Down the Shore


If you don’t live in New Jersey, you may have never heard the phrase “down the shore.” It’s a phrase that we, North Jersey-ans, use when we are traveling south to the Jersey Shore points. Going “down the shore” every summer has been a tradition in my family for years and years, since long before I was born. Of course the tradition continued after I was born and as such my family went down the shore every summer of my childhood. Without a doubt, many of my most incredible, magical memories are rooted in those trips.

It has always been a dream of mine to continue the tradition with my own family. We took Roman down last summer but he was only a few months old and I didn’t feel comfortable taking him out on the beach then. So, this year was really his first “true” trip to the seashore. Sadly most of my family no longer makes the trip every year, and for those that do, it’s not easy to coordinate travel dates. This time around it ended up being just me, Matthew, and Roman. Even though it would have been nice to have family around us, it was a really special and beautiful trip for the three of us and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Here are a few of my favourite photographs from our little getaway.




^^^ On our first night, we ate at one of my fave restaurants — Spicy’s Cantina — their shrimp & lobster quesadillas are fantastic and I look forward to having one all year. We ate out for 99% of our meals while we were away and Roman was an angel every.single.time. Waitress after waitress commented on how adorable and well-behaved he is. Sometimes I really have to pinch myself because I can hardly believe how lucky I am with this boy of mine. ^^^






^^^ These beach shots are all from my iPhone/Instagram account. I’ve invested a lot of money in my big camera and thought it better to leave it safely behind — away from the sand & sea. ^^^











^^^ The Seaside Heights boardwalk is hands down one of the best places in the world. Rides, games, food, fun, and a stunning view of the ocean. It pretty much represents everything that is beautiful about summertime. ^^^











^^^ Our beach rental was two blocks from the beach (which faces east) and one block from the bay (facing west). On our first night, I snuck away from M. & R. just before sunset to check out the view from the bay. When I got to the end of our street, I stumbled upon a field of wildflowers… at sunset… Talk about breathtaking! ^^^




^^^ This carousel was built in 1910 and has called Seaside Heights its home since 1932. It is one of only a few remaining hand-carved wooden carousels left in the country. Unfortunately, the family that owns it is going to be auctioning it off in September because of financial issues. It breaks my heart because it was such a special part of my childhood. Still, I’m glad I got to take Roman for a ride on it at least once before it is gone. ^^^






^^^ There was a great playground up the street at the bay beach. Roman had a blast, of course. ^^^




^^^ Boardwalk food — the most delicious, most unhealthy food in the world. We splurged and splurged the whole trip long. You’ve just got to do it when you’re at the Jersey shore. Fresh cut french fries covered in cheese and fresh squeezed lemonade with lots of sugar are two of my guiltiest pleasures. ^^^



^^^ Gratefully we had amazing weather and got out on the beach every day. The sand & the sea knocked Roman out like nothing else. It made nap times a cinch. ^^^








^^^ Roman loves fish and water so we decided to make a trip over to the Point Pleasant Aquarium late one afternoon. It was his first aquarium and he was equally parts thrilled & terrified of the sharks. His expressions were priceless. ^^^






^^^ There were little monkeys behind the glass in this enclosure. Monkeys are his absolute favourite (he’s obsessed with Curious George) and he is waving hello to one of the monkeys in this shot. So cute. ^^^







^^^ On our last morning, we stopped at the Park Bakery before we hit the road. The bakery has been around since 1947 and it’s seriously one of the best bakeries in the world. My mom loves their crumbcakes so we picked up a couple for her and some sweet treats for us for our trip home. ^^^


I am so grateful that we had such an amazing trip. It was really sad to drive away toward home, but we left with full hearts and the most beautiful memories that we could have hoped for… and of course we were happy to come home to our sweet Bella girl!

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sleeping toddler |

The 52 Week Project – A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, for one year.

30/52 — A much-needed nap after wearing himself out in the surf & the sand.

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toddler boy |

The 52 Week Project – A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, for one year.

29/52 — We’re back from vacation. I took this portrait on the first full day of our trip. We discovered a little playground up the street from our beach rental. It was the first time that we let Roman really go off on his own and explore a playground. Of course we stayed right nearby, but we are slowly giving him independence, not standing right behind him to catch every fall. His footing is steady enough now and it’s so beautiful to watch him beam with pride when he accomplishes things on his own.

He had a wonderful time running across the footbridge and worming his way through the tunnels. I sort of can’t get over how big & mature he is in this shot. It makes me proud and it breaks my heart, all at the same time.

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to the sea…

sea |

Tomorrow we set off for a little getaway to the sea. That is if I can somehow finish packing by tomorrow. And if I can somehow miraculously fit everything into the car. (Those are big ifs, friends.)

