Wednesday, November 26, 2014

//What I'm Trying To Do Differently This Christmas//sponsor spotlight and jewelry giveaway//

We've all done it. The week before Christmas, ok three days before Christmas, ok Christmas Eve, frantically running to Target to try to finish the Christmas shopping.  Piling the cart full of generic gifts with hardly any thought behind them. Then standing in a really long line with a bunch of other frantic and grumpy shoppers. I'm not knocking Target. I love Target, as is evidenced by my at least weekly visits there. But when it comes to Christmas shopping, I'd like to do a little better than a Target run at the 11th hour.

 It's been a few year now since the "shop local" and "shop small businesses" movements have taken off.  As a crafter I love the idea of supporting fellow crafters, and as a semi-crunchy person I love the idea of supporting local economies.  But I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't really actually done it! This year it's going to be different. This year it's going to be thoughtful, and when possible, hand made and locally produced gifts.

My friend Anna runs Classically Romantic, an Etsy shop of all handmade jewelry.  There are a few things that make her shop extra special.  First, her name is also Anna. Automatic win! Second, we used to play in college orchestra together! (Go Orch Dorks!) Third, she makes all her jewelry right here in the Twin Cities.  Her shop is full of beautiful, completely unique pieces of jewelry. When she said she wanted to give me Some pieces to style, and another piece to give away to you, I was totally pumped! She was also good enough to give us the inside scoop on what it's like to make crafting into a small business.  I hope you'll read and be inspired to shop locally and handmade, and that you'll enter the giveaway (at the end!) and check out her shop. (All photos link back to the product listing)

Q: When and why did you start Classically Romantic?

A: Classically Romantic officially became a functioning business a couple years ago after college, but I tinkered with a hobby version of it for about a year before that. I've always been a maker, a crafter, an entrepreneur, and a colouring book enthusiast. Before Classically Romantic became Classically Romantic it was just a little girl selling stretchy beaded bracelets at her family's garage sale, trying to copy her grandma's handmade business.

Q: Is art and creativity something that runs in your family?

A: Yes! Though I might broaden this into 'the arts'. In my family we've got myself, a jewelry maker and former figure skater, my sister a classically trained pianist, my cousin a former ballet dancer and general arts enthusiast, her sister a maker of all sorts, an aunt who quilts, my mom who sews, my grandma who crocheted and also had a handmade business, and everyone else has worked something creative into their lives. It might be a love of literature, a glue gun and craft supplies, or a supporter of music. I can't tell you how many years we've all exchanged handmade Christmas gifts or saved craft store coupons for each other!

Q: What do you do in addition to running your etsy shop?

A: That's a bit of a tricky question. The CIA likes their operatives to maintain low profiles... haha! I have a 'day job' as a receptionist, and when I'm not doing that I'm either sleeping or working on something Etsy related! In the few hours I'm doing neither, I like reading, talking with friends, and listening to edutainment styled podcasts while I clean. My favourites are Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, Freakonomics, Radiolab, and This American Life. I know, I'm a wild woman.

Q: Would you like your jewelry business to become a full time gig eventually?

A: This is my long term goal! I would love to be a self-started business and making enough financially to work from home. Right now I'm not anywhere near that goal but I'm trying to learn and improve as I go. I would love to be featured in local boutiques and have my own website someday, I think that would be really neat.

Q: Tell us about the name, Classically Romantic. What does it mean and how is it reflected in your style?

A: The name Classically Romantic didn't exist until 2010 in my head. It has become very sentimental in my life, but it started out as merely a brainstorm of adjectives describing my personal style. I wish I would have kept the sheet of paper I wrote it all out on! Classic styles, the past, and beauty in nature are all ideas I want to reflect in my jewelry. This means I have lots of vintage or replica pieces, lots of florals, and lots of pearls and lace. The style of Classically Romantic is about femininity, beauty, and memories.

Q: How do your personality and interests come through in your jewelry? (ahem, Sherlock.)

