Oh baby.



Archer has grown and changed so much and so quickly. He is already definitely out of his newborn phase and so I find myself pouring over these pictures taken by Becca from his first days home with us. (He was five days old when we took these pictures, and now he’s four months old and I’m just getting them posted now because #newbaby #summer #noschool and #busybusybusy).





I already miss his little balled fists and fishing baby lint out of them every morning. Maybe it’s weird, but I just adore baby lint. Now his hands are wide open and reaching for puppy noses and they don’t get so linty anymore. His toes are still linty, though, so I’ll be content with that for now.

I already miss when you could just wrap him up in a ball and set him anywhere – the bench of a coffee shop, the sofa, the church pew, and he’d just stay there, fast asleep. He is still a great sleeper and we’re so lucky, but now he’s too big and sprawling to be perched just anywhere. Now he sleeps in his own bed in his own room all through the night and for most naps, too. Which is of course good in its own way, but still.





(^^^ These pictures of Steve and Archer? I die. So lucky to have them both.)

And he is just so, so sweet. He loves to giggle and I swear that when I say, “I love you” he says it back, or at least mimics the sounds so well. He loves to chat before bed and gaze up at with me with his big hazel eyes. He seems to know that talking before bed is a tradition in our house and he’s not missing out. He loves to be kissed and sung, too. And really only gets upset if he thinks that maybe you’ve forgotten him. Or if he’s hungry or tired, you know, the usual.





And speaking of the usual, Steve likes to say that he thinks Archer is the most perfectly average baby alive. He loves all the typical baby stuff – swaddling and bouncing and shushing and pacifiers. Not all of our other children have been so easily soothed.






For our last baby, his infancy is going by just too quickly. I’m in no rush for him to be independent just yet. So I’m soaking up the middle-of-the-night feedings when we lie curled up together, his tiny feet kicking my stomach and his hand reaching out for mine, unsatisfied until he is grasping my fingers. I’m reveling in his bedtime routine and our little cooing sessions. He’s going to be so big so soon, so I’m trying to just hold him a little extra tight these days.



P.S. All photos in this post are by Becca of Lady and Gent Photography. Becca and her husband, Kevin, specialize in taking amazing wedding pictures, so if you’re in the market, be sure to check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Archer at One Month Old

One month in and we’re determined to keep him.


Archer has been pretty great, and has seemed fairly content to join the craziness around here. When his siblings pester him too much he just falls asleep out of annoyance – which is a great coping skill, if you ask me.


The big kids have lots of things to say about him. For one, they think he cries a lot. (He doesn’t, really). And when he does cry, they’re quick to problem solve. “He made a bird face! That means he’s hungry!” // “He’s crying because he wants his pacifier/blanket/toys/etc.” And my favorite, from Henry, “Maybe he’s crying because his umbilical cord is out.”

And they really like to think that he is talking to them. Ellie today said, “Archer said his first word! He said “Oh”. For real. I didn’t even make him do it!” And when Olivia heard that “Oh” she said, “He is trying to say “Oh – Oh – Olivia! He is trying to say my name!” Again, we clearly have a very advanced baby.


I mean, doesn’t he look so smart and sophisticated?


He’s still a little yellow, but he has the greatest smile when we can coax it out of him. It takes over his whole face. I hope he’ll be a very smiley baby. And thankfully he’s already gotten his nights in order. He usually sleeps from about 8pm-2am or so, eats and then goes back to sleep. Even if he does wake back up a time or two before the morning, he is happy to just eat and snuggle back to sleep. Which is good, because, well, he’s the fourth kid.

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Dear Archer,

We love you so much and we’re so glad you’re here with us.

I hope you’ll always love adventure, and also be content to enjoy the simple pleasures of the every day.

I hope you’ll always be snuggly, and you’ll love to learn, and that you’ll tell us all kinds of funny stories.

I hope that you’ll live up to your name. An Archer is a defender – a champion of those who are in need. An Archer protects, is valiant and courageous and stands up for what is right. May you always be a protector of the weak, a friend to the forgotten, a lighthouse of hope and a safe harbor. May you be a guardian of the sacred, and advocate for those who have no voice.

Holding your tiny self in my arms is overwhelming sometimes. I have so many hopes and dreams for you. I have fears and plans and so many things I want to be sure you know. I feel so responsible for teaching you those things, and worry I won’t be everything you need me to be. But baby, I’m going to try my hardest.

This world you were born into – it’s a terrible world, and a beautiful one. May you be someone who adds to its beautiful. Who encourages and loves. Who lights up the room with a smile. May you be strong, yet gentle. May you be brave and compassionate and fearless.

You’re one of a kind. Thank God you’re mine.

I’ll love you forever and ever.

Love, Mama

The Best Time of Day to Have a Baby

… is 5:45 pm.


Archer James Waters was born at 5:45 pm on May 7, 2016.

Since Henry was also born at 5:45 pm, I think it must be a great time to be born because you are all excited and awake for a few hours, everyone meets you, you eat and look around and wonder about things for a while, and then when nighttime comes, you are ready to sleep. A nice, long sleep. And you get your days and nights right from the beginning.

Ha! As if anyone has any control over what time of day their baby comes! But if you did, I would suggest 5:45. Two babies in a row, and it’s worked out quite nicely.


Anyway. It’s already been four weeks since our baby came out! We sure like him a whole lot, even if his arrival has meant a crazy month of new baby and visitors, etc. etc. Sometimes those visitors make us delicious food, though. And the food is so good and it is so nice to not have to cook that you start thinking, “I’ll just keep having babies so these people will keep feeding me.” Seems like a great long-term plan.



Monkey feet!

Archer is the sweetest. He is (so far) a pretty contented baby. He hiccups all the time, just like he did in utero. Which is fun. He also doesn’t like having his feet messed with, another carryover from his time in the womb. And he has the sweetest little bottom lip quiver. I don’t really know what it’s about, but it is cute.

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His brother and sisters adore him. Olivia said, “We are just the luckiest kids in the whole world to get a baby baby baby brother like Archer Bear.” And when he was just brand new she said to him, “Oh Archer, one day you’re gonna grow up and you’re gonna laugh and you’re gonna say funny things that are gonna make your sisters laugh.” And on that note, whenever he does make any little noises they like to say things like, “He said Mama!” or “He said hi to me!” He must be a very intelligent, very advanced baby. But I guess we already knew that.


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When he starts to whine a little bit they rush over and start singing to him. Ellie likes to sing, “Oh stop you’re crying it will be alright. Just take my hand, hold it tight…” She also likes to say that he is just like baby Tarzan because for one so small, he seems so strong. And also, Tarzan is the long-lost brother of Anna and Elsa, and she and Olivia are just like Anna and Elsa! (Do my kids watch too much TV? Or is Disney just that good? We may never know.)



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Olivia likes to sing, “If you ever awake in the mirror of a bad dream…” She is probably the one who wants to hold him the most, and is the most content to just sit with him for a while. He usually gets antsy before she does.

And Henry wakes up early every morning to come climb into bed with us saying, “I want to snuggle wis the baby.”


He is such a sweet and snuggly little guy. We sure love having him around.


And I love those moments where everything is quiet and calm and it’s just his short breaths on my neck and the lingering smell of his hair. His sweet little voice when he coos at me and his bobbly head trying so hard to look up and around. The fuzzy lint I find clenched in his tiny fists. His little bowed legs that fit perfectly against his belly so he can be all tucked up. His sleepy, content hints at a smile.