Things will be radio silent around here while I’m gone. I’m hoping to disconnect a bit. I’ll see you on the flip side. xx

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Date Night In with Jose Cuervo | Jose Cuervo | Jose Cuervo

As every parent knows, date nights are hard to come by these days. We used to make it a point to go out at least once a month. But lately, well, we’ve had one night out without Roman in the last year and a half. Everything is more complicated when you have a little one to think about. On top of that, M. works long days. He leaves the house at 4:30 a.m. and doesn’t get home until 6:00 p.m. He doesn’t have the energy to go out when he gets home and he only has one day off each week, Sunday. That doesn’t leave us much time for fun. | Jose Cuervo | Jose Cuervo | Jose Cuervo

That said, it’s still important to seek out little ways to enjoy time together — even if that means a “date night in.” This week we sneaked out onto the deck for an evening drink. It was nice to spend some time catching up and daydreaming about our upcoming family vacation to the sea. It didn’t last long — there were baby baths to be given, lunches to be packed, and so on — but it was nice to have a bit of “us” time even for a little while. | Jose Cuervo | Jose Cuervo | Jose Cuervo | Jose Cuervo

While we were out there, we enjoyed a couple of ice cold Teagaritas. The Iced Teagarita is Jose Cuervo’s new twist on a classic. It consists of a lime flavored margarita, blended with Jose Cuervo Tequila and premium orange liqueur, then combined with refreshing iced tea. It’s like a miniature party in a glass and it’s the perfect summertime drink. I love iced tea — it’s my favourite drink besides lemon water — and the Teagarita hits the spot, even for an iced tea connoisseur like me.

If you’re thinking of having your own little date night in, or just looking for a yummy summertime drink, give the Teagarita a try.

You can also check out Jose Cuervo on Facebook.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Roman’s Baptism

toddler baptism |

Over the weekend, we had Roman baptized. It was a little, intimate ceremony with only our immediate families in attendance. Afterward we went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. It is such a rare joy to have both of our families gathered in one space. Roman’s cousins are his favourite and having all of them in one room made him beam with excitement.

We decided early on to keep the day very simple. I kept the decorations to an absolute minimum. I blew up orange & yellow balloons (leftover from his birthday party) and strung up an orange bunting. I picked wildflowers from the forest behind our house that morning and made table centerpieces of tiger lily, fern & miniature daisies. I also brought along yellow & orange paper straws — because it’s just not a {Dena} party without paper straws.

It was a special day and we are very grateful to our family who were kind enough to join us & celebrate our sweet boy.

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toddler baptism |

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God bless Roman James.

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Heat // a photo essay

When I think of heat, I think of summer — the glorious months of June, July and August. I am a summer girl through & through. Carnivals, fairs, trips to the ocean, ice cream, cold lemonade, camping, roasting marshmallows, swimming, sweating, sun-kissed skin, sandy toes, bare-foot in the grass, humidity, thunderstorms, warm rain, lazy afternoons that seem to stretch until forever, cold beer, popsicles, sandals, drive-in movies, flowers blooming in every colour of the rainbow, trips to the lake, fishing, fireflies, watercolour sunsets, barbecues, shooting stars. Oh, how I love it — all of it.

Here are a few of my favourite summertime photographs that I’ve taken over the past couple of summers.

“Heat” is the July writing prompt of The Mommy Blogger Collective. In addition to a monthly writing prompt, the collective hosts a monthly blogger featurette. This month we are featuring Renee of oh renée. A few words from Renée — Oh Renée started as a creative outlet for me a few years ago, a happy place to share creative and fun projects or fashion. Since then, it has evolved into one of the best things I could ever have done with my time! The last few years of blogging have become much more personal to me- more of a way to document this life of mine, with my husband, with my little boy and with the world around me. I enjoy sharing glimpses into our days and sharing in other mom’s lives as well, as part of this wonderful world of social media. Being a mother is better than anything I could have expected! Truly. I call Ohio my home, I keep the joy of traveling and exploring new places close to my heart, i spend my evenings knitting and am never without a book in my hand or in my purse. My blog is much of the same! You can also find me on Instagram at

/// The Mommy Blogger Collective /// Christina, Courteney, Dena, Erica, Erin, Gillian, Katie, Misty, Nicole, and Renée. ///

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toddler smile |

The 52 Week Project – A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, for one year.

28/52 — His smile is the sweetest thing that I’ve ever seen in all of my life. It melts me. This photo was taken just after breakfast and Roman was still in his PJ’s. We were in the middle of our daily “toddler preschool” lesson. I’ll share more about that soon.

