Aug 31, 2014


So blessed by Zianne's fantastic grandparents...

Play time with Zianne. She loves to read, throw her ball, swim, and rock out on her xylophone...

Best friend had a layover in Phoenix. Best coffee date I've ever had in the airport...

Baking with mom. Banana muffin recipe here...

Back to school/work. ASU got the first ever Starbucks truck. What?

This little lady is eleven months!

I just passed my huge comprehensive exam last week, so I'm trading out my coffee for champagne!

||To see more of our life lately follow @jenrussum on Instagram||

Aug 30, 2014

Saturday Snippets

Triangle leather necklace, nude pink pastel, discreet original
{via Fosseth}

The most rad jewelry I've ever seen...

Such a great perspective on gratitude...

Loved this post on saving up 100K to buy a house...

I'm loving this print shop...

A ranking of Rory's hairstyles on GG. Except I think the "Chilton Classic"  and the "Channeling Emily Gilmore" should move WAY up on the list...

7 truths about marriage you won't learn at church...

And why it's worth it to wake up at 5am...

A super interesting and inspiring productivity schedule to use when you start waking up early...

Trying out this sleep cycle app...

I'm NOT a crier, but this post on sending one's firstborn off to college got me teary at the end...

Balloon Birdhouse...

Freezable lunch bags...

The most aesthetically pleasing toy box ever. I might want this for my own bedroom...

Eyeing these tufted bar stools...

Desperately in need of some casual kicks...

Aug 25, 2014

Eleven Months...

Growing - I'm guessing Z will be around 25 pounds at her one year well check, so she is probably hovering somewhere between 24 and 25 pounds currently. Although she has slimmed out through her torso, her thighs still have beautiful rolls and she is really, really tall.

Eating - Z is down to three milk feedings a day. I planned to drop her late afternoon feeding when she turned eleven months, but after a few disinterested/biting incidents we decided to make the transition a few weeks early. Now when she wakes up from her afternoon nap she drinks a sippy cup of water and eats a cracker. She still nurses morning, night, and around noon each day. Z loves all fruits, roasted broccoli, yogurt, and little baked snap pea crackers. She likes lots of starchy, crunchy, and sugary foods too, but I try to limit those.

Sleeping - Surprisingly, when we dropped Z's late afternoon feeding she started sleeping even better. It is very common for her to sleep one and a half to two hours morning and afternoon, and by 7:30 at night she starts showing signs that she's ready for bed. I nurse her quickly at 8 o'clock and she often cuts herself off and whimpers to be put in her crib. She falls asleep quickly and usually doesn't wake up until 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning. Who knew less milk would equal more sleep? I think her 5pm feeding used to energize her for the night and she could easily stay up until nine or later if we needed her to if we were out and about, but now she is DONE for the day by 8pm.

Wearing - I've packed up all of Z's 18 month clothes except for a few shorts to finish off the summer. She is in all 24 month sizes and Micah's mom and I went shopping for her fall wardrobe a few weeks ago and bought everything in 2T!

Doing - Throwing her food on the floor when she's done eating then signing "all done" only after I coax her. Lots of independent play. Trying to chew on cords and shoes {and learning about the word "no"}. Swim lessons. Saying "mama." And finally crawling!

Loving - Reading books on her own or with an adult, especially when the pages have textures or flip-up {this one is her current fave}, taking her flash cards out the box and looking at each one, playing music on her xylophone, pointing at everything under the sun, dancing, playing catch.

Loathing - Having to wait more than three seconds to nurse after waking up in the morning, being left at childcare {15 seconds of separation anxiety and then she's instantly fine when we disappear}, bumping her head into furniture when crawling.

Daddy's girl - Micah decided that it was his responsibility as a dad to teach Z to crawl. We enjoyed her delayed crawling but it got awkward when she couldn't move up into the next class at church. She was getting too old for the nursery with the babies but it was unsafe to put her in with the crawlers and walkers when she was a vulnerable, immobile lump of baby. Finally last weekend Micah put her through some intense training. He would place her in the crawling position and hold her stomach up for her and move her body forward before eventually letting go. It was kind of like training wheels for crawling. By the end of the first day she could crawl two or three feet forward on her own, and by the next day she could crawl slowly across the whole room. Bravo dad!