A: Most of my shop is very woodland and vintage inspired, but I do have some really geeky stuff in there too... like the Sherlock pieces! I think that, to deny my shop the geeky reflection of me would be cheating... although I don't focus on the geeky, pop culture stuff as much because the themes are so fleeting. But they're very fun in the moment and in a cult classic way. Making pieces inspired by nerdy stuff is just as natural to me as making something inspired by a garden or my grandma's old jewelry. Bring on Sherlock, Doctor Who, or Harry Potter, I've got those supplies ready!

Q: What has been your favorite part of Classically Romantic so far?

A: By FAR my favourite part has just been seeing how much I've learned and grown over the months and years. I still remember how I shipped my first order. I had the good sense to use a bubble envelope to keep the necklace safe, but nothing else. I didn't have business cards, no actual packaging to speak of, I certainly didn't think to include a thank you note.... Don't worry, things are much better now! A close second, and nearly a tie to that would be seeing how happy people are at craft shows when they walk away with the perfect gift for their mom or sister. I try to keep things affordable so that someone doesn't have to make a sacrifice to buy a gift, or end up paying for a fancy name instead of a quality product. Providing something special to people is important to me and my business. I hope to never lose that idea.

When I received my own Classically Romantic pieces this first thing I noticed was the attention to detail in the packaging. I almost didn't want to open it, it was so beautiful. You could order a gift for someone and not need to do any gift wrapping. 

The presentation of the jewelry inside the box was so intentional and really made the pieces look quite exquisite. A thank you note and business card were neatly tucked in and whole package looked and felt so professional and high quality, it's amazing to think it's all produced by one individual out of her home. 

I love locket necklaces. I love the idea of carrying around the picture of a loved one right on top of your heart. Even before I became pregnant with Johnny I knew I wanted a locket to put a picture of my baby in.  Anna has several lockets in her shop and I was thrilled when I saw one had been included on my package. This antique styled, book shaped locked is perfect. It's so nostalgic and looks like an heirloom, which I'm hoping it will become. I also love that this necklace is versatile. It could work with a casual outfit just as easily as with something dressy.

These earrings were another favorite of mine. I loved the simple yet classy look, and when I got them and tried them on I loved them even more. I put them on and instantly felt super fancy. That, my friends, is what a good pair of earring will do to you. And they are so light!  I don't know if you wear a lot of long earrings, but most of them feel like long earring. In other words, they're really heavy.  Not these pretty little things. They are so light and comfortable to wear, and they're really beautiful. These are going to be my Christmas Eve earring.  And my New Years Eve earrings.  Basically they are my any-time-I'm-dressing-up earrings.  

Well, I hope you've enjoyed my raving as well as all my selfies.  Now I hope you will enter the giveaway, then tell your friends to enter the giveaway, then go visit Classically Romantic and get a gift for your sister or mom or bff, or just for yourself! Use the coupon code COZYWINTER to receive 20% of any non-custom orders now through the end of January 2015!

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

//five fashion favorites//

I'm not much of a fashionista. And I usually try not to do that much shopping.  In fact, my new years resolution for this year was to do NO clothes shopping for all of 2014 (barring any emergency needs, nursing bras, things of that nature). Well, I think I lasted until about March before I broke down and bought something.

I'm going to blame my postpartum body.  The plain and simple fact is a lot of my old clothes just no longer fit me right. Even after I lost my baby weight, my body is just different now. I needed clothes that would fit my forever expanded hips and rib cage. And having the saggy, stretchy, lumpiness of a postpartum body, it just feels really good to look put together once in a while. When you're over tired and touched out, having a clean, presentable outfit and some lipstick on can do wonders for personal morale.

This fall I came across a few really good fashion finds that I love and that have become major staples in my mommy wardrobe. And so I give you my five fashion favorites. (The photos that are not mine link back to the websites they are from)

//1. printed leggings//

At first I thought only teenagers could pull them off.  But now I'm convinced they were invented for the stay at home mom.  Because what's more comfortable than leggings? Nothing. And with a fun pattern you can feel a little more stylish and put together than you would in just plain black yoga pants. White plum has an amazing selection of printed leggings. I think I'm addicted.

//2. tunics//

actual model from white plum's website.
me attempting to model my leggings and over sized sweater. 

