Daily Style – What I’ve Been Wearing Lately

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IMG_5574 Blouse – Anthropologie, Distressed Jeans – Ann Taylor Loft (now 40% off!); Heels – old ShoeMint but similar here; Fringe Crossbody - Nordstrom Brass Plum dept

During my little birthday shopping trip to anthro last month, I bought the fish pants and that darling peplum top, but I also took home two other white tops. I don’t own a lot of pattern in my wardrobe, not because I don’t love patterns and prints, I just always seem to inevitably gravitate towards solids, especially the crispness of a fresh white top. So I took home 2 button-ups, and this long sleeved pullover that I’ve worn over and over the last few weeks, especially because it’s been unseasonably cold around here. I was actually freezing in this short sleeved top yesterday, come 5 o’clock. IMG_5594 Anthro actually had a few similar blouses by this same designer Cloth & Stone, all in different silhouettes and styles, in varying shades of neutral. The fabric feels almost like a cotton/linen blend, but is actually made of tencel, a sustainable and natural, man-made fabric made of wood pulp. Because I wear it a lot, I’ve spilled a great many things on it including buttery pasta noodles and salsa, and it cleans up beautifully with a little bit of pre-wash treatment. Washability is always a concern with crisp white pieces like this, but it has really worn quite well so far. It’s also fairly easy to press to a crisp clean finish, unlike straight cotton shirts, which stubbornly hold on to stains.  IMG_5582 I’ve been able to wear it a number of ways, including back to casual chinos and my Birks, as seen in this IG post, and it looks so darn cute belted, and worn back to skinny jeans or the fish pants. When worn belted back to the fish pants, it feels very 60’s inspired Mad Men. The back is also slightly longer, and has a vented pleat, making it a great choice to wear with leggings, when you want to be a bit more modest with your backside. I seriously can’t tell you how much I love the simple and effortlessness style of this blouse.  IMG_5613 I’ve been a bit more quiet than usual around here the past few weeks, as I settle in to my new role helping Art at his office two days a week. It’s only been two weeks but so far it’s been great, and I’m really enjoying being able to help relieve some stress, and duties off his plate. I’m taking more of an office manager role over there, but will also be doing social media stuff as well. It’s only 2 days a week, working out to about 14 hours a week, but will increase once Hayden begins preschool in the fall.
IMG_5617 IMG_5602 Besides being able to see Art a bit more, I’ve also enjoyed having a reason to get a bit more dressed up than usual. Not that I couldn’t roll in there wearing sweat pants ;) My feet and back aren’t too keen on the heel wearing though, so I quickly changed into my Birks when I left and we went out to dinner for Syd’s birthday. I can’t believe I now have a 10 year old and an 8 year old. Where does time go?!? Hoping you all have a wonderful weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday with a new post on my updated beauty routine.
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Thrive Market, CSA’s & Grocery Budgets

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The amount of spending we do during the month of April, between taxes and birthdays and anniversaries, I always feel the need to tighten the belt and reign in the budget. First place I felt we could save some money this year, was with our groceries. I don’t feel like I’m typically frivolous with my dollars, but if I’m not careful, I tend to load up the cart with interesting and fancy extras we don’t necessarily need. And besides the need to save some money, it also began to feel like I was becoming a bit of a hoarder in the food department, at one point stocking almost 50 lbs of meat in our freezer, yet still finding myself buying more. So bottom line, I’ve been working on being more intentional with our grocery budget for the past couple of months, and it’s working! Because I’ve received lots of questions about my weekly grocery haul photos on Instagram, I thought I’d answer a few of the most commonly asked questions, and also share with you my most recent Thrive Market purchases. IMG_5433

First, let’s start with Thrive Market. If you’re not familiar with Thrive, it’s an online grocer offering only “natural” healthy living foods, at a discount price. While in the beginning Thrive was said to offer wholesale pricing, it’s more like 25% off of retail. which is still a pretty good savings. Membership costs $49 a year, yet I’ve easily made up the cost in savings with just 2 orders (you get recaps in each order on how much you’ve saved, and accumulated savings). If you use this link, you’ll save 15% off your first order and your first month is free, so you can at least try it out with no membership obligation.

This month I ordered a case of Kit’s Organic bars, 3 packs of Krave jerky, 1 package of Pamela’s pancake mix, 1 bottle of Spectrum coconut spray oil, and because I’m trying to switch us away from Ziploc completely, paper sandwich bags. I only had to spend $2 more for free shipping, I added on the package of sustainable “plastic” forks to pack in the kid’s lunches and meals on the go. I’ve shopped around and even when these items are on sale or with a coupon, I can’t get them cheaper anywhere else. The key with Thrive is to have a general knowledge of prices so you can pick and choose which items you’re really going to find significant savings on. You may find some items for around the same price at your local market, but most items offer a significant savings.

