Camping with babies

31 October 2016

When people found out we were still going camping this year — with two under two in tow — the reaction was usually some combination of shock and awe. John and I weren’t entirely sure what we were getting into, either, but figured our general parenting strategy of keeping our expectations low would serve us well. And it did! We had the best time with the Rays and our little ladies, and can’t wait for the next trip. (We’re even considering upping our frequency to twice a year!) Here are a few thoughts from our experience camping with an eight-month-old and a 1.5 year old, along with a few photos from Nancy! (Except the ones at the end, which are obviously by me :))



— Had we not camped recently and been familiar with our gear, I think bringing the babies would have been much more overwhelming. Since we were, the only new aspect was the girls.

camping family

— We upgraded from our ultralight backpacking tent to the REI Kingdom 6 thanks to a generous Christmas present. It felt like a palace! It zips down the middle to create two separate rooms, which made coming and going while June was sleeping much easier.

camping family

— Milly’s and June’s ages both had pluses and minuses. Milly, at 1.5, could walk, so she could more easily explore the campsite, whereas June would sometimes get frustrated because she wanted to move but it was uncomfortable to crawl over the rough terrain (pinecones, stones, etc.). She was mostly confined to the big blanket we spread out.

emily camping

— Milly being older, however, made sleep a little harder to come by in the Ray’s tent. She was more aware that she was IN a tent (and thought it was a bit weird), and that her parents were sleeping an arm’s length away (party!), whereas June just went down in her pack and play and had a normal night’s sleep.

camping family

— Make sure you allow even more time than you think you’ll need to set up camp and get everyone fed before the sun goes down. Previously, John and I would have set up our tent together, but since someone was on June duty the whole time this time, set-up took longer that it used to.

camping family

— We were not confident that the kiddos would nap in the tents during the day, so instead of trying to put them down, we opted to drive to a hike that was about 45 minutes away. They both slept on the way there and on the way back, so although they didn’t nap as long as they might have on a normal day at home, they did have a chance to sleep.

family camping

— Packing in big, clear, plastic Rubbermaid tubs is the best! They’re easy to stack, don’t rip like paper bags, and make it easy to see what’s stored where.


— As you’re considering campgrounds, weigh nicer bathrooms pretty heavily in the equation. The ones at Blue Bear are clean, well-appointed, and single-stall, which just makes everything much more pleasant. We also opted for one of sites closer to the bathrooms (though still half a football field away) because we knew we’d be making more frequent trips.


I hope these observations and tips encourage you to give camping a try, whether or not you have kids! I look forward to our camping weekends all year, and I imagine they’ll be even more fun as our crew gets older. I would love to answer any questions you might have or try to allay any concerns, so feel free to ask away!

P.S. Me and camping and our camping essentials.

P.P.S. I love our conversations here. Last week I added a reply button in the comments section to make it easier to respond more directly to individual contributions, so feel free to try it out!

The best cooking playlist

26 October 2016

I can take almost no credit for this playlist, but I think it’s marvelous, so I wanted to share! Last week, John convinced me to watch Guardians of the Galaxy. Initially, I was not particularly enthused. It ended up being a fun movie, but the big win for me was the soundtrack — all very danceable, sing-along-able songs from the ’70s and ’80s! We listened to it while cooking dinner over the weekend, and it was the perfect playlist for a family dance party in the kitchen. I made a few additions in the same genre to bring the length up to 45 minutes, which is just enough time to make some chili or a baja salad :)

cooking playlist

Listen to it here on Spotify!

P.S. My cozy fall playlist and my happy spring playlist

Planning multigenerational family photos

20 October 2016

For my baby shower, my friend Nancy graciously gifted me a photo session. It’s hard to think of a more generous or lovely offer, and I’m so grateful! Since we had wonderful Graham already taking newborn photos, I opted to save Nancy’s session for a few months, since I knew June would grow so much so quickly.

As we emailed back and forth trying to find a date this fall, Nancy suggested the weekend in November when June will be baptized. Both sets of our parents will be visiting then, and my first thought was, ooh, that would be too crazy. My second thought? How could we pass up that opportunity?? I asked Nancy what she thought and she gave it the thumbs up, so it’s on! I’ve been collecting inspiration for multigenerational family photos and thought I’d share some here, if you’d like to see.


Out of all the ones I’ve collected, the photo above is what’s inspiring me most. Back when my Mom was a teenager, an aspiring photographer asked to take some test shots of her extended family, and the photo above is my favorite from the session (she’s in the bottom right!). I love the casual, warm, lived-in style, and it’s what we’re hoping to emulate next month! Here are a few others I’m loving, for the photos with grandparents as well as the ones with just our family of three:

family photos

Jonathan Canlas

family photos

Elizabeth Clark via 100 Layer Cake

family photos

Jonathan Canlas (left), Jill Thomas (right)


Elizabeth Clark via 100 Layer Cake


Jen Huang (left), Elizabeth Clark (right)


via Buzzfeed


Lacie Hansen via 100 Layer Cakelet


Maple + Elm Photography via 100 Layer Cakelet


This Modern Romance via 100 Layer Cakelet


Jill Thomas


Anna Routh




Jill Thomas


Tanja Lippert


Jill Thomas

Now to decide on our outfits… and hopefully reserve Sam again for makeup!!

