Families Belong Together

In light of current events in America, 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. Next, we intend to investigate ways in which we can work with Baby2Baby. 

(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.

Recent Features

I'm delighted that the Cottage has been featured in a few great stories recently. A lil' link roundup is below!

“Here's to less judgement and more lightheartedness, kindness, and creativity in the design and decor world— and beyond.”

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Roundup: Outdoor Rugs

I'm often asked about our outdoor rugs. What do I do with them when it rains? How do I spot clean them? Do they hold up against dog hair? Crayons? Extensive foot traffic? Over the years, I’ve used a mix of rugs-types. But here’s a roundup of my favorites, and where and how we use them.

FOR SOFT SURFACES
For grass, turf or other soft surfaces, I actually prefer to use this type of inexpensive indoor printed rugs. They’re technically not supposed to be machine washed, but I’ve washed mine for years. They fade a bit, but I actually prefer them to look a bit desaturated. They hold up in high-traffic, and they can be folded up and brought in during rain. Or, if you accidentally leave them out, they can simply be washed afterwards. 

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COVERED OUTDOOR SPACE
I’m currently in love with this patio rug from Urban Outfitters due to its natural fibers, unique pattern, and soft texture. We styled it in our back garden, but I plan to move it to the covered patio, which is West’s playroom. We have another as a doormat on the bedroom stoop, which works well and looks much prettier than a standard entryway mat.

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FOR DINING AREAS
Pappelina makes high-quality, washable patio rugs. I use ours for outdoor dining spaces. These rugs are wonderful, non-slippery, and durable. They feel like a thin rubber mat underfoot. We use a smaller version for our high-traffic front stoop. I leave them out in the rain, and drape them over the fence when they need to dry off.

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FOR PLAY AREAS OR MESSY GARDEN CORNERS
MadMats and similar brands make fantastic, reversible, outdoor mats. They can be blasted with the hose, which makes them handy in areas of the garden that collect a lot of organic debris, and/or for spaces with pets and kids. These mats don’t provide any real cushioning— they’re more like decorative coverings. These are ideal for taking to the beach, as you can shake them clean. They do not need to be brought in during rain. Don’t drag table legs or other heavy objects over these— they will start to come apart quickly. Otherwise, I’ve found they’ll last for years! 

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PLUSH OPTIONS
Dash & Albert, Target, and Wayfair all have an extensive outdoor rug collection, many of which are thicker and softer like indoor rugs. While they are resistant to the basic elements, I can’t imagine that they would withstand heavy rain or snow without rotting. As such, I rolls ours up and bring them into the house in the event of rain.

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Market Friday 5.11.18

This week's Farmers Market Friday in photos:

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We've been trying hard to avoid using disposable goods and single-use plastics when out of the cottage. We're making a effort at our weekly farmers market in particular, but it can be tough since so many items come pre-packaged. Still, I've started carrying a small, washable pouch that easily contains almost everything we need for the majority of our quick dining and shopping on-the-go. This includes reusable bags and bottles/thermoses, a bottle sling, camping cutlery for the adults, a folding spork for West, cloth napkins, 2 stainless steel straws (and a corresponding cleaning brush) for the adults, a silicone straw for West, reusable beeswax wrap, and a waterproof sandwich bag in which to put the items after they've been used. It's all compact for toting and for storing in our tiny home. 

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Spring Roundup: Indoor/Outdoor Garden Space

We recently did a fun little shoot with Urban Outfitters here in the back garden at the Cottage. I decided to leave the furnishings and accessories out here for a while because I love them so much! They're a mix of indoor and outdoor pieces, but thanks to this SoCal spring weather they're all holding up beautifully, and we've been enjoying them daily ever since.

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Market Friday 5.4.18

This week's Farmers Market Friday in photos:

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New Routines in Our Lil' Old House

It’s been a few weeks since we stopped renting the little front house, and we’ve adjusted to life back in our solo tiny cottage. The last time we lived in under 400 sqft, West was barely walking. Now, at 19 months old, he’s running everywhere, climbing everything, and reaching further and higher than we expected for his age. I always heard people say that this stage is exhausting. It is, but more than that, it’s completely dazzling. 

