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Date Night Style

Our family is busy.

I know what you are thinking. We’re all busy. And that is totally true.

But we are really busy. Like, can’t-book-a-playdate-until-mid-July busy.

Needless to say, that makes it tough to schedule time for J. and I to be out on our own. We love doing things as a family, especially since we both work full-time and leave A. at an amazing daycare for 8+ hours most days. For a while, family activities were the closest we got to dates.

With that in mind, I planned a super awesome gift for J. this Christmas: one pre-planned-and-babysitter-booked date night each month for the year.

This weekend marks the six consecutive month of our official date nights. It’s been fun: we’ve had dinner at our favorite spots, cheered on a local college basketball team, knocked back a couple of fancy cocktails and more. This Saturday, we’ll be heading out for a cheap dinner and then using a Groupon to a movie and drinks at a full-service, newly renovated vintage theater in a neighborhood just north of ours.

I always like trying to pull together a nice look for our dates. I had some comp time at work and spent a while at the thrift store this afternoon really hunting the racks.

Today I found enough great pieces to pull together a casual summery outfit:

Collage of details from my date night outfit

Here’s the breakdown of my date night look.( You’ll see why I’m addicted!)

Dress: $3.90
Scarf: $2.90
Sandals: $2.90
Total Cost: $9.70 (plus tax)!

I love these finds for a few reasons. The scarf has an ikat inspired print that is super popular right now, in a great color scheme. The dress matches the reddish-brown tones perfectly. It is a comfy and cool stretch jersey, but with some nice details that give it a bit of character. The shimmery sandals give it some pop and will work with some many looks this summer. I already have a skinny belt that will match them perfectly that I might add at the waist for more interest.

As if one great outfit for under $10 isn’t enough, I also picked up a few gently used dresses and a few other items to finish out A.’s summer wardrobe. I just recently started hitting up some local thrift store on the advice of a friend, and am totally hooked. I’ve found amazing stuff for A. and I, always for just a few dollar. Sure, there is stuff in bad shape, with stains or tears or stretched out beyond belief, but most stuff is decent. You can find the best things when you have some time.

What do you think? Any thrift store tips for a beginner?

Linked up here:


Back in Town

We just got back from a great vacation visiting family in Maryland. It was warm and sunny, casual and fun.

We spent a lot of time at the playground…

Visited the National Aquarium…


And spent a lot of time outside near the water…


And other pretty things.


I really enjoyed capturing our trip, and have lots of other great images to show for it. It was a gentle reminder that it might be time to reconnect with my creative side here at Tiny Leaf.

So, welcome back.

I’ll be entering one of this week’s photos for Project 52, since I long since fell off that bandwagon. Look for more soon and check out the post I tossed up this morning after an evening of “window” shopping.


Linked up here:

P52 with Kent Weakley


Big Kid Room Inspiration

We just moved into a new place six months ago, and I’m still in the process of making our stuff feel like home in a new space. We may even have two small boxes that are still unpacked. We also rent, which means that unless we have a really nice landlord (we actually do), we are usually stuck with boring white walls and plastic mini-blinds. Colorful design helps our space feel more vibrant and interesting textures add some depth and coziness. I’m always looking for something to help our place feel homey.

A few weeks ago, I was online window shopping for a runner rug to fill up the long hallway that runs our apartment. In the process, I stumbled across the most awesome chevron rug.  It would be a great anchor piece for a kids room; with that thought, my creative juices really started flowing. I pulled  together a slew of accessories and was left with what I think is a pretty rockin’ inspiration for a kid’s room.

A. moved into a toddler bed several months ago. With that switch, I started updating her room from a nursery into a big kid room. I’m going in another direction based on what we already have, but I now wish I had done something like this when we first planned her nursery. I think this design is childlike enough for a babe, but sophisticated enough to work for a while. It would be great for kiddos, like out neighbors, who share with siblings, too.

What do you think?

