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Favorite Books // Summer 2017 Edition

September 25, 2017

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I’ll be the first to tell you I’m an avid reader who has fallen off the wagon in recent years. I used to devour books as a child and young adult, but motherhood pushed reading anything long-form to the back burner unless it was a book about sleep training, potty training, or something so very practical that I needed to know to move forward in my parenting journey.

A couple months ago I started reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod (more on that later…) and one of the things I loved the most about the book was the emphasis on making reading part of your daily (early) morning routine. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that after reading The Miracle Morning I also happened to complete a handful of other books, and for someone who has been stuck in a start-stop pattern with book reading that’s really saying something!

My biggest tip if you want to get back into the habit of reading books would be to make small goals, like reading just 5 or 10 minutes per day, and easing into reading again. I got stuck telling myself that I didn’t have time to read, because I had the misconception that I needed to have an hour to read if I was going to really get into a book. But the truth is that I don’t know if I’m going to consistently have an hour to read for the next 10 years while raising little kids, so I’m biting off small chunks. Also, although I much prefer hard copies of books, in this season of life, having books on Kindle and the Kindle app on my phone is more practical. Then, instead of reaching for my phone to scroll social media when I have down time, I’m more likely to open my Kindle app and read a few pages instead.

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately!

1. The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod (free on Kindle)
Like I mentioned above, The Miracle Morning was the book that jumpstarted all my new reading. I’m already a morning person by nature, but this book was an awesome read that encouraged some really wonderful, new practices into my morning routine and gave it additional structure and purpose.

2. The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd
If you’re a mom, chances are you’ve read at least one of the beautiful essays on the blog Coffee + Crumbs. I’m always encouraged by their site and podcast and this book is no different. It’s a collection of essays about motherhood that had me feeling all the feels. I cried so many happy/sad tears while reading this book that Joe was worried about me. I would highly recommend this as a gift to the new moms or expecting moms in your life!

3. Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley
The Simplified Planner creator, Emily Ley, is a mom of three little kids, including a set of twins who are Ainsley’s age. I loved her book – which is not only beautiful but also a really encouraging, heartfelt read about finding time for what truly matters and giving yourself grace in the journey of motherhood. She had me laughing, nodding in agreement and even crying at times.

4. Oh Crap Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki
Yes, this is a parenting book, a potty training book none the less, but it was such a helpful, funny read! Anyone who can make potty training both educational and entertaining gets all the kudos in my book. And if you’re even thinking about potty training your toddler, get this book sooner rather than later. Our potty training experience was so smooth and uneventful because of it.

5. The Wellness Project by Phoebe Lapine
Friends! You need to read this book. If you’ve ever wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and improve your wellness but also want to find a happy balance of still living life, I can’t recommend this book enough. The author, Phoebe, is a personal chef and blogger who spent a year in search of improving her health and overall wellness. I learned so much about gut health, stress management, and more. And I think anyone who is curious about how their personal care products impact their health will find that chapter particularly eye-opening.

6. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero
I hated this book. And I don’t say that lightly. I know, it’s trendy and gets rave reviews all over the internet but I just couldn’t stomach this book. Although the author talked a lot about God and faith, her entire perspective on the topic was very mystical and hardly rooted in sound Biblical principles. It was very “rah rah!” “the power is within you!” and while that might feel good to read, and I’m all about empowerment, I think self-reliance is a slippery slope. Additionally, I felt the book was repetitive and light on actual content.

 

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Independent Play and the Working Mom

July 25, 2017

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This post is sponsored by North States Industries. I was compensated for my work. All thoughts and opinions are

my own. 

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Being a work at home mom (WAHM) has been one of the biggest blessings and challenges of my career. When I worked a corporate 40-hour per week job I dreamed about having a flexible work schedule, setting my own hours and working when it worked for me, spending plenty of time with my kids along the way. And while being your own boss IS amazing in a thousand different ways, being a WAHM is also seriously challenging at times.

