Goals - December 2016

December goals | RISING*SHINING

There's a little story in one of the Hello magazines that Cedric likes to read about a baby being pushed in a stroller through a busy town. He notices motorcycles vrooming! and airplanes zooming! Cedric likes to repeat these phrases but in my mind I phrase it, "December zooming!

Because truly it was just hot and summery and now I'm wearing my wicked good slippers and pulling on a sweater before going outside. I suppose it goes this way every year. I'm usually wanting to zoom through the summer but always wanting to put on the brakes for November and December. The holiday cheer, the glorious weather, time off from work, lots of family birthday celebrations (my sister-in-law, then me, then Cedric), reflecting on the year and looking forward to the next.

I've been too busy, but I think I'm identifying some specific things that contribute to feeling too busy and brainstorming ways to improve in 2017. The fresh start of a new year is always invigorating.

Big things happening in December (besides Christmas and New Year's Eve):

+ Seeing friends visiting from out of town. What a treat that they decided to spend a birthday weekend here! And how convenient for it to fall over the very first weekend that our brand new Alamo Drafthouse was open! (!!!!!)

+ Copper Quail Style booth at Raising Arizona. My new small business will have a booth at the first annual Raising Arizona market in downtown Mesa. I'm excited to be part of this local community of small businesses.

+ All the birthdays. We celebrated my sister-in-law's birthday early but still have mine coming up and Cedric's SECOND birthday just after Christmas. I'm taking off a few days around the Christmas holidays including for my birthday and I'm looking forward to having a few quiet days while the boys are still in daycare and before my family arrives from out of town.

+ My family visits from Austin! So happy to have my parents, sister and my sister's boyfriend coming to Gilbert for Christmas.

December goals:

+ Finish shopping, wrapping, and shipping early. I always say this! But each year I get a bit better. I already have the majority of my shopping done but I need to keep going and get everything wrapped and shipped (if needed).

+ Reflect on 2016, look forward to 2017. There's so much to celebrate from 2016 and some things I want to improve on in 2017. Taking the time to reflect and set goals and intentions for the new year has become a favorite annual habit of mine. Usually Chris and I like to have a discussion about our individual and joint goals for the new year. We'll definitely discuss on Matrimoney and each year we have a new year goals episode on The Girl Next Door Podcast

Recurring monthly goals:

+ Exercise three times per week. Finding that I'm able to keep this up - finally! It's been a goal I've been trying to make happen for the second half of the year at least. The key for me has been going to Orange Theory three times a week, instead of trying to add a run as the third workout. I feel really great making the time to exercise this often.

+ Publish to RISING*SHINING at least once a week. 

+ Record and produce new episodes of The Girl Next Door Podcast and Matrimoney on schedule.

Happy December!


Managing our family photos

An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING

Digital photos can be so overwhelming. So! Overwhelming! We can fill up our phones, dump the photos somewhere and then tap, tap, tap our way to thousands of more photos. Quickly there are photos across devices and clouds (what is this cloud exactly again?) and it's hard to know even where to start. But there is hope! 

My system for managing our family photos does not require a lot of work, keeps my phone from getting filled to capacity and has me regularly printing photo books that are family keepsakes. I have an iPhone and was originally using albums in iPhoto to organize my photos and it was OK albeit a bit clunky. And then I discovered my current system using Google Photos and I feel like "Family photo management? CHECK!" It is incredibly satisfying, especially as someone who loves taking photos but has never scrapbooked or even been great at printing photos. If I can do this, so can you!

An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING

Right now my approach is to create one family photo book for each calendar year. For each of my boys I also made albums for the first year (for Dashiell to 21 months, which is about when Cedric came along). So each January through December I'm organizing photos into one Google Photos album for that calendar year. Then at the end of the year I upload all those photos into Blurb, create a simple photo book, order, and done!

Below I've broken down my system into the tools I use and the process I follow. I would also HIGHLY recommend that you first pop over to the post at Bneato Bar, which is where I got the idea in the first place. She goes over some of the technical parts of getting set up in detail and getting your photos over to Google Photos in the first place. You can do it!


+ I use the Google Photos app on my phone and also use Google Photos on my laptop. I use the app to synch the photos from my phone while I have wifi (at home or at work) and I use Google Photos on my laptop to sort the photos into albums.

+ I take all photos with my iPhone 6S.

+ All my photo books are created and printed using Blurb.

