Staying Stylish & Functional On-The-Go

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I seem to find myself in a constant flux between carrying a diaper bag and carrying a regular purse. On highly chaotic days, I carry both. We’re in that awkward stage where we don’t really need to haul all the diaper gear around when taking short trips to the store, so I often just throw a diaper and a pack of wipes in my purse and go. But then we’re still in the stage where extra changes of clothes and snacks are necessary, when venturing out for the day, and I don’t really want to haul an entire baby wardrobe around in my purse, so for those days, I use the diaper bag.

Regardless of what kind of bag carrying day it will be, I have finally found a system that helps make sure I always have the essentials we’ll need – the catch-all bag. I know many of you have been using this little system of separate pouches within your bag for years, but I can be a slow learner.

The pouches I carry around can get pretty beat up and look gross within a couple of months, so I try to carry pouches that can either be cleaned easily, or aren’t really pricey, so I don’t feel bad if I have to toss it after just a few months of use. This pouch came from Prism Boutique and I snagged it at one of their recent sales. The items I’m carting around are pretty self-explanatory, but let’s just name them all anyhow.

Beginning with #1. Kleenex. I actually always carry tissues with me because I’m a proud crier, and often come to tears at church or when chatting with friends or when watching a movie. I cry when I’m happy, sad, excited and tired. Kleenex are an absolute necessity. 2. Lip gloss – my latest favorite color is Chanel #297. 3. Random accessories. These are not essential, but just a fact of life. I seem to inevitably always take off some accessory that Hayden has become obsessed with, and wind up hiding it in my purse. Usually it’s dangly earrings which he loves to tug on, or sparkly bracelets that he loves to wear. I could stop wearing accessories, I know, but I figure he’ll outgrow this obsession eventually, so I’ll just keep testing the waters, waiting for that day to come. In the mean time, at least I know they’re safe when I do store them away. 4. Rubber bands are a must for both Taylor and I, who both end up needing to pull our hair back for one reason or another. 5. Lip Balm of some sort, this one happens to be from Honest and I love it. I keep it on hand for myself and the kids, and love how it works on dry hands and noses. 6. Honest hand sanitizer is one of the only brands I’ve found that doesn’t dry out my hands, and it smells really nice. 7. Sunglasses of course. 8. Pen and paper for note taking, to-do list making, and grocery list writing. 9. Business cards because you never know who you’ll run into. 10. Snacks! For both me and baby. These Mary’s graham crackers are yummy and perfect snack-size.

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The Kleenex on-the-go packs are well designed in both form and function. They’re stylish design makes the need for those fabric tissue covers null and void – yes, I used to routinely cover my tissues with handmade tissue covers – I’m serious about my tissue carrying. And they aren’t bulky, so I can slip them in even the smallest of catch-all bags.

Kleenex is celebrating 90 years of providing innovative products with beautiful design to help women meet their everyday needs. For their anniversary, they’ve partnered with style icon Isaac Mizrahi to bring industry-leading designs to their already functional products. You can visit their style website to find a design that’s perfect for you. Tomorrow on March 17th, Kleenex will be hosting a big reveal event at Grand Central Station in NYC to unveil the new brand designs live with Isaac Mizrahi. Consumers can stop by to learn more about Kleenex brand’s 90 year anniversary, see the new designs, and have a chance to win a variety of prizes.

So how do you stay put together and organized when out and about? Do you already do the catch-all system for your bags, or do you shove it all in and hope for the best? Truth be told I actually have become so obsessed with this way of organizing that I now have 2 pouches, 3 if you count my wallet, and I love the way this new system helps me stay a little more organized and a little less frantic.

*This is a sponsored post by Kleenex Brand, however all opinions expressed are my own. I appreciate you helping to support the brands which help support For The Love Of. #KleenexStyle



Artwork Updates Around The Home + Minted Giveaway

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It seems that the majority of my decorating challenges and woes result from what to hang on the wall. After i shared with you all last week that our frames in the family room sat empty for a year before I made a move to add some prints, let me also admit that Hayden was well over a year old before he got any space on our walls. I know he is well represented on Instagram, but some representation in our actual home wouldn’t be a bad thing. So I’ve added artwork and updated photos all throughout the house now, including our entry way. photo-1 I love the two prints I picked. The Be Still & Know print is from Pen & Paint, and the California Bear is from Three Fish Studios. The photos are the family shots Miranda took of us late last year, and one of my favorite pictures of the older kids, in San Francisco. The thing I don’t love, is the combination of them together. I think I needed to separate actual print photos from artwork in both gallery wall spaces. I think the combination of the two messes with their flow, what do you think? I love walking by this space each and every day, a hundred times a day, and seeing frames hung and filled. It truly gives me a sense of accomplishment that I completed a project here. But I feel like the prints just don’t all flow together.

At any rate, I’m thinking of transitioning all family photos to the family room wall, and leaving the entry way for prints and artwork we love.

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I can’t decide if I should pick up more of the blues in our home, and go with soft watercolor shades of aquas, greens and blues.

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Or pick up more of the red highlights in the home, and do shades of pinks, oranges and deep reds?

