Four Years

Wednesday is our four year wedding anniversary and while I don't often blog about my main man, I think our special day deserves a little blog love once in a while!

I actually didn't pick our wedding date, Ryan did. Before he proposed to me, he knew we'd have a shorter engagement (9 months to the day) since we were hoping to get married prior to him starting business school. Like any man in a long term relationship, he was well aware that venues and churches book up well in advance and that 9 months might not be enough notice to book the church and hotel he knew I had always loved. So he asked my dad's permission, got the green light, and then teamed up with my mother to pick a date, book the church, and put a deposit on the hotel ballroom 4 full months before he popped the question.  After he proposed (and I replied with a weepy and incoherent "yes"), he shocked me with the news that our wedding date was set and all the arrangements had been made. Kind of awesome, right?

Anyway, on July 1 at 4 PM, we tied the knot in the church where my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents had all been married and we haven't stopped going 100 miles per hour since!

It was incredibly hard not to spam you with a dozen photos of our wedding, so I'm patting myself on the back for limiting it to five.

Happy anniversary to my sweet hubby,  I'm so glad you asked me to dance in the 7th grade. Not many men would work all day, snuggle our baby girl in her toddler size bed, and then help me  package over 100 pieces of Willow Crowns inventory on the floor of my studio. You are the best.

Weekend Wrap Up

Happy Monday! This is our last full week in Texas before we start flying back and forth to Maine this Summer, so it's going to be a busy one!

One of our favorite photographers is coming over Monday morning to take some "day in the life" photos for WC and I can't wait! We rescheduled our Thursday shoot which was probably a good thing, since I was not even a little bit prepared. I'm really excited to show you all the studio space and what goes on behind the scenes of running my little business!

In the meantime, I've got a quick weekend wrap up via the iPhone camera roll and here they come.

We hit the bounce house to keep the nugget busy and ran our usual errands to the grocery store, got some always delicious Tex Mex for lunch, and Liv played makeup while I did some work. I usually try to leave WC alone over the weekends, but with so much travel coming up, my time to prep for our Fall launch in September is limited. So I've been working on getting Fall inventory made (yes, already!) and think it's finally time to get some help with production. I'm a control freak and really like making each and every piece so I'm a little anxious about it, but I think it's time. 

I also spent a fair amount of time getting my sister's nautical themed bridal shower finalized! It's in less than two weeks and organizing it from 2,000 miles away isn't always easy, but I hope she'll absolutely love it. My suitcase is very, very full. I don't think we're going to be able to go carry on this time. Whoops.

We're having her bachelorette party later that same night (gotta get all the activities in while we're in the same state!) and we found the most amazing venue. It's a private room in an old bank vault and it's going to be awesome. I'm fairly certain I'll be the only one there with a child so I'm a little nervous I'm going to be the cool mom from Mean Girls, but I'll try not to get in over my head. I already asked them not to judge when I fall asleep at the table at 10 pm. 

Finally, we ended every night with Orange is the New Black. For me, there aren't many better ways to spend the night than snuggled up in clean sheets with a thunderstorm booming outside while watching Netflix with hubby. Popcorn, please!

That's all she wrote - I hope you all had awesome weekends!

Well Dressed

Well, well, well. What have we here?

All three dresses for my sister's wedding festivities, purchased, accessorized, and waiting to go? Weeks early? It can't be.

Well it is! Insert the fist bump emoji right here, ok?

We leave for Maine and round one of wedding activities in a week and a half or so and I always like to start thinking about my packing early. Two of these bad boys will be making their way into my suitcase for the shower and bachelorette and I just had to share with you!

Two are saves, one is a splurge, and I love them all equally. The pink and blue Aztec pattern dress and the navy and white dress are both amazing finds from the Nordstrom Rack clear the rack sale (I cleaned up). I spent about $60 for both and am so happy to have them as part of my wardrobe. The Aztec print is for the bachelorette party (which a lingerie party) and the navy and white will be perfect for the rehearsal dinner (the wedding is nautical, so it was meant to be). The Aztec print isn't available on the Nordstrom Rack site, but you can find the exact dress here!

