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If there is one thing this team knows well, it is how to properly enjoy a weekend by the water; after all, Minnesota is deemed the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Although I was born and raised in Chicago and #lakelife wasn’t exactly second nature, I have spent my fair share of weekends “up north” (which in Minnesota that means: at a cabin on a lake). In fact, a short TWELVE years ago this weekend, I decided to make my move to Minneapolis after a truly memorable weekend camping lakeside with college friends. I came back a little sunburnt, most certainly hungover, and very much in need of a shower, but something inside me told me I had found a wonderful new place to call home. Summer often brings out the best kind of nostalgia, and this weekend there won’t be a shortage of memories made. So, whether your trip is for a family reunion, a girl’s trip, or a romantic getaway, let’s keep the packing simple and only bring the essentials. This way you’re always ready for an impromptu trip (the best kind in my opinion). So here she goes! A packing list of all my favorite summer-at-the-cabin essentials.

A Comfy Swimsuit
The kind that you can spend all day in. The perfect cabin swimsuit is one that you can jump in the water in but then throw shorts over (hello, bodysuit!) to cook dinner in. I’m loving these two from Diane Von Furstenberg. Try this Classic One-Piece or this Deep V-Neck One Piece.

Sun Hat
The beauty of this Women’s San Diego sun hat is that it goes with every outfit you’ll wear at the cabin. You can pair it with your swimsuit, jean shorts or a sundress.

A Citronella Candle 
No matter how perfect the campfire and company is, those pesky bugs will always be there to drive everyone absolutely crazy. Citronella candles, however, are a way to repel them at least a little bit after the sun goes down. I’ve found that they work best if you spread them around about 6 feet apart. Another trick? Look into the ingredients before you buy – a lot of the candles are the just citronella scented, but the actually essential oil is what will actually keep the bugs away.

Sun Screen
If you’re the gal who isn’t too keen on sunscreen, try Glossier’s Daily SPF 35. This will shield you from the sun while still giving you that summer glow, all the while, not clogging your pores!

Picnic Blanket 
If you’re looking for a blanket to wrap up in, I like The White Company’s gray and alabaster soft wool picnic blanket. I love that it comes with straps which makes it easy to carry. Because it’s soft wool, it’s perfect for when it gets a little chilly by the water or while basking under the stars at night.

Polaroid Camera
If you are looking to capture the summer moments in nostalgic style, I love the Mini Stax 9 Polaroid Camera. It’s fun to share these cabin moments on the fridge or string them in a line in your office.

Campfire Sweatshirt 
Everlane’s 100% Human sweatshirt is the perfect pull-over to bring to the cabin. A must-have to throw on over your suit when you head out on the boat or to reach for by the bonfire at night.

W&D Big Idea Book
If you are looking to journal, jot down any ideas, make a list, play a game or keep track of game scores at the cabin – the W&D Big Idea Book is perfect for all of the above!

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The post See You at the Lake! Wit & Delight’s Summer Cabin Essentials appeared first on Wit & Delight.

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Twenty years ago I was a college senior about to graduate with degrees in English and history. During my last semester, a professor teaching a class on Chinese history put up the grade breakdown on the chalkboard (yep…chalkboard).

It went like this: A, A-, B+, B, B- and so on.

I asked, “Why is there no A+?”

She replied, “I’ve never, in my entire teaching career, met a student whose work merited an A+.”

Challenge accepted.

I spent the better part of two months in the library stacks on campus, piles of books on Mao’s Great Leap Forward crammed into a tiny study carol. It was a room no bigger than a public toilet stall, with a tiny window, a desk, chair and nothing else. Nothing.

This was before personal internet connection, laptops or smartphones. I had pens, highlighters, note cards, books, and paper. I took fruit as my snack. I didn’t even drink coffee back then.

I read, took notes and highlighted said notes in three-hour chunks. Then, I got up and walked around the library, maybe got a Chick-fil-A sandwich and got back to work. I did this several times a week.

Twenty years later, I can’t even read an entire online article without stopping to check e-mail, read a text message, get a cup of coffee or wander over to E-bay to see if an Ace & Jig dress might have come available for under $100.

“With the onslaught of personal technology, the multi-tasking of motherhood and the beauty of aging, my attention span had taken a nosedive the likes of which left me perpetually frazzled, unproductive and frustrated.”

Why couldn’t I enjoy a book anymore? Why was it taking me forever to get through one chapter? Why couldn’t I watch a television show without looking at my phone? Why did reading a bedtime story seem like it took twenty minutes when, in reality, it was less than five? Why couldn’t I carry-on meaningful conversations over lunch without looking around the room, wondering if I just heard my phone ding or making a mental list of all the stuff I had left to do that afternoon?

As I noticed this phenomenon in my own life and in the people around me, from my kids to my friends to even my parents, I began researching ways to address my apparent attention deficit and began building a slow, sustainable program to strengthen my focus, deepen my attention and quiet my mind.

How did I do it?

It hasn’t been an easy, linear or simple road. I’ve read a lot of books on the subject, listened to TED talks, sifted through articles and studies and gone through a lot of trial and error.

But as I’ve applied new ideas, techniques and rules for my own life, I’ve discovered it’s entirely possible to focus in a world that is often chaotic and to mine for more meaningful work, relationships and experiences in a society that often feels superficial.

Here are 7 Tips for Building and Sustaining Focus:

1. Make Lists.

I learned this from the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Lists aren’t just to-do tally sheets; they enable us to get all of that must-do, should-do, want-to-do clutter from our brains and onto paper, which means we can forget about it and focus on other stuff. I think of it like a background app running on my phone or computer. It’s in the background, yes, but it still takes up space and speed. Writing lists (from daily to-do to long-term goals to when to pay bills) is like closing out browser tabs. Now, whenever I feel disoriented, distracted or unfocused, I sit down, write a list and take a breath. It’s seriously magic.

