Blog Hop!

I was so pleased to be tagged by Mel Wiggins for a Blog Hop. Welcome to Dublin and to my little corner of the internet!

1. What have been the doings/makings/scribblings at your desk this week?

I’ve been working on making some cute illustrations for Nate’s birthday party. He has requested an orange juice party, which is pretty much the most adorable thing ever. The funny thing is, there’s not much out there in the party stores for toddlers that love oranges. So I have been scribbling lots of lists of things to make and do in the next week to pull it all together, along with doodling a cute orange man that is unfortunately too cute as Nate now wants him to come to the party.deskview But ok, this picture is about 45% truth. I love my desk set up in our spare room, especially during the long evenings. The idea is that when Chris starts studying for a work exam in the fall, we can both hang out in there together. I usually do designy work at the desk and split blogging and writing between the desk and couch. This week Chris and I are working through Parks & Rec (I know, we’re several years too late) so I have been camped out on the couch with my laptop. That’s pretty hard to photograph, not to mention totally unflattering.

2. Where are you currently finding your inspiration? (Influences, heroes, sources of inspiration, paths exploring)?

I feel like I’m bursting with inspiration these days (and need to find a way to channel it into productivity, which is the hard part for me). As I was mulling this question over, I kept getting the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin Duet, “Sisters Are Doing it for Themselves” stuck in my head. Head on over to 1985 and check it out.

Following on from Blogtacular, I have been so inspired by people (mostly women) that have created their own creative businesses or forged new pathways for themselves. I’m all about DIY these days, even DIYing my own careers and making really cool, slightly untraditional opportunities. In no particular order, I am feeling totally pumped up these days by Nikki McWilliams’s biscuit-based homewares and accessories empire; Zoe Jade’s story of creating Ladybird Likes as a creative outlet and growing it into a pretty rad jewellery line; Lily & Alan’s new brick and mortar shop, Picado Mexican Pantry, (go visit it if you’re in Dublin) and their collaboration with Alex (aka Hydrangea Girl) to design the lovely shop interior; the phenomenal success of Julie Crefield’s Too Fat to Run blog; Kelly’s top-notch PR work that has put Sun Jellies on the feet of nearly everyone I follow on Instagram (and here’s a great interview with her that’s all about that DIY spirit); and all of the many amazing bloggers I’ve come to know recently.

Everyone seems to be on an upward track to awesome and I want on board! I need to work on pulling the ideas out of my head and making them a reality by making, writing and doing more with the goal of ultimately starting a small business once the kids are in school. I honestly can’t imagine going back to a desk job and want to harness all this colour and joy around me into a career that is sustainable, unique and made by me. And of course, if we’re talking about inspiration and heroes (as a blogger, designer, business woman and mother) there’s no better gal than Joy Cho. If you don’t know why she’s such a phenomenal person, check out her Blogtacular keynote address.

3. How important is being creative to you, and how do you blend this with your work / life / family balance?

Creativity is like oxygen. I’m skeptical of people that don’t engage in any creative activity. What is life without books, music, art and performance? I realised after the kids were born, that times I was really unhappy in my career was when I wasn’t engaging in anything creative (but even when I was drowning in spreadsheets, they were always carefully colour coded). I think if I am honest with myself, I will admit that I’m a very emotional, yet quite reserved. I need an outlet for all of my energy and ideas and passions and dreams. Being at home with the kids means I have a lot of space for creativity, just having a conversation with Nate sometimes is an exercise in surrealism. It also means that the door is wide open for creative opportunities, so I’m pretty easily distracted and terrible at finishing projects. But at least I’m always doing something I love everyday.  

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I look at my family as my job, so on whole feel pretty balanced. I’m lucky not to be stretched between two worlds and to feel enriched by role as mom to the boys. Chris is a great support and helps share the load of parenting and household work so that I do have some time for myself in the evenings. I think the important part of finding balance is being able to take time for yourself (without guilt) and knowing how to ask for help. It doesn’t mean it’s always smooth sailing though. I always want to do more (more awesome adventures with the kids, more time for myself, more date nights with Chris, more sewing, more cooking, more writing, more designing, hey why not sign up for this course, why not learn this new skill) so I get really overwhelmed about how to begin. Chris and I have been talking a bit about how I can organise myself a little better to work through the admin side of motherhood and all the fun projects I want to dive into after the kids are tucked in. Anyone have any bright ideas?

Now it’s time to pass the baton. I’m nominating two women that have really impressed me with how they have integrated their blog and life (so I’m really curious at how they answer the last question!)

Sarah Borien (A Life Less Physical) is a fantastic blogger that I met at Blogtacular. She has Fibromyalgia and started her blog as a way to document her experience and her attempts to still do amazing things in London while being limited by her condition. I was so impressed by her positivity and they way she didn’t let chronic pain keep her from experiencing new things. Her blog is great, full of lovely things that inspire her, delicious recipes by Sarah and her chef boyfriend and insight into disability.

