Say No to Free Work.

About a week ago, I got an email from a company I had never heard of.  It went a little like this:

"Hi Kristen,

My name is Xxxxx and I'm the Community Manager at Xxxxxxx; an exclusive, curator approved, online marketplace for vintage and used furniture. We understand when choosing a color palette for a room, it can be hard to step away from basic neutrals, and going bold is a big decision. We'd love for you to share your taste for color by creating a styleboard around a vintage rug by taking a room from white to bright!

We'll provide you, and an elite group of other bloggers images of different patterned, colorful rugs from our latest collection- declare your favorite rug from the different styles, then create a styleboard designed around that pattern and color scheme! Once you select a certain one for your space, simply share your design and creative insights on your blog! We look forward to sharing some our favorites on social by Thursday, January 29th.

Interested? Then, just email me back ASAP, and I'll supply you with the images you'll need to get started. If you have any questions, feel free to give me a shout!


What a great opportunity, right?  Wrong.  What's missing in there is a whole piece about payment.  You all know how I feel about sponsorships and sponsored posts on my blog, but I decided to experiment.  I sent this message back:

"I would love to do a style board for your company- it sounds like a really fun project.  My current sponsor post fee is $50, which can be sent directly via PayPal using this email address.  Once that is set, I'll look forward to moving forward on the post.

Thanks so much!

So I waited to see what the response would be, and about a day later I got this:

"Hi Kristen,

Thank you for getting back to me, I really appreciate it. Unfortunately, at this time we are not in a position to partake in sponsored posts. We are truly inspired by creativity, and are interested to learn how you would add your design flair to our products.  Our social team is also looking forward to featuring their favorites from this campaign on our Twitter page!

We hope that you are still interested in participating!

Looking forward to hearing from you soon."

To which I replied:

"Thanks Holly, I appreciate it, but what you are asking for is a sponsored post, which would take my time and effort to produce.  I own my own business and I do not work for free, and the promise of a tweet is not compensation enough for me, or any blogger really, so I'm going to have to pass.


A great social experiment, if I do say so myself, except for the fact that it was no experiment since I knew what the outcome would be.  Companies out there, be it small or big, are asking "regular folks" to work for free.  Except I am not regular- I am running a business.  A business that I want to make a profit.  I am working with limited time as it is between running the house and keeping up with the kids, so yes, of course I want to make an involved style board for you for free so you might tweet it if you like it.

Bloggers and business owners, we have to stand up for ourselves and demand to be paid for our time.  I know you probably read this all up and down the Internet, but I think it needs to be said over and over again because it's happening all the time.  Designers, don't work for free.  Bloggers, don't work for free.  Your time is valuable and you should be compensated for it.

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In case you missed it: Consistency and Grammar No-nos.

I Need Something To Read.

I've gotten away from reading a bit while working through the holiday season. There just wasn't time to get engrossed in a book, and the energy to even start anything was just not there.  But in the new year, with a few slower months work-wise, I'd like to pick up some titles and get back into it.  I love the reading challenge list from Modern Mrs. Darcy because I love lists and being totally organized.  However, I know I won't be able to completely stick with it, and I probably won't try overly hard to, but I love having a list of suggestions to run with. (Although reading from a different genre and one originally written in a different language probably won't make my list.  I'm a creature of habit, and when I want to read, I want to enjoy it.)

If you have suggestions, or a book that falls into one of those categories, I would love to hear it, as I'm constantly out of the "must read" book loop.  I've heard I have to read Gone Girl, and I just got ahold of last month's book club book, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, which apparently is so popular I could only get it from the library weeks after I put it on hold.  Luckily I had to miss book club so I didn't hear the discussion on it, and hopefully this month's new and popular pick, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, comes a little faster.

So please, let me know what you've been reading, or a book you've loved, or a book I have have have to read!  I will take any and all suggestions.

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In case you missed it: Good Reads from July and August.

Catalog Challenge: Pottery Barn.

