Things To Do In Nagoya

passport pictureJapan is a wonderful country to visit, especially during the time of cherry blossom. Affected by natural calamity and wars Japan fought against time and tide, to uplift the status to the modern state of the art city. If you want to visit Nagoya, the beautiful city in Japan avails the flights through Cathay Pacific. We have discussed some places of interest in Nagoya, which could be a preference while you visit this alluring city. Book slots with the local tour operator for a city tour, or even you can tour by local transport.

Hola, Bonjour, Hallo, Ciao, Yεια σας…Hello, Europe!

passport picture 4 months later, and the longest Instagram teaser imaginable, and I’m finally “ready” (aka…found the time to write this post) to share our very exciting travel news! Did my title give it away already?!


Yes, you read that correctly. Me & my husband, with both kids in tow, will be taking a year long dream Europe trip, beginning in Madrid, Spain. Did I mention we leave in 2 days? (AHHHHHH!!!)

Let me break down the details, because I know you’re wondering how in the hell this madness all started…

*6 months ago, just barely home from the hospital from having Harper, my husband and I were joking about our dream Euro trip and basically asked each other “why aren’t we doing it yet?” After throwing around every reason why we COULDN’T go right now, we eventually came to the realization that there would never be a “good” time to go, and made the (insane) decision to do it despite every road block. For the next few weeks we let our decision soak in a bit. We worked out the logistics (work commitments, etc) and discussed timing for selling our house, cars, and much of our furniture.

*2 months ago we began selling – if it wasn’t a keepsake, irreplaceable, or just loved dearly, then it was being sold. We lived in a nearly 4000 sq. ft. home, and let’s be real, I didn’t need 90% of the “stuff” I owned. Everything we kept was boxed up and put into 4 “pods” to be stored while we’re away.

*1 month ago we listed our house for sale and within 3 hours of being on the MLS our house SOLD!! We actually signed all our closing documents yesterday and said our teary goodbyes.

This was the “get your ass in gear” moment when we realized we needed to do a LOT before we could leave the country. It’s been the busiest month of my life. We sold a lot (including both our cars), packed a lot, squeezed in all our doctor appointments (well checks, vaccines, etc), canceled subscriptions, forwarded mail, cancelled utilities, booked flights, researched Madrid, booked our AirBnB, mapped out transportation, researched travel cribs/strollers/luggage/etc., and so much more. Our life is being crammed into two small suitcases, 2 backpacks, a stroller, and a travel crib. That’s it. It’s a tight fit.

OK, so where are we going?

First up is Madrid, Seville, Ronda, and then we’ll travel along the coast and up into Barcelona, Spain. Around September we’ll head north into the San Sebastian area of Spain, and then continue into France. Outside of our locations in Spain, we’ve pre-booked our stay in Paris in December-January. The beauty of our trip is the flexibility we’re allowing ourselves; traveling with 2 kids is hard, and following a strict schedule is even harder, so we’re picking locations and making our way to them at whatever pace best works for us as a family at that time. We are only booking our AirBnB’s a few weeks in advance, with the exception of holidays (christmas, new years, my birthday in paris). Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Prague, Switzerland, Croatia, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and the Greek Islands are all on our “must see” list. We will be utilizing Europe’s amazing public transportation on our trip and all of our travel will be by plane, train, bus, and walking. No taxis. We are not even packing carseats. Of course if we find ourselves in need of carseats, they can always be purchased!

I know this is just a quick peek into our big adventure plans, but I promise to continue breaking down the details (what we packed, posts on every location, tips for traveling with kids, travel gear must-haves, breaking down the budget, etc) and take you along on this exciting journey. In addition to this blog, my husband and I will be posting travel specific posts over on Traveling With Two! You can subscribe via e-mail to receive updates and post-notifications.

We are currently living out of the JW Marriott in downtown Austin and enjoying a few days of staycation before the 12+ hour flight with our kids on Friday. Oh, and today’s our 5 year anniversary! What a week, amiright?! :-)

Happy Wednesday, friends!

XO – Samantha

A long ramble…

Is it really Monday already?

…is it seriously almost February?

Ahhhhhh! Where have I been all month? Oh yeah, that’s right, I’ve been hiding under 800 diapers and trying to survive as a new mom of 2. This shit is HARD!!! Why didn’t you people warn me?! These two little ladies are no joke. I swear they are in cohorts to need something at the exact same time, 24/7, and meltdowns are on a whole new level. Harper has mastered the most girly, high pitched, “you just pinched me” scream. Not a cry, a scream. A howl, really. Camryn thinks she lives in a world where everything “good” is deserving of a treat. She’s like a dog. My husband and I have to reiterate that “not peeing your bed is what we expect. No, it doesn’t earn you chocolate. This is not Willy Wonkas Factory.”