The splurge dress (which I've mentioned before) is an Anthropolgie gem, resulting from a collaboration between Rifle Paper Company and Paper Crown. This dress is for the bridal shower and I bought it for three reasons. 1. I died over the print. Just died. 2. I feel like I can eat a ton and expand under this bad boy without anyone noticing. 3. This thing is so darn roomy that I'm confident I can fit a pregnant belly under that when the time comes.

So there you have it...the three items that will give my yoga pants a much needed respite. Happy weekending!

Around Here: By the Numbers

One of my favorite times of day (besides coffee time, morning kiddo kiss time, and lunch time) is around 9 PM, when I get to lay flat in my bed, prop my laptop on my chest with double chins galore and get to interneting. 

More often than not, I'm snuggled up next to a passed out little kidlet still wearing her tiara, tutu, or whatever princess paraphernalia she's retained from her busy day of being faux royalty and hubby will pop in from his office to check on us/give us a smooch while courteously keeping his Howard Stern podcasts confined to the man cave. I hate that junk. 

So it got me thinking about the number 9 and the other numbers that seem to pop up around here....

So let's start with 1.

1 sassy little number who keeps saying "wook at me, mama! I dance like Rella" and who told me today that the preferred food of cows is fruit snacks. Sure, ok.

3 pm when I finally made it to the Post Office today.

4 loads of laundry waiting to be folded and put away....they've been through the dryer quite a few times.

6 open mouth kisses (from Olivia, just in case I need to specify).

9 times today I started to order supplies and got distracted.

11 times I asked Liv to PUT ON SHOES so we wouldn't be late for our play date. p.s. we tried a new playground (Exploration Park) in the Katy area today. If you're local, you oughta go, it's awesome.

15 texts in a group text with my mom and sister. Her shower is only two weeks away and I can't wait!

17 trips up the stairs for my phone, Liv's pants, a brush, and Lawd knows what else.

1 million clear elastics, bobby pins, dried bits of play doh, and random crumbs that got vacuumed up today when I went a leetle bit crazy on a cleaning bender. There's nothing quite like visiting someone else's immaculate home to get your mind right about cleaning your own.

Small Business Series : The Photos

I've been slacking on the small business series, but it's only because my small business is keeping me busy! That's a good excuse, right?

In all seriousness, you ladies are awesome and I know you're all largely responsible for the success WC has had and Steph and I love you for it! I want to get into talking about how to start growing your business (strategies, marketing, who to reach out to, etc.) but first I want to talk photography because I really feel that's one of the biggest determinants in having success in the handmade community.

My first photos of my products were absolutely laughable (and actually my first products were too). Embarrassing. Cringeworthy. I'm not even going to show them here, they're that bad. As WC slowly grew though, I spent more time learning how to shoot in manual mode (I have a Canon Rebel t1i) and how to stage product shots.

I really feel like I'm just now hitting my stride and I can't tell you what a difference it's made. In my mind, when I land on someone's website and the photography is fantastic, I immediately think "ok, they're legit" and I'm determined to have that be the reaction when a customer lands on our site

I spent lots of time talking to my photographer friends, stalking Pinterest tutorials, and a ton of time just experimenting with different settings, set ups, and scenarios. I got a nifty fifty lens and that was a big game changer as well. I also outsourced a lot of my photography and I've never looked back. Want to see why?

I may have gotten pretty good at product shots, but no one does it better than the pros. Period. I'm lucky to know lots of fabulous photographers from Texas to Florida to Maine and use them all. 
I get as many pro product shots as I possibly can (probably the most time consuming and stressful part of preparing for a launch) and then fill in the holes with solo product shots taken at home. The end result?

A mix of pro shots with simple, clean, bright product shots.

I'm super, super proud of the site and am also super, super happy that Stephanie handles the listings now. Thanks, buddy!

I won't go into how long it takes Stephanie and I to agree on the homepage images before a launch but I will tell you that I always change them and second guess them minutes before we go live while Stephanie texts me something along the lines of :

"if you screw up the order of the products, I. Will. Kill. You."

The love is tangible, no?

I overthink whether or not the heads are all looking in alternating directions, if there's too much color (I like lots and lots of white), if it's too seasonal, not seasonal enough, blah blah blah, neurotic neurotic neurotic.

As for the logistics, we have a dropbox account that we store all our photos in and we never ever delete photos, even for old products because you just never know. We organize them by season/collection and I regularly ransack said dropbox for Instagram content. 

