holiday birthday sparkle.

Before we jump into the most wonderful week of the year, I wanted to quickly share a few snapshots from Jenna's first birthday party that we hosted last week. For all of you with December loved ones, you can clue me in on how to differentiate the birthday to the holiday for years to come, but with all the sparkle and twinkle in the air, pops of black, white and gold were on the menu.
Just a family affair, which means a house full of six cousins and one big sister, we ate from giant pots of homemade chicken tortilla soup with cornbread muffins, drank and were merry over Christmas cookie decorating after diving into birthday cake; Ina Garten's coconut cake that is now my all-time favorite cake. In the world. I'm done searching.
Most party supplies (including frosting tubes) came from - you guessed it - Shop Sweet Lulu, with some Amazon purchases for cutlery and to-go soup containers. Becker's Bakery gingerbread men saved the day. Invitations were a DIY job, using Martha Stewart glitter dust, glue and Paper Source envelopes and liner kit.

I've kept around much of the decor all month long, and will do so into New Year's Eve. Gold is so good that way.

Merry, happy everything!


jenna bean.

Sweet Jenna Bean,

When it rolls off my tongue, it sounds like "jelly bean," which is what we have called you since the day we brought you home. Of all your nicknames, it's my favorite because it's so accurate. Everything about you is one happy, sweet jelly bean.

You don't know this yet, but you will: birthdays are such a gut check. They are good at getting us to pause and take stock in this life. I'm overcome with such joy when I think about what you have brought to our lives in just one year, and how far we've come.

This first year is such a marathon sprint. With your patience and deep belly giggles, you've allowed me to slow down, loosen my grip and make mistakes, and attempt to do it all with a bit of grace. You've made me tougher on the outside but so much softer on the inside. Pregnancy hormones have nothing on you.

It's so very hard to describe just how magical you are, but if you can take the warmth of this Christmas season and multiply it 365 days, then you might have an idea of the light and love you share with our family every single day. You are my daily dose of twinkle lights, all year round.

Just the thought of your happy smile makes me crumble with such gratitude that you are mine.
Happy birthday, my big one year old.

I love you forever.

Thanks to my amazing sister-in-law who captured these moments and my heart at Jenna's first birthday party with her cousins last night. 



I suppose if I wait long enough, there will be something burning in my head so much so that I just have to write it down. So, here goes.

With Jenna's first birthday just a few weeks away, I find myself drifting back to one year ago so many times throughout my day, especially when there are moments in time, that each season, get repeated.

Right now, for instance, as we approach Manhattan Beach's official holiday season kickoff tonight, I go back three years when I was in the very first week of my pregnancy with Mari and so sick to my stomach that I can almost taste it. And, on the flip side, to one year ago when I was blissfully near the end of Jenna's pregnancy that I could see the finish line in the distance, even though just walking the streets of MB was enough to tire me out for the rest of the week.

And, so, with these seasons that come and go, my hope is that I can always remember, feel and taste moments past, the good ones and the challenging ones; that there was once a Thanksgiving when I dropped an entire sheet pan of warm and gooey brownies into my sister-in-law's oven because I was so jittery and newly pregnant; that nursing my new baby with the glow of twinkle lights from the Christmas tree is so magical that it defines miracle; and seeing my Mari's mind, for the first time, start to process these little people and why we really celebrate Christmas.

These memories also provide such perspective; there are some seasons where things just don't get done, and you do what you can, and I'm not just talking about the holidays.

In the last few months, I've admittedly struggled to get to this white space and write. Reminding myself that that's okay has been something I've done only with the help of my family; they've taught me best to do my best at what I want and can do, and that's enough.
Even if I still think that I'm going to make dozens and dozens of sugar cookies, because this is the year that I'm making cookies to enjoy all season long. And that is something that every year, must repeat.

One of my favorite (and only!) photos of just the girls, from our family trip to Lake Tahoe, back in September.


mari's third birthday: we scream for ice cream!

Mari's third birthday was my favorite summer day - as it has become annually - and after celebrating with pizza and park friends, we invited over her three besties for a play date at our house, with all of her favorite things. And, at the top of Mari's favorites list is ice cream. So, we went with it.
Here are some photos from her big day back in July, and later this week, I'll list out sources, so come back and visit if you're interested.

