Top 25 favorite picture books

22 September 2014

Let’s talk about books this week, friends! Ever since my Puffin in Bloom post kicked off a children’s literature discussion, I’ve been brainstorming my definitive list of favorites. Today, we’ll do picture books, later this week, chapter books, and I’ll finish it off with the twenty books I’ve read so far this year. I can’t wait to hear what you think!!


In alphabetical order, my top 25 favorite picture books:

Barnyard Dance
A Bear Called Paddington
The Berenstein Bears series
Blueberries for Sal
Bread and Jam for Frances

Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man
The Butter Battle Book
Caps for Sale
Curious George

The Giving Tree
Gregory the Terrible Eater
How My Parents Learned to Eat
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

Miss Rumphius
Mr. Pine’s Purple House
One Morning in Maine

The Paper Bag Princess
The Sneetches
Time of Wonder
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Where the Wild Things Are

I know I left off a ton of fantastic books, but these are the ones I remember most fondly from my childhood. What would be on your list?? (For reference, here is Design Mom’s list of her top 50 picture books!)

Six years of blogging

19 September 2014

Six years ago this month I wrote my first ever blog post (you can still view it here!). Over the years I’ve gotten lots of questions about how my blog got started and how it has grown. I’d love to chat about both today because I think stories like this are fascinating, and I hope you do, too! :)

The summer between my junior and senior year of college (2008) I interned with The Knot. My editor took me to lunch on the last day, and when she asked about my dream job, I answered “Abby of Style Me Pretty.” Her next question was, “Why don’t you start your own wedding blog?” I mulled it over for a bit, and by the time I returned to school in the fall, I was ready to give it a go. I knew I wanted a job in the wedding industry after graduation, and I figured if I could show a future employer months of posts that displayed my aesthetic, my writing, and my love for weddings, that would be pretty convincing.

I chose Blogger because it was free and seemed simpler than WordPress! I knew Peach & Pearl was not the perfect name, and I sat on it for a while because of that, hoping to come up with something better. I finally just dove in; after all, it did sound like a good blog name – there were lots of “Blank & Blanks” out there :) I tried to post interesting content five days a week. Most of my posts were short and about things I loved, like J. Crew fall fashion, home tours, and lovely weddings. I also occasionally posted semi-personal reports on our adventures, and lots of inspiration boards. I told a few friends, my family, and of course John about what I was doing. Still, most of the time I felt as though I was writing for myself, and that was okay – writing kept my creative juices flowing, and my long-term goal kept me motivated.

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In November 2008, a curious chain of events began to unfold that ultimately lead to my dream job. You can read the whole story (it’s a good one!) here, but to summarize, my following up on a blog comment lead to a gift exchange, which lead to me sending my resume, which lead to lots of phone and email conversations, which lead to us moving to North Carolina post-graduation.

Hooray! I had shown my stuff, and I had gotten a job! As I transitioned to full time employment, I knew there would be a shift in my night-time blogging. And there was – for starters, my posting frequency gradually decreased, from four times a week in 2009 to three times a week in 2012. Now I post about two times a week.

In December 2011, I renamed this here blog, debuted a new design, and made the switch from Blogger to WordPress. After three years my mission was so clear, and I was convinced that Em for Marvelous was THE perfect name (even though John was not, initially – ha!), that rebranding was very simple. I’m glad I started writing when I did, but I’m also glad I didn’t spend money on branding before I had clarity. (Because of that, three years in I’m still as in love with this site as ever!)

As a practical aside on the topic of rebranding, knowing that I did not want to spend a lot of money, I tried to do as much on my own as I could. I did lots of research, taking screenshots of sites I loved and overlaying them with explanatory arrows and notes. I also brought a finished logo to my web designer, which helped cut down majorly on costs. (I commissioned Melissa Esplin to make me a digital calligraphy file of “em for.” She charged me $90 which I still think is a bit high for five letters but on the other hand I think it’s worth every penny :) I combined it with the “marvelous” myself.)

Why pay money at all? I think a beautiful design for the place where I spend so much time and invest so much love is a gift that keeps on giving to myself and to y’all, who I adore!


Our wedding marked the other significant shift in my blogging “career.” My posts grew increasingly personal throughout our engagement (not surprising!) as we discussed things like my portrait dreams coming true, our engagement photos, and our budget. My relationships with online friends grew deeper as many of us walked through our engagements together and so many of you were so sweet to give opinions and encouragement at every step of the way.

Over the last few years my posts have become even more personal (and often lengthier!) as we’ve talked about things that are really important to me, like personal finance, being a blessing, buying a home, everyday adventures, homesickness, and our love story. Good golly, I’m so thankful! It is really the best thing to feel like I come here every week to chat with smart, kind friends.

