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Week in Review

2015 April 18
by WWGD

Weekend-WWGwynethDo

 

Happy Saturday, friends!

We’ve earned this one around these parts. We are in the thick of selling our home and making decisions about the new one and it feels like we’re in this constant game of “hurry up” and “then stop and wait” and the back and forth is fun and unsettling and exhausting all at once.

I guess most big changes in life are like that.

We are on the right path and hopefully we can wrap everything up in a pretty little bow in the coming weeks and move onto the pure excitement phase of this chapter.

I am obsessed with flooring right now and have learned more about wire brushing and wood finishes and adhesive options than I ever thought I would…but we’ve (almost) finally made our decision and I am sure it’s going to look beautiful.

I just really want this new home to feel calm and comfortable and stylish and light. I want it to reflect who we are now as a family, how we have grown and evolved and built our lives. How we live day-to-day and how we relax at the end of it. I want it to feel like a true sanctuary for our whole family and to fit our needs and to inspire us everyday. I want us to look around it and feel proud of everything we have accomplished and feel excited for all the memories to come.

No pressure at all. Ha.

In the meantime, Little D is officially celebrating her birthday this weekend. She wanted to do a sleepover with three girlfriends but I felt like our house was too small and too busy with Kai lurking around to do it properly. So I got us a room at a nearby hotel so we can do the sleepover in style. It’s surprisingly more affordable than most of the parties we’ve thrown her through the years and I am sure the girls will enjoy the pool, pizza and movie marathon. We will see how mama does…

Some other things I loved this week:

This viral campaign started by a teacher in Denver is amazingly powerful and makes you think.

This kind of sums up my every day right now.

My girl Sarah looks impossibly gorgeous in these bright lip colors for spring and now I want to go out and buy every one.

We’ve been living on a lot of take-out lately and my beloved menu planning ritual has taken a serious hit…but as soon as I get inspired to get back in the kitchen (hopefully very soon for all our sakes!), this is the first dish I want to make.

A must-read for all you writers out there.

Finally, don’t forget to enter my CanvasPop giveaway over on Instagram, friends. It’s a good one. And a special discount code is in this post, too. Trust me, their mosaics are the perfect accent to any happy home…and we can’t wait to hang it in ours.

Have a great weekend. xx

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On The Topic of Family Photos

2015 April 15
by WWGD

WWGD-CanvasPop

I am not one of those people whose walls are plastered with family photos.

We like to keep our general design aesthetic simple, clean and calming and as much as I love my little ones’ faces to bits, I have never been one to have them staring back at me from every single angle of my house. We have a beautiful gallery wall set up in our staircase and just a few special framed family photos in discreet places throughout the house and I cherish them even more that way.

“Less is more” and all that.

And now I have a new special piece to cherish in our new home.

We make and save so many great memories on our phone cameras nowadays and so we picked some of our favorite ones and made them into a beautiful canvas collage with CanvasPop and I love it so much that I had to share.

The process was so easy I did it at my laptop one night with two kids talking in my ear and a glass of wine in my hand. We simply scrolled through our Instagram accounts via their software, picked our most precious pics and uploaded them into their photo mosaic template. We customized the size, framing and finish (we debated between black and white and color for a while and color won out – but both looked super cool) and done.

A week or so later, this beautiful, bright, amazing ode to our little crew arrived at our doorstep. It’s a visual snapshot of our family’s amazing energy and the perfect candid complement to some of our more posed, traditional framed photos. One note: the glass of wine may have been a bad idea because I doubled up on a few pics in the collage…oops. Double check your work.

I really love it and I know you would love it too so the kind folks at CanvasPop and I are partnering up to give away one free 16×20 canvas print with a 0.75 inch frame and free shipping. To enter, follow me on Instagram (@wwgwynethdo), find the pic above and comment with the hashtag #WWGDCanvasPop. I will pick a winner at random on April 30th, 2015.

And if contests aren’t your thing, don’t fret. CanvasPop is ALSO offering you guys a very special (and pretty great!) discount of 35% off one order with the code WWGD35 from now through June 30th, 2015**.

So start combing through those photos, friends. And go turn them into memories.

*many thanks to CanvasPop for partnering with me on this giveaway

**valid for orders shipping within the US and Canada; cannot be combined with other discounts or promo codes.

Today You Are Eight

2015 April 9
by WWGD

Eight-WWGwynethDo

Today you are eight.

Last year you turned seven and seven is my lucky number. But I am thinking of changing it to eight, just because of you.

Today you are in second grade. You still have days where you don’t want to leave my side at drop off. You cling to me, sometimes with a tear in your eye, not even giving your 20+ classmates a second glance. Other days, you run to them and never look back. I guess that’s second grade.