Lunch trays filled with the birthday girl's picks: heart-shaped turkey and cheddar cheese sandwiches; carrots and ranch dip; pirate's booty; watermelon balls.
Egg crates filled with Mari's favorite candies and sprinkles for make-your-own-ice-cream sundaes.
Kraft favor boxes filled with popsicle-shaped lip gloss and jelly bellies.
Also: we had a little Susie Cakes. Our kryptonite.
Come back later this week for sourcing info.!

PS: photos from Mari's second birthday? Right here.


pineapple coconut cream pops.

Hello there! Anyone out there?

I'd like to say I took a long vacation from blogging to actually go on vacation, but we just plugged our summer right along, blinked, and now it's September. I'm happy to say we enjoyed all things beach; shell collecting, kite flying, biking, picnic'ing, sand eating (in Jenna's case) and lots of time with family and good friends. Summer was good to us, but just like that, Mari started pre-school yesterday (!) and we're off and running.

I know I'm a little late to the party with popsicles. It could be cold where you are. But, if you're like us, you know that this is the best time of year at the beach: late summer, and so you're probably still pining for ice cream, gelato, popsicles and/or all of the above. Or maybe that's just our household.
We are popsicle, pineapple and coconut obsessed over here. Using this Bon Appetit peach-vanilla cream pops recipe as our base and method, here's what Mari and I did to make these tropical beauties:

- For the peaches, we subbed an entire fresh pineapple, cut into chunks.
- Whirled fruit in a blender with simple syrup and a few splashes of vanilla extract (the beans are worth it, if you have them) and then strained into a bowl.
- Then whisked in fat free Greek yogurt and non-fat milk and a generous handful of shredded coconut.

Depending on the sweetness of your pineapple, you might go light on the simple syrup like I did. These babies are so sweet, but oh-so-good when tamed with the cream from the yogurt and milk.

By the way, more ice cream is coming next week! Remember Mari's third birthday party back in July? I finally have a post ready to share with you! More to come. 

PS: for some general popsicle tips, see last year's experiment with watermelon


friday foto: three cheers.

I don't know if you can hear it, but somewhere in cyberspace, there's a giant exhale. That's coming from yours truly, from my corner of the world, where after a month of chaos, we are settling down.

If in May, we were getting grounded, we spent most of June becoming totally ungrounded. Between our uncharacteristically hectic travel schedules, the four of us have not been under one roof for a stretch of more than five days in the last 30. For us, that's not the norm and it was only made slightly less chaotic with the help of our loving parents and super nanny.

For so many reasons, Mari's birthday on Sunday was so major. Turning three is, right? But, her birthday weekend was also the finish line after a challenging month, testing so many things in so many ways. 
But, we made it! And I'm excited to get back to a routine. Take on that summer bucket list (which I may share before it's not too late). And do some really boring things like reorganizing our kitchen storage and my desperately neglected iPhoto library. Who's with me?

Thanks for all of your sweet notes and comments (here and on Instagram) with birthday wishes for Mari. It has been a pretty perfect week (party coverage coming soon!).

Also: this is a total fake-out. We forgot the party hat for the real candle blow-out, and this was a re-do. Hope it's not too obvious. Good sport, that little Mari is.

For more Friday Fotos, start here.


solid mechanics.

This post has been a long time coming, and it's all about babe, just fyi.

When I was learning the solids ropes with Mari a couple of years ago, I thought about sharing the process for how she got fed; in other words, not so much on the making of the food, or the tools and equipment used, but how it layered into our day with an ever-changing newborn schedule.
The hardest thing for me, with both kids, was figuring out what rhythm [read: schedule] worked for them, and letting that be the guide. As with most things baby, kids have a way of letting us know when they are ready for a change, and with Jenna, I've let her take her time and show me the way. I guess that's what happens with the second kid, when I'm not so hung up on expectations - of my baby or myself.

Do I feed Jenna solids before milk? After? Do I space out her feedings throughout the day? Did I start with rice cereal like everyone says you must? And how many times a day?

