How to host a stuff swap

22 April 2022

In honor of Earth Day (today!), I wanted to share about something fun we tacked on to Articles Club this week: a stuff swap!

Our beautiful table at Stephanie’s! She is good at what she does! :)

What’s a stuff swap, you ask? In our case, it was a chance to trade our gently-loved items for someone else’s: similar to a yard sale or thrift store adventure, but with only the creme de la creme of items – the treasures you’d be thrilled to bring home after a long day of hunting. Ours was very casual, quick, and simple, but still fun – and it made me want to host a more full-scale swap in the future! Here’s a little bit about how it worked.

Unlike a book swap or a clothing swap, this was a stuff swap, and anything was fair game. Gals did actually bring clothing and books, but there were also beauty items, home decor finds, kids’ stuff, paper products, and more. We limited everyone to bringing just ten items so it didn’t become overwhelming, but I think if the swap was the focus of your event, you could raise the limit!

Some of the goodies and the gals

Steph had set up a folding table in her living room, and as we arrived, we rather unceremoniously arranged our items wherever they fit. This was just fine, but again, if you were going all out, it could be fun to designate different areas for different categories or provide more surfaces/levels to “merchandise” the goods.

To decide who went home with what, we started with a snake draft. (A snake draft, if you’re not familiar, goes like this: person A picks, person B picks, then person C, C, B, A.) We did two snake draft rounds and then opened up the floor for everyone to choose any remaining items they’d like. No fist fights ensued, but there was plenty of QVC-esque marketing of items, ha!

Early picks included a countertop compost bin; a pair of Hunter boots; Anthro coffee mugs; pretty tea towels; the Floret, Elizabeth Holmes, and Annie F. Downs books; a cocktail shaker; heart-shaped cake pans; and a wooden charcuterie board. There were also cozy sweatshirts, a grab bag of greeting cards, candles, and even a few Drunk Elephant items.

For my part, I was pleased to snag a cozy cream sweater (above), jean shorts, a trio of glass candlesticks, and a leopard shift dress. Our youngest and most stylish member, Adelyn, brought the sweater, and even though it was an item she was getting rid of, I snagged it without a second thought, ha!

Any items that weren’t claimed went home with the original owner. It was a welcome opportunity to clear out a few things that felt too special to send to Goodwill but were no longer serving our closets or homes. And a lovely way to live out our article theme for the month: sustainability and green practices!

Have you ever been to a stuff swap? Or a swap of any kind? What kind of swap would you want to host? (I think a cookbook swap would be fun!)

P.S. Earth-friendly swaps in our home

What I learned from my styling session with Lisa

18 April 2022

You may recall last August, as I began to emerge from the newborn phase, I wrote about feeling ready to spice up my daily dressing: “After a year of just getting by in the fashion department – wearing what felt like the same four ill-fitting outfits on repeat – I’m eager for some variety and fun,” I wrote. “Even in between pregnancies, I’m guilty of switching out my top and wearing the same jeans, shoes, jewelry, and hairstyle five days a week. There’s nothing wrong with this … but at the moment, I’m feeling inspired to put a little more thought into what I wear each day.

In that post, I shared inspiration from my dear friend Lisa’s outfit diary series – I adore her style and lean on her for all my burning fashion questions (and rightly so!). In the post, I semi-jokingly asked whether she should come over for a styling session. Well, reader, she jumped right on that suggestion and before I returned to work from maternity leave, graciously came over and pawed through my closet with me! It was a delight, shockingly helpful, and really jumpstarted my return to having fun with fashion.

Ever since, I have been far more likely to put together interesting combos from my closet and put into play the four takeaways from my inspiration pull. Just for fun, I snapped photos of a few recent outfits to share, if you’d like to see. I’ll sprinkle a few more takeaways from my time with Lisa throughout, too!

The morning Lisa was due at my house, I pulled all the clothes from my closet and draped them over the sofa and chairs in our family room. I loosely grouped them into bottoms and tops, and set aside the items that I thought might need to be retired. Friends, almost everything that went into the “possible retirement” pile was, indeed, retired. Ha!

That right there was probably the most productive part of this whole exercise. It was so helpful to have a trusted friend who I could hold up a shirt and raise an eyebrow at and have her kindly agree that, yes, that had been so cute a few years ago, but it was not exactly current anymore. And if it was outdated AND it didn’t fit quite right, I didn’t love wearing it, or it wasn’t in line with the aesthetic I was moving toward? On it went to a new home.

