Kitchen Envy

KitchenEnvyAs I’ve spent more time in the kitchen lately (my rightful place as a woman tbh [jk jk jk!]) understandably my mind wanders towards way to make it better. But, since this is likely not our permanent house, as in 6-8 years we’ll be outta here, we (mostly Alan, lol) feel that it’s simply not worth it to pour a bunch of money into renovating a room that is largely only defective in its looks. So, instead I just spend all day pinning beautiful white kitchens that pop up (I think Pinterest’s new algorithm is partly to blame). All I want is white tile, exposed wood shelving, all new cabinetry and updated appliances and a marble countertop. Is that soooooo much to ask????

[For a blogger who’s got it going on in the home department (and the everything else department, she’s got my dream job basically!), Kate Arends of Wit + Delight has such a beautiful home I want to scream]

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Game changer: IKEA just introduced this herringbone pattern wood countertop. 😍

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*All pins are from my HOME board, which you can follow!

Mom Enough?

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Long before I was pregnant, or even had a regular job, I still knew that when I had kids, I would be a working mom. I am a feminist, and while I know that doesn’t mean you’re obligated to work when you have kids, it’s been a motivation for me to be my own person; I don’t want to be solely defined by being a mother. I want to show my kids that there is value in working, and that both mom and dad have an equal role in providing for the household. Plus studies show that mothers who work are generally happier, as they have social interactions outside the home, and aren’t totally bogged down by the stress of raising children full time.

The decks are stacked against women no matter what. Mothers who work, on average, make less than women without children. And we already know women make less than men.  Truly a damned-if-you-do scenario.

This past winter, I had what felt like a pretty solid job, with a solid income, and it lined up perfectly with our plan to start our family. I was 4 months pregnant when they told me at work that the company was putting full time contract workers on a “6 month hiatus” which seemed like fancy speak for “you won’t have a job anymore.” My last day was the day before we left for New Zealand, and since we returned, I’ve had an odd summer of being unemployed but not quite on the job hunt, but in the back of my mind I thought that I would somehow find a job soon and I’d need to negotiate some sort of maternity leave and we’d need to find daycare ASAP.

Daycare, it turns out, is really expensive, and for a good one, the wait list is long. One we were really impressed with had a waiting list for infants up to 12 months out. How do you even plan for that, realistically? Even if we did find care available around February or March of next year, when my “maternity leave” would be over, I don’t even have a job to go back to, and the prospect of job hunting is already stressful enough without a tiny baby in tow. If we got into a daycare and I didn’t have a job, would we just lose our spot for good?

***

On the way home from the daycare center that had the organic meals and cloth diapers and Spanish immersion and 12 month waitlist, I came to a difficult conclusion and said to Alan “What if I just stayed at home with the baby for the first year?” And just like that, I’d become a Stay-At-Home-Mom.

I’m not of the mind that one way is better than the other. Whatever is best for the mom and the dad and the baby is what’s best for them. I always thought that working would be the best for us. After all, it meant better vacations! Cool designer clothes and toys for baby! Regular massage appointments for myself! But now, the choice has been taken away from me, and I’m coming to terms with not being a Working Mom.

And why does it bother me so much? I like working, and doing design, and being creative, but I also enjoy waking up and not showering; just getting on with my day. I like spending time in my home office. I like doing errands, and cleaning the house, and cooking dinner. I’m so excited about getting to spend the precious first year with my baby so closely. So why does it feel like such a defeat?

I feel like the problem is America itself. There is a toxic work culture here. 40, 50, 60 hour work weeks, deadlines, overtime, no family leave, poor health care… It seems like our worth in this country is determined by how we make money. And I’ve fallen into that trap time and time again. It seems like so many kickass women are doing the career and kid thing and being totally awesome and empowered by it. The flip side to that is that doing anything less feels to me that I’m just not measuring up to the modern women in this country if I’m not trying to “have it all.”

