August 2018 | Olive and Tate

Man Time with Maxi-Cosi

Thank you Maxi-Cosi for sponsoring this post. Keep your little adventurers comfy, safe & stylish with the Maxi-Cosi Magellan 5-in-1 car seat!

A Review of the Maxi-Cosi Magellan Convertible 5-in-1 Car Seat

Things are a changin' around here, guys. My babe is about to walk, my big boy just managed to out negotiate me in a deal over LEGOs and I'm officially prepping for both of them to start school in September. They're each growing so much that we've needed to make some adjustments to our regularly scheduled programming to keep these very last (and long) Summer days running smoothly. To top it off, our little girl is ready for a brand new car seat!

This Summer, our big boy has shown us that nothing makes him happier than some one-on-one time with his Dad. We've long since learned that we can create moments of one-on-one time over simple tasks and activities, like running a quick errand or checking chores off of our list, so we've made a conscious effort to include Gray in Big Boy things that make him shine. So with my Big Boy ready to go and a brand new Maxi-Cosi Magellan Convertible 5-in-1 Car Seat waiting to be installed for my growing girl, we set out to get things done, one brand new car seat at a time!

A Review of the Maxi-Cosi Magellan Convertible 5-in-1 Car Seat

Gray is completely head over heels for his Dad - and loves to dress like him, share adventures with him, and build the tallest towers with him. I asked Gray if he would help his dad install the new Magellan 5-in-1 Convertible Car Seat and I'm sure Justin was thrilled for the extra support. Also, let me just stop and point out that if we had owned this newest seat in the Maxi-Cosi family, we wouldn't have needed this little father/son bonding moment because the innovative 5-in-1 design can accommodate babes ages newborn to ten years old. My mind is a little boggled by that so I was super excited to see the seat come out of that box (once Gray managed to push it across the driveway, which he deemed step #1 in the install process).

A Review of the Maxi-Cosi Magellan Convertible 5-in-1 Car Seat

Is it wrong that the very first thing I noticed was the tag that says "machine washable"....only to be one upped by the other tag that says "dishwasher safe"? The entire fabric cover of the Magellan 5-in-1 Convertible Car Seat is machine washable and the cup holders can be popped out and tossed in the dishwasher!

A Review of the Maxi-Cosi Magellan Convertible 5-in-1 Car Seat

After the guys read over the installation guides, we determined that Georgia was still in the infant classification for the Magellan 5-in-1 Convertible Car Seat, thanks to her petite weigh in at our last pediatrician's visit, and got straight to the business of installing that bad boy.

A Review of the Maxi-Cosi Magellan Convertible 5-in-1 Car Seat

A Review of the Maxi-Cosi Magellan Convertible 5-in-1 Car Seat

I'm telling you, every single thing Justin does, Gray follows, and it melts me. He sat right down and read the manuals just as Justin did, all to make sure that his "Sissa" (Gray speak for "Sissy") is safe on our road trip adventures.

A Review of the Maxi-Cosi Magellan Convertible 5-in-1 Car Seat

We knew we would choose a Maxi-Cosi car seat once Georgia grew out of her infant seat as Gray has one and has rocked it since he was her age. Maxi-Cosi seats have a patented Adjustable Side Impact Protection which creates max protection around your babe. The seat can be used from 5lbs up until your kiddo weighs 120 lbs and has multiple settings for rear-facing through the toddler years. Installation was super efficient - honestly, wrangling her squirmy self into the seat to get her straps just right was the hardest part, as any mother of a toddler knows!

A Review of the Maxi-Cosi Magellan Convertible 5-in-1 Car Seat

Gray gave his sister's seat one last quality check from the vantage point of his own car seat, her Dad strapped her in just right and off we went! My big boy is still talking about the giant box he got to open and how he read all of the instructions, just like his Dad, and my sweet girl is safe and sound in her new seat. I'm calling that a parenting win (until the next tantrum, of course!)

You can snag the Maxi-Cosi Magellan 5-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (retail price $349.99) at AmazonTarget.comBuy Buy, and Albee Baby.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe

Truth time:

Every single day, I get a question that sounds a little something like: "I'm on a budget, where can I snag new jeans that will last?", "can I call it athliesure if I'm just wearing my pajamas?", "what should I wear to the bus stop that won't embarrass my kid?", "are high waisted jeans good or bad on a muffin top?", "how is a mom is supposed to get her teeth brushed, let alone get dressed?" and so on. I hear you. In fact that teeth brushing question was actually mine, so clearly we're all on the same page. 

