The holidays. A magical time full of so much joy and merriment. It’s usually a time for friends and family to come together and celebrate the many blessings in their lives. It’s full of delicious homemade food, twinkling lights, laughter, Hallmark movies, carols, and more. Many people look forward to this time of year because of its simple magic.
But it’s also busy, chaotic, and overwhelming. For some, the holidays are a harsh reminder of loved ones they’ve lost. This year is going to look very different for most people. My family in particular will probably not be celebrating in person (my immediate family alone is 16 people!). As someone who has always celebrated the holidays with several parties and tons of people around, this year has the potential to feel very isolating.
But despite the challenges we are facing this year, there is always room for joy. I’m excited to be teaming up with my friend Whitney Caves to offer some tips to keep things simple this holiday season. We each identified three ways that we will be keeping things simple and organized. And, if you pop over to our Instagram’s, you will find a really great Emily Ley inspired giveaway!
TIPS FOR A STRESS FREE HOLIDAY SEASON
Organization is my favorite way to combat stress. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, like my head is spinning out of control, I sit down, get out the old pen and paper and make lists. This time of year I have lists galore – Christmas present lists, food prep lists, holiday activity lists, etc. etc. Writing everything down and crossing off items as they get done takes so much pressure off. I highly recommend doing this if you don’t already.
Celebrate the Joy
Now more than ever it’s important we celebrate all the things that bring us joy. Whether it’s a distraction free meal with your family, a drive around town to look at Christmas lights, decorating the tree while listening to your favorite Christmas songs, celebrating each and every one of these moments is a great way to embrace the season.
Embrace the Simple
Keep it simple this year. Lower your expectations. Be flexible. Learn to say no when you aren’t comfortable with a situation. This year in particular is very strange and very stressful. Know that it’s perfectly okay to say no to all social engagements. It’s okay to stay home more and watch all the Christmas movies. It’s okay to put that to-do list aside and spend the day baking cookies. Just simplify in any way that feels right to you.
Hopefully these ideas help you enjoy this holiday season! Stay safe and healthy. And don’t forget to check out Whitney’s post and our Instagram’s to win some organizational goodies!
“And what book are you reading?” Anyone who knows my Bobo (grandma) will know that this was always the first question she would ask you upon arrival to her house. Reading was very important to her, and although I may have laughed at the question as a young tween, I so appreciate her passion for reading as an adult. Every year for our birthdays she would give us a book, usually a classic, that was related to our passions and I’m grateful I have such a robust library because of her.
My parents and Rob’s family also love reading and it’s important to us that we share this gift with Lilly. From a very young age we started reading to Lilly. We used to read to her when she was just a wee infant, doing tummy time on her caterpillar. And I’m so happy that Lilly finds so much joy in reading. Some days we just sit in her playroom and read every book on her shelves and that makes my mama heart so full.
I truly believe you are never too young to start reading and appreciate the power of a good story. There are a few books that have been favorites for us recently and I’m so excited to be sharing them with you all. All of these books have a purpose, as well as a magical story. I hope at least one of these stories will resonate with one of you mamas (or dads) and your little one. And if you need more options, be sure to check out two of my friend’s blogs – Sarah at Cozy Little Joys and Stephanie at Linen and Littles. Both of these ladies have babies around Lilly’s age and there is nothing better than a bond forged by motherhood and books.
ABC’s What Can She Be
This is a relatively new book for us but we LOVE it. This book has everything a toddler loves. It teaches the alphabet in a bright and colorful way with eye-catching illustrations. It encourages a little girl that she can be anything she wants to be – whether it’s a mechanic, zoologist, neurologist, or interior designer – there are so many options and possibilities. But I think my favorite part about this book is the fact that all girls are represented. This book celebrates color, shape, size, and ability. It’s truly a wonderful book about diversity and encouraging girls to follow their dreams.
A timeless edition to any toddler book collection, Baby Feminists is probably our favorite book. Lilly LOVES this book. She loves it so much that we bought Baby Feminists II. This book offers such an inspiring message that anyone can grow up to make the world a better place for everyone. This is an interactive book that not only teaches you about famous women who have made a difference, but also shows them as a baby – which toddlers love. And to be honest, this series has taught me about important women who have shaped history, some of which I’m embarrassed to admit I knew very little about! This book is definitely a must have for anyone who wants to teach their children about inspirational individuals.