Fritha Strickland (Tiggerlilly Quinn) is probably a blogger that needs no introduction. Her posts capture the sweetest moments of childhood, and often help me to remember to chill out a little if I’ve had a particularly bad tantrum day. She also has a great shop of gorgeous, quirky jewellery, gifts and homewares. I want one of everything. As a professional blogger, Fritha has flawlessly integrated sponsored posts and band work into her blog and I think there’s a lot to learn from her. Nothing feels forced or inauthentic, yet she seems to have a foot in a lot of different doors. Whether she’s talking about her engagement story or running a handbag competition, it all flows together as a story of her lovely life.

Fritha and Sarah will share their inspiration next week. Thanks again Mel for hopping over to me!

10 Tips for Beating the Summer Sun

tips for beating summer sun

I want to start this off by clarifying that I am not complaining about the sun. It is glorious and yes, it’s a bit warm in the evenings, but if anyone complains you are going to make it pour rain again. So keep it to yourself! With the beautiful weather, there comes a few complications when it comes to little kids. But there’s plenty you can do to keep them cool and keep them safe in the summer sun.

1. Always make sure they are covered in sun cream. Don’t forget precious points like behind their ears and knees and the tops of hands and feet. For really little kids, I find it easier to put sun cream on while they are in their nappies and then dress them up once it has fully absorbed. Use a children’s sun cream of SPF 30 or higher and reapply sun cream every 2 hours. For more tips keeping kids safe in the sun, check out these tips from the Irish Cancer Society.

2.  Loose fitting clothing, UV protective clothing (although this can be hard to find), hats and sunglasses are great for long days out in the sun. Legionaries hats or bucket hats with wide brims are best because they provide the most coverage. It may be a battle too keep the hat on at first, but don’t let your kids win. Ever.

3. Try to avoid the sun in the hottest part of the day (around 11-3) and pay attention to where shade may be in your yard or the playground at different parts of the day. I know that one half of my garden is completely shady after 3pm, so I’ll set up a really fun activity there to encourage them to stay out of the direct sun.

4. Get outside early in the morning. It’s usually cooler and the sun isn’t so strong. Kids can get plenty of fresh air and exhaust themselves running around just in time to come in for some quiet play indoors when the sun is strongest.

5. Remember that black lined buggies absorb heat. Make sure that the littlest ones are shaded from the sun, but don’t turn the buggy into an oven. Also be mindful that rain covers don’t become humid greenhouses.

6. Have plenty of water on hand all the time. Kids can become dehydrated very quickly. Make extra delicious water by putting fresh fruit into it (limes, cucumber, raspberries, oranges are all really yummy) or get a snazzy new water bottle just for summer.

7. We all love ice cream on a hot day, but you can make ice lollies out of fruit juice and yoghurt for a healthy and cooling treat.

8. Set up blanket forts, tents outside to give kids a place to retreat from the sun. Water play is obviously a great way to stay cool. If you don’t have a paddling pool or water table, you can use large plastic containers. Just make sure you always keep an eye on little ones whenever water is involved.

9. Cool overheated kids by placing ice or cold water on wrists, temples and the back of their neck.

10. If kids (or you) are having trouble sleeping in the heat, take a lukewarm bath or shower just before bed to regulate your body temperature. Switch bedding to light blankets, or if your kids are like mine, secretly remove the layers of fleece blankets they insist on as soon as they are asleep.

And if all else fails, just count on a big brother to drench a little brother when he’s least expecting.

tips for summer sun

 

House Tour – Boys’ Room

house tour boys room

Our little boys have the tiniest room in the house (I’m pretty sure it is smaller than a lot of American bathrooms) but it has the most life, and sometimes a funky smell. We made the decision for the boys to share a room in our old, much tinier house. We only had one room for them, case closed. But even if we lived in a mansion, I’d have them share a room because they totally love it and totally love each other. The room has gone through a lot of transitions as sleeping arrangements and bedroom necessities changed. Here’s what it looked like at the very beginning.

One thing I knew from the start was that I didn’t want out of the box kids décor. I wanted to have a gender neutral room filled with fun, personal things that they would hopefully treasure throughout their childhood (or that I could happily reabsorb into the rest of the house when they reject all my twee and plaster the walls with posters of bands and pin-up girls, except they won’t do that because it will trigger yet another one of mom’s feminist rants and dad will interject to say he had Rachel Stevens on his wall–at 22!–and it’s harmless. Except it’s not and he should thank his lucky stars that his Danger Mouse poster was bigger because that’s really what impressed mom)

This room has a lot less trinkets than I first imagined it because we didn’t want to put too many shelves up in a rental and we learned the hard way that you should never, ever hang pictures above a cot. It is still bright and colourfull from the quilts and toys on their beds and the gallery style wall that is growing with lovely things that we all cherish.boysroom3

