{Guide to Charleston, SC — WITH KIDS!}

Charleston 2017 from Liz Denfeld on Vimeo.

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since our trip to Charleston. Time flies! Lots of you asked for a post with all our recommendations from the trip, so here it goes:

STAY
Hyatt House Charleston: We stayed at the Hyatt House Charleston on points and there were so pros and cons that came with the hotel:

Pros: Suite-style rooms with small kitchens made it great for the kids, free breakfast (which worked perfectly to grab yogurt, cereal or toast for the kids before going out for real breakfast), possibility to get adjoining rooms (we had two rooms, which was perfect for us — we slept in one and James and Elodie slept in the other), close to lots of food and coffee.

Cons: It’s definitely not a luxury hotel, but nice for what it is/cost, rooms are a bit cramped for a family, not super close to the heart of Charleston (like Rainbow Row, where all the cute stuff is haha), but you are close to really good food

EAT
Obstinate Daughter: I URGE you not to miss this spot. We were BLOWN AWAY with our dinner, just kept raving through every single dish about how absolutely incredible the food was. Also, the interior design is so dreamy and my wine was on point, so basically I was ready to move in and stay forever! We started with flatbread that came with this delicious butterbean puree (sounds kinda weird, but it was gooood). Then Corey and I shared the pappardelle with mushrooms, greens, parmesan and pangrattato and there are just no words to tell you how much I loved this dish. We also shared the Old Danger pizza with pancetta, mozzarella, white sauce and a farm egg …  And it confirmed that eggs on pizza are so, so right. I typically am able to choose hands down what my favorite dish is if we’re sharing, but we kept switching back-and-forth because we both loved both dishes equally.

Beardcat’s Sweetshop: We popped down to Beardcat’s Sweetshop after dinner at Obstinate Daughter as it hast he same owners and is right downstairs. Their gelato was delectable and sitting outside and relaxing after our big meal was wonderful!

Butcher & Bee: Behind Obstinate Daughter, this was our favorite place. The space inside is super cool, but the best part was the outdoor area where our kids could run and climb while we took turns drinks our coffee and eating (haha talk about real life!). The food was absolutely phenomenal. We are total brunch snobs thanks to Portland’s amazing brunch scene and this food impressed us. We had the stuffed french toast, the morning hummus, a side of delicious bacon and the kids had the avocado toast. All of it was top notch!

Leon’s: Oh man, where do I begin. If you’re in Charleston, Leon’s is not to be missed. We went for lunch and loved seeing the spot in daylight and admiring their fun outdoor space. We got the Fried Oyster Sandwich and the Grilled Mahi sandwich and both were delicious. If I had to pick one I would go with the fried oyster. Yum! They both came with this little side cucumber salad that was delectable and added the perfect crunch and freshness. We got some fried chicken (without the spice) for the kiddos and they devoured it. We tried a couple bites and were super impressed. We finished the meal with some vanilla soft serve, which was hands down the best soft serve we’ve ever had! Honestly, pretty much the ENTIRE menu looked amazing, so we were tempted to go back a second time, but we just had so many other great options we wanted to check out

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Smoke BBQ: This was our very first meal in Charleston and it was a fantastic introduction to the city’s great food scene. I got the Smokey Chick Sandwich, which I LOVED, but be warned it is spicy! Corey had the sloppy smoke sandwich, which he also raved about (and wasn’t spicy). My mac & cheese side was just okay (but we had it takeout and by the time I dove in it was lukewarm, so that could be why), but Corey got the famous hash & grits and he couldn’t stop talking about them! The kids shared the chicken fingers kids meal, which is a good thing because it was HUGE.

Poogan’s Porch: To be honest, this was probably my least favorite restaurant of the bunch, but it was still good. I wasn’t feeling totally awesome this night, so that could’ve contributed for sure, but I also just asked Corey and his review was “pretty forgettable”. It was a place recommended to us several times, though, so I wouldn’t write it off. Our Mac & cheese and shrimp & grits were good, just not great. Our cocktails were pretty awful though (weak and really sweet — we got “The New Old Fashioned”), so I’d stick with beer or wine here. The restaurant is also housed in an old home and the layout was just strange and the place was smelly and warm. Man, I am kind of tearing this spot apart! This is why real restaurant reviewers go several times. I’m sure we caught it on and off night for both us and them. Any fans, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit: First of all, I am obsessed with the name of this cute little place. Second, holy yum!! By our fourth day in Charleston we really needed a break from longer sit-down meals with the kids so we popped in here and grabbed biscuits to go for lunch. Corey had the Bacon, Egg & Cheddar and I had the BLT (with fresh roasted tomatoes) and both were drool-worthy! Definitely super soft, dense and delicious biscuits. The kids had three of their mini-biscuits: Cheddar and Chive, Buttermilk and Blackberry and seemed to love them all, especially the blackberry. Really small shop with limited seating, so I wouldn’t plan to sit inside in case it’s crowded. We went around noon on a Tuesday and there were seats for us, but we took ours back to our hotel, which was just down the street.

