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5 instagram accounts that have me super inspired

From time to time I am asked where I get inspiration from.

Well, nature, is always and forever first.

Second is some weird mix of imagination/creative ability that comes out either when I’m a. in a crunch for time or b. when I’m laying in bed or driving alone in a silent car.

A more tangible answer, though, is INSTAGRAM. It is like a perpetual feast for the eyes.

I follow a random assortment of feeds that breaks down something like this:

70% home decorating/bloggers
10% real life friends + family
10% lettering + fine artists
5% ballet dancers
5% fashion

See? Kind of random.

I’m quick to follow new feeds that peak my visual interest and equally quick to unfollow when the photos no longer inspire. That sounds mean and I don’t mean to, I promise. I just love using instagram as a personal way to indulge my aesthetic-loving eyes and gathering inspiration. Sometimes that changes depending on season, projects I’m working on and trends.

Case in point: A year ago, I was all about clean, white, bright spaces and my instagram feed (both in what I followed and what I posted) reflected that.

Currently, I’m inspired by simple interiors with a mix of white and deep, moody hues. It kind of makes sense because this is the direction we’re taking our new house and so my eye is drawn to other spaces that are doing similar things.

If you look at the most recent images I’ve posted on instagram, you can see the theme.

Lots of deep, saturated grays and blues mixed with white (and lots of greenery because I just can’t stop).

Here are five instagram feeds that are particularly inspiring to me right now and continue to push me to add more color to our house:

@ginny_macdonald

Ginny works with another design-crush Emily Henderson and has this perfect mix of traditional and modern. Her use of blues and natural wood tones is what I’m especially drawn to.

@hammmadefurniture

This sweet family is building a home, painting gorgeous art, building furniture … and I’m pretty sure I like every single photo.

@devolkitchens

The designers behind this company create the most classic, simple, elegant kitchens. I love a white kitchen, but more and more I’m being drawn to not-white ones and deVOL knows how to do them beautifully.

@parkandoakdesign

I don’t recall how I came across this account, but I can tell you that when I did, I spent way too long scrolling through all of their work. Every room is classic with little pops of personality (a perfect combination in my book).

@cathyposhusta

Cathy and her family recently moved to an old farmhouse in Eastern Washington and it’s been fun watching the rooms come together. Her style is a great mix of vintage and traditional mixed with rustic farmhouse.

I’m throwing in one more of my favorite instagram accounts for good measure.

It has nothing to do with interiors, and yet is still utterly breathtaking and I look forward to each new photo.

@jontaylorsweet

I literally can’t stop staring at this photo.

So those are my top six to follow right now … do you have any favorite instagram accounts that inspire you?

P.S. you can hang out with my on instagram @jonesdesigncompany

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get a CLEAN start with a free Mrs. Meyers gift set

The kids are back at school today which is slightly bittersweet. Of course we love them being home and celebrating the holidays together. We love the sleeping in and lazy days, the game playing and game watching.

But you know what having four kids at home all day does to a kitchen?

doingdishes It keeps it in perpetual disarray. Food left out. Crumbs on the table. So many dishes.

dishes Washing dishes used to be a point of marital contention and then one day I decided I didn’t hate doing them anymore. I’m slightly particular when it comes to loading the dishwasher (I can’t believe I’m one of those people!) and I have a system for hand washing dishes that makes it quick and mindless (utensils first, medium sized items next, save the worst for last). I’ve found in marriage that if you take the things you care the most about and stop worrying about fairness, things get much easier. And it leaves me with a clean kitchen, so that’s totally worth it.

dishsoapsink I’m all about making the everyday more beautiful and since I have to do dishes on a regular basis, I might as well make the experience enjoyable.

At the kitchen sink are simple pleasures like good smelling soap, a fresh, neutral sponge and favorite dish towel. Seriously, these things make my day happier.

