I’ll never tire of sewing for this little lady, and holidays seem like a fun time to create something special (aka there is a deadline so I actually get it done!) I created this little polka dot swing dress as a Valentine’s dress, and the vintage vibe and cut are especially festive. As is her red hair, which coordinates perfectly with every holiday! I bought the silk blend polka dot print at Dry Goods Design three years ago (before I was pregnant with Plum) thinking if I ever had a baby girl it would make a perfect Christmas dress. And then Christmas came and went both last year and this year, and I realized if I didn’t make something soon, it wouldn’t be enough fabric for her to wear anymore! Luckily, Valentine’s Day and red polka dots go together perfectly. Because of her cute toddler belly, I imagined a swing style dress would fit really cute. I keep it cropped short– vintage Shirley Temple style– and added pale pink bias trim with flat bows on the sleeves and at the neckline. I know that everyone loves making homemade bias tape, but I confess I’d much rather keep a stock of store bought colors on hand for quick projects like this. For the pattern, I started with my Big Bow Dress a-line pattern, cropped it short, then added sleeves. So, basically modified it from start to finish, which is typical for me. Rather than gather the sleeves into a puff, I made a single pleat at the shoulder seam, and then pleated up the center sleeve hem before adding the bow. Bias tape seemed the easiest way to add a design detail while finishing the neckline and sleeves without a facing, and the pink and red combo turned out perfectly.
Around Valentine’s Day, thoughts turns to special date nights. Dinner tables with candlelight, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and long-stemmed roses fit the bill. Those things are all really amazing, and definitely should be taken advantage of during this season of love, but what about the other 11 months of the year? Dave and I keep the romance and love alive in our relationship by having a regular, weekly date night. Each Saturday night is set aside for spending a few hours reconnecting. With three little kids, it might seem really tricky to pull ourselves away to spend time together, but having a weekly date night has been one of the most wonderful investments in each other, and in the foundation of our family. I have one huge piece of advice for anyone who wants to implement weekly dates into your schedule: Schedule a standing weekly babysitter. Having a babysitter already scheduled has made all the difference in our getting away each week. Starting in the summer, I asked one of our usual sitters if she’d be interested in planning on coming every Saturday night, and she loved the idea! It’s easy for her to know she has a babysitting gig ahead of time, and so easy for me to be able to plan on her. The kids know and love her, and she can walk in as we walk out because she knows the house and the routine so well. Rather than a “I’ll see if I can find someone to watch the kids…” our conversation changed to “What do we want to do this week?” Of course, it helps to be able to budget for the weekly babysitter as well. Some weeks paying her is the whole date night budget, so we plan a free activity like going on a hike or packing a picnic.
What we do doesn’t matter as much as our being together, without the kids, outside of the house. On an especially busy week, those three or four hours might be the only uninterrupted conversation time we have in seven days! And sometimes we choose to go to a movie and just hold hands while we watch and unwind. Read More
I love February. Both because it’s my birth month, and because I love Valentine’s Day! I had a great friend tell me a couple years ago that she didn’t really care for Valentine’s Day because her husband wasn’t into celebrating, and I thought she should just celebrate with me together as friends instead then. That sentiment seems to have become widely supported as Galentine’s Day parties are popping up all over social media. I was excited to have an excuse to get some girlfriends together to celebrate our friendship with a brunch and craft party.
I had a ton of fun dreaming up the party, then shopping for supplies and creating a menu and craft workshop idea. Having just met and spent some time with the Minted team at Alt Summit a couple weeks ago, I was excited to partner with them for this celebration. I jumped onto their site to get ideas, and ended up finding every fun detail I needed to pull this party together, starting with their new digital invitations (still in beta and free until the 29th). I didn’t have time to order and send a paper invite, plus I really like the rsvp system of online, so they were perfect.