Now let’s talk a bit about the grocery budget and answer some questions. IMG_3692

The $100-$125/week grocery budget does include the kid’s school lunches, breakfast and dinners. It does not include packing a lunch for my husband, as he eats out almost daily with his employees. I eat lunch out 1-2 times a week as well, but eat leftovers or make something else at home.

The grocery budget does not include home/personal care products.

In addition to the weekly budget, we also do a monthly Costco trip and spend on average $100-$150.

Once a month I purchase our CSA produce box at $75, and includes 2 boxes of fruit and vegetables and 5 dozen eggs. You can email me directly, if you’re local to the Southern California area, and I can add you to our CSA distro list with pick-up locations on Long Beach and Los Alamitos.

Once a quarter I also spend about $100 on our beef CSA, J&J Grassfed Beef.

We don’t buy or eat 100% organic, but rather on average 50% of total food purchases are organic, the rest conventional. We do strictly purchase organic milk and chicken, and pastured pork and grass-fed beef.

We eat out as a family on average 2-3 times a week, usually Friday night dinner, Sunday lunch out after church, and on a busy sports day, we may get take-out from Chipotle or ZPizza.  We could and should be better about this, I’d like to get eating out down to just once a week. Goalsssss.

Total monthly spend, on average is then $700-$800/month for our family of 5.

A few ways I’ve been able to save extra money. IMG_3025

Coupon clipping and the Target Cartwheel app. Sprouts offers a monthly coupon book with some pretty good savings, and of course the Cartwheel app has a ton of products with a savings of 5%-20% off. I’ve had the best luck by searching the app for only the things on my shopping list, rather than perusing the app and adding on items we don’t necessarily need, just because it’s “on sale.”

Meal planning is of course the easiest and most significant way to save money, since you can stay on track with your shopping list and spending.

Keeping an organized pantry and regularly cleaning out the fridge keeps me from buying more of what I don’t need, and makes sure we eat *most* leftovers.

Fenugreen fresh paper has really helped with keeping the produce fresh for at least a few extra days, thus reducing waste. I recently used them on a bunch of berries I bought at Costco, for Taylor’s tea party, and they kept them fresh for over a week.

Not being shy about putting items back along the grocery

Being stingy with meat. Unless I’m planning on making enough for plenty of leftovers, I usually only cook with 1-1.5 lb meat portions for our dinners. I also remain pretty steadfast on our Meatless Mondays.

The USDA reports the average cost of food for a family of 4, to be anywhere from $150-$300/per week.  Considering the high cost of living in Southern California, I think we’re doing pretty well. Are you happy with your weekly food costs, and if so, how do you work to save money each week? Would love some extra tips!



Slow-Braised Carnitas Tacos

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braised carnitas tacos3 I grew up in Whittier, a little town about 15 miles outside of Downtown LA with a varied demographic. It’s only about 20 minutes away from where I live now, and being that my parents still live there I “go home” quite often, but each time I do I still get nostalgic as if I’m some distant visitor. Anyhow, the town has a lot of great history, from Quaker settlers to famous poets, and boasts a decent private college. The town is also home to a large Latino population, and good Mexican food is never more than a stones throw away. My family and friends had our favorite spot to pick up the best menudo or albondigas, a certain bakery always promised the fluffiest pan dulce as well as the most filling of tamales, and of course we had a few favorite places to pick up tacos, specifically carnitas tacos.
braised carnitas tacos2 My favorite spot in particular served up the crispiest pork carnitas, and they were so generous with their portions that I was always able to divide up my pork into two separate tacos, because the best tacos are always double wrapped in the softest corn tortillas.

My mom, who had no qualms about giving me Doritos in my lunch sack everyday, was always sure to limit our intake of pork carnitas due to the way they were cooked; first braised, and then fried in manteca, aka lard. Without looking up the nutritional index of Doritos versus fried carnitas, I couldn’t really tell you which one is “healthier” but either way, in terms of food, both were a very large, happy part of my childhood.