Milestones - So many! Z can now move from lying down to sitting on her own, and she is now usually sitting up in her crib when we go in after a nap. She can also throw a ball with pretty decent accuracy and likes to play catch. She got her first molar in the past week or so and was surprisingly calm throughout the process. I didn't even know she was teething until the molar completely popped through the gums! Two other big milestones are crawling, of course, and knowingly saying "mama." She has said it 3 or 4 times now when she was upset, but the other day she said it when she was in a good mood. I was leaving the house for work and Z was sitting in the front room playing with grandma. I walked past the entry on my way out and Z waved right at me and said "mama" with a smile on her face. So sweet. Most of the milestones have been good, but now that Z is mobile we have moved into the injury stage as well. She had her first bloody lip incident last week. The Monday after Micah's crawl-training weekend, she was reaching for a ball and collapsed, hitting her chin on the floor and biting her bottom lip. She was perfectly fine but there was a little bit of blood which was so sad. I tried to snuggle her while she cried, but she wouldn't have it so I asked her if she wanted to go to the gym and play, and she instantly perked up and started waving bye-bye. She's pretty stoic I guess, although her lip continued to look bruised for the next day or two. 

+I shared some of Zianne's favorite toys with affiliate links. Enjoy!

Aug 24, 2014

In the Kitchen: Banana Muffins

This weekend I discovered why it's far better to make banana muffins instead of banana bread. Here are the facts:
  1. You don't have to use a mixer. Apparently, muffins are fluffier when the dry ingredients barely mix in with the wet, so I just mashed my bananas with a fork and stirred the rest of the ingredients together. I love my Kitchen Aid, but don't like hauling it out of the cabinet or cleaning it and with muffins you don't have to deal with it. {This factor makes the recipe very kid-friendly.}
  2. Muffins only take 25 minutes to bake as opposed to the hour it takes for banana bread.
  3. They bake more evenly too. Sometimes it's hard to get banana bread done on the inside while not getting too dry on top.
  4. Muffins are easier to keep fresh. You can put them in a plastic bag or container. I never really know how to keep a whole loaf of bread fresh. I usually wrap it in foil or plastic and it still dries out a bit. It also gets crumbs all over the counter. Ugh.
  5. You aren't committed to eating ALL the muffins like you are committed to eating a whole loaf of bread once you cut into it. You can eat as many muffins as you want for the first day or two and then pop the rest in the freezer for easy breakfasts or snacks later on.
I think it's pretty obvious that banana muffins win the battle. I might never make banana bread again...

What you need:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2-3 large bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 TBSP sour cream {optional}
1 tsp. vanilla {optional}
1/4 tsp. cinnamon {optional}

What you do:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Coat muffin pan with non-stick spray or use paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
3. Combine bananas, sugar, egg, and melted butter in a large bowl. Add any optional ingredients {sour cream, vanilla, cinnamon} to the wet mixture. Fold in flour mixture, and stir until smooth. Scoop into muffin pans. They should approximately half full before baking.
4. Bake in preheated oven. Bake mini muffins for 10 to 15 minutes, and large muffins for 25 to 30 minutes. Muffins will spring back when lightly tapped. Recipe makes 12 large {cupcake-size} muffins.

This recipe is super flexible. The original recipe called for three bananas, but I only had two and the flavor was still excellent. I also know that many banana bread recipes call for sour cream to help with moisture. I happened to have sour cream in my fridge, so I added about two tablespoons. I also added a little bit of cinnamon and vanilla after reading comments online. I highly recommend these additions, but if you don't have he optional ingredients on hand the recipe will still taste great!

Aug 23, 2014

Saturday Snippets {Home Edition}

{via HGTV}

Love this dinnerware...

I'm into double ball topiaries right now, but they don't really match the Arizona aesthetic. Someone with a Colonial house needs these on their front porch.

This rustic-meets-industrial coffee table...

Since we host a lot of meals at our place, I could put this adorable utensil caddy to good use. {And I'd add some fancy plastic cutlery for fun.}

We need a new quilt for our guest room. I'm thinking something like this one or this one.

This porch swing...

A twist on the farmhouse sink style...

Aug 21, 2014

Flowers Fade Friday: Overlaid With Gold

I took a few days out of my regular Bible study plan to complete a packet on idolatry we were given in our community group. I was under no obligation to complete it, but the pages sat folded up in my Bible, and I'm pretty sure the Spirit was whispering "Go there. Study that packet." 

Studying the packet has meant honestly questioning and analyzing my idols. The packet talks about our desires for comfort, approval, power, and control, and then asks questions such as "What are you most proud of?" "What do you turn to when things go wrong?" and "What do you spend the most time thinking about each day?" I answered these questions as honestly as I could by listing out all the fleshly impulses and thoughts that stream through my mind each day.

And you know what? My idols are beautiful.

Seriously. My idols are gorgeous. They are attractive to me and they probably look really good to onlookers as well.

