Two Books That Are (Slowly, But Surely) Changing My Life

As you all know, I have been on a kick to simplify my life. Back in April, I talked about my need to feel some sense of space, some clarity, and just a general decluttering of mind, body, spirit, and most assuredly my home. I got off to a great start by decluttering several rooms in my home, but within a few days, things seem to fall back into the same routine. Around the same time, I began to see the book The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo popping up everywhere. (Honestly, I was starting to wonder if people knew how to Instagram anything but the cover of that book. It is like the peonies of books…)

My inner skeptic laughed, nay cackled, and said with pithy irreverance, “Oh, great, another organizing book to add to the clutter. Sounds like a stellar idea. Where’s your credit card?” So, I resisted. For a couple of weeks, I let it sit idly in my Amazon cart and that voice mocked me every time I ordered something else. Until one day, out of sheer spite to my inner critic I ordered the book. My wide eyed Polyanna said, “This time will be different. Hundreds of Instagram users can’t be wrong.”

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Cardamom-Spiced Strawberry & Rhubarb Crumble (Gluten and Dairy Free)

Cardamom-Spiced Strawberry & Rhubarb Crumble by Grace Ray from The Big Reveal

{If you are just looking for the recipe, scroll to the bottom for a printable recipe card!}

If you were around last summer, you know I have a bit of a thing for rhubarb. I get downright giddy when I see rhubarb pop up and this year is no exception. Last weekend, we ate a yummy brunch at Agra Culture and then walked to a nearby farmers market. When I rounded the corner and spotted that beautiful ruby red color, I shrieked “rhubarb” and took off in a sprint (like I had completely lost my mind). After recovering from their embarrassment, Nate & Lulu found the world’s most beautiful strawberries.  No, seriously, look at them…

Cardamom-Spiced Strawberry & Rhubarb Crumble by Grace Ray from The Big Reveal Continue reading


Father’s Day 2015: The Sweet Struggle of Fatherhood

Happy Father's Day from The Big Reveal by Grace Ray

With Father’s Day this weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about fathers, watching my husband be an amazing father to our children, being the daughter of a great man, and having not one, but four awesome grandfathers for my children.  When I thought about what quality I saw in all of the great fathers I know, the word that kept resonating with me was struggle.  

All of the fathers I know have this common thread of being the provider, the doer, the fixer of all things. It’s as if they are hardwired to believe that they have to know how to do, to know how to fix…everything. And, as a child, we believed Dad could do it all, too.  My Dad, the knower of all things.  Even now, when I am stumped, I instantly think my Dad must know the answer.  Surely he can solve the mystery. What an awesome and weighty responsibility it must be to see your superhero image reflected in the eyes of your child. 

What Dad doesn’t know is it isn’t realistic to be the knower of all things, it isn’t realistic to always be the doer, to bear the weight of sole provider.  And, when that expectation butts up against reality, you can see the sweet struggle of a father, who out of his deep love for you, still wants to fix it all.

I’ve seen the sweet struggle in my father’s eyes the countless times I’ve been in a hospital bed, knowing he can’t fix it, but his wheels racing trying to come up with a solution anyway.  I’ve seen the sweet struggle in my husband’s furrowed brow as he tries to find the magic words that will solve our daughter’s painful shyness or will motivate our son to be a capable young man.  And, I’ve been witness, though a delighted witness, to the sweet struggle of a grandfather willing to perch atop a child’s stool, grasp a minuscule tea cup, and sing in his highest pitched voice just to turn his granddaughter’s tears into laughter.

These men, these Dads, these Papas, these Grandpas, these Fathers are superheroes.  They are the man that, despite it not usually coming the least bit naturally, will do whatever it takes to have a happy and healthy family.  They are the man who will awkwardly change the Barbie’s clothes even though their fingers refuse to manipulate something so very tiny, act as a human jungle gym for all the kids just so they will stop fighting one another, teach you how to do your taxes even though he is not entirely sure how to do his own, drive all the way across the state to pick you up from a date gone bad, try to let you go even though they don’t really want to when it is time to walk you down the aisle. Those Dads don’t know that a true superhero isn’t about perfection, it isn’t about being able to save the day every day. It is their sweet struggle that makes them so super.  

Even though my Dad’s kisses across the bridge of my nose didn’t really erase the freckles I loathed, I still believed he had superhuman powers.  Even though my husband’s very presence as coach of the little league team doesn’t slay the shyness that tugs at her little heels, she feels his cape of protection.  

These Dads are filled with more super powers than they will ever know. Their bravery, their compassion, their humility, their struggle… love those Dads this weekend.  Show them that despite all the places he feels confident he failed you, that he is still a superhero in your eyes.  Respect the sweet struggle it takes to be the Dad they feel is worthy of you.