I sat down to write a hand full of different posts to address the basics but in doing so, something occurred to me: I think all of us mamas are just looking for a foundation of solid basics that are well-made, hold us in, make us feel human and are machine washable. Looking pulled together or, hell, even calling the clothes you slap on in a day an "outfit" is just a bonus. What can I say, it's hard out there for a mom.

But hang on girls, because I'm about to rock your worlds. With a wardrobe of just 15 pieces, I managed to put together 50 looks - and I honestly just scratched the surface. That's well over a month of outfits with just 15 items of clothing to wash and wear. I'm calling this a Transitional/Fall Capsule because here in the South, it will be warm until the holidays, but for those of you in rougher climates, this should get you through until it's time for puffers and thermals. Ok, ready to get dressed? Get excited, we can do this, I believe in us! 

In case you're wondering, I'm 5'9", busty at a delicate DDD, 8 in bottoms and a Large in tops (see: busty)

And, without further adieu, here's a look at the pieces I chose:

affiliate links are used in this post, thank you for using my links and allowing me to continue to get us all dressed in the morning. If you prefer to try on in store, please consider shopping via the links in this post and choosing in store pick up! 

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Wearing a Medium, probably should have gone with a Large, fits TTS
Classic with a twist, a super soft long sleeve tee that makes the best layering tee. The raw hem is very subtle and the length of the top is really flattering (not too short!). 

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Wearing a Large, fits TTS
Oh, finding the perfect white tee shirt almost brought me to my knees, but I think I finally found it! This little baby is a non-sheer, v neck tee with a curved hem. It's got some stretch and bounce to it, which I prefer as it skims over my tummy. It also comes in a ton of colors and long sleeves, I'll be stocking up for sure. 

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Wearing a Large, Fits TTS
I find the peasant top to be a must in my closet. I pair them with denim shorts in the summer, all of my denim and love how put together they make me feel. This particular top is a win because it's lined from the yoke of the neckline down in the front and completely lined in the back so there's no need for a tank. 

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Wearing a Large, if between sizes or busty, size up to avoid gapping
I own two or three chambray/denim button downs and love every single one. They are season-less, never go out of style and can be worn a million ways. 

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Wearing a Large, fits TTS
I tossed this top into the round up for a few reasons - it's a classic cut that isn't too low or revealing, is minimizing to the bust, the material is incredibly soft and the peplum hem is a fun detail that elevates it over a tee. I couldn't resist pairing it with heels for a date night look - it's really a top that will go anywhere! 

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Wearing a Large, fit is generous, I need the large for length 
Ok friends, hear me out on this one. I know it's white and a the shape is a little unorthodox but I can tell you that this pop over is the best top I've purchased in a long, long time. I wore it out of the store and immediately texted my best friend to buy it. The neckline is a v-neck and the back actually buttons down, which is perfect for us busty girls who struggle with a traditional button down blouse. The cut flows out from your tummy and the arms are wide, making it very comfortable with an approachable chic. I feel pulled together and classic when I pair it with dark denim and like I could go anywhere in it. 


The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
One size
This sweater vest also comes in cream and navy and I had a tough time choosing what color I wanted! The neckline can be gathered a handful of ways, and the material itself is actually fairly heavy so it will wear well into the Winter. For us Southerners, this is the perfect fall layering piece to take our warmer clothes into the holidays. 

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Wearing Large, fits TTS, is very generous in length, focus on arms for sizing 
Holy crap, go buy this thing. It is so amazingly soft, I just want to lay down in it. For me, this is the perfect athliesure piece when paired with leggings and a tee or tank. It can be tied and worn a million different ways and has snaps at the end of the long pieces so that you can secure it around your neck without it falling off. It comes in other solid colors but I'm partial liked the soft grey and white stripe. 


The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Wearing a Large, fits TTS
I've owned this utility vest for years and can't tell you how many times I've worn it. It goes with everything from dresses to jeans to leggings and has pockets deep enough to hold my baby's snack keeper, so you know, it's a win. 

