Four Sweet Dairy-Free Treats


Most of you know that Violet is unable to eat dairy products, but now I'll be joining her in that quest as well. I have a couple of my own mild health issues that my doctor has suggested could possibly be improved by eliminating dairy from my diet. I'm willing to give it a go if it will help me get medication free and healthy, but I am definitely going to mourn the loss of my good friend, Cheese. Oh, cheese...

On the bright side, one good thing is that it will force me to prepare meals that are Violet-friendly rather than giving her something different from what we are eating. Another plus is that I already have a lot of dairy-free food substitutes in my repertoire and am an expert label reader as a result of her condition.

I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing until last night I realized (in addition to cheese) that I will also be unable to eat a lot of the sweet after-dinner treats that I love. (AKA ice cream, chocolate, and, oh yeah, chocolate) After a mild nervous breakdown I decided to think things through like a rational person and instead of imploding dug through our stash of sweets. After furiously reading a few labels I discovered much to my relief that I can eat DARK chocolate. (at least most of it is dairy-free). Then I started brainstorming a list of a few other sweets that I can indulge in and came up with four good ice cream alternatives:

1. (most) Dark Chocolate
2. Italian Ice
3. Fresh Fruit
4. (most) Sugar Cookies

So I think I'm going to survive (other than the cheese thing). And if anyone knows of any good dairy-free or vegan blogs I'd love to add them to my blog roll. Thanks in advance and wish me luck!
xo, Lauren

Image Sources: one, two, three, four

Living Room Updates


After winning the West Elm curtains in the Houzz for the Holidays contest this past Christmas, the orange living room walls were really getting on my nerves, so we went with wallpaper to freshen things up. We ordered Cole & Son's Cow Parsley in yellow. It's available in the U.S. but was super pricey, so I ended up ordering it from across the pond. Wallpaper Direct is a U.K. based company, but they'll ship overseas (and for a decent price) if you call or email them.

I also added a few new toss pillows and a couple of pretty vases to the mix. It's feeling so much brighter and happier - I love it!





And in case you're interested here are the sources:

Wallpaper - Cole & Son Cow Parsley from Wallpaper Direct
Hive Vase - West Elm
Splash Pillow - Shop Fine Little Day
Orla Pillow in Lemon - Skinny Laminx
Kilim Pillow - folklore love
Rugby Stripe Bin - Container Store
Curtains - West Elm (no longer available)
Lamp - West Elm (no longer available)
Sectional - N.B. Liebman Furniture (manufactured by Klaussner)

Parades, Pools, and Picnics


A parade and picnics, that pretty much sums up our weekend in a nutshell. It was hot and sticky, but nothing that a cherry snowball and a dip in the pool couldn't fix. Violet went through three swimsuits in the course of the weekend in addition to a skinny dip or two. Our 'pool' is just a little plastic job, but she took a dip in a friend's actual pool as well and she was absolutely fearless. Wanted to jump right in without even her mama to hold her up. My little Miss Independence. A glimpse of the summer to come and what the future holds. I can't even begin to imagine what the teenage years will be like...

Hope your weekend was glorious. xo, Lauren

Friday Favorites + True Love


We had a special delivery to the H-Haus yesterday thanks to the lovely Lori Marie. She sent us one of her beautiful dolls, Merriweather, and Violet is IN LOVE. She took that doll everywhere with her yesterday - to the park, down the slide, on the swing, in the stroller, she fed it her snack and snuggled her and lovingly stroked her hair. I love seeing her start 'mothering' her own babies, it's so sweet. (I also have one of Lori Marie's medallion pillows and daisy chains. Yep, I'm an addict.)

We're so looking forward to a LONG Memorial Day weekend and I'm really excited to take Violet to the parade - she gets so excited about them. Having a child really does make everything fresh and fun again, doesn't it?

I also want to say a special thank you to a few heroes in my family: my Papaw, Uncle Tim, brother-in-law Randy, and cousins Donny, Shanna, Justy, and Tim - Thank you for your service to our country!

And without further ado, a few favorite links to kick off your holiday weekend:

Pretty printable envelopes

Custom constellation artwork for your little one

Can you be in love with a paper cup?

How to replace backgrounds in Photoshop

The sweetest wedding

Is the American Dream changing?

