3 Year Old Girl Birthday Gifts…Help!

Alright everyone, I’ve got the boy stuff down for the most part for now, and because Thomas is the oldest, he usually gets all the “equipment” – bikes, etc – and they are passed down to Nell and Peter for his birthdays. Which is making coming up with gift ideas for my Nell for her 3rd birthday very tricky. Soooo, if you have any awesome suggestions for a 3 year old girl, I would love it if you leave them in the comments! And I’ll be sure to update you on what we go with after her birthday.  Thanks, friends!

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Clothes

I’ve never been a naturally organized and tidy person. I don’t live in squalor by any means, but papers pile up, toys often sit out a few days, and don’t even get me started on the laundry situation. But here’s the thing: while this tidiness doesn’t come naturally to me, it’s something I crave. I want orderliness in my home. I don’t want my home to look un-lived in, by any means, but I don’t like the piles. I just, quite honestly, have been to lazy to handle them and lacked a system for putting things away. For awhile now I’ve been feeling compelled to completely pare down my closet – I’ve considered a 30 pieces for 30 days challenge and other similar methods. Last month as we were getting ready for our garage sale, I went through my closet and pulled out about 20 items that I haven’t worn in years. A few things sold, the rest ended up being donated after the fact. But when I saw this segment from The Today Show over the weekend about The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, something just clicked. I immediately tackled the kids’ drawers – Nell’s pajama and pants drawers didn’t close with the current “stuff them in the drawer as fast as I can” method of putting laundry away I was using. So I took a couple hours on Saturday morning and just put their things away nicely. I purge the kids clothes regularly and really don’t go overboard on their clothing amounts, but they needed to be tidied. After tackling B’s drawers on Sunday – just organizing, it’s up to him to purge when he’s ready, I felt compelled to learn more than the Today Show segment taught me, so I downloaded the ebook.


And can I just say? I’m inspired. The first step is clothing. I get that – it’s easy. I was ready to dive into linen closets and my file cabinet, but Kondo said clothes first, so I’m following the rules. The clothes I kept less than a month ago got drastically cut because they didn’t bring me joy. I would pick up an item and ask, “Does this spark joy?” And more often than not, the answer was no. I told myself I wasn’t allowed to feel guilty. I’ve held onto things just because of their JCrew or Boden labels when they were never perfect for me, or they aren’t current enough to look good anymore anyway. I have two decent piles – one of recent purchases to go to consignment, and the other to go straight to our local charity on Wednesday.  B saw the picture I posted to Instagram while he was out of town and called me and said, “Em, you wear a lot of the things in that pile.” I said, “I know, but they don’t bring me joy. I wear them, but I don’t feel good in them.” Pretty sure his mind is boggled.


My favorite part was putting things back – in the past when I’ve decluttered my wardrobe, I’ve been great about getting rid of things, but lose steam at the putting things back phase. I’ve always hung everything that can possibly be hung because I hate folding, and things get lost in drawers. But Kondo’s stack clothing vertically method is brilliant, and I can see how I will love this and keep it up.

The few remaining hanging items in my closet:


Just look at all the hangers that are empty now that I’ve folded my tops:


So much organization and room in my workout and sports gear elfa drawers now:


And all of my t-shirts. I’m still perfecting the folds on some of these items, but for the most part, they’re good to go:


So, part 1 is done. I’ve purged every single article of my clothing in my house (again, B and the kids are a different story – I’ll help keep them organized, but B’s clothes are something he needs to make decisions on, and the kids clothes are already in pretty good shape from seasonal sorts and purges). I kept only the things that spark joy, and I can honestly see how I could keep this up. Firstly, I have a lot less clothes now, so laundry piles shouldn’t be as daunting. But with a system in place to handle the things that I do have, and a true love for those items, I think this just might work. I’ll keep you posted. Next up: Books.



Spring…Or Something Like That.

Colorado is a weird place in the Spring. We have beautiful January days – 70 degrees when we’re outside in barefeet and tank tops. And then there’s February, which is normally dreary, followed by March, which is drearier still. But by April, we usually start to warm up. And we did, a bit – we had some nice April days. But for the most part, I feel like we haven’t really had Spring here in Colorado this year.