Dave took the kids out of the house about two hours before the party started so I could set up. I loved getting the table all set, food layed out, and everything prepared. That alone time of itself was dreamy! I wanted to keep the menu simple for myself, but still delicious. I bought cinnamon rolls and danishes at Costco, added a bowl of berries and one of cuties, whipped up an overnight asparagus strata to bake in the morning, and served my favorite strawberry poppyseed salad. I set out some San Pellegrino to drink, and called it good. It was so easy to dress up the table with this foil pressed kraft paper runner. It instantly added glam and sparkle to the settings, so I didn’t need to think about a table cloth or place mats. Instead, I just added my favorite collected watercolor plates from Anthropologie, some mis-matched cloth napkins, and simple forks and glasses. Read More
I’m back with another edition of Around Austin! This time I’m sharing two of my very favorite places to visit when I’m down on the East side of downtown, The newly opened Paper + Craft Pantry, and my numero uno for street tacos, Las Trancas.
The Paper + Craft Pantry is a new, cool stationary and home goods shop with a side of crafty workshops taught by local makers. I learned about the space when it was still in the development stage and I met it’s owner, Pei. She is gracious and lovely, and a hardworking, no-nonsense girl boss who dreamed up this community gathering place and brought it to life. Located on East Sixth Street, it’s a stone’s throw from downtown in a strip of studio and creative spaces. You can’t miss it–with the gorgeous mural and bright mint door (recently featured on Design Sponge storefronts!) Stepping inside the space you’ll find high ceilings, bright white walls, and rows of carefully curated greeting cards welcoming you. Pei mentioned to me that she has a goal of having an independent stationary shop from each one of the 50 states represented in her shop eventually. What a cool goal! In addition to cards, she’s stocked prints, craft supplies like twine and pens, calendars, potted plants, and a new line of small home goods including clutches and jewelry.
I love having fresh flowers around the house. I used to buy one grocery store bouquet each week and arrange it into one big vase for the kitchen table. Lately, I’ve really loved creating mini-arrangements for all around the house! On Mondays, when I do my regular grocery shopping trip to Trader Joe’s, I grab a couple inexpensive bouquets then use a three-step process to create beautiful, designer looking arrangements at a fraction of the cost. Not only am I saving money, but I also really love the creative exercise of organizing the flowers in interesting and unique ways. Let me share my easy process, so you can enjoy fresh blooms too!
I choose the bouquets based on what looks the most fresh, and which colors I want to highlight in my home that week. I also love if a bouquet has some sort of interesting or different variety, like these purple thistle, for an added design element. I buy TWO mixed bouquets and ONE bouquet of greenery only, such as eucalyptus or lemon leaves. The added greenery is really important to making a grocery store bouquet feel designer.
Back at home I gather all of my small vases. I’ve collected from small shops in town, bought favorite ceramics at art festivals and online, and pull together some vintage and hand-me-down pieces as well. If you don’t have any small vases, you can use mugs, drinking glasses, or mason jars instead.
Before arranging, fill each vase with cold water with a bit of the flower food mixed in. Then start separating your bouquets into type of flower. Read More
Let me be honest, I choose my favorite sports teams by the colors of their uniforms rather than their skill, history, or any legitimate factors. While I don’t think of myself as a huge sports fan in general, I am a HUGE fan of parties, social events, and really any type of entertaining. It turns out that game day is something that brings people together on a regular basis, so of that, I’m definitely a fan (and I even get really into the game when surrounded by friends)! While Dave manages the sports-related conversations, I run the behind-the-scenes to make sure friends are taken care of, feeling comfortable, and always fed a great meal while they’re at our home. I’ve learned a few tricks that help keep the stress low, and spirits high as we prepare for game day.