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All these prints are from Minted’s new collection of wall art prints, and they literally have hundreds to choose from. I love all of them in their own unique way, but I’m particularly drawn to these. All the prints come in a range of sizes and framing is available.

Minted is offering For The Love Of readers a $50 gift credit to pick out anything you happen to love in the shop. They have so many beautiful things to choose from, but hopefully you’ll take a second to browse their selection of prints.

Print 1 Nature, Print 2 Aqua Grid, Print 3 What you want, Print 4 Fresh Floral

Enter below, through Sunday March 9th 11:59 pst. Good luck, and I’ll announce the winner on Monday.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Thank you Minted for offering this great giveaway to my readers. They did not sponsor this post, I just love their products and their new artwork, and am thrilled to collaborate with them to offer this giveaway. All opinions expressed are my own.



Style Updates Around The Home

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We’ve been in this house for 4+ years now, although a few weeks ago I told someone it had been 5, because it feels like 5 to me. My motivation to DIY every nook and cranny of this home, and make it perfectly decorated goes in very short and sporadic spurts. In the past 8 years, we’ve had 3 children, started a business, started and quit 2 different jobs, and DIY’d 3 homes in the process. I think it’s only normal and perfectly acceptable that my gumption to hang pictures and paint walls has in many ways, been hung out to dry.

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But the last month or so, initially spurred on by our holiday party, I’ve had the motivation to add a few touches here and there to our home, to try to get it to the place I’d like it to be. I love our home and truly think it has a lot of character and charm to it, but little things have bothered me, like outdated photos hung in frames, or completely empty frames! So I’ve been tackling the little tasks that seem mundane and well, quite small, but help to make the inhabitants of a home actually feel at home. A sweet smelling candle, artwork, a cozy throw. The kind of things that don’t really jump out to a visitor, but mean everything to the home owner.

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I’ll share the projects I’ve completed, or at least semi-completed, in the next couple of weeks, but first wanted to start with the family room area. I actually blogged about the start of our gallery wall almost 1 year ago, and for almost a year, the frames sat empty because I felt too overwhelmed with the simple task of sorting, choosing, and printing up photos. Can you believe that craziness? At any rate, all it seemed to take was an adult soiree to get me in gear, so I finally filled the frames.

In all my hours spent studying gallery walls, I’ve discovered that this isn’t really one, or rather, not the kind of gallery wall I’ve come to love, with an eclectic mix of well chosen art and vintage frames, placed in almost haphazard fashion. If you were to think of a person’s gallery wall arrangement as a litmus test, this particular picture frame arrangement would definitely classify me as a bit controlling and maybe even uptight. I’ve come to terms with that, and have a plan on how to let loose a little more, by adding in a hodge podge of frames to fill in the empty crevices. This wall therefore, remains a work in progress.  But at least the frames are no longer empty.

I also finally got rid of the very old and beat up pleather ottoman we had, and got this white table from West Elm. I don’t love it, but it was on sale and I like that it has a bottom tier shelf to hold books and a blanket. I really went back and forth on it, because I felt it was too bright white for this otherwise muted space, but eventually I plan to paint the media console anyhow, and add in some other art on that big wall that will add another level of brightness to the room. The white pots were also thrown in to help level out the beige tones and throw in more white. For now though, it is at least pretty and functional.

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When I finally went through photos and chose a selection to print up, I also decided to update our existing picture frames with shades of beige, bronze and gold. Our old ones were from KMart and were literally falling apart, with broken glass and stands which no longer worked. These are all from Target and are either Threshold or Nate Berkus.

I know this is small potatoes for some of you, but for me, these little updates are a lot for me. Home decor is definitely not my forte, and even these small changes felt like like work, not enjoyable really. The end product is wonderful, but the decisions along the way are stupidly painful for me. IMG_3959 You may notice the cute little pops of colorful design added in by the boxes of Kleenex tissue. When I was at Alt, I met up with the Kleenex team and learned about their recent partnership with iconic designer Isaac Mizrahi to bring four new and unique designs to the Kleenex Expressions line. I truly loved the resulting look of this brand collaboration, and am honored to have been chosen as a Style Ambassador for the next two months, to help spread the word about this partnership and Kleenex celebrating its 90th anniversary. You can visit the Kleenex Style Studio to look at all the designs, and choose the right one to complement your home.

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It’s cold and flu season and we are constantly reaching for Kleenex in this house. We usually keep a box in each central location of the home, and having these cute designs, which so seamlessly work into the existing decor of the home, is just a neat little added bonus. It’s the little things after all. I definitely don’t feel like I have to hide the box of Kleenex when guests come over.

Kleenex is hosting a sweepstakes in their Style Studio called “Catwalk or Kleenex?” where you’ll be asked to name the design and whether it’s from the catwalk or the Kleenex line. Take the quiz and automatically be entered to win an all-expense paid trip for two to New York City to find your Kleenex brand style with a famous designer. The winner will also receive $5,000 spending money to use on a NYC shopping spree. The sweepstakes runs through March 7th, so hurry and enter!