Mood Board - Shared Chevron Room

s o u r c e s:

1. Grey sheer linen curtain panels | 2. Simple Sparrow convertible crib | 3. Table lamp | 4. Framed Warhol Cat Print | 5. Chunky Knitted Pouf
6. Red and Stone Chevron Rug | 7. Wool and Wood Rocker | 8. Rainbow Fish Wall Art | 9. Velvet and Ribbon Stripe Pillow

We’ll be linked up here:
I Heart Nap Time

Can you hear me now?

It has been a month since my last post. Sad thing is, I barely noticed.

I have had huge deadlines at work and it is one of the busiest times of the year. We’ve had lots of activities and our weekends have been jam packed, too.

Most importantly, A. is growing so fast: she just turned 2 and is as spunky, and talkative, and creative, and funny, and amazing, and lovable as ever. And she’ll only be a two-year-old-worker-ballerina-bike-rider-frog-boot-wearing- two- ‘hug’-ez -purple-chair-loving* little girl for a short while before everything changes again.

I’m not about to miss that.

So, I spent time with her instead of here. I’ll be back, soon.

*You may not understand all of these references, but now I’ve got them in writing forever. Y’know, so I can embarrass A. in the future with stories about how much she loved the $3 secondhand green frog rain boots I got her at the thrift store. And all that other stuff.

Project 52: Stillness

This week has presented us with a nice break in the weather. It’s been windy, but warm and sunny. I have done my best to get out and enjoy it. I have been walking and taking the bus more than driving to work and daycare this week. I even walked to work on an especially nice day earlier this week, which is one of my favorite walks during Spring.

I often walk with coworkers during lunch when it is nice out, but everyone was busy when I wanted a break yesterday. I grabbed a mug of hot tea and hiked over to the beach, which is about two blocks from my office, to sit and watch the waves and soak up some sun and fresh air. The wind was whipping around and waves were pretty rough, but I still found a few quiet minutes of stillness during a busy day.

It was a wonderful escape. I sat and drank my tea while I watched some dogs runalong the dog beach. There were only about four dogs there, a big contrast to the dozens you see during warmer weather. The rest of the beach was empty, again a change in scene from the teeming masses of hundreds of beach goers in the summer.

I snapped these with my phone, since I didn’t have my camera with me.

Check out more:

project 52 p52 weekly photo challenge my3boybarians.com

2 Spring Toddler Discovery Bottles

Though she’s not yet two, our toddler got sent home from school with homework this week.

Every family in A’s room at school got two empty water bottles in their cubby and marching orders to make a pair of discovery bottles. The new bottles made by families would replace the worn out ones the kids were currently playing with.

I browsed around for some ideas and saw lots of cool bottles out there: shampoo and marbles, water and oil, liquid soap and water, corn syrup and glitter. These look cool, but we ended up going in another direction. First, I wouldn’t want to clean up a broken bottle filled with any of those things and I’m just watching one kid, and, second, this is obviously a competition for most creative parent and anyone can make what they find on the internet.

I used some supplies on hand and spent about $4 at the dollar store for the other items I needed, like the ornaments I used in the garden bottle. Both took less than ten minutes, including A. “helping” me with one.

Here’s what we came up with:

1. Mice in the Grass

Green shredded paper or Easter grass
Three small mouse catnip toys

Stuff the Easter grass and mice into the bottle, adding a few handfuls of grass between each mouse so they are distributed. Sear the cap with glue.

2. Garden I-Spy Bottle

White rice
Green Food Coloring
Small ornaments or erasers

Dye rice using your preferred method. (Need a tutorial? Try this one. Couldn’t find my usual “recipe”, so I found this via Google. It was the first time I used the oven dry the rice and it worked really well and helped me finish super-quick. I always use vinegar to make it as baby-safe as possible in case anything is ingested.) Layer the rice in the bottle, spreading out your ornaments between scoops of rice. I used carrot ornaments, but originally thought I had flower erasers on hand. Either would work! Leave about 1.5 inches empty at the top of the bottle so there is room for the rice to move around. Seal the cap with glue.