Have a lovely Father’s Day!

Till next time,

Grace


A Boho Girl’s Bedroom: A New Plan for Lulu’s Room

A Boho Girl's Room by Grace Ray of The Big Reveal

As most of you know, when we got back from Christmas break, Lulu’s room was completely ruined by a water leak.  It set in motion a decision to switch the guest bedroom into Lulu’s room and her old room into a studio. Perfect plan, right? Well, I managed to get myself completely derailed by two minor issues: The first was decorating costs money. Like actual dollar bills and I currently have somewhere in the neighborhood of zero.  So, that is a problem.  But, I started squirreling away a little here and there and came up with about $800 to makeover the guest bedroom. (That leaves zero dollars for any other projects, but we will worry about that later.)   Continue reading


5 Million Meals + a Bridgewater Candle Giveaway

Bridgewater Candle Giveaway on The Big Reveal Blog

{UPDATE: This giveaway is now CLOSED.  The lucky winner is Maren!!! Yay! Maren!  Thanks to Bridgewater Candles for sharing their candles and their mission to feed hungry children!}

Hello, everyone!  It has been a while since I’ve been around these parts and I figured there was no better way to come back from a break than to have a giveaway, right?  First, let me explain. Back in January, I met the fine folks at Bridgewater Candles when I went to the Alt Summit. In a sea of corporate sponsors, I was instantly drawn to Bridgewater Candles because of their mission, plain and simple. As you all know I am a sucker for kids and for every candle sold, Bridgewater Candles partners with Rice Bowls to provide 3 meals for children in orphanages around the world. This year their goal is to reach 5 million meals for hungry children through their Light a Candle • Feed a Child program.

As you all know, as a general rule of thumb, I don’t do sponsored posts, but when Bridgewater Candles reached out and asked me to help celebrate and recap their Party with a Purpose, I was all in. Many years ago, I was part of a team to set up a mobile medical unit for 3 orphanages in China.  I have seen firsthand the outright dire conditions under which many overseas orphanages operate.  There are nearly 163 million orphaned children around the world and many in the world’s most impoverished nations. Continue reading


The Gift of Motherhood

Happy Mothers Day 2015: The Gift of Motherhood by Grace Ray of the Big Reveal Blog

{This post was originally posted last Mother’s Day, but is one of my favorites.  Happy Mother’s Day!}

I’ve been thinking a lot about motherhood, both being a mother myself and being the child of a wonderful mother. I’ve seen and cherished so many amazing mothers over the years. I’ve beared witness to the awe-inspiring love of mothers, both with children and also those mothers who’s souls are filled with love, but their arms are empty. I have been thinking of all the qualities that those mothers have embodied and the one that resonates over and over is strength.

Motherhood is this complicated gift where you are given this tiny being to shepherd, to hold close in the arms of safety, but not so close that you clip their wings, where your heart gets tugged along behind them like an elastic band, joyous and elated at their trumps and devastated by their heartaches, and where on some fine day you set them off on their journey to carry a piece of you with them always.

Being strong as a mother is never really a choice. It is as if it is woven in the fiber of motherhood itself.  I’ve watched my own mother’s strength as she wiped the tears from my cheeks and knew her heart carried the weight of mine alongside her own. I’ve relied on my own strength as I’ve had to reimagine my vision of motherhood, face infertility, fight through the stunning heartache of parenting a child of divorce, and suffer alongside a child with chronic health issues.

I will never forget the strength of a mother I saw some years ago in China.  I had just arrived at a large, dilapidated orphanage well outside of Beijing when there was some commotion just outside the gates.  I watched as a young mother, who looked weary with worry and travel, handed her child of maybe two years over to staff of the center.  The child who had evident medical issues began to wail stretching her arms out towards her mother as she turned to walk away for the last time.  As the scene unfolded, my first thought, as a mother myself, was how could she do this?  How could she leave her child? But, as I looked into her eyes, her great mother love poured out. In a moment, you could see the anguish and agony of a mother who loved her sick child with such great love that she could make the awful and desperate choice of giving her daughter away to the people she hoped would save her. And, in that instant, I felt her strength.  It echoed in me as I sang to her baby and wiped the sweat and tears from her reddened face. She loved that soul so much that she gave her this chance at living.

Strength. Incredible, gut wrenching strength.

I see it again and again with mothers all over the world. Mothers everywhere have different struggles, different heartaches, different names, but they all bear this badge of strength.  The strength that allows them to love through hurt, to hold onto hope, to heal all that ails.

Love your mother this weekend.  Love all the mothers around you, your sister, a friend, someone who just plain mothers others.  Love those mothers whose children have not yet come into their arms.  Give all mothers back that measure of love, that while it will never can match theirs, feeds their courage, their heart, their strength.