2. Create Distraction-Free Zones.

Depending on the work I do, I am distracted by different things. If I need to write, I’ll be distracted by the internet, phone calls, even laundry. So, I write away from home. If I need to do housework/chores, I will be distracted by eating, phone calls or the Internet. So, I put on Audible, which distracts me from my other distractions but enables me to scrub floors or fold laundry. The point is to know which distractions you’re facing for each task you’re trying to accomplish and deal with those specific distractions. Have a plan. Create a zone. Your zones will be different depending on the task, but limiting distractions is key to being able to focus.

3. Limit Low-Level Interaction Across the Board.

There are many levels of interaction. There is low-level television, reading, eating and conversation. And, of course, there is higher-level interaction in all of these realms and beyond. When I stopped reading useless articles online and focused my attention, even in my downtime, on higher-quality material, I noticed my brain trained to look for that all the time. I was more engaged mentally, rather than simply surfing and filtering junk, and my brain seemed to take this baseline and reset. If I wanted to be able to focus on higher-quality engagement for certain parts of my life, I needed to keep that baseline the majority of the time, not only when I was working on a writing project or reading a classic novel. As I’ve raised my standards in terms of what I’m willing to engage with, my focus and attention have strengthened as well.

4. make the most of Downtime.

This speaks to the above point about higher-quality engagement, but when I stopped viewing my downtime as disposable, throw-away time, life got a lot more interesting. Baths are now the perfect time to read a chapter of a great novel instead of celebrity gossip on my phone. Waiting in the car line at school pick-up is a time to close my eyes and meditate for a few minutes or focus on my breath. While I cook I listen to jazz instead of kids arguing in the background. I don’t view any of my time as throw-away anymore, and the result has been dramatic. Instead of swinging between periods of deep engagement and utter disengagement, our brains will find a much more stable equilibrium when we remain engaged even during our downtime.

5. Practice Blistering Intensity.

In his book entitled Deep Work, Cal Newport suggests building focus through practice, particularly in working with ‘blistering intensity.’ This is the kind of work I did back in college, trying so hard for that A+. I focused intensely for hours on one subject, tuning out everything outside of that tiny study cubicle. Recognizing I’ve lost the ability to focus with blistering intensity, I began (as Newport suggests) to build it back up with scheduled sessions. I chose reading as my training program; though you might choose coding, cooking, gardening, etc. The point is to practice focusing intensely for longer and longer periods of time. I first began reading and found I could only read without distraction for about seven minutes. Seven! I committed to practicing once a week, and within a month I was reading for a solid half-hour before becoming distracted. I’ve worked my way up to an hour for novels and an hour-and-a-half for research. It takes time and effort, but like training any other muscle, with consistency, you can get back to intense, blistering focus.

6. Schedule Distraction.

I used to think I needed to schedule my time for priorities and getting things done, but I’ve learned that what I really need to schedule and pay attention to are the things that distract me. I now set aside time to check email, make online purchases, talk on the phone or FaceTime with family. When I began scheduling those activities that often end up distracting me, they stopped tempting me throughout my day. I knew I’d get to email at a certain time, so the temptation to check it throughout the day lessened noticeably. Scheduling distractions keeps them in check and enables us to move on with our day without distraction FOMO.

7. Start Single-Tasking.

We like to glorify two things: multi-tasking and busyness. Neither is effective, and I’ve found both to be the ultimate distractors. Multi-tasking, for me, means doing nothing well. Yes, I’m “busy,” but I’m not productive. What’s more, I often make mistakes through multi-tasking and spend more time repeating my work. Beyond that, I feel pressure and stress from overcommitting, even if it’s just to multiple tabs on my browser. Now, I single-task. If I’m doing the dishes, I do the dishes. I also complete tasks fully. I don’t do half of the dishes or half the bathroom or write half an article. I decide what my objective is, focus entirely on that one thing and finish it to completion. The results are amazing. I feel such a stronger sense of accomplishment, much less stress and anxiety and am far more productive when I stop trying to do it all at the same time.

There are flip sides to everything, from technology to exercise to friendships and more. Every new technological improvement or development has the potential to revolutionize our lives, both positively and negatively. In a world that runs on frenetic energy, where to-do lists are a mile long, information is coming at us from every direction and shutting down is nearly impossible, tuning in to my own life and habits has enabled me to step off the train of busyness and become more thoughtful, engaged and productive. The irony is that by doing less, I’ve not only produced more, but I’ve had more fun, felt a deeper connection and experienced far less stress than when I was constantly trying to do it all, read it all, hear it all and be it all.

Perhaps I’ll never again sit in a tiny study cubicle and pour over Mao’s military strategies, but my life still requires the ability to focus – intensely and otherwise – in order do my best work and enjoy the fruits of all that labor. From my relationships with my kids to my writing to my ability to keep a household going, my secret weapon is my ability to tune in instead of mentally opting out.

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A writer, editor and researcher, Amy Phariss currently lives in North Carolina where she wrangles her two preteens into meaningful dinner table conversation and forces her husband to ponder the state of modern fiction. Amy blogs about creating a life of intention, simplicity and purpose at  A Well-Spent Day.

The post Beyond Distracted: Tips to Focus in a Chaotic World appeared first on Wit & Delight.

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I recently turned 30 and also recently became unemployed. It took me three weeks to tell my mom and almost two months to tell my dad that I decided to leave my stable, full-time job to enter into the unpredictable world of freelancing. When I finally told my dad he told me first, not to keep anything from him ever again, and second, that he was so proud of me for leaving something that made me unhappy to pursue something I’m passionate about. He said “This is the prime of your life and you should be exploring what you really want to do” – he told me I should be taking risks and stepping outside of my comfort zone. Our conversation almost had me in tears; I had kept this from him for two months for fear of him being ashamed of me. Then he tells me what I’ve been trying to tell myself on a daily basis for years – it was only when he said it to me that it really, truly hit home.