I had never bothered to make my own carnitas at home because I always assumed the process was complicated and greasy, but over 5 years ago, Art and I took a cooking class from a local chef, who taught us how to make oven braised pork carnitas, minus the frying. I figured it was high time I share the recipe with you all, because not only are these ridiculously easy to make, the process and end result isn’t the least bit greasy. Well, maybe just a bit, but in the best way. I can now make these without the recipe in hand, and everyone loves them, especially Taylor, who is a girl after my own heart in just about every way.  braised carnitas tacos1 Believe it or not, the ingredients below are all you need to make this dish, well and of course the pork which I didn’t picture because a big hunk of raw pork is just kinda gross to look at. I have challenges enough with my food photography, so I certainly know there’s no way I could make a hunk of raw pork look appetizing. A sliced onion, a bay leaf, some cumin, salt and pepper, that’s it. Pork carnitas can actually be made using a variety of different ingredients depending on the region from which they hail, and so you may find several different variations of recipes out there, and the butcher where I got the pork from insisted that carnitas weren’t true carnitas unless you also added oregano. While I don’t know how necessary oregano is, and I’ll be sure to try it in the future, I appreciate this recipe so much for it’s simplicity in the ingredient department; short and sweet.  braised-carnitas-tacos-ingredients All you have to do is add your ingredients above to a dutch oven or some sort of roasting pan that takes a lid, add some water or stock, and your cubed pork. I used a shoulder this time around, but you can also use pork butt as well, and both yield equally good results, the shoulder is just what the butcher had on hand and he recommended as the best that day. You’ll need 3-4 pounds of pork and you’ll want it cubed into approximately 1″ pieces.  cooking braised carnitas Once all your ingredients are added, you bring the pot to a quick boil and then remove it from the heat, cover it and place it in the oven for a couple of hours to braise, not roast. After the meat has cooked for two hours, it will be soft and tender, but there will also be plenty of liquid left in the pan. This liquid will be used to further cook the pork on the stove top, achieving a caramelized effect without the use of lard. These carnitas will never be super crispy like the ones you’ll get at an authentic taqueria, but having grown up on those and now having had these, you won’t be disappointed in the least.  braised carnitas Toppings can include the ones pictured here, my favorite, as well as salsa and even refried beans. These carnitas are so tender and juicy though, I find that I don’t even need or want salsa, as a squeeze of lime is just enough to enhance the flavor and add some extra juice to the pork/tortilla combo.  braised carnitas toppings Keep in mind that these are delicious on their own too, and so don’t feel the need to even include them in taco form, but consider also topping them on salads, rolling them up in a burrito, or just serving them alongside some simple rice and beans, or cauliflower rice if you’re Paleo and all ;) One of these days though I’m going to have to add my recipe for Grandma Tita’s Spanish Rice to this blog, as it was a long-running favorite at my old blog.  braised carnitas tacos5 While the prep time on these carnitas is nil, you will want to allow yourself almost 3 hours of cooking time, as they braise in the oven for 2 hours, and then finish cooking on the stove top for a good 30 minutes or so. Once they are all done, the meat is hard pressed to actually stay in neat chunks, but rather falls into shredded submission at the slightest touch. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, and better yet, please let me know if you try them out! Printable recipe found just below…enjoy! braised carnitas tacos4

 

Braised Carnitas Tacos
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A slightly healthier twist on the usual fried carnitas, this slow braised version is every bit as satisfying.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3-4 lb pork butt or shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 3 cups water or chicken broth
  • corn tortillas and desired toppings
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375. Add all the ingredients to a Dutch oven and season with salt and pepper. Bring stock to a boil, then remove from heat and cover with a lid, and place in oven to bake for 2 hours. Remove lid and cook over medium heat for another 30 minutes or so, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pork has somewhat caramelized. Make sure not to stir the meat too much while it finishes cooking, so the meat can caramelize. Shred more if desired and serve in tortillas or over rice and beans.

 



