Outdoor Table Top Entertaining


As I drag my feet and enjoy the last few days of Summer, I am already thinking about my fall patio decor.  We spend a lot of time outside during the hotter months but we LIVE outside during the fall. Morning coffee on the weekends, garden lunches, and of course family dinners fill our time as we watch the leaves change colors.

This year we are planning a complete patio renovation. We are tearing out our existing slab, which is almost 20 years old and replacing it with a modern California style sanctuary. Think outdoor kitchen and a long low gas fireplace with Italian strung lights gleaming overhead.  However, that is a whole other blog. 

In any event, I can't wait to break ground and get started on this project, because the sooner we finish the sooner I will be able to enjoy my new tabletop place settings from Crate & Barrel. Knowing that we were going to reconstruct the exterior of our home, this summer I invested in Melamine place settings so that we don't have to drag our heavy (breakable) dining plates outside. 

As you can imagine, I heard, "Why do we need three different kinds of plates?" from my husband. We also have "good china" from our wedding registry that he hates but once I explained the importance of shatterproof plates with children he was quick to get on board. 

I found these Melamine plates from Crate & Barrel. They come in 4 different colorways and can be accompanied by the matching serving plates in 2 colors. I opted to mix and match colors for a little more dimension. We have a lot of blue accents in our house and I wanted to keep the same feel to seamlessly transition to the outside.  

I also purchased Crate & Barrel's Vaso plastic stemware glasses to complete our tabletop. I found our Sunbrella table runner (with umbrella hole) from Ballard Designs as well as our plastic water pitcher and placemats. I also rounded out this look with matching Sunbrella outdoor pillows from HomeGoods and a white Vinglace wine bottle chiller to keep our vino nice and cold!  

***Shop the look by clicking on the photos below***

Jump On It


Who knew that trampolines would become such a hot commodity during a pandemic? If you're like me you spent the first month of quarantine trying to figure out how to entertain the kids while being stuck at home and social distancing. I think we have things under control now but it was touch and go there for a minute and I'm sure we will continue to have ups and downs. In the meantime, I try to find activities that exsert some energy and produce the "happy hormone" serotonin.

Right before baby Jax was born I started thinking about trampolines for Cashton. I always thought a trampoline would be a cool "big brother gift" for Jaxson to give to his big brother to help avoid jealousy. Never did it cross my mind that I might as well be looking for a unicorn when it came to purchasing one. That's right, apparently, I wasn't the only one with this bright idea. Everyone in America must have been trying to get their hands on them at the same time because they were sold out EVERYWHERE! I mean you couldn't even get one of these bad boys on Facebook Marketplace. 

Every time I would find one that someone was selling 2nd hand it would
 be gone in an instant! So, I finally gave up on social media to help me with my little project. I started searching the internet, scouring Amazon, Dicks Sporting Goods, Walmart, and even Costco trying to get my hands on one. No such luck! 

That is until recently. Walmart now has a 14'  in stock! Which is the size we ended up getting. It comes with an enclosure net for the kids and peace of mind for parents. We LOVE ours! Cash spends hours outside jumping and burning off his pent up energy from being stuck at home all day. I'm not gonna lie, I love taking my turn on it as well!  

There are also all kinds of fun accessories for the trampoline too! I think the sprinkler and water balloons always score big with the kids! 

If you're thinking about one for the kids you can get your trampoline here, or click on the photos below to shop

DIY Baby Shower Planning


Sure we're still in a pandemic and some things can be rescheduled, but babies are coming no matter what! Pretty much all of my friends have had or are having babies this year, so we have MANY children to "shower" with love. This weekend it was my girlfriend Cara's turn. Myself, and 3 other women put together the most beautiful drive by baby shower for little baby Sutton! The thought that went into this party was detailed.

Carin was our ring leader, ordering and putting together the invitations as well as determining our "woodland" boho theme. She prepped "take away" lunchboxes with custom stickers she ordered off of Etsy and hulled decor from her stockpile in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Laken was in charge of ordering flowers and designing the backdrop for our celebration table. She hung linens on her PVC frame and added greenery and balloons that read our little man of honor's name.

Friday night I started baking the 4 layer "surprise" cake with blue edible confetti inside and finished icing it early Sunday morning before heading over to the pavilion to help set up. 

Saturday afternoon we prepped for Sunday's festivities. This included the foundation work for my balloon arch. I get so many questions every time I do a balloon arch and the truth is, it gets easier every time I put one together. 

I have mastered the art of simplifying the setup. I blow all the balloons up the day before and recruit someone to help me tie the balloons in twos while I blow then up and shape them. I then tie them into small clusters with fishing line instead of the balloon tape because I find it much faster. That way I can just string the clusters together when I get on site. The key is an electric blower and a balloon arch PVC frame that I found at Micheals. You can build the piping any way you wish. Short. Tall. One-sided. Skys the limit (well not really, it's not THAT tall).

