DIY Pom Pom Table Runner

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DIY Pom Pom Table Runner For parties and entertaining I sometimes feel like the most under-utilized table accent is the table runner. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely more important things to worry about: like making thoughtful meals and spending quality time with guests. But if you find yourself wanting to make a party statement without a ton of hassle consider the table runner your new best friend. Table runners anchor a table setting…they give it structure without stealing the show! That’s why I came up with a fun and simple way to accessorize my table runner without too much fuss!

What you will need:

Pom pom table runner DIY

-Yarn in a variety of colors

- Embroidery string (like the string you would use to make a cross-stitch)…the color doesn’t really matter as you wont be able to see the string on the finished table runner

- A piece of fabric cut to the length and width you desire for a table runner. I also stitched a quick hem around the runner to avoid fraying.

- Scirrors

- A needle big enough to thread embroidery string through.

Pom pom table runner DIY

Step 1: To begin, find an end on one of your yarn balls and being wrapping yarn around 3 to 4 fingers (depending on how big you want your yarn poms to be). I wrapped the yarn around my fingers about 35 to 40 times for fuller little poms. After wrapping, simple cut the yarn end.

Pom pom table runner DIY

Pom pom table runner DIY

Pom pom table runner DIY

Pom pom table runner DIY

Step 2: Next, slide the yarn off of your hand, making sure to retain the loop shape that the yarn formed around your fingers. With a scrap of yarn, tie a tight double knot around the middle of the yarn loop. Then simple tie the embroidery string around the center of your yarn loop as well. This string will help you attach the poms to the table runner.

Pom pom table runner DIY

Pom pom table runner DIY

Step 3: Then, being careful to not cut the embroidery string, use your scissors to cut all of the individual yarn loops. This will create a little yarn pom pom!

Pom pom table runner DIY

Pom pom table runner DIY

Pom pom table runner DIY

Step 4: Finally attach the yarn poms to the table runner. First, thread the ends of the embroidery string through the needle. Then carefully feed the needle through the table runner fabric. Tie a double (or even triple) knot with the string on the back side of your table runner to secure the pom.

Repeat those steps, creating 30 poms total (15 for each end)!

Pom pom table runner DIY

Pom pom table runner DIY

DIY Pom Pom Table Runner DIY Pom Pom Table Runner

 



Tahini Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

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tahini granola bars-2 I never realized that the toughest part of summer break would be snacks and lunch. I’m being totally serious! I take it for granted that at school there is someone else doling out the snacks and lunch and I only have to worry about breakfast and dinner. It’s kind of nice, actually. But now it’s summer and I’m quickly running out of ideas to keep their active little bodies satisfied until the next meal. Between swimming, playing outside, riding bikes and scooters, there are some big appetites.

Here’s the other thing – I actually really hate snacks! I hate buying them, unless it’s fresh fruit and veggies, because most of the time it’s just empty calories. And while I do serve up quite a bit of fresh fruit and veggies at snack time, sometimes they want something else, like a granola bar. I like taking on the challenge of creating healthier versions of their favorite no-so-healthy store-bought snacks. homemade tahini chocolate chip granola bars These granola bars are definitely sweet, but rely on natural sweeteners; dates and maple syrup, to make them sweet enough and hold together without loads of processed sugars and syrups. The tahini could be replaced with peanut, almond, or sunflower butter, but I find that when it’s paired with dates in just the right amount, it gives these an almost toffee flavor. So there’s just enough tahini so you know it’s there, but not too much that it’s overpowering or bitter. For fun, I added some semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, but dried fruit could easily be substituted. homemade tahini granola bars   tahini chocolate chip granola bars Quite honestly, I’ve never seen a snack disappear as quickly as these bars! They absolutely love them. They are a perfect whole food snack/sometimes treat that I don’t feel guilty giving them. (Or sneaking one myself!) tahini granola bars

Tahini Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
 
Prep time
Total time
 
A healthy and nutritious granola bar, sweetened without the use of refined sugars.
Author:
Recipe type: Snack
Serves: 12 bars
Ingredients
  • 1 cup soft pitted dates
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1½ cups rolled oats
  • ⅓ cup plus 2 Tablespoons mini chocolate chips, divided
Instructions
  1. Place dates into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the tahini, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and sea salt. Process until a smooth paste forms. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add half the rolled oats and stir until well combined. Add the remaining oats and ⅓ cup of the chocolate chips. Stir until everything is combined and no dry oats remain. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.
  2. Line an 8- by 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Press the oat mixture into the pan in an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining 2 Tablespoons mini chocolate chips on top and press into the surface of the bars so they don't fall off.
  3. Chill the bars until firm, about 30-60 minutes. Cut into 12 bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 



