Olivia's Mediterranean Inspired 1st Birthday Party


I seriously can’t believe my baby is one! This past year was the fastest year of my life, but also the most fulfilling. I love watching Olivia grow up, and am continually amazed at how much she learns every day.

When I was thinking of a theme for her first birthday party, I knew I wanted it to be unique and have some meaning behind it. My inspiration for her Mediterranean inspired birthday party came from two things: her nickname, Baby Olives, and a gorgeous dress our friends got her when they went to Greece.

I made the invitations and envelope liners myself (I’ll post a tutorial on how to make envelope liners soon). Also, because I love beautiful postage stamps, I just had to curate a set of stamps that went along with the Mediterranean theme. Aren’t they gorgeous?!

Mediterranean inspired invitations
Mediterranean postage stamps

I wanted to have something at the party that the adults could do, so we set up an olive oil tasting game. There were five different olive oils, each with a slightly different flavor profile. The guests were to taste each one and try to match the olive oil in the dish to the bottle it came from. I chose not to use infused olive oil flavors just to make the game a bit harder. The winner received, of course, a nice bottle of olive oil!

For the food, my mother and mother-in-law made an amazing Mediterranean feast! A lot of the food was made from produce from our garden (that my husband grew!). We had the tastiest falafel ever with cucumber sauce, rice and lentils, cucumber and tomato salad, caprese skewers, bruschetta, and pesto pasta salad. There were three spreads for the bread and crackers: hummus, baba ganoush, and sun-dried tomato pesto. And we had the most amazing charcuterie board full of extra fixings such as dates, caramelized walnuts, and roasted red peppers.

There were cakes too, although I don’t have any photos of them unfortunately. We set them on the display stands and bees immediately came for all the sugar on them, so we covered them up until it was time for dessert.

They were super good though! I had made mini olive oil bundt cakes with a lemon glaze. If you’ve never had a olive oil cake before, it’s a traditional Italian cake made with olive oil instead of butter. Since I didn’t get any photos of these cakes, I think I might make more and share my recipe in another blog post.

We also had adorable sugar cookies made by Dorothy Ann Bakery. Lemons, flowers, and number ones!


For the kids, we held a simple Olympic Games. There was the long jump, discus, balance beam, hurdles, javelin throw, and a race. We used a frisbee for the discus and a dowel for the javelin throw. When it was over, the kids lined up and we had a little “ceremony” where they were awarded their metals!

We didn’t do a traditional smash cake with Livvy, mainly because I forgot to make the coconut whipped cream (haha oops). But she loves raspberries, so we piled those on top of her cake (which was a banana cake!)

Oh, and she refused to wear her olive branch crown. Still looked cute though!

The party was held in a park right on the Mississippi River. A cool, foggy morning turned into a beautiful, sunny 80 degrees.

We had a wonderful day celebrating our baby girl! She is our pride and joy, and we love her so much.


Spring in San Diego (And 12 Things To Do While You’re There)


Our first trip with a baby!

A quick walk at Mission Trails and a stop to see the wildflowers.

A quick walk at Mission Trails and a stop to see the wildflowers.

Last month we got to escape the never-ending Minnesota winter and spend two weeks in sunny San Diego! And when I say never-ending, I actually mean it. There was a record-breaking snowstorm back home that dumped over a foot of snow in two days. Yikes.

This was our first time traveling a long distance with a baby, and I have to say, it wasn’t as hard as I imagined! We had great flights—4 hours nonstop in the middle of the day—and our first flight wasn’t full so we had a whole row to ourselves. Olivia adjusted to the time change very quickly and she experienced so many new things!


Most of our trip photos were taking on my phone, as I’m trying to be more present in everyday moments instead of trying to capture every “beautiful” picture.

I did bring my DSLR along though! The 3 photos above (the palm tree, the yellow flower, and the flowers among the leaves) are ones that I submitted to Unsplash. Unsplash is a stock photo site that actually has (very) beautiful, free images for you to use. You can download my photos (I have more on there too) here!


