Healthy Home, Healthy Planet 

This post was sponsored by Grove Collaborative. All opinions and photos are my own. All photos including our son and/or the pups were taken as they happily interacted in their own, natural ways. 

Dedicated URL for free gift set: www.grove.co/tinycanalcottage
(See full details at the end of this post.)

PART I - Paring Down Small Space Cleaning
One of the joys of cleaning a small house or apartment is that it takes a fraction of the time and requires a smaller portion of the products than cleaning a larger space. But, unlike items in many other categories, home care products rarely come in compact sizes. So what do you do when you need all of the essentials, but only have a sliver of square-footage? 

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There’s so much advice out there for how to save money, time, and be eco-friendly when it comes to cleaning your home. But practices that work for one family might not work effectively for the neighbors. For example, buying in bulk can save time, money, and in numerous instances, be helpful for the environment. But buying large quantities of anything is challenging when you’re living little. (It can be tough to fit a roll of paper towels under your sink, let alone a dozen rolls.) Similarly, making your own cleaning solutions from scratch gives you control over what goes into your products, but those ingredients require space themselves, as well as containers for the cleaning process. And what if you feel like you don’t have the patience or the time to DIY?

Recently I opened our under-the-sink cabinet at the Cottage and did a double-take. I receive a strange satisfaction from keeping our tiny home pared down and simplified, but somehow this section of our kitchen was overflowing with pell-mell bottles, things we never used and don’t need, and our clever storage hacks had collapsed under the weight of it all. I’d broken my own psudo-minimalist rules. 

So the search was on. I wanted to get our cleaning products down to one box, and make the switch to non-disposable goods when doable. And, as always, I wanted to keep everything cruelty-free, organic, natural, and as transparent (in terms of the the ingredients supply process) as possible. 

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I discovered Grove Collaborative— a Certified B Corp— via a GOOP event I attended in LA, and was interested in their story. I took a deep-dive to discover more, and I’m genuinely glad I did. They ended up being the answer to our household product clutter issues. 

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Their site is carefully curated with brands that are good for homes, families and the planet. Their offerings are delivered every month, and you can swap out items in your bundle as needed.   

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I ordered their Cleaning Concentrates pack (all-purpose + glass + tile formulas), their reusable glass bottles, some absorbent cleaning cloths (no more paper towels here), and a few other items that we happened to be out of here at home. 

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Thanks to this clever bundle (plus a metal Grove caddy in which to put everything), I was able to hand off our numerous unused bottles to a neighboring Airbnb that’s always in need of supplies, and then organize our simplified setup.  

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Since nearly everything in a small home is on display at some point or another, it’s wise to chose products that you don’t mind seeing out in the open. The Grove bottles and accessories are well designed and understated, and their concentrated cleaners take up less space than a tube of toothpaste. 

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We try to upcycle as much as possible here. We ended up using packaging from the Grove shipment to create some tabletop organizers for West, and he put the cardboard packaging to creative use on his own within minutes.

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PART II - The Cottage vs The Summer Mosquitoes
One of the reasons we focus so much on cleaning is that we live a very indoor/outdoor lifestyle here at the cottage. With 2 pups (who shed a lot) and an extremely active toddler, the garden and the house get delightfully wrecked on the daily. 

Unfortunately, for the second summer in a row, the dogs and our son have repeatedly been attacked by mosquitoes after the sun goes down, since we keep our doors and windows open all day long. Rather than holing up the house with screens, we decided to try some other ways to ward off the pests. 

 Left: West the day before we started using the bite balm, incense and wipes. Right: West last summer under a mosquito net we had to drape over our shared bed.

Left: West the day before we started using the bite balm, incense and wipes. Right: West last summer under a mosquito net we had to drape over our shared bed.

First, I got this all natural bug bite balm for West from Grove. It was apparently effective— he indicated to us that he wanted us to reapply it the following days while his welts subsided. 

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Next, we started using these mosquito repellent incense sticks out in the garden, and these handy wipes, which are deet-free and safe for sensitive skin. 

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Lastly, we placed some plotted lavender and rosemary around the garden, which I hear helps, too. (Fingers crossed!) So far, we’ve only seen one mosquito (in the shower) during weeks since introducing these new products, compared to the numerous bugs we were seeing nightly.

SO! Here’s to making our homes and bodies more comfortable, saving some space, simplifying our shopping habits and engaging in thoughtful decision making that helps us improve our day-to-day lives while also ensuring a healthier future for generations to come.

Want to try Grove Collaborative for yourself? We’ve partnered with them to give you a free Cleaning Essentials gift set when you try out Grove and spend $20 or more on your first order. Use this dedicated URL www.grove.co/tinycanalcottage to claim the following introductory products for free:

  • Grove Collaborative Cleaning Concentrates (3-pack)
  • Grove Collaborative Glass Spray Bottle
  • Grove Collaborative Microfiber (3-pack)
  • Free Shipping & VIP Trial

As always, thanks for reading!

Items You Can Go Without

I tend to post stories about designs and practices that help us live comfortably and contentedly in our little house, but I think it’s just as important to share information about the everyday items that we happily live WITHOUT. After all, making a home of a small space isn’t mainly about figuring out how to cram as much stuff as possible into your compact quarters— it’s about experiencing more by owning less. 

The following is just a very small sampling of everyday homewares that make me face-palm, as we definitely do not need them. (Depending on your response, perhaps I’ll make this into a recurring series here on the blog— let me know if it helps!)

But before we jump on in, here’s a lil’ disclaimer: To each her or his own. While these items don’t work for me, they might be gems elsewhere. You know your own needs and space best, folks. Design and decor should be different and enjoyable for everyone-- you do you.

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Bath Accessory Sets
Bath sets almost always make me cringe. These bundles are usually made up of components such as soap dishes, lotion dispensers, toothbrush holders, drinking cups, tissue box covers, cotton swab containers, and q-tip jars. That’s an insane amount of stuff for limited surface space, plus most of these items are flat-out unnecessary. Even if you do manage to cram all those items into your bathroom, you’ll probably not have the space left over to navigate through your rituals. When I visit a hotel or vacation rental that has all these items, I usually find myself relocating them into an empty drawer so I actually have room for my family's toiletries. 

Repurposed glass jars are more eco-friendly, come in sizes that require far less space, and can be recycled or reimagined when no longer needed. As for the other items— look around your home and see what sorts of things you already own and want to keep, and can repurpose to serve more than one function. 

