I was certain I already knew Joslyn back when I found her blog Simple Lovely earlier this year…so much so, I could hear her voice in my head as I read through her honest and down to earth posts! It was as though somewhere in time, we crossed paths, and were friends. Clearly, it was not the case but she’s a great storyteller because she writes like she’s your long lost best friend.
Aside from her radiant warmth, she’s a great photographer, and a hardworking and amazingly creative mom to two girls. She appears effortlessly stylish and yet she’s not afraid to tell the backstory, to out her imperfections and give you the rundown on everything from her design woes to her parental mistakes. Her blog follows daily themes from “Scenes from the weekend”, to the things she’s “Loving”, to Fridays when she shares her space with a fellow blogger allowing them to feature some of their favorites.
She might be the kindest blogger I’ve ever met; thankfully we’ve become friends, for real this time.
Give us a little background on yourself…
I was raised largely in Northern California, went to college in Austin, and then sort of “ended up” in Dallas for the past decade. I’m mom to two incredible girlies, Audrey (8) and Millie (4), and lucky to have an amazing partner/hubby, Bryan. Both my husband and I are probably frustrated creatives. He studied philosophy, is a musician, and a woodworker. I majored in English and art history, and thought I would write or work in a creative field… And we both ended up working for technology companies. As a result, it’s hugely important to us to infuse our daily lives with as much creativity as possible. On the side, I author two blogs Simple Lovely and Operation Simplicity; I co-founded the website tinyDallas and am a freelance lifestyle writer for publications like The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Child magazine and the Dallas edition of Edible magazine.
We tend to split the cooking about 60/40 with my husband taking the lead. He’s a bit more of a natural cook, and I tend to be a bit of a slave to a recipe…but I’m getting better at culinary improvisation. He does a majority of our weeknight meals, but I take the lead on weekends and for entertaining, which we do a few times a month.
What’s a typical weeknight?
My husband works from home full-time, and I work from home two days a week and in the office the other three. On my office days, I’m usually home by 5:30, and we try to sit down to a family dinner right away. The girls are pretty hungry after school, so I find if we don’t eat by 6:30 they’ll want to snack away their appetite. After dinner we try to get outside…maybe some reading in the backyard or a bike ride around the neighborhood. In the summer we pretty much live in our pool every night. Then it’s back inside for baths, reading and bed, which can be a pretty lengthy process. Both of our girls love a long bedtime ritual…lots of stories and cuddling. There are definitely evenings when I’m wishing for more downtime at night, but I reason that this period is so intimate and lovely and fleeting with the girls that I really try to savor it.
Do you have a go-to dinner that appears weekly? What’s in the breakfast rotation? Any food-based family rituals?
I typically make orechiette with sausage and asparagus once a week and lately we seem to be doing pasta with pesto and chicken once a week too. The girls are obsessed with that right now.
I’m a creature of habit at breakfast and have a green shake (the girls call it my “yucky drink”) and a double toasted whole wheat English muffin topped with sun butter every. single. day. For the girls breakfast runs the gamut. My oldest daughter doesn’t have much of an appetite in the morning, so I’ll pretty much bribe her with anything — pancakes, scrambled eggs, cinnamon toast. My husband usually makes a huge batch of pancakes early in the week that we warm up in the toaster on crazy mornings. In terms of rituals, we try to eat dinner as a family every night…it’s not always civilized, but I’m pretty fixated on creating the habit so when they’re older and have even more chaotic schedules family dinner is sort of imprinted on them.
How do you feel about TV/screens?
I would say I’m somewhat conservative about screen time, as I’m not a big TV fan in general. If it were up to me I’d throw out our television altogether. That said, I also try to be pretty mellow about it, as I worry that the more forbidden something seems the more the kids will be drawn to its elusiveness.
When we do watch, it’s always something we’ve recorded like Word Girl or The Electric Company. We’re big fans of pretty much everything on PBS. I think the key with my kids is that we’ve always recorded shows for them, so they’ve never really watched network television with commercials. That’s made a huge difference, and I definitely think it’s helped them not be so fixated on “stuff”.
Tell us about how you celebrate birthdays in your house. Do you like or resent the goody bag phenomenon?
