13 Simple Romantic Home Date Night Ideas (& Chocolate Fondue recipe)


  Staying on the same page as a couple is paramount for us. Before kids, we took dates whenever we wanted, but now it’s a bit trickier. We try to have date night twice a month, and then set apart the opposite weeks for “Home Date Nights” after the children are in bed. We don’t need to spend a bunch of money to get us face to face conversing and having fun. We just need to get a little creative and remember that fun and connection are the goal! Here are some favorite Home Date Night ideas, hoping to appeal to both people: Board games (preferably cooperative ones like Forbidden Island, but Carcassonne and Dominion are fun too) & ice cream 1000 piece puzzle (Springbok are our favorites, and I love this “Color of Money” one. Usually, we find that puzzles filled with paraphernalia are more fun than landscapes) & popcorn Crackers with cream cheese or goat cheese and jalapeño jelly or green olives Exchange massages (with or without massage oil, consider foot rubs if this is new to you) Cook a late dinner together Netflix movie & tea Warm brie cheese with crackers and jam, maybe a glass of wine YouTube dancing lesson (which could be instructional, or just turn out to be a hilarious time!) Play Wii / video games Eat Takeout & Read/discuss a New Yorker (or other thought-provoking) article Bake dessert together Hot tubbing (if you have one; we don’t so it’s on the inexpensive date night ideas list) Luscious Velvety Chocolate Fondue (recipe …

Lauri13 Simple Romantic Home Date Night Ideas (& Chocolate Fondue recipe)

How My 5yo Bought Her Own Violin


  Last spring, my oldest daughter realized that she wanted to play the violin. I’m not even sure what sparked it; perhaps that Violet of The Boxcar Children learned to play one in Surprise Island? She doesn’t even remember what made her first interested, but somehow the seed began to grow. We heartily encourage our children in musical pursuits, and soon will require each of them to learn several instruments as part of a well-rounded education: piano and one of their choice (read about our beginning piano lessons here and here). It’s wonderful for discipline as well as a creative outlet once you can really make music, not just plunk out notes. So we were delighted that she latched onto an instrument of interest, and we became increasingly amazed at her tenacity in pursuing it. Over the course of the summer, she began to work to earn money to buy her own violin. It’s an interesting thing as a parent to figure out when to provide something for a child, and when to encourage them in their pursuit of gaining it themselves. At first, we figured that we’d match what she earned in order to aid the process, but as time went on, we saw that she was motivated and might just be able to to it herself! She’s a little entrepreneur, and started a lemonade stand when she was four. Once she latched onto the goal of earning money for a violin, she got serious about the lemonade stand. …

LauriHow My 5yo Bought Her Own Violin
[email protected]How to be a Stay at Home Mom without losing your mind

Changing Out Kids’ Seasonal Clothes

Clothing Bins

It’s finally cooling off in Nashville, just enough to want a sweatshirt in the morning, but we still have sleeveless afternoons. It’s cool enough for the children to wear pants again, and for mama to notice how short they’ve become. Twice a year, it’s time to tackle the season change and size change for the kids’ clothes. When there are multiple children, hand-me-downs can reduce the shopping list, but we all still have to assess what we have and what we still need. Unfortunately, without a bit of organization, it’s terribly easy to purchase clothing that we already own. They’re just hiding away in the attic and we just have to be able to find them when the season changes! How to find the clothes hiding in the attic I discovered that two-gallon ziploc bags are an amazingly helpful tool to organize off-season clothes. They’re air tight, transparent, and easily stacked in a labeled bin. So for each size, there is: a bag of pants, skirts & shorts a bag of shirts a bag of sweaters a bag of dresses a bag of undergarments a bag of pajamas a bag with a winter coat, mittens, hat a bag of shoes Now it’s so easy to see what we have! How to get started  Step 1: Remove Everything. This morning we began by emptying out the closet and drawers for one child. I started with the oldest, because she will need the most. Working with one child’s wardrobe at a time prevents the room from …

LauriChanging Out Kids’ Seasonal Clothes

Photo Shoot for My New Book!

Breakfast Nook

    My first book, Kitchen Rescue for the Not-So-Organized, is coming together. I’ll let you know when we have an official launch date! For the moment, though, I’ll share a glimpse of our photo shoot for it. Teaming up with photographer Kellie Mueller was a great idea. Before we got started, I shared with her an inspiration board of photographs that captured my vision for the book. It apparently communicated well, because when we got in there, we worked together seamlessly. I got to play creative director and stylist, while she clicked away. So fun! We had limited time to be in this classic kitchen, which meant there was no time to fool around. We were cordially all business. A huge thanks to the Farnsworth family for inviting us into their kitchen. It was the perfect setting. I’ve been toying with shooting some full-scale before and after kitchens, but I think that may be a follow-up to the book. Maybe yours would be one!

LauriPhoto Shoot for My New Book!

