Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Holding Babies: Don't Try This At Home

Earlier this fall, Emaline and I were visiting my best friend Kris. We were hanging out at her house and heading upstairs. Kris had her arms full so I scooped up both babies. Kris asked me to hold on so she could take a picture. While she was snapping away, calling their names and making silly noises, I stayed still and smiled at the camera (or so I thought). This is what actually happened:

This makes me laugh so much! Notice poor little Michael's fear and Emaline's indifference turn to amusement.

Did you miss: The best friendship advice or my husband's goofy sense of humor?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

18 Months: Emaline Right Now

Like many parents, Nick and I started making guesses about Emaline's personality before we ever laid eyes on her. The surprising part is how much of what we thought is turning out to be true. She is sweet, loving, and affectionate. And at the same time, she is brave, stubborn, and active. She wants you to cuddle her when she first gets up and before she goes to bed. She offers hugs and kisses throughout the day. When she is upset, she will pat your back as you pat hers. Last week at her well-check (they're not called checkups anymore apparently), the nurse came in to administer shots and when she saw Emaline, turned to the other nurse and said, "She's little but this one is surprisingly strong." I was so proud.

Baby J
Ema Jo

I wish I had been writing these updates all along, but right now is such a fun age. Emaline is so busy! She zips around the house on wobbly legs. She moves from one thing to the next as though she actually has something that must get done. She talks nonstop and will attempt to say any word you ask. She has probably 50 words and it grows everyday. She says "bless you" when I sneeze (but when you fake it, won't respond) and says "okay?" if she thinks I am hurt. And for awhile now, when she hands Nick and I anything, we say, "Thank you. You are so helpful". So now she searches for things to pick up and carry around saying, "helpful, helpful" (which sounds like (hapfoo, hapfoo). Laundry, dishes, any household chores, she wants her little hands in there. 

Favorite words:
Toby (Boby)
Grandpa (Gampa or Buppa)

Her favorite things are books and music. She loves to pull my books off the shelves and carries them around the house with her all day. She will sit with her own books and turn the pages. She will hand me stacks of books and then push her way onto my lap. She sings along with the radio, even if she's never heard the song. If she is upset in the car and we put on a song she likes, not only will she stop crying, she will start singing. She dances in the living room. And I know the current kick is no screen time but Sesame Street songs on YouTube and Play With Me Sesame on Sprout have gotten us through so many long days and rough nights. 

Favorite songs to sing:
Twinkle Twinkle
Row Row
You are My Sunshine
Happy by Pharrell
Lost in My Mind by Head and the Heart
Halo by Beyonce
How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep by Bombay Bicycle Club

Did you miss: My attempt at changing the way I talk? The early days

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Guest Post: My SIL the Artist

Elise and Emaline
The final guest post is from my sister-in-law (SIL). She is Nick's sister and one of my best friends. She comes from a long line of male engineers but breaks away from the pack with creativity and ease. Elise is kind, thoughtful, laid-back, and so talented. She teaches art to kids- kindergarten through twelfth grade.

For my friend's daughter's birthday. I asked for simple flowers. Perfect.
Art comes so easily to her. She has gifted me a few pieces and at times, I have commissioned her work. She creates beautiful pieces and shares it with a casual grace that leads me to believe, she does not know how amazing she is. For my wedding and again for my baby shower, she made me a dot art photo. They are the best! I'll let her explain:

Baby Shower Guest Book. The tree reminds me of something from Winnie the Pooh.
Childlike and imaginative. Love

Wedding Guest Book. I love this hanging in my house.

Wedding. Engagement party. Baby-shower. Best friends’-kid’s-Frozen themed –birthday party. House warming. Diaper kegger.

As I inch further into my late twenties I've found that my calendar gets filled with these adult-ish mile-markers and events. I’m coming to realize that I am, in fact, old enough for all of it. With this party maturation that’s happening the ante has been upped for proper gift-giving.

I feel I've been acclimating quite well to it all and I've learned that with these grown-up events you ought to be kind and get a thoughtful gift. I can’t even remember where I saw the idea initially; maybe it was someone who brought the concept to my attention, but one way or another I began making finger-print guest books. It was all a little out of the blue, but making these guest books felt completely natural.

