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Spring Breaking in San Diego

Each year we vow that we’ll go somewhere sunny and warm for spring break. For one reason or another, we never do.

Until this year.

Months ago we booked tickets to San Diego, California to visit my cousin and his family and to get some much needed vitamin D. We did not have much of an itinerary which made for a completely relaxing and happy family trip.

It has been a few years since the kids have flown (Audrey didn’t remember ever being on a plane, even though she has flown a few times) and they were all super excited.

We left Seattle on a gross rainy spring day and landed a few hours later in San Diego to bright sun and clear skies.

Just what we needed!

Traveling with big kids is so easy. The boys played on their phones/ipads with headphones in the whole time and Audrey spent her time looking out the window, listening to music on my phone and playing with the wikki stix in the kid pack that Alaska Airlines offers. They carried their own bags, were polite to the flight attendants and didn’t spill their drinks. I miss the days of little kids, but this made me remember how much harder it was back then to travel!

(Look at how gorgeous that fiddle leaf fig tree is!)

We spent one day at SeaWorld and had so much fun. Between the clear skies, the rides, the non-existent lines, the dolphin and orca shows, we were all very happy.

Did you know I have a thing for marine mammals? Dolphins, in particular. I just love them. Always have, always will. I teared up multiple times throughout the day when we saw them.

(P.S. when I was in high school I wanted to get a tattoo of dolphins jumping all around my ankle – like an anklet. I’m so glad I didn’t.)

Just across from SeaWorld is Mission Beach so after a full day of rides and animals, we popped over for a few minutes to hang out at the ocean.

It was sunny, but pretty chilly (like high 60’s) so I didn’t think the kids would need to change into the swim clothes that I brought along.

Um … how have I not learned yet that put any water-loving child near the ocean and he will inevitably give himself fully to it. We started by just telling them to only go up to their knees and within minutes, all three of the younger kids were soaked. And loving it.  I totally get it. I was the same way as a kid, too.

On another day, we drove out to La Jolla. It was raining earlier in the morning, but it cleared up just in time for some sight-seeing, sea lion watching and more beach time.

(can you see the sea lions on the rocks?)

Ryan calls California The Motherland. He loves it so much. We met at college in Southern California and he spent a portion of his childhood in Santa Cruz, so it’s in his blood. And, truly, there is so much to love about the laid back attitude, the blue ocean, countless beaches, fast drivers, and health-conscious restaurants.

Speaking of health-conscious … the cousins took us to a dessert place on our last night that certainly does not fall into this category but it was the perfect ending to a great trip.

Audrey ordered the Unicorn Sundae complete with cotton candy, marshmallows, and a candy bracelet. How over-the-top is that?!

Also? Even though it wasn’t very warm, we all were kissed by the sun and it felt so good.

We’re grateful for a quick getaway with time with cousins, swimming, sunshine, dolphins and sweet treats.

And now it’s back to school and work and activities galore before summer break is upon us (how did this school year go so quickly?!).

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let’s have a heart to heart about instagram

So far this year I’ve unfollowed just about 700 accounts on Instagram.

You read that right: SEVEN HUNDRED.

I now follow 391 which means that at the start of 2018, I was following over 1,000.

I shouldn’t tell you this because it might encourage you to go unfollow a bunch of accounts and that might mean you’ll unfollow me and that would make me sad and filled with angst and stressed out about people not liking me.

But I actually think it might be the best advice I could offer when it comes to Instagram.

If it doesn’t make your life – and more importantly – your soul better, let it go. Unfollow. Turn off notifications. Maybe even delete the whole thing from your phone for a few days (or forever. Whatever works.).

I started using Instagram because it was new and fun (the filters! The rounded corners! The behind-the-scenes peeks!) and continue all these years later because it is still fun and feels important for this online business I run. I try to find that balance between posting photos that are pretty to get likes and comments and shares and ultimately grow my following and posting photos that are pretty just because I like to.

(Side note: quite honestly, I’m not sure there is a huge correlation between my number of Instagram followers and business success as we’ve gone about blogging/business a little differently. But I continue anyway).

At the same time, I’m an Instagram user and it can feel so pointless and shallow and not life-giving for me to spend time every single day scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through images of strangers’ lives and homes and kids.

Tell me I’m not alone in this … it is weird, right?!

I’m trying not to be cynical because that doesn’t really get us anywhere. I’m just in this place of deeply paying attention to what I do and how it makes me feel. Instagram is one of those things I haven’t quite sorted out.

Do I love it?

Instagram is full of beautiful photos and visually inspiring ideas. It is a way to connect with friends and family and celebrities and influencers that we don’t get to hang out with on a day-to-day basis (or ever). It has become a quick micro-blogging platform for those who don’t have the time or another place to write. It becomes a digital scrapbook, or even better, an actual scrapbook if you get your pictures turned into books. It has grown businesses and offered opportunity, a sense of community and humor and brought awareness to important issues.

Or maybe do I hate it?

With Instagram, we get lost in someone else’s life, someone else’s travels, someone else’s fitness/style/food/decorating/parenting journey while we stare at our phones and ignore our own. It so easily stirs up a sense of comparison and discontent. It gives us an incomplete snapshot of whoever we’re following which leads us to believe we’re somehow worse off or less-than or missing out. It creates a sense of community that makes us forget how important real-life friendships are. It lures us in with its likes and followers and analytics that feel life-giving when they’re going up and crushing when they fall. It pressures us with the hope that if we post the best photos from the best angles with the best lighting and cleverest captions we’ll get noticed and liked and make it big.

See what I mean? It’s great and not great at the same time.

The good thing is, we get to choose.

We get to choose who we follow, how it makes us feel, how often we scroll and for how long. We get to decide if we post or not post and let Instagram serve us instead of the other way around.

Which is why I deleted 700 follows.

I stopped following a bunch of accounts not because any of them were bad or not inspiring or posted by someone who is probably a wonderful person in real life. But rather, I stopped following for one of three reasons:

  1. If every time I saw a post and it made me feel all compare-y and unsettled – like I wasn’t keeping up or measuring up – I stopped following. I just don’t want to do that to myself anymore. There were not too many like this, but there were a few and it felt good to just let them go.
  2. If I was following someone whom I didn’t know and never would know, I figured I didn’t really need to see what they were doing every day. This eliminated pretty much every celebrity I was following. Except for @kensingtonroyal because I really like the British royal family.
  3. If I couldn’t remember why I started following to begin with and wasn’t super excited about any of the most recent photos, I unfollowed.

Just like that, 700 down.

At the same time, I also removed Instagram notifications from my phone. I no longer get a message when someone leaves a comment which means I pick up my phone and open Instagram one hundred less times per day. It also meant getting used to not having that regular affirmation in the form of Instagram comments popping up on my phone throughout the day. I’m embarrassed to say that it took some getting used to.

So that’s where I am right now. I still like Instagram. I still post and comment and scroll almost every day. I’m being much pickier about what I post – I don’t want to just throw a photo up for the sake of staying on top of the algorithm and keep followers. My goal with everything I do online is to make a space where when you leave you feel better, not worse, about your life. I want you to feel less alone, more normal, encouraged to see beauty in the every day and inspired to do something creative in your home or with your hands.

I still hate it a little, too. I wish that darn followers number didn’t captivate me like it does and make me feel better or worse about myself.

I’d love to know where you’re at with Instagram. Do you love it? Not love it? Do you have any tricks or boundaries you’ve set to make it work for your life? Let’s have a heart to heart about Instagram …

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What I learned in February

As I get older, I am trying to reflect more and more on my life, and especially, my soul. What things do I love? What gives me life? What makes me sad or tired or like I want to check out? By paying attention to my life, I’m hoping it helps me make good choices as I move forward. Some things we just have to do and others we get to choose – I want to do both with grace and joy and intention.

