’s Day! This is seriously one of my favorite holidays. I love the pink, the candy, the excuse to dote on those we love, the combinations of fancy and flirty and fun.

What are you doing today? We have never gone out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. It’s just not our thing. In fact, it’s our thing to NOT, if that makes sense. One year we did lunch. Then one year when we were dating, I was horribly sick on Valentine’s Day and so we made dinner at home and ever since, we cook dinner at home.

Tonight, for the very first time, I am making steaks on the stove using our cast-iron pan. I’ve been frantically reading advice from steakmasters, so I’m hopeful. Any advice for me?

I hope your day and weekend are full of love and fun and rest. And if you still need something to do tonight, here are some tips on love, marriage, and relationships that I gathered from married couples a few years ago. It’s still one of my favorite blog posts. Consider it my (re)gift to you.

Love you all!

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Lately.

September 2, 2014

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Breaks are good things.

Just under two months ago, we were (im)patiently awaiting the arrival of Baby up in beautiful Northern Michigan and alleviating the irritation that is 39-weeks-pregnant with long beach days and as much Michigan summer recreation as we could squeeze into the 16 hours of daylight.

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And then my water broke at midnight after we spent July 3 running ourselves ragged with summer fun and Mark, my mom, my sister, and I set off for the hospital (45 minutes away!) at 2:30 a.m. on July 4, regretting that we hadn’t spent the afternoon napping.

And then at 4:30 p.m. on July 4, Miles Freedom McCord arrived and none of us cared that we were all basically ditzy from lack of sleep because oh my gosh, perfection in infant form.

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If I were a responsible blogger, I would spend the next hour detailing the full birth story – and maybe one of these days I will – but I have about 12.5 minutes until the little guy wakes up and decides that he wants to be fed again.

While this space has quietly rested, Miles made his way through his first few weeks of life. We enjoyed a few wonderful weeks in Michigan with my family, said goodbye to Michigan and moved squeezed into a tiny apartment in College Station, Texas. Mark is now deeply engulfed in his program and I am trying to learn how to juggle loving on and caring for our sweet little guy and working part-time from home.

If I were cool and trendy, I would talk about how Mark and I are “learning to balance” and “juggling”, but really our life right now is just insanity mildly disguised. We eat a lot of food that I can pull out of the freezer and cook in 15 minutes and most days feel like an exercise in survival. Someday I might bake a batch of cookies again.

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But I’m grateful for the crazy right now, because I’m grateful for this perfect little baby that has ushered in so much joy. He is worth every bit of lost sleep, every second, every whatever-went-out-the-door-when-he-came-in.

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But I do sincerely miss writing in this space and, if writing here has taught me anything, it’s that being creative is necessary to maintaining sanity. Even in the midst of stress and craziness. So I’m listening to my own advice and – now that the fog of having a newborn and the swirl of unpacking has settled a bit – I’m reminding myself to make more time to be creative.

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I have so many of the beginning scraps of posts that I hope to turn into coherent thoughts this month. Today, though, I feel that it’s only fair to first share an enormous slough of cute baby photos that essentially explain my silence. Also, because it’ll help you procrastinate before you dig in to the huge pile of tasks that piled up over Labor Day Weekend. You’re welcome.

 

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Around Here Lately and Saying Goodbye

June 3, 2014

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Hello! The demands of family reunion and wedding schedules and a new job for me and planning for Baby McCord have overwhelmed my mind and calendar for the last couple weeks. Those very good things, coupled with a glorious trip to California to see friends and family, have utterly consumed my brain waves recently.

It was good to have one less thing to think about in the midst of our full-of-good-things-April-and-May, but I was surprised by how much I missed blogging. And all of you.

So I’m back, writing in this little space, even amidst life’s rush (because, really, won’t it always be rushed and busy and too full for extra good things?), mostly because I simply cannot step away.

Along with this totally cliche “I’m back!” post comes an announcement of a different sort too. It’s always so strange and awkward to say goodbye to a place, especially a place that has become as familiar as this city has become to Mark and me.

But this weekend, we took our last walk by the Capitol, spent our last Sunday afternoon strolling along the Mall, sat in our church for the last time and said a formal goodbye to the city we know. Movers are coming this week and if all goes well, Friday afternoon will find our Prius somewhere between Washington, D.C. and Michigan.

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We are excited for the new adventures ahead. Excited to meet our little guy and become parents, excited to spend the summer in Michigan, and excited to become Aggies late in the summer as Mark begins new adventures at Texas A&M.

But it’s bittersweet too, to leave a city where we have so many memories. Mark and I both showed up in D.C. as single young professionals, ready to tackle this thing called adult life. We met here, dated here, and planned a wedding in between long work days at our first “real” jobs.