Birthday Party!
A finger print guest book isn't really a guestbook, but more like a sleeker evolved version of that idea. All of your party-goers stamp their fingerprint onto the work and sign their name on top. The collected fingerprints complete a picture and create a beautiful representation of all the support and love shared at that particular time and place. I love giving these guest books to my friends. They’re unique, made with my own hands, and beautifully functional. It feels great creating something special for the ones I love. I’m loving all of these new additions to my calendar.

 Bring on the parties that start at noon and end promptly at three.

Thank you Elise! And thanks again to all the creative minds who shared their craft! Your talent, though varied and unique, helps me remember why it is so important to follow your passion!

Did you miss: Rachel Running Wild? Theresa's gift? Ashley's makeup tip? This amazing song?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Guest Post: Rachel Running Wild

Today's Post is by Rachel from Rachel Running Wild! Rachel is creative, talented, and has always been passionate about local and sustainable resources. She has found a way to combine these strengths to build a flourishing brand. AND she is offering a special promo for Write to Simplicity readers! Thank you Rachel!

Hi, I'm Rachel from the blog Rachel Running Wild and the Etsy shop Running Wild Designs! My shop is a boutique of modern organic-cotton and bamboo-fabric accessories for all you hip mamas; my blog is a hub for DIY (tips, tricks, and... flops), lifestyle talk, photography, and shop updates.

promo code banner

My brand has recently been experiencing some really exciting growth and to complement the excitement, last month we added a monthly newsletter, The Running Wild Newsletter, to the brand! The newsletter is released in the first week of every month and is chock-full of foodie talk, drool-worthy photography, promo codes, behind the scenes shop updates, and as many other goodies as I'm able to come up with.

bunnie blankies

I've found that reaching out to my readers on different platforms keeps my writing voice fresh and content exciting - plus aren't monthly subscription services awesome?! exactly. That's the same level of excitement we're bringing to your email in the first week of every month. bam.
burp cloths

I grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm and learned how to sew with my Grandma by hemming my Dad's old farm jeans. It was definitely nothing fancy and it certainly wasn't love at first sight, but now I look back at those sewing lessons with nostalgia. Since those early sewing lessons with Grandma, I've trained with a professional seamstress and from there I've filled in the blanks with self-taught instruction.
teething necklaces

I've always had an interest in sustainability and the impact small businesses can have on local economy but it wasn't until three years ago when I struck a passion for entrepreneurship that I had the idea to start my own small biz.

I've now been running my Etsy shop for a little over a year and I'm in the process of growing to accommodate wholesale orders!This process is so exhilarating but to be honest, it's also scary sometimes. There are moments when I feel so completely alone in my pursuit of this small-biz dream. I think we all have moments like these though, when we doubt ourselves and want to hide from something unknown. But the simple reminder that it's this path that's less traveled which makes the journey so much more thrilling, is what gives me the confidence to punch my self-doubt in the face and keep pursuing this adventure. This crazy, unknown adventure.

Please tell me you have these moments too??

P.S. Did you catch that promo code? Visit the Running Wild Designs shop and use promo code "hipsimplicityreader" at checkout for 10% off your purchase!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Guest Post: Mastering the Basics of Highlighting and Contouring

I grew up across the street from today's guest blogger. Ashley has grown into a talented and knowledgeable makeup artist. She recently launched her own brand. She knows the best products and her brides manage a perfect blend between natural and flawless. Her post breaks down something I thought beyond my ability and makes it sound manageable and fun. And for the first time ever, I understand my own face shape, something even the best beauty magazine has never been able to do.

As a makeup artist I am constantly getting questions about how to apply different looks especially when it comes to contouring and highlighting. Highlighting is the application of lightness/brightness to an area to bring it forward, appear larger and draw attention to it. Contouring is the application of darkness to an area creating shadows and sculpting. Darkness will make areas appear smaller. It is placed on areas of the face to accentuate the shape or correct it. Here are my 5 tips to bring out your cheekbones, slim down your nose and sculpt your face:

1.       Determine your face shape:  This is the most important step when mastering highlighting and contouring as this will help to determine where on your face you should shade. Is your face oval, square, round, long or heart? Oval faces have a soft, rounded hairline and chin, widening at the temples. Square faces have a wider jawline and forehead. Lines of the faces are straight/angular and the jawline will be square. Round faces are widest at the cheekbones and rounded along the hairline and jaw as well as a short chin and full forehead. Long faces are narrow with prominent cheekbones. It is similar to oval but with more length and less width. Heart shaped faces commonly have a widows peak but not always. The forehead is wider and cheeks tend to be fuller.
*The chart below demonstrates where to highlight and contour based on the shape of your face. 