An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING


+ Synch photos on phone to Google Photos using app. About once a month or so I synch/back up all the photos on my phone to Google Photos. I do this by opening up the app while I'm on wifi (to avoid using data) and tap the Assistant tab. The app automatically starts backing up all photos. I leave the app open and set my phone aside and let it finish the back up. 

+ Delete photos from phone. This is so scary the first couple of times! But once all the photos have been backed up to Google Photos I go into my iPhone photos, select all (which can be done by holding down your finger on one photo to select and then dragging down - just learned this!) and delete! 

+ Organize photos into Google Photo album(s). At the beginning of a calendar year I create an album in Google Photos called "Team Wharton [YEAR]," so this year I'm working on Team Wharton 2016. After I synch new photos from my phone I'll open Google Photos on my laptop, select all the photos that are candidates for being included in our annual family photo book and add them to our Team Wharton album. I'd also like to start doing albums for trips that we take so this would be another album that I would create, like "PNW Adventure 2016." You can select and add photos to Google Photos albums from your phone but I find it easier to do on a laptop.

Another thing I like is being able to make my Team Wharton albums shared with Chris. This way he can add photos that he takes right into the album. I'll admit that he is not adding photos regularly so as we head towards the end of the year I'll have to make sure I get all his 2016 photos but in theory you could have several family members contributing photos. 

+ Create an annual photo book using Blurb. At the beginning of a new calendar year I create a photo book in Blurb for the previous year. I set time in my calendar to do this over a few days, like my lunch break at work for a week, or a few nights post-bedtime. This is key! If I don't put it in my calendar it doesn't happen.

When I'm ready to start I'll make sure that I have pictures from Chris as well as from the grandparents to complete the Team Wharton album. Once that is done I open Google Photos in my laptop, select all photos in the Team Wharton album, and download them to my computer. This is so that I have all the photos in one spot to upload to Blurb.

Next, I open the Bookwright software from Blurb (it has to be downloaded to your computer). I've found that I've had to re-download this when I make a new album, not sure if I'm doing something wrong, but it's quick so not a big deal. I always choose the 7 inch x 7 inch photo book with an image wrap hard cover and glossy paper. I've been really happy with the quality.

In the Bookwright software I upload photos from my computer and select all the photos that I just downloaded from my Google Photos album. All the photos appear in a "photo bin" at the bottom of the Bookwright software. 

Then, over a few days, I build a photo book. I do each spread fairly quickly and intentionally don't spend a ton of time thinking about layouts. The photos are uploaded in the same order as they were in Google Photos and so maintain chronological order for the most part. So I work from the left side of the photo bin to the right and the photo book ends up in chronological order as well.

I love the pages with a single photo and full bleed (to the edge of the page) so I do that a lot. It's a simple but impactful layout. Or I'll sometimes put a few photos together on a page but have found that my favorite is the single photo with full bleed. I don't worry about how long the book is getting, it'll be what it will be. I don't add text. I've had thoughts of writing with sharpie on the pages afterwards but so far haven't done that with any of them.

An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING

Putting together the photo book takes me a few days but once I get going it's not laborious and it's so fun to see all our adventures from the year. When I'm done, the photo book gets uploaded to Blurb where it can be saved or ordered. Blurb often has discount codes so if I can't find one at the time I'll wait a few weeks and check again.

....and that's it!

I've been surprised at how much the boys love to look through the family photo books already - I thought they would be something they would enjoy "one day" as adults. And looking through them helps solidify my memories of things as well - that trip to the park where the bee was buzzing around us, the day we checked the mail in the rain. The little everyday adventures that are so abundant and specific to this time of life but pass so quickly.

An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING

I'd love to know what memory keeping works for you, or if you have any questions about what I'm doing just ask in the comments. 

Happy organizing!

P.S. We chatted all about family memory keeping, including my approach with Google Photos on The Girl Next Door Podcast!


Our PNW adventure

Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING

In October Chris and I took our first trip without the boys since Cedric was born. We chose the Pacific Northwest because it's so completely different from where we live in Arizona. Although we're learning to love the desert we still crave trees that are tall and abundant, green, rain, cold and water. We knew we'd find it all in the Pacific Northwest. And we did.

Visiting our country's national parks is something I want to spend the rest of my life doing so we set our sights on Olympic National Park with our last night in Seattle to visit Chris's brother and to eat at Delancey.

Chris's sister so generously offered to keep the boys during our four-night trip and Chris's mom helped out a lot as well. We were a bit anxious to leave them, just the general parent worry, but knew they would be in the best hands and have a great time. Once we got on our way and heard they were doing doing I was able to put my worry aside and fully relax. 