If I’m being totally honest the past couple of months have been pretty tough. I’ve been struggling with where I “should” be in my life, what’s expected of me, where I “need” to be and what I actually want. Turning 30 is a trip (or at least it has been for me) and even more so when you decide to completely change your career path. Not only has my metabolism completely dropped off the face of the earth (holler if you hear me!) but I’m starting to feel this anxiety about my choices and my life trajectory – like what I’m doing is never enough, like I’m not where I was “supposed to be” by the time I hit 30.

This got me to thinking about not only societal pressures and norms, but also the expectations we set for ourselves and the subtle undertones of evolutionary biology in our everyday decisions. Our society (specifically in the states) thrives and is shaped off of the typical grow up, go to school, get a job, get married, have children, etc. Oh, and don’t forget to do all of this before you turn 30! A lot of this stems from our most instinctual adaptations with regards to procreation and survival – if you think about it, these acts (go to school, get married, have kids, etc.) are a modern, cultural representation of our most primal instincts to adapt to our environment, pro-create and thrive. Let’s be real though, that all seems like a pretty lame life trajectory – and lately, it seems a lot of people are choosing to do otherwise.

Whether it’s putting off (or opting out of) getting married or having kids, not going to college, freelancing, starting your own business or the rise of co-working spaces – it’s obvious we’ve had enough of this white picket fence, 9-to-5, climb the corporate ladder bull-sh*t. We are finally (finally) beginning to realize that whoever decided it was healthy to have a bunch of humans staring at computer screens in individual cubicles for 8 hours a day, was sorely mistaken. If you’re reading this from your cubicle (in your outdated office where no one talks to each other and you hate your life), I’m sorry. Also, f**king do something about it.

We’re not only starting to be more self-aware, we’re starting to be more aware of what everyone else in the world is doing. The way technology and social media have shifted things for us as a species is unprecedented – not to mention the fact that it happened in such a short period of time. News travels so fast and comparison is so easily accessible. We talk about ‘going against the grain’ but honestly these days I’m not even sure which way the grain is going – things are shifting so fast. That’s the beauty of it though, right? We’re living in interesting times; the pressure to be better, do better – it’s always there. It can sometimes be overwhelming but you bet your butt that, if you let it, it almost always results in good things.

Moral of the story, there is never a “right” way to do things and there’s always going to be someone doing it better. It is always the right time to pursue something that makes you happy or walk away from something that makes you miserable – time isn’t waiting for anyone and things aren’t just going to happen, you need to make them happen. Quit comparing yourself to others and thinking about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. Talk about your goals and aspirations with other people because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 4 months it’s that people will support you – they want to help and they want you to succeed (whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish). Start getting into the practice of listening to your gut.

Keep doing your best – do what feels right, repeat.

Katie Weed is an anthropologist and philosopher at heart. A freelance writer, brand manager, and social media strategist by day. She’s usually one of three places: outside (most likely with her 9-month-old puppy, Finn), taking photos of said puppy, or at the gym. She resides in South Minneapolis with her boyfriend, Alex.

The post Do What Feels Right, Repeat. appeared first on Wit & Delight.

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If you are looking to add warmth, color, and character to your home, simply adding a rug can transform any space into a personal sanctuary. But there is one prerequisite to this rule: it can’t be just any old rug. It has to be special. Each person’s definition of “special” is different, but to me, a special rug is one that is handwoven and vintage. It has to be made with love and hours of thoughtful and sentimental detail. If you look closely enough, every rug tells a story. And choosing your own personal rug has a lot to do with selecting the story that resonates most with you.

I love so many types of rugs, but lately, I’ve been gravitating toward Turkish and Moroccan textiles. I’ve been selling rugs for almost three years now and the one thing I’ve learned is that everyone leans toward something completely different. It is hard to predict what will sell or what to buy because with rugs it seems they are a matter of the heart. The colors, the style and the weave, it’s almost as if the carpet has to choose you. I chatted with the team and we rounded up nearly 20 of our favorite rugs that we’ve seen online lately. Which style and design are your favorite and what types of textiles are you gravitating toward as of late?

A Little Bit About Global Rug Styles

Moroccan: I recently traveled to Morocco this past fall and was surrounded by an endless sea of beautifully woven textiles. I absolutely fell in love with the Moroccan people, culture, and woven goods. Moroccan rugs have traditionally been hand-woven by the different tribes in Morocco since the Paleolithic era. Because of the vastly different climates in Morrocco, rugs can be very thick when you are seeking warmth in the Atlas Mountains or thinly woven if you are residing in the Sahara Desert. Here are a few vintage rugs you may have heard of before that are native to Morocco: Beni Ourain, Azilal, Boucherouite, Boujad, Rabat, and Kilim rugs. All of these woven carpets are beautiful and unique in their own right.

Persian: Persian rugs, native to Iran, are typically finely woven and somewhat heavy textiles comprised of wool or silk. Rug weaving is an integral part of Persian culture. You may recognize a Persian rug for its intricate and timeless details. Although the majority of the time Persian textiles are considered to be more pile-woven, flat-woven carpets like the Kilim, Soumak, and embroidered Suzani pieces are a rich part of the Persian tradition as well. According to geographical locations, here are just a few (of the many) different types of Persian carpets: Tabriz, Heriz, Kashan, Gabbeh, Isfahan, Nain, Mashad, Balouchi, and Qum.

Turkish/Anatolian: Turkish rugs are generally knotted and/or pile-woven rugs. These rugs are often made of wool, silk or cotton. The most common rug you may have heard of is the flat-woven Kilim. A few others that come to mind are: Ghiordes, Kulah, Bergama, Ladik, Anatolian, Melez, Kirsehir, Oushak, Sivas, Tulu, Kayseri, Hereke, Borlou, and Konya. Turkish rugs tend to play on positive and negative space and you may see the color red appear quite often in these carpets. Turkish textiles are generally known for their vivid colors and beautiful, complex patterns.

Shop a few of our top favorite textiles online right now, at just about every color, weave and price point.