Fun bonus: the company where I get my soap and sponges is giving away a Mrs. Meyer’s gift set for FREE! 

grovefree Right now, when you sign up for Grove and place your first order of $20 you’ll get this Fresh Start offer for free:

  • Free Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap
  • Free Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap
  • Free Mrs. Meyer’s lotion (only available at Grove!)
  • Free Grove Collaborative Enamel Cleaning Caddy
  • Free Grove Collaborative Walnut Scrubber Sponges
  • Free shipping

grovefreetop Existing Grove subscriber? You get a free Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap! Click here to claim your gift.

UPDATE: The offer ends TONIGHT (January 9th) and supplies are limited.

I had been eyeing Grove for over a year – always thinking about ordering but never pulling the trigger.

And then last fall I just couldn’t resist the Mrs. Meyer’s Iowa Pine scent that was part of the free gift and jumped in.

Coming up with what to buy for $20 was easier than I expected. I was surprised to see that the things we regularly use in our household are available at comparable or even lower prices and it saves me a trip to Target (which, honestly is a money trap for me so reducing the amount of trips there is a good thing!)

Here’s what is on my perpetual reorder list:

grovepurchases walnut scrubber sponges I’m a born and raised sponge user. Some people are grossed out by them, but they work so well to wipe counters and scrub dishes. I throw them in the dishwasher every once in a while and am not shy about tossing them once they look dingy and start in on that nasty dirty sponge smell.

mrs. meyer’s hand soap I like a matching set of hand soap and dish soap and don’t mind switching up the scent. This time of year, I’m going with Lemon Verbena for its fresh scent and pretty green packaging.

dr. bonner’s all-one toothpaste What originally caught my eye was the graphic packaging. What’s keeping us using it is the natural ingredients and interesting anise flavor. It comes in peppermint and cinnamon, too.

tom’s toothpaste How do my kids go through so much toothpaste? I have no clue.

bubble up dish brush set This simple dish brush set is a new essential for my dish-doing. The simple natural wood/white porcelain combination means I’m happy to let it sit out on the counter. I like having a little dish to rest the brush in and let it dry out when not in use. And while in use, it works!

seventh generation laundry soap We’re a family with sensitive skin so this free and clear laundry soap is our go-to.

accure cleansing towelettes Confession: I bought these for our nearly-teenage son to do my part at preserving his soft baby skin. Will these keep teenage breakouts away? I don’t know. But it’s worth a shot.

The great thing about Grove is that I’m not stuck with any of these items and can always order more, less, try new products or keep to a regular order. They make it super easy.

freegift Want to give it a try?

When you click over to Grove, you’ll be asked a few questions and your cart will auto-fill with $20 worth of products. Go ahead and take their suggestions or browse your favorite brands or household items and choose your own (but I’m going to highly suggest that bubble up brush).

To receive the FREE Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap, dish soap, lotion, scrubber sponges and caddy, your order needs to be a minimum of $20.

mrsmeyers

getfreegift

sinkdishes I hope you find Grove to be a helpful service that saves you time, money and keeps you happy when you’re doing daily household things like dishes and laundry and brushing your teeth. #simplepleasures

Click over to Grove to learn more + claim your gift!

 

*Please note that Grove currently does not ship to Canada, Hawaii, or Alaska

*I am happy to be a Grove affiliate

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18 last-minute gift ideas

We just have a few days until Christmas! How are you feeling? Are you ready? Stressed out? Savoring the music and trees and twinkling lights?

Perhaps you’re like me and are still finishing up the gift-buying. No shame here. We have become almost 100% online shoppers and since most of the shipping deadlines have passed, the final gifts are being purchased from Amazon. We’ve been Prime members for a long time now and fully take advantage of the free (and fast!) shipping. Our poor UPS guy probably thinks we’re crazy for the amount of Amazon boxes he has been delivering to our new house :) But seriously, the convenience of a one-stop shop for almost everything plus great prices and quick shipping is pretty amazing when it’s December 19th and there are just six days until Christmas.