This install was one of my favorites because I got to build it around Alpha Lit Charlotte's light up letter sign that read "baby".

Below is a video tutorial I found helpful on YouTube.

During one of our brainstorming sessions, we talked about a "She's about to POP" bar where we would bring in a popsicle stand but after pricing it out we decided to make our own. Instead of popsicles, we went with cake pops from SAS Cupcakes that were individually wrapped to be COVID 19 friendly. We also gave away gold mini Rondel champagne splits with "POP it when she POPS" labels as favors. 

We solicited the husbands to build a teepee for cheap by grabbing wood and a canvas drop cloth from a local hardware store,  saving us a TON of cash. Which we were then able to provide a "to go" boxed lunch for everyone. 

Carin got disposable paper lunch boxes and labels and we stuffed them with pimento cheese and chicken salad sandwiches, with a side of fruit salad and a Krispy Cream donut. 

All in all, everything came out super cute and our woodland themed shower was thrown on a budget, everyone was comfortable splitting. Be sure to scroll through the rest of our detail photos and feel free to shop the photos at the end of this blog by clicking on them! 

Shop by clicking the photos below.

Baby Strager's Nursery Reveal


Happy one month birthday to my little man! It's hard to believe that we officially brought Jaxson home from the hospital one month ago. It is also hard to believe how much he's grown, especially after our breastfeeding mishaps early on, but that's a blog for another day.  

Although Jax hasn't spent much time in his nursery yet, (other than tummy time) it is ready for when he makes the transition from the bassinet in our room to his own crib. After redesigning this room twice due to covid-19 delivery delays, I think this space came out beautifully and I wanted to share all the details with you. 

After our contractor constructed the Wainscoting molding on the accent wall and painted the room, I went to town on my blank canvas. Using Cashton's black and white hand me down crib, I build the room around the idea of a classic (not cheesy) giraffe/safari themed.  I collected my furniture and decor pieces from various places including Pottery Barn Kids, Amazon, Target, Ballard Design, Shades of Light, Wayfair, Etsy and more! 

I have linked all the shoppable photos below and know you will love the look and quality of everything you order! Enjoy! 

Jaxson Joseph : Life Update


Bringing a newborn home from the hospital is an emotional experience, even when it's baby #2! You wonder if you have everything ready, if you forgot something, or if you have forgotten everything!?! Since 3.5 years have passed since we brought home our 8-pound 3-ounce baby Cash, all of those thoughts went through my mind! Let's be honest, you don't know, what you don't know! 

From the moment my 9-pound 1-ounce bundle of joy, baby Jaxson Joseph was placed on my chest in the delivery room all of those answers to my questions became a reality. Mommas, go with your gut! It's usually right. I had a hard time breastfeeding Cashton 3 years ago, so I knew it would be no walk in the park with baby Jax. I was prepared for the fact that I might have to supplement formula for Jaxson based on the fact that I had to with Cashton, but I was determined to be more successful this time... or at least give it hell. 

Not that supplementing or giving formula is bad in any way shape or form! It is a mommas choice and a fed baby is a happy and healthy baby, no matter what! I just made the decision that I would give it a little longer and try more tactics to get through the difficulties this time around. Plus I love a challenge, and it gave me something to focus on while I was locked up in quarantine due to COVID-19. I also have to admit, I am using a different breast pump this time around and its cordless wearable nature was a GAME CHANGER for me. Now, my insurance did NOT cover the cost of the pump but they did give me a $100 credit to upgrade to the Willow breast pump, but looking back it's been so beneficial I would have paid full price for it! 

When Jaxson was first born my milk had not come in yet and I was barely getting any colostrum (which is the small amount of pre-breast milk that has all the nutrients that your baby needs). My breast milk took it's sweet ass time showing up and I did have to supplement Jax with formula until it did, but I was determined. After weeks of cracked nipples, trouble latching, sleepless nights, and low amounts of milk I am happy to say that Jaxson is officially all breast milk, all the time. Now that might change as he gets bigger and demands more milk. If my body cannot provide for him I am prepared to do whatever it takes to feed my hungry boy! 

In other news, people have been asking a lot about Cashton and how he is adjusting to the new baby, which is REALLY sweet! Cash is doing great! Definitely, seeking a little more attention but so gentle and caring with his baby brother! Our good friend and photographer Catrina Earls got to capture Cash holding Jax for the first time and it warms my heart to see such a beautiful moment between brothers. 

The attention-seeking Cash is searching for is more "look at me" than jealousy. Cashton has been asking for Mommy and Daddy more, making loud noises in his playroom and (my favorite) taking everything out of the kitchen pantry for a picnic on the breakfast nook floor. 