I so want to wear this crown.

Happy Friday!  xo, Lauren

P.S. I've opened an Etsy shop where I'll be selling custom silhouette portraits - check it out here!

P.P.S. Follow me on Instagram - @withtwocats

Somewhere Else


Sometimes I come across photos (mainly whilst surfing The Pinterest) that make me want to get away. Go somewhere else. Maybe back to our honeymoon? (We went to Germany and Austria). A little cafe in France? Joanna Goddard just recently went on an impromptu trip with her other half, and Amsterdam looks just lovely. Wouldn't it be great to have no responsibilities, plenty of money and just be able to jet set off to explore new places? I had a dream a couple of nights ago that I won one-hundred-and-forty MILLION dollars in the lottery. (It was a beautiful feeling.) And then the alarm clock woke me up...

I bought a lottery ticket the other day just in case.

one . two . three . four . five

bedroom refresh

I always hear couples on HGTV talking about how the last thing they decorate is their own bedroom. No one sees it but them for the most part so it just gets shoved on the back burner. Is it true for you?

It definitely is for us. We've painted and bought some bedding way back when we were first married, but other than that we haven't done a thing. The new Orla Keily line just came out at Bed Bath & Beyond and it's pretty and affordable and is totally inspiring me to spruce things up a bit. I always feel so gloomy when I walk into our bedroom. I thought the dark paint color we used would be soothing, but instead it's just depressing. It doesn't help that the lighting situation is pretty much non-existent. We have a big old radiator that needs to be ripped out and a lot of ugly old beige carpet with green tile underneath. Ugh. The whole thing just makes me sick. Definitely not the best way to drift off to a peaceful slumber at the end of the day.

The idea board I came up with includes a bunch of things we already own that I think could be repurposed in our space - the Michelle Armas print, the terrarium, and the floral pillowcases. I think paired with the white Orla Keily bedding and some fun stripes it would really freshen up the space!

Sources: quilt, sheet set, floral pillowcases, white pillowcase, velvet pillowcase, striped wall, lamp, terrarium, art



I made some progress this weekend on Violet's big girl room. A few little projects left to do and it should be just about finished! She loves to play in the new space but we're keeping her in her crib for the time being. (P.S. I'm really proud that I hung those hooks myself - anchors and a drill and everything!)

Yellow is a Happy Color


In other news, I've been lurking on Zulily lately trying to decide on the best way to use my store credit. I think one of these beauties qualifies for sure! The best things in life are free, right?

Coming Apart at the Seams

This morning started out like any other morning. Violet woke up a little bit early. I heard her little voice, a bit raspy from sleep, saying, "Mommeeeeeee... Mommeeeeeeeeee" from her nursery. I was in the middle of dressing (tie dye day at work - trying to find something appropriate to wear) so I quickly pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and walked over to her room. She was holding onto the side of the crib, her mouth against the rail, peering over the top with her big blue eyes and mess of curls. I asked her if she slept well as I lifted her out. She was upset that I was still holding a hairbrush and that I had to rummage around in her dresser for her clothing. She wanted to go, "Down down down!" As we went down the stairs I hid the offensive objects from her behind my back and carried her over to her changing pad to change her diaper. She squirmed and yelled and made it pretty clear that a diaper changing was not what she wanted at the current moment, so we talked about breakfast (distraction, distraction, distraction). She wanted pancakes and Mary Poppins (AKA "boy, dirl, Mommy, Daddy, beeaaar!" Not sure where the bear comes in, but I eventually figured out that she was talking about Mary Poppins).

So I got her settled at the table and began the process of trying to bring the computer (that I had failed to charge the night before) back to life. She was so patient as we watched the little wheel spin on the screen until finally we were able to put in the DVD and press play. As she drifted away into the land of spoons full of sugar and chim-chimery, I walked to the kitchen to start her pancakes. I've been making her mini pancakes in the morning - a little easier for her to eat and just as tasty. I packed her bag as the pancakes sizzled in the pan and wrote a note to her babysitter in the daily journal that we share. Then I piled up the pancakes, poured a pool of sticky syrup on the plate and took them in.