Everything is right in the world when a new baby is here.

Kids’ Capsule Wardrobes

I’ve talked a little bit about capsule wardrobes in my posts about renewing and simplifying our home. There are all kinds of formulas out there for how to create the perfect capsule, but I think these are kind of silly, unless you specifically love the exact style of the person creating those formulas. There are many different versions and methods for the capsule wardrobe, but essentially they all come down to these ideas that have been big game changers for our whole family:

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  1. You wear your favorite clothes all the time! Yay! If you think about it, you probably already do this a lot. Or you only wear your sub-par clothes out of guilt. It’s so great to have a closet full of clothes you love, instead of a bunch of clothes you only kind of like or want to wear. I could give tips on cleaning out your closet, but there are lots of those around. Try here and here. Mostly, it’s important to give yourself permission to let go of clothes you really don’t like. And then you won’t feel compelled to wear them.
  2. You keep your clothes very minimal, around 35-40 pieces, not including things like underwear, socks, and jewelry, although these should be minimal, too.
  3. You dress for your body type and personality, and not based on the latest trends. I read this article on Audrey Hepburn, my personal style goddess. She had iconic style because she dressed for her taste and her body type and not for the constantly changing trends.
    You probably already know what looks best on you – it’s the clothes you reach for time and again. And, if you’re like me, you’ve felt compelled to try trends that just don’t quite work. Let them go and be content with what you do know makes you look and feel your best.
  4. You curate a wardrobe where everything works together, all pieces essentially interact with each other and if you do buy something new it is based on a hole in your wardrobe – something that would really fill it out and is not an impulse buy.
  5. You choose your weapon: meaning that, of course, we all want to have fun. I definitely don’t want to be stuck wearing all neutrals for the rest of my life. Nobody does. Except maybe French people. But even they throw some color in there every once in a while. Anyway, the idea is to go bold with just a few things. Have just a few statement pieces that are really impressive and then keep the rest more-or-less basic – at least in it’s ability to be versatile with the other things in your wardrobe.

I have really loved having a capsule wardrobe for about a year.I think my favorite thing about a capsule wardrobe has been really finding what makes me feel confident. I have discarded the clothes that don’t fit me, so when I do pick an outfit, I feel more like it’s me, and less like it’s something I’m wearing just because it’s currently trendy. It feels good to look at my closet with excitement instead of guilt every morning. And I love wearing my favorite pieces again and again.

I’m not super strict about it, but I follow the basic guidelines listed above. I’ve made some mistakes, but I’m learning. And having a capsule means that every day I am wearing something comfortable, that I feel great in and was easy to assemble because there aren’t infinite choices (although there are still plenty!). For my husband, he had a wardrobe full of clothes that didn’t really fit but that he felt obligated to wear. We donated probably half of his closet and now for work he has three pairs of pants and 7 shirts, all of which fit very nicely. It never seems like he isn’t well dressed because he is simply wearing things that fit him well. So I doubt anyone notices that its not hugely varied. In fact, he has received more compliments on how he is dressed lately. Choosing our clothes has become a lot more about fit, durability and long-term usage, as opposed to sales or trends. Realizing you have enough with a limited amount of clothes makes it easier to wait for the perfect shirt to come along, instead of buying several throughout time that don’t quite work.

Because I love the capsule wardrobe so much, I have made sure my kids have one, too. And it works really well for us. For one thing, packing for trips is insanely easy, because I just pack whatever is clean. And it all works together, so I don’t have to be worried about this shirt goes with this bottom and these shoes only go with this outfit. Ugh. No. I don’t have time in my life for that. Packing lightly is easy, too, because of the versatility. You don’t have to pack so many separates to create all these different outfits. In fact, on our four-day trip to Canada a few weekends ago, the kids each carried their own clothes in a backpack. We rode a ferry to Victoria and then had a several-hour block on each end of the trip where we would need to carry around all our things because we didn’t have access to the condo we rented through AirBnB. A capsule allowed us all to pack lightly, so that carrying a backpack of everything we needed for 4 days, was totally doable – even for the two-year-old.

Laundry is also way less daunting. I do it about as often as I did before, usually once a week, or with 3-4 loads spread over a few days. The number of loads is the same because I wash by fabrics: whites, lightweight fabrics, and heavy fabrics (jeans/the boys’ clothes mostly) and towels and linens for the house. The amount of laundry is, however, significantly less. Getting it folded and put away is a no brainer. And I wash the clothes when we are out of clean ones, not because all that remains is plaid shorts and striped tees or a closet full of odds and ends that don’t work together.

Feb-4229I’ve thought about how to share this information, and thought of photographing and formulating their wardrobes, but the thing is, our capsule wardrobe doesn’t matter. You don’t have to copy it at all. It’s just the idea that has been really freeing for us. But our capsules won’t look the same as yours, and they shouldn’t!

For our girls, their dresses are their statement pieces that offer the most variety. Dresses are great because I feel like we get a lot of use out of them – the girls wear them with undershorts in the summer, or with leggings and sweaters in the winter. (Dresses also last longer through sizes. As the girls get taller, their dresses get shorter, but with leggings we can still get 1.5-2 years of wearing them before they get passed down.) They have lots of fun prints and colors in their dresses. And then all the leggings, sweaters and undershorts stay in basic, neutral colors so that they mix and match with everything. Essentially, it means there is no wrong way to make an outfit, which is nice for our mornings. I don’t think anyone in our family is really a “morning person”, so removing one more stress-inducing decision from the lineup has helped us streamline without feeling rushed.

Henry’s capsule wardrobe follows a similar idea, but obviously involves jeans and tops. For simplicity’s sake, the pants or shorts are all without pattern – although I do pick fun colors for his summer shorts. They are just colors that coordinate with all the tops he has. And his jackets and vests are also in simple colors that coordinate with all his tees and shirts. I used to feel like dressing a boy was harder than dressing a girl because they seem to end up with more odds and ends somehow, but having chosen to stay away from patterned bottoms has made it a lot easier. So far, the way we’ve paired down is to have 4-5 weather appropriate bottoms (shorts for summer, pants for winter) and 7-10 weather appropriate shirts, plus a few pullover sweaters and jackets in the winter. Because let’s face it, he doesn’t care about variety. He’d wear his Captain America shirt every single day if it wasn’t in the wash.