Here are a few of them...

I love control, self-discipline, and meeting really high standards. When things go wrong, I micromanage and check things off a to-do list until everything feels right again. This is an ugly part of my heart, but it looks really good on the outside. It looks like always having a clean house, always being caught up on laundry, working out four days a week, and making a lot of home-cooked dinners.

It looks really freaking pretty.

And so I wondered, "What do you do when your idols look really good? Both to you and others?"

But then I realized, all idols look pretty. The Bible tells us that idols are covered in gold. They are crafted carefully by human hands to be breathtaking and captivating. Isaiah 40:19 says, "A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold, and casts for it silver chains." Idols are always gorgeous, so they camouflage the evil within.

In theory, I can think of "ugly" idols. I think of an eating disorder and the desire for control that leads to starvation and emaciated bodies. I think of binge eating and purging and it's not attractive. But do you know what IS attractive? Slender bodies and seeing a number you like on the scale. Eating healthy. Having the discipline to eat in moderation and saying no to sweets. Eating disorders are ugly, but they are covered in hundreds of beautiful jewels called "good health" and "discipline" to hide the ugliness beneath the surface.

Another ugly idol is the pornography industry. It makes me sick, especially that it's a gateway to the trafficking industry. It's such an evil, entrapping business. But you know what? It also looks beautiful to many. For those who dabble in it as consumers it looks like sexual desire fulfilled, relief and relaxation at no expense to others. For the women in the industry it looks like fame, beauty, and approval. For the producers, it means money and the comforts and security that come along with a big paycheck. The pornography business is one of the ugliest out there but it's covered by a million glittering jewels.

And my idols are covered with jewels and sparkling as well. In order to have a clean house, I run around all day fretting over chores and inwardly sigh when people come over and make a mess. I rearrange my whole schedule around going to the gym and will forsake social time and relationships to the treadmill. I keep everything in order around my home and then erupt in anger if Micah misses a dinner I prepared, leaves his clothes out, or asks me to be flexible about my schedule. The truth of the matter is my beautiful idols are really, very ugly. 

And my idols only point to deeper issues in my heart. Having a clean house and a well-used gym membership are not the real problems. The real problem is that whenever I face difficulty, uncertainty, loss, or disappointment I turn to my to-do list instead of to the Lord. When I run into a problem, I try to spray it away with Windex instead of bringing it to God. When I am upset, I turn to a quick-fix of exercise-induced endorphins instead of crying out to my Savior.

I have a God who loves me utterly and who gives unending comfort, yet I turn to my to-do list in moments of anxiety and let the beautiful gods of discipline, chores, and routines rule my heart and my life. Change my heart, God.  May I find my comfort in You and not a checklist. May I cling to You, rely on You, and be consumed with the knowledge that Your love and care will sustain me always.

Aug 20, 2014

Dealing With Hip Pain During Pregnancy...

A year ago, I couldn't walk.

Well, I could kind of walk, but not really. I was roughly 37 weeks pregnant and I could only hobble along in great pain. Up until this point, I had basically experienced the perfect pregnancy. I was never sick, I was hardly tired, I had no heartburn, and I was able to run up until one month before my due date. It was seriously magical, and I don't take it for granted at all. I know I was super blessed.

However, there were two weeks of my pregnancy {weeks 37 and 38} where I could not walk. I woke up one day with a soreness in my lower back and hips that got worse day by day. By day two and three, I could hardly sit up, roll over, or get out of bed. When it was time to get up in the morning, I would sit on the edge of my bed, taking deep breaths and gearing my body up for the extreme pain I was about to experience when I stood. I would wince as I raised myself and then hobble to the bathroom. And all day long the pain persisted. I could take nothing but Tylenol which didn't help at all, so I just limped around and rested as much as I could {which resulted in swelling, since my body wasn't as mobile}. 

I went to my OB twice in that time frame and got the same response "It's normal to have hip pain at this point. Your hips are spreading for labor." But in my mind I knew something was wrong. I thought, "If this is normal, WHY have I never seen any of my friends experience this during their pregnancies?" I have seen many women live through weeks 37 and 38 of pregnancy and none of them hobbled around like I did. One of my doctors actually watched me walk out of my appointment and asked if I needed a wheelchair. Not a joke. I declined the offer, but it finally made me go home and turn to the Internet for answers. I started reading about women who had such severe hip pain during late pregnancy that they ended up using crutches or a wheelchair during their final weeks. There were a splattering of possible treatments - ice, heat, Tylenol, swimming, etc. but none seemed to have consistently successful results except one... the chiropractor!