I sat with her for a bit. She watched her movie and I watched her. She's so animated when she watches movies. I love to watch her face light up at the fun parts and her brow crease when she is concerned. I love how her little curls bob when she dances to the songs and how she's always worried about where everyone is, "Mommy? Dirl?" Her favorite parts always involve people running - she loves a little chaos :)

When the last pancake had been gobbled up I stopped the movie and told her we'd finish it some other time. Then we launched into a bit of our own chaos - tooth brushing, de-stickifying, dressing, socks, shoes, jacket. At the end of all of this the goal is to get her out the door happy and smiling to ride to the babysitter's with Kevin. Well, today that didn't happen. At the end of the craziness she clung to me with all of her might. No amount of cajoling could convince her to loosen her grip, so I had to pry her from my body and forcibly hand her to her father. All while she screamed, "Mommy, mommy!" in a voice of sheer desperation. It's on these days and in these moments that I don't think I can do it any longer. Be a mother, have a career, be a wife, write a blog, pay the bills, clean my house, care for my cats, keep appointments, make time for friends, have a little time to just sit and BE. It's on days like this that I get this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. A nervous, churning, guilty feeling that sits on my shoulders  like a huge weight for the rest of the day.

I know that five minutes after she leaves the house she'll be fine. I know that she'll have a fun day with her friends. She'll get to play outside on the swings in the fresh air, pick strawberries from the garden, read books and help to bake something. On Wednesdays she goes to the library and checks out a new book and makes a craft and has sing and sign and plays with the train. We have a wonderful babysitter and I am thankful for her every day. But it's on days like these that my life feels off. I feel like it's coming apart at the seams. Like I can't keep it all together for one. more. minute. Like something's got to give. I can only imagine how it will be if we have another child.

I know this is the same feeling every working mother experiences at one time or another in her life. I know that I'm no different. In fact, I'm sure that my life is easier than many mothers out there. Single mothers I am in awe of you. Serious and pure and utter awe.

I've been reading a lot lately about work/life balance and about money and budgets and finances. I love my job and don't think I could take the leap (especially in this economy) to stay at home full-time. I don't know if I'd ever be able to break back into my field someday if I did. It's extremely competitive and being down-sized all of the time. But this quote from Nigel Marsh stays with me:

There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation who work long, hard hours at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.

I'm going to try to keep this quote in mind the next time I'm thinking of buying something. At this point there isn't really much we need. Just a lot of wants. And I'm the worst offender. Blogging about pretty products kind of does that to you and I've got to start practicing a little bit more restraint. I've also been reading a lot of Adam Baker's blog - Man vs. Debt, and his Ted Talk - What does freedom mean to you?

I think to me it means that I want to work because I love it, not because I need to pay for another bag or skirt or decoration for our home. I don't want to be a slave to my job. And if I someday decide that working full-time isn't right for me that I would have another option. We're lucky that we have zero credit card debt and only one car payment that is at zero-percent interest. We have one fairly reasonable mortgage with a low interest rate and very little left to pay on our student loans. And I want to keep it that way. And I want to save more. Our current savings account is created for the sole purpose of being depleted so that I can stay home with another child for at least eight or nine months, so it's not something I can count on. I need something I can count on at this point.

I'm realizing that this post has become long and rambling, so I'll wrap it up with another little saying that has stuck with me (discovered, of course, on none other than The Pinterest):

So very, very good. If you made it this far I commend you (and if you have any words of wisdom I'm all ears). xo, Lauren

Violet Loves

1. Little Bluck Truck by Alice Schertle Illustrated by Jill McElmway
She calls this her 'Muddy Muddy book'. She loves everything about it - the farm animals, the little blue truck, the Dump, and the fact that every gets muddy muddy!

2. We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Any book with a family and she's sold. Violet loves to list everyone - "Mommy, Daddy, boy, dirl, baby, woof woof!" She loves the beautiful pictures, the sounds (swishy swashy, swishy swashy!) and repetition of the writing, and of course the fact that everyone gets "muddy muddy!" And then there's the exciting race back to the house at the end of the book. She gets a little sad that they don't let the bear in, but then I explain to her that he's going home to his Mommy and Daddy and all is well in the world.

3. Ladybug Girl at the Beach by Jacky Davis and David Soman
Another book with a family, and this time the girl has ladybug wings! She loves the beautiful pictures, the rescue of the bucket, and the fact that people sleep in this book. It's a bit long for a two-year-old so she doesn't always want me to read the whole thing, but she looooves making up her own little stories.