(links by row)

First: Anthropologie // West Elm // Arden Trading Co.

Second: Anthropologie // Revival Rugs // Swoon Rugs

Third: Swoon Rugs //Frances Loom // IKEA

Fourth: West Elm // Revival Rugs // World Market

Fifth: CB2 // Anthropologie // Frances Loom

Sixth: West Elm // CB2 // IKEA

Image Sources: top / 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Stefani Ellenbecker is the Editorial Director at Wit & Delight. When she’s not feverishly editing or writing about style and interiors, she runs her bohemian shop  Arden Trading Co. where she sells artisan-made home goods. She lives in Minneapolis with her fiancé Muhamed.

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The post Our Favorite Vintage Rugs that Will Transform Your Home! appeared first on Wit & Delight.

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I like to think I was Marie Kondo before Mario Kondo was Marie Kondo, but lucky for her she wrote that damn book first, so good for her. But! Thanks in part to Marie, minimalism has become the lifestyle du jour, streamlining our closets and junk drawers and knick knacks in an effort to keep only the things that make us happy.

Living with one spoon and two shirts isn’t for everyone, and though I appreciate a clean home filled with loved objects, I’m more interested in a minimalistic mindset – a kinder way to treat our overstimulated selves so we have a better understanding of what’s important and what’s not, what’s worth the brain space and what isn’t. So here’s a far-from-comprehensive list of how you can inch towards mindful minimalism, not only in your closet (though there is that), but more importantly by hacking away at addictive patterns, unhealthy relationships and the digital garbage pile we’ve all been ignoring.

Happy minimizing, friends.

Take an axe to your phone contacts. Anyone with the last name “Sarah’s Wedding” or “Coachella” or “The Frenchman” has got to go. As does Carly, who you had a biology project with in undergrad 12 years ago and haven’t talked to since. And James, who you got a round of gimlets with once, but pretty sure he’s married now. I’m sure they’re all fine people, but we can’t have them clogging up our contacts.

Say no to something. Anything! Revel in the immediate relief you feel, then spend that time on the floor with your children or in the bath with a book or doing whatever the hell you want because you didn’t overcommit yourself for once.

Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe. No [insert tempting retail store], I really don’t need another pair of mules that are 25% off. You really don’t need another newsletter you never read either. Or 1-800-Contacts harassing you via email four times a day. Clicking “These emails are no longer relevant to me” feels so satisfying, as does an organized inbox.

Spend an entire day (and then the next day, and then the next day and how about the day after that?) single-tasking. Eff this multitasking, women can do it all, with a book balancing on their head and a baby on their hip mindset. Doing one thing at a time – send this email, then write that report, then defrost tonight’s dinner – will allow you to get t h i s m u c h more done, since you’re not a scatterbrain hopping from one task to the next and then back to the first one, all without getting raw chicken juice on your phone because you’re not trying to respond to that email from your manager while roasting dinner.

Knock one thing off your to-do list that you’ve been meaning to do for too long. Say you’re sorry to her. Return that online order that doesn’t fit. Schedule a pap smear. Pay that outstanding bill.

Let go of an irrelevant goal, like the goal weight you’d like to see on the scale or the number of social media followers you want. Then take stock of what’s really at the heart of those goals – good health, meaningful relationships – and redirect your attention to those aspects.

Unfollow. That Parisian model who makes you feel this short and this poor. (Trust me, she’s not as interesting as she makes her life seem.) That brand whose style doesn’t align with yours anymore. Your ex! That friend-of-a-friend who went camping with you two summers ago so you got tagged in a photo together and followed her. She is super nice but you haven’t seen her since and will probably never see again, so is it really necessary for you to follow the ins and outs of Catherine’s life? (No.) 

Turn off notifications. Do you need to see every single email the millisecond it comes in? Maybe you do. You definitely don’t need to see every single Instagram like though. Or every news notification, because lemme tell you – they’re all bad. So turn them off. Even better: just turn off your whole phone once in a while.

Vow to quit saying a crutch phrase. “Sure, I can help” or “I’m so busy” or “It’s fine, don’t worry about it.” All of those phrases have their time/place, of course, but oftentimes it’s out of poor or pushover habit that we say them. Sometimes we shouldn’t help; sometimes it’s not fine. Check yourself and replace it with a phrase that really reflects how you’re feeling. 

Clean out your food pantry. Those sea salt and vinegar chips you keep as just in case stress food? Get rid of them. That salsa jar you opened…umm…you can’t remember when and has probably molded over? Gone. The tea that you tried and tried again, but just don’t like? Gift it to a friend.

Let go of a relationship that’s no longer serving you. It could be a codependent ex who inappropriately texts you when he’s lonely or a friend who brings out the mean girl in you or a doctor who makes you feel uncomfortable and rushed. No matter who it is, remind yourself our time on this tiny earth is limited and there’s no need to waste it with anyone who isn’t a good fit for you anymore.

Donate books you’ll never read again. Check locally for programs that will give them to shelters, prisons or schools. Books (and literacy! and escapism!) are the gift that keeps giving, so don’t let them die on your bookshelf.

Identify your stress triggers. A tinge of social awkwardness at a work party leads you to retreat in the public bathroom. Criticism from your boss leads you to immediately want to quit. Recognize your not-so-healthy reactions, take a deep breath, then actively work on another, chin up coping mechanism.

Jot down five things you need to do every day. Mine: take my vitamins, write in my journal, an exercise of some variety, do something nice for someone else, do something nice for myself. Sarah Von Bargen of Yes and Yes calls it her Every Damn Day list and she’s one of the kindest people I know, so I take every syllable she says to heart.

Comb through your camera roll. Delete duplicates, latte art, screenshots of maps when you were abroad and didn’t have WiFi and unflattering photos you’d rather never escape the cloud. To start.