If you’re looking for recommendations on things to do in San Diego other than SeaWorld or the Zoo, here are my picks:

  • The beach

    • We went to a few beaches during our visit: Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, and Stan’s Beach in San Diego, and Moonlight State Beach in Encinitas. Ocean Beach has a really great laid back, hippy vibe to it. Marijuana is legal in California, so OB (as the locals call it) is probably not the best option for your family beach day. Moonlight State Beach was really nice, and you can walk up the shore and see the cliffs.

  • Taylor Guitars Factory Tour (every Monday through Friday at 1 pm)

    • This is an amazing tour! You get to see the entire process of guitar construction, from wood selection to final assembly. It’s free too.

  • Coronado Island

    • A trip to San Diego is not complete without a visit to Coronado Island. We love to walk along the Stan’s Beach; it’s gorgeous!

  • Sunset Cliffs

  • La Jolla

    • We got some ice cream here at Scoops La Jolla after walking by the coast and taking a look at the sea lions.

  • Mission Trails Regional Park

    • I wish we had more time to hike these trails! I really wanted to see some of the wildflowers that were blooming, so I researched and found a beautiful trail at this park. The Oak Canyon trail is more shady than some of the other trails, follows along a river, and isn’t too difficult of a hike.

  • Balboa Park

    • My favorite place to just stroll around. I have yet to hear music played at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, but if you’re able to, I’m sure it’s amazing! There are a bunch of interesting museums and peaceful gardens in the park and the architecture is absolutely breathtaking!

  • Pigment

    • This is my little shopping spot when we visit the area. It’s the cutest boutique ever with everything from succulents to home decor to baby goods.

  • The Purple Mint

    • If you’re looking for great vegan food, The Purple Mint won everyone over in our group, meat eaters included!

  • Miguel’s Cocina

    • There are a few locations around the San Diego area. We went to the one on Coronado Island, and mmmm was it good!

In Encinitas

  • Barrels and Branches

    • If you’re looking to bring home some new plant friends, I highly recommend coming here! I wanted to bring home every succulent I saw, but only got three (and a crystal too). After we stopped here, we went to Moonlight State Beach and walked along the shore.

  • Lotus Cafe

    • A great place to have lunch! They also offer a wide variety of fresh made-to-order juices, smoothies, and shakes.

I need this stuffed octopus for Olivia! Pigment is just the cutest boutique.

I need this stuffed octopus for Olivia! Pigment is just the cutest boutique.

Plants I wish I could take back home with me from Barrels and Branches.

Plants I wish I could take back home with me from Barrels and Branches.

The cutest little greenhouse at Barrels and Branches.

The cutest little greenhouse at Barrels and Branches.

We had a great time in San Diego. We hope to go back every year to visit family and start a tradition. Olivia grew a lot while we were there and it has been amazing seeing her personality shine through! Also, now she knows that the outside world isn’t always cold and snowy lol.


Have you been to San Diego? What are your favorite places? I’d love to know for our future trips!


Olivia's Birth Story


Olivia May Maluo Nixon

September 18, 2018 | 5:48 am | 5 lbs 9 oz | 19 inches

TL;DR The plan was to have a natural birth at a birth center. The reality is that my water broke at 36 weeks 2 days (I was so unprepared haha) and I gave birth at the hospital. Labored for 5 hours (!) with no epidural (!!), was completely silent during transition, pushed for 45 minutes, and our beautiful baby girl was born happy and healthy! We love her so much!

Finding out that we were pregnant changed our world. Raising little humans is such a blessing. Life doesn’t always go as planned, but that’s what makes life beautiful.

I wanted to have a natural birth, if possible, so I looked up birth centers in Minnesota. One that immediately caught my attention was the Minnesota Birth Center (very descriptive, right?!) in St. Paul. The rooms are beautiful and calming, and the group of midwives that provide care there are amazing! Giving birth at a birth center is in between giving birth in a hospital and having a home birth. The midwives here even have admitting privileges at United Hospital, which is less that 5 minutes away, so they would continue care with you there if you transfer in a non-emergency.

