Monday, July 25, 2016

The Birthday Party Evolution

(photo by Lauren Ristow- we did a cake smash for Charlie's first birthday)

I'd like to you know that Charlie is turning three in three weeks and I haven't yet planned his party. I was reminded of this when we were at a friend's birthday celebration this past weekend, a simple and sweet get together with friends and donuts at the park, and I realized that I hadn't gotten one together for Charlie yet even though it's right around the corner. This got me to thinking about this "birthday party evolution" I've experienced over the past almost 6 years, and then it spiraled off into how it's all a symbol for my parenting evolution too, and more so, life in general. Welcome to my brain.

When Henry turned one, I threw a ridiculous party that almost makes me cringe a tiny bit now. Who on earth was that party for? Certainly not Henry, who would have been happy sitting in the middle of a pile of wrapping paper throwing it around. But I planned and planned into all hours of the night for weeks (maybe months), cutting out little toppers to adorn the tops of 75 bakery-made, special order cupcakes stacked on white cake stands I bought just for the occasion. I stuffed goodies bags and sewed together back drops, created banners and organized photo collages for the walls. I went all out. And besides our house being packed with all of the people we love, there to celebrate our sweet Henry turning one, I remember just feeling very stressed out. Yes, it was so special, and I know we all had a great time, but behind it all, I felt a weird self-imposed pressure. I had to get the perfect photo, I had to have Henry's cake smash go just as planned, had to, had had-to list was a mile long.

After the party Hank and I stood in our dining room, plates with half eaten cupcakes on the table, a lone streamer hanging off the ceiling...and let out a huge sigh. Right then and there I made the promise to myself- "never again." But like most things, it sometimes takes a few times to really make the change. As the years went on, parties simplified. Henry's 2nd birthday was a slightly less extravagant (this was my relapse) but by the third we were at a bowling alley with their house-made pizza and a Costco cake. Then Charlie came along, and we had a small but sweet 1st birthday, with lots of special touches, but nothing that felt over the top. For Henry's last birthday we did a gymnastics party- no clean up, all FUN- and even requested that people brought no presents, and instead brought a gift for Henry to donate to Toys-for-Tots. It was the best party to date.

So Charlie's 3rd birthday is next in just a few weeks, and just this morning he requested Peter Piper Pizza. It's funny (and a little sad) to me to think that when I first became a parent I would have never gone for that...but now- yes, yes, yes! No clean-up, food included, and the focus solely on fun for the kids? Sign us up.

And this isn't to say I don't love extravagant, big parties and attending them. In fact, every year I kind of have to push down the urge to throw another one! But for me, part of getting older has been getting to know myself better, and through that I've learned what works for me. A huge theme for me in my 30s has been relaxing- letting go of my perfectionist tendencies (or trying to, at least), and focusing on fun over everything, especially when the kids are involved. So over the years I've simplified with purpose. And if the boys one day ask me for 75 cupcakes with personalized cupcake toppers and matching handmade birthday hats for everyone, you can bet I'll do it. But in the meantime, if birthday fun for them means a plastic cup full of gold tokens, a pizza sliced into 20 pieces, and three prizes won with 800 tickets at the end...that's a huge YES for me.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2016 Picks, Part Two!

Good morning! The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is now open to non-card holders, so I wanted to share a few more favorites. See the first post here. This year is really great with a ton of fantastic deals, so I'm excited to put another small list together. Enjoy!

For you:

Loving this striped top- comfy and perfect for Fall.

Another great simple layering top. If your size and color is sold out, check back often for restocks! I'm loving the grey and wish I would have snatched it up sooner.

These are such a fabulous pair of ankle boots!

For the price, this is my fave brand of denim and this pair is great.

Another great pair of jeans at a good price.

Doesn't this sweater look cozy?

This bag in the cognac color screams Fall!

This dress too, right? It would be so cute with some ankle boots and this cross body in Malbec.

A few cute dresses: one, two, and three.

I've been really loving lighter colored leather/suede jackets. This one is great.

These red rain boots make me happy!

This top is a must-get! Comfy, cute, and perfect for chilly weather.

For the boys:

This plaid shirt is perfect. I got one for each of the boys.

Everyone loves Mickey Mouse!

I got this jacket for Henry, but I just noticed it comes in baby sizes too.

These TOMS look great for dressier occasions for kids- and they look comfy too!

Freshly Picked on sale! I love these shoes.

These jackets are pricey for kids, but if you buy one for the oldest and pass them down (they last!), it's totally worth it.

This is the perfect gift for a new baby, at a great price.

Some great layering pieces (I love to put vests over these on the boys): one, two, and three.

For your home:

This throw looks so soft and warm. I ordered one in blush to go on the foot of our bed, and I'm thinking of getting one in cream for our couch.

We've been needing to upgrade our towel situation for some time, and I got a few of these to test out.

Loving these bowls, in every color.

This tray is fantastic too. It would work great on a dresser or bathroom counter.

All of these serving boards are beautiful: one, two, and three.

And check out all of these rugs on sale! Love.

