Friday, December 27, 2013

Gingerbread House Alternatives

Usually I just buy gingerbread house kits at Trader Joe's and let my kids build and decorate them, without eating. If I've planned well, I do this on a rainy morning, then let them enjoy using the vacuum to clean up all the sprinkles:)

This year, my parents discovered Hannukkah Houses in New York, and shipped them home to us. Super cute:)

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Monday, December 23, 2013


I know I missed the whole Thanksgiving blogging about thankfulness business, see this post and my pregnant aversion to screens, but this is as good a time as any.

While I don't celebrate the holiday this week, Hanukkah is long since over, and the gifts are already well worn and in full rotation, this end of the year is a great time to think of everything I'm thankful for.

1. My husband. He must have taken a secret husband training course sometime after the birth of our firstborn, but he's just been getting better and better as the years go on. We have been doing a great job of communicating, checking in, and just being supportive of the other, which usually also means we have to actually *know* what is going on with the other one:)

2. Our new baby-to-be. While I was a tad more than hesitant to add to our family, my husband had his heart set on 4, and intellectually I agreed with him. If only *he* were the one who had to be pregnant! Regardless, I'm incredibly happy to be expecting another little one into our family, and more than a little bit relieved that we seem to be on the same page, and 95% sure it will be our last.

3. The crazy, adorable, snuggable, kissable, loveable pack of three munchkins I have now. The best time of day is the first hour of the morning, when they all pile into our bed in pajamas, snuggle, give kisses, read books, chase each other around our bed, build pillow forts, and just generally be adorable kids before the go-go-go of the day really begins. This also makes 6am wakeups bearable.

4. My family, who drives and picks up from elementary school and preschool, has us over for brunch/lunch/dinner, hosts sleepovers for kids, lets my kids play with their dog, etc. All the great things I had growing up with local family is exactly what my kids are getting now. There can never be too many helping hands or too many people to love your children.

I'll be back in 2014 with more pregnancy posts, and TONS more about the new house! Pray for snow (and peace and love and all that other good stuff)!

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Big Dig... Foundations

This is mostly a story in images, of how this summer, our vacation house got started in foundations, and why my construction loving 4 year old thinks we are he best parents ever.

Here's a little sneak peak of some of the unpacking I did last weekend- more "finished" pics coming in 2014!

Stayathomeista modern vacation house living room with glass curtain walls

To review, we are building a vacation house (see our announcement here), and construction started in May of 2013. We are done/will be done mid-December 2013 which is something of a record. All I can say, is that we have a great contractor, and my husband and I are micro-managers, who visited every 2-3 weeks for the entire time. Although at the end, when my pregnancy sickness was too much, just hubby and our son went:)

So here's the less-than-interesting-to-most, update of what went on in May and early June.

Lovely board-formed concrete walls,

trucks for hauling gravel and soil,

me resting (it was 90+ degrees) with my little guy,

getting to stand in/on a loader,

the garage slab being poured and floated,

and a view from the driveway.


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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Let's Bring Back Stationery

And nice letterpress cards,

but without the hassle.

Which is where Nicely Noted (who has no idea I'm writing this) comes in. Every month they send me 3 beautiful cards along with postage, so I can send thank-you notes, birthday wishes, and friendship messages in style.

Maybe a last-minute gift? Or a gift for yourself?

Let's bring back stationery, shall we?


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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ombre Painted Pinecones

Ombre painted pinecones

Just a quick holiday craft.

Glitter painted pinecone holiday craft

We used craft paint, some with glitter, and the results we super cute!

Ombre painted pinecones

Quick word of warning- pop these in the freezer or a plastic bag for a day or two before you start, that way any little bugs will die and not come in and make your casa, their casa:)

How to paint a pinecone

Plus, my helper was adorable and totally into it:)


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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Jumping in again, deciding to build a second home

In case you missed our big announcement, we are expecting 2 new additions to our family. A baby in the spring, and a vacation house mid-December!