Now that I’m a year and a half into this work at home thing, I’m just starting to feel like we’re finding a rhythm – a way for me to get the work done that I need to while spending as much time as I can with my girls. I told Joe that last year would be my “year of learning” as I figured out how much childcare I needed, how to juggle my clients and what projects to say “yes” to. Hint: Saying “no” is hard as a freelancer but often necessary.

One of the unexpected benefits of working from home has been the fact that Ainsley (and hopefully Collins down the road) has learned the art of independent play. I try to not work around Ainsley more than I need to, but sometimes I do sneak in a little work during the days when I don’t have childcare lined up or a babysitter cancels or a deadline looms.

When North States asked if I would be interested in reviewing their Superyard Classic Play Yard, I jumped at the chance. Knowing that Collins will be mobile in the blink of an eye, I figured having a portable play yard would come in handy. A play yard is one product I didn’t buy when Ainsley was younger that I wished I had! But when the play yard arrived, it surprised me how much Ainsley loved playing with her toys inside the play yard. Over the last week we’ve covered it with blankets to make a fort, used it as a place to contain all her Legos and as a cage for the zoo animals (aka our dog Pippa.)

It’s amazed me how much use we’ve gotten out of the play yard already, allowing me to get a little work done around the house, too. And as Collins gets older, I’m looking forward to using it to keep a mobile baby contained in a safe play space in the house. Want to see the Superyard Classic in action? Check it out in our home below.

The best news? North States graciously agreed to give away one Superyard Classic Play Yard to an Espresso and Cream reader. Enter to win below!

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What I want to teach my daughter about her body

June 16, 2016

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My daughter is only 15 months old, and already I’m thinking about what I want to teach her about her body. As a toddler Ainsley is blissfully unaware of how she looks, other than when she sees herself in the mirror and giggles in delight at her own reflection, which I love.

Already, I see how she mirrors me, copies what I do and tries to be just like mommy. Frequently I have Ainsley in the bathroom when I get ready for the day. I don’t spend a lot of time applying makeup, but she’s watching just the same. She grabs my brushes and “puts on makeup” alongside me. I remember the first time she did that I was shocked at the fact that she had been watching and observing all along.

I tell her she is beautiful every day. I see her chubby little tummy and her stunning eyes and honestly? I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life. I want her to know her worth, to love her body and to be comfortable in her own skin throughout her life.

When I think about my own journey with my body I have a lot of regrets. I think about the times I’ve been wrapped up in the number on the scale or the size of my jeans. There have been times when I’ve felt absolutely horrible about my body and times when I’ve felt near absolute peace, more so now that I’m a mom than ever before. My health journey and my relationship with food and fitness hasn’t always been what it should be, in fact at times it’s been downright tormented, but now that I’ve got a little one who looks up to me, it seems more important than ever before.

You see, I think being healthy is important, there’s no need to diminish that. Not in the pursuit of vanity, six-pack abs or looking hot in a bikini, because those things just don’t matter. The line between health and vanity is a very fine one to walk. But because I never want how I feel about my body to inhibit my parenting.

I want to throw on a swimsuit and head to the pool with no reservations, to run around the park without being winded, to take Ainsley on long walks and point out all the beauty that is in nature and explain to her that God created all that is around her. Our bodies are beautiful gifts worth caring for but not worshiping.

In this season of life I’m working on focusing on how I feel rather than how I think I look or what size jeans I wear. As I sit here writing this blog post, I feel healthy. My body feels fit, balanced, full of energy, strong. My ideal size, weight or pant size may be very different than yours, than Ainsley’s when she grows up, than another mommy at the park. My hope is that I’ll teach Ainsley to celebrate those differences by how I model that in my own life.

Madison

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My Haircare Routine

May 25, 2016

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my hair lately, so I thought I would do a little post about how I care for my hair and the process of growing it out over the years.

About two years ago I made a commitment to growing out my hair. I’ve always had medium-length hair and wanted long hair but was never able to get over them hump of mid-length hair. There have been about a thousand times in the last two years that I’ve been tempted to cut it (hello, postpartum hair loss!) but I made my husband hold me to my hair growth goals, which was good for warding off impulse chopping.