Happy Monday!

I'm super excited to bring you a new monthly collaboration with my friend Paige at Little Nostalgia: the Catalog Challenge. In December, before Christmas, when alllllll the catalogs started rolling in (seriously, Lands' End, I love you but I don't need 6 catalogs in a week's time) I was looking at my stack and thought, "I am sooooo Pottery Barn and Paige is sooooo West Elm", as far as our general decorating tastes go. And I was looking through them, I thought it might be fun to challenge Paige to do a blog post where she would have to decorate a room using only PB and I would have to use WE. That evolved into, well, how about we pick one catalog company a month, and using an unlimited budget, each make a dream room.

So here we are!  We decided to start with Pottery Barn, since that was the original kick-off catalog.  I had to restrain myself on this one because I want all the things.  For real, I have said more than once that I would love for the PB catalog to just throw up all over my house.  I love the classic styling and clean lines and muted colors.  My dream living room goes a little like this:

I am all about neutrals so all of these items were easy choices for me, and since they are all neutral, you could easily add a little bit of color here or there with knick-knacks or by changing out the pillows, blankets, etc.  A solid leather sofa and comfy arm chairs are a must, as is a nice wall of cabinets.  I like balancing out all the standard stuff with some fun items like the spotlight, and the legal cabinet (where the doors swing up!), the wood and leather ottoman, the giant map, and those shearling pillows and blanket just make me want to snuggle in.  And if anyone wants to get me that downward dog, my birthday is coming up in a few weeks.  For just $18,200 (give or take a basket) this could all be yours!

If I had that kind of money I would totally invest in pieces like these because most of them are staples and are not overly trendy.  The funny thing is, when I was done putting this together, I realized my actual living room pretty much looks like this, just with a few tweaks here or there so I am pretty consistent with my style apparently, and therefore it can be done for cheaper!

This was a fun "challenge" for me since I got to go a little crazy in one of my favorite shops.  Don't forget to hop on over to Little Nostalgia and see what Paige came up with!

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The One in Which He Lost a Tooth.

Gus is five- almost five and a half- and the last time we went to the dentist (on his fifth birthday) the hygienist told us that he had two very slightly loose teeth on the bottom.  Nothing much happened since then, until last week when one of them was suddenly basically stuck out forward.  Some wiggling and poking around and it finally fell out at school two days ago. 

He's very proud.  Of course, when he came home and I asked him where the tooth was, he said he didn't know- he didn't know where it went!  I had planned to make him a pocket pillow to hold his tooth when it fell out, so I was a little devastated that he didn't have the tooth.  We eventually found the tooth in his lunchbox of all places, so I went to work on the tooth pillow. Naturally I was totally behind on executing that before the tooth fell out, but at least it got done, and I love, love how it turned out.:

I had a pocket pillow like this when I was little.  I have no idea where it came from or what happened to it, but I know the pocket was a lime green color and I loved it.  Mine was a lot smaller than this one, but I wanted to make something big enough that it wouldn't get lost in the mess, and I wanted to be able to put an initial on it.  I had planned on eventually getting these into my shop, too, so I snapped some photos this morning, and now you can get your own!  Each tooth pillow is customizable with 90 possible pocket colors and any initial you'd like, or I can leave it blank.

Gus loves the pillow.  He did not, however, love the Tooth Fairy taking his tooth away, even though she left a nice dollar bill behind.  I was not expecting tears, nor was I expecting to have to retrieve and "drop" said tooth on the floor next to his bed and then "find" it and proclaim that she must have dropped it tripping over the mess in his room.  Nor could I have predicted that that would be the easiest fix to the problem and he would be right as rain as soon as he saw the tooth again.  More drama than a teenage girl, I tell you.

Did you have a tooth fairy pillow when you were little?  Do you remember losing your first tooth?  Anyone else's kid want to keep it?

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In case you missed it: Good For a Laugh and Changes.

Midnight Oatmeal.

