Archive | things i like

What We’re Watching, Reading, Listening To and Playing

We’ve been on the road for just about three weeks and enjoying (nearly) every minute of it. I was just commenting to Ryan the other day that it’s crazy how quickly you can get into a new routine and have it feel normal. Living out of the trailer, hitching and unhitching, driving for long stretches – these have all become our new life and we’re taking to it quite nicely.

Since most of our days are spent outside sight-seeing, its nice to have some downtime in the evenings, mornings and on drive days.

bradyreading

I thought it would be fun to share what we’re watching, reading, listening to and playing every couple of weeks (or as they change) and perhaps it will spark an idea for someone in your family.

WATCHING

We just discovered the Ken Burns documentary titled The National Parks – America’s Best Idea. It is free on Amazon Prime and so, so good. It’s really more about the history of how the National Park system came to be, but it still showcases the breathtaking scenery from parks across America.

The kids have been watching a lot of old Looney Toon cartoons in the car (we have a hard drive with a gazillion shows and movies that they can access from their ipads/kindles). I’m not sure what the fascination is with Looney Tunes, but they’re all currently into it.

READING

I just finished my first novel of the trip. It was okay. I was about to stop reading it, but pushed through. I didn’t hate it, but probably wouldn’t recommend it.

Next up is this one from my Spring Reading List. Or maybe this one.

P.S. Anyone have a suggestion for a Civil War historical fiction novel?

LISTENING TO

Besides a whole lot of music on Spotify, we’re listening to The Chronicles of Narnia on Audible. I thought I was purchasing the audio version of the series – you know, someone with a great voice reading Mr. Lewis’ poetic words to us – but instead, I bought the BBC Full Cast Radio Dramatisations. I don’t love it, but the kids (especially our 8 year old) are eating it up. The boys have all seen the movies and our oldest read the series a few years ago and even still, it keeps their attention for at least an hour at a time.

I subscribe to my friend Anne’s Kindle Deals list and scooped up this audible book for super cheap. It’s next on our family-drive-listening list.

PLAYING

Our friends gave us a new game as a send-off and it’s been a big hit around here. The game – called Tenzi – is super simple and fun for all ages. Each player has a set of 10 dice and you roll until you get the same number on all 10 dice. I know, that sounds kinda lame, but there are variations and we make up our own string of numbers to roll and it is the perfect game for the kids to play while we’re packing up or I’m making dinner.

When they’re not playing Tenzi, the kids are playing their long-time favorites, Monopoly Deal and Sudoku


So that’s what we’re entertaining ourselves with so far. Do you have any current favorites in any of the four categories? Please share!

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5 games I actually enjoy playing with the kids

I’m so sorry; that title sounds terrible.

I like my kids. And I like playing with them. But when it comes to playing board games together as a family, there are some that are just brutal.

Take Monopoly, for example. Or Sorry. I played both games for hours with my sister and cousins when we were kids. But as an adult? No, thank you.

Our kids ask every once in a while, “can we have family game night?!” and I want so much to say yes. Really I do.

So I’m always on the lookout to find games that we all enjoy. Here are five of our family’s favorites:

headbandz

headbandz
First, you wear these silly plastic headbands, so that makes everyone smile. Second, it feels like a fun way to teach kids how to be descriptive and ask pointed questions and I like a game that sneaks in learning. While probably best for younger kids, my older two will still totally jump in on a game if we’re playing.

product description:

Play Hedbanz, the quick question game of “What am I?” Ask “yes” or “no” questions to figure out if the cartoon on your head is an animal, food or man-made object. Be the first player to guess what you are and win!

apples to apples

applestoapples
The boys found this game at the house we stayed in for spring break and we stayed up way too late on night one laughing at our answers. I’m pretty sure we were playing with the adult set, there, but the kid set is great, too.

product description: 

Apples to Apples Junior brings all the fun and hilarity of Apples to Apples to the younger crowd. Players aged 9 years and older will have a blast making crazy comparisons while expanding their vocabulary and thinking skills at the same time. The 576 unique cards ensure maximum inventiveness, so each round is filled with surprising comparisons from a wide range of people, places, things, and events. Fast-moving and refreshing, Apples to Apples Junior is easy to learn, easy to play, and great for hours and hours of entertainment!

zingo

zingo
Zingo is a well-loved game in our family, especially when the kids were younger. Audrey and Mason will still play (in fact, I heard the card clicker clicking yesterday!). It says ages 4 and up, but I think you could start earlier than four with this matching game.

product description: 

Zingo! brings fast-paced excitement and learning to the classic game of Bingo. Slide the Zinger to reveal picture tiles, make a match and fill your card to win. Images with printed words and two levels of play make this the perfect game to grow with.

suspend

suspend
We bought this for one of the boys as a guessing gift for christmas. (Guessing gifts: mystery packages we wrap up for our kids starting on December 15th. You get three yes or no guesses on the first night and then one each consecutive night until you guess correctly or it’s Christmas Eve. It’s a very fun tradition passed on to us from my aunt and uncle.) The night he guessed it, we played over and over and squealed every time the tower collapsed. Plus, because it’s about balance, it feels a bit educational.

product description: 

A family game of tricky hangs and steady hands! Try this hanging balance game and you’ll be hooked! Suspend comes with 24 notched, rubber-tipped wire pieces to hang from a tabletop stand. Sound easy? Try adding another piece! Each time a bar is added, the balance shifts, the difficulty changes and the incredible midair sculpture transforms. Can you add all your game pieces without making it fall? This tricky game for 1-4 players is a test of steady nerves and steady hands.

monopoly deal

monopoly-deal
This is a great alternative to the real monopoly game and much faster. It takes a round or two to get the hang of it, but after that, you’ll play hand after hand.

product description: 

Get a handy way to play the classic property-trading game! Be the first collect 3 full property sets of different colors, and you’ll win the monopoly deal card game. You’ll pick up cards when it’s your turn and play action cards to charge players rent, steal their cards or demand money for your birthday. Build up property sets, gather piles of money and keep wheeling and dealing until you’re the monopoly deal winner!


