Summer Book Report

An advantage to Boston's around-the-clock nursing schedule is that I've been reading a ton. Here are a few of the books I've read lately.

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
Quick, easy, fun read. My mom handed this to me on our way out the door to the mountains in early August. I needed a book that was easy to jump into and this was it. The story was an interesting look into immigrant families in the early Twentieth Century. I was fascinated by the Jewish family's lifestyle, attitudes, prejudices and pre-conceived notions. The semi-familiar backdrop of Boston was also entertaining.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Deep, emotional, war-time read. This book was recommended by my sister and I wish I could re-read it for the first time again. The story and characters felt very real-- as any wartime novel should. Set in France, the story follows one French family's story through Nazi occupation. The attitudes, politics and fear from World War 2 were quite tangible. Hannah's writing is superb and the book feels complete. She wraps up her story nicely without going too far into details beyond the actual plot. (Unlike other stories that needed more concise endings, like this one and this one. Apparently a good ending isn't required for a Pulitzer anymore.) Have you read anything else by Hannah? She has written a ton but I'm struggling to find one whose story is as engaging.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Quick, enlightening, engaging read. Life everyone else online, I read this book this summer. Tons of people have written reviews and agree that the premise of Kondo's work boils down to one question: Do the items in your home spark joy? I skimmed this book and found the order she suggests one approach decluttering helpful. She recommends you declutter by category (clothes: tops, bottoms, bags, accessories, etc; books; paperwork) rather than by room. She suggests you take ALL of the items in the category at hand, place them on the floor and then sort keep-giveaway one item at a time. Taking each item in hand, you are to ask yourself, does it spark joy? If the answer is no, get rid of it.
Before reading this book I had gone through my closet. I had a hard time getting rid of anything (even though I knew I had too many clothes) because I am so postpartum in-between sizes. Using Kondo's question, I've bagged up at least forty items of clothing that do not bring me joy- whether they fit me now or in a year. Success!
Kondo recommends things I find a bit unnecessary: you thank the discarded items for completing their purpose in your life, you wipe down and remove all bath products after each shower, you empty the contents of your purse every night. Yikes! I barely have energy to take the trash out when it is full.
My takeaway: don't fill your life with things you don't need and things that don't bring you joy.

Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide by Gabrielle Blair
Entertaining, thought-provoking read. This is the first design book I have read cover-to-cover. I ordered it from the library and sat it on my coffee table. Every few days I would pick it up and read a section. The book is divided by room and is full of ideas for implementing a beautiful, family-friendly home. Blair includes ideas for children of all ages. One of my favorite ideas is the family resolution journal. Each new year, everyone fills out their own resolution page. Blair offers prompts: I want to learn... I want to read... I want to make... I want to be better at... After several years of this, I imagine it is a beautiful collection of her family's interests and goals. I hope I remember this idea in a few years.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Easy, period-piece, descriptive read. I wanted so badly to love this book but it just did not grab me as I hoped. The narrative format is interesting- flashing between the lives of two women in the 1920s and 1950s. The world of perfume creation was fascinating since I've never considered it before. The plot and character development fell a bit flat and anti-climatic. I had hoped for so much more.

Please share your recent reads with me in the comments. I just accidentally deleted my ongoing list of books to read; I am desperate for suggestions!


at home: a homemaking series || eats & drinks

This is a simple homemaking series focusing on making a welcoming space for you, your littles and your guests. Many are methods I've observed from dear friends whose homes are the warmest, coziest places imaginable. A comfortable, hospitable home does not require hours of cleaning and heaps of money. Simple is often best.

Keep dishes, snacks and drinks easily accessible. 

There are a ton of ideas for doing this including a snack bar in the guest room and a welcoming note for guests. These are a few ideas we've started implementing here at Treetops:

Open Shelves:
Your guests will love them as they will not need to interrupt the conversation to inquire about glasses or coffee mugs or plates. With two kids, I am a slightly less attentive hostess than I'd prefer. The open shelves in the kitchen invite our guests to help themselves after I've initially offered drinks or food.
This idea is not for everyone, of course. Some of us are too messy to keep shelves looking orderly and uncluttered. Many of us are not remodeling our kitchens at the moment so this idea is only achievable for a few. If you are interested in open shelves, I encourage you to go ahead and remove a few cabinet doors to see if you like this concept.

Use Trays:
If open shelves are not an option, consider putting appropriate dishes on the counter beforehand. If you are hosting a morning playdate, place some kid-friendly plates and ceramic appetizer plates next to the banana bread. If you have overnight guests, group some mugs, coffee beans, filters and sugar on a tray next to the coffee pot. This will enable your guest to start the coffee if they've had a long night and can't wait. (I speak from personal experience here; thanks for keeping your coffee out, Ali and KW.)

Kid-level Storage:
If you want your children to be able to help themselves, have a place in the fridge for their water bottles that they can reach and use a low drawer for their cups, bowls and plates. They'll be able to get a cup and offer their friend a drink (teaching them to serve their friends!). I have started keeping simple snacks in a low cupboard. August has to ask permission first but I don't have to get the snack out for him since it is already on his level.

How do you make company feel welcome in your kitchen?