Hominy Grill: We had tons of recommendations for Hominy and it was definitely a great spot. I actually like that my portion wasn’t GIGANTIC, the perfect size and my huevos rancheros tasted really fresh and perfectly cooked. Corey had an omelette and he thought it was good, but not great (in my opinion it was a poor menu choice haha). The service stood out as one of the best, the waiter was attentive and very nice and our food came out lightening fast.IMG_5846IMG_5851Poogan’s Smokehouse: This is a restaurant that actually wasn’t recommended to us by anyone, but we almost got it mixed up with Poogan’s Porch and therefore ended up checking out their website and Corey fell in love with the menu, so we decided to give it a go. We don’t have much good BBQ in Portland, so I figured I should let him eat ALLTHEMEAT. He got a half rack of the St. Louis Babyback ribs and he was in meat heaven. I don’t really eat pork and would certainly never order ribs for myself, but Corey insisted I try and I must say they had an amazing smoky flavor and just melted off the bone. The kids shared some mac & cheese off the appetzier menu (which was so good it was hard for me to stop taking bites) and the pulled pork sandwich with brussel sprouts on the side. They actually both ate and loved the brussels sprouts and the pulled pork. Success! The space is also really nice, so I’d definitely recommend this spot, especially if you want good BBQ!

Xiao Bao: We almost missed this place. Almost. But after having it recommend over and over by locals we decided we needed to give it a try. Boy oh boy am I glad we didn’t miss it! The food was all so flavorful and unique and just perfect. We were a little scared at first because the waitress said pretty much everything on the menu was spicy, which wouldn’t work for the kids (and I actually can’t handle spicy things either), but I’m glad that didn’t scare us away. The Okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancake) was especially stellar, but we also LOVED the curry and the Som Tum with Chicken. Thought we ordered way too much when all the food came, but let’s just say we devoured every single bite 🙂

DO:

As you can imagine with young kids, we didn’t get around to seeing as much as we would’ve/could’ve had it just been us two, but we still did a couple nice things I’d recommend.

Boone Hall Plantation: Not only is the plantation just beautiful (especially the Avenue of Oaks and the Cotton Dock), but we found the history to be so interesting since it is so different than our history in the Pacific Northwest. We unfortunately missed the house tour due to nap schedules, but I would’ve loved to do that. The kids loved the Plantation Coach Tour and we were able to saunter through the Slave Cabins and learn a lot, which I found heartbreaking and fascinating.

Sullivan’s Island: We caught the sunset at Sullivan’s Island Public Beach one night (right by the lighthouse) and it was just plain dreamy. Huge wide open beaches perfect to let the kids run free. Very close to Obstinate Daughter for the best meal of the trip!IMG_6058IMG_6212Enlight8Enlight6

Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour: So I’m going to be honest that I was VERY conflicted about taking one of these tours. I don’t know enough about the treatment of the horses and such, so it made me sad and I know that there are many animal activist groups that are very much against these tours in Charleston. Having said that, they are EVERYWHERE and when you have a 3.5 year old who sees horses on every corner of every street, she was dying to go on one and wouldn’t stop talking about it. So we went and did it and it was very interesting and the kids loved it. If you are interested in this type of thing, or another type of tour I would highly recommend going at the beginning of your trip to help you get the lay of the land and see what areas you want to see more or less of.

Bike Taxi: This is kind of silly, but there are bike taxis everywhere and they were a hit with the kids! At night when we didn’t want to walk far to a restaurant it was a good option for us since parking was really tough in downtown!

Rainbow Row: Just a really cute street with many different colored houses in Charleston. And right down the block you can walk down to the water and it is just beautiful!

White Point Garden: This is a really pretty waterfront garden/park, but even better are the homes right around this area. They are extremely old and full of history! Definitely spend time walking the southern part of Charleston — you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time!

Waterfront Park: A cute spot to walk around, near rainbow row. Nice views of the water!

 

Traveling On a Budget

HOW TO TRAVEL ON A BUDGET

Last month I jetted off to Amsterdam for a week to visit friends, this week we’re heading to Charleston as a family and early next year we’re traveling to Oahu with Corey’s family. But how are we taking all these trips when we’re on a pretty strict budget? I thought I’d share some of the ways we’re able to make these trips happen while not breaking the bank. Because we could all use a little more vacation in our lives, right?

Use an airline and/or hotel credit card: Some people are really scared of credit cards, but there’s no reason to be. We have two major credit cards we use to make every purchase we possibly can. Then, at the end of every month we pay off the cards. We never pay interest and we reap the benefits — free flights, hotels, etc! Here are the ones we use:

Hyatt Chase Visa: When you sign up for a Hyatt Visa you get 40,000 points to use at any Hyatt worldwide. At the time Corey I opened our cards back in 2013 they were offering two nights at any Hyatt property worldwide when you signed up. That’s how we stayed at the Hyatt in Kauai for four nights (for our babymoon) completely free! Then, each year you have your card you get one free night at a Category 4 hotel or lower. This is how we did our really fun Portland staycation this summer — totally free — and how we will be getting one room for one night in Charleston totally free. Using this card we’ve stayed at the Andaz Maui, Hyatt Carmel Hylands, Andaz Napa, Hyatt Paris Etoille, the Grand Hyatt Kaui and soon the Hyatt House Charleston completely and totally free — and we still have lots of points we can use for future vacations! The yearly fee is $75, so we’ve now gone down from each having one card to sharing one joint card.

