Category Archives: Family

Daring Greatly

My internal battle between wanting to play it safe and wanting to live a creative life is a long one. In Junior High, I wanted to be a writer and joined the journalist staff, but very quickly realized that I did not like my writing critiqued and so I changed course. In college, I wanted to be an interior designer. I was completely in love and enthralled by my History of Furniture course. Yet when it came to my personal designs being critiqued, I hated it and ultimately fled. My defense was always “how can something with no right answer, be wrong?”

The strange thing is that while I clearly did not want my creative work to be criticized, in all other areas of life I handled criticism pretty well. Professionally I used the only time I ever got fired, the worst criticism imaginable, to grow and become a better version of myself. On a personal level if a friend or lover criticized me, I often mulled it over in my head, dissecting how much truth there was in it. Discarding the useless bits but holding on to the true parts, using them to try to do better.

But creatively I just couldn’t take it. So I settled for the least creative degree imaginable in Information System Security. A degree that 8 years later, I have never used because I can’t actually bring myself to get a job in the field.

Over the years, as my passion for baking, crafting, scrap-booking, party planning, decorating, writing, & photography developed, I noticed that they all have a common thread of making things beautiful. I also noticed just how happy I am when creating.  So after years of the same internal question “what do I want to be when I grow up?” I found a home in Living Darling, an outlet for all of my creative passions.

I was immediately flooded with excitement and joy as I worked on learning new things like Photoshop and how to design my website, taking pictures, creating posts and sharing my passion with friends and family. But I was also overwhelmed by the countless things I didnt know how to do and constantly confronted by my fear of being criticized.

My imagination went wild, taking on the form of various hero lifestyle bloggers and designers that I admire, each of them questioning things like my authenticity, uniqueness, and style.

With each blog post I swept these fears aside and kept moving forward but unfortunately they persisted. Slowly chipping away at my motivation and excitement. Until last week when I stumbled upon a forum devoted to bashing one of my favorite bloggers.

I was honestly surprised that such a place existed.  But like most figurative train wrecks, it was hard to look away.  I spent a couple of hours reading through 6 years of post, searching them for a truth that I had maybe missed after all these years of admiration. Trying to reconcile my version of her blog with this one.  Was I wrong to love her work? Was she really such a monster?  I went back to her blog and her Instagram and then back to these horrible comments. And what I found, buried deep within most of those critical posts was jealousy. Jealousy of her success, of the picturesque life she has curated, of her hustle.

I spent days thinking about this forum, shocked that one of my favorite blogs could inspire so many vitrolic comments.  And then I read this quote by Theodore Roosevelt

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Then all at once I felt a huge flood of relief at the inevitability of criticism.   We live in a world full of critics and a vastness of diverse opinions. There is no escaping someone who thinks they could do it better.  If these horrible things are being said about this highly successful, talented blogger, they will always be said about anyone who puts themselves out there in the arena.

In hind sight, I wish I had developed a thick skin early on and accepted that criticism has its place.  That while being vulnerable to criticism sucks, there are much worse places to be like the “cold and timid” sidelines.  But enough with the regrets, I can only hope that someday I will have put myself out there enough that there will be pages of people taking the time to critique my work.   And whether I know victory or defeat, here is to daring greatly.

xoxosarah

Toddler Friendly Coffee Table Styling


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My life is filled with messy. Two dogs, a toddler, a husband with a penchant for crumbs and a little chaos. Each night as a part of our bed time routine, Juice and I get on my hands and knees and “help” our O.J. pick up a chaotic slurry of Legos, blocks, toys, books, and stuffed animals. I honestly think that my child’s favorite game is making a mess. After all “mess” was his 3rd word, his 2nd word was hummus. For his 1st attempt at sentence structure he strung them together and said many times with delight “hummus mess” as he painted the kitchen table and himself.