And why do we think we need tissue box covers? As a matter of fact, we might not even need tissues. A single, machine-washable handkerchief made from sustainable materials for each member of the family might be enough. Voila. No waste. No need for tissues. And, thus, no need for a tissue box cover.

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Beach Towels and Toys
If you’re a serious beachgoer or beach athlete, then that’s one thing. But for most of us, the occasional outing— or even weekly visit— to the beach doesn’t have to require its own set of goods. Turkish towels or linen throws are incredibly versatile. They can be used as spare towels when your primary set is in the wash, when you’re hosting overnight guests, and when you visit the pool or beach. Great news— they can also double as tablecloths, throws for chilly evenings outdoors, and fort toppers for your kid(s). They fold up smaller than standard bath or beach towels, dry quickly, and only get more beautiful with every wash.

 Above: A mop bucket holds all of our spare towels for the beach, guests, and more. The pail itself becomes a toy for West when we visit our local beach.

Above: A mop bucket holds all of our spare towels for the beach, guests, and more. The pail itself becomes a toy for West when we visit our local beach.

Similarly, you probably don’t need a set of dedicated beach toys for your kids. Bowls, pails (if safe for little hands) from around the house, and oversized spoons can be just as fun. In fact, it might spark a bit more creativity from your child if he or she is challenged to find rocks, shells, leaves, and/or seaweed with which to decorate their sand creations.

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Napkin Rings
I'll admit that I have it out for napkin rings. They’re just another set of things to spend money on, find storage for, and have to set out or clean up around mealtime. I much prefer to twist our napkins into a knot and thread our silverware through the tie. Clipped soft vines or reusable twine will also decorate your cutlery rolls just as effectively. 

Having said that, one of my closest friends uses napkin rings in a brilliant way in her home in Pennsylvania. Her family is huge, and everyone uses a single, distinct ring (rather than a ring from a matching set) to keep track of of which reusable napkin is theirs. (Think of it as a wine stem ID tag, but for their table linens. Genius.)

Full Printer/Scanner
This definitely isn’t for everyone, but it worked for us: We recently donated our printer/scanner. We realized that we only used it a few times per month, so we now walk or bike up to the nearest shipping store whenever we need to print anything out. My mini scanner, which sits on a rack attached to the back of my desktop computer, can accommodate all the scanning necessary for our home and small business. 

 Photo of the Cottage kitchen taken by Lily Glass for  SFGirlbyBay

Photo of the Cottage kitchen taken by Lily Glass for SFGirlbyBay

Fruit Bowls
We have limited counter space, so rather than keeping a fruit bowl in the kitchen we simply store/display our fruit in our saucepan on the stove-- clearly only when it’s off.

Fly Swatter
Nope.

Bookends
Skip the objet— simply put a few books in a horizontal stack at the end of your upright titles to keep everything in place.

Summer Dining in a Small Outdoor Space

I'm over on the Garnet Hill blog today, sharing some tips for hosting summer meals in a small outdoor space. A few excerpts are below-- the full post with additional images can be viewed here. Thank you, Garnet Hill!

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Reduce Waste with Natural Decor
Rather than adding sculptural pieces or elaborate vases to your tabletop, decorate with clipped greenery from your garden. Repurposed glass jars can serve as temporary water vessels for stems, and then be recycled at the end of the gathering. 

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Create Visual Interest Without Overcrowding
Use lush greenery that’s also low in profile, such as creeping vines. This will add a dynamic touch to your tablescape without consuming your limited surface space, and without obscuring your view of guests across the table. Buds in spice jars can lend pops of color without cluttering the table. 

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Create Beauty Through Simplicity
With our environment in mind, consider a home water carbonator in lieu of purchasing sparkling water. In the end, it will save you time, money, space, effort, and cut back on waste. Recycled-glass drinking glasses are beautiful when paired with earth-toned stoneware plates and unfussy linens. Similarly, skip the name plates and napkin rings. Tying napkins in a knot and threading silverware through the loop is a great way to save space on your table, and cut back on an unnecessary accessory without undermining your display.

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Mind You Own Comfort
When hosting, we’re frequently on our feet, running around and getting our body temperatures up a bit. It helps to remember to take a deep breath and just enjoy the experience, and to consider our own comfort as much as that of our guests. Sustainable linen is the  ideal fabric to wear when hosting in the summer. It’s versatile, strong yet airy, naturally antibacterial, and grows softer with time.

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Daily Efforts to Reduce Waste

I received so many follow-up questions and comments on our recent eco-friendly stories (“Reusable Goods to Carry Daily” + “Reusable Bags” + “Cloth Diapering”) that I wanted to follow up with further details about the items we use in the cottage and on the go to help reduce waste and/or curb our dependency on plastic. This blog entry encompasses a bit of everything, from recycled toys to feminine care. 

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Some of our efforts to reduce our footprint have been more substantial commitments, such as cloth diapering, dietary changes, and getting rid of one car and replacing it with a cargo bike. Others have been simpler, like using stainless steel drinking and snack cups instead of their plastic counterparts. Either way, everything was worth evaluating and adjusting, as our Earth needs some love, and she needs it now

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Not too long ago, we had an old mattress hauled away from our house by an LADWP bulky items truck. When the driver arrived, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind also taking a collapsed but oversized and thick cardboard box that was proving to be a challenge for the recycling bin. The driver kindly told me that he would take the box, but that he strongly recommended I find a way to break it down myself since it wouldn’t end up in the recycling center if he hauled it away-- it would instead go to a landfill. It was sobering to hear him reveal just how bad the trash situation is here. I appreciated his advice and honestly. (Later, Adam and I quickly spritzed the box with the hose and then drove our little car over it a few times to soften it up enough for us to fold it further and cut it down for our recycling bin.)

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The point is this— I think many of us make consumer and lifestyle decisions based on immediate convenience at the expense of the longterm ramifications. So, from our morning cup of coffee to West's diaper wipes, we’re sharing some of the efforts we've made to reduce the waste coming out of the Cottage. Hopefully this list will continue to evolve and expand.

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TOYS
I'll admit that West has a set of tiny plastic trucks he loves, as well as a few plastic tub squirt toys for his folding bath/water table. But otherwise, we've tried to stick with wooden, handmade, and/or recycled toys. Our two favorite sources are ETSY and GreenToys. You can find so many beautiful and wonderful handmade wooden items for kids of all ages on ETSY. And GreenToys makes their non-toxic plastic toys here in the USA out of 100% recycled milk jugs. (The two trucks in the image below are from GreenToys.) 