Now, Caleb and I live in St. Cloud. St. Cloud is an hour and a half away from St. Paul driving on the freeway. Even with the possibility of having a car baby (and having to spend so much on gas to get to appointments), we decided to go with the birth center.

Fast forward to the end of July. I’m 29 weeks pregnant and end up spending two nights at the St. Cloud hospital due to Braxton Hicks contractions that were 5 minutes apart. I was 1 cm dilated with a shortened cervix, but after receiving IV magnesium sulfate (awful stuff) and a course of steroids to help baby’s lungs develop, I was able to go home.

Even though there was a very good chance I would carry Livvy to term, the possibility of having her born early really got me into baby preparation mode. Unfortunately, when you’re in the third trimester, you’re also very tired. I started to push tasks back day after day, saying that “I still have time.” But, as we soon found out, baby comes when baby wants to come.

Monday, September 17, 2018

It was a cloudy, cool day, only 64 degrees. It felt like a storm was going to blow in, and while eating lunch there was thunder like I’ve never thunder before. It was a hefty, deep rumble, one I can’t even describe. We commented to each other on how different it sounded, and Caleb went to power off the machine shop.

3:00 pm

Caleb and I were sitting next to each other on the couch, when all of a sudden I felt a gush of something in my pants. I ran to the bathroom trying to figure out if my water just broke or if I had just wet myself. After a few minutes, I was 98% sure my water had broken and we were in shock trying to figure out what to do. I was 36 weeks 2 days, which meant that I was still considered preterm (37 weeks is early term) and wouldn’t be able to give birth in the birth center.

I called the midwife and she gave us two options: drive down to United Hospital or go to the St. Cloud Hospital. Both places would test to see if I was leaking amniotic fluid, and if it was positive, they would admit us right away because they like the baby born within 24 hours of the water breaking to prevent infection.

I first told her that we’d just go to the hospital here in town. But after hanging up, and a brief chat with Caleb, I called her back and said we would drive down to the cities.

Now, we were completely unprepared for this. Nothing was packed, none of Olivia’s clothes or blankets were washed, we were going to install the car seat the next day and take maternity photos later in the week. We didn’t even have the crib mattress yet!

4:30 pm

After dumping a bunch of things into a suitcase and filling up the gas tank, we were off. We felt excited and a bit scared, but mostly we were just so thankful for our little baby girl. As we got closer to the hospital, a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky. As unprepared as we were, I knew that everything was going to be ok.

7:30 pm

The amniotic fluid test came back positive, so we were admitted. (Side note: we got the last Labor and Delivery room, there were so many pregnant ladies! I blame it on the pressure change from the storm haha)

9:00 pm

My midwife, Courtney, checks my cervix. I’m 3 cm dilated and 70% effaced. I wasn’t really feeling any contractions, so I was going to be induced. She told me that we would skip the Cervidil, which is a cervical ripening hormone, and start on Pitocin in about an hour. At this point, I grimace, because I’d heard the stories about how Pitocin makes contractions feel worse because your body didn’t gradually (i.e. naturally) get used to them. She reassured me that they’ll use the lowest dose needed to get things going and then proceeded to sweep my membranes.

10:20 pm

We begin the Pitocin. I’m told to try to get as much sleep as possible. We watch an episode of Friends and then doze off.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

1:00 am

I wake up needing to use the restroom and realize that I’m feeling some contractions finally. I deal with them on my own for a bit while Caleb sleeps on the couch. My nurse, Rosie (she was the sweetest!), comes in and sits with me while I breathe my way through some more contractions. Caleb gets up soon after that and I ask if I can go labor in the tub. As Rosie gets the tub ready, I start to get out of the hospital bed. What happened next was the scariest moment of my labor: choking on my own vomit.