Please tell me I’m not the only mom dealing with this kinda crazy town. Please.

On the bright side, at least they’re really cute.


5 6 7 8 9 10 In other news…I hit my pre-preggo weight this weekend! (Hooray!!) I’ve been really working hard to maintain a strict Paleo lifestyle, and nurture my body, which nurtures my baby. Paid off. I’m not gonna lie, it feels really good, and I’m really proud of myself. Now I need to start working out and building back some muscle, and tighten things back up, but I’ve got all the time in the world for that, so for now I’m just going to keep skipping the gym and spending the time snuggling my new lady. :-) I promise I’ll be posting more about my journey with Paleo, and all my favorite recipes soon!! I’ve never been a fan of diets, or weight loss tactics, but Whole30 and Paleo have literally changed my life, and I want to share my love of them with you, and share all the recipes that have made eating clean super easy.

3 These Target (mossimo) pants are the Run, don’t walk.

2 Lots of green juices are happening around here lately. Camryn’s a little obsessed with them (obviously I love that!)

4 My husband has been doing a ton of the cooking since I seem to always have my hands full with a kid, and last night he made Paleo Pho with “zoodles” (zucchini that’s cut into thin strips like noodles), and it was insanely good! The recipe came from Nom Nom Paleo’s cookbook, but we made a few changes. (again, I swear I’m going to post more about all of this soon!!)

Not too much else is new here…started Harps on a new reflux med, still waiting to see if it helps. We’re selling our rental house so I’ve been crazy busy scheduling cleaners, a construction crew to repaint the entire house and do some handy work throughout, and this week I’m staging it (the fun part). I’ll snap some pictures of it, and share some of my staging tips. I’m doing the absolute bare minimum.

Alright y’all, mamas gotta go shower away the dried spit-up that’s in my hair, and take my big lady to school. I’ll have another post for you on Wednesday. Did you catch Emily’s fashion post from last week? I want to live in her closet; she’s so fab! Also, don’t forget to enter my $50 Container Store giveaway with Shelley!

XO – Samantha

Case of the Winter Blues

emily emily1 emily2 emily3 emily4 Blazer (similar) // Tee // Jeans // Booties (similar) // Bag // Bracelets (similar)// Necklace (similar) // Watch // Sunnies

Winter is my absolute least favorite season to dress for. There I said it. While I can appreciate the art of a good oversized sweater, especially if it is a turtleneck, I absolutely detest having to put on layer upon layer of bulky items that just make you feel like a marshmallow. I am a southern girl, so the fact that the grey weather makes my skin painfully pale is just an added negative to my hatred for this season.

The way I beat the winter blues is by wearing colors and shapes that make me happy. That break the mold on traditional winter wear of neutrals on neutrals or all black everything. Not that I don’t love both of these options and wear them quite often. Le duh.

This jacket is the definition of a shape that makes me giddy like a school girl with a giant crush on the super hot star football player. The exaggerated puffed shoulder is a nod to the giant shoulder pads of the 80′s, but completely modern and super chic. And that color! (Can you believe it was under $50!!)

The pop of pretty pink from the bag and necklace in this look elevates the basic tee and jeans for me. I am thinking that duo is going to be on hard repeat.

Side note, I am also a giant fan of the colored lip for winter.

How do y’all like to beat the winter drag?

xo, EM


Photos by Marianne Lucille Photography

Tres Chic Boutique // Put A Bow On It!

bow ring

There are a few things I love most in life, and one of those is bow jewelry. Maybe it’s the chic, Kate Spade-esque look of a bow, or my undeniable love of presents that has me swooning. I have necklaces, bracelets, earrings (that I wear daily and my sister hates because they are beginning to tarnish *insert sobbing here*) and now I have the most gorgeous little midi-ring thanks to my friends at Tres Chic Boutique! If you’ve never owned a midi ring, let me go ahead and answer the 2 questions I know you’re wondering about – 1. Yes, they’re comfortable. 2. No, they will not fall off your finger. If you have a toddler aged child, it will fit them like a standard ring fits you. My 3 year old thinks this ring is hers, despite my insisting it’s actually mine, because “…but Mom, it fits MY finger better!” :-)

Don’t be fooled by all my bow talk; Bows are not the only jewelry I’m swooning over from Tres Chic Boutique…I’d also take this, this, this, and these (which I find hilarious) in a hot minute!! They offer such great prices, especially on large statement necklaces.