Before I dive in, I'll say that as with all things new in newborn, I relied heavily on my best gal pals who had navigated solids before me. Their words and advice is what helped me most. It's my hope that I can pass on some learned tips to those who may be going through solids for the first time.

All that said, here's a rough schedule and guide that I've rediscovered over the last few months as we experience solids, all over again. For your reference, Jenna is now 7 months old.


happy birthday, baby.

Dear Mari,

Today's your big day! And you're not such a babe anymore, are you? Three sure feels good. It also looks and feels so very grown up.
{photo by Jenna Beth Photography}
My wish for you today is that you feel the joy that I feel every time I look at your sweet face, or when I see you looking at your sister's sweet face... or when you squish her cheeks like everyone does to you. Thank goodness for those cheeks. I don't know life without them.

You are growing and changing so quickly, and you've taught me to embrace time's passing by living in the moment and soaking up every ounce of it. Whether it's eating a strawberry, hopscotch'ing, making cupcakes out of the beach sand or just relaxing, which I really never thought you knew how to do. But, now that you're a whole three years old, relaxing is a thing, and you're quite good at it, even if only for a moment.

My favorite thing to do with you is dance. To our family and friends, that should come as no surprise. Thanks to your daddy, our living room dance parties have the best soundtrack and are enjoyed often. And your observant little sister - who is not far behind - probably thinks we're crazy.

Crazy fun is what it is when I'm with you.

I love you more than the moon.
I love you more than the stars.
I love you more than the sea.
I love you more than all three.

Happy third birthday, my sweet, kind and brave girl.


big girl room for two.

Six months later and just days before my oldest turns three (THREE!), our girls are in a groove, co-habitating/sleeping and it's working, I'm so happy to report. And, even on days when it's not working so great, Jenna and Mari's room is still my favorite place on earth. It's a perfect blend of peace and pop that just plain makes me happy.
When we were gearing up for baby no. 2, our doc suggested to get Mari cozy and comfy in a big girl bed before the babe arrived. After hours pouring over toddler bed vs. twin bed options, we went big and we haven't looked back. And neither has Mari.

Jenna's gender was a surprise, so we kept everything the same and in the same layout, with the addition of Mari's new bed; blue-gray walls, tangerine highlights, and for Mari, hints of coral and petal pink. You can read up more on how we made Mari's nursery work, plus a list of sources here

With the same tools in an attempt to keep life simple, we've re-organized a bunch. Can moms agree that with kids, their rooms are a never-ending re-org? Between outgrowing toys, shoes and clothes so quickly, it just keeps going. But, I like that, and because we're in tight quarters, we're constantly challenged to only keep the stuff that we really love*.

These pictures are from a random weekend morning and are very un-styled. Their room is so tight that it's got no choice but to stay neat and organized after the eruptions from puzzles, legos, books and stuffed animals, and with Mari's help, we put it back together at the end of every day. While I've moved around a few toy bins/baskets/catch-alls, these organizers from The Land of Nod have been a great addition to this sweet space. They are lightweight enough that Mari can pick them up or drag around, whether in play or clean-up mode.

By the by, my other favorite toy keeper is your basic white galvanized drink tub, similar to this. I'll snap a few one of these days.

Without further ado, here's a close up of her bed, sans bed rails. 
And now, a few of how the rooms looks every. single. day.
There's lots more work to do here - and I'll share with you some more photos, details and sources soon.

In the meantime, we're totally preoccupied with all things birthday this week. The pinata is out and ready to be stuffed; birthday garland hung and now all that's left is to enjoy small gatherings with family and friends here and there into the weekend.

*If you're interested in how we think about toy storage - or rather, how we aspire to think about toy storage - you should read Mary's post on the subject. As always, she's spot on. 


friday foto: my favorite party tricks.

If you're in the market for some party tips, here's the how-to with links from Jenna's baptism, starting with the decor, like these most perfect tissue paper fans from Shop Sweet Lulu that are my new favorite party tricks, simply because they are so simple to pop up, and bunched together, well, they're just fun.

I also included the party menu, with a few recipe links. What I find I do increasingly more of, with each party, is glam up store-bought items, most of which I get from our friendly Trader Joe's. Life and time savers.

