I'm Domestic

Minted + Modern Kids = All I want for Christmas Cards by Kate Brightbill

Ahhh, the story of a Christmas Card, 2016:

One hot hot day in September, Maggie's soccer game in Golden Gate Park went long. Lunch went long too because- well, three kids aren't necessarily motivated eaters. We had signed up for a 15 minute photo session at Oh Happy Day's studio pop-up with Sarah from Modern Kids. I texted her and asked if we could come an hour late, and she kindly said yes. I discussed with Brian whether we should go at all, and after a minute of deliberating back and forth: we decided to do it. 

The plan was to get photographs of the children. The children this particular day were out of sorts. San Francisco kids often don't fare well in heat, and it was 90 degrees. They were literally sweating. The cozy holiday outfits I packed in a bag would just NOT do in this heat, but we had a onesie for Jack, and a couple lighter options for the girls in case we had this situation. Not quite what I had envisioned for a Christmas card photo, but more often than I can say, parenthood = improvising.

No, the kids did not cooperate at the pop-up. They were thrilled to get unicorn stickers from Jordan's Oh Happy Day Party Shop, and were also excited to peruse the goodies at Bitte and Sunday in Color, but they were not particularly inclined to smile for any camera or pose for Sarah this time.  

Ahhh, I was glad that I had booked the session for September because "there will need to be another session after that fiasco," I thought as we left.

Right before we left the session, Sarah told Brian and me to go stand by the wall with the kids-- in FRONT of the camera. "Oh definitely not this time, Sarah- just look at us!"

I was wearing a tee that is not only old, it's a tee that I also sometimes wear to bed. My shorts were cutoffs, and I had scuffed sandals. Brian had a hole in his tee, was wearing shorts faded by the summer, and he definitely hadn't shaved his face in a few days, so he wasn't too much better!

..but for all her sweetness, Sarah is also incredibly persistent when she wants to be. We followed her directions because- ah, who's going to see these anyway?? She snapped a few shots, and we were on our way to take naps and recover. (Please tell me we're not the only ones who need to recover from family photo sessions!! ;)

We got the shots the next day and whaaaat? The favorite shot of the day was the one she threw in with Brian and me!

StyleSmaller

Here's what we love about it: it's completely imperfect. It's completely unexpected (even by us!). It's also a time stamp of who we are these days, and there is a story to tell about how the picture came to be (against all odds, haha!). I think in my striving toward picture perfect, sometimes I miss the rest of the story, but in this case, the photo really accomplishes both.

---

As soon as we agreed that this was just right, I went directly to minted.com. Ahhh, I love Minted. I love their art, their wrapping paper, their party invitations... but the sweet spot in my heart is for their Christmas and New Year Cards (half the time, my cards get started this week of December, which means they are New Year Cards... which are TOTALLY acceptable all the way through January for procrastinators just like me!). 

Minted lets me upload my photo and it shows as the sample for every single card as I'm scrolling through. It saves so much time of me thinking, "hmm- I really like that card but would it work with my photo?" I can see directly whether or not it will work! I chose a few favorites, consulted my better half, and was ready to go. 

The cards at Minted also have options-- you can do a folded version for the longwinded writers such as myself, ha! You can have a flat card to go in an envelope with no writing necessary. You can even make your card a postcard for a short and sweet scribble to friends on the back! 

My friends' addresses are already uploaded to Minted.com, so that headache of hunting down my husband's longtime childhood friends whose addresses will take at least two months to get through the grapevine will not need to be repopulated every year. They're already in the system, ready to go! It saves so much time and hand-cramping to have those envelopes printed with addresses already! 

This year, we added a special envelope insert to the cards, and it's probably my favorite feature of our card. The leaf color coordinates almost like it was planned specifically for our specific photo, so obviously that made me seriously far happier than it really should. 

StyleSmaller

I also added a few photos from the year to the inside of the card. Nothing fancy-- just some real life candids to show my kids' personalities a little more. 

Voila! After far less stress than EVER, Minted + Modern Kids Photography proved to equal my personal favorite Christmas card I've ever sent. 

So. All this said, PLEASE do yourself a favor and order Minted. If you have your Christmas cards out this year (already?), I commend you, but I also recommend you visit Minted to check on their art pieces-- I have about a million favorites. The shop has so many goodies.

Thanks Minted for collaborating and creating my favorite cards ever, truly! All opinions are my own, obviously. xoxo

Keep it Clean by Kate Brightbill

Oh the chaos of this family of five.

