Photography Challenge: Week 2

Boy is it hard to shoot in manual mode!  I feel like I can't capture anything in time because I'm busy fiddling with my settings.  I'll admit, at one point I did switch to Aperture Priority for a few minutes but caught myself cheating and gave myself a little slap on the wrist.  So here's the shot I loved this week, I know it's not probably what traditionally looks like a great photograph but I like it.  Those girls sure are sweet in those little Target swimsuits, aren't they?

Practice makes perfect, no?  Onwards and upwards!

Fourth of July Party!

One of my all time favorite holidays is the 4th of July, it brings back so many fond memories of home. I grew up in suburban Minnesota and often try to make it back there specifically for the 4th of July holiday. In my hometown 4th of July starts with a quick trip to Central Park to lay out a blanket and a couple lawn chairs to reserve your space for the show later on, followed by an early BBQ in the backyard with family and friends (brats and potato salad are served, of course!) and a lazy afternoon of swimming and snacking before heading off to see the fireworks.

I love that when we get to Central Park we see kids running around with glow sticks, the band is playing patriotic numbers in the bandstand, even the smell of bug spray makes me feel like home. My dad was in the Army for a long time, and so I always feel a swell of pride when the bandleader asks members of the military to stand and be recognized as they play themes on each branch of the military's songs.  My favorite part is definitely the cheesiest, when the band plays the National Anthem and the fireworks start at "the rockets red glare..."  I'm not going to lie, I'm a little misty-eyed thinking about it.  I miss my home, and I'm really going to miss being there for the 4th.

(Balloon Fireworks from Martha Stewart, Sparklers in Stand from, Streamers and Lights from Style Me Pretty)

So this year, we'll be throwing a Midwestern 4th of July Backyard BBQ in honor of my sorely missed home. I'm thinking balloons! And sparklers! And streamers! Of course I'll be serving bratwurst, I mean obviously, and bomb pops!  As well as iced tea and lemonade with a splash of bourbon, for those partaking.  We'll squint real hard and pretend the colored fog fireworks of the Bay Area are really the small town displays of suburban Minnesota.  I'll have my brothers nearby, my own little daughter running around with glow sticks, and the nostalgia will be flowing. 

1. Berries in Paper Cups from here // 2.  Bomb Pops photo from here // 3. Glass Teardrop Tank from World Market // 4. Red White and Blue Star Paper Straws from Etsy seller Bin There Designs // 5. Ikea Elly and Tekla Kitchen Towels (as napkins) // 6. Navy Gingham Tablecloth from // 7. Vintage Sparkler Packaging from Etsy seller nbdg

Oh, you're planning a little soirĂ©e of your own?  Well, then please feel free to use this free printable 4th of July invitation I've whipped up for you.

Lastly, a little off topic, but I just have to mention one other thing making my tear glands tingle today: the Supreme Court overturning the Defense of Marriage Act.  It makes me feel truly patriotic indeed! Equality, isn't that what being American is all about?!  Makes my heart wave a little American flag in celebration.  Hooray!


I love a good bright blue. It's just so happy and summery! natalie 

1. Enlightenment crew neck sweatshirt, Poler \\ 2. Multi-strap sandals, Kate Spade Saturday \\ 3. Everyday shopper, Zara \\ 4. Cuffed short, Kate Spade Saturday \\ 5. Super ciccio eyeglasses, Madewell \\ Small enamel hinge bangle, Sequin \\

Health Kick

You guys, I'm on a health kick!  Our office is having a "Biggest Loser" challenge.   The winner not only gets to rub it in the faces of all his/her coworkers and look AMAZING, but also walks away with the pot of cash raised by the $50 buy-in.  Not a bad deal, right?  I've packed on a few pounds now that I've reduced the amount I am nursing Rosie (still not totally weaned), and I've been feeling like my jeans are a little too tight.  I'm super excited to win this challenge, hope it doesn't sound too shallow that I intend on taking my winnings straight to Anthropologie!

My plan is to get more exercise hiking with Rosie, and to really concentrate on eating healthy.  I'm a vegetarian, so I'm totally into fruits and veggies - but I eat more than my fair share of cheese and chocolate.  YUM.  No bueno for your waistline though.  I'm not a skinny girl, and I actually love curves on women in general myself included.  I need to feel comfortable and good in my clothes and in my body, and that's my goal here.  Oh, and to WIN.  I love winning, don't you?