It’s hard to justify making things look beautiful with his constant assault on tidiness . And yet I keep at, if only for a handful of brief moments here and there where every Lego, book, and shoe is tucked neatly away, where the dishes are done, and there is no heaping pile of laundry there to taunt me. I prop my feet up, look around my beautiful little home and savor the bright, cheerful bits that delight me.
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I love a good styled coffee table, they usually start with some gorgeous, architecturally interesting table, add in a mirrored tray or a basket, and then strategically arrange amazing books, flowers or a plant and undoubtedly some sharp, heavy knick-knack to tie it all together.  All of which sound like a trip to the Emergency room just waiting to happen, that or an expensive book in a pile of shreds.

So here is my solution, a coffee table styling that most likely won’t make it in any design magazine spreads but is free of sharp edges, easy to clean, a great place to put your feet up in those rare moments of peace, and makes your living room look put together all while including your child.

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I am all about using what I have and so our once bedroom ottoman became the living room coffee table. For awhile I thought about covering it with some trendy upholstery fabric but after countless leaky “sippy cup” incidents I decided that this bland, microfiber ottoman was just right as it, which is EASY TO CLEAN!  I use books that are specifically for my little one but also match my color scheme (just don’t look too closely at these very loved books), a fake plant that has been put away a time or two when I just couldn’t bare another “teachable moment”  where I redirect him to a book or my secret weapon, a wooden puzzle. Luckily for the most part he now ignores the plant.

I put together a quick inspiration board of kid friendly coffee table styling ideas.

I hope I’ve given you an idea that will make your living room decor a little less of a battle and still makes your home feel beautiful.  For #1 how cute would it be to put two of these floral ottomans side by side. #3 I love the idea of picking up a few old books at a thrift store or yard sale and then covering in cute paper.  For #6&7 I am seriously in love this felt flower shop on Etsy.  Where is my debit card?  #8 make your own pussy willow branches with felt balls, I’m totally going to do something like this in my bedroom.
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1. Floral Ottoman from Joss and Main 2. Blue tray from One King Lane 3. photo credit potterybarnkids 4. Penguin Classic Book Collection 5. Faux succulents  6. & 7. flowers and succulents from the Felt Flower Shop 8. felt ball branch d.i.y 9.mini painted globe

I’d love to hear your thoughts so leave me a comment below and Happy Friday!!

xoxosarah

Hello Baby, a Kate Spade Inspired Baby Shower

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It has been 24 years since the last girl was born into the Dawson family. Needless to say, us girls are seriously outnumbered.  So it’s no surprise that all of us ladies were more than a little giddy when we found out our Niece Jessica is expecting a girl.   And especially thrilled to throw her a baby shower.

What better theme to celebrate a little girl than a Kate Spade inspired baby shower complete with: polka dots, stripes, gorgeous flowers, black and white, gold, hot pink, all punctuated with a little sparkle and sass.

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This gorgeous cake is from Swirly Girls Bakery in Daybreak, UT.

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This Hello sign is from HelloHeidiWallArt, Which I usually have hanging in my kitchen but loved the idea of Hello Baby so I used it for this fun shower along with a d.i.y. floral BABY sign. I just cut out the front of these paper mache/ cardboard letters , painted them black, and then filled in each letter with an assortment of pink silk flowers and a little hot glue.

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Have I mentioned how much I love a fruit pizza bar?!!!

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Individual Fruit Pizzas

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 8oz cream cheese (room temperature)

1/4 Cup powdered sugar

1 10oz container of Truwhip or whipped topping (thawed)

2 dozen cookies ( I like snickerdoodle or Lemon cookies but sugar or chocoloate chip are also delicious)

an assortment of fresh fruit: pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi.

Directions

Using a hand or stand mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until fluffy, fold in truwhip.  Cut fruit into bite sized pieces.  Spread a large dollup of the topping on the cookie and decorate with fruit.

 

 

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If the last time you had sherbet punch was 1992 like me, you need to make some and be quick about it.  It was even better than I remembered.

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I decided to do pink nail polish as the favor, but about choked when I saw how expensive most nail polish is.  Luckily I shopped around and found just what I was looking for at Walgreens. How cute are all these different shades of pink?! I just added a cute tag and a little bow.

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Here are a few more pictures of the invites and address labels. I did bleep out my actual address, if you want to leave me love note, you can always leave me a comment.

