Our semi-regular series on motherhood is back today and I’m particularly excited about this post. While we’ve tackled weighty motherhood-related topics in past posts (breast feeding, co-parenting, self-care, the election) this post is touch different – because we’re talking about books!

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Now some moms might be sharing their favorite parenting books, but since I’m always on the hunt for good children’s books (and haven’t found the time to actually read any parenting ones yet – whoops) I’m focusing on books for the littles. Because they really are books for us too. We’re the ones reading them after all!

Surely, the world of children’s books is nearly endless but some books really do stand out from the crowd. And my definition of good is not as straightforward as it sounds. To classify a kid’s book as worthy it has to be visually appealing with lovely illustrations, have a truly good story, be well written (for the most part) and not drive me absolutely bat-sh** to read it for the 1,000th time. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a tough bar. Pete the Cat does not make the cut. But I’ve managed to begin building a collection of kids books that both I and my kiddo equally adore. To the point where he has half of them nearly memorized. And wants to read each a minimum of three times in a row, stretching evening storytime into a freaking hour, but I digress. Because these books don’t suck, I’m ready and willing to do it.

To remind, I now have a toddler one my hands, so these are not board books. He’s just trustworthy enough to flip through the pages on his own. While I’ve found some good board books I love, classics like Go Dogs Go and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, I haven’t found as many board books that I also find truly compelling. If anyone has any recs, I’d love to see them!apt34_childrensbooks

1. Almost an Animal Alphabet by Katie Viggers. This alphabet book takes the ABCs to another level. Charming illustrations, actually interesting information about animals and a hidden joke or two make me smile every time we read this book.

2. Ish by Peter H. Reynolds. Ish might just be my favorite children’s book I’ve read thus far. A truly sweet story about a little boy who loves to draw, but his joy is stymied when he’s teased. But through a lesson, from a younger sister no less, little Ramon finds his love of art again. Delightful illustrations and great life lessons make this book a true treasures.

3. Home by Carson Ellis  Home is a wonderful visual story about the definition of just that, home. Be it a nest, an apartment, a pasture or wigwams or boats, this book celebrates how and where all beings live. The illustrations soar above my bar and the diversity of places keep you guessing and the little delighted. It’s a winner.

4. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. If you’re looking for a book that will crack you up virtually every time you read it, I Want My Hat Back is certainly one. The humor is most definitely adult, but the illustrations keep the kiddos engaged. They might not get the joke in the end, but that almost makes it more fun. This one is also short. Always a bonus when wine is calling. (am I bad mom??)

5. Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts. If books that rhyme start to make you crazy after a while, Iggy Peck will save you. While written in verse, the story of a little boy who falls in love with architecture is witty, entertaining, and truly fun to read. You’ll love the pictures, you’ll love the message. There are also sister books, Ada Twist Scientist, and Rosie Revere Engineer are equally great.

6. I’d Know You Anywhere My Love by Nancy Tillman. This story is about a mother’s love for her children, but told through eyes of a child playing make believe. If your little loves animals this is a perfect book. It communicates a monther’s devotion while also empowering the child to use their imagination. It also introduces uncommon animals like the Blue Footed Booby. I just adore it.

7. We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen. This is the only book on my list from the same author that I mentioned before. The language in these books is so simple (would be good for early readers). The illustrations are a crack up. And there’s another wonderfully adult joke at the end. It’s a gem.

8. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfeld Martin. This is another uplifting little tale about parents’ love for their children. I love the modern, dare I say hipster-esque illustrations. There are great messages for littles about caring, empathy, creativity and joy. There’s a fun little flip out section that makes my little guy say wow. It’s got all the pieces you need for a book both they and you’ll love.

I’m so excited to be raising a little reader. There is nothing more satisfying then seeing my little plop down and pick up a book all on his own. Or recite snippets of the books we read frequently. Books truly do open a child’s mind, inspire, teach and entertain.

I can’t wait to add even more to my little guy’s library with all the other Mamas’ recommendations! Check them out below.

