Friday, May 26, 2017

#ADULTING - How to be a great houseguest

Recently, I posted on Facebook to ask what people wished they had been taught before entering the adult world. A lot of people asked about finances, food, relationships, etc., so I'm going to do my very best to tackle a few of the topics that are near and dear to my heart. Today's topic is one of my personal faves/pet peeves when it's not done right.



*pre-s - I am a Southern mama. I'm into hospitality. I've stayed with all sorts of people and have never been turned away for a return trip. These tips work.

*this post contains affiliate links, but only ones I reeeally like*


1. Plan ahead


If you have been invited, good for you! You're in the clear to start planning your trip. If you are going to ask someone for a place to stay, give them at least two weeks notice if absolutely possible.

2. BYO...


The MUST BRING items, unless your host tells you otherwise, are just your clothes, phone chargers, toiletries, and shampoo/soap.

These next things are optional, but consider bringing them based on what you know about your host's home and lifestyle.


  • preferred pillow
  • white noise machine
  • laptop/charger
  • preferred coffee or tea
  • notebook
  • books

Food:
You may or may not want to bring your own food, but if you do, share generously with your host, keep it contained, stay away from smelly foods, and for goodness sake, LEAVE THE LEFTOVERS. 

3. Neat and tidy


Keep your things from sprawling all around the house by using the space your host has given you as your home base. If you are staying for an extended period of time, hopefully the host will have offered up some closet or dresser space. Otherwise, bring one of these: 

Be sure to pull your weight with chores, and clean up after any meals you share.

4. Leaving


Unlike a hotel or BnB, there's probably no maid service to clean up after you when you leave. The rule of thumb is to do as much as you can without stepping on any toes, preference-wise. 

  1. Strip the bed of all sheets and pillow cases.
  2. EITHER remake the bed with no sheets, or fold blankets at the foot of the bed and stack pillows nearby. 
  3. Straighten up the room so that it looks as close as possible to how you found it. 
  4. If you had your own bathroom, use one of your used washcloths to wipe down the shower. Wipe down the sink area. 
  5. Take the sheets to the laundry room. If your host is not with you as you are leaving, put the sheets in the washer and leave them without adding detergent or starting the machine. If the host is nearby, ask how they prefer the sheets washed. 
  6. Take all of your things to your car, then come back to check the room for messes or missed items.
  7. Leave a small thank you note on the bed and close the door. 







5. Finishing well


Before you pack up, run to the grocery store and pick up a small bouquet of flowers. Do this as close to your departure as possible, so that the host gets to enjoy the flowers for longer. 



After you get home, send a thank you note. Depending on how well you know the host, this could be a cute card, a little present from Amazon, a fun text. Anything to make it clear to your host that you enjoyed your stay and appreciated their trouble. 





If you follow these steps, you'll never have trouble making a return visit anywhere you want to go!

See anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Family photo shoot

Hooray!! Thanks to Ben Roberts (more on his work here), we finally have beautiful family photos. We went just a mile from our house, to the gorgeous park where Everett and I got married. It was so wonderful to be able to look back on how much things have changed in the past four years.

Everly was an absolute HAM, to the surprise of no one. She loves being in front of a camera and knows how to pose and smile and give the photographer lots to choose from. 

I love how everything turned out, so I thought I'd share our tricks for getting everything to go smoothly and look beautiful. 

choose a good time of day

Your photographer should be able to tell you when this is, but time of day can make or break your lighting. We went out on an overcast day, so the lighting was bright but diffused (photographer's favorites!)


bring props from home

I'm not one for a bunch of cheesy props, but a great hack to make sure that the prints will match your decor perfectly is to just bring some of the decor with you! We brought my collection of blankets from the living room, and ended up just using the quilt.





be full (of food and coffee and laughter)

It's a whole lot easier to get a toddler to cooperate if they are well fed and rested. Something we did to keep her giggling was to reserve a slightly forbidden word (ours was poop) to have our photographer say when he needed a giggle. 