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“She leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes.”

-Kate Spade

 

I thought it was the perfect quote for all little girls, and big ones for that matter, to remember to sparkle.

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One of my favorite things during the shower was the realization that almost every single gift was wrapped in coordination with the theme; pink, polka dots, & stripes.   It was definitely a sight to behold.  It made me smile knowing the invitations totally conveyed the theme enough that all of these ladies go it and just ran with it.

I am also dying over these amazing pictures my awesome nephew Alec took at the shower. It was a huge stress relief to have his help.  I am totally blown away by his talent and really excited to see what he does with it.

I hope you are enjoying your weekend.

xoxosarah

 

 

 

My Little Heartbreaker and his Pancake and Pajama Party

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photos by Mary Clark, DMC Studios

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photos by Mary Clark, DMC Studios

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photos by Mary Clark, DMC Studios

My little two year old Oliver Jack has been stealing hearts since the day he was born.  He has an incredibly charming disposition, a knowing smile, a contagious giggle, and a sense of humor that continually surprises me.  His favorite game starts with him letting out a ferocious roar, followed by  the most earnest question “you scared Momma?”  He tenderly, reassuringly pats my arm and says sincerely “its ok Momma!”  He then mischievously wrinkles his nose and lets out a wild roar, starting the game all over again.

I can’t say the last two years have been easy; the sleep deprivation, the boogers, the messes, the lack of personal time and personal space, the money, oh and there was that vomitous road trip.

But I can say unequivocally that Oliver Jack is the most delightful, magical gift I could have ever hoped for or imagined. He brightens my day with more love than I knew possible.  Oliver acts as though I am the greatest person in the world. Which makes me want to reach higher and maybe one day deserve such adoration.

So happy Birthday Oliver Jack. Its been an amazing, wild two years and I look forward to our many adventures ahead.

To Celebrate his birthday we threw him a heartbreaker themed pancakes and pajamas Party.

I figured there won’t be too many more birthday party themes where I get full artistic license so I went with hearts, it totally works being that he was actually due on Valentines Day and will forever be the best Valentine.

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For the cake I made my favorite Guinness chocolate cake, cream cheese frosting, and I used heart shaped macaroons from a local bakery as part of the caketopper.  I created the “Heartbreaker” with a Silhouette and black glitter cardstock.

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The pancakes and pajamas were plentiful as promised.

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I didn’t get a picture of the basement but we turned the family room into a blanket fort lounge. The kids loved it.  Juice added an eye screw in 3 different walls, about an inch from the ceiling. He then strung a nylon rope through each, creating a triangle overhead.  We hung a sheet up on each side of the triangle and then one on top, using clothes pins to secure it to the rope and where each of the sides met.  We also used clothes pins to hang twinkle lights.  We filled it with all the pillows we could find.

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The mimosa and bellini bar was a huge hit. I made peach, pineapple, and a berry puree and grabbed a few bottles of champagne.  For the fruit puree I used this recipe by Giada as inspiration.

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How cute are these heart straws?!!

 

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I cant believe I didn’t get a picture of the pancake topping bar.  But it was filled with fresh fruit, a couple different kinds of syrup, and whip cream.

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For the french toast shooters I added a dollop of cream cheese whip and drizzled in a little Golden syrup.  I could eat Golden syrup on just about anything. Its especially great if you do not love Maple like me.   You can pick up Golden syrup on Amazon or World Market.

 

These egg scrambles were a super easy crowd-pleaser.

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One of the things I love about a pancake and pajama party is that you can use any color scheme you want or no color scheme for that matter.  There is something so comfortable and fun about everyone in pajamas, eating delicious pancakes.

Oliver had a blast with his little friends and was sufficiently spoiled.

I’m highly considering implementing an official “very merry unbirthday,” for each of us just to have more excuses to throw a party, well that or having more kids. 😉

Party on!!!!!

xoxosarah

Valentine’s Day Candy Kabobs

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I’ve been obsessed with candy kabobs for several years because they are crazy cute and yummy to eat.  But I have never gotten around to making them myself until now.  They are a great party favor or Valentine. I love that you can totally color coordinate your kabob to match your party theme.