Care //

I wash my hair about 3 times/week, even less if I can make it a few more days between washings. Washing my hair less has been key to keeping it healthy. I usually blow dry it with a round brush the first day, then curl it the second day and put it up the third day which helps stretch the time between washes.

Although I used to hate getting my hair trimmed, I’ve acknowledged the fact that trims are a necessary part of growing out your hair in a healthy way, so I get it trimmed about four times a year. I ask for a “dusting” to make sure that my stylist doesn’t take too much length off.

Hair Care Products //

Shampoo ::
Living Proof Full Shampoo rotated with Head and Shoulders Dry Scalp Care (postpartum itchy scalp about did me in!)

Conditioner ::
Beautycounter Kidscounter Conditioner (the best for long hair!) rotated with Living Proof Full Conditioner

Post-Shower Products ::
Moroccan Oil on the ends of my hair after showering.

Beautycounter’s Sea Salt Style Spray when my hair is about 1/2 to 3/4 dry for volume.

Color //

After a very horrible experience in college with too-blonde hair, I came around to the idea that natural is better and looks better on me than platinum blonde ever will. I do a full-foil highlight every other time, alternating with a partial highlight. I color my hair every 10 weeks or so, sometimes more sometimes less, but usually not more than 12 weeks between appointments or things start to look a little funny.

My stylist does a mix of highlights and lowlights which match my natural color. Doing this helps my hair outgrowth not be as noticeable and looks more natural/blended than if I just did highlights. I might be wrong, but I think she also focuses more highlights around my face than in the back of my hair.

I think that’s it! My routine is super low maintenance, and with summer approaching I’m hoping to air dry my hair more frequently and use the blowdryer less. Once in a while I also do a hair mask and/or deep conditioner while I’m in the bath, and I try not to over-use any styling tools, running them lightly over my hair at a lower heat setting.

Madison

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An Expert’s Guide to Wine

April 19, 2016

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Madison’s Note // Friends, I have a treat for you today! My dear dar friend, Emily, is sharing all about wine. While I don’t claim to be an expert on all things wine, I do like to drink my fair share. When I was texting with Emily a few weeks ago about a handful of wine questions, she graciously volunteered to share some of her expert tips one how to select the best wine and, more importantly, how to find the best wine at the grocery store. Living in a small town, our access to great wine isn’t as great as it was when we were living in Minneapolis, so this was super helpful to me, too! Now, I’ll turn it over to Emily! 

My husband and I moved to Sonoma, California almost five years ago, and it’s safe to say we’ve reached the point of total spoiledness over the amazing wine selection around us. Beyond the wines we’re able to taste through both our jobs–he’s an assistant winemaker and I work for a winery-specific public relations company– we’re surrounded by boutique wine shops and hundreds of tasting rooms. In other words, our cup overfloweth, something I see most clearly when we visit our hometown in Iowa and pop into the local grocery store for a bottle of wine. There are two almost opposite challenges to finding a bottle of wine at a supermarket: on one hand, there isn’t a staggering amount of diversity (in 2012, over half of the wine sold in the US came from three companies). On the other hand, one look down the wine aisle shows dozens of unique labels, multiplied by different grape varieties from each brand. Either way, wine selection can be a daunting task, so below are a few tips I’ve picked up during my early years in the wine industry and a few wines which, in my humble opinion, are worth grabbing from the shelf:

  1. Drink what you like. This is probably one of the most commonly heard mantras of the wine world: above all else, drink whatever floats your boat. No shame, even if it is that bottle of $2 wine from Trader Joe’s.  

  2. Don’t drink that $2 wine from Trader Joe’s. Let me clarify: above all else, drink what you like, but I will say this: those $10 bottles of wine are priced there for a reason–whether that reason is ultra-cheap grapes or industrialized winemaking practices that make sub-par juice palatable with stabilizing chemicals, added sugar and/or oak chips for flavor. By spending a few dollars more, you’ll enjoy a far better glass of wine.

