Monday, March 27, 2017

Project Flashback: Declan's First Nursery

While we are loving our new house, I can't help but look back at some of the last projects we did before we moved last year. I think Declan only ended up sleeping in his own room for a couple weeks before we moved to my parents, but putting together a nursery is just something you have to do as new parents, right?

As part of our overall remodel, we painted the trim white, painted the walls to match the rest of the first floor, and replaced the doors and light fixture.

It freshened the room right up! Once the paint was dry, we (and by we, of course I mean, Kurtis) put the furniture together. I read the directions, which really is equally as important when dealing with IKEA dressers.

I was starting to feel like a whale in my last trimester, but I treasure this photo so much I didn't take many bump shots so when I stumble across one, it makes me so happy to see that big belly. 

All the furniture came with us to the new house, but man, it's still not pulled together yet. My next project should be pulling together Declan's room!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bright and Colorful Toddler Books

I'm popping in real quick to share a couple new children's books we are loving right now: the Alphaprints series from Roger Priddy. The pictures are bright and colorful, full of textures, and the rhymes are fun to read.




Declan will sit and flip through them for a good amount of time, pointing and giggling at the drawings. It's the best. I've already given them as gifts at a baby shower since we love them so much. If you are looking for a good book for a toddler, I encourage you to check these out!


*Affiliate links are used in this post

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Staging to Sell

About a year ago, we started seriously getting our house ready to sell. We had finished the basement reno and with that added square footage, we wanted to take advantage of the spring housing market. We had one more project to tackle, the kitchen, but today we're talking about staging your house to sell.

Knowing we were going to have a very young baby while the house was on the market, I wanted to be as prepared as possible. The housing market was hot so I knew our professional photos had to be perfect. Most home buyers these days are shopping online and we wanted as many showings as possible.

So while I was still on maternity leave, I got the house as picture perfect as we could. We were on a fast timeline so our professional photos were taken on Tuesday and the listing went live on Thursday. We had 14 showings that weekend and by Sunday, we had 4 offers. It seemed quick and a complete whirlwind, but it was our prep work that paid off.

If you are thinking about putting your house on the market this spring, here are my tips for staging to sell!

This is the toughest step and it takes the longest, so it's crucial you do this first. Go through your stuff and donate/toss anything and everything you do not want to move. Even if you think maybe my future house will have a need for this, stop right there. If you are not completely in love with it, it goes. If you will be heartbroken without it, keep it.

There is nothing as eye-opening as packing up all your stuff to move. The sheer amount of things we accumulate is crazy. And for me, it is something I have to work really hard on. I married a minimalist. I'm a keeper. During this time, I did a lot of letting go. The usuals: clothes, paper piles, books, CDs, DVDs, etc. But I also had to let go of kitchen items we never used, craft projects I hadn't gotten around to yet, keepsakes that held sentimental value for me but wouldn't be part of my future, and photos that should have been tossed years before (thank you double prints from the film years!). Those ones took some time to say goodbye to. Because I'm weird.

But, I don't miss any of it. Honestly. Instead, I've focused on designing our new house into a home that fits our life now. Not eventually. But it meets us where we are right now. Maybe that minimalist attitude is rubbing off on me!

Analyze your decor. You need to use a really critical eye and think like a potential buyer. When possible, try to err on the side of classic, rather than trendy. But classic with a modern twist, not too dated. Easy, right?

When in doubt, do a little pinterest-surfing to see what's in right now. We knew light and bright, with lots of gray and white would feel fresh yet classic in our old house. And it did.

The trick is to simplify. Too many knick-knacks or ugly artwork will distract a buyer from seeing the bones of your house. Same with a paint color that takes some loving. How many times have you watched a show on HGTV where the buyers focus on the wallpaper, paint color, or something incredibly easy to fix? It happens all the time. Take away the distractions and undecorate if you need.

But leave your house feeling like a home. Too empty and it will feel cold. So strive to find a balance in your decor. Bring a friend in for a second pair of eyes. Your realtor should be able to point out a few things that might need switching around too.

Experts say you need to depersonalize your house to let your buyers imagine themselves there, living in your home. We didn't depersonalize as much as we could have, but our house isn't covered in photos of our family. Instead, we purposely left a wedding photo and another photo of the two of us out in the main room.

I was fairly confident that our potential buyers would be looking at our home as a starter home, probably not have kids, and on the younger side. I wanted to leave photos out that would inspire a couple to see themselves in their first home. And it worked! Our buyers were an engaged couple who met in grad school, getting married this summer. Just like K and I were, many moons ago.