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As part of the shift in our living situation, we’ve been faced with some new challenges, changes to our sleep and nursing routines, and the need for modified storage and use of space.

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FRESH CHALLENGES

WORK - The adjustment back into our single tiny house hasn’t been without it’s minor hiccups, of course. For example, my home-office is great for editing photos, developing creative concepts, and doing administrative work, but I’ve had to leave the house numerous times to write at nearby restaurants. That costs a bit of money, but it’s nothing compared to renting an external office (which I’m not intersted in anyway, regardless of the price-tag). 

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RELATIONSHIP - Adam and I have gotten in more tiffs than normal, as we’re in each others faces non-stop. It’s my job 24/7 to run our small business, and financially support our family and our futures. It’s Adam’s job 24/7 to be with West. (Thankfully, those worlds overlap, and we help each other out.)  But the silver lining from those infrequent arguments is that Adam and I both feel the weight of each others’ responsibilities, which helps us to better understand and sympathize with one another. Overall, I believe it’s far more unifying than dividing. It’s just a lot, as it is for any family, regardless of the size of their home.

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MODIFIED SLEEP / NURSING ROUTINE

West has never really slept in a crib overnight. For his first year, he had a mini-crib for his frequent naps as an infant, but he slept with us via a co-sleeper while we bed-shared and I nursed him on-demand. When we set up his room in the front house, West was 13+ months old. At that stage, we felt like we’d be taking a step backwards to begin crib-training him as a toddler.  So we got a convertible bed, which could be set up as a crib, a toddler bed, or a daybed. We set it up in daybed format, and we used it for his once-daily naps, and whenever family or babysitters put him to bed at night. This encouraged a bit more independence in his sleep routines, and I began to wean him slowly. 

NURSING - Between months 15-18, I reduced West’s nursing sessions so we were just breastfeeding at night and in the mornings. Then, at 18 months, I stopped nursing him altogether. (Sob!) At that point, we also gave up the front cottage.

BED - Rather than relocate our wardrobe back out to the garden shed yet again, we decided to scrap our plan for a fold-out toddler bed / toddler workspace in the bedroom closet alcove, and simply use West’s crib mattress on the floor at night. (He naps on our bed, in the car seat, or in the stroller, depending on the events of each day.) Obviously having a mattress on the floor is not design-y. But it works perfectly, our son sleeps in it happily, and I see no reason to be dissatisfied with it. During the day, we simply prop the mattress up into our closet. (We loaned the convertible crib frame to a friend in need, in the hopes that we’ll get to use it again in the future.) 

To help West fall in love with his bed, we got a few new fitted sheets in patterns we knew he’d enjoy. It works wonderfully, and he runs to his bed with his books excitedly at night, babbling about what he sees on his bedding, and pointing out his favorite parts. 

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He’s safe, he’s content, and the process is easy. If West wakes up at night, he either soothes himself back to sleep, or he asks us to bring him into our bed (where he falls back asleep immediately). We don’t mind. This won’t last forever, and we’ll enjoy it while we can. 

Sometimes West rotates in his sleep and knocks Adam and I in our faces. Sometimes I roll into the tiny gap between our bed and the built-in bookshelf and get comically and uncomfortably wedged there. And sometimes Sophee traps some or all of our legs with her warm and floppy beagle body. But I don’t care. My greatest joy is waking up to our whole family sharing this little bedroom. (The backache always fades.)

I know that much of this will be considered unacceptable to many people— particularly in the opinionated worlds of parent blogging and home decor. But we are functioning smoothly and happily, so I’m sharing our experience publicly in case it helps anyone else who’s living tiny (or considering living tiny) with their family. There are many benefits:

  • We’re back on track to save money for retirement and for West’s education.
  • We get to live in a city and neighborhood that we love, but otherwise couldn’t afford in a big house.
  • It takes mere minutes to tidy up our entire home and garden. 
  • I believe our physical proximity to one another makes us closer emotionally.

And I gotta say— nothing is ever boring.

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UPDATED STORAGE

We didn’t have to make any adjustments to accommodate the crib mattress, but we did have to shuffle and donate some items in order to absorb West’s playroom. But that ended up being a relief anyway. We are now running more efficiently than ever, which is extremely helpful, because life has been insane lately. (Don’t get me started on April 2018… good riddance.)

