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!

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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

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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-

this feels like summer

this past spring i spent a good chunk of time cooking up a little surprise for father’s day.
i got to work on a book with audrey that compiled all the iconic images from the last few years.

in the process of creating that book, i was overwhelmed by the goodness of life.

the lessons we’ve learned together.
how much the exchange of support means.
and renewed encouragement to make memories.
we’ve been on an incredible road trip that i’ve been instagramming bits and pieces of.
it’s etched in the story of our family now…audrey even colored the states in on the chalkboard we’ve been using to mark all the states we’ve been to together.
these little slices of life make me smile, fill me with gratitude.
life gets busy. complicated. too full. sometimes sad and overwhelming. if you want to pause and relish what you have that is oh-so-very-good, i’m your girl. we’ll play for an hour and make something that helps you see it.

have the best summer!!

xoxo, -melanie-

happy and healthy ways (local lexington business)

is your summer off to a great start? we’ve been loving it – i wanted to introduce you to someone, staci cravens…her business facebook page is full of great healthy ideas!  the shot that illustrates this post is of her three boys  :)

staci, will you describe the journey that brought you to becoming certified as a health coach? we hear so often that the food we eat outweighs the impact our exercise routine has so it’s amazing that you’re addressing this huge facet in all of our lives!

As you know, every journey has its challenges. When I started, I was overwhelmed by who and what to believe. There is so much information out there – and it is often contradictory. Personally, I wanted to get my family on track. I am a wife and a mother to three boys, and I really wanted to instill some healthier habits into our lifestyle. We never ate too unhealthy, but it is hard not to give into convenience, and items marketed to kids – you know the ones.

I became a certified health coach because I wanted to be a resource for people who want to take ownership of their health and eating habits, and I took the Institute of Integrative Nutrition’s program because it was in line with my beliefs. Once I started making a few nutrition changes, I saw almost instantly how much nutrition was impacting moods, behavior, attention and our general health.

what does a health coach do & what are some of the goals that clients come with?

I get that a lot, but it’s not as complicated as some may think!

As a health coach, I help clients set goals and guide them through the process of accomplishing those goals in order to make permanent lifestyle changes. My mission is to help my clients find their happy and healthy way – realistically with recipes and convenience, not inhibiting ways. I provide accountability, knowledge and support throughout the entire process.

First, I meet with clients for a health history evaluation. Then, we decide if they would benefit from individual health coaching. With individual health coaching, we meet three times per month – including a grocery store tour, pantry detox and meal planning.

Overall, I take a holistic approach to health. Every client has different goals and needs, so I tailor my approach based on their lifestyle needs. I look at all facets of a client’s life – not just nutrition – that may have led them to where they are now with their nutritional choices. Some of my clients have had emotional or behavioral issues, high blood pressure, headaches, suspected food intolerances, allergies, weight, energy, or just want to improve their overall health.

with three young boys, the food you create also has to be yummy, what are some recipes that have won them over?

The best thing to do with kids is have them help you prepare their meals – if they make, they will eat it … or at least try it. Kids will never starve, but they will load up on junk food. In our house, we only have healthy options. I replaced my kids’ snacks with safe foods, and I make my own sauces and salad dressings. I also re-mixed all of their favorite meals by removing the processed items and other foods I’ve chosen to limit (wheat and dairy) and added in more vegetables. My kids loved a certain name brand ranch dressing – which is a chemical storm in a bottle. I make a herb ranch dressing that has replaced it, and they love it (recipe is posted on my Facebook page on may 8th).

do you have any favorite local healthy meals?

Absolutely! My favorite restaurant is Athenian Grill. They offer a range of vegetables, salads and whole, clean foods. I always ask my clients to let me know what their favorite restaurants are so that I can tell them what the healthy options are. I usually recommend ethnic restaurants, because it’s tends to be cleaner eating. It’s important to remember that you can always ask how your meal is being prepared – and don’t be afraid to ask your server if it can be altered.

this one is totally personal since we have a big family trip coming up over the summer, but how do you keep food healthy when you’re traveling? i’m already planning to hit the grocery a few times for produce!  organic baby carrots are sturdy and crunchy so they’re great chilled in the cooler!  

Plan ahead! Plan your travel snacks, pack a juicer or blender and map out where the nearest grocery or health food stores are. Skip vacation breakfasts and juice or make a smoothie in your room. Here are some snack recommendations:

Travel Snack Examples:

Moms in the Raw bars
Pre-popped Popcorn – non-microwave
Dried dates w/almond butter jar in tow
Frozen grapes
Walnut, pecans, cacao chips, and dried banana or apricots mix
Sliced berries rolled up with almond butter & banana in a sprouted grain tortilla (great frozen too)
Tangerines
Raw Coconut cookies
Kale Chips
Baked Chickpeas seasoned in any way – cinnamon/ honey – or go spicy with a soy sauce, wasabi, ginger sauce
Jicama, celery, carrot, zucchini sticks with salsa

Favorite Breakfast Smoothie:
1 banana
1 tbsp. protein powder (plant based – I prefer, hemp protein)
dash of cinnamon
¼ cup oatmeal or granola
2 dates
1 cup of non-dairy milk (almond)
1 cup of ice

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staci, thank you x 10000 – i feel so encouraged!  doing all we can to preserve health is one way to enjoy life as much as we can :)

staci on facebook, twitter, her website (updates are happening this week), instagram

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p.s. we’re headed to the northeast for our family vacation – soooooo excited :)  my instagram feed might get a wee bit crowded from the loveliness in nantucket, acadia national park, nyc :)

 

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