Isla's First Birthday Party

So, despite the fact that I still think Isla is my (not so tiny--remember, 9 pounds, 5 ounces people!) newborn, she went ahead and turned ONE last week! We had the most perfect little birthday party for her and my immediate family was all able to be here since they were visiting for Thanksgiving! It was really special for me to finally get to host a party in my own home (we had Emilia's first birthday at my parent's house down in Southern CA since most of my friends were still there at that point) and it turned out absolutely perfect!


My friend Samantha at Dessert Junkie made the most amazing desserts! The theme of the party was Swan Lake, so she made the most beautiful brush stroke cake that was the perfect homage to beautiful swan feathers! She also made the most beautiful swan sugar cookies I have ever seen.  The details on these cookies, you guys!  They were unbelievable!  And of course, she crafted the perfect smash cake for our Isla girl, which I topped with one of (my favorites!) Fancy Free Finery's cake toppers!

Brush Stroke Cake by  Dessert Junkie

Brush Stroke Cake by Dessert Junkie

Swan Sugar Cookies by  Dessert Junkie

Swan Sugar Cookies by Dessert Junkie

Naked Smash Cake by  Dessert Junkie  with Cake Topper by  Fancy Free Finery

Naked Smash Cake by Dessert Junkie with Cake Topper by Fancy Free Finery

Every little detail turned out just how I imagined!  With a lot of last minute help from Hobby Lobby, my Swan Lake table was perfection for my sweet little ginger girl!

Swan Sugar Cookies by  Desert Junkie  and Swan Details from Hobby Lobby

Swan Sugar Cookies by Desert Junkie and Swan Details from Hobby Lobby

Felt Flower Garland and Cake Topper by  Fancy Free Finery

Felt Flower Garland and Cake Topper by Fancy Free Finery

Feather Details from Hobby Lobby and Favors inspired by Pinterest

Feather Details from Hobby Lobby and Favors inspired by Pinterest

Isla was the sweetest birthday girl! Her favorite part of the day was her special 1st Birthday gift--the Anywhere Chair from Pottery Barn Kids! Quick story--this girl was OBSESSED with her sister's Anywhere Chair, so much so when I would "lose" her in my house (don't judge, those crawlers are fast) I would ALWAYS find her in Emilia's room sitting in her chair. Guys, it is so funny how into lounging in these chairs Isla is! So it goes without saying, it was an easy birthday gift to think of and it was a huge hit.  I'm talking HUGE. She was ecstatic that she finally had her own chair! Gosh, I love her!

Anywhere Chair by  Pottery Barn Kids

Anywhere Chair by Pottery Barn Kids

Anywhere Chair by  Pottery Barn Kids  and Isla's Outfit by Paush Mini from  Shop Sweet Threads

Anywhere Chair by Pottery Barn Kids and Isla's Outfit by Paush Mini from Shop Sweet Threads

Felt Flower Crown by  Fancy Free Finery

Felt Flower Crown by Fancy Free Finery


We love you so much Isla, Isla Smila, Ginger, Gingie Girl! You have been a dream baby and this has been a dream first year with you in our family! You are quiet and snuggly and sweet, but so curious and bright in your own unassuming way. You love your sister "Meelia" more than anyone else and it makes my mama heart swell. Goodness girl, I thank God for you every day!

Chalkboard Calligraphy by my annoyingly talented sister ;)

Chalkboard Calligraphy by my annoyingly talented sister ;)

Holiday Gift Guide from Nordstrom

If you are anything like me, when you walk through Nordstrom you can find just about 1,000 things you would love to gift to your mom, sisters, best friends, kids' teachers, or even yourself! But sometimes when it comes down to it--the moment to actually shop--you come up empty! To hopefully help you out a bit this season, I've compiled my must have gift guide for all the lucky ladies in your life. These are some of my personal favorites, and some things that are on my *wish list*. No matter who you are shopping for, I hope this little guide gives you some inspo and makes your holiday season a little less stressful!

holiday shopping withNordstrom.png

Pullover | Earrings | Mantraband | Leggings | Pullover | Mule | Necklace | Slipper | Clutch | Jeans

1. Zella Pullover--This is on my wishlist this year.  Zella is my go-to work out brand and this pull over looks perfect for wearing to and from the gym orrrrrr just wearing everywhere ;)

2. Nordstrom Earrings--I have these in gold and silver and wear them every day! They are beautiful and great quality.  Unless you are lucky enough to have gorgeous 2ct diamonds, these are the perfect alternative!

