At the end of 2014, I wrote a retrospective on what made me happy on a day-to-day basis. I love this idea because I truly believe that the things that make you happy each day, in turn, make you happy in life! So I wanted to do it again this year. Here it is our daily happiness for Love Jac & for my personal life…
#1: Artists & Crafts
My professional high of 2015 is easily Artists & Crafts, a curriculum I have developed and art class I teach that exposes children to famous artists and encourages them to create their own masterpieces. At the beginning of the year there was a very good chance that this class could have ended because the facility and our original partner closed down her shop. I was determined to not let this class fade away. I am so happy to say not only did Artists & Crafts live, but it has also grown into something even bigger. Being responsible for all aspects of running this class gave me the perfect excuse to take everything to the next level. We changed our name, created a logo, and defined our philosophy. I love the business side of this class, but I absolutely love teaching it. I love watching the children learn, participate, and create. I love getting to know them, as well as their caregivers. I love watching everyone in class become friends. I love being a bigger part of the community and running into our families in the neighborhood. It fills me with such joy. The fact that an idea I was passionate about a couple of years ago has grown into such a wonderful institution fills my heart with happiness. I am on the biggest high of my week every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m.
#2: Online Webinars
If 2014 was the year of the podcast, then 2015 was the year of the online webinar. I took two extremely beneficial webinars, Trade Show Boot Camp (TSBC) and Life With Intention Online (LWIO), that have transformed Love Jac.
In March during TSBC, Katie and her wonderful panel of experts reinforced much of what I knew and shined some light on many industry secrets I hadn’t learned yet. This community of professionals has given me a realistic look at what Love Jac can become and what we want it to ultimately be. My greatest takeaway from this course was the term “multiple revenue streams” and the examples of how it is the key to so many successful entrepreneurs!!
In October I participated in Jess Lively’s LWIO. If you would like the full review, I raved about how much I love this workshop here. But I want to point out that it has shifted the way I look at my business. It has helped me evaluate how I am focusing my time and set up a new plan for the future. As a solo-preneur having both of these peer groups as part of my community now is extremely helpful. And since I mentioned “multiple revenue streams” I want to share two of Jess’ incredible podcast episodes about this concept – here and here. These episodes have given me great ideas for the future of Love Jac.
#3: Customer Interaction
We have always loved our customers, but this year it has been extra meaningful. We love talking and catching up with them at craft fairs. We love handwriting notes in their online orders. And we love hearing their reviews when we run into them on the street. Our feature in Rachael Ray’s Every Day magazine increased our customers nationwide. Chatting with wonderful people in Oklahoma that connect with the same things we do is why we have this business. We have been brainstorming new fun ways to interact and connect with you guys even more in 2016.
#1: My Values Based Intentions
Okay, by now I kinda feel like a broken record. I’ve mentioned it multiple times here on the blog and, if we’ve hung out between October and now, I have probably told you about how my outlook on life has changed since I took Jess Lively’s Life With Intention Online workshop. But, honestly, it is my biggest takeaway of 2015 in all aspects of life… from my livable, comfortable, put-together home and wardrobe to being aware & smart and making it a requirement to find time to indulge & recharge! Overall I am less stressed. I’d even say all the “unnecessary stress” has disappeared. Plus, Chad has even said he notices a difference! I often find myself going back to my values when I need to reset or look at life on a bigger picture.
#2: Tuesdays/ Thursdays
I knew this would be a game changer but, man-oh-man, having two days of uninterrupted time to work is bliss!! Sometimes I almost feel guilty. I have been able to think more clearly, get more accomplished, and, in turn, enjoy my family even more!!! In September our daughter started going to school five days a week and our son started going twice a week. To go from the past four and a half years of being responsible for another person 24/7 to having 11 hours a week where the only person I have to answer to is myself is life changing. I feel like I’ve been a sprinter running with weights on for years and they’ve just been removed! Don’t blink because I might fly by! As with most situations, I always think I’ll be able to get things done so much quicker or get more accomplished in a certain period of time. I kept saying to Chad “In September I’m going to…” and “In September I’ll have time for…” And while I have only checked off three items from my “In September”, they are the most important items. And they are done! That feels so good. In some ways this life I’m living now is what I expected motherhood to be like. I’m organized. I have systems in place and I am enjoying my kids. Before having this time I was totally happy, but I was hustling a lot more and felt like I was always trying to catch up. Plus, now our cabinets are organized!
#3: Real Life Interactions
It’s almost silly that this is on the list. Real life interactions? You mean actually connecting with people and having a conversation! This item is very similar to last year’s “Meet Ups” but this time in my personal life. For a while there I found myself getting caught up in Instragam and the people who seemed to be in my phone. I think that when you are a stay-at-home mom and run your own business you have less interaction and find comfort in those connections you have made online. I still enjoy those connections – especially the ones with people I actually know – but this year I made an effort to get together with my girlfriends as often as possible. We went on weekend trips, we spend a week in Cape Cod, we spent as many days as we could with my best friend and her daughter in New Jersey, we planned date nights with other couple friends, and we became even closer with our “mommy” friends. Those times when I almost forget to take a photo because we are having so much fun are some my favorites!! Don’t worry – most of the time I did remember to snap at least one photo!!
Bonus #4: New Contact Solution!
I have to include this just as on overall daily high!! This summer after the eye doctor’s recommendation I started using new contact solution. This is the kind that really shocks the contacts and removes all bacteria! When I first started wearing contacts in middle school this was all that you could buy. Before I made the switch back, my eyes would begin to fail me and around 8 p.m. things would always get blurry. I even contemplated getting lasik eye surgery. However, after switching my solution and making sure I change my monthly contacts every month (I added a reminder in my calendar), my eyes feel so much better!!
That wraps my top contributors to my daily happiness professionally and personally. I find it interesting to look back and compare 2014 and 2015. In a way, life has built upon the foundation of 2014 and become even better in 2015. I hope this trend continues as I “settle-in” to this awesome life we have! January is almost over and I’m ready to really dig my heels into 2016!! We hope you are as well.
We love December Daily!! This is our second year creating an album and we’ve loved the entire process!!! For those unfamiliar, December Daily is a scrapbook concept created by Ali Edwards, which documents each day of December. Even in all the busyness of the month you can slow down and document the moments both big and small.
In late November I pulled out our December Daily album from last year. We flipped through it together as a family. Georgia loves looking at the daily photos of Billy, our Elf On The Shelf. I love seeing how little the kids were only a year ago. Simply having this album brings the whole family joy.
Lately, I’ve really been into watching YouTube videos of people either showing their December Daily process or walking through their albums. I’m slightly addicted. If you’d like to join me in this obsession, I recommend starting off with Amy Tangerine’s walk-through of the last 5 years and Victoria Marie’s process videos! And, if you want, you can also check out the video I made last year. Watching how others scrapbook is very inspiring and I’ve learned many new techniques. However, I have learned the most from simply making our album last year. Here’s what I learned…
LET THE PHOTOS TAKE THE LEAD
Last year in November I loaded up all of my pocket pages with fun cardstock. I thought by prepping the album in advance it would save me time and make things go faster…WRONG! The more I pocket-page scrapbook the more I am learning what works best for me. Here’s what you need to know about me: I take A LOT of photos!! I love capturing the everyday little moments. It helps me remember them in the hectic times of life. I’ve become very good at quickly pulling out my iPhone, snapping a photo, and then continuing on with life. Because I know this about myself, I let the photos take the lead this year.
This means there wasn’t much prep I had to do in advance. I simply made sure I was taking photos during the day and then I kept a list of our activities and the stories I wanted to remember in my Get To Work Book. Twice – once in the middle of the month, and then once at the end of the month -- I went through my photos and had them printed at CVS. I printed some of the photos in multiple sizes. I still enjoy physically holding the photos and deciding how I want to lay them out. I let the photos for each day determine what layout I chose. I used a Simple Stories SN@P album again and I love all the different layout options they offer. I also really love the 6x8 size because it makes it easy to take with us while we travel. Bringing the album to North Carolina when I knew I’d have the time to scrapbook was extremely helpful.
Another thing I’ve learned about myself is that in order for me to finish something, I need to set a deadline. Last year I had more concrete deadlines – and, in turn, had the album completed by the first week of January. This year I had looser deadlines, so it did take a little bit longer to finally close the album and put it on the shelf.
Deadline #1- PHOTOS
Instead of doing each page from start to finish, I did the entire album in steps. I started with the photos. In order to stay on track, I told myself I would have all the photos in the album before we left North Carolina.
Deadline #2- PATTERNED PAPER
When we were back in Brooklyn, I made my next mission to fill the remaining spaces with patterned paper. I bought a 9x11 pad of paper from Hobby Lobby because I wanted the entire album to feel cohesive. I love bright colors so when I found this pack that was centered around light brown kraft paper (similar to the cover of the album) with bright reds, greens, and whites, I kinda fell in love. Since Georgia really loved Billy The Elf being in our book, I decided to make him extra special this year - I used glitter paper for his border. I still haven’t been able to successfully print my Instagram photos with the entire border. For some reason, one of the edges gets cut off. To fix this, I cut the border off and then mounted it on the glitter paper so that it was symmetric. I used glue dots instead of a glue stick so that it was able to grip the glitter paper.