I have a tendency to get a bit, well…obsessed with planning the girlies’ birthday parties, which can elicit a little teasing from my friends. But I love birthdays. I love making a big deal out of them. I love how the process of creating a special “event” for the girls honors them in a memorable way. Birthdays are important — I think they deserve a little pomp and circumstance and effort. It’s never about material extravagance or being excessive, but I like the idea of lavishing creativity and time and effort on my girlies to mark the day they entered our lives…
To that end, we spend a lot of time dreaming up themes for their parties together and then making all sorts of little decorations and things. For Audrey’s last birthday, we did a sort of “hippie/Ladies of the Canyon” party at a local art studio where the kids made dream catchers. We set up our teepee and some sheepskin rugs to take photos and made a big fabric garland and decorated a branch we found in our yard with colored thread and tissue pom poms. The projects were time consuming, but it just felt really special and lovely creating the things together.
I like the idea of giving your guests something meaningful to mark the day, so I do like that part. I usually try to somehow incorporate it into the party activities though, so in this case the kids brought the dream catchers that they made home with them. We also made them each a homemade necklace out of clay beads and twine. What I do tend to resent though is the cheap plastic toy filled goody bag phenomenon. I’d rather give the kids one thing that’s meaningful and lasting than a bag full of things that will get thrown away or lost shortly after the party. But that’s just me 😉
What websites inspire you and for which parts of your life?
I’m drawn to those sort of magical sites that are artful and inspiring and largely visual. My friend Lucia, who’s an amazing artist, has a beautiful blog called Paper Weight that I love. I also love the French blog Le Dans La, for the gorgeous photos of snippets of their lives. Momfilter has filled that smart parent conversation that the closing of Cookie left behind, so I visit over here daily, and Tiny Dallas is the first spot I visit every day, as I love to see what my partners post (we take turns posting each day). They are amazing, creative, really cool ladies.
Tell us about a typical weekend.
We usually go out to dinner or have friends over and cook on Friday evening to kick-off the weekend. Saturday morning is ballet for the girlies (and for me if I’m being good) and then we might hit the museum or attempt a craft project. Right now the girls and I are really big into making handcrafted clay beads and stringing them into necklaces. During the warm months, we’ll spend a good chunk of the weekend swimming and eating meals outside, but now that it’s getting cooler, we might spend Sunday baking. We’re really trying to let go of that “weekend warrior” mentality a bit. Since my husband and I both work full-time, we tend to put a lot of pressure on the weekends, squeezing as much as possible into them, which inevitably leaves us irritable and harried on Monday morning… So we’ve been making a concerted effort to mellow out and just let the weekends unfold and see what happens.
How has your upbringing informed your life as a mother?
I grew up in a creative, somewhat untraditional household. My father is a professional musician, and we moved every couple of years for his job, so things were a bit transient. I think being steeped in that environment has carried over in my belief that there isn’t one “right way” to do things and that kids are amazingly resilient. It’s very “in vogue” to worry incessantly about how every little thing we do, say, buy, etc… will affect our kids long-term. Whereas when my sisters and I were kids, my parents were worrying about making ends meet and keeping us safe and healthy while living a life they were passionate about. When I stop and remember this, I tend to parent in a more relaxed, fluid way.
Why did you start your site?
I discovered design and lifestyle blogs when I was on maternity leave with my younger daughter Millie. I studied English and Art History in college and always thought I’d write or work for a gallery or museum, but I randomly ended up working on websites for Fortune 500 companies and have been doing that for the past decade. I was really longing for some type of creative outlet, and the blog became that for me. Since I started it almost five years ago, it’s been an amazing catalyst for creativity. I’ve met hugely inspiring people and daily it compels me to live out a more mindful and creative life.
Favorite activities for when you’re stuck indoors, or do you not let the elements get in the way?
In Texas, the elements tend to be the heat, as folks are stuck indoors during the summer months far more than during the winter. Building a pool in our backyard this year was a major game-changer for us. We used to cower a bit in the AC during the dog days of August, but we were outside literally every day of the summer this year. It was amazing. I’m big on letting the girls splash in the rain and play when it’s cold outside. I think that’s essential. But on days when we are forced to be inside, we spend a lot of time baking and crafting, listening to music and playing board games.
What kind of music is your family into?
Music is huge for us. Huge. Music was an ever-present aspect of my upbringing, and the idea of “kid music” never made it into my parent’s repertoire. To them, all music was kid music. To that end, the girls pretty much listen to what we listen to, but their fave for sure is The Beatles, and they’re having an early Michael Jackson moment right now too.
Right now I’m hooked on The Talking Heads and the Clash. Cake, Phoenix, Spoon and Vampire Weekend are in pretty heavy rotation as is the latest album from Feist. We also listen to a lot of classic jazz (Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and the like)…that’s our go-to Pandora station.