One little practice I am doing this year is taking a few minutes at the end of each month to look back over the last 30ish days and think about what I’ve learned. My friend Emily does something similar and I always love reading her insights. I’m following her lead and sharing my things with you …

WHAT I LEARNED IN FEBRUARY

I’m weird about how the dishwasher should be loaded … but so are you

I didn’t mean to be one of those people who cared about how things were loaded into the dishwasher. BUT I AM! I like the bowls on the bottom and the tall glasses in a row. The salad plates on the right and tupperware down the center. The dishwasher is not the place for wooden spoons or sharp knives and if there’s extra room, then a mixing bowl can squeeze in at the last minute. My family mostly obliges, but they are not surprised when I come back after them and rearrange. It’s crazy. I get it. And thankfully, you’re a lot like me (at least according to all of you who raised your hand on this instagram post).

Ryan and I have very little will power when it comes to staying up late watching just one more episode of our show

I like watching tv at night. My evening routine consists of cleaning up the kitchen, picking up the family room, getting the kids off to bed and then sitting on our big, wonderful, full-of-pillows couch and watching an hour or two (or three or four) of a favorite show. It’s not cool to say you like watching tv, but I do.

In February, Ryan and I started watching Scandal. It totally reminds me of Alias from way back (oh how I loved Sydney Bristow and Will and the strange storyline of the Rambaldi prophecy). There’s an alarming amount of bad behavior, double-crossing, lies (hence the name Scandal) and yet after every single episode we’re like, “just one more! We need to find out what happens next!”. And so most nights this past month, we stayed up way too late hanging out with Olivia Pope and the gang and pay for it in the morning when our alarms go off and have to force our sleep-deprived selves out of bed.

You should always eat a healthy fat with an apple

I’ve been doing some research on nutrition, trying to figure out how to heal my body, keep our family healthy, wade through the mixed messages of food. I don’t love it because it feels confusing. Someone please just tell me what to do!

We watched two food documentaries: Fed Up and The Magic Pill. I highly recommend both. I met with a friend who is a nutrition therapist and a wealth of knowledge and it was beyond helpful. She gave me so many suggestions but one that I found so practical is to make sure you eat a healthy fat with any highly sugary fruit. That way, your body will use the fat for energy instead of the sugar. Or something like that. I’m still learning …

The gun control issue is complicated, emotional and I wish it were not a thing

In February, we experienced another tragic school shooting in the United States. Why?!!! How can this happen?!!! And what do we do to prevent it from happening again?

The aftermath has been emotionally charged, upsetting, hopeful, confusing. I sat in bed one morning reading through Emily Henderson’s post and the hundreds of comments that followed and so appreciate the way she opened up the dialog between everyone on the spectrum of I haven’t touched a gun in my life to I conceal-carry everyday. It was very interesting and a positive forum for sharing a wide range of perspectives on the topic of gun control.

You know what’s hard for me? I have three boys who find so much enjoyment in playing Airsoft with their friends. They run around the yard and our surrounding woods with their toy guns and have the best time. It is not particularly violent or dangerous and they are good-natured, active boys just having fun. My boys have always loved swords and nerf guns, sling shots and bows and arrows. They make armor out of cardboard and battle each other with rubber band guns. My husband is not a hunter, so it’s not something we’ve instilled in them for sport. It’s just always been a favorite game for all three of them.

I know my boys’ interest in weapons and battles and fighting is normal boy behavior, but it has made me pause. It’s just a little raw, you know? And conflicting. To approve of your kids playing with toy guns when across the country kids just a few years older lost their lives because of a real one.  I just wish it wasn’t a thing.

I Still Prefer Paper

Sure there’s something convenient about an online calendar and grocery list apps, but I’m a paper girl at heart. I keep my phone with me almost everywhere I go, and you’ll usually find a piece of paper or notebook and pen nearby as well. I carry a notebook in my purse, have one by my bed, keep a stack of blank note cards next to my computer and another in the kitchen. I write blog post ideas on a paper calendar and take notes in church or during business conversations with Ryan and write out important messages to myself because my brain just works best putting pencil to paper.

My favorite writing tools? This pencil and these pens. I like scratchy writing utensils better than smooth, so I always go for micro or ultra micro tips. And I prefer a blank notebook (like this one) and the cute lists from Paper Works (of course!).


Did February teach you anything great? I’d love to hear in the comments!

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serve one another in love (free printable)

As I was thinking about different quotes and song lyrics, phrases and thoughts about love, my mind remembered a verse that truly is the embodiment of how I want love to look for me and my family.

serve-in-love-bar To serve one another in love for our family means being kind and generous with our time, our home, our food and things.

Sometimes it is hard (like when you’re tired or running short on resources or when when your best friend’s family lives with you for 7 months and by the end you just kinda want to not share anymore) and other times comes easily (like when your home team is in the playoffs and you don’t even hesitate rearranging your beloved furniture to accommodate a gigantic screen and a million wild children because go seahawks!).

Messing up your house, occupying your limited time, dirtying up dishes and giving of your money is not necessarily convenient. It takes sacrifice and putting others ahead of yourself, which for most of us does not come naturally.

Serving in love is not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

Always.

I hope this is what our family is about.

serve-in-love-glittered-deer This print was just a quick drawing that I’d love to pass along to you during this month where we celebrate all things love.

Download the pdf file and print onto your favorite paper. Either choose an 8×10 or 5×7 (and then share with a friend!).

This art print can be found in THE ARCHIVE along with all of our best free prints, templates and fonts.  If you are not an Archive member, simply add your email to the list and you’re in!

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE ARCHIVE

enjoy!

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five things I learned in January

As I get older, I am trying to reflect more and more on my life, and especially, my soul. What things do I love? What gives me life? What makes me sad or tired or like I want to check out? By paying attention to my life, I’m hoping it helps me make good choices as I move forward. Some things we just have to do and others we get to choose – I want to do both with grace and joy and intention.

One little practice I would like to do this year is take a few minutes at the end of each month to look back over the last 30ish days and think about what I’ve learned. My friend Emily does something similar and I always love reading her insights. I’m following her lead and sharing my things with you …

WHAT I LEARNED IN JANUARY

 

I’m stronger than I thought

You’re probably getting sick of me talking about it, but I have fallen in love with Barre class. I worked out semi-regularly at home using online videos last summer (here’s a post about that) but started loosing steam. It’s hard to stay committed when it’s just you. My girlfriend and I finally found a local studio that offers group classes and since October, we’ve been going every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

This is literally the first time I’ve worked out consistently in my adulthood.

We do light handheld weights for the arm portion of the class. I started with 2lbs (and my arms nearly fell off). My goal was to switch to 3lb weights at the new year.

I’m happy to report that I did it! And while the weights are heavy for me and my arms feel like jello after class, I feel stronger. And it feels great.

 

Making the decision to close the shop was a sad but good choice

Last week, we made the official announcement that my house + home shop is closing. It was not a hard choice financially, since it was the least profitable arm of my business, but anytime you close the door on something, it feels like a loss. Will I regret it? Should I keep it open just in case? What if I decide later I want an online shop? Ryan and I went round and round with these questions and ultimately decided that it was best to shut it down. An e-commerce shop requires regular promotion, tons of inventory, constant upkeep and I just don’t have the margin to do all of this well. And so, we’re closing it down.