The bottom line, I really believe that photos can make or break your business. In the online shopping world, it's all you have to go off of, they're what sells your product. There isn't a salesperson there to convince you that this headband makes you look thin or that you absolutely need it for this event you have coming up. You can't hold it in your hands and appreciate the craftsmanship or admire the fabric. The photos have almost the sole responsibility of selling them for you, so I can't stress enough how important the photography is!

That being said, I need to get my studio together. This place is a sty and sweet Ashley is coming over Thursday to document a day in the life over here and I'd like for you all to think that my days aren't a complete hot mess.

Weekend Wrap Up

I'll keep it short and sweet today, since I'm kind of in a hurry to get back to the new 50 Shades of Gray book. Bought at Stephanie's behest, it's obviously enriching my mind.

We had a great weekend, which I consider to officially start on Fridays with the "Tiny Dancers" class. It's a riot and there are about two kids who follow instructions. My child is the one out in the middle doing some kind of independent interpretive dance. Imagine Elaine from Seinfeld in a toddler body. Laughing yet? 

I'm tempted to just leave this photo here, caption-less, so you might think that I whipped up some gourmet, delectable treat. From scratch cake? Lemon squares?

 No. I made scrambled eggs, the lunchtime request of my really easy going eater, but thought it might trick you into thinking I was overachieving.

egg crate and bowl (both from Anthropologie | towel is old Crate and Barrel

One of my clearest childhood memories is getting strawberry frosted donuts with my Dad, so I had to have some around this weekend. Apparently I just wasn't homesick enough. I'll give you a hint...this did the trick and I'm officially ready to tackle the toddler skies in a few weeks to get back to Maine.

We took our favorite guy out on Saturday night (he had 18 holes of golf scheduled for Sunday) and I guess the new no nap schedule is catching up to someone. While he was golfing, Liv and I met a girlfriend for Tex Mex and then we hit the Nordstrom Rack sale. Hard. Dresses for my sister's shower, bachelorette, and rehearsal dinner. Check, check, check. 

30 lbs of sleeping toddler weight is no joke. Can that count as my weekend workout? Seriously off topic, but this humidity has officially caused me to give up on my hair, so it's hats from here on out. I got a fun monogrammed baseball cap I've been busting out on occasion that I'm loving too!

Hope you all had an awesome weekend and that you have a quick week!

Top 10 Favorite Apps

My mom told me the other day that she read a study saying people on average check their phonse a hundred times a day. I was initially surprised and then thought, "yeah, that seems about right".

I'm a big, big phone checker and love me some apps (especially Instagram). I leave my phone in the car for date night and keep it firmly stowed in my purse or in Liv's hands while driving, but beyond that, I'm on the phone a lot. I do tons of stuff for WC on my iPhone (excuses, excuses) and have to text Stephanie about every three minutes to make sure this renovation hasn't killed her. I suspect I'm not alone in the phone addiction though, so let's talk apps!

1. Instagram. 

If you didn't see this coming, you must be new here.

2. VSCOcam

My favorite for editing. My go to filter is F2 and I almost always brighten and bump the contrast.

3. Amazon Instant Video

Gotta have my Mindy Project.

4. Fitbit

I've lost 5 of the 8 lbs I packed on so far and this is keeping me on track and out of the waffle fries. I miss them so much, guys.

5. Target Cartwheel

Always, always a coupon for wipes or paper towels or whatever. Get this one.

6. PayPal

aka my secret Starbucks fund. I load the card on my phone directly from PayPal, pay Steph each week, and keep up to date on WC stuff.

7. Etsy

I may not sell on Etsy anymore, but I shop on it often and the app is super user friendly.

8. Starbucks

You know.

9. Timehop

I freaking love Timehop. It's my daily opportunity to weep over how much O has grown.

10. ArtKive

This app lets you take photos and digitally archive kiddo artwork. Smart, right? I snap a photo and then toss it in the trash like the mean old mommy I am.

What are your go-to's?

Weekend Wrap Up

The weekend is ov-er and as usual it was a blur! Between dance class, swimming, cupcake runs, the grocery store, yard work, and spending some time on WC this weekend, I'm ready to crash for a solid 8...or 9 or 10.