I'm an organization person. I love systems and methodical cleanliness, color coordination and immaculate folds. Junk drawers and cabinets make me slightly crazy, and I have more now than I ever thought possible. I love lists and beds made with sheets tucked nicely. I love clean, and I can't physically get to everything....

Or can I?

IMG_0811 from Kate on Vimeo.

My floors have been declaring that I CAN stay on top of the cleaning. I received a bObi Pet by bObSweep in a box one dreamy day in September, and MY FLOORS ARE SWEPT CLEAN. Not just today, but almost every day

StyleSmaller

I have to say- before the bObi Pet came, my floors have suffered the most from having little Jack in our life. His eyes twinkle as he picks up his plate and turns it over on his head, scattering his lunch all over himself and our floors. The girls are close behind Jack- the master floor mess creator- with their knack for paper projects. Taking scissors to make Valentines in October, and allowing all the paper scraps to flutter to the ground below them is not an unusual after-school activity. 

"bObi," as the my kids call it, is a robot vacuum that whirls and twirls around our floors, becoming more programed to make the correct turns every day. It's best for maintaining the cleanliness, as opposed to doing deep cleans, but that's exactly what I need. I find that a good vacuum makes the home look put-together, and it is just such a time-saver. We have a staircase, and I assumed I would have to use the remote control to steer away... not necessary. The sensors recognize ledges and don't allow the bObi to fall down. After breakfast & lunch, the bObi makes a few rounds in our dining room, and it's not too loud to run all over the house while Jack naps like a normal vacuum would be.

This has honestly been a game changer around here. Jack loves using the remote control and pushing allll the buttons. I love letting the machine go free and do all the work while I spend my precious time working other places or helping my kids with their homework and playing games with them. As it all should be. ;)

--

bObSweep sent the bObi Pet for review (so thankful!!), and all opinions are my own... and Brian's. We love having our floors swept without us even picking up a broom. 

Glitter Kitty Birthday by Kate Brightbill

StyleSmaller

Five. 

What a good, strong number. Five is an age where a child is no longer a tiny, dependent preschooler. Five is the age of learning to tie shoes on their own, reading and writing without mama's help, and ... planning your own birthday parties (if you're Maggie, that's what you do).

Maggie knows her own mind and has her own vision of how things should be done. She is amiable, but is definitely not afraid to speak her mind. She requested a glitter kitty birthday party. She created her guest list (longer than I technically allowed, but we made exceptions, because five is a big number). She also had the following ideas for the flow of things:

StyleSmaller

 

  • Serve pizza 
  • Serve a kitty cake
  • Have kitty ears for everyone
  • Have a pinata for sure (she wanted a kitty, but it just could not be found or made by me with the time constraints... a unicorn was the approved replacement). 
  • Play pin the tail on the glitter kitty (this I did have to DIY, and it was not as simple as it sounds, haha)
  • Let all the girls play dress up and have a ball. A literal ball. 

 

 

 

A couple things were REALLY simple: ordering pizza is soooo much better than me making food. Buying a cake at whole foods was wayyyy easier than making or paying out crazy cash for a bakery cake. All I really had to do was a little decorating, and a little furniture re-arranging. 

I bought a couple rolls of inexpensive pink streamers, thinking I'd string them across walls or whatever, but when I pulled them out and looked at the walls, I liked the idea of those streamers making more of a statement, so I taped them in stripes. Double stick tape, perfectly imperfect stripes-- it was a quick process but looked more bold than it would have strung around the ceilings. Our wall is pretty long, so I went and grabbed a third roll to finish it off. 

StyleSmaller

I did one super-crafty thing, and it was making these little glitter sticks to label the cupcakes. It was a little tedious to cut the whiskers and tiny noses and stick them, so I only did two to label the two types of cupcakes, rather than having one stick in each cupcake. Simple is best more me right now, friends. If you're more of a perfectionist and would want to do like 10 of them for a party, I'd estimate they'd take about 5 minutes each, so close to an hour. I do love them. 