This is my more in depth post about our reasons behind deciding to build a second home. It's not quite as simple as I explained before "we got antsy when this house was done", but it is a part of it. Our kids are currently 2, 4 and 6, and while we thought a vacation house would be somewhere off on the 10 year future, we realized that if we could pull it off, having a house for our family now, at this stage, would make more memories and have a big impact on our lives. This is assuming that teens *might* not want to spend as much time with their parents and little ones do:)

We drove up to what I call "ski country" last October, just after I'd finished nursing our youngest, for a fun, no-kids weekend. Being trained as architects, we naturally wanted to look at land and houses "just in case". After building our house through the great recession, I was also adamant that we be able to afford a second home, without threatening our current house, private school tuition, charitable gifts, etc.

Well, we fell in love with empty land, and the idea of designing another house ourselves. This time we wanted something different, not the classical modernist house we have now, rather a "true" modern, or "capital M modern" house. (look that was an architecture school reference)!

Modern vacation house in the woods, by Brick LLP architecture
courtesy of Brick LLP

My main theme was "glass box in the woods". We are lucky enough to have an amazing view from our current house, so I didn't need that. I wanted a level-out yard that kids could play in, lots of trees, nature, snow play potential and less "stuff". This time around, I didn't draw the plans up in AutoCad, I drew plans on graph paper, handed them to our friend and architect, Rob Zirkle of Brick LLP, and sent links to a Pinterest board for a modern vacation house.

Follow Jessica Stay At Home-ista Modern Vacation House on Pinterest

Doing it all at one time, also let me fully indulge my Type-A self, and I made an excel budget for constructin and soft costs, as well as one for furniture. So over the last year I've been pinning, stalking, buying, and hoarding collecting items for the new house. Currently our mudroom and storage are full with pots and pans, sheets, nightstands, sleds, everything I will need in the new house. More on my process later. Feel free to browse my Guest House Furniture board for ideas about what I bought:)

Follow Jessica Stay At Home-ista Guest House Furniture on Pinterest

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Favorite Baby Names I Won't be Using

Now that the pregnancy is out of the bag, see this announcement post, it's time for me to start getting these posts out that have been sitting in draft for for months, just taunting me:) Because we don't believe in sharing the baby's name until it/he/she is actually here, this isn't the best spot for me to pontificate about *actual* name choices. So I present to you names that I love and won't be using:)

Ryan (hello Ryan Reynolds:)
Jacob Micah (I thought, for sure, we would have one, but time passes, and tastes change...)
Pendragon (although it's awesome)

Jospehine (too much time reading Little Women)
Josephine March...
Viviane and Morgaine (from the Mysts of Avalon)

Any names you would put on there? I'm in baby-brain-fog, which means any name ideas are super fun and exciting for me!

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2 BIG Announcements

#1- I'm pregnant.

Not the biggest of surprises, since that's the usual "big announcement" you see in the mommy blogger world:)

I'm due mid-April, and as per the last 3, I'm a miserable, sick, nauseous wreck. Just to add to the fun, this time looking at a screen of any kind (TV, computer, phone) makes me extra sick. So I hope this explains the blogging absence as well as the proliferation of pregnancy posts to come.

But, if preggo posts aren't for you, Announcement #2 should help...

We are building a vacation house!

Vacation house by Brick LLP Architects
courtesy of Brick LLP

That's the amazing rendering of the whole thing, we are only building the right third now, which will be the future-guest-house, once we make enough money to build the rest of it. With 3 kids, I drew up a plan on graph paper, handed it to our friend Rob Zirkle, an architect, and said, "make this a modern glass box in the woods". I also referenced my Modern Vacation House pinterest board a lot:)

Well, technically, we already built it, and it finishes next week. I'm not a follow-along-in-real-time type of person, mostly because if I learned anything from the construction of our main house, it's that things happen, cost more, take longer, and I have no desire to broadcast them:)

This time around, I had planned to blog about it all fall, but then, see announcement #1, and my aversion to screens.