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PUP SUPPLIES
This isn't the prettiest topic, but let's get right to it. Poop/litter scoop bags. (Ugh.) After doing some research on the topic, I discovered that many pet waste bags can print claims that they're eco-friendly, when perhaps they're not entirely. We tried using old newspaper and repurposing old packaging to clean up after our dogs, but it was just too messy. Now we use BioBag, which is derived from plant and vegetable based materials that make them 100% compostable and biodegradable. We opt for standard packaging rather than the rolls to avoid that little plastic tubing that comes in the center of the roll.

We've found healthy and ethically-produced dog food that our pups really enjoy, but the packaging is a concern for us. So we're still on the hunt! We might start prepping food fresh for the pups, depending on the economics. I'll report back soon...

GETTING AROUND
About 2 years after moving into the Cottage, Adam and I decided to donate his SUV (via KCRW), and we now share our little 2009 Honda Fit for longer distance trips. If possible, we opt to ride the LA Metro-- particularly if we're visiting a museum, attending a rally, or going to a concert. 

It's liberating to avoid the extra cost and responsibility of a second car. We simply use our cargo bike or other bikes for local errands and adventures-- it's better for our bodies, and far more enjoyable than sitting in a car in LA traffic.

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DINING IN AND ON-THE-GO
I have a tiny bag that's packed with the reusable goods we carry daily-- from straws to produce bags to napkins to to-go containers-- view the roundup here. At various markets and shops, we've been able to offer our tupperware or stainless containers to fill in lieu of plastic packages. When items get dirty from use when we're out, we drop them into a leak-proof BPA-free bag and wash everything at home later.

We've also been reducing our dependency on plastics within the Cottage. West uses these beautiful handmade wooden plates by Timberchild, and stainless steel snack cups + drinking cups + sippy cups. Munchkin has some great hybrid designs, and Pura Stainless has fantastic, adaptable Earth-friendly items for all ages from infants to adults.

Instead of getting plastic plates, bowls or utensils for West, we have wood or metal versions of everything. They hold up just as well to being tossed around, and they're easy to care for.

As far as beverages are concerned, we go through a ton of carbonated water. Instead of buying bottles and cans, we use a Soda Stream here at home, which cuts back on cost and eliminates bottle waste. For coffee, we now have a mini Keurig with a reusable pod so there's zero waste (not even a basic filter) beyond the compostable coffee grounds.

As for West, he was exclusively breast-fed for the first 6 months, and then fed with breastmilk in tandem with his food for another year beyond that point. He now drinks water or milk from stainless steel containers, or paper cartons if we're in a pinch out the door. When we buy milk, we try to select paper cartons that have no plastic components.

We never use disposable cups, nor do we use disposable plates or napkins. We never use cling wrap, and opt instead for beeswax wrap.

Lastly, Adam and I recently adopted a pescatarian diet-- both for environmental reasons, and out of concern for animal cruetly. 

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CLOTHES / LINENS
We have a reusable/cloth diapering system, which we love. You can read about it here. While we do use baby wipes if needed, we also have reusable cloth wipes, which we use during every changing.

When possible, we skip the dryer (which we share with our neighbor) to save energy, and use a makeshift clothesline that runs between our cottage and a ficus tree. I have some work to do on this topic though. I do still use the dryer for linens that have notable amounts of dog hair on them, since the dryer is basically a magical pet hair remover. We use a Seventh Generation detergent that comes in compostable and recyclable brown packaging.

For West's few pieces of clothing, we try to use ETSY as much as possible. As for me, I use Rent the Runway for special occasions, and have started wearing lots of no-fuss linen, as well as clothes by Daniella Hunter, which are made of eco-fabrics that utilize sustainable plant-based threads like hemp, silk, organic cotton and lyocell. (Meanwhile, Adam basically never gets anything new ever. He's still wearing the shirts he wore when I met him, and I love him for it.)

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PERSONAL CARE
When it comes to feminine products, menstrual cups are solid options, as there's zero waste beyond their initial packaging. If a cup doesn't work to your comfort, tampons without applicators are a mindful alternative. For example, Natracare organic tampons are naturally biodegradable and vegan.

I recently swapped out disposable cotton rounds for organic reusable/washable cotton cloths. These are available in a myriad of places, such as ETSY and Wild Minimalist. Similarly, we rarely use tissues-- even on West-- and use handkerchiefs instead. (If our skin needs a bit of softening or relief, we just apply coconut oil.)

Our razors are made from recycled plastic, but I'm not really wild about them. Our wood-handled ones fell apart years ago, so I think I'll try a Rockwell Safety model next. Hopefully that will be the last!

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CLEANING
I have a separate cleaning post in the works, so I'll pause on this topic until that entry. But I've found that reusable glass bottles filled either with homemade all-purpose cleaner or cleansers from concentrate are not only eco-friendly but space-saving. We use towels and rags rather than paper towels for all forms of cleaning. 

I'm sure I'm forgetting so many details, but I look forward to expanding upon all of these topics soon. (In the meantime, if you have any questions, please email us!)

Registry Picks for a Small Kitchen

This is entry no.2 from a 3-part wedding registry series, sponsored by Macy’s in partnership with MyDomaine. (View part one here.)

Sharing a small home is not only doable— it can be completely delightful and fulfilling. Adam and I have enjoyed our tiny cottage together for over seven years, and we both agree that we’ve become such better partners to one another because of it.

We partnered with Macy’s Wedding Registry to show to engaged couples some of the compact yet sophisticated appliances and dinnerware and serveware, that make everyday life in a small kitchen enjoyable.

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Remember— your wedding guests will WANT to give you tokens of celebration, love, and support. If you’re living in limited square-footage, make it easier on yourself and on your guests by carefully curating your registry to suit your wonderful and unique living situation.

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JUICING

This Breville Juice Fountain is small but mighty. It takes vegetables and fruit without pre-cutting, slicing or peeling, and turns them into healthy juice within seconds, all while requiring just 7.5” diameter of counter surface space. And the unit disassembles into smaller pieces so it’s easier to store.

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I was nervous the first time I used ours because I’m not the best in the kitchen. But it’s super fun and easy to use and clean, and now I’m totally addicted.

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COFFEE PREP

Adam and I realized recently that we were spending a small fortune on to-go coffees in the name of “convenience.” But what could be more convenient than quietly brewing coffee in the comfort of your own (tiny) home? The K-Select K80 Brewing System can accommodate four different cup/brew sizes, and can even fit a travel mug.

