Late Summer Backyard Entertaining

This summer has just flown by – and with my oldest daughter starting preschool in just a couple short weeks (!!), I’m trying to enjoy these last few summer weekends as much as possible! I’m excited to partner with the folks at mike’s hard lemonade on a few posts all about backyard entertaining. It was just the push I needed to take advantage of the warm weather and slower summer weekends!

Mike's Hard Lemonade Backyard BBQ / Oh So Beautiful Paper

We live right in the middle of Washington, DC and don’t have much outdoor space of our own. But our friends in the nearby suburbs of Virginia just happen to have the most gorgeous and peaceful backyard – with a pool! – and they invited us over for a cookout. They were providing the food, so we volunteered to bring over some refreshing beverages!

Mike's Hard Lemonade Backyard BBQ / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Mike's Hard Lemonade Backyard BBQ / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Mike's Hard Lemonade Backyard BBQ / Oh So Beautiful Paper

One of the reasons I’m excited to be working with mike’s hard lemonade is their support for the Boot Campaign, which provides assistance for military personnel, veterans, and their families, and raises awareness of the unique challenges faced in the military community. This is a cause pretty close to my heart. As some of you know, I previously worked at the U.S. Department of State for eight years, and I worked very closely with the military during that time. My husband is a civilian employee with the Department of Defense and did a 6-month deployment in Iraq in 2011 in support of U.S. military operations. We’ve both witnessed the challenges faced by members of the military and their families, particularly the challenges of being deployed overseas. Those deployments are tough both physically and emotionally, especially if it requires a family separation for weeks or months at a time. We know many servicemen and women that have served their country with exceptional strength and patriotism while also making incredible personal sacrifices.

Mike's Hard Lemonade Backyard BBQ / Oh So Beautiful Paper

To give back to the military community, mike’s is donating $125,000 to the Boot Campaign this year. This donation is supported by sales of mike’s Flavors of America variety pack, which features four refreshing flavors – Lemonade, Peach, Black Cherry and Apple – inspired by the iconic flavors from different regions of the country. For each case purchased of mike’s Flavors of America variety pack, mike’s hard lemonade will donate 25 cents to fund four once-in-a-lifetime experiences for veterans.

Mike's Hard Lemonade Backyard BBQ / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Mike's Hard Lemonade Backyard BBQ / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Mike's Hard Lemonade Backyard BBQ / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Mike's Hard Lemonade Backyard BBQ / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Our friends have two adorable Bassett hounds – and I’m not sure if they were more in love with Alice or if Alice was more in love with them! She squealed with delight whenever they came close by. So cute!

Mike's Hard Lemonade Backyard BBQ / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Our friends’ backyard became even more magical after the sun went down and the fireflies came out! It was so nice to just relax and enjoy the company of good friends – especially combined with great food and drinks. Life has been so hectic lately, with busy work schedules and two very young children. And it can be tough to slow down and forget the endless to do list. Well we still have a few weeks of warm weather left – and I’m planning to enjoy every single one!

Mike's Hard Lemonade Backyard BBQ / Oh So Beautiful Paper

This post was created in partnership with Mike’s Hard Lemonade. All content and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that make Oh So Beautiful Paper possible!

Photos by Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Rose Water Vanilla Coffee Recipe

If you love coffee as much as I do, I’ve got some fun news to share with you! Coffee-mate has three Sweet Throwback flavors – Toll House® Chocolate Chip Cookie, Caramel Macchiato and Classic Vanilla – that evoke delicious memories and emotions of the past. Today I’m sharing how I incorporate my favorite Sweet Throwback flavor, Classic Vanilla, into my daily routine – along with one of my favorite coffee recipes!

Rose Water Vanilla Coffee Recipe with Coffee-mate Classic Vanilla flavored creamer / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Coffee is a pretty big part of my life. I start every morning with a nice big mug of coffee before I do anything else – even my toddler knows that mama needs her coffee first thing! I usually enjoy my first cup of coffee while my youngest daughter plays and crawls around before her morning nap. Each day is different for me depending on what’s on the agenda for that particular week. Today my morning plans include working on my to do list for the rest of the week, writing some thank you notes, and doing some business planning for OSBP. Coffee is absolutely in order!