Catch yourself thinking bad thoughts and write down the opposite. Every time you scoff at your thighs or assume he’s more qualified for the job simply because he thinks he’s more qualified for the job (*eye roll*), open up a page of your notebook and write down the opposite, positive thought. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, whoever you are, for my legs. They get me from here to there and I’m so grateful for that.” “Ryan is very smart and qualified for the promotion. You know who also is? Me.” (Ahem, these Wit & Delight notebooks work perfectly for such a job…)

Do nothing. For five minutes, an hour, a whole day, whatever you need. Lie back and remind yourself you don’t have to be somewhere, doing something, all the time.

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Megan McCarty is a writer, editor, etc.-er who has written about life, travel and – shh, don’t tell her mother – s-e-x for Garance Doré, Apartment 34, Rue and more. She’s a firm believer in the zipper merge. Follow along with her adventures (and, well, misadventures) on Instagram

The post A Checklist to Mindful Minimalism (It’s More than Throwing Away an Old Pair of Jeans) appeared first on Wit & Delight.

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When 18″ of fresh snow gets dumped in your backyard in late April, even the hardiest of Minnesotans begin to wonder if spring would ever arrive. But it DID and now we are basking in the glow of patio season: the best time of the year for all things outdoors, especially when it comes to entertaining. Outdoor living spaces are the perfect way to get the most out use out of your home, and no matter where or how you live – a simple patio refresh can hold the key to your #bestsummerEVER. All patios are unique and different; we put together a few of our favorite patio looks based on who you are and where you live! Did we miss anything? Let us know and we’ll add it to our list. We’d love to hear what decor dream you have for your personal slice of the great outdoors.

The Urban Balcony

For small outdoor nooks, start by adding a few cozy wooden or organic furniture pieces. I also like to work in different neutral-colored textures into the mix. Don’t forget to add in a handful of beautiful potted plants, and a cute little hammock that will really steal the show. These are the main key ingredients we feel will truly make your little urban patio summer-ready.

The Homeowners Haven

When you own a home, you have the luxury to create your very own backyard oasis. This is nice because you can really settle in here. As always, you can begin to achieve this look by introducing a wide array of lush plants, growing your new or current garden, and by making sure to create a cozy and comfortable seating area for you and your guests. I tend to lean toward beautiful wooden furniture and look for bold and earthy pillows to spice up my outdoor area. Sometimes if you are looking to save space, installing a small table or bench is your best bet. If you have room, an outdoor rug can create an effortless hominess and increase the warmth and character of your patio.

The Backyard Entertainer

For those who love to entertain, a great backyard patio set is crucial. Plants, a statement rug, and good lighting are paramount. I like to focus on creating optimal outdoor lighting through string lights or even outdoor candles, but if you really want to make a statement, looking into how you can install permanent outdoor lighting can really go a long way when you are wanting to achieve that coveted backyard ambiance. I also recommend investing in a great dinnerware set with silverware and napkins to wow your guests.

Let’s Recap: Here are the 7 simple ways to spruce up your patio no matter where you live!
  1. Wooden or organic furniture
  2. Beautiful Plants
  3. A hammock
  4. Mix and match textures
  5. Bold or earthy pillows
  6. A patio and dinnerware set
  7. Lighting

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Message to all my future mamas: When the glorious day comes that two pink lines faintly appear on a little white stick, after all the (happy) tears have been shed, there is something I want you to take a second to do. I want you to take a moment and say “peace out” to the life you’ve built up until now. Because, in less than nine months, you will have a miniature-sized human depending on you to provide anything and everything 24 hours a day. I don’t say this to scare you, but rather, to prepare you for the hard truth of what is to come.

As everyone and their mother (sister, brother, dog) will tell you, your nights will soon be sleepless and your days will soon be restless. Don’t get me wrong, many of these changes are beautiful, exciting and rewarding; they just typically involve a new little human and take a lot of getting used to.

Before having August, I never considered how much I would miss having time to myself, and the physical and psychological benefits that come from practicing solitude. For a long time, I correlated solitude with loneliness and sadness, rarely making time to be alone with myself. Becoming a parent has taught me the importance of prioritizing “me” time.

So, when I do rarely get a moment to myself, I tend to soak it in and savor it as best I can. I’ve gained an appreciation for all activities that allow me to be alone with myself, preferably in a quiet space, free from the chaos and crazies of everyday life.

On days I need a little extra mama-lovin’, I find myself indulging in a glass of wine, most often Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon, after the kids have gone off to sleep. When life is a little crazy, it’s nice to know I can fall asleep on the couch and not worry about spoiling an entire bottle of wine after a couple sips. It’s an added bonus knowing that each time I choose Black Box, I am also accumulating rewards points that can be used towards a multitude of various extras like a wide screen TV or a Spotify gift card. If you too are interested in getting the bang for your box, and are of the legal drinking age (21+) of course, join Black Box Rewards here.

My wine-time recently earned me a new bath caddy (something I’ve been lamenting about needing on Twitter), as one of the many gifts offered to Black Box Rewards members who accumulate points by completing certain tasks such as visiting their website or subscribing to emails. Members can even earn points by simply scanning their Black Box receipt upon purchase. My new bath caddy has come in handy when I’m in need of an uninterrupted hour of solitude with just, myself, and my iPad, allowing my body and mind to check out for a bit. After putting August and Birdie to sleep, time alone in the tub has become the thing I crave the most. And like most things in life, tub time is best when sipping on a glass of Cab.

I know I’ll look back at these chaotic days with rose-colored glasses and I wouldn’t take my old life back for all the money in the world. These moments of solitude remind me that at my core, I’m still who I was before kids, it just takes a couple minutes to wash away the peas and baby spit up and crusty who-knows-what off my body to get back to the person I was before bringing my babies home. How many of you have a can’t-miss self-care ritual? Because, Lord knows, we all need ‘em to stay sane sometimes.

Ed. note: This post was sponsored by Black Box Wines. The compensation received in exchange for placement on Wit & Delight is used to purchase props, hire a photographer, write/edit the blog post and support the larger team behind Wit & Delight.

