21 Things to Do in Orlando for Halloween

I love this time of year when the weather cools down and we can spend long days outside. C’mon weather, please cool down.  Pretty please.  I love the opportunity to make special holiday memories with my family. But sometimes I can get a little carried away.  And when that happens I tend to drive myself and everyone around me nuts.  Here are 21 fun things to do this Halloween.  Pick a few and have a blast!

  1. Head to the pumpkin patch for a photo shoot.
  2. Visit Long & Scott Farms in Zellwood and attempt the corn maze.
  3. Visit Foxtail Coffee for a delicious pumpkin cold brew.
  4. Check out Zoo Boo Bash at the Central Florida Zoo (October 28th & 29th).
  5. Visit Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest for hayrides, pumpkins, petting zoo, and tons more.
  6. Pick a family theme for your Halloween costumes and get planning for trick or treating.
  7. Paint pumpkins with lots of fun patterns.
  8. Visit A Petrified Forest for some frightening fun.  
  9. Carve a pumpkin!
  10. Bake pumpkin seeds for a healthy snack.
  11. Get a flight of delicious fall ice cream flavors at Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream.
  12. Collect leaves on a walk for a fall leaf painting.   
  13. Send a Pumpkin Spice #momlibs to a fellow mama.  
  14. Visit the Halloween Howl in Winter Park (October 29th).
  15. Head to the Enzian Theater for a Kids Halloween Party and viewing of Hotel Transylvania 2 (October 22nd).  
  16. Eat perfect pumpkin croissants at Buttermilk Bakery.
  17. Make handprint vampires.
  18. Treat yourself to pumpkin pie gelati at Jeremiah’s Ice.
  19. Go for a run at the Mudwalk Spooky 5k (October 14th).
  20. Grab a blanket and head to Cranes Roost Sunset Cinema for a viewing of Hocus Pocus (October 14th).  
  21. Head to the RDV Sportsplex for a Spooky Skate that everyone will enjoy!

 

What’s on your October to-do list? Let us know in the comments below!

How to make date night happen when you have babies, jobs, and no time.

Before Buzzfeed quizzes were the days of MASH.  My friends and I would spend a bunch of time writing out how many kids you’d have, what kind of car, and usually dates with our future dream guy (also to be determined by MASH).  And what did I always have on there?  Blockbuster.  To me, there was no more romantic date than cruising the aisles of Blockbuster to pick out a video.  Witty banter, slow walking, and every movie you could possibly want to watch.  Swoon.  Unfortunately by the time I met my husband Blockbuster was pretty much obsolete.  Dreams crushed.  

Look, advances in technology aren’t the only thing we’re up against.  I just had to get up from writing this blog post to go wipe a toddler butt.  Forget dream dates, we barely make time for dates at all.  In the summer, I interviewed Orlando Date Night Guide’s Kristen Manieri and it really hit home how important it is to make this a priority.  As a working mom with an infant and a toddler at home, I’m not quite ready to commit one night a week out (even if some may argue that’s what makes it even more important!) But I’m ready to take some baby steps.  Here are the ways we sneak in dates.

I’ve instituted a monthly lunch date on our family calendar.  Dadlando and I can visit some of our favorite places we wouldn’t dare venture to with our kiddos in tow.  And we usually save money by not needing a babysitter, not drinking on the clock, and the overall cheaper price point of lunch time.  It’s a great break in the day and I get excited when I see it coming up on the calendar.  

A couple years ago, a day lined up that both our offices we’re closed, but daycare was open.  Unbelievable I know, but it’s true!  We sent our sweet girl to school and went for breakfast, out to the movies, home for a nap, and she didn’t even know what she had missed!  Now every few months we’ll take a day off together to have a day date.  

Friday nights we get home from work, prepare dinner, and light shabbat candles.  We welcome the weekend as a family and get some quality time in with the kids.  Once the kids are in bed, we use this time for a check-in on how things are going for us in our marriage.  It’s a great time to make sure that we are having real conversation and connection.  As we’ve navigated how to make the time productive, we came up with a few questions that help foster honest conversation.

I’m betting on movie rental stores becoming retro one day so that I can live out my teenage dreams.  Until then, we’ll just have to keep working on ways to make ‘date night’ possible during a very hectic time in our lives.

How do you make date night work for you?  And what places should we add to our list?

