Bathroom & Master Bedroom Home Reno Update

SHARE THIS +

IMG_7826 I sound like a broken record here, but things have been busy at home as we continue to unpack and settle in. Last weekend we finally unloaded the huge shipping container that held the remaining contents of our home, and half the stuff either made it back into the house, and the other half got shoved in the garage. After living with a minimal amount of items during our time at the parents, as we were unpacking the pod, both Art and I looked at all the “stuff” we had previously shoved in our house and agreed that we didn’t need a good chunk of it. So ironically, we enlarged our home by 290 square feet and now have all this extra storage, which we’re hesitant to fill up.

In the end I’m of course grateful for the extra space that came with the renovation, not just the additional storage, and know that we will make good use of extra cupboards and drawers. And by make good use, I mean not filling it up with 1000 children’s books or old kitchen items I hold on to for who knows what reason. All this to say, our house currently feels light and airy, whereas our garage feels like a dark and claustrophobic dungeon. We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us.

So things are definitely moving along at home, but we’ve yet to complete one room in the house. I learned that holding off on purchasing some items until we really needed them wasn’t the best strategy, as things are often times sold out and/or on back order, hence why Taylor’s bathroom currently has no lighting fixtures or cabinet knobs. But we’re dealing with our blue painter’s tape solution and patiently waiting for the final odds and ends for each room to trickle in. When we made the budget for our renovation, we didn’t do a great job including the supplementary costs for things like toilet paper & towel holders, new mirrors, additional lighting fixtures, etc. And I certainly didn’t realize how pricey cabinet hardware was. So I spaced out what I ordered when to slow the bleeding of funds, and now we’re left with blue painter’s tape for knobs. It’s all good, there’s certainly worse problems we could have and I’m not complaining. But that explains some things in the photos below.

Speaking of the photos, even though we are not quite finished, I thought it would be fun to at least show you what we’ve got completed and what the final stages of a remodel look like. So let’s take a little tour of just the 2 bathrooms and our master. IMG_7824 Beginning in the master, this past weekend they installed the covers for the beams above the sink, and today they installed the faucet and shower trim kit, after being on back order for several months. Our cabinet knobs just arrived Friday, so those will hopefully get installed this week, and I need to place the order for the bath accessories like towel bars and toilet paper holder. Oh, and we need to get mirrors of course. The ones Shelly had originally chosen for us are of course no longer available.  IMG_7828 I was very nervous about how the whole open window and beams idea was going to turn out, but it honestly turned out better than I had expected, and I’m so happy we took the risk here. We had originally figured we would hang a pull down shade for privacy, but I’m hoping we can leave it like this. Unless the neighbors behind us build on a 2nd story, we should be fine as far as privacy goes. There’s just no taking showers when we’re having a backyard swim party, but I think we can manage that. The natural light that comes in is amazing, and at night we have a perfect view of the moon through the window. Once everything is complete I’m hoping to have one of my photographer friends come over and take photos using a different lens that can better capture the space. IMG_7832 The ceilings are 9′ tall in the bathroom, which makes for a lot of square footage to cover in the shower. The tile that was originally designed for the shower would have just been way too expensive, so we went with a standard subway tile and used the tile we originally had chosen in here, for the kitchen back-splash. To create a bit of interest and break up the tall ceilings, the designer at Ann Sacks suggested we use 2 different sizes of subway tile, and break it up with a matte black horizontal line.
IMG_7835 The black matte is continued in the floor, with a penny tile filled in with black grout. The matte floor feels amazing when taking a shower and really creates a dramatic contrast.  IMG_7836 Speaking of floors though, the thing I love most about the bathroom though, are the painted concrete floors.  IMG_7893 One of the major advantages of adding a bathroom in the back of the house was being able to give it outdoor access and essentially make it a pool bath. There’s a pocked door for privacy and another door to limit access to the master bedroom. So our floors in here will likely be continually wet and grimy, but better to quadrant it off here than give the kids access to the traipse through the entire house with wet feet. My hope is that eventually they will learn how to dry their feet off before going in the house, but I hear that often doesn’t happen until adulthood when they have their own mortgage to pay. 😉  IMG_7843 The door which closes off the bathroom from the master is mirrored on both sides, since we didn’t do closet doors with inset mirrors. I love them.
IMG_7851 And speaking of closet doors, here you see my side of the room and my closet, and Art has an identical closet on the other side of the room. The dual opposing closets was the main reason we left mirrors off the doors, otherwise we would have had that hall of mirrors effect. My only regret with these doors was that I didn’t insist the handles go on the left side of each door rather than the right. My contractor thought it looked better this way for some reason I can’t even remember, but they kinda don’t make sense this way since us Americans tend to do things from left to right, not right to left. Oh well, the doors have a large enough inset on the panel that I mainly just pull them open that way.
IMG_7845 The wall that the headboard sits on will eventually get a wallpaper treatment, so until then it’s kinda plain jane in here. I do love the windows on either side of the bed though. IMG_7846 By the way, we wound up going with the Martha Stewart for Home Depot closet system, and love how it turned out. Much cheaper than custom, but you still get a semi-custom feel, and there are nice add-ons like the slanted shoe holders, tie racks and drawers.  IMG_7848 A few readers who follow me on Instagram have asked about our interior and closet doors. I’m not too sure who the manufacturer is, but we asked our contractor for shaker style options, and he brought us back a catalog for a company which offered a few different styles. We went with the single panel option and he purchased them at Ganahl Lumber. We love them and am so glad this was one item we decided to add in to the project after the fact. We went with a simple single plank baseboard and door casings and love the clean lines, although don’t love how dusty the baseboards get. We were warned but went with them anyhow. Oh well, I’ve just been sweeping them down with a broom and despite the dust, I really like them.
IMG_7853 Lastly, going into Taylor’s bathroom, we still have a few odds and ends to finish up, including choosing wallpaper, but with the addition of just a rug, shower curtain and some hand towels, the bathroom feels close to completion. IMG_7854 We added a bit of square footage in here so that the toilet was no longer sitting half way in front of the tub, so now it feels a lot more spacious in comparison to what we were used to. I’m thinking one of the wall ladder shelves would be cute here on this empty wall. The floor tile is a combo of a lined hex and a smooth hex. We had the lined tiles alternate on the diagonal to add more interest, which is sort of difficult to see in the photo. IMG_7858 Because we’re going to eventually do wallpaper in here, and the floors have a lot of visual interest already, we decided to keep the shower simple with subway tiles again. To change it up from the master though, they installed them in an offset vertical pattern.
IMG_7864 As I said before, we’re still waiting on knobs in here, as well as the sconces. We will be hanging the mirror that previously hung above our mantel, so just need to get it installed the next time the contractor sends one of his guys back. That’s another downside to not having everything ready to go all at once; once the majority of the project wraps up, the subcontractors get pulled to other jobs and your job is then put on a lower priority. So someone will come work on finishing up odds and ends maybe once or twice a week now, as opposed to being available to come whenever product comes in.  IMG_7859 I shot photos of the kitchen today as well, but since this post is already long enough I’ll hold off posting those until tomorrow or Wednesday. In the mean time, I’ll do my best sourcing items below. Let me know if you’ve got questions!