While compensation was received in exchange for coverage, all thoughts and opinions are always my own. Sponsored posts like these allow for the development of additional dynamic content to be produced, unsponsored. Thank you for supporting our partners!

The post Making Time for Solitude: Every Mother’s Sweet Escape appeared first on Wit & Delight.

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We talk about skin a lot at the studio. We chat about our concerns, our random stress and hormonal breakouts and every other skin issue under the sun we’re facing. Although we are not doctors, we all try to offer each other words of wisdom on topics we’ve gained knowledge on over the years. But the truth is, we are not experts. We remind each other every day to stay hydrated and avoid dairy whenever possible, but these are just a couple of tried and true pointers you could find with a simple Google search. And because we know that everyone’s skin, body type, and diet vary, do we really know what products we should specifically be using or avoiding? Is there a one-size fits all to skincare? Probably not. 

That’s why we brought in the experts—Meet Lauren and Brooke! These two sisters are Dermatology Physician Assistants; they work side-by-side each other every day and have over a decade of experience specializing in both medical and cosmetic dermatology. Lauren went to Physician Assistant school in NYC and spent five years practicing dermatology until moving home to Minneapolis. While Brooke went to graduate school for Public Health and Physician Assistant studies in Washington D.C. and began working at Mohs (skin cancer surgery) surgeon right out of school and fell in love.

We recently sat down with the sisters to chat through all things skincare related. Today Lauren and Brooke give us the tools we need to build a basic structure around skincare. We want our readers to know everything they need to know in order to get started on their skincare journey. This interview is part one of a three-part series. Follow along as we discuss proper skincare steps, maintenance plans, different skin types and issues, specific products to use and ingredients to look for (and avoid). If you have any questions for a dermatologist now is the time to ask them in the comments below.

Now let’s meet the experts!

Tell us all about who you are and your role in the skincare business!

We are sisters, just one year apart in age, born and raised just outside of Minneapolis. We are both Dermatology Physician Assistants, splitting our time between the practice of medical and cosmetic dermatology. We work together in private practice (we actually job share!) seeing patients for all different types of dermatology concerns, including acne, hair loss, skin cancer screening, rashes, skin infections, mole removal, cosmetic treatments, and discussion of skincare.

Dying to know something super simple. How do we even determine what skin type we are?

L: Skin types can be tricky. I rarely discuss skin types with my patients, since so many people are a combination of different skin types. What I do mention is what products or ingredients to look for based on the skin’s specific needs at that time. For example, you have rosacea and your skin could benefit from choosing products that are labeled for sensitive skin.

How elaborate should our skincare routine really be according to our skin type? Does it differ for each person?

B: Skincare is not required to be elaborate, nor do you need to use a multi-step regimen, regardless of your skin type. Certainly, different skin concerns, goals and skin types will dictate what types of products that are used, but if you are using the basics like a great cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen you can always add one or two condition-specific products in.

L: The rise in popularity of Korean Beauty products has made the “10 step” skincare routines more common. The truth is, if you use the right products, you probably don’t need 10 steps.

How do we allocate the appropriate skincare goals that also align with our issues/concerns and total budget?

L: There are so many fantastic drugstore products out there, and they keep getting better and better. There are times to splurge, like when choosing an antioxidant serum, but your skincare doesn’t need to break the bank.

What are the top ingredients you typically look for in over the counter products? And which ones should we definitely avoid?

B: L-Ascorbic acid (aka Vitamin C), Ceramides, Niacinamide (aka Vitamin B3) are excellent ingredients easily found in OTC products. I also love finding zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (physical sun blocking ingredients) in daily moisturizers.

L:  I would avoid products containing formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers, as these are some of the top irritants to the skin. I also recommend avoiding products with citrus oils or extract, as citrus can predispose the skin to a rash called phytophotodermatitis (red and brown streaks on the skin due to contact with citrus and then subsequent sun exposure.)

Which products do you highly recommend for the top 5 skin issues that you see?

Dry Skin

B: SkinCeuticals HA Intensifier has been really helpful for me this past winter for treating extra dry skin. I mix 2-3 drops with my moisturizer for extra hydration.

L: Kypris Cleanser Concentrate is an awesome cleanser that adds moisture, rather than stripping away moisture while cleansing.

Mature Skin

B: Retinoids stimulate collagen production and help to smooth out fine lines and improve skin texture. Differin 0.1% gel, a retinoid previously available only by prescription, is now available over the counter and is a great option for skin of all ages.

L: Parents love that Differin can help their child’s acne, but they can sneak it into their bathroom for its anti-aging effect.

Oily Skin

B: Products with Alpha or Beta Hydroxy acids are great for oily skin. Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Pore-Refining Treatment with 2% BHA is a nice choice.

L: I also love Pixi Beauty’s Glow Tonic for oily skin.

Acne-prone Skin

L: The Clarisonic Brush is a great choice for acne-prone skin. It cleans the pores much more effectively than traditional cleansing, but is gentle enough for most people.

B: Benzoyl peroxide cleanser can be very helpful – it reduces the acne-causing bacteria and helps to clean out pores. Just be careful, because it can bleach your towels!

Pigmentation:

B: La Roche Posay Anthelios AOX 50 is one of my favorite products for all skin types, but it’s particularly helpful for those battling pigmentation. It contains an antioxidant, to fight free radical and prevent the development of pigmentation from sun exposure, but also contains SPF to protect your skin from sun exposure – sun protection is the most important part of treating pigmentation.

L: Lytera 2.0 by SkinMedica is a great lightening serum that helps to even out skin tone and prevent the development of new pigmentation.

Would you say your skincare approach is more holistic or invasive by nature? And does it differ for each client?

B: My approach is to always 1) use products that work and 2) formulate a treatment plan that is comfortable and approachable for the specific individual.

L: If a patient wants to stick to a certain approach, I’m all for that and will work with them to find the best regimen for their needs and goals. The truth is that some treatments or products work better than others, but in order for the plan to succeed, my recommendation needs to align with the patient’s preference.