Does your family have any favorites? Please share!

 

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5 must-have kitchen gadgets

kitchen-gadgets

The more time I spend preparing food for our big family, the more I appreciate the little things that make it easier. I’m not a fancy chef, so I don’t need much, but these 5 kitchen gadgets prove themselves over and over in our household.

So here they are,

my 5 must-have kitchen gadgets

 

1.  Olive Oil Pour Spout oliveoiltop

Olive Oil is a staple in our kitchen. Instead of unscrewing the cap each time I need a drizzle, we replace the top piece with a pour spout. It doesn’t fit every bottle opening, so sometimes we’ll have a bottle of olive oil without a spout and I’m all ‘what?! I have to actually unscrew the lid?!‘. The convenience of a pour spout saves time (microseconds, but still) and keeps hands oil-free.

If you want something a bit more stylish, try this gold one. Or for more function, this stainless OXO brand one acts as a stopper and a pourer.

2. Cheese Slicer

cheeseslicer

Any time I’m at my friend Dee’s house for a meal, I always ask for the job of slicing cheese. She has this amazing cheese slicer that cuts so perfectly. The cheese is thin, the slicer doesn’t catch, it is a true joy.

Finally, I bought one for myself. Why this was not a thing in our kitchen before, I do not know.

My kids are currently in to mozzarella cheese and rather than trying to slice it with a serrated knife (which also works, but definitely not like this little gadget), I now pull out the best cheese slicer of all.

3. Fine Grater

micrograter

This grater makes a surprisingly often appearance during meal-prep time. I use it for hard cheeses like parmesan, but also for lemon/lime zest, garlic and nutmeg. It’s super sharp, compact and multi-purpose.

4. Lime Squeezer

lemonsqueeze

Sure, you could squeeze a lime or lemon with your hands, but this enameled aluminum gadget does it so much better. We have the small size for limes (I’m a g+t with extra lime kind of girl) that also works with small lemons, but there are larger sizes for other citrus fruit.

lemon

I did not know until recently that you are supposed to put the lime/lemon in cut-side down, then squeeze. All this time, I’ve been doing it all wrong.

5. Very Large Cutting Board

cutting-board

I wish you could tell from the photo how large this thing is (see it in action here). It’s huge. 18×24 inches, to be exact.

Every night, I pull it out, grab my box from Hello Fresh (yep, still using and loving the meal service) and all the prep is done on this one board. Well, minus the raw meat. That goes on a different board. I can dice onions and push them to one side, chop asparagus and push it to another, mince garlic, zest a lemon, and still have room to cut veggies for a salad.

We have a big single basin kitchen sink and this cutting board just barely fits – something to keep in mind if you have a double basin sink. Maybe a size smaller would be better for your kitchen.

 


 

I can’t complete my must-have kitchen essentials without including the next two. They aren’t really gadgets, so I am not officially including them in the list, but they are most certainly must-haves and essentials.

A Sharp Knife

knife

Ryan’s dad is an excellent cook and my uncle was a professional chef, so between to the two influences, we’ve inherited the appreciation of a good, sharp knife.

My aunt and uncle bought us our Henckels knives for our wedding (a good paring, small serrated, bread and chef); Ryan just bought this one last christmas to add to our small collection. It’s for sure the one we use most often.

(P.S. I just looked up the knife to grab the link and had no idea how expensive it was! It better be a dream to work with for that price. And actually, I really do prescribe to the idea that buying one quality item that lasts 13 years is better than a handful of lesser quality that need to be replaced often. It’s a great knife and I do recommend it.)

FYI: per my father-in-law’s instruction, we do not put the knives in the sink or the dishwasher – they stay on the counter next to the sink waiting to be hand washed. I may have run my older knives through the dishwasher once or twice, but don’t tell Bob. Those were just short-term breaches in my knife-protection skills because I was too lazy to wash them by hand. #neveragain

Non-stick Pans

pans

Again, not a gadget, but I use these pans everyday so I felt like I should include them.

We use the small 8″ for poached eggs, the medium 10″ for quesadillas and scrambled eggs, the large 12″ for everything else. These cook evenly and the non-stick material doesn’t scratch off. Even still, we keep to non-metal spoons when using these.

So there are my favorite kitchen gadgets. They make my time in the kitchen easier and extra efficient.

Do you have a favorite kitchen gadget I missed? Please share!

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learning how to take photos of kids

A long-time goal of mine has been to learn how to take photos of my kids. With a real camera.

kidsbubbles

Over the years, I’ve become well-practiced in photographing our house and top-down vignettes of inanimate objects. But photographing my kids? That’s a whole different thing.

esled

Every once in a while, I’ll capture something keepable with my iphone. It’s so convenient to just pull it out of my pocket and the presets make for pretty good photos without requiring much skill. I appreciate that.

bpayphone

I took my blog-friend Ashley’s iphone online class and that vastly improved my everyday iphone photos.

mlegos

I learned little tricks about using the grid to keep things straight, moving around to get a more interesting shot and looking for ways to capture a moment, rather than posing a photo.

abike
Ashley writes the blog, Under The Sycamore. It is at the top of my list of longtime favorites. She has five kids and takes the most wonderful real-life photos. There is such a skill in what she does and I want to learn everything she has to share.

twirl ashley2 scissors

Thankfully, she also teaches an online course about how to use a DSLR (that’s the official name of the nicer Canon or Nikon cameras that take much better photos than a phone camera).

snapshop

Ryan and I are going through the lessons together so we can quick-learn before we leave on our road trip. There will be so many memorable moments that I’ll want captured and I haven’t felt particularly confident in my people-photographing skills.