Master Bath:
Flooring: Cement Tile Shop
Shower Tile: Ann Sacks
Faucets: Kohler Purist Line
Countertops: Marble slab
Cabinet: Custom, using “reclaimed wood” veneers which is quite silly when you think about it haha!
Cabinet Pulls: Schoolhouse Electric
Sconces: Restoration Hardware
Wall Color: Benjamin Moore Classic Gray
Rug and hand towels: Target

Taylor’s Bath:
Flooring & Shower Tile: Ann Sacks
Faucets: Moen Align Line
Countertops: same marble slab as master bath
Cabinet: Custom, painted the standard white that the finisher always uses(??)
Shower curtain and rug: Target



Healthy Eats In Our Fridge

SHARE THIS +

IMG_7571 Hey there dear blog readers. Apologies for the silence over here the last couple of weeks, I feel like there’s so much to catch you up on I don’t even know where to begin. Biggest news though is that we ARE HOME!!! We moved back home almost 2 weeks ago, and so the last several days have been filled with packing and unpacking. There is still so much left to be done, from cleaning up the backyard that we let go to hell, to unloading the huge shipping container sitting in our driveway, but for now we are so thrilled to be back home. We love our house and the renovations we’ve done, and I’m enjoying spending time in the kitchen, deciding where everything is going to go in its new space.