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Plus, great news— the K-Cup pods are now easy to recycle. But where to store them? Simply slide them under the coffee machine itself with an Under Brewer Storage Drawer, which sits beneath the brewing system. It will maximize your breakfast station while organizing all of your coffee essentials.

SPACE SAVING SERVEWARE

Villeroy & Boch offers timeless plates and trays, as well as several clever space-maximizing serving tools. The Artesano 3-Tiered Server is particularly handy in a tiny home or apartment. When entertaining, you’ll be able to display decor and/or offer several dishes on a small table, thanks to the vertical design. Maximize the potential of this design with the complete set, which includes three narrow serving bowls perfectly crafted to fit each level. Remove the tiers and collapse the tower for streamlined storage.

There are several more pieces from the Artesano line that are both beautiful and streamlined in design. Some of my favorites include:

Artesano Wood Tray Cover for 7" Bowl - This beautiful wood tray cover is a true small space star. It can act as the perfect topper for a 7" bowl , or it can be used on its own for serving appetizers.

Serveware Artesano Collection Porcelain & Cork Lidded Sugar Dish - Never underestimate the impact of the little details. In an apartment or small home, it helps to have pieces that can live in the cabinets OR on the countertops, like this petite porcelain and cork sugar dish.

Artesano Dip Bowls -  These simple, elegant little ramekins can come in handy nearly every meal. Stack them vertically when not in use, and they’ll barely take up any space.

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I also really love Villeroy & Boch’s Coffee Passion Collection— particularly the clear glass designs:

Coffee Passion Collection Latte Macchiato Glass Mug & Saucer Set - This dishwasher-safe glass mug retains heat when in use, and stacks neatly with others.

Artesano Set/2 Large Hot Beverages Cup - Adam and I use our hot beverage cups all the time. The glass style helps keep surfaces feeling clutter-free, and the double-walled design keeps our coffee hotter longer. (Which is good, because I never seem to get through breakfast and an entire cup of coffee before I get distracted and start doing something else. I appreciate that the cup is still warm when I return so it doesn’t go to waste.)

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CLEAN UP

It’s kind of a dream to have something tidying up after you, while you relax and enjoy your breakfast with your partner, right? Meet the Roomba, folks.

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I never thought I’d be into robotic vacuums, but this thing is complete magic. It is SO much smaller than a standard vacuum, and it quietly glides around our Cottage, collecting dog hair before it turns into terrifying tumbleweeds. (Plus, our pups are totally fascinated by it.) Win, win, win.

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View more of my curated collection with Macy’s here.

Updates to the "Company Car"

It's been a year and a half since we got our "Company Car"-- a wonderful cargo bike by Virtue. Now that West is a toddler, we made some adjustments to the seating setup to keep him and the pups safe during our adventures around town.

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The bike comes with seating and safety belts for up to 4 children, but we're predicting that West won't be large enough to ride without some sort of support seat until he's around 4 years old. When West was an infant, Adam and I used to secure his first-stage car seat into the cargo bike. But once he outgrew that arrangement, we began searching for other methods of keeping him safe while riding in the bucket.

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In order to fit West, both pups, and a few bags into the bike, we removed one of the two benches that come with the Virtue. We left the back bench in place, an attached a "Child Seat" next to a "Toddler Seat" from My Amsterdam Bike. Currently, West fits in the toddler seat, but he or his friends can sit in either of the chairs.

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We also added two tethers to the interior of the bike to keep Stanlee in Sophee safe in traffic in case they try to jump out. These two tethers are connected from the bike to harnesses on either beagle-- we never attach the dogs by their collars. If a pup does jump, there's enough slack so that they can land on the ground without dangling, but there's not enough slack for them to run away. (Neither pup has ever jumped out while on-the-go, but I don't want to take any chances.)

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This is by far my favorite way to get around Venice and the nearby neighborhoods of LA. Not only is it a joy to ride with our family all together, but the bike inspires great reactions from the community, and we've met several lovely folks this way.

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West has a toddler helmet (the "BabyNutty") by Nutcase. I highly, highly recommend this brand, as their helmet buckles are magnetic rather than traditional, so there's little to no chance of pinching your child's neck when applying or removing the helmet.

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Adam also wears a Nutcase, and I wear a Bern.

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While we use a monster lock to secure our bike around town, I also got a double-loop cable to string through our helmets and empty baskets so we don't have to lug them around with us when we're popping into businesses.

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With this bike (and the occasional Lyft ride when necessary), our simplified, 1-car lifestyle works out beautifully!

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Folding Wagon for Kids, Pets, & Shopping

We bought a folding wagon for West and the pups about a year ago, and we still receive numerous inquires about it. As such, here's a quick review with photos and product links. I would've loved to buy a previously-owned / vintage wagon, but this one navigates smoothly over wretchedly-paved roads or natural ground, is washable, and is practical for a compact home or apartment. As such, it was the right fit for our needs. We routinely use ours to wheel around our son, his friends, the pups, plants, groceries, and medium/large boxes. 

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We selected a version of the Wonderfold that comes with telescoping corners for an optional sun canopy, and I'm so glad we did. It takes about 15 seconds to apply or remove the canopy, and it functions perfectly for bright, hot days. We also added a safety seat for West when he was a bit smaller. It kept him upright, safely harnessed, and prevented him from knocking his head into the wagon's frame. (Another optional add-on is a mosquito net.)

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Most importantly, the entire wagon folds up or expands within a couple seconds, making it practical for multi-tasking folks in confined living quarters. (It also fits easily into small trunks when collapsed.)

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Some handy details include two mesh pockets on the exterior for reusable water bottles and coffee thermoses, a zippered back storage bin for medium-sized goods such as handbags, and an interior pouch for small  books, leashes, etc.

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Conveniently, the handle of the wagon doesn't crash to the ground when you release it-- it either stays put, or very slowly lowers, depending on how forcefully you release it.

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It's easy to remove the canvas of the wagon for machine washing. (I simply hang-dry the material before reinstalling it.) Ease of washing was important to me, because West regularly draws on the fabric with chalk, the pups shed on everything, and I somehow always manage to get sap and floral water all over the interior.

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I hope this helps. Here's to tiny adventures beyond our homes!

Year 12

Stanlee, our senior adopted beagle-mix, turned 12 yesterday!

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I adopted him when I was living on the east coast over a decade ago. He has since been all over the country with me, and has romped through forests, cities, snow, beaches, prairies, endless flower fields, the mountains, and deserts. He has stopped a robbery in progress at the Cottage, was here for our tiny home wedding, and has watched over West like a hawk since our son was born.