If you want to build a capsule wardrobe for kids, here are my tips:

  1. Keep it simple. It’s okay to have patterns and colors, but do so in a thoughtful way. For instance, patterned leggings, while super cute, may not be practical. Opt for bottoms that are in solid, basic colors and stick to patterns and prints in your tops (or be creative and do it the other way around with patterned bottoms and solid tops- but picking just one makes it easy).
  2. Shop only on occasion, and with intent and purpose.
    One of the things I have loved so much about the capsule wardrobe, for myself and my kids, is that it requires less shopping. I spend some time picking out everything they’ll need when they need a new size or maybe around the beginning of the school year. If it’s carefully thought out, it’s essentially complete and I don’t have to worry about it until they need another size. Of course they might get something new for a special occasion, and leggings might need to be replaced, but for the most part, what they have works for the entire year. And having a complete wardrobe makes it easier to pass up all the impulse buys waiting for me in the Target kids’ section. I also have a more concrete idea of what I’m looking for when I do shop sales or consignment, which eliminates buyer’s remorse when I get home and realize I don’t really like what I just spent money on.
  3. Keep shoes to a minimum, too. With all the shoes I’ve tripped over in the last few years, this one speaks right to me. Think about what your child really needs. And then get only one of each kind of shoe: athletic, dress, waterproof, sandal. (Although I will say we usually break this rule with waterproof because we live in Portland and even I can’t subject my children to only wearing the same boots every single day for 9 months out of the year – they usually have two-three pairs of boots, one neutral, one statement and one in-between.) In the summer they have one pair of play shoes. These are the shoes that can get dirty and trashed to the maximum and I don’t care. These aren’t the same as their church shoes. With only one pair of shoes to trash, we end up with fewer ruined shoes – and therefore more pairs that can be passed down to the next sibling or consigned, or, at very least, I don’t feel bad having to toss multiple pairs of gross shoes.
  4. Rotate seasonally. I like to make sure the winter coats are put away and the sweaters and rain boots get a little breather in summer. This might not be important to everyone, but I do enjoy looking into a closet full of just the things that are appropriate to wear right then. Plus, when fall comes again, it’s exciting to pull those things out and feel all excited about something “new” without having to actually buy anything.
  5. Just say “no!” Say no to buying clothes mid-season just because they’re cute. If you receive a gift of handed down items from a friend, keep only what you want and need. Hand the rest down to someone else or donate. Don’t buy clothes on sale that you wouldn’t consider paying full price for. Unsubscribe from sales alert emails. It’s just temptation you don’t need in your life!
  6. Finally, take back the internet. This goes for kid and adult wardrobes. What I mean is, use your Pinterest boards and search engines to your advantage. If you’ve ever had a “Style” or “Fashion” or any other kind of board on Pinterest, for you or your kids, look through it again. Delete everything that no longer appeals to you. In all likelihood, you’ll be left with a certain overarching style. Think of the words that come to mind as you’re scrolling through. “Classic.” “Simple.” “Statement.” “Athletic.” “Colorful.” Whatever words jump out at you are indicators of a good place to start when creating a capsule wardrobe. These are the kinds of things you are consistently drawn to. So keep that in mind as you plan and maintain a capsule wardrobe. You’ll end up with far fewer, “This isn’t really me” purchases. (P.S. If you’ve unsubscribed from all your deal emails, and are ready to make a thoughtful purchase, you can always Google “_______ coupon” as in “Gymboree coupon” or “Target coupon”. There are several sights that keep coupon codes up to date, so you can still get a deal on your purchase, without being bombarded with hundreds of sales alerts. Win/Win.)

The important thing is to be thoughtful about what you bring in to your home. You don’t have to dress your kids any certain way, but simply the way you and they feel most comfortable. When we choose to be thoughtful in our consumption, and to help our children be thoughtful, too, it is teaching them to be conscientious about the world around them and the space they are maintaining. My hope is that by teaching them these things now, this practice of thoughtful consumption will carry on into their teenage years when they will certainly have a lot more to say about what they wear. (Oh the horror that awaits.)

Things I Love about Henry (3 Years Old)

Henry. My boy.


Would you just look at that sweet little guy. He’s so great in so many ways that I find myself at a loss for words about him sometimes. But I’ll try to come up with at least a few.

He’s very imaginative. He and his sisters are almost always pretending to be someone else. And they are always telling us who we are in their little make-believe-land. Once I was driving the kids and my sister back into town and we were stuck in traffic. Georgia and I were chatting and Henry said from the backseat, “Mom! You’re being Bullseye. I’m Woody and Olivia is Jessie.” I said, “Okay.” And he said, “No! Bullseye doesn’t talk! So you can’t talk!” Throughout the entire drive home, whenever I would talk to my sister he would pipe up and tell me that Bullseye doesn’t talk. And when he is pretending with his sisters they give each other stage directions and feed each other lines. So there’s a lot of repeating.

He also told me the other day, “Mom, my name’s Tuesday because Tuesday is the dad and I’m being the dad.” Me: “Okay. Hi Tuesday.” Henry: “No you can’t talk because you’re dead. Because you’re being the grandma and the grandma is dead.” // And the other day he said to Olivia, “Let’s play Home.” and she said no, so he said, “No, pretend you said yes.” And she did. So then they started playing Home. If only it were so easy for them to pretend to do the things I ask them to do…

He also like to pretend he is having a baby. He sticks a stuffed animal up his shirt and when I ask when his baby is going to be born he says, “Not yet!”, because, poor kid, he might think that is the only actual response to that question. He has been asking when our baby will come out for so, so long.

He can’t wait to be a big brother. We have been telling him that first it was going to be Olivia’s birthday, then his birthday, and then the baby could come out. So when I said, “Henry! It’s your birthday, today!” He asked, very excitedly, “And now the baby can come out?” To which he again got his, “Not yet” reply. Though it doesn’t keep him from coming up with plans for the baby like how he is going to feed him and bring him toys and blankets and throw balls with him. When his socks or shirts are getting too small he tells me, “This is too small for me. Let’s give it to the baby.” He also has lots of ideas about what the baby will say. So I’m wondering how disappointed he will be that the baby will be born a helpless infant and not a talking, walking playmate.

He has named the baby “Dark Vader”. And when we finally broke it to him that the baby’s name probably won’t be that, he said, “Well, can we name something Dark Vader?”

Feb-4748He’s got the fake smile down. Which is somewhat heartbreaking because his real smile is one of the best things in my life. But it is hard to capture on camera these days. Feb-4751 Feb-4780

He’s very observant of the world. He has always been fascinated with language and talking. It seemed to take him forever to speak, but when he finally did, it was apparent that he didn’t want to talk until he kind of knew what was going on. He’s not one who likes to learn by trial and error, but more by watching and watching and then attempting. This has continued as his language has grown and expanded over this past year. He had very few things that he said incorrectly, but when he did, I was careful to not correct him too quickly or it would vanish. Because I love the cute ways he would speak incorrectly. Things like “Look Mama! I a bird! I flying!” And once when Steve was changing him, Henry was wiggling all over the place and Steve said, “Oh you are such a child sometimes!” He replied, “I not a child. I just me!” When he is presented with new words or ideas, he has to think them out. Another time Steve was helping him out of his sandy swim shorts and said, “Henry, you’re all sandy.” Henry looked down as the sand spilled out and said, “I not sandy. The house is sandy!”

And his observations of the world continue:
“I feeled the marshmallows. They were warm. And fuzzy.”
“When you have some rocks, you water them. Wsssshhhhhh! Feel better, rocks?”
“Daddy licks his hands, so I want to do that. When I stick my tongue out, that’s how I lick.” He has lots of these explanations of the world. When he says something he thinks is funny he’ll give us an instant replay of it.


And sometimes he gets in funny moods where when you ask him to do something he says that he hates doing that. Mostly naptime and sitting at the table and regular kid stuff. But sometimes it’ll be things like, “I HATE laughing!” Or if you ask him to smile for a picture, “I HATE smiling!”

He loves to help in the kitchen. He got an apron for Christmas and likes to help with the stirring and the taste-testing, of course.

He’s a snuggle bug and he won’t go to sleep without someone singing to him. Whether it’s mom or dad or Auntie Mal. And he loves our weekly coffee dates with Aunt Georgia.