I’ll share the entry way that’s almost complete in the next few days, as well as the most amazing frames I discovered. Have a good weekend everyone!

This is a sponsored post by Kleenex Brand. However, all opinions expressed are my own. As always, thanks for supporting the brands, who help to support this site.



DIY Tissue Paper Wall Letters

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Alix is back again to share this awesome spin on cardboard craft letters. I love the texture the tissue paper adds to each letter, and of course I love the simplicity of the project overall.  Read on to get the full step-by-step tutorial.  Thanks Alix, for creating another amazing project for my readers!

I’m always looking for simple and quick ways to add details to my home. Sometimes I feel like finding the perfect couch overshadows the importance of adding meaningful wall decoration. This isn’t life-altering stuff here, but we could all use a few more lovely things in life, don’t you think? Two weeks ago I purchased some cardboard letters that spell out the word “PLAY”. My intention is to hang them in my future daughter’s room, but only heaven knows when that day will come. I couldn’t just let them sit in a sad pile in my office (I have a crafting addiction that must be fed)! So I decided to come up with a craft that would satisfy my crafting “problem” and make those lonely letters happy. It is also cute enough to hang in a little girl’s nursery someday!

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Supplies:
- Cardboard letters. You can buy these at your local craft store.
- Craft paint if you want the sides of your letters to be a different color than the cardboard.
- Paintbrush or paint sponge.
- Several pieces of tissue paper cut into 2-inch by 2-inch squares.
- A pencil or pen to form the tissue paper around.
- White craft glue. I used simple Elmer’s glue and it worked like a dream.
- Thumb tacks–you will need about 3 per letter.
- Hot glue gun and glue.

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Step 1 is easy and optional (just the way I like it!). If you wish your letters to be a certain color that will be visible on the sides, paint them. I chose a light gray I felt would go well with my wall color and home decor. Let’s be honest though, light gray pretty much goes with everything so I was playing it safe. Let the paint dry for 15 minutes and then move right on to step 2.

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For step 2 you will transform the cardboard letters into whimsical tissue paper letters. To begin, take one tissue paper square and place the center of the square on the eraser end of your pencil. Now form the tissues paper square around the end of the pencil and hold it tight. Next, dip the tissue paper lightly into the glue and press it firmly onto the face of the letter. Repeat this step until the entire face of the letter is covered in tissue paper dots.

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The final look.

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Now step 3 is my secret step. One thing about cardboard letters that I love (there are so many things to love about them) is that they are light and easy to hang. But here is my little trick…the easiest way to hang them is with thumbtacks! First, place a dab of hot glue on the face side of your thumbtack. Then glue the tack onto the back of your letter. I usually attach 3 to 4 thumbtacks to the back of each letter. When you go to hang your letters all you have to do is make sure they are level and firmly push them into the wall.

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There you have it! Mission wall display accomplished!

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Thanks so much Alix!  I love the project and I know you all will too. Make sure to visit Alix at her own space, A Ruffled Life, where she shares lots of other great projects and sweet snippets of life.



Daily Style – Clothes You Can Live In

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Pants - Coverse at Target; Top – Converse at Target; Bag – Lily Jade; Shoes – ShoeMint; Ring & Necklace – Prism Boutique

It’s been a few months since I bought any clothes from Target. I usually love a lot of their clothes, but the past few months I just didn’t find some of their items really fitting the bill of what I was looking for. I actually haven’t shopped a ton the past few months, and when I have shopped, I’ve tried to buy really special things that I knew would last a long time or were items I couldn’t find at Target. Ladies, I know places like Target and Old Navy are convenient and awesome to run in and out of with screaming kids, because everyone has screaming kids in there, but a bit of advice would be to take the time to switch it up every now and then. Most shopping excursions are now done with an active toddler in tow, but if you want to add special and unique clothes to your wardrobe, take a little time for yourself at night or when you have a sitter, and go to a cute local boutique, a vintage store or hit up the mall. Your wardrobe will be a little more well-rounded and have a hint of uniqueness because of it. Of course if you’re happy with how your closet looks, by all means keep doing what you’re doing!

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At any rate though, Target does feel a very specific need in our lives, especially when it comes to fast, convenient and affordable shopping. Last week, on a 20 minute trip to secure a birthday gift for a 5 year old, I passed the clothing section and spotted these pants. I have similar ones from James Perse, which are very pricey. I bought them while I was still working there, so got them at cost, but even at that it was a splurge. They’ve lasted me for 2+ years now though, and I’ve worn them at least twice a week every single week since buying them. They look great with heels, with flats, with sandals and with tennies even. They are beyond comfortable and are wonderful for just living in. They also have an elastic waistband, and their forgiving cut make them quite flattering on.

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So when I saw these pants which were almost identical to my beloved pair of JP’s, at $29.99, I snatched them up. Hanging next to them was this cute sweatshirt too, with the mesh detail. The oversize cut is loose and comfortable without feeling boxy and overwhelming.

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I was easily able to dress up this outfit by adding a cute necklace and the wedge heels. Later, when we got home from church and lunch out, I changed into my favorite sandals from Zara and added a camo jacket for hanging out with the kids at the playground. I even took Hayden for a bike ride to the grocery store in them. They are seriously that comfortable and easy to move around in.