Then, I look at the Nordic countries, and I’m filled with envy and longing, because they put the family first. In the Nordic countries, it’s a virtue to have kids and take care of them, and it’s also a virtue to work, but it’s not an obsession. Take a look at the list of the best countries for mothers. Joanna Goddard’s series on motherhood around the world has great insight from women in some of these countries as well: Norway, Sweden, Iceland.

I’d love to hear from mothers who put their career aside for an indefinite amount of time to raise babies. Was it difficult, or the easiest decision ever? Did you go back into the workforce or call it quits for good?

Week in the North

CWC2016-2When you photograph a certain place so many times, it begins to feel more of a task and less of a creative outlet. Just a day before embarking on our annual cabin trip this year, I realized I hadn’t thought about what camera gear I would pack. Last year I definitely over prepared by bringing 4 lenses and a slew of other accoutrements. This year I hastily stuffed my 70D, 24-70 2.8 lens already affixed, into my bag, made sure the 128GB card was clean, and just for grins, threw in my macro lens and a few filters. I packed the tripod too, in case I wanted to get into some night time photography, but pregnancy has me out these days at about 10:30.

Suffice to say, it was a very quiet week on the photography front. CWC2016-1CWC2016-3And that’s totally fiiiine. Anything I would’ve tried to do this year would’ve just been trying to recreate my photoset from last year’s trip, which in my mind, really told the story of what our cabin trips are like well. I have nothing new to say about the cabin this year. It was insanely quiet. In our cabin, one daughter had just had a baby, and another was on the verge. Not a lot of wild swimming or runs or volleyball. Just straight chillin. I assume next year with a 10 month baby in tow I will have a new story to tell and/or not have any time to take pictures.CWC2016-9CWC2016-10CWC2016-11CWC2016-12CWC2016-13CWC2016-14CWC2016-28CWC2016-29CWC2016-30CWC2016-37CWC2016-38CWC2016-39CWC2016-40CWC2016-44CWC2016-45CWC2016-46For my cabin read this year I have delved back into the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Man. Reading these things with knowledge of what’s to come… It’s so frustrating. Ned Stark is SO STUPID you guys amirite?CWC2016-47I kept envisioning a cool bump photo of myself in my swimsuit with my lady prominently featured but I had yet to show anyone how to take a picture with my camera, so I took one myself. My suit is from ASOS maternity. Also: Rocking the top knot these days! CWC2016-48CWC2016-49Little Hattie is a little older and a little more delightfulCWC2016-50CWC2016-52CWC2016-53SUMMER EVENINGS, right?CWC2016-56We also had a new little niece this year, seen here being cradled by Uncle Alan. Thanks for the infant prep, sis!CWC2016-58CWC2016-64On the last day Alan and I took a walk and I got him to take some pictures of me. He had the hat turned around and everything, and his composition is not bad. Just have to teach him about aperture now! I find it difficult to pose and smile for pictures, as I think I have a super goofy smile when I’m forcing it. So he told me some jokes to get me going. You know, like you might a child. CWC2016-66Since getting tattoos and becoming pregnant, even though I’m not at my ideal weight, I feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin, and this summer especially I have been loving just showing off my arms and belly and legs with no hesitation. Early on, my midwife said “birth will be easy for you, because you’re tall!” I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it did give me a new lens to look at my body through, which I’ve always had a rough relationship with. I was like, hell yeah, I’m tall, I’m solidly built. I will birth the hell out of this baby and it will RULE. It’s so, so cheesy, but I’ve really embraced womanhood and body positivity with this little (super kicky) baby inside me.CWC2016-67I now feel a little better about handing the camera to Alan more often especially once the baby is born because I am poorly represented in my own photography and this blog. CWC2016-72For this one I handed the camera to my sister! And of all the shots she took I like this one of us being goofs. CWC2016-73CWC2016-77CWC2016-78CWC2016-80And the sun sets on another year at our beloved cabin. It really feels like it went too fast, and yet I’m still filled with a sense of renewed energy, like most years when the summer winds down. Must be all that Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living I read Up North. I get home and I’m ready to hit the ground running. Why, just today, I had a doctor appointment (which was very good BTW), went to the bank and the post office, and IKEA. I got a whole to-do list for the coming months, until baby arrives. Vacation as reset is always so positive.