If you're going to wear leggings then you need to invest in a couple of tunics. I am 100% on board with the mantra of "leggings are not pants." So if you're going to wear them you need something that covers the old behind.  I love love love this tunic, also from white plum. And I also recently found these nice long layering tunics at Target. Great for wearing under something that maybe is not quite long enough to be presentable with leggings. Big, over-sized sweaters also work great with leggings. And wearing a long, flowing tunic helps hide the postpartum tummy troubles none of us like to show off.

//3. oxfords//

 I think it was after watching Call the Midwife that I decided I needed to get myself a pair of oxfords. They're so timeless, they can look vintage or modern. They're always in style, they work with jeans, and they work with dresses. I just found mine on Amazon and I love them. The only problem is our early Minnesota snow has me reaching for boots more than flats these days. Come springtime, however, I will be sporting my oxfords!

//4. this lipstick//

So, I shamelessly copied my little sister with this lipstick. She is a hairstylist by trade and very knowledgeable about all things trendy, and I shamelessly copy her on many occasions. I loved this lip color on her and after a failed attempt at commandeering it from her purse I had to go out and get one of my own.  Lipstick it like a magic pick-me-up, no matter how tired and frumpy I am feeling, if I put on some lipstick I instantly feel fancy! 

//5. lily jade diaper bag//

This one is a real splurge and I realize most of us just can't go out and get one. I had heard about Lily Jade bags back in the spring from fashionable mommy bloggers such as Grace from Camp Patton. It's a diaper bag, but it's also a designer bag. It has this great insert that keeps all your baby stuff organized, it's nice and big, and it's beautiful to look at.  Then my good friend Jacqui got one for her birthday, and after seeing  one in the flesh I knew I would loath and despise any other diaper bag for the rest of my life until I got one. So Alex was a real champ and organized the families to go in on one for me. And I love it! I've tried three other diaper bags and this one holds the most stuff and stays organized the best. I usually carry around 2 cloth diapers, 1 extra cover, wipes, wet bag, butt paste, my sling, a book, toy and snack for Johnny, my wallet, water bottle, sippy cup, lipstick, gum, cellphone, and sometimes a knitting project or camera. And it ALL fits! And it's so pretty. And I love it.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

//embrace the ordinary vol 2: snow//


For some people snow might not be that ordinary. But for us Minnesotans it is incredibly ordinary. We have snow for at least six months out of the year. We're constantly scraping it off our cars and stomping it from our boots and clearing it from our sidewalks. It limits time spent outdoors, gets our socks wet, and makes traffic miserable. I do not like the snow. 

We got our first snow fall this year on November 9th, which maybe is a little early for a first snow of the year. It was a big one. And unlike other first snows, which usually disappear once the sun comes out, it looks like this is it. Snow until April.  

But this year I've decided to embrace the snow and enjoy everything that comes with it. I'm going to enjoy how beautiful it makes everything look, and the way it sparkles in the sunlight or the street lamps. I'm going to enjoy Johnny's reaction to the snow, and how cute he looks bundled up in all his winter gear.  I'm going to embrace having an excuse to just stay home all day with a big sweater and two pairs of socks on. And I'm going to make hot chocolate and do lots of knitting. Somehow the snow doesn't seem so bad anymore. 


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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Perfect Anti-Sleep Storm

Every morning Johnny hits the ground running. Literally. He sits straight up in bed, in all his bed-head glory, then crawls backwards to the edge of the bed muttering "up, up, up," (up means up as well as down), and then slides off the bed feet first. Our bed is pretty high off the ground, so I have to hold onto his hands during this last part until his little feet touch the ground, and then he's off, faster than a speeding bullet, leaving a path of destruction in his wake as he pulls things off the night stand and book shelf and tosses them to the floor. Backing up a little bit. Yes, you heard that correctly, our 17 month old is still in bed with us.

You may remember some other post about my love/hate relationship with co-sleeping and trying to get Johnny to sleep through the night. Well, the struggle is real, the battling is still being waged, sleep troubles are alive and kicking.