  3. On picking grapes. Typically one of the most prominent words on a wine label is the grape variety: what Fuji, Granny Smith or Golden Delicious are to apples, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and more are to grapes/wine. The variety is the single most significant indicator of what a wine will taste like, so a basic sense of the “Big Six” can go a long way in navigating the wine aisle:

    Sauvignon Blanc (white)— high acidity, tropical fruit, green bell pepper or fresh-cut grass flavors
    Chardonnay (white)– apple and melon flavors, sometimes toast or buttered-popcorn-flavored Jelly Belly character if it spent time in oak
    Pinot Noir (red)— tends to be a lighter wine, sour cherry or raspberry and sometimes earthy flavors
    Cabernet Sauvignon (red)– fuller-bodied, tannic, blackberry bramble, sometimes green pepper flavors
    Syrah (red)– even fuller-bodied than Cabernet, peppery or smoked meat flavors and ripe black fruit
    Zinfandel (red)– full-bodied, ranges from raspberry flavors to dark black fruits or bramble, even chocolatey flavors. (White Zinfandel is a sweet rosé or pink wine – it’s not to my taste, but see Rule #1)

  4. Tour the world. In general, wines that come from a specific region like Sonoma Valley, Napa, Bordeaux, Tuscany or the Barossa Valley are better bets than if the label just says California, USA, France, Italy or Australia. Some wine regions outside the US–Italy, Australia and New Zealand, for example, are known for great quality for the price, though my list below sways to the patriotic side. 🙂

  5. Take two. (Two bottles? That, too.) Two quick minutes on the internet can leave you with a solid background on the wine you’re enjoying–and who doesn’t like whipping out a piece of trivia to impress one’s husband or dinner party guests?

One Wine Gal’s Opinion on Best Grocery Store Buys

Riesling – Kung Fu Girl or Chateau Ste. Michelle
Riesling is the cool kid’s alternative to Moscato. The wine can range from totally dry to super sweet, and these two are somewhere in the middle. Kung Fu Girl is a part of Charles Smith Wines, which is, like Chateau Ste. Michelle, based in Washington State.  

Sauvignon Blanc – Kim Crawford
Kim Crawford is a great wine name to know. When my husband and I took a wine class a couple years ago, this was the first wine we blind tasted: our instructor selected it because it’s one of the most quintessential examples of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, priced around $20.  

Chardonnay – La Crema or Kendall Jackson
Chardonnay is tricky because there are so, so many available–it’s the most largely planted variety in the world. These are two that I think show the grape well; both are large Sonoma-based wineries that have been around for 35+ years, and while they make a lot of wine, they put a lot of emphasis on people and place.

Pinot Noir – Simi or Bogle
Simi has been around since the late 1800s (with a break for Prohibition), Bogle Winery is on their sixth generation of family winemakers, and the wines reflects the solid reliability that comes with their histories.

Cabernet Sauvignon – L.M. Martini
Another longstanding Napa winery, Martini is another example of a winery that sells single-vineyard (AKA pricier) wines locally and in certain big cities, but their Napa or Sonoma Cabernet is much more widely available for a more approachable price.  

Zinfandel – Ravenswood Vintner’s Blend Old Vine
Ravenswood is one of the pioneering wineries in Sonoma, and they created their Vintner’s Blend to offer a big and bold counterpart to other brands’ White Zinfandels. While they make high-end Zinfandels from old vine vineyards, the Vintner’s Blend is distributed nationally and is a lovely wine for the price.

Syrah – Coppola Diamond Collection Claret
This is actually a Syrah/Merlot blend from Francis Ford Coppola Winery, which is a pretty rare combination. Francis Ford Coppola Winery is in northern Sonoma County, and they make a significant amount of wine, from $75+ bottles to under $10 (see Rule #2).  The Diamond Collection is their mid-tier range of wines, typically in the $15-$20 range.