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Wearing Large, fits TTS
Another closet staple of mine, this field jacket is a steal and something I wear constantly. If camo isn't your jam, there are a ton of colors and patterns and I kinda want them all. The material also machine washes really well, I've probably washed mine dozens of times and it's still holding strong. 


The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Dark Wash Skinny Jeans, wearing size 29
This is a new brand of denim for me (thanks to Mallory of Style Your Senses for showing me the light), but this pair of dark wash, high raise, straight leg skinny jeans might just be the most flattering pair I've ever owned. They have some stretch, come above my belly button and have faux pockets to reduce bulk. I'm tall and the length is perfect. I feel like they're my power pant and I may never take them off. 

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Button Front High Rise Jeans, wearing size 8, size down 
I'm digging the light wash, button front high rise denim this fall but I really didn't want to invest in what I think is probably a passing trend. I found this amazing pair and love the look - I think they're a perfect dupe for the current Madewell version! The rise comes over the belly button and holds it all in, baby. 

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Leggings, size L
You can read all about my fave leggings here but this is the "high" price point pair and my truest love. When you snag these, make sure the pair you buy shows the model's belly button completely covered by the leggings because that's the good stuff. These are soft, thick and never see thru, plus the positioning of the waist band is insanely flattering. 


The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Black Tank Dress, wearing size Large
I've raved about this tank dress since the day I randomly snagged it off of the rack and I'll never not love it. It comes in a million colors, is thick enough to skim the lumpy parts, is just the right length, has straps thick enough for a regular bra and is just so easy to wear. I love it as a layering piece and with over the knee boots and a long sleeve, oversized sweater, it can go well into Fall. 

The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe
Navy Tee Shirt Dress, wearing size Large
This little tee shirt dress is a gorgeous shade of blue and perfect for throwing on and running out the door. I've worn it a ton and can't wait to layer it up over the next few months. The material is soft and thin, with a modest neckline and a great hem length. And yes, I did tuck it right into high wasited jeans to wear it another way! 

Three basic, classic pairs:

And that's it! See, we can do this friends. 
We can get dressed, feel good about ourselves and dominate this back-to-school, transitional, mom life season. Now go get dressed! 

Wanna save it for later? Pin these: 
The Ultimate Fall/Transitional Mom Capsule Wardrobe

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The Best of Coastal Modern Decor on Amazon

My decor style changes from house to house and our current abode is definitely rocking a coastal modern vibe. Coastal Modern meaning it's not too beachy/themey and modern in that I mix in metals like brass and gold with unexpected elements like acrylic and marble. By blending the two styles, you get a calm, fresh mix that keeps a home bright and airy with a bit of an edge. Recently, a reader requested that I post my fave budget home finds, so I hit Amazon to find the best Coastal Modern accessories on the internet. Each piece is one that I would use in my own home (and some already live here!) and will lend a natural vibe to your decor! 

You can shop all of my Amazon decor faves here or via the links below! 
this post contains affiliate links

The Best of Coastal Modern Decor on Amazon

1. Woven Pendant Light: this pendant light looks super similar (almost identical!) to the woven pendant I snagged at IKEA so if you're not in an IKEA adjacent neighborhood, take this one for a spin1 It creates a super pretty shadow pattern with warm tones through the woven, natural shade. 

2. Wood Sculpture: Perfect for shelf styling or to display on an entertainment console, a natral wood sculpture brings in an Earth element that grounds the lighter colors typically associated with coastal decor.

3. Faux Palm Fronds: Palm Fronds are having a moment! This multi-pack is a steal and the size of the fronds will take up a generous amount of visual space in your design. 

4. Large Seagrass Basket : I'm in love with the shape of this basket, perfect for filling with throws, hiding baby toys or as a general catch all (we store shoes in baskets by the door!)

The Best of Coastal Modern Decor on Amazon

5. Olive Wood : Olive wood has such an organic shape that it's hard to replicate - if you're stuck with an awkward shelf or nook that needs a special piece, I'm all for an Olive Wood display! 

6. Pouf: I consider the pouf to be one of the most versatile pieces of decor for a family home. We stash two under our coffee table and use them for additional seating, as foot rests and to build pillow forts. I particularly love the shades of blue in this super well priced number! 