I remember panicking because I couldn’t breathe and I made some sort of terrified gesture to Rosie. While I was freaking out, she was super calm and nonchalantly told another nurse in the room, “oh, she’s choking”. I remember thinking, “YES I AM AND I’M GOING TO DIE!” Anyways, she told me to breathe through my nose and sit up straight and all was well again.

I get in the tub and labor some more while clinging for dear life to this little aromatherapy stick that smelled like peppermint. I was given the lavender one at first, but peppermint smelled better. I also had another bout of choking while in the tub. Not fun.

After a while, I started feeling a lot of pressure and almost felt like pushing. Which was surprising to everyone considering that only a couple of hours have passed. I get out of the tub and Rosie gets Courtney.

Up until this point I was coping through moaning. But once I got out of the tub and back in the bed, I labored completely silent until it was time to actually push. No moans, no hums, no loud breathing, nothing.

I remember hearing Courtney, Rosie, and Caleb talking: “Is she still having contractions?” *checks the contraction monitor printout* “I think she’s in transition” “Have you ever seen anything like this?”

I was in my own little world chanting some sort of mantra in my head during every contraction. I can’t remember what it was exactly, but it was something like, “Breathe, relax, open up, it’s going to be over soon.” Haha. I also held that aromatherapy stick basically in my nostril during contractions. The instructions say to hold it 3 inches away. Ha.

Eventually I felt the urge to push and it’s confirmed that I’m fully dilated. Because I had no pain meds, pushing was the most painful part of the whole thing. The ring of fire is NO JOKE PEOPLE. I was no longer silent; I screamed.

5:48 am

After 45 minutes of pushing, all the pain melted away once Olivia was placed on my chest. I have never been more in love! I couldn’t believe she was actually here! Everything about her is perfect, from her little nose to her fingers and toes.

It’s been almost 2 weeks since we brought her home and we’re cherishing every moment. She’s changed our lives for the better and we can’t wait to see who she will become.

Love you more than you will ever know, Olivia May Maluo.

P.S. I wholeheartedly believe that letting my body relax and not fighting labor, but embracing and working with it, was the only way I made it through without any pain meds. In order to completely relax, Caleb physically supported me in addition to emotionally supporting me. He kept me from slipping too far down in the tub, allowed me to put all my weight on him at times, and held my legs up when I couldn’t anymore. Basically, I was a limp noodle in Caleb’s arms haha. But hey, it worked!


43 Life Lessons From a Father to His Daughter


"Tip of the Day" 

In celebration of Father's Day, today I'd like to share will all of you one of the amazing things my dad did with me a couple of years ago. 

One random day (February 19, 2015, to be exact) he texted me "Daily tip, don’t forget to put lotion on your hands, the skin dries quickly in the cold. I haven’t followed this tip and I have alligator skin now."

It was so unexpected. Hilarious too. But it was such good advice. I loved it! 

The "Tip of the Day" continued as he would think of little life lessons from his observations during the day and then text them to me when he came up with one. 

Some days life was too busy and he'd forget or I'd be at home visiting, so the texts didn't come every single day. But it continued for a good few months until I came home for summer break. 

I knew I had to keep a collection of the texts, because the advice was so practical. Always write down on a calendar the date a free trial program ends. Always leave extra time when you're catching a bus (or plane, or train, or automobile). 

Some of the tips had originated from funny situations. Remember that no matter where you are someone may be watching you. Look both ways if you are going to jaywalk across the street. Sometimes it is better not to say out loud what is on your mind. (Read the texts below to find out what the funny situation was!)

And some were just classic reminders. Always be a good neighbor. Always listen and respect how others see things. Remember to admit when you are wrong.

I loved looking forward to the Tip of the Day, and now that I've graduated and got married, I really cherish these pieces of advice. 

My hope is that by sharing these, everyone can glean some of the wisdom that a dad can give. Happy Father's Day!