Week In Review – Summer Edition

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You Will Have More Ideas Than Time Perhaps one day when all three kids are in school full time and I have more than one hour of uninterrupted work time, I will blossom into the writer/blogger/content creator I hope to be, but for now, this sentiment is ringing true with me now more than ever. Sounds so silly, but when I found this the other day, I literally felt my shoulders relax a little, like some random quote was giving me permission to give myself a break. The appetizers for dinner post I published a couple of days ago, was actually shot back in March. I have many posts like that in the backlog, *almost* ready to go, photos taken, just ready to be edited and words waiting to be written. But time always seems to get the best of me, or lovely weather or needy kids, or just happy kids who need and want me around. I’m tending to them right now. Tending to my gut instinct to be lazy a bit more, hang out a bit more, read a bit more, sit down on my computer a lot less.

Yes, some day all, or maybe even just some of the ideas I have stored up in my noggin, or written down in my notebook, will come to life and this blog will be what I’ve always envisioned it to be, but for now I’m just going to try and be content with what it is, and relish in summer 2014 with my 3 kiddos, one of whom will only be around for 9 more years before she off and leaves me for college. Hard to believe she’s already half way to adulthood. Yes mamas, the cliche is all too true; the time really does go so fast.

Just finished Beautiful Ruins and L O V E D it. It was the first non-food related book I’ve read in a year, and it was a welcome relief from information overload. Felt wonderful to just sit and read and get lost again!

Taylor and I leave for Girl Scout camp tomorrow and so I need another fresh book to take with me. I’m planning to run into the library at some point in the morning and pick up something. Anne is halfway through her list and so I’m going to look for one of her recommendations.

Back to food books, I really don’t need anymore cookbooks, but The Lemonade Cookbook: Southern California Comfort Food from L.A.’s Favorite Modern Cafeteria is calling to me in a big way, and happy to read that Smitten Kitchen has a second book coming out too! I loved the first The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook big time, challah! is still one of the most amazing and impressive things I made, thanks to her.

I’m still hmming and hawwing over this Kate Spade Saturday dress, which I am in love with, but can’t decide on a size, and since it’s final sale, it’s a nail biter of a decision.

I found my dream home. Or at least one of my dream homes. I have several categories of dream homes, but I file this one under Realistic Dream Homes.

I’m slowly starting to turn over some of my cleaning and beauty products to more natural ones, and found this list of harmful ingredients to avoid helpful. There are all sorts of lists out there which detail out safe products, but nothing is every all inclusive, and some good products are naturally left out. There are several new products and some I’ve been using for years, which I’m really curious about, as I think they are pretty safe, but don’t know enough to really tell for sure. We’ve been using Shaklee around the house since 2008, and it’s not listed on the EWG site anywhere, so I guess I’ll just have to learn to read the labels. Anyone have any other tips or advice for navigating ones way around this world? It’s all Greek to me still.

Have a good weekend all! Can’t wait to share details of our camping trip with you next week!

photo source



Serving Accessories For a Beautiful Appetizer Spread

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I naturally cringe when articles and headlines label things as “must-haves”, knowing of course that most material “things” are generally never in the “must” category. However, there are some material objects that sure do make life a little more convenient, more beautiful, more presentable. With this in mind, I wanted to highlight a few items I have collected over the years, which lend to a beautiful presentation when I’m putting together an appetizer spread like the one I wrote about yesterday.