Getting the Yard Ready for Spring

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This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Tree Top, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #TreeTopInc #raisinggoodapples http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV IMG_4962 If you follow along with me on Instagram, you’d know that a certain little girl celebrated her 10th birthday last week, and because double digits are kind of a big deal, I wanted to throw her a fun party in celebration of the milestone. She requested a limo ride, hair and makeup, tea at Nana’s house, followed by swimming, then a movie at dusk and finally a sleepover. We nixed most of the items on that list with the exception of tea (at our house), and age-appropriate hair and makeup. We spent a good portion of Saturday afternoon and yesterday morning getting the backyard ready for our girly guests.
IMG_4983 The main selling point of our house when we moved in over 5 years ago was the big backyard – big for Southern California standards anyhow. We fell in love with the giant Chinese elm tree and detached garage, with a long driveway hid behind a fence. It was and continues to be the perfect set-up for letting the kids play freely and hosting parties. When we put the pool in soon after moving in, we decided to leave the tree in place, even though we knew it would require a lot of maintenance, and for the most part we don’t regret the decision. We also added lots of greenscape ourselves, which makes the backyard feel more cozy and lush, but which leads to even more maintenance. And with a garage full of ride on toys and balls and a sand table at their disposal, it all adds up to a lot of mess come Spring time. While we tend to do regular maintenance back there once we’re regularly hanging outside, from Fall to Winter I kind of ignore the mess and just let things go a bit wild. This meant there was a lot of work to do to get the backyard ready for party hosting. And it also meant that we needed all hands on deck to get the yard in shape in time for the party.
IMG_4996 Balls and toys needed to be put away, hardscape needed sweeping, chair covers had to be removed and patio furniture swept down and the pool needed some cleaning too. We don’t give the kids an allowance, but we do have them perform regular chores around the house including emptying the dishwasher, feeding the pets, wiping down counters and dusting the tables, and of course keeping their rooms clean. Twice a year when we plant our vegetable garden we have them help with the planting and weeding, but other than that, they were not too thrilled about helping clean up the backyard. I think they feel the open space of the yard means they can’t just leave their toys out to play with at a moment’s notice. So I had to do some explaining that yard work was about more than just pruning some bushes and keeping balls all in one place.  IMG_5005 For the most part, they ended up catching on and helping out just fine. I mean, look at how serious he is taking that sweeping? In skinny jeans no less.  IMG_4980 After a while though, we found Syd taking a nap, he was so tired from all the hard work ;)
IMG_5019 After the yard was in order and the table and chairs were set up for the guests, we got out the swings to hang, still one of the best DIY projects we’ve ever turned out. Taylor did the honors of hanging the swing, a true sign that spring was here.  IMG_5013 Of course all that work not only tired them out (just a bit), but also made them work up quite an appetite. I threw together a simple snack they could munch on unassisted while I finished the decorating and last minute party details. Grapes, snapcrisps and these new coconut rolls I recently discovered, and some Tree Top apple sauce pouches that I picked up at Vons on sale for $2.
IMG_5047 You guys know I try to be pretty balanced with the food choices I give the kids, focusing on health and nutrition most of the time, but including indulgences here and there too, because it’s a natural part of life. But it’s really great when you can offer your kids nutrition and a “treat” all at the same time. The ingredient profile on these pouches are pure and simple; apples and fruit puree for the flavored varieties like the mango-apple, and I love that Tree Top is a 50 year old grower-owned co-op located in Washington, and that the apples are all 100% USA grown. These pouches are a simple no-brainer for us because the kids love them, from the 2 year old toddler all the way up to the too-grown-up 10 year old, and of course they’re healthy and nutritious.  IMG_5061 While I was busy hanging tissue paper tassel garlands, the kids were busy swinging away and Art captured these photos of the kids. It’s unbelievable looking at these, compared to the original swing pictures we snapped when we first installed these, and seeing how much they’ve grown! IMG_5066 I could hear Hayden saying “more, more!” I figured he was asking for more swinging but when I came back to collect the snack tray, I realized he had meant more squeezers, as he had eaten three of these pouches during his time on the swing!  IMG_5072 In effort to bring awareness to “Raising Good Apples”, Tree Top is partnering with the National Gardening Association’s KidsGardening.org to help educate kids on gardening. For every box of Tree Top Apple Sauce Pouches purchased through 5/31 Tree Top will donate $1 to help KidsGardening.org to help build and grow youth gardens. I couldn’t love or be more on board with this initiative and I’m pretty proud and honored to be partnering with Tree Top to help spread the word.
IMG_5075 GIVEAWAY!

In alignment with the season and Tree Top’s partnership with the National Gardening Association, they are offering one of my readers their own “Kid’s Gardening Kit” to help inspire you and your family to get outside and grow something good. The kit will consist of “My Gardening Journal”, Red Tubrug pail, kids gardening gloves, a watering can, Soft Touch hand tool set, Favorite Five sprouting seeds, and of course Tree Top Apple Sauce Pouches. 

The giveaway is open today, April 27th and will run through Monday, May 4th. To enter to win, simply leave a comment below letting me know your favorite Spring time activity to do with your family. A winner will be announced next week!

Thanks for reading and entering, and I’ll be back tomorrow with all the details from Taylor’s tea time birthday party!



Week In Review – Stopping the Self-Sabotage

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38cd1d317a7fd04f55d424d60951525d Yesterday, I buckled Hayden in his carseat and headed out at 8 am to tackle some things I had been putting off for far too long. For just over a year now, I had been driving around with an expired driver’s license, so our first stop was the DMV. I was terrified to find out what my fine would be, and even worse, how long we would be stuck there. But there ended up being zero fine, and we were there for just under an hour, and in that time I took a test, got my picture taken and even completed the eye exam. I was feeling so ambitious, proud of what I had conquered by 9:30 am, that we drove deeper into the OC to finally pick up Hayden’s official birth certificate from the County Clerk’s office. By 10:30 we were already on our way to swim lessons, shiny new birth certificate in hand.

Why had I been putting these things off for so long I wondered? Especially considering if I had been pulled over with that expired license, my car would have been impounded and I’d have to pay a hefty ticket. It’s a move no functioning adult should have really pulled, and yet I look back over the past year and countless times I’ve put myself in these situations of self-sabotage. Failing to meet deadlines on silly things, from paying a bill to responding to an email. Silly not because they weren’t important, but because they’re things that aren’t nearly as big of a deal as I’d made them out to be in my head.

My health issues in the grand scheme of things were and are pretty minor, but they were enough to knock me off my game for the past year, and made life seem way more overwhelming than it really was. Yesterday’s accomplishments were a step in the right direction, lifting huge weights off my shoulders, and reminding myself that tasks aren’t big scary obstacles, but just that, tasks to be done and checked off the list. My period of self-sabotaging myself is over. I’m moving forward, so this is me shrugging it off, shaking it up, and damn it feels good. Happy weekend folks!