Today you weigh 61 lbs. You get excited with every pound you gain and I love that excitement because I know it won’t be there forever. You are still very tall for your age. It’s the first thing people comment on when they meet you and I can see how it brings a tinge of insecurity to your eyes every time. I know that won’t be there forever, either.

Today you are still a voracious reader. We go to the library and take out ten books at a time and you read them in two days. And then you ask to go back.

Today (well, last week) you placed third in the second grade Spelling Bee. You got out on the word “electric.” That is a tough word. I was more nervous than you were.

Today you still eat a lot of pasta. You like bagels and waffles and yogurt and apples. You do better with vegetables than fruit and you are proving to be quite the carnivore…an animal-loving carnivore, of course. You are very concerned about where your chicken comes from…but then you’re happy to eat it.

Today you befriend the quiet kids and make them loud. I hope you do that forever.

Today you dream of puppies. You live for puppies. Some days, you pretend to be a puppy. You don’t know this, but you’ll get one soon enough. We promise.

Today you are starting an exciting new year. We’re moving to a new house, you’ll be starting at a new school, you will have a whole new neighborhood of friends to meet. I know you are excited and scared at the same time. And I know you will do great.

Today you like to sing along to radio hits in the backseat. You know the words to Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars and The Lumineers. You start to sing softly and then when I tell you I love your voice and I crank it up, you belt it out and you absolutely shine.

Today you are bold and shy all at once.

Today you have your first real pair of lace up sneakers and every morning you work really hard to tie them extra tight so they will stay secure all day. I think part of you wants to give up and go back to the ease of velcro…and I kind of don’t blame you.

Today your teachers say you are sharp, creative, worldly. But maybe a bit of a daydreamer. That’s ok with me.

Today you want your new room to be turquoise. No more pink. I don’t think you ever liked the pink.

Today you are showing tiny signs of your looming adolescence. A little more insecurity, a hint of attitude here and there, the need for solitude and quiet once in a while. I see the signs. I thought they would scare me, but they don’t. They excite me. I can’t wait to see the girl, young lady and woman you become. Because I know she is going to be really cool.

Today you are learning to play tennis. You need some practice, but you don’t mind. You are learning to speak French, too. You only go “because your mom makes you,” but I don’t mind. You will thank me for it some day.

Today you are getting balloons and cake and lots of love. And today we get you. And that is the greatest gift of all.

Happy birthday, Little D.

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How to Write a Great Email

2015 April 6
by WWGD

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I never gave much thought to my email-writing skills until someone complimented me on them recently.

The person was saying how good communication skills don’t come naturally to everyone and that one of my strengths at work is my ability to communicate effectively in writing…apparently a talent I have been busy overlooking.

So I thought I would share some of my personal tips for writing a great email, in case you may want to give yours a second glance:

1) Always start with a proper greeting. I don’t dive into emails without a “Hi XX” and a “Hope you are well” to back that up. It doesn’t matter if the contact is junior or senior, a client or not, I like to treat the correspondence with respect and a little personal touch to start on the right foot. And yes, this applies to strangers as well. I hope they are doing well, too! It’s not an awkward statement that requires a response (i.e. “how was your weekend?”), it’s just a simple snippet that sets a polite, engaged tone.

2) Keep it short. If the topic at hand requires a lengthy conversation, I use an email to preface it and ask for a follow up call to “discuss in more detail.” Don’t put an entire strategy in an email (attach as a separate document, if you need to), don’t dive into controversial topics and don’t use it as a forum to vent anything that shouldn’t be put into writing. These days, more and more emails are being read on-the-go, on cell phones or tablets, and anything that looks too long or in-depth will give the recipient an insta-headache.

3) Break it up. If I do have a chunk of information or feedback I need to communicate or share to start a discussion, I always either break it up into multiple small paragraphs or put it in bullet form. It’s easier on the eye and the mind and lets the reader digest in bite-sized nuggets and reply to each one individually. The only emails that should be one paragraph are one-liners. Give each individual thought/request/detail its own space.

4) Befriend your BCC line. This may or may not apply to your business, but BCC is one of my favorite things about email. Here’s how I use it – in bullet form, of course ;)

  • I use it on group correspondence where I know people will reply with their thoughts and I don’t want everyone on the chain to have their inboxes bogged down. I often start those notes with a “pardon the BCC, but don’t want to clog your inbox” so that people know there are other people on the thread but their replies won’t go to everyone (note: more room moms really need to learn this trick of the trade).
  • I also use it when someone has e-introduced me to a contact but doesn’t need to be on the resulting back and forth. I move the person who made the introduction to the BCC line on my reply and again address it up top with a “thanks for the intro, X; I am moving you to BCC so you can skip the back and forth.”
  • Finally, I use it on any mass invitations, announcements, etc for clients where we want to keep the recipient list under wraps. I double and triple check before hitting send and I put myself in the “to” line so I can see how the email comes through to everyone.