#MOMlibs Pumpkin Spice Edition

I bet you know a mom who could use some encouragement.  What is it about Fall that makes us all feel we have to be Pinterest perfect?  So print this out, fill it out, and remind a mama she doesn’t have to go all out to make special memories.

(Right click and save to your desktop.)

Moms who Rock: Stephanie Forshee

What’s one of your favorite instagrams to look at that’s just plain pretty?  For me, it’s Little Wild Bloom.  I first saw the flowers at Buttermilk Bakery and P is For Pie.  Cute little mason jars on the tables that added the perfect pop of color and whimsy to some of my favorite spaces.  And then one day a little red haired toddler started popping up in the instagram feed and I thought, well of course she’s a mom who rocks! I got to meet Owen and his mama and talk all about Little Wild Bloom, Orlando, and the mom life.

Stephanie Forshee, the brains behind Little Wild Bloom came to Orlando for the Disney College program and from there went on to hair school.  She works at Alchemy in College Park and you can hit her up there for a rad haircut.  Little Owen was born two years ago and after maternity leave she drastically cut back her time at the salon so she could be home to raise Owen. With more time on her hands she was looking for a new hobby and creative outlet.  She read about a flower farmer in Washington and everything clicked.  She already had an interest in gardening, a love of flowers, and a firm belief that she could learn anything she needed to on the internet (I agree!)  Things evolved naturally from there, Little Wild Bloom was born.

On the realization that she already knew some of the basics:

“I started playing around with flowers at home.  It seemed like a lot of the same concepts as hair, you know color, line, shape, and form.  So it was fun to see something I already knew transition to another medium.”

Once she was ready to launch her business, she reached out to P is for Pie and Buttermilk Bakery two local places she loved and asked if they’d be interested in bringing flowers into their space. Things grew organically from there.  Customers started noticing her flowers and she  booked her first wedding from someone who had seen her flowers at Buttermilk Bakery.  

On styling arrangements for her first client’s wedding:

“I got really lucky with my very first wedding it was a friend of a friend and she was very laid back. I was terrified.  But she was a gem so sweet and laid back.  We clicked and our styles clicked.  It was beautiful.”

On feeling the nerves:

“I get a littler nervous before every wedding because it’s someone’s biggest day. So I put a lot of pressure on that.”

She humbly notes that things have become much bigger than she expected.  But I’m not surprised!  Stephanie has a perfect lock on her aesthetic and she captures that all on her instagram.  Stephanie says most of her business comes from social media and word of mouth.  She’s excited to be expanding to doing even more weddings and putting her focus there.

On fitting things into the day:

“I’m in a really good stride.  The flowers are great because they can work around the schedule of the day.  So if it needs to be done during nap time or early morning or late night it’s pretty flexible in that regard.”

On farming flowers locally:

“You can actually grow flowers here in a garden to cut and they have a purpose.  I’m networking with other people who are growing to try and incorporate some locally grown something in every arrangement.  There has been a movement nationwide towards American grown flowers so you can see that trickling down here which is really exciting.  I definitely feel like even in the last six months there are more people interested in growing flowers here.”

On her favorite flowers:

“I  like texture and elements things you don’t necessarily see all the time.  I always incorporate greenery.  I like dahlias, they have lots of tones and colors.  Also, anemones – bright white with the black center. They are striking to look at.  I like things that are a little random and unexpected.

On the most surprising thing of starting this business:

“The support of people I don’t know and the community.  Getting recognized… ten years into Orlando and I didn’t feel community at first.  You meet a few people and then you realize everyone is so interconnected.  It’s a much smaller town than what it seems like at first.  There has been a surprising amount of support and excitement for something I’m excited about that you wouldn’t think everyone is excited about.”

As her business grows, so does little Owen.  Stephanie tells me about how they go everywhere together.  She delivers flowers wearing him on her back.  Owen goes to the flower shop and runs around.  She loves the perspective on life it gives him.  When we met, Owen was so sweet and well behaved.  But he did look longingly out the window the entire time.  Who could blame him?  Sit at a table and talk or head outside on a sunny day?  I’m not fooled on what sounds like more fun!

On Owen’s notoriety:

“People know Owen more than they know me.  He’s the little face of the flowers.”

On motherhood:

“It’s the best hardest thing.  He is an incredible little human.  So fun and expressive but big personality.  So it has been learning how to handle that and direct it rather than be overwhelmed by it.”