Deadline #3- EMBELLISH & JOURNAL
Once I had all the pockets filled, the fun really began: embellishing and journaling. Since one of my goals for this year was to keep the album cohesive, I chose three different styles of alphabet stickers. I used the same red and green glitter letters I used last year. I found a thicker cardstock kraft-colored set in the $1 bin at Target. I bought two packs – and wish I would have bought more. The color worked perfectly with the album as a whole. I also used some thick gold stickers I had in my stash. I really couldn’t get enough of the alphabet stickers in this album! I used the same set of white number stickers to identify the date once December started.
For other embellishments I mainly stuck with my two favorite sticker lines: Mambi Clear Sticks & Mambi Chips. I love the clear stickers because you can put them right over the photos. I love the chips because they have great sayings & add a pop to any layout. I had bought a couple packs for my summer mini album and ended up using them in this album.
For journaling, I picked up three individual sheets of paper at Hobby Lobby that matched the paper pad I had previously bought. I bought a thin green sharpie that I used for the majority of my journaling.
A note on journaling: part of me wishes I had room to write more, but than another part of me felt like I was just writing what I could already see in the photos. I can’t decide what information I will always remember when I look at the photos and what things I just remember now because it is so fresh in my mind. Hmmm… This is another reason why I enjoy making the flip-through videos.
Also, in this album I used several clear stamps. I have a couple sets by Kelly Purkey and also found one by Heidi Swap that has all the days of the week. One of my other new favorite YouTubers is JuliMakesThings. I like how she stamps her date a couple times so it looks like it fades away. I used the same technique with the day of the week. I like knowing what day something happened in addition to the date. For whatever reason, it helps me remember better.
Last year I was very diligent about making sure each day only took up a single side of the page. I have a tendency to go overboard and have incredibly thick albums. Last year’s album was very thin and I am happy with that. However, knowing the 17 pocket pages wouldn’t make the album too big, I allowed myself to let a couple days occupy more than one side. For me, it’s about what I want to remember and on a few occasions multiple things happened per day that I knew I wanted to document. This year my album ended up having 23 pocket pages.
Now that I have the album done, I’m already excited for next December to get here!! Eventually, I’d love to find the time to do a full Project Life album per year. In the meantime, I guess I’ll get to work on finishing our summer mini-album.
If you'd like to see every page in the album you can watch my flip-through video here. Note: I go through each page so it's about 20 minutes!!
Below are some different memory keeping strategies. I hope they inspire you on your next album…
TITLING A PAGE
Several times throughout this album I decided to simply give the page a title. I like this method of documenting because most of the time the story is told with the photos and giving it a title helps focus the page. I utilized my slight obsession with alpha letters, plus the bold sayings in the Mambi packs.
After church I asked our priest if I could take a photo of him with Chad and the kids. He’s our favorite and I wanted to include him in our album. I used the kraft-colored letters to spell out “We Love Father John.”
We had a photo shoot scheduled on the 22nd, but our photographer had to cancel because her kids were sick. We ended up using my camera and taking the photos ourselves. My mother-in-law Bobbie chose to have our “theme” be plaid this year. Genius, if I do say so myself, as Chad’s favorite shirt is plaid and he’s generally not too into our “themed photos”! I, on the other hand, live for them!!! We got two amazing photos out of the shoot. The first one is of the four of us on the side of the house making funny faces. I love everything about this photo. I knew I had to print it big. I was going back and forth trying to decide if I should add any embellishments – and this is why I LOVE those Mambi Clear Sticks because the white letters blend into the photo – adding a little somethin’ somethin’ without taking away from the photo itself. I used stickers to make the phrase “WE LOVE PLAID” on the bottom.
On the backside of this spread I used our favorite photo of MaMa & PaPa with the kids. Everyone looks great in this photo! I added the saying “This is love, pure love” because, to me, they are all beaming with love!!
Bobbie took a photo of everyone opening our matching Christmas pajamas. I titled the page “Matching Moo Moos” so that you know immediately what we were opening.
ALTERING A LAYOUT
I thought it would be fun to cut one of the pocket pages in half so I was able to fit more of our memorabilia in the spread focusing on our trip to see The Rockettes. I’ve seen this done several times before. However, I didn’t like how you could see half of the page behind it. I ended up taping on a strip of four 2x2 squares next to the two 3x4 photos to fill out the whole page. This gave me room to document decorating our tree as well as include the 3D glasses from the show. I used clear packing tape to secure the pockets together and then covered it with decorative washi tape.
EMBRACING THE NON-CHRISTMAS-Y DAYS
Not every page has to be Christmas focused because not every day in December is about Christmas. I am really happy with how this spread turned out. I kept it very simple and I love how it’s not as Christmas-y as the rest of the album. I used two photos from our craft fair that are very colorful. The top one is of my coffee cup & our yellow bags. In the background is our neighbor’s booth. She makes these crazy fun spandex pants in neon colors!! I loved them! It took all my will power to not buy a pair! I also really like the way a 4x6 photo looks when it’s cut in half. In the last pocket, I included a photo of Chad fixing our flat tire & the photo of Billy (of course). I used a clear sticker that says “My Man” and first stuck it to plain kraft cardstock so it is easier to read.
SAVING A MAGAZINE SPREAD
This December our thermographed Skyline Cards were featured in Rachael Ray’s Every Day magazine. I added this page last because I knew I wanted to remember it. We are also in KonMari mode and I’m trying not to keep extra things in the house. Adding the magazine spread to our December Daily album was the perfect way to have it as a keepsake. I used the full 6x8 pocket page. I laid it on top of the magazine so I could figure our how I wanted to crop the cover. I knew it wouldn’t all fit, but I wanted to keep the main image and as much of the title as possible. I also added two stickers: “This Happened” and “So Awesome”!
On the back side, I cut out a section of the page featuring our cards, plus another excerpt describing them. I also added some journaling at the top and the name “BOXER” in alpha letters vertically! Boxer is the last name of Rachael Ray’s fabulous right hand woman who put in the good word to have our cards featured in the magazine!!
NOT THE BEST DAY EVER
I didn’t have that great of a day on the 17th. In fact, I didn’t take one photo cause I was in such a frustrated mood!! I still wanted to document it so I decided to be a little cheeky. I used one of the clear stickers that say “The Best Day Ever” and added the word “not” in front of it. I then jotted down a list of the unfortunate events that unfolded that morning. I used both a green & black sharpie so the story was a little more animated.
OVERALL DECEMBER MEMORIES
There were a couple overall December memories I wanted to include that weren’t date specific. One of them is our “team” of babysitters. We are so fortunate to have a group of college girls who help us with the kids. Georgia stayed home from school on the 14th & 15th with a cold, so I used these two days to highlight our girls! They always step up when we need them the most. I used the red & green glitter stickers to write out each of their names.
BIRDS EYE VIEW SHOTS
I love taking photos from above, especially of the kids. I think it’s a unique perspective. I did this several times in our album.
Conroy totally thinks Trader Joe’s is an all-you-can-eat buffet! He used to say “nana” as soon as we entered because I’d always let him eat a banana as I shopped. Now that he’s older he generally has a banana, a Babybel cheese wheel, the sample of the day, and possibly a yogurt. This specific day his whole tray was full. It was so hilarious that I had to take a photo. I reached over the stroller and snapped.
This was the first year Georgia was influenced by commercials when it came time for asking for presents – thanks, Nick Jr. Every time the Elsa Frozen Ice Castle came on during an episode of Paw Patrol, Georgia would call me over and have me watch it. “Mom, I want this!” So, she asked Santa! When we walked down the steps on Christmas morning, she saw an enormous box. I asked her if she asked Santa for something that big. She said, “No, mom, I didn’t.” When she saw the Ice Castle behind the box she said, “It didn’t look THAT big in the commercial!!” She loved it! My favorite part about this photo is that she’s wearing her Sofia The First gloves. I also love that the way the sun is coming through the window, it really lights up the castle.
Chad took this photo the morning we were all making Christmas ornaments. The first one he took without us really noticing. Then we smiled for a couple. The one of us working turned out the best and I think it really captures the moment.
I love documenting quotes! I am sure if I didn’t write these down I would definitely forget they were said. Often Georgia asks me to take a photo of something so she can remember it. It’s either something she’s built with legos, a unique food we are eating, something she sees on the street, or something she notices in the sky. I stenciled the quote “Hey Mom, Take A Picture of That”, then cut it out, and glued it over a photo of an airplane flying through the sky. Also on this page I wrote “Dad, Haul the Mail” cause that’s what they say when they want him to go fast!!
On the 21st we visited Santa. First we stopped at JCPenney to have Conroy’s hair cut (worst haircut to date) and then went into the mall to find Santa. Conroy was so excited. When he saw PaPa, who had went ahead of us, he shouted, “Hey, Papa, Have you seen Santa?” Then when we saw Santa, Conroy ran over to him – skipping and waving!! It was easily the highlight of my day!!
This year, like last year, we had the kids buy something for each other. When Conroy gave Georgia her present – before she could even open it – he shouted “Georgia, It’s the best Frozen book you’ve ever seen!!” We all laughed!! Mainly because of his enthusiasm, but also because it was the best Frozen book she’d ever seen. She had seen it at the store and really wanted to buy it but, since she was there to pick out a gift for Conroy, we didn’t buy it for her. Chad and Conroy secretly picked it up and bought it for her as the gift from him. She was so happy!!
PAIRING DOWN VS. SPREADING OUT
In this phase of life right now, we are very busy. And, for me, that’s a great thing because I love being busy!!! Sometimes I’ve found, when scrapbooking, recording ALL of what we do can kind of be overwhelming when looking at one spread. Most days I chose to record just one memory or focus on just one story, but on a couple days I wanted to include it all. In some instances I squeezed it all on one page and in others I let it take over two pages.
