35 at 35: A Year's Worth of Fun

I can almost hear Aaron's eyes roll when I start a sentence with, "So I heard on a podcast..." It's pretty clear that I'm a podcast junkie and I get way to much inspiration these days channeled through my earbuds. But if you're also a podcast-lover, I'm sure we're in the same boat. It's no surprise then that today's post was inspired by a long-time favorite, Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

At the beginning of the year, Gretchen and Elizabeth shared their 18 in 2018 lists: 18 things they want to accomplish in the year 2018. On another episode they shared an idea for celebrating a milestone birthday: create a list of things you want to do in that year so you can look forward to it.

Today I turn 35. It's not really a milestone, but it feels a bit like one to me. I haven't been dreading it, but I do like the idea of making a list to make the year feel more joyful and less "oh boy I'm getting old." Inspired by the podcast, I created a list of 35 things I'd love to do in my 35th year. This isn't a to-do list and it doesn't include things that I feel like I should do. Instead, it's a fun list. I'm only including things that I truly want to do and that would bring more joy to my life. Things that, if I do them, will make me happy, and if I don't, I won't feel any guilt about.

{35 at 35: my want-to-do list}

Photo by Wout Vanacker on Unsplash

Camo Jacket and Tie-Sleeved Stripe Shirt: Updated Classics for Spring

My style hasn't changed too much over the years; I still love classic pieces and am very devoted to my denim. Lately I've been looking for ways to freshen up my wardrobe without straying from the style I love. 

One way I've done this is by swapping out my old, worn out olive cargo jacket for this fun camo print one. The color and print are still neutral so it goes with pretty much everything, but it's different enough that it makes every outfit feel new. 

I feel the same way about this striped top. It's a classic piece and I already have a few striped tops that I wear a ton. This one was a great closet freshener-upper because of the cute tie-sleeve detail. 

Has your style changed a lot over the years or are you, like me, looking for ways to update the things you still love? 

Camo jacket: Old Navy | striped tie-sleeve top: Old Navy | jeans: Gap via ThredUp (similar) | earrings: Nickel and Suede | teething necklace: Mama and Little | blush sneakers: Universal Thread, Target

Spring Shopping Reviews: Old Navy, J. Crew Factory, and American Eagle

Last month I shared an online spring shopping haul, which kicked off a bit of a spring shopping extravaganza. As usual, I shopped sales and tried to only buy the things I needed (with a few exceptions, of course), and I'm pretty happy with what I got for my money.

Since my last review post got a pretty good response, I thought I'd share round two of my spring purchases, sub-par iPhone photos and all. (Please forgive my dirty mirror--yikes! and cluttered background. That ugly chair and ottoman is in my room from my pumping days and needs to go...) Here are a few recent spring purchases from Old Navy, J. Crew Factory, and American Eagle.

Floral for Spring: Mom and Toddler Girl Style

What do you do when you have a spring outfit post planned, but on the only day you're able to take pictures the HIGH is in the mid 30s? If you're a dedicated, badass blogger, I'm sure you put your game face on, go outside, and try not to look like you're in pain. If you're me though, you move all the toys to the other side of the living room, and power through an indoor photo-shoot with an uncooperative toddler. I'm keeping it real over here.

I haven't really jumped on board the off-the-shoulder trend because it just isn't practical for my life. However, I love the subtle cold-shoulder cut-outs on this pretty floral blouse, and I find it much more real-life-friendly. If the weather cooperates (and it better!) this is what I plan to wear to birthday brunch with my crew in a couple of weeks.

On my recent Old Navy haul I also picked up a few things for the kids, including this adorable bell-sleeve floral top for Violet. Full length bell sleeves and toddlers would be a disaster, but this three-quarter length works. She's no more covered in food than any other day.

What trends have you been trying lately? 

On Violet: yellow bell-sleeve top: Old Navy | jeggings: Cat and Jack, Target (similar) | hair bow: Target (similar) | silver bow moccasins: Amazon (similar)
On Me: floral top: Old Navy (navy version) | jeans: American Eagle | tassel earrings: Sugar Fix (similar) | sandals: Universal Thread, Target (similar)

$10 at Target, Kid Date Edition

I have a mom confession. I don't like to play. I dread when Jona asks me to play dinosaurs or cars, and my answer of "I'll sit by you and watch you play" is clearly never good enough. I try to suggest something else that we can do together, like reading stories or doing a puzzle, but lately he can't seem to get enough attention from Aaron or me. Therefore we've been trying to spend more one-on-one time with him, and that's been helping.