All in all, we are surviving and doing well! We are without a doubt missing interaction from the outside world while we wait out our 6-week no-touch policy our pediatrician recommended but we are looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel. We will, of course, continue to be safe, wear our masks and wash our hands when that time is over but I am looking forward to Dallas's Mom and sisters getting to hold Jaxson and visit more often!  

Let's Have A Baby!


Well, here we are. I am writing you from my hospital bed getting ready to give birth to Baby Strager #2 (still no name). We checked in last night to be induced and spent the evening hooked up to baby monitors and implanting a balloon catheter to jump-start labor. Our original plan was to induce labor via pill tablet but to our surprise when I arrived, I was already contracting 3-5 minutes apart, so we chose a different route.

 Now, let me be clear, I was contracting but because my water has not broken yet, they just feel like a menstrual cramp, not a “true” contraction. This happened with my first son Cashton’s birth as well. 

I didn’t have any “real” pain until we broke my water and then the torture was on! As some of you might know I am petrified of needles, so I was holding off on my epidural as long as possible. BAD IDEA! I don’t suggest doing that. My birth plan with my first son was to make it to 7cm before an epidural because I was afraid it would stall out my Pitocin. The anesthesiologist came to check on me at 5 cm and I told him I wasn’t ready. Boy was I wrong because about 15 mins later I WAS READY, but he couldn’t get back to me for another 1.5hr because the floor was so busy. I won’t make the same mistake this time. 

I also wanted to update you on what we brought with us this time around to make the process an easy, relaxing experience. (I know those words aren’t your typical synonyms when it comes to birthing a baby, but they help before, during, and after. 

First and foremost, I am an atmosphere person so the 1st thing I threw in my prepacked hospital bag was my oil diffuser. Peace & calm is my oil of choice for stressful situations and spa music which we are playing from our iPhones.

Another couple of important items were my Baby Be Mine birthing gown which I got on amazon. It’s cuter than the traditional hospital gowns they give you upon arrival and they open in all the same ways. Plus, they come with a cute and comfy robe to match. Buttons everywhere! So you can still get your epidural, breastfeed and stay stylish as they come in cute colors and patterns.

I packed all of these items along with my slippers, toiletries, and makeup into my Delsey carry on suitcase and my matching backpack carried my laptop, chargers, and new breast pump. I decided to change from the Medela cord-free pump to the Willow hands-free pump this time, so I wanted to bring it with me and get the lactation consultants to give me a quick refresher. (They stop by your room after the baby comes to check on you and make sure baby can latch if you choose to breastfeed).

I also made sure I had a sentimental outfit for baby too. I brought with me the onesie that Cashton wore home from the hospital our first go around. Which looking back in hindsight might have been a mistake because if they look alike, I may not be able to tell who is who in photos. According to our last 4D sonogram, these two are gonna be twinsies.    

We also couldn’t forget our Rachel Zoe Maxi Cosi baby carrier/car seat and Burberry diaper bag, which baby Strager and I are currently sharing since we’ll BOTH be in diapers for a while. Baby diapers for him and chill packs, Always pads, Frida disposable underwear, Tucks wipes, Dermoplast spray, nursing pads, nipple cream, and hard candy for me. We also snuck a cooler of Watermelon into our delivery suite since I have been craving it throughout this whole pregnancy. 

The last item I decided to bring is my Rebel T6 camera. Typically, I would leave the baby photos to the professionals but since COVID is at an all-time high in North Carolina we have decided to be better safe than sorry and only allow essential personnel into our room. 

Okay, now that you know what I’m snacking on, what is keeping me calm, and our post-delivery essentials I’m gonna sign off and put my feet up until the dreaded contractions consume me and the epidural has taken over. Let’s go have a baby!!!!!

Covid Maternity Shoot At 39 Weeks Pregnant


       At 39 weeks pregnant, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get any maternity photos done. I had tried and tried to set up a shoot date but it seemed something was lurking at every calendar page turn. Especially with all the rain we’ve had the last few weeks, but somehow by the grace of God we did it!

    My girlfriend Catrina Earls takes the most amazing photos and we always trust her to take our family photos. She is so quick and wonderful with the kids (and my husband Dallas). She makes photo shoots painless for everyone! So you can imagine my excitement when Catrina called and said "We have a break in the rain tomorrow. Wanna Shoot?"

      I originally had planned for a much different shoot theme and had wanted a very strong black and white shoot with uptown Charlotte in the background. However, social distancing had other plans. Much like my nursery plans, I had to pivot, but I think what we came up with was beautiful and heartfelt.

Catrina always finds these little gems about Charlotte to shoot at. Cotton fields, Sunflower fields, Peachtree groves, and now Lavendar fields boast her portfolio.

     I really wanted these maternity photos, not for myself but for Cashton. I wanted to be able to look back and enjoy Cash’s last few days as an “only child” while still celebrating baby Strager #2, and I feel like the lavender fields were the perfect place to do that.

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