I’m so proud to be part of the family of mothers. Happy Mother’s Day to each of you.


Simplify: Reclaiming Your Home

Modern Princess Bedroom

R.I.P. Beautiful Bedroom

When it came to how our home was laid out and how we were using our space, it didn’t occur to me until recently that we were truly wasting a lot of what we had.  Back in January, we had a pretty significant water leak in Lulu’s room which ruined her lovely, freshly decorated space. While we were completely bummed out and entirely exhausted by the excruciatingly long process of insurance people, repairmen and contractors who never seemed to actually show up even when they swore on their children and all the saints in Heaven that they would really, really be here at 8 o’clock this time, it did give us plenty of time to pause and reflect on what we wanted to do next with her space. 

The natural inclination would be to redecorate and turn it back into her bedroom once again. But, after having her crash in the guest bedroom for a while, it suddenly occurred to us that it didn’t have to be a bedroom. One day while we were having to move our halfway done craft from the kitchen table so we could actually eat on said table, I had a sudden brain blast that her bedroom could become our art studio.  As soon as I pitched it to her, she was completely sold. We both got giddy with the idea of having a dedicated space to craft, to play music, to create and to not have to put away projects in the middle or to disrupt the entire family by leaving them out (which is frankly our preferred method.) 

So, the plan for the last month or so was to have Lulu move into the guest room as is and for us to create a creative studio in her room.  It seemed like a great plan, except her dresser and clothes would have to stay in her original room, because there wasn’t any room in the guest bedroom.  But, we agreed it was a small price to pay for the added studio space.  That is until we went over to my friend Jen’s house. Continue reading


Simplify: Ridding Your World of Physical Clutter

Ridding Your Space of Physical Clutter

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why your space is so cluttered?  Honestly, it is not a question I have asked myself a lot.  I mainly have just looked around my house, potentially said a few unladylike words, and then been depressed by the endless cycle of cleaning.  No matter how much cleaning I did, it always was a hot mess of misery within a few days and I would curse the house, living with dirty people (sorry, kids), and start the process all over again. I recently decided it was time to dissect why the current plan isn’t working.

I hear this struggle time and time again on the interwebs, from friends, and family.  And, I’m not sure anyone has the perfect answer.  Perhaps the answer is different for everyone, but after observing our routines, organizational systems, how we use spaces, and our enjoyment of our house, I came to one staggeringly simple solution. We have too much stuff. Plain and simple. And, I wonder if you do, too.

A few years ago, I had a friend who was constantly complaining about being overwhelmed by her house, so I volunteered to come help her find new organizational systems.  As an outsider to the mess, it was easy to instantly see she simply had too much stuff. Unfortunately, the sentimentality of our own things sometimes blinds us to the truth. 

Once I realized this hard, simple truth I set out to remedy it.  I have been going room by room and ruthlessly eliminating.  If you are ready to get to it, here are a few things that help:

  1. A cup of coffee (because really? I don’t do anything without coffee first.)
  2. Tennis shoes (because this is going to be a workout.)
  3. Good tunes (I’ve been alternating between a mix Laura made me and a few dance playlists on Spotify to keep me motivated and simultaneously work on my karaoke skillz.)
  4. Two bags and a basket (one bag for trash, at least one for the Goodwill, but if you are doing your job you will probably need lots more, and finally a basket to hold things that belong somewhere else in your house.)
  5. An empty car trunk (to immediately take your giveaway bags to.)

Before I got started, I thought about the areas that make me the most crazy and picked my top one.  Once I completed that one, the joy I felt and deep sense of relief were contagious and before I knew it, I was going room by room.  My goal was to get rid of two thirds of the belongings in our house. That sounds a little crazy, I know. But, I knew for me if I held out a lofty goal like that I would be able to more ruthless.  

For each item I touched, if I hesitated to know immediately which pile they belonged in, I asked myself this question, “Is there a way I can live without it?”  I realized for so many of the items there was.  When it came to sentimental items, like pictures the kids had made, I knew I could easily take a photo.  But, more often than not, my answer was give it away, give it away, give it away now. (To no one’s surprise, the Red Hot Chili Peppers song was stuck in my head on permaloop.)

Today I’m hitting the kitchen hardcore.  I don’t wanna (because that place scares me), but I’ve got a latte in my hand, my yoga pants on to keep me zen about the whole thing, and French dance music (it’s much harder to get sidetracked singing the lyrics). 

Last week, your one big assignment was to name the place in your house that is making you loco.  This week, it is time to tackle that bad boy. I know you are thinking, but, Grace I don’t have time.  Yes, you do.  I promise you. Borrow that time from watching TV, checking Facebook, pinning on Pinterest. Put the kids to bed and get on it. Take two hours this weekend and dive in. I don’t want to have to tough love you, but someone once tough loved the heck outta me and it gave me the necessary kick in the boot I needed to get it done. And, once you do, it is going to feel so good.  (The keys are don’t stop till you finish that one space and immediately take the giveaways out of your house.)

