DIY: Sydney clutch free sewing pattern.

Monday, July 15, 2019

For our next free sewing pattern installment, I'm sharing my personal favorite: the Sydney clutch. When I was sewing bags for a living and selling them on Etsy, this was my most popular design. It's simple enough for a beginner, even with a zipper involved! I take you through step by step with very clear instructions.

Download the free PDF sewing pattern here: 

July 4th wedding.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

I had the privilege to photograph another wedding in downtown Raleigh, at the same location where I shot a wedding a few months ago. Hayleigh and Ben had such a fun, relaxed wedding. There was nothing forced or stiff about their day, and I think that came through so beautifully in the photos. They were fully present, just drinking in the goodness of their family and friends that surrounded them. And how fun is it to get married on July 4?! They'll get to celebrate with fireworks every single year! Here are just a few of my favorites. Enjoy!

Instant Pot: saving summer cooking!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Cookie and Kate's incredibly delicious veggie sushi bowl recipe, with brown rice made in the Instant Pot
I might be a little late to hop on this train, but I am enamored with our new Instant Pot. I have to admit I was skeptical at first. I didn't have room for another kitchen gadget, and the claims my friends made about theirs felt slightly exaggerated. Hard boiled eggs in 6 minutes? Perfectly cooked chicken breasts (from frozen)? Even making cheesecakes?!

We got our Instant Pot from Kohl's during an online sale and it's been worth every penny. I have to say it has exceeded my expectations... so much so that I recently gave away our slow cooker because it's no longer needed.

DIY: Emma foldover clutch sewing pattern.

Friday, July 5, 2019

For our second installment of sewing patterns I'm sharing, today we'll sew the Emma clutch. This simple foldover clutch with a magnetic snap is classy and clean, perfect for every day use. It measures 10" wide (at the widest point) and stands approximately 6" high.

This tutorial is created with the beginner in mind. Someone who has completed a few simple projects will be able to complete this bag. And YES! You can sell the finished product! Please offer me design credit in any written description by linking back to my blog.

The downloadable pattern comes with printable pattern pieces. You can download the FREE pattern here:

DIY: Pleated flower sewing tutorial.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Does anyone remember when I made a living sewing bags for bridesmaids? It feels like a million years ago, but I loved it!

Now that I'm in a very different season with 4 small children, homeschooling, and keeping up my nursing license... I've decided to "retire" my patterns and share them for FREE with you! Over the next several days, I'll be sharing all of the patterns that were formerly listed in my Etsy shop. Please feel free to download, share with friends, or pin them for later. And if you make something from one of these patterns, I'd love to see!

First up: this pleated flower sewing tutorial. This makes a beautiful addition to any bag, or could even be attached to a headband or brooch.

Homeschool recap 2018-2019.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

We've officially finished our first full year of homeschooling, Liam's kindergarten year! I wanted to share a few things I learned, mostly to record it for myself, but also in case someone reading may be interested in exploring homeschool and this could be an encouragement. I was

Here's what we chose for our Kindergarten curriculum: Our Homeschool Adventure
And to see how it was going a few months in: Homeschool/Sonlight So Far
Here's what we did for preschool: Homeschool Preschool

It would take pages to fully capture all that we've learned and how we've grown this year. But here's a start.

+ I learned that homeschool doesn't have to look like school at home. In fact, it shouldn't. I'd heard this premise before, but really had to live it to understand it fully. Initially, my pre-conceived ideas of school (having never been homeschooled myself) bled into the way I planned our homeschool days. For example, as much as I loved setting up our classroom space downstairs, we hardly even used it. It turned out there were better places inside and outside our home to accomplish our homeschool goals, though I did appreciate having an organized space to house our books and supplies. We listened to audiobooks in the car, spent mornings at the museum, enjoyed countless hours on our deck and exploring in the backyard or at the nature preserve. With active bodies and active minds, we rarely sat at desks or even at the table. One of the reasons we chose to homeschool in the first place was so that Liam wouldn't have to sit at a desk for hours a day, so replicating that at home made no sense.

+ I learned that you don't have to check every box. As a (recovering) perfectionist, this was a hard pill to swallow. I was so afraid I'd mess things up that I followed Sonlight's lesson plans to a tee, even when a couple of the assigned books were losing my children's interest. We plowed through them anyway, but looking back, I wish I could have replaced those choices with something that fit the kids' interests more. Using our Sonlight Instructors' Guides as a map rather than a task master was a lesson I learned the hard way. Some days, I needed to remind myself, "This is kindergarten" to ease up a bit on what I felt were requirements. Liam was reading well, doing math, and learning so many life lessons being at home with us each day. If the boxes weren't all checked, it was going to be ok.