Also, I hope he doesn’t get mad that I put his texts to me online for the world to see. Love you daddy! :) 

Circa 1997

Circa 1997

Wisdom from Dad

1. Daily tip, don’t forget to put lotion on your hands, the skin dries quickly in the cold. I haven’t followed this tip and I have alligator skin now.

2. Tip of the day. Always take advantage of freebies. So go to the Sidewalk Prophets concert tonight. Love dad. (Sidewalk Prophets had a free concert at my college)

3. Tip of the day. Always be a good neighbor, or they will all sell their houses. All of the houses around us are for sale, or just sold last summer

4. Tip of the day. Standing up to a bully can hurt sometimes. Case in point, I succumbed to pressure from Charcoal and gave him milk, but when he didn’t share with Lily I moved the milk away from him. He proceeded to hiss and took a swipe at me. (Charcoal and Lily are our two cats)

5. Tip of the day. Always have all documentation on hand when starting your taxes. That way you won’t be a pest to others. Sorry for bugging you last night.

6. Tip of the day. You can move back home again and be happy. Case in point, Kevin Garnett coming back to the T-Wolves (Timberwolves). So remember there’s no place like home

7. Tip of the day. Always listen and respect how others see things. They may have a different perspective on things. Case in point, the photo of the striped dress you sent Hannah (which was black and blue).

8. Tip of the day. Enjoy the weekend because Monday comes up fast.

9. Tip of the day. Remember to admit when you are wrong. Case in point, yesterday the weather people made it sound like we were going to not be able to go to work today. Then this morning, no snow! It is snowing now, but not enough to cause problems.

10. Tip of the day. Make an effort to interact with people who might not usually be your type of person. Since I started playing basketball with the guys I have discovered that I have things in common with some of the guys that normally I wouldn’t speak to.

11. Tip of the day. Always proofread anything you send out. I just came across a document someone emailed out that said, ‘Levee of absent’. It should have said ‘Leave of absence’. And this went out to senior people in the bank. Don’t rely on spellcheck!

12. Ok tip of the day. Always write down on a calendar the date a free trial program ends. Companies like Amazon take advantage of forgetful customers to make money. (He forgot to cancel Amazon Prime that he signed up for during Christmas. And I forgot to cancel Amazon Student, paid on his credit card. So he paid $100 for Amazon Prime that we hardly ever use)

13. Tip of the day.  Don't underestimate the potential of any person, sometimes the people you didn't think could do anything right do the improbable. Case in point, in the NCAA basketball tournament many top-seeded teams lost to mediocre teams.

14. Tip of the day.  If you don't feel good in the morning, don't try to go to class. Hannah did but now mom has to go get her because she is sick. 

15. Late tip of the day. Always be prepared for any unexpected surprises. I had my day all planned out at work today, but then spent all day putting out fires. (not literal fires, unexpected surprises)

16. Tip of the day.  Always read the road signs to make sure you don't drive in a bus only lane. There are 5 cars in the bus only lane downtown. The drivers look nervous as the buses buzz about.

17. Here is the tip. Sometimes it is better not to say out loud what is on your mind.  Long story, but recently some ladies were at Teavanna along with their kids. The ladies had tea, but the kids got a little wild. Teavanna asked them to leave and on the way out a worker told them to “next time go to McDonald's!”

18. Tip of the day. Look both ways if you are going to jaywalk across the street, a police officer may be watching. I saw a person get stopped for doing that this morning. (Turns out, it was actually dad who got stopped!)

19. Tip of the day. When you are having difficulty solving a problem it often helps to get away and clear your mind for awhile. Then try again later.

20. Tip of the day. Remember that no matter where you are someone may be watching you.  I am sitting in my cubicle and I look out the window and the window washers were looking in! That’s my tip for the paranoid person.

