Staying Inspired: What I’m Reading & Listening To This Summer

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This summer, it seems like everyone has a lot going on; busy jobs, vacation plans, trying to get in shape, dropping the kids off at camp, and so on it goes. I've accomplished a few goals in the midst of everything; launching an Etsy shop, creating a habit of waking up earlier to get work done in the AM, and being a lot more physically active. Which is great... and has been pretty rough. I had a few weeks of feeling exhausted all the time. Summer is the busy time of year for my day job and trying to add all these new things at once hit me like a freight train.

I needed to get energized to power through it all, so I began seeking out podcasts or music that left me feeling refreshed and upbeat, and I played them whenever I was taking a walk or commuting home from work. I went on Amazon and ordered a few books focused on creativity and inspiration, and I read a bit every night before bed. These small things helped me sail through the toughest parts of some days, so I wanted to share them with you in case you're in the same boat... or in case you're just looking for something new! Below are the things I'm listening to, reading, and doing to stay afloat.



I've really embraced podcasts this summer; they are just the perfect way to make a 15 minute drive feeling like it was both relaxing and productive. Here are a few I've been downloading this summer:

Ted Radio Hour, an NPR podcast (my favorite episodes are The Source of Creativity, Success, A Better You, and What Is Original?)

Awesome with Alison (Alison Faulkner on Instagram is also one of my favorite things)

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Sincerely, X, also an NPR podcast (this is an odd one, but the stories are so compelling)

In other listening-related news, at the beginning of summer I put together a playlist specifically of songs that helped shift my mood. I was going for calming, happy and meaningful music. Songs from your childhood or that help you recall a time in your life that you were kicking ass will probably do the trick for you, but if I might offer a few suggestions from my own playlist:

America by Simon & Garfunkel (and all the other Simon & Garfunkel songs too, of course)

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da by The Beatles (and yes, all the other Beatles songs too, of course)

The Weight by The Band

Nobody Compares 2 U by Prince

The Wind by Cat Stevens

Don't Stop Believin' by Journey

Also, apparently science figured out the most relaxing songs. These don't really do anything for me, but if it works for you, let me know in the comments!


I ordered three new books this summer specifically to motivate myself, and they are:

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (I highly recommend this one)

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

In the end, the books that make my feel the most uplifted every time are the books that originally taught me to love to read. They are comforting yet demonstrate strength and determination. I always turn to Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and The Red Tent by Anita Diamant among others. (You can also check out a longer list of my favorite books.)

Change It Up

One of my mantras this summer was to "start being that person". Meaning, if I wish I was the type of person who wakes up an extra hour early to get stuff done, then I need to be that person. If I'm feeling envious of other people who always seem to be outside and getting daily exercise, well... I can be that person too. So, I took the proverbial bull by the horns and set my alarm earlier, started wearing a Fitbit, and after a few challenging weeks I'm feeling proud of myself and enjoying that extra cup of coffee while I meet my goals in the early morning hours. 

All that is to say, maybe consider switching up your routine? A few things to try include:

Change into more comfortable clothes as soon as you get home from work. For me, this helps to shed the stress of the day and change my mindset. The opposite can also be true; instead of staying in sweats all day Saturday, changing into some real clothes can make me more likely to get out of the house or tackle some tasks I've been putting off (and I don't just say this because I'm usually showered and in PJs by 7pm... Apparently, a lot of British people are too.)

Change how and when you work on specific tasks. You've probably read about how really successful people don't check their email first thing in the morning. I think you need to learn what works for you, since that's who you're accountable to. I've learned that I am much more productive when I focus on a task in a large block of time. I can create a "theme" for the day, and if I stick with it I feel like I can conquer the world. When I jump from task to unrelated task, I take more breaks between them and lose my train of thought.

Get out of town. When I used to live in a city, we would sometimes drive hours outside of it to go to strange little small towns (once, we visited Appleton, Wisconsin and went to a tiny Harry Houdini museum in their town hall.) It was just to get away from the concrete and noise, and gain some perspective. I still enjoy how even driving an hour away just to get coffee somewhere you've never gone before can make me feel.

Or, maybe don't change it up? Eating the same thing everyday has been the habit of many artists and writers; it eliminates a distraction and focuses your energy on what you need to accomplish. It's the same reason Steve Jobs wore the same clothes most of the time. (Check out a Slate article on eating the same things here, and one on Steve Jobs outfit choice here). Personally, I haven't found a food or clothing item I could commit to this fiercely, but I'm on the lookout.


What are you reading, listening to, and changing up to stay inspired this summer?

- Dani


Photo in main blog post image by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

The Magic of Having Older Children

My kids are getting older, and sometimes I catch myself staring wistfully at the parents of infants, standing in the grocery store check-out lane. Everyone oohs and awws over their super cute baby and it's chubby cheeks. Anyone else walk past the baby aisle at Target, knowing you'll never need to pensively compare bottle nipples or swaddling blankets again? Many people my age are just starting their families, make it it feels a little strange to be in such a different place with mine. Literally, my oldest is in her last year she can go in the kid's zone at Wegman's (a local grocer). Seriously.... aged out of it. Also, eating out at restaurants is getting pretty expensive... there's no more of this ordering a side or little kid meals to get them fed.