With Ashley’s help, we are feeling so much better about our understanding of our camera and little ways we can capture our days. We’re learning how to tell stories through our photos, rather than just posing the kids and calling it good. This is my favorite part.

Do you need help figuring out how to use your fancy camera? Not sure what lens to use? Or how to shoot in manual? (I’m raising my hand).

Do you need ideas and tips for practicing? Want to learn how to take action shots? (My hand is still up).

Are your kids growing way too fast and you don’t want to forget these days? (Yes).

Ashley’s classes are called SnapShop – both her DSLR and iphone courses are available in a monthly membership that is such an incredible value. For $5 per month, you get access to all past lessons, with new content added each month. There is a $50 sign up fee (well worth it! The DSLR class alone used to be $250) but we’ve got a discount for you!

$10 OFF with code JONESDESIGN10

The code expires April 15th. You’ll be so happy you signed up for this. Truly. There is something so valuable about learning to take pictures that you love, with a camera you’ve invested in and capturing the beauty in your everyday.

LEARN MORE and JOIN SNAPSHOP HERE

I can’t wait to share how Ashley’s classes have changed our picture taking!

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the iphone case that changed my life

I know that title makes a big deal out of a little thing. And while ‘changed my life’ might be a bit strong, this phone case is a small thing that has made a big difference in my everyday.

iphonecase-closed For over 10 years I carried a monstrous bag filled with all the mom-essentials. Diapers, wipes, snacks, random socks and hair clips, loose change, twelve pens, chapstick, pacifiers covered in little crumbs. You get the idea. On top of all of this was my heavy over-filled wallet with too many cards and receipts plus my phone and keys.

closedcase Once the babies were not babies and carrying emergency if-I-give-you-this-fruit leather-will-you-please-stop-crying snacks and a change of clothes was no longer necessary, I never downsized my bag. I just kept using the same size and it filled up with junk I didn’t need or use on a daily basis.

iphonecasestyled When I upgraded to this gigantic iphone 6, I wasn’t crazy about any of the case options. I like the way a phone feels better on its own, without a case. However, the size and slipperiness of this big phone combined with my clumsiness and constant juggling of many things made me question the desire to leave it un-cased. Surely this big phone would be dropped and break if I didn’t protect it.

iphonecase I had seen these wallet-type cases before and decided to give one a try. I wasn’t sure if I would like the bulkiness of it or if having to flip the cover open every time I wanted to use the phone would be annoying, but went ahead with ordering one anyway. I figured for $16.99 it was worth a shot.

iphone-case-open-blank I’m a little over 3 months in to using this case and like I said up there in the title, it has changed my life. I mean, as much as a phone case can.

Here’s why:

Since switching to this case, I find I rarely bring a purse anywhere. All I typically need is my phone, my driver’s license and either my business or personal credit card, which fit nicely in the card slots. When I go places like Costco or the library, I either grab the card I need or take my purse where I keep my regular wallet with all the cards. For everything else – dropping off the kids at school, running through the starbucks drive thru, traveling to North Carolina (true story! I didn’t bring a purse!) – I just bring along my phone.

I don’t know why this feels like such a big deal to me. Maybe it’s just nice to be free of all the junk that clutters up my purse. Part of it might be that it stops me from popping in to Target (oops, Emily! You don’t have your red card with you) which in turn saves our family a lot of unnecessary spending.

I like that it protects the phone. It feels more substantial and the case gives a better grip than just the phone alone. I actually don’t mind flipping the cover open. I can still take photos with the case on. Other than having to glue down the fake leather on the little magnet flaps, it has held up really well.

iphonecase-close

Most of all, it just makes me happy. Sometimes (actually, often) #itsthelittlethings

I did a bit of searching before I purchased my case. I wanted saddle brown (this was the closest I could find) and I didn’t want a big logo embossed on the front. While searching, I found a bunch of other colors and patterns that would make great life-changing cases, in case you’re in the market (that bright geometric one is calling my name … ).

Iphone Wallet Cases / jones design company

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Tell me … are you a purse carrier? Or would a simple setup like this work for you?

P.S. The case roundup graphic was made using Adobe Illustrator – as is every single other graphic you find here at jones design company. If you would like to learn how to create graphics for your blog, a business, scrapbooking, your own personal hobby … I’d love to teach you!

My online courses SIMPLIFIED GRAPHIC DESIGN: Illustrator for Beginners and Projects + Techniques are currently open for the Spring 2016 session. Learn more and register by clicking the image below:

register-yellow

Registration closes on Monday March 21st, so grab your spot! You’ll have instant and unlimited access with no expiration. And I promise you’ll learn SO much!

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one, two, three, four, five years ago today

I spent the weekend in North Carolina visiting with a group of business lady friends. It was so good, but the time change had me all messed up when I arrived home late Sunday.

Then we tore our house apart for the painters to come finish out a few details (more on that later) which I had forgotten all about until late the night before.

When I stood washing dishes last night thinking about the disastrous state of our house and what a fun trip that was and how tired I felt, it made me wonder what I was doing last year at this time? And the year before that? And what in the world will life look like one year from now?