On their favorite things to do as a family:

“We like to be outside.  Anything outdoors whether that’s hiking or just digging in the dirt.  Being outside is where he is happiest.”

“When we need to recalibrate we take a step outside and get fresh air for both of us.”

On kids getting their hands dirty:

“It’s amazing how they thrive outside and in the dirt.  I love to think about how that will translate to them as they grow.”

On the challenges of making it all work:

“It’s (motherhood) all encompassing.  It’s hard to steal those moments for yourself and it’s been hard especially with running my own business and learning how to grow a business.  There have been moments where I feel like I’m doing well at one thing and not great at the other thing.  It’s hard to try to do both with equal fervor.”

On when other people weigh in:

“It’s surprising how many people have opinions about being a mom and what you should be doing and what the best thing to do is.  And no matter what you do someone else has a different strategy.  I just smile and nod at this point.  I try to warn every new mom ‘everyone’s going to tell you, you’re doing it wrong.’ Nobody can tell you the right answer.  Going with your gut is the biggest thing I’ve learned.  You can take in everyone’s advice but at the end of the day whatever works for your family is what works.”

On what works for their family:

“We’re very attachment parenting, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, all that stuff.  So we’re very attached all the time.  A couple hours here and there with Papa (daddy) is great to give me a break.”

On finding her parenting style:

“I read things and it all kept coming back to this is what feels the best for me.  It has worked out really well.  I’m sure there are moments where a different approach may have been more helpful but all in all we’ve done well with this style of parenting.”

As a wife, mother, and business owner it can be hard to find a moment to herself.  Stephanie says she steals minutes wherever she can to answer emails and let clients know she’s thinking of them and will follow up as soon as possible.  

On finding the drive to do more:

“Instagram is such an amazing place for inspiration.  So many amazing florists doing beautiful things.  To steal a few minutes and scroll through see such beautiful images and feel like okay I can do this.”

Stephanie and I commiserated on how much of a struggle the summer heat is with little ones who crave the outdoors.  She remarked that they try to get outside every morning and evening and make it through the day in between.  They love the Orlando Science Center for an indoor option that has enough space to run around.  Fingers crossed for an early Fall for all of us toddler moms.

On local favorite places:

“P is For Pie, Buttermilk Buttermilk Bakery, those are my spots around town.  And East End Market too. I feel like anywhere where they don’t give me the stink eye if my baby’s running around I’m into it.  We like Foxtail and there grassy area.  We love Owl’s Attic and Market on South too. Really like where Orlando’s heading right now there’s good stuff going on.” 

On why Orlando rocks:

“I feel like the community is strong right now and so into supporting local business and growing its identity aside from the theme parks.  And I am excited about it.  I love to talk about it now.  It’s funny to be a transplant somewhere and feel really passionate about it.  But this is my home and I’ve built a life here and I love that there’s a secret Orlando you can show people when they visit and show there’s really rad things here.” 

On how far she’s come as an Orlandoan:

“10 years ago I never would’ve expected that I would be immersed in the Orlando culture.  And now I’m lucky enough to know some of these small business owners and amazing people who are completely embedded in the community.  I never would’ve guessed that’s where I’d be.”

Have you found yourself branching out on a new path that just clicked?  Where do you go for inspiration on the internet?  Tell us your favorite spots!

Know a ‘Mom Who Rocks’ who should be featured?  Let us know in the comments below!

The Work Trip Sleep Myth

Since our latest little one has joined the family I’ve had to go on a few work trips to different parts of the country.  Without fail, each time I tell someone I am about to leave on a trip, I hear something along the lines of, “Oh, I bet you are looking forward to getting some good sleep!”  Now that Simon is sleep trained, I can look back on this myth and laugh. (Ugh, typing that he’s sleep trained pretty much guarantees I will be up several times with him tonight.)

I want to be careful here, because without a doubt going on a work trip is easier than caring for a toddler and a newborn all by yourself-even for an awesome parent like Momlando.  But the fact of the matter is, during the trip and when I returned I was far more tired than if I had stayed home.   

Let’s do the math:

+ Traveling sucks, but if I am lucky I get some sleep on the airplane.

Going to meetings and then running to the airport is exhausting.

IMG_20170522_200750_476.jpg
+ A trip to Wrigley Field as a work social event.

+ Eating at nice restaurants on the company’s dime is a perk.

Social cocktail hours turn into long nights, even if they can be fun.  Returning to the hotel room to catch up on missed emails always keeps me up later than your normal bedtime.