Alaska Airlines Visa: We had only our Hyatt Visa up until earlier this year when Alaska Air was running a new promotion for their companion fare. Typically, you get one companion ticket a year for $100 + the cost of taxes and fees. But this year they waived the $100 fee, so if you bought one ticket somewhere you could add another ticket on just for the price of taxes and fees. This is how we are flying all four of us to Oahu next year for under $300 a person (!!!). We used our own companion fare + my mom has an Alaska card and wasn’t going to be using her companion fare this year, so we lucked out! We’re also flying out one way to Charleston on miles, so combining that with the great airfare we found we are flying there for next to nothing!

Find Cheap Airfare:  There are a few sites and apps I use to find cheap airfare and even track prices and get alerts when prices drop:

Hopper App: In this app you can search for flights and the app will tell you if the price for the flight is so good that you should purchase now, or if it will likely go down so it’s best to wait. The vast majority of the time their predictions are spot on. My favorite functionality in this app is that you can “watch” flights — you put in dates and destinations and the Hopper App will send you an alert on your phone when the price is right! This is how I flew to Amsterdam for $500. I actually found even cheaper tickets (around $460), but the timing didn’t work out, but that is an insane deal! For deals that good you literally need to book within an hour or so, otherwise the price disappears.

Kayak.com: I’ve used Kayak for years — this site searches flight prices from many airlines and sites and consolidates all the options into one search query so you can make sure you are buying the cheapest flight possible. But what I really love about Kayak is their newish “Explore” feature. Let’s say you know you want to take a family vacation in the month of February, but you’re not dead set on a certain destination. You put in the airport you want to fly out of, when you’d like to travel (can be “Thanksgiving Weekend” or “February 2018” or “President’s Day Weekend”, etc etc.) and how long you’d like to travel for and then Kayak will show you where you can fly for how much. Such a nifty feature when you’re on a budget — it really helps you maximize where you can go without spending a lot of money.

Skyscanner: This site is nearly identical to Kayak, but for whatever reason I used it a lot more when we lived in Europe. Just another site that is worth checking out when you are booking travel — especially within Europe!

And here’s a tip when booking plane travel — sometimes it is more cost efficient to book two one ways on different airlines. Try to get sneaky with how you book things, you’d be surprised how much money you can save!

Find Cheap Lodging: Travel with a Group / Take advantage of Airbnb/Homeaway/Kid&Coe, etc:

I’ve discovered it’s actually not that hard to find cheap airfare places, but it’s almost always hard to find affordable, but great, lodging. I will admit I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to where we stay. If I feel like a place isn’t clean or in a sketchy part of town it totally kills my vibe. This is another reason I love our Hyatt card, we have been nothing but impressed with all the hotels we’ve stayed at. Another great option (especially with multiple kids) is renting through home rental sites like Airbnb, Homeaway and Kid&Coe (specifically geared toward families). This can make your trip a lot more affordable since  you’ll most likely have a kitchen you can use to cook at least a few meals. Bonus if you can travel with additional people and can split the cost! You can really get affordable housing this way!

Some people feel uncomfortable with the idea of renting someone else’s house, but we have done it many times (in Paris, Madrid, Switzerland, Los Angeles and many more) with great success, so we are big fans! We’re using Homeaway to rent an awesome, big home with a pool in Oahu (which I’ll share after we stay, for security reasons). We have yet to book with Kid&Coe, but love that their homes are specifically geared toward families — so many/most come with cribs, toys, etc!

I am sure there are tons of other ways you can travel as a family on a budget, but these are the things that have worked for us! If you have any tried-and-true methods I am all years — comment below!

Bundle of Joy Box

BundleofJoy-24.jpgBecoming a mom was one of the most life-changing things I’ve ever experienced. Okay, it was the most life-changing thing… EVER. It’s one of those things that you can’t explain and no matter how much you read, babysit, are around children, etc etc. It’s just different when you have your own. All of a sudden you’re like “ohhhhhhh, I get it” in a way you just couldn’t before kids. You get how something can literally be the hardest thing you’ve ever done and yet you would never ever trade it in for anything. You get all-the-things that go down with breastfeeding and postpartum care and sleep and no sleep and all the products and all the reviews and oh my gosh your head might explode just thinking of it all!

What also happens is you feel like you’ve joined this super-exclusive club. Being a mother instantly connects you on a deep level to every other mother out there. And when those moms are you friends or your sisters… Oh man, you just want to be there for them and help them and guide them in every single way when they welcome their first bundle of joy and their lives change forever.

Since becoming a mom, what I gift to new moms has become profoundly different. I want to give something incredibly meaningful, but also really useful. Yes, think nipple cream and bottom spray! And while you have the best of intentions, you’re also a mother now, so you don’t have the time to put together this really thoughtful care package you so desperately want to give… Until now.