My Newsletter Is Alive & Kicking!

I launched my newsletter a couple of weeks ago, but the second issue has the kinks worked out and in it I share my first real life meal plan just for newsletter subscribers. You can see past issues here (of which there are only 2, so you’ll catch up real quick), and subscribe to the newsletter here, which is super easy!

Great links around the web:

How One Weird Trick Conquered the Internet – c’mon admit it, you’ve been tempted to click on those link, haven’t you? I know I have!

Gwyneth Paltrow Is on Food Stamps This Week. Stop Making Fun of Her. I think the title says it all.

7 Things Good Mothers Do That I’m Not Going To Do Anymore. #5 is my favorite.

Young Women’s Hearts Are At Risk. I already linked to this article in my last post for Rainbow Juice, but it’s worth relinking here.

Skip the Crunches, Here’s How To Really Work You’re Core. Happy to see the program I’m doing, MuTu, mentioned in here! Promise to have an update for you on that soon, btw!

Currently Reading:

Just finished The The Paying Guests, and I was so not ready for the twists and turns that book took! Definitely worth a read!

Now reading One Plus One by Jojo Moyes and it’s so great, can’t put it down, in fact gonna go read it right when I’m done here!

Current Obsessions:

My Arizona Birkenstocks and my faux leather fringe purse are going everywhere with me these days.

Beautycounter Tint Skin & Retractable brush are my jam, may never wear another foundation again.



Fresh Pressed Rainbow Juice

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rainbow-juice-4 I recently read an article in the NY Times about the importance of cardiovascular health for women, and that the hearts of young women are especially at risk. And while many women fear cancer, more women in the United States die from heart attacks or strokes, than all cancers combined. I couldn’t help but think of my own grandma Mildred, who had an excessive fear of cancer, referring to it only as “the big C” but in the end, it was a heart attack that killed her.  My what a morbid way to start off such a pretty post! rainbow-juice I bring up that article, because all day yesterday after reading it, I kept going back to how simple the basic tenants of health really are, if we have just a bit of knowledge and of course the right resources. The major takeaways from that article was to 1. eat plenty of fruit and vegetables 2. stay active 3. get plenty of sleep and 4. stress less and laugh more. Pretty simple and basic principles, right? I always appreciate articles like this not for their doom and gloom, but for this simple reminder of the basics. While in the food & wellness world, debates may go back and forth between  the benefits of a vegan versus Paleo diet or yoga versus Pilates, in the real world, many still struggle to just eat enough fruits & veggies and find time to exercise. IMG_4775 Things have gotten weird in the food & wellness world the last few months, and now more than ever it seems people are skeptical of some of the over the top health claims key players are making. I don’t blame them, not only because some of the claims are suspect, but also because it’s near impossible to eat a saintly diet day in and day out, especially if you have a family and you don’t live in a bubble. So what is one to do? My groundbreaking advice is to just do the best you can.
IMG_4786 Fruit and vegetable juices like this one here won’t cure all that ails you; it won’t eliminate cancer and I’m not sure it can even really “detox” you, whatever that truly means. But it can help you get your daily dose of recommended fruits and veggies in one sitting, bringing with it all those wonderful vitamins, minerals and antioxidant power. It can help with digestion, and if you’ve ever enjoyed yourself a few servings of beets, you’ll know that all on your own, without the benefit of a peer reviewed scientific study. Although if you do like scientific evidence, I’ll have you know that several studies, including one conducted at a fancy place like Harvard, has confirmed that the biggest payoff from eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is for the heart. That’s right friends, fruits and veggies can help lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. While there may not be concrete scientific evidence that juicing your veggies are inherently better than just eating them straight away, there’s no doubt that juicing (and blending) help the average person increase their normal daily intake of fruits and veggies, since the average person isn’t sitting around eating several beets and carrots, handfuls of spinach and sticks upon endless sticks of cucumbers and celery.
rainbow-juice-6 Now, if you asked me to decide between juicing and blending, I couldn’t do it. Both have their own individual great tastes and health benefits, and on different days I crave different things. On days where I’m rushed and also feeling hungry, I go for a smoothie as a quick way to get nutrients and proteins, since I can add in wonderful things like hemp seeds, a complete protein, hydrating coconut water, and maybe even protein powder if I’m heading into a workout. Because smoothies include the pulp and therefore fiber, you’re bound to feel more full drinking a smoothie than a juice. Clean up is also much easier