Sleeping in an unfamiliar room is rough.  I don’t have to get up with a crying baby but random hotel noises can prevent sleep.

In addition to going to be later than normal, jet lag really messes up sleeping when I travel to a different time zone.

 I wind up getting up earlier than normal to get to meetings on time.

But most of all, it is draining to feel the guilt of leaving my wife to take care of the kids by herself.  And it’s sad not to see my family on those days.  Finding time to FaceTime during the trip helps, but I can see how hectic things are at home and I feel guilty for even calling!  Not to mention the fact that you know your significant other is picturing you on a ‘work-vacation’ instead of a work-trip.

As any parent who has gone on a trip knows, when you come home you can see a change in your kids-they’ve grown so much in even just a few days.  So when people say that I must be looking forward to catching up on sleep on a trip I just smile and play along.  But on the inside I know.  There is no rest.

The four step journey to being #OrlandoAF

Newbie

Whatever brought you to Orlando you’re 100% questioning the decision.  It’s hot as hell, the traffic is insane, and there are chain restaurants everywhere.  The people are kind of cool though.

It’s alright, for now.

You can get where you need to go without getting lost on the toll roads.  You know what time you really need to leave to get somewhere on time. You found a favorite pizza place.  You love the food trucks, the nightlife, and the pub crawls.  You still think you’ll need to move in a few years to advance in your career, go to grad school, or find your soulmate.  But you’re pretty sure that #orlandodoesntsuck.

Oh this place is my jam I’m here to stay.

You know the difference between Thornton Park, Audubon Park, and College Park.  You know the Milk District from Mills50.  You know which Farmer’s Market you like best and when to go.  You know it’s worth it to make the drive to Winter Garden every once in a while and check things out.  You’ve been to a UCF Football tailgate and even gone inside the stadium to watch a game once or twice.  You can’t be friends with people who aren’t sure they want to stay here for the long haul because you’re tired of making friends who move away.

OrlandoAF 

You love Orlando and find pride in everything we do.  You have an Orlando City Soccer magnet on your car even though you don’t even like sports.  You tell people how many years you’ve been here.  Especially if it has been more than 10 years.  You cheer on every new trend that comes to town.  Poke bowls?  You love it.  Cookie dough cafe?  You’re there. You share it on Facebook.  Let your big city friends know Orlando’s right there with them (albeit six months to two years behind.) You share every ‘Best of’ list you see that highlights Orlando.  When you meet someone who just moved to Orlando you start rattling off everywhere they should eat, shop, and visit.  You get annoyed when you hear someone say there’s nothing in Orlando but theme parks and chain restaurants.  You start a blog just so you can talk about everything you love in the City Beautiful.  You’re #OrlandoAF

Beat the Heat: Keeping a toddler entertained and mommy sane in a Florida Summer.

It’s that time of year again, the long end of a Florida summer.  It’s hot, sticky, and sweaty.  Except for the portion of the day it’s torrentially downpouring.  Before kids, I could just hide out on my couch binge watching shows.  But toddlers don’t like that.  Something I’ve learned as a mom of littles is that I cannot just sit all day in the house with them.  I get stir crazy by the late afternoon.  I like a plan, an outing, an adventure.  That’s not always possible.  But we’re making it work.  Here’s what we’re up to right now to keep us entertained and out of the heat.

At Home

Painting

I have found that I can keep little V at the table painting for up to an hour.  Here’s how I make it work:

  • I purchased a few colors of washable tempera paints as well as a cheap set of watercolors.  She likes both but you have a better shot at ‘pretty’ with the tempera paints.  The watercolors are a more difficult medium.
  • I have a giant roll of Kraft Paper  in my guest room.  I cut off a big piece and cover the table.  I could give my Kraft Paper roll its own blog post – the uses are endless. Buy one for $20 and elevate your life.  And I always have a pack of baby wipes on hand to catch messes that can’t wait until the end.  
  • I’ve learned along the way that you can waste a lot of paper during paint time.  I bought a multi-media paper sketchbook and explained that we have to stay on the same page until it dries.  This has helped to cut down on her needing a new paper after painting just three lines.  
  • If you want to make art projects that you can hang up, you’ll need to be ready to guide your kiddo through it.  Here are a few ideas from Pinterest that I like:
  • Now before you get started, repeat these words in your head:  This will be messy.  My child is not Van Gogh.  We are going to have lots of fun.