I don’t always think big picture. I like a task list right in front of me and I check those boxes off like a pro. My least favorite of all questions is “where do you see yourself in five years?“. I mean, really. I don’t even know where I’ll be next week! I’m not a vision-caster or a goal-setter and I am actually okay with that.

But it is pretty fun to look backwards. That’s one of the reasons I love that I’ve kept up with blogging. It’s like a personal timeline that instantly reminds me of what life was like at any point in the past six years.

Take last year, for instance. On March 9th, 2015 I posted about How to Keep Cut Hydrangeas from Wilting.

How To keep Cut Hydrangeas from Wilting / jones design company

This was such a life-changing (way too strong of word) tip for me. Hydrangeas are my favorite and I want to keep them healthy and fresh for as long as possible. So glad I learned the trick.

Two years ago, in March 2014, I created the new Spring Essentials free watercolor artprint.

Of all the essentials seasonal prints, I think I like this spring one the best. But I probably say that about each one with each new season. The day after I posted the artwork, I shared How To Turn Doodles Into Artwork. If you’re curious about what the process looks like to take a watercolor painting and make it a printable pdf, this post is for you!

On March 15, 2013, we had just received our Tufted Linen Couch.

I get questions often about where we bought it, if we still like it, how it is holding up.

Yes, I still love it. It’s neutral, classic, very comfy. I am a big fan of the tight back (which means no loose cushion for the kids to squish or build forts with) and the down-filled bottom cushions have held their shape and cushy-ness well.

We bought the couch from Andella Home and they still offer it. The design is called the Audrey (how appropriate) and ours is 90″.

The light linen color has worked out really well for us. We don’t eat on it and no shoes, either, but it is our everyday hang out couch and it has stayed looking good for three years. I’d say that’s a win!

Four years ago, March 2012, brought on the start of The Wall Of L’s.

walloflsbeforenow

Things have changed so much in the house in four years. We lightened up the walls, the carpets have been replaced with wood, I painted the piano (good, good move) and that wall of L’s has continued to grow.

And finally, Five years ago in March I created this cutie Linen Ruffle Wreath.

I have since updated it by removing the little embellishments – my style has become so much plainer as the years have progressed! – and I still love the subtle texture it adds to my office walls.

I wish I had a post from six years ago … my sweet baby girl was just a few weeks old and I was as smitten as can be.

momandaudrey

Well that was fun to walk down memory lane. Thanks for taking the walk with me!

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A Sweet Vintage Easter Dress for Audrey

I couldn’t help it.

Boden was having a sale + Audrey is growing like crazy + this print was just too darling to pass up. bodeneasterdress

When the dress arrived in the mail, it was even better than I imagined. The pattern is perfectly sweet and poppy, the fit is classic and twirly, and it even comes with a separate net underskirt to make it poof out even more.

Plus, Easter is right around the corner (so early this year!) and a new Easter dress is a tradition that must be upheld.

I’m technically breaking tradition with this store-bought dress. My mom is an expert seamstress and sewed us girls our Easter dresses every year. One year, she got all fancy and made french handsewn lace for our obnoxiously large collars. Tradition in our family was to wake up on Easter morning with our new (finished late the night before) dresses hanging up in the hallway on display. It was always so special for my sisters and me.

Well, since I can’t really sew and the available selection of girls’ dresses has vastly increased since 1989, I’m feeling confident about my decision to choose this dress for my Audrey-girl.

Easter outfit for Audrey / jones design company

We’ll add a few accessories and she’ll be a colorful little Easter blossom.

SOURCES

dress / sweater / necklace / shoes / tights

Now to find outfits for the boys … which is not quite as easy since their clothing preferences lean heavily toward things you’d see in a gym.

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9 Books to Read this Spring

9 Books to Read This Spring / jones design company

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a sporadic reader.

I devour a handful of books, proudly declaring my love for a great novel, and then months go by before I pick another one up.

It could have something to do with the reading material I choose. Typically, I pick a historical fiction. Usually the story is a little heavy. I adore really great writing, which consequentially, takes me longer to get through. Books with multiple characters, varying generations, intertwining stories, beautiful, thought-provoking ideas – this is what I lean towards.

So I suppose it makes sense that after moving through a few books, I need a mental break. Well, my break is now over. I’m ready to jump back into my love affair with a good book.

For my Spring Reading list, I’ve chosen a few books that fit my typical WWII/Slavery storyline preference (not that both topics are in one book. I enjoy reading WWII books and books about slavery), and pushed myself to pick a few that are decidedly out of my norm.

Here they are, in no particular order:

THE LAKE HOUSE by Kate Morton

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

I have read several of Ms. Morton’s novels and she is brilliant at taking us through history while developing deep characters. I never want the stories to end.

THE WEDDING DRESS by Rachel Hauck

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift . . . and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress… until she discovers a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history―and its new bride―begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.

This one falls in the Christian Fiction category (which honestly, I’m not always crazy about). But then I read that the dress once belonged to an Emily (that’s me!) and then a Hillary (that’s my little sister!) and decided to give it a try. Plus, it has great reviews.

A WINDOW OPENS by Elisabeth Egan

Fans of I Don’t Know How She Does It and Where’d You Go, Bernadette will cheer at this “fresh, funny take on the age-old struggle to have it all” (People) about what happens when a wife and mother of three leaps at the chance to fulfill her professional destiny—only to learn every opportunity comes at a price.

Well, I did really enjoy Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and this cover had me at first glance, so I’m giving it a go.