A. is super excited to share them at school on Monday. I like the bright, Spring green colors! What do you think?

Pin It

We’ll be linked up here:

I Heart Nap Time  Clip With Purpose   Sew Chatty  Skip To My Lou

Project 52 Photo: A Big Leap

We haven’t fallen off the face of the planet, but we have been super busy. With a crazy schedule at work, visitors at the house and more, a few things took a back seat to quality time with the fam. Last night, we spent a half hour coloring a cardboard box with A. Nothing to write home about, but so worth the time away.

Even with so much going on, I have been able to stop and smell the roses. A. is growing by leaps and bounds every day and it is an amazing time for us to sit back and watch her develop into an awesome little person. I had no shortage of ideas for this week, all inspired by that silly girl.

But, then, something really crazy happened. A.’s teachers suggested we send her to school in underwear. Like a big kid.

Today was that day, our big leap. So, I grabbed a photo to commemorate, worked it a bit and post it hear as my official reentry into Project 52

Not the best photo ever, I know. But, I like this picture because (1) it looks like she’s flexing her big girl muscles and (2) the crazy flash and low lighting in our hallway and a little bit of editing make it look like some sort of pop album cover or fight poster or something way more hip than a toddler in her first pair of underpants. And the amount of pink on her person (shoes and socks not pictured here) was impressive, more than I’d ever seen.

Check out more:

project 52 p52 weekly photo challenge my3boybarians.com

A Simple Reminder

I am not a morning person.

For anyone who knows me at all, this is no surprise. Though my willingness to get our of bed and my general mood upon waking has greatly improved over the years, I still find that I am most productive in the afternoon.

At work, this means it can be easy for me to get wrapped up in an important project at the end of the day. In my work, they’re all important and there is always more to be done. It isn’t the kind of job that you can simply walk away from, knowing everything is neatly wrapped up. And, I like it.

So I got into the habit of just five more minutes, which became just ten more minutes, which become just 15 and so on. It was a bad habit.

Then, one day, I unexpectedly found a way to remind myself to keep the balance.

There is a big ‘ol Target store about three blocks from my office. This is very convenient for quick runs for cat litter before work or to stop by and grab some extra paper towels on the way home.

Who am I kidding, It’s never that simple. Like many others, I find Target to be a mecca of all things good. The colors! The deals! All the things I never knew I needed! I become hypnotized and I can never just stop for one thing. EVER. Under any circumstances.

One day when I knew I need to be especially mindful of the time in order to pick up J. at the train on his way home from work, I set an alarm on my phone. The gentle buzzing in my pocket would remind me to head to register and get on the road within 15 minutes in order to meet him on time.

The next day it buzzed at work, 15 minutes before I usually leave. A nice reminder to wrap things up and leave it there.

It went off again the next day, and I realized I kind of like the reminder. No more glancing at the clock on my computer and realizing I need to leave in two minutes but haven’t organized my desk, wrapped up the project I’m working on or hiked across the building to check out for the day.

Every day at 5:00 pm my phone reminds me of what’s important. If I can wrap things up at work without a rush, I can be more present at home. If I leave on time, I can spend more time with my family. There are always exceptions, of course, but I like the simple reminder. It helps ground me and has helped me make a simple change in my routine, for everyone’s benefit.

Have you found any simple tricks to help you manage it all?

Jingle Bell Music Wristbands

A. loves music class, especially free play time. She dashes across the room as soon as the instrument bin makes it’s appearance. She especially loves the bell bracelets. In fact, last weekend during free play time, she shoved five of these jingly bracelets on her wrist all at once. She held two in the other hand at the same time. I am pretty sure no other kid in the room got to play with these things (except me, clumsily trying to keep rhythm with them, shaking very gently so as not to draw attention to my total lack of musical skills).

