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!

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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.

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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. 

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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

Book Guide by Kate Brightbill

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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!

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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

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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.

Rockets of Awesome by Kate Brightbill

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I heard of this brand on Instagram, and then again from a friend.

"You love kids' clothing brands! Have you heard of Rockets of Awesome?" she asked. 

My response, "Yes... but it's not for me. I'm too picky to let someone send a box for the kids that is already curated, and I don't want to pay and go through the drag of returning it all" (oh how little I knew then!).

We both agreed. It's not for us...

But pictures kept popping up on my social media feeds of kids wearing amazing pieces of clothing with @rocketsofawesome tagged. I saw an ad on Facebook. This brand is SO CUTE. My children would love it and I knew it. Maybe it IS for us.

THEN-- A few weeks ago, Rockets of Awesome shot an email over to me, "would your girls be interested in trying a box of our clothes and seeing how they like it?" I didn't want to sound too eager, but uhhh, YES, they would!! 

I finally learned all about the brand and how it works, and I love it even more now because of the following:

  • NO shipping fees.
  • NO up front payment taken. 
  • Return bag with shipping sticker is included and I can process any returns by myself online, then just hand it over to the mailman. I'm not EVER charged for the pieces we may not want, because we have five days to return using the online system!

I'm honestly planning to order more boxes, friends. It was so good, and so easy. The pieces change every season, so there's SO much less chance of the girls matching everyone who shops at the same stores at school. 

Here's the process:

Your child takes a little style diagnostic. They let the brand know their likes and dislikes, color preferences, and needs/wants. The brand curates a special box for them with mix and match pieces that are perfect for the season. The box has a great balance of tops, bottoms, and dresses, and each also includes one accessory.  The items are priced between $12-$36. Anything the kids don't like (nothing in these boxes! only one pair of jeans was too big, but they'll fit eventually!) can be returned using the process above. So simple. 

What's in a box, you ask? Wellllll- let me give you a peek inside our boxes:

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Fun fact: I had to try taking these photos over the course of several different days because whenever I'd stack some outfits to photograph, Sophie or Maggie would come and grab part of the outfit to wear to school. When I went to snap shots, I'd realize they'd worn it and I'd have to wash it again after school. Hahaha.

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As far as style preferences go, I gave Rockets a few tips: my girls love pink, ruffles, sparkle, and fancy. They wear blues well, and generally aren't big on orange. Both girls tend to like their pants snug and their tops looser, or a frilly skirt and a fitted tee. The shoes obviously don't come in the box, but the three pair of shoes pictured can really be worn with any outfit in the box, or some brown boots. If we're planning wardrobes for a season, I love to have versatility in the girls' footwear, and the clothing definitely works with what they already have in their shoe closets already. 

So here's how the kids wore some of the pieces throughout a couple weeks:

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And these are their favorite outfits for dancing. ;)

 

Thank you for the amazing boxes, Rockets of Awesome! We love your brand!

xoxo

--Boxes provided for review. All opinions are our own.-- 

Fancy Tea Party by Kate Brightbill

  Photo by  Clara Lu

Photo by Clara Lu

A couple months ago, we were invited to a birthday party. The invitation was for a fancy tea party, and the fancy tea party was a whole new level of gorgeous. 

As a huge fan of fancy children's birthday parties, I felt it needed a post of its own on my blog pertaining all things kid/style related.

  The prettiest donuts I've ever seen. ;) From  Miss Jones Baking Co.

The prettiest donuts I've ever seen. ;) From Miss Jones Baking Co.

Birthday parties for me these days are on a case by case basis. If I have the energy and spare time, I will give the party decor my all. I LOVE throwing parties, and my girls are at an optimal age of awe and appreciation for it. I know that when they were tiny, they didn't care a bit if the party was fancy, and I know as they get older they may just want to spend party time hanging with their friends rather than hosting something aesthetically beautiful. We are in the prime age for magical birthday parties, and this one had that extra dose of magic.

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Play tents were set up in the park for little kiddos to giggle and share secrets. (Sophie helped model this gorgeous tent above for RH Baby & Child last year! It's amazing in the summer AND winter/holidays)

Tiny kid nails were polished by teenage friends of the birthday girl (why have I never thought of that?), and small tables were set with teapots and tiny tea cups. Everything was from Restoration Hardware (my favorite! Birthday girl's mama works for them!), so everything had that extra special softness and prettiness. 

  I love this  tea set! 

I love this tea set! 

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Adding to the magic, the boys and girls were given crowns with their names engraved  and cute little wool felt wands so that they felt like princes and princesses. The crowns are soft and sturdy fabric, so they can stand up to a day at the park, and far beyond a typical party plastic crown. My girls have been using them since, and they still look brand new. It was the perfect gift for little guests.

As if the princess party was not enough, the hostess gifted the children with keepsake floating charm necklaces. These are AMAZING. My girls squealed when they saw them and wear them on as many special occasions as they can. I'm in Christmas gifting mode, and this is a PERFECT option for an extra special gift for a child. 

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Thanks so much to Julie and Lauren for inviting us to your GORGEOUS birthday and for sharing the photos! We loved everything and are so grateful we could be a part of celebrating the beauty that is five years old with you! 

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

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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. ;)

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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. 

Seven Years by Kate Brightbill

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The other day, Maggie opened some gum from Jack's birthday pinata, and took a bite. She chewed it for a moment and swallowed. 

"Maggie!," I said absently as I was cleaning the table beside her. "Gum isn't for swallowing. It's for chewing! When you swallow it, it stays in your stomach for seven years."

Then I glanced over at her. Her blue eyes were giant, and were welling up, and she was wearing that nervous pasted smile she gives me when she's afraid she's done something terribly wrong but wants to be sure everyone is still happy... "really mommy?... but... I already swallowed it." The tear rolled down her cheek.

Wait, what did I just say?

I hugged her and said, "Maggie, no worries!! I mean, I'm not sure how long it stays, but it's going to be just fine. Just try not to swallow your gum, mkay?" 

She ran off, slightly appeased, but still following up on the conversation with her wise big sister, who was actually validating my claim, but comforting her by letting her know a little won't hurt her too much. 

Meanwhile, I thought about the whole thing... Why would gum stay in a stomach for seven years anyway? Why is that what I was told all my life by anyone who knew anything? It cannot be true. So I did what any reasonable person would do and googled it. 

Nope, not true. Obviously. 

Just making my five-year-old cry for no reason at all

Next time your kid swallows their gum, my friends, there is no need to scare them to tears. PSA, you're welcome. Happy Monday to all.

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* Special thanks to Google for debunking myths for children of the 80's on the regular, so our children don't have to live for seven years in fear of the gum they accidentally swallowed that one time.