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sustainable living // reusable snack bags | toddler snack time

Recently, I’ve been taking a closer look at everything that comes into and goes out of our home. Sadly, I am realizing just how much waste my little family of three creates. It’s alarming really. I learn about things like the Great Pacific garbage patch and the North Atlantic garbage patch and my heart breaks. These are two examples, among millions, that speak to the ways that we are destroying our planet.

The damage that each of us (in this particular society) does on a daily basis is incomprehensible. When I think about the scale of the issue, I am overwhelmed and often do nothing. I adopt the ignorant mindset of — Why should I bother? My small changes will not make a difference. But I quickly see the dangerous fault in that line of thinking. The truth is that change has to start somewhere, and just because I cannot fix the problem single-handedly, does not mean that I shouldn’t take small steps in the right direction. | toddler snack time | toddler snack time | toddler snack time | toddler snack time | toddler snack time

Regardless of where we stand on major issues, like climate change and fossil fuels, I think that we can all agree on some basic things. Pollution is real and our environment is suffering. If there are simple, affordable ways to create positive change — why not?

One of the changes that I’ve implemented recently is a switch from plastic snack & storage bags to reusable fabric ones, like the one Roman is holding above. We use snack bags a lot. I use them for Matthew’s lunches, on outings with Roman, and in the kitchen to store chopped veggies and such.

Plastic baggies seem like a little thing, but when I think about the long-term impact, it’s a big deal. In the past, we’ve gone through hundreds of baggies each year. It adds up financially. After each use I would occasionally wash and re-use them, but most of the time I’d toss them in the bin. The scariest part about it is that it takes at least 500 years for each plastic bag to biodegrade.

I set out to find a couple of small business owners that make high-quality, reusable snack bags. I wanted the bags to be well-made so that they would last awhile. I was also looking for bags that would be fun to use for Roman’s snacks but also some more neutral/masculine ones that I could use for Matthew’s lunches. I found two Etsy shops that offered exactly what I was looking for.

First up is Crafty Crafty Cathy. The shop owner, Cathy, is a former first grade teacher turned stay-at-home mom. Cathy is always working on creative projects that make her feel excited and inspired. She takes great care in everything she creates — with special attention to detail.

Cathy’s snack and sandwich bags are incredibly well-made. I love her selection of both fun and mature patterns & styles. The bags can easily be cleaned with a wet cloth, or you can pull the liner outward, wash them on cold, and hang dry. The zipper closures allow little fingers to open & close the bags easily. We’ve been using them for a few weeks now and they are perfect.

reusable snack bags |

reusable snack bags |

reusable snack bags |

I wanted to try a few different styles of baggies, so I’ve also been using a few from Mandy Mae’s Mercantile. They are equally amazing. Mandy Mae’s is the Etsy shop of Amanda (Mandy) Passmore and Jeanni (Mae) Clinton. Jeanni has always loved sewing and giving homemade gifts. When Amanda became pregnant, she ventured into creating an all-natural home. When she decided to quit teaching to be a stay-at-home mom, the two decided to create Mandy Mae’s to help others conserve the environment.

I just love our reusable bags from Mandy Mae’s. Each bag is made with a layer of cotton and an easy-to-clean layer of PUL. They also have a fun and beautiful selection of fabric to choose from. Their baggies have tight-sealing velcro closures to keep snacks tucked safely inside.

reusable snack bags |

reusable snack bags |

reusable snack bags |

reusable snack bags |

I am very happy with my decision to switch away from disposable baggies. It’s a baby step, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve implemented several changes like this one and look forward to sharing them soon.

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I personally reached out and asked to partner with these shops because I feel strongly about their missions. I highly recommend checking them out if you are looking to make a similar change in your home. Visit Crafty Crafty Cathy and Mandy Mae’s Mercantile on Etsy.

Nature loves courage. | igerlily

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.”

―Terence McKenna

I am a strong believer that fortune favors the bold. The tale of Julius Caesar burning his ships has always been one of my favourites and I apply its moral in my life often. I am not a reckless person — not by a long shot — however I am one for taking calculated risks and seizing opportunities as they present themselves.

As cliché as it sounds, the greatest risks that I have taken have also provided me with the greatest rewards. Studying abroad in Kenya, visiting Paris alone, leaving my career to be a stay-at-home mom, and launching my photography business — were all enormous risks that led to the best experiences of my life.

I recently stumbled across the quote at the top of the page and it just rang so true to me. It came at the perfect time, too, just as I was on the precipice of making a couple of “big decisions.” It gave me the push that I needed, so I jumped. | nature | nature | nature | nature | nature | tiger lily | tiger lily | nature | nature | nature | nature

The photographs in the post are from around our yard and garden. Nature always reminds me to act bravely.

Fortune favors the bold |

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