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We spend Friday mornings together-- just the two of us-- and I wouldn't be who I am without him.

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Here are some of our favorite pet products that we've enjoyed with him (and his sister) over the years:

When we moved into the cottage, we initially tried to keep him off of the couch and bed. But after a few days we realized that he’d basically have nowhere to go if he wasn’t welcome on those surfaces, since our home is so small. Now 7 years have passed, and we have 2 more family members— West & Sophee— who have mastered the Art of the Cushion-Smash pioneered by their big brother. I love watching them scramble up and down the built-ins. Meh, the dirt can always be cleaned. (And machine-washable throw blankets are our friends.)

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It might sound childish, but Stanlee is my best friend on the planet. #AdoptDontShop, folks. It can change your life in the most wonderful way. 

 Left: Stanlee at the cottage, photographed for  the chalkboard  in 2015. right: stanlee at the cottage, photographed for  sfgirlbybay  in 2018.

Left: Stanlee at the cottage, photographed for the chalkboard in 2015. right: stanlee at the cottage, photographed for sfgirlbybay in 2018.

Simplified Bookshelf

As we all well know, color-coordinated bookshelves were a "thing" several years back. The trend ignited notable levels of interest from folks who either loved or hated the look. I've never really considered myself to be on one team or the other. I delight in the diverse design of book spines (the typography, the color schemes, the illustrations), but I also appreciate practical and functional decor. Art collectors spend so much time, money and effort selecting frames, mats and fillets for the 2-dimensional art that hangs on their walls-- what's the harm in being creative with the display of the publications you use, love and see daily?

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Since rearranging our bedroom library years ago, I've received lots of questions and criticism: "Oh great, so I can only read flax-colored books now?" / "If you cover your books, why keep them?" / "Won't these fall on you in an earthquake?" / "How can you tell where a particular book is located?" / "Living tiny is supposed to save time-- why invest time in something unnecessary like this?" / "Why don't you replace these with decorative objects?" (I understand all of these questions and critiques... except for the last one. Decorative objects? Bah!)

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The thing is, I LOVE our neutral-toned bookshelf. It allows our tiny bedroom to breathe, and to feel uncluttered and airy, despite being completely utilitarian. This small space carries a lot of weight and wears many hats, but it looks and feels relaxed and easy thanks to the book spines and our bed linens. 

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The process requires very little time, effort and money (if any). There's no need to buy and waste new paper to do this with your bookshelf. Here are my three favorite options for achieving the look:

  • Remove the dust jacket-- the actual spines are frequently more beautiful. 
  • Simply flip the dust jacket inside out, and hand-write the title on the clean spine.
  • Use book binding repair tape to cover the spine. 
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For me, this was well-worth the short time investment it required. I donate plenty of books and buy many titles digitally, but I've kept these books because I enjoy revisiting them, they were written by friends or colleagues, and/or because we've yet to finish them. We don't need this storage space for any thing else-- we have all the room we need throughout our home. We've simply asked our books to pull double-duty by functioning as art when they're not being read. 

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Families Belong Together

In light of current events, we're taking a brief break from the Cottage blog this week. 

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"Whether our families crossed the Atlantic, the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we’re only here because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, how our last names sound, or the way we worship. To be an American is to have a shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve the chance to become something better. That’s the legacy our parents and grandparents and generations before created for us, and it’s something we have to protect for the generations to come. But we have to do more than say 'this isn’t who we are.' We have to prove it–through our policies, our laws, our actions, and our votes." - Barack Obama

We have chosen to donate to RAICES and the ACLU in support of their efforts to stand up for refugees and immigrants impacted by the recent family separations carried out by the government. 

(Small) Negative Space

Recently I contributed some words to a Domino feature entitled, “What I Wish I Knew Before Living in a Small Space,” and I wanted to expand upon those thoughts. 

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The Cottage is not my first compact living situation. I’ve lived in a tiny studio by the beach (1.5 years), a tight 1-bedroom in Manhattan (2 years), a shared 1-bedroom apartment nestled within a medieval castle (1 year over the span of a decade), and two dorm rooms, both of which I split with assigned roommates (1.5 years). But I’ve lived in this tiny home by the canals for over 7 years now, and it’s the first small space I’ve experienced with my own family. And I’m 37— my style has evolved and my priorities have shifted. 

As such, I’ve learned exponentially more about efficient and mindful small space living since calling the Cottage home.

Here’s the excerpt from the Domino piece, compiled by Elly Leavitt: 

It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes a great multifunctional storage find can actually be detrimental to your small space. “I wish I’d realized from the onset that the trick to small space living isn’t primarily to find storage. Instead, it’s to re-evaluate your existing belongings, analyze your future purchases, and determine what you can live without,” says Whitney Leigh Morris, whose 362-square-foot Venice Beach cottage is the stuff that dreams are made of.

She advocates donating the items you don’t actually need and being more intentional with your decorating; after all, downsizing your home means downsizing your lifestyle, too.

In other words, I believe that the key to living beautifully in a small home or apartment is not figuring out how to creatively Tetris a life’s worth of “stuff” into limited square-footage. It’s about discovering what you truly need — and don’t need— in order to live comfortably and contentedly, day by day.

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Lately I’ve been enjoying the negative space in our tiny house. These empty spots are not only soothing and airy, but they bolster the design elements and decorative features nearby. Most importantly, they provide the opportunity for us to explore and embrace unstructured moments.

By moving the tray of functional decorative items off our coffee table, West suddenly has a toddler-height surface for puzzles, creative play, and reading. By wheeling the entire chest away and under the desk, we all have a place to work out, horse around with the pups, roll West's book carts around, and dance.

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By keeping our breakfast counter clear, we have a place to open the mail, prep meals, sort donations, arrange greenery, and play with watercolors. 

By leaving my desk free of traditional office organizers and paper piles, I have all the inches I need to write, bookkeep, plan, and pause to draw with West when he climbs up into my lap as I work.

By keeping my beside cubby empty and unstyled, I can accommodate the books, drinks, puzzles, and hair clips that West and I share in the evenings and mornings. 

These stretches of blank canvas throughout our home are invitations for us to move differently, think creatively, and breathe deeply. For this, we don’t require a bigger house— we simply need less clutter.

New Way to Manage the Pet Hair Problem

This post was sponsored by BISSELL®. As always, the opinions and images are my own. All photographs of the pups and/or West were taken by myself or my husband while our little ones interacted in their own natural ways.