From start to finish our trip was everything I had hoped it would be - perhaps even more. Our Airbnb cabin overlooked a rushing river and had a cozy gas stove. We basked in incredible scenery, hiked in ancient forests, took in the view from a windy, cold mountain top and combed the seashore. We ate well at every single meal, didn't feel rushed or overwhelmed with multi-tasking, and had long and uninterrupted conversations. I read an entire book start to finish and the latest issue of The New Yorker. I didn't check social media or email once (the best). 

Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING

It's hard to pick favorites but two days in particular stand out. On our first day we did several short hikes in Olympic National Park, lunched at Lake Crescent Lodge (roaring fire, moose on the wall, dining room overlooking the clear lake and grey day), soaked in slippery sulphur hot springs for three hours surrounded by evergreen trees with occasional chilly rain and felt rejuvenated physically, mentally and emotionally. We ended the day watching the third presidential debate (the first we'd be able to watch) next to the gas stove with wine, cheese, crackers and ice cream. A perfect, perfect day.

Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING

The other stand out day was the second to last. As we drove up to Hurricane Ridge the temperature dropped 30 degrees and the fall color was nearly unbelievable. We listened to political podcasts covering the election the entire way. Then we headed toward Seattle via ferry (Chris says the ferry ride is one of his favorite parts of the trip!) and checked into our posh Ballard hotel. We played dice at Essex, I discovered the Americano cocktail and then had a long conversation with Chris's brother. Followed by the best meal and deep conversation at Delancey including cookies and ice cream. I asked for a signed menu and was so generously given one.

Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING

I'd love to share our favorite recommendations from the trip (after a few more pictures....)!

Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING

Ancient Groves hike

Exploring Lake Crescent

Sol Duc Hot Springs - highly recommend!

Clallam Bay

(We were bummed to discover that the roads to Rialto Beach and the Hoh Rainforest were not open due to storms the previous spring.)

Ballard Locks and salmon ladder


Barhop (recommended by a Matrimoney listener, thank you Jill!) - great pizza and the Ediz Hook IPA was delicious.

Lake Crescent Lodge

Alder Wood Bistro

Puffin on 101

Country Aire Natural Market (another great recommendation from Jill)



Portage Bay Cafe for breakfast


Cozy cabin on a river in Port Angeles, WA

Hotel Ballard (Chris had a hard time sleeping through noise from the bar across the street, I didn't notice it but I'm a deep sleeper)

  Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Which is the sound of me remembering how lovely and relaxing our trip was. If I missed some of your favorites please share, we'd love to go back hopefully before too long.

Goals - November 2016

Goals - November 2016 | RISING*SHINING

Halloween has already come and gone - in a glory of little dinosaurs and witches trick or treating in the neighborhood - and as I looked at the calendar yesterday morning I realized that there are only two (two!) weekends before Thanksgiving. I've been extra busy lately launching a small business, launching Neighborly Advice and doing all the other work of parenting two small boys, working full time, producing two podcasts and keeping the cobwebs away from this blog (just barely lately!).

Honestly it's been too busy. Is that a surprise to anyone? But new ventures always need more tending to at the beginning when each step requires learning and nothing is systematized. Going live with Neighborly Advice required a flurry of texts between Erica and me and technical tweaks until the very last minute but now we know how to do it all and the next ones will be so much easier. My small business venture, Copper Quail Style, has required many more steps to learn but already it feels less overwhelming than it did one week ago. 

Through all of it I'm reminding myself that I'm learning. Learning new skills and new information. And learning how much I can comfortably handle. In the midst of it all thoughts of my goals and intentions for 2017 have begun to drift in and tellingly I've been thinking about things like, "don't start anything new" and "less is more." We'll see what I come up with but leaving more space in my days and weekends is something I'm looking forward to. Or at least re-focusing on where I most want to spend time - with family, friends and on the things that fill me up.

And so, on to November and the holidays are upon us! It's sunny here but the mornings and evenings are cool and we can head to the park any time of day - what a difference it makes! My boys are so little but growing so fast; Cedric will turn two at the end of December. I am trying to soak it up.

Big things happening in November: 

+ A visit from my mom. This happened this past weekend and was so fun. 

+ The election! Whew, it's been election season for a looooong time and I'm eager to vote and have the election behind us. I'm actually taking this Tuesday off from work and plan to take comfort in being home and in the kitchen for most of the day and we'll go watch returns in the evening with friends. I'm hopeful and excited to vote in the first woman president of our country and to move on from the stress of the campaigns.