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The photo on the website shows this very severe seam at the knee, and while they do in fact have a seam, it isn’t that obvious. My guess is they photographed a sample, and not the actual pair of final production pants. That happens quite often, where for the sake of time, they have to photograph the sample piece instead of the finalized production piece.

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I picked up one more top as well, and showed it on Instagram over the weekend. It got a great response, so thought I’d share the link here too.  I know many of us may already have lots of stripes in our closet, but the texture and cut of this top make it another perfect piece for dressing up or down.

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I’m pretty happy with these purchases and know I’ll get a lot of use out of each piece. And I’m happy to have found some good things at Target again, as it’s such a great place to fall back on. They have quite a few great dresses for Spring right now, perfect for work, or special events like wedding and baby showers. Do you shop at Target quite often, or only when you happen to find something you like?
I would say though that the next time we go somewhere with a body of water, I’ll stick with the same outfit, but switch the shoes to flats. Chasing Hayden around the lake in wedges was not ideal, but was in the end manageable. I hope you all had a great weekend.

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Daily Style – Day To Night Date Night

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I’m having a lot of mixed feelings these days about my personal style posts. I’m feeling increasingly strange posing in front of the camera, and reached out to Facebook last week for suggestions on ways I could still share my outfits, in a not so aspiring-model type of way. I feel a big shift coming in the way of personal style blogs, and I guess I’m both trying to stay ahead of the curve, and feel more comfortable with these posts.

To be honest there’s very few style blogs I read anymore. I do click over on sewing DIY style blogs, not because I think I’ll ever refashion anything, but because I do love the ingenuity and creativity that comes along with these type of posts. I love reading what bloggers who feel like friends are up to, and Carly comes to mind. And of course I still enjoy street style blogs, and the blogs much like mine, who blog about personal style, along with a bunch of other wonderful topics. All this to say, I do think sharing personal style is fun and important in a way, but I think there may eventually be a shift in how we share that style. Don’t ask me how as I can’t predict, but I do predict something will be changing in the next year or so.

So for now, I’ve decided to scale back a bit on the style posts, until I can figure out how the heck I can share in a meaningful way that I feel comfortable doing. For now, I think I’ll try to stick with posts like this one here, and other similar ones I’ve done in the past, where I show my style through what we do and see. Sort of style-in-action shoots. They’re harder to do and in a way, even more uncomfortable to shoot, but the results are in my worth it, because the reader gets to see an outfit as it was really worn throughout the day.

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Blazer - Club Monaco; Jeans – Gap Sexy Boyfriend; Shoes – ShoeMint (no longer available); Bag – c/o Lily Jade

Blah blah blah, enough of me thinking out loud. Onto the outfit. I bought this blazer during Club Monaco’s amazing sale they had in January. I originally wore it to the Friday night mini parties at Alt Summit, but before I made the purchase I did a mental run through to determine if I’d be able to make it work for something other than a night out. I knew it would look great with jeans and heels, and the sales guy had a great idea of pairing it back with denim, oxfords and a gray t-shirt.  Knowing it would be a piece that could work in multiple ways, I made the plunge and so far have had no buyer’s remorse. Please tell me you always think through the outfit possibilities before you buy something. It’s my number one piece of advice for you all.

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This is how I styled the blazer for date night, which started at about 4 pm. I wanted to style it in a way that would be good for day into evening, so I wore it back to a simple black shirt, my distressed boyfriend jeans, and a pair of heels. Honestly where we were going was pretty laid back and casual, as is most of Southern California, but I always like to get dressed up for dinner out.

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Our night consisted of drinks at a wine bar in Long Beach, followed by dinner at a new pasta restaurant which makes their own pasts by hand each day, and then coffee at a coffee shop next door. Drinks, dinner, and coffee all within a 1 block 1– yard radius. It was a pretty nice night reconnecting with my best friend.

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A night out in Long Beach:
4th Street Vine – A Neighborhood Wine & Beer Bar. I got the organic wine flight which featured a wines from Chile, and Art got the Dechutes IPA. Nice casual atmosphere with plenty of comfortable seating and within walking distance of lots of quirky and vintage shops.

Dinner at P3 Artisan Pasta – we got the mushroom ravioli (to die for) and the salmon with spinach fettuccine. The caprese salad was amazing.

After dinner coffee at Portfolio, right next door. A nice huge coffee shop much like the coffee shops we grew to love before Starbucks took over every street corner. Lots of college kids, and local art hung on walls. The Mexican Mocha is delicious.



Our Handmade Valentine’s

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I’ve grown to become really fond of Valentine’s Day, now that we’re a little family. Art and I always manage to spend a little special time together, either before or after the actual day, but for the past few years, we’ve made it a day to spend special time together as a family. This year the kids have the day off for the long weekend, so Art is planning to take a half day, and then we’ll visit our local aquarium where we already have passes to, then do homemade pizza dinner at home. We really didn’t want to spend any money, so while we initially thought of taking them miniature golfing and even to Legoland(!), we decided to keep future expectations for V-Day low, and so a simple visit to see the fishes will do. Honestly they’ll just be excited to have Art home early from work.