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Here’s the thing about living in a compact space as a family: with two adults, two pups, and one toddler, your floors get WRECKED. Think about it. All of the foot traffic is confined to the same small space. There’s no “high traffic area” vs “low traffic area.” It’s a rush-hour bottleneck all the time. 

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Also, there are no real entry landings here. No muck room. No dedicated spot to leave our shoes, bags, and miscellaneous wheels. Every inch is highly used— no space is transitional.

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I’m not complaining. It’s the lifestyle I love. But I do not love walking through fur tumbleweeds, slipping on the dogs’ drinking water (which lives on the floor more than in the bowl due to West’s love of splashing), and then tracking everything onto our area rugs.

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As we all know, one of the perks of living in a petite home or apartment is that it takes far less time to clean. But floor care can still be a pain in our cottage. Switching accessories depending on what surface we’re cleaning drags out the otherwise swift process, and there’s no obvious place to temporarily shuffle things between while shifting gears. 

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To make matters more complicated, my long hair frequently winds around vacuum hardware until it looks like an old hairbrush, and ultimately jams everything up. Luckily for us all, BISSELL® just released  CrossWave® Pet Pro, which basically solves all of these issues.

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I’m always inclined to try BISSELL products— not only are they always innovated and effective, but BISSELL also has a pet foundation that’s dedicated to finding homes for stray or abandoned pets.  

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As Stanlee and Sophee are both rescues (and all of my childhood dogs were strays), this is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. 

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BISSELL also develops Earth friendly formulas and biodegradable detergents, which are safe for use in homes with pets and kids when used as directed. Not a lot of items make it into our home in the first place, but I’ll always happily try out a BISSELL. 

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In a house with limited square-footage, free/negative space is so important. And with our pups and son, this means that we’re all stretched out on our floors or rugs more often than anywhere else. As such, I’m always looking for efficient and effective ways to keep our rugs and hardwood clean.

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 As far as the CrossWeave goes, here are the perks in a nutshell:

  • It vacuums and washes at the same time, eliminating an extra step while cleaning sealed hard floors and area rugs
  • Smart touch controls make it easy to switch between cleaning hard floors and area rugs.
  • It’s designed specifically for cleaning up after pets 
  • It has a multi-Surface Pet Brush Roll, which is tangle-free for hair up to 8 inches long
  • For every CrossWeave purchased and activated on bissell.com, $10 is donated to their pet foundation.  
  • The cleaning formula is safe for pets and kids when used as directed, it’s Earth friendly, and it removes tracked in dirt, mud, paw prints and other such messes.
  • Two-tank system keeps the clean water/formula mix and dirty water separate so you’re always cleaning with fresh water and formula.
  • A strainer in the dirty water tank separates and traps pet hair for easy emptying, and the Brush Roll is removable for easy cleaning and maintenance.
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What all that means when applied to our tiny Cottage is this: Adam or I can clean all of our floorspace in one easy pass. While cleaning, we don’t have to empty any tanks or change any hardware or accessories.  

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There’s an Easy-Clean Storage Tray, which we use immediately afterwards, and then stow when needed. (I’ll be honest— we sit it in the shower, because where else is it going to go here?!)

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We simply toggle between modes via a button the handle, and go. The tumbleweeds of dog hair are gone, my fallen hairs don’t hinder the function of the roller, and we no longer have to wipe or pick up soggy messes by the pet bowls. 

So, West, my love— keep on splashing to your lil’ heart’s content. 

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Tiny Adventures: The Westside

One of the things I enjoy the most about small space living is that it inspires us to seek new experiences beyond our four walls. Recently, Adam and I have been seeking adventure in our own backyard, so to speak. We've been biking with West and the pups all around Venice and its neighboring town of Marina del Rey, and the outings have reminded us that we don't need to go far to encounter new and interesting sights. (And, for the pups, new and interesting sniffs.) Here are some of my favorite images from the past two weeks of pedaling around nearby. All of them were shot on my iPhone.

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I Wish I'd Known This Gardening Tip Sooner

This blog post was sponsored by The Home Depot. All words and opinions are my own.

I have desperately wanted to redo the lawn portion of our lil’ garden for a year now. When we finally get around to it, it will be our FOURTH TIME switching up the surface of the yard. Looking back, I really wish I’d known more about tending to failing patches of the grass and ground cover back when we first moved in. It would’ve been more cost-effective, more eco-friendly, and it would’ve saved us so much time and effort had we’d known what we were doing from the onset. In an effort to learn more about what I can do to get our tiny oasis right this time around, I recently attended a gardening event sponsored by The Home Depot and PopSugar here in LA, where I learned a few key tips and tricks that I’m eager to try here at the Cottage when the time comes.

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The event was hosted at the gorgeous Lombardi House, and it started off with an easy and delightful gardening DIY. 

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My Venice Beach neighbor Erica of PS I Made This lead the group from a gorgeous Veranda deck that was constructed for the occasion. 

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We made our own compact planter boxes, and filled them with miracle gro and Bonnie herbs and veggies, which Adam can use when cooking or crafting cocktails at home. (For those who didn’t feel up to hammering together the planter box, there was a great bamboo planter bowl alternative at-hand.)

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We spray painted some basic paint stirrers, which made the most adorable plant name markers for the containers:

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While we were working away on our project, I chatted with the team from The Home Depot about ways to keep struggling portions of a lawn alive. It’s surprisingly tricky here in Venice— there is an intense marine layer, which keeps the shaded portions of our garden damp year-round. And yet we’re also prone to drought and intense sunlight, which can fry other portions of the yard. Also, having a toddler and 2 dogs in this small stretch of outdoor space means that our lawn gets A LOT of wear-and-tear, so that’s an additional issue when it comes to keeping our green floor clean and happy. 

Years ago, I’d tried a garden spot repair product that didn’t work. I eventually I gave up on our grass, and we switched to artificial cover in preparation for our home-wedding. While I love the green, I’ve never liked the faux look and feel. (I grew up in a lush and verdant part of Florida, so I still can’t wrap my brain around the concept of fake grass.) I find myself cloaking the ground with outdoor or washable rugs every chance I get:

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At the event, I was introduced to Pennington One Step Complete, which works for new growth OR spot repair, and is effective in areas of sunny and moderately shady gardens. It can handle drought, and helps save water. WHY DIDN’T I TRY THIS YEARS AGO? I am sincerely looking forward to putting it to use on our new lawn in the near future. 