Is natural always better?

L: Not necessarily. The term “natural” isn’t clearly defined in the realm of skincare. When comparing truly raw or organic products with more traditional skincare, there will be some items that are superior, and some that are equal or inferior.

B: It’s all about aligning our recommendations with the patient’s preferences.

Did we miss anything important that you think our readers should know when first diving into the world of skincare?

B: There is so much out there right now in terms of skin care – it’s a very hot topic! We approach skincare not as a trend, but as something integral to your overall health and well being. Try not to be blinded by a pretty marketing campaign or number of Instagram followers a brand has. Know where your information is coming from and trust the experts. A good dermatology practitioner will never try to push a product on you that you don’t feel comfortable with, and they will always be transparent about why they recommend a certain product over another.

L: Remember that skincare can, and should be, fun. Find products that work, but also find things that you enjoy using!

Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Pore-Refining Treatment  // Pixi Beauty’s Glow Tonic

Differin .001% Gel

SkinCeuticals HA Intensifier // Lytera 2.0 by SkinMedica

The Clarisonic Brush

Kypris Cleanser Concentrate // La Roche-Posay Anthelios AOX

Follow along with Lauren and Brooke as they share their skincare tips and secrets through @TheSkinSisters IG and on their blog at TheSkinSisters.com. The two sisters also practice medical and cosmetic dermatology at Zel Skin & Laser in Edina and Plymouth, MN, so if you live in the neighborhood, stop in for a consultation and say hello!

Images: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Stefani Ellenbecker is the Editorial Director at Wit & Delight. When she’s not feverishly editing or writing about style and interiors, she runs her bohemian shop  Arden Trading Co. where she sells artisan-made home goods. She lives in Minneapolis with her fiancé Muhamed.

The post We Asked the Experts: The Skin Sisters Reveal the Answers to All Your Skincare FAQs appeared first on Wit & Delight.

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Between Secretary Appreciation Day, Shark Week, and National Donut Day, faux holidays seem to be at an all-time high, seemingly calling for a new celebration all too often. Despite their sometimes airy significance, there is no denying that these social media stemmed celebrations can be extremely tempting; if you don’t post a picture of your dog on National Dog Day, do you really love your dog?? It’s debatable.

Good news though, many of these non-calendar-listed dates stand for much more than an excuse to remind followers how much you love your boyfriend come #NationalBFDay. With the increasing demand for corporate social responsibility, businesses and organizations are making use of holidays like this to drive their mission or cause and the results have been radical, especially when we stop giving things and start giving our time, heart, and hope for a better community for our neighbors.  

Take a fresh coat of paint. It’s a relatively small change to make to a space, but it can have a big impact. Surface level, yes, it can change the feel of a room. But what about all the thought that goes into selecting that color? The act of thinking about what do you want people to feel in that space? The kind of activity that you hope to have in the space? What kind of activity do you hope will happen in this space? The act of painting a room may be small, but the intention behind the act can signal a change that can move mountains, or in this case, communities.

For the seventh year running, the annual Sherwin-Williams® National Painting Week will take place beginning later this month (May 25-June 4). However, throughout the month of May, thousands of Sherwin-Williams employees and associates will volunteer their paint, time, and expertise towards refreshing hundreds of local spaces, historic landmarks, and community centers across North America. The annual celebration is meant to showcase the transformative power of paint and color in our homes and communities; something the entire W&D team is a firm believer in. We are proud to be partnering with Sherwin-Williams during National Painting Week, and are thrilled to be working with an incredible local non-profit, Appetite for Change.

I was first introduced to Appetite for Change through a client-turned-friend. We met up for coffee after Birdie was born and got to talking about the new venture she had thrown herself into. After learning more about Appetite for Change’s rich history of serving their community through food, education, and connection and the upcoming re-launch of their restaurant, connecting them with Sherwin-Williams was a no-brainer. And as part of National Painting Week, we now have a chance to share their story.

Appetite for Change is a community-led organization based in North Minneapolis devoted to creating real food for real people. Understanding that food has the ability to break down barriers, Appetite for Change uses food as a tool for building health, wealth, and social change.

Three years ago, Appetite for Change opened Breaking Bread, a cafe designed to combat the real food crisis in North Minneapolis. When Breaking Bread opened their doors, they became the first sit down restaurant among 38 fast food dining options in their vicinity.

Not only does Breaking Bread offer healthy, smart food options, it also provides job training opportunities for youth and adults who face barriers to employment. Three nights out of the week, youth, new mothers, and families are invited into the space for Appetite for Change’s Community Cooks Program where they can learn various skills on food preparation, nutrition, and more.

With the refresh, the Appetite for Change team is looking to reinvigorate the space’s energy with color that reflects the brand at large as the flavorful, healthy location for finding global foods that it is. In addition, Appetite for Change hopes to promote the usability of Breaking Bread as a gathering space for friends and family to meet and converse over a healthy meal.

Before

After

After comparing and contrasting a wide array of colors, the Appetite for Change team landed on Sherwin-Williams color Rhumba Orange SW 6642, complemented by Drift of Mist SW 9166. The warmness of the orange hue makes the perfect backdrop for the community-created artwork that is scattered throughout the cafe.

If you’re interested in getting involved in a National Painting Week project near you, or would like to nominate a local site, visit your closest Sherwin-Williams store and talk with a sales representative. P.S. Sherwin-Williams is offering a 30 percent off paints and stains, as well as an additional 20 percent off their everyday low price on custom-ordered wallpaper in US stores. For more information, visit SWPaintingWeek.com.

Ed. note: This post was sponsored by Sherwin-Williams. The compensation received in exchange for placement on Wit & Delight is used to purchase props, hire a photographer, write/edit the blog post and support the larger team behind Wit & Delight.

While compensation was received in exchange for coverage, all thoughts and opinions are always my own. Sponsored posts like these allow for the development of additional dynamic content to be produced, unsponsored. Thank you for supporting our partners!