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TOYS  - We gave away enough items to free up 2 of the 3 cubbies that are built-in to the side of the couch, and West’s toys now fit in there via little tubs that we bring out in shifts. 

Some of his bigger items, such as his piano, collapsible toddler tent which encloses his folding work table + chairs, along with his bike and Green Truck live out on the covered porch. (They all fit in the house, but there’s no need to bring them in— even when it’s lightly raining.)

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BOOKS - We relocated our son’s books from jute baskets to a 3-tiered rolling cart. West wheels it around— both inside and outside— throughout the day as though he’s a miniature librarian. It’s the cutest. 

So! Life feels better than ever. We know we’ll have to make some changes again in the future, but thus far we’ve had great success with living in the moment, and being optimistic about adapting to whatever tomorrow holds.

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Video from the Cottage

We were so delighted to welcome Well + Good to the Cottage for a tiny home tour earlier this spring. It's funny how fast things change here in our lil' space. Since shooting this video, our grapevines have sprouted and covered the fence line, our 8'-porch has been converted to a full play space, and we've since stopped renting the front cottage (which is shown in the video as West's nursery). But the overall gist of it is still very much the same. We love this video, and hope you do, too. Thank you, Well + Good!

Market Friday 4.27.18

This week's Farmers Market Friday in photos:

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How West and the Pups Interact in our Tiny Home

There’s been a notable uptick of photos featuring West and the pups on my Instagram account lately. With every passing day they’re spending more and more time side-by-side. When the dogs bark, West runs to meet them and screams by their sides. When StanLee and Sophee eat, West either stands with them, or rushes to eat as well. And our son can aaaaaalmost clip the dogs’ leashes onto their harnesses. (He even helps hold their leashes, and pretends to clean up after them on our walks.) They nap together, they play together, and they’re clearly protective of and enamored by each other. 

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They’ve always gotten along, but their bond and understanding of one another has certainly grown stronger with time. Now that West’s movements are steadier and more predictable, StanLee (11+ years old) is less likely to keep his distance. And Sophee will let West sweetly tug on her ears and neck scruff, and knows how to gently yet firmly warn him when he’s pulling too tight. 

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BEOFRE WEST WAS BORN

Training: StanLee is a senior, and is usually extremely well-behaved. But Sophee was still a puppy when West was born. We sent her to a three week training course midway through our pregnancy, so she’d be more manageable on walks, and understand and follow basic commands.

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WHEN WE INTRODUCED THEM

Hospital Blanket: The day I went into labor, we took the pups to a cage-free boarding facility they’d visited many times in the past. After West’s birth, we saved the first blanket in which he was wrapped. Adam took it over to the facility so that the dogs could smell and sleep with the blanket overnight before coming home to meet their brother.

Introduction: When the dogs returned to the Cottage after we brought home West, Adam and I let them sniff (and I’m not going to lie— even lightly lick) their little brother as he was in my arms. We had our hands lightly on the pups during every moment, petting them and speaking cheerfully. We were calm, happy, and even relaxed, which I think positively influenced the pups. 

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Special Treatment: We had new dog beds, fresh toys, and even special food ready for the dogs when they returned home to meet their brother. We wanted them to associate the baby with the joyful things in their lives. I think it helped!

THE FOLLOWING MONTHS

Activities: During West’s first months, we were extra mindful to take the dogs on long walks and to the dog park, as well as snuggle with them as much as ever. We put West in an ErgoBaby carrier or Solly wrap for the outings, so we could all be together.

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Cuddling Safety: The thing we were the most worried about was the dogs accidentally smothering West when snuggling with him during naps and at bedtime— particularly since we were bed sharing. We wanted to let them touch and be close, but we were hyper-vigilant about monitoring rollovers and preventing trapped limbs.

We still try to give StanLee and Sophee undivided attention when West is present, but it can be tough sometimes. Luckily their joint interaction with one another ensures that most activities at home include all three of our kiddos. 

Note: Please consult professional resources and keep safety as the top priority when making decisions concerning your child and pets. I am not recommending any particular tactics. I am simply sharing our personal experience in case it helps anyone else on their journey. The ASPCA offers a comprehensive guide to managing dogs with babies and toddlers here.