While the food should most definitely be the star, presenting it in simple, yet elegant and chic serving-ware really helps to highlight it’s natural beauty, not compete with it. The serving ware, platters and glasses should also be functional in that they are easy to clean, store away rather effortlessly, and come together naturally, without a lot of thought and planning. With this in mind, I’ve made it a point to collect various shapes and sizes of serving pieces, all in vary natural and neutral tones of white, ivory and natural woods. I keep all my serving pieces in one central location in the craft cabinet, so when it comes time to pull spreads together I’m not digging through cabinets and drawers, frustrated because I can’t find the vessel I need. My pieces range from very small to relatively large; nothing too big though so that it makes it a pain to store. I collect various platters, plates, dipping bowls and larger salad bowls, and manage to always use everything on a rotational basis; in other words, I don’t collect or hold onto pieces I don’t need or use. I also invested in 2 simple and affordable cheese knives a long time ago, one for hard and one for soft, and not only does it make for a more “professional” restaurant style spread, but they also serve a very useful purpose. Here is a collection of tasteful home items that will have you well on your way to gathering up a beautiful and delicious spread on your own. Cheese-Night-At-Home 1. Magnetic Cheese Board & Cheese Knife – I love this idea of keeping the cheese board and knife together in one spot, although I would suggest also getting a hard cheese knife in addition to this one. I purchased a ceramic cheese board years ago, and while it’s been fine, I always worry about chopping through cheese too hastily, and it breaking. A nice wooden board like this one does away with that concern.

2. Spanish Steps Serving Board – a unique way to display your dry appetizers including nuts, cheeses and cured meats, three levels separate each section to keep them separated in a functional and clever way.

3. Slate Server With Soapstone Chalk - not only is this serving piece “on-trend”, it is also fully functional in that it is heat and cold resistant, so it displays a variety of cheese at ease. It is also nonporous so it holds up well to washing and doesn’t hold odors.

4. Dot Matrix Board - this interesting artful dot pattern is not only beautiful, but serves the very useful purpose of catching breadcrumbs when you slice. Made of walnut wood, sleek design stores easily.

5. Stemless Aerating Wineglasses – so I knew that aerating your wine can help it taste better, but did you know it also has the additional benefit of helping to reduce the amount of alcohol that enters your bloodstream? These beauties have ridges on the inside of each glass, which help to aerate right in your hands.

6. Hands Bowl – I love the simplicity of this white ceramic dish, perfect for serving nuts, olives, or dried fruits.

7. Cheese Making Kit – I keep hearing how easy it is to make softer cheeses like ricotta and mozzarella, but I’ve yet to try my hand at it. While I don’t think I would buy a kit for myself, if someone happened to gift me with one, I would surely put it to good use. This kit is affordable and would make a great hostess or housewarming gift.

These items were all collected from UncommonGoods, a retail site that specializes in unique gifts, many of which are handmade by talented artisans all over the world. Many products offer information about the artists and where each was created, allowing you to really know where your goods are coming from. UncommonGoods was nice enough to sponsor this post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Visit UncommonGoods to browse all their products, from unique home decor items, to handmade gifts.



Appetizers for Dinner – A How-To Guide

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Appetizers for dinner spread At some point several years ago, probably due to a mix of laziness and a love for all things savory, I started throwing together light appetizer spreads for small groups of guests. Eventually, as I became more proficient at these types of spreads, they got more elaborate and eventually took over as dinner. Now, I make them quite often, just for our little family, on nights when I both don’t want to cook and also want to feel a bit more grown up. These spreads give you sort of a dining-out experience, while at home, and I often assemble them on the weekends when we’re doing kid things, like watching Frozen for the upteenth time. The kids really enjoy these types of dinner overall, and while each kid has their favorites and picks and chooses what they’ll eat, between the three of them, almost everything gets sampled. Us grown-ups of course eat it all, and I have just as much fun digging through our fridge and pantry, putting the foods together, as I do eating it all.  IMG_4230 The key to a well-balanced appetizer spread like this, is to have a good mix of cheeses, cured meats, simple vegetables, both cooked and/or raw, and a sweet thing or two. Of course a couple of cracker or bread options are important as well. You want a variety of flavors, none too overwhelming and those which complement, enhance or even erase each other.  IMG_4236 Fresh, raw veggies like carrots, celery, cucumbers and even radishes are perfect to munch on in between flavors, to cleanse the palate a bit and to lighten things up, when the salami gets too salty or the sweets become well, too sweet. IMG_4240 Apple slices, stone fruits or even dried fruits which aren’t overly sweet, like dates or apricots, are also great complements to salty cured meats. You can build a true charcuterie with an impressive variety of meats, but I’d rather keep it simple and put out a salami and maybe some prosciutto. IMG_4242 A rather new addition to our appetizer spreads is a raw honeycomb, which I get from a local cheese shop, but originally comes from the Savannah Bee Company. It’s an indulgent addition, but by rationing portions I manage to make it last for a couple of months, although I do have to hide it way up high in the pantry, since I’ve found the kids pilfering it. Raw honeycomb is the purest form of honey you can eat, and is completely edible. We eat it straight, but I especially love small bits of it spread on cheese, then added to a cracker, or a bit on a raw fig sliced in half. Taylor loves to take almonds and dip them in it, and Hayden and Syd just try to stick their fingers right in the box and go for it. Since it is completely edible we indeed eat the whole thing, but plain honey seeps out of the honeycomb freely, so you can easily scoop some out of the box and spread on anything you like, if you’re adverse to chewing on the waxy honeycomb. IMG_4246 IMG_4247 For the cheese portion of the program, I keep it simple and don’t go beyond two to three choices, always including both a hard and soft variety like a goat cheese and grana padano, as well as a more medium textured cheese like a gouda. My favorite cheese shop is Cheese Addiction in Long Beach, and for how little I buy cheese, the occasional trip to pick up some special varieties is completely worth it.  IMG_4250 Another nice addition, on occasion, are some steamed artichokes served alongside melted butter, and boiled potatoes, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. Other “meaty” and filling additions are hard boiled eggs, sweet potatoes or broiled brussel sprouts. It all depends on whether you want to turn on the oven or leave it off all together.  IMG_4264 Next week I’ll share another recent spread I pulled together, with almost entirely different ingredients to give you more ideas. The important thing here is to have fun with it, get creative, and go with your cravings at the time. The reward is a night off from cooking, and a variety of foods to please and satisfy any taste and preference.