The good news, is that the final images should be up in January/February, so I'll be mixing in vacation house posts with my other usual fare. The short story, soon to be elaborated, is that we got a little antsy after this house was "done", saw some raw land in ski country that we loved, got a crazy-good deal, designed the house and got it approved in 4 months last winter, and built it in the last 6 months (since May).

Hopefully, now that all that news is out, I can pull off more posts!


ps- the screen aversion also means I haven't been reading other blogs, so if you had any big announcements in the last 4 months, please let me know:)

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Monday, November 4, 2013

My Baby Started Preschool Today!

I'm a little bit in shock, since over he last 24 hours my baby has gone from a 1 and 364 days year old, to a solid 2 year old, who went to her first day of preschool this morning.

To further prove that she is her own child, and the third, she waltzed right into the classroom like she belonged there and never looked back!

Any big happenings in your world?

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Popping Corn off the Cob

How to pop whole ears of corn in your microwave at home

Last year was my first year doing this and it was super exciting. Or not "super", but I was amazed that it actually worked! 

First you take popping corn, the yellow ears in the photo above, not the multi-colored Indian corn, which is apparently only for show. Sidenote- Then why is it corn? Why can't we eat it? Who invented this idea? 

Ok, I'm back.

Next you let your corn dry out, maybe a few weeks to a month.

Then you put it in a paper bag, fold over the end, and put it in the microwave.

Let it pop until the popping slows (about 2 minutes) or until you smell burning. In which case, toss the bag and corn and start again.

How to pop corn off the cob

Think of this as a neat party trick, or something to entertain your kids on a cool/wet/drizzly/sick autumn afternoon:)


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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

School Year Slump

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the blogosphere, I've just been busy making these:

bento box lunch ideas

This was week 1 of school. See how nice and bento-boxed the lunches were? And variety! Some pb&j, some cheese and crackers, lentils, a variety of fruit options, plus I added homemade trail mix on top for snack.

It was all for this one who started first grade!

But now, I'm so tired, and crazy-pants busy, that she's been packing her own lunches. Less pretty and nutritionally balanced, but still good. And I promise, next week, I'll make them again.

The 4 year old has been adorable, and lovely, and inventive.

Even this one, the 22 month old who is desperate to be in preschool, has been putting on a cute face. 

So I'll put on my big girl blogger pants and try to get back in the swing of things next week. We have a  a backlog of party and food ideas, and even a completed backyard play structure, that I haven't blogged about.

Happy end-of-September my friends.


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Friday, September 13, 2013

Inspiring a Culture of Giving

Family Friday, is really growing on me. Here's a belated look at one of our heart-warming summer moments.

Our construction loving 4 year old somehow found out about the horrific tornadoes earlier this summer. He was sad, but also really interested in the idea of how a tornado could demolish a school.

All on his own, he decided to empty out his piggy bank to "give the money to the kids from the school that got demolished. They will need to rebuild it".

We are so proud of him, and his sweet heart that immediately wanted to help. Of course it took us a bit to figure out how to get a ten pound piggy bank of coins (mostly collected pennies) to Oklahoma. Finally, we realized we could take it to our local grocery store, drop everything into the Coinstar machine and he could chose which charity to give his money to.

There was $37.12 in his bank, over $27 in pennies alone! We chose to give the money to the Red Cross. I think all our talking about money and giving has really paid off, now we just have to keep it up!

take your child to the local Coinstar machine and let them chose which charity to give their money to.


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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Easy, Cheesy, Creamy Brussels Sprouts

The most ridiculous part abut this recipe is that it makes my kids ask for these little veggies! Other than my generous use of "sprinkle cheese" (otherwise known as Parmesan), this has got to be the easiest-to-get-the-kids-to-eat vegetable I make. They call them "Cheesy Brussels Sprouts".

Easy Cheesy Brussels Sprouts


  • Saute diced shallots (those little purple things that are halfway between an onion and garlic) in some coconut oil or olive oil.
  • Add halved brussels sprouts
  • After 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup cream. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add a dash of nutmeg and salt.
  • Pour mixture into a casserole dish and top with Parmesan cheese and Asiago (or anything you have on hand)
  • Bake at 400 for 15 minutes until cheese is golden brown.