IMG_0039 (1).jpg

-side note: I read a post online about 30 questions to ask your kids rather than "how was your day," and one I loved was "when were you most proud of yourself today?" I think in our efforts to teach our children humility and to be modest, we sometimes overlook the fact that we need to also be teaching them to have confidence in ourselves and our efforts, and that it's okay to feel proud of something we did well! That confidence and pride in abilities will allow children to dream bigger and give them a sense of achievement. //ANYWAY this came to mind because... my proud moments in party decor were these kitties. HA! May this give me confidence to go forth and make more kitties like this in my future? ;)

kitty cake

I didn't photograph the pizza- because- obviously, or the favors, or really even the food setup at all. My 2012 self would have been very disappointed in this, but my 2016 self is like, whatever. It tasted good, I didn't make it (thankfully!) and the kids liked the goodie bags. I did, however, photograph the cake, which received glitter kitty ears and some whiskers made of twisty ties. Simplicity wins. ;)

StyleSmaller
StyleSmaller
StyleSmaller
StyleSmaller
StyleSmaller
StyleSmaller

Brian was a good sport about being surrounded by tutus and squealing girls. He was the deejay, the food orderer, furniture mover (you can't have a couch taking up real estate in the ballroom, obviously), the Jack-holder, and helped with the entertainment factor. That's love.

Dance

Maggie at age 5:

  • Favorite Color: PINK
  • Favorite Stuffy: Pink Monster (Maggie's lovie is the great neon pink Octopus that almost said her last farewell at the Oakland Airport this year, were it not for an extra 40 minute drive, and an airport employee who cares enough about a sweet four-year-old with tears in her big blue eyes trying to hold it together- to search a plane and an entire gate thoroughly and against all odds FIND THE MONSTER and become my child's hero).
  • Favorite Ice Cream: STRAWBERRY because it's pink. (it has to be because it's pink, because strawberry ice cream is not that good, let's be honest here).
  • Favorite Princess: SLEEPING BEAUTY because she wears pink
  • Favorite Sports Team: WARRIORS. She can identify players' voices when they come on the radio even. And she thinks we should probably go to Steph Curry's house because he has two sweeties and the girls should probably all get together to play soon.
  • Favorite Thing to Play: Tea Party. 
  • Favorite Sport to Play: Soccer.

There you have it. A very similar list of favorites and a birthday party for a happy and bubbly little sunshine girl. A chef, an artist, and a dancer. Can't wait to see what this next year brings for her. xoxo

StyleSmaller

Past birthday parties around here:

ONE / TWO / THREE / FOUR 

SOPHIE'S 5TH (wishing I was blogging birthdays when she was tinier!)

Tips for Picnics with Kids by Kate Brightbill

It's almost always more appealing for my kids to eat outside vs. inside. It's a simple way to step up a basic lunchtime routine and get them moving. 

Because of all the picnicking we've done lately, I've learned a few lessons about what works and what doesn't work. Here are my tips to picnicking with little ones:

  1. Fair Weather Fans-- Too chilly out? Postpone the picnic! Just do it. Maybe I'm actually just talking to myself, because ahhh, I've pushed the envelope on weather, and I've lost too many times. Spring has this way of looking so gorgeous from the window in our warm home, and then turning the tables when we walk to a park as if in a tundra. Wind is not a picnic's friend. 
  2. Kids can Help-- I find that when I let the kids help pack the food and choose the food, they take ownership of what is in front of them. We always fill our bags and plates with plenty of fruit and some Columbus Salame. Always. If we have some good cheese on hand, that goes in there too, as well as some crusty breads.
  3. Keep it Simple-- I'll be honest: I will plan gorgeous platters overflowing with goodies and set in a pretty way, but really, I need to save that effort for the grown-ups. When we hiked Angel Island on a sweltering hot day, nothing felt better than grabbing directly out of the packaging. No need to set things beautifully. 

Here's a picture of what I set when I was trying to impress the kids. They love setting fancy tables, so I assumed they'd be into it, but when my children are outside, they want to just be OUTSIDE. i.e. not just sitting to eat... They weren't even into the animal sticks! They just grabbed the salame and cheddar and ran to climb trees until they got more hungry. ;) 

This picnic style went WAY better. They grabbed the salame straight from the package, cut the cheese using the one fork we brought, added a cracker to the mix, and straight in their mouths. They were blissfully happy about helping themselves, combining the cheese and salami flavors and deciding combo worked best (their winner was the Crespone with the brie. My winner was the Hot Sopressata with the brie. I wish I knew about that one sooner. I lovvve it and can eat a full package by myself in just a couple days. ;)

My last tip is: if you're picnicking as much as us this summer, don't forget to pack the salame! There are flavors for all the taste buds-- make sure you try Crespone, Hot Sopressata, and Finocchiona (our favs!) that are antibiotic and added-hormone free! 

Good is good and Columbus is the good stuff. Bonus? It's a San Francisco brand. Love the local factor! 

xx

*Post is sponsored by Columbus Craft Meats. All opinions are my own. 

