Tuesday, December 6, 2016

camping with lil ones.

Growing up, our camping "coming of age" occurred when we turned three-years-old.  

Three was when my dad was allowed to (supposedly) rip us out of our mother's arms and take us on overnight canoe trips.

It was at that tender age was when my three siblings and I were allowed to go with my Dad, his twin brother, and my cousins on overnight canoe camping trips in the BWCA in northern Minnesota.  Some of my earliest memories are of black bears wandering into our campsites while we cooked freshly caught fish for breakfast, and my Dad calming chasing them off while banging pots and pans together.  We grew up hiking, canoeing, cross-country skiing, camping in the frigid Northern Minnesota winters when each night you thought perhaps you would lose your toes to frost bite, and driving all over the country (and Mexico, and Canada) to hike peaks and canyons and experience God's creation.

Now that I have my own kids, it makes sense that I would make this a rule in our family as well. Except it is not Hubby taking them solo...I am a part of the experience.  The meal planning, the packing, the driving, the hiking, and the sleeping on the cold, hard ground in the middle of the woods.  I need to be a part of all of it.  The camping gene was successfully passed from Dad to me.  Actually, all four of his kids got it!

I always knew I had to marry someone who was as adventurous as Dad (or at least as much as I am.)

Truth be told, Paul did not do a lot of camping growing up; however, over the years he has shown me he is definitely willing to brave the elements and challenge himself in the outdoors.  He went with my Dad to summit the very same peak in Banff National Park that I had summited a mere two weeks after we'd met.  He also hiked the Grand Canyon from rim-to-rim with a friend, signed up to hike Mt. Rainier (until appendicitis befell him) and has over the years impressed me by gleefully acquiring every essential piece of camping and mountain climbing gear a "finance guy" might ever need.
Paul in the Canadian Rockies.
Grand Canyon selfie!
So, I fell in love with Paul...and then he became a "rugged outdoorsman."  It all worked out.

In our marriage we have done many camping trips together, sometimes just the two of us, and others where we've convinced other couples to go, too!  We are always eager for others to get hooked on camping, although I'm not sure anyone we have brought actually has.  It is a hobby that you sort of have to commit to (i.e. buy proper gear for.)

Once we had kids we knew we wanted to "start 'em young" - but we got a very slow start.  We took Cormac with my family to the Boundary Waters when he was barely one-year-old.  Pretty challenging, I'll be honest - even with lots of help.  When Finola turned two tried camping again, but we basically could drive right up to our campsite and, while private and peaceful by a lake, it was by no means "primitive camping."

The "three-year-old rule" is a good one - for real camping.  You can take them to campgrounds and cabins before then, to be sure.  But if you are hiking in, or canoeing in, miles from civilization...go with the "three year old rule." (Probably even older if you have zero experience with this type of camping.)

Recently we took our three-year-old and five-year-old to a state park and hiked into the woods, several miles from our vehicle, in 40 degree weather (colder at night.)  We carried full packs, one containing a 40+ pound child at almost all times.  We also had to carry their sleeping bags in our hands, and much of the time their tiny backpacks filled with the "essentials" (toys.)

It was beautiful, with the bright blue November sky, crisp fall air, and surrounded by trees still arrayed with red, orange, and golden leaves.  But beauty is sometimes lost on tiny children, and, as on all camping trips, there were hiccups along the way.  It was cold.  Our kids cannot walk more than a quarter mile without getting whiny and begging to be carried.  We had never been to this park and really had no clue where the campsites were.  The map was shoddy.  We got a late start.  We had to cook dinner in the dark.

As parents you just have to roll with it and try to make it a good time for the kids.

Or, as my father explained to me on that first canoe trip with baby Cormac, "It is no longer about you when the kids are with - you get enjoyment from watching them experience it."

My Dad, especially when camping, has the patience of a saint.

Me?  Not quite as much.  Hubby does, though, and I definitely loved being with the family outdoors, despite any and all snafus.  We had a lovely two mile hike at a state park we had never been to.  We eventually make-shifted a campsite off the trail just as the daylight was fading, getting our tent set up just in time.  We devoured our Mountain House meals (so good, even several years expired!) with wild abandon in the darkness, snuggling around the camp stove, an enormous full moon rising above us and making it so bright there in the woods that we didn't even need our headlamps.