tailor your location to your family

Everly is two years old. Verrrrry two. A heavily posed indoor shoot would have been chaotic. Instead, she got to run and play outside; this kept her energy positive and her attitude totally manageable. 





do your hair/makeup 25% better/more elaborate than you usually would

A low pony won't translate well on film. Big hair tends to look natural in photos, as well as sweet braids on little girls. I wanted a mix of up and down for Everly, but I went all in on my own hair with hairspray and curls. It was a lot more work than I usually put into it, but it was worth it. Maskcara has a wonderful blog post about photo shoot makeup you can find here. 





wear layers 

This is especially awesome for cooler weather. In real life, Everly and I looked a little crazy with all of the layers we had on (including winter coats), but we were able to be as comfortable as possible with a lot of texture and variety in our clothes. We could scrunch and ruffle and play with our clothes without worrying about messing them up (in fact, the messier the better).







I hope your next family session turns out wonderfully! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bear Tattoo

I've done it. I got my first tattoo.

I went to Cutty Bage at Speakeasy Tattoo in Boone, NC with the idea I've had for almost three years: a mama bear holding a baby bear, feminine but not girly, and with some floral element.

She absolutely knocked it out of the park.



If you are thinking about getting a tattoo as a mom, do it. Your pain tolerance from childbirth plus the everyday bumps and bruises of motherhood will carry you through it. It hurt for sure, but I was absolutely able to use the breathing techniques I had learned for childbirth and the following medical problems.

I love my tattoo, and will be going back to the same artist for more as I move through my life and find new ideas that are just as meaningful as this design has been to me for the past few years.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Garlic Dill Flatbread

I've been baking bread almost every day for three weeks, and it has been absolutely life changing. To be able to take a few cups of dusty flour, salt, and yeast, and a few hours later hold in your hands a warm loaf of delicious bread is positively miraculous. I modified my bread recipe a little bit to make pizza crust, and then let that pizza crust rise too long and ended up with flatbread. (Side note: leave out the herbs and this makes a delicious pizza crust; just let it rise 2 hours instead of 3). 

Without further ado, here's the much promised flatbread recipe I've been teasing on Instagram for a few days! 

ingredients 


3 cups flour
1 1/8 cup warm water 
1 heaping teaspoon yeast
.5 teaspoon sugar
1.5 teaspoons Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon garlic
Generous pinch of fresh dill, chopped
Olive oil
Parmesan

supplies

Medium bowl
Silicone spatula
Measuring cups and spoons
Tea towel or paper towel
Cookie sheet

how to make it 


1. Make sure your water is nice and warm, like the temperature of a relaxing bath. Add the sugar and yeast to the water and let the yeast proof. 

2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, garlic, and fresh dill.

3. Add the proofed yeast to the flour mixture and stir until it pulls together into a dough. Put a little flour on your hands and knead the dough for about a minute, not too much. Dough should be soft and a little on the wet side. If it's too tough and dry, add a bit more warm water. 

4. Cover loosely and let rise for 3 hours. If you are using a paper towel, make sure it doesn't stick to any wet parts of the dough

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

6. Drizzle olive oil onto your cookie sheet, and spread it around with your hands.

7. With oil covered hands, peel the dough out from the bowl and begin to stretch it into a flat shape like a pizza. The key to stretching a flatbread or pizza crust without too many holes is to focus on the outer edges, since the middle will be stretched by the weight of the dough. Holes are ok in a flatbread; I actually love them because it gives me 4 or 5 different textures and levels of thickness in the bread. 

8. Place the stretched out dough onto the cookie sheet and pull it to the corners to make a rectangle. You may have to pull it a few times to persuade the dough to take that shape.

9. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with parmesan, and crack some fresh pepper over top. 

10. Bake for around 25 minutes, checking at the 10 minute mark to make sure it's doing ok. It may take more or less time depending on the thickness of your bread, but to tell it's done you want to be able to tap on the crust and hear a deep resonance rather than a dull tap. 