(Photo from La Tartine Gourmande)

My big sister lost a boatload of weight based almost on diet alone and she's a real inspiration to me.  She looks fantastic and eats so well.  My husband and I made our weekly visit to the Lake Merritt Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, and instead of picking up just strawberries and flowers we came home with kale, red lettuce, basil, heirloom tomatoes, apricots, nectarines - so many good things.

(Photo from Pinterest here, originally from inactive Tumblr VeganHome)

The contest started last Monday and I'm already down 4.2 lbs!  Eek!  It's two months long, wish me luck!


I have a twin brother, a lot of people don't know that.  If you're wondering what it's like to have a twin, it's kind of like having a sibling that is a little closer, a little more frustrating, a little more forgiving, and a little more aggravating than your average brother or sister.  I never had my own birthday, so I'm not much of a "birthday princess."  He's definitely able to get away with more than my other brothers and sisters, but I'm also faster to judge and correct him.  It's a little good and bad rolled into one.

We are totally two sides of the same coin, we could not be more different if we tried.  We are close though, and even though he seriously drives me nuts sometimes, I'm so grateful to have him around.  He's my only family member who lives in California, my daughter is totally in love with him (he is literally her favorite person on earth.)  She will spot him from a block and a half away and start reaching out for him.  He has saved my sanity on more than one occasion, driving 45 minutes at a moments notice to play with her and cheer us up when she was really ill.  I love that our daughters are growing up together.  We even work at the same office together, sitting at desks facing one another, 2 feet away from each other every day.  I'm not kidding, and we enjoy it.

And he has the most ridiculously goofy and hilarious sense of humor.  I took these photos of him today.  I asked him to stand in to check lighting/position for a couple portraits I was about to take for the corporate website that I've been working on.  The photos pretty much say it all, he is quite the character.

I really love him.

Cosmic Thing

I'm obsessed with these photos by Cole Rise (talk about a name that was meant to be!) His work is surreal, otherworldly, and so so so lovely.  I keep coming back to these images, I think I might have to have one for my walls (prints starting at $25!)  The only problem will be deciding which one...

Did you guys know today is the 30th anniversary of the first American woman in space, Sally Ride?  And, today NASA announced 8 new astronauts, including 4 women.  Fitting pictures for the occasion I think.

Photography Challenge: Week 1

I have been talking and writing about taking better photographs for a long time now (examples 1, 2, and 3.)  So when my little sister came to me this week and asked for advice on how to get started with photography, I decided it's about time for both of us to take some action.  For the next eight weeks I'm going 100% manual mode on my DSLR and plan to post my best weekly picture here for posterity.  I was inspired by this post on You Are My Fave about Four Steps to Better Photos, and the weekly portrait blog You Are My Wild.  Here are a few other resources I'm using to get off Auto and into Manual:

How to Shoot in Manual Mode - The Basics, by Click It Up A Notch (via You Are My Fave)
Seller Summer School Photography 101 with Michelle Bobb-Paris (30 minute video, super helpful!)
100 Tips From a Professional Photographer, by Eric Kim
Photography 101 - Avoiding Rookie Mistakes, by Justin Hackworth

If you know of other great resources, I'm all ears!  And if you feel up to it, why don't you join in the challenge and shoot in manual mode for 8 weeks?  Let's see what happens!  If you send me the link to your picture or post I'll totally link to it in next Monday's post.

Here's my photo this week:

It's not bad, I actually had some really gorgeous shots that were so badly lit because I didn't correct my settings.  ERGH!  It's a start though, and I'll learn!

Today Was A Good Day

Sometimes I get so tied up talking about how difficult my daughter is, I get surprised about how truly delightful and amazing she can be.  I've mentioned it once or twice before, but my daughter is honestly just a very very challenging child.  Or as my pediatrician likes to say, "You got the double black diamond of babies."  Our experience parenting is not the typical one, although as time goes by we are finding people that also have "spirited" children who really relate to our struggles.  Rosie has had a multitude of health problems, coupled with a strong personality and need for constant stimulation and distraction.  If you're thinking we are just weenies or crappy parents (you wouldn't be the first), a "spirited child" is a real thing.  You can read about other parents with spirited children here, or if you need help with your spirited child this book has been enormously helpful. 