+ I learned that you have the freedom to make it your own (and you should!). Next year, we are moving in a different direction, which I will detail in another post. I've learned through the year that our family leans toward more of a Charlotte Mason-style education. So this coming year, I'm excited to incorporate more hymn study, Scripture memory, habit training, and afternoon tea time with poetry. I learned that there's truly no one-size-fits-all homeschool curriculum, and your curriculum choices should reflect the interests of your family. While I believe using an "open and go" boxed curriculum for our first year was a good choice to help us ease into homeschooling, I'm now excited to make next year fit our family's style even more.

+ I learned that homeschool is simply an extension of home life. We are not only learning math, we are learning good habits. We are learning kindness toward one another, how to make our beds, how to cook grilled cheese. We're always learning, always growing, even if we aren't checking boxes on our curriculum guides. Sometimes it's hard to change the mindset that all things should be quantifiable. But I see such growth in all areas and in every person from last year to this year, even though we don't have report cards or test scores to prove it.

+ Finally, I learned that self care = family care. I think the term "self care" gets a bad wrap in the Christian community. But truly, creating a positive home atmosphere begins with me, the mom. So if I am not taking the time to care for my soul by reading my Bible and communing with the Lord... if I'm not caring for my body by exercising and eating well... it all bleeds into my family life quicker than I'd like to admit. So any investment in caring for myself is a direct investment into the lives of those in my home.

Overall, I feel so much gratitude for this year together. I had no idea I'd enjoy it as much as I did, and we all can't wait for next year!

On hospitality.

Monday, July 1, 2019

A few weeks ago, a man was brutally murdered just down the street from our house, his body left near the playground we walk to every day. (I know... most blog posts don't usually start out like this. I should have warned.) We've known for some time that our neighborhood isn't the safest around, but this event made it painfully clear.

Since then, I've been jumpy. It's been my inclination to close doors, to shield our babies from the hate outside these walls. While some measure of caution should obviously be taken, I've acted out of faithless fear.

So reading Rosaria Butterfield's The Gospel Comes with a House Key came at the perfect time. Her writing is convicting, inspiring, and certainly thought-provoking. I lay awake at night wondering how I could serve and love my neighbors instead of hiding from them.

I started very small: from my kitchen window, I saw our neighbors across the street working on their car. English isn't their first language, but the mother certainly speaks "baby" so I brought Beckham over for an impromptu visit. She immediately reached for him, bounced him in her arms, and beamed. Her boys are grown and this was a sacred moment.

Our conversation quickly turned to the murder in the park - it's heavy on all of our minds - and how it affected their perspective of our neighborhood, even after over a decade of living here.

Dr. Butterfield's frequent admonition is this: "Radically ordinary hospitality is this: using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God." I'm realizing that while I would love to practice nightly table fellowship with neighbors in our home, this season with four little ones makes that highly impractical. We host a weekly community group in our church during the year, and even that feels like a stretch at times.

But as Butterfield writes, "Hospitality shares what there is; that's all. It's not entertainment. It's not supposed to be." Right now, I feel I have very little in the way of margin. Little time, little energy, little money that spills over after our growing family's needs are met. But I can start small. I can take a few steps across the street, share my beautiful baby and a listening ear, and build a bridge.


Friday, June 28, 2019

 Have you heard of the Scribd app? 

It's like Netflix for books and it's changing my life! For $8.99/month, you have unlimited access to audiobooks, E-books, and even sheet music (hear that, Liam?). No expensive purchasing of books (like Audible) and there are thousands and thousands of titles. I've been listening to Rosaria Butterfield's The Gospel Comes with a House Key and my kids love listening to The Magic Tree House series while Liam reads along. Scribd also has lots of the books - in E-book and audiobook form - that we'll be reading with Liam and Lanie's homeschool curriculum for next year.

If you download the app using this link, you'll get your first two months FREE and I'll get one month. Score. Give it a try! You can cancel anytime.

Tea time.

Friday, June 21, 2019

In the past few weeks, we've begun incorporating afternoon tea time into our daily routine. We'd practiced it on occasion through the past year of homeschool, but never made it a habit. This upcoming school year, we'll be using a Charlotte Mason-inspired curriculum that sets aside time for tea and reading together each afternoon. But whether or not you use Charlotte Mason or even homeschool, this would be a sweet practice to incorporate into your day - especially during the summer when kids are home.

This day.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

These photos were taken just moments before I realized I was going into labor. Little did any of us know how our lives were about to change in a matter of a few hours. I will cherish these photos - and this day - forever.

Meeting Beckham.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Forgive the photo dump. These are just too precious not to share. I'll let the photos tell the story of this much anticipated meeting of our littlest guy.