He loves his train tracks and cars and dump truck and Dinotrux. But not D-strux, because he is mean. He also loves rain boots, his Captain America shirt and hats. Also his “carmonica” (harmonica) and “Queen Car” (Lightning McQueen) and his favorite stuffies are Woggie and Sir Ostrich (and I’m not sure if the ostrich has been knighted or is being confused with siracha sauce).


He looks up to his dad. While Steve is building the fence, Henry is also busy hitting the posts with his plastic shovel and refusing to play with his sisters because he is building. He also likes it when he and daddy wear bow ties together. And I like it, too.

He’s a sweet kid. So sweet, in fact, that I worry his little brother has a pretty big ideal to live up to. But at least the little baby will have a great example of how to be super nice and cute.

(On a side note, can I just say that I don’t like the whole potty-training thing? And not because of the actual process. It has gone pretty well for us, the usual hiccups and extra laundry have been anticipated and it’s fine. What I don’t like is that it seems to me to mark the loss of innocence. When they potty train, they are suddenly responsible and in control and in charge of something all on their own and I’ve always observed a very marked change in my children when this comes along. They are no longer a baby, and they know it. With Henry, it was hard to let go of that babyhood. He’s been a pretty cooperative little person, and all of a sudden he realized he could say no and refuse to do something. Not that he’s never said no before, but there’s this look in his eyes that says, “I’m not a baby anymore. You can’t make me.” It starts with him pointing at a framed picture in his room and saying, “These letters says no moms allowed in here.” And before I know it, he’ll be telling me he doesn’t need tucked into bed or stories read.

Motherhood is partially about loss – first of your expectations, then of the things your child does that you have come to love. With every new and wonderful thing your child learns and experiences, they lose their dependence on you. I don’t mean that it is just continually sad, because believe me, freedom from diapers is like so. awesome. No regrets there. But I’ve been observing a lot of the changes in my children and how they are growing and it catches me by surprise. And sometimes I haven’t mentally adjusted to their new needs – their needs for some independence and space of their own. They are becoming more and more their own people. It is beautiful and wonderful and I love it. But there is a part of me that is struggling to let go. To let them go confidently into the future I am trying every day to prepare them for. )

Back to Henry Bear… we love him a whole lot and we’re so glad he’s a part of our family. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Traveling With Kids: Victoria, B.C.

A few months ago, Steve and I were thinking about doing a babymoon, or in some way, one last hurrah before our next little one arrives and all that gets more… challenging. At first we thought we’d go just the two of us, but we realized that our three oldest are really at this golden age for adventuring. They’re good at listening and following instructions (i.e. not wandering off into the street or just disappearing somewhere), and they love to adventure and try new things. We wanted to soak up one last family vacation just the 5 of us, before a new little one comes along that, at very least, requires more equipment to travel with.

Having loved our trip to Victoria last spring, we decided to take the kids there. It was a place we know we enjoy, but have already explored, so if we didn’t actually get out much, we wouldn’t be heartbroken. Plus, you have to take a ferry to get there, and ferries are pretty magical. Of course, we got the more magical ferry experience on accident. We planned to drive to Port Angeles and take the Coho Ferry across, about a 45 minute voyage. But after booking our AirBnB apartment (non-refundable), we discovered the Coho was out of commission for the week of our trip. WHAT!!!??!?! I guess I wasn’t aware you could just not have a ferry running. So in a panic we had to discover other options and were fortunatley able to find a ferry that sailed from Seattle and was over a 2 hour journey. More expensive (=less fun for adults) but more time on the water (=more fun for kids).

The Victoria Clipper, sailing from Seattle, presented another issue. It only sails once a day, at 8 am from Seattle, and at 5 pm from Victoria. Which meant that we would have some time on the bookends of our trip in which we would be without a place to keep our things. So we decided that instead of the adults carrying a larger suitcase, each person was going to have to carry their own backpack. We packed only the bare essentials and headed off.Feb-4305^ Daddy and Ellie on the Victoria ClipperFeb-4338^ Our first stop: the fountains outside of Parliament

Feb-4361^ So much of Victoria was under construction, but the cherry blossom trees were in bloom!
Feb-4371^ Naptime was an important part of the day. Being 7 months pregnant, I had no complaints about this.
Feb-4429^ I think this will always be one of my favorite pictures. Love these boys so much. 

Feb-4579^ When we decided we’d be taking the kids, we knew we’d end up spending more time in the condo then if it were just the two of us, so we decided that the view and feel of our AirBnB was important. I’m so glad we chose this one. Gorgeous views, easy access to everything we wanted to see and do. And the hostess had a record player that got very, very loved as the weekend drew on. So loved, in fact, that now we have a record player of our own.
Feb-4477^ Side note: These windows had such amazing light… I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make Steve snap some pictures. AHHHH. I want to live in this apartment forever. Not even joking. And with the way this election is going…Feb-4892
Feb-4826^ Before our trip, I gave Olivia the option of choosing to have a birthday party or to go to Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel while we were in Victoria. She chose Afternoon Tea, so we did just that. It was pretty magical, and they even gave her an edible “Happy Birthday” sign. Such fun when you’re almost five years old.Feb-4927^ Here they are with their backpacks on our last day. We had a five hour chunk of time to kill, so we wandered around the city, ate some waffles and some fish tacones (that’s a cone-shaped taco in case you were wondering), watched the boats and sea planes and picked up our stash of hot chocolate and coffee from Murchie’s (because they make our favorite). The kids did pretty well carrying all their own things, so I think we’re ready for a family backpacking-through-Europe trip. Feb-4936a

Feb-4937^ We gave each of the kids an allowance for the trip. They could spend it on whatever they wanted, but once it was gone, it was gone. Olivia saw a sparkly mermaid doll on the Victoria Clipper so she saved her money the whole time in order to get that on our return trip. Ellie picked a journal and pen from a stationery store that she loves. Like a lot. When we took a breather outside of Parliament on our way to board our ferry, she got right to work on her journal, writing important things like, “I love my sister Olivia because she plays Anna and Elsa with me.”

In the end, I’m so glad we took the kids with us for our babymoon. There were some moments when I had to take my expectations into check and remember to be flexible. Fortunately, Victoria is full of the nicest Canadians, so we always felt welcome. The kids are already begging to go back, and they can’t stop talking about that ferry.

And now we’re off to make scones and drink tea, in anticipation of becoming ex-pats. Cheers!

P.S. For some of our favorite places to eat and explore in Victoria, see this post. 

Things I Love About Olivia (5 Years Old)

Olivia. Liv. Livvy Bug. Girl-Girl. We love her a whole lot.Feb-4610

Feb-4637There are so many things to love about this girl as she grows and changes and becomes her own person. She certainly has a dramatic flair, and yet she has a tender heart of compassion and kindness for everyone around her.Feb-48571. She is always practicing using big words. I frequently hear things like, “Oh. Peeling this orange is so exhausting.” or “I was just like panicking and panicking. The sun was too bright when we went out for recess!”
And I love hearing the way her mind latches on to things and tries to make sense of them out of context, like those big words. Or when she told me a couple of months ago, “My birthday is close to June’s birthday.” “Who is June?” I asked. “You know. He made the whole world a better place?”  “Oh! You mean Martin Luther King, June-ior.” “Yeah.”