+ Copper Quail Style Saturday market. We'll be setting up a booth this coming Saturday. Now that we've done it once it feels much less stressful!

+ Thanksgiving! We'll be here in Arizona with family and I'm looking forward to a long weekend, being outside and PIE.

November goals:

+ Design and order our Christmas cards. As I've done for the past few years I'm planning to design our cards in Photoshop Elements and order prints online.

+ Continue buying Christmas gifts. I already have a spreadsheet with gift ideas for just about everyone on our list and started ordering a few things. This month I'd like to get most of it done as December always whizzes by.

Recurring monthly goals:

+ Exercise three times per week. I'm finally making this happen consistently and I feel really good. I added an extra session of Orange Theory to my schedule and now go Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Keeping up exercise during life's busyness has helped me to not get completely overwhelmed.

+ Publish to RISING*SHINING at least once a week. 

+ Record and produce new episodes of The Girl Next Door Podcast and Matrimoney on schedule.


Happy November!

What fills you up?


Last Saturday, in those long hours between nap and dinner, the boys were getting restless and so was I. Chris was happy to be at home with Cedric and so Dashiell and I made plans for an outing. First, we headed to the library where we walked hand in hand through the doors and Dashiell returned our books through the slot, one by one. We stopped by the giant doll house behind glass and searched for the hidden pumpkins, as is the theme this season, before combing the shelves in the children's section. 

After filling our canvas bag and checking out our books I told Dash I wanted to go to the plant store next. It was late afternoon at the nursery and few other people were browsing. The sun was low and the temperature perfect. Dash pointed out all the flowers to me and asked me to smell many of them. I snapped pictures of plants with my phone and Dashiell enjoyed exploring on his own and let me know proudly, "I'll just go this way and meet you over there." We met the nursery cat in the back near the trees and pet her belly when she showed it to us. I didn't buy anything but left feeling so relaxed and fulfilled. I kept thinking about the outing, the library and the nursery, for the rest of the weekend and into my full week. Just thinking of it now makes me smile.

Later that weekend Chris went out for a couple hours on his own and when we came back had a report from a local music store where he looked at banjos, pianos and acoustic guitars. He was content and energized. I laughed a bit to myself, thinking of how we'd found the same thing but at different places and how Chris's outing was so perfectly Chris and how mine was so perfectly Kelsey.

My go-to thought when I have a bit of time is to be productive - to work on my blog, or podcasts or to get a task done. And being productive and working on projects I'm passionate about is fulfilling, but it's not the same contented energy I got from my library  and nursery outing with Dashiell. And so I've been thinking about the things that fill me up, especially of the the easily accessible, free and screen-free variety. Here's what I've come up with:

+ Wandering through a plant nursery 

+ Browsing at the library

+ Drinking coffee outside, with content and independent children playing nearby :)

+ Watering plants

+ Looking through cookbooks and cooking magazines

+ Cooking from a recipe while listening to a podcast

+ Reading

+ My evening skincare routine of tonerexfoliator, and moisturizer

+ Painting my nails while listening to a podcast

+ Going on a walk, especially at the nearby Riparian Preserve

+ Outings with just one of my boys. Being out with the whole family, or both boys on my own, can be fun but it can also be a lot of management. Being out with just one feels so easy and relaxing, it feels like I'm winning at parenting.

+ Playing dice or cards during an afternoon date with Chris over beer or coffee (not free, especially if a babysitter is needed, but a favorite activity for sure)

Certainly many other things in my life are fulfilling and fun but these are the things that feel purely enjoyable and don't feel like "work" in any way. As I brainstormed what would be on a my list I found a common theme of not being rushed. I enjoy most things, even a trip to Trader Joe's, if I can go at my own pace. And this made me realize how often I need to multi-task during my days - both at home and at work - and how much I dislike multi-tasking. In some parts of my life it's a necessity but I could look for ways to cut down on the need to multi-task. For example, prepping all lunches the night before means less multi-tasking the next morning. And closing my email application at work means I don't see new email notifications pop up.

Putting together this list reminds me that there are simple things I can do to recharge, and it's so interesting to see the common theme of taking my time. I am a creature of habit, as will be a surprise to no one, and among all the other things on my to-do lists I want to remember to do the things that are purely Kelsey

I'd love to know what fills you up and make you feel like you!