We have a little bit of inventory left that we’re selling at 50% off. You can shop until next week when everything will be officially off the market. SHOP HERE.

 

Friends are more valuable than followers

Please don’t take this wrong because I truly do appreciate you reading the blog, subscribing to my email list, following along on instagram. We have built our business on these relationships and I care deeply about fostering positive connection.

However, I can so easily get caught up in numbers and it messes with my heart.

Last weekend I went to the most adorable beach town (I’ve talked about it on the blog here) with women from our church and had the greatest time. I’m so grateful to have made wonderful, deep friendships since moving and was delighted to make a few new friends over the weekend.

When I came home, I discovered a new analytics bar for Instagram business accounts. I clicked on it and it told me that I was -17 followers over the past 7 days.

I spent the weekend barely touching my phone, only posting once to instagram. I chose to be present at the beach, with friends, worshipping, listening to speakers, helping clear tables and staying up way too late laughing (and crying). It was such a great weekend.

Upon seeing a drop in instagram followers, I could easily feel bad about myself, my business, the future, my decision to put my phone down for the weekend. This thing can feel so competitive and graspy if I let it.

Instead, I decided to relax and recognize that while I may have lost instagram followers, I gained a few real life friends and that felt like a good trade-off.

Podcast interviews are fun

In 2017, I was interviewed exactly zero times. In January, I was invited to share on two different podcasts. It was so much fun! I like talking to people. I like interesting questions. I like listening back and thinking about how I would change or add to my response if I were to do it again :)

You can listen to a conversation about how blogging has changed and how I have adapted on this episode of In The Storyhouse. If you are a blogger, this podcast is so wonderful. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed catching up on past episodes and love the honest conversations happening over there.

I chatted with Jessica from Extraordinary Moms podcast about being a mom, parenting a teenager, the balance of motherhood and work. Warning: I cried at the end. This one goes live on Tuesday February 6th.

 

Yes to a real rain coat

I have lived in Seattle for all but 4 years of my life (when I was in Southern California for college). Never once have I owned a rain coat. Well, maybe I had one when I was little but I can’t remember.

In the fall, I found this coat on sale and bought it. I promise you, everywhere I wear it, I get compliments.

It seems most Seattle-ites/Pacific North-westerners do not own a rubber rain coat. But I’m here to say that if you live where it rains, you should get one. The one I bought is warm-ish, has a hood, a cute back detail and comes in four colors (black, navy, wine and olive). I bought mine at Nordstrom (here’s that link) but I also found them on Amazon and some color/size combos are way less expensive (shop here). It fits true to size (I have a size small and can fit a sweater under it comfortably).

We don’t get much snow except for in the mountains, so this coat has been my go-to so far this winter. I also love my new boots and faux fur pom beanie (similar).


Did you learn anything good this month? I’d love to hear in the comments!

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Updates to my #40by40 list (aka New Year Goals)

Last October, on my 39th birthday, I gave myself a list of 40 things I want to do before I turn 40.

This list was started as a tool for me to practice defining what I want (because I am not very good at it) and has become such a motivating way for me to actually do the things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

I have been super slow to jump into New Year’s mode – which is really strange for me. The Christmas decorations are still up, I forgot what day it was yesterday (did you catch my instagram story where I declared it January 3rd?! Oops!), and I’m just not as quick this year to reinvent my days/habits/desires like usual.

While chatting with Ryan about this it dawned on me that maybe I’m not quite as motivated to make changes because I am actually pretty satisfied with how things are going.

And I owe most of that to my #40by40 list.

This list is made up of all the big and little things that help me celebrate and enjoy the things I love. There’s a handful of items that feel important, but always seem to slip by undone. There are skills I want to learn and places I’d like to travel, things I want to do and a few I don’t really want to do, but should anyway.

So while I would normally come up with a list of resolutions or projects to do around the house or a special word for the year … this year I’m leaning on my #40by40 list to be my New Year manifesto.

I posted about my list on my birthday last fall and listed out each item. I thought it would be fun to go through each one, make a few adjustments and see how many I’ve checked off these last three months.

Let’s jump right in …

40 By 40 List

make sourdough bread

My cousin’s wife makes the most delicious naturally fermented sourdough bread (that is even safe for the gluten-intolerant) that I’ve been wanting to make for a long time. She gave me the recipe and lots of tips and I gave it a try this fall. So far, I’ve failed at making starter three separate times. Lucky for me, my father-in-law is an accomplished chef and he shared his starter with me over Christmas break. I baked my first two loaves of bread and they were delicious. Not exactly the fermented sourdough I was going for, but I haven’t lost hope of that yet.


get a Le Creuset

The sourdough bread recipe calls for a 6qt dutch oven to bake it in. I decided to skip the spendy version for now, since I wasn’t sure how this whole bread-making thing would turn out and instead ordered myself this one in emerald green for a fraction of the price. I’ve been so surprised at how much I use it for things other than baking bread.

make apple fritters

Keeping to the baking theme (I really do love baking!) … I made apple fritters last weekend and they were delicious. They didn’t have that perfect crunchy texture on the outside so I’m not sure where I went wrong, but the flavor was really good. And we had no trouble eating them all up.

go to barre class twice per week

On my original list, it says feel good in a swimsuit, but that feels too intangible and hard to measure. Sure, I’d love to walk around in a swimsuit with all the confidence in the world (I’m convinced a ton of that is mindset but I haven’t quite conquered that yet). Instead, I’ve been consistently going to a local barre class on tuesdays and thursdays and it has been so good for me. I feel stronger, I love pushing my body and it feels good to take care of myself in this way.

go to Nashville

Perhaps the highlight of my 2017 (besides our kids being baptized on Father’s Day – that was a really great day) was our trip to Nashville last fall. Oh my goodness, we had so much fun. Ryan and I went with two of our best friends and we ate the most delicious food, heard amazing music (Little Big Town at the Ryman!) and fell in love with the city.


write a children’s book

This is so high up on my list … and I’m so intimidated! I have been playing around with a story idea for a few years and it feels so special and meaningful to me I don’t want to mess it up. But this is the year. I will get this thing out of my heart and onto paper.

plan 40th birthday trip with Ryan (to Italy? England?)

While some want to celebrate their 40th with a big party (ahem, my sister who had 5 of the best parties ever) others (like me) prefer to celebrate quietly. Ryan will be 40 a few months after me and our 15th wedding anniversary is coming up, so it feels like a good time to take a special trip.

see a whale

I can’t do a whole lot to make this happen until the spring when the whales are active in our Puget Sound waters and even then, seeing a whale is not a common occurrence. I have lived here all my life and saw my first Orcas just a few years ago. I do adore sea mammals and would literally cry tears if I saw a whale up close. Crossing my fingers for an opportunity.

decorate our bedroom

We’re still sleeping with our mattress on the floor. Still using step stools as nightstands. It’s not the worst, but I would love to make our bedroom a put-together retreat for us.

intentional date with Ethan

intentional date with Brady
intentional date with Mason
intentional date with Audrey

I hang out with the kids all the time and feel like we have great relationships, but rarely do I get the chance to do one-on-one activities of the kids’ choosing. Ethan is up first for a day of skiing.

take my supplements

This is another amended item. Originally, I wrote heal my gut, but again, too intangible. I have an annoying auto-immune thing that doesn’t improve with diet, but does get better with a crazy mix of supplements my naturopath concocted for me. I took them consistently for a few months last spring and was feeling so good … and then I stopped. Why? I have no idea. I just got distracted and bothered by all the pills. Of course my symptoms are back. Ugh. So, back to regular supplements.