And, please tell me about it. Leave me a comment below and make a commitment to taking back one room, one drawer, one space in your home for you. Because you are worth living in a space that makes your life richer, happier and easier. 

Till next time,

Grace


Simplify: A Challenge for April

Steps to A Life of Simplicity by Grace RayFor as long as I can remember in my adult life, I have craved simplicity but never fully achieved it. For the past two years the word simplify has continued to ring in my head like an alarm with increasing intensity.  I have desperately craved a life free of physical, spiritual and mental clutter and while I have been making some great strides in that direction, I am going to devote my April to that one concept: Simplify.

Our lives have gotten so overwhelmed, whether it is jam packed schedules or jam packed houses, it is all too much.  Our lives of abundance have become a life of overwhelm. And, I, like I’m sure many of you, am ready to make a change. I am going to fully commit my month to completing this mission I started, because  I have finally cracked the code and I want to share it with you.   Continue reading


Lately

Lately by Grace Ray from The Big Reveal BlogI know it seems like I am taking a blog hiatus, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Truth be told, I’ve been doing an enormous amount of work behind the scenes for a new and improved blog and business.   Let me explain.

First, I am going to B-School!  Wahoo!!!  For those of you who don’t know what B-School is, it is a business school for creative entrepreneurs led by Marie Forleo.  Marie is a gorgeous genius and innovator. For the last several weeks, I had been inundated by commercials and recommendations for Marie’s school on the interwebs and was dying to take the class. The investment was significant, though, and I was having a hard time asking the hubs to make the leap with me. But, one successful woman entrepreneur after another kept stacking up finally culminating with me finding out Hilary Rushford was also a B-School grad. I had barely finished watching her webinar before I ran down the stairs with a crazed look in my eyes and breathlessly proclaimed to my husband that I was going go to B-School. (Luckily, he is used to the crazed look by now.) Class started two weeks ago and I am up to my eyeballs in glorious brainstorming, scheming, and dreaming. 

Lately by Grace Ray from The Big Reveal Blog

Unfortunately, just days in, my little Lulu got all kinds of sick with bronchial & strep business and after being out of commission for about 8 days straight, she finally made enough of a recovery to head back to school at the end of last week. I don’t need to tell you what it is like to try to accomplish anything other than taking care of a sick kid.  There is something hardwired in fever that turns a normally independent and rambunctious child into your new appendage. You want to make yourself coffee? Hope you can manage not to burn yourself while holding a 46 pound fever-ridden sack of weepy kindergartener. You want to write a blog post? Hope you can type with one hand while your laptop balances precariously on the one square inch of couch your kid is not currently inhabiting. (I clearly can’t.) How about go to the bathroom by yourself?  Really? Do you even have to ask? Not a chance.

Lately by Grace Ray from The Big Reveal Blog Lately by Grace Ray from The Big Reveal Blog

My poor sick lovey was suction cupped to my side for more than a week, which compounded by trying in vain to keep up with my school work, meant zero posts and abysmal social media presence.  Let me put it this way… I didn’t post on Instagram for an. entire. week. (I know!) I’m pretty sure Instagram itself felt the significant loss of all my likes. (What? I can’t help it. I follow some pretty amazing photographers.) And, to top it off, when I tried to write a post and my computer inexplicably crashed losing all my work, I dissolved into tears and a string of words unbecoming of a lady flowed forth from my mouth like a mighty flood. (I am the granddaughter of a sailor after all.)

Lately by Grace Ray from The Big Reveal Blog

In all seriousness, it wasn’t all bad.  We did do our fair share of quiet crafts and painting. And, last Sunday, when we had a break in Lulu’s fever, we decided to take our atrophied muscles out for a gentle walkabout. We ended up at the Conservatory which is where these lovely flowers are from.  Sadly, by that night, though, the fever had returned and another doctor’s visit was required.  We are, however, officially on the mend and as of today officially on spring break. Over the break, I’m going to do my best to keep my obsessive social media posting to a bare minimum though it will likely still feel like a lot given my recent absolute absence. 

Lately by Grace Ray from The Big Reveal Blog Lately by Grace Ray from The Big Reveal Blog

As I enter week three of my B-School, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future and I would love to know what you would like to see more of here. More home? Less home? More DIY or less? More fashion? No fashion? More personal stuff? More inspiration? More Nate Berkus? (Just wanted to see if you are still reading.)  So, please leave me a comment, because comments are my crack. 

Till next time,

Grace