We started night weaning Johnny in August. My idea was to cut him off slowly and gradually, but it just wasn't working. Johnny was still spending most of the night in our bed and nursing about 4 times a night. Co-sleeping with an infant is sweet and beautiful because they are small, they don't take up any space, and they stay in one place. Co-sleeping with a toddler just ends up looking like this:

photo from:

Anyway. Sleep deprivation was at an all time high. I had a day where nothing was going right and everything was making me cry, and then something clicked and I knew we had to go cold turkey on the night nursing.  I would nurse Johnny to sleep, and I would not nurse him again until morning. Alex was on board and was ready for any number of unpleasant nights in the rocking chair with Johnny. We were going to make it happen, I knew it was the right thing to do, and I had peace about it.

It turned out to be only a couple of rough nights.  Alex was such a great sport about keeping Johnny out of our bed, even if it meant spending most of the night on the couch with him. After a couple nights like that Johnny did the thing I never thought he would do- he slept through the night! He went to bed at 9:00 and slept all the way until 5:00. Now, 5:00 am is not an acceptable wake-up time, but an 8 hour stretch like that technically is sleeping through the night. And if we brought Johnny into our bed after a long stretch like that, he would nurse and sleep for a couple more hours. So we fell into a great pattern of one long stretch of sleep in the crib, then one quick nursing session and a couple more hours of sleep in our bed. Everyone was sleeping so much better, and I was still getting a couple hours of the co-sleeping closeness that my heart loves so much. Things were going great.

Then it happened. The perfect anti-sleep storm:

Daylight savings, 

Alex out of town, 

and Johnny and I sick, all in the same miserable weekend.

And just like that, all our hard work was undone. We are back to each being up a couple times in the night with Johnny, he's nursing 2-3 times a night, and usually in our bed around 2:00. I thought we had solved our sleep problems. We went cold turkey, we muscled through those few miserable nights.  Do we really have to go through them all over again? Veteran parents, is this sleeping through the night thing always going to be a cycle of learning, getting sick, forgetting, and then relearning? We know now that he can sleep through the night, we know it's not impossible, so as soon as his congestion clears up, it'll be back on the couch with papa. I'm not looking forward to it, and I can guarantee that Alex isn't looking forward to it, but I've gotten a taste of what good sleep is like, and I want it back!


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Monday, November 10, 2014

//S E A S O N S: time to get ready//

One of the reason I love living in Minnesota is that we really do experience ALL 4 seasons. (Que Vivaldi!) Our summers are humid and with highs pushing 100. Our winters have us snowed in, and our furnaces working over time to fight off the -1, or -10, or -20 lows. And between these two extremes we have the most wonderful springs and autumns with the deep greens of  new growing grass, and the fiery reds and oranges of the fall foliage. I may not like every minute of every season, but I'm really glad I get to experience them all.

One of the reason I love being Catholic is that we get to experience all the seasons of the church year. There are the penitential season of advent and lent, the joyful seasons of Christmas and Easter (that's right, they last longer than just one day!), and there's the ordinary time, where we focus on growing in our faith.  I am always looking for new ways to celebrate and participate in the different church season, whether it be finding a good book to read, going to talks or bible studies at my church, challenging myself to add more prayer time to my day, or give up something that I enjoy. Whatever I do, I always find that the more effort I put into participating in each season, the more I get out of it, and I grow more! 

I know if feels like Christmas is a hundred years away, but advent is just a few shorts weeks away. I don't know about you, but I don't want to wait until Christmas Eve to get ready for Christmas.  I want to start on that very first Sunday of advent to quiet my heart, and make room in there for my Savior. Heck! That's what we should be doing all year around! 

I've mentioned on here before that I've been writing devotionals with a beautiful group of women who make up Blessed Is She (subscribe if you haven't already). And some of those beautiful women have followed the nudging of the Holy Spirit to put together a journal for the season of advent. It has the scripture readings for each day, space to journal or doodle, inspiring quotes and reflections, and most importantly, it will become a place for you to share YOUR HEART with the Lord as you prepare for Christmas.

I'm so excited to use my journal to prepare my heart during advent, and I really want you to be able to do the same! So I'm giving one away! And I really hope YOU win! But if you don't, and you still want a journal, it's ok-  you can order your own here!

Ok, go ahead and get your entries in!!! And tell all your friends!

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