But, what made this party extremely simple was boxing up the main course - a salad - ahead of time. Just before we headed out to church, I had a furious assembly line going with twine, napkins and forks and while that might have been the least attractive I was all day (physically, in all senses), it really was the best party decision I've ever made.

It was grab and go at its cutest, in my opinion! You can see photos in the original post down below.
+ Shop Sweet Lulu: Tissue paper fans, stripey straws, twine, napkins and tassle garland (not pictured)
+ Garnish: Kraft take-out boxes (in size small) and disposable wood forks
+ Trader Joe's: for all flowers
+ Invitations: designed by yours truly

+ Drinks: sparkling water, sparkling lemonade, sparking blood orange juice (all from Trader Joe's)
+ Appetizers: deviled eggs, melon and proscuitto skewers and Trader Joe's fresh bruschetta with crostini
+ Main: The Barefoot Contessa's lobster and shells salad, with wild shrimp subbed for lobster, garnished with a pile of arugula and Trader Joe's breadsticks on the side (note: Trader Joe's frozen wild-caught shrimp is amazing and very worth it, thanks, mom, for finding them!).
+ Dessert: Trader Joe's meringue cookies, heart sugar cookies (perfect icing coloring tutorial: here) and strawberries and sweet cream cheese

And, lastly, my advice to anyone who asks questions on party planning: start with Shop Sweet Lulu, get inspired, find your color palette, make smart purchases and then get down to business. The end.


jenna's baptism.

Jenna's sweet baptism day looked and felt so similar to her big sister's a couple of years ago; just as meaningful, happy and special, in all senses.
Here are a few photos from a very small celebration we hosted at our home following the ceremony. Filled with the sound of little feet and lots of giggles, we really did repeat a few of our favorite party tricks, like lobster and shells and plenty of supplies from Shop Sweet Lulu. I did, for the first time ever, use Garnish and loved the results!
Holy cow. My photography (and editing skills, or lack thereof) needs some serious work.

I'll have a follow up post this week with source details and links to what we served up for food, if you're in the market for an easy party menu (with lots of store bought goodness!).


friday foto: coral peonies.

Peony pictures are sweeping the socials, aren't they? Well, when in Rome.
This beautiful bunch was from Jenna's baptism, which we celebrated in May. If you're a Trader Joe's shopper, this gorgeous, poufy flower is nothing new to you. 

I've been putting together a post on our little celebration for way too long now, and I'll be sharing it with you soon. It it wasn't really intentional for Jenna's baptism to look and feel just like Mari's, but I guess when you have something that works, it works. You know what I mean? 

Happy weekend, all!

For more Friday Fotos, start here


setting the table.

Oh my, is anyone still out there? The selfish reality is that I started this blog as a creative outlet for myself, and I was reminded yesterday via Instagram - and specifically - a hand calligrapher's instagram feed whom I started following just because her handwriting is mind-blowing beautiful - "remember why you started."
What Molly at Plurabelle did was simplify a lot of thoughts that have been scrolling through my head, including: why can't I just sit down and write?

Mostly, for the last month and change, I've been caught up in life - all the wonderfully mundane things that fill our days. Things like working on infant sleep patterns, making lists for the market, diving into parenting literature, cleaning up toys and purging clothes from the wardrobe that have been neglected for years. As a family, we've been doing some really wonderful things, too, like hiking in Palos Verdes, the first pool swim of summer, pizza picnics, birthday celebrations, play dates and introducing Jenna to real food, like peas, sweet potatoes, zucchini and pears at the family dinner table (all of which you may be familiar with if you tune into my Instagram feed).

Life has been so full for us, and for that I'm so grateful. But, I've had a hang up in getting back to this space. Maybe it's because I felt too busy - which for the record, makes me crazy. I really believe that you make time for the things and people you love. It's a choice. And, I've struggled with making the choice to spend my time writing.

So, letter by letter, I'm going to get back at it. Find a fun photo to share with you on Friday, and remember why I started in the first place. It was for myself, and that simple thought makes it easier to get back to the keyboard. The beautiful thing about blogging, is that while it's mostly for the writer, over time, it evolves into a shared, supportive space that has the potential to connect people together from all over the world, and that is remarkable.