However, on days where I have a bit more time and I need a little zing, I’ll go for a juice because nothing beats the refreshing taste of fresh pressed apples, spinach and any other wonderful things I have hanging around my produce drawer. Because the pulp, and therefore fiber, is extracted, some claim it allows for 100% nutrient absorption. Science is iffy on that statement, so I’ll withhold judgement on that topic, but without a doubt you’re still getting all the wonderful benefits of consuming all those fruits and veggies in its most raw form.

rainbow-juice-2 So speaking of raw fruits and veggies, here’s the point in the post where I’d be remiss to not mention that too much of a good thing can be true when it comes to consuming fresh pressed juices and even smoothies. Consuming too many raw dark leafy greens can pose a risk for those with a history of kidney stones, and even those with thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism should be careful, all thanks to the oxalates found in cruciferous veggies. My friend Linda over at The Organic Kitchen had a recent bout with kidney stones thanks to too many oxalate rich foods. Take note that for most, the benefits of consuming all these wonderfully oxalate rich foods far outweigh the negatives, but for some you may want to be careful as to not consume raw juices and/or smoothies on a daily basis. If you’re not used to consuming a lot of fruits and veggies, especially raw, you may also notice a bit of digestive trouble, so scale back. But I’ve been juicing consistently now for almost two years, and it has done wonders for my bowels, and even my endocrinologist didn’t think I need be worried about scaling back on my dark leafy greens.  rainbow-juice-3 So I guess that’s enough blabbering from me. This juice is awesome, tastes fantastic, is packed with vitamins and minerals, and is just plain gorgeous. I ended up shaking mine all up after I took these pictures, but if you’d like to create the same rainbow effect at home, make sure you leave some pulp in your orange juice so it’s “heavier” and then strain your beet juice if need be to make it “lighter.” Pour in your orange juice first, then slowly add in your beet, and watch the two magically float on top of each other. Then add in your green juice on top, and grow sad that you can’t create the same cool layering effect with the green juice, and then get over it. Shake or stir, drink and enjoy! This here is one of my favorite flavor combinations of all time, a great blend of sweet and earthy, the starch from the beets also helps it to seem a bit more filling than a straight green juice made up of lots of water.

Toasting you in good health and balanced living! Enjoy.

rainbow-juice-5

Rainbow Juice
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This flavorful fruit and vegetable juice is packed with vitamins and minerals and tastes fantastic!
Author:
Recipe type: Drink
Serves: 2 8 ounce glasses
Ingredients
  • 2 small beets or 1 large beet
  • 2 small oranges or 1 medium sized orange, any variety
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • ½ English cucumber
  • 1 small apple
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach
Instructions
  1. Wash and prep all fruits and vegetables, making sure to peel the beets and orange, and core the apple. No need to peel the apple or cucumber. Cut up to fit in your juicer, and prepare each juice separately if you'd like to achieve the rainbow effect, or combine all ingredients together to create a single juice. Strain if necessary, and serve chilled.

 



Daily Style – Peplum Empire

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IMG_4714 Peplum empire top – Anthropologie, Fishing line pants – Anthropologie, Fringe bag – Nordstrom for $28(!), Shoes – old ShoeMint but similar here & here, Lip color – Beautycounter Lip Sheer in Twig
IMG_4716 You may have caught notice on Instagram that it was my birthday this past Friday, and I entered my last year in my thirties. I whined quite a bit about this turn of events, and proclaimed how old I felt several times throughout the weekend, and it got to the point that my sweet husband very kindly told me to shut up. While I know age is just a number and blah blah blah, and I do in fact feel like life is just really getting started, I also can’t help but notice the subtleties of age creeping in. Too much wine affects my sleep, too late of a night renders me useless the next day, I wake with back aches that need to be worked out with some “morning stretching” and each day more and more gray hairs seem to pop up. When added up, they don’t really mean much, I know this, but they are just reminders that I am of course aging. And even as I type this out, it all sounds so ridiculous, I know. So ridiculous in fact that I’m just going to stop right here and move on.

I may have been busy feeling sorry for myself on Friday, I did however, manage to find some time to partake in a little retail therapy. On Friday morning I woke to the loveliest email from Anthropologie, titled “A gift for you!” My mother and mother in law had both bought me gift certificates, so I carted all three kids down to the mall, shoved some electronic devices in their hands and browsed for as long as they allowed. An hour later, I had scoured the store and tried on about 30 pieces, leaving with these 2 favorites, and a couple more which I’ll share later.

I made sure to try on these pants with several different tops to make ensure they’d work with things I already had in my wardrobe. I did the same for the blouse, pairing it back to boyfriend jeans, shorts and even a wide leather belt. Both looked fabulous and I left there feeling giddy. The blouse will especially be in heavy rotation, as I love a crisp white blouse. This one though feels both dressy and casual at the same time, making it perfect for just about any occasion. Seriously, if you want a great white blouse to add to your wardrobe, this one is PERFECT in all sorts of ways.