If you follow me on Instagram (@willowcrowns) you saw that Liv started her second session of dance this week and she freaking loved it. She wasn't clingy and weepy like she was in the Fall and spent most of the class in the center of the room, busting her own moves. She looked so darn sweet in her little pink leotard and ballet shoes and I can't wait to go back on Friday.

Ryan took us into town on Friday night for a Sprinkles cupcake (just a bite for me with my Summer slim down mission and all) and Olivia ate it like it was an ice cream cone. Whatever works, right?

Saturday we did our usual errands, coffee, work around the house and it dawned on me that Liv and I head back to Maine in less than a month! I'm super excited to throw my little sister a bridal shower and bachelorette party and can't wait to show you some of the details I have planned. I also can't wait to get my hair cut (yes I still only get my hair cut twice a year when I'm in Maine!) because these ends are looking dry.

Saturday night I met Veronika for a long overdue catch up and coffee session that got my wild mom self home at 11:30. Who am I? I paid for it when I dragged myself out of bed for breakfast bright and early with the nugget and hubby on Sunday morning. Liv loves to sit at the counter and watch the crepes get made and I love that it distracts her from her "oh my god I'm so hungry I'm going to die" drama.

Sunday was rainy off and on which made it a perfect day to work. From bed mostly. I spent Liv's nap working on new line sheets for wholesale arrangements, updating the website, and planning/testing out Fall items (which is insane to me, since it's June!). One fabric I was super excited about turned out to be a total bust, so it's back to the drawing board on that one, but I think you're all going to love what we have coming in September!

And I have to leave you with this photo, because aren't the colors in these flowers amazing? My grocery store has been crushing it in the flower department lately and I couldn't help but pick these up. 

I hope Monday gets your week off to an awesome start! I'll be back in a day or two to talk about my favorite apps on my iPhone like the technology addict I am!

Recent Beauty Buys (The Non Drugstore Version)

This weekend's going to be a good one, ladies. I can feel it. My fridge is stocked with all the sandwich fixings one husband could possibly ask for, the babe starts dance again tomorrow morning, and other than that I have no plans. No commitments, just chilling with my people, and enjoying all the glory of two unscheduled days. Beautiful thing right?

So a few weeks ago I gave you the run down on my favorite drugstore beauty products and I'm here to follow up with not-so-drugstore version. I like a good mix of higher end makeup with drugstore brands and reach for both daily. The stuff I'm chatting about today is all new to me and I'm pretty excited about them!

Since Summer has officially landed, I've got my (lack of) tan on my mind. Do I ever spent much time in the sun? Nope. I'm just about as fair as they come and I like my SPF and shade thank you very much. However, this Becca Shimmering Skin Perfecting Highlighter is just the ticket to shimmery summer cheekbones. While we're talking skin, we may as well talk about the Becca Ever Matte foundation. I'm wearing the "sand" color and loving it. I do love the Maybelline BB Cream I posted about before, but sometimes my skin just isn't behaving well enough for the BB Cream and needs a little more coverage. Enter this foundation. Smooth, lightweight, and the color match is perfection.

I use the Beauty Blender to apply it and if I hadn't been given this sponge as a gift I would never, ever have thought it was worth the money. Well it is. I've tried other sponges, this one is just different, take my word for it. As for cleaning it? This little solid cleaner is a nifty little sucker and literally drains the makeup from the sponge in no time flat. Sold.

Glam Glow has been touted for years as a skin miracle worker, but I was just recently willing to bite the bullet and spend the money on it. I am so. glad. My skin is problematic to say the least and I've been waging war against acne since I was nine. Ortho tri cyclen has been the only cure I've found and it's just not a long term solution for me, so I've been on the hunt for topical solutions. The Paula's Choice system is working well, but this mask really takes it to the next level. The morning after using it my skin is visibly smoother and brighter, and I'm addicted.

Another beauty ritual I've adopted that makes me look super sexy to my husband is these under eye gel pads from ToGoSpa. That plus the face Anyway, these have magical powers for sure. They take dark circles and under eye bags and turn them into "I got 10 hours of sleep and haven't a worry in the world". I like that look.
So there you go. Now to hit the hay and mentally prepare for the cuteness/headache that is the Tiny Dancers class. Kids 3 and under in tutus? A perfect adorable little recipe for chaos!