P.S. Planning our newborn session

Calligraphy vows prints in our master bedroom

17 October 2016

No one would ever accuse me of being the hare in the home decorating race. We take it slow around here, by choice and by necessity, and that’s okay. In the last year, we have made a lot of progress – new art over the mantel, new dining room chairs, a new rug in the living room, a nursery! – but there’s one room that always seems to fall lowest on the list of priorities: our master bedroom.

After upgrading to an (amazingly comfortable!!) king mattress a few years ago and buying sheets to fit it, we pretty much called it a day in our room. (I largely skipped over it in last year’s house tour.) But recently, it was decided that we needed to shoot something for work in – you guessed it! — our bedroom, and though I was a bit panicked at first, I’m so glad I finally had the kick in the pants to make some improvements!


For the project, we hung two large (16×20) prints of our wedding vows over our bed. Simply Jessica Marie did the watercoloring, and I absolutely LOVE how they came out! The softness of the technique means that the pieces read more as art and less as bold typography, which I think is appropriate — they are, after all, some of the tenderest and most personal words we’ve ever spoken. The prints were framed by Framebridge, and you can get a discount code in the Southern Weddings post!

calligraphy wedding vows

To spruce up our shooting angle, I first added three velvet Euro pillows from Pottery Barn. (I hate to say it doesn’t look like they have our indigo color online anymore – but you might be able to try in store?) The total for the three pillow covers and feather fills was $150. Not cheap, but they are a far less expensive way to add definition than a $1,000+ wooden headboard! (I’m still hoping to get that bed eventually, but it will probably have to wait a few more years!)


The gold lumbar pillow is from Anthropologie. (The bedroom in this home tour helped me visualize the mix of pillows I wanted.)


I also added two brass task lamps from Target (on sale right now!). A little light styling and one adorable tuxedo cat later, and we were in business.


I think the best home decor improvements change how you live in your space for the better, and these, though simple, definitely fall in that category. We make our bed every day now, since it looks so nice all done up, and it’s way more comfortable to read in bed at night! (Plus, June loves climbing all over the pillows.) For years I felt like I had to wait for that dream bed to make any improvements in here, but I’m so glad I finally took the first step!!

All photos by the wonderful Callie of Nancy Ray Photography!

How to slow down time, part two

13 October 2016

If you read my first post about time and thought, “I’d really like to feel time isn’t flying by, but unfortunately I do,” then this post is for you! In addition to injecting novelty into my life, there are a few other habits and behaviors that have helped me feel less busy and less helpless about the passing of time. I came across an article while researching this topic that perfectly put into words several of them, so I’m going to rely on it to help me explain — but definitely read the whole thing for yourself, too!

how to slow down time

Flip the script. Try your darndest not to reply with “busy, but good” when people ask how you’ve been. (Instead, get specific and tell them about something you have going on!) Words have power, and can become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you’re constantly saying you’re busy (out loud, or, equally importantly, in your own head), of course you’re going to feel busy! From the article: “We can choose how we think about our time. Talking about how crazed and busy we feel can reinforce the feeling that time is scarce, but to what end? Says Duenckel: ‘Everyone is stressed. Everyone is busy, and there is no point competing because that is silly, and we never really gain anything anyway.'”

Determine your priorities. When I feel overwhelmed and like I don’t have enough time, I try to stop, get out a piece of paper, and write down all the to dos that are swimming in my mind. Even that initial step is helpful, because I eventually get to the end of the list and realize it’s not endless, even if it feels that way! :) Then, I look through the whole list and star the things that actually have to get done THAT day or THAT evening, and just start plowing through them. Knowing that there are only a few things that HAVE to get done seems more doable and gives me the confidence to get started, and the focus and determination I gain as I check things off means I usually have enough momentum to check off even a few “extras,” too.

Start from abundance. From the article: “Learn to embrace a paradox: Time is precious and plentiful. To have as much time as you need for the things you want, you need to be ruthless about not filling time with things you don’t care about.” YES! So true, but so difficult sometimes. It’s a lot easier to scroll through Instagram or watch TV (because those things are habits or easily accessible) than pull out a book, work on a project, call a friend, or take a bath. So often, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we have the time — we just don’t use it well. This is probably the habit I struggle with the most, and one reason why I love camping. Again, from the article: “If you want to feel like you have all the time in the world, try not turning on the TV, phone, or computer some night. See how slowly the time passes if you just go outside to stare at the stars.” SO TRUE.

A final thought, and then we’ll move on to another topic for now :) Sarah asked on my first post whether I had any good responses to the “time is flying” comments. My favorite is the most honest: “Actually, I don’t really feel like time is flying – the pace has felt really nice to me recently!” This usually takes the questioner back a bit, and leads to a more interesting conversation than we might have had if we had just stayed on the surface of the routine back-and-forth.

I’d love to hear if y’all use any of these strategies, or if you have a different one that works for you!!

How to slow down time, part one
Rituals, traditions, and the perception of time