Living With Kids: Sarah Neely

Sarah and her husband, Chris, live with their 2 kids and three dogs in their charming home outside Decatur, Georgia. When they bought the home it hadn’t been updated and they have slowly been making changes that feel modern but that also feel true to the bones and history of the home. That, and the fact that Sarah’s husband is a furniture restorer and reseller, means this home is full of warm and inviting pieces that you can tell have a lot of history.

Sarah and Chris also adopted their first child after many years of trying to get pregnant, and then a few short months later found out they were pregnant, so their two kids are only 14 months apart. You’ll love getting to take a peek around and hearing what Sarah has to share about raising kids and how they’ve adapted to the pandemic. Welcome, Sarah!

Gift Guide: Little Items from Luxe Brands

This is a gift guide for those of you who have older kids who have learned about really high-end brands (often via memes on Tiktok or Instagram) and are really into that whole world. If you know someone who aches for the luxe life even when it’s out of reach, I’ve collected the most affordable items from the fanciest brands — mostly from their beauty and skincare lines. Yes, a $4000 handbag or $2000 trench coat is out of reach for pretty much all of us, but pulling out a Gucci lip balm from your backpack still feels like a mini-luxury.

Let’s jump in:

Last Minute Gift Guide: Books! Books! Books!

Probably my favorite last minute gift to give is books! Books are such an easy way to give a gift that’s thoughtful and practical. Even if you only know a little bit about the recipient or their interests, you’re sure to find a title that is a perfect fit. Crafts! Tiny Houses! Travel! Fashion! Baking! Sewing! Politics! Poetry! Puppies! Jane Austen! Activism! Feminism! Local History! Cocktails! And on and on and on.

The other reason I think books are such a great last-minute gift, is that they are sold so many places. Stop by your local bookstore, swing through the book section at Target, try Barnes & Noble — even grocery stores and hardware stores have book sections. Or you can order online and often get super-fast shipping (or if it’s going to arrive later than you hoped, just call it a Happy New Year’s gift. Plus, books are available at all price ranges, so you don’t have to bust your budget either.

I’ve got some great book recommendations below to help you out — I’m going to link to (which sources from local independent bookstores), and Amazon (which I know many of you prefer), but feel free to shop wherever you love buying books. If you’re shopping for books in person, my best advice is to have several options in mind, so if they’re out of one title, you can pick a backup option without getting frustrated.

A Few Things

Hello Friends. How are you? How was your week? We had a happy, simple Thanksgiving here at home. All the usual foods, but no guests, which makes everything feel like much lower stakes, you know? We missed our big kids who were in the U.S., but we had a lovely family video call and we’re grateful we could connect. It definitely felt like one of our most relaxing Thanksgiving holidays ever.

As I’m sure you know, Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday here in France, but our kids took the day off from school on Thursday, and then they went back on Friday. Oscar was out early on Friday so he helped me pull out the Christmas boxes and set up the Nativity so Betty & Flora June would be surprised when they got home from school. We had spices simmering on the stove, and Christmas music playing, and when everyone was home it felt like the official start of our Christmas Season.

I know this is a big shopping weekend. If it helps, I’ve shared a few shopping guides over the last few weeks, and there are a few more coming.

Holiday Prep Supplies
Young Adult Gift Guide
Shopping Guide for a Holiday at Home
100% Cotton PJs
Beauty & Skincare Shopping Guide

For Small Business Saturday, I shared 50 terrific companies on Instagram Stories — all owned by Black Women or Indigenous Women. I included links to their websites and their Instagram pages.

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In the mood for some weekend links? Here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

Activity Advent Calendar Stay Home Edition

I just finished prepping our 2020 Advent Calendar. The way we approach it is assigning a holiday-season activity to each day. We start by making a list of all the things that feel like Christmas-time to our family. We try to imagine school starting in January and we’re looking back — what would we regret not doing before the tree comes down? (Like: Christmas is over and we didn’t watch that film? Or read this book? Oh dear!)

The Advent Calendar becomes a good way to pace ourselves over the holiday, and gives the kids a small surprise to look forward to each day.

The activities are mostly simple — like reading a particular book, or making toffee. In a non-pandemic year, our activities would also include visiting local shops, going to holiday concerts, checking out the Christmas markets (that are so popular in France and throughout Europe), and other community-minded events. This year, we are focused on staying home, so we adjusted the list a bit.