Daily Style – Summer of the Birkenstock

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IMG_6406  Shoes - Birkenstock Gizeh; Tank - Athleta; Jeans - Loft; Vest – Lucky Brand  IMG_6407 I didn’t think I would love my Birkenstocks again the second time around, but it turns out I love them even more. I wear them all day, especially when walking around the house and cooking. It may be in my head, but I swear the arch support helps my aching back. I also love that walking on leather soles has helped heal my cracked heels more than ever foot cream ever has. I guess it makes sense, since the plastic most companies use to make their flip flops tends to dry out our feet. And this has now become the sexiest style post ever. Don’t you want to wear what I’m wearing? It’ll cure your aching back and heal your grody cracked soles. Readers often say how much they appreciate my honest, and I never quite understood what they meant. After writing this last paragraph, I think I finally do, although I’m sure there’s a fine line between too much info and honesty. I guess I might as well be the one to cross it! IMG_6415 And you may notice if you click on the jeans link that I am wearing the “curvy” style instead of the ultimate skinny style. I actually have the true skinny from the Loft in dark denim, but for white denim I wanted them to feel a little looser, because for some reason in my mind I worry that if white jeans are too tight, they’ll be too revealing. So there you go, that was my logic for getting the curvy style that has a bit more room. If you don’t have my same irrational concerns about panty designs peeking through your white denim, than get the regular skinny jeans. Both are great! IMG_6439 I’m gonna shut up now, as I feel this post has already revealed too much. Have a good one!

IMG_6448



Daily Style – Royal & Lace

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IMG_6341 Embroidered Top – Lucky Brand; Lace Trimmed Shorts – Loft; Sandals – Red Valentino similar here; Panama Hat – J. Crew; Bag – Marc by Marc Jacobs

You may have noticed a diminishing amount of posts in the personal style category posted here over the last few months. It’s a mixed bag of reasons why, but much of it has to do with a small varied wardrobe of workout clothes and denim cutoffs, and a growing feeling of uneasiness in front of the camera. I was also feeling weird with my age-old motto of “look good, feel good” because over the course of the past year, that sentiment has drastically changed for me personally, and the message I wish to send here. IMG_6356 While I’ll always stand by the sentiment that taking a few extra moments to freshen yourself up for the day has tremendous power in lifting a mood, I now more than ever feel that the looking good portion is a small fraction of the feel good equation. Instead, I now see it more as the icing on the cake. This past weekend, I put on some makeup and got a bit more dressed up not once, but twice, and stopped to take photos when out and about, so you’ll actually see a couple of outfit posts this month. Aren’t you guys just so lucky ha!?! IMG_6359 Our weekend after the fourth was spent mainly outside by the pool, being together just the 5 of us. We went to dinner Saturday night, and then celebrated a friend’s birthday on Sunday. How was your long weekend? Hoping it was relaxing and fun, and that you had a chance to escape the heat and cool off a bit. IMG_6371 IMG_6373 IMG_6383 IMG_6385