The Refined Woman / Ave Styles / Sacramento Street / The Life Styled / The Effortless Chic / Freutcake

 

For our entire Real Talk / Real Moms archive CLICK HERE.

As we begin a new year, I’ve been thinking about my passions. What do I truly love? What do I truly enjoy? It’s those things that I feel I can bring to you with the most enthusiasm and authenticity. Upon examining the world of my favorite things, one quickly bubbled to the top: wine.

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I love my wine. It’s my probably my biggest indulgence. And not just because I’m now a mom. My passion for wine has developed over many years. A semester in Italy sparked my initial interest, living in Santa Barbara and taking wine classes in college (perks of going to UCSB) only helped it grow. And my love of wine and fascination with the entire wine making process has only intensified since moving a stone’s throw from California wine country. I visit Napa and Sonoma as often as I can, have joined more wine clubs than I’d like to admit and drink wine…pretty much every day of the week. True story. It’s good for you thought right?

In all seriousness, I’ve blogged about wine in the past (like hereherehere and here), but I thought it might be fun to start a series dedicated to what I’m drinking right now. Because I know one of the hardest things about wine is figuring out what the heck to try in the first place. Everyone wants to drink “good wine,” but what does that even mean?

Some wines are daily drinkers. Some are best savored on very special occasions. And then there are those that fall somewhere in the middle. I’m hoping to bring you options across the entire spectrum, but I’m kicking off this Wine Wednesday series with a newly discovered wine and the winery that goes with it. It always helps when I love the winery as much as I love the wine.

Turnbull Wine Cellars is just one such place.

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Turnball Winery is tucked in the heart of Napa, but if you blink while driving up Hwy 29, you might miss it. Surrounded by some pretty ostentatious neighbors, Turnbull is an unassuming space that maintains a welcoming, old-school winery feel. Family owned and operated, everything happens at the original barn-like structure built in 1979. And while it may appear understated, the property actually comes with quite the design pedigree. The winery was designed by famed architect William Turnbull, Jr., whose architectural style can be spotted throughout California, the Sea Ranch community on the Northern California coast being one of his most famous. When the O’Dell family bought the winery in 1993, they kept the name Turnbull in William’s honor.

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Today, Turnbull is run by daughter Zoe Johns. A former retail buyer and director of merchandising, Zoe has a great eye. She brought a cool, modern perspective to the entire Turnbull environment. I shouldn’t be surprised – you can sneak a peek at Zoe’s own San Francisco home on D*S from a few years back – it’s dang good.

Today, Turnbull’s private tasting room is modeled after Zoe’s childhood living room, the tasting gallery holds the country’s largest private collection of Ansel Adams photography and the outdoor space features beautiful gardens, a wood-fired pizza oven, bocce court and an edible pairing garden with a fire pit. It really is a beautiful place to drink away an afternoon.

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But let’s get down to the important stuff – the wine! Turnbull is well known for incredibly fine wines. In fact, two wines have garnered a perfect 100 points and 14 wines have been rated at 95 points or more by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. But again, what does that actually mean? On our visit to Turnbull we sampled a bit everything, but what caught my attention is their 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is smooth, silky and complex. If you read its description  you’ll see phrases like bright Rainier cherries, fall spice and grain tea tannins. But again, what does that actually mean? Really it means very little. You don’t have to know esoteric descriptions to decide if you like a wine. You know if you relish every sip. You know if you intentionally take your time to enjoy your glass. I find the harder time I have describing a wine, the more I like it. Because it’s not straightforward. It’s not one note. It brought brings you back wanting more.

Now the Turnbull 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t one of those wines you bust open on any random Tuesday. This is definitely one of the bottles you want to invest in and take your time to enjoy. But it is definitely well worth it.

I hope you enjoyed our first Wine Wednesday post. If there are any wines you’re currently loving, please share in the comments! I’m always looking to add to my collection.

 

images kassie borreson & taylor brown

Apartment 34 on Instagram

When it comes to cleaning, we all have misconceptions on what works best and what cleaners serve multiple purposes around the house. Homemade is great when it comes to cookies, but isn’t always best when it comes to cleaning. Especially when germs are involved. Clean or to sanitize/disinfect? How many people really know the difference between the two and what should they do where and when? There’s a difference between making your white counters sparkle and actually getting them clean – aka germ free.