Rosie is wonderful, but doesn't sleep well (or really at all - I'm serious, some nights she's up for 4-5 hours on end) and it leads to epic meltdowns (not to be confused with normal toddler temper tantrums), alternating with seemingly manic behavior the next day.  She's tough to keep up with on a good night's sleep (haha, a good night's sleep, that's hilarious), but when you're sleep deprived, oh man, it's torture.  She's never slept through the night, she's 17 months old.  On a good night she's up every 2.5 hours.  She fights you at every diaper change, car ride, clothing change, getting into the high chair, any kind of grooming, getting into the bath, getting out of the bath, basically sometimes it seems like she hates everything.  She is bored very easily, she's very sensitive, and intense.

It's not like we spend the day cooped up, I've learned my daughter needs constant action (but not too many transitions.)  We spend our days together on playdates at the park, or Children's Fairyland, or Little Farm, and our afternoons playing outside and taking walks with the dog.  Even that is not enough to keep her entertained many days.  And those beautifully poignant moments you picture in your head before you have your baby, it's not that they don't happen, they are just way fewer and farther between than you ever expected.

All that being said, sometimes we just have such a great day.  A day that restores my faith in procreation.  A day that makes me feel like I won the lottery in awesome, super fun, sweet, cute and smart babies.  I feel like I LOVE being a mother, and I feel like I don't want it to end (instead of calling my husband at 4pm and telling him I'm never spending another day alone with our daughter ever again and come home right now before I seriously freak out.)  And today was one of those days.  We didn't do anything "special" per se - we went to a friend's new house that is empty of furniture, we ate lunch picnic-style on the floor, we ran from room to room with Rosie's little BFF Melly, we went swimming, sat in lawn chairs, and then we ran around some more.  Rosie ate like a cow, napped like a rock, smiled like a clown, and all around loved life.  She hasn't been sick in a while, and I can't help but think maybe her great moods lately are a reflection of feeling healthy and basking in this glorious summer weather we've been having.  She's still not sleeping well, but I'll take this little win and run with it.

There was nothing special about today, it was just such a special special ordinary day.  I hope I'll remember it forever, and so I document here.  Happy Happy Happy Friday, everyone.


I broke down and cut my hair.  I know that's probably not the biggest news of the day, but I've been growing it out since I got engaged in January of 2009.   SERIOUSLY, it was pretty darn short.  You can kind of see in this picture, it was actually much longer in front than it was in the back. 

My hair has pretty much been short my whole life.

Years later, years and years...and lots of neglect, it was looking pretty ragged.  And despite really wanting to be the kind of person who has long hair, it really was not me.  My hair is fine and I have about 12.5 minutes on a good day to do anything with it.  It basically lived in a sad sad pony tail and I was really starting to hate it.

No bueno.  So a couple Saturdays ago I brought these pictures to my trusty hair stylist, he's been cutting my hair for 7 years and I adore him.

I was going for a long-ish bob, with bangs.  I told him to do his thing, and he did.  It hits right at the collar bone, so I think it shows off that lovely line.  He said "it reads short, but it's still long-ish if you want to grow it out again."  I can still put my hair in a cute pony, and I can even twist it into a top knot.  I think he's a genius.  I look like a stylish person again, and boy does it ever make me feel good.

Someone once told me "you wear your hair everyday", and it's so true.  I think about that when I'm plunking down some cash for a sweet cut or some new hair product.  I know it's silly to be so vain, but I feel SO GOOD when my hair looks amazing. 

For more hair inspiration, I love the blog She Lets Her Hair Down (pictures 4, 8 and 9 above are from her blog.)