December first was one of those days I fit it all in. There were three memories I wanted to record. (1) Tuesday mornings being my day to work; (2) Tuesday afternoons being Georgia’s and my time together; and (3) the photo our babysitter took of me reading to the kids. In order to fit it all on the page, I decided to make Georgia & me the focus. I used stickers to title the page “On Tuesdays we eat ice cream.” I put this title over a photo I snapped of my workstation. I like that you can see my cards, the CSI: Cyber DVD menu, and our Christmas tree. The photo of Georgia eating ice cream also shows her practice Gifted & Talented Test packet. I printed out the photo of us reading small and included it in the corner.
On the 19th we traveled to North Carolina. We didn’t leave until the afternoon and had a wonderful relaxed morning at our apartment before we headed to the airport. I knew right away this would be the perfect time to allow the spread to take over multiple pages. I used a pocket page with two 4x6 pockets. To document the morning, I used a photo Chad took from above of us making Christmas ornaments and a photo of Conroy painting them. We made a special ornament for our best friends. I wanted to remember this – and since we gave the ornament to them as a present – including a photo of it in this album is the perfect way to keep this memory.
The second part of the day is remembered with three photos. The top one of Chad & the kids walking with the luggage at the airport I took by running ahead, squatting down, and taking the pic without telling them. Our flight was delayed and we ended up spending six hours at the airport. We pulled out all the tricks in the book to keep the kids occupied. I texted my mom this photo of Chad & Conroy doing an activity book while Georgia watches YouTube videos. The last photo is a tradition we have with MaMa & PaPa – a photo of them with the kids and the sign they made for us at baggage claim. This photo really makes me laugh because it shows how tired the kids were. By this point it was about midnight. Conroy can barely keep his eyes open and Georgia is mid-yawn. It’s perfect.
POSTAGE STAMP PAGE
I saw Amy Tan do a “stamp” page in her album last year and I was immediately obsessed. I knew I wanted to dedicate a whole page to our stamps this year. The joy I had ripping the stamps off the corners of our holiday cards is a little ridiculous but, seriously, I love this page!!
I glued the stamps on a piece of a Starbucks bag. I was debating whether to use the front or the back of the bag and the back won! I love that it has the Starbucks logo and the red berries at the bottom.I also love that is says, “Reuse this bag again and again. Then recycle it – again.” I thought that was very fitting since I was repurposing it for this album.
I also wanted to point out that cute little sticker of our friends’ baby Max! It was part of their return address label and it just makes me smile.
ENDING THE ALBUM
I ended the album just as I did last year – with photos of everyone who came over for the Carter Christmas party. I love that Bobbie insists everyone has their photo taken! I plan to end every album this way.
Also, this year I decided to make an envelope pocket for all of our holiday cards. I used some of the patterned paper and packing tape to turn in into a pouch. I love keeping these cards. Last year I just slipped them into a Starbucks bag, but they kept falling out. I need to go back and secure them better. I know my method for keeping them this year will hold up much better.
Done and done!! I am so happy with how the album turned out this year! I don’t even mind that it took a little bit longer. I love that the whole thing is very cohesive, our memories are documented and it’s not bulging at the seams. I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a peak inside my album. If you’ve made an album yourself or know someone who has, please let me know. I love seeing how other people document their month!! Now onto 2016 and more memories!!
WE LOVE JESS LIVELY
Does everyone know Jess Lively? She’s a businesswoman, podcast host, and believes in living life with value-based intentions. I’ve been listening to her podcast, The Lively Show, for about a year now. I can’t even remember how I found it, but I feel like she’s filling the gap that was left when The Oprah Show went off the air. Actually, I kind of feel like she’s my own Oprah because she’s a peer who interviews entrepreneurs and authors who I admire – and in podcast form, I’m able to listen while I work. Her podcast stands out because she puts in the work: she chooses guests her audience wants to hear from, she does her research, and she edits it with her audience in mind – keeping it concise and informative. She does a great job of responding to blog comments, tweets, and Instagram messages! With so much social media these days I feel like it’s almost impossible to keep up so, when a person (or a company) does, it really means a lot. To go back to Oprah…in her farewell show she said, “Everyone wants to feel valued.” We couldn’t agree more and we know Jess gets that 100%.
LIFE WITH INTENTION ONLINE
In September I signed up for one of her free webinars explaining her class “Life With Intention Online.” I went into it thinking, “Okay, this seems cool, but do I really need a workshop to figure out what I value?” Halfway through the webinar I remember thinking, “YES!! I need this. I need to take this class RIGHT NOW!! It’s the perfect time in my life and I’m ready to reevaluate and take on this life of mine…now, hopefully, she isn’t going to charge a million dollars.” At the end of the webinar she revealed the price with added incentives to sign up early. It didn’t feel like she was trying to pressure anyone into doing this. She kept saying, “Ask your intuition…if you feel like this is something you want to do, then join us! If not, then don’t.” I think this is the key to much of her expertise. She is just nice. Not conniving. So before I even asked my intuition, it yelled to me, “Yes, Jaclyn, do this!”
I joined!!! The course is set up in four modules. It lasted the entire month of October (my favorite month) with a new module released each week. Each module is comprised of a series of videos, worksheets, and a live video coaching call. The videos are short, bite-sized, easy to digest. We are talking under 3 minutes each. This is my favorite part of the course. Jess (again) has put in the work. She respects the time of her clients and makes it as easy as possible to understand. The worksheets are the perfect way to connect with the information and not just watch it. (Also, I love a worksheet.) One night – roughly each week – Jess holds a live video coaching call. For me, these coaching calls are what took this workshop from your standard e-course to a personal community of people who care. You could submit questions ahead of time or ask them live on the call. The beauty to this was that Jess didn’t rush through. It wasn’t about getting a sound bite or regurgitating her message. It was about the individual…really talking to them - hearing their concerns, their struggle, and figuring out how to help them get through it. By the end of each call you feel connected to these people. You want the best for them and you feel like they know more about you than even your co-workers do. What sets Jess apart is this…she can phrase her questions or her suggestions in a way that doesn’t sound judgy or “let me tell you how to live your life”. She makes the person she’s talking to feel comfortable. You know she’s on your side. And maybe it’s because she’s removed from the situation, but it lets the person see another interpretation of the situation without getting defensive. I feel like everyone needs someone in their life like this. Thankfully, one of my best friends has a PhD in psychology so she is my go-to girl when I need a fresh perspective, but I can now say that Jess has also helped me see certain things in a different way.
The best way for me to get the most out of something is to have me pay for it. In the same way, I seem to only go to the gym when I pay for a class, I was determined to get the most out of this class since I paid the money to be here. I asked a question on every conference call. Even when I thought, “I totally get this!”, there would be something I learned from talking with Jess. Even just listening to her talk through other people’s questions was extremely helpful.
MY TWO LIGHT BULB MOMENTS
The modules are set up in such a way that at the end of each one you feel rejuvenated and are excited for the next week. Without giving it all away, I wanted to share two of the many light bulb moments I had during the workshop.
In Module 2 you actually write down your values. Writing down your values – okay that’s easy. What matters to me most in life? First, let me say – there’s so much to gain by actually writing down your values vs. just thinking you know what they are. And my first attempt might be the worst values ever written. Jess says they should feel like a cozy sweater. Here’s my first shot at my values concerning my possessions: “To put effort into both my physical appearance and the appearance of my home so that I feel proud.” Oh my goodness – just reading that stresses me out. I knew I could do better but wasn’t sure how, so when there was a gap in questions, I thought, “Alight, I’ll ask one.” Jess got to the root of my values, we chuckled about what I wrote down, and figured out the exact words that resonated with me. It wasn’t like, “Here’s what you should do later.” We took 10 minutes and did it right there – together!! Here are my new possession values: “Livable, Comfortable, Put together!” Just reading them puts a smile on my face!! She talked about how you had to find the right values for yourself. For some people “put together” might not feel good but, for me, I love it!!!
Then came Module 3. I had rewritten all my values in the different categories, but was still having some issues with my career values. And that’s when Jess blew my mind and made this entire workshop worth every penny. I told her our situation and she simply said, “You need to ask yourself why you want a career.” The question almost made me vomit!! I think my stomach flipped over. And then she said, “Jaclyn, listen, I’m not saying you can’t have a career – you can! But WHY do you want one?” I had never thought about this. Of course, I want a career…it is who I am. It’s why I decided to stay home, be a full-time mom, and raise our daughter…then immediately started my company, Love Jac. But WHY?!?! I never stopped and asked myself that. I’ve just been going, going, going! That next week I went to my favorite coffee shop and wrote myself a letter (Jess’ suggestion). Oh man, did that feel good! My husband asked to read it, so I printed it out and let him look into my soul. Talk about clarity. Talk about redefining success. So what was “To connect with my community through writing, teaching, and workshops. And To set an example of bringing more fun to life through sending cards, celebrating friendships, and memory keeping.” quickly became “Share Creativity.” I want to be creative and share it with others - from my cards, to teaching Artists & Crafts, to scrapbooking!! It’s all about being creative and sharing it with the world!! In my letter there is also a section about earning money myself and providing for my family, which is the logistical side that I will continue to work on each day. But the values – the most important part – is the creativity and sharing it. Thank you, Jess!!