I'm not big into chiropractic treatment but I had seen a lady a few times a few years ago who I really liked and who came highly recommended, so I finally booked an appointment and went. It was the best decision ever. She said I had a sprained ligament in my back {which was probably not even caused by the baby but definitely aggravated by the extra weight} that likely happened when I was lifting or rotating something {which makes sense since I started hurting during a weekend of frenzied nesting projects}. She massaged all the fluids out of my back, adjusted my hips, and told me to ice daily. I got better day by day and after three adjustments my hips didn't hurt at all. I cannot imagine how I would have survived four more weeks of pregnancy {since Z was a lovely 9 days past due} without her treatment.

So if you are dealing with severe hip pain during pregnancy, here are my tips:

-I highly recommend using ice instead of heat. I know both can be recommended but if there is swelling/inflammation involved {even if you can't see it} then ice is your best friend. Wherever it hurts, front, side, or back, I would suggest icing multiple times a day. I would literally sit on/lean against an ice pack for hours at a time and it would get better day by day. My chiropractor said that the inflammation is where a lot of the pain comes from, so if you can keep the inflammation under control you will limit your pain as well.

-If one side hurts you more than the other, consider sleeping with your head at the foot of the bed if it hurts too much to roll from side to side. I would switch sleeping on my left and right side and switch from the head to foot of the bed during the night so I was always facing the edge and never had to roll over to get out.

-I've also heard a belly band can help. I didn't feel like the weight of the baby was causing my pain so I didn't bother to get one, but apparently they have helped others.

-And finally if you feel like something is wrong beyond the normal discomforts of pregnancy, seek help. Ask your OB and if they don't give you satisfying answers, look elsewhere for massage therapy, chiropractic treatment {but choose carefully because some chiropractors are quacks!}, or a physical therapist. If you feel like something is unnaturally uncomfortable or painful during pregnancy it's worth it to get checked out.

Aug 18, 2014

How to Run an Insta-Sale...

For about a year or so now, I've had great success selling my lightly worn {and sometimes brand new!} clothes on Instagram. You can check out my shop @thecuratedcloset to see some of my past items. I've found that selling over Instagram is a fun way to connect with friends online while giving my neglected clothes new owners and putting a little money in my PayPal account at the same time.

I've always been good at recycling my wardrobe by selling my old pieces before I buy new ones. {Here's a post on how to sell your clothes for cash.} In the past I've sold my clothes at Plato's, Buffalo Exchange, and an upscale consignment shop here called My Sister's Closet, but I've found I make more money selling directly online. I was usually getting $3 average per piece at Plato's Closet, so if I can make even $4-6 on IG after paying for shipping and handling I'm coming out ahead.

Please note: I only sell nice, quality clothing online. I've seen people sell try to sell rumpled clothes or pieces with broken zippers and missing buttons before, which I don't think is appropriate in most instances. If I post an item for sale, you can trust that it's in good condition, with no stains, holes, or other obvious wear and tear.

That being said, here are a few of my tips if you are thinking about running a sale of your own:

Post quality images. I've gotten better about posting images of my clothing over the past year. If you look back through old photos, you will see that I used to lay items on my bed or try to hang them in random places around the house {and once in my backyard!} where I had enough natural light. Since then I've realized I can move a decorative hook from the guest room into my bedroom where I have a well-lit white wall to use as backdrop for my pieces. Experiment a bit and find a place around your house that has great natural light and a neutral background for your clothing.

Consider shipping costs. I don't weigh anything. I just estimate shipping, always trying to come out with at least $5 profit per item. Shoes are expensive to ship ($10+) and I've actually lost money on them before. If something is small/light/compact enough, I always recommend putting it in an envelope if you can. In the past I've used yellow mailer envelopes, but I recently bought a bunch of plastic mailing envelopes off Amazon, which is saving me a ton of money. I can often ship lightweight items like tees and scarves for only $2 or $3 that way. Any time you have to use a box, shipping will go up to the $5-8 range, if not more. {Also, small bubble mailers work great for jewelry!}

Price thoughtfully. As far as pricing, you can either include shipping in your price or charge additional shipping after the selling price {ex: This shirt is $8 SHIPPED or this shirt is $6 + $5 shipping}. I think most people like it when shipping is included as a flat price, but I've seen sellers have success doing it both ways. Either way, I think it's nice to offer discounts to people who buy multiple items or who can pick up locally.

Work hard. Honestly, IG sales are a lot of work for a couple of days. Since I don't run a handmade biz or anything, I'm definitely not a pro with the whole shipping process. I'm sure there are easier and cheaper ways to do it, but I just sit down for a few hours one night, pack up and address everything, and haul it to the post office the next day.