Go To Summer Hair

I sure do love me some braids and while I'm certainly not a hair blogger, beauty blogger, or even a consistent blogger, I really like to show you all what I'm doing with my hair!

I've contemplated cutting my hair, thinking that maybe long hair isn't the most practical for someone with a little one, but just can't bring myself to do it. My hair takes forever to grow and I've been growing it out since my Sophomore year of college when I chopped it into a chin length bob and donated it. 

When the Summer months roll around, I feel less and less inclined to spend time curling or styling my hair since the humidity, heat, and proximity to pools/splash pads make it kind of a waste. I don't dry my hair at all since it takes way too long, just wash it at night, sleep on it wet, and either throw it into some hot rollers or a braid of some sort and lately it's all about the braid. I've practiced braiding my hair a lot over the past couple of years and love the Pinterest tutorials for different kinds of braids and especially enjoy Twist Me Pretty for some braid inspiration.

Two of my most recent favorites are both crown braids that keep my hair completely off my neck for trips to the pool and take just a couple of minutes in the morning. The first, the fishtail crown is really just braiding your hair into two fishtail braids (The Beauty Department has a cool little trick to help you nail this type of braid) and pinning them across the top of your head. 

This holds up really well (the photo above is after 3 hours at the park/splash pad) and if you know how to French braid or Dutch braid, you won't have any trouble with this one.

Finally, for "workouts" (walks to get coffee, the occasional Pilates class) I really love two Dutch braids. Dutch braids are just inside out French braids where you pass the strand you're gathering underneath instead of bringing it on top. I just gently give each section of the braid a little pull to loosen it and make it chunkier.

I keep a ton of clear elastics and bobby pins handy in the top drawer of my vanity and swear by Elnett hairspray to hold it all in place without getting that crunchy 1980's look. 

My final reason for loving braids in the summer? It seriously cuts down on the amount of heat I use (curling iron, hot rollers, straighteners) and hopefully helps my hair stay healthier and grow a teeny tiny bit faster. I'm due for my bi-annual trim (all the hair stylists cringe) in July and know I'll get an earful on the condition of my split ends from my beloved stylist in Maine, but hopefully if I show up with coffee, it will lessen the blow.

Weekend Wrap Up

Hey, friends! I'm hoping your weekend left you feeling ready for another week and if not, that's why coffee comes in size large! I have my standard roll of iPhone photos documenting our coffee runs, breakfast dates, and pool time but thought maybe I'd spare you for one week. Don't get used to it though.

This weekend I was thinking about how next month will be two years since we moved to Texas and how crazy it is that it's gone by so quickly. When Ryan first told me this job was the one he wanted to take he asked me to give it two years and said that if I hated it after that time period, he'd look for something new. We really had no clue what we were in for, but just took the leap and moved our whole life and 7 month old baby 2,000 miles away from everything we knew. It was awful.

The first year, I barely remember anything positive. I remember crying a lot, calling my mom, trying to support him as best I could, and trying my best to keep it together in front of O. I remember not seeing Ryan at all, struggling to meet new people (something I've always been super anxious about), and starting Willow Crowns in an effort to do something I enjoyed. 

After the first year, it got better. I made some friends and WC was off and running but Ryan's schedule was more insane than ever, including month long trips out of town and days when he'd leave so early and come back so late that he didn't see O for days at a time. At this point I felt like my respect for military spouses tripled. No clue how they do it. It's so so hard.

Then this weekend, we looked at each other and said that we felt like we'd turned the corner. After a couple years of paying his dues, he has a new position with hours that make family dinners a reality instead of a some urban legend. I spent the whole darn weekend kind of soaking it in. Seeing him relaxed and happy, able to spend time with the kiddo and enjoying the fact that life is so completely boring these the very best way. 

I have a bunch of Instagram photos from when we first moved printed out and taped on a wall in our kitchen and Ryan stood there on Saturday morning and said "remember how miserable we were?". It was weird, to look at these bright photos (mostly of Liv's happy face) and to remember so much stress and anxiety. Looking back, I really wallowed in how unhappy we were instead of focusing on the fact that his sacrifices were allowing me to stay home with our baby, or paving the way for him to make more career choices. That was my mistake and hopefully one I won't make again the next time life gets a little bumpy, as it tends to. 