Here’s a list of stay-at-home Advent Calendar ideas in case you want to try something similar with your family. There are more than 24 items on this list, and of course, all the books and movies can be switched out for your family’s personal favorites. Sometimes we’ll double up and assign a movie AND baking on one calendar day, or listen to a certain Christmas album WHILE decorating the tree. You can adapt this as to your own situation as needed:

Living With Kids: Carina Wytiaz

I am kind of obsessed with Carina’s house, and I can’t wait for you to look around it. Carina has a razor sharp sense of style and when she remodeled her 70s home, she decided to go full Art Deco. It features a lot of bright, warm golds, dynamic patterns and personality, while still being totally livable. Carina has three amazing kids, and just like so many of us she and her husband have been figuring out how to work from home amidst the chaos of online learning. As she says: it involves more Minecraft than she thought she’d be comfortable with. Welcome, Carina!

Skin Care & Beauty Gift Guide

My skincare and beauty routines have changed in significant ways since the lockdowns started in March. I imagine yours have too. The three biggest differences: 1) I rarely, rarely wear any makeup, 2) I only wear contacts about once a week (in the Before times, I typically only skipped contacts once a week), and 3) because I feel less rushed, I’m much more consistent about using products like body lotion and perfume. I’ve also noticed that I’ve had time to try new skincare and beauty products — and attempt to solve specific beauty/skincare issues that I would have just ignored in busier times.

So for this Skincare & Beauty Gift Guide, I thought it would be fun to share some of my tried and true favorites these days. Some I’ve been using for years, some are new discoveries, some are pricey, but most are under $20.

(By the way, I had some other posts in mind for this week, but have been in the zone on gift guides, and I figured why not publish them as soon as they’re ready to go? Sorry if it’s overwhelming! Feel free to skip it.)

Gift Guide For Your Own Home

Here’s the thing: you are going to be home A LOT for the next few months. The holidays, the winter season, the sunsetting by 5:00 PM? It’s all going to be unusually tough this year. So Ben Blair and I have been talking about how we can embrace it, and coming up with small but impactful things we can do around the house that will make the whole place feel cozy. Here’s some of what we are doing:

100% Cotton Christmas Pajamas

Are you planning to pick out Christmas pajamas this year? I’m trying to shop for ours early this year, while there are still plenty of sizes available. I always look for 100% cotton holiday pjs that ideally, aren’t explicitly Christmas-themed — because we end up wearing ours all winter long, and sometimes year round.

I’ve found fifteen great options so far. Four are in reds, and there are cute options in blues, greens, and yellows too. Six of them are organic, and six options are under $25.

If you’re into matching family pjs, I make a note of which ones are available in grown up sizes. And the very last listing is my favorite 100% cotton pjs for my teenage girls.

A Few Things

Hello, Friends. How are you? How was your week? I thought my mind wouldn’t be so distracted after the election, but I was definitely wrong. I look forward to a future time when we don’t have to think about the President for days or weeks at a time. (Remember what that was like?)

We’re looking at a typical low-key weekend of quarantine — movies, baking, etc.. If the weather is decent, maybe we’ll do some yard work over at the renovation. What about you? Anything you’re looking forward to this weekend?

Ready for links? Here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

Tall House Updates

In this week’s updates, we talk about what’s happening in the laundry room, and the latest progress in the bathrooms.

I’m trying not to get ahead of myself, but I think we might see another big push next week. Grant, who handles the plaster and painting, will be back on Tuesday (he’s been away for his wedding and honeymoon!). His first project is going to be painting the bathrooms — we’re using Schoolhouse White (Farrow & Ball) on the walls, and I’m choosing the trim color today.

After the painting, the fixtures can be installed. That includes bathtubs, showers, toilets, vanity cabinets, sinks, faucets, lighting, and outlets + switches. Which would be so exciting!!

Living With Kids: Betsey DiSanza

Today you are lucky to meet Betsey from Grand Junction, Colorado. Something I appreciate about Betsey’s life philosophy is her love of adventuring. Colorado is well known for its outdoor activities, and Betsey and her family have loved taking advantage of them, even when their son was practically a toddler. That love of getting out of the house and trying new things has served them well during the pandemic when so many of us got stuck inside. Her home is warm and comfy, and you can tell she has a pretty easy going attitude that has helped her family make sense of all the ups and downs of this year. Welcome, Betsey!

Congratulations to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris!!

Can you tell I’m excited? My emotions are jumping back and forth between laughing + cheering and weeping + shaking.

I’ve been celebrating with posts on Instagram and Twitter — I mentioned how we stood outside waving American flags and banging pots and pans and it was so wonderful seeing people from our quiet little town wave and honk their horns. I said it felt like the whole world was celebrating with us. In response, I’ve heard from people all over the world who answered: We ARE cheering along with you!!