IMG_7568 The first week we spent at home, our kitchen cabinets were not complete so we were unable to really do major unpacking. I cooked with my cast iron skillet and a spatula I borrowed from my mother in law. Other gadgets, like can openers and such were intermittently borrowed from neighbors on an as needed basis. We ate off paper plates and recycled utensils. Last week though, they completed the cabinets so we were really able to get settled in and I took a much needed trip to the grocery store and spent double what our normal budget was getting our fridge and cupboards all restocked. So since our fridge looks as clean and organized as its ever going to look, I thought I’d take you on a little fridge tour so you can get an idea of the foods we usually keep stocked at home. Our current fridge contents are pretty much as ideal as things get around here, and sometimes you’ll definitely find more junky foods in there, and many times it’s half empty, or half filled with leftovers. But for now, I’d like to just take a moment to marvel at its pristine beautifulness :) IMG_7564 We went with a Samsung counter-depth fridge that has French doors and a secondary refrigerator drawer above the freezer. It’s where we’re keeping our deli meats and cheeses. The Samsung offered the most cubic feet for a counter-depth fridge, and so far I haven’t missed the extra couple of feet, although we’re only a week in so we’ll see. I’m definitely going to have to be more on top of keeping this clean and organized. Above is an overview of what we’ve got in our fridge this week. Lots of veggies, a roasting chicken, and several drink options including kombucha from Fermentation Farm, sparking water, orange juice, iced tea, wine and beer. We have a couple of dips on hand including hummus and Bitchin’ Sauce (like hummus but made with almonds instead of garbanzo beans), eggs, greens for salads, sauteeing and juicing, and a couple of kinds of Ezekiel sprouted grain bread. Beet greens and cilantro are stored in a bit of water in mason jars to prolong freshness. Speaking of freshness, I’ve got to stock back up on Fresh Paper because it did help my produce last longer.  IMG_7575 IMG_7574 Produce crisper contents change, but I usually always have whole and baby carrots on hand, fresh herbs, celery and snap peas for the kid’s lunches, beets for juicing and roasting, cauliflower for cauli rice, and something to make life interesting. This week I’ll steam some artichokes and put out a cured meat and cheese tray for an easy Friday night dinner, and the fennel will be used in Ina’s roasted chicken recipe.  IMG_7566 This fridge doesn’t have a ton of door space for condiments, so I’m going to have to be choosy with what I bring home or else risk a lot of clutter. Must haves include maple syrup and Kerrygold butter, which I usually get at Costco, jam, Red Boat fish sauce (the best!), mayo and ketchup and a couple of varieties of mustard for dressings and sauces, and yogurt & creamer for coffee. I also have several fermented foods and fermented chimichurri this week, and I also try to keep a couple of these Orgain protein shakes on hand for days I’m in a real hurry and need something after a workout.  IMG_7565 The deli drawer contains more yogurt (kids like Fage, I love siggi’s for its tartness and low sugar content) for on-the-go, deli meats and cheeses, Niman Ranch bacon and sausages, and Tortilla Land flour and corn tortillas. These tortillas are the best tasting store-bought tortillas I’ve ever had, and although they need to be cooked for 60 seconds before eating, they are worth every second of time “wasted” and I love their simple ingredient list.  IMG_7579 Typically our freezer is a lot more full than this, but for now it’s got the necessities, and I hope I can continue to keep things pared down instead of hording, like I typically do 😉 Frozen fruit for smoothies, frozen veggies for some recipes and quick dinner sides, and a few kinds of frozen protein, including wild caught salmon and grass fed and grass finished beef.  IMG_7581 In the other freezer drawer, we’ve got a couple of kinds of ice cream, frozen bananas for smoothies, ice packs and some frozen veggie patties. Also, Art wants to start making himself better breakfasts on the go, so we bought some frozen sausage for him. Haven’t tried them yet though so can’t say how they are.
IMG_7583 And there you have it folks. Having a well-stocked fridge and freezer definitely makes it easier to eat healthier, since if you bring good food into your home, you’re going to eat good food 😉 The hardest part is truly just making the time to cook the food and set aside time to eat proper meals instead of running through and getting take-out. Having had our lives sort of in upheaval the past few months, I know this is easier said than done, but going forward I’m really excited to get back into blogging here on a regular basis, and that includes publishing easy recipes that will hopefully make your lives easier. Now taking requests 😉

And more house photos coming up soon, as we finalize each room.



Cute Little Babes Giveaway for Cool Baby Clothes

SHARE THIS +

IMG_7527  I’ve shared with you before that when Taylor was first born, I tried my hand at starting a kid’s clothing line called Baby Taylored. Specializing in graphic tees and easy slip on pajama pants, I poured countless hours of time, energy and emotion into my line. We experienced a decent level of success in local boutiques in our area, and since this was in the days before Etsy and social media, our numbers were decent all things considered. As you know, I ended up abandoning my dream of getting into a big box stores because I wound up returning to work full time, and I’m sure everything ended up working out as it was meant to be. While I may no longer be in the baby making clothes business, I still like to support and shop other small scale kid’s clothing lines because I know first hand how much love and attention to detail is involved in pursuing such a dream. Enter Cute Little Babes clothing company, and the stylishly cool baby clothes they produce.
IMG_7535 Designed by mom of 2 Sarahi, Cute Little Babes clothing items focus on form and function, producing clothes that are as stylish as they are comfortable. From super soft hoodies to cozy lounge pants, each item reflects a bit of novelty from prints to silhouette.
IMG_7542 The grey hoodie that Hayden is sporting is made of a silky soft knit that washes beautifully and comes out of the dryer wrinkle free, and the simple drawstring free design around the neckline gives it just the right unique touch, to make it stand apart. IMG_7532 The melange french terry knit pants are not only ridiculously cute, but allow him to run, crawl, climb and jump with ease. IMG_7540 Did I mention that all of Cute Little Babes clothes are HANDMADE?!? Yeah, they are, and considering that, the prices are really great. IMG_7559 I’m thrilled to be giving away a $50 store credit to Cute Little Babes, and I know you’ll love their items as much as Hayden and I do. In the past 2 weeks since receiving our order, I’ve washed this outfit at least 4 times, and each time it’s clean he pulls it out and declares, “I wear my hoodie today!” To enter to win, simply follow the prompts below, which will as you to leave a comment, and visit my Facebook page. If you haven’t yet liked my Facebook page, I’d love for you to sign up today so you can stay up to date and never miss a post. Entries will close this Sunday at 11:59 pm PST, and are limited to US entries only, please. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



What Worked In 2015

SHARE THIS +

IMG_9551 Last year, I wrote a post detailing the different things that worked for us throughout the year. Changes in products, routines, or simply sticking to things that already felt right, the exercise of looking back and reflecting on the good, with how life went right, instead of how it went wrong, felt unabashedly positive and wonderful for the soul. So, why not repeat the process, especially since 2015 was full of changes? Here’s my list, in no particular order, of what worked well for me, the kids, and us as a family, this past year.