2.       Choosing the right products: Your contour color should be one shade darker than your skin tone. You can use foundation, concealer or powder to shade and it should always be matte. Your highlight should be 1 to 2 shades lighter and can also be foundation, concealer or powder. When choosing a product I base it on how subtle or severe I want the shading to be. For a soft hint of color use powder. For a very natural look, use foundation. And, for a more severe look use concealer.  Typically, I stay away from highlighters with obvious shimmer because just a hint of shimmer will give you the most natural look. If your skin is oily avoid it all together as a lot of shimmer on oily skin can enhance your shine, making your skin look greasy.

3.       Using the right tools: When using cream use a damp blending sponge and your fingers, as the warmth from your hands will warm up the product allowing for seamless blending. When using powder use a tapered brush with soft bristles. The softer the bristles, the easier to blend and the tapered shape of the brush will help with controlling placement. When using foundation use a flat top kabuki brush and a damp blending sponge.

4.       Blend, Blend, Blend: Contouring can be frustrating and difficult to master. The key to a seamless contour is becoming a master of blending. Choose the products and tools that make you feel the most comfortable and then practice, practice, practice!
               *TIP: Blending will be easiest if you are consistent with the products you use. If you choose to contour with powder then your blush and highlighter should be powder. If you choose cream, your blush and highlighter should be cream. The ONLY time I mix and match is if I am highlighting/contouring subtly with foundation.

5.       Top it off with the right blush: Blush will pull your entire look together. Choosing the right blush is important. For the most natural effect use soft colors. For fair skins I typically choose soft pinks and peachy tones. For darker skin types I typically choose soft rose and plum colors.

Ashley can be reached through her website

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Guest Post: Knitting Gift

Today's post is from my friend Theresa. I have been a fan of her knitting ever since I complimented her scarf and she responded, "Thanks! I made it." I was awe struck. It looked expensive, intricate, and so lovely (see photo at bottom of post).

And when she gifted me a baby blanket, I was honored. It was such a kind gesture and the blanket was heavy and warm and beautiful. But it wasn't until I started toting that blanket everywhere that I realized how talented she truly is. It looks the same as the day she gave it to me and the number of compliments I receive is endless. Once while browsing at a boutique baby shop, the owner called all of the employees over to admire the quality. Somebody made this for you? They always say in slight disbelief. 

Thank you Theresa for sharing some insight into your gift!

Kerin asked me to consider writing this blog post a little while ago and I have to admit, it stumped me a little.  My talent is knitting… and what non-knitter wants to read a blog post about knitting?  So, I decided to write about me, as a knitter, rather than the topic in general.  I’m a self-taught, slightly more accomplished knitter than your average needle toting fiber artist.  Ha, fiber artist, that makes me feel fancy!   The truth is, I picked up the hobby not because of what I can produce when the needles are removed, but because of the result the entire process has on me, mentally and physically. 

I have ADD, and I am not a fan of the medications out there that help me master this behavioral condition.  I’ve tried them, they work, but they scare the pants off me.  So, as someone who is, by choice, un-medicated, I needed to find a way to channel the constant desire to be moving/doing/producing.  Crafting, in any form, is a great way to solve for that need, at least for me.  I’ve been big into that sort of thing my entire life (as a kid, I liked LOVED beads), and in my mid-twenties, I discovered knitting.  A friend at work had taken to knitting over lunch, and I was mesmerized!  She was knitting, and eating and talking all at once!  I headed to the craft store after watching her that first day, found a great website that night, and brought in a scarf that was already a foot long the next day to work on at lunch. 