If you’re still doing a bit of last-minute shopping this week, I’ve put together 18 items perfect for gift giving. Many of these items I have and love, some are things I’d like to have and love. And all of them are Prime items so you should get them in time for Christmas!

lastminutegiftideas

1. Everyone Brave is Forgiven | $18.89
I have had this book on my kindle app for months and finally started it this weekend. I’m so hooked already. If you’ve read The Nightingale or All The Light We Cannot See and loved them, you’ll love this one, too. If you’ve read either of those two and feel like this is just another version, don’t miss out. It has a new angle that feels special and a story of it’s own. Plus the cover is so pretty it makes a nice gift.

2. Brass Dinner Bell | $16.85
This is a fun gift for new homeowners! We just added one in our kitchen so we can call the kids down for dinner without shouting.

3. Leather Phone Case | $25.99
I converted to a wallet phone case last spring and haven’t looked back. I like the color of the leather and the dainty size.

4. 3 Piece Mixing Bowl Set | $59.95
This is a totally unromantic gift, but so practical. These bowls have rubberized bottoms that make them stay put while stirring. I use at least one bowl from the set pretty much everyday.

5. Signo Black Micro Pen | $11.21 for 12 pack
My favorite pen to write with, hands down.

6. Signo Gel Pen in White | $6.80 for 3 pack
My favorite white pen to write with. It is great for colored envelopes, chalk tags, metallic stickers, anything non-white that you want to write on.

7. Rifle Paper Co. Notebooks | $14 for set of 2
You can never have enough pretty notebooks. I keep one in my bag, one on my desk, one on my nightstand … you get the idea.

8. Jenga Game | $16.99
This classic game is a regular in our house. Great for kids and adults (bonus: the blocks look great left out!)

9. Kitchen Timer | $14.99
A retro-inspired timer for the home chef or aspiring baker. Comes in a few different colors and it’s magnetic, too.

10. Wetbrush in Natural | $15.99
Audrey and I converted to these brushes this summer and we no longer cringe while brushing our thick, tangly hair.

11. iPhone Dock | $59.99
This was a recent purchase as I needed a spot to charge my phone downstairs and grew tired of going upstairs to grab my cord. This dock now sits in the kitchen ready for regular charging. It is heavy and well-made and nice to look at.

12. Milk Frother | $129.93
If you get anything on this list, I vote this one. You can find less expensive frothers out there, but I stand fully behind this one. We use it daily for lattes – here’s how I make them at home and here’s my eggnog latte recipe. If you have a coffee drinker in your life, he/she will thank you for this one.

13. Weighted iPhone cable | $39.99
Black and white striped cords are so up my ally. This cord is 10ft with a weighted knot to hold it in place. Such a smart idea.

14. I Had A Favorite Dress | $11.44
Looking for a sweet picture book? This is our favorite girly one.

15. Telephone | $14.75
And this is our favorite boyish version. Although, it is not just for boys, so don’t hesitate getting this one for a girl, too. The pictures are so great and the story is witty. The best combination.

16. The Secret Keepers | $10.79
For the older kid-reader, this is a new novel by the author of one of my oldest son’s favorite series, The Mysterious Benedict Society. I may or may not have purchased this one for him.

17. Brass Plant Mister | $17.45
You know how I feel about fresh greenery around the house (if you don’t know, now you do: I am a big believer in lots of plants) and one way to keep them alive is by daily misting. This brass mister looks great left out on the kitchen counter so you don’t forget to use it!

18. Don’t Tip the Waiter | $19.99
How fun does this game look?! It would be a good one to leave out on the coffee table for guests to pick up.

Hope this list is helpful if you’re searching for a few last-minute gift ideas!

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My soundtrack for the Christmas season

We are music people.

Ryan, especially, but me and the kids, too. If we’re home, its very likely that there will be music on in the house.

sonos When we moved in to our new house, there were a few weeks where we had no idea where anything was. Our speakers were buried in the mess and it was a happy day when they came out! Adding music made it feel more like home.

We use Sonos throughout the house and couldn’t be happier.

In our old house we had two in the living room and one in the kitchen.

You can just barely see the white speakers on the bookshelves, which is pleasing to my design eye.

In the new house we’re still figuring out where the speakers should go so they are randomly scattered throughout the family room and kitchen. Sonos was having a black friday sale and my darling husband just couldn’t resist getting two more. I didn’t complain :)

Music playing in the house just does something to the mood. Lately, it’s been non-stop Christmas music.