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Even when you think you’ve got this domestic goddess thing down, you might be surprised by what can be hidden in plain sight. During cold and flu season, myths can be just as contagious as the germs circulating. Between old wives’ tales and unique cleaning remedies, it can be hard to decipher what is myth and what is reality.

In order to stay healthy this season, it is important to know the difference between cleaning and sanitizing/disinfecting to keep your home safe. The kitchen and bathroom are places that can get exceptionally germy and require special attention. Knowing a friend’s whose toddler whose toddler ended up in the hospital after getting the flu this year, I’m certainly feeling very motivated to keep bad germs at bay, I recently read that there is more E.coli in a kitchen sink than in a toilet after you flush it! Ew.

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While there is a lot of talk around about cleaning alternatives, I was stunned to learn about the nitty gritty differences between cleaning and disinfecting. I’ve often used a mix of vinegar and water to cleanse my kitchen surfaces. However, it’s been proven that vinegar is not as effective as bleach and does not kill as many germs. Researchers in infection control tested 5% vinegar against some common human pathogens and antibiotic resistant bacteria and found that vinegar only kills 80% of germs and 82% of mold. Bleach disinfects to kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria.

And bleach is in fact a natural compound. When added to water, it will disinfect it but then turn into totally harmless table salt. Literally. In fact, if you’re in an emergency situation when you’re out in nature, you can purify water yourself with regular bleach. Simply add 1/8 of a teaspoon of bleach (not scented) to two gallons of water – or two drops per quart, cap it, shake well and let it sit for 30 minutes. It might not kill every parasite in existence but it will kill all of the bacteria – rendering it safe enough to keep you alive!

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The key to using bleach correctly and safely is diluting it. Sure, no one appreciates the smell of a bottle of pure bleach. That’s because it’s highly concentrated to make sure the germ killing power doesn’t degrade over time. But when you dilute bleach it becomes easy to work with while retaining its highly effective cleaning and disinfecting properties.

While you probably don’t need to disinfect on the daily (unless you have someone who is already sick in your household) you can use Clorox® Regular-Bleach to disinfect to keep your family safe by helping to reduce the spread of germs.

You can use Clorox® Regular-Bleach to clean and disinfect frequently touched hard surfaces, such as the bathtub, bathroom sinks and light switches, by doing the following:

> Use 1/2 cup of Clorox® Regular-Bleach in 1 gallon of water.

> Thoroughly wet surface with the solution and allow it to remain on the surface for 5 minutes.

> Rinse with clean water and dry.

I had no idea, but you can in fact use Clorox® Regular-Bleach at home to sanitize sippy cups, teething rings and rubber duckies

> Make sure to select nonporous toys that are washable.

> Clean toys weekly according to instructions, keeping in mind that many toys can simply join your dishes in the dishwasher.

> Disinfect washable colorfast plastic toys with a solution of ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 per gallon of water. Soak for 5 minutes, rinse and air dry.

Baby bottles, nipples, dishes, teething rings, sippy cups and high chairs can also be easily sanitized using Clorox® Regular-Bleach1. Soak washed items for 2 minutes in a solution of 2 tsp of Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 per gallon of water. Pour solution through nipples. Drain dry.

Trust me, before having kids I did not put nearly so much thought into the science behind cleaning, but now that I’ve got a little germ farm running through my house on a daily basis, it puts things in a new perspective. And since I did just invest the past two years in creating my dream kitchen, i might as well take proper care of it!

Here’s to staying happy and healthy this winter.

This post is in partnership with Clorox. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. Thanks for supporting collaborations I’m excited about and that have kept Apt34’s doors open

 

No matter our age or stage in life, we can all relate to relationship woes. Long lost loves. Loves of lives past. Every relationship we have informs who we are today. So I can certainly relate to the age-old dilemma – what to do when you unexpectedly run into of an ex?! Regardless of your current relationship status, I agree with our semi-regular relationship contributor Megan – it is an act of human decency for an ex to acknowledge the kindness and loving that once existed between you. Sadly, it doesn’t always go down that way. Sound familiar? Read below to see if this story applies to you too.