I'm back with black and white! Feel free to sing some MJ while you read. natalie

1. Scoopback dress in signature zig zag, Kate Spade Saturday \\ 2.  Something else paradox printed tank, Madewell \\ 3. Cross-back tanksuit in morroccan stamp, Madewell \\ 4. Metro in black dot, Kate Spade \\ 5. Elsa piped suede sandals, J.crew \\  6. Inkdot bandana, Madewell 

Underbed Storage Easy DIY

I will admit to having a little obsession with buying on super crazy clearance for Rosie, which is awesome because we always have the next size we need on hand and Rosie always looks terrific (on the cheap!)  Like these adorable and durable Baby Gap jammies I got on clearance last weekend for $4.97 each.  Down from $24.95 each.  Gosh I love a good sale, I really really do!

The downside however, is this:

I know, overstuffed blue and clear plastic bins probably don't bother you as much as they bother me, but Rosie's room is just so sweet and pretty it's jarring to see that thing hanging out under her crib.  We used to have a crib skirt on the crib and viola, hidden.  However it was white, and always dirty (wood floors), and when we dropped her mattress down I had to toss it in the Bermuda triangle of the sewing pile to hem all four sides.  Never to be seen again.  Ho hum.

So, what to do?  I thought about cuter bins, but they were not really cheap and nothing was short enough to fit under the crib, or had that vintage-y vibe I love so much.  I thought about moving the clothes, but it's so convenient to have them right there for when my baby godzilla is ready to move into the next size.  I also love being able to keep an eye on what we have and what we possibly need to buy at the end of the season on SUPER clearance for the next year.

Then at the Antiques Faire this weekend I came across these beauties!

The perfect neutral color, size and shape for her room.  Endlessly useful and totally adorable.  Perfection.  $40 for the whole set (which also includes this sweet little bag I thought I might use for either toy storage or as a play handbag.  The RR on the side was just meant to be!)

Now comes the sorting.  Here's what I do.  First I sort by size, and then by outfit.  That way I can tell what's working together and what's not.  This way we don't end up with one set of leggings or a top that doesn't match anything, which is wasteful.  Also, it sure is easier to get her dressed when the majority of her clothes are somewhat coordinated, especially since my husband usually gets her dressed in the morning.  He comes up with some pretty "amazing" and "interesting" outfits when left to his own devices.

When all the clothes are sorted, choose a suitcase that best fits the amount of clothes in that size.  I tried again to keep the outfits together, while utilizing the space in the suitcase to the fullest.

Last, a little tag with the size on it so you remember.  I printed them on a piece of cardstock and used this punch to get the cute label shape.  I created a free printable template for you here!

More vintage suitcases here, here, here, and here.  Enjoy!

Sources for the what's pictured here in the nursery: 1. DaVinci Jenny Lind Crib in Ebony from // 2. Dwell Studio Fitted Crib Sheet, Pin Dot in Petal from // 3. Aden + Anais Security Blanket similar here from // 4. Gund Bentley Wire Hair Terrier (gift from friend), buy it here // 5. Grey crochet blanket with peach flowers, handmade by Aunt Ellen // 6. Suitcases, vintage from Alameda Antiques Faire // 7. Stars concert posters by Jason Munn, frames custom // 8. Hot Air Balloon Mobile from Bellacor, similar here (different colors)


Guys and dolls, I have a fun little DIY underbed storage post planned for Monday, but in the mean time please click through and enjoy these not-to-be-missed posts from this week.

Natalie, oh Natalie, I love this video!  You are amaze-balls for finding it!  We threw Rosie in the car for bedtime a few weekends ago and went in search of the Bay Bridge lights (remember how excited I was here?)  They did NOT disappoint!

This post on How to Get the Look - Scandinavian-style Kids Bedroom from Apartment Therapy makes me want to paint my whole house white.  Help!

I die.  Please let someone love me enough to pull this Flower Bomb from Designlovefest off someday!  Or to I would do it for someone else, I would love that.  LOVE.

Love the outfit, love the shoes, love the dreamy desert backdrop.  Love this post Off The Strip by Wish Wish Wish.

Ok, technically not posted this week, but this emerald green sofa from IKEA (it so belongs on last week's Happy For Hue!) literally had me hyperventilating.  Proof:

And on that note, happy happy Friday everyone!

5 Favorite Things: Target

I have the typical problem at Target, I show up for sunscreen and leave with t-shirts, swimsuits, pill boxes, and oh so much more.  Why oh why do they have to be so good?!  Target is my favorite, and here are five favorite things I've picked up there recently.