In Module 4 we put it all to work. Using her worksheets I was able to clearly set up a plan to continue to reach my values!! I think this will be my go-to exercise to work through any difficult situation. If you know me, you know I love a plan!
LIVING WITH INTENTION
I think it’s clear to say I highly recommend this course. Chad has said he notices a real difference in me. I am less stressed and get less worked up. Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed I go back to those values. On that same note, when I’m not happy it’s extremely clear now why. I’ll give you one more example. I have two sets of Values for my Personal Habits: #1 to be AWARE & SMART and then #2 to INDULGE & RECHARGE!! Recently when my daughter was home sick from school for several consecutive days, not only was I stuck in an apartment that wasn’t currently livable, comfortable, or put together, but I wasn’t getting any time to indulge or recharge. After hitting a low, my husband suggested he go into work late the next day so I could go to the coffee shop for an hour and a half! I sat there alone in the quiet sipping my café mocha and getting things checked off my to-do list. I was 100% indulging and when I came back home I was completely recharged!! That hour break is the reason I made it through the next couple sick days!! A huge thank you to Chad – the best husband ever – and his boss for understanding family life!
I wanted to share this with you all since that is part of my values, and also because I want to publicly say thank you to Jess – for changing my outlook on life. I completely believe that the way to be happy is to be happy now. Her workshop has given me the tools to know what makes me happy, what makes me feel successful. If any of this seems to be your thing, definitely check out the workshop – or as Jess would say, “Ask your intuition.” She is currently enrolling for the winter session. If you want get an idea of Jess’ work, then you should 100% listen to her podcast. My favorite episodes are Brooke Castillo, Courtney Carver, Elizabeth Gilbert, Gabrielle Blair, Joy Cho and, of course, Tina Roth-Eisenberg. I hope you enjoy them!!
This holiday season is here and we are so excited! We are looking forward to spending some extra time with family, seeing the excitement Billy The Elf brings to our kids this year, and helping you send love to your friends and family – which is what Love Jac Cards is all about.
Rachael Ray Magazine
We are honored to be featured in the December issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. The magazine is on newsstands now. Flip to page 15 to see a close-up of our Brooklyn Bridge Skyline Thank You cards. The magazine features our gold thermographed set of six. The show’s senior supervising producer believes in taking a couple minutes to actually write a note to someone and we couldn’t agree more!
This holiday season Ink Cards has added three of our designs to their app: “Holidays. Duct Tape. Problems Solved”, “Merry Gumdrops”, & “Our traditions fill my heart with happiness.” You can easily send these to anymore with a couple taps on your phone. The app just introduced their premium cards. These cards are sent in a beautifully embossed envelope and printed on thick, premium card stock. You can now get all of our designs sent with their standard postcard style or upgrade to the premium card at checkout.
We will be participating in two holiday markets once again this year. If you live in the New York City area we hope you stop by. We will be having several major sales on our card sets. Plus, we will be selling a limited collection of Holiday Card Making Kits for Kids.
Sunday - December 6th
St. Boniface Christmas Fair
111 Willoughby St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
9:00am to 2:00pm
This will be our fourth year doing the St. Boniface Christmas Fair and it’s still one of our favorites. We believe this market is a hidden gem in Brooklyn to find the most unique gifts for the holidays.
Saturday – December 12
Arts & Letters School
220 Clermont Avenue
(btwn DeKalb Ave and Willoughby Ave)
11:00am – 5:00pm
This craft fair is the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon with the whole family. Take a family photo at their photo studio. Then get your holiday shopping done while your kids make crafts. And enjoy some delicious homemade food for lunch. The best part of this fair is that it helps support Arts & Letters – a fantastic school in our neighborhood. Read more about last year's fair - here.
This holiday we are offering two major sales. For every $20 you spend we will throw in a free set of our Season’s Greetings cards or our Merry Christmas cards with codes FREESG & FREEMC. These cards are thermographed on thick card stock. We like to write a short note in them and use them instead of a gift tag!
Give Artists & Crafts As a Present
We have listed the next session of Artists & Crafts early so you can add it to your child’s holiday wish list. If you are like us and prefer gifts in the form or classes instead of large toys, please forward this link to all grandparents and relatives who want to buy your child something they will truly enjoy.
Inkable Envelope Stamps
For the holiday season we are offering our Inkable Envelope Stamps at 30% off their original value. Discount code: IES30.
We truly hope this holiday season brings you joy and happiness. We wish you nothing but good times with loved ones and as many celebrations as possible. We will be creating a December Daily Album again this year. We have already enjoyed looking back on our album from last year and can’t wait to make more memories in the next month. Billy The Elf Carter will also be visiting us again this year, so be sure to follow along on Instagram! Happy Holidays!!
My favorite time of year once again provided weeks of craft projects and quality time with my kids. I love late September and the entire month of October. I have always enjoyed the fall, but it’s extra enjoyable now that I’m a mom. I absolutely love making my children’s Halloween costumes. I love searching through stores for the right clothing and fabrics. I love sewing, hot gluing, and crafting everything together. And I absolutely love the excitement they are filled with when they dress up on Halloween. This year did not disappoint.
This summer while on a vacation with our closest friends we were introduced to Sofia The First. We knew of her before because Georgia received a great gift for her birthday – a book that came with miniature figurines. She loved reading the book and playing with the toys, but it wasn’t until she saw that show that she was hooked. After that we set our DVR to record every episode.
For those of you who don’t know, Sofia was a girl in the village doing all right, then she became a princess overnight. (It’s all in the theme song.) Her mom married the king and she became a princess and gained twin step-siblings – Amber & James. She wears a necklace (her amulet) that gives her magical powers when she does something nice. One of those magical powers is the ability to talk to animals.
Here’s the main reason we LOVE Sofia – she is nice. And, honestly, that’s my main focus while raising our children. I just want them to be nice human beings. So after watching a couple episodes, I gave Sofia my “Mom Stamp of Approval” and I too became a little obsessed with the kind princess. This is where advertisers can get you! One romantic date night at Target with Chad, I almost couldn’t help myself. I wanted to buy every item with Sofia’s face on it. I knew Georgia would just love it. Looking at our shopping cart, we felt a little ridiculous, so we paired down the items to a Sofia The First thermos and some stickers.
When Georgia announced she wanted to be Sofia for Halloween, I was equally as excited. I knew this could be my last chance to make Georgia’s costume. I am determined to keep this holiday focused on her and am savoring every second she wants me to be a part of the experience! To get her excited I knew I wanted to have her help with as much as we could.
First stop – a fabric store in the burbs! We found the closest JoAnn Fabrics to my grandparents’ house and stopped there one weekend while we were visiting them. I know many blogs post tutorials about how to save money by making your Halloween costume yourself. This is NOT one of those posts. The Sofia dress was on sale at Target for $20. I could have easily bought it and been done, but I wanted to make it with Georgia. Georgia and I were in heaven at the fabric store…each aisle got prettier and prettier. It’s hard to say no to a four-year-old when you too want to buy the gorgeous sparkly purple chiffon fabric. So I didn’t. I said yes and we were giddy.
When we checked out we had spent $60 on everything from fabric for the dress, jewels for Sofia’s amulet, and some extra fabric that would be perfect for a custom Elsa cape! I had to mentally fight back my slight physical anxiety attack creeping up. This was for the experience – and that’s priceless!!
Now if you’ve read about our past Halloween costumes, you know I kinda just wing it when it comes to sewing. Winging a peach costume or a draped Statue of Liberty costume is one thing, winging a dress is a little more nerve-racking. Because I didn’t want to ruin the luxurious fabric we had bought at JoAnn’s, Georgia and I stopped at our neighborhood fabric shop and picked up a couple yards of basic cotton fabric for under five dollars. I used it to wing my own pattern.
I started with the skirt. I guessed on the length and then folded the fabric into what I thought was six panels. Sofia’s dress is scalloped, so I cut a rounded edge on the bottom. When I unfolded it, it turns out I had eight panels, but luck was on my side and the fabric was so long I was able to cut off two panels and still had plenty of fabric.
When Georgia got home from school I held my “pattern” up to her, determined the length, and cut the extra fabric off the top. Next I ironed the purple satin fabric and pinned the pattern to it.
Once it was cut out, I then held it up to Georgia and eyeballed the pleats. I sewed one inch pleats all the way around, tried it on her again, and sewed one more pleat on each side so that it fit her correctly. We had a skirt!
For the top I made a “pattern” using the cotton fabric based on one of her dresses. I tried it on Georgia and it wouldn’t even fit over her head. I went back to the cotton fabric, tried two more times, and determined the right size. I then pinned it to the purple satin and cut it out. Nothing fancy, just a simple top.
Now if you are a true seamstress, you might be thinking, “Why doesn’t she just use a pattern from the store? That would be a whole lot easier.” And the more I sew, the more I agree with you.
This is where I truly believe my sewing machine is magic. It was my grandma’s machine and I feel so connected to her when I use it. Sewing with it allows me to share her story with Georgia. As I sat in front of the machine, I imagined how I could sew the top and bottom pieces together so that when I unfolded it, it would be a dress with all the right sides facing the right way. I asked my grandma for guidance and went for it. After I ran it through the machine I slowly unfolded it, shook it a couple times, and volia! I sewed a dress!! I was amazed!! It was an actual dress and Georgia loved it!!
I decided to sew in a zipper to make it much easier to put on and take off. I didn’t incorporate any elastic, so the dress didn’t have much give. I used a 16-inch zipper that went down the back. I simply pinned it where I wanted it to go, cut the dress in the zipper opening, and then sewed the zipper to the dress. Pretty straight forward. Completely unorthodox!