3. Mantra Band--I have two Mantra Bands that I absolutely love! They are my go-to gift for teachers and friends right now because they are cute, meaningful, and the price is right! I have the "Choose Joy" band because Isla's middle name is Joy and the "Though she be but little, she is fierce" because this quote has represented Emilia since the day she was born to me!

4. Zella Lived-in Leggings--I am embarrassed to admit how many pairs I have of these.  Can I get an amen for high-waisted leggings mamas?!? Yeah, don't think I need to say more ;)

5. Madewell Sweater--This is another item on my wishlist! And it is on sale right now! I am obsessed with mustard this season, and the draping detail on the back of this sweater is seriously too good!

6. Steve Madden Mules--Also on my wishlist! I have been searching for a good pair of mules this season, and the look and price is right with these Steve Maddens. Gold has been my neutral this season when it comes to shoes and these are perfect!

7. Kate Spade Initial Necklace--This is also on sale right now! Run! I don't personally have this, but I have gifted it! It was a huge hit for my sister's birthday this year. It is dainty with a bold font. I love wearing things that have special meaning, and I think an initial necklace is the perfect gift for a new mom or newlywed this year!

8. Ugg Slippers--I hate to admit this, but I get a new pair of these probably every other year of so for Christmas. I love them! I have all hardwood in my home and a good slipper is a must for this time of year!

9. Hobo Wallet--You guys honestly won't believe this, but I have had my Hobo wallet for TEN YEARS! Yup, the same wallet.  I remember because it was a gift for my 20th birthday! I absolutely love this wallet. I keep my most used cards in the center portion, but it has PLENTY of space for the cards I use less often.  It also has room for my checkbook (yeah, I still write some checks!) and even my phone! Plus, you can't beat the price for the quality.  Did I mention TEN YEARS?!?

10. Madewell Jeans--THESE ARE ON SALE YOU GUYS!!!!! FOR 100 BUCKS!!!! You all know my love affair with Madewell Jeans. I totally want this style this year! Hint, hint someone? anyone? I love the button detail! I feel like if you are like me and totally gift yourself a few treats this season, a good pair of Madewells is a must!

You guys can shop below or through the links! I had so much fun compiling this list for you all! It was like window shopping, but better ;) Hope it relieves a little bit of panic for anyone struggling for ideas!

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission for clicks and/or purchases. Please know all thoughts and opinions are my own. If you would like more information, please visit the "Terms" section of my site.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookie Bars with Kara Swanson

I am so excited to introduce you to my friend, Kara!  Kara and I connected through Instagram and she has graciously offered to share with you her guilt-free holiday dessert recipe for Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookie Bars.  Need I say more?!? Make sure to check out her Instagram and Blog--you will not regret it! She is a great follow! Now for Kara...



Hi there, I’m Kara! Founder of Life Well Lived, obsessed with recreating recipes to be healthier, lover of allll things chocolate, and creator of Transform: Nutrition Bootcamp {where I’ve helped hundreds of women change their nutrition, lose weight, and change their lives}.


It’s officially fall and I am soaking in the season for cozy sweaters, hot chocolate and alllll things pumpkin. If you are in need of a dessert for Thanksgiving or your next dinner party. I’ve got you covered.


Today I am sharing with you one of my all time favorite recipes. If you love chocolate + cookies + pumpkin this is the dessert of your dreams. I used super simple and quality ingredients to make these Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookie Bars healthier + guilt free. Coconut sugar was used as the sweetener which has a lower glycemic index which helps keep your blood sugar levels stable. So no judging from me if you eat the whole pan.


I highly recommend eating them warm with a big scoop of your favorite ice cream {I’m obsessed with Coconut Bliss!} and enjoy every warm, chocolatey bite.


And if you’re wanting to learn proven strategies that I personally use to prevent holiday weight gain this year, join me in my next LIVE masterclass! It’s FREE and I’ll be showing you how to find balance this holiday season. You can enjoy your favorite foods without going up a size in your jeans! You can register for my free class: 5 Simple Steps To Prevent Holiday Weight Gain HERE!


