Friday, November 30, 2018

A Few of my Favorite Things: Gifts Ideas for You (and a Friend!)

As mamas, wives, friends, sisters, and daughters, we usually spend November and December with long lists of gifts to buy for others. I love gift giving and I imagine many of you do too! For a few years while I lived in Colorado, friends and I would get together for a "favorite things party." We would each bring an item that was one of our favorites and then do a gift exchange. I always came home with a gift I loved plus ideas for more! Inspired by our parties, here is a quick list of a few gift ideas for you and your friends at different price points. Send it to your mom, your husband, your best friend, and they'll have some ideas of what to choose for you this year. Or if you get a little Christmas cash, treat yourself!

Under $25

Literary Tote Bags

A new library bag in with your favorite book art from Literary Book Gifts. My personal favorite is Jane Austen. Browse through the over 50 styles to find your favorite (and check out the t-shirts too!). Use code TheDomesticEngineer20 for 20% off your order.

JR Watkins Lemon Hand Cream

This is my favorite hand cream. It smells like cookies and makes my hands so soft. I've linked to Amazon here, but you can grab it at Target as well.

Homebody by Joanna Gaines

How could I not include Joanna's new book? I haven't read it yet but it's on my Christmas list! 

The Secret Keeper

Of course I had to include a fiction book too! Kate Morton is an author I always come back to when I need a good book to read. I've listed the Secret Keeper because I think it's one of her best ones, but you can't go wrong. She also has a brand new book out called The Clockmaker's Daughter.

Write the Word Journal

These journals have become my favorite way to spend time in my Bible. There is space to write out the Scripture for the day, plus a page to journal your own thoughts. Each one also has a theme-- mine is prayer and I'm looking at hope or renewal next.

Under $50

A+D Sweater

I ordered this sweater from Amazon and I'm in love. It's cozy, flattering, and a great price at under $30! I have it in olive, and I'm thinking about ordering the coral as well.

The Simplified Planner

I currently use the weekly version of this planner and absolutely love it. The yearly edition is for sale right now, offering a full 2019 calendar plus room for daily and weekly tasks. I also have my eye on the magnet set this year. Use this link to get $10 off a $50 purchase!

Art by Lindsay Letters

Lindsay Letters has the most stunning artwork.  I have a couple of her hand lettering prints and I love them. Her newly redesigned site offers artwork from around $25 to several hundred dollars. An 11x14 art print is $34, which you could frame yourself.

Reading Journal Kit

I received this kit for Christmas last year and have kept track of my reading in the journal. It also comes with book darts (a new favorite!) and a few fun extras. This is perfect for a wrapped gift (the journal) plus stocking stuffers.

What are your go-to gifts for your friends? And what's on your Christmas list this year?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Quiet Places

I often find myself thinking about different topics to write about, and then I sit down to my computer and I forget them all. Motherhood feels like someone put my brain into a washing machine on the spin cycle and forgot to turn it off. I can never quite remember everything, or even most things. I spend my days doing everything and nothing. It's exhausting and I often feel like I don't see any benefits.

I've been praying a lot since our move about what God is calling me to do and what I should be pursuing with my time. I would love to have a creative outlet again and maybe made a little cash too. I've come up with a thousand ideas in my head (usually around 2am) but none of them really fit my life right now. I have dreamed of writing a book for a long time, and thought this might be the season to begin. But I don't have any idea what to write about.

God keeps reminding me that my work right now is raising my children. I have three little souls in my care. My days at home are not wasted guiding and loving them. Truthfully, this is really hard for me. I've been losing my temper a lot lately and feeling especially frustrated with one of my kids. It's hard, slow work this motherhood. It's long days and exhausted nights and cold coffee. I think, more than anything, I'm supposed to learn to serve God in the quiet places, pushing aside my selfishness to serve my children.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Purse x Diaper Bag Hack

As a mom, I find myself getting tired of carrying a diaper bag everywhere. I walk through Target with a giant backpack slung over my shoulder full of cheerios, diapers, and toys. Then on the rare chance I get a night off, I'm scrambling to find my wallet, keys, and a place to put them. Or if I drop my kids off at Sunday school or childcare, I'm left carrying my wallet and phone without a bag to put them in. I've tried a different diaper bag with each child, and while I've loved features of each one, nothing has been quite right. And I'm always frustrated when I try to use both a purse and a diaper bag at the same time. After three kids, there must be a better solution!