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I saw him coming. The final mile of a sweaty, September-time run isn’t the most glamorous place to run into an ex, per se, but whatcha gonna do?

Though we live in the same big city – not big enough, apparently – we’ve managed to belly up to different bars and wander aisles of different Targets for years. Until now.

Here he was, seemingly a million years later, walking on a trail as I was running (jogging? barely moving? wheezing and looking like I was stumbling towards death?) towards him. He looked exactly the same, still wearing those damn baseball caps, except now he has a beautiful wife to his side, a toddler who is in desperate need of a modeling contract in a stroller and another lil’ babe baking in the proverbial oven. All the while I’ve been white-knuckling what’s left of my youth and dopily ambling around in the dating world. Real funny, universe.

Unless I was going to dive into the woods that hugged the trail, there was no escaping him, no chickening out of this. So I took my sunglasses off and propped my chin up. Then, halfway through saying “hi!,” we passed, his eyes glued to the trail. That was it.

He completely ignored my existence. That, or he was very concerned about tripping over itty bitty pebbles and couldn’t dare look up, but doubt it.

Suddenly I remembered him and I entangled on my bed, crying over his father’s death. I remembered my shoes full of sand as we walked along the Mississippi River and discussed Big Life Dreams. I remembered cornfield after cornfield of the road trips we took together. I remembered him throwing up in my bed on his 21st birthday, forgodssake.

It’s wild – wild! – to me that, during one part of our lives, we’d spent so much time together and now whatever-that-was wasn’t even worth a “hello” to him. What was probably an easy (but cowardly) decision for him was sadly insulting to me.

I don’t need much. Hell, I didn’t even need him to give me a stack of laundry quarters for the barfing-in-bed situation. But apparently I did need this ex-boyfriend from college who I haven’t seen or much less thought of in years to acknowledge that we were kind and loving to each other in a rough and rocky part of both of our lives and that – hey! – we had fun together and we can co-exist in the same city, on the same trail, and that’s just fine. Apparently.

So here’s what I’ve learned: just say hi. You’ll always feel better. When in arm’s reach of someone who used to mean something to you, ask yourself what the adult thing to do is. (Hint: it’s usually the opposite of the easy thing.) We all have to pull on our nasty woman pants one leg at a time, but sometimes you’re sweating your face off pretending you enjoy running and see an ex coming and only have a half-second to think, so quick, yank those pants up!

In this bickering, brawling world, what do we owe each other? Kindness. Empathy. And oftentimes, just a hello will do.

 

For more of Megan’s brilliant takes on love and life in our Love Series archive, CLICK HERE

image by sketcharound

It’s our first Idea to Steal of the new year! While I’m actually not big on design trends as I think virtually anything can go when it comes to how you decorate – I have seen a particular style popping up recently: channel tufting. And the more I see, the more I like.

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I was first reminded of the style in this post, but then realized channel tufting is popping up everywhere I turn. While the look can easily take on a vintage 70’s vibe, I’m loving examples of a more contemporary style. For example, I’m obsessed with that neutral chair above – it feel absolutely timeless. I want to track one down for our house. That chair is proof positive that if you find the right application, channel tufting is a great way to get a little additional personality into any room. Here are a few more examples:

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In a bedroom, channel tufting adds texture and a great geometric pattern. When you use a refined, structured hand and pair the tufted piece with modern touches (do I spy a lindsey adelman sconce?!) the style is anything but dated.

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Even throwback styles can feel fresh. When applied in brushed velvet with a 70’a hue, channel tufting takes on that classic vintage look. But when you pair that with of-the-moment touches like Moroccan rugs, midcentury furniture and killer lighting channel tufting still feels of the moment. And it’s actually an if-the-moment look you can even create yourself. The headboard and matching bed above are in fact a DIY you can recreate at home!