🌞

North Bound

cwc2015-48It’s that time of year again. We are embarking on a trip to the beloved cabin. Because of my, er, “condition”, I’ll be laying low this year. Hoping to get some good sleep, good reading in, having lots of snacks, and just smelling that fresh air off the lake as much as I can. Have a great week! ☀️😎✌🏻

Pretty your walls with Artifact Uprising

ARTIFACT-5Lately I’ve taken to investing in some good framed art for our walls. We have long been in the habit of collecting screen printed posters, and about 80% of them never get framed, never get hung on any walls. Pains me to admit, but I don’t think they will. My old uptown apartment had walls of framed posters, and that does seem like a thing you have when you’re in your early 20s in an apartment, but we’re like, married and stuff now, and a baby on the way. Time for some classy displays. And even better if they’re personal photographs, right? So I came across Artifact Uprising, which I’ve been using for all kinds of stuff, including our Christmas cards from last year. I love the very simple and minimalist designs available, plus the photo book options (I made one of our wedding, which I might feature on here eventually, and I’m currently doing one for our New Zealand trip) and most of all, the options for printing and framing your photographs.

Essentially, if you are a photographer, this is a dynamite company. ARTIFACT-1ARTIFACT-2Recently I decided to get a New Zealand photo printed and framed to pair with a photo I took at the cabin last year. There was a real empty space burning a whole in the wall. ARTIFACT-3ARTIFACT-6ARTIFACT-7ARTIFACT-8ARTIFACT-4Back in January I also upgraded the wedding portrait on our mantel , which was previously a Target photo print with a $5 frame I found at Michael’s. From far away it looked fine, but up close you could see how horribly warped it was. Not so with Artifact Uprising! The prints are extremely fine; rich coloring and archival quality. Pre-framing, the prices are super reasonable, but there’s also a nice variety of frames to choose from. The service is also fast. I got my New Zealand print within two weeks of ordering.ARTIFACT-9

*Note — this post is not sponsored by Artifact Uprising. I just like them, and want to spread the word! 

Problems in the Bedroom

IMG_6639A while back, I shared a few moodboards for the bedroom which I created even further back. How much progress has been made on the bedroom? Basically none. Why? Simply not a priority. I regret most of all that we painted it these shades of blue. I like blue. It’s probably my favorite ‘color’, if I had to pick a color, but these colors depress me. I long for something airy to wake up to. Crisp white walls, crisp white bedding… Ah, to dream! Since this is one of the few rooms in the house that has two windows, it would seem wise to capitalize on that. The other problem: The bed is enormous. And it’s fully upholstered, making it attractive to the cat as a scratch post.

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And this is all over

It has an arched headboard, so we lose about 5.5 inches of useable space. It’s not a large bedroom, per se, and we’ve made it smaller by wedging in this huge bed. Because of the huge bed, we have these terrible, awful little rinky dink Ikea dressers. Four of them to be exact.

IMG_6648They’re simply the worst. We need four because they’re so small. I have two and Alan has two. These are the cheapest dressers money can buy. The drawers are incredibly shallow, and get stuck, and they’re tacky and I hate them. Essentially, we have a very sad bedroom. The bedroom should be a haven; a happy place! Instead I’ve been moaning for basically years now that I want a change. And, it’s not a priority. The bed is comfortable, even if it is ratty. And the dressers take up less space than something higher scale and more “grown up.” We don’t have overflowing dressers (but this is also because I obsessively cull my wardrobe on a regular basis). The walls are also depressingly bare, but I want to hold off putting any art up until we could paint the walls.

So, this presents us with basically an All-or-Nothing Scenario: Redo the whole room, or don’t do any of it. To upgrade dressers we need to get the space between them and the bed back, so that means a new bed. If we’re replacing beds, we may as well paint the room, etc, etc, etc…  I feel an urgency about pulling the trigger on this now, because I worry that once the baby comes, it will never get done. This meant of course I had to make a mood board.