Making necklaces

This is another fun one that’s relatively cheap.  Here’s how I make it work:

  • I bought a few bags of big pony beads and put them in a giant ziploc bag.  You can buy whatever kinds of beads you want.  But the younger your child is the bigger you want the hole to be in the beads.  
  • For string I brought bright neon elastic cord. Obviously the string needs to be thinner than the width of the holes in the beads.  But stick to big string and big beads for little hands.  
  • Pour the beads into a big plastic chip and dip.  I had a bunch on hand from a previous craft workshop.  You probably have one in your kitchen!  I also think a big gladware that you can reseal at the end would be good.  Anything that allows them to search and pick through the beads without things spilling out and over is what you’re going for.
  • Have at it, make necklaces.  And bracelets! And anklets!  
  • After we make the necklaces if my daughter isn’t in love and wearing it around the house for days, I’ll unstring what we made and put back with the supplies.  Keeps us from running through things too quickly.

Forts

I give all credit to Dadlando on this one.  But they’ve spent tons of time this summer turning the playroom trampoline and slide into a fort.  Grab some extra sheets and blankets and you’re all set!

Baking

I found this very easy banana bread recipe that we’ve been making all summer.  It doesn’t require electric mixing so we mash it all by hand.  Baking with kiddos requires extra patience that things will be messier but it’s so worth it.  She is so excited to help and to eat the things she made.

 

Out and About

Here’s where we’ve been venturing out that keeps us entertained and in the cool a/c.

  • Crayola Experience Orlando:  Built in the Florida Mall, we’ve had a great time there.  It can be very busy but there is always enough room for everyone.  There are lots of activities for toddlers and young kids.  It’s also right next to Buca di Beppo which has great lunch specials.  If you get to Crayola in the morning and then head to Buca for lunch you’ve really made a day of it!
  • Orlando Science Center:  Located in Loch Haven Park, the Science Center has activities and exhibits for all ages.  They’ve recently expanded their KidsTown (geared towards kids seven and under) and it has been a huge upgrade!  My kiddos love playing in the orange grove and digging for dinosaurs.  
  • Mall Indoor Playgrounds: A few of the malls have indoor playgrounds and that has been a godsend for our toddler to run around and get her energy out.  That said, depending on when you go they will be incredibly crowded.  So venture at your own risk.  A few we’ve been to:
    • Altamonte Mall Playground (451 E Altamonte Dr, Altamonte Springs, FL 32701 by Shoe Carnival & Sears)
      • Be careful this is right next to those ride-on animals.  So your kid will probably beg to do that too.
    • Oviedo Marketplace Playground (1700 Oviedo Mall Boulevard, Oviedo, FL 32765 in the food court)
      • This is for really little ones, like 2 and under. Don’t bother if you only have bigger kids.
    • Florida Mall at Crayola Experience (8001 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809)
      • Another stop  in the Crayola adventure, they’ve got an indoor play space in the mall.  It’s just outside the Crayola Store.

Tell me what you’re doing to keep things fun and cool this summer!

Fashion Weak: Letting go of my ideas for my daughter’s style

Photo Header (3)As a self proclaimed fashionista I was sure there was one upside to having a daughter that I didn’t picture with a son, the clothes.  I envisioned matching outfits, playing dress up, and a little girl who loved style just as much as me.   Cut to real life.  The moment she could voice them, my daughter started having very strong opinions about her clothes.  In fact, she spent a year of her life in only Minnie Mouse t-shirts.  Up until very recently, she’s been all about dresses and ‘princess’ skirts.  

On the day to day it can be a little frustrating.  More often than not it’s humorous.  The things she favors get repeatedly worn and stained while others sit in drawers crisp and clean.  I started noticing a rhythm in what she liked and bought new items to fit the bill.  Minnie t-shirts would always get a thumbs up as would shorts with pockets.  Pockets would hold the rocks and acorns she picked up at the park so this move was purely functional.  

When it came time for holidays and important photo opps, I was stubborn.  And it wound up teaching me a huge lesson.  Early November last year I went to Carter’s and picked out two perfect outfits for Violet.  One for Thanksgiving, a long sleeve floral top and cream sparkle skirt and another other to wear for family holiday card photos, a gingham long sleeve top and magenta sparkle leggings.  I also found adorable magenta fringed boots that would match both outfits.  I thought I had worked within the guidelines of what she liked enough to appease her.  Pink, good.  Sparkle, good. ‘Princess’ skirt, good.  No.  Nope.  Nope.  Noppity.  Nope.