Since babies don’t begin communicating with words until around 18 months or later, it was important for me to teach Lilly sign language. My mom bought this book for us and it’s been amazing! I swear Lilly learned how to communicate “more,” “all done,” and “eat” from this book. Toddlers and babies love interactive books and this one has pull tabs that illustrates each important sign. We have read this book so many times that all the pull tabs have been ripped out (eeek!). It’s one of our most well worn and most well loved books.
Such a classic children’s book. And really is there a more beautiful book to teach about the power of friendship and sharing? We love this book, but it’s been a relatively recent love. The past couple of months Lilly has really shown interest in the glitter pictures and the story. And now we read it every night before bed. This international best seller is a must for toddlers to start learning about how to be a friend and how to share.
My sister (who is Lilly’s godmother) gifted her this book for her Baptism and it’s so special. The beautifully written and illustrated story shares such an important message. It teaches that all children can make a difference and make a positive impact on others. Not only does this book celebrate your child’s gift – whether it’s the gift of song, dance, or sports – but it also encourages and celebrates empathy, kindness, gratitude, and encouragement. It’s a lovely read and one that all families should consider adding to their collection.
And last not but not least, is a bonus book that is specific to our beloved state of Ohio! Goodnight Ohio celebreates the many wonderful sights and attractions that make up Ohio. From the Ohio State Buckeyes, to the Toledo Museum of Art, Lake Erie, Cedar Point, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this is a classic toddler book that any native Ohioan should have in their library.
I hope these suggestions spark your interest, whatever they may be! Don’t forget the power that reading and sharing stories with your children has on developing their language skills, helping their mind grow, and their ability to listen. And as they get older, don’t forget to ask them, “And what book are you reading?”
If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen me talk about the gallery wall I’ve been working on for L’s playroom. This has been a summer project very near and dear to my heart. My goal with this gallery wall was to be very intentional with the artwork I was selecting. From the beginning, I wanted all of the artwork to be created by artists I admire and/or an artist I have become friends with. All six pieces that I have picked out so far fall into both categories and I’m so excited to share a little info about each artist and their work.
Becky Elgart Coastal Watercolors
Based in Connecticut, Becky Elgart finds endless inspiration from the Atlantic. You immediately can sense her love for the coast in all of her work. For me, each of her pieces of art invoke a feeling of peace and nostalgia for a simpler time. Her abstract coastal seascapes are some of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever seen. Her piece “Forever Summer” is the piece that inspired me to create this gallery wall for L’s playroom. The lady in the hat reminds me of long, hot summer days playing dress up at my Bobo’s (grandma) house with some of her dresses and large sun hats from the 1940s and 1950s. I loved frolicking around in these vintage pieces and I really think it’s one of the reasons why I love fashion and fashion history so much. I chose this piece because it reminds me so much of my childhood and the endless amounts of imagination and creativity that comes with being a kid.
Cozy Little Prints and the story behind its formation is perhaps one of my favorite’s to share. My friend Sarah (who I virtually met through Instagram) started painting watercolors at the beginning of COVID-19 as a way to ease anxiety during this incredibly stressful time. Sarah first started painting watercolors of botanicals and has since expanded into architecture (I commissioned her to create a watercolor of my sister-in-law’s new house!), animals, pets, landscapes, and fashion pieces. When I saw her share the watercolor she created of an elephant, I knew it had to be a part of L’s gallery wall. L LOVES elephants – it was the first animal noise she made and she sleeps with her JellyCat Elephant every night. The elephant print that Sarah painted is the sweetest, most precious addition to the gallery wall and nothing brings me more joy than to see L point to it and make an elephant noise.
I discovered Jen Strandberg Studios through Cozy Little Prints! Sarah shared Jen’s artwork in her stories one day and from then on I was hooked. Based out of NYC and Nantucket, Jen Strandberg Studios specializes in colorful coastal watercolors. Full of coastal scenes, summers on the water, and hydrangeas in full bloom, Jen’s artwork makes my nautical loving heart so very happy. As soon as I saw the colorful buoys that Jen painted, I knew they would be a part of the gallery wall. They are so fun and playful – the perfect addition to a child’s playroom.