The Bundle of Joy is one of those genius things that makes you say “why didn’t I think of that!”. It’s a way for people to give meaningful gifts in an easy way. These bundles are carefully curated with the perfect mix of sweet, necessary, meaningful gifts for mom, dad and baby.  It would be an amazing gift to have shipped to a dear friend who lives far away or to bring with you to a baby shower.

Each bundle is fully customized and accompanied by a handwritten note, which is the perfect touch for this beautiful box. I was lucky enough to get to gift one of these bundles to a close friend and I am so excited to share what was inside! If you want to gift a bundle, head to their website and you can easily do so 🙂

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Here’s what was in our bundle:

LuluJo swaddle blankets — I’ve sung the praises of swaddle blankets before, you can never have too many!

Mom’s One Line a Day Journal — I have one of these and love that it makes writing down memories way more manageable. Who has time to journal pages and pages when you’re a mother?

Motherlove Diaper Balm and Sitz Bath Spray — This is one of my all-time favorite baby mama/baby brands. I used their More Milk Plus lactation pills when I had low supply issues with Elodie and they worked wonders. These two products were new to me, but give my love for the brand I have no doubt they are amazing!

Hashtag Teether — I love when good design meets necessary object. I mean, could this be teether be any cuter?

I Will Love You Forever and See & Say Book: The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to starting reading to their babies from birth, noting that it helps build language, literacy and social-emotional skills. Books like the See & Say Book including in the Bundle of Joy are perfect for small baby’s eyes that love high-contrast images.

Aiden and Anais Bandana Bib: Elodie was a spitter so she practically lived in bandana bibs when she was a little one. This one is so adorable and will be used a ton for the first couple years!

Dr. Brown’s Pacifier & Bottle Wipes: Admittedly, I got a lot more relaxed with pacificer cleanliness with James, but I loved having these wipes in my diaper bag when Elodie was little! So convenient and gave mama more peace-of-mind that yucky germs weren’t getting into baby’s mouth!

“Many Thanks” Gold Embossed Thank You Cards: This is such a great thing to have included in this box. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to Amazon Prime thank you cards, and those were never nearly as cute as these ones. You can never have too many thank you cards laying around during the infant days where sweet friends are showering you with gifts and help (I hope!).

All of this comes in a sweet and simple sack within a beautifully branded box (hey, after 8 years at Nike I am a sucker for good branding!). There’s never any extra packaging or paper or — excuse me — crap that will end up cluttering your home.

I am so incredibly impressed with this box and it is definitely going to be my go-to baby gift from here on out!

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Q&A: Transitioning From Working to Staying Home // Finances + Career

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How did you make it work financially to go from a two-income household to a one-income household?

There were tons of questions on finances that were all a bit different, but the gist is just that I think people want to know how we managed to kiss my paycheck goodbye and still survive life. I wonder this same thing some days (haha…)

I think first it’s worth mentioning our financial setup prior to me staying home: All of our finances were combined. I know that’s not the case for everyone and if your finances are currently separate and you’re considering staying home and forgoing your income, things might feel a little harder and/or trickier. Unfortunately I’m not much help with that since that’s not the situation we came from…

Moving on… Finances were definitely the biggest thing holding us back from me staying home. Even pulling both kids out of daycare put us at a pretty large monthly deficit (a blessing and a curse to being successful in your career!). The good news, and simultaneously somewhat shameful news, was that prior to considering me quitting my job we were on no budget whatsoever (face slap). We basically bought what we wanted when we wanted it.  It’s not like we were rich or anything, but we made enough money that we didn’t really have to question everyday purchases like clothes, vacations, dates, etc. We weren’t in any credit card debt, but did have a house payment, car payment and student loan payments that were of utmost importance.

The first thing we did was just to try to make a best guess on where all of our money was going — we tried to list out literally everything, from the big house and car payments to smaller things like buying makeup, shampoo, cleaning supplies, gas, etc etc. I was shocked to find how much money we had going to things we weren’t actually using – like memberships we weren’t utilizing or doubling up on things like iCloud storage and Dropbox storage (but only actually using one of them). We “found” money in all sorts of places when we took a critical eye on our finances. I used to do dumb things like shop online then forget to return things that didn’t fit or I didn’t like. I have boxes of stuff at my house of brand new things that just never went back – so wasteful!! We were frivolous with our money because we didn’t have to be strict with our budget,  and because we felt we didn’t have the time or energy to pay close attention. In hindsight I see how absolutely terrible that is. I am actually so, so grateful we made this decision for me to quit my job because it has taught me so much about money management and I keep a much closer eye on everything.

What this meant exactly was that instead of having the mentality that we could pretty much have anything we wanted, we flipped the switch to think that unless we truly needed it, we weren’t buying it. Need = mortgage, car payments, student loans, diapers, food, clothes for the kids, gas, personal hygiene products, etc — you get the idea. Want = Clothes for us, home decor, vacations, etc. Now, we weren’t totally unrealistic and left room in the budget for things we knew we needed for our own sanity — like date nights and take out food and a very small clothing budget (that I mostly need to save and lump together to get anything worthwhile hah!).