THE PARIS ARCHITECT by Charles Belfoure

In 1942 Paris, gifted architect Lucien Bernard accepts a commission that will bring him a great deal of money – and maybe get him killed. But if he’s clever enough, he’ll avoid any trouble. All he has to do is design a secret hiding place for a wealthy Jewish man, a space so invisible that even the most determined German officer won’t find it. He sorely needs the money, and outwitting the Nazis who have occupied his beloved city is a challenge he can’t resist.
But when one of his hiding spaces fails horribly, and the problem of where to hide a Jew becomes terribly personal, Lucien can no longer ignore what’s at stake. The Paris Architect asks us to consider what we owe each other, and just how far we’ll go to make things right.

This book falls hard in my favored category (like All The Light We Cannot See and The Nightengale). It sounds heavy and so I’ll sandwich it between two lighter reads.

COUNTING BY 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.
Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

There is something sort of quirky that intrigues me about this story. I hope it pleasantly surprises me.

IT’S SIMPLY TUESDAY by Emily Freeman

Our obsession with bigger and faster is spinning us out of control. We move through the week breathless and bustling, just trying to keep up while longing to slow down. But real life happens in the small moments, the kind we find on Tuesday, the most ordinary day of the week. For those being pulled under by the strong current of expectation, comparison, and hurry, relief is found more in our small moments than in our fast movements.

This one has been on my bookshelf since the day it was released. I bought one for my best friend, too, and she keeps reminding me that I really need to read it. I have a hard time making it through Christian living-type books, but I deeply respect Emily and know the content will speak to me right where I’m at. It will be read this spring!

I’LL DRINK TO THAT by Betty Halbreich

Eighty-six-year-old Betty Halbreich is a true original who could have stepped straight out of Stephen Sondheim’s repertoire. She has spent nearly forty years as the legendary personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman, where she works with socialites, stars, and ordinary women off the street. She has helped many find their true selves through fashion, frank advice, and her own brand of wisdom. She is trusted by the most discriminating persons—including Hollywood’s top stylists—to tell them what looks best. But Halbreich’s personal transformation from cosseted young girl to fearless truth teller is the greatest makeover of her career.

I’m thinking I need more memoirs in my life. I’ll start with this one.

GLORY OVER EVERYTHING by Kathleen Grissom

A novel of family and long-buried secrets along the treacherous Underground Railroad.
The author of the New York Times bestseller and beloved book club favorite The Kitchen House continues the story of Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, whose deadly secret compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.

Oh my goodness, did you all read The Kitchen House? Probably my favorite book of all times. Or at least it was when I read it. I cannot wait to read the follow-up story to that one. Cannot wait. It is released on April 5th.

THE COINCIDENCE OF THE COCONUT CAKE by Amy Reichert

You’ve Got Mail meets How to Eat a Cupcake in this delightful novel about a talented chef and the food critic who brings down her restaurant—whose chance meeting turns into a delectable romance of mistaken identities.

I’ll admit – the cover got me on this one. But the story sounds fun and light and I really, really love coconut cupcakes (particularly this recipe).

double-line-tiny

So there they are … my nine picks for spring reading. Have you read any of these? Do you have a favorite you’re reading now? Any more suggestions?

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the coziest alpaca blanket

stay-warm Well, it’s almost spring, but I’ll tell you what: I can not get warm.

Perhaps it’s old(er) age? My fingers and toes have poor circulation and so each night I hop into bed under a soft sheet, a thick quilt and a down comforter in a duvet and still I am chilly.

My best friend knows this about me and gifted me the most luxurious, soft, extra large alpaca wool blanket. I sleep with it every night and though thin in weight, it is mighty in warmth.

bedroom I couldn’t keep the wonderfulness all to myself so I sourced a handful to add to the shop and share with you!

alpaca blankets stacked / jones design company Each color is beautiful. I have a gray one on my bed and that graphic striped one in the living room which I curl up with every night on the couch.
plaid-on-chair

Video House Tour / jones design company

I wish I had more to offer, but there are only a few available in each color (like less than 10 each). If you are looking for a large, soft, lightweight throw that will keep you cozy, you will adore this alpaca wool blanket. We will ship out all orders this week so you’ll have plenty of time to snuggle with it before Spring officially makes its debut – unless you’re in California or Florida or Texas where it’s perpetually warm and you scoff at blankets :)

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P.S. Remember these black + white striped dish towels? My next shipment should be in soon! I’ll let you know as soon as I have them in the shop.

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18 lovely letterers to follow on Instagram

18 Letterers to follow on Instagram / jones design company

Instagram. The place where I keep up with family and friends, fellow bloggers, get fashion inspiration, drool over gorgeous homes and darling babies and admire talented photographers.

Also, the place where I’m consistently in awe of lovely lettering.

I follow quite a few letterers and calligraphers on instagram. Each one has her unique style and receives lots of double-taps from me.

If you love pretty lettering, great quotes, beautifully styled photos and even a few in-process videos (which I watch on repeat), you’ll want to follow these 18 letterers on instagram.

Here are a handful of my favorites, in no particular order.