11. Serve in generous hunks with literally anything. On this occasion I served it with feta lamb meatballs, tzatziki sauce, and a simple mixed greens salad with hummus dressing, feta, and olives. I called it a deconstructed gyro and it was absolutely delish. (You can check out the lamb meatball recipe here)

You can replace the dill with basil and serve with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and a balsamic salad for a deconstructed Caprese to serve as a light but mind blowing lunch. 


how to make it (with photos)

1. Make sure your water is nice and warm, like the temperature of a relaxing bath. Add the sugar and yeast to the water and let the yeast proof. 
right after adding yeast
proofed yeast
2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, garlic, and fresh dill.

this is what a generous pinch of dill looks like

3. Add the proofed yeast to the flour mixture and stir until it pulls together into a dough. Put a little flour on your hands and knead the dough for about a minute, not too much. Dough should be soft and a little on the wet side. If it's too tough and dry, add a bit more warm water. 

this is when you want to start kneading
after kneading


4. Cover loosely and let rise for 3 hours. If you are using a paper towel, make sure it doesn't stick to any wet parts of the dough. 

after three hours of rising

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

6. Drizzle olive oil onto your cookie sheet, and spread it around with your hands.

7. With oil covered hands, peel the dough out from the bowl and begin to stretch it into a flat shape like a pizza. The key to stretching a flatbread or pizza crust without too many holes is to focus on the outer edges, since the middle will be stretched by the weight of the dough. Holes are ok in a flatbread; I actually love them because it gives me 4 or 5 different textures and levels of thickness in the bread. 


8. Place the stretched out dough onto the cookie sheet and pull it to the corners to make a rectangle. You may have to pull it a few times to persuade the dough to take that shape.

9. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with parmesan, and crack some fresh pepper over top. 

ready to go!

10. Bake for around 25 minutes, checking at the 10 minute mark to make sure it's doing ok. It may take more or less time depending on the thickness of your bread, but to tell it's done you want to be able to tap on the crust and hear a deep resonance rather than a dull tap. 

so goooooodddd

11. Serve in generous hunks with literally anything. On this occasion I served it with feta lamb meatballs, tzatziki sauce, and a simple mixed greens salad with hummus dressing, feta, and olives. I called it a deconstructed gyro and it was absolutely delish. (You can check out the lamb meatball recipe here)










Thursday, February 11, 2016

the life changing magic of having help tidying up


"I think that the home is the first layer of mental health," she said kindly as she looked around my messy house with piles of laundry and art supplies. I nodded because I knew she was right.

I had texted Alice in a moment of vulnerability, asking her to come help me get my house back together to help me manage my bad depressive season. I have just finished weaning myself off of my anxiety meds, and between that, being snowed in, and having sickness run around our little family, I have had a really hard time keeping the dishes from overtaking our little kitchen and us from sleeping on piles of unfolded laundry.

Alice came over the next afternoon armed with her workout shoes, and took me through a heart stretching vulnerability testing set of questions, and listened to me as if I was laying down on a chaise in her psych office. She then laid out the plan of attack by helping me identify my "problem areas". The place that was giving me the most stress was our bedroom-- a big room right beside the front door and living room that we hadn't yet given a second thought. It holds our bed, all of our clothes, all of Everly's clothes, and my home office (I know I know, lecture me more about that one later). Because of it's location and my tendency to just shut the door when people were over, it had just become sort of the "catch-all" room. As we discovered later, it was also my tendency to believe that my business was less important than our other pursuits that caused me to push all of my art work to a messy corner in a forgotten room. All that being said, we decided to start in that room.

We began by placing all of the clothes on the bed. Literally all of them. "Get those out of the back of your closet!" Alice said.

"Noooo," I resisted. "That's where all my hopes and dreams live! As soon as I stop nursing I'm going to lose weight and fit back into those."