Possibly the trickiest part about this was we were totally going off of our best guesses and were in a situation where we didn’t have much time to make this decision, so we made a leap of faith hoping our estimates were close to right and we could work within this new budget. Our first month on the new budget we had our lowest credit card bill ever — by half. And it honestly didn’t even feel that hard!… The hardest part came months in when it just felt like depriving ourselves of anything extra couldn’t possibly be realistic longterm. My photography has helped supplement our income as well as this blog (a tiny bit), but otherwise we are solely living off only Corey’s income.

One of the hardest decisions to make was coming to terms with the fact that during this period of me staying home we just wouldn’t be saving any significant amount of money — I talk more in the next question about some ways we are investing/saving our money, but it’s definitely not to the extent when we were a two-income household.

Tell me more about the 401k situation:

Right now, we contribute the max to Corey’s 401k with a company match, but aside from that and contributing to college savings for the kids each month, as well as utilizing Corey’s company’s employee stock purchase plan, we aren’t saving any extra money. While this is a tough pill to swallow sometimes, I know there are seasons in life where you can save more and some where you save less. Right now we’re in one where we’re saving less, but also not dipping into the savings we have built up so far, and I’m okay with that.

Do you use a program or app to manage your budget?

Yes, we use the Mint app. It’s not perfect, but it is good enough for us. We set our budget targets right within the app so it pings you if you are going over or close to going over on something, which I really like.

How do you handle buying gifts for each other or if you want to go shopping? 

So as far as shopping, we both have a set shopping budget so that makes it easy. In terms of gifts, we aren’t really a material gift-giving couple, so we actually don’t gift each other things that often — we usually go on trips together or go out to dinner to celebrate occasions. For Father’s Day, though, I did get Corey a few small things and basically just told him not to look at the credit card charges for a week or so before 🙂

Were you 100% on board when you made the decision to stay home?

Much like any big life decision I think 100% is unrealistic haha! I would say I was 80%. Staying home was something I always sort of had in the back of my mind since the moment I went back to work after having Elodie, but not something I actually thought I would ever do. Once we made the decision, I was mostly excited, but also worried about if I’d be able to be home with two kids all day without going nuts. Worried about the money situation and worried about if/how things would change between Corey and me. So I wast mostly on board, but had my hesitations.

Do you ever regret your decision?

Never.  Not once. Truly. Of course I have moments of missing working for various reasons, but I have never thought “Why did I do this, this was a mistake. I regret this decision”. Not even close!

Why didn’t you do it sooner?

With a decision like this I really do believe timing is everything. There’s part of me that sort of regrets not being home when Elodie was a baby (aside from maternity leave), because I see how much more of my attention and love James is getting every day than Elodie did being in daycare from 5 months to almost 3 years. But the truth is, I wasn’t ready to take that leap after I went back to work with just Elodie. It still made a lot of financial sense to have me home and I was still finding my way in terms of what I wanted to prioritize and how we could do it. I truly believe everything happens for a reason and had I gone back to Nike after having James (and not the smaller start up company), I truly believe I would still be there. But something pulled me to this new opportunity, and this new opportunity ended up feeling really incompatible with our lives due to its inflexibility. It sort of forced us to take a harder look at things and make this tough decision. And I’m so glad it did.

I have always been a creative person with skills I thought could work well for a freelance lifestyle, and in my mind I always wondered how our lives would work logistically once our kids were both in school and we were both working corporate 8-5 jobs. It would be hard. And I know a lot of people do it, but I always wondered if I could take the leap and build the foundation so that when our kids are in school I’m working a job that gave me the flexibility to drop the kids off and pick them up and work in-between. I’m clearly not there yet, but this is a step in the right direction, and the fact that I get to be home making these special memories with the kids while I figure out what’s next is so worth it to me.

Do you miss working?

Yes and no. Some days I miss going into the office and chatting with coworkers, working on projects and talking about things other than Elmo and playdoh. I miss “leisurely” lunches (between meetings) and making good money (haha just being honest!), but most days I am so grateful I don’t have to miss the kids all day and squeeze in all our quality time during evenings and weekends, I’m so happy I am not hustling to get them dressed and out the door in the morning and feel so lucky I get to spend my days doing fun things with them. This little piece is so good and explains exactly what I feel knowing both sides of the coin.

How do you feel when people ask you what you do? Meeting someone on a plane, at a party, etc. 

Staying home is still so fresh for me that right now my response is something like “I was at Nike working in e-commerce and digital marketing for 8 years, but recently left my career to stay home with my two kids who are 3 and 1.” — give or take depending on the audience. I 100% feel awkward about answering this question and it will probably take me a really long time before I’m comfortable answering it, and frankly I’ll probably be on to another career or job or lifestyle by the time I get comfortable. It makes me sad that there is shame in my answer, but I just want to be honest that this is something I struggle with. I’m open to any advice anyone has 😉

Are you worried if you ever go back to work you’ll be behind in your field/industry and won’t be relevant?

I have definitely worried about this at times, especially the industry I’m in (digital marketing/e-commerce), it moves really fast and there is probably a lot that can/will change before I’m back in the workforce. BUT that being said, it’s also the reason I do as much as I can to keep up with the industry and stay a part of it through my personal endeavors like blogging and social media. I am also confident that I could pick things up quickly if/when I ever went back.