On Friday evening I had a few errands to run so I decided to make a night of it with Jona. Thankfully he is just as excited about a Target run as he is about building a race track for his cars. It helps that Target is right by our favorite ice cream place and it had been quite a while since we'd been there.

In My Library Tote: March Picture Book Reviews and Recommendations

I love finding new books to read with Jona each month. I get just as giddy bringing him a stack of books as I do cracking open a new one for me. One of my goals last month was to apply to re-enroll in the library science program I started before I had Jona, and I'm thrilled that I'll be starting classes again this summer. My first class is all about early learners and I can't wait! Initially I wasn't sure what direction I wanted to go in with the library program, but I think I'm going to get a concentration in Children and Youth Services. Anyway, I thought this post would be a fitting place for me to share that.

On to what Jona and I read in March. (Poor Violet will get incorporated into these posts eventually, but for her it was A LOT of Duck and Goose, Dr. Seuss ABC, and Dear Zoo.)

{picture books we read in march}

Neutral Classic Pieces with a Touch of Blush

Prior to last month, I hadn't been doing much regular shopping. I recently did a 6 month secondhand-only shopping challenge, but even before that I only bought a few things here and there. So last month when I was looking at my closet and anticipating the coming spring season (which I hear may actually get here soon...) I knew I needed to do a little updating.

More than anything else I wear pretty simple, classic styles, so things like jeans and versatile work-to-weekend tops were on my list. I've been on the hunt for white jeans for a while, so I was happy to find this affordable Old Navy pair. I also picked up this basic black peplum top when J. Crew Factory was having a buy one get one free top sale. I know I'll wear both of these pieces a ton.

I do love bright spring colors, but the color I've been buying more than anything else lately is blush pink. I snagged these blush mules (and a pair of blush sneakers...I have a problem) when Target was having a buy one get one 50% off sale on shoes. I love how the muted pink color acts almost like a neutral and goes with a wide range of colors.

What color are you addicted to wearing and buying right now? 

Denim jacket: Gap (similar) | black peplum tee: J. Crew Factory | white jeans: Old Navy | earrings:  Nickel and Suede | necklace: Jane 

In My Library Tote: March Book Reviews and Recommendations

Jona is starting to read, but I can't wait for the day when he's able to sit with a stack of books to read himself. Yesterday, a cold, drizzly day, thinking he was preoccupied with some toys while Violet napped, I snuggled up on the couch with a blanket, ready to dive into a new book. Along comes Jona with a million questions about my book, what it's about, if he could sit with me... I appeased him by reading a chapter in Matilda before I had some "quiet mommy reading time". I love my kids, but I'm a much better mom when I have my reading time. Here's what I read in March.

{what I read in march}

April Goals and March Wins

This year, inspired by Gretchen Rubin's book, I've been doing a Happiness Project, focusing on one important aspect of my life every month. Last month my goals centered around career, while April's focus is parenting. The idea is that the months should build on one another and the habits formed in one month should continue into the next and so on. Each month I share my wins from the previous month, as well as goals that fit the theme of the current month.

Currently: April

I was looking back through some archives and saw that I wrote my first "currently" post back in October of 2012. I didn't start writing them consistently until 2015, but it's fun to look back and see what was on my mind this time three years ago, two years ago, and last year

So, just as I've been doing for the past few years, I'm joining Anne and her co-host this month, Jessica, to talk about what I'm up to currently on this favorite of months. 

{currently: april}

Thoughts on Spring: TBB Asks

It feels kind of funny to be writing about spring when it was 30 degrees and sleeting yesterday, but that's spring in Kansas I guess. (By the way, I did wear my Easter dress, but it was with tights, over-the-knee boots, and a sweater on top. You do what you gotta do.)

I'm joining in with The Blended Blog where they're asking questions about spring today.

March Favorites

Despite the weather being mostly chilly and dreary this month, we managed to make it a good one. I got to go on a field trip with Jona's preschool to the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, I got a much-needed haircut, and I took a day off to spend with just Violet, among other things. Here are a few favorites for March.