After dinner the kids were excited to get in the tent and burrow into their sleeping bags!  The chilly air and the exertion from hiking (er, being carried) had them exhausted and asleep within minutes. Actually, at precisely 8pm, Paul was also asleep -- he and Finola snoring contentedly and Cormac, silent as a mouse.  I alone lay awake, occasionally taking a glug from my plastic mini-bottle of red wine, listening to a far-off group of hunters and their pack of dogs, who were barking and howling for literally hours before I was able to drift off into a fragmented sleep.

It was worth it.

The next morning we all got up to a fire that Hubby had crackling.   I enjoyed two cups of instant coffee, Cormac had some hot chocolate.  We nibbled on cold Pop-tarts, warm instant oatmeal, summer sausage  -- all traditional camping foods from my childhood.  (The Mountain House meals are a luxury Paul and I adopted over the years.)

Despite it being freezing cold, literally, we fed the fire for a while, and then, very slowly, packed up and hiked out.

Then we drove directly to Cracker Barrel and enjoyed a hearty brunch, filling our bellies and feeling quite content with the way the tiny adventure went.

Beautiful, crisp fall weather.

just walk toward the light, colbie.
I was way too excited!  Let's go, guys!
Hiking with babes means lots of breaks.  Several times we just sat down in the leaves and ate cheese.  
This hunk of cheese might have been Finola's favorite thing.

Tent selfie!
Finola totally inherited my facial expressions.
early morning coffee and campfire.

Colbie is an excellent camp dog.  
This kid loves his hot chocolate, just as I did as a kid.  Finola won't touch the stuff.
Mini bottle of wine, summer sausage and coffee.  Breakfast of champions?
Paul got up early and found rocks to make this fire pit.  

Right before hiking out.  We survived and are still smiling!

Any other brave souls take their little ones camping?  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

stitch fix men : hubby's fix!

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Recently Stitch Fix launched Stitch Fix Men -- so now the guys in our lives can have stylist-picked fashion delivered to their door.

Let's be real.  Fewer men probably will admit to loving fashion.  I have, however, known quite a number of guys that are really into it, and honestly they dress so fabulous.  Cheers to these guys!   They like to try new trends and enjoy dressing themselves.  I appreciate that trait.  I can totally relate.

My husband is not one of those men.  I married him for many reasons, but his fashion sense was not one of them.  Not that he dresses poorly - he is super low-maintenance when it comes to clothing.  He buys the same relaxed fit Gap jeans over and over because they fit his "tree trunk thighs."  He owns three sweaters at a time that he wears every winter in rotation to parties.  To work he wears dress pants from Express and button-down dress shirts that usually bought on sale at Jos A. Banks or given to him as Christmas gifts from his parents.

Clothes shopping is something that happens maybe once a year for him.  Out of necessity.

Any fashion trends he tries are wholly because I have suggested it.

Okay - now you have an idea of my husband's approach to fashion.

However, there is another thing you should know about him : he will do whatever he can to make me happy. 

Such a good man.  So he signed up for Stitch Fix Men, created a profile, and scheduled a Fix.  Solely because he knew it would bring me joy...

...and it did!  When his box arrived it was almost as fun as when mine does.  (Check out all my past Fixes here!)

I wasn't sure whether I would take any photos of his items...but he surprisingly let me take some shots of him wearing them!  Again...the things he does for me.  Don't worry, this photo shoot only lasted about fifteen minutes, so he didn't suffer too long!

#1 Zach Straight Leg Jean (Mavi)

 #2 Essential Wash Long Sleeve Shirt (Hawker Rye)

I loved these jeans straight out of the box, mainly because the material is stretchy and I thought they could accommodate the "trunk thighs."  Plus, they are a really dark wash, which, coupled with the straight cut, makes these a much more modern look compared with the other jeans he owns.  I crossed my fingers they would fit and be comfortable on him...and they were!  He did waffle a bit on keeping these, but I sold him on the convenience factor of not having to bother trying on another pair of jeans at the GAP any time soon. (Or having to order online.)  Plus, I liked how they looked on him, and he liked that...so...kept!

The forest green checked shirt is more casual than his other "work shirts" so that was a bonus!  I could see him wearing this for date nights with the jeans, and it was comfy.  However, while he liked it, it just didn't seem like something he would wear often enough...so it was a return.