No matter where we go after this, D.C. will always be the city where we started this great adventure of married life. No matter what size apartment or house we live in after this, Northeast D.C. will be the place where we lived for a year in our cozy house on a questionable street with three roommates, five bikes, a shared kitchen and a mysteriously bottomless pile of dishes.

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It’s bittersweet to leave the friendships I have here behind, too. It’s not really goodbye forever, because the kind of friendships that hurt to leave aren’t really friendships that end. The emails and texts and visits will go on, but there’s something sad about this changing rhythm of friendship, about saying goodbye to casual random visits and regular hangouts on back decks and knowing who will come when you invite everyone over for chili at the last minute.

My friendships with these wonderful women have truly been some of the most precious and important relationships of my life. They’ve seen me at my best and at my very worst and their prayers and love and laughter have carved a permanent place into my heart.

But we weren’t made to stand still. Mark and I and all of these dear friends have adventures ahead, adventures that are sometimes hard to begin but adventures that are good gifts all the same. And if I leave our friends here with one thing, it would be this quote from Donald Miller, these words that always ring true:

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“And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out. I want to repeat one word for you: Leave.

Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry.”

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15 Creative Ways to Make Memories with Friends and Meet New People

January 14, 2014

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Humans are defined by their need for other people. Regardless of one’s age, relationship status, socioeconomic standing, career track, or education, we all need friends. But sometimes the same old Happy Hour at the same old haunt begins to feel a little repetitious. Even simply trying new restaurants can start to feel old (and can get expensive!). Also, as life changes, sometimes the same old routines become impossible. Marriages, children, and different schedules can make “the good old days” simply a distant memory. Creating new, fun contexts in which to spend time with people can be a wonderful way to create new rich memories.

I’ve also been struck by how many of my friends have set out to intentionally meet new people and spend time in new social contexts this year. The same principle applies – if you keep doing the same thing and spending time at the same place, you’ll continue to see the same people. If your goal is to meet new people this year, you need to change your routine.

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I read a lot of entertaining blogs and am blessed to be surrounded by a lot of creative, social friends, and I’m always impressed by the fresh, fun ideas for parties and social gatherings.

So here is a collection – all in one place – of 15 creative (and fairly low-maintenance) ways to connect with other people, strengthen old friendships, and make new ones. These ideas can easily be modified to fit the needs and schedules of couples in a new city, moms trying to meet other moms, singles trying to reach outside their regular network, or social butterflies who just want more friends.

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1. Host a mini-progressive dinner party. Serve appetizers and wine and then head out together to attend a play, movie, or concert. Short on picnic blankets? Use these tablecloths for the table and then use them for a picnic blanket later on in the evening. 

2. Identify a day and time in the week when it is consistently easy for you to host. Mentally reserve that time and have a new person or group of people over each week. Saturday brunch not really your thing? Try Sunday lunch.

3. Host a blind dinner party. Invite 4-6 friends over for dinner (fewer could potentially be awkward and more might be too overwhelming). The caveat? Each of your guests is required to bring another friend along that no one else in the group knows. This can be a great way to meet new people and blend networks!

4. Discouraged by the cold weather? Host a chili party. Chili and cornbread are fairly easy to make and can feed a crowd. As the host or hostess, you won’t have to spend the entire evening watching the meal and will have the freedom to relax and mingle. Want to make it more interesting? Ask a few friends to bring a pot of their favorite chili. Have a taste-off!

5. Share dessert. Invite 5-7 acquaintances over and ask that everyone bring their favorite, homemade dessert. Simply provide the wine. Hosting dessert is often less intimidating than arranging an entire dinner party; also, it’s often easier for guests to commit to a couple of hours after dinner than to an entire evening. Purchase a few of these awesome  tablecloths in advance to make cleanup a breeze. 

6. Host a baking party. Ask everyone to bring a favorite recipe for cookies or another baked good, along with any specialty ingredients. As the host or hostess, you simply need to provide the flour, eggs, and oven.

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7. Sign up for a cooking class with a friend. You’re guaranteed to learn something and you know everyone in the room is interested in the same thing!

8. Gather 2 or 3 friends who like to read. Pick a book, set a deadline, and organize a book discussion. The caveat? Again, everyone has to recruit another friend that no one else knows to participate. Here are a few titles to get you started:

9. Plan a hike, a visit to some local wineries, or an afternoon at a nearby beach and encourage friends to invite their friends and co-workers.

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10. Initiate a local photography project. For instance, the goal could simply be “30 photos of our city in 30 days.” (To increase visibility, create a hashtag for the event.) Encourage friends to tell their networks about it and to publicize their project on Instagram and Twitter. At the end of the project, invite everyone who participated over for a time of wine and snacks to share the results!