Circo Toddler Girls Hot Air Balloon Swimsuit ($12), Pill Box from the Dollar Spot (oh boy do I ever love the Dollar Spot! $1), Kleenex with Lotion (anyone's allergies kicking up again?  What the heck? $6 for 4-pack), Mossimo Vneck T-shirt (not online, these are the SOFTEST! $7), Hyland's Teething Tablets (I don't care what anyone says about homeopathic meds, I seriously believe in these! $7.69)

So there you have it.  And if you don't already have four hundred and ninety two million reasons to love Target, I just came across these online.  You're welcome, and I'm sorry.  I'll be ordering this, this and this.  And I'll be using this and these for instructions on tying them.  Woohoo!

New Favorite Blog: Sweet Juniper!

Ok, technically it's not my NEW favorite blog, because I've been following Sweet Juniper for some time now.  Averaging one post per month, it's a special and rare treat to see that little (1) unread post pop up on my google reader (oh the pain of loss, I can't believe google reader is going away!)  Originally from San Francisco, they moved to Detroit to raise their family and Jim stays home to raise their two children.  It's a fantasy that I have, to move back to Minnesota, buy a house in cash for 1/3 the cost of our house in Oakland and raise our little sugar bear near my family in the way I was raised.  On the lake, in the forest, hiking the hills, and spending my days unaware of crime and unknowing the term "recession." 

Today's post is about his son's broken arm, and the guilt you feel as a parent when something happens to your child ("I should have been there...")  I would argue that you feel that guilt when you hover, and when you don't.  It sometimes feels there's no winning in parenting.  I know personally I feel that way, and question my parenting skills all the time.  Am I giving her the freedom that she needs to grow and become independent?  Am I not protecting her?  I also appreciate his perspective on things slowing down and holding your child closer when they are not well.  We have spent a lot of time in our little family with a child that has chronic health problems, it's nice to be reminded they are only small and needy for such a very short period of time.  

Hold fast to that time, and know that you are doing your very best.  Follow Sweet Juniper for an inspiring perspective on life and parenting.

Father's Day Gift Guide

Father's Day is almost upon us, and while I'm done shopping for Rosie's daddy (aka my husband) you guys might still be tap tap tapping those noggins trying to come up with something that's juuuuust right for the dads you love.  Here are a few ideas!

1. I love this Wood Block + Prints from Artifact Uprising.  At $30 including shipping it's a good price for unfussy photos dads can display on desks, dressers, or nightstands for years to come.  With twelve photos to choose from he'll have a different view for every mood, and honestly you can update those photos any old time with a few regular prints from Walgreen's instagram prints.  Easy peasy, and sweet.

 2. Is your dad/husband a baseball fan?  I think this Home Run Oven Mitt from Urban Outfitters ($14) is hysterical!  Maybe you throw a couple baseball tickets in?  Cross your fingers and hope it inspires offers of an extra hand at dinner time?  Wishful thinking...

3. This Pops is Tops card from Rocket Ink ($4) hits the perfect note in my book, clever, vintage-y and just a hint of sentimental.

4. These Grillmaster Serving Trays by Threshold at Target ($9.99-12.99) are seriously fun, and seriously inexpensive.  They are melamine, so you won't have to handle with care when using them outdoors.  My favorite is the pig, of course!

5. Got a shutterbug on your hands?  This SLR Leather Camera Strap from Tanner Goods ($105) is super sturdy and super stylish...truthfully I'm tempted to get one for myself.  It's also 4" wide, comfort is key!  Feel free to take a look around their collection for other ideas, very manly accessories.

6. My husband desperately needs this Hartmann Hanging Travel Kit from Brooks Brothers ($98).  It's classy, durable, and has lots of pockets to keep their toiletries organized.  I can't stand the cheap little black ones from some free giveaway he currently uses - yuck!

One or two more ideas that came to me just now - I think this print is adorable and sweet ($24), and I know camping dads would get a kick out of this affordable and classic flask ($24).  Couple of these gift are budget blowers, it's true, but I'm hoping there's something for every dad to enjoy.  Dad's really are rad!

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