 Item #3 : La Grande Cotton Cashmere V Neck Sweater (Commerce)
Oh my - this photo makes me giggle!  Anyway,  this very simple charcoal v-neck sweater was fine - nothing to get overly excited about - but very nice for layering.  If you are a guy that loves to layer, then having a soft cashmere sweater like this one is essential.  However, my husband is not the kinda guy that can handle layering.  He "runs hot," has huge shoulders and has a bit of a tummy.  Whenever he tries to layer in the winter he feels (and therefore looks) uncomfortable.   That is no good.  Granted, you can wear this type of sweater over a t-shirt and not be so warm, which he will do on occasion.   But he already owns two other v-necks that are similar, so this was a RETURN.

#4 Nathan Heathered Baseball Henley (by Tailor Vintage)
I have been wanting him to get a baseball tee for so long, so I was happy to see this in his Fix!  Super soft, nice color, and great fit for an XL-wearing guy!  This was Paul's favorite item in the Fix, so he was more than willing to keep it.

#5 Kit Ultra Move Blazer (Indigo Move) 
this photo epitomizes how uncomfortable he was.  love that face!
Lastly, this blazer.  It was way too small.  The shoulders and tummy area were a problem.  It is a dark jean material and a very cool look...but perhaps a bit too trendy for my man.  Returned!
I love those big arms and shoulders...just hard to fit them comfortably in a trendy blazer.
So he got a comfortable, yet modern, pair of jeans (a feat for him!) and that baseball henley we both really, really like.  Overall, a great Fix!
Hubby's thoughts about Stitch Fix were mixed.  Since he is not really that into fashion there was not much excitement in it for him.  He does like the items he kept -- but didn't think he really had enough time to decide.  (He had five days since the weekend gives you some extra time.)  He felt he needed a full week.  For me, three days is more than enough since I can easily find time (or will prioritize time) to try them on with other things in my wardrobe.

He says he will get another Fix - maybe in a year!  Yep.  That is my Hubby.  He could take it or leave it.

If you feel like your man could use a little dose of fashion in his life, or if he is one of those guys that loves fashion but doesn't necessarily have a bunch of time to shop, he may want to try Stitch Fix! Send him this link to get started, or click on the link below.  Also, a Stitch Fix gift card would be a fun idea for any fashion-lover in your life!  I've received them on several occasion - such a nice surprise!


Happy Thanksgiving, friends!  
We are hosting the big meal again at our home this year, so I am grateful and excited for that.  
I hope everyone has a lovely holiday full of delicious food and quality time with those you love!

Monday, November 7, 2016

stitch fix : neutral fix!

***Note: This post contains affiliate links...so if you are inspired by this post to try Stitch Fix, please use me as your referral by clicking HERE or any of the links within the post or sidebar!  If you do so, I will receive a small commission to support this blog for sharing my honest, personal experience with Stitch Fix.  Thank you, friends!!!!***

Have you ever stopped to consider what your personal style is?   Maybe you've always known since you were young.  Maybe it has evolved over the years.  

As I look back on my own "style evolution" I keep coming back to the same thing : I look and feel best in simple, comfortable neutrals - with a bit of edge.   I love a white v-neck t-shirt...with some leather pants or amazing jeans.  A simple gray tank top -- with an open back, paired with denim and super high stiletto heels.

My signature "bar look" in college was almost always jeans, with an embellished white (or black, or gray) cotton tank top from Express.  Remember the ribbed kind that were popular for forever, and still sort of are, but at that time they would put beads and sequins on them to make it more dressy?   And heels. Of course.

Anyway, while I love an occasional bright pop of color, I would still, at thirty-five and a mama,  describe my taste as primarily "edgy neutrals," rather than "bright + preppy" or "bold boho prints." 

So in order to beef up my capsule wardrobe for fall, and stick to my personal favorite look, I requested that in this Stitch Fix I get all neutrals!  

I love the pieces Hillary picked for me this time around.  A good mix of styles, and a pair of jeans that finally weren't skinny jeans (which I can only wear so much.) 

Here is what I got...

#1 Kailie Marled Swing Knit Top (by Bobeau)
This was probably my favorite item from this Fix!  When I first opened my box I marveled at how soft the material is - and I really liked the blush pink color intermingled with black and brown and gray thread in the print.  I guess that is what "marled" means...and I like it.  The top half is fitted and very flattering - plus, I think that a 3/4 length sleeve always makes your arms seem leaner, which is a plus!  The bottom half is loose yet still hangs nicely - and, as I mentioned on my IG Story unboxing video, this top will be perfect to wear for a holiday feast...so much room in the tummy section. Obviously this was a KEEP!