After music class, I spent some time digging through my fabric stash to find the right combination of options to create a pillowcase to send to Katie of KTMade. In case you didn’t see, she’s traveling to Rwanda and wants to brighten the children’s ward of a hospital where she is volunteering by bringing along some colorful pillowcases.

During the process of selecting my fabrics, I found many (many, many) scraps and pieces in my stash that were just too small to work. I went digging around Pinterest for some scrap project ideas to use them up and came up with lots of pretty things, but nothing I thought we could actually put to use. Which, at the end of the day, is really no better than just holding on to the scraps.

After a few cups of coffee, though, I thought of my own scrappy fabric project! Using some jingle bells I keep for A. to use for sensory play, I thought I could pretty easily whip up some of our own Jingle Bell Music Bracelets.

Here’s a quick walk through of this super simple project. Make a ton of wristbands using  if you like, but only for personal use, please!

1. Gather your supplies. You will need:

  • Scrap fabric (My version is 4 inches by 8 inches, but you may prefer something larger.)
  • Thread
  • Iron
  • 3 bells with a loop on the bottom to attach to your bracelet. I used 1 large and 2 small bells.
  • Sew on velcro

2. Wash and press your fabric.

3. Cut a rectangle that measures 4 x 8 inches. This size fit me and adjusted enough to fit A. pretty well, but you may want to measure to ensure the size fits well for you. Our finished bracelet will be one inch wide. If you’d like a wider bracelet, cut your short side to a width evenly divisible by four.

4. Fold and press your fabric. Fold your fabric in half along the short edge and press. In our example, the folded piece would measure 2 inches by 8 inches. Unfold the fabric and fold the two edges toward the line pressed in the center. Press again. (Note: I am using all this folding to add extra stiffness and durability, but you could use interfacing if you have some on hand. I didn’t!)

5. Fold over 1/4 inch at each end and press the ends down well. Snip a small triangle off of each corner.

6. Fold one more time along the original crease and press well. Your folded fabric should now measure 1 inch by 7.5 inches.

8. Pin fabric at both ends so folded hems are enclosed. Top stitch around the entire rectangle, pivoting at the corners, using a 3/8 inch seam allowance. I shift my needle to the left and align my fabric the the seam allowance on the left for this particular step. I usually do it the other way around, but can more easily get topstiching closer to the edge and keep more control using this technique.

9. Now, set your machine to a midsize zig-zag stitch and sew around the entire perimeter, just catching the outside edge of the bracelet. Pivot at the corners.

10. Cut a two inch piece of velco. Sew one side of the velcro on to each end of the bracelet, attaching one to the top and one to the bottom. Sew around all four edges of the velcro piece first, then reinforce by sewing across the center of the velcro to make an X.

11. Stitch one bell to the center of the bracelet. I used the large one. Stitch the other two about a half inch or so from either side of the center bell. I just eyeballed this step since my fabric was centered and the graphic pattern gave me a clear indication that they were evenly placed, but you could measure and mark each spot. Stitch several times, knot well and you’re  done.

Strap the bracelet on and jingle away to your favorite tunes. Super simple, right?!

A. loved these so much I couldn’t get her to hold still long enough to get an action shot. They are great for music play at home, but would also make a great inexpensive and handmade party favor for a music-themed birthday party.

Pin It

Linked up here:

I Heart Nap Time Clip With Purpose Sew Chatty

Project 52 Photo: True Love

I know this week was supposed to be about romantic love and valentine’s day and all that. But, that’s not really my style. Plus, everything was horrible this week and I had no time at all to get any good photos.

So, I cheated again. I went back into my photo archives and pulled together a collage featuring my favorite girl.

Collage of baby hands and feet

It is almost A.’s second birthday and boy, do I love her something crazy. These pics are from our first Spring together, when I was still working part-time and we’d spend a few days a week just hanging out, enjoying Spring and Summer in Chicago. Just a little reminder of those sweet days.

I’m linking up here, with many others. Check them out:

project 52 p52 weekly photo challenge my3boybarians.com