5) Adopt a proper email tone. I can’t define this one for you because every industry is different, but in my business (public relations and marketing) that means keeping emails in a middle ground between formal and casual. I don’t use the same verbiage I would use in a new business proposal or client strategy presentation, but I also don’t use the same tone I would use in an email to my sister. I walk a middle line because emails, by nature, are meant to be succinct and easy-to-digest, but they are still a form of professional correspondence and should be treated as such.

6) Sign off with a little style. Which leads to my last point: signing off. As I do with a proper greeting, I like to close my emails with a proper closing. It’s typically as simple as “thank you” or “many thanks” and then my name followed by my formal e-signature. It’s never an abbreviated “ty” or “thx” unless it’s a close friend/colleague and it is NEVER accompanied by x’s and o’s if it’s at all related to anything professional. Ever. I choose not to bog down my signature with icons and graphics (I know some employers require this) because I find them annoying, but I do include my name, title, link to my professional web site and direct phone number for easy access. No need to include your email address there again…they just got an email from you with that. And when I reply, I always take an extra second to make sure I am spelling the person’s name right because it blows my mind every single time when someone replies to an email from me and starts it with “Hi Racula…”

Hope some of this was helpful! With that, I am back to work! Have a good Monday. xx

*photo by Fawn Christiansen

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Spring Wish List

2015 April 4
by WWGD

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One of the hardest things about making a big purchase like a new home or a bucket list vacation or a car or whatnot is that you feel like you have to pinch every single penny to make that dream a reality. You feel guilty spending any money that can be saved for your big goal so naturally you start to want everything you see…sigh. Here are some of the things topping my Spring wish list right now – thankfully my birthday is only a month away so maybe someone else’s pennies can bring them into my life ;)

(above) White Birkenstocks. Guys, I am a fair-weather hippie. I love a boho look and I like the popular Grateful Dead songs (I leave the obscure ones to my husband and my sister) and I can get down with a peace and love approach to life most of the time, but I have never been a Birk wearer. But these white ones have me changing my tune. The color is cute and fresh but the style is still classic (because I cannot get down with the new models at all…) and it may just be time for me to join the Birks brigade.

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This creamy white blouse from Anthropologie is a classic to me. I feel like I have owned so many iterations of this same blouse but yet, I need a new one…Spring does that to a girl, I guess.

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Easy dresses are my favorite look for Spring and Summer and this one (already sold out, sniff sniff) is high on my wish list. Black and white and simple and romantic…all of my favorite elements wrapped up into one pretty package. Hopefully the Madewell gods are hard at work bringing more of them in stock.

SpringWishlist-WWGwynethDoRemember those days when it was socially acceptable to spend an insane amount of money on fancy designer sunglasses? Those days are so over for me. I wear sunglasses every single day of the year and they often end up in my kids’ hands or buried at the bottom of a purse filled with toys and pens and snacks and that is simply no place for Prada. So these days I rely on less expensive options like Ray-Bans or Madewell that won’t break the bank when they break…literally. I am eyeing (pun intended) this turquoise twist on classic black Wayfarers for the new season.

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Finally, the talented and oh so chic eye of Garance Doré and her team single-handedly sold me on this one: Essie in Borrowed & Blue. Pair the pretty pastel shade with an all-black outfit for a look that’s a little less sweet and a little more stylish.

*post contains affiliate links

**image number five credit: Garance Doré

The Week in Review

2015 April 3
by WWGD

WWGwynethDo

Well hi!

Yes, I still write a blog. And sometimes I post a photo on Instagram. And once in a while, I pin something to Pinterest.

Life has been nuts lately, guys. Good crazy, but crazy.

It has been one of those weeks where there are not enough hours in the day, not enough pages for my to-do list and far too many things on my mind.

But I managed to find a moment or two over the past few busy days to reflect on some things that I am really happy about.

First (and always), everything happens for a reason. It just does. Good or bad. Happy or sad. It’s all happening for a reason. Find comfort in that, when you can.

Second, memories are yours for the making. We so often get caught up in not spending the money or not taking the time off or not being able to find a way…but the memories are yours for the making, friends. We made some amazing memories this week and none of them involved any real effort on our part. We didn’t “try” to make any of them, we were just open to them as they came…and grateful that they did.