I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite Christmas albums that have been playing on repeat since Thanksgiving.

First up, Christy Nockels’ new Christmas album called The Thrill of Hope.

thrillofhope

I listen to her podcast and in the more recent episodes, she has told the story of different songs and it makes listening even more meaningful.


Next is my kids’ favorite: Pentatonix. We have their older Christmas album and bought their new one this year.

pentatonix pentatonixnew

If you are not familiar, Pentatonix is an accapella group that does covers of songs and sound amazing. I especially love their version of Hallelujah and this video is so gorgeous:


I just bought Matt Redman’s new Christmas album, These Christmas Lights

matt-redman

It has a very worshippy feel, which I love.


You all know my love of Lauren Daigle. When I heard she released a new christmas album this fall, I was first in line.

lauren-daigle

It is moody and jazzy and the perfect music to play in the background at your Christmas parties this year. Have a listen to my favorite song:


And then of course there is the classic of all classics (at least for this child of the 80’s), Amy Grant. All of her records (because they were called records back then). Every single song. I love them all, but especially her first one, A Christmas Album.

amygrant

Although, this one is a very close second.


Those are my favorites this year. I was surprised at how many new albums came out this fall and I fell hard for each one.

Do you have any favorite songs/artists/albums that play on repeat in your household?

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Free Nutcracker Gift Tags

calendar Happy December 1st!

It was so nice to have a few days between Thanksgiving and December … sometimes it feels like they just melt into one another and this girl needs a few days to adjust!

I’m still far, far from the wrapping gifts phase, but if you are anything like my sister (her motto is “wrapped and done by December 1!“) perhaps you’d enjoy a set of adorable Nutcracker gift tags to add to your packages this year!

giftwithtag ballerina-tag These tags are part of our December Paper Works collection which is filled with darling paper goods to keep you organized and looking cute.

tags Paper Works is $9 per month and you receive fresh designs each month to download and print.

dinner nutcrackerart notes Think everyday useful items like calendars, note cards, art prints, shopping lists, menu planners, chore charts and – my favorite – scripture cards.

scripturecards Join now for all of these designs and much, much more!

If you’re not quite ready to become a monthly subscriber, you are welcome to join the FREE monthly list where you’ll receive four downloadable items each month.

There is always a CALENDAR and WALLPAPERS for your computer desktop and phone lock screen, and we throw in two bonus items. This month, you’ll get these adorable NUTCRACKER GIFT TAGS and a SHOPPING CHECKLIST.

nutcrackertags

Just click the image above (or right here) and sign up for the free items at Paper Works. You’ll receive an automatic email with the download links to all of the freebies!

Enjoy and happy wrapping!

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The Perfect Polish For Fall

I have finally found a polish that lasts for more than three days!

Gel has been around for forever and I’ve tried it many, many times. It has traditionally lasted longer than regular polish (like 7 days instead of two or three) but it still felt a little spendy to get my nails done if it was just going to peel off within a week. It was a fun once-in-a-while event to get a manicure, but never something I did regularly.

Then last month, my friend took me to her neighborhood nail place where they use some magical polish, give the best hand massages and their polish job lasts weeks. Since then, I’ve been in two more times.

On our first trip, I chose a typical Emily color: a soft white called It’s In The Cloud.  I do love a neutral nail.

nudecolor
I’m not sure if it is the quality of the polish or something special with the lights the salon uses, but to my surprise, it lasted nearly three weeks. That is an absolute record for me. By then the tips were showing some cracking so it wasn’t looking perfect and my nails were far longer than I prefer. Every time I typed on my computer I felt like my fingers were spider-legs tap-tap-tapping along. It was time for a refresh.

I went in for a second time, strayed from my norm and chose a warm peachy-red called Schnapps Out Of It.

schnappsoutofit
It’s hard to tell from this photo – you can see it better in Coffee Chat Episode 9 (right here). The color looked great with my pale skin (and nearly matched my rain boots) and felt very fall-ish.