Now the real fun began: embellishing!! I worked on the embellishments over the course of a week, doing a little at a time whenever I could find a moment. I hand-sewed a string of pearls along the neckline and the bottom of the skirt.
Next I used a string of dark purple sequins to sew the loop design on the front of the dress. Also, on the front of Sofia’s dress are two vertical purple lines with bigger pearls spaced out. I had forgotten to get some single pearls while at JoAnn’s. The day before Halloween I went back to our neighborhood fabric store. I bought a handful I thought would work, but when I got home they lay flat against the fabric. They sort of hung there sadly. As a last resort, I raided my button stash and found several iridescent buttons that worked beautifully.
We started this project in late September, but somehow Halloween crept up on us. The week of Halloween I realized I didn’t really have a plan for Sofia’s signature flower design on each scallop of her dress. I had my husband stop at Michaels on his way home from work to buy some white fabric paint. I googled “Sofia Flower Template” and found the design. I sized it in Photoshop, printed it out, traced it onto cardstock, and cut out a simple homemade stencil.
I then traced all the flowers on the dress. I decided to use a yellow marker because I thought it would show up the least. I am glad I didn’t choose purple because in fact when I painted white over the yellow marker it bled a little. Luckily, no one even noticed. I thought it is worth noting here so if you are trying this at home, you won’t make the same mistake. You’d be better off using sewing chalk or tracing paper. I painted the flowers and let them dry under a fan overnight.
Sofia also has an additional layer of pearls draped midway down her dress. This is where I used that beautiful jeweled chiffon fabric. I simply cut two U-shaped pieces, hemmed them, and then pinned them to the dress.
I pinned the middle and the back first and then pleated where I needed so that it was tight against the fabric. I hand-sewed it on. If I were doing this ahead of time, I would have incorporated this in the step when I sewed the top and bottom together. The addition of this fabric truly made the dress look magical.
Sofia’s signature accessory is her magical amulet. It’s her necklace that gives her special powers when she is nice to people. I knew this would be a fun DIY project Georgia and I could do together.
We worked on it one afternoon in early October while Conroy napped. We bought two packs of purple beads from JoAnn’s and one big teardrop crystal.
To make it purple we mod-podged glitter on the backside of the crystal. We used a simple wire to secure it to the string.
Originally we bought thin elastic for the necklace, but it wasn’t thin enough to go through the beads. As a quick solution, we used purple embroidery thread and tied it to the hardware of an old necklace. This worked out pretty nicely because it made it easy to get on and off.
As a special surprise for Georgia, Conroy and I bought her a Clover doll at Target. Clover is Sofia’s rabbit friend. He’s voiced by Wayne Brady, which is extra fun for me since my first job in television was on The Wayne Brady Show. She loved it!
Very late the night before Georgia’s school Halloween party I embellished an old tiara with purple glittered hot glue. Have you used this? I saw it at the craft store and impulsively bought it because – Hello, it’s glittered hot glue!! Obviously, I would need this in my life. And that night was the exact time I needed it. When I showed her in the morning, she was thrilled.
What made this dress a true princess dress was the southern belle underdress we found at a yard sale. One weekend while visiting my parents I spotted it while driving by and quickly made the nearest U-turn! It has two hoops in it and makes the dress puffy. It had pink ribbon on the bottom, so I simply sewed a purple ribbon over it.
To complete the whole look, Georgia wore purple sparkly dress shoes I found at H&M.
I truly enjoyed making this dress. This past month I took Jess Lively’s online class – Life With Intention. In it she told a story about how you could make someone a gift. Say it takes you three hours, then you give it to the person and they don’t really like it. Immediately your “ego” takes over and ruins the whole experience for you. The ego has taken away all the joy you had those three hours. While I was sewing the dress (and listening to some of the Life with Intention Member Stories), I was truly immersed in the creative process and allowed myself to enjoy it 100%. Another way of saying this, to quote a recent episode of Sofia The First, “It’s about enjoying the process, not making it perfect.”
The icing on the cake here is – Georgia loved it!! She had a blast at school and trick-or-treating with her friend Zach in Boston.
On our way home from Boston, Chad asked Georgia what makes her happy. She said, “Wearing my Sofia dress, of course.” I essentially burst into tears in the passenger seat of our minivan! How great is this kid?
We hope this inspires you to get crafty and share the experience with someone. If you have children it’s never too early to let them enjoy creating things by hand and use their imagination. Until next year, I will be thinking of excuses to dress my kids up in costumes we craft together!
You know I love a family themed costume! This year Georgia was set on being Sofia The First. Originally I figured that meant we would all dress as The First Royal Family. However, as much as Conroy loves Sofia, he wasn’t into dressing up as Prince James. That’s when I decided to forget about having coordinating costumes and focus on making sure Conroy was as excited about my favorite holiday as Georgia was.
We first considered being Max from Where The Wild Things Are. It was his favorite book and he loved acting out all of Max’s poses on each page. He liked the idea, but it wasn’t sticking. Then one day I thought – who does he love more than anyone? -Duh. Daniel Tiger. He’s always singing the songs from the show and we have borrowed every Daniel Tiger book we could find from the library. Then one week in our art class when I was asking the students what they were planning to be for Halloween, Conroy shouted, “I am going to be Daniel Tiger.” He was so excited! I took that as my go-ahead to get to work on his costume.
Daniel Tiger is the new version of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. It’s an animated series featuring the children of your favorite Mr. Rogers’ characters – Daniel’s friend Prince Wednesday is King Friday’s son and Miss Elana is Lady Elane’s daughter. They ride “Trolley” every episode and sing a tune to help teach that day’s lesson. Some of our favorites include “Try new foods cause they might taste goo—ood” and “Stop and Listen to be safe.”
This teaching method is genius. One time after Georgia watched an episode I asked her what the lesson was. She looked at me blankly. I said, “What did you learn?” Still nothing. Then I said, “What was the song?” She said, “Oh, when you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to four. One-two-three-four.”
One of Conroy’s favorite songs to sing is “It’s ok to be sad sometimes, little by little, you’ll feel better, again.” Chad says he’s a two-year-old singing the blues. Dressing up as Daniel just prompted many more spontaneous adorable sing-a-longs.
I could have bought a costume off the internet, but doing that didn’t feel right. Instead, we spent one solid Friday morning going into every store in Downtown Brooklyn searching for the supplies to put together a Daniel Tiger Costume. We found the perfect mustard yellow turtleneck at Cookies for three dollars and then hit up Kids Foot Locker for Daniel’s classic red Converse low-tops. Again, this is where I’m a little wack-a-do with money. I wouldn’t spend the $45 dollars for the costume on the internet, but I happily paid $30 for his red chucks! Rationalizing this to myself – he does love those shoes. Red is his favorite color. Plus, he has worn them many times since I bought them. We already had a red sweater from last Christmas, so that was one less thing we had to buy.
After several hours of searching, we came up empty when it came to Daniel’s pants.
Now – if you know Daniel Tiger – you know he doesn’t wear pants – what?!? Why doesn’t he wear pants? And neither does his dad, but his mom does? And when he’s swimming he wears swim trunks and when he sleeps he wears pajama pants….It’s a whole other discussion that I don’t have an answer to.
For our costume, Conroy’s pants would be his Daniel Tiger fur. He’d also need a tail and a hat with ears. One day I quickly stopped in our neighborhood fabric store on the way to pick up Georgia from school. This store is a hidden gem. They have spools and spools of six-foot tall fabric, packed into a narrow store. You literally have to step over the fabric to get to the back. And don’t even try to get in there with a stroller. It’s impossible. As I ran through the store like I was on an episode of Project Runway I found a match to the turtleneck I had already bought. It was a little spandex-y, but I knew it would work. I bought a yard and raced to Georgia’s school just in time to get there before dismissal.
I love the internet. I’ve said this before, but it’s so true. Again, I don’t really know how to sew, but I do know how to search YouTube. In a few seconds I found an easy tutorial for “Easy Child Pants.” I watched the video twice, then printed out the free pattern from FleeceFun.com.
It couldn’t have been easier. I then clicked around Angel’s site and found a pattern for a bear hat – which resembled Daniel’s ears the best. I sewed a simple tail, stuffed it with filling, and attached it to the pants. In retrospect, I probably should have sewn the tail first & included it while I was making the pants, but I just used the seam ripper to make space for the tail and then sewed it back up.
When I was trying to figure out the right color felt for his stripes, I wasn’t happy with the dark brown. Daniel isn’t your typical orange and black tiger. He’s more of a mustard yellow and light brown cat. The day before their school Halloween party, I went back to our local fabric store in search of the right brown. They didn’t have it in fleece so I bought a light brown velveteen. I used paper to cut out a pattern for the stripes. I pinned and sewed them on. This is another part you’d probably want to do before you sew the pants together. It wasn’t the easiest, but I was able to sew on the stripes using the machine without sewing the pant leg closed. The same goes for the tail. I probably should have sewed the stripes on first but since I didn’t, I just made simple loops and slipped them over the tail.
The tiger ears and hat were my favorite. I watched Fleece Fun’s YouTube video and first thought, is that going to work? Then I did it, turned the ear right side out and – oh my cuteness!!! I had made the best little ear ever.