Spring Shopping Reviews: Gap, Old Navy, and ThredUp

In the past several years, the content here has shifted from a focus on style with a few other topics thrown in here and there, to a little bit of everything with occasional style posts. While I would say that I shop quite a bit less than your average style blogger, I still do love clothes and sharing my personal style, even if it's not as often.

One type of post that I love to read that's common on style blogs is clothing reviews or try-on sessions. I don't know why, but I love these kinds of posts, even if I'm not in the market for anything the blogger is actually trying on. Therefore, when I happen to have a little haul of things I've been shopping for, I love to share my reviews with you in the same way.

Here are a few items I recently ordered online for spring from Gap, Old Navy, and (less helpful but still fun to share) ThredUp.

{Gap Finds}

Blush and Navy for Easter: Mommy and Me Style

We took Jona and Violet to an Easter egg hunt at our church over the weekend, and it was a lot of fun. Jona is excited about the Easter bunny and is all business when it comes to looking for eggs. Violet is at an age where she loves picking things up and putting them into containers (and then dumping everything out and starting again), so she loved "finding" eggs.

I'm glad we usually do our own Easter egg hunts indoors, because it seems like we never get good weather on Easter. Last year it snowed, and this year it's supposed to be chilly and rainy.

At our house, we the Easter bunny (of course) just hides eggs around one area of our house. I never thought about counting the eggs to make sure we got them all, and I remember growing up and finding random well-hidden eggs a day or two later. Last year, Aaron asked me how many Jona was supposed to find, and I had no idea. It's just funny how everyone does things a little differently. What's it like at your house (or when you were a child)? 

I love picking out Easter clothes for the kids; it's fun to coordinate them (and let's face it, me too). I may have to add tights or boots to Violet's and my dresses, but I still think we'll look springy. I had another outfit in mind for me, but the skirt I ordered didn't end up working. I'm slightly obsessed with all things blush pink right now, so I used blush and navy as our main colors.

Day in the Life: A Day at the Office

Last month I shared a "day in the life" post which showed a photo an hour from a Friday that I worked from home, which I do twice a week. Since I'm focusing on work this month for my goals, I thought it would be fitting to share what a day at the office looks like for me.

I work as an executive assistant to a CEO and CFO of a wellness company. I schedule meetings, arrange travel, plan events such as board meetings, and manage various other projects that support the executive team. My bosses give me a lot of flexibility and I am thankful to be able to work from home two days a week and sometimes more when needed. However, I do hope to eventually finish my Masters in Library Science and get a job at a library. For this stage of my life with young kids though, this job has been a good fit.

Although my day to day varies quite a bit, here's a fairly average Wednesday from last week.

Moto Jacket with a Print Dress: Closet MVP Remix

I do plenty of outfit repeating, but I try to space out those repeats so I don't feel like I'm wearing the same thing all the time. However, I have seasons where I reach for particular items again and again, and while I may not be repeating entire outfits, I can't seem to get enough of a certain top, jacket, or dress.

Lately that has been the case for this faux suede moto jacket and also this striped Gap dress from ThredUp. It was about time that I put the two together.  I bought the jacket at H&M while I was pregnant with Violet, but I still love it and feel just a little bit cooler every time I wear it. On days that I don't have to wear my heavy coat, lately it's been a go-to jacket.

Recently I've also been wearing the heck out of this striped dress. I love that it has the fit and flare shape but isn't overly fitted. I like a dress that allows for a good-sized lunch! I paired my two go-to items together for church this weekend, and added tights and ankle boots since it was pretty chilly outside.

Since Violet has a little black knit moto jacket, I couldn't stop myself from putting her in a coordinating look. Instead of stripes, she's styling her windowpane plaid dress that she wore with lots of red for Christmas. And how cute are these little silver shoes? I found them on Amazon for her Valentine's Day present. (Do you like how that was really a present for me?)

What are your wardrobe go-tos lately?