Rose Water Vanilla Coffee Recipe with Coffee-mate Classic Vanilla flavored creamer / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Rose Water Vanilla Coffee Recipe with Coffee-mate Classic Vanilla flavored creamer / Oh So Beautiful Paper

My dad is a coffee drinker, and since I’m pretty much a carbon copy of my dad it comes as no surprise that I inherited his love of coffee. So many of my childhood memories involve slow weekend mornings sitting on the couch with my dad listening to music or reading while he finished his morning coffee. My dad and I also made frequent after-dinner trips to our local ice cream parlor. My dad always ordered chocolate, and I always ordered vanilla. We’re both creatures of habit. The Coffee-Mate Classic Vanilla flavored creamer takes me right back to those ice cream evenings with my dad!

Oh So Beautiful Paper SweetThrowback with Coffee-mate / Baby Nole & Dad

Me and my dad circa early 1982

Oh So Beautiful Paper SweetThrowback with Coffee-mate / Ice Cream Illustration by Nathalie Ouederni

Illustration by Nathalie Ouederni for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Now that I’m an adult and my tastes are a bit more sophisticated, I still love classic vanilla – but with a twist! Vanilla and rose water is one of my very favorite combinations, and it tastes amazing in coffee! Luckily it’s also a super easy recipe to create at home, so you can enjoy it on a daily basis. Win win!

Rose Water Vanilla Coffee Recipe with Coffee-mate Classic Vanilla flavored creamer / Oh So Beautiful Paper

To make your Rose Water Vanilla Coffee, start by brewing a cup or two of your favorite (unflavored) coffee. Then add a dash of rose water to the Coffee-Mate Classic Vanilla flavored creamer – about 1/4 tsp of rose water per 2 ounces of flavored creamer. A little rose water goes a long way! Stir the rose water into the creamer then add the Rose Water Vanilla mixture to your coffee. Enjoy!

Rose Water Vanilla Coffee Recipe with Coffee-mate Classic Vanilla flavored creamer / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Rose Water Vanilla Coffee Recipe with Coffee-mate Classic Vanilla flavored creamer / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Rose Water Vanilla Coffee Recipe with Coffee-mate Classic Vanilla flavored creamer / Oh So Beautiful Paper

All photos by Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Sources: Mug | Rose Gold Foil Weekly To Do List | Stationery | Stamp Dish | Measuring Beaker | Chemex

This post was created in partnership with NESTLE Coffee-mate. All content and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that make Oh So Beautiful Paper possible!

Five Things About Motherhood

We passed the six month mark as a family of four last week (happy half birthday Alice!). And while we’re far from having this whole parents of two young kids thing figured out, I thought I’d share a few observations from our experience so far – continuing the theme of some of the wonderful guest posts during my maternity leave with Alice.

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Photos by Vicki Grafton Photography – taken last summer just a couple of weeks before Alice was born!

1. Motherhood is bittersweet. I love watching my babies grow and develop new skills, but I never realized just how sad I would be as they grew out of each stage. Even stages that I’m not the biggest fan of, like the newborn stage. Before I had children I’d hear other mothers say that they wish they could freeze their child just as they are now, but I never really understood until I had my own children. With each passing month I think, “oh, they’ll never be that small ever again.” I tear up just a bit each time I pull too-small clothes out of their closet. It’s such an amazing thing to watch them get bigger and become their own little person, but I do also mourn the loss of their babyhoods just a little wee bit.

2. Babies are funny! I always assumed that it would be a while before my children developed little personalities, but they showed up almost right away! Every child is different, but both of my children have a robust sense of humor. Alice makes the funniest little hooting sounds and kicks her feet together when she’s excited about something, and Sophie has the most impeccable comedic timing I’ve ever seen in a child – and has ever since she was a tiny baby. I always knew I’d love my children, but I never knew how much they’d make me laugh from such an early age.