7. Marble and Gold Lamp: I love the natural look of the Coastal vibe but I can't leave my modern elements behind. Adding in accessories like a marble and gold lamp with fun geometric angles will ensure that a coastal theme doesn't head into '80's beach house territory. 

8. Gold Mirror : Perfect for over the fireplace or in an entry, the gold border elevates this mirror without competing with the rest of the space.

9. Beaches Coffee Table Book: from the Coastal master himself, the Gray Malin coffee table book is a must. 

The Best of Coastal Modern Decor on Amazon

10. Woven Lidded Basket/End Table: a small space miracle worker, a lidded basket that can serve as an end table is the perfect way to combine function with style. These are perfect for a play room or family room! 

11. Tassel Throw: the soft pattern and shades of blue-ish grey are perfect for a coastal but cozy vibe.

12. Wooden Beads: a major trend happening right now is the string of wooden beads - and this set comes with three strands for less than $15! Style them on a lucite coffee table tray, paired with a coffee table book for an easy vignette. 

13. Olive Leaf Wreath: Don't forget to bring in shades of green to keep coastal decor fresh and vibrant. A simple wreath in an organic shape is an easy way to work in the color without breaking the bank. 

14. Lucite Tray: Don't be afraid to mix in lucite elements with coastal decor! I love how the sleek lines balance the natural shapes and colors of driftwood, sea glass and woven elements. 

15. Throw Blanket: can you ever have too many throw blankets? The weave of this one is super funky and will bring in a fun pop of pattern to a neutral sofa or chair. 

16. Sea Glass Jug: One of my fave elements to use in my own shelf styling, I actually have two different sea glass jugs in my Family Room and love the shade of blue they bring into the space.

See the entire Family Room Before and After here! 
photos by Courtney Malone Photography 

A Day In The Life

By far, the most requested post for Olive and Tate is a Day In The Life style snapshot of our day to day happenings. To be honest, I wasn't exactly sure when the best time to track a day in our life would be in order to share a fair representation of it all - it's Summertime, so our schedule is different, some days I work, some days I don't, no day really looks the same, etc. I figured why not now, today seemed as good a day as any: a non-school, non-work, SAHM day, full of Target and pediatricians and one thousand snacks kind of day that many of you will relate to. Soon I'll document a work day for you so you can see what it's like during the hours that I'm handling all things Olive and Tate! But for now, enjoy this little slice of crazy:

Thursday, August 9

Wake up in my 4 year old's bed, thanks to a thunderstorm/falling out of the bed incident the night before. It's actually the first time I've ever slept in his bed, typically he climbs into ours, but my husband had to work out of town today, so I took one for the team and let him sleep well. 

Open a breakfast bar, pour a cup of milk, leave 4 year old in the kitchen and climb back into my real bed just to stretch out and pretend that I slept there.

Scroll through emails, social media, answer the DMs that came in overnight, text my best friend because that's what we do.

Hear the baby stirring in her crib, cross my fingers that she'll play in her bed for a bit and drag myself out of bed to get ready before she's over it.

8:00 am
Brush teeth, assess if I can get away with no make up, spray dry shampoo

The baby is over it, grab her out of her bed, snuggle her fat cheeks while she ignores me, because that's what we do. She lights up when she sees her dad and leaps for him, I pretend not to care that she blatantly prefers his company, thankful that her fat cheeks make up for her sassy attitude. And I say that with love, she clearly got her sassy attitude from me and I can't even pretend to be mad about it. 

8:20 am
Plop the baby in her highchair, feed her breakfast, tell her not to stand up in her highchair 100 times, check in on my big boy who is slowly waking up in the playroom with his trains. 

Get baby changed and dressed for the day in the cutest seersucker romper, pack Gray's bag for swim camp, decide that I'm wearing my pajama top and leggings for the day. Get Gray dressed in a much less adorable Paw Patrol bathing suit and rash guard combo. 

Load everyone and everything up, slather Gray in sunscreen with a patented process I call "Noodle Arms" that involves me wiggling his arms and legs aggressively while also rubbing in sunscreen. I won't lie, it's one of my finer parenting inventions. 

Pull out of the driveway, sad that I won't have time to hit the Starbucks drive through pre-swim camp drop off.

