Shop: Christmas Gift Guides by Kate Brightbill

I’m under no illusions that all children want the same items for Christmas, but I created a little gift guide for people who have run out of gifting ideas and need some simple things for the kids QUICK because Christmas is soooo soon. Time is legit flying for me.

This year, I’m attempting to curb the consumerism slightly by having a template of “want/need/wear/read” for the kids. I love gifting needs the best. Do my kids truly “need” anything? Not really, but some gaps in the I was going to buy it anyway can be filled with a wrapped box with a bow, and I’m a great believer in that sort of gifting. Sophie has outgrown all her sneakers, so new ones are in the need box. Maggie needs a bigger helmet and a bike bell, so I’m trying to find the cutest versions that will make her smile. Jack needs to learn some math concepts, so that’s going to happen with educational toys. A couple years ago, we gifted the girls a table and chairs that they have used literally every day since, but there was huge excitement when they walked out to it on Christmas morning, and Rice cups in all the cutest colors to replace their old broken kid cups. I’m a useful gift nerd.

Want:  Petit Collage Game  || Need:  Mathlink Cubes  || Wear:  Hoodie  and  Shoes  || Read:  Say Zoop  &  Chugga Chugga
  1. Want: Jack is the biggest gamer I’ve ever met in three-year-old form. He wants to play games that are way too old for his ability, so I want to get some more age-appropriate. Petit Collage has the hands-down best collection, and he already owns & loves this one. I cheated because he already owns this one, but it’s definitely a good game option, and I definitely plan to order another game from them.

  2. Need: Also cheated the system because he owns these specific math cubes already, but he LOVES them, and they’re perfect for taking places and practicing math concepts. Other education (less photogenic) ideas are the IQ Builder Construction Engineering, which he has and plays with every single day, and the IQ Builder Kinetic sand, which is what is ACTUALLY under our Christmas tree for him. Both of those come in great storage boxes and are STEM toys, which are always my favorites. Magna tiles are our other go-to toy, and if we didn’t already get the sand, we were also considering an extra set to build bigger projects.

  3. Wear: His slide-on vans are cute and so simple to wear, and he needs an updated pair that isn’t covered in dirt. We also love hoodies from Zara, and they get a ton of use year-round in SF because of that beloved fog and chill. ;) He also wears a lot of henleys because they’re super cute, and I got him this one in blue and brown on black Friday for 30% off.

  4. Read: Jack is one of those adorable kids who memorizes books and reads them to me. His favorites are the Tip Tip, Dig Dig series (I really should take a video of him reading every one of them, every page), and the Press Here series (Mix it Up is my personal favorite). Thankfully, BOTH series released new versions recently, so he’s going to be VERY excited about his new books.

Maggie’s turn. Maggie knows her mind and made a great list to make it easy(ish).

  1. Want: Wellie Wisher accessories to go with her doll. This age is perfect for Wellie Wishers (and their books!).

  2. Need: Maggie’s bike helmet is too small, and we ride bikes all the time, so it’s becoming a little problem. She really hopes for a teal helmet that looks like this pink one…. I can’t find one, so I think I might actually have to go IN PERSON to shop for one in the city. She also would like a bike bell so she won’t have to yell “excuse me! pardon! thank you!” when she attempts to pass pedestrians on the sidewalks and paths.

  3. Wear: Maggie actually is rather difficult to surprise. She has all the intuition and pays attention to details. I bought this skirt and boots on Black Friday after she had told me how much she loved them, then left with her gramma… later that week, she said “Really, the PERFECT outfit for today would be that skirt you got me for Christmas with this shirt.” Sooooo… apparently I wasn’t sneaky enough, haha.

  4. Read: Princess in Black books are easy reading, but adorable for this age group. Maggie loves that she’s kind of fancy but kind a hero as well. I think she thinks of herself the same way. ;)

Want:  FLair Pens  || Need:  Converse  || Wear:  Tees  and  Jeans  (favs are the superskinnys) || Read:  The Mysterious Benedict Society books

Want: FLair Pens || Need: Converse || Wear: Tees and Jeans (favs are the superskinnys) || Read: The Mysterious Benedict Society books

Sophie is at an age where things start feeling a bit simpler. She loves accessories and jewelry, and she loves science, so those are always top picks, but very specific. Here are some ideas that a lot of girls her age love:

  1. Want: Flair Pens. Maggie loves these and has a huge pack she received as a gift, but they’re the kind of thing that feels too special to share all the time. Sophie would love her own.