The gallery wall (that sounds like a really snobby term, but I don’t know what else to call it) is full of cute things: Chris and Nate’s hand print from their first Father’s Day, the banner I made, a Chris Judge painting that I got during his Christmas sale (it is much loved but hotly debated whether it is a spider or a monster. Either way, Alex is obsessed with both), a growth chart from Ikea (they check it every day, Nate is as tall as an orange elephant), a dinosaur clock cut out of a Dino Music that we bought at Dublin Flea market before Nate was born, photos perfectly capturing what the first two weeks of brotherhood looks like, Quentin Blake greeting cards and an extremely old Babar book that was getting too delicate to read.

boysroom2Next to our art gallery is the Ikea Malm dresser and two bookshelves. This is a great dresser, it was our changing table for Alex and holds all of the boys’ clothes. We have a mini-library in the room for our bedtime stories and to keep some special or more grown up books out of reach until they are ready for them. We had books at boy-level at one point, but they always ended up in Nate’s bed (board books are not terribly comfortable) and he did tear one up, which was just heart breaking. We also have a few grooming supplies (wipes, lotion, and the Skip Hop Hare Brush & Comb Set (ha!) our indispensable Gro-Egg and Gro-Clock on the dresser. On the wall next the window to it is the first print I bought for Nate’s room of a hedgehog holding a red balloon by the gorgeous Trafalgar Square Illustrations. When Chris and I were first dating, I found a badger stuffed animal and said I wanted our kids to have random animal toys, not teddies. He didn’t disagree (or get freaked out that I was talking kids after 6 months of dating!), so this is a little homage to that. They ended up getting teddies, and lots of them. We also have Nate’s badge collection, he loves to jazz up his hoodies.

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The other side of the room has their beds (Ikea Gulliver cot bed and Kritter toddler bed  in an L-shape. Nate was sleeping with his head next to Alex until last week when Alex’s arms grew long enough and he grew wicked enough to pull Nate’s hair. The walls were bare forever until Chris’s parents brought back this gorgeous alphabet tapestry from Nepal and I found this terrific bunting by Leigh Tucker Willow at Dunnes. The boys love staring at the tapestry and have gotten much better at their letters. The beds are full of quilts and blankets that mean a lot to us. Chris’s brother bought them monogrammed fleece blankets and each boy has quilt made by my aunt Pam. Nate rotates his sleeping buddies, but Alex always has Bubby (a Cuski doll that he has never, ever been without), Bear, Dolly and Rabbit. He also has to have his orange blanket and pink blanket (which is not pink) even on the hottest summer day.

 

Me & You (July)

meandyou_july3BWThese photos are from the elevator of the g (where we stayed last weekend). It’s only 3 floors, so it’s a super fast selfie session. I like that they succession of photos looks like a photo booth with Chris nearly, but not quite, managing to smile all the way. He’s holding on tight to those teeth in the last photo.

We really did have an amazing weekend and it did a lot of good to be without the children. As much as we adore them and love being parents, we needed 1) a good night’s sleep, 2) to be able to finish conversations without interruption, and 3) to reconnect with the part of our relationship that’s not mom and dad. We needed this weekend to remember that we are great friends and partners because we’re both interesting people (to each other at least) with ideas, passions and thoughts that are not related to Lego building and the impracticality of the public transportation system in Dinosaur Train. Finding comfort in this (that our initial spark is still burning) made me all the more grateful that I could fall in love with Chris again because of his awesomeness as a dad. We spent a great deal of time in a kids toy shop contemplating buying a toy accordion and I love that. Of course, we were checking out toy stores long before kids. I love Chris for being fun and interesting and adorable in so many different ways and for complementing my interests so well. It was good to get away from domesticity for a while, but also so good to know we had our little life to come home to.

I brought along Mindy Kaling’s book and there was a quote that I thought very fitting for the weekend that was in it:

Married people, its up to you. It’s entirely on your shoulders to keep this sinking institution afloat. It’s a stately old ship, and a lot of people, like me, want to get on board. Please be psyched and convey the psychedness to us. Always remember that so, so many people want what you have. You’re the star at the end of a Shakespearean play, wearing a wreath of flowers in your hair. The rest of us are just little side characters.

 

2014 Project (week 29)

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These are the lazy days of summer. Our last 6 weeks before Nate starts pre-school and we have obligations during the week. I think I may have been slightly uptight in the beginning of motherhood, signing us up to lots of classes and playgroups and feeling incredibly guilty if every minute of everyday wasn’t filled with something enriching organised. Gradually it became overwhelming and expensive (especially once Alex arrived) so we started slowing down our out-of-house activities. It dawned on me a few months ago that once Nate starts school he will no longer having the mornings to play and be lazy and maybe not even change out of his pajamas. He’ll have to be somewhere by 9am every weekday morning for the rest of his life, so my little gift to my children (that they won’t remember, but will hopefully feel in their happy little hearts) is an unstructured summer full of fresh air, “jamma-days”, picnics and free time to play without expectations. (If I’d passed my driving test, it would also include beach days. Fingers crossed that will be on the agenda next summer!)

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