After doing some online research, I came across these stunning bags a few years ago. Lily Jade offers a beautiful leather bag with a removable diaper bag insert inside. And while I desperately want one, they are far out of my price range. I cannot justify spending $300 on a bag.

And so the search continued, until I realized, why not create the same type of bag myself? I'm always seeing cute tote bags at Target. Could I add a diaper bag insert of some kind? After a quick browse on my trusty Amazon app, the answer is yes! And so, let me let you in on my new way to do both a diaper bag and a purse.

First, grab a favorite tote bag. I found this one at Target. The fantastic part about this bag hack is that you can use ANY large tote you have! That beautiful Coach tote or the cute bag you've been saving can work great for this. The one important point is that the bag cannot have any interior dividers. It needs to be one large, open space inside.

Second, add an insert. This insert will act as your actual diaper bag, so you want something structured with lots of pockets or dividers to hold what you need. I searched "diaper bag insert" on both Amazon and Etsy and found some great options. I ended up ordering this one from Amazon. Two things: Be sure you check the measurements of the insert so that it fits in your tote. And get one with handles! This will allow you to easily pull it in and out of your bag.

Once you have your pieces, you're ready to assemble your new diaper bag purse. Load the insert with everything you need for your baby. Then slip it into your tote. Once that's complete, you can add a small zippered bag for your own items, or just stick them in the side. The tote I chose has a couple zippered pockets that I use for my phone, keys, etc. I also added a name tag to my insert so it's labeled for childcare. (I love TinyMe for bag tags and labels.)

Now, when you drop of your little one, simply slip the insert out of your purse and leave it with the caregiver. You are left with a bag for your own stuff, and baby has everything he/she needs.

Do you think you'll try this? Share your picks for totes and inserts in the comments!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Add to Your Bookshelf: Color Board Books

One of my favorite things to do on Instagram is to talk about books I'm reading, and I realized it was high time I brought it over to the blog! Welcome to "Add to Your Bookshelf." I'll be posting throughout the year some of my favorite books on a particular topic, for kids and grownups. These will be a mix of books I own plus ones I've checked out from the library. I don't believe you have to own a book to enjoy it, but I do buy my kids a whole lot of books!

Today we're talking all things colors! I grew up with a creative, artistic mom, so I love books that foster creativity. A few years ago I realized I didn't have a lot of books specifically on colors, so I've sought to change that. Now my kids (and I!) are learning about tons of new colors. Bonus? It's hilarious when your four year old tells his teacher that cerulean is his favorite color.

First up, Usborne's Big Book of Colors. This book has one page for each of the colors of the rainbow, plus lots of fun extras like a color wheel. It also lists specific colors like "caterpillar green" or "deer brown" and uses an incredibly large variety of hues for each color. This book is very large and very sturdy, making it feel more preschooler than toddler, which Tessa (almost 4) really likes. I've linked to the book on Amazon so you can see it, but the best way to buy Usborne books is through a consultant! Ask around to see if you know one, or ask me and I can put you in touch with the one I buy from.

I bought ABC Color for Tessa last Christmas because it combines her love of the alphabet and colors. I was not disappointed! This book runs through unusual colors that correspond to the ABCs. The illustrations are darling, and it's just the right length for a shorter attention span. Similar to the Usborne book, the pages are sturdy but not quite board-book style.

Pantone Colors is brand new to our bookshelf. I ordered it for Theia for Christmas this year. I have to be honest, this book might actually be more for me! I love Pantone colors, and have always wanted a book or art print with a few. When I found this board book, I couldn't pass it up. Pantone Colors includes one page spread per color-- on the left is a grid of Pantone color swatches, on the right is a picture using multiple shades of the color. This is a visually exciting book that is perfect for little eyes learning to appreciate new colors. There is no story to read, so I like this as a reference book or what we call a "look at it book" more than a story time choice.

Finally, Alice in Wonderland: A Babylit Color Primer. BabyLit has been a long-time favorite of mine. (As you can see from the photos, this book has been well loved!) They take classic books and turn them into board books. We have a number of these that cover everything from counting to emotions to flowers. Alice is their color book, and it's filled with delightful illustrations. It might be especially fun if your children enjoy the Alice in Wonderland movies.

Share your favorite colors book in the comments. I'd love to add it to my library!