On my birthday last week, we went in once again for a fresh manicure and polish change. It had been another three weeks and the peachy-red was starting to peel up on the sides. Again, three weeks feels like a major win for me and my un-delicate hand treatment.

The most recent color is a great neutral gray/purple/taupe called Taupe-less Beach that changes color in different lighting.

tauplessbeachnails
All three polishes are neutral-ish and very appropriate for fall.

perfectpolishforfall

IT’S IN THE CLOUD  |  SCHNAPPS OUT OF IT   |   TAUPE-LESS BEACH

I highly recommend this brand of gel polish. You can purchase it on your own (links above), but it is the kind you need to cure with the special light-thing. I’m not great at painting my own nails, so I prefer to get them done by a professional.

If you have had gel done professionally and it hasn’t lasted you more than a week, seek out a salon that uses this OPI GelColor polish and give it a try. It’s magic!

Also, how fun are the names of nail polish?!

P.S. Follow me on instagram for more in-the-moment photos like the ones above! My name is @jonesdesigncompany

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the dinner solution that has changed my life (for real)

We came home from our summer-long road trip and do you know what was the greatest joy of all?

Having dinner delivered to us again.

I mean, I did fine with cooking on the road – mainly because it was only a few nights per week and we made the same three meals over and over again.

Hamburgers. Burrito Bowls. Grilled Chicken + Salad. Repeat.

But at home, I’m terrible at dinner. Terrible.

Especially once fall is in full swing and there are football practices and ballet lessons and homework and extra work projects added into our daily life. All of the sudden it is 4 o’clock and I have no idea what I’m making for dinner.

I wrote the following post last summer after having used a meal delivery service for six months.

Here we are over a year later and I can still wholeheartedly say that it is the best decision ever. I tell my real life friends about it all the time and can’t help but share with you as well.

So here you go … to my friends who maybe don’t mind the cooking part but can not stand the thinking, planning and shopping for all the right ingredients part … the dinner solution that changed my life.


(Originally published July 2016)

I’ve tried it all.

Planning dinner for the week.

Planning dinner for the whole month.

Eating the same meal on the same day each week. 

A regular rotation of eating out at one of the three restaurants in our town. 

Resorting to quesadillas because that’s the best I could do.

Dinner is just not my thing.

It’s not the cooking that’s the issue (I actually enjoy being in the kitchen – usually for baking, but cooking is fine, too) and I certainly don’t mind the eating part, but it’s the planning that gets me every time.  I just can’t seem to find a rhythm.

In January of this year, Ryan decided it was time to come up with a better solution and offered to take on dinners around here.

After one week of a few botched recipes and realizing just how frustrating it can be to get to 4:00 and have no idea what’s for dinner, he did something crazy: he signed us up for a meal delivery service.

delivery

You’ve probably seen posts about companies like Hello Fresh and maybe you’ve rolled your eyes and thought, ‘nah, not for me.’

But hang on. Because I was in the same boat and now I’m fully, completely, 100% a believer.

So here’s how it works: Once per week a box is delivered to your door. Inside are all the ingredients for three meals (we buy the 4 person box and it feeds our family of 6 perfectly, usually with leftovers). Included is a recipe card with the meals and instructions for preparing.

box-packaged

There is a bag of produce/canned items separated for each meal that goes right into the fridge and the proteins packaged separately.

bags

Each night, I just decide which meal to make and pull out the bags + protein needed.

cooking-with-audrey

All of the recipes are easy to make and take about 45 minutes to cook.

We were leery at the beginning, I’ll be honest.  What if we didn’t like what they sent? What if the produce and meat was not good quality? What if we got bored of the same meals?

After six months of using Hello Fresh, here’s what we’ve found:

1. Dinnertime is one hundred times less stressful.

I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner. I just open the fridge, pull out a bag and start cooking. All of the ingredients are included except for olive oil, salt + pepper.

2. Three meals per week is perfect.

The other four nights we either eat out, are with friends or family or just make a favorite go-to meal (like burrito bowls).

