Observational Humor

Ixchel Statue on Isla Mujeres as captured by Grace Ray of The Big RevealAs some of you may know, we just got back from our looooong trip to VA.  After dropping Lulu off with the grandparents, my husband and I hopped a flight to Cancun.  Nate surprised me with a week in Mexico for my ehem, 40th birthday. (I know, I’m as shocked as you are:)) After lazily laying on beach chairs for 7 full days, we ended up back in VA. We finally reunited with Jayce after his super duper long trip to visit his Dad (Yay!) and then spent a couple of days with my parents before we drove back to Minnesota.  

We don’t always drive, but we had good motivation, because Jayce’s grandparents gave him their very old (older than him!) beater car for his 16th birthday and we needed to get it halfway across the country. And, I need to tell you two super insane things: a. I have a kid that is about to turn 16. This fact shocks me on the regular. I sometimes look at him and think, wait, what? He was just a baby. (Anyone else have that?) and b. I have a child who can now DRIVE A CAR. People, this is crazy.  Seriously crazy. During this moment, I was feeling super blessed that his Dad spent so much time working on his driving over the summer, because I would probably have been a nervous wreck. Nate and I took turns riding in his car while we let him drive for stretches, and I was deeply impressed with my ability to not be constantly jamming my foot on the phantom passenger seat break. 

Cliffs on Isla Mujeres as captured by Grace Ray from The Big Reveal

But, before the drive, while sitting on a glorious beach, Nate and I had some deep talks. (Isn’t it amazing what can be accomplished when there are no kids to interrupt your every thought?)  We talked a lot about the blog, its future, my future, our future, so. much. planning. When reflecting on this year or so of blogging, I told him that sometimes I feel like I am on point. Or, as the kids would say #onfleek (Don’t be ashamed, I had to google that, too.)  I share and write in a way that is really reflective of me, oddball personality and all.  And, then there are other times when I generic it down and I feel like a limp piece of milk toast. So, I decided one of my commitments was to do a little less filtering and just let my freak flag fly. (If you run in the opposite direction right now, I won’t blame you:))

If you haven’t noticed I am a striking combination of ADHD and OCD. When I travel, surprisingly my OCD takes a backseat to my attention deficit. Nothing illuminates this more than a long car ride or say, a day laying on the beach.  My attention gets caught by the slightest breeze, the randomest of random thoughts, and before I can even think to filter, I blurt out whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t matter if the person I am with is midsentence or sleeping or a random stranger, I just can’t help myself. On a Beach in Cancun as captured by Grace Ray of The Big Reveal

Since you guys couldn’t be there to enjoy every. single. thought I had, I submit to you for your reading pleasure, a snapshot of our trip as told through my random streaming thoughts (and, for those of you who don’t care about my random thoughts, there are some more pretty pictures): Continue reading


Summer Reading List: Making the Most of the Last Days of Summer

Summer Reading List

Summer Reading List by thebigreveal on Polyvore

Ok, first, can I just say summer is totally flying by?!  What happened?  I blinked and it is August and my 40th birthday is staring me down. Holy wow!  I am trying to make the most of what little summer is left by catching up on my summer reading.  Back in the spring, it suddenly occurred to me I hadn’t actually read an entire book since our last vacation which was over two years ago.  That is a sad fact, my friends.  So, I ordered a couple of books to read right away and now I’m on a roll again.  Summer has actually been a great time to catch up, because Lulu loves to read so we have spent a fair amount of the summer with our heads in books. This week my husband and I are heading off on a little vacation and I’ve packed my carryon to the gills with a few random reads, many of which were suggested by my favorite (and only;) sister. 

In the summer, I tend not to like really heavy, dark reads, but things that are a little more upbeat and leave you feeling happily satisfied. Most of the reads on this list are in the light, fluffy category with a few more grounded reads thrown in for balance. So, if you are in the mood for something new that you probably haven’t seen on many reading lists, hopefully I have a few for you! Continue reading


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.”

Continue reading


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