Coffee Talk: Recapping "The Last 90 Days" Challenge

January 15, 2019

At the end of 2018, I decided to join thousands of people around the world (at least, the Instagram world) to complete the Last 90 Days Challenge with Rachel Hollis, author of "Girl, Wash Your Face" and well renowned motivational speaker. I promised myself to do a check in when all was said and done from an accountability stand-point, so today I'll share a little recap of the Last 90 Days.

To catch you up to speed, the idea of the challenge is to refocus the idea of "New Year's Resolutions" and commit to living the last 90 days of the calendar year strong the same way we dive into the New Year with laser vision on life changing resolutions- that are often a 180 degree switch from the behavior we exhibit during the holiday season. When you think about it, it's a lot harder to really get moving from a holiday party/cocktail/gifts/spending spree stall vs. already having your feet on the ground and running. Ok, makes sense.

The challenge starts by setting you up with "The Five to Thrive" which are five habits that, according to Rachel Hollis, if implemented daily, will set you up to be your best self, follow through on goals and commitments and allow you to end your year on the upswing making the New Year a time to continue on with your goals at top speed. Here are the "Five to Thrive":

  1. Get up an hour earlier than you normally do and use that time for yourself.
  2. Workout for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Drink half of your body weight in oz. of water each day.
  4. Give up one food category you know you shouldn't be eating.
  5. Write down 10 things you're grateful for every single day.

The five habits are accompanied by podcasts, a daily Instagram live and a hashtag based on-line community to help motivate and align accountability.

So, how'd I do? What were my takeaways? When it came to the "Five to Thrive," I'll say that October was the right time of year for me to make a pit stop and check in on these habits before the holidays kicked off. I definitely increased my water intake which I hadn't been as diligent about since my last pregnancy and committed to giving up a food category (and stuck with it!) for the Last 90 Days. I did like the practice of writing down a list of things I am grateful for daily, but as the 90 days went on, I found that I moved quickly from handwriting them to typing them into my phone to eventually just reflecting on them nightly before I fell asleep. Still, a nice habit to form.

When it came to waking up an hour earlier than normal- I will be completely transparent. This did not happen in any way shape or form. Haha. Call it an excuse if you like, but when it comes to my lifestyle and having four kids age 4 and younger, sleep is an extremely precious commodity and when I can get it and get it well, I refuse to throw off that delicate balance. So when someone is teething or we are in the middle of a regression or a nightmare happens, I am more worried about getting an adequate amount of rest than an hour to myself at the beginning of the day. Instead, I make sure to communicate with my husband and find intentional quiet time for myself throughout the week as needed- at whatever time of day we can make it work. I can see myself enjoying a peaceful kick-start to the day as we get older and our schedule changes again though. And working out? That did not happen as regularly as the "Five to Thrive" guidelines recommended, but again I tried to adapt this challenge to best fit my lifestyle.

I think overall the Last 90 Days has the potential to make a huge impact on the dedication and perspective you have toward a healthier lifestyle if you are truly able to commit the time. For me, the daily IG lives, the podcasts and the extra social media options would have put me behind a screen instead of in front of my kids, so on top of the "Five to Thrive," there were not enough hours in the day for it all! I did find that the challenge helped inspire me to be more intentional with my time and diet, as well as commit to personal goals I had set earlier in the year. So, if the whole 90 days aren't for you or you also feel like there are a lot of "extras" required from a time commitment perspective, I would recommend at least checking in with yourself, your ambitions, and your goals before the year comes to a close to see if you can help the "New Year, New You" get off to a head start. 


Fashion Finds: The Flare Jean Trend

January 08, 2019

Alright, the truth is that this particular pair of flare denim has been hiding in my closet since well over four babies ago, but when I saw the trend start creeping back into the sartorial now, I had to dust them off and take them for a spin. And while they might not hug in all the right places the way they used to, the styling options are so fresh that I'm rolling with it and giving myself grace plus an excuse to shop for an updated pair. If you are channeling your inner Joanna Gaines or just looking to give your ankles a breather after years of skinny jean suffocation, there are really great options at a variety of price points available.