Audible (as well as Overdrive): An avid reader for as long as I can remember, I just this year actually began listening to audio books. Growing up, my father was more likely to play a library loaned “book on tape” on his cassette player, than actual music, but for some reason I never saw the appeal. Well, this year I finally caught on to what is so captivating about books on tape, especially when talking solo walks and doing chores around the house. Beyond their ability to rack up book reading productivity, they also have a knack for bringing characters to life in a way that’s almost impossible with standard books, and there were several I listened to this year, which I think I actually enjoyed much more than had I read them in standard form. I initially signed up for Audible, but quit after a couple of months to save some cash, only to eventually sign back up because I missed it so much. The Overdrive app, which allows you access to your local libraries e-books and audiobooks is great, however most popular and newer books usually require a long wait list. Audible offers that instant satisfaction of course, so I just limit my subscription to 1 purchase a month, then rent standard books the rest of the time.  Keep an eye out for a post listing the 25 books I read last year, coming up next week.

Walking + MuTu System: Thanks to MuTu and Audible, I took up a regular walking routine this year, and as much as it makes me feel like a geriatric to fess up, I have truly grown to love walking and look forward to the days when Art and I are empty nesters and take our daily walks together haha! I wrote about the MuTu system for healing my diastasis recti earlier in the year, and part of the program requirement was to take a 20 minute daily walk, hence why I began walking. I’ve since stopped using MuTu, although I keep up with the regular walking schedule and ab exercises. By the way, I’ve continued to see improvement in my pelvic floor function, which means I no longer pee when sneezing or jumping and my gap has closed to a small finger width opening. However, the belly is still there, so while definitely flatter, I’ve now come to the realization that what’s left of my mom pooch is truly just loose skin and a few extra pounds, and not something that will be magically go away now that my diastasis is essentially healed. Womp womp 😉

Fitbit-Surge Wearing a Fitbit: Last Christmas I received a Fitbit Charge, however, I returned it so that I could purchase the fancy Surge when it came out. If I had to do it all over again, I’d have purchased the Fitbit ChargeHR instead of the Surge (smaller, less money and easier to wear at night), however I still love having a Fitbit and would rather have the Surge than nothing at all. It works incredibly well at keeping me mindful with how much I move, and the heart rate function is a great feature, especially when doing HIIT workouts. Side note, I’ve definitely noticed that any form of HIIT workout keeps my heart rate elevated for a longer period of time than a regular static exercise like jogging or yoga. This means my post HIIT resting heart rate stays elevated for up to 2-3 hours, whereas when I just do a static exercise, it falls back to normal straight after the cool down period. The benefit of this information? Well, it’s made HIIT routines a lot easier to get through, knowing that I’m really impacting my body and metabolism far beyond just the 20-30 minutes I spend in my routine. I’ve all but abandoned the app though, and checking in with how I rate compared to my friends. I got into it for a while, but eventually found it was making me unnecessarily competitive. The kids and Art have now caught the Fitbit fever as well, and the only one who doesn’t have one is Hayden. Art has the ChargeHR and the older kids have the Charge.

Calm PRT + Travacor: After my initial Hashimoto’s diagnosis, I visited an integrative doctor and naturopath, both housed in the same office, and they got me on a supplements routine. The 2 supplements that made an immediate and noticeable difference in me physically, was this sleep aid supplement combo. I was suffering with almost nightly insomnia, falling asleep very easily from exhaustion, but waking up between 2-4 amevery night, unable to fall back asleep. After taking this combo for about 2 months, I developed such a consistent sleep pattern that I no longer needed to take it. I occasionally suffer from the same type of insomnia, but now it seems to be directly related to being over tired, stressed or drinking wine too close to bedtime, and rarely lasts more than just 1 night. I can’t recommend this stuff enough!

Unsubscribing from news sources + political sites on Facebook: I am obsessed with keeping up with the news, as well as politics. But I have a bad habit of not only reading news stories and articles on Facebook, but also reading the comments. As the political landscape heated up in the last 6 months, I found myself wasting precious minutes throughout the day scouring the comments left on Facebook posts, trying to use these comments as a barometer of the political climate in the country. It was unhealthy on many fronts, so in late November I unsubscribed to all news outlets and political candidates pages, and my life has been happier and healthier as a result. I still keep up with the news by listening to the radio (Sirius has all the major news channels and then some), I just now have a lot more time on my hands since there’s no commentary to sift through. Added bonus, I no longer risk pissing off my friends on Facebook, since I was that friend who freely posted/shared politically charged articles. Win, win! IMG_4699 My Beautycounter Biz: Developing my Beautycounter business continues to be one of the best things I’ve done for myself, personally and financially, in the last few years. I am doing work I truly enjoy, for a brand I respect and love, and have been rewarded for it tenfold. It’s also been a great feeling, knowing that I’m playing some small part in helping women and families switch to safer products, and the regular paycheck has been a relief.

2015 brought on countless changes in our lives, from moving in and living with my in-laws for over 6 months, to dealing with the excitement and challenges of a home renovation. We have learned a lot this past year, and can’t wait to move in to our new home soon. Life was chaotic and unorganized for much of last year, but I have to say, I think we did a pretty good job of just rolling with it and learning from it, rather than allowing it to consume us. We made some mistakes here and there, but overall the year taught us a great deal about scaling back, not sweating the small stuff, and developing a clearer picture of how we want to live in our home, given this fresh start. We are damn lucky and grateful, and I can’t wait to get my hands on all our stuff and reorganize and re-prioritize.

What worked well for you this past year? I’d love to know.



