let's talk celebrity crushes.

Ok so today on Rage Against the Minivan they talked about top 5 celebrity crushes....and of course I need to get in on this action.

Dear Husband, I love you, but ya' gotta have a list. (He totally has one, too.)

So, in no particular order:

Only long hair, Chris Hemsworth. I don't know why, I just like him with longer hair. He's kind of like a new, Australian version of Brad Pitt (looks wise). The accent definitely ups the hot factor, and the fact that he's Thor. And now he has a baby- and the photos of him carrying the baby all the time are just-heart eyes! 

Shia Lebouf. I've watched him since he was on the Disney Channel! It's hard to believe he's the same goofy kid he was then. He's got this-unconventional/hipster/f-the-world vibe that just oozes attractiveness. 

Idris Elba. Chikezie is going to give me crap for this one because he always tells me to stop drooling when we see him on tv and I insist I don't think he's hot...but he is. 

Dwayne Johnson. Because he's just a giant good looking man with a great smile. No matter how many shitty movies he does.

Joseph Gordon Levitt. I LOVE HIM. How can you not? Seriously. How can you not love him??

Who are your top 5 celebrity crushes?? Please share! I want to hear everyone's picks!

a man with a sense of humor

If you know my husband, you know he's a funny guy. He loves to laugh, (and has one of my favorite laughs), and he loves to make people laugh. It's how he copes, how he bonds, how he relates. His sense of humor is by far my favorite thing about him. 

And now I get to watch him be the funny dad. He tolerates things I can't- like the boys pulling at his face and giggling at him. (It would drive me nuts.) I love watching him and the boys in their own little man-world. So, this weekend I just sat back and captured a little bit of it, with gooey-heart-eyes the whole time. I mean, is there anything better than this?

Stella and Dot Trunk Show!

In case you guys forgot, or didn't know, April is Autism Awareness month...and in case you didn't know- it's still April! 

I'm hosting a Stella and Dot Trunk Show right now and they're donating 20% of the retail sales from the Autism Awareness Collection to the HollyRod Foundation -which gives support to those living with Autism and Parkinson's disease. How awesome, right? You get one of their beautiful pieces to spice up your jewelry collection, and you're helping support a good cause. 

And this beauty from the Autism Awareness line:

It's prefect for simple jewelry girls like me who don't bother with a whole bunch of bling each day, but it's nice to ad one small thing each day to make me feel a little more girly. I mean, how dainty and cute is that?

So PLEASE- head on over to the trunk show, there are only a few days left in April! (Oh, and in case you forgot, Mother's Day is coming up. Easy and beautiful gifts for mom, BOOM.)

CLICK HERE to enter the trunk show and find something beautiful!

growing stuff.

Sorry it's been a little bit slow around here this week. It may be this way for the next couple of weeks, there's just a lot of busyness happening around here. Spring and summer tend to do that, get us out of the house, get us moving and keeping us busy.

This weekend I worked outside all day, both days.

I planted a mini garden in a small space next to our driveway. Our landlord told me he hadn't been able to get much to grow here, I'm determined to prove him wrong! I mixed Sure Start fertilizer in, hand tilled up all that soil and then added some nutrient rich soil from the nursery. Crossing my fingers that was enough. I planted some beans, carrots, tomatoes and transplanted some strawberries I'd planted in the back that weren't getting enough sun. Later I added some mulch, hopefully it'll help this super dry soil to retain some water, and it just looks better than this dirt. I also got a cute little border fence at Home Depot to keep it all looking nice. It's in the front of the house, so I'd like it to look clean. 

So far, 4 days later, everything is still alive and looking good!

Since I learned the hard way that our backyard just doesn't get enough consistent sun to grow many veggies, I scrapped what I had going on back there and got some pretty bush/shrubs and annuals to fill in while they grow. I added some mulch to cover all the open dirt and I'm pretty proud of it. These will grow to be about the size of the other flowering shrubs, enough to cover the ground and keep a pretty maintenance free back yard. So far, everything is still growing! 

It's been fun letting the boys "help" me "pwant fwowas". They like digging in the dirt (especially Julian) and Isaiah has been really into helping me water everything this week. I'm hoping it's a little bit of an opportunity to expand on words, get them talking, maybe teach them a thing or two. We talk about how the plants are thirsty for water just like they're thirsty for water, and that they need a drink so they can grow big. I don't think the boys quite understand that our garden will have vegetables until they can actually see them. 

I've so much enjoyed doing yard work. Growing up on a farm, helping my mom with the gardens we always had growing up, this all just feels natural to me. We've lived in apartments until this point, I'm so thankful we have the space, and an awesome landlord who lets me plant things!