  2. Need: School shoes. Right now it’s high top converse or checkered vans. She had black converse that she outgrew, and vans that are just destroyed, so both need to be replaced. :)

  3. Wear: Fourth graders seem to wear mostly jeans or basic leggings. Sophie mixes in culottes and skirts, but most days she loves good fun tees and jeans.

  4. Read: The Mysterious Benedict Society books were recommended to me at a bookstore. It was a perfect recommendation; they are on Sophie’s Christmas wish list. They’re mystery stories, but not with too much intensity. They’re good and long, so they’re not finished in one quick sitting. The reviews are great, and Sophie gives them her total approval.

Happy gifting! xx

*affiliate links included in post

Style: Mini Boden Fall by Kate Brightbill

A couple things happened this week at just the same time... the kiddos received a REALLY fun package from Mini Boden, and my at-home-try-on glasses arrived (because the last pair of glasses I ordered was from 2008, and it's time!!). 

Boden's spring line just so happens to have the most adorable adventure / superhero / to-the-rescue theme... and the girls just so happened to love trying my glasses to pretend they were in disguise. (They also appreciated having solidarity with Jack, because he recently got his own real pair!). 

The Boden outfits plus the glasses gave gave us an idea: we will write a mystery book! The story is inspired by their cute Boden clothes, and they are the detectives trying to solve the mystery in their book, using glasses as their disguises.

Copyright 2017

Copyright 2017

The girls BLEW ME AWAY. We haven't finished our story yet (it may take a month, to be honest!!), but it has been so much fun to brainstorm and write and illustrate together!! Sophie is in charge of the story, and I am her editor. Maggie is in charge of illustrations, and Sophie and I are her assistants.

The story stems from a concept on Maggie's new sweater: a picture of a kitty ... saying WOOF! We decided that just like the picture, the culprit is a dog disguised as a kitty so he can sneak ingredients from the ice cream shop.


So our story's setting begins in the shop (inspired by Powder shaved snow, which we got this weekend and WILL get again!): 

Sneak Peek: Copyright 2017 ;)

Sneak Peek: Copyright 2017 ;)

We're drafting the whole story together, and then we'll do a final copy. We're loving the project. We have so much SF inspiration to pull from, so we're using it! I'm enjoying watching the skills they are learning at school applied in their storytelling. :) Kids are just amazing and are far more capable than I give them credit for.

StyleSmaller // #minibodentotherescue
StyleSmaller #minibodentotherescue

Here's a little info on the outfits we put together from Boden, and in case you'd like to shop them for yourselves, be sure to use our 15% off coupon: 2E9T on any full-priced items, and also includes free shipping and returns on items over $49 (expires 1/29/17).

StyleSmaller + Mini Boden // #stylesmaller #miniboden
StyleSmaller + Boden // #miniboden #stylesmaller

Sunglasses . Lucinda Jacket . Vintage Dress . Leather Boots

I also promised a giveaway, and it's a good one!!! 

We've teamed up with a few of our favorite blogs to celebrate the new Mini Boden line and to host this fun giveaway. Be sure to visit their sites for more cute styles and heroic fun. The Chirping Moms have a DIY cardboard rescue boat and superhero accessories. To go along with the accessories, Lay Baby Lay and Hello Baby Brown have DIY superhero capes. Hello Happiness visited local heroes to say thank you, and I Love You More Than Carrots has a yummy rescue themed snack and hero masks. Seven Graces is sharing why her kids are her heroes. For more spring style inspiration, visit Jordan & Co, Fancy Ashley, and Walking in Memphis in Heels


*Product was provided in exchange for post. All opinions are our own.

Book Guide by Kate Brightbill


I love books.

As a child, I was either talking or reading. My mom told me that if she just needed a few moments of quiet, she would say, "Kate, didn't you just get a book that you wanted to read?" and I was always game to go to my room to pore over it. 