{moto jacket with striped dress}

Faux suede moto jacket: H&M (similar) | striped dress: Gap via ThredUp (similar) | earrings: Nickel and Suede | black ankle boots: Arizona via JCPenney (similar)

$10 at Target: Office Space Spruce-Up

If you work outside your home, do you decorate your work space? I've had the same job for almost four years now, and very little has changed in my office during that time. I'm not great when it comes to decorating at home, so at work, decorating falls to the very bottom of the priority list.

However, I was looking at the bookcase in my office, and thinking about how I could at least add a little personality there. In particular, one of the shelves has a framed quote that's been there since before I was there, and a floral print box that holds keys. Every time I look at that shelf, I cringe, because neither of those items is to my taste. Why have I left them there for so long?

Since I'm focusing on work this month, I decided to pick up a few things to spruce up my bookshelf a bit so that it's no longer (such) an eyesore.

Carrying the World in My Heart at Year of Gratitude

Hi everyone, happy Friday! I wanted to let you know that I'm over at The Year of Gratitude Blog today talking about "carrying the world in my heart" and the law of attraction. To read my post, just go here.

photo from Unsplash

In My Library Tote: February Preschool Book Reviews and Recommendations

I love Jona's excitement when I come home with a big stack of library books. (He's totally my kid, right?) However, that beloved stack has been getting some fierce competition these days. Thanks to his birthday, Christmas, and a preschool field trip, he's starting to build a collection of superhero books.

I'm not sure what started this superhero obsession, but he would read nothing but these if I let him. However, I do enforce a strict one superhero story per bedtime policy, to keep myself sane. I'm sure there are quality comics out there, but these stories targeted at little kids are cringe-worthy. Terrible puns. Over the top morals. The cheesiest plot-lines.

Anyway, I say this as full disclosure. Jona may have enjoyed the below books, but for him there's no comparison to his beloved superhero stories. Here are the (non-superhero) picture books that we read in February.

{february recommended picture books}

Work Style: 2 Looks for a Casual Office

What do you wear to work? I work in an office three days a week (the other two days I work from home). Despite my workplace looking like a pretty traditional corporate office, our dress code is very relaxed. Depending on my schedule, I wear anything from jeans and slip-on sneakers to a dress and boots.

I like having the flexibility to wear what I want, although I do sometimes wish I had more occasions to dress up a little more. However, if given the choice between my current dress code and a place where I had to wear a pencil skirt every day, I'd choose the former. Here are a couple of looks that I would wear (or likely have worn) to work.

In My Library Tote: February Book Reviews and Recommendations

In January, I started out the year reading my favorite book of the month, which cast a bit of a shadow over everything else I read. (I wouldn't want to be the author to follow Jesmyn Ward, would you?) In February however, it was the last book of the month that did me in, which gave more of the sensation of building to a truly fantastic ending. So far I'm enjoying looking at my reading this way, summed up month by month. Here's what I read in February.

{what I read in february}

Currently: March

It may not officially be spring for another few weeks, and it's a crapshoot as to when the spring weather will be here to stay, but I can't help but have the upcoming season on my mind. Spring is my favorite season, so anytime winter wants to check out, I'm ready to say my goodbyes. As always, I'm joining Anne, and her co-host this month Sarah (another blogger I adore!), for the currently link-up to share what I'm up to this new month.

Beauty Q & A and Everyday Products

Beauty isn't a topic I discuss much around here. While I wear makeup and enjoy trying new products, I don't like to spend a lot of time or money on skincare, makeup, or hair products. Basically, I'm both cheap and lazy when it comes to these things. However, if you're cheap and lazy with your beauty too, read on to find out some of my go-to products.

I'm also joining in with The Blended Blog's TBB Asks questions this month, which are all about beauty.

March Goals and February Wins

This year, inspired by Gretchen Rubin's book, I've been doing a Happiness Project, focusing on one important aspect of my life every month. In January my goals centered around health, last month was marriage. The idea is that the months should build on one another and the habits formed in one month should continue into the next and so on. So far I really enjoy this structure for goal-setting, and I think having something more specific to focus on each month goes along with my word for this year, intention.

Here are my wins for last month and my goals for March.

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

February Favorites

I had so much fun rounding up my favorite things for January that I think I'm going to make this a regular thing. Here's a list of what I loved in February.