Thanksgiving rolled around and it was time to get dressed for lunch.  Lunch was planned for smack in the middle of nap time so she hadn’t slept.  That should have been reason enough for me to take a step back.  But it wasn’t.  Violet said she did not want to wear the outfit I picked out.  I said she had to.  She cried.  I yelled.  I put her in time out.  She wouldn’t budge.  I told her no treats at Thanksgiving.  I yelled more.  And she cried.  And she stood her ground.  Oh did she stand her ground.  I cancelled Thanksgiving and yelled some more. Eventually my husband stepped in.  I left the room to cool down and gain an ounce of composure.  Violet picked a different dress and asked to wear her new pink boots.  We were late to lunch and I was rattled the whole time.  In a more rational head space, I quickly realized how off the rails I’d gone.  

I was embarrassed that I had treated my daughter so poorly over something so trivial.  I now look back on that day and think of it as the day I learned the biggest lesson of my mama life.  I hate how I acted and that for even a moment my daughter was scared of me.  I don’t remember anything from that day except yelling at her.  Those are not the memories I want to keep in my heart.  And certainly not ones I want her to keep in hers.

It also dawned on me that I actually have raised a little fashionista. And with that comes her own opinions of what she wants to wear.  I resolved not to fight her on clothing anymore.  My daughter is fiercely assertive and that is something I should nurture every day because there will be 10,000 times in her life that other people quiet her.  I preach to her that her body is her own.  And that has to mean that I let her choose what she puts on to cover her body.      

Later that weekend, I shared my embarrassment and failure with my closest mom friend.  She reminded me that it’s okay for our kids to see us lose it every once in awhile but that it’s important to apologize afterwards.  It shows them even mommies aren’t perfect and that what matters is how we respond when we do something we regret.  (Thank you mom bff who is working on her psych Ph.D.!)  This helped ease my guilt and reassured me that I didn’t ruin my kid’s life.  At least not yet.  I’m sure I’ll have lots more opportunities for that down the road.

I’m no expert.  But here’s what I’ve learned in dealing with a tiny fashionista:

  1. Include them when you can in buying their own clothes.  Violet was very happy to find a very pretty Minnie Mouse party dress that she wore for Easter and now wears at least once a week to preschool.
  2. If you really want them to wear something, you gotta sell it.  Recently, Violet’s grandma bought her an adorable dress and sandals for a family party.  When I showed them to her I remarked how much they looked like something Moana would wear (sort of, kind of, maybe?)  She loved it and asked if it was time to wear the Moana dress every day leading up to the party.
  3. Understand there is a rationale to their thinking.  V did love the Moana dress and sandals but also thought she might get cold at the party so she wanted to wear tribal print leggings underneath.  Who was I to disagree with that logic?  
  4. Be like Elsa and Let it Go.  It does not matter which dress my daughter wears to Thanksgiving.  She’s adorable in anything and I’d much rather look back on happy memories of time spent together than think of tears shed in my quest for a perfect photo. Let. It. Go. 
  5. Remember that crazy outfits will make the best photos.  I look forward to showing teenage Violet photos that we can laugh at together.

The other day as I got Violet dressed for school, she pointed to her ‘princess’ dress and to my work dress and said, “We match!”  I guess there’s still hope after all.

Moms who Rock: Bonnie Lewis

“My entire vision for owning my own business was that single mom or not, this kid deserves a soccer mom.  I want to be at every school function.  I want to pick him up when school ends. I want to be at soccer.  Money was not my motivating factor.  My motivating factor was time.”

When you meet Bonnie Lewis, she looks impossibly chic in the most effortless way.  And then when you compliment her outfit, she tells you she made it.  When you talk to her about sewing she’ll casually slide in that she traveled the world working for Ralph Lauren’s advertising campaigns and fashion shoots for ten years.  And in the less than five minutes it takes to tell you all that, you want to know everything about her.