If I was playing, I was talking. If I was coloring, I was talking. Always talking... so reading calmed me and kept me quiet and interested for long periods of time. My family loved when I read, and I loved when I read, so it was always a win-win.

These days, I find myself with far less time to sit and engage with a book, or even a magazine, but my love for books runs deep.

Hands down, our favorite books are from Chronicle Books. My favorite cookbook, the prettiest children's books that are worth displaying on the girls' shelves, the most interactive endlessly fun books... Chronicle really just manages to get books right. 

Because books are a great last-minute gift, and because so many of the gifts wrapped beneath our own tree are books, I wanted to share with you some favorites for friends and family that may be on your wishlist!


one. I find pretty coffee table books to be a lovely gift. I've received several over the years and I'm always thrilled when I open them. I may not have time for stories with hundreds of pages of text these days, but I'm always up for flipping through books with gorgeous photos of pretty places and spaces. My favorites are Victoria Smith's See San Francisco and Anne Sage's Sage Living.

two. I'm personally loving cookbooks that offer ideas for healthy meals to inspire my dry well of meal planning. Amanda Haas is a friend AND the incredible chef who works as Williams-Sonoma's test kitchen chef, and she created (HANDS-DOWN) my most earmarked and cooked-from cookbook, The Anti-Inflammation Cookbook. Beautiful recipes full of flavors, and practical ways to create healthy meals regularly and stock the pantry and fridge. This is the perfect gift for a friend working to be healthy in the new year, without sacrificing flavor and appeal. 

three. for a friend who loves arts and patterns, Pattern Studio is inspiration. It provides ideas for those stumped with how to explore their art further. This one is under my tree for my artistic pattern-creating sister

four. I've referenced this series of books so many times as my favorite children's books, so I cannot leave them out. These books are interactive books that tell the reader to push here or shake the book or leave a handprint, while also teaching concepts like mixing colors and cause/effects. The newest in the series is called Let's Play, and it follows the similar concept to the first two. These are a go-to gift for children and have been for years. I find ages 3-6 enjoy it most, but younger and older may like to engage with the book too.

five the Flora books. Ohhhh I love these. The illustrations are gorgeous, the colors are incredible, and the girls can create stories for themselves as they go through the pages. Sophie has these displayed on her shelf whenever they are not being read. They are gorgeous.

six. This story is a brand new one called Bunny Slopes. It's absolutely adorable. Kids shake the book and tilt the book to guide the bunny on the slopes. It's another one that my children devour-- it seems to be a pattern that my children (and a lot of others?) enjoy the books where they feel they have a part in the outcome because they are engaging all the way through in a tangible way. 

Maggie reading  Mix it Up  last year // photo by  Sarah @ModernKids

Maggie reading Mix it Up last year // photo by Sarah @ModernKids


Thank you, Chronicle Books, for partnering with me on this book gift guide. Select books were sent for review, and others we have purchased on our own over the past few years. All opinions are our own. We truly love all the stories and books we have from Chronicle, and were so pleased to be able to share our favorites with you.

Neighborhood Shop: Tea Collection Berkeley by Kate Brightbill


Tea Collection created its first neighborhood shop! Local bay area friends can now shop Tea's beautiful products in person. I'm definitely the type of shopper who appreciates this. Though online shopping is my favorite, I also really like to be able to feel the fabrics and appreciate the prints in person when a new season is released.

StyleSmaller Tea Collection

The fall collection is inspired by Japan. You can read about the inspiration from their travels on the Tea website, which is something so unique and lovely about Tea. There is always a cultural influence, and the influence is not simply imagined... it is experienced by the Tea team as they travel the world to see the destinations for themselves.

Paper cranes in variety of colors in the window. 

Paper cranes in variety of colors in the window. 

The neighborhood shop is lovely, and I found some new favorites while browsing, so I obviously decided to share them with you, as well as 15% off of everything you shop at Tea with the code STYLESMALLER15. (new customers only, ends 9/1/16).

Stay tuned for a Tea Collection giveaway early next week as well! 