I heard from someone in Berlin that the city rang their Freedom Bell when the election was called. The Freedom Bell was a gift from Philadelphia(!) and they only ring it on German holidays. (Crying again!)

Here are a few tweets I’ve shared since the announcement.

A Few Things

Hello, Friends. What a week! How are you holding up? Did anyone get enough sleep the last few days? As I write this, we still don’t have an official winner for the presidential election — though I’m confident, based on where the numbers are right now, it will be Biden. I look forward to celebrating and analyzing once the call has officially been made.

Something I’ve found really helpful this week: I’ve stopped looking at maps that fill in an entire state with either blue or red. They give such an inaccurate representation of what is actually happening in our country. Land doesn’t vote; people do.

Here’s another helpful map:

In many states it’s way harder to vote than it should be. In fact, voting should be super easy throughout the country. Anytime someone is working to make it harder to vote, assume they are up to no good.

Ready for your link list? Here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

Living With Kids: Gina Prescott

I’m so excited for you to get to meet Gina today. Let’s start by congratulating her, because she had a baby last week (and still managed to write this lovely post!). Gina and her family live in Yakima, Washington and their historic home is warm and charming and fun to explore. She is a resilient person who has dealt with some really tough stuff in her life, including the loss of a child. You’ll love getting to know her. Welcome, Gina!

Stay Hopeful & Be Patient

[UPDATE: This post is from Wednesday, but I added Thursday & Friday tweets too.]

For anyone waking up to election news, stay hopeful! Good progress happened while you got some (much needed) rest. Here are a whole bunch of tweets I shared on Instagram this morning that you might find encouraging and calming:

Election Day 2020

On Election Day four years ago, I wore my red power suit and voted for a woman for president. Oh my. I was so happy for that opportunity — and I found it shocking that I had made it to my forties and it was the first time. (Have we really never had a president who is a woman? How can that be?) As someone who has been in charge of things big and small since I was a kid, it always confuses me when I realize how many people are flat out not okay with women leaders.

Election Week

[Update: I continue you add links and tweets at the bottom of this post.]

Is this going to be the most unproductive work week ever? It sure feels that way. This election is weighing heavily on my shoulders, and I know I’m not alone. I’m having a hard time concentrating. I find myself wanting to stay away from Twitter — because the polls and predictions (no matter what they say) seem to trigger panic for me. At the same time, the election is the only thing on my mind, so trying to stay away from Twitter is challenging.

I keep looking for distractions. A typical good distraction for me is errands, but that’s not workable because we’re in a strict lockdown this month. Cleaning/organizing is also a good distraction for me, and that’s how I occupied myself yesterday. Maybe today I’ll tackle reorganizing the attic.

Technical Difficulties

Hello, Friends. You may have noticed some tech issues yesterday. I’m sorry about that. I hired a team to migrate my site to a new server at the end of September. They thought it would only take a weekend (when my website traffic is slowest), but alas it ended up taking a whole month! And it didn’t finish until yesterday.

The problem is: since they started the migration at the end of September, none of the posts I’ve written since then, for the entire month of October, were transferred. It’s fixable, but the situation has turned into a bit of a comedy of errors.

I was on the phone with the new server host last night for a couple of hours. They have a migration team who can finish the final month of transfers for a fee (which I’m happily willing to pay — I just want this sorted), but it just so happens that their purchasing software is malfunctioning (not only for me, it’s not working for any of their customers). And they can’t/won’t start the transfer until the purchase has been made.

It’s killing me, because the hardest part is done — the website is transferred! We just need one month of missing posts, which should be a very quick thing. But their team can’t do it until their purchasing issues are resolved, and they don’t know when that will be.

Alternatively, I don’t have to use their team; I could hire another site migration expert who I’m betting could take care of this lickety split. But at the moment, I don’t know any site migration experts to hire. I’m not sure if it will be faster to seek someone out, vet them, and hire them. Or to wait for the current server migration team to deal with their purchasing issues. [UPDATE: I was finally able to make the migration package purchase. Hooray! Not sure how long until the team will get back to me on next steps, but hopefully soon.]

I’m feeling very stuck. This kind of thing is incredibly stressful because it feels so out of my control. There’s a lot of website maintenance that I’ve learned and that I do myself, but this is above my skill level and I don’t know how to fix it. Urgh.

Anyway. I’m hesitant to create more posts (except this little notice), until the issues are resolved — I don’t want more content and discussion lost in the shuffle. I’ll keep you updated as soon as I have more news.

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