The trend isn't so forward that it feels intimidating and it isn't SUCH a throwback to our youth (a la The Return of The 90s Everything) that it still feels relatable and doable. You can take the classic, tucked-in route pairing a button up oxford or plaid shirt with a leather belt, a vintage take with a band tee and handkerchief tied in your hair or wait for warmer days and pair the cropped version with a peasant blouse which feels just the right amount of boho without veering into twee, costume territory.

If denim is a way of life for you, as it is for me, and you're looking for an easy update for your weekend wardrobe and beyond, check out the selection of flares below. Links are included under pictures. Happy shopping!























Motherhood Musings: Why Guilty Pleasures are the Right Stuff

January 07, 2019


Guilty pleasures. We've all got 'em . Those little habits that aren't incredibly harmful, but too much fun to quit. Like a little whipped cream on top of your morning latte because no one is watching or belting out every lyric of a throwback rap song once you drop the kids off at school. Man, I love a good guilty pleasure indulgence. And I think that they are good for the soul.

Whether it is the day to day stressors on your mind or just the overwhelming amount of bad news that comes across all platforms constantly, it's nice to have a little moment that's reserved for escaping it all. We spend so much time aiming to be so good and so perfect when in reality there is so much bad and nasty out there trying to drag us down. Especially in Janurary. Stick to the diet. Find the perfect fitness routine. Limit screen time, limit spending, limit frivoloty. Now this is not to say that these aren't key components to becoming the healthiest versions of ourselves (crucial to being good parents!), it's just that all this restraint turns us into really pent up "good people" who are just one bad day away from lashing out and throwing all our progress out the window. A healthy lifestyle has to include living. So, I vote to enjoy all things in moderation, strive to be the best version of yourself, but let a little naughtiness in to release the pressure! Find your guilty pleasure and just own it.

For me, it's ABC's powerhouse franchise, "The Bachelor" and all its spin-off series glory that I just can't quit. I don't know if it's even responsible for me to like this show anymore amid the current era of female empowerment, but here we are at the start of another season and here I am just waiting to put the kids to bed and hit play on the DVR. Is it right to watch thirty predictably gorgeous women vie for the heart of one eligible bachelor while producer prompted drama ensues and (usually) a few good fashion moments and travel goals play out? Probably not. But after a long day of trying to be so good, so patient, so present and so ahead of the game, my guilty pleasure lets me kick back for an hour and sets me up for the week ahead. So pass me a glass of champs and a good face mask, "The Bachelor" is back and I'll be indulging all season long: guilt free.

Friday Favorites: 1.4.19

January 04, 2019
It's the first Friday of 2019, but would you believe me if I told you it's also the first NICE Friday of the year? You know you're from Michigan if 48 degree weather calls for opening up the house and letting the fresh air in. We all have on socks and an extra layer of clothing. We'll be fine. Anyway, the first Friday of the year also calls for the first Friday Favorites of the year! It's 2019, we're in bold, new frontier. Here are the things that I'm loving this week.


Favorite Space
2018 was so hectic for us. Between settling into a new school, new area and welcoming a new baby, we didn't get to focus on house projects the way that I dreamed we would the first year in our new house. I'm hoping that 2019 allows us to make room for some of the projects that I have up my sleeves (or "Investments that we're making to our home to increase the value," as I like to refer to them to my husband). Here's a glimpse at our gal, Violet's, room in our old house and I do miss it since this was her first room and nursery. It still gives me all sorts of inspiration for her new, "big girl" space.

(image via Summer Fridays)

Favorite Beauty
I am in serious need of changing up my skincare routine. It's the first time I haven't been pregnant in 4 years and I feel like my old products have started to boycott against me. This face mask/moisturizer/primer/elixir from heaven gets rave reviews, it green & clean and cruelty free. It's been in my cart for too long and I think this is the season to give it a whirl.