2. She likes to tell everyone, everywhere all her plans. On our trip to Victoria we stayed in an AirBnB condo on the 7th floor. Every elevator trip she was sure to tell everyone in the elevator everything about her plans. How she was going to go to High Tea at the Empress Hotel. And how we were on our way here or there. At the end of the trip, we ended up on the elevator again with someone who we had already shared with. He asked her, “So, how was your High Tea?” And she seemed genuinely shocked. “How did you know about that?” Because you tell everyone everything. That’s how.
While Ellie is the real strategist of the trio so far, Olivia certainly makes plans, too. For her birthday I gave her the option of having a birthday party or going to the aforementioned High Tea. She immediately chose High Tea. And I think she was quite pleased with her decision, which made me very happy. I love experiential birthday celebrations. I think she’ll probably remember the experience and how special it was much more. Our day together was full of so many special moments. The girls were dressed in their fanciest dresses and we were served three tiers of treats with our tea. Olivia loved that there was a “Happy Birthday” sign made out of white chocolate for her to eat. And they could see our ferry, the Victoria Clipper, from the hotel, which was also very special. Getting to choose her special day made her feel so grown up and important.
She also likes to plan things for school. She’s had her show-and-tell planned for weeks. And the other day she told us, “It’s Happy Hats day at school so I need to wear a happy hat.” We had never heard of this event, so were pretty sceptical, but she seemed so sure, so we let her take a hat, but said Daddy would bring it back if it wasn’t really Happy Hats day. When she arrived at school, proudly sporting a blue felt cloche with a flower, she was suddenly downcast. “I really thought everyone would be wearing happy hats!” Turns out, she just had the day wrong, so she still got her Happy Hat day the next week. 


Feb-47073. She’s the best sister. (Henry wouldn’t really cooperate for these photos, but she loves him, too.) I love to hear them play together. Ellie is getting to the age where sometimes she leaves to play with another friend and it is so hard on the little ones to be left behind. Everyone’s just happiest when they can all be together. And it works out nicely because there are usually 3 central characters in most of the storylines that they like to make believe they are a part of. Current obsessions include movies like Home, Tangled and Frozen (still). I guess Henry doesn’t have enough sway yet to get them to play DinoTrux with him. Speaking of which, they love to quote all the lines from these shows. They only get to watch movies or TV on the weekends, but they certainly seem to have a knack for soaking up the lines.
The other day we were talking about how it’s time for her to learn to pedal a bike since she’s been doing such a great job on the balance bike. After some back and forth on the subject she declared, “It has a low probability of success!” (-line by Oh from Home)

4. She loves to sing. And she usually sings very well. Although sometimes she gets the lyrics wrong, which only makes it more adorable. They’ve been obsessed with Home lately so she is always singing the songs from that. My favorite botched line so far is, “I keep falling. I keep falling for you. Like the rainfall. Like a candy bar.” (Instead of canon ball. But hey, I’ve fallen for a candy bar before, I understand the sentiment.) And she can sing a heart-breaking rendition of “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story. Gosh, we’re going to be raising some dramatic kids.

More fun lyrics include: “It’s the circle of life. And the moon destroys it.” and “I’m like a shooting star. I can’t go far.”

5. No matter how big she gets, she’s never lost her love of cuddling and being touched. She loves to get massages from Aunt Mallory. And when I asked her what she wanted to do on her special day of no school she replied, “Never un-snuggle with mama.” That made my heart happy. There’s a lot of love of adventuring and doing in this house, but I love that this one always reminds me of the importance of just being. Of just holding each other. I feel so rushed sometimes with our crazy schedule that it’s hard to carve out the time to give her the space to just never un-snuggle, but I sure do love that she is so vocal about her need for it. She is the one who reminds us to slow down and enjoy being present with each other.

Before her first day of preschool I asked her if she wanted to get a new outfit for her first day of school. “No,” she replied, “I just want to stay home and pick flowers and make ‘Liv and Mama’s Famous Pasta Sauce.'” So of course, we did just that. I love that, given the choice, she will always choose the more thoughtful, more intimate option. She doesn’t need many things to be happy, she just likes to enjoy people and being loved on. I hope that when I grow up, I’m just like her.

6. She is so compassionate. She always notices other people and their circumstances. When her siblings get in trouble and maybe lose a toy or go to a time-out, she is the one who gives them her own special stuffed animal, or goes to check on them in time-out to see how they are doing. She has great concern for anyone who isn’t feeling well or needs some extra love. When Henry visited her classroom and took part in Pre-Kindergarten for the day, she gently showed him around her classroom, showing him how to sit criss-cross-applesauce with his hands in his lap at story time. She let him sit by her to paint and read him a story. She’s not bossy, but rather invites him in to everything she’s doing and makes him a part of the class. Which is the same thing she does at home. She’s the perfect bridge between Ellie and Henry, creating the atmosphere where all three can get along contentedly. Feb-46887. She is so funny. She is always cracking us up with her jokes and funny comments. And this funny wide-eyed look she likes to give when she’s goofing off. She is usually pretty enthusiastic about life and whatever it is she is doing. I love that duality in her, a love of adventures and silliness, combined with a perfect contentment to just be at home, doing nothing but spending time together.

And she has some pretty funny things to say: “Henry! It’s a special day! You get to sit by me!” //  “My childhood was a long time ago.” // On our way to the car one day she sneezed and then said, “Mom, I’m allergic to my brother!”

Feb-4789And finally, An Interview With Olivia:

Favorite Color: Pink and purple.

Favorite Animal: A giraffe. Because they like to gallop.

Favorite Toy: Jessie. And also the phone. And my Rapunzel toy.

Favorite Stuffed Animal: Talentod, Sea Sparkle and my kitties. And my foxy pillow. Because my foxy pillow is snuggly.

Favorite Food: Sushi!

Favorite Song: Hello and all the other songs by Adele.

Favorite Activity: Snuggle.

Favorite Memory of the Past Year: Going to High Tea and eating the birthday sign and the chocolate cup and all the special treats. Going to Murchie’s and sharing the special treats around in the circle. We went on the ferry and I loved that part. I like when we went to the lake house and swam with my flower floaty.

Who is your best friend?: Amelia. I like playing with her.

What do you want to be when you grow up?: A doctor. A baby doctor! And then I’ll check your baby!

What are you looking forward to about being 5?: Playing with my kitties. I don’t want to go to kindergarten. I’m not ready for it.

Anything else?: I like to eat ice cream and pizza! And I like in Canada when I saw lots and lots of water fountains.

She’s the best. And I’m looking forward to another year learning from her and laughing with her and snuggling her. So glad she’s ours.

On What I’ve Learned From Simplifying Part 2: Practical Ideas

I’ve read a few books, blogs and articles that have helped me practically apply the ideas of simplifying. I’ve really enjoyed the feelings of gratitude and of being satisfied that have accompanied this journey. (Click here for my first thoughts on this process and how much I have benefitted from simplifying our home.)

The article that started it all was Matilda Kahl’s article about wearing the same thing to work every day. I was really fascinated by this idea that was so counter-cultural. After reading more, including articles like this one, it dawned on me how much of my time, and therefore, my life, was being wasted by the constant pressure to consume. I didn’t really like that realization and knew I wanted to do something about it. Eventually, I found the idea of a capsule wardrobe to be much more practical for my lifestyle. (Basically, capsule wardrobes are the greatest things of all time. Everyone in my family has one and it makes our lives great. More on this in a bit.) After discarding* so many unused or unloved clothes, and sensing the mental freedom that came with it, I have to admit I got a little addicted to the idea of minimizing everything we own.