host girls craft night in studio

This one sounds fun. Just need to plan it. And find a good craft to do.

plant dahlias + anemones

When do you plant dahlias? In the spring, I’m guessing? I must do some research … I know the perfect book.

frame road trip photos

We have hundreds of photos from our road trip and I can’t bear to keep them all in dropbox. My idea is to take bunch of 4×4 square prints and mount them in a grid in a big frame. The pictures are printed; just need to put them together.

look into Invisalign

My bottom teeth have shifted a bit in adulthood and I’m not happy about it. I have a dentist appointment in a few weeks and will ask if Invisalign is right for me.

whiten my teeth

My mom has the whitest teeth. I want to be like her when I grow up.

re-read The Kitchen House
re-read The Red Tent

When asked what my favorite book is, these two often come up. The Red Tent was the first book I read after college just for pleasure. The Kitchen House solidified my love of historical fiction. It’s been a long time since I’ve read either and hope I love them as much the second time.

take a photography class

A friend of a friend hosts a local photography class + wine tasting (called Cork & Click) and I’m excited to attend one of her events soon.

back-up both computers

This one sounds boring, but necessary. I have so many files and photos on both my big computer and laptop and I’m not completely sure either are very well backed-up. I should also include organize files on both computers, which sounds equally boring, but would feel really good to get done.

visit K.C. in Flagstaff

My best friend from college just moved to Flagstaff and we can’t wait to see their new house. Hoping for a mid-winter or spring break trip.

Get iphone 7

I did get a new phone and opted for the iphone X instead. So far, I’m very much loving it.

volunteer in the nursery

I helped in the 2 year old class during bible study a few weeks ago and ADORED every minute of it. I really love toddlers. Ryan and I are scheduled to help in the church nursery this year and I’m looking forward to getting my toddler fix.

attend a Barre3 class

All summer I took Barre3 online classes and really wanted to take a class in studio. My friend, Erica, took me to a Barre3 class for my birthday (we don’t have a studio near us, so we drove an hour and made a day of it). I have never sweat so much in my entire life. Since going to that class, we found a local studio that offers barre classes and have been going every since (see above).

go to Enneagram coaching

The Enneagram is a personality typing system that has been so transformative in my life. My favorite Enneagram book is by a local author who also offered coaching. I decided to step out and set up a meeting with her. That first meeting was really good and we decided that what I desire more than enneagram coaching is spiritual direction, so she is now my spiritual director. Our second session was profound and I look forward to seeing how God uses our monthly sessions to grow me deeper into my truest longing of quiet confidence.

wear earrings

I’m doing so well with this one!

start on road trip book

Since returning from our road trip, we’ve toyed with the idea of creating a book about our journey. I think the concept is good, but after lots of research and talking with an editor, it feels like this one is just a book we need to create for ourselves. We don’t want to forget all the places we traveled and stories we collected, so I need to figure out the best way to organize all our photos and words and create a keepsake book.

get a mammogram

One of my dear friends is fighting breast cancer (hi, Cynthia!), my sister-in-law’s mom just beat it (yay, Jane!), my sister had a scare this past fall and my mom’s mom passed away when I was a little girl after her battle with breast cancer. This thing is part of my life and now is the time to start scheduling regular screenings. I’m not looking forward to it, but I’ll do it anyway.

write 1 handwritten note per month

I’ve already failed at this. Oops. I really do love receiving handwritten notes and want to be better at sending them. I’m going to let myself off the hook on the monthly thing and just change it to send handwritten notes.

put up Christmas lights

We didn’t put up a ton, but it was more than last year and they made me so happy all Christmas season long.

weekend with Ellie

Ellie is my two year old niece who I can’t get enough of (she’s the dark-haired beauty in the center). I’m looking forward to keeping her for a weekend so we can get some good Ellie time and so her parents can have a little break :)

have grandma’s ring fixed

My grandma passed down her antique rings to us girls. She passed away in October and so having her ring feels extra special to me. I need to take it to a jeweler to make sure the top part doesn’t come loose from the band.

make a macrame hanging

I don’t really know why this is on my list because while I do want to make a wallhanging, I don’t really care enough about it to have it on here. So I’m removing this item. And adding the next.

switch to 3lb weights

In barre class we use light handheld weights for the arm portion. I’ve been using 2lb and wanted to challenge myself to move up to 3lb in the new year. I’m happy to report that yesterday, my first class of 2018, I did it with 3lb weights.

update JDC about page

I told myself I wasn’t going to put any business to-do’s on my #40by40 list, but this one crept on. It is a business task, but also feels like more. An about page is where your mission, your purpose, your introduction lives. I haven’t updated mine in several years and as I’ve grown and changed, so has the purpose of JDC. It’s time to take the time to define these things and allow the blog to grow along with me.

go paddle boarding

I love being on the water and we live so close (the Puget Sound is just a few minutes from our house) that now that we’re more settled in our house, I’m hoping to do more paddling, kayaking and boating this year.

P.S. Here’s a picture Ryan took yesterday morning after dropping the kids off at school. How gorgeous is that sunrise?!

practice daily silence + solitude

My sister asked me how I hear God and my answer came quickly: when I’m silent and alone. It doesn’t matter if I’m laying quietly in bed, driving in the car with the radio off or sitting in a comfy chair with my Bible open … what’s best for my soul is silence and solitude and I’m learning how to make sure it is part of my day.

buy a new pair of great jeans

Let’s finish things off with a shallow-but-oh-so-important item. I wear jeans nearly every day, so I like having a few pair of jeans that fit just right and make me feel good. I just added these toothpick jeans, which I like very much (they’re on sale!), and also these cuffed jeans (also on sale, try sizing down).


Whew! Are you still with me?! That was a lot of words. But it was fun to process through each item and explain a little more about why each one made the list.

So far, I’ve checked off 14 out of 40. Not bad!

My theme for 2018 is BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Instead of a long set of goals all about changing who I am, I love that this #40by40 list is more about celebrating and encouraging the things that make me come alive.

It’s a gentle way to keep me motivated, intentional and a little bit challenged.

I’d love to hear about what you’re goals/word/theme is for 2018. Please share in the comments!

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behind the scenes-ish

Fall is in full swing in the Pacific Northwest and I’m enjoying it this year more than ever.

Here’s a peek at life this past month as seen on my Instagram feed.

(sweatshirt from here)

Last year at about this time we were moving into our new house and getting our old one ready to put on the market, I had a couple of big work projects and suffered from pretty severe iron deficiency.

This year, while we’re totally crazy with kid activities, we’re much more settled in our house and community and I’m finding a slower, more intentional pace in my personal life which is so enjoyable.

And all of this is, coupled with some pretty fantastic Pacific Northwest weather lately has me completely in love with the fall this time around.

Over the last month, this tree out front of our house has changed right before our eyes.

Isn’t it glorious?! Those two side by side windows (with the lamp on inside) look out from our family room right on the tree. I sit on the couch and just love seeing this big, golden tree. And now I sound like an old lady.

Inside the house, I haven’t done much in the way of fall decorating.

Just this lone book page pumpkin (here’s the oldie, but goodie, tutorial) and some yard clippings.

Last week the power went out in a big wind storm and for about 30 minutes we enjoyed a light-less house and a crackling fire. This really put me in the mood for cozy fall days.

A few weekends ago, we spent the weekend at my little sister’s house. They just got a new goldendoodle puppy and I can’t get over how adorable he is.

He’s a real life stuffed animal with a sweet personality.

Our dog, Atlas, isn’t quite as stuffed-animal-ish, but he’s pretty sweet, too.