Now for a fun little giveaway where EVERYONE WINS!! You will win either a $5, $10, or $15 gift card to Tres Chic Boutique, and entering is easy as pie!

Everybody Sparkles Giveaway Rules:

1. Sign Up Via E-mail Here

2. Follow @treschicny on Instagram

3. Leave a comment on MY (@playdatesandpearls) Instagram photo telling me which Tres Chic items are your favorite!

XO – Samantha

New Year, New Closet – Get Organized!!

Everyone that likes a clean organized space put your hands up, this one is for you!The New Year always makes me itch to get organize. I know I’m not alone. All the Christmas stuff is put away and the house feels open and fresh. You just want to keep that feeling going.

If you haven’t already started your organizing frenzy, Samantha is going to kick you in gear by giving one lucky reader a $50 gift card to The Container Store!!!!

Pretty darn good amiright?!

I love that store. Seriously, I could spend hours in there. And I did just that the other day. To feed my need to get things organized, I finally tackled my daughter’s closet. She has a really nice space with natural light, but it wasn’t being used well at all.

It was a hot. mess. All of her clothes were crammed together on a rack so her Barbie toys could be kept below instead of in the playroom (away from her little brother who likes to put things in his mouth). She could never get dressed on her own because she couldn’t reach her clothes. The biggest pain ever. The other side of the closet was all wasted space.
To make her closet more functional we added in some organization game changers from The Container Store.



I think the biggest help was adding the double hanging closet rod on the wall that use to be all wasted space. Her clothes are more spread out having the second row, and she can easily get to them on her own now. I also gave her a stool to get to the top row. No more, “Mom! I need help!!!”
I also added an additional shelf to that side of the closet. Now she has a display shelf and another for bins that can corral her craft supplies and other “treasures” she can’t bring herself to part with.
Before I forget, those fun gold heart decals are from Urban Walls. You can find them here.
On the left side I brought in a stacking shoe rack which works so much better than the hanging shelves we used to have for shoes. There was enough room to also give her a spot for her jewelry. The difference in having her favorite pieces displayed verses all mashed and tangled up in a jewelry box is night and day! The little bracelet stand makes her feel so special too :)
We still needed to keep her Barbie stuff in the closet, but made it less of an eye sore boy making a little curtain to hang from the rod. When she’s not playing she can close it off.


Barbies even have their own spot now in a hanging shoe organizer on the back of her closet door. This is HUGE people! This is one of those things I first saw on Pinterest. Whoever thought of this is a genius!


And just because side-by-sides are fun.
If you’re needing to do something similar, here are the workhorses I used in her space.
Now it’s your turn to get organized! For a chance to win $50 to The Cont ainer Store use the Rafflecopter below!
One winner will be announced February 1st. Good luck everyone!!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Baby Soothing Tips

ollie swaddle 3

I think I’ve mentioned some of the struggles we’ve been having with Harper the last few weeks, including her milk/soy protein allergy, reflux, and tongue & lip tie. In a nutshell, she goes through good and bad days, and at times is in what appears to be extreme discomfort. It honestly kills me. She arches her back because the reflux gets so bad, and her voice gets wheezy because it’s literally burning her throat…her tongue tie causes her to suck in air while feeding and gives her a gassy belly that hurts…her milk protein allergy was causing blood in her stool and a prolapsed rectum. AWFUL THINGS. Things that have made me want to sit in a corner and sob, hysterically, and hurt anyone who couldn’t help me make her feel better. It has definitely brought out the mama bear in me.

In the last 4 weeks I have cut ALL milk protein and soy (literally checking every.single.ingredient. in anything I’m eating) as well as reducing my caffeine intake to one cup of coffee daily. We started Harpy on Zantac for her reflux, and on the 12th she’ll be having her tongue and lip ties cut. ;-( All of this is helping, but there are still really bad hours, and sometimes days. My husband and I have tried everything, literally anything, that claims it will soothe and calm a baby – colic calm, gripe water, simethicone, probiotics, bouncing, rocking, shhh’ing – and we’ve found a few things that are really helping, and I thought I’d share for any of you that may be experiencing similar issues with your littles.