If you've decluttered, you are off to a great start. When staging your house, I recommend cleaning out your closets so they are only half full. You must emphasize storage. I cannot say that enough! Even the smallest closet can look bigger when it's only half full.

We added shelves in our garage earlier in the year and used them to store a bunch of things from the inside closets during our showings. We also filled our suitcases - no use wasting all that space!

While emphasizing your storage areas might be trickier for you to do, it really makes a difference in staging. When we were house hunting, I opened every single closet in the houses we toured. And the ones that were overflowing were really tough to see past the clutter to the potential. It was doable but much harder.

While we were looking at houses, we did so many drive bys before even considering scheduling a showing. Most the times we were trying to get a feel for the neighborhood and whether the yard and street were even something we'd consider. Believe me, there is so much that you don't see online! But the houses that attracted us had curb appeal.

If you are actively trying to attract buyers to your house, you have to pay attention to curb appeal! Weed your landscaping, mow the yard, add some flowers in a fun color (we chose purple to honor Prince!), and clean those windows.

Oh, and don't forget to open your blinds or curtains! A house feels much more open and welcoming from the outside when it's not shut off because of window treatments.

Everything you've ever thought about cleaning and never really get around to each week (i.e. baseboards, fridge, window sills, light fixtures, windows), you need to clean. Now is the time to have a spotless house.

If you have your house on the market for a while, I know this is the toughest part. Always being ready to go in case a showing get scheduled. But doing a deep clean before your photos are taken, and before you go on the market will make the upkeep that much easier. Strangers are weird and they notice everything. Things that have faded from your mind in day to day living will suddenly be in the spotlight. You don't want cobwebs and dust bunnies getting in the way of selling your house!

Once you do all these things, you are ready for your professional photos to be taken and ready for showings and/or an open house! You may not want to move since your house looks so damn good, but remember, you aren't staging your house to stay. You are staging your house to sell.

What staging tips worked for you?


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Quoted // Anna Wintour

“I think it’s very important for children to understand that women work and that it’s fulfilling and it doesn’t mean that they love you any less or care about you any less. I also hope from my kids’ perspectives, they saw how rewarding and fulfilling working was. I think it’s important for kids to understand that.”

-Anna Wintour on teaching her children the importance of women’s careers

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Musings on Motherhood // One Year

A year of firsts. 

First night at home. First walk. First laugh. First roll. First crawl. First steps. First mama, first dada. First sick day, first bump, first bruise. First time up north, trip to the zoo, and adventure to the park.

And then, in a blink of an eye, the firsts became routine. And he grew. And grew and grew. 

My once tiny seven pound baby is now a 20+ pound whirling dervish that doesn't stand still. Time doesn't stand still either.

I've been treasuring every single cuddle and hug lately. It's like he knows I need them more than ever right now.

Becoming a mother has completely transformed me. I feel like a completely different  person than I was before Declan. Maybe it doesn't seem so outwardly, but inside, I feel it. It's so difficult to put into words but I'm certain other mothers might understand what I'm going through.

A piece of my heart now lives outside my body.


Photo Credit: Anna Winberg Photography

Monday, February 6, 2017

Quoted // Sally Clarkson

"All people need a place where their roots can grow deep and they always feel like they belong and have a loving refuge. And all people need a place that gives wings to their dreams, nurturing possibilities of who they might become."
-- Sally Clarkson, The Lifegiving Home

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Easy Entertaining // Deviled Eggs with Bacon

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Need a last minute appetizer? Here you go!

We love deviled eggs over here. Every time I make them, they are gone in a blink. So, I always double the amount I make for next time. Guess what? It doesn't matter. They still disappear. Anyway, it's another easy appetizer to keep in your back pocket because the ingredients are simple, and typically on hand. But your presentation can make them look fancy and impressive. 

For whatever reason, I think most people either forget about this option, or think they are difficult to make. That being said, if you show up with a platter of these babies at your next party, you are basically going to win the appetizers.

Here's the basic recipe and a few tips and tricks to make them even easier.

Deviled Eggs with Bacon

Hard Boiled Eggs

For the hard boiled eggs, I follow Martha's recipe and it's foolproof. The trick is to really wait for a full boil, not just a simmer before pulling them off the heat.

Once the eggs are cool, cut the eggs in half as evenly as you can. Dump the yolks into a bowl and lay the egg whites, dent up, into a tupperware for refrigerating. I've had better luck assembling on site than trying to take them with you pre-assembled. If I had a deviled egg container, I'm sure this wouldn't be an issue!

Once you have the whites separated, you can store them in the fridge until you are ready to assemble. 