Rachel is the genius behind Little Lavender Lobster and perhaps one of the nicest and most supportive artists I’ve met through Instagram. Founded in 2016, Little Lavender Lobster offers handmade jewelry, watercolors, custom stationary, and so much more – all created and designed by Rachel herself. I love the simplicity and sophistication of her work. One of the sweetest products that Rachel creates are personalized watercolor pennants! Rachel and I worked together to create this customized piece for the gallery wall and it’s so perfect! It’s fun, playful, and the perfect amount of nautical. I asked Rachel to use an “S” for Solt (in case there are more little Solt’s in the future) and watercolors in blue and white. I’m so thrilled with the final piece and seeing this sweet pennant in the middle of the gallery wall makes me so happy.
Michelle is my first ever Instagram friend turned real life friend. Michelle and I met over two years ago and she is one of the most beautiful humans. Michelle actually teaches with my sister and that’s how we were introduced! Michelle creates the most gorgeous impressionistic paintings of Lake Erie and Ohio. Claude Monet has always been my favorite artist and Michelle’s artwork reminds me so much of Monet. I absolutely love her use of color and texture and I find myself getting lost in her paintings. I am honored to have several of her pieces hanging in our home. I knew I needed another nautical painting of Lake Erie to include in the gallery wall. And this one with the little sailboat and the colorful patchwork detail is so perfect for inspiring creativity.
For those of you who know me on a personal level, you will have known that I worked at Bittersweet Farms for five and half years, doing their marketing and social media. Bittersweet Farms is a local nonprofit that provides services to adults with autism. They employ a working farm model that helps individuals with autism live a life filled with purpose. One of my favorite programs is the Creative Arts Program. The Creative Arts Program provides adults with autism art therapy, art production, and art for intrinsic value. It has been a joy to get to know all of these artists and I am honored to have a piece of original art in my home. Before I moved on from Bittersweet, I saw one of the artists had painted this scene titled “Water Lilies.” I had just given birth to Lilly and I asked if I could purchase it, as it was the perfect addition to our room. This piece has been hanging in the playroom for many months, but it is now part of the gallery wall and the bright colors, coastal feel, and Monet inspired style makes me so happy.
Be sure to follow Bittersweet Farms on Instagram and check out their website for more information about this non-profit!
I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to some new artists. I am truly honored to have so many of their pieces displayed in our home. It has been so wonderful getting to know each of these individuals and I hope you will take the time to visit their sites and give them some love.
Last week my mom and I took Lilly to a local flower farm. I’m always looking for outdoor, social distance activities that L and I can do together and I’ve had a handful of friends recommend this activity to me. I was truly thrilled with the experience and the farm itself, and I’m so excited to recount our adventures for you guys.
A hidden jewel of Northwest Ohio, GardenView Flowers is a 60 acre family-run farm that specializes in designing beautiful bouquets for weddings. Not only does the farm offer the most gorgeous fresh-cut flowers for brides, but they also offer a U-Pick Garden and seasonal flower design workshops.
My mom and I had never been flower picking before and it was so delightful. It was seriously a very relaxing and very fulfilling activity! The flower farm opens daily at 8:00 a.m. We arrived around 10:00 a.m. and there were only a few other people there picking flowers. Upon arrival, we headed over to the cutest farm Flower Stop. The Flower Stop offers bouquets to go, dried flowers, and other gifts. It’s the most charming little building.
Adjacent to the Flower Stop is a check-in table where you pay for your experience and pick-up clippers and a cup/vase in which to place your picked flowers. Because Ohio is now under a mandatory mask order, I felt extremely safe. All of the staff and visitors were wearing masks and people were practicing social distancing. I was very pleased too with the disinfecting precautions the farm took to ensure the clippers and other supplies were cleaned in between uses. Plus, they offered hand sanitizer and complimentary bottles of water (it does get hot out in those flower fields)!
After we checked-in, we chose a field of wildflowers and started picking! The farm plants over 30 varieties of fresh-cut flowers and there was a colorful mix of varieties and textures from which to choose.
L and I were drawn to the bright pinks and purples, so we picked a lot of Zinnias, Cosmos, Dahlias, and Sweet Williams. There were also plenty of Sunflowers, Gladiolus, Snap Dragons, and Blue Ageratum. There were so many different varieties and colors and you could easily come home with multiple bouquets depending on the look and feel you are going for.
We picked flowers for almost an hour and I was actually kind of sad to leave! L absolutely loved smelling the flowers, helping us pick them, and frolicking through the many fields. Her face of pure joy really just sums up our experience. We definitely plan to return again and again. If you are local to Northwest Ohio and are looking for a family friendly, safe activity, flower picking at GardenView Flowers is a must!