21. Tip of the day.  Always look at the calendar to know what the date is. BTW me and mom decided you need a better car, so we will be buying you a brand new one this summer, what kind do you want? love dad. (What an evil joke to play for April Fools)

22. Tip of the day. Always be optimistic. Remember all baseball teams are tied for first place right now, so the Twins have a chance this year! (It was opening day for baseball)

23. Tip of the day. Always remember that you have a savior that redeemed you on the cross. (The only tip that makes sense today). Love dad. (It was Good Friday)

24. Tip of the day. If you sign a contract to make a lot of money make sure to follow all rules so as not to jeopardize the deal. The [Minnesota] Twins signed a real good pitcher for this year, Santana, but he tested positive for a performance enhancing drug and is suspended for 80 games.

25. Tip of the day. You are never too old to start learning something new if you are truly interested in it. Hannah is taking violin lessons and seems to be enjoying it.

26. Tip of the day. Watch the weather forecast in the morning so you will have an umbrella with you and won't wait for the bus in the rain.

27. Tip of the day. Always go to any government agency early in the morning or else you will wait in line for a long time. I went to the Hennepin County government center to buy the license tabs over lunch hour and I waited forever for my number to be called.

28. Tip of the day. Variety is the spice of life,  break out of a rut once in a while. I did this by not going to Jimmie Johns today. Instead I got a sub from Ebert and Gerberts! (For as long as I can remember, he went to Jimmie Johns every single Friday for lunch)

29. Tip of the day.  Always leave extra time when you're catching a bus (or plane, or train, or automobile), otherwise you will be running across the road hoping cars don't hit you.

30. A tip of the day. Don't get too disappointed if things don't go well in the beginning, stick with it for a while and see if things get better. The [Minnesota] Twins need to follow this advice, they are 1 win and 6 losses to start the season.

31. Tip of the day.  When you start to feel overwhelmed or burned out from too much work, take a day off to recharge yourself. That is why I am taking a vacation day tomorrow, yay me.

32. Tip of the day. In the spring when you see it snowing just think of it as "chunky rain". It will keep you from being depressed. BTW it snowed here a little bit today.  Love dad

33. Tip of the day.  When interviewing for a job be calm and really listen to the questions so your answer makes sense. Last night we interviewed another candidate and unfortunately, she interviewed badly. Nice and bubbly but kinda scatterbrained.

34. Tip of the day. Even as you get old you sometimes get the urge to do stuff only the younger generation does. Case in point, last night old man Torii Hunter tried to steal home. He was out but it looked like he was having fun just attempting it.

35. Tip of the day. When the boss is away, employees will take advantage.  There is another finance group that sits near my little department and the managers were all out today. Around 3 this afternoon almost all of the people in this group left. Early weekend for them!

36. Tip of the day. The instructions for assembling a product are almost always worthless.  Better to rely on the pictures and your own good sense. Me and mom spent a long time trying to understand the instructions for hanging new blinds in the kitchen. Finally we just went ahead and did it our way and it turned out to be so easy. Love dad

37. Tip of the day. If you are going to riot make sure your mom doesn't recognize you on TV.  There is a video of a mother slapping her son in Baltimore because he was in the riots. I say good job mom. I don't know how to link the video to my text sorry.

38. Tip of the day. Always have alternative routes in mind when driving in Minnesota during the summer.  Road construction season has started and roads that were open in the morning might have a lane shut down later. Driving home from work yesterday was bad due to construction all over.

39. Tip of the day. If you install a security camera, make sure to change the default password, otherwise you may get hacked. 

40. Tip of the day.  At a certain age, adults need to stop dressing up as their favorite cartoon character.  Downtown Minneapolis was full of people for the Comic-Con Convention and it was weird seeing adults in costume. Plus it was Star Wars Day as well.

41. Tip of the day. Think warm thoughts on spring days that only have a high temp around 50. It is freezing here,  and drizzly. Love dad

42. Tip of the day. Sometimes it's better to not contradict your boss, but rather go with the flow. 

43. Tip of the day. When rain is forecast park your car on the top level of the parking ramp to get a free car wash. This tip isn't valid if hail is forecasted. Also bring an umbrella with you.

What life lessons have you learned from your parents? Share them in the comments below!

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