{february favorites}

A favorite pic from February

Easy Date Night Style

There seem to be very few occasions in my life that require dressing up these days. My workplace is pretty casual, as is my church, although I do like to dress nicely for both when I can. So when Aaron and I have a date night, it gives me an excuse to put a bit of extra effort into getting ready. I still rarely get too fancy; going to dinner in Kansas City is far from a black-tie affair.

This is what I wore when we went to dinner a couple of weeks ago, and while it's still comfortable enough for a night of good eating (priorities, right?), I felt a little more glamorous than usual. This blouse, a ThredUp score, is one of my go-tos, and with a pretty cardigan, my favorite over-the-knee boots, and statement-making jewelry, I felt just dressy enough.

Is your lifestyle on the dressier side or the more casual side? Do you have to dress a certain way for work everyday? 

Burgundy cardigan: Gap Outlet (similar) | navy print blouse: Loft via ThredUp (similar) | jeans: Loft (similar) | earrings: Nickel and Suede | necklace: Bauble Bar (similar) | over-the-knee boots: Target (similar)

Last 10 Photos from My Phone

I remember seeing a post like this last year on Anne's blog and mentally filing it away as a fun blog post idea. After planning a food post and then failing to take photos of said food, this idea came to mind as one I was already prepared for.

Looking at my phone's camera roll, it's a pretty good representation of the things I love: lots of photos of my kids, some book-related shots, and an outfit here and there. If Aaron didn't hate being photographed I'd probably have more of him in that mix as well.

Here are the last 10 or so photos on my phone (with the exception of duplicates and soon-to-be-deleted blurry pics).

A Day in the Life: Working at Home with a Preschooler and Toddler

Last time I shared a day in the life post I was still pumping milk and Violet was drinking bottles and just starting to eat solid food. Now that I have a big kid and toddler on my hands, I thought I'd do another one to show what our life looks like these days. Just like last time I'm sharing photos from a day I'm working at home (my days at the office look pretty boring). Here is one photo every hour from a couple of weeks ago on Friday.

{5:15 am} I usually wake up at about 5:00 and read for 20-30 minutes before I need to get up and ready. I usually read on my Kindle so I don't have to turn the lamp on and wake Aaron. On this day I was reading The 5 Love Languages, which I've since finished. 

$10 at Target: Weekly Budget Date Treats

Last month's $10 at Target post was all about healthy snacks. So very January of me, right? This month I kept the food theme but veered in quite a different direction. I've mentioned before that I'm doing a Happiness Project this year, and each month I focus on something different. Last month was all about health, but February has been dedicated to marriage.

Among my goals this month are to plan regular date nights and to take time to connect daily. Last Thursday evening when Aaron and I were sitting down to do our weekly budget check-in, it occurred to me that we could make these feel more like mini dates and less like a chore.

In My Library Tote: January Picture Book Reviews and Recommendations

Just as I'm sharing all books read the previous month for my own reading recaps, I'm going to start doing the same for the picture books we read. For background if you're new here, I have a son who is four and in preschool, so I choose picture books that are age appropriate for him. My daughter Violet (15 months) also loves books, but will happily read the same four board books every day. Unless you want to read about how many times a person can read Moo Baa La La La in one day, I'll spare you from her book reviews and stick with what Jona and I have enjoyed.

{january recommended picture books}

How I Use a Bullet Journal as a Reading Journal

Happy Valentine's Day! Do you know the way straight to my heart? Books, all things planning/tracking-related, ice cream, and chocolate. And if I've just finished a book and I'm recording it in my reading journal while eating a bowl of chocolate ice cream? Well, I'm pretty much in heaven.

Inspired by a new linkup from my friends Alexandra and Lauren all about planning and documenting (so my jam), I thought I'd share the way I'm using a bullet journal in 2018. Last year I kept a bullet journal instead of a traditional paper planner. You can read all about my experience with it here. It worked pretty well for me, and I liked how it combined the organizational aspects of planning with journaling and memory keeping.

However, what I enjoyed most about my bullet journal was using it to record all things book related. This year I decided to go back to a traditional planner, but create a separate bullet journal as a reading journal. So far I love it! Here's how I use it.