What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list and never gets crossed off and nags at you?
Without a doubt photos…I haven’t printed a single photo in two years. It’s a bad scene. I have a pretty good system for organizing them on my computer, but I’ve had “make photo albums” on my “to do” list for over three years. I also keep thinking I need to organize the girls’ art projects, but that’s another one that never seems to happen.
Top 3 favorite books—for your kids, top 3 for yourself? Last book you read?
This is tough. I am a major book lover so I’m not sure I could pick a top 3. I love all of Ruth Reichl’s memoirs…her writing is poignant and cozy. I recently re-read To Kill a Mockingbird and was struck by what an immensely different experience it was reading it as an adult. I also really liked Poser by Claire Dederer. It’s a memoir told through Dederer’s love affair with yoga, and the story of evolution and growth really resonated with me. For the girls, we love Dallas Clayton’s books and anything by Lauren Child. Her writing and illustrations are perfection.
Do you have a fail-safe beauty product or routine or something that just makes you feel armed for the day when you leave the house, or do you have a routine before you go to bed?
My mom was an aesthetician, and she’s always really emphasized skin care, so things like taking my make-up off before bed and using a little serum and moisturizer is pretty ingrained. I am pretty obsessed with my Clarisonic. That thing is amazing…it totally changed my skin. I also really like all the Dr. Hashkua products for skincare. For make-up I love Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer. It’s not heavy, but just makes my skin look instantly better. I also usually do a sort of messy smoky eye (even for day) and then just some lip balm. I’ve been doing that look for a while…it might be time to switch things up a bit.
Your favorite family trip ever?
For the past seven years, we’ve taken the girls to the beach in Florida every April with the same two families. The consistency of that vacation really allows us to totally relax, since we sort of know the routine in and out, resulting in some amazing family memories over the years. So those trips are up there, but I think my favorite was the trip we took to Marfa, Texas this past summer. Marfa is this crazy, sleepy west Texas desert town that also happens to be a mecca for high art. It’s so odd and magical. We spent three days there just cruising around town on our bikes and swimming in spring fed pools and looking at amazing art. There were no traditionally “kid-centered” activities and yet the girls would consider it their favorite trip of all time. They talk about it non-stop.
Do you have any personal a-ha tip that you want to tell us about?
I’m not sure this qualifies as an a-ha tip, but in the past year I’ve discovered the genius of browning butter for recipes. It sounds dramatic, but it changed my life. I’m here to say that browned butter makes everything taste crazy good.
You feel your best when?
In the morning after a cup of strong coffee. I’m always at my very best between 7-10 am. I just have this sense that anything is possible… The morning has immense promise for me.
Favorite clothing item and why?
A blue and white striped scoop neck t-shirt mini-dress from Chance. I wear it over skinny black jeans with wedges and a long pendant necklace. It’s by far my most oft-worn item of clothing… I just feel instantly pulled together when I put it on, but it’s still super-casual and comfortable. It’s a no brainer.
Proudest moment in parenting?
This isn’t an especially lofty moment for sure, but I was awfully proud when, at a party, somebody asked a then 3-year old Millie if she knew who was singing the song on the radio, expecting her to respond, “The Beatles”, and instead she paused, put her finger to her temple, listened really intently and said: “John”. It makes me immensely proud that the girls know and love music in a deep way. I was also incredibly proud of how they both respond to people in need. They are hugely compassionate at a time when there are probably more wired to be selfish, it’s a really lovely thing to observe.
What do you feel you could be better at?
Being in the moment… I have a hard time at really focusing on one thing at a time. My goal is to be totally present with my kids more often. Also “unplugging”… I get awfully addicted to the Internet (especially Pinterest). I’ve had to start shutting down my computer completely at the end of the work day so I can fully detach from it. I’m getting better through.
What makes you feel guilty?
I think moms are notorious for feeling guilty about everything. I try really hard not to let guilt guide me. At the end of the day, I’m deeply in love with my husband and kids and they are happy, creative, interesting creatures. I try to tell myself that I’m always going to stink at something…if I’m rocking it at home I’m probably sub-par at work and likely vice versa, but I’m really trying to be kinder to myself and other woman. We’re all doing the best we can. Truly. That said I feel awfully guilty about our carbon footprint. Living in Texas, we run the AC a lot…it’s a bad scene.
Jaime Rugh is an artist and author of the blog Found While Walking