I love oatmeal with all my heart.  Instant Quaker plain packs with honey and milk has been a staple in my life since I was little, and both my kids love the combination.  I know that the packets are not the best choice as far as oatmeal goes, though, and as I've been trying to weed the pre-packaged food from my cabinets, I've taken to making what I call Midnight Oatmeal, since you cook it in the slow cooker and it needs to be turned on roughly around midnight, depending on what time you get up in the morning.  Midnight Oatmeal is steel cut oats (or Irish oats), which are slightly better for you than rolled oats, and vastly better for you than flavored oatmeal packets.  They normally take awhile to cook on the stove, so it's not a meal to prepare if you're hungry right when you wake up, which is where the slow cooker comes in.  You set the oats to cook late at night, and they're ready for you in the morning, and it makes the kitchen smell amazing.

In your slow cooker, spray your bowl really, really, really well with cooking spray (I use coconut oil spray) and combine the following:

1 1/2 cups of steel cut oats (I like Bob's Red Mill organic)
2 1/4 cups water
2 1/4 cups milk (I use 1 cup 2% milk and then 1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond coconut milk)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, cut in pieces

Cook on low for 7 hours, then stir well.  If you cook it longer, crunchy bits will form around the edges, which are delicious but make for a tough cleanup.  The oatmeal is creamy and delicious as is, thoughI love to top mine with a little bit of maple syrup, and you can also top with nuts, fruit, seeds, or coconut to suit your taste.  Another alternative- chop an apple into small pieces and throw it in with the mixture to make it applesaucy, or make a batch of easy slow cooker applesauce and serve together.

This hearty meal is guaranteed to fill you up and warm you up on these super-cold mornings, and this size batch gives me enough to eat all week.  Do you love oatmeal?  Have you tried it in the slow cooker, or are you a packet person?

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In case you missed it: Comfort Food: Toast and Eggs and Cheddar Chive Waffles.

Should My Kids Play Sports?



We are getting to the ages (five for him, three for her) when sports and lessons and activities become a part of life.  Gus's friends are playing soccer, Greta's are taking dance.  Mine, they play in the yard.

Let me start by saying that I was never one for organized sports.  One season of gymnastics under my belt, I was totally cool until they wanted me to do a front flip on the trampoline.  I think I was eight, maybe?  Then there was this whole performance thing we were supposed to do at the end of the season and I totally skipped that. (Introvert for life.)  But then in middle school I decided I wanted to try out for soccer.  Everyone else "trying out" had already been playing town soccer forever.  Needless to say, I didn't make the team.  In fact, I don't think I ever had a chance because I wasn't already playing.  Starting in seventh grade was just too late.

Other than swimming lessons, we have not yet made our way into the world of organized activities and rushing out to games on Saturday mornings.  Sometimes I think I'm ready to get them involved in something but then I decide that time at home is just as good.  In fact, we own soccer cleats and shin guards and everything, ready to go, but Gus doesn't express any interest in soccer when we mention it.  He's not big on activities where he doesn't know anyone, even though it's very likely he's going to know someone in kindergarten-only town soccer.  But without the guarantee of a familiar face, he's not into it.  He's very much like his mother in that respect.  We've talked about putting Greta into a toddler gymnastics program, but who knows if she'd even like it?  She's three, and it's $300 for the spring session.  That's a lot of money for playtime.  We've tossed around violin lessons, too, because the earlier you start, the better.

Between the cost of registration and gear, the will they/won't they guessing game, and the schedules (games at 9am on Saturday? UGH.) I don't feel like pressuring them into joining up, but then I wonder if I'm doing my kids a disservice by not putting them into a sport.  They would learn teamwork and new skills and confidence, maybe.  They would get to be with other kids their age and would most likely have fun.  So is it selfish of me to not push them into it because of those negative aspects, or does it really not matter if they don't really care either?

In warmer weather they are happy to play in the yard.  We have the sandbox, we have kids next door, and we have space to run.  They are outside most of every day in the summer, making up their own games and getting dirty.  They play at their leisure and are pretty happy with that.