For the inside of the ear I used a light brown felt I had on hand. I attached the ears to the piece of the hat, sewed, and voila! I had a hat! Sewing is magic!! (Note to all other amateur seamstresses: When sewing the top of the hat – don’t sew the “v” on your first pass. You have to sew everything else, then fold the fabric the other way and sew the “v” straight. That’s what makes it fit your head, instead of having a random “v” at the top.” Angel casually says this. I’m sure anyone who really knows how to sew knows this, but the first time I did it, I messed it up, wondered why my hat looked odd, watched the video again, then realized my mistake.)
I made a quick watch using dark brown and white felt. I sewed on a simple button so we could easily take it on and off.
Conroy really wanted Chad to be Dad Tiger and when that kid asks you to be Dad Tiger you don’t say no, even if Dad Tiger’s signature hoodie is Duke Blue – and you’re more of a Carolina Blue guy. Knowing the severity of the UNC/ Duke rivalry, I asked Chad if it was ok for me to buy him a “blue” hoodie for Halloween. Chad agreed saying, “It’s just for Halloween.” I found the perfect hoodie at Old Navy that was the most Dad Tiger and the least Duke Blue I could find. Thanks to FleeceFun.com, I was able to print out a pattern for an adult sized hat with ears. I just sewed a longer tail and safety pinned it to the bottom of the hoodie.
My original plan was to be Sofia The First’s mom – Queen Miranda, since Chad was being Daniel Tiger’s dad. I fell short on time and I didn’t have a pink gown in my closet. Conroy kept asking me to be Mom Tiger. The day before Halloween I cleared it with Georgia - she was totally fine with it - and I sewed myself a quick tiger hat. If I had more time I would have gotten myself a white and purple Hawaiian shirt, but it just didn’t happen. And really, no one minded.
Conroy wore his costume on the Friday before Halloween to drop Georgia off at school and see his teacher. Then he wore it to dance class where we took a couple photos with his friends. I seriously love this holiday.
What’s cuter than little kiddos dressed up!?!? For Halloween we drove up to Boston for trick-or-treating with my best friend and her kids. It was a beautiful night. The city blocked off the street so the kids could walk safely and the houses were decorated to the nines!!
Conroy loves to tell you how he dressed up for Halloween as Daniel Tiger. He likes to follow up that fact with a rendition of a song. The last one he sang to my friend while we were having lunch was “Thank you for everything you do” – which was pretty much the cutest thing ever.
If you have a toddler, we highly recommend Daniel Tiger. It’s a great show that both our kids have learned a lot from. It’s nice to be able to solve life’s problems by singing a song. If your child is a huge Daniel Tiger fan, we hope this has inspired you to put together your own costume. Conroy is very proud of his red Converse and his red sweater every time he wears them – even after Halloween.
We honestly love raising our children here in Brooklyn. I’ve always loved being a city girl – and now I absolutely love being a city mom!! There’s so much to do here, so many interesting people to meet. I think it’s impossible to be bored. Being able to experience the diverse culture and get to know the talented individuals in our community is wonderful…sharing it with my children makes it that much more fun.
Becoming a mom is a life changing experience…an incredibly awesome experience, but, man, it isn’t easy. When I think back to those first couple months, it’s all a blur. Everything was new and I was just trying to get through one day at a time. I can’t really remember even leaving the apartment much. It was a cold February in 2011. Then one day I saw a woman carrying her baby in the same baby wrap we used. I basically ran over to her, stuck out my hand, and shouted “Hi, I’m Jackie!” Luckily, I didn’t scare her and she told me about the Yahoo Parent List Serve. It’s an online community of people in our neighborhood who also have children. That was the moment everything changed. I went home and immediately signed up.
Just to illustrate how populated Brooklyn is…our main group formed an even smaller group with the incredibly specific name of FortGreeneMomsFebtoApril. That’s only three months of births in just our specific neighborhood of Brooklyn and we had 34 members. That right there is why I love Brooklyn and the internet. We were all living only blocks from each other, but without the internet I’m pretty certain we wouldn’t have ever met. Those women I met in that group are some of my closest friends today! They have helped define how I experienced and continue to experience motherhood.
I recently heard about this new website, SkipKid, and I’m so excited to pass it along to everyone. I’m not sure if the woman in her baby wrap knows how she changed my Brooklyn Mom experience. I hope sharing this information helps some of you enjoy your Brooklyn Parent experience even more! Whether it helps you connect with your community, discover a class, or make a new friend, I think this site can make your life a little bit easier.
The concept of the site is genius. I would have definitely used it in my early momma days and I just started using it now – even with a busier schedule. SkipKid is a website that lists events, classes, and play dates in Brooklyn, but here’s the genius part --- you can filter the events by neighborhood!
Many people don’t know how big Brooklyn actually is. If it was its own independent city, it would be the fourth most populated city in The United States. When we tell someone we live in Brooklyn it seems like almost everyone replies with, “Oh, my cousin lives in Brooklyn” or “My mom grew up in Brooklyn” or “My dad’s best friend’s daughter lives there.” It is wonderful to feel the connection and definitely gives a sense of pride. However, when you are looking for things to do in the city, it’s not as great when you put the location in Google Maps and it’s a 45 minute subway ride away! Don’t get me wrong, I am always up for an adventure and my kids love taking the subway into the city to try out a new playground! There were so many occasions when I just needed to get out of our apartment and wanted to go somewhere close. That’s where SkipKid helps out.
The site was started by two Brooklyn moms, Denise Triana & Callie Wright, who all too often came across a “local activity” on the internet only to find it was too far away or, even worse, the information they found was outdated. They’d show up somewhere and the sing-a-long would be canceled or the venue would be closed. Denise says SkipKid is the perfect example of the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention…” It is the site they wish they had when their children were younger. They know it is helping many moms, dads, and caregivers plan their day.
Currently the site is maintained the best way possible: by these two women doing the legwork for you. They spend hours upon hours searching the internet, contacting venues and performers, and snapping photos of fliers posted throughout Brooklyn. They are essentially doing what you would be doing if you had the time but, let’s face it, for most of us there just isn’t time.
Events for SkipKid are posted a week in advance, so it’s perfect for those of you who like to plan out your entire week on Sunday evening. It’s also a great last minute resource for those days you wake up and have no idea what to do. A quick search and you’ll have options to choose from. Denise & Callie have helped make one of the best aspects of living in Brooklyn more accessible. If you’d prefer to have the latest updates emailed directly to you, you can sign up for SkipKid’s mailing list. Plus, be sure to check out their blog to find out more details and reviews about certain activities.
If you are a Brooklyn Parent I hope using SkipKid makes your life a little easier. I’d love to hear what you think of it. I believe this website could be the start to some amazing experiences. How awesome is the internet? Knowing what is happening in your own backyard can be difficult when you’re spending all your time taking care of your baby. SkipKid makes it easier and from there the possibilities are endless…a new class to enjoy with your little one, a community event that interests you or, who knows, maybe a new friend. I truly credit the woman in the baby wrap to opening my eyes to see Brooklyn as the home for our family, my life as a mother, and the community I absolutely love. I can see SkipKid being that impactful to others and I hope you will help spread the word.
“Shiver me timbers,” my baby turned 2! This year we celebrated Conroy with a pirate party in our “backyard.” I put “backyard” in quotes because we live in an apartment complex and our backyard consists of a community grill and picnic area. It was the perfect August morning and we had the right amount of shade to mingle with friends and honor our little guy.
OK, if you know me, you know I love party planning! It just makes me happy. I enjoy scrolling through Pinterest, brainstorming with my husband, and getting crafty weeks before the big day. Georgia is now four-and-a-half years old and I can happily say I have passed my love for party planning on to her. I feel like I just met a new best friend who LOVES to do exactly what I love to do. But it’s even better because she’s my kid! I can easily say planning this party was the most fun to date because we did it together.
I wanted to make sure Georgia was involved in all aspects, so we took full advantage of Conroy’s naps and started almost two months before the party. This gave us plenty of time. We’d work on a couple projects a week and fit them in whenever we had the time. Before having children I imagined crafting with my kids to be just like a crafternoon with my girlfriends. Let me put it bluntly – crafting with kids is NOT like crafting with your girlfriends!! But I promise you, if you change your mindset, it can be even more fun. And planning this party was just that… FUN!
The inspiration for Conroy’s birthday party this year came from the most amazing bathing suit I found at H&M. It was almost like a pirate costume. He wore it when we were on vacation at Disney and right after I took the photo I knew this would be the perfect 2nd birthday party. I mean he had his “shiver me timbers” down and was really great at his “arrrrgh”.
Obviously, the most suitable invitation for a pirate-themed birthday party is a treasure map! After a couple sketched ideas, we decided to make the map more conceptual and less realistic. We used elements from our “front yard” but arranged them artistically instead of accurately. Combined with a photo of Conroy in his pirate bathing suit, plus some creative writing, the invitation turned out to be even better than we imagined.
I knew we would hand draw or paint the elements and then bring them into Photoshop. I put Georgia in charge of the components I knew she could get completely creative with and I drew the more detailed images. She painted the brown for the map itself and then she took full creative control of the water!
We used different shades of blue and added lots of glitter. After everything was dry I started scanning our art into the computer. She said, “Hey, mom, can I try?” I quickly replied, “Of course, you can!” Then the next thing I knew she was doing it all by herself! I was so impressed.
We love giving the party location a special name so we called it “BBQ Island.” We used a photo of Conroy in his pirate bathing suit and added all the text in Photoshop. To let our guests know they didn’t need to buy us gifts, we kept it playful and wrote, “No Gifts or You’ll Walk the Plank” on the back.