We worked with a landscape designer to get a front yard plan done in March with the intention of planting in April, but April didn’t let that happen, and now we’re half way through May and we’ve had chilly, wet days. I’m not complaining at all – we need the moisture and it will be hot soon enough.

spring flowers

But this morning, Nell and Pete and I planted flowers in the front porch planter. Last night, our new patio furniture was delivered. Because, it’s time. It’s time for some color. It’s time to eat outdoors.  It’s time to stop waiting. Hopefully Memorial Day weekend will give way to good planting weather for the rest of our front yard, but I’m thrilled to have taken the first few steps to Spring…although at this rate, we might have to skip straight toward summer.

Our Favorite Books

I recently posted about the books I’d read recently for book club, but the majority of my reading is in the picture book category…with some recent forays into chapter books with Tom and Nell, though those have not been the most successful and I need recommendations in the chapter books for young kids department. When I was pregnant with Thomas, one of B’s mom’s best friends (got that?) gave me a bunch of classic board books with a note that said “A read to baby is a loved baby.” I’ve never forgotten that. Since the moment we brought Thomas home from the hospital we read to him every night. I hate to admit that Nell and Peter didn’t fall into the bedtime book routine as early – partly because B would take bedtime books and tuck-ins with the older kid(s) while I fed and put the baby-of-the-moment to bed, but such is life after the first baby, eh? In the last six months, Nell has really started to love books as much as Thomas, though, and Peter is carrying board books around the house with him. I love it.

I tried to pick books that Tom and Nell love equally for this list – Nell enjoys her Angelina Ballerina books, Tom loves his football books, but our favorites are the ones the whole family loves.

favorite picture books

If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen. This is hands down my favorite book right now, and “If I Built a House” and a few other Chris Van Dusen books will be making their way to our house for Tom’s 5th birthday. It is clever, it is fun, and paired with the right building material (Magnatiles or Magformers with wheel bases), we’ve got hours of creativity.

The Day The Crayons Quit - This was the book we gave Tom as his “Something to Read” last year for Christmas and it was an instant favorite. It’s illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, who has been a longtime favorite author and illustrator of ours. Which leads me to:

Anything by Oliver Jeffers, but we are especially smitten with Lost and Found and its sweet story of friendship. Though truly, I’m not sure you can go wrong with one of his books.

Duck and Goose. We’ve had this one for years, but we read it multiple times a week. Especially when the book picker is trying to postpone bedtime because it’s a bit longer than many picture books – Duck and Goose, Charlie the Ranch Dog and the Day the Crayons Quit are top choices on nights when the kids are trying to stretch the bedtime routine out a bit.

Caps For Sale - This is an oldie, but a goodie. We love this one. We especially love stamping our feet and shaking our fists when the peddler yells at the monkeys. Books with the McKevitts, man. It’s a good time.

Pete the Cat – Any Pete the Cat, but I’m partial to I Love My White Shoes over the Buttons one – though we own both and the kids love them equally.

One Dog Canoe – This is a fun book – my mom has it at her house and we have a copy at the cabin, so I’ve refrained from buying a copy for our house, too, but Tom and Nell always have me read it to them over and over when we’re at a One Dog Canoe house.

My Father’s Dragon – This was our first chapter book, and it was a good one. I read it just to Tom, and then we moved onto Mr. Popper’s Penguins…which we have yet to finish because I’m not in love and the kids don’t seem to be, either. But My Father’s Dragon was a quick, fun first chapter book.

(*As always, I don’t use affiliate links, so these Amazon links are just for your convenience.)


I have a ton of books saved on a wish list for Tom’s and Nell’s birthdays, so hopefully by the end of June we’ll have even more favorites to add to our list. I will say that I tend to feel a little “Womp womp” about some of the “girl” books we order for Nell recently – so I’d love recommendations for truly charming and adorable illustrations and stories. And chapter books – we need some more chapter books over here.

Styling an Entryway Bench

We’ve been in our home for almost two years now, which is almost impossible to believe! Our living room is the first room you see when you walk through the door, and we’ve played around with a lot of different arrangements for it, but I think we’ve finally found a system that works for us. The room is part entryway – that’s just inevitable – but that doesn’t mean that it has to look like a dumping ground! I added a sweet, cottage bench from Sauder furniture to the living room, styled it, and have an awesome entryway that doubles as extra seating at a party. Sauder invited me to be a part of their “Put Together” Design Challenge and Lookbook, and I jumped at the chance to style a piece of furniture to make it uniquely me!