Want to discover more secrets to fat loss and simple + easy + delicious recipes? Then check out  Life Well Lived. You can also follow me on Facebook or Instagram @karaswanson.




1 1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup pure pumpkin

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup chocolate chips

2 tbs coconut oil, melted

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs




1. Preheat oven to 350 and line 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper.

2. Combine dry ingredients, minus the chocolate chips, in a mixing bowl.

3. Add in the wet ingredients and mix until combined.

4. Add in chocolate chips.

5. Pour batter into prepared dish and spread evenly.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and edges are browning.

7. Let cool before cutting into bars. Bars get denser as they cool.

My Favorites with Madewell

Happy Friday my friends! Is it just me, or are the weeks flying by this season? I'm not sure if it's because life with two is so busy, or because Fall/Winter is such a busy time for us with birthdays and holidays and all the amazing goodness that comes along with each?

I've been seriously considering what my "mom wardrobe" is and what it should be lately. Do you ever feel stuck between looking too young and casual and looking too stiff or dressed up? I have been trying so hard to blend put together, comfy, and age appropriate and have found the answer with my favorite brand--Madewell. 

I have loved Madewell jeans for years--the quality and fit are amazing, but even better, the price point is soooo good. Madewell is now sold in Nordstrom, which has made my shopping life complete.  I rounded up some of my favorite items from Madewell that are currently in my wardrobe. If you are looking for the perfect tee and jeans--look no further, you're in the right place!



1. High Riser Skinny Jeans--I've had these for three years, and they are still my absolute favorite fit. The cosmos came together for us mamas right now and high-waisted is where it's at.  Thank goodness.

2. Slim Boyfriend Jeans--I got these as my first "back to my normal size post baby present." That's a thing right? Anyway, it's a looser, more relaxed fit and they're super comfy.

3. Whisper Cotton Tank--Love this tank. I have it in white and blue striped.  The price is perfect and it holds it shape and quality when washed.

4. Whisper V-neck Pocket Tee--The best basic ever.  I have it in too many colors to count.  Did I mention it's under $20?!?

5. Ryder Cardigan--The comfiest cardy I own right now. It has a super relaxed fit that makes me feel like an Olsen Twin, in the best way, obvi ;)

6. Cotton-Linen Baseball Cap--I have this cap in light pink and I currently can't find it, which is a serious tragedy. Because #momlife often requires this cap. Buy it and remember me haha!

7. Step Hem Denim Skirt--This is still ever-present in my wardrobe this fall, because #californiafall. It is so cute and I always have people asking me about it!



**This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission from clicks and/or purchases. For more information, reference our Terms page**

Back to School with Old Navy

Back to Preschool is just around the corner for Emilia and *any* excuse to go shopping is a good one in my book.  I just packed up Isla's newborn to 3 month sizes in order to make room for all the 18 month-2T stuff that no longer fits Emi.  And honestly, Emi has plenty of clothes that still fit! But, Old Navy is always a good go-to to grab the latest trends at a low price.  And that's exactly what we did!  I really don't grab a lot of "basics" at Old Navy because they can end up being a little campy, but they always have on trend options that I'm ok with sending to preschool to possibly come back ruined!

The cutest kid-friendly trends I am noticing for fall are MUSTARD, mustard, and more mustard and utility inspired wear!  We definitely went a little mustard crazy--it was easy to do!  And I loved the pants and jacket I picked up for Emi with that utility feel. 

Old Navy and Gap ALWAYS have some sort of promotion going on, so don't pay full price! I'm linking a few of the outfits I put together for Emilia (and a handful for Isla too--couldn't help myself!) below! Happy Back to School Shopping, my friends!



Fancy Free Finery

I'm seriously so happy to be back sharing what I LOVE with you guys--my girls! Haha! I wanted to kick off my blog with a post about our absolute favorite felt flower headbands.  Emilia has worn these since she was little, and Isla was wearing one in her official Instagram debut at a few hours old.  They just released their newest daisy style yesterday and were kind enough to send some over for the girls. Thank you Fancy Free Finery!  We seriously love you so much!

Welcome Back

Hey guys, I've decided to revamp and relaunch my blog.  I absolutely love writing, but never felt connected to my last blogging venture.  It felt fake to me.  I want to create a space that is an authentic look into my life.  That's what I LOVE about other bloggers--I feel like I really know them. So, I'm going to give it a go. Follow along with me?