I'm pretty sure the secret is that they are fully cooked, so there is no bitter aftertaste, and they are soft and delicious. And now in picture/tutorial form...

The shallots, 
chopping shallots

The brussels sprouts in the pan,

sautéing brussels sprouts

Adding the cream:)

Making creamy brussels sprouts with no bitter taste!

In the baking dish with cheese on top.

Making creamy brussels sprouts with no bitter taste!

All done and ready to eat!

Easy Cheesy Brussels Sprouts


Thanks for stopping by! 
Please feel free to follow me with all those nifty buttons in the sidebar:)

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Monday, September 9, 2013

One Tip per Room: Quick and Easy Ways to Organize Your Home

Having just done a massive closet clean-out, this guest post seemed particularly timely. Plus, just for fun I'll show you my hidden trash can with a link to my third ever post on this blog. I know, look how far we've come!

Plus, I'm just in the beginning of the Jewish holiday season, so after hosting 10 adults to a plated (which means fancy) meal on Wednesday night, attending lunches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, oh, and hosting more people Friday night, I *might* be a tad burned out:) 

rolling hidden trash cans and recycling center

One Tip per Room: Quick and Easy Ways to Organize Your Home

Organizing your entire home can be a daunting task. And in households with children, messes and clutter can accumulate with in the blink of an eye. To make the clutter more manageable, try to break down your tasks room by room and focus on one task at a time. Focus on the rooms that are used more frequently, where clutter and mess are inevitable. Start and complete one task before you move onto the next.

Here are a few homeorganization ideas, tips and tricks to keep the clutter away. With one tip per room, it will make the organization process seem a little less daunting.

In the Kitchen
·       Pantries can become messy and unorganized rather quickly. Utilize plastic food storage containers to avoid the mess. Store homemade goods in slider bags and half used boxes of pasta in plastic containers. It’s a simple way to stack food items and you will be able to easily see what is in each container.  
In the Garage
·       Our garages often become a place for clutter, junk and disorganization. One way to feel more organized in the garage is to open up floor space. Utilize wall hooks and mounts to hang gardening tools, helmets, un-used hoses and even bikes on the wall. This will create the illusion that there is more space within your garage.
In Your Closet
·       Purses, hats, scarves and belts can add unnecessary clutter to your closet floor and shelves. Hanging shower curtain hooks in your closet is a cheap and simple solution for this. Do your closets have a door? Over-the-door coat racks can also be used to store handbags, towels, scarves and more!
In the Living Room
·       Extra blankets and pillows sitting around the living room add un-needed clutter to the space. Utilize decorative storage bins to store blankets and pillows while they aren’t being used. Look for furniture that serves a dual purpose. Wicker baskets make for cheap storage options while adding a little bit of decorative flair and sturdy storage furniture can be used as extra seating!
In the Kids Rooms
·       Take advantage of under-bed and under-couch storage. Buy long, thin storagebins and place them underneath any bed or couch that’s high enough off the ground.  You’ll create lots of storage space but keep everything out of sight. This is a great way to store kids clothing that is out of season!
Home organization can be a daunting task. Break down your organization tasks room by room and it becomes a little easier. How do you tackle home organization? Leave your own tips below!

Author Bio: These tips were provided by Katie F. on behalf of Hefty®. For other simple tips and cleaning products like trash bags, visit
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Friday, September 6, 2013

Best Kid Books: Ages 2-4

Best books for kids ages 2 to 4

Here are a few of my favorites that our 22 month old is just aging into and our 4 year old still enjoys. Any book that 2 of the 3 kids will sit quietly for is pretty amazing in my book:)

My 4 year old loves construction (remember the construction machine birthday party?), so for obvious reasons he adores Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. 

He never went through the train phase, but the Duffy Driver and the Little Red Train compilation of books is really well written, and British, so you just feel smarter reading them.

Madeline is a classic, and easy to memorize, so he can "read" it to himself. Even the baby can complete the last word on each page. In an old house in Paris that was covered in.... "Vines!"