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21 Day Fix – Midpoint

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was following up my February/March Whole30 with the 21 Day Fix – paleo style. After my disappointing scale experience with P90x3, I ditched workouts during my Whole30. I KNOW that you’re not supposed to focus on the scale, but…yeah. I still do. So anyway, after the holiday gain, I just focused on the Whole30 so that I could get back to my “happy weight” – which I did – and figured I’d add in workouts later. The problem with the Whole30 (for me) is that even though there are guidelines for portions, I tended to approach it from an EAT ALL THE BACON standpoint. And actually, at my physical the day I finished the Whole30, my cholesterol was down 19 points from two years ago, but my LDL(bad) was up 1 point, and my HDL (good) was down 20 points — so even though my overall cholesterol is about 50 points below the max recommendation of 180, my PCP wanted me to raise my HDL before my next appointment.  To be honest, I was pretty discouraged because everything I’d read about Whole30 success stories was that despite all the meat and fat you’re consuming, cholesterol usually goes down. And mine did, but it went down in the wrong way!


So, with that backstory, it was time for me to focus on portions. I weighed what I wanted to weigh, but I am happiest when I’m working out, and I also wanted to focus on that HDL thing – and I was pretty sure my bacon consumption wasn’t helping that number. Bacon is not bad, but it’s probably not recommended daily. Even on the Whole30. And I probably wasn’t eating enough greens, choosing to sub sweet potatoes for my “veggie” most meals. I needed some stricter rules. So I turned to my friend and Beachbody coach Jessica and she pretty much said, “Eating clean is great Em, but chances are you might be eating too much.” Enter, 21 Day Fix. I ordered and I’m in a challenge group.

There are a two components to the 21 Day Fix. First, is nutrition. Man, those containers are small. The appeal to me of this program was that it allows you some treats, some grains, etc. Coming off Whole30s in the past, I’ve just dived right back into eating what I want, so I liked that this would be an approach to reintroducing some of those foods without going overboard. For the most part, I’m avoiding grains, but I do have a serving or two of grains a week to see how my body reacts to the correct amount of grains. The first week? I was a drama queen. “I am so hungry I could eat my own foot!” type drama. And I was truly hungry – with permission from Jessica (because I am a rule follower), I added an extra veggie and fat when I was hungry, but by the end of the first week I didn’t need it. I remember in college one semester I had a class over my lunch hour every day of the week and I had to wait until 3 to eat lunch. I thought I would die that first week. And by the second week, I was fine with waiting until 3 to eat my lunch if I took a small snack in my bookbag. The same thing happened with the 21 day fix. By 6 days in, my stomach had adjusted to the portions. I played around with the containers a bit and realized that if I eat my fat (blue container) in the morning, I tend to stay full longer. I am loving this nutrition plan. I love that it allows a treat or a glass of wine a couple days a week – I have never eaten a teaspoon of chocolate chips SO mindfully. Nope, usually it’s shove a handful in my mouth and then grab another handful. So, it took me awhile, but I’m loving the portion control this plan forces on you now that I’m used to it.

79C2EC1C-FD01-40F2-A65F-D15AFCA4134F My Go-To lunch: Chicken Apple Sausage (1 red), Sweet Potato “Chips” (1 yellow), mixed green salad (1 – 1.5 greens) and a 21 day fix dressing (1 orange).

Shakeology. I really didn’t want to partake in Shakeology, but for the sake of the 21 day fix I agreed to try it. I’ve found the way I like it – the first couple days were like drinking grass clippings. I like the Vegan Chocolate with half a banana and a teaspoon of almond butter, 8 oz of water and LOTS of ice. I do enjoy having the shake mid-afternoon – it powers me through to dinner without hunger. But, I don’t think I’ll keep drinking Shakeology after this bag is gone. It’s pricey – my grocery budget for the month is about $450 – and that feeds 5 people a mostly organic diet. I can’t justify spending 29% of my monthly grocery budget on one meal a day for just me. So, I’ll try some other similar options to Shakeology and see how it all pans out, but I will also happily just eat a real food afternoon snack if needed.


The second piece, and the reason I started this program in the first place, is exercise. And I am loving the workouts. They’re challenging but not so challenging that I dread them, if that makes sense? I love that there’s a different workout every day of the week, so the ones I don’t love (yoga is my least favorite – I much preferred P90x3s yoga) aren’t overdone, and the ones I do like I have something to look forward to every week.  I feel strong already, and am looking forward to seeing what my final measurements are in a little over a week. I’ve been waking up at 5:30 to get my workouts in – in the past I’ve been a naptime or late night workout kinda girl, but when I have my workout hanging over my head, I kind of dread it. So just getting it done has been so freeing.  Being totally honest, I was prepared to hate Autumn based on the program’s uber sexy and smoldering marketing photos – but she’s actually bubbly and likeable and comes across as down to earth in the workouts. So, there’s that. C5E396B1-EF70-4C41-BE36-20164CE36DB7


Crazy hair, don’t care. Actually doing burpees (rather than modifying them because I didn’t want to try) for the first time in my life.