01 | @afabulousfete afabulousfete

02 | @jordanne__marie jordannemarie

03 | @1canoe2 1canoe2

04 | @lindsay_letters lindsayletters

05 | @heidibraids heidibraids

06 | @inkwellpress inkwellpress

07 | @janisanzalone janisanzalone

08 | @jennyhighsmith jennyhighsmith

09| @designroots designroots

10 | @lhcalligraphy lhcalligraphy

11 | @mollyjacques mollyjacques

12 | @jenny_sanders_ jennysanders

13 | @jenngietzen jenngietzen

14 | @10f1doodles 1of1doodles

15 | @valeriemckeehan valeriemckeehan

16 | @alizalatta
alizalatta1

17 | @emilymcdowell_
emilymcdowell

18 | @thirstyheartsdesign
thirstyheartsdesign

Aren’t those just wonderful?! Every single one. And these are just tiny samples of the rest of the goodness you will find on their feeds. All are must-follows, in my humble opinion.

Do you follow any letterers/calligraphers on Instagram that I missed? I’d love to hear your favorites!

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Speaking of lettering …

Did you hear that I now offer an online handwriting course?!

simplified penmanship - a workshop to help you improve your penmanship and develop your lettering style / jones design company

You’ll learn the tools and technique to improve your handwriting and I’m sharing all of my tips for creating great lettering pieces.

Get all the details here. 

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How To Clean A Gas Range Top

There are two types of people:

Those who like their space CLEAN

and

Those who like their space ORGANIZED

I happen to fall in the second group. This doesn’t mean I don’t adore a clean house, but if given a few minutes around the house I’ll choose organizing, picking up, putting things in their place every time. Visual clutter makes me uneasy. I stress out when my space is messy. I do a lot of picking up all day long.

A little over a year ago, we finally decided it was time to hire someone to help us keep our house clean. Ryan and I did mildly okay with the bathrooms and floors and general disinfecting, but with our work schedules and family activities and desire to chill or be social in our off time, cleaning our house fell low on the priority list. We hired my best friend’s house cleaner, Maria, and I am more than giddy every other Tuesday when she comes to whip our house into shape.

(P.S. Giving myself the permission to hire a house cleaner could be a whole blog post on it’s own. As a work-at-home mom, I felt like I should be able to keep up with the house work. It’s what my grandma did and my mom did and so my expectation was that I should be able to do it, too. But at some point I just realized it’s not what I enjoy, not what I’m good at, I get naggy and grouchy on cleaning days and that wasn’t worth it. So we hired Maria and haven’t looked back.)

how to clean a range top

Anyway, the last time Maria was here, I posted a photo on instagram of our gas range top declaring my love for how it looks so sparkly clean and how I avoid cooking because I don’t want to mess it up.  The conversation on the post was fun about the choice between electric and gas, stainless and not, and especially, how I clean the gas range top.

Well, first of all, I don’t. I try, but it never looks quite as good as when Maria does it. So I asked her if I could snap some photos and if she would reveal her tricks and she was more than happy to share.

So this is how you clean a gas range top, as according to our housecleaner-turned-friend who is very good at her job.

You’ll need a few basic, non-toxic household supplies:

supplies-for-cleaning-range

Before you begin, fill one spray bottle with white vinegar (you can dilute it slightly, but straight vinegar is fine).

Fill another bottle with this all-purpose cleaner:

2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp dawn dishsoap
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 1/2 cups water

how to clean a gas range / jones design company

STEP ONE / Spray the range top with white vinegar in a spray bottle. Let it soak for 10-15 minutes.

STEP TWO / Remove grates and burner caps

STEP THREE / Spray top with the homemade all-purpose cleaner (recipe above)

STEP FOUR / Scrub with the magic eraser. Use a toothbrush for the hard to reach spaces. (PS. don’t use a magic eraser on stainless steel).

STEP FIVE / In a bucket (or small container), mix 1 part vinegar to four parts water. Wet the microfiber cloth, ring it out and wipe down the stove top. Repeat.

STEP SIX / Use a dry microfiber cloth to dry and buff.

Maria brings a whole stack of these microfiber cloths with her. She sings their praises and convinced me to order a set for in-between cleaning. If you are looking for a good cleaning towel, these are thick and don’t get linty when you wash them.

STEP SEVEN / Clean grills and burner caps in the sink with a spray of the baking soda/vinegar/soap/water mix and the magic eraser. Rinse and dry.

Put it all back together and your range will sparkle!

 

Thanks to Maria for sharing and letting me take terribly-lit, shaky photos.

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7 Blogs I’m Lovin’

Before I started blogging, I was a blog reader. Now, this was back in the days of google reader (I loved it), pre-Instagram and Pinterest, and during a season of my life when I was home with three little ones (and one more soon-to-be on the way).  My discovery of blogs was admittedly late, but I fell hard, fast. So much so that I decided to start one up of my own (well, actually two, which morphed into one, but that’s another story).

Here we are, nearly 7 years later, and I still love reading blogs. Granted, it’s a little different now that instagram has become such a quick and easy micro-blogging platform. You can get pretty filled up on inspiration and encouragement and just plain beautiful images after a few minutes of scrolling through. But, there is something wonderful about the extra bit you gain by reading an actual blog post.

Over the years, a majority of blogs have lost their personal, un-polished humanness in exchange for more editorial, pinnable, unique content offerings. There is nothing really wrong with this type of blogging and I have fallen prey to the pressure many times to churn out content that will get the most social shares and look the most professional.

And yet, I always come back around to remembering what it is I like best about blogs I read and what I want for my blog, too.

My favorite blogs are favorites because there is a person behind each post. Someone I like. A woman I would want to be friends with in real life. Sure, she might be a really great decorator or very wise with her words or a taker of beautiful photos, but as I look at my list of current favorite blogs and assess what they all have in common, I see a woman behind the blog who is real and not afraid to be herself online.

This is most definitely my goal as a blog-writer and what I love most about the blogs at the top of my Blogs I’m Lovin’ list.