I’m exceptionally excited to share this latest brand spotlight with you all! A few months ago I connected with a fellow mama, Sara Feeney, on Instagram. We quickly bonded over motherhood, classic children’s clothing, the coastal life, the list goes on. Early on, Sara mentioned a dream of hers to create her own brand of children’s clothing that was preppy and classic. Over the last couple of months, I’ve had the pleasure of watching Sara bring her dream to life. And so, without further ado, I introduce you all to Maddie & Connor Co.!
Maddie & Connor Co. offers timeless and classic clothing that captures the joy and essence of childhood. All of the styles are designed by Sara herself and her attention to detail is top notch. Think stripes, seersucker, embroidery, eyelit, and scallops. The designs are so timeless that they can be passed down from sibling to sibling, and generation to generation.
One of my favorite designs in the new collection is the Lighthouse Beach Dress. You guys know I’m a sucker for blue and white stripes so I knew right away this style would end up in Lilly’s wardrobe. The ricrac along the ruffle and hem make this dress so incredibly sweet. And the fabric is really lightweight – perfect for hot, summer days down by the water.
When I’m shopping for clothes for Lilly, I look for quality, style, and price. And Maddie and Connor Co. hit all three of these criteria. The quality is beautiful (the Lighthouse Beach Dress washes so well!!), the style is timeless and classic, and the price is completely affordable. If you are looking for a great children’s clothing brand, I highly recommend shopping Maddie and Connor Co.!
Strawberry picking! An activity the Solt family had never done before and I’m still not sure who had the most fun! We are still sticking pretty close to home and when we do take L out, we only go to outdoor spaces with plenty of room, strict social distancing, and mask wearing standards. A local farm where I typically buy pumpkins and mums in the fall offers you pick strawberries for two weeks in June. I did my research to make sure this farm was taking the proper precautions that are mandated by the Ohio Department of Health and feeling comfortable, we decided to try it out.
Stevens Farm in Monclova is the perfect setting for a morning out with the family. There is a cute little farmhouse at the front of the property with an old log cabin and small barn with horses and goats you can feed and pet. They have a greenhouse with fresh herbs and flowers and just across the way a small pond with a dock and canoes. Just past the pond is an orchard with peach and pear trees. Lilly loved running through the rows of trees! And just then just beyond the orchard are fields and fields of strawberries.
We arrived soon after the you pick opened and I’m so glad we did! Within 45 minutes they were almost sold out of spots – aka rows. All of the employees were wearing masks, they were sanitizing berry carts, and every family had their own row and they alternated rows so that people were spread out comfortably. We felt exceptionally comfortable.
We spent about a half hour picking strawberries and filled up two pints. These were literally the most delicious strawberries I’ve ever tasted! So fresh and so sweet. I think Lilly enjoyed squishing them between her hands more than she enjoyed eating them though.
We ate a fair amount throughout the day after we got home and washed them. But I also ended up making a strawberry cobbler that was so yummy and refreshing. You can find the recipe for that here.
It was a beautiful summer morning and I’m so glad we ventured out for these happy family memories!
The past couple of weeks have certainly forced me to break out my creativity when coming up with activities for L. So far we have tried sensory bins, stickers, baking, gardening, legos, and cleaning! We surely have been doing our best to stay home to help protect those on the front lines.
This week the Ohio Governor’s Office is hosting Virtual Ohio Spirit Week! Our family are proud Ohioians and we will happily be supporting Governor Mike Dewine and his team and participating in some fun, engaging activities with L.
If you want to participate with us this week, below are the different themes for each day! Remember, we are all in this together and it’s important we continue to stay home to keep others safe!
MONDAY: PAJAMA DAY
Stay in your pajamas all day! I have been continuing to get dressed each day, so this will be a fun activity for me!
TUESDAY: GARDEN DAY
Get outside and plant your gardens, or in our case, we will be doing yard work!
WEDNESDAY: SALUTE YOUR HERO
We are forever grateful for those who are on the front lines fighting this virus. Thank you to all of the doctors, nurses, truck drivers, firefighters, teachers, refuse drivers, city workers, grocery store workers, and everyone else who is considered essential!
THURSDAY: SPIRIT DAY
Show your love for your favorite sports team! We will be showing our love for our Ohio teams. We are a Buckeyes, Indians, and Redhwaks through and through.