Make it personal. Even though it's a bit of work, I really like running Insta-sales because it's a fun way to connect with blog readers. I include a personal note and a business card in every package. Clearly, this takes extra time but I think it's worth it. I've had buyers email me to say thank you after receiving their package or post a picture of their new item on IG. It just feels really personal to mail something with a handwritten note to someone's house, and it doesn't hurt to get your name out there either.

Expand your following. You need a decent online following to run one of these sales successfully. Right now 100+ people follow my @thecuratedcloset account and I feel like its enough to have a decent sale, but I'd like to see my audience grow in the future. Ideally, I would shoot for 100 followers before hosting a sale, but I would make sure you have a least 50 followers to make it worth your time. You might try selling a few items over your regular Instagram account at first, since you probably already have a decent audience. If you have success, you could then open a separate Instagram shop account and ask interested friends to follow your new account and help spread the word.

Here is full-disclosure on one of the sales I had last fall. It's the only sale I've kept accurate numbers for, and I'm happy to share them with you. I made about $250 gross in this sale. I spent about $75 total in shipping. So with my net of $175 divided by the number of items I sold (which I think was around 33), it looks like I made about $5.30 per item. This is far more than I was making per item hauling my clothes across town to Plato's Closet.

And on that note... if you are interested in buying lightly worn and new fashions and accessories, please check out @thecuratedcloset and spread the word to your friends. I'm going to be hosting another sale soon. I have a few lingering summer pieces I will sell for rock bottom prices and I'm going to be rolling out some fall styles as well! See you on Instagram!

+Affiliate links used.

Aug 16, 2014

Saturday Snippets

wildly co GOES WILD
{via Wildly Co.}

My friend Hayley is staring this really cool ethically-made clothing line for kids. Some interesting posts: The State of the Apparel Industry // What is Kickstarter? // Wildly Co. Kickstarter Campaign

Two fun videos... A new Cheerios commercial and a fun pregnancy announcement.

When you shouldn't say "I'm sorry..."

Is a wedding worth wanting? An awesome post on singleness and marriage...

A secret for having a marriage that never goes stale...

My friend Vanessa has some amazing tips and products for breastfeeding moms needing to pump at work. Mental note: get a cordless pump for baby #2.

And a funny and sweet post on breastfeeding your first baby versus your last baby...

The cutest jewelry shop.

The future of blogging...

Considering these black jeans...

Cheesy Italian Bread, get in my life...

A million good ideas for doing preschool activities at home...

You are not late to the Internet...

Thinking about your fall wardrobe? A cute vest // A sleek backpack // Some sneaks for the guy in your life

Aug 11, 2014

Dear Zianne {ten months}

Dear Zianne,

You've been able to clap for quite awhile now, but it still enchants me every time you do it. I watch your chubby little fingers come together while your face lights up and my whole heart fills with joy. You are just so genuinely happy and kind to everyone around you. You are even kind to yourself.

When the people around you delight you or impress you, you give your applause so generously. When the big kids run around you at church or the childcare worker waves goodbye at the gym, you light up and... clap, clap, clap. When mom and dad do really fun stuff like dance around the kitchen or jump up and down to get you to smile for a picture... clap, clap, clap. Swim in the pool? Clap. Read a book? Clap. Sing "Happy Birthday" to a friend? Clap.


And you're not afraid to clap for yourself either. When we cheer you on for reaching or scooting or throwing your ball for the first time, you always have time to stop and give yourself a round of applause. We exclaim "Good job, Zianne!" as you show off your new skills each day, and you look at us with bright eyes and press your hands together... clap, clap, clap.

And sometimes your joy for the current moment results in your applause. No one has to do anything impressive; you just are thankful for your surroundings and you want everyone to know it. We tried to get a picture at your little friend's birthday the other night. We piled a bunch of babies and toddlers on the couch and tried to snap a quick photo before the whining and crawling off the sofa ensued. Most of the other kids started squirming and fussing instantly, and there you sat at the end of the row with a smile on your face... clap, clap, clap.

I hope you never lose your clap, baby girl. I hope you are always quick to give your applause. I hope you lavish encouragement and praise on those around you. And I hope you clap for yourself too. You might not be perfect, and I don't want you to be prideful, but when you do great things with your talents and gifts, I want you to smile and clap and give God the glory. And when you look around you, even as you grow older, I pray you see hope and love everywhere you go, that you find things to be thankful for even during trials, and that you find lasting joy that makes you clap your hands forever.

Clapping for you always,

||P.S. Read other letters to Zianne here.||
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