We love the finest things – family, friends, togetherness, home…and the occasional exemplary cupcake.  We’re thrilled you made it here…cozy up to see the latest sessions, our favorite things and a dose of inspiration for living a life committed and connected to what matters most.  Hope we remind you of your finest things so you can treasure, savor and celebrate them!

Back to first page of blog

know of a cute little home near you?

jason and i have been talking through the pros and cons of different house options.

we drove last night to look at a little bit of land.

i find the tiniest yellow house on mill street fascinating.

my love for both town and country can make my head spin.

can you help me find our next home/lot?

backstory, when we moved into our current home, we didn’t realize we’d just have one child.

but that’s how it is and we’re happy as could be – except that our home is on the too big side for us.

we’ve been so busy that there hasn’t really been much time to examine it but it’s been a topic of conversation the last few months for jason and i.

what we know we want: small, well-built, energy efficient and affordable (so we can live on one income and save the other)

other big considerations:
* location – we aren’t thinking of a large piece of land (it would be outside our budget – last night’s drive was to look at 1.5 acres that would have 9 neighbors on similar sized lots)

* walkability (that’s the huge plus for our current home - although we drive a short distance to jason’s work/audrey’s school – it’s SO walkable for absolutely everything else)…even if we can’t walk to our grocery, it’s really nice to have a walkable area since our favorite post-dinner activity is one we borrowed from the brilliant italians who have coined a term for it: passeggiata.

*cuteness aka: curb appeal

* if it’s an existing small home, lots of interior light is crucial for me

* and really, on size, we could go small.

we have a small family, i prefer small neighborhoods. i drive a small car. you get the picture!

we don’t love commuting so staying in lexington/super close to lexington would be our ideal. (jason travels two days a week so being near the interstate or bluegrass parkway would be a plus)

so, i’m crowdsourcing the finding of our next home/property – more than one set of eyes is helpful in this sort of thing!  if you see something small and cute, jot me a note with the address!

and if you find something we buy, the winner gets a free photo session and digital collection :)

and really, this is what people get realtors for, right?  but somehow i’d feel guilty if they show us 15 options and we don’t love any of them (we’re looking for a long term fit) and i’m willing to be patient (we’re not at all in a huge hurry – and that feels counter to what would benefit the realtor)…we’ll absolutely use a realtor to sell our home!

image note: from a museum visit on our new england road trip this summer

xoxo, -melanie-

a baby on the way

life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch.

[ e.b. white ]

ode to the library

i love books. much more than tv, movies or magazines.

books have the space to fully explore and articulate a big idea in a way 4 minute soundbites on tv can’t.

i’ve been trying to track more of what i read on goodreads…along with some children’s favorites as well :)

so here’s the rub, decades of book reading causes lots of books to accumulate – and not all books become favorites you want to keep around forever (only occasionally will i reread a book) so in addition to loving books, i’ve grown to love the library.

yup, that place i went to while i was in school to research things before the internet :)

in lexington, we’re pretty lucky to have a solid library system. it’s no vancouver (look at that!) but it’s solid.

lest you wander in and wonder how to find amazing books on *your* favorite topics, let me share how i do it.

when i come across a book i really want to read, i go to amazon and put it in my shopping cart (you could use a wish list, i suppose but i just have a huge shopping cart and click: ‘save for later’ the things i’m not going to buy).

then, about once every couple of weeks, i hop on to the library website and log into “my account”(the number on the back of your library card is super long so just have your computer remember it).

i check to see if my little list of books are in their catalog and if they are,  i hit a button that says ‘request’ and it can go to whichever branch i’d like.  sweet helpful people pull it and put it on the reserve shelf with your name. no searching through the stacks!  just ask at the front desk where the reserve shelves were :)

i get an email that lets me know it’s arrived to the reserves and about i zip in & check them out. 4 minutes. in and out.

because i’ll request a few at a time, i just go once they are all there (they hold them for 7 days for you).

are you almost convinced?

seriously…this is SO great for children’s books and cookbooks (my kitchen is out of cookbook room!).

a couple things to keep in mind – books that are newer than a year aren’t often available. and while i was bummed about that at first, i’ve found *plenty* to read!