SO - Instead of feeling all sad at the lack of adorable footie-pajamas in my life, I'm reflecting on the magic of having older children. Babies are cute, but honestly there are just SO many benefits when they start evolving into walking, talking, opinionated mini-people!

The Magic of Having Older Children, from danielle and co. Babies are amazing, but parenthood only gets better as your kids get older. #parenting #bigkids

The kids can't pass up a photo op. Taken at the Sciencenter in Ithaca, NY!

Reasons Why Having Older Kids Is Amazing

  1. Activities and trips are more bearable! The stress of meltdowns, snacks, diaper changes, and watching them every.single.second is lessening. Older kids can understand instructions, tell you when they're worn out, and enjoy things that the entire family is into.
  2. Shared interests! Maybe it's music, Harry Potter, or riding bikes together but when they beg you to help them with something, you really want to! My daughter has asked to learn to knit, watch the Chronicles of Narnia movies together, and other things we both find enjoyable. It's a whole new world of bonding.
  3. Being in a different room than the kids, without utter disaster. I can be painting at the kitchen table, and they can be in the next room playing without my hovering the entire time. I mean, when I hear a shriek I respond, but it isn't constant (most days). We make sure we spend plenty of family time together, but a little independence is also a healthy thing.
  4. SLEEP. Need I say more?
  5. Conversations! We can talk about current events (in kid friendly terms), what happened at school, and what they want to be when they grow up. BONUS: not having to translate what they are saying all of the time, to everyone else. I miss my kids' funny little toddler voices and lisps, but love that they now enunciate.
  6. Seeing their personalities really develop. Our oldest kids is learning Japanese from apps on her tablet, and our son is an incredible problem-solver with laser-focus. We can start imagining what they will be when they grow up, and helping them develop their natural skills and interests.
  7. More hands to make the household run! We're big believers in chores in our house, so having little hands helping unload the dishwasher and haul out the recycling means the grown-ups getting even more done. Or... actually sitting down for a minute.
  8. Fleeting moments become more special. When you're holding a baby, you're ALWAYS HOLDING THAT BABY. Like, 20 out of 24 hours. Probably in your sleep, you're still holding the baby. An older kid is a little more frugal with their snuggles (or, they are just too busy running around) so when they stop and lean against you and snuggle up, it's magical.
  9. Help unloading shopping carts. Errands get a little easier!
  10. They can tell you what is going on! Their ear hurts? You don't have to watch for tugging... they say stuff like, "Ouch, my ear really hurts". Not always, but a it becomes more likely. Or, they can tell you someone was mean to them, what they are scared of, if they are tired, etc. Instead of deciphering different types of crying, you can ask follow-up questions.
  11. They can roll their own little luggage on wheels! Their airplane tickets will only get more expensive, but at least you don't have to haul a diaper bag and umbrella stroller around! Also, they can watch a movie on an iPad, or play a game with a little more attention-span.
  12. Making their own snacks and/or meals. Our daughter is so very proud she learned how to make oatmeal (from packets) in the microwave, toast, and can pour herself a bowl of cereal with milk. She loves the independence so much, she gets up early enough every morning to make breakfast before we get to the kitchen. PBJs are also easy enough for the kids to make. We keep a basket of healthy snacks they can reach, too - we generally supervise, and it doesn't replace family meals but it's a great way for them to learn skills.
  13. Finding lost stuff. You can yell, "everybody look for my phone!" and have way more eyes focused on the goal. Once, when the cat somehow lost her collar, I was paying a dime for piece of furniture they searched under. (We eventually found it in a dresser drawer.)
  14. Childcare costs decreasing (depending on your situation)! This was a BIG one for us. Full-time childcare in our area is some of the most expensive in the nation, and while our incomes still made it worth it, it was pretty painful writing that check every month. We both work full-time, so we still have after-school costs to deal with, but it's manageable. Kid's get more expensive in some way (food, sports) but if you were paying for full-time daycare you know how amazing it is to watch those bills disappear!
  15. Clothes last longer. Okay, maybe not... depending on your kid and if they are in a growth spurt. With babies, I remember buying a cute onesie and the baby growing out of it by the time I even ripped the tag off! With older kids, that t-shirt probably gets at least a few months (if not a few years) of life. Ours kid's clothes are much more likely to wear out before they stop fitting.
  16. Car seats = so much easier! Regardless of whether you extended-rear-face or move them up to the next seat stage the moment they hit the right weight, the whole thing gets easier as they get older. They learn to buckle themselves in, and can use a built-in cup-holder.
  17. BRIBES. If these work for your kids, it can speed things along great.
  18. Kids' are hilarious! Seriously... they come up with the craziest stuff. Need to kill 10 minutes while stuck in traffic? Ask your nine-year-old their theory on celebrities, or who the naughtiest kid in class is, and why. One holiday, we got both kid's joke books and they kept them in the car to entertain us during the commute.
  19. Teaching them stuff you think is important. Like, helping people or being polite. It's your chance to instill some values on them before they go out into the big wide world and wreck havoc.
  20. Less gear in theliving room! Well, the amount of Legos or Shopkins you step on increases tremendously (and painfully). But unless you replace the bouncers and baby swings with big gaming systems, you probably have some extra room! Things that used to fill up our living space included walking toys, play mats, pack n' plays, swings, and more. We are no longer hitting our shins on the side of the highchair every time we walk around the table!
The Magic of Having Older Children, from danielle and co. Babies are amazing, but parenthood only gets better as your kids get older. #parenting #bigkids