We chose blue envelopes and addressed them to all of our “buccaneer,” “matey,” and “captain” friends. Conroy joined the fun by being in charge of the postage stamps.
Georgia handled actually mailing the invites!
Once the invites were sent, the fun really began! Pinterest is full of great ideas for pirate parties. I spent a couple days pinning and then picked a few projects to make. A blissful trip to Hobby Lobby & Target sans kids really set the tone to fully enjoying this entire party planning process.
WALK THE PLANK:
Currently, one of Conroy’s favorite things to do in life is walk across anything that slightly resembles a balance beam. When I saw this on Pinterest I knew we had to make it. We found some crates in my parents’ garage and used a scrap piece of wood for the plank. Everyone loved it.
We painted the “Walk the plank” sign in their driveway. This project is the perfect example of my theory on crafting with kids. It is so much fun. However, if you are at all slightly a perfectionist or enjoy being in control, doing crafts with kids can be a little tricky. Here’s what I’ve learned: take a deep breath and let them take the lead. While we were painting the sign, Georgia dunked the paintbrush in the paint and a huge drip completely covered some of the words I had painted. I told myself it was fine and asked her what else we should do. She suggested we paint the whole thing red. I loved this idea (and I was able to touch-up the wording by filling in the negative space with red). We did a little more Jackson Pollock dripping to make it cohesive and the sign turned out amazing. It was very “pirate-y”!! And she was so proud!
PIRATE AGE NUMBER:
I loved this craft. It was simple, modern, and a perfect summary of the party. I bought a cardboard #2 from Hobby Lobby along with some red craft paint. We covered a table with newspaper and painted it on my parent’s back deck. I love doing crafts outside!!
PIRATE SHIP FRUIT BOWL:
My mom is an excellent party planner and always up for a challenge. The moment I saw the Pirate Ship Fruit Bowl on Pinterest, I knew she’d create the perfect centerpiece for the party. In true Cathy Conroy form, she did a test run with the kids one weekend when they were on a camping trip. Georgia and Conroy loved helping and, of course, taste testing.
The rest of the menu was pretty easy to figure out since we were having the party at the grills: BBQ food!! We decided to go with hot dogs and beef tenderloin. My husband Chad isn’t as much of a party planner as I am, but he sure knows how to entertain and really enjoys it. I think the only thing he kept talking about for the party was cooking a really good beef tenderloin, cutting it up, and a serving it off the cutting board so everyone could just grab a piece. He executed it perfectly and everyone raved about how good it was. We also had pasta salad and a veggie platter.
Oh, man, I really wung the cake! Two hours before the party started I still didn’t know how I was going to decorate the cake. We had already made cupcakes and decorated them with cute pirate flags, but I wanted a special cake. I kept thinking I was going to make his actual cake look like an open treasure chest full of gold and necklaces, but it was going to be too much work. At what seemed liked the eleventh hour, I thought, “I’ll just make it a closed treasure chest.” I used one of the gift boxes as inspiration and had it down in a half hour!
There are so many different options when it comes to dressing like a pirate. I bought several different hats and some eye patches, and made some telescopes out of paper towel rolls. And, of course, we ordered Tattly tattoos and had an adult help apply the tattoos. We ordered this set, this ship, and my mom & I wore these.
We put everything in a big bucket right by the entrance. As people arrived I let them choose something to wear and snapped a quick family photo. I love doing this, especially for years later when we can look back at everyone. Also, I feel like getting a family photo is pretty difficult to do in the busyness of life so making a point to do it is always a great idea.
For crafts we did our usual coloring book page with a photo of Conroy. This time I positioned him on a pirate ship. We put out pirate stickers in addition to the crayons for this party. I also found the great plastic stained glass set that included little paint buckets. Since many of his friends are Georgia’s friends, this was a great craft for four-year-olds.
My Aunt MaryAnn from Florida came for the party and brought a simple pop-up tent for the kids to play in. They loved this. Any place that can be “just theirs” is a hit these days.
We also laid out a picnic blanket and a small Busy Zoo toy for the little ones who were just learning to walk.
Since it was such a warm day, we also set up a water activity table.
FAMILY TREASURE HUNT & PUZZLE:
Most of Conroy’s friends are 4 years old, even though he’s two, because the majority of his friends are Georgia’s friends and their younger siblings. I knew I wanted to do something special for the older kids. At this age, they completely understand an egg hunt and Hide & Seek is pretty much their favorite game so I figured they would totally love a pirate treasure hunt. I was right. We hid “treasure” puzzle pieces and handed out treasure maps. Each family had to find their piece of a puzzle and then work as a group to solve it and discover the picture! This was such a hit. I wrote a tutorial post for anyone who wants to create one for their next party.
What says birthday party more than a “piñata?” And I found the perfect treasure chest piñata at Hobby Lobby. It was the kind that has strings you pull instead of hitting it with a bat. But here’s the thing: we live in Brooklyn and NO ONE we know gives their children candy here. I am all about fun and, naturally, you think you must put candy in a piñata for it to be a good time. Then I thought: you know what?…I bet most of these kids don’t know candy is supposed to be inside so it’s not like they would be disappointed. So…I put clementines inside!! It was a huge hit!...with both the kids and the parents. And even our friends from the ‘burbs, who have mastered the candy collection after the piñata, is opened loved the clementines!! I was so happy because, honestly, that could have been a party foul for sure!
This is still one of my favorite memory keeping mementos. I love thinking of the different questions to reflect on the past year of Conroy’s life. I almost forgot to hand the quiz out this year because we were all having such a great time. Then, because it’s kinda what we are known, for someone said, “hey, did you do a quiz this year?” Grandpa again scored well and so did our good friends the Sterns!!
Overall, this whole party experience was ideal. I could tell Georgia loved making Conroy feel special. I could also tell Conroy liked having a party to celebrate him. For weeks after the party, he would look out our windows and say, “We had my birthday party there. We sang ‘Happy Birthday To You’ and I blew out the candles.”
As with every party we plan, it keeps getting easier and more fun. We have gotten the swing of having enough for the kids to do but not overscheduling it. We love that everyone had a wonderful time with all their friends…Georgia, Conroy, and us, too. When you have children you get to make a whole new group of friends. These people become part of your village. Celebrating with them, catching up, reminiscing, and making new memories is so important to us. We are grateful for everyone who came and spent the morning together.
We hope this inspires you in one way or another - whether it be crafting with your kids, new ways to enjoy party planning, or a fun game to play with your friends. We believe any event is a great excuse to have a little extra fun. We’d love to hear about your latest celebration!
Since our Family Pirate Treasure Hunt was such a success with everyone at Conroy’s party, we thought we’d share how we created it with you.
Our son Conroy turned two years old this past August and to celebrate we threw a Pirate Party! Most of his friends are 4 years old, thanks to his older sister. Since they are at an age where they can truly play and enjoy party games, we wanted to do something special for them. At this age, they completely understand an egg hunt and Hide & Seek is pretty much their favorite game so we figured they would totally love a Pirate Treasure Hunt.
Here’s how the game was played:
Each family would work as a team. This essentially consisted of the four-year-old and their younger sibling. We gave each team a map of the grill area featuring an image of the treasure in the middle and an “X” that marked where they could find that image. They were to use the map to locate the same image on a treasure marker and then look inside. Inside there was an envelope with that family’s photo on the front (so they knew they found the correct one). Inside the envelope was a puzzle piece. Once they found their piece, everyone had to work together as a group to solve the puzzle in order to reveal the image. All the kids loved this!
Here’s how we made the game:
TREASURE MAPS: We were very fortunate to have an actual sketch of the grill area that had been emailed to each resident when our complex was improving our community space. We brought the image into Photoshop and simplified it a little by covering up some of the details. We added a red square to the bottom of the map. This is where we placed the different symbol on each map. We knew we really couldn’t decide where we were going to actually hide each “treasure” until the day of, so we had all the maps printed and wrote the family’s name on the outside. The morning of the party we placed the “treasure” in the spot, marked the X on the map, and then rolled it back up.
TREASURE MARKERS: Each piece of treasure was hidden in a disguised piece of decoration. To make these “treasure markers” we printed out each symbol on a regular sheet of paper as an image roughly 9in x 9in. We glued it to black poster board and then folded the poster board to create a folder-like pocket. We stapled the sides to make sure the treasure didn’t fall out. We then hot-glued a tongue depressor on the bottom so we would be able to easily stick it into the ground.
PUZZLE & PUZZLE PIECES: In Photoshop we created the image using a photo of Conroy, the words “Happy Birthday Conroy Watson”, and two different balloons. We had it printed as an 8x10 photo through Snapfish. We ordered two prints in case we made a mistake the first time.
There were 9 families coming to the party, so that made it easy to divide the picture into pieces. We first made a grid pattern with regular white paper. Using a ruler we measured out 9 rectangles and then hand drew with a pencil the different shapes to make the shapes into puzzle pieces. Once we had it how we wanted it to look, we outlined it in black sharpie.
We numbered the pieces and cut them out. We laid them on the back of the photo face down and traced in between the pieces with a pencil. We then cut the photo into pieces. The key here is to make your cuts smooth. You want it to fit back together perfectly so you can’t accidently cut off a piece.
We wanted the pieces to be thick so we then glued them to cardboard and cut the cardboard with an exacto knife and scissors. We purposely attached the cardboard secondly because we knew we wouldn’t be able to make a smooth cut to the thick cardboard. This way the photo pieces had a smooth cut and then we were able to make many cuts to ensure the cardboard matched exactly.