What I’ll Miss About Living With My In-Laws

SHARE THIS +

house If all goes as planned, we will be moving back home next Wednesday. Our house won’t be finished, but it will be close enough that we can live comfortably until it’s completed. This means that we are closing in on our time at our in-laws, after living with them for over 6 months now. When folks find out we are remodeling our home, the first question they ask is”Where are you living?” When I tell them we are living with my in-laws, they at once get a look of horror and ask with intense scrutiny, “How’s that going?!” I chuckle and answer that it’s going fine and to lighten the tone I always say, “But it’s a dry house, so you know” hardy har har. But really, after looking back at the last 6+ months, what I will tell people going forward is that Art’s parents are friggin saints and we are beyond lucky to have had their help the last 6 months. Between 3 screaming kids, a goldfish the size of a small koi, and an aging dog who has thrown up and had diarrhea all over their hardwood floors on multiple occasions, we are so damn lucky they haven’t kicked us out at this point.

Of course it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but we really only had a couple of intense, hard parts. Of course you heard me complain about the lack of air conditioning over the summer, one of the longest and hottest on record, and I briefly alluded to some tense moments a couple of weeks back when Art’s uncle and aunt came for a week long visit and kicked us out of the room we called home. But aside from that, we’ve been comfortable, and really well taken care of considering they didn’t really have to help us out. But despite their quirks and faults, which every parent has ;), they are the nicest, most generous people, and there are definitely some things I’ll miss about living here. Here are a few of them.

Bonding time with grand kids and their son. Art’s parents have loved having the kids here, even when it’s loud and chaotic. When they first told me they enjoyed us being here, I was skeptical, but now I know they are telling the truth 😉 Art has really enjoyed spending a lot of time with his dad as well. While he’s in pretty good health for being 82, he is still 82, so the more time they can spend together, the better. It’s been great seeing everyone connect these past 6 months.

Not having to go to Costco. Art’s dad loves Costco and goes on an almost weekly basis. The kind and generous people that they are, has meant that they just ask what we want or need, and they add it to their list. It’s been nothing short of glorious.

Extra help with the kids. I’d like to think we have been extremely respectful of my in-laws time and energy and have never just dumped the kids on them or held the expectation that they are built in babysitters. But when they offer, or when we are in a really big pinch, they are more than willing to help out. Usually it just means letting Hayden stay home and nap while I pick up the kids from school, or allowing one or two of the kids to stay home and hang out while I take the third kid to a sports or school activity, but these little bits of assistance have been amazingly helpful and refreshing. It makes you wonder why we as Americans don’t more willingly practice this kind of living arrangement.

Developing a deeper understanding of my husband. You know those quirks and maybe even annoying habits your partner has, that frustrate you? Well, chances are if you lived with your in-laws for an extended period of time, you’d get answers on the origins of some of them. My husband is not the most organized of people, and after years of being annoyed and frustrated with him, I now know that he never stood a chance haha! Some people are born with the organization/neat gene, while others have a more scattered mind, often resulting in other great traits like creativity and great ideas. This is the category my husband falls in, as well as my in-laws. I’ve known it for the last 20 years, but somehow living with them helped me to really know it. Does that make sense? At the end of the day, it has softened my heart towards him, and instead of being really annoyed with him, I’m going to promise to just be more accepting and helpful.

More relaxed housework. Don’t get the wrong idea, we clean up after ourselves and I do the dishes, sweep the dog hair off the floor, etc. But since I’m not the primary home owner, there’s a lowered expectation of routine chores and scope of work that I must maintain. Again, does that make sense?

Their funny and quirky habits. I never knew my father in law consistently checked the indoor and outdoor temperature each and every morning with his special air thermometer, but now I do. Nor did I know my mother in law makes him a metamucil cocktail each morning. There’s a few other quirks they possess that are charming and funny, which I don’t need to get into, but let’s just say that it’s always an interesting day here in the Howe household.

Things I won’t miss

Feeling disorganized. Keeping bills and mail in a giant stack in our room for the past 6 months makes me feel chaotic and frazzled, but we’re in the home stretch now. It will be nice to get my office and file folders back, that’s for sure!

Running my business from my nightstand. Between the blog and my Beautycounter business, everything I use to function has been jammed into a tiny nightstand and stacked in boxes next to my bed. When a client needs to borrow a sample or I go to a social, it’s always a shit show getting everything in order and prepped.

Awkward sexy time. Sex when you’re a parent is hard enough. “Do you want to do it tonight?” Nah, I’m too tired, let’s do it tomorrow instead. But throw in an unusual living situation, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Without getting into too much detail, we’ve managed to do alright considering the circumstances, but we’re both anxious to get home for many reasons, this being one of them. I will say, that the house is big, there’s a vast separation between rooms, and his parents hearing isn’t what it used to be. Still though, it’s weird 😉

Parenting blunders on full display. Initially I felt like I was parenting under a microscope, but for the most part I now see that his parents don’t judge us that way. It is still hard though to uphold utter composure while parenting 3 kids, and it doesn’t help when your mother in law has the patience of a saint. More than anything I’m sure my guilty feelings are all self-inflicted, but it will feel a lot better when I can yell at my kids in the comfort of my home, without an audience ha!

While we are all excited to go home next week, I can say with utmost sincerity that we not only appreciate the support we’ve received from Art’s parents these past few months, but we will look back on this time together with fondness. We are incredibly lucky to have them; to have each other.