ollie swaddle

ollie swaddle 4

Swaddling is without a doubt the most effective way we’ve found for soothing Harper. We swaddled Camryn for the first 6-8 months also, and knew how calming it could be (Camryn LOVED being swaddled), but we were having horrible luck swaddling Harps for the first few weeks and couldn’t figure out why… And then our Ollie Swaddle arrived and changed everything. Our other swaddles weren’t fitted enough, and didn’t tighten the entire length of her body, which she desperately needed to help soothe her upset tummy. The moisture wicking material is so soft, stretchy, and easy to clean (in the provided washing bag). My husband always comments on how sweet Harper looks swaddled like a little pink mermaid. This was a complete game changer for us.


ollie swaddle 5

The Mama Roo is another favorite around our house. It has 5 different motion settings that mimic real life movements, like “car ride” (Harper’s favorite), as well as sounds that soothe (we like the rolling waves). My husband and I have both downloaded white noise app’s on our phones and blast those when she needs extra sound to soothe her. My favorite feature of the MamaRoo is the reclining chair because Harper needs to be upright for at least 30 minutes after every feeding for her reflux. This (somewhat expensive) machine is worth every penny in my opinion, and I’d honestly buy it 3x’s over if I had to. It works miracles, and allows me to be hands free when Harper is sleeping so I can play with my big lady!

ollie swaddle 2

In conjunction with swaddling and mamaroo’ing, we’ve begun using a pacifier because Harps was constantly wanting to pacify (either on the boob or sucking on my pinky), and that has helped her learn to self-soothe. We’re giving her a probiotic (Gerber brand), and doing bicycle legs constantly to help her get the gas out. I’ve also changed the way I was burping her from the traditional shoulder lay to a sitting position that looks like I’m strangling her…IT WORKS! Mylicon drops before feedings have also helped to break up the gas bubbles.

Since becoming milk/soy free I have discovered TONS of great food alternatives and recipes and will share those with you soon. They are honestly some of my favorite meals ever, and I would request them on a regular basis even if I could eat milk/soy. They are also 100% paleo.

If any of you have tips/tricks for the baby lady, or yummy paleo recipes to share with me, leave comments below please!!

XO – Samantha

2015 Resolutions

Oh, hello, friends! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Don’t let me make you too jealous, but I’ve been super busy snuggling a very sweet little baby. :-)

harps new years I’ve been thinking a lot about goals I have for myself for 2015, and while looking over my “Resolutions” post from 2014, I realized that my goals are still very much the same. I still need to drink more water, be more organized, take more pictures of my kids, travel often, and put down my phone. I need to do all of that, but so much more. Here’s where I stand for 2015 – what are your goals?

1.|| Be kind to my body. My body, the one that grew the two tiny humans that my world revolves around, deserves to be taken care of with just as much love and care as I give to my little ladies and husband. More water, still. Continue eating clean, and following the Paleo lifestyle that I’m learning to love. Exercise more often (because these final 9 pounds of baby weight aren’t gonna lose themselves). Teach my daughters that a strong, healthy, nourished body is the most beautiful, not what magazines and TV depict as being beautiful.

2.|| Lead a more minimalistic lifestyle. I organized a lot last year, but rarely felt that I was reaping the rewards because for everything I organized and found a proper home for, I purchased something new. This year I am seeking a home filled with less; fewer items that I cherish more. I’m very fortunate to lead a lifestyle that allows me to have the things I want, but with that I need to learn that everything I want doesn’t need to be had. I never want my girls growing up worshiping things, and that’s a hard lesson to teach when I don’t practice it myself. I’ve learned that I am very much an emotional shopper. If I’ve had a bad day, a trip to Target, or a quick browse on Zara or J Crew cures all…I need to start investing my emotions into a healthier (and less expensive) habit.

*On that note, I am no longer hoarding expensive kids clothes…Let’s be real though, I’ll still be buying on occasion, just not hoarding thousands of dollars worth of goodies for years to come… If you want the items you see my kids wearing (you know, the cute stuff!) then you can shop their closets on Instagram @shopreeseandwillow*

3.|| Take more meaningful photos. Focus on capturing the moment, the feeling, the memory, not just the smile or the clothes, etc. I am constantly photographing my ladies, but the pictures I love the most and actually take time to print and frame are the photos that remind me of how we felt at that time.

4.||Travel. My husband and I have spent the last 5+ years saying “let’s go. let’s leave it all, and let’s go!” and we’ve done that a few times. New York, Boston, Cabo, Paris, Nice, Monaco, San Fran, Napa, India, Singapore… It’s what we love doing most in life, especially with our girls. Seeing a place through Camryn’s eyes has always been so magical.

With Camryn only a year away from starting Kindergarten, we feel the pressure to travel now more than ever. A few places that top the list are Spain, France (again, because Paris holds a really special place in my heart), Italy, Turkey, Sweden, London, and Greece.