Do you know if you want to go back to work and if so, what would you want to do? / Will you go back to work when the kids are older?

I honestly have no idea if I will go back to work. I do think about it a lot, mostly because I’m a Type A planner, but so far nothing definitive has been decided. I think it would be really hard for me to go back to a full-time corporate environment. What I really crave is more freedom with my schedule so I can be there for the kids when they need us — I don’t want to feel extreme guilt when someone is sick or has an appointment, I want to be able to drop them off and pick them up from school most days, etc. So I guess in my ideal world I would either work part-time 2-3 days a week in some capacity or be fully freelance whether that be photography, blogging or something else. Only time will tell! (more on this in the last question’s answer!)

I am a part-time working mom, but I struggle with deciding if I want to work more and advance my career or if I should just stay with my part time super easy schedule. I have a daughter about the same age as yours. I feel like I want my daughter to see her mother following her passion, and see an example of an independent working woman, but I know doing so will be at the cost of family time. Do you ever struggle with wanting to model being a working mom for your daughter?

Oh my gosh I could just hug you and yes yes yes yes yes. This was another HUGE reason I questioned if I should stay home with the kids. My mom was a single working mom who owned her own business. She worked her butt off my entire life (and still does) and I know having her as a role model is one of the reasons I am such a hard worker myself, so independent and feel that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. BUT she also couldn’t be around for a lot of my childhood. She never came to my dance performances, had to work weekends and just missed out on a lot. I just don’t think there is a “right” answer on this one – there are going to be tough compromises on both accounts. I think even working part-time your daughter will see a hard working woman who is staying connected to her passion. I don’t think you need to be the best in your field sacrificing tons of time with your family to be that role model. But if you don’t feel fulfilled in the current part-time working situation and your career is super important to you, maybe you do work on advancing it now? From what I hear from more seasoned moms, the time to work is (surprisingly) when your kids are little. Once they’re in school their school schedule isn’t as conducive with work schedules which means before-school and after-school care and their needs aren’t just physical like they (mostly) are now, they are mental and emotional and generally just heavier. So if you are feeling a pull to give career advancement a go – maybe now is the time to do it and then you can reassess again when your kids are in school? Good luck mama, I know this is something we all question and struggle with!

What are your plans/goals/dreams for your blog and photography business? Fun hobby or something you’d like to grow into a work from home gig? 

This is such a great question, and one that has definitely been on my mind a lot lately! I think ultimately I would love to be able to grow my blogging/photography/social media freelance work to something that can be more “full-time” once both the kids are in school, but for now I love having something I can do on the side that is fun for me, fulfills me and also brings in a little (and I mean little 😉 money. I recently took on a freelance blogging gig for a mama + baby brand that is right up my alley and I’m really excited about! But unless I get more childcare help for the kids I am maxed out on time … So we’ll see what happens 🙂

If you got this far and have read both Q&A posts.. Thank you! Thank you for thinking my opinions and experiences are valuable and for asking me so many thought provoking questions! I value this community so much and love the dialogue posts like this open up. I think I got to most every question that was asked, but if you still have a burning one, or would like clarity on something, feel free to comment below or if you feel more comfortable — email me at liz {dot} denfeld {at} gmail {dot} com.

Q&A: Transitioning From Working to Staying Home // Home + Marriage

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Are you responsible for all house-related chores or does your husband help out as well? Do you feel guilty if you’re not on top of things around the house?

I am definitely not responsible for all house-related chores. Corey and I are both of the belief that my job is taking care of our kids, aside from that he has zero expectations as to what else gets done while he’s at work. Having said that, I of course try to keep the house tidy and at least have it as clean as it was when he left in the morning and my goal is always to have dinner at least started if not nearly done by the time he gets home, but like I said, that’s all “extra” in both his mind and mine. And honestly, the fact that he doesn’t put the weight of those chores/responsibilities on my shoulders makes me want to do them even more!

I most definitely do more housework than Corey because I’m the one who is home and can do it more easily, and when he gets home from work he takes over the kids while I finish cooking dinner, then clean up the kitchen, etc. But that being said, Corey absolutely helps around the house whenever he can, like on the weekends.

As far as feeling guilty if I’m not on top of things around the house, no, not at all. We have the luxury of knowing what our lives were like when we were both working. We were basically just trying to survive Monday-Friday, doing only the bare minimum around the house then using weekends to catch up on chores, go grocery shopping, etc. Now with me home I have alleviated a huge amount of that work and stress as a lot of things we could only do on the weekends before I can get done during the week (like grocery shopping or doing loads of laundry). I’m not going to sugar coat it – Corey’s working life got a heck of a lot easier when I started staying home, so if he comes home sometimes and things aren’t in order I’m not going to feel bad about it, and neither should you 😉

Do you get any help from grandparents? Cleaning lady? How do you get “stuff” done with kids around? (I ask as a working mom who has a cleaning lady and uses working from home to get things done. Sometimes I wonder if I’d like staying home)

Oh man, such a great question!! When Corey and I were both working, I had visions of how much better it would be if I stayed home because then we could stay on top of laundry, grocery shopping, buying birthday gifts for the 57 kids birthdays we attend a month, mopping the floors, doctors appointment, etc etc. As it was, with both of us at work so much of the day and then doing the dinner/bath/bed hustle in the evening, there really wasn’t much time left for anything at the end of the day. We were hardly ever in the house so we were perpetually behind on chores and too exhausted to run errands or do anything meaningful once the kids were down. Now that I’m home we’re definitely less behind on most of these things, but I’d be lying if I said it was as good as I thought it was going to be.