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We made our Valentine’s by hand again this year, and it was the first year both kids really took part in making them in their entirety, from start to finish. For Syd’s, I just happened to have 25 cut circles leftover from our ombre hearts, so he thought those would be cool to use. I also had leftover sticky letters from a past birthday project, so he decided to use those too. It’s the one nice thing about hoarding craft supplies, you always seem to find a use for the things eventually.

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I told Syd a simple “Happy Valentine’s Day, from Syd” would do just fine, but he really wanted to personally write a note to each of his classmates, and so he worked on them over the course of 2 days. For some kids, who he doesn’t know all that well, he just wrote a simple note saying he was glad they were in class together. For other pals which he plays with on the regular, he wrote cute notes saying he was glad they “chat during recess” or he was thankful for their help when he “gets stuck” on his classwork. They weren’t perfectly styled or nice and neat, but they were personal and he was soooo excited about them, proudly packing them away in his backpack this morning.

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Taylor had remembered the banner and gift tags I made for Christmas, out of sparkly pipe cleaners, so wanted to do something similar. I took photos of said project, and never found the time to post them on the blog, but these will give you an idea. I took silver and gold pipe cleaners and bent them into shapes, adhering them on to cardstock with a hot glue gun. We came up with hearts for the girls and arrows for the boys. I was struggling with the arrows for some reason, or rather just didn’t have the patience for them, and suggested we do hearts all around. She quickly rejected that idea because apparently starting in the 3rd grade, hearts and boys don’t mix.

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So she valiantly took on the job of making the arrows, and did a fine job I must say. Even after all these years of craft experience, I still fumble when using the hot glue gun and never escape burn-free. She on the other hand never even felt the heat. I was quite impressed, and quite proud.

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For the backs of the cards, she decided to use my stamp set to stamp the first initial of each kid all over, and then wrote a simple message to each one. Very sweet and simple, and very perfect for 3rd grade.

I saw a little rumble from some moms, feeling the pressure to make these elaborate handmade valentine’s cards for their children. It’s hard to feel okay with what we do as parents in this age of social media and Pinterest. The only thing I really have to say on the subject is there’s a lot things we don’t do in this house, which are cool or pretty and perfect, or Pinterest worthy, but some things we manage to scrape together, handmade Valentine’s being one of them. It’s just sort of our thing. There’s lots of other things we don’t do, and I’m sure the same can be said in most households. Let’s celebrate all the small and unique ways we somehow manage to make our kid’s days special or different.

I do have a confession to make though. Last night, I fell asleep early, before I finished dipping each cookie in chocolate, and woke up early this morning realizing the kids didn’t have any treats to pass out. So I ran my butt over to Sprouts and bought some of those organic lollipops, taped them on the back of each card, and called it done. Oh well. I sent what cookies were complete to the kid’s teachers, and will enjoy the rest here at home.



Dark Chocolate Shortbread Heart Cookies

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I love a good shortbread cookie, and if it’s covered in dark chocolate, even more reason to celebrate. I love the mix of the savory buttery flavor, mixed with the sweetness of the dark chocolate, a perfect combination if you ask me.  So when I saw that Trader Joe’s had once again, brought back those loveable dark chocolate covered shortbread stars, but in a new heart shape for Valentine’s Day, I picked up a box and ate the whole thing in just 2 days.  I looked at the ingredient list and while it wasn’t horrible, it was still given its fair dose of preservatives, and I got to thinking, why not make a preservative-free, healthier version I could enjoy at home, without having to worry about the ingredient content?  See that there, somehow if I make it at home, I let myself off the hook in terms of feeling bad for devouring a whole box of these things.

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Searching online for a “healthy” shortbread cookie automatically translated to a cookie that was gluten free and vegan. While I can certainly understand the need for this type of recipe, for those who suffer from Celiac’s or general gluten allergies, and of course those who are actually vegan, I am none of these, and so I failed to find a “healthier” version of a shortbread cookie online. It’s a common problem in fact, when searching for healthy baking recipes; you either seem to find extreme versions that eliminate butter, flour and eggs, or you find the so-called healthy version which uses apple sauce in lieu of eggs, but still includes cups upon cups of sugar and enriched flour. For those of us who are just trying to eat better animal fats, whole grains and don’t believe eggs are evil, baking can be a challenge. So I made my own shortbread recipe, using a pretty standard recipe and tweaking most of the ingredients. The results were wonderful. Keep in mind that I still used sugar and flour and butter, the ingredient choices I made are at least the healthiest versions you can get, and actually offer nutritional benefits.