4D7A5FDB-0971-468B-95F0-A62528C0C40B Nell is a really good workout buddy.

So, that’s my mid-point 21 Day Fix update. I’ll be sure to post my end results in a week and a half – and I’m prepared to keep going.

Books I’ve Read Recently

I haven’t done a book post in awhile, so here are some books I’ve read and enjoyed recently.



Where’d You Go Bernadette – I enjoyed this book and I read it quickly. I did not love this book, but I am glad I read it and it was a perfect vacation read. I think my issue with the book was that I presume the author wants you to connect with the main character, but I didn’t. I could totally appreciate Maria Semple’s satirical style, but again, not a love. But definitely one I would encourage others to read, because you might connect with Bernadette…and even if you don’t, it’s fun.


Wild – This was our last book club book, and it was a good read. I’ll admit to loving the first half and then getting a bit bored. Half of our book club was on the same page as me, and half loved every single page. The difference between our halves? The half that liked it but got a little bored were the types who would never pack up their lives and hit a trail for 4 months. The half that loved every word said that they would love to do the trail, and have awesome stories of adventure trips in their pasts. I’d like to see the movie, too – I’m glad I read this, even if I’m more a glamping kinda girl.

the school of essential ingredients

The School of Essential Ingredients – Calling this “recent” on my read list is a stretch, but I loved it and I’m pretty sure I didn’t mention it here. Such a fun story of a cooking class and the lives that come together as a result of it. A wonderful book that makes you want to cook and bake…a lot!

Other books we’ve read (or re-read) recently in book club: Gone Girl (a re-read for me – love the book, and just saw the movie), Little Women (another re-read, but fun to dive into a classic again), The Interestings (I didn’t love it), Carry On, Warrior – fun and thought provoking, but if you read her blog you’ve already read the book.

Currently, I’m about half way through The Boys In the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I’m enjoying it, but not speeding through it. Next I’m going to need something light and fast, and my book club is always looking for good reads, too. Any suggestions? You can always check out my Goodreads profile to see what I’ve read recently (when I remember to update it…).

Organization: Family Calendar

I am not a naturally organized person. I am not a person who craves order. I wish I were, but I’m not. With that said, with five people in this house, I’m striving for organization more. I’ve always been good at getting rid of things, but the things we need to keep, I need to develop a system for. Luckily for me, my good friend and neighbor is a naturally organized person…so I just steal her ideas and tweak them until they work for me. First up: the family calendar.

Last summer, I missed a couple of events or overbooked our lives because we didn’t have a family calendar that was visible. I’d plan something with a friend to find out B had a board meeting that night. Or I’d forget about a preschool birthday party and commit to family dinner plans. I’ve always kept a planner with a calendar, but it wasn’t accessible to everyone and it made double booking things – or forgetting to check the calendar – too easy. So, I turned to my friend. She had a pottery barn calendar and organizational system on a giant wall in her mudroom. We don’t have a giant wall. Or really a mudroom. But, I took her system and tweaked it to work for us. And it’s been great…as long as I write things down.

family organization

Off of our kitchen is a hallway that leads to the garage with doors to our basement, dining room and laundry room off of it – please excuse the garage sale staging area that my dining room is becoming (on the left). I have a bulletin board for the kids’ artwork and projects on the biggest wall, but the spot next to the door to the garage was big enough for a small scale calendar system.

dry erase calendar

I bought a small calendar at Target for less than $15. I think it was $12.99. I bought two sets of dry erase markers so that every member of our family could have their own color (I really need to find ultra fine point markers in other colors because those are my favorite – but the purple and orange medium point will have to do until I find those). The last day of every month, I clean off the calendar and write everything from my paper planner on the board. After that, any appointments get written on the board – it is the authority once the month is going. For appointments or commitments a month or more out, my paper planner is the authority – I keep it on the kitchen counter most of the time and just update it as things come up. B and I sit down once a week and mark out his travel, late meetings, etc for the next month(s) so that we know what we’re up against. And then, at the end of the month, I transfer it all to the big calendar that everyone can see.