I wore this outfit exactly as styled to my birthday dinner Friday night, and got compliments all around. I can’t remember the last time I shopped full price at Anthropologie, usually I only allow myself to scour the sale racks, but it was a fun indulgence considering my birthday discount and gift certificates, and I can’t wait to wear these pieces in many different ways in the year ahead. Here’s to birthday indulgences, and feeling great at any age. The more I say it, the more I’ll believe it ha!
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Food Processor vs Blender, Which One Is Better?

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FTLO-44 The question has been raised  many times on Instagram, as to whether a Vitamix, or some other type of powerful blender like a Blendtec, can truly replace several other gadgets in your kitchen, including a juicer and Cuisinart food processor. With some fussing and straining, you can sorta get the same juice experience with a blender as you can with an actual juicer, but after many attempts, my verdict is that a blender can in no way replace the awesomeness of a food processor. Here’s my verdict on the food processor vs blender conundrum.

I didn’t start religiously using a food processor until very recently, and after my first experience using one I quickly begged the question, “How did I live without one for so long?!” I have a pretty basic Cuisinart and it has proven itself so useful that it secured itself a permanent place on the kitchen counter.

Here are just a few ways I use my Cuisinart food processor on a weekly basis:

  • Shredding a block of cheese for taco night or lasagna (block cheese is cheaper than shredded so I usually skip on the pre-shredded packages unless I’m in a real hurry, and go for the block instead).
  • Slicing potatoes for potato nachos or to make baked sweet potato fries.
  • Shredding raw veggies like beets and carrots for beautiful and colorful, salad bar worthy salads.
  • Chopping up veggies for braises.
  • Chopping up cauliflower to make cauliflower rice.
  • Grinding nuts, nut butters and dates to make everything from cashew cream to macaroon balls.
  • I could go on but I’ll stop now.

slicing-in-the-food-processor The slicing blade makes quick work of slicing veggies into thin slices, not paper thin like a mandolin, but much thinner and more consistent than you’d be able to slicing on your own. shreddiing-in-the-food-processor The shredding disc allows you to shred just about any fruit or veggie, and even cheese. I love raw beet shreds for salad toppings by the way. making-cauliflower-rice-in-the-food-processor And of course the standard chopping blade is what will quickly chop up any number of foods and make quick purees as well.

So you see, I use my food processor a lot. And I’ve gotten so accustomed to using it that I make quick work of the set up and clean up, and usually just throw all the parts in the dishwasher on the top rack for easy clean up. In fact a couple of weeks back when my mom was over to help prep our St. Patrick’s Day dinner, I encouraged her to use the food processor to shred the cabbage, instead of shredding it by hand with the damn cheese grater. She was stubborn and refused, saying it would lead to more clean up. Well, 25 minutes later when she was still shredding cabbage by hand, I pointed out to her that she could have had the cabbage shredded and the processor cleaned up by now. She shot me daggers.

How does this all relate to a blender you ask? Well, one of the main selling points that the charismatic Vitamix dude at Costco sold me on, was that this powerful blender could do the work of several other kitchen appliances, including a food processor. Having never used a food processor before, I naively believed him, and $500 poorer, took my Vitamix home. It wasn’t until I visited a friend and actually got to see a food processor in action, that I realized I had been sold a bill of goods. FTLO-84 FTLO-86

The Vitamix can indeed chop and puree things very well, but it cannot slice or shred. And unless what you’re pureeing is of a somewhat liquid consistency, it does a very inefficient job. You see, a good portion of what you puree, from dips to gooey power balls, gets trapped in the bottom of the Vitamix and is extremely hard to get out from between the blades, especially since the bottom is not removable.  You will find yourself wasting many precious minutes in the kitchen trying to scrape out every last bit while avoiding the sharp blades. FTLO-87

As you can see, you have to wedge your hand in the bottom there and try to scoop out as much as possible from between the blades, but a good amount inevitably gets left behind. This isn’t only annoying and a waste of time, but costly, especially when you’re using high priced ingredients like organic raw cashews. With a food processor, you can easily scrape the bowl clean and get out every precious last crumb.

I love my Vitamix and don’t have a single regret with my purchase. I just wish I would have known that it wasn’t as “all-purpose” as it’s often made out to be. I also wish some cookbooks, including It’s All Good, would stop implying that a “high power blender” can do the job of a food processor just as well. I continually read recipes instruct cooks to make everything from nut butters to dense dips in a blender, when they should really be made in a food processor. For smoothies, pureed soups and even frozen desserts, it does an incredible job, but its longevity stops there. Trying to use it for sticky, gooey, dense jobs in the kitchen will waste your time and leave you frustrated.

Bottom line, if you’re an avid cook, you probably already have a food processor and know the full extent of its usefulness in the kitchen. But if you’re like me and are still fine tuning your home cooking skills and looking to expand your kitchen tools, you may be wondering what you should buy first, or if you can skip the food processor and just buy the fancy blender.

My answer is, you’ll eventually want both, and what comes first is up to you.