BEDROOM_moodboardMMM, this fills me with joy and calm just to look at it. Very fresh, yes? It has a similar lightness to the plans for the baby’s room.

  1. This Max Wanger print is the epitome of calm, and I love the sunset gradient. Some of my favorite vibes are here in this picture. His prints are however prohibitively expensive (especially if you want something framed). I could probably just as easy get one of my own photos blown up and cheaply framed. But a huge photo of a scenic vista seems like the perfect thing to see first thing in the morning, doesn’t it?
  2. WHO KNEW Urban Outfitters had so many amazing area rugs? And for cheap? I didn’t until today. Love that you can get a huge one for 200 bucks. Low pile is probably smartest for us too because Arya sheds like crazy, and the easier to clean, the better.
  3. A beautiful, simple dresser is what we so badly need. But to find the right one, it wasn’t enough to just take measurements and see if it would fit in the space. I took the dimensions of each drawer, to see how much more space we could theoretically use compared to our terrible little IKEA dressers. The answer was quite a lot. We could ditch the 4 little ones for 1 beautiful big one, no problem. Worth the investment, period.
  4. Let’s just get those walls nice and white.
  5. I’ve looked at all kinds of patterned duvet covers over the years, but I have to say I really love the simplicity of this set from IKEA.
  6. We have a pair of desk lamps from Target serving as bedside lighting right now, and they’re perfectly nice lamps, but they don’t give off much light (and their bases take up a lot of room). I like the idea of mounting some RANARPs so the light is a little higher up, and spreads a little farther. Plus, that frees up table space on the nightstand. More room for half-empty LaCroix cans and books and my phone.
  7. For curtains, something simple and easy.
  8. Finally, a nice bed that matches the dresser, matches the wood tones in the house, and crucially, gives us back 8 inches of spaceSome of that space would be filled in by the larger dresser, but it’s a net gain of about 4 inches I think. Not bad!

I think we may actually pull the trigger on this plan, guys. I’ll keep you updated.

Insanely Easy Pasta Recipe

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I come to you today humbly with a recipe I really think you should try out. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s *insanely* good. I devised this pasta recipe one night recently after we’d gotten out of a matinee on a hot Sunday and it was about dinner time. Should we go out, which would require little energy, or make something? I did a mental inventory of what we had in the cupboards and decided I could throw together some sort of Cacio e pepe  bastardization (I’ve never made cacio e pepe!). I knew we had cream, bucatini, a lemon, parsley, butter and parmesan cheese. All terrific ingredients for a fast pasta dish.

By the way, I absolutely love pasta, and the many forms it can take. Basically any night we’re drawing a blank on dinner I offer to “make some sort of pasta”. I also really believe that people should stock their pantries well with ingredients complementary to a good pasta dish. Get a few cans of fire roasted tomatoes, have some garlic on hand, some basil, some cheese, lemon… The PASTA-bilities are endless (hahahahahhahaaa).

This recipe is also nice because it requires very little prep, and uses one pan (I can’t overemphasize how much I love one-pan dinners). Do note though, that because of the butter and cheese and cream, this isn’t exactly a super healthy dish. However I’m confident you could take out the cream, and it would still be delicious.

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Easy Cheesy Lemony Pasta | Prep: 5 min Cook: 15 min
• Bucatini
• Juice of one lemon (also optional: zest of that same lemon, for extra lemony-ness)
• 1 c. shredded parmesan cheese
• 1 c. heavy cream
• 2 tbsp butter
• Bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
• Optional: panko bread crumbs

Start by bring a skillet of salted water to a boil. Cook the bucatini al dente. Reserve a half cup of pasta water. Drain and rinse.
In the same pan, melt the butter on medium heat. Gradually add the cream, cheese and lemon juice (+zest), stirring constantly (don’t want to burn that cream!), until combined. Add pasta, stirring an coating. Do this for about 5 minutes while the sauce thickens. If you wish to thin the sauce out a little, use the reserve pasta water.
Optional: At this point, in a separate pan, heat up a little olive oil and toast some panko bread crumbs with fresh salt and pepper (we have some in the cupboard from times when we’ve recreated a Blue Apron meal… They come in big containers!), until browned and toasty-smelling.