Taking a Young Family Camping for the First Time


    It’s daunting to consider taking a young family tent camping! It took us about a year to work up to it. Last summer, we bought a family-sized tent. We had also gradually acquired a few random camping items: a lantern, wedding-gift sleeping bags (that zip together!), marshmallow-roasting-sticks, but the idea took a long time to germinate before we took action. Living in Tennessee, summers are hot and muggy, and we did not relish the idea of living outdoors for several days. So we didn’t. September seemed like a good idea though. We were ready for some outside sanity-restoring time and adventure! When I was a kid, my parents took us camping. They loved it and had all the gear from camp stove to fishing tackle and everything in between. Their king-sized pickup truck (with a camper shell over the back) would be packed to the gills and we’d head into the mountains for vacations. Looking back, it’s amazing how much I didn’t learn about how to prepare for a camping trip. I should have watched and helped my mom more… sorry mom! So here we are, a family of five with kids ranging from crawling to first grade. They’ve never been camping, and we decided it’s time. Here’s what we learned: First, make a reservation We heard that campgrounds fill up, and it would be horrible to gather up all that energy and preparation to be turned away. Since we had the flexibility to go mid-week in September, there was plenty of …

LauriTaking a Young Family Camping for the First Time

How I Make Money While Staying at Home with my Little Kids

Sister Walk

    I love kids. I adore being a mother and raising my kids. Perhaps this is every modern mom’s dilemma: how to balance paycheck and mommy-ing? It manifests differently in each family (and I’m not here to judge how it looks in your family!). Let me tell you how it’s worked out for us in the past couple of years. It could change! But this is our story so far: Jon and I married young and didn’t have kids for 10 years. Now we’re pretty settled in Nashville, TN, after having moved all around the country and done lots of different jobs. I taught preschool and kindergarten, did office work and nannied (yup, I love kids!). We found that we like to work for ourselves and set our own schedules. One of our favorite things is to eat meals together. We sit around the table and practice asking questions and discussing things. Granted, with our kids currently at ages five, three and 10 months, many of those meals are filled more with NOISE than conversation, but we get glimmers of hope! For us, it’s really important that the clearest voices in our children’s lives be dad’s voice and mom’s voice. I have a friend who always asks “What can only you do?” Do what only you can do. Only I can be the mother of my children. Only I can nurse them. I love that they have other amazing adults in their lives, but I am their only mommy. We value …

LauriHow I Make Money While Staying at Home with my Little Kids

Who made this Project List, anyway?


  As I learn to focus on what matters (and explore minimalism), I’m frequently asking myself “What is important?”. It starts off being about physical stuff: how can I cut back on the amount of possessions I have or think I need? What is essential? Along the way I’ve begun to ask myself what is essential and important in other areas of life too: time commitments, projects, books-to-read, emotional investments. My project and task lists seem to be never ending, as I’m sure yours are. But then I asked myself, “Who made this list?” “Who decided these projects should be in queue?” I may have literally looked over my shoulder to see if I could pass the buck anywhere else, but alas! They fall squarely on me. I choose these projects. I seem to think they need to be done in my slivers of free time. Some of them fall into the mandatory category of “keep our living space livable”, but what about discretionary projects? Things like: Assemble a baby book for each of my three children (of which I have exactly two pages of one book completed. My oldest is nearly six). Sew Christmas stockings. (Really? Is this important? I don’t even believe in Santa Claus!) Make a baby quilt for the third baby. Hem the awesome jeans my super-tall-model-sister passed along to me. Repair an antique quilt handed down from my grandma. Mending, mending, mending. Of course, the list goes on and on (and that brief list doesn’t …

LauriWho made this Project List, anyway?

The Power of Paint


  A year ago, we stepped over the threshold of a home we wanted to buy. It was in a neighborhood we liked, for a price that worked. The entire package was a huge present sculpted just for us. It even included a personal joke: the entire interior was painted a deep rosy pink. Although pink and I have a truce now, there is history. So we laughed and laughed about the fact that this amazing house was PINK. Entirely pink. Amazingly pink. The floors were natural wood, but looked orange, and we wondered if we’d need to refinish them into a more palatable color. The crown molding we dubbed “dental molding” because it reminded us of teeth… or the top of a castle?? It was garish. Naturally the kitchen wallpaper was no better. Thankfully, they’d just put in new kitchen floors, and the cabinets had already been painted white. The trick was to try to imagine the whole thing a different color. Two pieces of advice we’d gleaned about buying a house: buy new toilet seats, and repaint the interior. Turns out both were excellent ideas. So before moving in, we had the popcorn ceilings scraped (what a mess!) and every wall in the house painted. Although we tend to be do-it-yourselfers, Jon was submerged in a work project and I was six months pregnant with three small children in tow. Needless to say, our man-hours were severely limited. Throughout the house, we chose a neutral sand color. Immediately, …

LauriThe Power of Paint