Older clothes were not unilaterally destined for the donate pile, though! This pink tunic from Boden, for example, has been in my closet for probably 8 years. It’s one of my very favorite tops – I wore it for many Southern Weddings photos – but it was feeling a little tired and I wasn’t reaching for it as often. Lisa suggested doing a full tuck with it, and that simple move really brought it back to life.

On this day, I paired it with the Cali Demi-Boot version (Lockwood wash) of my beloved Madewell jeans, which I took a huge gamble on and bought half off on final sale last year. I felt confident to place the order since I love Madewell jeans, knew my size, and had seen this exact pair on my chic friend in person, but still, it was a relief when they arrived and looked cute. On my feet I’m wearing tan suede pointy toe d’Orsay flats.

When Lisa came over, we talked a lot about how I wanted my outfits to feel like Outfits instead of just jeans + tees, day after day. She immediately understood what I meant, and her advice (based on her own fashion journey of the past several years) was to buy a few items that felt really special. Yes, they would likely be more expensive. Yes, they might be more “trendy.” But if I didn’t want to feel like I was wearing the exact same thing every day, then I… needed to not wear the same thing every day. Ha!

You could say I took her advice to heart: Lisa arrived at our session wearing the shirt I’m wearing above and I promptly fell in love and bought the exact same one. It was a splurge, but the floral detailing is so beautiful and I really love wearing it. Also great for nursing! (It doesn’t look like the blue version is in stock right now, but they have it in white, and this top is lovely, too!)

If you’re unfamiliar with & Other Stories, here’s a pro tip Lisa taught me: when you click to the “all clothing” tab, you can filter by “atelier:” Los Angeles, Stockholm, or Paris. I like the Paris atelier, which has a more feminine, romantic style, best.

Here I wore it with my favorite 10″ rise Roadtripper jeans (seriously, nothing feels better than these jeans – they are so stretchy but hold me in in all the right places) and rounded toe navy Rothy flats. A note on the Rothys: my Mom passed them along to me (I think they were too small for her and she missed the return window), and though I wear them often, they always feel a bit pinched in the toe. I’m not sure if it’s just the style or if I should really wear another half size up? They’re very comfortable otherwise!

This dress was a fun purchase this spring! For the price, I was very impressed with the quality and the fit specifically – it nips in at the waist, the top doesn’t gap, etc. Also nursing-friendly! I’m pairing it with my jean jacket and the ankle booties that I’ve worn since 2015.

One thing to note: these outfits are mostly just for the people I love and for me, showing up as my best self in the world and having fun. I’ve been guilty of saving dresses and special outfits for special occasions, but it’s true: every day of this life is a special occasion. So, even though I mostly sat on my sofa and tapped away at my computer in this lovely dress, I felt great while doing it. You don’t need a reason to wear fun clothes that make you feel good (whatever that means for you!)!

This is not the greatest picture (hello, laundry!), but I had to include it because I just adore this shirt. The material is so light and gauzy and really takes it to another level. I actually own this shirt in two colors and two sizes – the white in a size XS and the dusty mauve in a size S. I like both of them and will wear both with a half or full tuck. Wearing with my favorite jeans here as well as my family bracelet stack – one each with the initials of John and each of my littles.

At one of the final photo shoots for SW, I dripped floral glue on a black-and-white striped shirt that was a mainstay in my closet. Until my session with Lisa, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it… but I also never wore it anymore because of the yellow blob on the front. Once Lisa gently pried it out of my hands, a classic striped tee was at the top of my replacement shopping list. After hearing good things, I ordered the Kule Classic tee in cream and navy stripes (size S). It was not inexpensive, but I’m at the point in my life where I’m willing to trade my money for my time and to pay for good quality (and sustainable practices!).

(If you are considering a Kule tee, I think this particular style runs a bit small. I’m happy with the fit, but it is a little slimmer than I was expecting. Also, it’s listed as navy stripes, but they read black to me.)

Here, I paired it with a pair of Clementine shorts. The color isn’t one I normally gravitate toward, but John actually purchased these for me and I’ve found it to be surprisingly versatile. My sneakers are gold and white New Balance from J.Crew, many years old.

This is not my most inspired outfit (nor the best photo), but I wanted to include it because of the pants! They’re a new purchase this spring and I really love them. The fabric feels like ponte, which means they are stretchy and comfy but also more formal in appearance due to the thickness and texture. I would recommend sizing down in these. I’m wearing them with a cream knit sweater, also from Old Navy many years ago, that I would never have considered tucking in until Lisa suggested it.

On my feet, I have leopard-print Birdies. I don’t find the slide style the easiest to walk in (I’m an energetic walker!), but love having a leopard print back in my shoe repertoire. These were a gift so I felt I could be a little riskier in the style!