Swim Camp drop off, big boy is so excited, his friends from school will be there and he loves the pool these days.

Pull out of carpool, decide to skip the local Starbucks and head straight to my next destination: Target. 

I don't super love the Target in Charlotte but I need a random assortment of things so I pull into the parking deck and consider downsizing my giant SUV to a normal sized SUV. Scroll through DM's, comments, emails while we're parked.

Baby is loaded into her stroller because the double harness contains her better than a cart, I've already handed her a cup and snack keeper and am prepared to order her a snack at Starbucks to keep her happy for a minute or two.

Coffee in hand. 

Run the aisles of Target, picking up super fun things like paper plates, allergy meds and baby pouches. Decide to finally buy a new vacuum thanks to a sale, also pick up containers to make car emergency kits for the kids, a first aid kit (the Oh Joy collection is super cute) and take a quick spin through the new clothes section that is a dead ringer for Madewell. Only useful things end up in the stroller basket and, quite frankly, I'm proud of myself.

Load in the car, debate skipping the baby's morning nap and going to Trader Joe's since it's across the street or heading home to let her have a shorter morning nap while I get stuff done. She immediately starts fussing, so home it is.

Baby in her swing, paci/baby/blankie in hand. Time to make waves or it won't happen for the rest of the day. Also, shove in a snack, because the breakfast bar I ate earlier didn't cut it. 

Unload car, drag giant trash can over to car, toss out all of the cups, broken breakfast bars, misc happy meal toys that I can find. Unpack everything from Target, load up the emergency car kits (diapers/changing pad/wipes/hand sani/onesie for her, undies/change of clothes/dino band-aids/allergy meds for him), start a load of laundry that I'll prob forget about, unpack my new vacuum, vacuum the kitchen/family room/dining room/playroom/playroom sofa, promptly fall in love with my new vacuum. Clorox Wipe the high chair, kitchen table and counters and feel pretty damn accomplished. 

Open my laptop at the kitchen counter and turn on The Great British Baking Show for background noise. Scan work emails and pull up the Willow Crowns site to see what's changed over night in prep for the launch on Friday. Text Megan, text with the Willow Crowns team, check the time and wonder if I'm going to have to wake the baby to go pick up Gray.

Waited until the last possible second but had to wake the baby for swim camp pick up. I hate doing that to her and she was out for the count, sweet baby. Change her, put her in the car with pre-packed snacks in her cup holders to keep her happy. Thankfully, she doesn't seem too mad to have been pulled from dreamland so I'm relieved.

Pick up Gray from swim camp, he is still in his wet bathing suit, his hair is a crazy mess, he has to go back in for his lunchbox and he is adorable. I love his little face so much. Wave to my fellow swim camp/preschool mom in car line behind me, laugh to myself that times have really changed since we were college roommates. 

Tell Gray that we can get a (diet) lemonade from Chick Fil A as a post swim camp treat because I really want chicken strips for myself. Also break the news to him that he has his 4 year old check up later on and we talk about what a "check up" is. I fib and say that I need to go have my 34 year old check up and mentally make a note to find a GYN here in Charlotte. 

Our Chick Fil A has the most aggressive drive through process ever, we'll be here a solid 15 minutes, certainly long enough for Gray to ask to play in the play place more than once. I snag a kid's meal with nuggets and the prized (diet) lemonade for the kids to split (the meal, not the lemonade) and a strips meal with a salad and the world's largest Diet Dr. Pepper for me. I immediately start handing out fries to the back seat.

Pull in the driveway, set parameters for the next few minutes. Gray takes a "quiet rest" for 2 hours every day. He chills in his room with his tablet, plays with his legos, reads and sometimes snoozes. He loves the down time and so do I. We start unloading and he gives up carrying his bag halfway to the back door, I pick up the slack like the rock star mom that I am. He changes into dry clothes while I feed his sister chicken nuggets and manages to snag a handful of fries on his way to his room.

Sister and I head to the playroom where I'll try to convince her to walk and she'll try to convince me to let her dive off of the couch head first. She's currently into shoes and she looooves to take my shoe off of my foot and put it back on one million times. She also loves to eat chalk from the chalk table, so you gotta keep your eye on her. 

