This photo speaks to my heart in a million ways.  I adore the way Jeff is such a strong yet gentle dad and I am so grateful for the tight relationship that he and G share.  I always imagined having a life in which I was a full-time stay-at-home mama who did the lions’ share of the homemaking & parenting, but I am not.  And although I cannot be around to kiss every bruised knee and make every PBJ, I am so, so grateful that Jeff picks up and pitches in wherever I leave off. I’ve had so much internal conflict with my roll as a working mama for the past 4 years, but when I see these two together, I know that G is just doubly blessed and knows that our little family is a team. I caught this sweet, unguarded little moment while getting ready for church last Sunday morning when Jeff took the time to share his morning shave (uhh–safety cap on). xo.

But there’s even more behind the story of this image. I am so very excited to introduce and share a new photo challenge called ONE WORD WEDNESDAY. Dreamed up by some very lovely bloggers who I am so blessed to also know in real life, this is a simple photo challenge intended to tie friends from around the world together and inspire anyone and everyone to document the everyday beauty in their own small part of the world. Please join us every Wednesday, sharing a photo that celebrates a scene from your life on your blog and/or instagram. No need for frills–these can be iPhone photos on the fly, or carefully composed on your SLR. Up to you–although of course I encourage you to challenge yourself! Each word will be announced one week in advance to give you time to think on and capture an image that celebrates that particular word. Be sure to leave a link or add hashtag #onewordwednesday to your photos, so that we can all share in the joy! Next week’s word: PINK!

Here’s a peek at some of the other MORNING photos swirling around today:
onewordwednesdaycollageClockwise from Left: leslieautumn.blogspot.com // ohmylittledears.blogspot.com // jennaloublog.blogspot.com // rinserepeatblog.com // journeywithjohnsons.blogspot.com

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Hello lovelies & happy Friday! Just in time for weekend fun, I thought I’d share a quick how-to on making old crayons new again. I’d made a batch like this for G a couple years ago, but since then our crumbled crayon collection has grown immensely. I always love seeing how all of the different color combos melt together into something entirely new and exciting. These circle crayons will fit into the hands of even the smallest artist and I think they’d make a wonderful, inexpensive gift or party favor for the littles in your life. Big people too. (:  Thanks HGTV for inviting me to create this little tutorial!

Materials and Tools:

mini muffin pan
wax coloring crayons, all colors and kinds
oven

Step 1. Unwrap & break crayons:
Peel paper from the outside of crayons and break them into small pieces. (Tip: Use scented or glitter crayons for a fun twist!)

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Step 2. Arrange pieces in muffin pan:

Plop crayon pieces into the muffin pan, filling each circle at least half full. Try clustering color families together or create a rainbow all in one—There is no wrong way! (Tip: For larger crayons, use a standard size muffin pan, or novelty bakeware for more creative shapes.)

Step 3. Bake crayons:
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until wax is completely melted. Allow to cool completely (overnight is best).

Step 4. Remove crayons from pan:
Flip pan over and firmly tap each circle. If some of the crayons don’t pop out immediately, don’t fret. Place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes then try again. They should come out with minimal effort and leave no residue on your pan.

Recycled-Crayons_Step4Recycled-Crayons_Step5bStep 5. Color!
Admire your pretty results, grab some paper and give each color a go.

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It is impossible to believe that 4 years ago today, we met this sweet baby boy of ours who instantly colored our world and eventually colored our walls. He is such a joy on every level! I debated back and forth about having a big birthday bash for him this year (4 is a little young still), but the minute we told him about building a rocket ship and taking it to the moon with all of his friends, his eyes lit up and I knew it would be so fun to bless him with a crazy kid party. (: The day before, G was super helpful with all of the preparations. He chose the color scheme and helped us paint the entire cardboard rocket ship–inside (with green glow-in-the-dark paint) and out! I think the consensus was that the rocket ship was the most fun part of the afternoon–if only we had time to make 3 more…

We hosted the party at our converted warehouse studio, because it has great light and tons of room for kids to run around. As I planned this party and hunted for outer space ideas, I came across a lot of birthday parties that had super scientific NASA themes. I elected to keep the overall vibe simple and imaginative–the way a 4-year-old might interpret a trip to outer space. Plus I have neither the time nor talent to create chalk art of real, intricate constellations! The astronauts’ agenda included: Craft a space suit. Blast off to the moon. Outer space dance party / Bubble wrap stomp (Cheap thrills!!). Moon Rock scavenger hunt. Eat treats!livingtheswelllifeblog040913-13
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As his friends arrived, the first activity was to decorate an astronaut suit. I cut out circles on silver gift bags and let them decorate their costume with glitter paint, glow-in-the-dark stars, pipe cleaners, jewels, and more! Originally I intended for the kids to wear their suits when they played on the moon, but the glitter glue needed time to set and dry. My only regret from this party is not getting a group photo of everyone lined up in their astronaut apparel–but trust me, they turned out awesome!!