Did you do organized activities when you were little and/or are your kids doing activities now?  How would you decide what to start with and when?  Is it key for their development, or are they just as good off using their imagination?

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In case you missed it: I'm Bored! (And Why That's Okay) and Cleaning House.

Internet Friends are The Best Friends.

When you are a normally quiet person, awkward around new people, grasping for things to talk about because it does not come naturally, public outings, meetings, introduction games (whoever thought that remembering someone's name and also an object that starts with the first letter of their name is just the worst person in the world), and any getting-to-know-you situation brings on nerves, regret at what you should have said, and finally, exhaustion.  Real-life people are hard.

For those people- people like me- there has been this amazing THING that is connecting with like-minded people online (and not through some sketchy dating service) through blogs and social media.  You get talking to someone for some random reason- you liked a post they wrote, they're witty on social media, you're in a group of people doing the same thing- and suddenly, before you know it, you're friends.  Real friends.  Friends you can tell wacky things to and who totally get you.  They're there when you need them and they're always up for talking because they are like you, and they love the interaction you get on the computer where there is no filter and no one giving you strange looks because you told a joke that fell flat.

I love my Internet Friends.  Without them, being home with the kids would have probably driven me insane by now, I probably wouldn't have a business and a blog that I both enjoy, and I wouldn't know that there are other people just like me scattered all across the world.  I consider these people true friends and would gladly meet them in person so we could sit across from each other in awkward silence, except it wouldn't be like that because we already know each other.  We've already talked for thousands of hours so all the awkward small talk is out of the way.  How cool is that?

If you're on Instagram, instead of leaving a comment today, hop on over and see me on IG and leave a comment on this post instead.  I'd love to hear what you have to say.  And if you're not on Instagram, let me know what you think of Internet friends.  Do you think they're really real friends if you've never met?  Have you met an Internet friend?  Do you find the whole concept strange?  Chime in!

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In case you missed it: Introvert and The Itch.

TGIF: Pinterest Style.

It's Friday!  Wahoo!  (I don't know why I'm cheering since every day is a Tuesday around here, but for those of you for whom Friday means something, have at it.)  It's the end of another busy week and before we go sliding into the weekend I thought I'd provide you with a little inspirational eye candy.

I know this is a living room, but all I can see is a bright, beautiful studio with a giant standing desk in the middle.  I just love the wood ceiling and the wall of windows, and the ability to open the door to the outside.  Come home with me, lovely room.

Massively fluffy coconut cream pie.  This looks so good.  I'm thinking this will be my contribution to Easter dinner this year.

This face.

Copper pots!  They look so amazing next to the crisp white and the mint green accents.  I could accomplish so much in such a pretty kitchen.

Gold is such a hot metal right now.  I would love to have an office fancy enough to handle such bling.

I want to do this.  Gus has a knack for finding and bringing home rocks, and I love the idea of putting these in a mason jar on a shelf or sending one along to a friend.

Which one is your favorite?  Anyone have big plans for the weekend?  It's pretty much going to be freezing here still on Saturday (read: one degree Friday night) and rainy on Sunday, so we're probably going to be hanging inside yet again.  Let me live vicariously through you.  Have a great weekend!

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Thursday Thought: Be a Fruit Loop.

If ever there was a quote to make me laugh, it's this one, for I am a Cheerio.  I know Fruit Loops- I see them online all the time, making everything they do look awesome and amazing.  They are always ahead of the game, one step ahead of everyone else, and everything they touch turns out just right.  The Fruit Loops drive me crazy, and yet, give me something to work towards.  I wonder if some day I will be a Fruit Loop driving some Cheerio batty.

Which one are you?

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In case you missed it: 10 Things About Me and I Like My Job.

Tips to Not Overbuy on Clothing.