I lug out the printer and set it up so that I can print the kids school forms to take to the pediatrician, change the baby, let her crawl around emptying the kitchen cabinets while I pack my bag with all kinds of entertainment since I assume we'll wait at the pedi for an eternity. 

Feed the baby a snack, wonder how Gray is going to handle the impending vaccinations....
More time on emails/DM's/social media. 

Gray gets up and I get him dressed since he currently prefers to only wear undies. 

Pull out of the driveway, bag packed with snacks, toys, cups, headphones etc, realize I forgot the school forms, go back in the house. The neighbor kid pops his head over the fence to say hey and scares the living crap out of me, consider getting my blood pressure checked at the pedi. 

Decide to tell Gray that he might be getting a shot at the doctor's office. He seems ok about it, we talk about how it might hurt for a minute but that it will keep him safe. I also bribe him with a treat after if all goes ok.

(no shoes for him to get his height, no shoes for her because she kicked them off)

We are in the exam room, Georgia is already trying to break out of the stroller, I am nervous about how long we'll be expected to sit in this room. Text my husband about our children and how we need to teach them to regulate the volume of their voices. 

Shot time, he doesn't even cry, I am so surprised and impressed. He did remind me of the Oreo I promised him before the nurse even left the room and I'm sure she made a note of that in my Permanent Motherhood Record.

We are loaded up and headed home and I want an Oreo, too

The kids play in the screened porch while I find the Oreos, fill up cups, remember that load of laundry and pack away the printer. Text my husband with my daily "when will you be home today" message.

Gray plays with letter and number magnets on the fridge and Georgia unloads the pantry, as she does on the regular. 

Georgia has found a bag of pistachios and seems desperate for me to open them. So desperate that she takes her very first steps in an attempt to bring them to me! Gray and I are both watching her and I think our reactions probably scared her! Gray yelled out "big girl!" and I yelled out "oh, Sissy is WALKING!". She's refused to do it since, so I hope we didn't scar her. 

Start snacking and planning dinner, pour a glass of cheap read wine. 

Feed Georgie, she just can't make it much longer and is antsy this time of the day. She eats while Gray runs around the kitchen, telling her about numbers and magnets. 

She's out of the highchair again and crawling around under my feet. He's playing in the playroom and I'm texting everyone about her first steps. I keep trying to get her to do it again so I can snag a video but she is less than impressed with my antics. 

Justin should be home around 6:15 tonight so we hang out in the playroom, waiting for him

Gray is desperate for his Dad to come home so he can show him the letter magnets, so we sit outside on the front porch waiting for him to get home.

Potty break.

Justin is home. Gray is over the moon, Georgia refuses to walk for her Dad, which frankly surprised me. 

Justin, Gray and I eat dinner, Georgia eats her second dinner. Gray tells Justin about swim camp and can't remember what arm got the shot but can remember every detail of the Oreo. 

Justin puts Georgia to bed - no bath tonight, just jammies and a book and off to dream land.

Justin really makes an effort to spend quality time with Gray after Georgie goes to bed so he lets Gray "help" him install the new baby gates in the playroom. Gray helps by using the measuring tape to measure everything in sight, telling us how many inches everything is. I clean the kitchen, bust out my new vacuum again, clorox wipe it all again, unload the dishwasher, re-load the dishwasher and run it. 

Gray and Justin are playing trains in the playroom, I run away to write this post. I used to write every single night, after Gray went to bed, but that changed once we had two babes and Gray stays up until 8. Now I write when I can, a lot of times early in the morning before the kids are up. 

Justin gives Gray a bath, does his bedtime routine which involves a pit stop to me for hugs and kisses. They read a book every night and Gray is always given the option of the "regular version or the remix" and tonight he chooses remix. I can hear Justin making up a random, silly version of Little Bear and the Little Boat and it makes me laugh from down the hall. Gray's lights are out at 8pm and we cross our fingers that he won't be up tonight. 

Justin is watching preseason football in the family room and I'm in our bed, still writing this post. I just head the pantry door open and all I can think is "he better not be eating the last Oreo..."

I'll finish up this post, publish it and then pop it onto social media, will answer all of my DM's from this evening, will check my emails and Facebook page one last time tonight and then Justin and I will watch our current TV obsession: Treasure Quest. We're basically closeted shipwreck treasure hunters and can't look away. 