3. With the exception of about two recipes, we’ve enjoyed every dish.

You can select three out of five options per week, but we usually miss the cutoff and just go with the chef’s choice.  They’ve nearly all been great.

4. In six months, we’ve never had a duplicate recipe.

The meals are similar (protein+carb/starch+vegetable), but the flavors and techniques vary and we’ve tried recipes beyond our regular go-to meals. Many are gluten free and they also have a vegetarian menu.

5. Only once in 24 deliveries have we had a bag with produce that was not perfectly fresh.

And it was only because the balsamic vinegar spilled and mushed the spinach.

6. We are probably saving money. 

The cost per meal is more than we would spend if shopping ourselves, but because I’m barely ever at the store (I just do a Costco trip once/twice per month and a few random add-ons while running through Target), I am buying less, we’re wasting less, and eating out much less. We haven’t calculated the exact savings but even if it’s costing us a little bit extra, the time and stress it saves totally makes up for it.


I sound like a crazy lady, but seriously, this dinner service has changed my life.

We subscribed because we needed a solution and have stuck with it for 6 months. We thought we’d cancel this summer since we seem to be out and about a lot, but have kept with it and just cancel the weeks we know we’ll be out of town.

If dinnertime is a struggle for you, stop the madness and give yourself a break. Ryan was so smart to do this for our family and I wholeheartedly recommend giving Hello Fresh a try.

You can see all the details on pricing, menu options and if delivery is available in your area RIGHT HERE.

hellofresh

When we joined we were given a referral code (8P7ZPV), so when you sign up and use that code you’ll get $40 off and we get a credit towards our meals. You’ll get a code, too, so if you love the service and tell your friends about it, you can get a credit towards your boxes.

TRY HELLO FRESH TODAY

Seriously.

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the best dishes for picnics, camping + outdoor entertaining

This post is sponsored by Crate and Barrel

Crate and Barrel has long been our go-to for all things kitchen, dining and entertaining related. We registered for our wedding 14 years ago and still use our original dishes, flatware, kitchen gadgets and more. The quality is great and the designs are classic – two big reasons we keep coming back again and again.

When I was outfitting our teensy Airstream kitchen (here’s a full tour if you’d like to see it) for our road trip, there were a few items on my list and I knew Crate and Barrel would be just the place to find them.

bestdishestitle One of our needs were everyday dishes that were super durable, low profile and classic. I had one drawer available for storing 8 dinner plates, 8 salad plates and 8 bowls.

dishes These white melamine dishes are perfect. They are glossy on one side, which makes washing easy (no terrible stains!), they are matte on the back, which keeps them from slipping around. They stack easily for storage and fit like a glove in our drawer.

picnic I have a thing for white dishes. Remember my pretty kitchen back home? All of our everyday dishes are out in the open on display on the shelves and since they are white, they don’t feel too cluttered. White dishes are easy to decorate with and they make a great canvas for pretty food, too. I’m a fan.

cherries Another essential for our traveling kitchen were these clear acrylic glasses. I bought one for each of us, they stack up nicely, are thick and work great for camping/picnicing/outdoor entertaining.  We also grabbed two of these acrylic stemless wine glasses.

pistachios See that cute little metal cup in the cherry bowl? I’ve been wanting them for forever. I bought a stack to bring with us in the trailer and they are the cutest multi-purpose cups.

picnicclose We’ve used them for holding cherry pits and pistachio shells, filling with ranch for veggies and peanut butter for dipping apples in and, of course, as the perfect container for corralling legos.

square All trip long we’ve had breakfast, lunch and dinner – inside and out – on these great dishes.

kids-dishes And once we’re back home, I’m sure they will stay on steady rotation for everyday snacks and outdoor entertaining.

So if you’re searching for the best dishes for picnics, camping and outdoor bbq’s, may I recommend:

bestdishes

dinner plate | salad plate | bowl | condiment cup | acrylic cup | stemless wine glass

If you’re looking for something fancier than melamine, Crate and Barrel is a great resource for classic white porcelain dinnerware. These are our everyday dishes at home, my sisters both have these, and I also love the organic texture of these dishes (see the full collection of dinnerware here).

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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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