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The team also told me about Sevin, which protects home-grown veggies and fruits. This product probably would've saved us from having to toss pound after pound of our cottage-grown grapes and strawberries that were gnawed on by bugs in the past. Sevin is safe for edible plants and is fine to use around pets, and protects edible gardens (as well as ornamental gardens) from hungry pests. The grapevines at the cottage grow rapidly in May and June, and the concords start to develop and ripen throughout the summer, so we learned about this just in time for our 7th year of harvesting grapes.

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What a lovely, informative and productive day! Sincerest thanks to The Home Depot and PopSugar for including me!

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Roundup: Water Tables for Small Spaces

Numerous styles of sensory tables could work well for children living in small spaces. There are nesting versions, options that double as outdoor coffee tables, custom handmade designs, easy DIYs, and Ikea hacks galore. But as Adam and I were researching what models would work well for our son and space, we decided that we didn't want to acquire anything new. So we decided instead to use items we already have at the Cottage:

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We simply put West's folding bathtub on his outdoor collapsible table, and voila. He is entertained for hours via this setup. We swap the bathtub out for a plastic toy storage tub when our son wants to play with sand or similar materials instead.

There was no need to buy anything new, and no need to make room, or find storage space. So there's another $50 - $400 saved and allocated towards our little one's future, without shorting him of this joyful lil' experience.

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Here are some of the items we have and enjoy, as well as a few additional accessories of similar styles:

If you have the funds to spare, here are the options we bookmarked before deciding to cobble our own version together:

Roundup: Mirrored Products for Small Spaces

Mirrors are one of the most effective ways to enlarge the look and feel of a small space.

Here in the Cottage, we turned a large floor mirror on its side and mounted it to the wall above my desk in order to reflect and double the light from the neighboring wall's windows. It was extremely effective-- when we took the mirror down to paint the wall last year, the main room of our home immediately felt smaller, darker, and more cluttered. 

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In a tiny apartment, there isn't usually much interrupted wall space in which to mount a large mirror (like the one over my desk), but I've found that a cohesive collection of smaller mirrors can be just as effective, and often more stylish.

When we covered our wall heater to transform the closet side of our bedroom into West's nursery two years ago, I suspended three inexpensive framed mirrors with twine to make our funny wall hack come to life, which is did instantaneously. The set bounced light from the windows above our built-in headboard, and from the skylight above. 

Similarly, when we rented the front house on our property for some months, I used a round rattan mirror set to liven up a small, dark wall between West's closet and bathroom. 

But mirrors can be used in a myriad of other ways as well. Try reflective headboards, room dividers, and furnishings in order to brighten up tricky spots. 

Similarly, mirrors can also be used in more ways than one. There are numerous designs available with built-in storage shelves and racks, which help pieces pull double-duty. Your vanity, medicine cabinet, mantle, coat rack, sconces, wardrobe rack, backsplash, jewelry organizer, and countless other items can serve their function(s) while simultaneously brightening and beautifying your compact space.

A roundup of diverse styles and products is below-- scroll right to explore them all!

Simplifying Skincare + Makeup Products

I recently uploaded an Instagram Stories slide from our trip to Laguna Beach showing how my tiny beauty collection (which fits in a This Is Ground pouch) has saved me money, freed up space in our tiny bathroom, made traveling easier, and vastly improved my complexion. I received so many DMs requesting further details that I figured I should share more via the blog. (The last time I shared anything on this topic was in this postpartum body post.)

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We don't have any drawers in our bathroom, so when we first moved into the cottage, I upcycled a hardware drawer to contain my cosmetics. I sanded and painted the box (which I found on Etsy), and I loved how it looked and functioned. I used one drawer per category, and everything stayed organized thanks to drawer dividers. I could always find everything instantly. However, after a few years I began to worry that perhaps an old container like this might contain chemicals (or traces of them) that I should avoid when pregnant / breastfeeding, so I replaced it.

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I got rid of about 1/3 of my products so that my collection could fit into this well-designed cosmetics case. I downsized by asking myself the following:

  • Has this item irritated my skin in any way at any time?
  • Have I used this item within the past month?
  • Is it old or expired? (It could very well be harboring harmful bacteria if so...)
  • If I'm traveling, would I want to take this with me? Is it a must-have?
  • Am I saving it for an out-of-the-ordinary occasion, like Halloween or a themed party? (If so, that's absurd. It's got to go.)

Every item that remained had a cozy new home within the portable organizer, which was compact enough to fit in our bathroom cubbies or under the sink. I used this case for a several months before realizing that I was only ever fishing out the same handful of items day after day. Meanwhile, my skin started revolting after I finally fully weaned West off of breastfeeding. I was randomly breaking out in new places, and in different ways. (I'm 37 years old and regularly on camera, so I'm now at a point where I am really, really, REALLY over blemishes.) 

I wanted to pinpoint the products that worked with my skin, and identify the products that were causing me to breakout in tandem with my fluctuating hormones. I ended up eliminating the majority of the items within my cosmetics case, so I donated it and replaced it with two beautiful  This Is Ground Plug Packs that can easily fit in small handbags, or anywhere in the Cottage.

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MAKEUP
One pack carries my must-have cosmetics, which are now my only cosmetics:

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I rarely need brushes these days. I mainly use them to apply Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint on special occasions, or to apply shadow eyeliner or brow powder when I go out at night. But on the daily, I don't need high end, full-sized brushes any more.

I now carry this pack with me everywhere. It's nice to not have to pack up a small collection of makeup before heading out the door or on a trip. None of these products irritate my skin, and I like how they all look, both on my skin and within their packaging.

SKINCARE
The other pack carries my skincare products:

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(The two larger bottles live in the medicine cabinet, and I keep travel versions in the portable pack. More on that later.) I am a major fan of True Botanicals' cleansers, face oils and serums. I also use a goop eye cream, mermaid hair oil (from time to time), and Kate Somerville moisturizing sunscreen.

I've also begun getting facials once a month, which is a game-changer. If I can't make my monthly appointment, I wear Kate Somerville's ExfoliKate, which is available in a compact travel size. (I use the travel size at home, because it's easy to fit in the medicine cabinet, and it would take me years to get through a full-sized bottle anyway.)

I use coconut oil to remove my eye makeup before applying anything else before bed. I just let the oil melt in my hands, and then use my fingers to gently clear away mascara and liner before rinsing clean with water and patting dry.

I have a full size Foreo Luna 2 for facial cleansing use at home.