Watching both kids is a full time job. As I see it in any given day I can: Play with the kids giving them my undivided attention, get them out of the house to socialize and/or learn something, do laundry, vacuum, mop, prep/make dinner, work on my side hustles (blog/photography/etc), the list goes  onnnn and onnn and guess what? There is not enough time in every day for everything.  Period. If Corey comes home to a spotless house and dinner on the stove he knows the kids probably watched more TV than usual. If he comes home and the house is a mess and I’m barely getting started on dinner he knows I was probably out with the kids most of the day at the zoo or the children’s museum or the park. Or I actually worked on my blog or edited photos for a session I have due back to a client.

In terms of help from grandparents/babysitting help: My mom tries to come over once a week for at least a few hours to help me out, but during this time I’m usually taking Elodie to dance class or taking one of the kids to an appointment. It’s a rare occasion that I leave her with both kids. My MIL is also local and has two days a week off, so if I have another engagement I definitely lean on her for help sometimes too! And even with that help I still fall behind on a lot 🙂

Are you worried if you ever go back to work you’ll still feel responsible for all your SAHM responsibilities? 

Hmmm I guess I’ve never thought about it, which probably means no? Corey and I have always just had a really great “team” mentality between us. We try really hard not to keep score and realize that we’re both working hard for the same goal – our family and our beautiful life. Yeah, I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true! I know that if and when this current situation changes we’ll learn to readjust and figure out our new normal and the new balance of responsibilities.

Does Corey travel for work and how do you manage several days alone with the kids if so?

Right now, no, Corey hardly travels for work. In fact, he hasn’t been on one work trip since I started staying home. I’ve been really lucky. We have talked about this a lot though, because I know this won’t be the situation forever, and we know that we’ll probably have to lean on family and maybe even hired help if/when he travels in the future. Obviously the hope is if he were in a job that required a ton of travel that he would be getting paid enough that we could afford to pay for help. If not, that job just wouldn’t be worth it to us (in my opinion). Being brutally honest, if I had a husband that had to travel for work a lot I would not be a SAHM. I just know myself and I couldn’t do it, I would not be happy and I would be way too bitter and exhausted.

How has the dynamic in your marriage shifted (if at all) or how do you work together differently now?

This is something that was at the top of my list of worries or reasons I might not want to make the leap to SAHM. I am so prideful of my career and just being a strong woman in general, and if I’m being brutally honest I think before staying home I did subconsciously  think SAHMs just kind of bowed down to their husbands … And I wondered what our dynamic would be like if/when I did leave my job. While it has definitely taken some adjustment, I see now my worries were all for not. Corey respects me, still comes homes and talks work with me because he values my insight and my career experience. He truly doesn’t treat me any differently and I can tell he doesn’t think of me differently, either. I think maybe this has a lot to do with the fact that he has seen both sides – me as a working mom and me as a stay-at-home mom and I think he respects and values both of those people in different ways for different reasons. It also is easier for him to be a heck of a lot more grateful for everything I do as a SAHM because he knows darn well what his life looked like when we were both working. My suspicion is maybe if you go straight into staying home there’s the possibility your husband could completely miss how much you are actually holding the household and the family together by staying home — and truly understanding what a big sacrifice it is for the family that you are home. We just don’t have those issues because Corey knows how valuable my job at home is!

As far as how we work together differently… It feels like the needs for each of us is just more clear now. When we were both working all the responsibilities meshed toghether — when we got home from work the same things needed to be done: dinner cooked, kids bathed, kids put to bed, house cleaned/tidied, but we both had been missing the kids all day so we both wanted the task that involved more time with them and we were both equally exhausted after work to clean, etc.

Fast forward to now … It’s just really obvious when Corey walks in the door I need a break from the kids (just being honest!) and he is so happy to take them off my hands and play with them while I finish cooking dinner. We don’t bathe the kids every night, but the nights that we do I am almost always sticking behind downstairs to clean up after dinner while Corey is giving the kids baths (tonight he actually gave James a bath and I helped Elodie with a shower) and then he always puts James down (since I did it for 13 months while nursing and he truly wants to!) and it is totally all over the place who puts Elodie down (she usually likes to choose). So the way we work together hasn’t necessarily changed. The weekends are pretty much exactly the same as they always were — we split everything from parenting responsibilities to household chores 50/50 (or as close to that as we can).