Patriotic Summer Entertaining

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We are back from our trip to New Orleans, where we had a surprisingly awesome time, and I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things. So many friends and acquaintances told us we would hate the city, so we were pleasantly surprised when we discovered we in fact loved it. I’m working on a post to share with you all tomorrow, but for today it’s on to the next thing – 4th of July planning! Our plans are still a little up in the air but I’m definitely rounding up some menu items and thinking I need to run out and do some last minute shopping for supplies and such. To get us in the mood, here’s a round-up of some patriotic outdoor party ware. Patriotic-party 1. electric small space grill 2. festive plates 3. acrylic outdoor cups 4. serving tray 5. beverage container 6. appetizer tray & bowls 7. pretty pillows just for fun 8. American flag cutting board

All these items are from Wayfair Daily Sales. If you haven’t browsed Wayfair yet, it’s basically a site dedicated to all things house and home, from kitchen accessories to furniture. I recently found the best price for my Cuisinart food processor on there, and I also scooped up a Le Creuset cast iron skillet during one of their Daily Sales flash sales.

Daily Sales are just what the name implies; collections of products that Wayfair has deeply discounted, up to 70% off, and offers up for sale for a select time period, usually 72 hours. There’s always a range of products and categories to choose from, and it’s good stuff, not just random one-offs. Like I said, I scooped up Le Creuset, so you know they’re offering up top-notch items. You can sign up for emails from Daily Deals so you don’t miss out below. What are your plans for the 4th? Do you host a big blowout or keep things relatively quiet and simple? I haven’t been feeling well since before our trip, and am thinking a quiet 4th of July is just what the doctor would order.

Wayfair

Sign up for Wayfair Daily Sales Emails

This post was sponsored by the lovely folks at Wayfair, but all opinions are my own. I’m a happy and satisfied paying customer, so am thrilled to partner with a great company to help spread the word!