Tea Collection Neighborhood Shop @ Kid Dynamo: 2108 Vine Street, Berkeley, CA 

StyleSmaller || Tea Collection #teacollection

onetwothree | four | five | six | seven | eight | nine | ten | eleven | twelve


Thank you to Tea Collection for partnering with me on this post. I receive clothing as a Tea Ambassador. All opinions are my own. 

Traveling with Kids 01: Monterey! <+giveaway> by Kate Brightbill


We traveled to Monterey this weekend. I use the term "travel" loosely-- it's a quick 2 hour drive, and we broke the drive in half with a blissful visit to my aunt and uncle on our way-- but REAL summer travel is right around the corner, and I'm thrilled to cover all little doses of our travels on this blog this summer. I read about traveling with kids, therefore, I will write about traveling with kids.

With an infant, let me tell you: all plans have to be held relatively loosely. My suggestion is to make a plan, have options to go with said plan, and then be flexible if and when we need to redirect the plans slightly. 

Our grand scheme (we knew it was unlikely we would manage it all, but we wanted to have options in case we somehow could!) when we traveled to Monterey County was to:

  • Spend the morning hours at Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Perhaps take the 17 mile drive and stop for picturesque beach time
  • Drive slightly further down the coast to the gorgeous Bixby Bridge in Big Sur 

We managed #1. HA.

Bixby Bridge will have to wait, and we've already done the 17 mile drive, so we just ate up everything "Monterey" this time, and were thoroughly satisfied with that choice.

Monterey has so much to offer, and there's a long list of fun family activities HERE. SUCH a good resource.

We started with our top choice: The Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

Kids and maps. My girls can never pass a free map without helping themselves, and then poring over every picture and attraction.&nbsp;

Kids and maps. My girls can never pass a free map without helping themselves, and then poring over every picture and attraction. 

We spent about three hours at the aquarium. There is so much to see, and I honestly think my older two could have spent six hours gazing everything. Brian and I kept things moving, because obviously babies only have so much patience, and we wanted to see as much as possible. ;)

Maggie's highlight was the Splash Zone. Kids can get hands on with the water and play and get some energy out. It's especially nice for ages 5 and under. There's also this little tunnel nearby and the girls were big fans... The water would crash over the tunnel every couple minutes and the girls would shriek and laugh hysterically. 


Sophie and Brian loved the Open Sea... I did too, but we visited late in the game, and Jack needed to keep moving. The Open Sea has the enormous fish, sea turtles, & hammerhead sharks in a 90 ft window... and it's an incredibly dramatically large and beautiful. Mesmerizing, really.


I'm a huge fan of the jellyfish. They're so picturesque and every detail is so beautiful. I'd hate to be near them without the glass between us (memories of being stung by their jelly cousins, the Portuguese man-of-wars when I was 10), but they are gorgeous in this totally safe setting. 


OKAY. Jack was done after the Open Seas, and we were all hungry. Like, VERY hungry. Sometimes I get cranky when I'm hungry. We had game-planned with a few options nearby beforehand, thankfully. While I'm sure the cafeteria at the aquarium would have gotten the job done, we really wanted to walk around a bit and get some fresh air on and around Cannery Row...

Now, before we headed to lunch, we needed candy...we would have had some regrets if we had forgotten. ;)


Yes, I have a sweet tooth, and no I hardly say no to a mom & pop style candy shop. My children are grateful for that quality of mine. Seriously though, rock candy sticks??? I love them so much. Side note: have you see smaller versions served with coffee? Brilliant. So brilliant. 


Oh and heyyy, here's that classic shot you've been waiting for. I have one of Jack and me under the Disneyland version of Cannery Row. Regretting not getting another pic under the real version... next time. ;)


As I was saying, we were hungry. You know how it can happen that you're in a place surrounded by restaurants and you really just don't quite know what to do about food? Crowds aren't good with hungry kids (ahh, okay, with ME. I'm the one who can't handle missing a meal), and our first choice option had a 30 minute wait... and it was actually in a MALL nearby, which just didn't appeal. Yelp users didn't mention that when they rated it #1 for the area (or maybe they did and I just didn't read enough reviews)! Anyway, #3 on my prepped-in-advance-list became number two when I realized it was only two blocks from the top rated one. 