Breastfeeding at night: the essentials.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

I'm four times in to this breastfeeding-through-the-night gig, and I'm still learning new things. What works? What doesn't? What makes being up every 2-3 hours at night for weeks on end somewhat bearable? I thought I'd share a few of my favorite items that are new to me this fourth time around. As simple as they are, they are making these early days of newborn life more manageable. Click on the links to purchase from Amazon, if you're interested.

Introducing Beckham Wells.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Welcome to the world, 
Beckham Wells Newby
Born April 19, 2019 at 2:57am
7 lbs. 9 oz., 20.5" long
Beckham means "homestead by the stream" and Wells means "spring" or "plentiful supply." Wells is also the street in Chicago where Shawn and I first met 12 years ago.

Shawn came to me one morning when I was 33 weeks pregnant and said, "I think I have the name." We'd gone back and forth a thousand times for weeks and never felt completely settled on one, so my heart was in my throat just before he said it: "Beckham." I loved it immediately, and even more when he shared the meaning. And with two L names and now two B's, our family feels complete.

My pregnancy with Beckham was quite an adventure. It started unexpectedly on the heels of a miscarriage. Then somewhere in the middle, I got the flu and all three of our kids were hospitalized with flu complications. At 34 weeks, I was hit in the belly by a violent patient. Thankfully we were both ok, but it hasn't been a smooth ride. 

So the imagery of a homestead by a stream - one that connotes peace, rest - was so welcome. Big brother Brooks' name means "peaceful stream" and to picture that Beckham was made to be home next to our Brooks - that he was always meant to be part of our family - was so meaningful to us. In addition, our prayer is that he would make his home near the springs of Living Water, Jesus. That he would find true peace, comfort, and plentiful supply there and only there. We have big dreams and bold prayers for our littlest man's life. We are so grateful he's here. 

Downtown Raleigh wedding.

Friday, March 29, 2019

I had the sweet privilege of photographing a friend's wedding last week, and I wanted to share a few pics. Faith was the most relaxed, radiant bride and the day went seamlessly. Both the wedding and reception were held in a local cafe (Caffé Luna) in downtown Raleigh, which couldn't have been more quaint or romantic. It was such a joy to capture these!


Thursday, March 21, 2019

If there was one word that my sister Kelsey and I were encouraged to embrace as little girls, it was "flexible." As daughters of full-time Christian musicians, we traveled as a family nearly every weekend to churches around the country. We slept in countless hotel rooms, were expert flyers, and navigated late nights and early mornings like pros. We became the embodiment of "flexible."

Kels and I, outside Alcatraz
It felt like a true privilege, this adventurous life we’d been given. After an evening spent at a church concert - selling product, unpacking and repacking sound equipment, greeting church members - we’d get to stop at a gas station on our way back to the hotel and choose anything we wanted for dinner. I’d pick a cherry Icee and a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips and revel in the fact that I knew none of my friends’ Sunday night dinners looked like this.

This was my early childhood.

Dear New Mom,

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

I wrote this when baby Brooks was 10 weeks old, but never hit “publish.” I’m rediscovering it now as though someone had written it to me as we prepare for baby #4 in a few short weeks. If you’re in the throes of newborn life like we’re about to be, I hope it’s an encouragement. 

Dear New Mom,

Congratulations! You’re in for a wild ride, in case one thousand strangers haven’t already told you. Even though I’m a mother to three now, it feels in some ways like being a brand new mom all over again. Nothing can prepare you for the sleepless nights and constant demands of a newborn. Even if you have an “easy” child, he’s still a newborn with newborn needs. If he’s awake, he wants to be held. If he’s asleep, you have to keep the volume of the house to a manageable decibel (if other kiddos are around), which is also stressful. And you might try to frantically fit in a few to-do list items while he does sleep.

Ten weeks out from birth, I’ve been trying to find bits of myself again. There’s a swallowing up of womanhood that naturally happens in these early days of baby mothering. But I find that just a little time to make me feel human again goes a long way. When I first wrote this letter, I’d begun listing things to cope with this unbelievably full season of your life: wake up before they do, play worship music, get outside, wear the baby, nix the sugar, treat yourself. I wrote this list after a night I'd gotten a decent amount of sleep. When I reread it this morning (after piecing together about 4 hours with a baby on a growth spurt), I had to laugh. Because these things I was coaching you (and myself) to do hold no weight when you're depleted, exhausted, and discouraged.

Instead, there are two words that keep coming to the forefront of my mind these days. Simplify and savor.

Simplify. Make the big things the big things, and let the rest go. Did you get out of bed this morning? Did you feed yourself and your kids? Did you end the day with living, breathing souls? I call that success. Everything else, seriously, can go. For us, that means really limiting what we do outside the house these days. Brooks is the most peaceful baby I've ever met, but he starts screaming the moment you put him in his carseat until you take him out. So spending 20+ minutes in the car to go to preschool, to Bible study, or even to the grocery store is a harrowing, stress-inducing experience. So we limit our trips out for this fleeting season.