Are you all Chris Loves Julia readers? They just lost their beloved pup and watching their family grieve so tenderly has made me appreciate our Atlas all the more. He was a hard puppy, but has turned into a perfect companion now that he’s 5. Giving him a big yard to run around in was the greatest gift we could have given him and his personality chilled out drastically once he had the freedom to run.

Instagram is always a great way to keep up with the day to day around here. Sometimes I post stories (but not often because I still can’t totally figure out how to do it), but most days I do post content that is not found here on the blog. So come find me over there @jonesdesigncompany.

Also, don’t forget to download and print your Autumn Essentials artprint!

It’s free in the Archive (you just have to log in with your email and everything in there is yours).

I hope you are having a wonderful fall so far. We’re headed into a festive and full weekend – family staying over, school trunk or treat, football games and Seahawks watching with friends. I’ll be sure to post more behind the scene-ish photos over on instagram.

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40 by 40

I turn 39 this week.

My best friend growing up (who turned 39 in August) posted a picture on instagram earlier this summer about creating a list of 50 things she wanted to do before she turned 40. I loved the idea so much that I decided to follow her lead (but change it to 40 things because 50 seemed hard to come up with!).

I’ve been on a really beautiful / freeing / difficult / life-giving journey this past year of understanding myself more.  One thing I’ve discovered is that I am not good at knowing what I want. I’m great at being flexible and going with everyone else’s ideas and desires, but I rarely speak up for myself or even feel aware of what I want.

(P.S. if you are into the enneagram, you’ll recognize this as being a typical 9 behavior. The enneagram has been such a life-changing tool these past few months and has put words to things I saw in myself but never could have defined. If you’re new to the enneagram, listen to this for a great overview.)

When Joanna posted about her list of things she wanted to do before she turned 40, it sparked something in me. This feels like the perfect time for me to write a list FOR ME.

Because part of becoming a better, more whole version of myself (which I so desperately desire for the sake of setting an example to my kids, being a more settled and confident wife and friend and living out of a rooted, deep faith) means practicing the act of figuring out and stating what I want.

God has been so kind to me in this season. I am tender and deeply reflective. When I’m tempted to quit everything so I can just make all the uncomfortable feelings go away, I’m reminded that this wrestling and pressing in is what will ultimately lead to real peace.

This small, seemingly inconsequential practice of defining what things I want to do in this next year feels like one little step in the right direction. My plan is to actually DO all the things on the list, but I think the simple act of DEFINING them is just as important.

And so, on this my 39th birthday, I’ve put together a list of things I want to do before I turn 40.

40 by 40 list Some are deep and lasting; some light-hearted and trivial. I didn’t let the list focus on projects in our house or my business or anyone else’s desires for me. This is just a list of things I want to do this year. Things that will bring life and gratitude and joy.

Here they are … my list of 40 by 40.


make sourdough bread
get a Le Creuset
make apple fritters
feel good in a swimsuit
go to Nashville
write a children’s book
plan 40th birthday trip with Ryan (to Italy? England?)
see a whale
decorate our bedroom
intentional date with Ethan
intentional date with Brady
intentional date with Mason
intentional date with Audrey
heal my gut
host girls craft night in studio
plant dahlias + anemones
frame road trip photos
look into invisalign
whiten my teeth
re-read The Kitchen House
re-read The Red Tent
take a photography class
back-up both computers
visit K.C. in Flagstaff
Get iphone 7
volunteer in the nursery
attend a Barre3 class
go to Enneagram coaching
wear earrings
start on road trip book
get a mammogram
write 1 handwritten note per month
put up Christmas lights
weekend with Ellie
have grandma’s ring fixed
make a macrame hanging
update JDC about page
go paddle boarding
practice daily silence + solitude
buy a new pair of great jeans


I’m excited about the year ahead.

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Q + A day | In which you can ask any and every question

 

It’s been a super long time (like two years!) since I have done my annual Q+A day.

Here’s how this works:

Since I chat at you post after post, sometimes it’s fun to switch things up and find out what you want to talk about.

For the next few days, I’ll be hanging out on comments answering your questions.

Any topic is open for discussion: family and life, faith, random things that you’ve wanted to ask but haven’t, decorating, blogging, business curiosities – any of it – I want to know what you’re wondering about.

I wish we could all sit together and chat in real life and actually have a conversation (by the water, perhaps?), but this Q+A is the next best thing for us online friends.

So go ahead and ask me anything in the comments and I’ll reply back as best I can.  Feel free to chime in and join the conversation as well! No topic is off limits and I’m a fairly open and honest girl … so … ask away!

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Currently | thoughts about life happening now

Every once in a while I like to play a game called CURRENTLY.

I have done it in blog post form a handful of times throughout the years (here, here and here, for example). Basically, it’s just a list of categories and the first thing that pops into mind is how you answer. It is fun to play in person, and also an entertaining exercise in self-reflection.

So let’s get to it.

LOVING | Our couch. Do inanimate things count?

My two sisters and brothers-in-law, my parents and all the cousins stayed with us this past weekend for a family staycation and that big, cushy couch was the perfect setting for lots of lounging, movie-watching, game-playing and laughing.

READING | At the recommendation of a friend, I started Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and have been surprised at how much it is resonating with me. Not my typical genre, but I’m pushing myself to get through it.

What is a more typical choice for me is the novel The Light Between Oceans, which I am also reading.

SHOPPING FOR | A new bed. We sold our pretty metal bed frame we had for the past 10 years and now I’m on the hunt for a simple upholstered one. So far, this is my favorite (but I’d like it to be about a third of the cost).

Here’s kinda the look we’re going for:

(photo taken in Seaside, FL at our pretty condo last summer)

EXCITED ABOUT | the Enneagram personality test. I finally jumped on the bandwagon and am already so intrigued. Ryan and I took the online test this weekend; he is a 1, I am a 9. If the enneagram is new to you, you can learn a ton about it here and take the test here. My friend Emily recommended this book which I promptly ordered and should have it this week.

TRYING TO | work out a few times per week. I do a variety of videos – Tracy Anderson, Barre3 and Ballet Beautiful.

WORKING ON | A new online class called Simplified Flowers. My mother-in-law is the expert and was here filming lessons about how to create easy arrangements with readily available flowers. We’re excited to finish up the production and share details with you!

ENJOYING | Getting a manicure every couple of weeks. My friend and I go together so it’s a chance to spend time with her and pamper ourselves at the same time. Plus, having nicely painted nails makes me feel like a grown up.

USING | This soap. It smells like heaven.

WEARING | For a very long time I’ve been wanting a cognac leather jacket. I finally found the perfect one and can’t stop wearing it.

PLANNING | Somehow I have found myself as the parent in charge of planning the 5th grade moving-up celebration. Not quite sure how that happened seeing as how I’m the new mom … but thankfully there are a bunch of other parents volunteering to help and it gives me a chance to meet new people.

SINGING | The other day the most random song from my childhood popped into my head. This weekend I told my sisters about it and we all sang the whole thing, not missing a beat. It is just the craziest thing that we can pull a song from deep in our memories without hearing it for at least 30 years. In case you’re curious, it was this song from a Cabbage Patch Kids cassette tape circa 1984. (I can’t believe I found it! The internet is so amazing.)

NEEDING | More sleep. Always and forever more sleep. Also, I need a haircut.

LEARNING | How to be sick. That sounds weird … but I’m really terrible about acknowledging when my body isn’t right and giving myself permission to just be sick. All last week, I was not feeling well and it was so hard to let things go, miss events, rest and admit that I felt terrible. Why is this so hard?! Please tell me I’m not alone.