Finally, here’s the same Kule tee with a full tuck. Paired with my favorite jeans and my go-to Allbirds, this outfit just feels classic and I love it. I heartily endorse this style of Allbirds (SO comfortable and versatile, plus made from sustainable eucalyptus fiber!) but would also heartily recommend wearing no-show socks, because I’ve found that the toes can wear out if you do not.

With every single outfit I am wearing my beloved pearl and gold earrings (demi size), and when I’m wearing glasses, they’re the Warby Parker Daisy in Oak Barrel.

One thing I loved learning in my survey data is that many of you not only tolerate, but appreciate that EFM is a bit like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get :) I hope this post has been just another example of that. If it’s not your cup of tea, no worries – we’ll be on to another topic shortly. If you did enjoy it, though, it would be helpful to know!

I’m also curious: have you ever done something like this? Had a friend, or even a professional, sort through your closet with you? I highly recommend it! (And thank you again, Lisa!)

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What’s going in our kids’ Easter baskets this year

8 April 2022

Is it too late to talk about Easter baskets? (Nah – you’ve still got a weekend and a week to prep, if you need it! :))

I know they’re not for everyone, but I’ve really grown to love the opportunity they give me to highlight an important holiday in our faith, support small businesses, replenish basics at the turn of the season, and create some magic for my little ones. And personally, as a creative person, they’re just really fun for me to collect, curate, arrange, and fluff! I might enjoy them even more than the kids.

(If you’re curious, I’ve written extensively on my feelings about Easter baskets in the past – this post captures why I love them and feel they’re an important part of our faith tradition! This post covers some of my tips for keeping baskets budget-friendly.)

Onto the stuffing! Before I get into the 2022 specifics, here are a few things I consider including each year:

— A Bible or faith-based book to add to our library. I’ve rounded up some of our favorites here. (I try to buy these from a local source when possible, like Quail Ridge Books or McIntyre’s Books!) Of course, Write the Word Kids is also a perfect pick for 5-12-year-olds.

— Pajamas. These usually come from Hanna Andersson, Old Navy, or my favorite consignment sale.

— A bathing suit or beach item. Again, Hanna is our go-to, along with Boden and Target. Also love this terry striped cover-up!

— A fun accessory or clothing item, like a Little Poppy hair bow, stick-on earrings, a Harding Lane needlepoint hat, the best kid sunglasses, or a twirly dress from Alice & Ames.

— Summer shoes. In our house, that’s usually a pair of Saltwaters and a pair of Natives, if they need the next size up.

— Something fun to play with, like a DIY magic wandMagnaTile cars, a mini play mat, color-changing ponies, a sticker activity book, gem diving toys, or a personalized memory game. Many more ideas here!

— A special snack or candy, like bunny grahams or those frosted animal cookies.

Tucking in some a few of their favorite stuffed bunnies has become a tradition – we also love Jellycats and Cuddle + Kind dolls, which I like to get from a favorite local store.

Now, here’s what’s going in our little ones’ baskets this year!

Both June and Shep will have a pair of hand-me-down pajamas I set aside from the last load my sister brought over, a few bath bombs, and a matching bathing suit (reader, I could not resist – this for June, this for Shep, and this for Annie). They’ll also have a new box of chalk I couldn’t fit in either of their baskets. In addition, they’ll have a few individual items:

June, age 6, will have a copy of Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer, a new water bottle, white chocolate covered pretzels, this bold striped swimsuit, and a fairy door to color (a friend ordered this set and we split them amongst our kids). Her basket also includes a Polly Pocket (!), a magnetic doll set I snagged while in Black Mountain, and an MLP Color Wonder book.

Shep, age 3, will have his very own Jesus Storybook Bible, gummy bears, a fairy door, a Paw Patrol Color Wonder book, a Bluey coloring book, fun band-aids (they’re obsessed), and a Babe DVD that I got for $1 from a consignment sale, ha!

Annie, age 9 months, will have her bathing suit. And actually, her basket is back-ordered until May, so she will have… nothing :) But I’m sure she will be thrilled, regardless!

If you’re celebrating with baskets, what’s your favorite find for this year? Happy fluffing! :)

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April 2022 goals

1 April 2022

I’m not exactly sure how to feel about my goals as we wrap up the first quarter of 2022.

On the one hand, I have objectively made some fantastic progress so far with my 8 goals for the year. And that’s wonderful, because they’re all things that really matter to me! On the other hand, that progress seems to have come, either directly or indirectly, at the expense of two of my very favorite things: writing here and reading. (I’ve read three books so far this year – very slow for me – and am continually overestimating how many blog posts I’ll be able to share in a month.)