Fast forward a half a decade, and I’ve taught (or in some cases retaught) several people how to knit, I’ve knit something like 20,000 yards of yarn (for perspective, that’s over 11 miles), I’ve written a few of my own patterns (as far as I am concerned, that is the most daunting and complicated aspect of knitting), I’ve knit all of the typical hand knit items you can think of (scarf, hat, mittens, blankets, sweaters, socks, etc.) and I’ve taken the leap and opened up a small Etsy site.  For years, the fine print associated with running a shop on that site has terrified me, but here I am.  If anyone reading this is a Ravelry fan, please be my friend

When it comes to a hobby as laborious as knitting, patience is a virtue… The previously mentioned ADD does mess with me from time to time, but the hobby itself has taught me to control my impulses and see where the process can take me (plus, I easily stay caught up on all of my favorite prime time TV simultaneously!).  My favorite things to knit are the things that will be gifts, especially for babies, as they are inherently adorable.  Miss Emaline received one of my favorite gifts to date – a stroller sized peach, green and purple blanket:

Emaline and family have given me the most wonderful ego boost and confidence builder any knitter out there could ever hope to receive.  Knowing how amazing Kerin is with words, you would likely assume it’s some sort of glowing thank you note, but no, it’s completely non-verbal.  Prior to their move (I just can’t even talk about how sad I am to not have them here anymore), when I would visit, not only would the blanket be out (I am very accustomed to the gift I knit being strategically displayed when I visit anyone) but more importantly, showing distinctive signs of wear and use.  The amount of time, work and effort (and in many instances strong emotion) that go into knitting a gift are so overwhelming that the idea of a blanket or a stuffed animal being kept on a shelf out of baby’s hands for fear of them destroying it is almost too much to bear.  I want Emaline to nap on that blanket, spill and spit up on that blanket, tote it around the house and yard getting dirty; I want it to be HER blanket.  Plus, any good knitter will always be sure to knit baby gifts out of yarn that can be machine washed!  So please, consider this my PSA on behalf of knitters everywhere, USE YOUR GIFTS!

That said, I have found the time to make a few things for myself over the years.  The last thing I want to touch on is the project that helped me to realize just how emotional this hobby of mine can be, if you let it.  The project started out as my very first commission, a scarf for a coworker.   She had picked out the pattern and the yarn for herself, and wanted me to knit it for her.  I was happy and excited to do it.  However, in the end I could not bring myself to give it to her (but I did make another for her).

The reason this scarf is so special, and why it took so long to complete (6 months!) is that it was the last thing my grandpa saw me working on before he passed away. My grandfather was one of the most important people in my life and he LOVED this scarf. He always wanted to see my progress on it when I went to visit him.  When he would look at it, he’d get all teary-eyed and tell me that my grandmother would have been so proud of me if she could have seen my knitting (I didn’t learn until after she had passed away).  I will always be able to remember him sitting at the kitchen table tracing the cables of the scarf with his fingers. 

I savored completing this project, often at times only knitting a row or two before putting it down.  When the time came to bind off, I was able to truly appreciate a finished item in a way I hadn’t yet experienced with anything else I had made for myself – I smiled, truly smiled, from the bottom of my heart.  The thing I long to see when I give a gift to a friend or family member, I had managed to do for myself.  In fact, it’s the one care instruction I have listed on the back of my labels.  As long as you smile when you wear or use something I’ve made, I’m happy.  I won’t mind if you wear it out, get it dirty, or if in fact it’s not your style (for the record though, I REALLY try to avoid knitting anything ugly, I REALLY do try).  Just smile.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Guest Week: Talent to Share

This week, Write to Simplicity is being taken over by talented women. People I know, who have something to offer, an art that needs to be shared. You can book them or order from them. They have business cards or etsy shops. But mostly they have tremendous talent and expertise.

I am inspired by people who are brave enough to share their creativity with the world. Sometimes that means pursuing a dream full time, for others it is something that exists in the moments between work. Either way, it is recognizing a passion and chasing that spark until it catches.

For that I applaud: Jessica, Theresa, Ashley, Rachel, and Elise.

Day one: instead of a guest post, I have something else.