TRAVEL
I am never one to grab or hoard sample products. I find that they usually end up sitting unused for years, adding to miscellaneous drawer clutter. But I do request or buy samples of the skincare products I use regularly but find hard to pack for travel:

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My favorite sample packs are available for purchase from True Botanicals. They also make compact, TSA-approved travel bottles for their products. 

When I travel, I obviously can't fit the larger full-sized skincare bottles in my 2nd This Is Ground pouch, so I keep trial sizes in there instead. I use a Foreo Luna Go, which is a fantastic tiny cleansing tool. Lastly, I use a travel pack of makeup removers instead of coconut oil when I'm on-the-go, as there isn't always a sink immediately available. 

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Tiny Adventures: Laguna Beach

One of the things I enjoy the most about small space living is that it inspires us to seek new experiences beyond our four walls. This week, someone rented our cottage for a shoot, so we decided to turn our time away from home into tiny adventure and hop down the Cali coast a bit. We started off in Hermosa Beach, and ended up in nearby Laguna Beach.

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We kicked off the trip by celebrating the cheerful #OhJoyxErinCondren collaboration in Hermosa.

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From there, we headed to the Laguna Beach House.

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It was a short but therapeutic stay. We walked on the beach, played in the pool, visited some local shops and restaurants, chased bunnies through the parks along the ocean, and West even slept through the night for the first time without making so much as a lil' peep.  

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These beachside communities along the SoCal coast are so stunningly gorgeous. I'm thankful that we had the opportunity to share them with our son in the quiet days before the busier Memorial Day weekend.

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West broke in his new swimsuit from Alex and Alexa, and it was one of the cutest things I've ever seen. He's definitely a Cali kid.

Hermosa and Laguna-- we'll be back. Sooner than later, I hope. Thanks for all the gorgeous sights and colors, and for the relaxing, tiny adventure. 

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Optimization Through Simplification

This post was sponsored by Rethink Water. All words and opinions are my own. All images of West were taken by me while my son was engaging naturally and happily in his own way.

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On a recent routine visit to the doctor, we were told that our 19 month old son should be drinking much more water than he is, and should be drinking less milk now that he’s no longer nursing. Shortly thereafter, this sentiment was echoed by the director of a preschool that we visited. 

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However, our sweet boy wouldn’t drink anything but milk or elaborate homemade green juices. (We don’t give him store-bought juices, as most are pumped full of sugar and often housed in plastic containers.) Both the milk and the green juices aren’t ideal for all of our sunny, outdoor playroom/porch and adventures throughout Venice. And neither substance is fun to clean from the car, stroller, or sofa. 

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We tried fresh-squeezed lemon water, orange-infused water, and sparkling water, all with no luck. Luckily, a week later, we were introduced to Rethink Water, which checked off all the boxes.

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✅🌎 Rethink Water is contained in FCS certified paperboard that’s 100% recyclable. (Why is anyone still buying products that come in single-use plastic bottles?!) 

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✅0⃣ It has zero sugar, zero calories, and zero sodium. 
✅🍏 It’s simple, organically flavored water. 
✅💧 It doesn’t leave a sticky mess behind. (This helps, as West regularly tries to water our greenery with his beverages.)

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✅🚣 It’s easy to grab-and-go for our bike rides, walks on the canals, and visits to the beach.

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✅☀  When West and Adam are on the playroom/porch or romping around in the garden, it won’t go bad if its accidentally left in the sun for a bit.

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✅🎨 The carton artwork is adorable, and the containers are the perfect size for tossing into a stroller or bag. West also enjoys the boxes as toys— he usually grabs more than one at a time from his kitchen drawer, and stacks as many as possible.

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✅♻ We even reused our first batch of cartons for West’s first gardening project.

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✅👦 Most importantly, WEST ACTUALLY ENJOYS & DRINKS IT. (Hallelujah!)

Problem solved, and solved simply. (Adventure, ahoy!)

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2 Years Since Our Tiny House Tiny Wedding

Adam and I celebrated our wedding anniversary yesterday and his birthday is coming up this weekend, so now feels like a fitting moment for a public display of affection. But first, a short story from the morning... 

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Earlier today, my husband returned home from grocery shopping with our son while I stayed home to work on a project (launching this fall— yay!), and he looked uncharacteristically ruffled. Apparently while shuffling through the musical greeting cards in the store (we use them to occupy West while we’re changing his diapers,) he only found one Father’s Day card that wasn’t about “beer or flatulence.” 

My immediate reaction was a quick snicker, but an instant later the implication sunk in and I was annoyed right along with my husband. Why is our culture so quick to stereotype in the name of humor? Hell— Adam doesn’t even really drink beer. (I do. Give me all the El Sully.) 

 Above: How Adam and our son spend the majority of their day-- reading around the cottage or garden.

Above: How Adam and our son spend the majority of their day-- reading around the cottage or garden.

My incredible partner left his job to watch our son 24/7, which is a great gig, but NOT an easy one. And in doing so, he back-burnered his professional goals and bolstered my career. 

 Above: Scenes from our anniversary dinner at home last night.

Above: Scenes from our anniversary dinner at home last night.

Frequently when we’re out, Adam goes to change West’s diaper in the men’s room, but is forced to return and ask me to handle the situation in the women’s room instead, because there was no changing table. 

He cooks our family healthy meals. He organizes the porch/playroom 1000 times per day. He takes West everywhere. He’s patient. He’s strong. He’s kind. He’s just the absolute best.

 Above: Adam cooking in the cottage kitchen while I play around with my camera.

Above: Adam cooking in the cottage kitchen while I play around with my camera.

Sometimes he’s one of the many dads present at a given location, whereas sometimes he’s the only man in sight. (For example, he was the only male parent or caregiver at West’s first swim class, during which all the mothers took turns sharing their birthing stories.) In either case, he’s unfazed.  

One of the ways in which I support our family financially is through advertising, either on this blog or on my Instagram account. Our content is drawn from our everyday lives, so I hope that it chips away at the tired and outdated gender roles we see on screen and in advertisements. I appreciate a good laugh, but I’m also a fan of maintaining some mindfulness in the process. And I’m fairly certain that we can lift each other up without putting one another down. 

 Above: Every day, West shows me new words and images he knows thanks to reading constantly with his father.

Above: Every day, West shows me new words and images he knows thanks to reading constantly with his father.

Adam. You’re an extraordinary father, a dream partner, and an all-around delightful human. I raise my pint glass to you. Happy anniversary, happy birthday, and THANK YOU.