First day of school, showing their true colors.

 I'm glad I cherished the moments with my babies, but these big kids are pretty cool too. What did I leave out?

18 Gift Ideas For Exploring Artists (or Creative Sorts)

Most people share gift ideas right before the Hanukkah/Christmas holiday season, but Valentine's Day is only a little over a week away and there are always birthdays, anniversaries, graduations... so many gift-giving opportunities! If you are gift shopping for an artist, a art-appreciator, or just someone who is creative and fun, consider an art-related gift! Art supplies are such a fun (and sometimes unexpected) gift to receive. Even experienced artists love having something new to try out, or add into the mix just to keep things fresh.

So, if you're considering another mug or scented candle, hold off on ordering for a minute and check out the ideas below!

Affiliate links are included in this post - thank you for your support!

18 Gift Ideas for Exploring Artists (or Creative Sorts) from - perfect for Valentine's Day gifts!

In loosely clockwise order...

  1. Watercolor paints: I've been using this set from Kuretaki, and really enjoy it. It's affordable, and yet still has bright and vibrant colors.
  2. Watercolor pencils: While some people think they are "cheating", in mixed media work (or just for fun) I love my similar set of watercolor pencils for their versatility.
  3. Water brushes: It's a little thing, and an awesome add-on or stocking stuffer for anyone into mixed media, watercolor, ink, etc.
  4. Calligraphy set: Modern calligraphy seems to be really on trend right now, and a kit is an awesome gift for anyone who enjoys learning new skills.
  5. Modern Calligraphy Booklet by Mon Voir: On a related note, this booklet has been on my own wishlist for awhile now - or consider gifting someone a ticket to a workshop by a local artist! Mon Voir is located in Costa Mesa, CA.
  6. Art box/mini-easel: I have this one from Amazon, and really like it! It is sturdy enough, and makes it easy to take supplies on the go, for a road-trip or if you want to paint in a natural setting. I included it in my tiny art studio options post awhile back.
  7. Sketchbook: This little moleskin is affordable, well-made (Moleskin is a great brand) and is handy on the go.
  8. The Artist's Handbook: By author Ray Smith, out of all of the art books & guides I've read (I went to art school, so it's not a small amount) this is by far my favorite. I still reference it regularly, and find it provides such good explanations, it always makes me less nervous to try something new!
  9. Giftcard to a local store: Picking out your own art supplies can be the fun part! Maybe pair it with a smaller sketchbook or set of pens? This giftcard is to a local art store near us, Standard Art Supply & Souvenir in Ithaca, NY.
  10. Standing easel: These can be great for allowing an artist to move around more freely while working, and this one also tips so it can lie either horizontal or vertical (and comes with a carrying case).
  11. Micron pens: These pens are the BEST. These are handy for mixed media work, line drawings, but also just for sketching out ideas ahead of time. It's fun to collect different styles and colors, too! As a stocking stuffer or along with a giftcard, these could be a perfect fit. 
  12. Brush cleaner: This one is so cute! Little and adorable, and also functional. I always forget to clean my paintbrushes really well, and having this on a shelf nearby would be a great reminder.
  13. Palette: Very affordable, and necessary too. For watercolor painting, I find this type with many little wells really useful. 
  14. Portfolio case: Once you've started creating work, you need a way to store it! I actually keep my portfolio case under my bed; it just fits super well there.
  15. Art Inc.: Taking art from a hobby to a career can be intimidating; Lisa Congdon has a guide to make it so much more manageable.
  16. Steal Like An Artist: Austin Kleon wrote this small but inspirational book about being creative - it can be exactly what someone needs to keep on creating when the going gets tough.
  17. Adult coloring books: This one by Lisa Congdon (I love her, obviously) is awesome, and I think appeals to a wide range of people - geometric patterns are so neutral. It's a way to be creative and have fun, without the pressure of creating original artwork.
  18. A beret: Because, why not?  Artist's shouldn't take themselves too seriously.

For those who are more into art-appreciating than art-creating, consider some actual artwork - maybe something quirky and fun, or personal to your relationship. Emily A. Clark recently posted art gift ideas for your valentine, and had some great suggestions.

Any other suggestions? Anyone just want to buy some of the stuff for yourself?