Are any of you guys gardeners? Have any tips for me!?

so, i'm finally going to lose this weight.

I've tried a variety of things over the past couple of years to lose the last 10-15 lbs of baby weight that still hold on to me for dear life. This weight? This isn't like before. Before I had the boys, I lost about 15 lbs and a whole bunch of body fat. I worked with a trainer for over a year, I ran a few miles a few days a week as well as hit up the gym before or after work. I was good. I'm naturally an athletic and competitive person, I'd really hit my stride and felt great. 

With my friend Rachel before a 5K.

It's not the same anymore. Pregnancy really did some work to me, physically and mentally. I've just been stuck in this rut since about last year that I just haven't been able to break out of. Moving long distance twice in the past year along with all of the challenges raising two little boys learning to talk...this past year did a number on me. I just can't seem to gain any traction, find a way to lose the weight that works for me. And let me tell you, these pounds don't want to go anywhere! It's true what they say about losing those last few pounds after having kids, they just seem to hold on the tightest. 

I've always felt best eating clean, putting good things in my body consistently. Living with someone who can just eat what he wants has made things difficult, especially when what he wants includes some form of baked goods or pizza. And I'd give in, I'd think I was ok eating so much because he could eat more, so I obviously was ok. But our bodies don't work the same and I've just felt swollen. I've felt puffy, weak, soft. My clothes never fit right, they pucker and pull in the wrong places. 

The hardest part of losing weight this time is that it has to be a full on all fronts attack. I need to eat clean, I need to work my ass off. I have to exercise when I don't feel like it, when I feel like there are a million other things I should be doing. I have to track my calories, to hold myself accountable. 

I'm about 2 weeks into a DietBet and I'm feeling good. I've only lost 2 lbs (last week, just barely) but I've run and walked almost 15 miles this week and done some circuit training (so sore) and already feel tighter this week. We'll see what the scale says in a few days. I'm eating protein packed meals, lots of veggies and fruits, and oh lordy the water. 

It's so crazy to me how some women snap back from pregnancy. My mind literally can not compute how it happens. It's not just famous people, real women everywhere look just fine after kids without doing much. Well, I'm tall but not a bean pole. I'm pear shaped, I've got a small waist and some big child-bearin' hips. I've got strong legs and swimmers shoulders (even though I'm not a swimmer) I just haven't been putting any of it to use. If you don't use it, you lose it.

A lot of women start to accept that they'll never look like their pre-pregnancy selves. Well, I want to look better. Yeah, I have stretch marks and wider hips and blah blah blah. I'm not going to settle anymore, I've never been this person and I've had just about enough of myself being a wimp about all of this. Laying around for 9 months baking those dudes really softened my will, and well, it's back. 

Time to get ish done.

Filoli Gardens {San Francisco Bay Area family outing)

My sister in law came up from Santa Barbara for a visit this weekend and we always try to go do something fun while she's here. This weekend we decided to hit up Filoli Gardens and well, gorgeous. The place is insanely beautiful and I secretly wish I owned it and had a fence to put around it and then just let the boys run around the forest all day knowing they were probably somewhere out there and burning off all their energy. That probably sounded bad. 

But really, if you live in the Bay Area, you really need to go here. You can even get a yearly pass to go as often as you'd like, as there are different things blooming each season. The boys really enjoyed running around outdoors and every direction you turn is another beautiful garden. I really just had to aim and shoot with my camera (we had our hands full trying to keep the boys from running away) and was pleased when I got home that all the quick shots came out so nicely. I really didn't edit much, just a little contrast and exposure here and there. Like I said, this place is amazing. 

And so now, massive photo dump of pretty.

the story of mandey and chikezie : part 1

I was inspired by reading Mandy's story of how she met her husband and thought I'd share a little bit about how I met mine!

Ours is not a story of blind dates, of chance meetings, or of rekindling old romance. Ours is mostly a story of two drunk college kids finding each other in a bar, and then falling hard. It's just a plain ole story of two people falling in love.

It was October 2005, I was a junior in college. Fall is such a good time of year in Iowa. College football, beautiful weather, and I was about to turn 21. I hadn't really had any long term relationships at this point in my life...ever. I'd casually dated a couple guys here and there in college but never found someone on the same page as me. 
Almost 21 year old Mandey with my roommate, and friend since middle school, Cody.

I was definitely full swing in my party stage, having the time of my life. (If you know about the University of Iowa, you know that when I was in school, you could get into bars under 21. Like we weren't going to drink?) There was one bar in particular where all the underage kids went, and it just so happened that there was this really good looking guy always at the door. 