The party menu included: Sparkling blueberry-pomegranate juice disguised as rocket fuel, Outerspace cake pops, a Moon cake with Oreo craters, Astronaut Applesauce (it’s easy to find food in a tube these days!), Space Strawberries, and of course POP ROCKS!!

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DSC_0154Instead of passing out traditional party favors, we made MOON ROCKS and created a scavenger hunt for the kiddos to hunt down their goodies.  I wrapped a ton of fun trinkets in aluminum foil and we hid them throughout the hallway.  We then passed out little boxes for our little cadets to go crazy and collect.  It was so fun to watch them unwrap their rocks!

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Happy Birthday to my little space boy!! We are so grateful to all of our friends for helping us celebrate 4 fabulous years on planet earth. (:
A super special thanks to my sweet friend Amanda for helping dream this up, and for making the best cake pops in the universe!  If you’re in the Twin Cities area and are interested in a similar creative kid party, please check out more info HERE!

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Am breathing a breath of fresh air this week, as it seems we’ve finally turned the corner into spring. For the first time in 5 months, the sunshine is finally warm, the snow is disappearing, and down parkas are no longer a vital piece of apparel.  Hallelujah is all I can say. We’ve survived another long, cold Minnesota winter, but somehow the endless frigid season makes spring extra, extra sweet!

Welcome April. We had a really lovely Easter with my parents, and have put a significant dent in what was an overflowing basket of chocolate eggs and bunnies. Now that spring is in full swing, I wanted to share some of the happy things happening around here via this week’s Instagram feed:

1. 20 week ultrasound with our little love!!!  Cannot possibly believe we’re at the half way point.  (S)he was super cozy with crossed legs during the u/s, so needless to say, we had no accidental sneak peek and we are still enjoying the gender surprise!!   Am so glad G could come along and enjoy the experience with us.  He’s had so many awesome questions!!

2. With chirping birds and promises of green things popping up outside, am pinning up sweet vintage field guide cut-outs inside. I always love pulling out these sheets.  One of these days I am going to frame them. (:

3. My clever friend Amanda created this darling invite to our first ever Minneapolis meet-up for Instagrammers…And bloggers too for that matter!  Please join us on Tuesday April 9, from 5-7pm at our studio: 1330 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis.  There will be a whole lot of treats and networking.  I would LOVE to see you there!

4. Eating well. This strawberry spinach salad with almonds + poppyseed dressing is my favorite go-to side all spring and summer long.  I have an enormous sweet tooth, and love adding fruit to my salads!!

DSC_9959-2Yesterday afternoon we had a little Easter egg dying party!  G was SO excited to color these–he watched like a hawk while we hard boiled the dozen.  Since I only make eggs this way once a year, I will fully admit I don’t really know what I’m doing! Last year I was super disappointed when one or two of the eggs cracked and leaked in the pot.  This year, I learned a trusty trick and all 12 survived the boiling phase…Did you know that if you cover the eggs with cold water in the pot, then turn it up to a boil, they do better?  You just bring them to a boil for a minute or two, then remove from the heat and cover the pot for 12ish minutes.  Also, adding one tablespoon of vinegar helps seal any cracks that happen during the boiling process.  Sorry if this is completely obvious to you–I was just so excited to learn this! Yay! DSC_9950-2We also tried a new little trick while dying them…Double dipping! I was SO impressed with G, for being patient and super careful with the eggs in the little dye baths.  He has grown up so much! DSC_9964-2I love how some of the eggs turned out to have clean, defined lines and others blended together like watercolors.  Yum.  DSC_9990-2double dipped easter eggs - living the swell life blogWhile we waited for the dye to dry, we gussied up an old egg carton with a coat of mint green paint, a coffee filter rose, & a doily.  The eggs will be transported safely & stylishly to Grandma’s house this weekend!  We arranged them so that the two-tone would be a surprise when you pull them out of the carton! (: double dipped easter eggs - living the swell life blogDSC_0008-2DSC_0013-2

Happy Easter Darlings!!