The question I get most frequently from readers is how my blog has grown over the years, and the answer, I think, is simple. I certainly don’t have the biggest blog, but people seem to care about it, and I think it’s perhaps because you all can sense (hopefully!) that I care about you. I try to read and leave a comment on anyone’s blog who leaves a comment on mine, because I know exactly how much that can mean to someone just starting out.

Of course, there are other means by which it has grown. I’ve been lucky over the years to have a few prominent friends link to me. I have some interesting SEO things going on (I must rank pretty high with people searching for southeastern Connecticut weddings!), but the other reason I think my blog has grown is because I strive for consistency — I try to write only about what I find truly marvelous, because nothing else is worth my time or your time.


A photo mostly unrelated to this post, but I did check off a 60 Before 30 goal this week! Craigslist road bike!!

The most popular question offline pals like to ask me is whether I have any plans to make Em for Marvelous my full-time job. The answer is an emphatic no, as having EFM remain a hobby has afforded me a great amount of freedom. With a full-time job, I don’t want to be beholden to a certain posting schedule, which would certainly come at the expense of other things in my life. Because I’m not worried about growing the site for someone else (i.e. an advertiser), I have the freedom to write when and on what I want.

I know lots of people think Instagram and Pinterest have combined to sink blogs. I agree that social media has changed the way a lot of people blog, including myself. But those two platforms on their own would never make me stop blogging, because to me, blogging is an incredibly lovely – and powerful – form of storytelling. Erin Loechner worded it much more eloquently than I:

Storytelling doesn’t die… And blogging is storytelling, but with a megaphone. We’re just here, on our soapboxes, sharing what we know – the good and the bad and the mundane and the pointless and, sometimes, a few words string together in the right way and spark a life change in someone we’ve never met.

It’s good. It’s necessary. We’re cavemen, carving our stories on the walls of this Internet mountain – words and pictures and documentation that we were here. We existed.

I think about this all the time, about the kind of picture I’m carving. Is it worth it? Is it profound enough to exist in my mountain for future generations to view and question and fill in the blanks about the kind of people we were? The answer, of course, is yes. Absolutely, yes, one thousand times over… we’re telling a story that history will use to piece together the puzzles of this age. And that’s a story I want to be a part of.

Blogging won’t die, because it was never truly alive. The stories, the voices – that’s where the heart beats. And storytelling, friends, is forever.

It has been such a great joy to share our story with you over the last six years. I can’t wait to see what marvelous adventures the next six years will hold, and I can’t wait to share them!

P.S. If you blog, why do you blog? Why do you like reading blogs?

The houses of Serenbe

17 September 2014

I’ve mentioned the magical land of Serenbe before, but basically, it’s as close to an idyllic planned community as I can imagine. There are homes, a few restaurants, adorable shops in little “downtown” pockets, a farmer’s market and organic farm, an Inn, stables, nature trails, edible landscaping (blueberries planted along walkways!), an outdoor theater, and community in-ground trampolines. Yes. And aside from all that, everything – and I mean everything, from the trash cans to the real gas lamps lining the streets – is impeccably designed. I snapped a few house photos on my last trip (not creepy at all) and couldn’t resist sharing them here!

photo 1 copy







I sure do love a good bungalow. Which one is your favorite?

Two years of marriage

15 September 2014

Friends, today is our two-year wedding anniversary! I thought I’d celebrate by sharing a favorite photo, but who am I kidding – I can’t stop at just one :)















I actually write Tanja Lippert a thank you note every year, because I am that to-my-knees grateful for these treasures.

As if it needs to be said after those beautiful photos, but what a magical day. I feel so lucky to have absolutely no regrets, looking back – so thankful, in hindsight, that we took the time to do things our way, to do them meaningfully, and to do them with great love. I have absolutely no desire to do it over again; instead, I love looking forward to what is to come.

The kind folks at Southern Weddings shared our marriage advice yesterday on the blog and in print in Volume 6, and I thought it might be fun to share it here, too:

You know that saying, find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life? Well, we like to switch it up a bit: marry your best friend, and you’ll never work a day in your marriage. That, of course, is not entirely true — even the best marriages have harder days and easier days — but if you truly LIKE your partner, and love spending time with him or her more than anyone else, everything else seems to fall into place. Or, at least, that’s been our experience! Other tips that have served us well throughout our eight years together: forgive again and again, and don’t hold a grudge (easier said than done). Put your partner before yourself in small things — it will help to have that muscle in shape when bigger things come around. Take great joy in surprising and delighting him or her. Always speak well to others about your spouse, and about marriage in general. Stay humble. And finally, because it’s one of the main causes of divorce and marital issues, get your financial house in order. If finances are simply not a cause of stress, you’ll have a huge leg up on life together.

P.S. One year of marriage
P.P.S. Want to hear my Dad’s marriage advice? That’s right here.