Third, when life gives you lemonade…savor every last sip. It has been a good week for our little family. And I didn’t take one moment or one milestone for granted. I appreciated it all, paused to reflect on that happiness and said a silent thank you for every blessing that we have.

I hope that this week has been good to you as well…and that you savored every last sip.

Have a great weekend. xx

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The Only Oatmeal Cookies You Will Ever Need to Make

2015 March 26
by WWGD

OatmealCookies-WWGwynethDo

 

Sometimes in life one little thing makes a very big difference.

It’s the same with this oatmeal cookie recipe.

It looks like a standard oatmeal cookie recipe. It has oats and butter and sugar and chocolate chips (because an oatmeal cookie with raisins is a poor excuse for an oatmeal cookie).

But then it has something else.

Something that adds a rich, velvety flavor to this cookie that is simply addictive. That is absolutely memorable. That makes it the only oatmeal cookie you will ever need to make.

That something else is one tablespoon of molasses. One little tablespoon that makes a big difference. Buy a jar of molasses. You may think it’s going to gather dust in your pantry and it very well might…until you make these cookies and start craving them every other day.

That jar of molasses will be gone in no time. Promise.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, at room temp

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp molasses

1 cup flour

1 cup oats

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1 tbsp vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips (for your sweet tooth)

1 tbsp chia seeds (for your health)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Cream the butter, sugar and molasses together in a stand mixer. Beat until well combined and ‘creamy’.

Add the egg and vanilla to the butter mixture and continue beating until well combined.

Meanwhile whisk the flour, oats, salt, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl.

Gradually add the flour mix to the wet mixture, beating just until combined.

Fold in the chocolate chips and chia seeds by hand.

Using a tablespoon scoop out a ball of the dough and drop onto a lightly greased cookie tray. Flatten slightly.

Bake for 13-15 minutes (mine were good at 13) and allow to cool for ten.

Enjoy.

Make them again in two days.

*recipe adapted slightly from this one

Band of Mothers

2015 March 25
by WWGD

BandofMothers-WWGwynethDo

Earlier this week there was a child abduction attempt in a neighboring city near ours.

It was the kind you have nightmares about – a total stranger, the middle of the day, on the school’s grounds where you think your kids are safe.

Every parent’s worst nightmare.

Thankfully, this little girl fought him off. She kicked and screamed and didn’t stop fighting until some teachers and staff nearby saw what was happening and chased the man.

But he got away.

He’s still out there, in our community. Or one a few miles away. Or maybe yours.

The next morning, an email started circulating on social media and in inboxes across the county. An email from the young girl’s father, detailing exactly what had happened to his daughter, full of details that the media never mentioned, information that could possibly help identify and locate this disturbed man and prevent another tragedy from happening.

That email spread like wildfire.

It felt like everyone I knew in the area – and miles beyond it – was sharing that father’s words. We all imagined for a minute that it was our daughter. Our nightmare.

And we spread it like wildfire.

The next day at pick up, I noticed that the parking lot was exceptionally full. More parents than usual, parking their cars, walking onto campus, standing at those gates to welcome their children into the safety of their waiting arms.

We all felt it in the air. We saw it in each other’s eyes. It was like the day of the Newtown tragedy.

We took note of the few kids who were waiting a few extra minutes on their own. We asked who was picking them up before we walked away. We watched as the principal and the teachers kept a watchful, steady eye over every single moving body.

We spread our emotions like wildfire, in the air.

We will protect each other’s children. We will keep each other safe. We will not let some disturbed individual make this nightmare a reality…for any of us.

We are a band of mothers (and yes, fathers, of course!) in times like these.

I don’t have a ton in common with most of the moms at our school. Our lives are different, our interests vary, our schedules look nothing alike. But this week, these days, we have everything in common. One thing in common. And it’s the most important thing in the world.

We are a band of mothers.

*image above via here

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Tips for Spring Cleaning…All Year Long

2015 March 25
by WWGD

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I keep seeing posts about Spring Cleaning all over the place and while I know this annual ritual is a great idea, in theory, I’ve found it’s much easier to maintain a healthy, happy, organized home if you’re “Spring Cleaning” all year long.

Here are some easy ways we keep the clutter and chaos contained every day of the year so when it comes to Spring, all we have to do is bask in its glory:

1) Keep a Goodwill bag in everyone’s closet at all times. I use those free hand-out tote bags you get practically everywhere today and I keep one in everyone’s closet so when I come across something that is too small or hasn’t been worn in months, it goes right into the bag instead of the back of the drawer. Then we donate those goods once per month or so to keep our closets in constant rotation.