Smooth Curls with Living Proof

SHARE THIS +

living-proof-curls4

Have I ever told you guys about the time I had to have jaw surgery? I was 14 years old, heading into high school and suffering the early affects of TMJ syndrome. For the procedure, the surgeons literally broke my jaw in two, and reconnected it with metal plates and screws so that my jaw was in correct alignment and would no longer be susceptible to the clicking and arthritis that so many TMJ sufferers have to deal with. My jaws were wired shut for over 6 weeks and I survived off of anything liquefied that I could sip through a straw. After that, I had to remain on a soft foods diet for another 4 weeks; no chewing of any kind allowed! It was a rough and painful time and I have some not so fond memories because of it. My surgeon at the time also suggested he add some cartilage to my chin area because in his words, “it was a little weak.” All this to say, the features of my face are overall, fairly small, especially when you consider my frame of 5’10”. Knowing this, I have found that shorter hair suits my face better, and which is why I’ve only ever grown it out a couple of times in my whole life. Having a “weak chin” are words you don’t really forget, no matter how old you get. In fact my mom told me the other day, after packing for my parent’s big move and unearthing tons of old family photos, “You know Andrea, you really do look better with short hair.” Okay then.

So what does TMJ and jaw surgery have to do with curling my hair and styling products?  Well, when you’re locked into a certain length of hair, you have to get creative with the style of cut you have, the color you dye it, and hair products you use. I’m always up for trying new hair care products and techniques, basically using my salon appointments as styling sessions so that I can pick up new ways to dry, flatten or curl my hair. About 2 months ago, even though we were heading into fall, I decided I wanted to lighten my hair quite a bit, so my stylist added a ton of highlights and brought my overall color down a couple of levels. This new hair color is best shown off when my hair is styled with large curls, so that’s been my go-to hair style as of late. Thanks to Living proof products, I’ve got a few new items to add to my hair care arsenal.
living-proof-curls2

The key to getting a good curl with little to no frizz, is to first give my hair a nice good blowout. My hair is naturally wavy, and as I’ve gotten older it has become more kinky in the back, and a lot more coarse. Nothing a blow dryer can’t fix, but it is a tedious process, and one I’m not usually able to do more than once or twice a week. Using a couple of the Living proof products though, helped cut down the drying process by getting my hair smooth and straight with less work overall. My weak arms were very thankful, cutting my hair drying time in half from 20 minutes to less than 10. I was even able to smooth out the back of my hair, where it’s most kinky, in just a few short passes of brush and dryer. living-proof-curls3 I tried several different Living proof products, but the ones I ended up loving the most and added up to the best good hair day combo, was the full thickening mousse, the straight spray, and the satin hair serum. The Perfect Hair Day product was great for quick blow outs where I just wanted to get some of the dampness out of my hair to leave the house, letting it air dry for the remainder of the day. But to achieve the smooth curls you see picutred, I first applied a dollop of the thickening mousse to the roots of my damp hair, then sprayed my still damp hair with the straight spray, and lastly, applied a small dime sized portion of the satin hair serum to my hair, rubbing from root to ends. I then blow dried as usual, and as I said, this formula of products got my hair smooth and straight in no time, and remained smooth for a full day.

The next morning, I added the curls that you see here. My hair was still full of body and free of frizz, so with my 2″curler, I added loose curls, alternating directions for every other curl, a trick I learned from my stylist. I have heavy and thick hair, so I need to get it cut every 6-8 weeks or else it starts to weigh down a bit, as you’re seeing here in these photos. A fresh cut will pull my hair up quite a bit and give it more body around the front of my hair line, but even with a 3 month old cut, these products helped my hair get lots of good bounce that lasts.

living-proof-routine

As I said, I tried several different Living proof products, and these were my favorite. I’m pretty sensitive to fragrances, so a couple of their treatment products bothered me, but that’s not to say anyone else would have the same reaction. Just putting that out there in case anyone else has scent issues like me 😉 These pictured here have a very mild, or zero scent to them at all, and felt good to the touch as well, not overly sticky or heavy.

To help you choose the myriad of styling products Living proof has to offer, visit their hair product selector tool, which makes it really easy for you! And if you’re not familiar with what Living proof is all about, read a little bit about the science they use to help develop products that not only work to style your hair, but also nourish and improve it. living-proof-curls *This post was sponsored by Living proof, but all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies which help support this blog.



Good Dino Movie & Sweepstakes

SHARE THIS +

good-dino This past holiday weekend was a flurry of activity. We kept ourselves busy with visiting family and out of town friends, and didn’t make a bit of a dent in holiday shopping. Since we currently have no home to decorate, we also skipped our usual Thanksgiving weekend tradition of acquiring a Christmas tree and hanging our lights. While we weren’t exactly sad to skip our usual holiday prep work, since we’re all pretty excited and thankful for our renovation, we did feel a bit out of sorts and the kids asked for the hundredth time since this all began, “when are we going home?”

Art and I worked a good portion of Sunday, completing a huge project that was due today, so to celebrate, we decided to take the kids to see The Good Dinosaur. The last time we were at the movies, Hayden had seen the preview for it and he literally gasped at the part when the dinosaurs move their tails around and the sky lights up with fireflies. Between the sweet face of the dino, and the endearing snarling and growling character Spot, it seemed too cute of a movie to miss.