Divide between two bowls, top with bread crumbs and parsley. Then enjoy the hell out of that thing. THAT’S IT!PASTARECIPE-3

Summer Ride – Seasonal Mixtape

SUMMER_RIDEHoo boy! It’s toasty out there right now. I’ve put together a little mix for your weekend, hopefully you’re going somewhere sunny where there’s a lake. This is admittedly a very Dad-ish mix… Parts Wes Anderson, parts Garden State, as well as a few contemporary favs (mostly Mac DeMarco). I can confirm it’s got good vibes. Please enjoy!

Tracklisting, if you’re interested:SUMMER_RIDE2

My Closet

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After

A few weeks ago while I was gainfully unemployed and had a lot of time on my hands, I started to feel real nest-y and motivated to finally organize the closet in my office. I’ve long put it off. And I keep the doors closed, so I never have to see it. It’s one of those things you know you’ll have to do one day, like quitting smoking, but ehhh, not today.

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Before

I’d spent many years since we moved in just accruing storage bins and crates. Every time I saw one (usually at Target) I’d snatch up a couple, because I might need them one day? You can never have too much storage miscellany. Things started to get unruly in the closet. Anything and everything I didn’t have use for in my office would be stuffed in there, without any further thought. It was beginning to stress me out. CLOSET-1CLOSET-4Plus, I had just bought another camera body and couldn’t really justify having this expensive equipment just sitting on a shelf in a closet. So I did a little research and found the ALGOT system from IKEA. It was super well priced and super customizable. I designed a little system and went to IKEA to get the parts. I also went to town on clearing the closet out. I aimed to get rid of at least 30% of its contents. CLOSET-14.jpgCLOSET-11CLOSET-17I even got rid of most of my old issues of Vita.mn, keeping only the issues whose cover stories I designed. 😖CLOSET-12I’m into these mesh baskets too which became a bag hutch.CLOSET-13CLOSET-18CLOSET-20A tinier mesh basket mounts nicely on top so I can put things like batteries, flash accessories, etc in there.

Big thank you to my cool husband who helped me install the whole system (basically: he installed it completely on his own, while I watched and offered moral support). He really Dad’d it up!

In a few years none of this will mean anything, because I’ll eventually have to relinquish my office once we have a second kid. Before then I’ll probably have to get rid of like, 100 more pounds of stuff. Until then, I keep the closet door open now, to admire my little organized oasis.

When Life Gives You Basil

BASIL-1 copyBASIL-10We got a CSA this summer which is a new thing for us. We’re not really great with produce. Half the stuff we get at the store is usually rotten or wilted before we really figure out what we would do with it. No longer! We went with a super organized CSA through our local co-op that sends out an email every week letting us know what we’ll get. The first two weeks we got bunches and bunches of basil. Before I had the energy to do anything with the first batch, half of it got wilty. So, batch kitchen projects were in order.

At Rock the Garden the last few years they’ve had a really tasty Prairie Vodka drink with basil lemonade. It’s so tasty and this year I was sad to be missing out on it (because of the no booze thing, yeah?) So while I had all this basil, I figured, how about I make basil lemonade? Turns out making a simple syrup is extremely simple, as the name would imply. BASIL-2It’s 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and a big ol handful of that delicious basil. Bring it to boiling in a sauce pan (or until the sugar is dissolved) and let sit for half an hour, then strain out the herbs and chill for at least 4 hours before using. Perfect for a yard party where you need a signature drink (imagine the possibilities!) or just chillin’ on a summer afternoon. BASIL-5BASIL-6FYI: You can use this same recipe for mint, or rosemary (haven’t tried rosemary but I’m sure I will before summer’s end). BASIL-11