a few times i’ve done an interlibrary loan to get something great from another area library if it’s something i really wanted to read.

we didn’t use the library (except for the occasional rainy day trip) before audrey started reading as part of her daily homework.  20 minutes of reading time had us blowing through books and those ‘easy reader’ books, while important to building reading competency, aren’t something i wanted to buy and keep forever so we started checking out enough a little bundle of books to add variety to what we had at home.

oh, and one more amazing thing…in most cases, if you can’t get a book back to the library on the date it’s due (and they send you an email 3 days beforehand to remind you), you can simply renew online.

so, grab a bag and find a cute basket for them for them to live in at home (we’ve learned it’s best to keep our books separate so they have their own spot and don’t get tucked under a bed).

happy reading! here are a few of our recent childrens favorites:

books

1234

enjoy!!

xoxo, -melanie-

summertime

summertime is always the best of what might be. 

[ charles bowden ]

* i mentioned on instagram a few weeks ago that i’d spent some time chatting about memories with my grandmother, here’s a great set of questions to talk over (and write down their answers to) next time you’re with a favorite older relative.

* i got these in three sizes and they’ve been wonderful…i love how they stack concisely in the cabinet and we’ve used them while traveling in a cooler and they’ve been durable.

* this seems like a helpful list!

* so true :)

p.s. fall is shaping up to be quite full…if you’d like a spot, please jot us a note in the next couple of weeks!

xoxo, -melanie-

alignment

i actually enjoy personal finance.

but it wasn’t always that way.  it felt a little intimidating at first. what i’ve come to realize is that it’s far more simple than we think. numerous books have influenced how i feel about being a steward of our resources but there are some tools that have remained constant through the last few years that i thought i’d share.

YNAB – I love how intentional a budget is. But maybe not how it calls you out when your spending isn’t aligned with what you say is most important :) (Sidenote: that’s actually been a major personal focus of mine for the last year)

I keep my categories simple:*
everyday expenses
utilities
transportation
insurance
home

food
groceries & household goods
restaurants

personal
gifts
tithing/charitable giving
clothing/personal care
home improvement
health/medical/dental

school tuition

recreation
family vacation
misc

A budget helps me with restraint (not a message promoted by magazine advertisers or the mall but one that’s important in meeting financial goals). And I like ‘pretty’ so I appreciate the interface of YNAB. I’ve tried a ton of different budgeting programs and this is the one that’s built like i think. (There’s also a smartphone app that allows you to document spending on the go…)

I typically go in once a week to add our purchases – a month would be too tedious and I like being more aware so i manually enter them rather than automating it – I don’t log my spending while I’m out using the app because i have so many payments that don’t take place in person that then i’d need to sift through what i logged and what i didn’t. I hop online to our bank & credit card (we just use one card because i love that simplicity of tracking purchases in one place) and enter activity from there.  here’s a peek at the reports page from their website.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 3.33.37 PM

my second all time favorite tool is Mint – I use this strictly for the super easy tracking of investment balances and financial goals.

All my retirement accounts are at Vanguard** (remember how much i love simple!) but Jason has a work 401K and Mint allows us to see all account balances in one quick place – and those balances flow in to our one financial goal we have set at mint: a retirement target. Those balances refresh with a little thermometer to let us know how close we are.

goals_how_youre_doing

(image from their website – maybe it’s just me but in this fictional example, the credit card debt should be paid off with the ‘trip to hawaii’ money!)

the process of being aware of spending isn’t about bean counting – it’s about intentionally directing resources to what we value. alignment feels SO good.

* your categories may be far different – whatever is important to you should have a spot

this budget represents our take home pay so retirement contributions aren’t included here…i like seeing our discretionary spending annually, although there’s an option to remove certain categories from the reports/graphs so you could definitely include that in your budget.

** the top reason i’ve chosen to consolidate at vanguard

the YNAB link provides a discount for you and a small support to this blog – so thank you! (i don’t do sponsored posts, this is a product that’s integral to my weekly home management – you might find that mint or something else free works perfectly for you.)

i hope these are helpful!  feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments!  at a recent engagement session the topic of budgets came up and i realized SO many clients are creating a new budget based on the huge change of being married so this is just a peek into the simple way we do it.

 

xoxo, -melanie-
Back to top