So what say you? Are you into this vintage inspired look? Do you think it a has a place in 2017?

For our entire archive of Ideas to Steal, CLICK HERE

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After nearly 10 years of blogging, one of the biggest challenges is coming up with ideas! It can start to feel like you’ve talked about everything there is to talk about. And you keep seeing the same images on Pinterest. And everyone has already written everything there is to say about the Pantone Color of the Year. What’s left?!

When creative roadblocks strike, I like head out – as far away from the depths of the internet as I can get. One of my favorite places to go for new ideas are the streets of San Francisco. Sure, I could run to the new MOMA, head to the design district or wander past the architectural wonders of Pacific Heights, but there are in fact, hidden pockets of inspiration everywhere you look. You just have to be able to find them. So when Uber asked me to share my typical “workday” (as if there was such a thing), I thought I’d take you along on one my inspiration hunts – and have a little fun while out and about.

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San Francisco is full of inspiration; colors, textures, art, architecture. But when you’re stuck behind the wheel of your car, it can be hard to keep your eyes open for hidden gems. That’s why I love Uber. I can forget about traffic, not stress about parking and know I can catch a ride no matter what random corner I end up on. Wait, that sounds bad. But really it’s a good thing.

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It was while riding in the back of an Uber that I spied this pretty little corner, tucked in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood. The sherbet hues and that rich luscious greenery caught my eye and got my brain whirring with fresh color palette ideas. It also inspired me to get up close and personal with plants – that I can’t explain quite as easily. But I digress.

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Just a short ride away is Balmy Alley – one you’re almost certain to miss unless you have the luxury of keeping an eye out. The block long alley is the best place to see the most concentrated collection of murals in San Francisco. Each building along this carless gem is filled with community art. The murals began in the mid-80’s. Some murals offer political messages, some depict moments in history, others are just simple bursts of beauty. But a stroll down this tiny street reminds you to search for the unexpected and appreciate self-expression. The alley reminded me to look at things from new perspectives. Simply examining a problem from an unexpected angle can reveal solutions you’ve never considered.

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A new favorite inspiration destination is the Minnesota Street Project. Recently opened in San Francisco’s historic Dogpatch district, Minnesota Street Project offers affordable and economically sustainable spaces for art galleries, artists and related nonprofits. But you don’t even have to step foot into one of the spaces’s 10 galleries (which are open to the public and totally free) to be inspired. 1275 Minnesota Street features a massive open plan atrium that includes exposed steel beams, polished concrete floors and oak bleacher seating. And crazy good light. Did I mention that? I love simply taking a stroll through the vast open space. It’s like the opposite of Balmy Alley. Devoid of color. Minimal, striped down to the essentials. A visit often reminds me to not over complicate things.

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A day spent soaking up fresh inspiration requires sufficient caffeination. It’s helpful that my favorite little coffee shop offers design inspiration unto itself. Tucked another short Uber ride away from Minnesota Street Project, in an even lesser-known part of San Francisco sits The Den. The corner cafe is in fact attached to famed San Francisco bakery Craftsmen & Wolves commercial baking space. But I love that CAW has chosen to make its tiniest space into a precious jewel. Artist (and friend!) Heather Day took her art large scale with a stunning mural. that stretches from wall to wall and up onto the ceiling. It’s the perfect place to grab a jolt of inspiration, a damn fine cappuccino and a Rebel Within (if you don’t what that is, you need to find out immediately). Thankfully, while I’m out doing my thang, my husband can also use our Uber account. The new service UberFamily enables you to share a single profile with up to 10 family members so they can all be billed back to the same place.

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When I spend an afternoon away from my computer and out in the city, the limited world view served up on places like Pinterest and Instagram become the furthest things from my mind. Instead, I find myself clearer headed, more energized and excited to sit back down to my keyboard, determined to share something new with you.

I’m curious, what do you like to do to break out of a rut?

 

For more of my favorite finds in San Francisco, CLICK HERE

 

original photography for apartment 34 by ashley batz

This post is in partnership with Uber. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. thanks for supporting posts that have kept apt34’s doors open.

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