Now obviously, if you’ve ever been to my house, you know that I’m not a true minimalist. I like pretty things. I like creating things and trying new ideas. However, I also love the idea of only keeping things are that are currently being used and bringing joy to our family. I don’t intend to own things that have no purpose in our home – I would rather they be out in the world, available to people who do want or need them.

(*By discarding, I don’t mean that I just throw things in the garbage, because that also seems pretty wasteful. Whenever possible I donate or consign things we aren’t using. I have found a local consignment shop I love. We also have connections with a local homeless shelter for families where we have sent many extra items like hotel toiletries, etcetera.)


So… a round up of some practical ideas if you’re ready to get started simplifying. Collected from a few places like Un-Fancy, Zero Waste Home and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and this article that nicely sums up that book.

  1. Go through every room (or every category) of your home. Touch every single item and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” This is the main idea behind Marie Kondo’s book (The Life-Changing Magic one). And it really is the easiest standard of measurement I can think of. The intention of going through every category one by one is that you put everything in that category next to each other, and so you can see if you have two of something you really only need one of. Also, putting all the toys together in one spot just might be scary enough to make you want to get rid of everything. I’ve found that I could even clean out my kitchen by asking this question. Because there are a lot of kitchen gadgets that aren’t really that useful, or perhaps take up more space than they are worth. If I looked at something and thought, “This is in my way more often than it is useful, and I could definitely do without it,” it got donated. Keeping a really good knife allowed me to get rid of a bunch of other knick-knacks in the kitchen. And I don’t need a food processor and a blender… just one will be fine, thank you.
    The key to this is to take everything out of your room, closet or kitchen at one time, go through it, and then only put back the things that are truly used and loved. And in the kitchen you just might be surprised at how long you’ve had that jar of BBQ sauce hidden in the back of the cupboard, considering the expiration date was five years ago (yikes).
  2. Don’t keep things out of guilt. Gift guilt was a huge mental block for me – I’ve had lots of things tucked away that were lovely gifts but I just didn’t need or use. Now, I can appreciate that they served their purpose in the moment by creating a happy little gift exchange. And they can fulfill a further purpose if available to someone who really needs them.
    The same goes with sentimental items. I had kept several things in storage that were hard to part with simply because they once belonged to someone who is now deceased. A freeing realization was that those people, our memories together, and even my love for them, is not contained in an object. If that object brings joy, than I will certainly keep it and use it. If it does not, it’s okay to let it go. It doesn’t mean that I am letting my love for them go.
    If you are afraid someone will ask where X is that they gave you, be willing to speak up. “We weren’t using it anymore, so I gave it away. Thank you so much for your consideration in giving it to us.” I have very rarely been asked about anything (not many people can remember what they gave you and seek it out in your house), but on the occasions that I am, I am perfectly willing to defend my position. I would rather that it be available to someone who needs it than have it collecting dust in my basement because I feel too guilty giving it away. The brief moment of admitting that you parted with their gift is much less life-stealing than the mind clutter it has been taking up all this time. And if you need help, just sing on the top of your lungs, “Let it go! LET IT GOOOOOOOOO!!!” It really helps.
  3. I started off slowly. If you are wondering, “Can I really part with this?”, try an experiment. As with some kitchen gadgets, clothes that I was unsure about, or sentimental items that I couldn’t quite discern my attachment to, I put them in a box marked “Donate” and put it in the basement. I also set a reminder on my phone for one month from that date. If in one month I didn’t think about or miss any of those items by name, the whole box got donated, without even opening it. (It’s important not to open the box! You haven’t missed it, so nothing in there is worth being in your home.) And I’ll be honest, I don’t even know what most of the things in there were.
  4. Don’t organize until you’ve discarded everything you don’t really need or enjoy. There’s really no point in organizing things you aren’t actually going to use. For me, the bathroom was the hardest place to do this. I had so many “just in case” items in there… but when I checked the expiration dates on them I realized how that “just in case” moment has never come along. I’d been hoarding old makeup or expired ibuprofen for  years. And if I haven’t used it since 2010, what makes me think I’m going to need it tomorrow? Also, in the drastic scenario in which I do need that item immediately… let’s be honest… there’s a grocery store 5 minutes from my house. I won’t die if I let them go. And going through all of it has made me more conscientious about my purchases. I say no to all the freebies and samples people are giving away, knowing full well they’re going to end up in the trash before too long, anyway.
    And when it is time to organize, everything has it’s own place. If everything has it’s own spot, it’s easier to put away. I’ll admit, the perfectionist side of me can get a little carried away with this. It gets downright addictive to make a little spot for everything. It’s kind of fun, like real-life Tetris! And putting things right back where they came from is like completing the puzzle. Oh the little joys!
  5. Help kids manage their clutter by also giving them a limited space to keep personal belongings. My oldest daughter, Ellie, loves paper things so much. I can’t blame her. I like paper, too. But if I kept every piece of paper she brought home from school, we would have already drowned in a sea of garbage. So, each of our children has a memory box that they are in charge of. If they bring home something from school or a note from a friend that they want to keep, it goes in the memory box. And if the box is too full, they have to take something out. Every once in a while we’ve even gone through the box together to look for things they are ready to part with. After a while, they’ve forgotten why a piece of paper with a red smudge on it was important, and they’re ready to part with it to make room for something that is currently meaningful. And the same principle applies to getting new toys. All the toys need to fit in a designated area, so if they’re hoping for a new Lego set for their birthday, they’re going to have to part with something else to make room for it. I am also sure to model the benefits of this for them. I keep a memory box, too, and when I get a special note from them or a card from a friend, I put it in there. The same rules apply to me, so they can see that what I’m asking of them is not ridiculous.
  6. Maintain a capsule wardrobe. They are amazing. Have you ever tried them? Basically, the idea of a capsule wardrobe is that you only wear your favorite clothes all the time. How great does that sound? Oh, and you just don’t keep anything that isn’t your favorite. There is lots of information about capsule wardrobes for adults, but I’m also preparing a little post on kids’ capsule wardrobes because I think you will like them every bit as much as I do. Seriously. Amazing. The feeling of freedom that came from a capsule wardrobe is so addictive that it was what spurred the rest of my decluttering. It feels that awesome.
  7. With all these principles in mind, storage is almost non-existent. Our storage is now limited to clothes that will be used by another sibling soon, off-season clothes like coats or swimsuits, the dishes I need to host parties, canning jars waiting to be refilled in the summer, and a limited amount of off-season decor items (like Christmas tree ornaments and stockings). If I do want to store some sentimental items for my children (like their christening gowns or a special baby blanket), it has to fit in a limited space, like one small tote. Storage space is not a catch-all for things I don’t want to deal with. It is only very purposeful and useful storage. And in the event we are hit by that massive earthquake after all, I can actually access my emergency kit and food storage instead of wondering where it went behind all the boxes of nonesense blocking it’s way.
  8. Realize that more needs more. More stuff means you need a bigger house, with a bigger mortgage to pay for it. A bigger house means you need more cleaning products and gadgets and organizing systems to maintain it. Clutter and consumption are distractions. They distract us and keep us permanently unsatisfied, permanently seeking that next best thing. Or, we can say: enough is enough. I have enough. I am enough. I will no longer waste my life feeling lacking. It’s a very clarifying moment, realizing you have everything you need. For me, it was like a big exhale of relief, when I didn’t even know I had been holding my breath. And with that relief came the realization that I could “make do and mend” much more often than I had given myself credit for. Prime shipping from Amazon is no longer my main solution to problems. I can take the time to repair or figure out a way to make what I already have work.
  9. Unsubscribe. Personally, I feel like this is one of the most important pieces of the decluttering-home-and-life project. It was on my to-do list for ages, and I finally took the time to unsubscribe. First from email offers. I don’t need to follow sales, I already have everything I need. If I am on the hunt for a specific thing, and I can wait for a deal to become available, I’ll temporarily subscribe to emails about it. And since it’s usually only one thing at a time, I can actually take advantage of the sale when it happens! I also have unsubscribed from all the catalogs and junk mail that comes to my house. I haven’t completely conquered it, but I have been able to keep a lot of it from being mailed to me. Which means I don’t get tempted with every new catalog or flyer or coupon. I also unsubscribed from following accounts on social media that were toxic… that made me feel like I needed to buy more things in order to be as cool as them. Just, no. (P.S. If you ever do find yourself in need of a coupon, a quick Google search of “X coupon” will usually find you the code you need, so subscribing to emails for the sake of coupons in completely unnecessary. Trust me.)
  10. Take back the Internet. Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, what have you. They are tricky little things. They can be the source of that permanent feeling of “lacking” or “unsatisfied.” But you don’t have to disavow them forever. Use them to your advantage. If you’ve ever pinned to a “home inspiration” or a “fashion” board on Pinterest, go look at those pins again, but this time gloss over them. You’ll likely see a pattern of things that have always appealed to you. Use this pattern to help you formulate your capsule wardrobe or choose the color you want to paint your wall. Use a recipe board to eliminate your need to keep cookbooks you don’t use. If you have something you want to buy, pin it for later. If after a couple of months, that is still attractive to you, buy it or send it as wish-list item to someone who would like to buy you a gift. Eliminate the need for impulse shopping and know that in the meantime, you’ll be just as happy as you are right now, without that thing. If you have something that needs repaired, search for a DIY tutorial or ideas for upcycling. Let the resources out there be your friend, instead of your enemy.
  11. And finally, envision the life you want. And then make a plan to get there. In your ideal life, what would you be doing right now? Where would you be? What does your space look like? Who would you be spending time with? Embellish that fantasy. How would you spend your day?What would you feel as you were doing each task? Decluttering your home and mind is the first step towards getting to that ideal life. Get rid of all the things that aren’t a part of that dream, and you’ll have the space in your home and heart to make it happen. It sounds cliche , but trust me when I say, it works. You have to let go of the past, of the things that are weighing you down, in order to embrace your present. You’ll even discover you were holding onto things you didn’t even know where holding you back. But with practice with tangible items, you’ll have the ability to let go of those intangible forces as well.