 #2 Fynn Tie Waist Striped Cardigan (by Market & Spruce)
I specifically requested a cardigan that is belted that I could wear in the fall in lieu of a jacket.  I was expecting more of a solid that could go with anything, but I actually really like this piece.  The stripes are unlike anything else I have, and are neutral heaven!  I can wear this with jeans or leggings, belting it for a dressier look, or leaving it open for casual everyday "momming."  Perfect with yoga pants and comfy flats...or...yoga pants and booties!  (Come on, you know you've passed yoga leggings off as "real" leggings.)  This cardi was a keep! I have worn it at least five times since I received my Fix a couple weeks ago.

#3 Kyleigh Straight Leg Jean (by Dear John)
So my last couple Fixes my stylist sent me skinny jeans.  If you follow my posts you know I am not a huge "skinny jeans gal."  I think they are cute, and as evidences by the top photo, I own them and will wear them on occasion.  But I tend to get cranky after wearing them a few hours.  So I was super happy that Hillary sent me some looser, straight-leg denim this time!  I wanted a dark wash that I could wear cuffed.  These are very comfy and fit with my mostly casual lifestyle.  I can throw them on with flats and a tee or sweater and be ready to go!  Kept these jeans, for sure!  Are you sensing a pattern with this Fix?)

#4 Nerman Off-The-Shoulder Top (by Laila Jayde)
If you follow me at all on social media you know I kept this top.  I am pretty much a sucker for the OTS trend.  Some women love their legs and wear short skirts, I am more of a "shoulder gal."   I like this top for a night out with friends or Hubby.  The color is listed as "brown," but to me it is more of a deep eggplant, which is one of my favorite colors to wear, especially in the fall.  Here I styled it with my high waisted flared denim (from this Fix last year) but it could pretty much go with any of my jeans.  I wore it within the first week on date night and have no regrets!  

#5 Alania Pocket Front Cowl Neck (by Emily Rose)
When I first put on this sweater I was really skeptical.  It is super huge.  I am normally averse to large baggy tops.  I initially referred to it as my "cat lady" sweater, as I kinda felt like it was frumpy.  (No offense, cat ladies!)  Then I tried it with some leggings and booties, and then with some skinny jeans and heels, and I found I could offset the bagginess enough for it to be flattering.  Ya'll this sweater is so cozy!  My kids love snuggling up against me (like cats) in this sweater.  I like that it is long and the pockets (perfect for cat treats) are a nice added touch.   So I had to keep it.  Plus, I was keeping everything else, so basically, with the 25% off "keep all" discount,  I got it for free.  Hurray!

So here are my top three reasons for loving Stitch Fix...
1) It makes my life easier.  As a busy mama of two little ones I really don't care to spend my limited free time shopping at malls, traveling to obscure boutiques, or scouring a bunch of websites to find the perfect piece.  Someday I will have time to do that again - but right now I need some help!  So with Stitch Fix I can stay on-trend and get my fashion fix without having to leave my house.  I can try the items on in my own time (you get three full days to decide) and I can give the returns to my friendly postal worker to mail back for me (with the return envelope provided.

2) It is FUN!  I love getting "happy mail" that involves fashionable pieces picked specifically for me!

3) It is personal.  You pick the day you want it to arrive.  Your style profile is made by you.  You give your personal stylist (yes, a real person picks out your items) feedback which they are responsive to.  You decide what type of items you want to see in your Fix.  You can choose "all pants" or "no accessories" or "some shoes" -- it is not completely random.  If there is a trend you want to try, request it!

If you haven't tried Stitch Fix yet, start by completing your style profile by clicking the link below...
+ + + + + +

I hope everyone has a wonderful week - finally Election Day has arrived!
Let's pray for the candidates and for our country!

Friday, November 4, 2016

master bathroom inspirations.

I am beyond excited about our master bathroom renovation.  

While I cannot control when contractors show up or the amount of drywall and brick dust that will eventually cover my entire house, I can dream about the design and pore endlessly over the tile and fixtures.

I've had a Pinterest board dedicated to this project for several years.  Years, people.