My goal is to be asleep by 10 but it's usually more like 11 when we finally turn it all off and go to bed.

And there you have it, a non-work day, Summer style day in the life! 

A Real Mom's Guide to PreSchool Lunches

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of Sistema®, however all opinions, thoughts and motherhood skills are my own.

A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler School Lunches

Ok, friends let's chat.

We've officially hit the time of year where the internets will be all aflame over the newest batch of viral lunch box videos. And you know the videos I mean - they feature adorable, complex, incredibly timely lunchbox creations that send a regular mom sprinting to Pinterest in search of the best way to shape carrots into flowers and sandwiches into windmills.


I'm going to go right ahead and share that I am not the sandwich windmill kind of mom. I'm a "let's figure out a balanced, well packed lunch that will keep you full and not make me hate myself every single time I pack it" kind of mom. And let me be clear, if you do love to make flower shaped carrot dippers, then rock out mama, no judgement, I just can't hang.

So what's a regular mom to do with the school year fast approaching? This year, I've decided that I'm going to meal prep lunch boxes in an effort to cut down on morning stress and to save a little in our grocery budget, too. I sat down this weekend and whipped up 5 perfect lunches, all geared toward my toddler (but that are perfect for all ages, just adjust the portions accordingly). I stocked up on all of the gear I need, thanks to the Sistema® To Go options and, bonus, shopped it all on sale via my truest love: Amazon. With a variety of sizes, shapes and containers, I'm all set to whip up a weeks worth of lunches in just 20 minutes. Wanna see what I made?

Dinner Re-do

A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler Lunches

Ah, leftovers. The trick to this little lunch number is to utilize what you've already got on hand - let's face it, if you made it for dinner once, you probably have at least one kid who refused to eat it, so box it up in a Sistema® To Go Salad Container and pass it along to the hungry toddler in your life. This box consists of the perfect dividers to include both watermelon (super runny/sticky) and Greek yogurt without making the rest of the good soggy. As a heads up, if you have an adult in your life who doesn't like their foods to touch, go ahead and get them one of these and thank me later. 

In all seriousness, I tend to grab a rotisserie chicken from the deli on our grocery run, shred it up when I get home and use it throughout the week (you'll see it again in another lunch below). Paired with green beans, which hold up well when re-heated, you've got the basics of well balanced lunch. 

Here's what you need: 
Shredded Rotisserie chicken
Green beans
Greek Yogurt with Raspberries 

A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler Lunches

A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler Lunches


A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler Lunches

A Mexican style boxed literally could not be easier to whip up - just use one small tortilla filled with cheese and shredded rotisserie chicken and pair with rice and beans. All of the elements can be made well ahead of time and stored in the Sistema® Lunch Box. The Lunch Box has a built in compartment meant to keep a sandwich separated and fresh and it fits a petite (or full sized) quesadilla perfectly. 
If your family doesn't do beans, swap them out for corn! 

Here's what you need:
Quesadilla with cheese and shredded rotisserie chicken
Black beans 
Peeled mandarins or clementines 

A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler Lunches

The Classic 

A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler Lunches

Will anyone else's toddler eat anything if they can "dip it"? We are big fans of hummus around here because I call it "dip" and I assume my kids think it's a cousin to Ranch dressing based on the way they scarf it down. With cold cuts and zero elements to cook, this is the easiest of all of the lunches to prepare and toddler sized portions fit perfectly in the Split Food Container. The center dividers keeps the hummus in place and the pickle juice away from the deli goods. 

Here's what you need:
chopped deli ham
cheddar slices
diced pickles
pretzel thins

A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler Lunches

Breakfast for Lunch

A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler Lunches

Everyone loves breakfast for dinner, so why not breakfast for lunch? This is the only lunch that I plan to cook an element the day of  - and by "cook" I mean "pop in the toaster". I pair homemade blueberry muffins with toaster french toast sticks, load them with fruits and Cheerios into the Large Bento Box and call it a win! 

Here's what you need:
blueberry muffin
Freezer French Toast sticks

Basic Betty

A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler Lunches

For the most basic palette's in the bunch (otherwise known as "what I pack my son every single day), I stack two Sistema® Sandwich Boxes with Nutella and Graham Cracker sammies, pre-chopped veggies and a lunch time classic, Veggie Straws.  