A stranger that I just happen to be introduced to via Instagram impacted me so profoundly that I got the inspiration back to write, photograph and share.

Here's to more to come!


friday foto: always looking up.

The bonus of hosting a gathering at your house is enjoying the leftovers, like this giant balloon from Shop Sweet Lulu that I filled with some DIY heart confetti.
With her second child on the way, we sprinkled Krisa last weekend, over a very casual Sunday morning brunch-with-the-girls. It had been a really long time since I hosted a gathering, of any kind, and it felt so good to have the house filled with friends. It was also full of a few, simple details that I hope to share next week.

When the house was empty and quiet after everyone left, I had some time to think. And, what's amazing about good friends - I'll steal some of Krisa's words here - is that over the years, our conversations have evolved from talking about date parties, costumes and wedding dreams to marriage, kids and a lot of times, the really hard stuff. Stuff that can be painful. Things that you never thought you'd be talking about when 15 years ago, the decision about which fast food to get for that hangover seemed like a monumental and very significant decision.

But, now, with the hard stuff, when it's shared with your closest, best girls, you realize you can actually take a breath. Maybe even more than one.

And together, we exhale.  

Happy May, happy summer, happy weekend.

For more Friday Fotos, start here.


the first five.

We had such a great anniversary. I can't believe it has already come and gone, and we're moving on to more celebrations ahead, like baptisms and birthdays. Such good stuff around the bend.

But, before I let this milestone fly by, I wanted to share with you this snapshot of our first five years. I nearly thought I could just copy Minted's genius Heart Snapshot Mix and do this on my own, but when you know the quality of its printing and products, it was silly to even go there. So, just a week out from our anniversary, I uploaded my favorite 30 photos from our biggest moments as two, three and four in the last five years, and here's what it looks like.
Minted framed it beautifully with reclaimed barn wood (there are so many pretty framing options!), and it is hands-down one of my most favorite things in our home. I'm embarrassed to say that five years later, we don't even have our wedding album completed, but at least we have this to greet us at our door every single day. 

Note: this is in no way a sponsored post. I just love Minted's custom artwork and wanted to share it with you, thinking you might be inspired to make a heart, too.

Photos by Amy + Stuart, Jenna Beth Photography and yours truly. 


friday foto: five years later.

You and I are more than you and I because it's we. e.e. cummings
Five years later, this photo captures the very best moment of my life.

It is the photo I wake up to and the memory I day dream about. Rooted right here on the steps of our church and the porch of our faith, this picture very literally symbolizes the happy and hopeful foundation from which we stepped in union, into the great, big world, for the very first time. 

Happy anniversary, Eddie. I love you.

Photo by the amazing duo of Amy + Stuart. More of our wedding here.


friday foto: easter egg repeat.

This isn't really a new photo, but it's about that time of year, isn't it?

I have to admit that I feel so accomplished just remembering to dig up last year's post on our little all-natural easter egg dying experiment so that I can attempt it again in a couple of weeks. It's making me feel a little ahead of the game in a week that was both challenging and rewarding and definitely fried my brain.*
I think this year, I'm going to stick with cabbage (turquoise), orange peels (buttery yellow), grape juice (lavender) and will try beets (light pink) again. More hints, tips and links from last year's project here.

Happy first April weekend. I just love this month!

*Thank you for your kind and caring notes of encouragement this week. Every word has meant so much. I'm happy to say that my first week back to work was pretty a-okay, but I'm sure glad it's coming to a close. It feels really good to remember how good Friday feels.

For more Friday Fotos, start here.


back to reality.

I had big plans to share some photos and details on Mari and Jenna's bedroom this week, but I'm saving it for next. The reality of my maternity leave coming to a close has thrown me a curve ball, so I'm going to try to hit and run with it.
It's so hard moving from one phase to another, isn't it? Just when the going gets so good with your baby - they're smiling, responding, talking, loving and sleeping (better!) - you have to move on without them. And for most working moms, that means putting your child in the care of someone else so you can return to the office.

It's a very personal experience and is so different for everyone. While I've gone through it once and this time, will be going back to working from home, it's still difficult. It's a topic that has been heavy on my heart with so many friends in this same season of life, and now it's my turn to try to take comfort in my own words.