Art’s 40th Birthday Party

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Art40_web_830px-50 Our neighbor’s ran into us this morning and asked if we had hosted a wedding on Saturday night. They heard the band, saw the twinkling lights and had passed by while the catering van was packing up, so they assumed the big hoopla had been a wedding. I had to laugh because it very much felt like I had hosted a wedding, with all the details and time leading up to the big event, and the sad let-down most brides feel the morning after. All that planning, all that fun, to have it flash by in a blink. It was a special night for a very special person, and I’m so happy I went all out for Art’s 40th.  Art40_web_830px-25 We don’t travel much, or as often as we’d like, so instead of spending on a big trip for his 40th, we did the next best thing and celebrated with our closest friends and ate, drank and danced until we were tired and full. Art40_web_830px-32 Art40_web_830px-37 Art40_web_830px-21 Art40_web_830px-20 I decided pretty early on that I wanted to hire a caterer because I wanted to eat well and enjoy the night. I’ve never hired a caterer and very rarely order premade food from restaurants, choosing to do most everything myself to save money and control the menu. Each time I do, I’m glad I put in the effort, but I also wish I had some energy and time to spare so I could actually enjoy the party and our guests. From the beginning I knew we wanted Primal Alchemy to cater the event. We met Chef Paul a few years ago when we had neighboring garden plots at the Long Beach Community Gardens, and Art did some work for him way back when. Specializing in seasonal, local and sustainable farm-to-table cuisine, our lifestyle shift in the last year gave me a new appreciation for his work and I knew the food for the party would be in good hands. I wasn’t wrong. Art40_web_830px-26 Art40_web_830px-12 Art40_web_830px-13 Art40_web_830px-18 There weren’t any pictures captured of the actual food when it was complete, because my dear friend Mary, who snapped all these lovely photos, was too busy enjoying her dinner. I think that fact speaks more to the quality and flavor of the food, than it does to her skills as a photographer haha! Ever the perfectionist, only food that good could throw Mary off her game for a moment. I’m so happy and thankful that she captured the most important moments shared with friends and my guy, though. Art40_web_830px-2 The caterer made the most amazing stone fruit agua fresca, and set up the wine & beer bar area for us. Once the tray passed appetizers were through, they also set up a full bar, complete with the makings for Roberta’s Cookbook’s American Nightmare, found on the Goop site. We’re still enjoying the last little sips of that agua fresca 3 days later, and dreaming of how I can make my own agua frescas so tasty. Art40_web_830px-19 The table settings were a very last minute idea. I originally had the idea to create full and colorful centerpieces using paper honeycomb balls, but when the company I usually order from was shut down for a few days, I had to switch plans. At the very last minute, as I was wracking my brain for ideas, I started thinking of what I wanted to represent, things we love, and in particular, things that would relate to the dinner. I instantly knew I had to incorporate fresh fruit and veggies somehow, so I did some searching around, and used this post from Design Sponge as inspiration in creating my own arrangements. Art40_web_830px-10 I couldn’t be happier with how they came out, and even though it took some last minute running around to find appropriate vessels, they fit with the party theme perfectly. Art40_web_830px-4 I found the containers at Home Goods, and purchased some moss from Michael’s. Heather of River and Bridge was nice enough to at the very last minute, design these lovely menus for the event. The snippets of rosemary was something we added minutes before the party started because the menus kept flying away. Art40_web_830px-9 Art40_web_830px-7 Art40_web_830px-6 To add some color and whimsy to the backyard, I purchased white and aqua paper lanterns in bulk from Amazon, and hung them from our cafe lights. I also placed huge metal and reclaimed wood lanterns around the pool area, porch to welcome guests, and on the drink table. I found them on clearance at Target and I can’t wait to use them throughout the summer. They really added a special feel. I also put some friends to work at the last minute.
Art40_web_830px-15 Art40_web_830px-5 Art40_web_830px-22 Art40_web_830px-23 Besides having a caterer, I also really wanted to hire a favorite local band who has performed at a few friend’s parties. The Joneses were on point as usual and provided fabulous entertainment long enough, and loud enough, for our next door neighbor to call and ask us to keep it down. Art40_web_830px-8 Art40_web_830px-24 In between dancing and eating, some fierce ping pong matches occured. While I don’t always love having the garage open up to our backyard because it’s not always so clean, I do love it on night’s like these, when friends are over and we can all gather around the pool, fire pit and ping pong table, let the kids shoot some hoops or play dodge ball, and everyone can have fun and stay safe and sound. Art40_web_830px-28
Art40_web_830px-30 During sunset we ate dinner and enjoyed our company, and then as night fell we lit some candles, sang happy birthday and the fun really began. Art40_web_830px-40 Art40_web_830px-41 Things started to also blur a little around here too because of the dancing and wine, and I remember being flung and twirled around, and then the next thing I knew we were both in the pool. Art40_web_830px-44 Art40_web_830px-47 Art40_web_830px-49 Art40_web_830px-52 Art40_web_830px-43 I do know that I didn’t do much to stop the toss in the pool, in fact I may have really encouraged it. But I didn’t think I would get tossed in alongside the birthday boy. Luckily my dress survived, and we made sure to take Art’s phone off him before he was thrown in. Greg was a good sport and somehow landed in the pool too. He spent the rest of the night in a pair of Art’s swim trunks and an old t-shirt. Thanks for taking one for the team Greg. Art40_web_830px-53 Art40_web_830px-56 Art40_web_830px-55 Such a memorable night that we won’t soon forget. It was so much fun, and we were so happy many of our closest friends and family members could be there to celebrate Art on this milestone of a birthday. Happy 40th Art! I love you, and I hope you had as good of a time as I did! Art40_web_830px-11



1 Year’s Past, and Finding My Way

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TheKeyTo Two weeks ago, in the midst of the 30 day challenge, I officially celebrated my anniversary of rethinking the way my family and I eat. The day passed without much fanfare, and truth be told it wasn’t really even noticed, because this change has sort of just evolved into a natural way of doing things around these parts. I do still remember the last day I had Jack N the Box, however (Thursday June 6th, 2013 just for the record).

The past few weeks I’ve been going through a little bit of soul-searching in terms of finding my way in this world of healthy eating and cooking. For the first 2-3 months of changing the way we eat, it was all trial and error. One week I went gluten-free, for several weeks I cut out dairy. I worked our way through labels and the pantry in a haze, confused with trying to figure out what to eat outside of Gwyneth’s book. It was clear the book alone couldn’t sustain me and my family for eternity, and so I needed to figure things out on my own a bit so I could feel safe venturing outside the safety net of It’s All Good.

Enter the second stage of my healthy eating adventure; research the crap out of everything!!  Read all the books, scour all the articles, troll the archives of the internet until I find the very end. It was exhausting and overwhelming and at the risk of sounding like a drama queen, left me somewhat crippled with fear at what to eat. I became paranoid, believed most everything I read that supported my sometimes irrational fears, got in online arguments over food policies with complete strangers, and made wildly exhaustive vows to never let certain foods touch my lips again. While I learned a lot of valuable and useful information during that time period, I also wasted a lot of time worrying about things I’ve now found may not be true, and gave too much head-space to things which truly didn’t matter.