Bonnie calls herself a ‘gig’ tailor and tells about her adventures traveling on photo shoots all over.  She’s unfazed when she says it and not bragging one bit.  She had been traveling non-stop for ten years when she was blessed with the news that she was pregnant.  At the time she lived in NYC and her boyfriend, and son’s father, lived on an island off the coast of Georgia.  Knowing her professional life would not suit her life as a mom, she made the move to Georgia and little Nicholas made his debut into the world.  When Nicholas was just a year old, Bonnie and Nicholas’ dad decided they were better as friends than partners.  So as a newly single mom, she moved to Orlando to be close to family.  In a new city with limited opportunities to match her professional life, she had big decisions to make.  

She took big uncertainties and turned them into big opportunities, launching one successful business after another.  Along the way she met the man of her dreams and has launched the company she always dreamed of, Common Sewing, which turns beginners into efficient makers. Bonnie is truly the answer to every one of us out there that have ever said, “I wish I knew how to sew.”  Now eight years old, Nichols is still the driving force behind every decision Bonnie makes.

On fitting clothes to the Ralph Lauren Models:

“I fitted the samples or built special samples for the images.  I’m the person that makes you think clothing actually fits models and that something is wrong with you.  Really, there’s not that much difference between them and us except for the team (photoshop, makeup, lighting, etc).”

Bonnie’s brother is a mechanical engineer that builds props for Disney.  She began her Orlando career by building out the soft goods department of his company.  

On what she learned working for her brother:

“It was a lot of hard work but it was a blessing.  It let me see that I could hire people to take a lot of the labor off my hands.  I learned I could serve a client well.  And I could have freedom.”

Eventually she was ready to start her own company, Bonnie B. Tailor.  She had Disney contracts and set up a textile design and fabrication workroom in her church. She went from hiring contract sewers to taking on a full-time team.  Things were growing steadily until in March 2016, she took on an order that was more than she bargained for.  Everything that could go wrong did.  The order was huge and they wouldn’t get paid until they delivered.  With money flowing out to pay for supplies and staff, things began to look bleak.  A look at the books made her realize she needed to do something.  

On Bonnie B. Tailor almost tanking:

“Best thing that ever happened to me.”

Common Sewing had been bubbling in her mind for ten years.  She cites that rough patch for Bonnie B. as the boot kick to her butt that she needed to get it off the ground.  

On what held her back:

“I had the materials, the 12 sewing machines. I had the studio ready.  I was just so scared of the weight of my passion to teach people to sew. I didn’t go in there. I didn’t plan lessons.”

Threatened with losing her business she got moving.  She was quick to action and not about to fail. The first Common Sewing lesson was held in July 2016.  She started by teaching a four class series.  Just one year later, Bonnie is now running Common Sewing full-time.   As for Bonnie B. Tailor?  They did complete that disastrous order and got the business back afloat. Bonnie is now in process of turning over that business to her staff.  

On empowering her staff to become business owners:

“That’s been really fun to watch.  Tailors are not compensated well.  And these are two incredibly talented, focused, hardworking women.  And they’re great people.  They have a hope for a much better quality of life not being my employee.”  

On how Common Sewing works:

“I have many layers of purpose in Common Sewing.  My mission statement is I want to bring sewing back into our lifestyle in a way that’s relevant, sustainable, and easy.  That’s all I do.  I teach very very basic lessons.  The six lessons will teach you all the skills to be a maker or a mender, upcycler, or designer and you get six cute projects.  But I walk you through the lessons with little rhyme schemes and memorization tools about what to do.”  

On why she’s passionate about teaching others to sew:

“We live in textiles.  We are all creative beings.  We all have unique bodies that do not fit into size categories.  And we all want to express ourselves authentically as ourselves.  I want people to know how to change things to fit their bodies or make things to fit their lifestyles.  I have a lot of passion for people and how they live in their textiles.”

On taking responsibility for our consumption:

“Textiles are the most underused of the most reusable resource we have.  Textiles do not need to be thrown away.  They can be reused into millions of things.  We put 15 million tons of textiles in the landfill every single year.  And that doesn’t include what we ship overseas, that’s American landfills.  That’s coming because we are over consuming and treating our clothes as disposable.  We don’t know how to fix our clothes.  We don’t want to take them to the dry cleaner to fix because it would cost more than what we paid for them.”

When Bonnie talks about preserving our planet, she’s looking out for her son.  And for my children.  And for future generations after that.  She wants to gift people with the ability to steward what we create.  And to be good stewards to our Earth.  

On what’s next for Common Sewing:

“It’s designed to reach the nation. I’m building out a program that equips and enables teachers to start their own businesses.  I want it to be available and bless more people.  Help a single mother learn how to sew and start a business out of her home.  I’m teaching them to be a teacher.  Training up teachers to bless the people in their community.”