11. Find a local outdoor concert or play and gather a group of people to picnic together and attend. The only rule? Everyone has to bring a dish to share.

12. Arrange a reglar BYOB backyard Happy Hour. Set a regular date (say, the third Thursday of every month) and take turns hosting. Invite friends, acquaintances, and co-workers as the opportunity arises. Soon your new tradition will be a favorite!

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13. Pick an outdoor activity that you enjoy like running or biking. Set aside a regular time every week or month to participate with friends who also enjoy the activity. Create an “open-door” environment so that friends feel comfortable inviting others to participate whenever the opportunity arises. Soon you’ll have a fully-fledged running/biking/walking/jogging club!

14. Gather other local bloggers for an evening or afternoon of sharing ideas, inspiration, and disaster stories.

15. Enlist the help of two or three energetic, creative friends and have a dressy, multi-course dinner party. Invite as many friends as you can seat, and insist that everyone bring a date or a friend. Everyone has fun dressing up! (And at the end, if you used your magical tablecloths you can simply throw them into the washer for easy clean-up!)

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Pretty Pencils and Other Ramblings

January 8, 2014

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While the polar vortex swirled outside, a polar vortex also swirled around in my head. For the past five days, I was pretty content to curl up in the warmest corner of the bed with my book, some grapefruit juice, and lots of Kleenex. Neither Mark nor I starved, but I don’t really remember what was cooked at any point over the weekend. Besides tea.

But the good thing about winter colds is that they give you lots of time for Pinterest. I didn’t really get Pinterest before, but now I am basically a Pinterest guru. Also, I explored Etsy fairly thoroughly. Let me tell you, there are a LOT of cute things to buy online post-Christmas. It’s a little problematic.

And now, because it’s January and cold and boring and we all could use a little color and cheeriness in our lives (even if you aren’t battling a sinus infection), here are some of the cutest pencils that the Internet has to offer.

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{From See Jane Work. Basically spring in a box}

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{Allow me to introduce these lovely Garden Piyo Pencils from The Magic Notebook. A Beatrix Potter character may as well just stroll across your desk}

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{They’re twigs! No, they’re pencils from inkkit. Again, Welcome, Nature. It’s January, so we thought you were gone forever}

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{One can at least pretend to be Sabrina with these Paris Collection pencils from Amanda Catherine Designs}

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{Also from Amanda Catherine Designs, the Favorite Things pencil collection}

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{From Wacodis, Westley’s timeless words}

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{Color Me Fabulous from Pencil Shavings Studio}

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{And finally, my favorite. From thecarboncrusader, for everyone who knows where the quote came from (but especially for @aprils_whale). Stay gold, Ponyboy.}

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A List of Good Things and Some Pretty Bowls

November 20, 2013

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I think it’s that time of the year when everyone is just kind of tired. Maybe it’s the dark long evenings. Maybe it’s the fact that Thanksgiving is just around the corner with Christmas close on its heels. This should be a fun, celebratory, exciting time of year but then there are colds and icky illnesses and deadlines and that dragging feeling . . . all together, it all just makes you just want to stay under the covers in the morning.

Let’s count up some good things that have happened this week, though, shall we?

  • I found a place to host the recital and Christmas party for the Christmas recital. Thank. Goodness. Disaster narrowly avoided, let me tell you. The process of seeking a recital-and-party venue for elementary-age children in a crowded, over-priced metro area should be carefully outlined in The Master Handbook for Piano Teachers.
  • Thanksgiving is next week! This is reason enough to celebrate, but we’re going to visit Mark’s family in Dallas for the week which means *WARMTH*.
  • Our Giant now carries both Talenti’s Double Dark-Chocolate and Belgian Milk Chocolate flavors. Be still, my heart.
  • I borrowed Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk from a friend and it’s fabulous. Just the kind of quite, lyrical, thoughtful prose I like to read at the beginning of the day.
  • My mom sent me a gorgeous dress from Anthropologie that I would probably never have bought for myself. (Aren’t mothers pretty fabulous?) It’s similar to this one. The sweet package made my week, and possibly my entire holiday season.

Your turn. What is making your week wonderful, despite everything that is not?

Now, just in case things are not yet bright, let’s look at some pretty bowls. Which one is your favorite? I love the double-handled barn-red bowls from Williams-Sonoma, but the Anthro polka-dots pretty much slay me. Also, a STRIPED bowl??? So adorable.

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For some fun serving-bowl choices, jump over to Jess’ blog.