LISTENING TO | Every teaching from Bridgetown Church. John Mark Comer is the lead pastor and an incredibly smart, interesting, Jesus-loving teacher. The series on Practicing the Way (starting with episode 36) is so foundational and worth listening to.

WISHING | For sun to be in the forecast. Alas, looks like rain.

DOING | Now that the carpet is in and walls are painted, I can start decorating the upstairs. This adorable swan was the first thing to go up on the walls in Audrey’s room.

DREAMING OF | a trip to Italy for our 40th birthdays in two years. We’re going to make that happen.

So this is me.

Want to play along? What are you currently up to?

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Sometimes life takes precedence in the work-life balance

The kids had mid-winter break last week which basically meant all things work flew right out the window.

It’s okay, though. I think I needed a week off and I always strive to find that crazy balance between being an engaged mom and responsible business-owner. This week forced me into choosing and I went with life.

While I was away from the computer, we were plenty busy with celebrating, adventuring, house progress, family and friend time.

Remember back in the day when blogging looked way different and it was mainly just a daily recap of life? We’re throwing it back to 2010 and going with that journal-y-play-by-play recap of the past week type of post.

Here it goes …

SUNDAY

Our mid-winter break started by celebrating this sweet girl’s 7th birthday.

I mean, what??!!! Were you here when I started blogging and she was growing in my belly? Having a daughter woke up something in me – a creative spark and passion for inspiring others – and I’ll always be so grateful to my Audrey-girl for making me a better version of myself. She is funny, sweet, a little bit sassy, loves a stage, an animal lover and a joy. What a treat to have her in our family.

MONDAY

We were supposed to head up to the mountain for a day of skiing, but a last-minute change of plans found us at the rock gym instead.

The kids have been climbing a few times, but this was my first time watching them at this gym. They are all such good little climbers! I think we found our new favorite family activity.

TUESDAY

We finally made a decision on carpet! We’ve been back and forth to the store, ordering samples, trying them out around the house to test the lighting and durability. The carpet will go on the second and third floors in the bedrooms and hallway and will be here in two weeks. Which means in the next two weeks, we have to move all of the furniture downstairs, remove the baseboard and window/door trim, and paint all the walls and ceilings. Our carpet installer will remove the carpet and pad, put in the new pad and carpet and then we can update the trim. The upstairs is going to look so good!

WEDNESDAY + THURSDAY

The kids had friends over and spent the entire day outside on the trampoline, which gave me and Ryan the motivation to tear out his office and give it a facelift. This is the front office that had oversized built-ins and mauve walls. The built-ins were super functional, but just too big for the space. We took them out and gave the walls and trim a fresh coat of paint (walls: Ancestral by Behr, trim: Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams). Then we stole furniture from around the house, built a new desk and things are coming together! I’ll post the full tour soon.

FRIDAY

My girlfriends and I took our kids to the rock climbing gym again and then had lunch at our favorite market. While there I spotted the most gorgeous orange tree and somehow came home with it :) I still need to read up on how to care for it so if you have any tips, I’ll all ears!

I also added this new fern to my growing collection of houseplants. I can’t stop.

SATURDAY

Audrey and two of her friends had money to spend and so we ventured to the American Girl store for a little shopping.

It was such a great lesson in money management. At one point, Audrey was starting to get upset that she couldn’t get another Bitty Baby since she didn’t have enough money. It was one of those moments when your kids reflect back to you something inside yourself … just a few days earlier I was feeling bummed I couldn’t get the wool berber carpet I really wanted and had to choose something less expensive … and here she was dealing with the same real-life emotions. Thankfully, she pulled herself together and was perfectly happy with her new puppy and Bitty Baby food blender (such a weird choice!) just as I am perfectly happy with our carpet choice.

On the way home, we decided to pop into IKEA to grab a few things. It was right off the freeway and my girlfriend Erica wanted a couple of items, too, so we decided to stop.

Um … want to know the absolute worst idea ever? Thinking we could pop into IKEA on a Saturday. The place was insane. Only after trying to get through as quickly as possible did we realize that it was the grand opening of our new two-story massive store. Wrong day to visit. But we made it through, got everything we came for, ate an ice cream cone and played on those wonky carts that don’t push straight.

Fun times.

SUNDAY

The boys spent the night with some of our very best friends who we don’t see enough (do you follow Rae’s blog and instagram? If not, you should. So much style, wisdom, love, playfulness, cuteness in one family) and so while Ryan was off picking them up, I had the house to myself for maybe the first time ever. I cleaned up the perpetually messy kitchen, vacuumed, moved around throw blankets and snapped this picture of the freshly installed drawer pulls in the studio:

One step closer to getting that place organized.

To finish off the break, the kids and I half-watched/half-read/minecrafted the Oscars while Ryan made dinner (still going strong with Hello Fresh, in case you’re curious or in need of dinner help).

I’m feeling grateful for a week of time spent with friends and the kids, knocking out house projects, guilt-free lounging on the couch with a good book (a reader sent me her newest novel and I’m almost done. It’s good!), a little bit of shopping, lots of sleeping in, and a break from the regular routine.

And now that I’m filled up on life, it’s time to get back to work :)

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The Best of JDC in 2016

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 2016:

JANUARY

The year started with an impromptu video house tour.

This was such a popular post that I’ll be copying it with a video house tour in our new house soon. There is just something about seeing how a house flows together through video that makes more sense than still photos.

The new year also brought with it an important message about being kind to ourselves.

Still something I’m learning and I love reading back over this post to remind myself.

It only took two years, but I finally finished Audrey’s classically cute bedroom makeover.

FEBRUARY

Coffee Chat videos became a thing. Here is the first one:

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-1-17-50-pm

I installed removable wallpaper all by myself and just loved how it turned out.

And our Simplified Penmanship class opened up for the first time.

I have so much fun teaching my favorite things in the form of online classes. We launched two in 2016 (penmanship and decorating) and have another coming in 2017!

MARCH

We worked on a mini budget friendly master bathroom update. I’m still pretty in love with this design board:

I shared my top Spring Outfits.

And we announced that we were headed out on a 4 month family Road Trip.

APRIL

The kitchen was missing something and we figured out what it was.

My big sister let me share her gorgeous kitchen remodel.

And my little sister did a quick weekend fireplace makeover that turned out so good.

So much trip prep and planning. With 9 days to go before we left, our list was long and slightly overwhelming.

MAY

Let the #jdcroadtrip begin!

Our trip began by heading down the west coast from our home in Seattle.

By the end of May we had made it to the Oregon Coast, Redwood Forest, San Francisco, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Zion + Bryce Canyon, Moab, Mesa Verde, Albuquerque and finished by staying with friends in Oklahoma. Whew.

See all of the road trip posts HERE.

We also took you on a tour of our Airstream trailer.

JUNE

We made it through the first month of our new traveling life! The travels continued through hot, wet and humid Texas, a few days in New Orleans and a vacation from the vacation on the Florida Gulf Coast.

I shared my Summer Wardrobe which basically consisted of blue, white, denim and gray.

By the end of June, we had traveled through St. Augustine, Savannah, Charleston, the Outer Banks, and Virginia.

JULY

We celebrated Independence Day in Washington, D.C. with my parents. It was such a cool experience after spending so much time learning early American history as we traveled up the east coast.

Things slowed down as we spent longer times in each city. A week in D.C., a week in Philadelphia, a week in New York City.

AUGUST

After all of the walking and sight-seeing, we were pretty much exhausted. Our quick pace caught up with us and it greatly impacted our next stops in the Northeast.