The kids, and Art and I, all loved the movie. The graphics were breathtaking, and in fact during a couple of scenes, especially when taken place in the water, they looked so real I thought they had included real live footage in with the animation.

The story line focused on facing fears, and the importance of friendship, family, and most importantly, loyalty. The two main characters, Arlo and Spot, face incredible danger and challenges during their journey, and with the help of Spot, Arlo eventually conquers his fears and becomes the brave dino his father believed him to be.  I have to say though, it was a tearjerker. All of us, besides Hayden, who is still a bit young to pick up on the subtleties in the story line, cried a couple of times during the movie. The story was so touching and the writers did a really good job of inspiring empathy for the characters. While there were a couple of intense scenes that may be a bit scary for little ones, I loved that the movie was free of snark and attitude, which is so often found in kid’s movies today. Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this movie for kiddos of all ages, but parents, just be on hand during and after to help explain and/or discuss some of the emotional scenes. REQUIRED-IMAGE---Good-Dinosaur---Sweepstakes

Sun-Maid has teamed up with Disney/Pixar to help spread the word about this newest release, and have an awesome sweepstakes currently going on, until December 31st, 2015.

Sun-Maid is giving away 5,000 trips for two to your local theater to see The Good Dinosaur, which was just released on November 25th. For a chance to win one of the 5,000 “Movie night for two” prizes, go to Sunmaid.com through the end of the year.  You can enter up to once a day.

Additionally, if you’re short on healthy snack ideas for the kiddos during this time of holiday sweets mayhem, Sun-Maid has you covered with this Caveman Crunch recipe. REQUIRED-IMAGE---Sun-Maid-Raisins-Package---With-The-Good-Dinosaur-Promotion

This is a sponsored blog; while the views expressed here were genuinely mine, consideration was paid to me by Sun-Maid to review this product.



black friday deals

SHARE THIS +

Black-Friday-Sales 1. Sweet Escape Dress via Shopbop 2. Embroidered Star Pumps via Anthropologie 3. Maison Off the Shoulder Dress via Shopbop 4. Ariana Flats via Shopbop 5. Downalicious Deluxe Vest via Athleta (I wear mine almost every day during winter, and it washes so easily on delicate cycle) 6. Lip Sheer in Raisin via Beautycounter 7. Turtleneck Maxi Dress via Shopbop 8. Be Free Knicker via Athleta (the best running/bootcamp pants there are; they don’t slide down or roll over when on runs or dynamic exercises) 9. Space Dye Namaste Bra via Athleta (very comfortable to wear all day if you never get a chance to change after a workout) 10. Chelsea Rain Boot via Shopbop 11. Shampoo & Conditioner via Beautycounter, FREE with $150 purchase 12. Tint Skin Foundation via Beautycounter 13. Day to Night Lipgloss Collection via Beautycounter

After working too many years in retail, I made a vow to never again shop in-store during Black Friday weekend. Instead, I’ve gotten a start on Christmas shopping from the comfort of my own home. Best selection is usually nabbed on Friday, but most sales last all weekend long, and then online retailers usually add more inventory for Cyber Monday.

I’ve rounded up some of my personal favorites for today’s post, from my favorite online shops.

Beautycounter: Free shipping on Black Friday, and free shampoo & conditioner with any $150 purchase, no code needed now thru November 30th

Shopbop: 15%-25% off using code GOBIG15 at checkout, now thru November 30th.

Anthropologie: 25% off site wide using code SHOPTOIT at checkout, now thru November 30th

Athleta: 20% off site wide using code WORKIT at checkout, now thru November 29th

Tea Collection: $12, $15, $17 sale no code needed now thru November 28th

MuTu System: 40% off site wide on all systems no code needed now thru November 30th

 



Developing a Healthier Relationship With Coffee

SHARE THIS +

IMG_7336 Last year, after dealing with some persistent and nagging health issues, I elected to do a 21 day cleanse. For three weeks I eliminated a laundry list of items from my (almost) daily routine; from gluten and dairy, to alcohol and caffeine, I was able to feel a lot better than I had felt in some time. Soon after, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, and I was set on a new path to treating and taking care of myself, which included remaining (mostly) gluten free, getting more rest and reducing stress where and when possible, and taking a handful of pills and supplements. Quite a few of you participated in the 21 day cleanse alongside me, and many more of you didn’t. Without a doubt, one item on the elimination list prevented more people from joining the challenge, and caused more grief and longing to those who did participate, than any other, and that was ditching their daily dose of coffee. Between screams of abject horror at the thought of even considering eliminating coffee from their daily routine, to the horrible tension headaches those of us on the cleanse experienced in that first week, as the ring leader of this crazy experiment, it boggled my mind how dependent so many of us were on the rich substance. IMG_7306

I’ll admit that for several months after the cleanse, I maintained a caffeine-free existence, drinking primarily Swiss water method decaffeinated coffee, a process that strips the beans of 99% of their caffeine, and even steering clear of iced tea. But over the last few months, I’ve come to have a pretty regular and yet stable relationship with caffeinated beverages. From coffee to tea, I can drink caffeine with semi-regularity, yet I have never gone back to that feeling of dependency in order to function. I can go a day or two with zero caffeine at all, and suffer no withdrawal headaches, and I no longer require it to “wake up” each morning. Since I get a lot of questions about how I made the switch from CoffeeMate spiked coffee co-dependence, to my healthier current state, I thought I’d offer a few tips that have helped me out along the way. And keep in mind that when I use the word “health” I’m also referring to environmental health, since environmental impact is something to consider when looking at how enthusiastically we consume our coffee. Plus, did you read the latest study that linked daily coffee consumption to longevity, with some quantity qualifications of course. Another reason to continue to say yes to the beans, from a reasonable point of view.