FRIDAY: PIZZA DAY
Order pizza in or make your own! We will be making our own version of pepperoni and bacon pizza – our favorite!
FULL DISCLOSURE: Please no judging if you are a professional in the kitchen, as I do not consider myself to be a baker or chef. This activity was meant to be fun and it turned out with some pretty edible cookies, so win-win!
For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you will have seen that L and I whipped up some chocolate chip cookies today. I sadly was out of brown sugar and chocolate chips, so I had to improvise. I did google “how to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch” so I could have a basis of measurements. Beyond that, I pretty much made up the below recipe! They are hubby approved so I thought I’d share. I’ve included a few notes based on what I did and what you probably should do instead.
2 ¼ cups of all-purpose white flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ½ sticks of butter (I would use 2 though)
1 cup of stevia and white sugar (I ran out of stevia, so I topped it off with sugar. You may want to up this to 1 ½ cups, I just try to limit my sugar intake)
2 tsp vanilla extract (I forgot to add this in mine – oops!)
2 large eggs
Two full hershey bars chopped (or chocolate chips if you have them)
Two handfuls of pecans (this I made up as I went)
Note: My girl Claire from Home with the Wileys gave me a great tip – if you don’t have brown sugar you can substitute it with maple syrup and sugar.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and butter and mix well. Add in the vanilla and eggs and mix.
Add the flour, baking soda and salt to the sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well until dough forms.
Add in chocolate and pecans and mix.
Use an ice-cream scoop to scoop dough onto a cookie sheet.
Add sea salt to the top of each cookie.
Bake 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I combined everything at once and mixed it well and they turned out just fine! Also, these cookies are pretty dense, so if you prefer thinner chocolate chip cookies these are not your jam.
As soon as we found out we were pregnant with a baby girl, I knew I would have a problem with shopping for clothes for her. Although I’ve had my moments, I’ve actually done pretty well splurging on items for special occasions and keeping it realistic for everyday clothes. Because let’s be real, kids grow SO FAST. Also, the wear and tear on their clothes is pretty intense and I would rather get the best bang for our buck on her everyday wear.
But, I do LOVE buying her special occasion clothes and I have found some top notch children boutiques. Almost all of these boutiques are small businesses and I’m more than happy to support them. And in all honesty, the quality of the clothing for these specialty boutiques is fantastic. If you are looking for well-made, high quality craftsmanship for your littles, specialty boutiques are the way to go.
I’ve broken down my favorite places to shop based on special occasions (birthdays, baptism, holidays, etc.), everyday wear, and local.
Hopefully this list is helpful! I love sharing where I find the cutest baby and toddler styles. If you know a great place to shop for toddler clothing that I haven’t listed, please feel free to comment and provide a link!
There is no doubt this is a challenging time. But I am truly, from the bottom of my heart, thankful that Rob and I are able to work from home (and thank you to all of the essential workers who don’t have this luxury and have to go work. We appreciate you all!!). Although this requires extra juggling and extra patience, we are so grateful for this time as a family.
Because we are together all day every day, we are having to find creative ways to keep L engaged. She is an insanely curious and energetic child, and playing in her playroom all day just isn’t keeping her occupied. She’s very much in a stage where she wants to mimic everything that Rob and I do. And one area she has taken a great interest in is cooking with us. She loves being at the kitchen counter with us, helping prep whatever it is we are making. Even if she’s just playing with a wooden spoon and an empty bowl, she’s happy as a clam.
We don’t want to exhaust this new activity though so we only let her play at the kitchen counter every couple of days. And so far, it’s working like a charm! She’s happily helped us prepare pancakes, macaroni and cheese, and our favorite Scottish scones. (Side note about the scones: When we were in St. Andrews, Scotland my sister introduced us to the deliciousness that is the scones and clotted cream.)
To further share the happiness of these moments, we are sharing this yummy treat with you all. Enjoy!
Simple Scottish Scones
2 cups of flour
⅓ cup of sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
8 tbsp unsalted butter, frozen
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg
Note: Blueberries, chocolate chips, raspberries, raisins or any other sweet ingredient can be added.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (we used our mixer). Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal).
In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth.
Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together). Add in your desired amount of blueberries or chocolate chips and mix together.
Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7-8-inch circle about ¾-inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about one inch apart. Bake until golden brown, about 15-17 minutes. Cool for five minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.