Cooking with Sunbasket by Kate Brightbill

There are a million things I've learned from being a mother, and one of them is that my children eat. A LOT. Maybe your children are nibblers and when you eat out, you can order one kid's meal for three to share, and then you'll have leftovers. I know people like you, and you tell me what good eaters mine are and I tell you how $$$ it is to keep them fed and we both wish for a bit more of a happy medium. My children are the ones who each need an entree for themselves, and Jack eats milk around the clock, making me far too capable of eating two adult meals on my own. We eat a lot. 

I've become a relatively proficient cook in the last three years. Before that, I scraped together soups and tacos most evenings, and had breakfast-for-dinner far more than I care to admit. Once my children started easing past the toddler stage, I had to up my cooking game. Now I'm at the point where I actually enjoy cooking, and I LOVE when I get the time to make a really nutritious family meal where all the plates are clean and tummies full. 

I consistently dislike a couple factors. PLANNING, and buying ingredients that I can't use before they spoil. It's also hard to come up with new ideas for dinner on weeknights when life feels literally insane. I'm working very hard to be better at menu planning, but I love that in this day and age we have other options when we can't quite get our act together for dinner planning. 

Enter Sunbasket. They offered us a box full of ingredients and recipes, and I couldn't refuse-- one week without menu planning? Wellllll okay, if you insist. ;)

I'm a sucker for good packaging, and they start from the box on my doorstep. Everything is separated into daily meals, and packed carefully to maintain freshness. Labels on every individual item (the organization-lover in me gets way too excited about this sort of thing, ha!)

The recipes are straightforward. Some are quick, some take a little longer, but I'm not the type to mind some mindless chopping. Take the picture above... it took maybe about five minutes to chop all of the veggies for a chicken recipe. That doesn't bother me at all-- it may not be your cup of tea. I will say, the vegetables were GORGEOUS, and I have never in my life purchased shallots, and I had no idea how simple it was to make all of those beautiful veggies taste so good in the oven. The girls were raving. There are no leftover ingredients. Everything packaged by Sunbasket goes into the recipe, so you don't have too much or too little of anything. SO IDEAL.

StyleSmaller
StyleSmaller

Maggie firmly believes she is a chef. She asks to help me make most meals. She watches Masterchef Junior and believes she will definitely be able to compete when she's old enough. She looked at all the recipes and decided she would be in charge of making the smoothie. 

It was purple. She was sold. It was delicious. I was sold. 

Really, Sunbasket is a sanity-saver. I want so badly to be the wife and mother who has the home together, the kids together, and the meals together, but sometimes something has got to give. Rather than ordering in junk food or making bleary eyed extra trips to the store when I don't manage to get my cooking act together, I am so glad to have this option. There are paleo meals, gluten free, vegetarian... options for all the food restrictions and food preferences. 

Thanks Sunbasket! Looking forward to ordering another box. You can take a look at some of their incredible meals below, and get $30 off your first box by clicking HERE

Happy eating!

 

Meals were provided for review. All were delicious. All opinions are my own. 

A Room for BABY! by Kate Brightbill

StyleSmaller

WE ARE READY.

I've never been this ready to have a baby before! Emotionally, physically, mentally, AND now: logistically! He has a finished room!! Things are organized! It's kind of unbelievable in the best way. 

We were crazy enough to move two weeks before Sophie came on the scene (moving boxes everywhere as I was adjusting to my firstborn! yikes!), and we lived in a one-bedroom when Maggie was born, so her "nursery" was a mini crib in our bedroom. Cozy, yes we were! I've never felt our baby's space was truly ready for them before they came though, so this is a total novelty.

This time around we have an actual SPACE for our little boy, it's not a closet room, and it's not shared. It's the biggest deal to us. I've been able to nest and prep slowly and surely, and enjoy the "design" process immensely. Re-decorating is my favorite thing in the world, so this has been a labor of SO much love. 

ABC Print by Hanna Andersson

The rest of our home is whitewashed, as they say. I'm generally so partial to bright, light, white! Because of this, I was ready to take a risk in our baby's small room and paint it deep deep blue/green. I cannot even describe how nervous I was. It's just paint! Yes. It's just paint... but my husband is not a fan of painting, and I know that painting over deep colors would not be happening anytime soon if we didn't like the color. I painstakingly chose on my own after going back and forth on several shades. All of my options I found online, and sometimes screen colors and real life colors don't translate, so I was especially nervous. After two coats and a few things on the walls, my nerves calmed, and now I love it. 