This region (Watch Hill, RI, Boston, Cape Cod, Maine, upstate NY, Niagara) is one we went quickly through and definitely want to visit again to do it right.

Our journey back across America included a drop down into Lexington and Nashville, a sleepover in St. Louis and a few very enjoyable days in Chicago. Another place we can’t wait to visit again.

We left the big cities and spent the final portion of the #jdcroadtrip in scenic places like Mt. Rushmore, Jackson, WY and Yellowstone.

And then – just like that – it was over.

You can see all of the posts from our road trip HERE.

SEPTEMBER

Back at home and easing back into normal life and a new fall season.

I did some reflecting on what home means and why Absolute Minimalism will never feel like home to me.

OCTOBER

I started the month by wishing myself a happy birthday with 37 (errr … 38) things.

And a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! We bought a new house.

And we chatted about changing decorating styles and opened my new Simplified Decorating course.

image via @bradytolbert

NOVEMBER

With fall in full swing, I shared nine of my Favorite Looks for Fall

Our old house was on the market and quickly sold (yay!).

We accidentally started a kitchen makeover.

We launched a new House + Home shop

DECEMBER

December has been all about the new house. So many projects. Such a chaos. We’re making progress, though and things are looking much better.

Work on the third floor was underway.

I spent many evening painting over the orangy-wood trim.

And somehow things were pulled together by Christmas. We worked hard … and still have so far to go. I couldn’t resist doing a quick house tour after Christmas just to document the progress.

2016. What a year.

I’m tired. :)

In all honesty, this was a big year of trust, jumping, transition, inspiration, relationship, pulling back, pushing ahead, and a reprioritization of family.

Ryan retired from fire fighting, we sold a house, bought a house, lived with friends, launched two classes and a new shop, remodeled the kitchen, third floor and studio, started new schools, found a new church, caught a mouse and have a phone that keeps telling me storage is almost full (I blame the thousand of road trip photos I haven’t organized yet).

This is a year that we will never forget. And not just because it has been filled with really good things. It has also been really hard. We’ve grown a ton, had to think hard and have hard conversations. We don’t have it figured out and continue to seek wisdom and receive grace through it all.

Our word for 2017 is confidence. That one was Ryan’s idea and I’m fully embracing. Confidence in our marriage, our family, ourselves, our faith, our business decisions, our design aesthetic – all of it.

Thank you, as always, for being such a delightful part of our lives. We can’t wait to see what 2017 has to hold.

CHEERS!

 

 

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#tired

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-4-31-57-pm When we look back at the year 2016, I think we are going to say, “Whew. That was a lot.

We road-tripped. We bought a house. We sold a house. We went to full-time self-employment. We created a new class and launched a new shop (well, as of next week :)). We parented four kids and transitioned to a new town. We did business trips, family time and even lived with friends for six weeks. It’s been so good. And a lot.

And here’s the truth: I’m tired.

My poor mom came to help me at an event last month and I’m pretty sure she has never seen me quite so drained. She keeps bringing it up and checking in to make sure I’m doing okay.

I keep assuring her; I’m doing great. I’m just a teensy bit tired.

I’m so grateful for all of the goodness that has been 2016, but I’m a regular 30-something who can’t do it all.

To top it all off, I’ve been seeing a naturopath and discovered that my iron levels are ridiculously low. The weird symptoms I thought was just me being out of shape or how I’ve always been (shaky hands, short of breath, light-headed … ) turn out to be big indicators that my body is lacking oxygen. Who knew!

My doctor has me on a weekly IV dose of iron and we’re hoping it will help this body heal.

All to say …

In blogland it is so easy to share the projects, take the pretty photos, present all the good and miss the chance to connect with readers in the fact that we are just as regular as ever.

Our life is pretty fun right now with a new house and business opportunities, but that doesn’t mean it all comes without an insane amount of effort, letting go of many, many things (ahem, boxes everywhere) and just taking things one day, one project, one IV treatment at a time :)

front yard sun shining On a very practical level, I realize that I am a fairly productive person and so here are a few things that allow me to get a lot done:

Use a check list.

I am so motivated by crossing things off my list so I pretty much always have a paper to-do list waiting for me. I love the paper products from our membership site called Paper Works (shameless plug). Cute designs + a task list = happy Emily.

Outsource whatever we can. 

It’s a total luxury, but wherever we can move things off our plate in a budget-friendly way, we say yes. Landscapers come twice per month, our meals are delivered weekly, at our old house we had a housecleaner, my sister does all of our shipping and packaging of products. These are all things we could do, but by hiring others to help out, it frees us up to do the things we are best at (which for me is definitely not meal planning!).

Recognize that life is a series of seasons. 

We never would have been able to take the road trip or be self-employed or move to a new house with so many projects when we still had babies. Life, finances, parenting demands were all different then.

There are times when you have to just make things happen and times when you need to wait for the right season. I’m not sure what that exactly looks like, but I do know that much of my ability to work so hard right now is because I am no longer spending my day caring for toddlers.

When I see mamas with little ones who feel like they can’t get anything done, I can’t help but encourage them that there will be a season soon when it will all change. They will be able to sleep in on a Saturday or leave an open can of paint out or take a shower in peace.

It takes patience, grace and resisting that powerful urge to compare and instead sit confidently in our current season.

Which is why I always do my best to be honest on this online life I live. Please don’t ever let the photos fool you into thinking we’ve got it all together over here. We’re a regular family who works hard, loves in the best way we can, messes up, succeeds, takes on a lot and can sometimes feel just plain #tired.

So be encouraged my friends, wherever you are.

xo, Emily

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37 Things (happy birthday to me)

1. Today is my birthday.

2. I am 37 years old.

3. Truth: I just typed that I was 38 and had to think real hard about how old I actually am only to realize that I aged myself by one year.

4. This is what happens when you start getting older. You can’t remember how old you are.

5. One of my favorite numbers is 37 (who even has favorite numbers? Why is mine 37?), so maybe that means this is going to be one of my favorite years of life.

6. I’m not a big birthday celebrator of myself. I’m good with hugs from my kids and maybe a card or flowers from Ryan.

7. And a big piece of carrot cake, please.

8. Carrot cake is so delicious. Especially this one.

9. But the carrot cake I ate in New Orleans at this great restaurant rivals it, for sure.

10. One of the things I missed most while we were on the road was barre class.

11. I went for the first time in a long time last week.

12. And nearly passed out. I’m not kidding. I had to put down the 2lb weights because I could not keep up.

13. Apparently taking a 4 month break from working out is not a good idea.

14. Want to know what else I have taken a break from? All appointments.

15. On my to-do list (that has sat untouched for at least three weeks) is appointment-making of all kinds: dentist, orthodontist, counselor, naturopath, hair cut + color. So many appointments.

16. The one I’m most looking forward to is the counselor. I know that sounds weird, but it is true.

17. My degree is in Child + Family Psychology and so I fully believe in the benefits of counseling and yet in all my 37 years, I’ve only been a handful of times. I’m slightly dysfunctional in my thinking (written with much sarcasm) and can not wait to get some ugliness and untruth worked out.

18. At a women’s retreat last spring the speaker said such a profound thing:

19. “Your brain doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie. All it knows is repetition.”

20. Isn’t that crazy? What we tell ourselves over and over is what our minds think is true and so we act as if it is truth.

21. In my 37th year, my hope is that I can get my heart, soul and mind to join forces and move forward with some real truth as the backbone instead of insecurities, hurt and fear driving the ship. Ugh.