"A closet is a TERRIBLE place for your hopes and dreams, Caroline." Alice said, smacking me in the face with real talk.



With that ringing in my head and in a spirit of body positivity, I ended up getting rid of any piece of clothing that didn't make me feel like a million bucks. I got rid of three trash bags. I was so worried that I wasn't going to have anything left to wear, but when I looked in my neatly folded drawer, my heart was filled with so much joy knowing that no matter what I chose to wear, I was going to like how I looked and felt. It was incredibly liberating.



Surrendering my control and admitting that I needed help was a difficult hurdle, but I am so glad that I got over it. Looking into my room and seeing that it is functional and beautiful makes me want to both keep it clean and expand the tidiness into the other rooms. The glorious order of it all is addictive, and she tailored the organization to my habits and needs (unlike the countless organization books and blogs I'd read before).



We've just finished the bedroom at this point, but I'll be having Alice back several more times to help me tackle my other crazy rooms/give me more emotional therapy. If having a clean house is something that you've always dreamed of and never been able to attain, or if you just need a fresh organization to your cozy home, Alice provides affordable and personalized guidance that you can grow from and learn to have a tidy home.



You can hire Alice here, and to celebrate the launch of her new business I'm partnering up with her for a giveaway of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the book that provides the backdrop for a lot of her work! The giveaway runs from February 12th to the 19th, and if you win you'll get a copy of this national bestseller shipped straight to you. Enter below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 25, 2016

Guide to the Early Years for the Modern Southern Mama

When I was pregnant, I read countless articles and books and blog posts about all of the different trendy parenting styles that were available for my choosing as a modern mama. Attachment parenting, French parenting, Babywise, and so on. It was totally overwhelming, and I knew even then that I had been bred and raised with parenting skills in my nature as a Southern woman. I read the books and watched the videos, but deep down, I felt like it was all boiling down to things that seemed common sense to me. I realized that the way I wanted to raise my child was in the vein of old fashioned Southern families with a dash of modern research. Old fashioned, meaning before Southern meant "redneck/racist/ignorant/crazy" (on the lower income stereotype) or a caricature of the well-bred Southern woman with everything Vera Bradley and monograms (the mid-to-upper income stereotype.) No, I'm referring to the "play all day/do your chores/eat your veggies/because I said so" kind of Southern, with hugs and grandparents and lots of love but taking no crap. Simple and straightforward, natural and loving.

I've drawn up a tentative list of the rules I'm parenting by so far; feel free to add your own in the comments. 



1. Family First
    This is a core tenant of old fashioned southern parenting -- the family name is a blanket of protection, acceptance, and responsibility. It means making your decisions as a parent with the whole family in mind, not just the baby. Asking yourself things like, "how will this affect my marriage?" "how will this affect our family's weekly schedule?" etc. will help keep perspective in the right place. It's easy to get tunnel vision when you have a needy child, but we've definitely seen a difference when we have thought about our family as a whole rather than as pieces. 

2. Love openly and extravagantly
     Kissing and hugging and being intimate as a family are some of my favorite parts of having a little one. I love for her to be able to see how Everett and I show each other love with gifts, quality time, and acts of service (we've figured out our love languages a bit after these past few years). I want her to know that she can always come to us when she needs us, but also just when she needs a hug or wants to connect with someone. 

3. "No" is not a bad word. 
     One thing that I think Southerners get right is clear boundaries. Saying "no" keeps her safe and shows her that I am in control of her world. I give her choices within my boundaries (like red cup or blue cup), but at this point, her decision making process is pretty simple: Do I want this? Yes. Give it to me and I will have it now thank you or I will scream. I'm still on the fence about spanking, but mostly because a pop on the hand doesn't do anything for Everly's behavior in comparison to the utter devastation of time outs. If she can trust me to follow through on my boundaries, she can trust me to follow through on my promises and commitments. 