Favorite Shoes
Much like a handbag, I feel that I usually wind up with a pair of shoes that becomes the star of the season. I purchased these little oldies last winter on super sale, but really didn't start giving them their moment until the past month or so and now, let's face it, I probably wear them TOO much. I found a similar pair on sale at Macy's (here) and, although sizes are limited, another super similar pair for a steal at Target (here).

(image via Netflix)

Favorite Show
My husband and I are working our way through "7 Days Out," the six-part documentary series that follows the week leading up to major cultural events (think restaurant opening, space mission, couture fashion show) and so far it's great! The episode on the Westminster Dog Show DID inspire us to watch Christopher Guest's "Best in Show" immediately following, but we got our culture AND our laughs that way, so I'm not complaining.

(image via Pinterest)

Favorite Pick-Me-Up
Lastly, a little passage from one of my favorite writers to serve up some New Year's inspiration as we step fully into 2019.


Fashion Finds: Viva la Hygge!

January 03, 2019
It's freezing cold and wet, but we're not held captive to a full-on blizzard, so just staying in and wearing PJs is not exactly an option. Sweater weather lives on and if you are in the midwest, like I am, it won't be going anywhere anytime soon. I was browsing Nordstrom's website today and found a few pieces that caught my eye- all neutrals and a few pastels to cleanse the sartorial palate of all those OTT holiday offerings. Check them out below (links under images) in case you are looking for a 2019 update to your cozy collection. Viva la hygge vibes!





























Motherhood Musings: Banana Bread and Lessons in Love

January 02, 2019

This morning we woke up and started our official shift out of the holiday routine and back to real life. We woke up, had our breakfast and our coffee, wiggled out of PJs and into regular old clothes, kissed Daddy a million times and waved him off to work. It's 2019 and just like that a new year takes off, not without a tiny hint of pressure to embrace it fully instead of go into it kicking screaming that the lovely holiday season is over.

Christmas presents have found (slightly more) permanent homes throughout the house. A few extra loads of laundry beckon. The fridge needs to be cleared out and a couple of bananas on the counter turned a little overripe. It's a sure sign that we need to keep the easy pace of the past week going and make a batch of Banana Walnut Bread together. Little aprons on and measuring cups in hand, grab a recipe and begin one of my favorite activities: time in the kitchen together. Swap the white sugar for brown sugar and, always, add extra cinnamon and vanilla. Not only does the house smell amazing, but we get to welcome Dad back home with one of his favorite treats.

I love teaching my kids the value and reward in making something by hand for the people they love. Plus, we got to turn something old into something new. Both of which feel like pretty good lessons to have in our hearts at the start of a brand new year.

Banana Walnut Bread Recipe
Inspired by the recipe found on Food & Wine, tweaked by me!
Also, feel free to add about 8 oz. of chocolate chips if you're feeling wild.

3 oz. roughly chopped walnuts
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1/2 cup canola oil
2-3 medium overripe bananas, smashed (reserve this job for an eager 2 year old if you have one)
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray or a light coat of canola oil.

Combine dry ingredients (minus the walnuts) in a medium sized bowl. Whisk together.

Combine the wet ingredients (including the bananas) in a mixer and beat on high until smooth and creamy.

Stir in the dry ingredients until blended. Fold in the walnuts.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until a fork inserted into the center comes out smooth. Let cool. Cut a slice. Smother with butter. Pour coffee. Enjoy!

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2018
We made it to the last day of 2018! It's a miserably wet, cold day here making it the perfect weather to snuggle up and reflect on the newest crop of memories made and dream of the days that lie ahead in 2019. Since no one is making it to see the ball drop at midnight tonight (let's face it, this includes a 9 p.m. bedtime for me too), we had a little "Noon Year's Eve" party this afternoon with the kids and celebrated a fresh start at the same time that they celebrated 2019's entrance in China.