Overestimate food + beverages
I tend to be somewhat of a minimalist, and sometimes cut things too close in order to not be excessive. It has taken me a while to learn how valuable it is to have plenty of everything on hand when entertaining so everyone feels comfortable eating and drinking until they’re satisfied. When we finish a party with some leftovers, we know we’ve done a good job planning. Read More
People often ask me how I make money blogging. Although the answer includes a variety of things (bloggers wear many hats), the easiest and most simple way that I have made money blogging is through using third-party media agencies to complete media campaigns with brands. I spoke about this topic last week at Alt Summit in Salt Lake City. This is how I made over half of my total creative income last year, and I love the way working with agencies connects me so easily to brands I love. So, I’d like to break down the ins and outs of using media agencies as a starting point to make money blogging. A little history: I started blogging way back in 2007. It was actually Dave who went on the blogspot and acquired a space to share with our family and friends all of the things that were happening in our newlywed life. Well, five years and over a thousand posts later I realized that there were a lot of people around me who were blogging not only for fun but also as a way to make money. As a creative career! When I made the decision to start blogging again early 2015 (after a 2 year sabbatical in which I had a baby, moved across the country, and built a house). I did so with a very clear idea that blogging would not only be a passion and a hobby but also a job. And as a job requirement I would need to make money.
Luckily for me, over the last several years many many resources have emerged in the marketplace of internet advertising. These allow bloggers like me with a medium level community and traffic to make actual money by creating great content. Today I want to share that same information with you in case there’s anyone out there who was curious if using third-party media agencies may work for them to turn blogging into a job that earns a paycheck as well. Read More
We’ve hosted a New Year’s Day brunch annually since Milo was born, which made our 2016 Pretzel Party our sixth year! The idea began because we weren’t able to spend the whole evening out with a newborn and we knew our friends had the same dilemma. Our solution was to gather together mid-morning on the first and celebrate the New Year together kids and all!
Each year we choose a different, simple theme for the food (and usually include it as a pun on the invitation. Everybody loves a good pun!) After going around and around about ideas, we finally settled on serving fresh, hot, soft pretzels and dips, inviting people to “Start the New Year with a Twist!” Dave wanted to make sure I included the hashtag #tzelebrate on my photos of the event! Ha!
Buying all the soft pretzels for such a big open house wasn’t in the budget. Luckily, I’ve made them a bunch of times and really love my go-to soft pretzel recipe. I made six batches of dough, let it rise, shaped the pretzels, then froze them in layers onto parchment paper. That way in the morning I could thaw them out in the oven at 200, then do the baking soda bath before baking fresh for the party. It sounds like a lot of work, but the make-ahead process actually worked out amazingly well and we had about 80 fresh pretzels ready to go on time! Read More
When we built our house two years ago, we only had two weeks to choose all of the interior finishes so that the builder could be efficient once they broke ground. I paid closest attention to the kitchen and living areas, where I knew we’d spend the most amount of time. Then I chose what felt like beautiful, timeless basics for everywhere else, knowing I could change and upgrade slowly as the years went by.
Well, after two years, I’m thrilled to be beginning some small DIY design details that will make our home feel even more like our own. I started out with this really simple project that has huge impact: staining tile grout in the bathrooms.
I love the look of the square white tile we chose for all three bathrooms, but with the white grout it disappears! The clean, classic tile is pretty, but with dark grout it pops and looks custom, intentional, and modern. This simple staining tile grout DIY project would just as easily work on any existing home where you didn’t choose the tile or grout, but want to give it an updated look. The change from light to dark is as simple as brushing on and wiping off some dark grout stain, letting it dry in between. I found this grout refresh at a local tile store, and saw some is also available online. The stain and sealer adheres and penetrates the porous grout, but is easily wiped off of the ceramic tile, so when you’re finished the lines are thin and clean looking like the original grout. Let me give you a closer look. Read More
No one ever said that parenting would be easy. Rewarding, thrilling, terrifying, interesting, challenging, wonderful, and important, yes. Easy, no. As I’ve gotten in the swing of it over the last seven years, I’ve learned a few things that make it just a little bit easier. Read on for my top 7 parenting hacks, and then share yours in the comments!
It only took until my third child for me to realize that these first several years the only shoes that I should buy are those my kids can pull on and off themselves! Sitting by the front door tying laces of six different shoes multiple times a day could make a person go insane. It still takes several reminders and some hustle to get my kids out the door and to the car, but having them be able to put on their own shoes has been priceless. Even one-year-old Plum can slip on her own, and it’s such a time saver.