So long story short? Our two years are up and we're going to stay. We actually love it here and feel like this is the right place for our family to be right now. I'm certain my weekends won't always be so reflective, but this one was good for me. I'll do my best to bring back the sarcasm, vanity, and parenting adventures later this week. Riveting potential topics? 

- My child insists on sleeping on the floor...and we're just letting her. 
- Long hair for moms. Good or bad? 
- Upcoming flights with a potty training toddler. What's in my pull-up padded arsenal.

See? The fun just doesn't stop around here.

Pool Time Products

I know I've been talking about the pool a ton lately, but I'll spare you another photo of my toes in the water. I've adequately documented that on Instagram (@willowcrowns). 

The truth is though, that during Summer in Texas, if you're not in the water you're not outside. It's just too hot, at least for us native Northerners and our thick blood. I've actually really grown to love the heat, but it makes my little blonde babe wilt fast, so lots of pool time it is.

As I was contemplating our pool plans yesterday, I grabbed a few of our favorite products and snapped a quick photo. By "snapped a quick photo" I of course mean that I cleared a plain white space near a window to get the perfect flat lay photo. Same thing, right?

These are all things we take outside with us each pool trip and I really, really love. Sunscreen is a no brainer, and I really like everything the Honest brand has, and this is no exception. Some people say it's a little greasy, but I don't mind and I like that the grease factor helps a small amount spread far. Another skin care product that's been essential for our high maintenance crew has been bug spray. With all the rain that's driven the mosquitos out in droves, we're slathering this stuff on our pasty selves like crazy. I don't feel great about putting deet on the nugget, so I like this more natural alternative. It gets solid reviews on Amazon and the pump spray keeps her from inhaling anything gross like an aerosol would.

Sunglasses (or "gasses" in toddler land) are just another accessory in her arsenal that she loves, so she's pretty good about keeping them on and it doesn't matter where they come from or what brand they are. We do have (and like!) some Babiators but I'm not too hung up on them, anything to protect tiny eyes will do! 

For snacks, we love love love our Zoku popsicle maker. I like to make extra large smoothies in the morning and pour the leftovers in the molds so they're ready to go by late afternoon. The Vita Coco pink lemonade coconut water is a great way to hydrate her and keep her from stealing sips of my seltzer without adding lots of extra sugar and junk into her busy little body.

Once we convince her to come out of the water, I spray in the Honest Detangler and let it work its magic. It makes it so so much easier to comb through her hair. I comb through, give her a soak and shampoo in the tub, and then use it again.  

We obviously have a ton of other stuff that accompanies us outside, like towels, cover ups, and the kitchen sink, but these are really the essentials, or as Liv would tell you "my shtuff!",

New Routine

I'm a creature of habit and generally give change of any sort the side eye, but I'll make a few exceptions here and there. Especially when it involves Ryan's new work schedule that gets him home in time for dinner every night. High five emojis all around! To say we're thrilled to have more time with him would be a huge understatement.

We have a new little evening routine I'm really enjoying and is helping us all get wiped out and ready to hit the hay! I've been taking Liv out back each afternoon that it's nice and we've been spending at least an hour or two by the pool, alternating between just splashing our toes in the shallow end, or full on jumping in and getting our hair wet (we'll both have green hair by the end of the week). We snack, with her dipping carrots in an exorbitant amount of dip and then offering them to me, and then float on the giant lemon slice...or as she calls it, the cheese. By the time I'm ready to call it quits, Ryan's usually home and looking to dive in. They swim and throw towels in the pool (because that's a fun game mom won't play) and I get dinner started (by the way, I made this Greek Marinated Chicken recently that was amazing). I can almost always hear a little shriek and laugh through the window when Ryan starts splashing her and she says "no, Dada! I'm mama's baby!". 

I forgot how exhausting an afternoon by the pool made me as a kid and by the time we put the nugget to bed, I'm wiped. She seems to have a little more stamina than we do, but she's still pretty exhausted by the time that last credit of Daniel Tiger scrolls across the iPad before bed.

What are some of your fun Summer routines? I'm always looking for fun ways to kill some time and keep the kiddo on the run!
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