I'm not so into dark woodwork, but we are tenants, and there are limits. ;) I'm just thankful for a wonderful landlord and that he lets us paint at all. 

Green Canvas Bucket c/o Maika Goods (similar) Knitted Taxi Rattle c/o Estella NYC ||ABC Backpack || Tee || Wall Hooks

One wall is entirely cabinets. We kept toys in this room before baby was on his way, and simply consolidated and purged to keep them in the girls' closet instead. The storage in the wooden cabinets is definitely sufficient for the time being. I'm an OCD organizer, which comes in handy with small spaces. Down the road I may need to share my closet with him for hanging items, but we'll cross that bridge when we need to. I'm totally fine with sharing. ;) All of the baby clothing is easily folded or rolled into size-appropriate baskets on shelves hidden by doors for now. 

The chair is a knockoff steal from Amazon. It doesn't look like much, but somehow during pregnancy it has been the MOST comfy for me. Hoping that carries through post-pregnancy days. It was really the only size of rocking chair that would fit in the small room, so I didn't have much of an option, but we're SO happy with it. I may add a pouf or small footstool to get myself reeeeally settled in. The basket was a gift from my sister and I love it to bits, and the rug- oh the rug... my favorite. The girls and I just sit on it sometimes, to chat and soak in the softness. 

The string of light balls in the window are Bright Lab Lights, and they cast a gorgeous soft night glow when it's dark out. They'll be perfect for middle of the night nursing sessions. Mine is a custom string I assembled at an event-- the custom option is also available online, or you can just buy a pre-strung version in great color options.

I don't have space for a changing table, but as I mentioned- Maggie's setup was a mini crib in our bedroom-- I grew accustomed to simply using a changing mat and moving it around the house as needed. Less is more here, so we're happy to be going with that strategy again.  

StyleSmaller

Lion Print and (similar) stacking toy by Hanna Andersson ||

Trains purchased in a set on Amazon

StyleSmaller
StyleSmaller
StyleSmaller

Mobile is a DIY using trick gliders from Seedling || Hanna Andersson makes the nicest crib sheets around- they have great patterns, but I preferred white in this particular space || Sophie the Giraffe is Hanna Andersson || Jellycat Fox is a gift for baby from his big sisters who want to play with it almost daily || Frames are by Blick, and they're my favorites-- I have them all over the house because they're reasonably priced and hold up SO much better than Ikea || Tiny Golden Gate is from Petit Collage || German license plate is nostalgic from when Brian and I were young and crazy and bought a car in Germany. || Crib is Pottery Barn Kids- classic & handed down

Brian had ONE BIG REQUEST in baby's room, and he said if I can do that, he's perfectly fine with me designing everything else. He wanted a Steph Curry poster on the wall. He didn't need it to be giant, but he said it couldn't just be in an irrelevant space. HA! Wish granted, Brian. Over the crib it is. If you look closely, you'll see he's dominating Lebron in this particular shot. We drink alllllll the Warrior's kool-aid around her, friends. By the end of basketball season, we were THIS close to letting Sophie purchase the tackiest pennant available with cartoon faces of all the GSW team for her wall in her room. Brian was actually the one who nixed it in the end. I was like, well it means SHE LOVES THE WARRIORS... yes she does, but yes, I'm glad one of her parents is sensible sometimes.

StyleSmaller

Gorgeous cable throw and SOFTEST rug ever, both Hanna Andersson. My favorite pieces in the room, hands down. I want both for my own room too. ;) 

We are counting down the days until we see our baby's face! I'm trying to remind myself that just because our girls arrived early (4&9 days), it does not mean our baby boy will! Reasoning with myself is totally futile-- I'm convinced he'll be here sooner than later. I had a night full of serious-breath-taking contractions last weekend, and I was juuust about to tap Brian to tell him it was go-time, and they stopped. Abruptly. UGH. 

So now my bag is packed (!!!), and the day is coming. His room is ready and so are we! And so are these teeny tiny shoes that showed up on our doorstep today-- Eeee! SO CUTE. Boys apparel is so underrated! I'm loving every tiny boy piece. :)

  Shoes c/o  Umi Shoes  || Rug c/o  Hanna Andersson

Shoes c/o Umi Shoes || Rug c/o Hanna Andersson

---

So thankful to Hanna Andersson for collaborating with us on our baby's room. Product was provided, and all opinions are my own. I am floored by the quality of each piece, and we will all be enjoying the space SO much more because of the beautiful Hanna pieces. Affiliate links are also included in the post. Thank you for supporting the brands that support us! xx