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.