Princess and the Potty, worked wonders for our 6year old and is an engaging story.

And of course, the Panda Bear version of the classic Brown Bear books. We have them all, and this one focuses on endangered species, which gives a nice opportunity for talking about the environment and our responsibilities as stewards for our planet. Sorry, didn't mean to go all hippy-skippy on you there;)

my testers

The affiliate links above are just to make it easy if you need to get any gifts for small people anytime soon:)

Another fun Family Friday...

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Indian Summer Hostess Gift

Farmer's Market Hostess Gift- peaches, honey, dried fruit and nuts

So you need a hostess gift?

For tonight? 

Or you're invited to a million meals this month and don't know what to bring? This is super easy to throw together, and my test-hostess loved it.

Yep, I tried it out on my very particular aunt, and she loved the peaches, local honey, dried fruit and nuts. Just the right thing to get someone who has everything.

Use what you have on hand, or if you have a little time to plan ahead, go to the farmer's market and pick up the great end-of-summer items, peaches, corn, heirloom tomatoes, anything that looks amazing and fresh will be perfect.

OK, now it's back to my Rosh Hashana cooking. Guests are arriving at 5pm this evening, eeek!

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Healthy Homemade Trail Mix

Happy Labor Day! 

Don't let the holiday fool you. You still need to pack your kids lunch this week...

DIY trail mix, so easy to make at home

With the beginning of school here, I find myself stumbling around looking for good lunchbox solutions (see my favorite school lunches here). 

Healthy trail mix is one of my favorites since you can mix it up, it stores well, and my kids get in on the act.

My favorite ingredients include:

  • Almonds
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Cashews (chose 1 or 2 nuts)
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Dried Blueberries (dried fruit of any kind)
  • Chocolate chips

Stacking homemade trail mix to take in school lunches

You can even make this, dare I say it, educational, by taking the time to count, weight, sort and measure the ingredients. Which totally makes it fall into the DIY category, by the way:)

Plus stacking them in my go-to lunch containers is always a fun:)

Stacking homemade healthy trail mix to take in school lunches


Thanks for stopping by! 
Please feel free to follow me with all those nifty buttons in the sidebar:)

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Friday, August 30, 2013

N-1 Children = Easy

It's a simple formula, really. No matter how many children you have, if you take away 1, it gets WAY easier.

We have 3 kids, the two older boys are my nephews who visited a while back:)


Son stays home sick, I take 2 girls to Safeway: Magically I can grocery shop with darling princess practically dancing in the aisles.

Big sister is at school: Now I'm in happy stay-at-home-mommy land with my baby and preschooler, doing educational crafts, playing with dolls, baking from scratch...

Baby is at a grandparents for a sleepover: We are a functional family! Look how easy and normal it is with two kids? We can even do things like go to Disneyland (tips here), or stay out all day, because no one naps!

Then if you take away 2.. watch out! It's a party!

Recently we took our 6 year old daughter out for a fancy dinner. White tablecloths, amuse bouche, everything. She totally rocked it, sitting in her chair for 2+ hours, not complaining, joining in adult conversation etc. I can't even explain how different this is than our normal 5-10 minutes of shoving in food while cleaning up spills and reminding kids to stay seated already!

Clearly, as my Hogwarts sorting hat post points out, when the two big ones are gone, the baby takes over and we feel freedom like never before. 1 baby who naps? Time to talk to each other? Amazing.

Plus, when it's just our 4 year old son, we dream of taking him on vacation all alone. Unlike the other two (ahem) he is an amazing traveler, making plane travel with kids seem easy. Don't worry, my tips include ideas about what to do for other kids (ahem, talking to my two girls here).

Obviously when all 3 are gone, we are on a real vacation, like our recent trip to Israel. But that's just pretending we don't have kids and trying to come up with non-kid-or-house related things to talk about for 2 weeks:)

So those are my thoughts, this Family Friday*.


*Good name right? Thinking it might make it easier for me if I "theme" my post days. Thoughts? Good to know, or super cheesy and annoying? Pin It
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