One thing about Corey that really makes a big impact on me is he never ever expects to walk in the door to a clean house and dinner on the stove and happy kids. He is truly in awe of me being home with the kids all day and staying sane (and more than that, feeling happy). The fact that I can feel that genuine respect and admiration from him goes a REALLY REALLY long way. I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t have times I felt inadequate next to my working mom friends or when we run into a colleague of Corey’s and his wife and they ask me what I do and I “just stay home” and the colleague’s wife is some powerhouse career woman. But there are two sides to every coin and I’ve seen the working mom side and I know it’s advantages and disadvantages. I’m just feeling grateful we were able to make this work so I could give being home a try.

How do you make time for yourself to work out or meet with friends, etc?

Wellllll I haven’t exactly made working out a priority the last few years, but lately I’ve been doing research for places that have child care so I can get a work out in while I’m home with the kids. That would probably be the only way I could fit it in right now because I am not a morning person so that kills the plan for a morning workout and I am wayyyyy too tired once the kids are in bed and we are doing dinner right when Corey gets home from work, so yeah.

As far as going out with friends, I am a bit of a social butterfly, so I just make plans with my girlfriends for after James goes down since he’s going to bed at 6:30 and Corey covers getting Elodie down for bed so I can go out! I probably do this 2-4 times a month and Corey is really great and encourages me to do it – he knows it makes me a happier wife and mom and it’s no skin off his back since he wants the extra quality time with the kids anyway!

I’d be interested to hear about how you’ve adjusted socially! I’m so overly dependent on work friendships that I’m anxious I’m going to struggle if/when I leave. 

I have to admit I worried about this too because the vast majority of my friends are working moms, and more importantly, friends I made while working at Nike for eight years! Would things be different? Would they lose respect for me? Would they just forget I existed? I see now all those fears were for not. I still get invited to baby showers and happy hours and I still keep in touch and see my old coworkers, with and without our kids. If they are truly your friends, you will stay friends!

All-Time Favorite Travel Photos

A month from today I’ll be on my way to Amsterdam for a week of fun with two girlfriends who live in the Netherlands. Thinking about being back in Europe literally makes my stomach do back flips — it’s a mix of nostalgia, excitement, fear and longing. I am so glad I mostly kept up with blogging while we lived in Amsterdam because going down memory lane and reading old posts and seeing all the photos I took is so fun. I mostly can’t believe we ever lived abroad and got to jet off to Spain and Italy whenever we felt like it! I totally got carried away the other night going through old travel posts and I couldn’t help but round up my absolute favorite photos from our travels over the years. Can’t wait to keep adding to this collection in the years to come — even better to have the kids by our sides 🙂

FLORENCE, ITALY

italyitaly2

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICAcapetown2capetown3capetown4

south africa 4south africa 5

KAUAI, HAWAIIhawaiihawaii1hawaii3

PARIS, FRANCE

paris4parisparis2paris3paris9paris10paris8parislockbridge

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

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BRUGGE, BELGIUMbrugesbruges2

EDINBURGH, SCOTLANDediburgh

LONDON, ENGLANDlondonlondon2

NICE, FRANCEnicenicefrance

POSITANO, ITALYpositano

SANTORINI, GREECEoiagreece2santorinisantorini6santorinisunsetsantorinisunset2

SEVILLE, SPAINseville

SWISS ALPSswissswitzerland

{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

Anniversary Day Date in Willamette Valley Wine Country

This past weekend my mom came over and hung out with the kids while Corey and I headed out to wine country for a little day date to celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary! Sometimes I think day dates are even more fun than evening dates, but it’s definitely hard to choose. I guess you can’t go wrong with a little adult time #amiright?! 😉

We started our day with brunch at Jory — the restaurant at The Allison Inn & Spa. Corey and I have stayed here overnight a couple times and their breakfast rivals some of my absolute Portland favorites — it’s definitely worth the drive out there! We started with their beignets and you just cannot pay them a visit without ordering some. They come out hot with fresh cream and berries and basically melt in your mouth. Oh my gosh I feel like I need some more right.now!

After stuffing our bellies we headed over to taste wine at a new winery in the Willamette Valley – L’Angolo. I have to admit what really brought me to this place was the gorgeous tasting room. It has floor-to-ceiling windows all around the structure with 360 degree views of beautiful grape vines and an impressive vaulted ceiling. We were eyeing the indoor/outdoor fireplace knowing it would be a dreamy place to watch the weather patterns pass along during the fall, winter and spring months. We also pretty much had the place to ourselves and Jacob, the hospitality manager on site, was so charming and knowledgable we couldn’t speak more highly of our visit. We walked out as their newest wine club members and can’t wait to return to pick up our first wine shipment in November.

After our long stay at L’Angolo we made a quick stop at Penner-Ash, a wine country favorite. Stunning views, plenty of space to sit and a large grassy area to walk and admire the grounds. Instead of tasting we went straight to a bottle of Pinot Noir Rose and casually sipped a glass before heading home to greet our sweet babes.

It was such a special day and a great reminder to take the time to focus on each other, do things we love together and celebrate the beautiful life we’ve built. Cheers to another seven(ty) years! 😉

P.S. Apparently I like really popular things because this dress and cardigan are both totally sold out. If you scroll to the bottom of the post I chose a few other darling little white dresses that I love!

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Little White Dresses