One day, shortly before I was to turn 21, I must have been feeling particularly awesome (and drunk) that I had enough courage to stop him as he was making his way through the bar. I grabbed his hand and said, "Hi, I'm Mandey." He said, "Hey, I'm Chikezie" (probably a little taken off guard by my forwardness.) I don't know what we said after that, but it was only a minute or two and we exchanged numbers right there. Boom. I'm good. And I had no idea what his name was because I mean, how often do you hear someone tell you their name is Chikezie? Like, never. I pretended to type his name into my phone like I totally knew what was going on. The next day I really struggled to remember who "xxzyzy" was in my phone.

I somehow managed to remember his name, and added him on facebook. You know, what you do when you're in college and just met someone once. I was really good at stalking. We started chatting almost daily on facebook and I'd stop by the bar whenever I was out to 1. show my friends how hot this guy was that I was talking to and 2. drunkenly make an ass of myself while attempting to not awkwardly flirt with him.
I mean....how could I not? Look at that hottie. 

This continued for a couple of weeks. We started bonding over our love of stupid movies (and knowing all the quotes). He was hilarious. I think that's what drew me to him, he was just a hot, funny guy. We had the same sense of humor and always had something to joke together about. And he was just straight up honest. No game playing or treating me like he didn't care (like a lot of college guys do). After 2 weeks one day he just straight told me, "I'd be honored to call you my girlfriend." I mean. How do you say no to that?

And that was it. I knew I loved him, and told him so after about a month of dating. He was my first love, and I knew it right away. *Cue relationship photos montage*

We allowed each other freedom to go out on our own with friends which sometimes doesn't happen in new relationships. I had girlfriends who started dating a new guy and we'd never see them again. I never wanted to be that girl, and he understood my need for independence. I clicked with his friends, and mine all loved him. We were silly together, and just slowly grew to love each other more and more each year.

It just worked.

my lucky number: thoughts on another baby

We're always getting the question, "Do you guys plan on having more kids?" and I never quite know how to answer. 

Chikezie is happy with our family size. I think it has a lot to do with being the breadwinner. Adding one more mouth to feed to a 4 person family seems a little overwhelming. Although we already need a bigger car, we'd definitely need one with another baby in the mix. I think he worries about the added stress another baby could be on our marriage. Having kids is stressful! What happens when we add in another one? I think he doesn't feel too outnumbered right now, 2 kids, two parents. It works. 

For me? I absolutely, positively want one more baby. You see, there's only one problem with having twins, the first time, and by accident. We've never had to make the decision. (Well, directly sit down and say "do we want kids?") By fate, the decision was kind of made for us. If we only had one baby, we'd be more likely to sit down and really discuss having another. I think both of us would want our child to have a brother or sister. But when you have twins? It's a huge decision to have another. 

I have no fear. My heart knows everything would be just fine. We were in the least optimal situation when we found out we were pregnant. It was hard- moving, one very tight income, my body doing a huge job for the first time, the uncertainty, the worry, the unknown. You know what we did? We figured it out. And the crazy thing about our relationship is that when we go through stressful situations, we end up getting closer in the process instead of farther apart. 

I suppose I'm just greedy. I get really sad watching videos of the boys as babies. I wonder if that was my only chance? Was that the only time I'd get to feel those little flutters in my belly? Our only chance to meet this little being we created for the very first time? I want another chance, just one more, now that I know what I'm doing and what to appreciate. I want to snuggle on the couch in the middle of the night, I want to see a first smile, to wash itty bitt clothes, change bibs full of drool and feel someone so small and innocent fall asleep on me.

The stretch marks, the gained weight, the late nights and even earlier mornings? These and all other struggles of the first few years don't feel intimidating to me at all anymore. We went through it knowing nothing with double the challenges and we're still trucking along just fine. I want the boys to be big brothers, like my husband and his twin brother are such great big brothers to their sisters. When you see your husband as such a great example of what you want your sons to be, it's only natural to want more.

Now that I'm a mom, I realize the most important thing I'll ever do in my life is this. I got this. Sometimes it's hard. Like when we were trying to figure out the colic in the first couple months. Or when it took them forever to walk. And talk. And when they're throwing tantrums and fighting with each other. But never once, even in the most difficult moments, do I look at my children and ever regret our decision to bring them into this world. We got this. Like when you start working at a job you really like and you feel completely confident handling the next challenge your boss throws at you, we got this. 

Don't get me wrong, I truly appreciate our blessings. I count them daily (and kiss and love on them). But there will always be a small space in my heart just waiting. Waiting for that one last, little blessing to complete it all. Three has always been my lucky number.

what you do on Easter while banana bread is in the oven.