How I Document My Children's First Year(s)

The Background
Before I had August, I was brainstorming ideas for keeping track of our day-to-day memories. I knew I would be terrible at recording milestones into baby books so I wanted another option. I was at a loss and when we were given a gorgeous baby book, I tried to use it. Sure enough, I filled in the first month of information and forgot to detail the rest. 

Part of the problem is that I don't care what date August's third bicuspid came in or the date of his first bath. Alternatively, I will want to remember how we spend our days together. This is not a new idea here at Sea and Islands. If you've been here a while, you know I love my Capture the Day and "I hope to remember" type posts.  

The Plan
When August was two or three months old, I read a post by the memory-keeping mastermind Ronnie Mason of Life: Captured Inc detailing how she keeps a daily journal for her son's first year of life. I thought this was brilliant but knew I would miss lots of days. I adjusted her method to one that works for me. Here is what I've been doing for over two years: 
  • Using the Simplenote app on my phone, I try to write out a few highlights from our day. If I miss a day, I do not stress. I normally take notes while nursing or right before I go to bed.
  • Every few months, I write out my notes in the boy's journals. Boston and August both have their own black Moleskin journals. I include thoughtful birthday cards, pictures, ticket stubs and other memorabilia from our time together. Every now and then Brandon writes a note to one of the boys as well. My mom takes scheduling notes when she babysits so I include these in their books as well. I have an aunt who sends pictures she has taken of the children; since I no longer keep traditional photo albums, their journals are a great place to paste these captures. 
  • After I transcribe my notes from Simplenote, I delete the notes in the app and carry on.

The Result
My original intent was to do this for their first year of life. As August's journal was not full at one year, I kept writing- not daily, but regularly enough. Recently, he has been saying some precious things and I am so pleased to have somewhere to record them. 
I use these journals when I make our yearly family albums. I pull memories, quotes and dates to incorporate into the broader story of our family life. My plan is to give the boys their journals one day- perhaps when they have children of their own. Until then, they will be my treasure.

Y'all, life is hard and mommy guilt is real. These posts are just meant to share how I choose to focus my attention and perspective on the beauty and joy that my life offers. The beauty of memory-keeping is we each get to decide when, how and what is recorded. I think it is vital to figure out a system that works for you and your family. If I had tried to strictly implement someone else's method, I would have stressed out and (likely) quit altogether. This is my system; this is how I remember the grace upon grace that is my life. 

How do you remember? Do you journal or write Facebook posts? Do you take pictures for Instagram or photo albums? Do you text memories to your mom or sister? I'd love to know your method. 


at home: a homemaking series || music

This is a simple homemaking series focusing on making a welcoming space for you, your littles and your guests. Many are methods I've observed from dear friends whose homes are the warmest, coziest places imaginable. A comfortable, hospitable home does not require hours of cleaning and heaps of money. Simple is often best.

My next idea comes from my husband: create a playlist for company. Now that August is actively listening to music and jabbering away, we have become significantly more aware of the types of lyrics we want playing in our home. This has inspired Brandon to create a giant playlist we can have on while company is over.

Music creates a nice backdrop to conversation but it should not dominate the atmosphere. Children need to be able to play with toys and hear their imaginations at work. Adults need to hear each other over the music and the children's games. Don't be afraid to add a few upbeat songs and the occasional kid's song on the mix -- just be aware of little listening ears while you make your selections. Some of my favorite artists on our company playlist: Andrew Peterson (he's my fav), Chet Baker, Rain for Roots, Josh Rouse, Sugar & the Hi-Lows. The Oldies are always a good choice too.

We are often looking for new music... Who are your favorites?


Stunning Visuals

You are probably not shocked to hear that I love Instagram (IG). I find it an endless source of inspiration and instruction in better photography methods. I love that it is as involved as I want to be- I can put up a picture with no caption or with three paragraphs of rambling thoughts. I've told many people that if a few more friends would swap from Facebook to IG, I'd eliminate my Facebook account altogether. Anyhow, there is a thing on IG called #FollowFriday. It is a great way to spread the IG love. This week, I joined the fun and featured four of my favorite accounts. Even if you don't have IG, you can click through to peruse the stunning profiles of Practising Simplicity, High Hermitage, Ardent Form and JoeGreer. Enjoy!


at home: a homemaking series || light

This is a simple homemaking series focusing on making a welcoming space for you, your littles and your guests. Many are methods I've observed from dear friends whose homes are the warmest, coziest places imaginable. A comfortable, hospitable home does not require hours of cleaning and heaps of money. Simple is often best.

I'll start with the easiest idea: light a candle. It will cast visual warmth and a lovely scent to any scene. A candle in the kitchen reminds me to breathe deeply when cooking seems mundane. Tapers on the dining room table transform a normal dinner into a special occasion. A lit pillar on the coffee table calms our play to a slower pace and brightens a rainy day.

A candle transforms the mood of the room and, often, the mood of its occupants. I light candles when I'm playing with the boys on the floor, when girlfriends are over for coffee and when the house is quiet during nap time. Give it a shot. I'm off to light mine now.


25 / 52

"A portrait of my sons, once a week, every week, in 2015."

August: (2 years old) you ate (a portion of) your first "lolli-lap" this week with eyes wide and mouth smiling; how can I refuse you all sugar when I see how happy it makes you?

Boston: (six weeks old) you are patient and content, until you are not; everyone, plug your ears because this kid cries more suddenly and much louder than any other 6 week old


Project inspired by Jodi.