Happy shopping! xo

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Switzerland 2016: Hiking from Schwarzwaldalp to Grindelwald

If you missed part one, you can see it here, or if you're catching up late and want to see all of my Switzerland posts in one place you can see them here. I'm SO excited to get into the hiking portion of our trip. I talked about in our first post, but we did a self-guided tour with Alpine Hikers. To start out this first leg, we took a train from Lucerne to Meiringen, then a bus up to Schwarzwaldalp. This part of the journey itself was stunning. At this point we'd only seen Lucerne, so we really had no idea what to expect. As the train wound up through the mountains, it got greener and greener. Almost shockingly green, really. Once we arrived in Meiringen the next bus up to Schwarzwaldalp was arriving quickly, so Hank grabbed an iced coffee from the corner store and we hopped on the bus and headed up. And I mean UP! I've never been on such windy roads, and this 45 minute bus ride was one of my favorite parts. The horn blaring out as the bus took the sharp corners, the views from the big windows, that feeling of anticipation not knowing what to expect when we arrived. There were cows on every hill, and as we climbed up the steep mountainside my stomach was jumping with excitement. As we pulled up the little inn seemed unreal- almost superimposed on the backdrop, the snowy peaks behind it and the greenest green we'd ever seen.

We got off the bus and walked into the front and were immediately greeted by the sweetest innkeeper, Melanie. She got us set in up our room, and we couldn't believe what a gorgeous view we had, right out our window! It's important to note here that this was our second night in Switzerland, and the night Hank officially decided he was on board with the Swiss way of making a bed. If you're unfamiliar, they have two mattresses and two duvets- basically two twins beds pushed together to make a full, with separate bedding. I'm a notorious cover stealer, so Hank was loving the separate blankets! haha! He swore we would implement once we got back home but it's been a couple of weeks and I think he's forgotten all about it. ;) 

Anyway, we got settled and decided to explore a bit before dinner. We took a walk down the hiking path we would take the next morning, and ran into a group of cows coming up the hill. We heard the bells first, then saw one, then two, then a whole bunch of them came down to the drink by the water, mooing all the way. It was awesome and we kept saying- "the boys would love this!"

After we walked around a bit we came in for dinner, which was included in our stay. One of the things I loved about our time in Switzerland, and especially staying in these small inns, was the level of pride and love put into every detail of hosting. The dinners were all so fantastic, and this was really our first taste of the amazing Swiss hospitality. This dinner was served in two course, shown below, and included a lot of different cheeses and delicious meat. We filled up in preparation of the next day's hike, and went to sleep with the window open, the cool air coming in through the windows and complete silence except for the occasional cowbell.

The next morning we woke up pumped for our first Swiss hike! We packed our bags, put our transfer tags on our luggage, and headed down to breakfast. Hank and I each had brought a small suitcase as our tour company Alpine Hikers had arranged for luggage transfers. It was such a treat having everything we needed, and then leaving it behind and going onto the next destination with just our backpacks. I will say though, that we quickly realized that we could have shared on small suitcase or maybe even skipped one all together and brought slightly bigger packs. Next time!

So we ate breakfast, said goodbye to our hosts...and waited out the weather for awhile. We'd been pretty lucky so far, but upon waking the fog was everywhere and it was raining pretty hard. Melanie let us know that the rain should pass around 10am, so we waited and sure enough, it did! We headed out on the most beautifully lush trail and couldn't help but ooh and ahh at every turn. There were the greenest rolling hills and the steep cliffs, wildflowers popping up, and snowy peaks. Looking back now I will be forever grateful to have had some "bad" weather that first hike. The fog and wetness made the views that much more dramatic and as all of our hiking went on later that week we wouldn't have another day like this again. It was truly magical and I couldn't help but feel like I was in some sort of fairyland for most of the early afternoon.

The rain picked up again about an hour into the hike, but we simply put our rain jackets on and covered our backpacks, and we were good to go. Our hosts at the inn had given us sandwiches for lunch, and we stopped at a bench in Grosse Scheidegg to eat them- and wow...I'm not sure if it was the rainy hiking or that they were just that good...but those sandwiches were life-changing! haha. I'm not even kidding. 

We continued on our way and soon began to see views of the Grindelwald basin and we realized we were getting close! It had been an 11 mile hike, with 2,750 feet gained, then 2,340 feet back down, so we were stoked. The rain had slowed to a drizzle and we made our way down through the winding roads to town. At one point there was a baby goat that wouldn't stop following us, and after an hour or so a Subaru pulled up and two young girls jumped out and wrangled it into the back! Hank and I were cracking up thinking about what a perfect Subaru commercial that would be. There were also little houses and huts on our way down, and every once in awhile we'd hear the bus' distinctive horn echoing through the hills, and I had to smile thinking of where we'd come from.

We entered the adorable town of Grindelwald, found our hotel, and got cozy for the night. I'll share photos from this part of the trip and our hike to Wengen next, so stay tuned!

ps. All photos and videos from Switzerland were taken with this camera and I can't recommend it enough. I'll share a post all about our hiking gear at the end of this series as well.

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