Here I am looking up the directions to the next spot on our list... I was smiling, but mostly thinking about food and thinking- wait, he's taking a picture of me in this state of hungry?


I'm SO glad we found Vivolo's Chowder House. It's just 2 or 3 blocks from the aquarium and the food was perfect. No wait to get a table!! Here are my tips: the portions are generous. The kids' fish and chips was probably more than I could eat by myself, so I cannot imagine what an adult portion would be. Order less than you think you'll need and then add more food if you are still hungry. I strongly recommend the clam chowder-- SO GOOD-- and clams appetizer. My husband and children love ordering steamed clams, and I'm so totally adverse to it-- I'm not a picky eater, but I'm definitely not a clam fan even though I love clam chowder with all my taste buds. So why, you ask, do I recommend them? Ohhh the garlic buttery broth that came with the clams. I dipped all the fluffy bread in there. I couldn't stop. So good. 


For foodies out there, HERE is where you find only the best options in Monterey County. Another big tip for traveling with kids or without: plan those restaurants before you get to your destination. The last thing you want is to spend hard earned cash on an overpriced meal that had only one star, but you didn't do your homework and everyone is too anxious to find reviews and make the right choice... you know? (been there done that, lesson learned!).

Kids were exhausted after lunch (and it was 2pm, so that makes sense!), so we headed to our car to drive home... but then.


It's not every day you see giant swans floating on a lake.

As much fun as I had had all day, I had really gone into the day assuming we would get some quality time outdoors with fresh air before heading back home. Monterey has so many fantastic outdoor family activities to offer, and we were about to get in the car without taking advantage of any... until we passed the swans.

Ten minutes later, WE were floating on a lake.

(I'm thinking you saw where I was going with that)

We did not rent a swan because the ever-so-kind employees of the boating house told us they are way more work to maneuver (and it's not like we can really make the kids pedal us around the lake!). They're also $15 more, and technically fit five adults, whereas the rowboats only fit FOUR (or four + a baby). We rented a sparkly turquoise row boat for 30 minutes and $20 and miles of smiles.  


And now, in exchange for you reading every single word of this lengthy blog post... 

See Monterey is giving away five pair of tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Entering is simple! Visit the See Monterey site and leave a comment here letting me know one thing you'd like to do if you go on a trip to Monterey County!

I'll tell you what plan I'm making for next time: a night in a bed & breakfast, a beach walk on 17 mile drive, and a drive down to Big Sur for a glimpse of Bixby Bridge. :) Yes, please!

Princess Slippers by Kate Brightbill


I was thinking the other day about the princess stage.

Both of my girls have been in love with all things princess related for years. I recall a conversation I had with a friend a long time ago, telling her about how crazy it is-- I was climbing in trees and playing in mud at their age, but they have been about as girly as can be since day one. She gave some sage advice-- enjoy that princess stage, and embrace it because it doesn't last forever

I took her advice... we have embraced their passion! Our home has become a go-to spot for princess dress-up and fancy shoes sending tiny twirling girls into worlds of their own imaginations. They've performed countless shows, we've had family dance parties, they've made castle forts, all wearing their tulle and sparkles.


The girls recently received beautiful heart slippers from A. Andreassen, which perfectly fit both of their idea of feeling beautiful like princesses.

They wear the slippers when they want to dance on their toes like ballerinas, when they want to dress up like princesses, or when they simply want to feel lovely while reading a book. They are sophisticated, comfortable, and whimsical. I also adore their traditional Norwegian heart-- My great grandparents were Scandinavian-- I learned how to make the woven heart out of paper as a child, so the heart on their little feet tugs at my nostalgic heartstrings. ;) The slippers are soft and buttery leather, light on the foot, and perfect for protecting little feet. 



A. Andreassen has figured out a way to make slippers truly timeless. Lovely for tiny princesses and perfect for little girls who still love fancy but want a little extra chic for Christmas this year. ;)

p.s. The slippers also come in grown-up sizes! I love these and these!


* Post is sponsored. All opinions are my own-- we are so flattered to be able to work with such a beautiful company.