In the interest of getting more organized this year, I'm trying to actively reduce the amount of new things we bring into the house.  A huge one (for me) is clothing: things go out of style, but they're still good so I keep them, but then I never wear them, but I want new things that look know the cycle.  The more we bring in, the worse the pattern becomes because then there's more of it hanging around.  I am on a mission this year to gain back space in each of our closets.

Fortunately, this guide from Who What Wear takes some of the guesswork out of whether your purchase is a good one and provides some really sound guidelines for when you're out shopping.  I am definitely guilty of failing at at least a few of them:
The biggest one here that I'm guilty of: buying it because it's on sale, because who can turn down a good deal?  I need to start rationalizing the space I have versus if I need it versus spending the money on it.  Even if it's on sale, I'm still putting money out to get it.  Brand names are another big one for me- there is something about scoring something high-end, isn't there?  I never buy label items at full price, but I am a sucker for them at the thrift store, so I have to be very careful when I go in there.  To offset, those, though, I've got a pretty good handle on not buying things that aren't comfortable, and I'm very secure in what's not me (neon, bright colors, ruffles), so at least I'm not batting a big fat zero here.  Overall I just want to make sure that we are not drowning in stuff, and purchasing less is one major way to accomplish that.

So how do you keep your clothing buying in check?  Do you keep some of these mantras in mind?  Is one of these your Achilles's heel?

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In case you missed it: editing your wardrobe and conquering the closet.

The Frustration That Is Small Business in a Big Business World.

I am hugely frustrated.

For awhile now I have had this idea in my head that I would like to have a workspace of some sort that is live and in-person.  Right now I run Milo and Molly out of a small bedroom in the upstairs of our house, across the hall from Greta and down the hall from Gus.  This makes potential custom-order client meetings awkward because my studio is in my house and not separated off.  I also really love the idea of bringing handmade goodness into my community in the form of a small shop, while also offering classes or workshops or workspace for others like me.  I have called several empty spaces and have even gone to look at a few to no avail.

Overwhelmingly the stumbling block is money.  I am not running a huge businesses and therefore don't have bucket of cash flowing in, nor do I have a benefactor ready to help us out, and there is no way I'd take out a loan on such an endeavor.  However, even places that could possibly be okay are either weirdly set-up spaces with no place to go to the bathroom, or they're falling apart and/or dirty, or no one is going to be able to park there.  In my town there is a main drag along which there are many, many chain establishments, and in between are small independently-owned buildings.  I have called over a dozen places and most people are very friendly and are interested in the concept, but then they lay out the rent and lease agreements and I realize just how not interested these landlords are in getting small local businesses into their buildings.  And therefore, I can drive up and down this strip and tick off over a dozen empty buildings.

Yesterday I had a phone call with a pipe-dream building.  A beautiful brick building with black detail and lovely landscaping now sits empty because a national chain moved out.  The building is 4500 square feet with back rooms and storage spaces and bathrooms.  It's an enormous and well-cared for space and I understood before even calling that there wasn't going to be any way I'd be able to take on this space, but I really wanted to know how much it was going to cost just for kicks.  And as I was speaking with the very nice real estate gentleman, he inquired about out concept for the building, and then he flatly informed me that his clients would never rent to someone like me having had two national chains in the building so far.  That a starter business like mine would need an "incubation space" from which to grow and establish itself.  To try spaces in this place or that, which are actually the small, weird, and dirty ones.  I felt as though I was getting a "little lady" speech, though he really wasn't being condescending to me- he was just telling me the way it is.

And the way it is sucks.  I know people whom I could pool crafty resources with and we could make an amazing space out of a building like that, or any building on the strip, but they're all too expensive, and rather than see something productive and interesting for the community be put into those spaces, the landlords are more concerned with the amount of rent they think they should be getting.  They don't seem to consider the fact that a small, start-up business won't be able to take on several thousand dollars every month and commit to three years in a space when you don't know how the first month will go.  (I did think about Kickstarter, but I don't think anyone would pledge $120,000 for a co-op shop.)  It's frustrating to know that there are empty spaces perfectly suitable and they're still out of reach.  There has to be a way for small business to make some headway in the mainstream marketplace- people are becoming more and more interested in purchasing handmade and local goods, but the overall business community isn't set up to support it.