Some of my favorites are Native Jeffersons for warmer weather. They’re amazing in water and really comfortable, so my kids all love them. Plum’s Hunter Boots are a size too big, which is why she can pull them on, but she loves them! Converse are a long-time favorite, and the slip-on high tops are my favorites. For church the boys always wear Sperry Topsiders. For the winter, we got all three kids simple pull-on sheepskin boots. And of course, being Texan, all the kids have and love their cowboy boots.
The Drive Thru
I’m not just referring to food here, although yes– spending five minutes in the car with all the kids blessedly strapped into their carseats while we do a quick lunch pick-up (then head to the park to picnic) does make life undoubtedly easier. I’m also talking about anything you can find with a drive thru! Picking up prescriptions, dropping mail into the blue post-office boxes, handing dry-cleaning out through the window, the car wash, the bank. The Starbucks down the street from us doesn’t have a drive thru, and I can feel the weight of the money in my wallet that I would have spent if it did! (It’s a good feeling!) I regularly wish that the regular grocery store would have a drive-thru for my pick-up, and it sounds like Wal-Mart may be working on that idea. For now, a lot of what I can’t drive thru to grab, I order online. Which brings me to the next hack.
Online Shopping (aka Amazon Prime and Prime Now)
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t shop online regularly. For the same reason the drive-thru makes life easier, online shopping allows us to browse, research, and buy on our own schedule, without sweet little hands touching every other item in the store! While I do my regular weekly grocery store runs in-store, I use amazon for pretty much everything household related. The water filter replacement, dish soap and laundry detergent, gifts of any kind. It took a little while to convert me, but when I could have a baby 10 days before Christmas two years ago, order every single holiday gift, decoration, and treat online and have it all on the doorstep before the Big Man came down the chimney, I was hooked. Read More
As the year rolled to a close and the new one began, I spent some time reflecting. In a lot of ways 2015 was a seemingly uneventful year. For the first time in what seemed like a long while we didn’t have any major changes. No new babies, no move, no new job, or any big vacations. On the outside it seemed really regular, and actually, as I looked back I felt almost a little disappointed in myself that I hadn’t MADE ANYTHING HAPPEN! The more I think about it, though, the more I can hear the quiet whisper of my intuition reminding me that those regular days, weeks, years are what make up my life, and the lives of my children. There is such beauty and happiness in really living in the moment.
As I was trying to find the success in my year, I found this list of questions for reflection. I still don’t have answers for the first few about my single biggest accomplishment, or the single biggest challenge, because in a lot of ways my accomplishments last year were not singular or big. They were small and many, wrapped in and around my children, home, friends, and work. I realize my perspective is off too, because I did accomplish some big things. I started blogging again, collaborated with tens of great companies, hosted several fun local workshops, attended a couple impactful blogging conferences, and met some amazing new friends! My single biggest challenge my be the same ongoing challenge I’ve had forever, learning to find balance, to let go of the unnecessary and embrace fully the moment. Learning to be patient with myself and with my big dreams. Read More
Everyone who loves to craft wishes that it could be a little easier. The setting aside time, gathering the correct supplies, finding a great project, and figuring out instructions to hone a new skill. I always want to branch out and try new types of making, but run into enough obstacles I don’t much get past the idea.
My good friend Morgan felt the same way when she dreamed up The Crafter’s Box. This monthly crafting box provides every thing you need to learn a new skill and create a beautiful, modern, practical craft so that the only thing left for you to do is create the time. I was thrilled and honored that Morgan asked me to be one of the featured makers for The Crafter’s Box this first year, and even more blown away when I gathered in San Diego with the five other kick-off featured makers: Maryanne Moodie, Rachel Denbow, Emily Katz, Elise Cripe, Erin Dollar, and Emily Reinhardt.
These women are experts in their crafts, and each created the most beautiful projects using such gorgeous materials. Read More