1. Double-Handle Bowl from Williams-Sonoma. // 2. Dot Pop from Anthropologie. // 3. Porto Bowls from World Market. // 4. Striped bowl from Crate and Barrel. // 5. Cabo Melamine set from Pottery Barn.

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Life

A Wedding Tale ~ Part VII: Finding The One (And Some Dress Shopping Tips)

November 18, 2013


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Every girl dreams of that moment during her wedding planning when she finds The One. The dress, that is. A wedding dress is a woman’s moment to be a princess, a fashion icon, a Sabrina, an Audrey Hepburn, the graceful enchanting center of attention. That moment when you walk down in the aisle in your gown is your moment to show everyone your sense of style. Are you classic? Vintage? Cutting-edge? A perfect princess? Rustic duchess?

The only problem with this is that the average cost of a wedding dress is about $1,200. That’s no fairy tale. $12oo was a sizeable portion of my wedding budget; there was no way I was going to spend that much on just my dress.

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Additionally, for those of us who haven’t known since we were 12 years old what kind of dream dress would mesh perfectly with the rest of our Dream Wedding, the prospect of finding a dress that will utterly define us, our sense of fashion, and our wedding can be a bit overwhelming.

There’s so many options – Ball-gown? Trumpet? A-line? Sleeves? Straps? No sleeves? Lace? Silk?

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But pick a wedding gown every anticipatory bride must, and so I dove in. I visited a few local boutiques to narrow down the styles and then tried to match the styles at the typical budget avenues – David’s Bridal was of course my first stop, but I’m impatient and a little nervous about commitment and the idea of waiting 6 weeks to put on my custom-fitted dress for the first time made my already palpitating heart want to pack up and go to South Africa.

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I began to scour other possible source. For all of you brides-to-be out there, Ann Taylor, JCrew, Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s all have fabulous wedding dresses. If you’re shopping on a budget, check out the clearance sections. The dresses are generally 100% refundable and returnable so there’s very little risk involved and when you finally find one you like – there’s no wait!

I finally found a dress that I liked and that fit my wedding budget among the Ann Taylor collections. I ordered it and tried it on with my mom and sister looking on. It was lovely, it was white, and it essentially fit, which was pretty much all that I cared about at that point. (I’m a terrible shopper.)

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But something was off. I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that the dress just didn’t look that great on me. The feeling was confirmed when I tried the dress on over Christmas a second time with my mom and sister looking on. It looked terrible on me. It might just have been a difference of hair or lighting but the dress I had bought did not work. At. All.

Back to Square One. To boot, now it was December. The wedding was in June. In the calendars of wedding planners, my wedding dress shopping was already about 12 months behind schedule.

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I began to panic. I started scouring wedding dress blogs for solutions. Sites like Off Beat Bride literally saved my sanity by assuring me that my range of options was a lot greater than I was allowing. It didn’t matter what the dress looked like on paper. It mattered if I liked it.

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I was pretty sure at this point that I needed an off-white dress. My skin is pretty fair and Mark was going to be in his white uniform so a bit of contrast was needed. I started to search through formal dress departments.

Almost immediately, I found a gorgeous dress in Macy’s online formal dress selection. It was an off-white champagne color. It was exactly the fit and style that I had been searching for and fell well within my budget. I ordered it immediately. When it arrived, a whole three days later, the dress fit perfectly. I didn’t want to let go of it. The dress literally was a dream come true.

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Tips for The Wedding Dress Search:

  1. Commit to a dress budget. There is an endless abundance of dresses and shops and accessories. Using your budget as a guideline will seriously keep you from going crazy with all of the options.
  2. Try a lot of styles on at first and go with your instincts. If certain dresses consistently just don’t look good on you, stop wasting your time on them.
  3. Don’t be afraid to try something that is different than your imaginary ideal dress. Sometimes we think certain things will look good on us that definitely don’t in reality, and vice versa.
  4. But let your taste be the starting point. If you have a style that you absolutely love, start there.
  5. Be willing to be a little uncoventional. For me, this mean that I bought a technically non-wedding dress that wasn’t white. For you, it might mean wearing a short dress or including a colored accent. Be willing to experiment and be willing to search for your dress in unexpected places. Remember, it’s YOUR wedding. The dress should be something you love. It doesn’t matter what it is called, who made it, or where it came from.
  6. Be careful how many opinions you solicit. I limited the number of people who knew about my dress ahead of time to my mom and sister, one bridesmaid, and my roommates. I knew I could trust their opinions; I knew they’d be honest with me; and I knew that all of them would respect my final decision even if they didn’t love the dress.
  7. You should feel beautiful in your dress. This is a non-negotiable. If you don’t like the way the fabric feels or falls on you, keep looking. It doesn’t matter what the dress costs; it matters that you love it and love the way you look in it.

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