I store all the dry erase markers in the newly organized laundry room, which is one arm’s reach away from the calendar but keeps all the markers in one spot.

dry erase marker storage

This solution is hardly new or innovative, but it has made a world of difference in our lives and it took me until I had 3 kids and had been married 6 years to put into place, so now that it’s been working for us for about 6 months, I figured I’d share. Thomas loves reading what we’re doing (which means I have to write in code sometimes now that we have a reader since last week he said, “You’re taking us to the Rockies game on the 12th?!” spoiling the opening weekend tickets surprise B and I had planned for the family), B can quickly glance at the calendar when he’s wanting to schedule a golf game or beers with a friend, and I can easily tell when we have too much going on in one weekend and need to say “Thanks but no thanks” to other commitments.

Easter Recap

We had the best Easter Weekend this year. I love Easter – I love hosting Easter because it’s so easy, but this year I gave that up, and we kept it low-key. I often feel like if we don’t host so that both families can attend, I feel pressured to make it to both families for every holiday – but our families live an hour and a half apart. But I’m 30 now, so I’m more reasonable . My brother was in town, so we went to my parent’s because we don’t see him very often, and B’s parents came to Tom’s soccer game on Saturday and came over to the house to do Easter Baskets with the kids after that. It was perfect – no pressure, no racing across the state of Colorado to see everyone in one day – perfect.


We died Easter Eggs on Saturday morning with Kool-aid. So simple and easy. We hard boiled a dozen eggs, lost two to some violently boiling water, and should have boiled two dozen because the kids had a blast. Next year when Peter’s a part of the action, we’ll definitely have to up our Egg count.

Nell Easter Eggs Thomas Easter Eggs

Easter morning, a certain almost 5 year old woke the whole house up to go see the Easter baskets. The kids were pretty smitten. Our Easter Bunny keeps things VERY simple – a few candy filled eggs, a book, a small toy (our bunny opted for Legos over yet another stuffed animal…) and this year a new water bottle for each kid. And they were pleased as punch.

Easter Morning After we did our own little Egg hunt at our house, we loaded up and headed down South to my mom and dad’s house – we went to my old Elementary school for Easter Mass, then spent the rest of the day at my parents’ house, visiting with the family and letting the cousins play together. We took some family pictures, ate some really good food, and drank mimosas.

Easter Pictures

There was another egg hunt in my mom and dad’s backyard, and a LOT of backyard baseball.

Easter Day It was a perfect way to celebrate Easter – centered around Church and family with a little bit of candy and fun, just as it should be.

DIY Boxwood Wreath

Last week while the kiddos were napping, I whipped up a wreath for Spring for our front door. I’d been on the hunt for a great wreath that would take me from St. Patrick’s Day to Fall. I had a cute Valentine’s Wreath on the door for Valentine’s, but I really don’t want to store a wreath or door hanger for every holiday. So I was on the hunt for a season-less wreath – specifically boxwood that didn’t cost an arm and a leg – but couldn’t find one. Then, I stumbled across this tutorial on Pinterest for a 15 minute, $15 boxwood lookalike wreath and decided I could do it.

DIY Boxwood Wreath Our Hobby Lobby just moved and the day I went to the new store they had no grapevine wreath forms and no greenery out, so I went to Michael’s where I spent $30 instead of the tutorial’s $15, but it was a day when sometimes just being done with errands is worth an extra $15. And I did come away with actual faux Boxwood greenery instead of a lookalike, which Hobby Lobby doesn’t carry, so I was happy. The process was simple (and detailed in the tutorial linked above), but basically you stretch out the boxwood garland and use floral wire to wire it to the wreath form every few inches. I followed her easy bow tutorial, too, and in 15 minutes I had a wreath that will last me through the summer.

simple diy boxwood wreath

I love the greenery it adds to our navy blue door. We’re embarking on a big landscaping overhaul this Spring – we have the plans and will be planting this month or next, weather depending. But, I’m excited to add some greenery and life to the outside of our house – our exterior paint and lighting upgrades (the exact lights Joanna Gaines used on a house a couple weeks ago on Fixer Upper – I was patting myself on the back for picking them out on my own a full year before that episode aired) last Spring got us started in the right direction, and now it’s time to amp up our little cottage’s curb appeal even more. Can’t wait to see how our front yard takes shape this Spring and Summer!