1. Don’t use caffeine and coffee as a substitute for proper sleep. This should go without saying, but yet it’s worth repeating because so many of my fellow women, especially mothers, make room for a whole host of plans and agendas, all while functioning at minimally optimal sleep levels. For years I consistently went with 5-6 hours of sleep a night, but since my diagnosis I’ve made it a priority to get proper sleep, and what do you know, I realized that I needed an IV drip of coffee a lot less! Don’t rely on the bean for your energy, rather make sleep and regular exercise a priority, and you can start to enjoy coffee as more than a means to an end.

2. Allow your body to wake up naturally, and stop drinking coffee first thing in the morning. This easy read from Time explains the science behind it, but basically, by drinking coffee early in the morning, you are interfering with your body’s normal cortisol production, and are also dulling the boosting effects of caffeine.  Science says optimal caffeine consumption occurs between 10 a.m. and noon, and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

3. Watch your intake. Coffee is good, but too much coffee can interfere with sleep and create anxiety. Studies show that between 200-400 mg per day can help with cognitive function with no shakes. Although since we all metabolize caffeine differently, it’s worth experimenting a bit on your own to determine just how much, is too much of a good thing. IMG_7340

4. Flavor it with a myriad of other healthier alternatives. There is coffee drinking beyond lacing it with artificial non-dairy creamers and heaping teaspoons of sugar. When friends and readers ask how I was able to ditch CoffeeMate, I told them that I simply started drinking good coffee. Coffee that’s in fact so good, you’d happily drink it black. But for those of us who still enjoy a bit of creamy richness with our cup, consider the myriad of other more health-conscious options. Coconut milk, bullet coffee creamer, almond milk creamer like this one by Califia Farms (which I hear is delicious and I’m trying to get my hand on), and good ol’ half & half with a dash of maple syrup.

5. Don’t shun the decaf! If you’ve either successfully weaned yourself off the IV caffeine drip, and just miss the taste and ritual of drinking coffee, or you’re simply trying to cut back, definitely consider decaf! Look for companies who make their coffee with the natural water method versus using chemical solvents. This French Roast organic decaf by San Francisco Bay is an excellent option.

6. Consider switching up your brewing method (some assert that cold brew is best), or switching to a low-acid coffee, if you experience low-grade acid reflux from coffee.

IMG_7319 7. Use environmentally friendly OneCups for your Keurig. I actually discovered San Francisco Bay coffee thanks to my  husband. As I’ve written, we ditched our Keurig at home last year and have since been brewing with a Chemex. But our office still held onto a Keurig for its convenience and ease of use, especially amidst an office full of guys too busy to brew multiple pots of fresh coffee each day. Unbeknownst to me, my husband searched for biodegradable, environmentally friendly pods, and happily discovered San Francisco Bay because of its stellar reviews. All of San Francisco Bays OneCup coffee varieties are packaged in this environmentally friendly way, and I say with utmost honesty, taste better than any other k-cup I’ve ever tried.

8. Seek companies which use sustainable and ethical practices to grow their beans. Shade farming for example (as opposed to clear cutting for full sun) creates healthy soil content, protects the environment for a myriad of animals and birds, fights global warming, and truly creates a better coffee bean. All of San Francisco Bay’s coffee is grown using this method. You may not always be able to pick and choose the sourcing practices of your local restaurants or even coffee shops, but you can be selective about what you bring home, which is why it’s always worth taking a look at the company practices of the beans you bring home.

I hope these few tips give you something to consider if you’re trying to break the addictive caffeine cycle, and reestablish a healthier relationship based off enjoyment rather than dependence. I love my morning cup of coffee now, and love even more that I can easily move between decaf and caffeinated, coffee one day or herbal tea the next. Even more so, I love seeking out different blends and flavors now, for the sheer enjoyment of the cup, rather than just to get a fix. Let me know if you’ve got questions, and hopefully I’ll have answers.

**This post was sponsored by San Francisco Bay Coffee, but all opinions are my own. I love working with brands that have values that align with my own, and I appreciate you supporting the businesses that help support this blog.



Planetbox Giveaway!

SHARE THIS +

giveaway Following up on last week’s special 15% discount offer, I’m really excited to also be giving a Planetbox away! So, for those of you who didn’t have a chance to scoop one up, or it just didn’t fit into the budget, now’s your chance to still get your hands on one! I’m giving away the Rover system, complete with the lunch bag and a set of magnets. That’s a $62 value on a system that will help make your life much easier (and healthier), when packing lunch for yourself or your kiddo.

If you need inspiration with how to get the most use out of your Planetbox, just in case you’re the lucky winner, make sure to visit my post last week, detailing out 31 Healthy School Lunches (packed in the Planetbox). Giveaway runs through the end of the week, and is open to US residents only. To enter, follow the prompts below. Good luck, and happy lunching! giveaway2

a Rafflecopter giveaway