Here's what you need:
Veggie Straws
Nutella and Graham Cracker Sandwiches (swap Nutella for Sun Butter if your school is nut free)
Carrot chips
Seedless cucumber slices

Look at al of the goodness, packed up and ready to go, stacked neatly in my fridge. 

A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler Lunches

Honestly, I don't want to brag, but I really think of all this prep, forethought and nutritional goodness deserves a glass of wine and a Mom Of The Year medal. Now go forth and own those lunches, friends! 

Want to save these ideas for later? Pin this: 

A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler Lunches

A Real Mom's Guide to Toddler Lunches

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Welcome to another round of Before and After! I'm really excited to finally let this space out of the proverbial design bag because it was a huge challenge for me. In many ways, it's easier to completely gut a space and start from scratch like we have in the past but in our Charlotte house we didn't have the time (or the energy) for major changes. Thankfully, most of this house just needed a little love, and the spaces that need major attention are ones we can work with for the time being....with the exception of our Family Room. 

Once we decided to turn the formal living room into a play room, I knew that the Family Room would become the space where we spend the most time. The space is attached to the kitchen and has a door that we use to access our back porch and yard, so it's also a major traffic zone. On top of the high usage and visibility factors, the Family Room is incredibly narrow, long and thin, almost shotgun style and featured a large, brick hearth that was designed to be off center, complete with outdated built in cabinetry, meant to be used as TV storage.

I took one look at that fireplace and told Justin that we had to rip the entire thing out and just start over. He reminded me we didn't have that kind of time and I needed to figure something out that would burn less money, time and man power.

Luckily, I do my best work under pressure and our newly revamped fireplace wall is symmetrical, classic and neutral - plus I managed to squeeze in a bit of function as well!  

Wanna see what it looked like?

Before, as staged by previous owners on inspection day:

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Above is a head on view of the fireplace - the mantle was way too small, the trim around the brick work emphasized it's odd dimensions, the hight of the brickwork was out of scale to the wall and the hearth was off center. The hearth also bumps out from the wall, taking up quite a bit of space in probably the highest area for foot traffic in the entire house. 

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

The built in cabinets were well constructed but we don't have the type of TV the cabinets were designed for in the '90's and the shelf spacing was really off in order to accommodate a television. 

The room is so long and narrow that I couldn't get the entire fireplace wall into the frame of my iPhone shot so here's a little mock up so you can see what we were working with 

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Here's what we did:
Painted every inch of the space White Dove by Benjamin Moore
Ripped out the bookcase on the window wall, repairing the plaster behind
Created a new "shape" to the brickwork on the fireplace wall by adding drywall over the brick in a symmetrical shape
Lowered the line of the brick work under the mantle by adding drywall
Commissioned a custom mantle in a better size and shape for the space 
Enclosed the right side of the hearth in wood to create a bench and give the appearance of built in drawers
Changed the depth of the built in shelving to make them more shallow/modern
Added new shelves to create a more balanced unit (eliminating the large TV nook)
Changed all light fixtures and added sconces on the TV wall 

Wanna see what it looks like now?
All after photos by Courtney Malone Photography 

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Original art by Marquin Campbell of Marquin Designs

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Room sources listed here, and at the bottom of this post

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Ah, look at that fireplace wall! No longer an eye sore and a space that we use daily to drop bags and to put on shoes. 

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Since the room has been photographed a few weeks ago, I've added a new piece, a butterfly stool from InMod to ensure everyone has plenty of places to park it when Peppa Pig comes on. 

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

Before and After: Family Room Reveal

How pretty is that little guy!? InMod is an amazing source for modern furniture at a price point that won't make your tummy turn. I snagged both this little butterfly stool and a pair of molded chairs from the Origins by Inmod Collection. And of course I have my eye on a set of dining room chairs, but don't tell Justin. 

So, what do ya'll think of the space? 

Paint color on wall, trim, ceilings, brick, shelving, cabinetry and doors: 
Benjamin Moore White Dove 

All items featured in the space, including the kitchen nook, or similar options if older:
Ceiling pendant
Large art piece by Marquin Campbell