I try not to make too many resolutions because, for me, they tend to fizzle out before Valentine's Day chocolates are devoured. So fitness, healthy eating, less screen time...those are all lifestyle changes that we try to continue incorporating throughout the year by testing new recipes and adding them to the weekly rotation if they become favorites and finding fun ways to get our wiggles out as a family season after season.

I DO like to start the new year with a phrase or motto in mind and this year I'll stick with one that has been a favorite for awhile: "Have courage and be kind." From the 2015 version of Cinderella, this saying proves that sometimes simple says it best and as I approach the new year I'd like to do so with insecurities in the rear-view mirror and empathy available, always. You never know what someone is going through after all. For every friend you know that had their "best year ever," you may have one quietly suffering through their toughest season yet. For every person in your life who found "success" in their personal, professional, entrepreneurial, or even just their social media-curated version of life, you probably have one who is afraid to turn a dream into a goal. A little consideration for the fact that everyone is walking along their own path on their own timeline as well as the guts to take personal risks and finish projects that were started in 2018 are my M.O. as we step into another new year, together.

Happy New Year, friends!

Love,
Sweet Louise & Company

Celebrate: A Playlist for Gift Wrapping

December 16, 2018
Oooh we're in that sweet spot of December when there are still plenty of Christmas activities to knock off the list, but the anticipation of the actual day is really starting to build. With less than two weeks to go, my husband and I started the gift wrapping process which, to be honest, is one that I sort of dread. I usually wait until the last minute making it a stressful chore and by then I rush through and get frustrated that I don't have those gorgeous-Pinterest-worthy-wrapped gifts for my little people to tear open in seconds on Christmas morning. Ha. We decided that this year would be different. I picked out wrapping paper early (yes, I LOVE to coordinate a wrapping paper theme every year) and with a cup of hot cocoa in hand and a Christmas classic on, we started by wrapping a few gifts the other night. And surprise, surprise, it was actually so enjoyable! With a plan in place to knock out a handful of gifts every few nights, I think a gift wrapping lover might be born this year. It's a Christmas miracle.

If you, like me, are a skeptic of the alleged "joy" in gift wrapping, I'm telling you that arming yourself with a festive beverage and some Clark Griswold earlier than the night of the 24th might change your tune. For further encouragement, I have put together a playlist of Christmas music that makes the perfect backdrop for smiling under the twinkle lights while you attach the final ribbon and tag. Or at the very least is nice to listen to while you throw the last gift into the box that your new vacuum came in last summer and was stashed in your basement collecting dust just waiting for it's moment to get a bow slapped on it and shine. Happy wrapping!

Ultimate Gift Wrapping Playlist

1. (Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With The Bag (Thunderball Mix)- Kay Starr
This is a track from "Merry Mixmas" and the whole album is actually awesome. It would be the perfect soundtrack on its own for gift wrapping OR sipping holiday cocktails at any party you're hosting this season.

2. All I Want For Christmas Is You- Mariah Carey
Truly iconic and it wouldn't be Christmas without this one. Does anyone else feel like the first time they hear this song it actually kicks off the holiday season?

3. Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo (Malibu Remix)- Billy May
Another one from "Merry Mixmas" and just festive as hell.

4. Lonely Without You (This Christmas)- Mick Jagger and Joss Stone
This obscure little bluesy song is featured in the Jude Law remake of "Alfie" but is worth noting because Joss Stone is completely underrated and it is also from the movie that kicked off my years-long love affair with Sienna Miller's street style.

5. White Christmas- Bing Crosby
A holiday classic, this song tugs at my heartstrings and is also the titular song from my absolute favorite Christmas movie of all time.

6. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town- Bruce Springstein
This one is my husband's favorite, so of course I included it for him! I also love Clarence's sax solo...sax + Christmas = good.

7. What Christmas Means To Me- Stevie Wonder
If this song is on, I instantly feel good.

8. Christmas Wrapping- The Waitresses
This song is so cheesy, but I can't help including this one on my annual playlist. It's a keeper!

9. The Christmas Song- Nat King Cole
I have an entire Pandora radio station of Traditional Christmas Classics, but this song just SOUNDS like Christmas. One of the very best.

10. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays- N*Sync
I wouldn't be a product of my generation if I didn't throw this gem on the playlist.

11. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas- Frank Sinatra (ok, ANY version of this song)
This is the one. This is the one you listen to before you you go to sleep on Christmas Eve. Maybe it's just that I'm sentimental, but I can't listen this song without a little tear in my eye.

Holiday Gifting 2018: For Him

December 02, 2018


I'm so excited about today's gift guide because all the items are hand selected and 100% great-guy approved by my favorite "him" ever- my husband, Kyle! I was glad to have his help with this one because it is my personal opinion that men are more difficult to shop for than women. I'm serious! Men's gifts tend to be either way too practical to be fun OR way too gimmicky to be tasteful. I have truly never come across a Men's Gift Guide that featured things I would ACTUALLY buy for my husband. So, I'm glad to have a list of items that someone I trust would genuinely love to receive. Whether you're shopping for your dad, your brother-in-law, your best friend or your significant other, trust me when I say that there is something for you in this guide.

1. PlayStation Virtual Reality: The next generation of technology has arrived and for the guy who is into tech and gaming, this VR System has one of the best rankings out there.
2. Northface E-tip Gloves: Perfect for those of you who live in an Arctic tundra half of the year like I do, these gloves blend functionality with style to allow your guy to send you love notes even on the coldest days (or to read the text you sent reminding him to bring home more hot cocoa).
3. Nomad Rugged iPhone Case: Durable and stylish without being overtly trendy, this case works and won't need to be constantly replaced.
4. Ray Ban Wayfarer: Another timeless classic, these sunglasses are flattering on every face shape (making them even better for "borrowing") and add the perfect dash of devil may care attitude to any look- even your Dad's favorite Lee jeans/sweater combo that he'll be wearing at your family party.
5. Gentleman Jon Shaving Kit: An old-fashioned shave kit is a cool artisan gift to give that is not only practical, but also looks great on display. This brand really gives you the best and most well-rounded assortment of shaving accessories for the price, so you really get more bang for your buck out of this one.
6. Farm Field Table: For my Michigan friends, this is a local butcher that supplies meat to some of the best restaurants across the state, but you can also buy fresh cuts to prepare in your own kitchen. The quality is outstanding and if you know a guy who loves to be in the kitchen as much as my husband does, this is a really unique and thoughtful gift.
7. Instashiatsu Foot Massager: Let's be honest- this foot massager, much like the Wayfarers, will be the gift that keeps on giving (right back to me) if it finds its way under my tree this year.
8. Brooklyn Brew Beer Making Kit: If one of the guys in your life is into craft beer, this is a cool way to turn his interest into a hobby. Follow up the gift with giving the gift of time and sampling the results over a movie night in after the holidays.
9. Gentlemen's Hardware Credit Card Tool: It's the modern version of a Swiss Army knife and SO much easier to carry around! Featuring a screwdriver, bottle opener and mini saw, this would make a fun and functional stocking stuffer.
10. Jabra Elite 65T: As far as wireless earbuds go, this pair is highly rated for having great sound quality and durability. These are a great gift for the music loving, podcast loving and tech loving guys in your life.

Motherhood Musings: The Ghost of Christmas Present

November 30, 2018

We're a week out from Thanksgiving and that feeling has set in...the one where even though it's the most wonderful time of the year I start to panic about creating "THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER" for my family. I got out my planner the other day and plotted out our holiday activities (the cookie baking, gingerbread house making, holiday festival attending, twinkle light viewing, perfect picture getting, meeting Santa Claus kind of activities). And then the lists. The lists! The gift lists, the errands lists, the decorating lists...the to-do list that are the conductor's sheet music to said "BEST CHRISTMAS EVER." And I'll admit that I love the hustle and bustle. I love that our weekends are filled with things that keep my family close and bring joy to my kids, but it's so easy to spend SO much time and effort planning perfection that you overextend yourself and forget to stop and soak each moment in.