This past year or so of taking the time to really cultivate my life has made me feel so much freedom. It has helped me clarify the people, circumstances and things that I do want in my life, and take better care of them. It has helped me see how buying those little, unnecessary items one by one was really stealing from myself – it was keeping me from saving towards things I wanted a lot more – like a meaningful trip to see friends. I found it hard to save money because I felt compelled to satisfy temporary urges to accumulate just because I could. It has shown me how distracted I had become, how preoccupied with appearances and frivolity. That didn’t feel like the me I really wanted to be. The person I do want to be is considerate, thoughtful, caring, ambitious, grateful and grounded. The person I want to be is more than just a pretty face or house, but something substantial, meaningful and uncluttered behind all that.

Sea Salt and Nutella Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Valentine’s Day is such a great holiday. It’s less stress than Christmas, but you still get to make really delicious treats. Like these cookies. They’re a salted chocolate truffle cookie filled with Nutella. Because Nutella should be in everything. 
Feb-4196On a side note… has anyone ever known what “bae” is without googling it? I feel like I spend a large portion of my time googling things just so I can understand what other people are saying. It’s hard to keep up.

Anyway. These cookies are the same as last year’s Frosted Brownie Cookies, but filled with Nutella instead of frosted. I may not be able to keep up with Internet lingo, but I do try to keep abreast of cookie trends, and filling things with Nutella is certainly one of those trends. These are super easy, but they have a fancy name, so if you make them for Valentine’s Day, people will think you’re very cool. Feb-4199 copy

Nutella-Stuffed Salted Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Makes about 20 cookies // Prep time: 20 minutes, plus 1 hour refrigeration of dough

  • 1 1/2 cups high quality semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Sea salt for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
Begin by refrigerating your Nutella. If it is more solid, it will be easier to work with.
In a double boiler (heat proof bowl in a pot of water, 1 inch deep), melt the butter and 1 cup of chocolate chips over medium heat, being sure not to let the water boil or spill into the heat proof bowl (if water gets into the melting chocolate it will cause the chocolate to “freeze” and be unusable). Stir every so often until melted and smooth.
Meanwhile, use a fork to sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Set aside.
In another bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combined and smooth. Add the chocolate mixture to this and beat together on medium speed until well incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 increments, beating on low between each increment. Finally, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Your cookie dough will be like a thick brownie batter. It will be hard to work with in this state, so refrigerate it for an hour to let it solidify.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Take about 1 1/2 Tablespoons of dough and form a ball. Break off 1/3 of the ball and make a crater in the larger portion. Scoop a teaspoon or so of Nutella into the crater and then cover with the “lid” of the remaining 1/3 of the ball. Roll a bit to seal the edges and place on your baking sheet. Repeat to make 8 cookies per batch, placing dough balls at least 2 inches apart. (Be sure to put your remaining dough and Nutella back in the fridge between batches.)
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until top of cookies appear cracked. Do not over-bake or your cookies will be too dry. Immediately upon removal, sprinkle your cookies with a bit of sea salt.
Let cool and then package in your prettiest packaging. Send to all your favorite people for Valentine’s Day.

On What I’ve Learned from Simplifying

Simply put: I’ve learned a lot of gratitude. For things, certainly. For people and the circumstances in my life, absolutely. Taking the time to consciously comb through the possessions in my house has also enabled me to do the same with my life and I have come to realize what a great life it is. Is it perfect? No. Are there bumps and disappointments and anxieties? Of course. But there is so much to be truly grateful for. And a feeling of contentment, with myself, my home, my relationships, everything, has spread everywhere.

I have discovered a beauty in simplicity. In making what I have work. I feel more creative, more free and more accomplished. I feel less lust for things and more lust for life. I spend less time cleaning up and more time checking items off my to-do list. I feel more confident and put together. Less like I’m faking it. And more like I’ve found what I truly care about.

simplicity is the way back to love

These past six months or so I’ve been seeking to really and truly simplify our home and our lives. I’ve cleaned out everything. Closets, storage, the kitchen, the toys, everything. It’s kind of a trendy thing right now, simplifying and downsizing, but it’s probably the best trend I could get on board with.

Because when you go through every inch of your house with the perspective of, “Do I really need this? Is this helping us?” it completely changes the way you look at new things about to come into your house. I mean, I love Target just as much as the next person. But now when I go in there, (which I surprisingly feel the need to do much less often) I see things as what they really are: just things.