This brought me to the third stage of the journey; the cynical stage. There is so much misinformation out there in the health food world, where making wild claims to induce fear is par for the course.  Topics range from toxic baby carrots to toxic oils, and just about anything, if processed enough, can cause cancer. During this third stage, I started finding out that maybe all this fear mongering may not be completely true. So I started doing further investigations and found agendas on both sides. During this stage, my sense for detecting bullshit was heightened, and I started questioning some of the information I had learned during the second stage. While I learned a lot of valuable information during this stage too, it also left me feeling confused again, not sure who was right and what to believe.

Enter the fourth and final stage of this journey, in which I do what I want. Not really, but I really just use some common sense when eating, cooking and shopping. Here are some of the things I keep in mind when I decide what to feed myself and my family. This list is what works for me, and is in no way intended to be a how-to guide on feeding your own family.

1. Try to eat and cook with foods that don’t need a label, most of the time. No label, no need to stress.

2. When eating packaged foods, stick to those with a fairly simple list of ingredients which are easily recognizable.

3. Enjoy foods from all the food groups, including grains, legumes, and dairy.

4. Cook at home most of the time, dine out as a treat.

5. Take wild claims about health hazardous foods with a skeptics eye, and do my own research. So many foods are unfairly demonized in our culture, and so when I read that something can cure autism and something else causes cancer, I do some research to see if there is evidence to the contrary. Most of the time, a simple google search can sleuth out interesting reading information. If you’re concerned about certain foods and want to find out information from both sides, try using search terms that include words like myth or debunked. 9 times out of 10, you will find supporting arguments on both sides, as is the case with this beer article, which this writer debunked. This is just one example in particular. Who’s right? Who knows sometimes? But I just try to always do my own research and decide from there.

6. Don’t stress the small stuff. Cooking and eating at home with great ingredients eases my mind when we’re out and about, exposing ourselves to other possibly “toxic” ingredients.

It brings me genuine happiness that chronicling my own journey this past year has inspired so many others to look more closely at ingredient labels, to join a local CSA and support farmers in their community, to rethink their choices at the meat counter, and to feed their family more vegetables. It’s both awesome and humbling, and some days I feel this strange sense of responsibility in what I post and say. I feel myself pulling back as the readership has grown, especially on Instagram, afraid of posting the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing. I’ve been mulling over some things the past few weeks, trying to decide what this account is going to be, what it is going to represent. And last night I realized that it doesn’t have to be anything other than the unfiltered truth in my own personal way of eating and feeding my family. This past year I’ve gone through periods of rabid research, paranoia, confusion, calm & peace, lots of and anxiety. All over food. I’ve been humbled, encouraged and challenged by many of those following along. I think what many readers from the beginning have all appreciated is my honesty, and so I continue with a renewed sense of that honest truthfulness. I am not perfect, and at times I’ve been afraid of posting things that some may not deem healthy enough or clean enough. I enter year 2 of this journey with the notion that I will never please everyone, and the firm and steadfast belief that the vast majority of us don’t need more fear or confusion when it comes to feeding ourselves and our families well. What we need is common sense, some cajones in the kitchen, more veggies, and positive encouragement. In a word, we need eating and cooking healthy to be approachable, plain and simple. I will continue to hash out science and toxicity questions, concerns and claims with anyone interested, because I believe they’re important, but my personal hope for my IG feed and those reading it, is that you’ll be encouraged to do the research on your own, decide for yourselves, and go from there. Every single one of you is your own wellness warrior. At the end of the day, you’re the one doing the hard work and heavy lifting, and I’m just here to offer ideas and encouragement.

I look back on this past year, and we’ve come so, so far. While I may not be perfect, I recognize the huge improvements and changes we’ve made, and am very proud with what we’ve accomplished. I see my kids asking questions about the foods we eat, I see how much more open they are to eating the new foods I cook up, and how receptive they are to consciously turning some foods down. I hear the appreciation in my husband’s voice in his sincere thanks for a well cooked meal, and I experience the positive results of this hard work in my own body every single day. Cheers to that. And with that, I enter year 2 with positive gusto and happiness.

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