So the pipe dream will remain a pipe dream for awhile, which is fine- it's still exciting to think about and maybe one day it will come to be.  And for now I will work out of my cozy little bedroom space and design dream offices in my head.

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In case you missed it: what could be and office space!


I spent the second half of December pretty much living in leggings and yoga pants and sweaters.  The husband had a lot of vacation days to use up, Greta was off from preschool from the 17th and Gus from kindergarten starting on the 24th.  Unless I was going grocery shopping and running serious errands (once a week) I was bumping around doing stuff around the house and enjoying my comfort.  Big mistake, given that when I went to put my jeans on again this past week they were feeling a little snug.  The moral of the story: don't wear stretchy pants exclusively for the three weeks surrounding Christmas.

One of my goals for the year is exercise.  It's something I really need to do but just haven't been able to get myself on top of.  I've been contemplating a gym membership, but I don't really want to spend the money on it because who knows how consistent I would be with it?  We have an elliptical in the basement but it's so cold down there I don't want to use it.  I have a million excuses and I just need to get over myself.

I was thinking it might be helpful to see kind of where I stand as far as fitness goes, so today I want to talk about the Fitbit.  As I am generally behind on everything new in the world lately, especially in the form of technology, the Fitbit is one of those things I keep hearing about around all the social media outlets.  I kept wondering what it is, but since things are fleeting in my brain lately, I generally would forget to look it up when I would think of it.  Then on New Year's eve we had some family over and several of them had Fitbit products so I finally got to see what it was.

If you are like me then you are also probably thinking, what the heck is it?  From the Fitbit website: "When it comes to reaching your fitness goals, steps are just the beginning. Fitbit tracks every part of your day—including activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep—to help you find your fit, stay motivated, and see how small steps make a big impact."  There are several different products from a belt clip to a wrist band to a wi-fi scale.  They can be synched to an app that helps record and monitor all your data and compiles it to let you know how you're doing.  I find the concept of an activity tracker completely interesting and would love to see where I stand on a fitness level, plus I'm ondering if I have a little machine tracking me and telling me I didn't do so well today if it would push me to do better the next day.

So what I'd like to know from you out there reading, is if you have one, which one you have, how you use it, and if you like it.  Give me all the dirty details so I can be on my way to determining if this would be a good choice for me.

(This post is not sponsored by Fitbit, obviously, since I don't have one).

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In case you missed it: eating right and no more yoga pants!

Friday Finds: Winter Edition.

If you live anywhere in the United States right now, it's cold.  Beyond brisk or chilly- it's literally beyond freezing.  It has been super hard to get motivated to do any kind of work right now because it's even cold in the house.  When we open our shutters in the morning, you can feel the cold air trapped in between.  So while I was chilly yesterday with long underwear on in the house, and since it's snowing to beat the band here today, I decided this week's finds should have a theme of warmth.
Bird and Bloke 

Tea, tea, and more tea.  How many cups a day are you all having?
Rupert's House

And when your teapot gets cold, get it a blanket.
E.Y.E.S. Clothing and Design

Then wrap yourself in this amazing sweater...
lily and peabody

...and curl up under this blanket (it can be made up to king size!).
knitting style

Pull on your granny square slippers (because they are so totally awesome),

put on a nice warm hat,
 Sock Club

and don't forget the mittens.

whimsy & spice

And then, hot chocolate.  Because it's cold.

Happy Friday!

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Thursday Thought.

Daydreams, wishes, what could be, what we hope will happen.  Everyone has them, no matter how big and no matter how small.  Some may be pipe dreams that could never happen, and some may be more attainable than we think.  What are your dreams?  Are you chasing them, or are they just a happy thought?

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