22. I thought by the time you hit 37 you didn’t have to deal with these things.

23. I also thought you didn’t break out anymore.

24. Oopsies. Wrong on both accounts.

25. One thing that is great about getting older is that my kids are getting older, too.

26. I loved them as little kids and always felt like preschool-age was my motherhood sweet spot (I mean, come on. 3 year olds are just the most adorable. Slightly exhausting at times, but they are so sweet and say the cutest things. And they let you dress them in things other than basketball shorts and hoodies).

27. I wasn’t sure how I would do with older kids – especially pre-teen boys. They smell! Their sense of humor is so weird! They are so foreign to me! 

28. But I can say wholeheartedly that being a mom to these kids as they get older is better than I ever imagined.

29.  Parenting changes around the ages of my kids now (12, 11, 8, 6) from constantly needing me physically, to needing more of me emotionally and mentally. There are different challenges, of course, but for the most part, they just want to talk. And talk. And talk. And sometimes they’ll listen :)

30. One thing we were just talking about was the fact that the internet was introduced to me my freshman year of college. College! The kids thought that was crazy.

31. They also think I’m crazy for not eating chicken on the bone. But I just can’t. The skin, the veiny things, the gnawing. I can’t.

32. Also? I don’t do oatmeal.

33. I do enjoy avocado toast, though. We ate it all summer long. And for dinner the other night, actually.

avocadotoast

34. Sourdough toast, smashed avocado with a splash of lemon, salt + pepper, arugula, cherry tomatoes, poached egg, goat cheese and a drizzle of some variety of savory jam, if available. Yum.

35. I really liked those white plates. When we sold the airstream, we enjoyed the new owners so much that we tossed in new bedding and a few pillows and gave them all of our dishes. They just fit so perfectly in the drawer. I hope their sweet family enjoys that trailer as much as we did.

36. My mom asked us if we plan on camping again and we were like, “um. Can you ask us in a few months? We just got back from living on the road”. It’s like someone asking if you are going to have more kids while you are still in the hospital with your newborn. #toosoon

37. Speaking of being in hospitals with newborns … once upon a time, there was a little red-head babe who was supposed to be named Erica, but when her grandmother came into the hospital room to look upon her new granddaughter, she declared, “How’s my little Emily Anne!” And that is how my story began …

38. Oh my goodness. I just finished this list, told Ryan how ridiculous it is that I forgot how old I was and how good thing I changed it to 37 things instead of 38 things! And do you know what? He just reminded me that I’m actually 38. You can’t make this stuff up.

P.S. I did another one of these posts on my 34th birthday entitled … you guessed it! … 34 Things. Read that one here.

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Why Absolute Minimalism Will Never Feel Like Home

We often say that stuff doesn’t matter. And, yes, of course that is true.

In the big scheme of things, stuff is meaningless. Absolutely. 100 percent.

I always thought this was true, but now I can say that after living with very, very little, I believe it more than ever. It’s the people and the real life experiences that make life richer, not the things we accumulate.

And yet …

While all the stuff – the clothes, the furniture, the dish collections or pillow collections or christmas decorations taking up most of your home’s storage space – while these things are not the most important things in life, they do matter.

I’ve had a hard time reconciling my deep belief that stuff is meaningless with my insatiable desire to be surrounded by beautiful things.

Which one is it, Emily? If you really believe trinkets are worthless then why do you find so much joy in styling out a shelf with each new season? Why do you move furniture or arrange flowers or take great delight in a color-coded closet with matching wood hangers? 

We traveled and lived as a family for over three months in less than 300 square feet. The kids each had one small bin for their clothes. I had one wooden spoon, one set of sheets, one throw blanket, one picture on the wall. And the crazy thing was that we didn’t really miss the rest of our stuff back at home!

This non-missing had me all concerned. What would this experiment in living with less do to my lifelong love of houses, of decorating and pretty things?!

Would I get home and just want to pack it all up and give it away? Would life on the road have taught me that minimalism is the way to go?

That couch you used to love – send it away! The old books you used to collect – off they go! Get rid of it all! All this excess is getting in the way of living! 

Or would all the things we have collected and inherited and purchased for our house just make it feel like home?

And if that was the case – this feeling of being at home amidst the stuff – would that be okay? Would it be okay, after all this time of tiny living, to not choose absolute minimalism for our normal life? Would it be okay to still love the couch and collect old books and deliberately choose an afternoon of moving furniture around even though I have now tried it the other way and was perfectly happy?

Well, you want to know what happened?

bed

We arrived home and it did feel good. The kids pulled out their toys they had not seen in months. They put on clothes they had forgotten about (the ones with bright colors and big logos that were not part the mom-approved capsule wardrobe they lived in all summer). I cut branches from the back yard to bring life indoors. I switched out our bedspread for a new change. I admired and used the things in our house that make it feel like home.

And I also packed up a carload of excess to donate.

The truth is, our home wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for the couch to stretch out on or the wall of L’s to give it personality. It wouldn’t be the same without fresh greenery and stacks of white dishes ready for entertaining.

It’s not the stuff that makes a home, but what is a home without stuff?!

So after living minimally for 4 months and now being back in our large and happily decorated home for the past three weeks, here’s my conclusion:

Our homes are here to serve us. They are meant to be a place of comfort, protection and joy. They are where we do life, where we invite others in, where we gather and grow. They are the backdrop of our lives and important ones at that.

The idea of minimalism has its benefits; there is much to be appreciated and adopted about a life free from excess. My style and shopping habits have changed over the years that definitely reflect the simple, clean, living-small and clutter-free mentality this movement is all about.

But there is also nothing wrong with surrounding ourselves with the things we love and intentionally filling our homes with beauty.

As much as I love getting rid of unused trinkets and donating items that we don’t need, want or use, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop collecting and styling the things we do choose to keep. Making a pretty home is part of me and even though popular culture says it is better and more responsible to live tiny with very few possessions, that doesn’t feel like home to me.

The goal of our homes is to be comfortable, safe places where we want to spend time and invite others in. Is my house serving me in this way? Is yours?

That’s the important question.

Are our homes doing their job?

The answer isn’t necessarily to get rid of everything just as much as the answer isn’t found in buying more stuff. What we learned about home from our time on the road is that it is not a matter of having a lot or having a little; it is about intentionally creating a space that makes you happy.

And it is about intentionally creating a home that feels like you. One that reflects your style, your needs and is a place where you want to invite others in to.

Creating a home that feels like you and makes you happy could mean clearing out the overstuffed closets that stress you out. It could mean rearranging the furniture to make for better traffic flow. It could mean painting your piano or learning how to create a gallery wall or investing in a new couch or finally figuring out what to do with the problem areas that bug you the most.

Now that I’m back, I’m more excited than ever to explore this idea of home. Of houses. Of decorating and letting our houses serve us. 

Tiny living was great for a few months, but it isn’t home to me. I’m a fan of stuff. Not too much so as it starts overtaking my life and certainly not at the cost of relationships and valuable experiences.

The privilege of making a home is adding our personal style and filling it with meaningful and pretty touches that make all who dwell inside feel happy and at home. I absolutely believe this. 

So here’s what I’d love to know from you, my darling reader-friends:

What is making you super happy about your home right now and what stresses you out? Do you struggle with making your house a place you love to be? What is getting in the way? (aside from budget. Money will always get in the way. But I fully believe you don’t have to have unlimited funds to create a home you love).

I wish we could sit face to face to talk about these things! But since we can’t, let’s chat online :)

Leave a comment and tell me, what is your biggest challenge when thinking about decorating your home? 

I can’t wait to hear …

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