Isaiah's hair blowing up over the top of his hood, his pants slowly becoming too short for his growing legs, his eyes on the place on the bridge where he'll be brave enough to jump.

Julian's constant serious look, trademark turned in feet and one little curl on his forehead.

Isaiah proudly looking on as his brother goes down the big slide on his own. Julian hating the sand, sporting his mismatched socks. 

Isaiah waiting patiently at the end of the slide for his brother, shoes on the wrong feet. Small, sweet hands gripping the side of the slide.

Finally something the boys can climb on their own. Aunt Answer with a helping hand incase Julian's tired little legs needs a little boost. He's climbed up this thing at least 10 times.

Isaiah making sure mommy is watching. A Julian photo bomb.

Julian's hands in his pockets, holding the Easter eggs a nice lady gave him at the park. He's watching daddy ride his bike over to us. Eyes are always on daddy.

Isaiah's first trip down the slide on the cool Easter evening. (While daddy watches on.) In a rare moment, he looks a lot more like daddy than mommy. 

My favorite. 

This was our Easter evening, a short 40 minute trip to the park across the street from our house. We were home just in time to take the banana bread out of the oven and open the Easter eggs a nice mom in the park gave us (as we walked in on an Easter egg hunt in progress). 

Not all photos a composed perfectly or in focus. Sometimes I get caught up in the photographic details that I forget about the subjects. The reason I take these photos is to remember, to be able to look back on fondly when these boys are taller than me. The little gestures, the facial expressions, the small quirks of each photo really mean so much to me. 

As a mom, as the photographer for our family most days, as a blogger, I tend to want the perfect photo. The photo of my kids smiling or wearing cute outfits without stains, pant legs that aren't too short, shoes on the right feet. But it's not really an accurate portrayal of our days, which are rarely picture perfect. 

mama mandolin home tour: living room

I've been asked by a lot of friends and family over the past few months to give a home tour of our beautiful rental home. We really lucked out finding it, after searching for months for a home we really wanted to stay in. I know it's just a rental, but we're really tired of moving. Being married to a web designer, he craves places that are inspiring and aesthetically pleasing. Me? I can make even the cheapest dump feel homey. (And I have!) We have found a good balance, I think. 

I've been waiting and waiting to do this "home tour" until everything felt done. But the truth is, we're both creatures of change...nothing is ever done! We're only happy with something for a few months and then want to try out a new look, move something here, hang something there. 

So I give you- our living room. Please note, it's not always picture perfect. (Most people's homes are not.) But I'm not giving you a home tour in a messy home :)
chairs: Funky Furniture // end table: Target // shelves: ikea 
The main living are in our home is mostly windows and fills the rooms with nature and light. In the back left corner, you see the front door. Out the windows on the right is the back yard. Behind this gray wall is the kitchen. We keep a mixture of the boys' toys (in the basket) and books on the shelves. 

pillow & clock: Target // globe light: Ikea // art: Jolby
table: etsy // sofa: funky furniture // pillows: Hammer and Fox // rug: ikea // afghan: etsy // storage ottoman: i have no idea
tv stand: funky furniture // faux deer taxidermy: etsy // shelves: ikea // owl lamp: west elm // arrows print: jolby // family drawing: the paper mama
We fell in love with the tv stand, which actually isn't a tv stand but a buffet/credenza of sorts. We knew we'd be able to use it for years to come, it's such a beautiful piece of furniture. It's also high enough to keep litte hands away from the tv, which was important. There's lots of storage for movies, gaming stuff for Chikezie, even some of the boys' toys. 

To the right of the tv, my little succulent collection next to the window that gets the most sun.To the left, the boys' toy area. I've thrifted old suitcases over the past few years and we use them to hold toys/puzzles etc. We didn't want their toys to over take our home, i feel this little corner is a good compromise. 

My favorite part of the living room. We were lucky to find such a unique home, full of windows and light. Although it's pretty cold in here in the winter, and I'm about to start sewing some temporary curtains for the windows for the summer. Thankfully, the bay area temperatures aren't too extreme and some curtains will hopefully keep the bright sun from heating our home up too much in the warm summer months.

Finding a style that suits both Chikezie and I was a little difficult. He has a great eye, and likes things to be symmetrical and match coherently. I have an eclectic, quirky style that peeks through with the owls, bright throw and pillows. It really was a struggle agreeing on some things but after years of living in small apartments, we were so happy to be able to actually pick out our first pieces of furniture for an actual home. 

I hope you guys enjoyed this little tour! Let me know if you have any questions about anything you see, and hopefully in the next few weeks I'll be able to show you some more of our home :)