2) One in, three out. We’ve had to put a rule in place when it comes to kids’ toys, stuffed animals, even books. For every new one that comes in, we (try to) donate three. It keeps our playroom in check so that we’re not left feeling overwhelmed post-Christmas and birthdays or when those Spring Cleaning stories start popping up. We also have a rule about broken toys. They go as soon as they break. We don’t keep them around in case we can fix them or sew them up or revive them. They go right away. No, this isn’t always an easy conversation to have. But it’s a battle worth picking, in my Type A opinion.

3) Keep cleaning products everywhere. I keep every bathroom in the house stocked with its own set of essential cleaning products (in a caddy for easy access) so I can do a quick wipe-down or dusting whenever I have a free minute (i.e. if the kids are busy in the bath or playing quietly) without having to trek down to the laundry room where we house most of our cleaning supplies (you can use closets for the same purpose). That way surfaces don’t have a chance to pile up dust and dirt and there is never a need for an annual “deep clean” because we do mini cleans all the time.

4) I clean the fridge every Sunday. When I bring home the week’s groceries, I take a minute to assess the fridge and pantry before piling the new stuff in. I throw out old items, check expiration dates, give each shelf a quick wipe down before I load it back up. It’s much easier to take it on one week at a time when the mess is seemingly manageable and gives me an odd sense of satisfaction when it’s clean and newly stocked. I also love to use clear glass containers to store my eggs, fruit, etc. so that it’s visually appealing when I open it (see image above). It inspires me that much more to keep it clean, all year long.

5) Stop clutter at the door. I sort through my mail at the recycling bin and toss out junk before it has even entered the house (my goal is to put a “no flyers” note in our mailbox but I never get around to it and I don’t really want to annoy my lovely mail guy). I don’t let the kids’ art projects from school (lovely as they are) pile up, either. I see it, fawn over it, and often covertly put it in the recycling bin after bed time. Trust me, they rarely even remember it come morning. I don’t keep drawers full of coupons with the hope of using them some day. If I get a really good one, I keep it in my wallet for easy access. No more paper take-out menus allowed, either. We have the internet for that, friends. If you start to filter what comes into your house before it even enters, you’ll be one step ahead of your chaos every day of the year.

In the end, I just truly believe in a clear space and a clear mind…and I always remind myself of that. I have seen firsthand how physical clutter can lead to mental clutter with friends and family members and I keep those examples in the back of my head as a reminder whenever I need a little extra motivation to clear out the cobwebs (physical and metaphorical). I truly believe that too much stuff and/or physical chaos can lead to stress and anxiety and I’d rather we live in a space that is organized, minimal and a blank canvas for our busy lives. Find a process that works for you and brings a sense of peace and ease to your mind every day of the year and you can leave these lovely Spring days to the birds and the bees.

*PS – has anyone read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up yet? Thoughts? Worth the read? 

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Hey Natalie Jean – A Book Review

2015 March 23
by WWGD

HeyNatalieJeanReview-WWGwynethDo

I have been a longtime fan of Natalie’s blog (read about that here).

Some blogs you read for inspiration, some you read for fun, some you read for the visuals…you read Natalie’s for her writing.

So when her long-anticipated first book landed in my mailbox last week, I was excited to sit down and dive in.

To dive into her writing. To hear stories I hadn’t heard from her before. To appreciate her candor, her witty way with words, her honest and approachable voice.

And the parts of the book where that writing comes through…those parts are great. Those parts are full of talent and promise and intrigue. Those parts are where she dives deep into her writing and takes her readers along with her, giving them everything they hoped for.

Unfortunately, those parts are too few and far between. The essays are interspersed among “chapters” devoted to mindless things like makeup routines, home decor inspiration, New York City subway elevator systems and the like that a) we’ve seen on her blog and b) belong on a blog.

A blog is where I appreciate that kind of fluff. A book is not.

Especially when the writer behind the blog is so good at…writing.

I wanted to hear more stories and learn more about her background and lose myself in her easy writing style. I wanted to dive in but instead I felt like I was stuck in shallow waters (are you loving these metaphors or what?!?).

But I don’t fault Natalie for any of this so consider this a positive review. In fact, I want you to go out and buy Hey Natalie Jean right now. Support this writer. Boost her numbers and her likes and whatever publishers look for in a successful book these days. Support her writing, her candor and her witty way with words. Because hopefully if we do, they will give her another book deal. And another after that. And another after that.

And she can fill them all with her writing. And we can keep diving in.

*addendum: read this post from Natalie. It kind of sums it up perfectly…as she so often does.