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Here is what you need:

sticks    ( I used these rock candy sticks from Amazon but you could use kabob skewers)

paper straws     (optional)

scissors

tags

sharpie

favor bag

ribbon

an assortment of gummie candy:

  • licorice
  • cherry hearts
  • sour belts
  • licorice wheels
  • Lifesaver gummies
  • Jollyrancher gummies

Cut the paper straws in 1/3 and slip on to the stick. I found it helpful to line up the candy I wanted to use in the order I wanted to use it.   I tried to coordinate between big and little to make it looked balanced.  The cherry hearts were a little gooey so I decided to just use them as the topper. I used pretzel stick favor bags but they were a tight squeeze with the licorice wheels so I will definitely rethink those next time.

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Top off these adorable candy kabobs with a little ribbon and a tag.

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I hope your Valentine’s Day or Party is a sweet as these kabobs.

xoxosarah

Lumberjack Party

My little Oliver Jack is a winter baby, which was great when I was 9 months pregnant and a burning inferno, but not so great when planning a 1st birthday party.  The freezing temperatures outside really limited my options.  But I decided to embrace my inner hibernation mode and what better way than with Cozy flannel and comfort food; the key ingredients to a Lumberjack themed party.

I fell in love at first site with these invitations from Lauren Haddox designs on Etsy, she also made a gorgeous set of printables that I couldn’t resist.

 

I loved that she has matching address labels that made these invites crazy cute from start to finish.

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A couple of weeks before the party we took a little trip to the park to collect pine cones.  Which saved me about $20.

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Decorations ideas:

  • Pine cones
  • Wood stumps
  • Flannel
  • An axe or two
  • Flannel bunting
  • Lanterns
  • Mini pine trees
  • Kraft paper
  • Burlap

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Chili Bar Toppings:

  • Cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Jalapenos
  • Fritos or corn chips
  • Hot sauce
  • Corn bread muffin
  • Tater-tots

 

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Waffle Bar Toppings:

  • Chick-fil-a party platter, perfect for chicken and waffles.
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Raspberries
  • Pineapple
  • Blueberries
  • White and milk chocolate chips
  • Whipped cream
  • Toffee bits
  • flavored syrup
  • Peanut butter
  • Bacon bits

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Dessert Bar:

  • Stout Chocolate Cupcakes, complete with mini ax
  • Assorted sugar cookies
  • S’more Pops
  • deconstructed Chocolate Covered Cinnamon Bear

 

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Beverages:

  • Hot Chocolate Bar complete with “adult add-ins”
  • Iced Tea and Lemonade for my fave: an Arnold Palmer
  • Mimosa punch
  • Water

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Oliver’s cake didn’t turn out like I had hoped, but that is what happens when you leave things to last-minute. I had a vision of delicious cream cheese whip layered between gorgeous fluffy giant pancakes.  To save myself time I ordered the pancakes from local breakfast joint we love. On the day of the party we picked up the to-go order and headed to the venue.  I was really sad to find that they gave me their small pancakes instead of their large.  I had to improvise and the good news is, Oliver Jack didn’t mind.  It tasted amazing!

I loved this party theme so much I want to throw a lumberjack party every winter.

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xoxosarah

Credits

photographer: Anissa Vegh PhotoNV

Printables:   Lauren Haddox designs on Etsy

Balloons: John with Balloon Architects 

 

What to Expect from Living Darling

I love to cook, bake, plan parties, decorate, and craft. I love being a mom. I want to improve my health in lasting, lifelong ways…Travel the world and create treasured memories with the ones I love.  I want to treasure the little moments.

So here is what you can expect from Living Darling:

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Delicious recipes, my ideas on health and fitness, craft projects, decorating ideas, a million posts about my obsession with oatmeal and breakfast salads, parenting tips, party planning, my Husband Juices’ list of Honey-do’s, and pretty much anything that tickles my fancy.

All of these things are in pursuit of a darling life.

I hope you enjoy the journey with me.

xoxosarah