Let's make the filling! In a bowl, mash the yolks with a fork or masher so they start crumbling. 

Now here's where I might lose novice cooks since I don't actually measure but trust me, you've got this! Trust your instincts and go slow. You can always add but you can't take away. 

Add a spoonful of mayo and mix in with the yolks. We're going for creamy texture, no bumps. 

Add a teaspoon of mustard. This is purely a matter of taste. I don't love them super mustardy but others do. Either way, you want the filling to be very creamy but not liquidy. How's that for directions?!

Once you have it mixed and tasting the way you want it, put it in a ziploc bag and toss it in the fridge.

You can use the ziploc bag to pipe the filling into the eggs. Just snip off a corner and you have a homemade pastry bag. This is where having a good consistency on the filling comes in handy so you don't get clogs while piping.

Now, you can be done right here. Or you can take it one step further. We like to add bacon to our deviled eggs, because what doesn't taste better with bacon?

Cook a couple strips of bacon on the griddle, in a skillet, in the oven - however you do. Once they are cooled a bit, dice up the strips and set aside until assembly time. 

When you are ready to assemble your deviled eggs, lay out they egg whites and pipe in the yolk mixture until full. Then, sprinkle the paprika on and add the bacon on top. I usually try to make sure there are a few chunks of bacon bits on each egg.

Then, stand back, because there will be a stampede of people coming at you trying to devour these Deviled Eggs with Bacon!


P.S. Try this delicious dip or these stuffed mushrooms for more gameday appetizer options!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Currently // February 2017

Well, we blinked and it's already February. Here's what I'm currently up to:

ANTICIPATING // Girls In STEM is next week! I love this event because it combines my full-time job with my full-time passion.

READING // Just finished Missing, Presumed and am in the middle of The Lifegiving Home. Recently, I was pretty entertained by The Assistants (a light read). And I kicked off the new year with Make It Happen.

LISTENING TO // Gaga. I can't wait to see her perform tomorrow! Will she top Bruno and Bey?!

PLANNING // My garden! I've ordered seed catalogs and am deciding what to grow this summer.

LEARNING // To find peace in the tension between being a mama and a professional.

LOVING // Watching Declan grow! I can't believe he turns one next month. Cue tears.

WORKING ON // A gallery wall for our family room. It's time to put a little life on these walls!

WEARING // These boots that Santa brought. I'm in love.

DREAMING OF // Sunshine and somewhere warm. February is always a bit blah, don't you think?

WATCHING // The Crown. Anyone else watching?

What are you currently up to?


Sunday, January 15, 2017


"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style."
-- Maya Angelou

“I always thought that the “thriving” would come when everything was perfect, and what I learned is that it’s actually down in the mess that things get good.”
-- Joanna Gaines

I'm consciously not trying to add anything to my plate this year. I feel like I'm in a good spot, a really good spot. My goal is to dig in and thrive. Thrive at home, thrive at work, thrive as Alex. Thriving right where I am, right now.

In working through my PowerSheets, I uncovered 7 goals for the year. For the sake of accountability, I wanted to share them. In no particular order, here we go:

Why: After finding our new home last year, it's really been at the forefront of my thoughts that this is where Declan will grow up. It's so important to me that this house be full of love, family, and friends. Full of life. A safe place for all of us to put down roots and spread our wings. 

Starting Steps: De-cluttering! I love to hush the house after the holidays. For January, I want to get at least three bags full for donation or trash. Simplify, simplify, simplify! While I don't think I'll ever be a minimalist, I can definitely appreciate paring down and focusing only on what matters and brings us joy.

Why: After being pregnant and having a baby, my body went through quite the transformation. My stomach stretched, my boobs sold themselves to my pump, my hair fell out, and 5 (or less!) hours of sleep became standard. All totally normal but hard to transition to after I had gotten into a good rhythm with my health. When I had Declan, I gave myself a year of grace to not worry about getting my body back. Because let's be serious, that's never going to happen. I have a completely new body, one that made a baby, and evicted him after a grueling 30 hour labor. I'm continuing my quest to give myself grace to respect that a miracle happened here and to honor that. So, this is less about getting back to the old me, and instead being the best me that I can and honoring my body.

This goal originally was START WEIGHT TRAINING but I realized that it's more than that. So I'm changing it, two weeks into the new year. And I love that I'm okay with that. Honoring my body means taking care of it with good food and exercise, as well as checking in on my mental health throughout the year, especially during stressful times.