In addition, she’s developing the program and documentation so it’s accessible nationwide.  She’s experimenting with webinars and working on a subscription nationwide for the Common Box.  Each box has one lesson that you can do at your kitchen table.  It has a variety of methods to reach each type of learner: PDFs, videos, and tutorials running live you can log in to do with a teacher via web.

Now a family of three, Nicholas, Brian, and Bonnie are very involved in their church and Nicholas’ school activities.  Nicholas loves playing sports, especially soccer.  Every night they have dinner as a family.  And on the weekends they head outdoors for bike riding, paddle boarding, and camping.  They love spending time with family and keep an eye out for local events to enjoy together.

On co-parenting in a blended family:

“Our family life is pretty wonderful for a blended family.  I married the man of my dreams.  His dad and I are great friends.  We have so much love and respect for each other.  He married the woman of his dreams.  I love his wife.  He loves my husband.  And Nicholas calls all of us his parents.  And we support and celebrate that.  So we have a really unique family life.  I won’t say it got there without effort.  We were blessed with four people who function more on goodwill.  And we love Nicholas like crazy.  But it did take work.”

P.S.  Nicholas spends the summer with his dad in Georgia. When Bonnie and I met for the interview he was heading up to Martha’s Vineyard (can I be Nicholas, please?)

On dating as a single mom:

“Internet. Advanced search. I don’t have time to ‘date date’. No time for meetups. I did not flirt in the grocery store.  I am not going to cruise my church.  It’s just not who I am.  I had a vision that I didn’t want my son to grow up in a single parent home and I was willing to do the work.  I didn’t go into internet dating blind, I read every book on the market.  Even ones I laughed at in college. My purpose was to find the man of my dreams, fall in love organically, and use the technology at hand that would let me date while Nicholas was in bed.”

On meeting her husband for their first date:

“He walked around the corner and I recognized him from his picture and it was like to me, the quality of light on the street changed.  It was like there was a shift in the atmosphere and all of the sudden where it was sunset there was a strange glow over the street.  And I was just a puddle.  All of my cool was gone.  I was just a droopy puddle waiting to have a drink with my future husband.”

On the biggest thing she does different than she thought she would:

“I thought my son would eat all organic.  I really did.  Because I love holistic nutrition and I’m very nutrition conscious.  Heck no, it’s like chicken fingers and french fries every day.  We cook dinner at home.  But he’s not going to eat [the healthy stuff.] I’m sure there are moms out there that would say otherwise and that it’s a cop out.  But he eats very differently than I thought when pregnant.”  

On how she builds in time for herself:

“I run every day.  And it’s just 30 minutes, I don’t run far or fast.  It is absolutely a stress release and it’s absolutely a meditation.  My husband and I work with each other to give each other alone time.”

On how she sets boundaries for her work schedule:

“I don’t work past 4pm.  Work one workshop at night when Brian and Nicholas are at Trail Life (like Boy Scouts).  I hire other teachers to teach the workshops because I’m very convicted that it’s not worth it.  Common Sewing is not worth more than my family.  I work in the daytime because I’ve got a purpose.  I am pushing into it.”  

On how her family is evolving:

“We became a family two years ago.  And we really enjoy doing everything together.  Now we’re giving each other grace, like my husband is an avid reader and since becoming a dad he hasn’t read a book.  Brian needs to check every now and again to just read.  So I’ll make a plan with Nicholas.  It’s new for our family to give each other alone time.  But we’re finding a lot of pleasure in that too.”

What have you always wanted to do that you’ve been too scared to act on?  What big risk have you taken that paid off in spades.  Tell us in the comments!

Bonnie’s list of must-do’s:
Food: The Sanctum Cafe, Downtown Credo, Bulla Gastrobar, Rusteak, The Dinner Party Project  
Entertainment: Timucua White House, Paddleboarding on Lake Ivanhoe and Wekiva, Blizzard Beach
Camping: Westgate River Ranch, Amelia Island
Newest out of town getaway: Boca Grande, she calls it an outdoor wonderland that’s a tiny island, half fancy resort and half nature preserve.  
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I bet you know a mom who could use some encouragement.  Because the mom life is so hard.  And even when we look like we’ve got it all together, we don’t.  So print this out, fill it out, and let a mama know she’s not alone.

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