It's like motherhood in general; I'm continuously learning that I cannot do it all at once. If my house is perfectly cleaned, then my children probably hung out with their electronic babysitters a little longer that day. If I spend the whole morning building lego cities and reading books with my babies, there will probably be dishes in the sink and an extra load of laundry (or 5) tomorrow. Chasing perfection is exhausting, during the holidays and otherwise, but I find that the more I focus on the present moment, the closer I get to being perfect at what I'm doing right then and there. And if we can only be "perfect" at one thing at a time, then the lists can get a little shorter to make way for snuggling and the camera can be put away to spend more time looking at the real life magic right before our eyes.

Holiday Gifting 2018: For the Baby

November 20, 2018


Today's gift guide focuses on the tiniest recipients and, let's face it, is there anything cuter to shop for than itty bitty baby items?! Not a chance. If you know someone who just had a baby or is expecting, let this guide help you make the perfect selection in gifting this holiday season. The featured items have all been loved by my littles and also stand the test of time- most are on baby #4 in my house and still in great shape! None of these items are things I would categorize as baby "essentials" (with the exception of the swaddles), but since an expecting mama usually has necessities on her brain it's fun to find something here to spoil her and her little one on the way this holiday season.

1. This doll from Anthropologie which is a darling playmate for baby and makes for equally sweet nursery decor.

2. This teething toy which is a diaper bag classic and such a "must-have" gift for any new mama to receive.

3. These sweet gender neutral onesies which I've purchased in both short sleeve and long sleeve for our littlest guy. I love how soothing these colors are, they hold up great in the wash and the kimono style makes quick changes a snap. My advice is to skip the newborn size and opt for buying a couple sets in various larger sizes so that mama has new onesies to enjoy as her little bundle grows.

4. These leather moccasins range in price based on color-way (many are on sale right now for Black Friday) and may seem a little pricey, but you truly can't beat the quality and, surprisingly, they stay on baby feet! I prefer the gender neutral color options since I've been able to reuse them for all my babies ("Weathered Brown" is my absolute favorite). Again, I would skip the newborn size and help get the baby stocked up with footwear for when he or she grows out of all those baby shower gifts.

5. This brand of swaddles is my favorite, hands down. The prints continue to get cuter and cuter by the year, they get softer with each wash and, honestly, this is one of those items you can never have too many of. They can be used as swaddles, blankets, bibs, burp cloths, sun covers, the list goes on...these are a great gift that are both fun and practical to give and receive!

6. There's nothing better than snuggling up to read a book with your baby and I love helping a family grow their children's book collection during the holidays. It would be fun to give this classic book (one of our favorites!) as a little set with these matching pajamas.

7. Another little lovey that I thought was too cute to pass up, this sloth would make a great gift for a baby on the way or one celebrating their first Christmas. The entire collection of plush toys at Anthropologie is actually adorable (think llamas, flamingoes and mermaids); I suggesting perusing if you have time!

8. If these pajamas came in my size, I would seriously buy them. Just like the swaddles by the same brand the comfort is out of this world and the prints are so sweet. I want a matching pair of these for each of my kids in the "Lovestruck" print.

9. The last two gifts are similar in sentiment, but I love that these milestone cards encourage new parents to take photos of their babies at other memorable moments in addition to the typical "month-by month" photos. Each card is darling and there is no sweeter way to create a baby book than one filled with pictures of the actual star of the show.

10. This gift is a little more classic simply featuring milestone cards for each month of baby's first year, but it comes with a matching blanket to take perfect pictures on (and one that's great for snuggling with far beyond baby's first year).

Are any of these gifts going to be wrapped under your tree this year? What are your other favorite items to give to your favorite little ones during the holidays? Tell me in the comments below!

About Me

Hi, I'm Julie! I'm a former career gal turned stay-at-home momma working on raising our 4 babes in a home filled with humor and kindness. Join me here for our days of good eats, lots of coffee, laughter, projects in our first home and some messes along the way. This is my life, in style.


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