Are you familiar with the idea of equilibrium and disequilibrium in child development? Kids’ abilities often develop at different rates – they might experience a surge in their physical abilities, but lag in their ability to express themselves. When their various abilities are out of sync, they’re in disequilibrium and more easily frustrated; when their abilities even out, they’re in equilibrium and generally happier and at ease.

I think I might be in a little bit of the grown-up version of disequilibrium right now. That feels like a good way to describe the work of balancing competing priorities – with some surging ahead and some lagging behind – as other factors (growing kids, our social schedule and activities) shift underneath. I know we all experience this at different times – sending a hug if it’s hitting you in this season, too! This, too, shall pass.

Our St. Patrick’s Day after school snack

On my calendar this month:
— Opening night of our high school’s spring musical! One of our beloved babysitters is the lead and June is excited to bring her flowers.
Jekyll Island for spring break! Yes, we’re headed back… this time with another family member in tow!
— A trip to the WRAL Azalea Gardens when everything’s in bloom.

What I’m loving right now:
— I know it’s old news, but John and I watched Only Murders in the Building a few weeks ago and it was an absolute delight. I am predisposed to love anything Steve Martin and Martin Short do together, Selena Gomez rounded out the trio perfectly, and the sets were gorgeous. It’s one of those shows that I wish I could experience watching for the first time a second time.
— I have tried MANY kinds of natural deodorant over the years (Schmidt’s, Acure, Native…). Most were good-enough initially, but all seemed to lose their efficacy over time. My newest find is a little less flashy but, several months in, doing a superlative job. Summer will be the real test, but so far I highly recommend!
— I listened to this episode of Honestly right after I read “Your Bubble is not the Culture,” and I thought they intersected in interesting ways. Made me think of a pairing we’d dig into for Articles Club!

As a reminder, you can find alllll the things I’ve loved over the last few years neatly organized right here!

What I read in March:
Gentle and Lowly: I loved this book, which was unlike anything I’d read before. Based on Matthew 11:28-29, one of the only places in the Bible where Jesus describes himself (“I am gentle and humble in heart”), it’s a quiet, ponderous read that invites you to take it in slowly: it examines one small piece of scripture per chapter, and leans on a lot of writing from the Puritans (yes, really). My biggest takeaway was that rather than drawing away from or merely tolerating his people in their sin, that is when Jesus loves us the MOST – because he loves us so much, and hates sin so much, his love for us is most “activated” when he sees us hurt by it. (Kind of similar to seeing a loved one suffer from a cancer.) As humans, we constantly underestimate the overwhelming love of Jesus and God the Father, but this book helped to illuminate it for me.

My reading list for 2022, if you’d like to follow along!

Revisiting my March goals:
Cull and sort the first six months of 2021 photos (No real progress here – other things took priority!)
Lay out 2013 in family album
Lay out 2014 in family album and send it to print! (Waiting on a 40% off sale – which happens every other month or so – to pull the trigger, but it is in the cart and ready to go! HOORAY!!!)
Finish the Best of EFM page (Ditto to photo sorting)
Complete the third month of our fam Peloton challenge (Done! This was a much-needed and enjoyable kick start to our “comeback tour,” as John and I like to call it.)
Do PT exercises daily (Almost daily!)
Visit two community groups (One didn’t end up working out with our schedule, but we visited the other and it was lovely! Will continue!)
Follow the Matthew reading plan
Memorize another piece of scripture with June
Buy a small freezer for our garage (Not yet… marital conversations continuing…)
Refresh mantel for spring (with the help of this cutie garland from my friend)
Prep for Easter baskets
Book camping trip (Done! We’ll be glamping for our tenth-anniversary trip!!)

April goals:
— Cull and sort the second six months of 2021 photos (hope springs eternal?)
— Design and print camping tees for our tenth-anniversary trip
— Choose format for EFM book and complete years 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 (this feels like a MASSIVE goal)
— Write down 2-3 weeks of “brainless” meal plans
— Choose a way to serve at church on Sunday mornings
— Make a final kitchen contractor decision and get a start date on the books (we’re so close!)
— Clean out kitchen cabinets in advance of our kitchen project
— Take our first bike ride as a family of five!

As a reminder, many of these are drawn from my 2022 goals!

Do we want to talk about disequilibrium and equilibrium, or does that just make us feel tired, ha?Which are you experiencing right now, if you’d like to share, or what’s a trade off you’re currently wrangling? (Here’s a perennial one of mine.)

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