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You start by sifting the whole wheat flour, with the arrowroot starch (in lieu of cornstarch, but you can certainly use corn starch), and the baking soda. Why whole wheat versus all-purpose flour, after all aren’t all flours still the same? I won’t bore you with all the details, which you can read here in this article, but basically, whole wheat flour, especially if you use a good brand like Bob’s Red Mill which is just whole grain wheat, is higher in protein, fiber, has a lower GI index which is important to diabetics and those who suffer from the effects of extreme blood sugar spikes, and has a richer vitamin and nutrient content. You can read the way whole wheat versus all-purpose flour is processed here, but basically, all-purpose flour is highly processed and during that processing, most of its vital vitamins and nutrients are stripped away, which is why it is then “enriched”, something you’ll read quite often on labels. I also used the arrowroot starch because I happened to have it on hand and can be replaced cup for cup with corn starch, according to the Bob’s Red Mill package, although there does seem to be differing opinions on that. At any rate, it is an easier starch to digest than corn starch, and isn’t as highly processed, but keep in mind you can certainly use cornstarch instead – makes no difference. I also added 1/4 tsp of baking soda, as advised when doing research on baking with maple syrup.  Basically because maple syrup is more acidic, you add the baking soda in to help the dough rise. In terms of GMO’s for whole wheat flour and the arrowroot versus cornstarch debate, rest assured as there is no such thing as GMO whole wheat flour, as I explained in this article, and while I’m not as terrified as some are about GMO’s, I figure if you can avoid anything that’s overly processed, why not. Moving on.

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Next let’s cream our butter and syrup together. I did some research on baking with sugar alternatives, and found this article from Whole New Mom to be very helpful. Using it as a guide, I substituted 1 cup of white sugar for 1/2 cup, plus 2-3 tbsp of pure organic maple syrup. Sugar is sugar, but again as is the case with flour, not all sugars are created equal. Whereas white granulated sugar has no nutritional value, and causes extreme sugar spikes, maple syrup has many wonderful nutrients and antioxidants, and has a lower GI than white sugar. I also used grass fed butter, which has proven to have more healthy Omega 3′s, CLA (good fats), and is higher in vitamins A, K, D and E, and is loaded with antioxidants, in comparison to conventional butter. Butter is still better than margarine though, but butter from grass fed cows can’t be beat. I love Kerrygold butter and find it at Sprouts.

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Combine your butter mixture with your dry ingredients using either a pastry cutter or a couple of forks.  Your dough will be very crumbly, keep in mind.  If you can find that when you combine some of the dough into a ball and it sticks together easily, add a couple of tbsp of maple syrup if you don’t think the dough tastes sweet enough.  Keep in mind that maple syrup is sweeter than regular sugar, which is why you use less, but I have found that depending on the brand and grade, some maple syrups are super super sweet, and some are more mild.  One of the most important things I’ve learned about cooking is to taste along the way, so give it a taste and if you want it sweeter, add a bit more syrup.  Keep in mind too, that these cookies will be dunked in dark chocolate and sprinkles, so don’t go overboard.  You want a restrained sweetness, not sickly sweet. By the way, don’t forget to let your baby lick the butter/maple syrup mixer wands while you’re working.  Mix your dough together so that it is still crumbly, but can be formed into a ball, and then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes or so.

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Divide your dough in half and roll it on a floured surface to about an 1/8″-1/4″ thickness.  The edges will be crumbly, don’t worry.  Because there’s not a ton of butter in this dough, it will seem tough at first to roll out. If this is the case, let it sit for a minute, or even work it with your hands a bit to let it warm up.  I found that this dough actually gets easier to work with as it warms up, as opposed to sugar cookie dough which becomes a sticky gooey mess.  Start cutting out your shapes, in this case, hearts of about 1.5″ in diameter, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet (or some other form of silpat type of mat).

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Because maple syrup caramelizes quicker than white sugar, you want to bake these 25 degrees lower, at 325, for 15-18 minutes.  I set the timer for 15 minutes and checked on them, letting one cool and tasting after a couple of minutes.  They tasted done so I took them out at 17 minutes.  It’s important to watch these and taste, since the coloring will be deceptive because of the brown color of the whole wheat flour.  The second batch I made came out a bit thinner than the first, so I took them out at 15 minutes.

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While your cookies are cooling, warm up some dark chocolate in a double boiler and add 1-2 tbsp of coconut or vegetable oil to get the chocolate a little more on the runny side.  Dip your cookies in the chocolate using a small pair of tongs, and place on a parchment or mat surface.

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You may have a little dent in your chocolate, from holding it with the tongs.  No problem, just smooth out a bit with your tongs.

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Add your sprinkles, and place in the freezer for at least 15-30 minuites to let your chocolate set.  When you’re ready to eat, let them warm up for a few minutes, as right out of the freezer they will be a bit hard. And that’s about it.  These aren’t quite as tedious as royal icing cookies, but they are a process, I won’t lie.  A process yielding very yummy results though.  I’m packing these up in cello bags to hand out to the teachers and the kid’s classmates, although if I don’t get a move on they all may only be getting 1 little cookie!  Keep in mind that this recipe makes a lot of these little cookies.  I’ve made 50 so far, using half the dough, and with the kids nibbling at a good portion of it!

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I’ve been hard at work, practicing my food photography, and played around with shooting these, and used a black and white background.  I can’t decide which background I like better, what do you all think?

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I love them both but I think I’m partial to the black.  A marble slab background would be pretty too.