{how I use my bullet journal as a reading journal}

Valentine's Day Mommy and Me Style

After having several busy weekends in a row, it was nice to finally have one with not a lot planned. It was freezing cold, so apart from the necessary running around, I stayed indoors. And what does one do when stuck inside on a cold winter Saturday? Bake cookies of course! I tried these Soft Chocolate Chip M&M Cookies with Valentine M&Ms with my favorite baking sidekick. (They were delicious by the way.)

Then, with my favorite style sidekick, we did a little Valentine's Day dress up. Violet got this adorable heart dress for her birthday, and I'm glad that it still fits since it's perfect for this month. My dress isn't nearly as cute, but you can't go wrong with classic black and white stripes. I added a cozy red scarf for warmth and a subtle hint of Valentine's Day.

In the past I've gone bolder with my Valentine's Day style, mixing red and pink to really have fun with the holiday's color palette (see these two looks and this still favorite look). However, this year I'm much more drawn to classic color combinations.

Do you like to wear red or pink (or both) for Valentine's Day? 

In My Library Tote: January Book Reviews and Recommendations

I've been trying to find the best way to share my monthly book round-ups. After having a few months where I read five books each month, I got hung up on sharing five books per month. It seemed like a nice number and made my graphic look nice and Pinterest-y. However, I don't always read five books a month, and as a result I ended up with a lot of unblogged books in 2017. (Oh, the tragedy!) I'm going to go back to sharing what I actually read each month, no matter the number. I also share my books on Instagram using #shealennonreads so you can follow me there as well.

{what I read in January}

Currently: February

Happy February! We're one month closer to spring. Right? As always, I'm joining Anne for the monthly currently link-up. Here's what I've been up to currently.

TBB Asks: All About Love

I had originally planned a style post for today, but I wimped out due to snow and cold weather. Luckily I saw that the ladies at The Blended Blog posted their questions for this month's TBB Asks for today, which is all about love.

February Goals and January Wins

Being one month down in a new year feels kind of exhilarating, doesn't it? I'm still feeling motivated and ready to take on 2018. I really think that having a word for the year, as well as something specific to focus on each month is helping me keep goals at the forefront of my mind. I'm trying to weave my word, intention, and my monthly focus into every aspect of my life.

Photo by Jasmine Waheed on Unsplash

{january wins}

- I took a walking break nearly every day I went in to the office. The only days I didn't do this were days I was already busy and walking around a ton. I consider this a win for sure and plan to continue all year. It was especially nice on days that the weather cooperated and I could take my walk outside.

- I stopped adding (additional) sugar to my coffee. The coffee creamer I use, CoffeeMate Natural Bliss (or the Aldi equivalent if they have it) has sugar in it, so I didn't eliminate it completely. However, I used to add the sweet creamer AND sugar.

- I made healthy snack choices using my go-to snack list. This little list has been a game-changer for me. It has taken the decision making out of snacking (and especially bringing snacks to work); I just grab something off my list. Sure I still indulge occasionally, but I eat WAY fewer chocolate covered almonds than I did before, that's for sure.

- I ate more fruits and vegetables. I still struggle with this, especially vegetables, but I did make a conscious effort to get more fruits and veggies in my diet, mostly by keeping fresh produce on hand and storing it in a place where I can see it every day. (Those crisper drawers are great in theory, but in my fridge they're where vegetables go to die.)

{non-health related wins}

- I read eight books this month. Two were on audio, one on my Kindle, one borrowed from my dad, and the rest from the library. I will share a reading re-cap next week.

- I had a date night "in" with Aaron. We had fun asking each other the questions from this cute "Spouse Speed Dating" date. (We didn't print anything out, just asked the questions. We're not really date night printable kind of people.)

- I had two girls nights. One was a quick happy hour get-together with a close friend (and my 2-person book club buddy), and the other was a nice dinner out with three of my gals. Those were wins for sure!

{February goals}

I hope to continue to keep up my health goals, but this month my focus is on my marriage. Here's how I plan to focus on that.

- Give freely; stop keeping score. This is one of my personal "happiness commandments", but it is something I struggle with. I tend to feel like I take on more than my fair share of housework and parenting responsibilities, but I often forget all the things that Aaron does for our home and family. Also, with his busy schedule as a golf coach and grad school, his plate is already overflowing. I really want to give more freely, and not grumble about always having to do something or thinking it should be "his turn" to take care of some task.