I don't believe that it ever gets easy to leave your child. But I do believe that we get used to it. And we make it work.

For me, I am grateful to return to a good job that has made it possible to drift off into baby fantasyland for a few months, while I re-train myself on sleeping much less and giving so much more. It's a humbling thing that is so very raw and beautiful. Some only experience this newborn carefree(ish) life once. Some, more than once. And others, never.

Two years ago, I returned to work after Mari was born. Then, I returned to an actual office. This time, I'm reclaiming my home office space in our bedroom that is just steps away from Jenna's crib. I know that should make the separation anxiety easier, but the same old friends - guilt and doubt - are back, staring me down.

Even though I know that she will handle it better than I, the questions still bubble to the surface; What will Jenna think when she's not getting fed by me every three hours? Will she wonder where I've gone? Will she feel alone?

When I was preparing for the transition from mom to working mom with Mari, I started counting the lasts; the last time I spent the day in pajamas with my baby; the last time she fell asleep in my arms on a Wednesday; the last time I loved, played, cried and slept like it was my only job in the world. It made my heart hurt.

But, the truth is, while it was painful, counting those lasts registered, and it made me so thankful for each one of them - even a midnight wake-up call. And now, as I get ready to make this transition again, I know it's just the beginning of our real life, with four, and a new routine that is so good for all of us.

For the first time in almost four months (plus 10, let's count that pregnancy, shall we?), I get to put on jeans. Jeans that fit. That don't have an elastic waist band. I get to button up a shirt (well, nearly). And I get to challenge a side of my brain that's been dark. I get to bust a move and get back to doing something that I love that has just been on pause for a while.

And, even with that ache in my heart and a lump in my throat, I will hit the play button on Monday morning. And put one flip flop in front of the other. And for every second of every day, love, play, cry and sleep as Mari and Jenna's mom because it's the one job that never transitions.

And for that, I am blessed.


friday foto: framed.

Getting artwork framed is so satisfying, isn't it? I have had these cheap and chic generic Aaron Bros. Euro clip frames sitting in a closet for months - since the holidays, in fact - and am finally ready to get them hung up on the walls this weekend.
I'm most excited about getting the birth announcements framed - that is something that I've wanted to do for Mari since, oh, 2011. It took two years and another kid to muster the motivation.

The other fun stuff you see is just some simple play with typography and some favorite quotes, dressed up with some standard mats from Aaron Bros. I'll share more details next week when I post about Mari and Jenna's bedroom that has been updated for my two sweet girls. Still, my favorite space in the house.

Happy Spring weekend, all!

For more Friday Fotos, start here.


jenna's birth announcements.

You'd think I hand-dipped these babies in white chocolate for the amount of time they took, but like most personal projects, these sat on our kitchen table for more time than I'd like to admit. But they sure came out sweet, didn't they?
The palette started and was sealed with Paper Source's new coral (love!), plus a DIY liner project, with pre-cut liners (note: order online only) in blush, nestled into my favorite paper bag envelopes.

Other favorites you see here: vintage seed packet postage stamps, Novecento Sans Ultra LightLeague Thin ScriptBebas Neue and the cutest hart icon you ever could steal (thanks for the inspiration, Melanie and Alma, as always!).

And the real, real, real favorites: those two cute girls. As a side note, these photos were snapped with my iPhone, and while I was going to use some professional photos taken on Jenna's second day in the hospital, they just weren't doing it for me. So, this project sat and sat and sat.

And sat some more (at least they were nestled in that cute Container Store box that looked pretty as it sat).

Fast forward two months to a random weekday morning (thanks, maternity leave) and Jenna and Mari were dressed - Jenna in Mari's hand-me-down Kickee Pants, a favorite around here - hair was brushed (sort of) and the light coming in from the windows was beautiful. So, with my iPhone, we had an impromptu photo shoot on Mari's big girl bed (details coming next week!) that screamed birth announcements.

When everyone knows how to smile and the camera catches it - which does happen when you least plan for it - it's just magic. And it's meant to be.

I'm so glad to have these to hold onto forever. And I'm so glad they are done!