When I met Jessica, only a few weeks ago, she told me that she was a professional singer. Still, I was amazed when I got a chance to hear what she can do. Although I have tried, I must admit that I lack the words to express what she is able to accomplish with her voice. She sings the way writers want to write and painters want to paint. It is an expression of art that is incredible to witness. Instead of her written word, I have this!!!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Letter to Hood: Vitamin C

Emaline snacking on a clementine.
I do not usually write letters to companies or rant publicly but this needs to be shared. A few days ago, in desperation, I contacted Hood. It is getting difficult to purchase milk for my daughter. And if you want to see an angry mom, get in the way when she is trying to feed her child.

It has become very common for companies to add synthetic abscorbic acid (vitamin c) to their products to increase shelf life. Emaline, like many babies, does not respond well to this fake additive.

From the first time she had baby food with added vitamin c (abscorbic acid), red blotches appeared all over her face. The more she consumed, the worse the blotches got. After a few tries, the culprit became obvious.

Abscorbic acid reaction. Red blotches, swollen eye, sad baby.
She does not have a problem eating anything with naturally occurring vitamin c, it is only when it is an added ingredient. Which also makes me question how our bodies process this additive, as it is clearly not the same as the natural vitamin.

Earlier this week, I went grocery shopping at Target and only found milk with added vitamin c (both Hood and Market Pantry). So I stopped at Rite Aid on the way home and found they only carried Hood. My third attempt was Market Basket with a crying baby in arms. I finally found milk that did not have any bonus ingredients, it was just milk. I came home, put Emaline down for a nap, and composed an email to Hood. I calmly and politely shared my concerns and asked for some assistance. 

The response came back in about a day:
Thank you for writing. We appreciate your feedback and your suggestion will be shared with our Quality Department.

Not satisfied with this template response, I wrote:
Thank you. Should I expect to hear something else as this is passed along? I would hope that if my concerns are truly heard there will be more than a generic email.
 Thank you again.

Again the response came quickly and was not generic:
Kerin, below is our response after sharing your concern with the appropriate department.
Vitamin C is an important nutrient that boosts the immune system and naturally occurs in low levels in milk (4 percent).  Hood has added to the vitamin C that naturally occurs in milk.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that many adult Americans do not get enough vitamin C and that it should be consumed daily because we are unable to store it in our bodies.

We do not have plans to remove this essential nutrient and thank you for your feedback.

Abscorbic acid reaction. Red blotches. Swollen eye caused the tear.
So I guess that’s it. I appreciate that I did get a response but I will no longer purchase Hood products. I cannot believe that the additive is there for the betterment of our health. Abscorbic acid lengthens shelf life and therefore saves the company money. 

At Target the other day, I was picking out veggie pouches for Emaline. Target’s brand Up and Up offered pouches for .89 and for 1.39. They were the same flavors. The only difference is that the less expensive option contained added abscorbic acid and the more expensive offering contained only vegetables and water. I stocked up. I am happy to pay a little more when the product offers healthy food and piece of mind.

Image from Pinterest

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ever Changing: Bucket List

Lately, my bucket list has come up in conversation. People are surprised that I have an actual list (you shouldn't be, I write everything down, it's what I do.) and I have been met with small laughs when they discover that it lives (until now) in the Notes section of my iPhone. So maybe this is a better place for it, I don't know.

See Aurora Borealis
Run a half marathon
Buy a house
Visit Switzerland
Visit Ireland
Visit Spain
Visit Iceland
Visit Antartica
See the Great Wall of China
See the Tunnel of Lights in Japan
Attend a retreat in Bali, Indonesia
Attend Oktoberfest in Germany
Visit the Dolomites in Italy
Visit the Colosseum in Rome, Italy
Go back to Australia with Nick AND Emaline
See Uluru at sunset
Plant a tree on my own property
Finish my novel
Publish a book
Go Desert sand boarding
Visit Charleston, SC
Visit Savannah, GA
Visit New Orleans, LA
Visit Nashville, TN
Stay in the Smoky Mountains with Nick and the Zitelli's
Go Zip Lining
Meet Oprah
See the Grand Canyon
Vacation in a hut over the water in Bora Bora
Visit Lake Louise in Canada
Attend a Music festival
Interact with an elephant
Ride in a hot-air balloon
Attend carnival in Brazil
Visit Napa with Nick
Go on a wobbly wine tour
Camp on the beach
Fly First Class on an international flight
Step foot on all 7 continents
See the Pyramids in Egypt
Climb the Stairway to Heaven in Hawaii
South Carolina
South Dakota

Monday, October 6, 2014

Something Personal: Not That Kind of Girl

I have an odd talent. I have never met anybody else who does this. I have told only a few and every time I have shared, I've been met with silent glances and subtle confusion.