Yes, we moved in our home in 2012, and the plan was always to turn the large bedroom adjacent (as in literally joined by a door) into our master bathroom.  The bathroom we have been using since moving in, right next to our bedroom, is an okay size but would be a struggle to do two sinks and we definitely would be would have to keep the shower/tub combo.  

Plus, we do not have ANY closet at all.  We have been simply using cheap freestanding clothing racks since moving in. I'm not a diva, and it has been certainly not that big of deal.

But...our dream for the "dream home" has been to have a "dream bath" and "dream closet" (or just a closet) someday. 

Friends - that day is finally upon us!

When looking through my Pinterest inspirations, I decided that these six images give the best insight into my design scheme.  I want mostly black and white, with some warm woods, and a mix of metallic finishes : oil-rubbed bronze and antique gold.   Subway tile, hex tiles, 

I want industrial, vintage, historic, simple, and fabulous.

Also...lots of plants.  But those will come later!

I am not 100% what the finished product will turn out like, as in some ways we are designing as we go, but I am hoping to somehow capture the vibe of these inspirations...

What I love : mix of subway tile and penny floor tile, black and white, touch of brass (Hubby hates brass) and, of course, the plants bathed in natural light!


What I love : that floor tile, the clawfoot, and I am strongly considering painting our trim a bold black!  What?!?!  Gotta get hubby on board...


What I love : the black and white of it all!  The plants, the window, and fabulous chandelier are also amazing.

house beautiful

What I love : the shower panes, the niches, the tile work, and the size of this gorgeous shower!


What I love : the ceiling medallion, the tub in front of Victorian fireplace, and that wide plank pine flooring looks exactly like what we have in there now.  I am hoping it is salvageable after this project!

So those are my favorites, but you can check out the rest of my board here - so much eye candy!

What would your dream bathroom look like?  

Saturday, October 29, 2016

new orleans recap : big easy girlfriend trip!

I love girlfriend trips.  
Traveling with anyone helps know them better and can make your bond stronger.  You see sides that social media will not show you.  You see habits and quirks that might surprise you.  You have deep conversations (therapy sessions) that just would not have transferred via test message.  

Your bond deepens.
Or you end up driving each other crazy.
Or a little of both???

A couple weekends ago I went down to New Orleans with two of my very best friends, whom I have known for about eight years since moving to the Cincinnati area.  These ladies are the epitome of strong and opinionated women, and are both loud and fun -- making them my favorite type of people to hang out with.  They keep it real.  

I am for sure the quiet one of the trio -- and the least likely to bring up politics.   Although I will give my opinion when I feel it be necessary.  

The three of us are very different, yet get along fantastically.  It's weird.

This was our first time traveling together, in honor of Alicia's birthday!  She invited us along to the Big Easy to stay with her fabulous aunt who lives in the French Quarter.  Her aunt is a flight attendant who graciously got us buddy passes and let us invade her amazing historic apartment for a few days (complete with quintessential NOLA balcony and shutters - so perfect!) 
our first libations of the trip - airport bar!
Buddy pass flying can be unpredictable, and our experience getting to our destination was harrowed with twists and turns.  That Thursday we flew from Cincy to Memphis, where we could not get on any flights and had to stay overnight, then eventually got to Atlanta, where we ended up flying to Gulfport, Mississippi and taking a long cab ride to New Orleans.  It was a crazy twenty four hours of travel, but we finally made it!
finally got on a flight - and upgraded!  
morning coffee after an overnight stay in Memphis
seats together to ATL!
saying goodbye to ATL after deciding to be rerouted to Gulfport.
Made it to NOLA and ready to have some fun!
ready for our first night out -- in matching black tanks!  

frozen hurricane tongues on Bourbon St. 
taking the street car to Uptown.
My fave morning- Cafe du Monde! We got there early enough to walk right in...but when we left the line was huge!
this was my fave food experience of the trip.
tired, but had to get a pic before I enjoyed that cafe au lait.
Lola's - awesome Spanish fare, and the best sangria.
about to head home. rockin' the tired look. ready to see our babies and hubbies!
Cheers, NOLA!
It was a fabulous trip!  We ate some very delicious food, saw a lot of different areas that I didn't see the last couple times I'd been there (for college basketball events) and really experienced the city...while still getting to bed by 11pm each night.  (Yes, we party so hard.)

Cheers to hurricanes, beignets and good friends!