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I hope I’ve convinced you that baking can be more nutritious.  While sugar is still sugar, and fats are still fats, there are healthier alternatives that will definitely go easier on your body, and actually adding in some benefits.  But I have a ways to go to perfecting healthy baking, so I’d love any resources you’ve found to be helpful. While I’m not opposed to gluten free and vegan options, I’d love to find great baking recipes using wholesome, less-processed ingredients, so please pass them my way if you know of any!  Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Dark Chocolate Shortbread Heart Cookies
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 scant cup arrowroot or cornstarch (slightly less than 1 cup)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup pure maple syrup, plus 2-3 tbsp if needed
1 cup/2 sticks softened butter, plus 2-3 tbsp if needed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift together the dry ingredients, and cream the butter and syrup in a separate bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or fork and knife until dough is crumbly but will still come together. Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerating for 20-30 minutes. Divide in half, and roll dough on a floured surface, to about a 1/8″ thickness. Cut out desired shapes and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes. Let cool.

For chocolate coating: Warm a double boiler and heat up a bag of dark chocolate chips with 2 tbsp of vegetable or coconut oil. Dip cookie in chocolate and place on a parchment lined platter, adding sprinkles before chocolate sets. Place in freezer for 15-30 minutes to let the chocolate set and then enjoy!



DIY Floral Chandelier

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Hello there friends. Today I’d like to introduce you to a new contributor, Alix Adams of A Ruffled Life, who will be sharing DIY  and craft projects with us, on a regular basis. I met Alix last year at Alt Summit, and we’ve stayed in contact over the past year, only to be reconnected again at this year’s Alt, where she hosted one of the beautiful Friday night mini parties. Alix is charming, funny, and has a great sense of creativity and style, which makes for some awesome DIY and craft projects. I feel beyond fortunate to have Alix on board here, and I think when you see her very first project, you’ll understand why.  Thanks so much for creating this sweet floral wreath for all of us, just in time for Valentine’s Day. I love it Alix, and I know my readers will too!

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Every Valentines Day I try and come up with new ways to glob on the glitter, warm up my hot glue gun, and cut out an obscene amount of paper hearts. But this Valentine craft is different. This Valentines I made a floral chandelier that is stylish and lovely. It is far more mature than glitter, if you know what I mean. A floral chandelier made from romantic roses, carnations, and some daises (for good measure) is prefect for a sentimental dinner with that special hunk…but it also says a sweet “Happy Love Day!” to everyone running around your house.

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Supplies:
- Metal hoops in 2 sizes (I bought these at my local craft store)
- Floral wire to attach the flowers
- Twine or string to tie the hoops together
- Wire cutters
- Fresh flowers!

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The first step is simple and you get to flirt with flowers…so it’s a good place to start. Take all your flowers and cut their stems down to about 4 inches. This will make it possible for you to attach them to the metal hoop.

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Next, you will want to cut a few clips of floral wire to prepare to attach the flowers. The floral wire should be cut in 4 to 6 inch sections using wire cutters.

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To wire the flowers to the ring it is easiest to lay the wire under the hoop and the flower to begin. Then carefully wrap the wire around both the flower stem and metal hoop several times so that the flower is securely fastened to the hoop.

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Now it’s time to let your inner florist blossom. This is some love day self-therapy crafting. For step four repeat step 3 with varying flowers all the way around the hoop until your hoop is completely covered in flowers. You may want to add greenery here and there. Like I said…it’s your craft/therapy/self-love DYI. 

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Now repeat steps 1-4 on your second metal hoop so you have a pair to transform into a chandelier.

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For the final step you will need to connect the hoops and string them up. I used a pretty twine (or jute). I tied 3 strips of twin measuring 18 inches long on three different parts of my first hoop. I made sure the twine knots were even spaced on the hoop with a third of the hoop in between each knot. Then I tied the opposite end of the twine (the end not tied to the first hoop) to the second hoop, again making sure that they were evenly spaced by thirds. To hang the chandelier I tied white string (but you can use twine or fishing wire or whatever you prefer) to several spots on the larger hoop, tied those strings in a knot, and then stuck the end of the white strings into the ceiling using a pushpin.

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Let me just say, were are all in love with our little floral chandelier. My husband walked in and immediately said, “I like what you did with those plant things hanging there.” Which I roughly translate as being, “Wow babe you are a wonderful florist! You are so beautiful and talented. I sure am lucky to be your Valentine.”

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The details on this chandelier are really quite stunning, in their very own simple way.  Thanks again Alix!  I love this and will have to sneak out to the store tonight for some fresh flowers.  I know Taylor would especially love this hanging in her room.