Often when I read a book, the voice of the author seeps inside my head. For a brief period, I have a hard time not thinking in the language of the story. It's much like getting a song stuck in your head. It lasts for hours, sometimes a day and I enjoy the time.

I choose what to read based on this, often books with beautiful language. It does not always happen and sometimes it's not until the story draws to a close. It does not pour into conversation, but rather it is my inner dialogue. I imagine it like somebody who speaks English as a second language, turning Spanish phrases inside their mind.

Right now, I am finishing up Lena Dunham's new book, Not That Kind of Girl. Which I love! But I am glad it is almost done because this book was absorbed much faster than normal. Likely, because I already know her voice. But now I am there and cannot shake it. If you have seen Girls and you have sat through one of their I-can't-watch-this-I'm-so-uncomfortable scenes, you know what I mean.

I love her work and I feel like I get her writing but she writes nonfiction. Lena's brilliant book is comprised of essays, her life until now. It is presented with wit and hindsight and the vulnerability that she has become known for her. My blog exists, in part as a challenge, to write about myself. Something I have never been particularly good at. And so instead of the words turning outwards to face the world, it is like having a spotlight into the corners of something more personal.

That is probably why I am sharing something today, an ode to her words, her truth.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Nice Day: Fall Schedule

Labor Day has just gone and taken with it, the unofficial end of summer. As a season, we have a few more weeks. But as soon as yellow buses start filling the streets, it feels time to empty the beaches. Not that I want to, at all. I am pleading with the sun to last a little longer this year. I want more time with sandy clothes, open windows, iced coffee, trips to the Cape, summer beer, food on the grill, baby swim lessons, sun-blocked skin, and long days.  

There is a chance that my wish could come true, at least somewhat. I am living in New England for the first time in almost a decade. Minnesota in the fall is lovely but blink and you might miss it. It lasts about five minutes. New England weather is more unpredictable but generally is a little gentler in the transition. 

Nick and Emaline on Long Sands Beach, York, ME.
I stopped writing on my blog and now that I am back, I write two paragraphs on the weather. Probably not what you were looking for. But like many conversations, you start with small comments and light pieces of notice. Sometimes you start with a proclamation. Spit out a statement and dive in. But not this time. I am wading in, one step at a time. It is rocky and I slowly work to find my footing. As the water gets higher, I will start to swim. But this is the gauge, the place where I figure it out.

As kids head back to school, I find myself wanting to recommit time to this platform, this little blog. I want to share our life on the Seacoast. I want to remember simplicity. And of course I want another venue to write. I am reluctant to state that now but Nick always says- you are more likely to follow through if it is in writing. So there you go.

I have been writing, though not here. And I have been reading voraciously, for someone with a 15 month old. But summer is ending and I want to step it up.

Cape Cod Canal
*If you are a regular reader and ever want to request a new post, I encourage you to let me know. I work well under pressure.

Boston Harbor from my sister's roof deck.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 20th: Adventure

Today is our wedding anniversary. Three years. When we got married, I remember telling people that we were also going to continue celebrating our dating anniversary because for us, married three years also means together for ten. And that is something to celebrate.

August 20th, 2004

August 20, 2011
This year has been a wild ride. We survived the harshest winter I have ever known. And when spring finally arrived, we stumbled onto an opportunity for major change. We moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Nick switched careers. We bought our first home. Our baby girl celebrated her first birthday. And much more.

I always knew that Nick and I would travel, explore the world, and search out new experiences. This last year has taught us that some of life's greatest adventures happen without plane tickets and luggage. They can occur without leaving home. Creating a family, building a life together, is more splendid than the gardens of Paris, the mountains of Peru, the outback of Australia.

Thank you Nick for being my adventure partner. Happy Anniversary.