Real. Unashamed. Imperfect. Confident. Generous and kind.

It’s been 5 years since I shared my favorite blogs (here is the oldie post which still boasts many of my still-favorite blogs). I like to receive blog posts via email and subscribe to quite a few. This list of 7 are among my favorites.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Emily Henderson blog

EMILY at Style By Emily Henderson | This spunky, smart, adorable mama of two shines on the camera and makes the most eye-appealing rooms. Her style pushes me in new directions and I love her witty way with words.

shannan at Flower Patch Farmgirl

SHANNAN at Flower Patch Farmgirl | Goodness. What can I even say about how lovely and vulnerable and real Shannan is on her online space. Her writing is so pretty to read – almost poetic at times – and no matter the subject matter, it is always wrapped in grace and curiosity and a longing for truth. Plus, she doesn’t take herself too seriously and I like that about her. She just wrote a book (you can pre-order it here) and I can’t wait to pour through it.

ashley

ASHLEY at Under the Sycamore | Ashley’s blog is a longtime favorite and never fails to offer sweet moments of her life and family with gorgeously candid photos that tell stories on their own. She shares crafts, photo tips and teaches an online photography class called Snap Shops.  I love that Ashley seems so comfortable in her own skin. She lives simply, homeschooling her kiddos, raising chickens, creating a happy, colorfully embellished life. I like her.

myquillyn

MYQUILLYN at Nesting Place | ‘The Nester’, as she’s known in blog-land, was one of my first blog reads and who I owe my early blog growth to. She linked to my blog very early on and said nice things and gave me confidence to continue. She has become a real-life friend (I’ll be at her farmhouse this spring!) and a constant decorating/homemaking cheerleader to us readers to stop worrying about perfection and do our thing.  Her house style is cozy minimalism with a hint of quirky, which is such a match to her warm, silly personality.

smallthings

KATE at The Small Things Blog | I first found Kate on Instagram where she is so friendly and approachable. Her blog is filled with hair and makeup how-to videos that just suck me in and I especially like that she talks as if she were sitting right next to you. In fact, I wish she was sitting next to me making me over!

housetweaking

DANA at House Tweaking | You know what really appeals to me about Dana (besides her really, really great sense of style)? It’s how she seems so confident and unaffected by what others think. Not that she’s a rebel or anything, and I don’t know her so I can’t say this is true of her, but she shares her thoughts and ideas and inspiration very matter-of-factly and I appreciate that. She keeps her personal life fairly separate and yet you just know as a reader that she loves her family. Plus, like I said, I’m a big fan of her style and house.

inspiredroom

MELISSA at The Inspired Room | Another longtime read with a smart, soft-spoken, hospitable woman behind it all. Melissa talks about houses and shares great decorating tips and solutions, but also goes deeper into creating a house you love. She is a local Seattle blogger who just bought a new (old) house and is making it into her family’s home, one project at a time. She’s also very cool and business savvy and someone I look up to, for sure.

Alright, I’m done gushing. But wouldn’t you agree that behind a really great blog is always a genuine, likable person? I’m thankful for the little piece of goodness that each of these women shares with the world.

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Hey … one more thing. Great news! If you’ve been wanting to start a blog (or up your blogging game), Ryan and I teach an all-encompassing online course called The Blog Class.

The Blog Class / everything you need to know to start and grow your blog

We cover it all:

  • how to start
  • why WordPress is worth it
  • what to look for in a theme
  • creating your blog header and sidebar graphics
  • understanding the importance of content
  • finding and keeping readers
  • the best methods for making money with your blog

And so much more. Seriously. There are over 100 videos with not only concepts, but actual step-by-step instructions to walk you through each step.

If you’ve been on the fence about blogging, let this be a gentle nudge to listen to that desire and go for it! We’d love to be your teachers.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN HOW THE BLOG CLASS CAN HELP YOU

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Turkish Towel Fail

At the top of my Christmas wish list was a stack of new towels. Not just any towels. Turkish towels.

towels

Ryan thought I was crazy. What’s wrong with our regular white terry cloth towels? 

I didn’t have a great answer other than these three mildly unconvincing responses:

  1. I have heard great things about the size, the softness, the absorbency of turkish cotton towels
  2. After a while, terry cloth towels start to smell … sort of like … used towels.
  3. I like how they look.

I mean, just look at this gorgeous bathroom with the big, fringed towels!

towelsblacktub
Granted, our bathroom is not quite so pretty (as seen in this video). But that doesn’t stop me from wanting pretty things to try to make my not-so-pretty space prettier.

Surprise of all surprises, Ryan bought me a set of four glorious black and white herringbone towels for Christmas. I washed them, dried them, folded them in a happy stack and tried one out for the first time last week.

turkishtowelsstacked

It was a major, major letdown.

There was zero absorbency, which is my biggest towel pet peeve. Come on, towel! Your job is to absorb water!

Also, my body was covered in lint.

Boo.

So now I have a pretty stack of towels that are completely useless.

Did I choose the wrong ones? Are there fake turkish towels and real turkish towels? Do I need to try washing them again? Any Turkish towel fans out there that could help this girl out?!

Your suggestions are much appreciated.

P.S. That pretty soap and oil is from Nash + Jones. Their packaging is spot on.

(source for bathroom photo unknown)

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The Best of JDC in 2015

With the start of a new year, it gives us a chance to look back at the previous 365 days.

I love going through old posts and remembering what happened throughout the year.  So here are the highlights and favorite posts from 2015:

JANUARY

The year started off with an introduction of sorts. I forget that many of you are new readers, so it was fun to fill you in on who I am, in bullet points.