5.|| Be more present. With 2 kids, my husband, and our yellow lab Aly, my house is a little chaotic (that’s an understatement) and it can be hard to really enjoy any one moment. My goal is to make time for each of them, one-on-one, and be present to enjoy everything they have to offer. Cammy is at such a fun age – the best if you ask me – and I do not want to miss this time with her. Harper is growing so dang fast, I just don’t even know when my teeny tiny baby turned into such a little chunk!! If I don’t stop to appreciate her now, she’ll be her sisters size in a blink. And my sweet, sweet man. Y’all, he’s been so amazing the last month+, I just don’t even have words for how much I love and appreciate him. He’s been cleaning, cooking (every single delicious – dairy and soy free – paleo meal) for me, and letting me sleep till noon while he watches our ladies if its been a rough night. I couldn’t do life without him, and I need to stop and tell him all of this more often, and squeeze him and have more gratitude for him.

So that’s it. Those are my resolutions for myself. Nothing crazy like “lose 50 pounds”, and nothing that makes me feel like I’m bullying myself or trying to be something I’m not. Just the basics. Be a person I’m proud of. I might sprinkle in things like *stop swearing so damn much*, but let’s be real, those goals won’t ever be reached. ;-)

What are your New Years Resolutions?

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday & a happy New Years!! We watched movies, ate “faux-stess cupcakes”, drank Sophia’s champagne from the can, and didn’t realize it was 2015 until about 12:03am. We’re party animals!!

XO – Samantha

Happy New Year!

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 8.40.27 PM Dear 2014, you’ll be nearly impossible to top.

XO – Samantha

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

I cannot believe we are 3 days from Christmas. I really can’t. This is my favorite time of year with all the family gatherings and yummy food.

Every year I’m running around last minute finishing things up. And by last minute, I mean Christmas Eve day. This year I’m all done early! I was able to enjoy this weekend not stressing about everything I have to do. I’m hoping I am able to continue this tradition from now on. But if you’re like the (usual) me and don’t have a lot of extra time for things like baking then this is the perfect recipe!

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!




Makes 24 cookies

What you’ll need:

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1/4 cup crushed candy cane (about 3 whole candy canes)

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Cream together shortening and sugar until smooth.

Add egg and mix until fully combined, then add vanilla.

Slowly add flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Stir in mini chocolate chips and crushed candy cane.

Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into a ball and place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and baking sheet then transfer to cooling rack.

Oversized or Cropped.

Before I even get started with today’s rant, I just have to take a minute to talk about our favorite gal Samantha and the fact that her and her hubby make the most adorable children like EVER. I mean, I know y’all have seen that precious Harper by now. I can’t get enough of those cheeks, not to mention the outfits. All this cuteness on my Instagram feed makes this perpetually single gal want babies. Lots o’ babies. Guess I kinda need a man first right?!

Enough of me living vicariously through this perfect little family, let’s get down to business.

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Top – Pink Blush // Jeans – J.Crew // Pumps – Marshall’s (they are Guess!) // Necklace – Kendra Scott // Sunnies – RayBans

This season it seems like everything is either oversized or slightly cropped. Sweaters, the infamous blanket scarves, t-shirts, even hats. You name it, it was cut three sizes bigger than normal or cut to show your belly button. Now, don’t get me wrong. The eternal “basic white girl” in me absolutely loves both trends. However, it is beyond easy to go from cute & trendy to Mary-Kate & Ashley bag lady style to you looking like you’ve tried on a 12-year-old girl’s clothes. Not to hate on the Olsen twins, they basically taught me everything in life growing up.

Fit and proportion are the key pieces in making these trendy shapes possible. The other items in your look have to be the right fit and give the opposite shape to make a look work.

For the cropped options (like the sweater in today’s pictures above):

1. High waisted denim (like the ones I got at J.Crew) to elongate and to not show too much skin.

2. Midi skirts. These are a god-send and probably my most favorite skirt EVER.

3. Large cardigans or the poncho to give texture.

For the oversized options:

1. Skin tight pants. Leather leggings are perfect. I also, spoiler alert, wear my yoga pants from Old Navy as pants.

2. The skinny, tailored sweatpants. Always with a heel.

3. Over-the-knee boots. Especially if the sweater is large enough to be a short dress. The one way pants aren’t always required.

**One thing I can’t stress enough is to find a tailor for your staple items. Someone to take the clothes from the rack you found them on, to one of a kind, only fit for you pieces. WORTH IT. **

Are y’all loving these oversized & cropped tops as much as I am?!

xo, Emily


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