I think there can be a tendency in our culture to really be defined by our stuff. And don’t get me wrong. I appreciate pretty clothes and good taste just as much as the next person. But pretty clothes don’t define a person. They don’t define me. The things in my closet or home don’t make me who I am. My mind, my heart, my compassion, my skills, the gifts I have to give… those are the things that define me. In fact, I would hate to be so caught up in appearances and accumulation that only that defines me. What kind of a life is that? What kind of a contribution is that?

After this experiment I started wearing less makeup and I cut down my wardrobe to a capsule wardrobe. I’m okay with the fact that skinny jeans aren’t made for me and I’m going to have to bide my time until boot cut jeans are available again. I’ve learned that I don’t need to impress anyone by the things that I own. I would rather inspire them by the way that I live.

Disclaimer: My life is not completely simplified. But it has come a long way. Here are some of the benefits I have experienced:

  1. I’ve stopped holding onto things out of guilt. Guilt is such a tricky little thing. It’s that nagging little voice that can keep us rooted firmly in the past, instead of embracing everything that the present is offering. For instance, I had clothes that I didn’t really like but this nagging thought of “I paid for this… so I have to keep it” kept these unworn things in my closet, as if keeping them would somehow make up for my financial mistake of purchasing them. It was easier to let go when I thought, as I told my kids, “this could be bringing someone else joy. So why am I hoarding it?”

    There’s also the guilt of sentiment… “someone I love gave me this so now I have to keep it forever.” The purpose of their gift was to show love and it has fulfilled that purpose, so I can give it away. Or, even harder to tackle, “this belonged to someone I love who is now deceased, so if I let go of this thing I’ll be letting go of them.” I don’t feel that need anymore. I’ve let go of that guilt, and even that assumption that they are defined by my possession of an object. I don’t have to keep the actual item interminably – I know their love. I carry it with me in my heart, in my memories of them. And I appreciate their love and friendship more than a tangible object can represent.

  2. It’s so much easier to say “no.” After intentionally paring down, giving away extras or things that we just don’t really need, it’s so much easier to say, “I’m okay without that.” It’s easier to admire all the pretty seasonal decorations, and then walk away, knowing full well that if I spent money on them, I would probably be ready to discard them before too long. In fact, going into stores in general has become a bit overwhelming, when I see everything through the eyes of a box of future Goodwill donations.
  3. And because it’s easier to say no, it becomes easier to say yes to the things that will actually improve my life! I had been wanting to get a food processor for years, but always put it off thinking that they were too expensive. Well, when I stopped spending that money on smaller, useless things, I could buy the food processor and it is amazing. I use it constantly and I feel so much better about that purchase than about one that would be wasted before too long. Simplifying shouldn’t just be about decluttering in this moment… but in saying no to letting junk invade your life and home in general.
  4. And with that comes an appreciation for what I do already have. In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo talks to her things out loud, thanking them for a job well done. While I haven’t gone as far as talking to my things, I do take the conscious effort to look at something and be thankful for it. I’m thankful for my handbag that helps me carry everything I need for the day. I’m thankful for my water bottle that keeps me hydrated. Paying attention to these little things makes them feel like luxuries (and in fact… they really are luxuries if you think about it!). And that gratitude makes it easier for me to stop being on the lookout for a better this or a better that. Mine is working just fine. I don’t need anything else.
  5. It has made me re-think almost everything I do to ask myself, is this the best use of my time? My family’s time? Our resources? We have practiced saying no to cluttering up our house, and we can say no to cluttering up our lives. Which, in turn, means we can say yes to the things we do want to do. Basically, it has taught me to be very conscientious about how we make decisions. (And not letting guilt factor in was a pretty huge lesson here, too.) After decluttering our schedule, we’ve been able to find that lost time for things that were important to us, but were being put off. Like having friends over for dinner or starting a book club. That nagging to-do list of projects is actually getting accomplished because I don’t feel so drained by the mere task of keeping up with the daily chores. (Although I’ll just throw it out there that if we didn’t have to make dinner every. single. night, that would be nice. Ha!)
  6. Practicing letting go of tangible objects has made it easier to let go of intangible things – maybe ideas about how things are supposed to be, or guilt over past misdeeds, even the idea that the things I have are what defines me. I have noticed less anxiety in my relationships. I quit following people on social media who made me feel lacking or like I needed to buy more things to be special and cool and authentic. I unsubscribed from all those deals emails that were cluttering up my mind with thinking I needed more, more, more. It has freed me to be more content with myself, while also truly enjoying the people and things that I do choose to make a priority. I feel more confident in my decision-making abilities, because I’ve practiced making little decisions that had a big payout.
  7. I don’t keep things for a special occasion or “just in case.” Thomas Morton once said, “Don’t keep things for a special occasion. Everyday of your life is a special occasion.” I’ve cleaned out so much storage with that very thing in mind. What good is my grandmother’s crystal if it’s sitting in a box in the basement? Either I’m going to use it and enjoy it and yes, risk it getting broken, or I’m going to let it bring joy to someone else. Because it’s doing nobody any good in storage. If you love it, use it. Enjoy it! If you don’t love it, lose it. Let it fulfill it’s purpose elsewhere.
  8. Tidying is easier and cleaning is less of a chore. Let’s be honest. If you walked in my door right now, you would see pillows and blankets strewn about. A counter and sink full of dirty dishes, so many school papers that Ellie just brought home on the dining room table, toys and socks littering the hallway. But if you gave me a 15 minute warning, I would feel pretty confident in my ability to tidy almost everything up. It gets way less chaotic than it used to around here. And since everything has it’s place, putting it back in it’s place is easier, even if it doesn’t happen immediately. (Because who honestly does that? I alway read these tips about tidying your house and how you should wash every dish the moment you are done using it and that just doesn’t seem practical with kids, especially ones too small to wash their own dishes… Those must be tips for homes with only adults in them…?)
    So it’s not perfectly tidy all the time. We live here, and it’s messy a lot. But it is easier to maintain with less meaningless stuff invading every corner. I find that keeping things clean is much simpler and less time-consuming than it used to be.
  9. Basically, it all comes down to this: choosing what we own is choosing how we want to live our lives. Ellie and I were talking today about how all of our actions have reactions, everything we do has a consequence, whether good or bad. Because I feel powerful in my ability to say no to unnecessary accumulation, I feel like I am actually making a choice about how I live my life. I am less a victim of marketing and sales and peer pressure and more in control of my time, my mental space, and my desire to bring something good to the world around me.

Simplifying has changed so many things for me. It has sharpened my senses and increased my gratitude and contentedness in a world thirsting for more. It has sharpened my decision-making skills, helped me clarify what I think is important and develop a system for actually accomplishing those things. I guess there’s a reason that Marie Kondo calls it, “The Life-Changing Magic.”

P.S. Attempting a capsule wardrobe is really what got me started on this journey. And I love it so much that I will sing it’s praises to anyone. It’s so practical and easy to maintain that I’ve made sure my kids and husband have one, too. There’s lots of info out there about capsule wardrobes for adults (try here and here if you’re interested), but not much on how to do one for kids. But I’ll be back with some thoughts on the subject.

P.P.S. If you want to start simplifying but feel overwhelmed by the prospect, I’d recommend “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. It’s a best-seller for a reason. Although there are parts that might seem (really) weird, the basic premise and guidelines are super helpful. Especially helpful, I think, are the specific categories to tackle and the order in which to tackle them. I think it was no coincidence that this started for me by a thorough decluttering of my wardrobe. // More practical ideas to come in another post.