4. Eat food you can pronounce. 
     Michael Pollan has the rule "If your grandma wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it." The Southern diet has morphed into a crazy fatty sugar situation, but if you go back a couple of decades, southern cuisine maximizes what the land has to offer and is budget friendly, nutritious, and seasonal. Starting from the womb, babies will get a taste for what mama eats. Collards, pinto beans and corn bread are just one example of a cheap and yummy southern meal, but you can also modernize the menu with all sorts of veggies, legumes, fruits, and meats. Just make sure the ingredients sound like food. 

5. Less electricity, more creativity. 
     I desperately wanted to have as few toys with batteries in our house as possible, and for the most part we've succeeded. The few that we do have, however, pale in comparison to the "non-toy" toys that I keep for Everly to play with while I'm working. Here's a list of some of the stuff she plays with: 

    • pompoms
    • cardboard egg carton
    • plastic spoons
    • giant plastic tweezers
    • tupperware
    • pipe cleaners 
    • rice
    • fabric bags
    • toilet paper and paper towel tubes
I love watching her play with the pompoms, sorting them into the segments of the egg carton with the giant tweezers and plastic spoons. Don't get me wrong, Elmo definitely helps me get important work done, but seeing her hypnotized in front of the screen for long periods of time makes me feel uncomfortable. Playtime is so important for her development and creativity, so I just try to let her live her life amongst her toys and craft supplies as much as possible. (Again, I am a TV friendly mom. No judgement.)

6. Involve little ones in chores
     This is a big part of being in a southern family: You help with the functioning of the house starting almost as soon as you have the pointer-thumb grasp mastered. I'm mostly kidding; Everly doesn't do any real chores, but I like to let her think she does. She's in charge of the sock basket: she puts them into the basket one by one, then removes them one by one. My parents built her a learning tower (look it up on Pinterest), and I put her beside the sink with a bowl and spoon to help me by stirring Cheerios while I cook dinner. She loves being involved, and I know where she is and what she's doing. I'm hoping that I can encourage her natural tendencies to organize and put things into containers and get a little helper out of the deal. :) 

7. Don't reinvent the wheel.
     Every single person that you know and all of the people you haven't met were once babies. Everybody. We've all made it this far both because of and in spite of our parents. You don't have to figure out parenting from scratch. Just act like you like your child, and most things will work out ok. 

Disclaimer: Everly is 18 months old. There are so many moms out there that have tons more experience than me. This list is compiled from a combination of personal experience as a southern child growing up, anecdotal info, and observation of my family and those around me. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Have courage (aka get over it and write in your bible already)

Do you ever look at the hashtags like #illustratedfaith and #biblejournaling and say to yourself, "I could never do that because my handwriting isn't pretty enough to decorate my bible"? For a long time, I was nervous to "mess up" my pretty leather bound bible with markers and stickers and paint. I thought I would regret it too much if I were to flip past a page that looked ugly or unfinished. I was confident in my handwriting, but something was still stopping me from unleashing myself creatively into the word of God. 

Creativity, neuroscientists have discovered, is produced when we allow the part of our brain that self regulates and critiques and reins in to shut off, and free the part of our brain that is self expressive and reflexive. My fear of mistakes was keeping me from picking up my pens and drawing out my heart. 

That's when I made this commitment to myself: this is not going to be the only journaling bible I ever use. I plan on working through it until I have no more room, then storing it away for my daughter as I begin again on a second. If it's not perfect, if I don't come to an earth shattering revelation after each meditation, if I allow the paints to bleed, it's ok. I have more chances. 

Since then I've felt more relaxed picking up my art supplies to express my heart, and my art reflects that. Today I'm sharing one of my personal tools, my alphabet practice sheet. I like to pick styles for each thing I do, and these two sheets are a basic representation of the letters that I pull from. You can save these to your computer and print, then trace and copy as much as you like!






Follow me on Instagram (@hardincaroline) and find this photo for a chance to win a set of micron markers for your own journaling bible and hand lettering adventure! 




 
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