Savor. Have you hugged your babies today? Looked them in the eye? Read to them, prayed with them, held them without also holding your phone?

Finally, and most importantly, open your Bible. I know that sounds like a classic Sunday school answer, but I mean it because I've personally seen the benefits of it and the pitfalls when I don't. Don't think too hard about it... if you're like me, you want to set the stage for a picture-perfect quiet time with your hot tea, calming music in the background, your cozy blanket. Let's be honest: there's just not time for that most days. In the 5 minutes that you know you have that all the kids are sleeping before they magically wake up all at once with various needs, spend it in the Word. The God of the universe is your very life, and you can't afford to miss time with Him. He will imbibe you with strength, with courage, with purpose to not just barrel through the day but to bring meaning and glory back to Him though your mothering.

Whether you eat or drink... do it all for the glory of God.
Whether you scrub the pans in the sink or read another story or rock a colicky baby or nurse a cluster feeder for the 10th time today... do it all for the glory of God.

I'm preaching to myself, sister. But maybe you've heard something helpful, too.

All the love and mom hugs coming your way. You've got this.


Classical music resources for kids.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

For the past six months, Liam has developed an increasing love for classical music and composers. It seemed to come out of nowhere and has grown with very little prompting from Shawn or me. It's truly one of my favorite parts of homeschooling him this year. While he can't name one Star Wars character or even professional athlete, he knows dozens of composers and even writes about them in his secret diary. We listen to classical radio in the car, per his request, and he can often identify the composer and period by the instrumentation, tempo, and themes. I know I'm biased, but it's truly an amazing thing to witness - especially from a 6-year-old. Just the other day, he said, "Mommy, I'm kind of confused why every time I hear 'The Well Tempered Clavier' by Bach it's played on the piano, when harpsichord was way more popular during the Baroque period." And the other day, I was proud of myself for being able to hum a short excerpt from Dvorak's New World Symphony, and Liam commented, "That was so good, Mommy! Except it wasn't in E minor." His aptitude for this has consistently blown me away.

While I do think Liam's interest in classical music goes beyond what most children's (or adults') ever may, I thought I'd share a few great resources we've found in case others are interested (click on the pictures to take you to the Amazon links).

The Story of the Orchestra is my very favorite resource we've found. It goes through many of the major classical composers and comes with a CD that they can hear excerpts of their most famous pieces. In a homeschool setting, it's perfect. But we've also just enjoyed looking through it and listening to the CD in a less formal way. I highly recommend this as a first look at classical music for elementary-age kids.

This one is a great resource for older kids as the writing is a bit more detailed, and it has some fun activities, like making a model eardrum. Beethoven is the composer who first captured Liam's attention. His music is intense and ground-breaking, and his story is fascinating. We've loved this book about his life. 

This is our most recent find and it's a great one. It also has multiple volumes available. This first volume features 17 composers and includes a detailed summary of their life and greatest works, some fun facts, and a crossword or word search or game at the end. It also includes a CD so you can hear their most famous pieces. I read that this was written for upper elementary or middle school ages, but with a good reader and adequate interest, it can be used by younger children, too. Liam and I have been going through one composer a week and really studying his work. I was definitely ready to move on from hearing Scarlatti's harpsichord music after an entire week of it. ;)
For piano lessons, we are currently using Hoffman Academy and can't sing its praises enough. It's a go-at-your-own-pace online curriculum that costs $18/month and is very comprehensive. The students learn ear training, sight reading, music theory, correct posture and fingering. We use it for both Liam and Lanie (at their respective levels) and they do a lesson or two a week, then practice what they've learned with printable worksheets and some guidance from Mom and Dad. Eventually, I want all of our kids to have formal, in-person piano lessons. But for right now, this has been a wonderful (and doable) resource for our family.

And finally, a little interview with the future composer himself, Liam Worth Newby:

What first made you interested in classical music?
When I first made a "Liam's classical music" playlist (on Spotify). I love to listen to different pieces every day.

Who is your favorite composer?
Edvard Grieg. Some of my other favorites are Ludwig Van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Liszt, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

What is your favorite classical piece?
Probably Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart.

What is your favorite instrument in the orchestra?
The violin

What did you spend your Amazon gift card on and why?
A conductor's baton because I wanted to practice conducting so that I can take my Poppy's job someday.

Who is your favorite conductor?
Sir Simon Rattle. I love how he conducts.

How do you think other children can get started learning about classical music?
By getting a classical music educational book and making a Spotify playlist of their favorite classical music pieces.
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