- Have a "week of extreme nice". This one comes straight from Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, and it's like the goal above, but going above and beyond for an entire week. Not only will I try not to grumble or nag that week, but I'll also do whatever I can to make Aaron's life easier. While ideally I should make that effort all the time, the reality looks much different. I think taking a week to really focus on Aaron will remind me that it really does feel good to serve others.

- Connect daily. With kids, work, grad school, and other responsibilities, there are days when it feels like Aaron and I barely see each other. I like to relax in the evenings by reading and I tend to go to bed early, while Aaron is a night owl who prefers Netflix or sports for his down-time. Sometimes we're not even in the same room after the kids go to bed! I'd like to make more of an effort to connect--have a real conversation, not interrupted by kids--at least once a day.

- Have a date night and plan to have one per month. We already have dinner reservations one night this month, so this is a goal we will definitely accomplish. I would like to make date nights a priority and have at least one a month, going out or staying in as budget and schedules allow.

- Read The 5 Love Languages.

What are your goals for this month? 

Linking with Writes Like a Girl and Coffee Until Cocktails

January Favorites

I love starting my month out by focusing on goals, but I've been trying to come up with a consistent post to end the month. I used to do a monthly clothing budget post, but lately my purchases haven't really been exciting enough to document. Plus they've just about all come from ThredUp. One thing I love seeing on other blogs are round-ups of favorite things from the month, so I'm going to jump on that bandwagon and see how it goes.

Here are my January favorite things.

{january favorites}

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Violet Lennon at 15 Months

I hadn't planned on doing another Violet update until she was 18 months, but I forgot how much changes between that year to year and a half mark. While I can't bring myself to stop calling her my baby (and likely never will), she has officially strutted her way into toddler-hood. Sob. Here's what the little lady is up to at 15 months.

{Violet at 15 months}

5 Healthy Family Dinners We Love

As someone who loves to cook and especially, to eat, I belong to camp "Everything in Moderation". At my house we eat carbs, red meat, dessert... but I strive for balance and try not to indulge in everything, every night. Not every meal I cook is a healthy balanced one, but I want those little indulgences to be the exception rather than the rule (for dinner, at least).

This month, like a lot of other people, I've been focusing on making healthy choices, and my family (whether they want to be or not) is along for the ride. Here are five healthy, easy, weeknight dinners that we have enjoyed again and again.

{5 healthy dinners - easy and family friendly}

Chatting With Jona: Comic Relief from a Four Year Old

If you ever start fear that you're taking life too seriously, just spend a little time with a four year-old. Whether he intends to or not, Jona provides quite a bit of comic relief at our house. I try to write down the funny things he says so I don't forget, and share them with you all just because it's something I always get a kick out of reading on other blogs too. Here are a few recent conversations that made me laugh.

Lying in his bed one night after reading stories (from his favorite superhero book), "Do superheroes...? Does Captain America wear underwear?"

Mommy and Me Style: Vests and Blush in Winter

After spending the last several weeks cooped up in the house, the weather warmed up enough to enjoy a little time outside this weekend. We took a walk to the park, and I also (finally) got some outfit photos taken. I hope to get back to regular style posts in 2018, but I just can't motivate myself (or Aaron) to take photos when it's below freezing out.

Inspired by a post last week on The Blended Blog where everyone was styling vests, Violet and I are sharing our winter vest style. We've both been wearing vests a lot this season, and I love how they add warmth without too much bulkiness. (Plus as long as they're not too puffy, it's a layer I can leave on in the carseat...win!)

I've also carried over my love of blush pink into this season, and I think it's a color that can totally work for winter. When paired with darker colors, like black and olive, blush pink adds a bit of lightness that I love to incorporate this time of year.

Violet, fairly new to the walking world, was having a blast walking around outside on our driveway. I can't wait for spring when she'll be able to explore outside on a more regular basis! (And run some of that energy off!)