4. There's an Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer
She loves the 'gaduh' in this book. Especially when his eye is peeking out from under the bed. ('Mommy, eye!'). She loves it when the little boy calls for his "Mommeeee, Daddeeeeeeee!" and when he "shhh hide!". A favorite bedtime read for sure.

What books does your little one love?   xo, Lauren

A Day for Mothers


Sorry that I was missing yesterday. I decided to lengthen my Mother's Day weekend by one more day! It was such a lovely couple of days with my little family. Filled with flowers and breakfast, our local Mother's Day fair, ice cold treats, and walks to the park. What mother could ask for more?

To all of the mothers out there - I hope that yours was just as lovely!

xo, Lauren

And then she was two...


You woke up this morning, and as I lifted you out of the crib I told you, 'Happy birthday sweetheart. Today is the day you were born.' It's hard to believe two years have gone by since the day we first held you in our arms. You are the best thing that ever happened to us, little one! You make every day exciting, fresh, beautiful.

I'll always remember the look on your face this morning when we sang happy birthday to you. It was a look of pure delight. It's the little things that thrill you - a stack of fresh pancakes, a couple of candles, and a song. (And, of course, your 'Lulie' by special request).

I hope your birthday morning was perfect my love. Have a wonderful, beautiful, happy day! I can't wait to see your shining face when you walk in the door and say, "Mooooommmmeeeeee" this afternoon. It's always the best part of my day.

xo, your mama



Check out my latest ideabook for Houzz here. xo, Lauren

Fringed Banner DIY

For Violet's first birthday party I made a fringed banner using Martha Stewart's instructions. This year I modified them a bit to make it faster and easier for me:

Materials: tissue paper, scissors, twine or string, clear tape

Step 1 - Fold the tissue paper in half:

Step 2 - Starting at the open side of the fold, cut thin strips into the tissue paper. Stop when you get about an inch from the folded side:

Step 3 - Cut the large piece into smaller sections (however large you prefer is fine. Mine were 2-3 inches wide):

Step 4 - Hang the twine and drape the folded side of each piece over it. Secure with clear tape:

Step 5 - Hang and enjoy!

The whole project took about half an hour - super easy. If I would've had more mint tissue paper I would have made a few more for sure. Happy DIY!  xo, Lauren

Violet's Second Birthday Party: The Fun Stuff!



So you've seen the food and decorations - now for the fun stuff! Since we decided to have Violet's party on the weekend before her actual birthday (which was Cinco de Mayo weekend) AND because a colleague generously offered to let me borrow the decorations from her Cinco de Mayo party, we ended up with a full-blown fiesta! The Hubster whipped up some fajitas, we played pin the tail on the donkey, and had a pinata (yes it was Cookie Monster which wasn't super Cinco-de-Mayo-ish, but Violet loved him and he got gussied up for the occasion). My sister-in-law and brother-in-law threw on some Latin music for the occasion and there was some serious salsa dancing going on in our garage :)

Violet got a REAL cake this year (as opposed to last year's felt version - see here and here) and she was in HEAVEN. She posed like a total pro for the camera and I think held out the longest "cheeeeeeese" ever in the history of the world (the girl has photo skills). She was soooo thrilled when she managed to blow out her candles (with a little help from the other kids who were all blowing along with her) and had the cutest smiled when everyone clapped and cheered. I about died.

And then she took the biggest bite of her cake and I think I did die.

cakepicsWe decided to get her a four wheeler, which she has absolutely no clue how to steer (but she loves it just the same). But I think the big hit of the day was the bubble machine! Her Uncle bought it for her and I have never seen the girl so happy. The kids ran around popping bubbles like crazy people forEVER. Seriously if you ever need to entertain a group of young kids, get one of these.

fourwheeler x bubbles

I think for Violet it was a perfect day. I'm so happy that she loved her birthday party, and even though she won't remember it, I think she'll know how much fun she had when she looks back at these pictures. Thank you to our family for all of your love and for helping us to celebrate the birth of our little girl.

We love you so much our little soon-to-be-two-year-old. Happy happy birthday!

xo, Mommy and Daddy

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