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Weekly Wrap-Up – Getting Dressed For The Day

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Happy Friday friends, how are you all doing this week?  I feel like this week has gone by in a blur, but have not much to show for it.  I have finally managed to get control of my inbox, so that counts for something, and have replied to almost all incoming emails within 24 hours, some within minutes if it can be done quickly.  I have managed to get in a couple of good workouts, write some worthwhile posts, one which landed on Making It Lovely’s Honor Roll (thank you Nicole!), and I have managed to get dressed every day. photo-1 Sweater – Madewell (no longer available); Boots – Madewell; Jeans – Paige Denim

While I have for the most part recovered from Alt, and have lined up all my ducks in a row in terms of business follow ups, one thing I have decidedly not recovered from was the constant primping and priming it took to look presentable on an hourly basis.  In fact, I haven’t even applied makeup since I got back, even when venturing out to social events like a Super Bowl party (gasp!).  I am partly okay with the liberation I’ve felt in the past 2 weeks.  While makeup has been optional, as I said above, I still get dressed every day.

This morning, a status update from a friend read: “Every morning for the last 3 days I have seen the same woman drop off her kids at school in her pajamas. The same ones. For three days. And all I can think is, she couldn’t throw a sweatshirt on over them? I mean, it’s not like they’re the “are they/ aren’t they” type of pajamas, nope full on Nick & Nora flannel jammies. Sure, some days, it’s hard to get dressed so early but what if she had to get out the car for something? Flat tire? Kid forgets something in the car? I mean, I just don’t understand.”

Getting dressed on the daily can at times seem like more trouble than it’s worth, especially when working from home, although Garance makes a good case for how complicated getting dressed can be for just about anyone.

This is the outfit I’ve been falling back on most days, for the past few weeks.  An over-sized cable knit sweater which keeps me warm in the house and warm when out grabbing kombucha from Whole Foods or on a bike ride with the babe.  It also feels comfy to kick around the house in and doesn’t feel over-dressed, but feels dressy enough to also wear to my kid’s school Open House.  I feel comfortable, presentable, even chic in it.  This look epitomizes lifestyle dressing, and it is the concept I advocate women build their wardrobe on – buying clothes that work for many facets of life.  The jeans, while ripped and worn, look fab with a pair of heels and a blazer.  The sweater, while I haven’t worn it this way, would also look great with a pencil skirt and black tights, to wear to work. photo-2 Getting dressed as a mom to both a baby and elementary school kids, a home cook who spends a quarter of her day in the kitchen, and someone who works from home, is I’ll admit, at times confusing.  The thoughts that roll through my head are multidimensional -

Do I get dressed before or after feeding Hayden his morning breakfast?  Furthermore, what will his meals look like for the day?  Am I feeding him spaghetti and yogurt, bound to make a goobery mess, or will it be a dry day of Joe’s O’s, string cheese and some luncheon meat?  The answers to these questions will literally determine if I put on that dry-clean only top or not.

Do I bother taking a shower in the morning, since I’ll be taking a class at the gym when Art gets home?  But I hate not taking a shower in the morning and always at least have to sponge-bathe myself.  Weird?

Will my errands just entail going to the grocery store, or will it also involve a trip to the doctor’s office and/or the mall?  If I will be heading to a doctor’s appointment, dentist appointment, car repair shop and yes, even the mall, I make more of an effort because sadly, I do notice I get better service and command more respect when looking polished and presentable.

Who will I likely run into at school pick-up today?  Living across the street from the school, both simplifies and complicates this process since I could both run in and out, but also could get stuck talking to a fellow parent in front of the house/school for an hour and want to look mildly presentable.

I could go on, but that could get quite obnoxious.  You get my drift, getting dressed can be complicated, so much so, that you wind up rolling through drop-off in your Nick & Nora pajamas.

So how do you pick an outfit for the day?  I’m especially interested in those who work outside the home and also mother, because I always found that a bit of a challenge when buying a new clothes.  You want clothes that will look both professional but could work in your mom-life.  And I’m especially intrigued by other stay at home or work from home moms, and the decision making process they go through when choosing an outfit.  Like me, do you break it down to thinking about messy of a day it will be in the kitchen, and your schedule, or do you just throw on whatever is clean?  And do you change or keep on the smae outfit, even if it gets baby goobers on it?  I admittedly, am guilty of keeping a pair of leggings on all day, knowing damn well they had baby pee on them.

In the end, kudos to those of us who choose to get dressed everyday, even when the world seems to be telling us to stay in our pajamas.

I read a few other things around the web that I thought were good and so if you have time:

The news reports coming out of Sochi are both comical and frightening.  I’m actually a little worried about what the fall-out from all this bad publicity will be.  My guess is, Putin is gonna be pissed, and I hope that doesn’t come to bite us in the ass.

Food styling battles – because my fear of bad food photography isn’t heightened enough.  These are brilliant though, no?

These vintage photos are pretty cool, in particular, this one.

These items are coming to Ikea, and they all look fab.

Now, on to other more very serious topics – which btw, some days I still can’t believe I’m writing about food.  Does anyone else think that’s weird, or just me?

Eating In-Season Produce isn’t just some trendy food phenomenon, it is actually as old as time and science proves, it’s better for you.

Has The Scare On GMO’s Gone Too Far is a question I asked myself when I read that Bob’s Red Mill will start labeling all their products, including their wheat flour, as non-GMO verified, even though there is no such thing as GMO wheat.  I think that’s kind of weird, if you ask me.

11 Creative Ways To Eat Clean, On A Budget