{mommy and me style: vests and winter blush}

On Violet: Chambray peplum top: Cat and Jack, Target (similar) | black leggings: Cat and Jack, Target (similar) | pink quilted vest: Old Navy (how cute is this rose gold one?) | pink moccasins: Little Wanderers
On me: black gingham shirt: Target (similar) | olive utility vest: Old Navy (similar) | black jeans: J.Crew via ThredUp (current version) | earrings: Nickel and Suede (LOVE this blush knit version) | Teething Necklace: Mama and Little | black ankle boots: Arizona, JC Penney

On Privilege at Year of Gratitude Blog

Hey there happy Friday! I wanted to let you know that today I'm guest posting at my friend Alexandra's new project, Year of Gratitude blog.

Each week, Alexandra and her co-author Rachel share journaling prompts that aim to help you foster more gratitude and mindfulness in your life. They each answer the prompts and feature guest writer's responses as well. I'm happy to be writing a guest post for this week's prompt related to privilege. Go check out my post here. Be sure to follow the blog for more gratitude inspiration. 

Have a great weekend!

7 Day Capsule Challenge with Cladwell

A few years ago, tired of cramming too many clothes in a too-small closet, I took on the challenge of a capsule wardrobe. I did it for a few seasons and learned a lot, but eventually got tired of the restriction. Since then we've moved and I have a much larger closet. Now I'm having quite the opposite problem: I feel the need to fill the space and in turn have too many options to choose from.

$10 at Target: Healthy Snacking

I'm doing a Happiness Project this year (inspired by Gretchen Rubin), and this month I'm focusing on health. One way I am trying to be healthier is by cutting back on the amount of sugar in my diet. I have a major sweet tooth and I know that the amount of sugar I eat is my worst eating habit.

There are certain parts of my sugar consumption that are non-negotiable to me. I love to bake and I don't plan to give that up anytime soon. And you know how I feel about ice cream. However, I know that I could significantly reduce my sugar intake by making better snack choices.

For this month's $10 at Target I decided to find some fun, healthy snacks that I don't usually buy to shake up my snacking habit.

Secondhand Shopping Challenge: 6 Months of Buying Used

Back in August I decided to challenge myself to only shop secondhand for six months. Part of the challenge was to save money, although I do know it isn't always cheaper to shop used. The second part was to shop more ethically and sustainably. Ethical and sustainable clothing is often more expensive, and I don't have the budget to buy all my clothes this way. However, shopping secondhand is a step in the right direction towards buying less fast fashion.

I haven't done much to make this challenge "official", but by the end of this month it will have been six months. So, how did I do?

In My Library Tote: Family (Dys)function

I think on some level everyone considers her family to be a little bit dysfunctional. That's why I think there could be a whole genre wholly devoted to novels about dysfunctional families. It's great, because if you're feeling the need for a break from your own family's brand of crazy, there are so many fictional families to turn to, many of whom are likely much more crazy than your own. Here are a few dysfunctional family novels I've enjoyed recently.

{recent reads: family (dys)function}

New Years Questions from The Blended Blog Asks

I love surveys and questionnaires. Do you? Every time The Blended Blog does one of these TBB asks linkups I always see it too late to join in. This time though I caught the announcement over the weekend and decided to join the fun. Here are my answers to this month's New Years-themed TBB Asks.

I loved ringing in the new year with these hooligans! 

5 Chapter Books to Read to Preschoolers Plus Tips for Reading Aloud to Younger Readers

Preschoolers are notoriously squirmy and wiggly; nothing holds their attention for long. Yet Jona has always been captivated by stories and will happily sit and read a book even (sometimes especially) if it's on the long side. When he was just shy of four I decided to try reading a chapter book aloud to him to see if it would keep him interested. Since chapter books typically have very few pictures, I wasn't sure he would like it. As kids often do though, he surprised me by really enjoying it, and a new read-aloud habit began.

Here are 5 chapter books that we've read together, all of which I think are excellent for preschool-aged listeners. Additionally I'm sharing a few tips for reading chapter books with young kids.

{5 Chapter Books to Read Aloud to Preschoolers}

Currently: January

Ahh, January. Aside from the ridiculously cold weather, I love it. Beginnings are the best. Starting a new month is fun, but starting a whole new year? Fantastic. I was talking to Aaron about my excitement over the new year and he doesn't get it. He doesn't like New Year's resolutions, and he doesn't share my joy in a fresh start. What do you think, do you enjoy starting a new year?

One thing that's not new is that I'm joining Anne for the monthly currently linkup. Here's what I'm currently up to so far this 2018.