ENVELOPE: We placed each piece of puzzle in a separate envelope. We used some red envelopes we had in the studio and decorated them with washi tape. We used iPhoto to turn a photo of each family black & white, cropped it to be 3x4 size, then printed them at CVS – using our favorite mini-prints feature. Having the name of the family, plus their photo, let the kids know they found the correct treasure.
This game was a big hit. It was so fun to watch the kids search for the “treasure” symbols and then work together to solve the puzzle. We plan to save the puzzle as a memory of the party.
We also need to mention that the puzzle idea was inspired by my aunts. On my 10th birthday at my sleepover party they had a photo puzzle made of my brother and me. All my girlfriends worked together to solve it. At the time it was slightly embarrassing because the photo they chose was of us kissing, but today it still hangs in my parents room glued together and I think it’s super cute.
If you have children around the age of four years old, we highly recommend doing a treasure hunt! You can alter the game however you like and cater it to your party or playdate. You can use prizes as the treasure if you don’t have time to make the photo puzzle or just make a photo puzzle as a stand alone activity. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. We’d love to hear about your favorite party games for children, especially now that our kids are old enough to truly enjoy them.
I first learned about a “capsule wardrobe” from Elise Blaha Cripe and was immediately intrigued. A couple months later I discovered Jess Lively and, while binge listening to her past podcasts, I came across an interview with Caroline Rector – the founder of the capsule wardrobe. The whole concept behind the idea was so meaningful I knew I had to do it.
For those of you who haven’t heard of a capsule wardrobe, it’s pretty simple. For each season of the year, you pair down your clothing options to a specific number. Then get rid of (or store away) all your other outfits.
Caroline started it because she felt that she wasted too much time shopping and wanted to spend her energy doing more meaningful things. Intentionally selecting her capsule wardrobe made her happier. Yes and yes! Doesn’t that sound lovely?
I initially found it intriguing because even though my closet was overflowing and my drawers were completely stuffed, I basically wore the same look every day: shorts, a nursing tank top, and a t-shirt. My son recently turned two and I feel like I’m finally getting “out of the trenches.” NOW couldn’t be a better time to make this happen.
WHY I WANT A CAPSULE WARDROBE
#1. I want to be proud of how I look. I want to put in the effort and not have to apologize for my appearance.
The first New Year's after my son was born, I made a resolution to not be at risk of being ambush madeover. I was nursing so often back then and constantly covered in spit-up that it seemed silly to get dressed nicely. That January I told myself I would put in a little effort. I would text my friends photos of myself in the morning to stay accountable.
Then I bought myself 5 new non-Tshirt shirts and started a hashtag #puttingalittleeffortintomyappearance.
That time period was a year and a half ago and I do feel like I’ve made real strides. However, I was still wearing the same style nursing tank top and often didn’t feel so great about myself. While my in-laws were here visiting, I took the opportunity to go get fitted for a bra. Once I knew my actual size, I was like a kid in a candy store. I believe that was the first step to my new confidence.
#2. I want to get out of the “mom clothes” funk!
I want to wear things that look good on me and elevated my life. With two children, four and two, I have been really caught in a “mom clothes” funk for what seems like the last four years. I don’t mean for that to sound negative because let me tell you…I love my life! I love sitting on the floor in music class or rolling around with my kids at The Little Gym. Thanks to my Delia’s high-waisted denims, aka my “mom jeans”, I can do everything I want to and not worry about my butt hanging out. I love being able to feed and comfort my children at a moment's notice. My nursing tank top makes that possible and I don’t have to feel self-conscious that my belly is exposed because with the tank it’s always covered. That tank was good to me. I could breastfeed in public - and often no one noticed. My “mom clothes” helped allow me to be the best mom I could be! (ok, that’s a little cheesy, but it’s true). I am now ready to step it up.
#3. I want to put in the prep-work to curate a collection of clothing that makes me feel great.
Like everything else in my life…with a little pre-production I knew I could do it. To me, a capsule wardrobe is the perfect example of how taking the time to plan makes the outcome so much better.
#4. I want to make it public & hold myself accountable.
I knew I didn’t want to just have a capsule wardrobe - I knew I wanted to blog about it. Having a photo of all my options nicely presented as a Lucky Magazine spread is exactly what I need. I love the idea of seeing all my outfits on a computer screen just like Cher in Clueless. That movie was so ahead of its time!
HOW MY CAPSULE WARDROBE CAME TOGETHER
My capsule wardrobe came together in three steps.
Step 1: The Initial Purge
First, after listening to The Lively Show, I emptied my entire closet and all of my drawers creating an enormous pile on my floor. With the help of a wonderful friend, we went through each item and successfully got rid of nine bags of clothes. Nine! Most of them were shirts, dresses, and skirts I hadn’t worn in over five years. Since that process was slightly exhausting, we simply put the rest of the clothes back and I went about life as usual.
Step 2: Does it Spark Joy?
Then I read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” while we were on vacation in North Carolina and mentally my life changed!! My husband had also read the book, so when we got back to Brooklyn we tackled it together! Once again, I piled up all my clothes, plus my husband’s clothes. I knew this would take a couple days, so we paced ourselves and we put everything in Love Jac Headquarters so that we could emotionally escape from it when it became too much. Instead of using all the western organizational logical that was ingrained in us – “I wore this on our first date, I can’t get rid of it” and “I might need this if we go to a wedding.” -- we mustered up the courage and used Marie Kondo’s eastern philosophy of “Does this spark joy?” In theory, this makes sense. In execution – it ain’t easy. But we did it. I was able to get rid of two more bags of clothes and my husband donated four bags. We used Marie Kondo’s clothing storing techniques and, honestly, we are so much happier!
Step 3: Curate My Clothing
The summer continued, but I still didn’t technically have a “Capsule Wardrobe.” Once I had my new bras I felt like I could wear anything. As I learned from many Rachael Ray episodes, “Having a good foundation makes every outfit.” My clothes fit better. My posture was straighter. I went on two mini-shopping sprees while my in-laws were visiting. I tried to focus on buying dresses and pretty shirts. I didn’t allow myself to buy one single basic t-shirt.
Step 4: Photograph & Review
During this whole process I never really focused on the number. I wanted to curate my wardrobe. I wanted to be proud of every piece. One Saturday I laid out my clothes again and was able to eliminate one more batch of shirts. I took the time to iron my clothes and asked my husband to take photos of me. What I thought would take fifteen minutes turned into an hour, but we got it done. (Thankfully, my in-laws watched our children.)
(this is Georgia "directing" me for the photos...can you guess what i'm suppose to be?)
Since the second shopping trip occurred after we took the first batch of photos, I then had to take the second round of photos with the timer on my camera while my son napped. And then I remembered I needed to take photos of my shoes...and did that with Conroy's help! Not the easiest thing, but I got it done!
(i used a broom as my stand-in so I could focus the camera and use the timer function)
Originally I thought I would just take a photo of the clothes on a hanger, but then I remembered the purpose of this for me was to feel good IN the clothes. I am so glad I made this decision. Here’s a little secret: we currently don’t have a true full-length mirror in our apartment. I am not one to look at myself and inspect my appearance before I leave the house. So, to go from that to posting photos of myself on the internet is a huge leap - a leap I highly recommend. As with everything I blog about, it has held me accountable. I’m not going to post a photo of myself looking like a slob, so why was I going out into the world like that before?
And here’s the best proof that it is working. The first day I wore one of my capsule wardrobe outfits my four-year-old Georgia said, “Mom, are you going on a date today?” I smiled with pride and said, “No, just taking you to school!” I want her to see me as a confident woman who knows the importance of self-care. By no means am I going to become someone who spends hours doing my makeup or obsesses over myself in the mirror. That’s just not who I am. But I will take five minutes to brush my hair and put on a little bronzer! This capsule wardrobe has already given me more confidence without adding any extra time to my daily routine.
I will walk Georgia to school in my “mom jeans” and a super cute top! I will wear dresses on the days we aren’t at The Little Gym. I will push that double stroller with my shoulders back and my head held high! (well, unless we are going uphill – then I really have to put my whole body into it.)
MY FALL 2015 CAPSULE WARDROBE
So, without further ado, I present you with my Fall 2015 Capsule Wardrobe. There are 50 pieces, including 24 tops, 3 pairs of jeans, 2 overalls, 12 dresses, 2 skirts, 1 jean jacket, and 6 pairs of shoes.
3 Pairs of Jeans...
2 pairs of overalls (and 1 long dress)...
11 Dresses (and Jean Jacket)...
6 Pairs of Shoes...
I still plan on paring it down even more. Evaluating how I look and feel in each piece will help me figure out if I really want to keep it. Seeing what I actually end up wearing will also be interesting. I am so excited to get dressed each morning! Thanks for letting me share this process with you!! If you have a capsule wardrobe as well, I’d love to hear all about it.
I need to thank Elise for introducing me to this idea, Caroline for creating this concept and sharing it with the world, and Jess for explaining it so thoroughly on her podcast. I recently signed up for Jess’s Life With Intention Online Workshop. For me, it’s an extension of my participation in Ali Edward’s One Little Word project. This year my word is “push” and I have been so happy with all I’ve been able to accomplish just by staying connected to this word. I’m now going to push myself to live with more intentional values. I look forward to sharing more of what I learn during this process with all of you. Please let me know if you are participating as well. Here’s to this next chapter of life!