The post Breaking Bread, and Barriers… appeared first on Wit & Delight.

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In case you hadn’t noticed, moms have opinions. Whether it’s warm enough for a light jacket in October. How fast is too fast for someone else’s kid to ride their bike on the sidewalk. What to do to get that baby on the other side of Target to stop crying. You get the idea. Come to think of it, you probably have better, more exotic examples of mom’s opinions in the wild.

I think I speak for most of us, though, when I tell you we had pretty egalitarian and idealistic principles before having kids. We said things like “to each her own” and “live and let live” as we strolled to brunch carrying nothing more than a coin purse at 11:15 on a Sunday. We lamented female relatives we considered overbearing and vowed to keep our distance respectful and our lips sealed on how other moms handled their business.

Then a new life was given unto our care and with it, the superpower of divining the right answer to situations we have nothing to do with, for people we have no relationship to. (See the first paragraph.) But—as harsh as we can be on one another, in no category do we have stronger opinions than on the topic of ourselves as mothers. Maybe another family’s “shoes-on” or “shoes-off” in the house policies when guests are visiting, but I digress. We question and obsesses over whether WE are the ones “doing” motherhood right. Trying hard enough. Leaning in. Taking enough space. And on and on.

And since we all seem to have big ideas on parenting I wondered, in light of this month’s W&D topic on stereotypes, whether any of us could define the “perfect” mother and what it might take to get there. Or whether that was even a good question to begin with. It’s something I needed to ask (and have answered) before I celebrated another Mother’s Day, and the opinions from the 14 women who wrote back are poignant, forgiving, and truly worthy of being said over and over again, and to anyone who will listen.

“The perfect mom realizes there is no perfect. She doesn’t compare herself to other moms, she just tries to connect. She loves herself, and her kids. She knows that each day is a new opportunity to do different, better or more of the same.”  — Karri, mom to Sofie and Iris

“A perfect mother doesn’t take life, or herself, too seriously. Teaches her children to do the same. Someone who doesn’t take things too seriously probably won’t spend much time thinking about perfection, let alone trying to achieve it.” — Laura, mom to Cliff

“The perfect mother loves her kids hard. Deep in that animal place.” — Sarah, mom to Cora

“To me, a perfect mother is someone who loves being around her children, while acknowledging that she needs time away from them. A perfect mother is someone who works to expose her children to healthy food but doesn’t beat herself up over ordering pizza and having a little too much ice cream on movie night. A perfect mother sets limits, teaches good manners, and encourages kindness, while demonstrating grace when things don’t go as planned.”  — Rachael, mom to Riley and Braden

“Am I perfect? No. Do I love my kiddo with my whole heart? Absolutely. To me, that’s all that matters .” — Lizzy, mom to Matthew

“’Perfect’ is word I might use to describe pizza or the rare moments when no one is bickering or rushing or making a mess or staring at a screen, and we’re simply together, talking or laughing. I would never hold my kids up to the impossible ideal of perfection, so I try to be as reasonable with myself. I try not to hold myself up against mothers who make beautiful cupcakes and put every photo into an album…the very same year it was taken. I try, and sometimes, I fail, because I am not perfect! I’m okay with my kids knowing that. As long as they feel safe and loved and challenged, as long as we can end the day with a book, and a song, and cuddle time, I think we’re doing pretty good! — Ali, mom to Oscar and Ezra

“Loves her kids. In whatever fashion she knows how to love.” — Jill, mom to Oliver and Finn

“I would set aside the word ‘perfect’ as it might apply to the way a family photo fits perfectly into an heirloom frame. Rather, I think mothering is about setting firm boundaries for safety and at the same time developing resilience and wholeness in the child. Those boundaries should protect the child from permanent scars but provide challenges and discovery that encourage their learning, struggle, independence, failures and successes.” —  M.J., mom to Fred and Liz

“Forget perfect and forget striving to be perfect. I did that. It would have been better to have relaxed sometimes and left the clothes on the floor. Wish I would have known to enjoy it more. Just be with them and love them, however imperfectly that appears or feels.” — Deb, mom to Matt and Jess

“Looking back, I think the constancy of effort, of trying, is what matters. One day you can say, ‘It was the best I could do.'” — Julie, mom to James and Annie

“I think the perfect mother is unattainable. We all have a vision in our heads of what she looks like, but tend to fall short. I would tell a mother who is struggling, to stop caring what anyone else thinks. Get fast food for dinner, take an extra 5 minutes in the bathroom and appreciate the small things. Like when you arrive on time at playgroup or when the kids actually eat what you cooked for dinner. Because when you look back after they’ve grown-up, all you’ll really focus on are the fun times. Not the time you made 10 pounds of homemade baby food because that’s what a ‘good’ mom would do. So, enjoy motherhood and stop doubting yourself. Do what feels right in your gut, ask for help when you feel overwhelmed and take lots of pictures especially with yourself in them too!!!” — Kat, mom to Colt and Keara

“The ‘perfect’ mother prepares her children to be there for each other, no matter their differences, long after she is gone. Families have their share of issues, but in the end, it’s family that holds life together.” — Susan, mom to Grace

“IMO, the perfect mother is imperfect. She cherishes her strengths and accepts (and learns from) her ‘flaws’. ” — Sharon, mom to Josie and Remy

“I don’t think there is a perfect mother. Be a good role model. Don’t tell your kids to be strong or kind or understanding, show them.” — Jane, mom to Scott, Aaron, and Mark

Image sources: 1, 2

Image by 2nd Truth

Kate Smith is the writer and voice behind Katewordsmith, a modestly humorous, mostly self-depreciating Twitter account and eponymous copywriting studio for clients of all shapes and sizes. She makes her home in Minneapolis-St. Paul with her equally self-loathing husband, verbose three-year-old son, joyful infant daughter, and untamed Boston Terrier.

The post We Asked 14 Moms What it Means to be the “Perfect” Mother appeared first on Wit & Delight.

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