A house down the street identical to ours went up for sale, so I compared the two. Before + Afters are always great.

Kitchen Before + After / jones design company

FEBRUARY

We organized our phones:

How to Organize your Iphone Home Screen / jones design company

Mounted an ipad in our kitchen:

How to Mount an Ipad / jones design company

And then we chatted about doing our thing:

MARCH

If we were to redo our master bathroom (which we’re not, but it’s fun to dream):

Master Bathroom Design Board / jones design company

We learned a new trick to keep hydrangeas from wilting (it really works!):

How To Keep Hydrangeas from Wilting / jones design company

I made a quick video showing how to do your hair in a messy side bun:

Video: How to do your hair in a messy side bun / jones design company

APRIL

A good list of books. Always a favorite.

9 Books Worth Reading / jones design company

 If you need a chocolate chip cookie to snack on while you’re reading …

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies / jones design company

My never-ending collection keeps growing:

MAY

A very simple keychain diy:

Stamped Leather Keychain / jones design company

I made these numbers on a whim. They turned out so cute I had to share:

And summer begins! Our house looked so fresh and calm for the summer tour:

JUNE

Things slow down in blog-world in the summer and I am so thankful for it.

I did a podcast with Jamie Ivey (so.much.fun):

Threw a party for my sister-in-law:

Then we talked summer fashion (northwest style):

Summer Outfits for the casual mom-type / jones design company

JULY

I waited for months before sharing the dinner solution that changed my life just to make sure it really did change my life (hint: it did – and still does):

I finally put up artwork in Audrey’s room:

AUGUST

My go-to paint color if you’re looking for a neutral warm gray:

Revere Pewter / jones design company

SEPTEMBER

With summer over and the kids back in school, I was back at it. First up, sharing about the struggle to find good, simple metal frames (and how I solved the problem):

House Tour, Fall Edition (the #4 most viewed posts!):

My Favorite Fall Outfits:

Favorite Fall Outfits / jones design company

OCTOBER

My friend let me help her brighten up the entry:

This little trick makes the cheapest grocery store flowers look elegant:

NOVEMBER

Our house was featured in a magazine:

We launched a new site called Maker + Ink (scripture + style):

DECEMBER

A new free print!:

The stag got a diy pom wreath for the holidays:

wreath

Our house looked so pretty simply decorated for Christmas:

And that was it.

What a year.

Thanks for joining me! Cheers to a new year filled with inspiration and beauty.

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16 gifts to add to your wish list

My younger sister was over a few weekends ago and asked what I wanted for Christmas. Which made me stop and think because I hadn’t even considered it.

Ryan and I are notorious for buying ourselves things throughout the year and claiming, “this can be my christmas present!“. Gifts are not our love languages, so we don’t put in a lot of effort into surprising each other with special, unexpected things on Christmas morning. Therefore, creating a wish list is not necessarily something I do each year.

But if I did make a list, this is what would be on it. And now that I’ve created it, I actually do wish for every one of these items.

16 Gifts To Add To Your Wishlist

(I have been collecting things on a private pinterest board for the past few weeks and I honestly didn’t realize until putting the collage together just how limited my color palette was. Grays, golds, copper, black and white forever.)

I’ll quickly highlight each item. Click the image for the source.

moccasin-slippers

I wear an old pair of these pretty much every day and they’re looking tired. A new pair is in order.

styled

Emily Henderson is so good at what she does. Her new book has been sitting in my Amazon cart for over a month. It for sure makes the wish list.

zinc

The patina. The texture. The soup-can shape. I want to fill each one with a maidenhair fern.

bowl

Confession: I have this set of bowls already. I just had to include it on the list, though, because I must share the wonderfulness that they are. The shallow, wide bowls are just made for pretty salad presentation.

gloves

Gloves that keep your hands warm and let you use your phone. Fa-aancy.

tray

I was at my older sister’s house for Thanksgiving and she has little trays around her house – on the coffee table holding books, a candle, a bowl of candy, in the kitchen holding salt and pepper and oils, in the bathroom with flowers and cotton balls. So many versatile uses for organizing and making clutter look less cluttered.

soap

Another confession: my cousin just brought me a bar of this soap as I was putting the post together! How did she read my mind?! It’s super cool and will look great in the guest bathroom with these prints.

bathtowel

Have you tried Turkish bath towels? They have been on my must-try list for a while because I’m just not in love with terry cloth bath towels. Of all the things listed, I want these the most.

cake-stand

Cake plates are great for displaying cakes, but I also like that they add height to the shelves in the kitchen. There is something so pretty about a collection of cake stands (like this).

jewelry-box

For my birthday this fall, Ryan wanted to get me a jewelry box. I searched and searched and wasn’t sure what to pick. I pick this one.

sneakers

Because a girl needs cool sneakers. Also, the word sneakers is funny.

mug

We have a few of these already and I am a fan. The copper is trendy and cool looking, but they actually are very practical in that they keep your drink very cold. I like the modern, straight shape of these.

 

server

While doing some christmas shopping, I came across this marble 2-tier server and tried to find a reason to buy it for myself. It’s handsome and sleek and I want to use it for parties.

 

necklace

Perhaps you know how I feel about monograms. The necklace is a wearable version of an L you might find on our L Wall.

hat

Classic and warm. Just right for winter.

keychain

I currently use a diy leather keychain that I’m happy with, but this one just feels a bit fancier with the tassel and monogram tag and gold clasp.

There you go, my friends. 16 gifts I would be pleased to receive this year … and perhaps you would too.

Anything special on your wish list this year?

 

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