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3. Everything is a phase. This has become my motherhood mantra – repeated particularly frequently during the first few months when I’m convinced I’ll never sleep ever again and then again later when dealing with toddler antics. When Sophie was a baby we could almost always tie particularly fussy (or sleepless) weeks to a regression or teething, but I always felt reassured if I reminded myself that whatever was bothering her would soon pass. Alice has (thankfully) been a super easygoing baby, but there have been weeks when she refuses to nap longer than 30 minutes or wakes up every hour at night. And even though we’ve been down this road once before, I often need to remind myself that the tough stretches are just a phase to make it through a particularly rough week.

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4. There’s a ton of detective/guesswork! If you grew up with lots of babies around, this one won’t come as a surprise. But I had almost zero experience with babies until I had my own children, and I was definitely taken aback by the amount of guesswork involved. From the fussy newborn stage – tummy trouble? dirty diaper? random hair wrapped around a little toe? – to diagnosing colds and viruses in older babies. It gets a little easier once they can talk and tell you what’s wrong with them, but I still find myself saying “Well, maybe it’s this…” or “Well, it could be that…” – a lot.

5. Parenting doesn’t get easier, just different. Everyone talks about how hard the first couple of months are – round the clock feedings, diaper changes, sleepless nights, etc. – but I don’t hear as much about the later months (and years). There are a couple of nice months after the newborn stage when your baby is sleeping longer stretches, but then they start crawling and moving, which presents a whole new set of challenges! And once they become toddlers? Yeah, that’s a different set of challenges, too. I don’t even want to think about the tween and teen years! Don’t get me wrong, it gets better with each passing stage – but I just don’t think it necessarily gets easier. Parenting is a marathon, but luckily it’s filled with lots of love, laughter, and sweet moments.

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Also, you know you’re a parent when a quick errand to the grocery store (alone) suddenly feels like a luxury. Or fifteen minutes to take a shower.

Photo Credits: Vicki Grafton Photography

Best of 2014: My Favorites!

I love doing these “best of” round up posts because they help me see just how much we really packed into a single year. When you’re publishing new content on a daily basis (10-15 times per week!) and you’re constantly focusing on what’s next, it can be easy to lose sight of the posts that made an impact in the previous months or weeks. So here are a few of my personal favorite posts – from guest posts to Emily’s Brick + Mortar column and a few others along the way.

Envelope Address and Hand Lettering Tutorial by Ladyfingers Letterpress for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Envelope Address and Hand Lettering Tutorial from Ladyfingers Letterpress

A Peek Into the Process of Swiss Cottage Designs

Caroline’s Strawberry First Birthday Party

A Day in the Life with Erin Austen Abbott of Amelia

Brick & Mortar: Raising Your Baby and Your Business

10 Tips on Opening a Retail Shop from Urbanic

Where to Find Vintage Stamps for Wedding Invitations

Paper Party 2014!

DC Guide: The National Postal Museum

Introducing…

Hello again! Introducing our newest addition: Alice Evelyn! We couldn’t be more in love. I’ll do a longer post about her arrival when I have a bit more time to sit down and write – so maybe a year from now? Kidding! – but I thankfully avoided a repeat of my postpartum experience with Sophie, so I’ve been able to spend the last few weeks enjoying this sweet and tiny baby. Not that everything has been sugar and rainbows so far – we’re definitely still adjusting to being a family of four and having a newborn in the house again. But it’s all worth it. Two girls! I love it.

 Photo by me via Instagram

I’m so excited to dive back into my lovely world of beautiful paper and will be easing myself back into my routine over the next couple of weeks. I’ve got a ton of wedding invitations to share – not to mention 2015 calendars coming at you real soon! But first a huge thanks to the wonderful guest bloggers who helped out while I was away – from Hello!Lucky to Audrey, Erin, Lisa, and all the other amazingly talented mamas – and my wonderful team of contributors! Thank you all a million times over!

Since I haven’t been able to do my normal Friday posts for a few weeks, I thought I’d start off with a few favorite links from the last month:

I’ll be back with more soon!