Starting Steps: I launched into a January Whole30. I'm on day 8 since I waited until after our company party to start. I'm also going to one group exercise class each week. I'm also planning to start lifting weights at home once a week. Little by little it all adds up!

Why: This is something I've been wanting to do for the last couple years, but never had the space to do it. But now we do, and so my big project of the year is going to be grow a garden. My grandparents had a large garden at the lake and I loved going out there to pick our salad for supper. Growing our own garden gets us outside after work, an activity to do with my boys, and incentive to keep eating healthy. Win win. Plus, growing something and digging in the dirt is just so therapeutic. It will be good for my soul.

Starting Steps: Right now we're in planning mode! At the end of the summer we picked out a spot and need to just finalize the size and shape. I've ordered a few seed catalogs to get inspiration. The first one arrived this week!

Why: Why not?! Seriously though, I love that man more than ever. Finding alone time, however can be a bit tricky with a new babe. We are committed to building a strong marriage and partnership, so we are committing to go on a monthly date without Declan. But since we love that boy, we're also want to make family adventures a priority with at least one adventure a month.

Starting Steps: Scheduling a date for this month. We love trying new restaurants and have a few on our list to get to. But since variety is the spice of life, I'm always looking for fun date ideas!

Why: These things give me joy and moments to pause and reflect.

Starting Steps: Turn on my Kindle. I have loads of good books on my reading list so I just got to find time. One way I'm doing this is having a social media free weekend. Instead of scrolling Instagram, I'm reading. I've already finished one book and am on to the second!

Why: More than ever, we need to empower women and girls. The Center for Girls' Leadership does just that and I couldn't be more proud of all that we've accomplished over the last five years. But now is the time to amplify our efforts. We can't give up now.

Starting Steps: Our third annual Girls In STEM event is in February (tell a friend!) and we're working on a new curriculum to launch our mentoring program late this year. If you felt that 2016 ended with a kick in the pants to take action, there are plenty of ways to get involved.

Why: Because I believe. I believe in good people. I believe in doing the right thing. I believe in giving back. I believe in my faith.

Starting Steps: I'm praying daily. And reading something from the She Reads Truth app each week to keep me focused on my faith.

Are you still reading?! So there are my current goals for the year. All focused on thriving in the present. I'll do a refresh in a couple months and will keep you posted on any progress. 

Now, I'd love to hear from you. What are your goals for the year? How can I encourage you in cultivating what matters? Remember, progress not perfection!


P.S. Any fun date ideas for us?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Hello 2017!

Hello 2017! And a big hello to all of you! I hope you all had a fabulous holiday season! Thanksgiving to New Year's is my favorite stretch of the year and I just feel so lucky this year to share so many moments with the ones we love. It was the perfect way to end our incredible 2016.

A new year always brings new possibilities. Last year, I was about 7-months pregnant with Declan at this time so I consciously didn't make any new year's resolution other than to be courageous for what was to come. I gave myself a year of grace as I discovered how to be a mama. Grace in trying to do too much. Grace in learning to love my new body. Grace in working through a new relationship dynamic as parents with K. Grace in leaning back into my professional life when my maternity leave ended.

I can't say I succeeded in all these areas. It definitely a year of stretching and growing for me. And a year of absolute pure joy.

This year, I'm focusing on cultivating what matters most. I'm using PowerSheets to uncover my goals this year and I can say, I'm LOVING the process. The PowerSheets are all sold out this year but you can still follow the goal-setting process here.

One of my goals is to write more. I feel like I say this all the time but this year, I'm going to really try and have at least one new post each week. My posts range from recipes, home improvement, musings on motherhood, and of course, reading recommendations. A little of this. A little of that. All things I love. But if there is something you'd like to see here, let me know in the comments below.

I'll share the rest of my goals here soon. I'm really excited about them this year!

A couple fun things - I'm giving this space a little refresh. Every couple years, I'm looking for a new look. So here we are, a lot simpler and cleaner look.

There's also a new tab up above - recommendations. In this spot, you'll have links to our favorite books and my current reading list and essential products I love. I also removed the ads from the sidebar. I want to make sure if there is an affiliate link on the blog, it's something I am confident in recommending. So if you are looking for a good book to read or some of Declan's favorites, check it out!

So, I'll leave you with some words I've been soaking up:

Here's to listening
to ourselves
To compassion, kindness, and 
To being present to the parts 
of ourselves that are asking 
for the attention they need in
order to heal
And to feeding the pain 
with what it is that already 
resides in each one of us:
Courage + Bravery.
To leaning in and to sharing it.
Over and over again.
And to come out softer the
other side.

-Vienna Pharaon

Happy New Year!

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