If you have a growing family and they all enjoy smoothies on an almost daily basis, by all means go with the Vitamix. You can sneak in an unusually high amount of healthy veggies in a smoothie made in a Vitamix because it blends everything up so well.

If you don’t think you’ll make smoothies more than once or twice a week, but cook almost every day, then go with the food processor.

I hope this helps, and clears up any questions about which appliance is more useful. In our house, they’re both very useful, but they each have their own separate, unique purpose.

 



Daily Style – Scarf Print Maxi

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IMG_4281 Dress – Eliza J via Nordstrom, Wedges – old ShoeMint but similarly cute and affordable pairs here and here, Ruffle Leather Clutch – old St. John

IMG_4291 IMG_4329 IMG_4324 IMG_4277 IMG_4302 I picked up this dress a few weeks back, knowing I’d get a ton of wear out of it over the spring and summer months, and I broke it in for Easter Sunday. It makes a bold statement and moves in the prettiest of ways, especially when you’re standing in a wind tunnel like the photos above. While it may appear to just be another ol’ maxi dress, the defined waist, flowy skirt and cut-in top make it really flattering on as well. While I was originally afraid it may be a lot of fabric for warmer days, I quickly found out yesterday that it breathes really well and in fact, I had to change into something warmer when we got home from church. I love the heck out of this dress and I’ll surely be wearing it quite a bit in the coming months ahead.

Hoping you all had a wonderful Easter weekend, whether you celebrate it or not. We hosted brunch for my family and I shared most of the menu on Instagram, including the cutest strawberry shortcake desserts for the kids, and a grapefruit sage mimosa for the grown ups. Have a good week friends!



Finding Success on Instagram

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Growing-a-successful-Instagram-Account-2 It’s almost the two year anniversary of the inception of Gwyneth Made Me Do It, and it’s strange to think I started the account on a silly whim, never thinking it would grow to what it has become. Sure, at close to 14,000 followers, I’m nowhere near the chart topping success of many other accounts which feature everything from cute dogs to hot workout girls, but for a side project that was mainly tongue in cheek from the very beginning, I’m proud of the success and opportunities I’ve found through it.

But what exactly are the gauges of success for the various forms of social media? I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but a few of the notable ways I’ve defined success for myself and the growth of Gwyneth Made Me Do It, are as follows:

  • Engaged and genuine following: for the most part, I can post on almost any particular subject in the scope of food and wellness, and I can expect genuine interaction from those who follow along. I can ask a question, pose an alternate point of view, or even question the relevance of certain issues, and I’m blown away by the great feedback and true sense of community that certain discussions can invoke. Conversely, I sometimes wonder why certain subjects, like baby carrots, can get folks so riled up, but in the end, it’s all good and it’s the most important mark of success I can recite. Also, when the great Instagram rapture occurred a few months back, I lost about 30 followers, whereas some lost thousands, therefore my follows were real and genuine.
  • Employment opportunities: alternately, we can label this category “financial” success, but bottom line, through the early success and growth of GMMDI, I was able to secure steady and consistent work (my Babble column), as well as land a few freelance and sponsored opps. For some, this would be the number 1 gauge of success, but among the hundreds of thousands of IG food accounts, I believe my engaged following is what helped set me apart from the very beginning, eventually leading to some sort of financial success.
  • Positive influence: Many of the changes in my own life have undoubtedly been a result of the upkeep of the account, since in some strange way, it has held me accountable. I often said in that first year of changing our eating habits, if I wasn’t sort of “documenting” it for all to see, I may have reverted into our old ways long, long ago. Alternately, I know through many emails and comments left on the over 2000 posts now, that the account and some of the things I post has helped make a positive change in other people’s lives as well. This is pretty freaking gratifying, and is another priceless measurement of success. IMG_1854

So now that you are familiar with how I define success for myself, let’s talk a bit about how I got here. In the beginning, I had no expectations for this account, and never set out to make it “popular” or even surpass the following of my existing account (which it did in just a couple of months), so I wasn’t too focused on creating the “perfect shot” or pining after followers. I literally just posted our journey and the inevitable ups and downs that came along with overhauling our whole family’s diet. I was brutally honest and humble, and from the get go, it seemed to work. People appreciated my honesty and alternate voice in the all too often perfect world of healthy eating. So let me lay out a few bullet points for you, in no particular order of importance.

  • Be honest, open and humble. While this approach may not work for every niche out there, for instance getting really raw and honest about a pair of jeans just seems silly, but when it comes to food and the incredible importance it plays in our lives and culture, it worked. I posted plenty of recipe fails, but also posted about the genuine successes I experienced, where the family unexpectedly loved a super healthy meal or when I physically felt better shortly after changing my diet. It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, so I think our success stories were then more believable. Don’t try to be perfect, don’t attest to knowing it all, and don’t apply a glossy filter to everything, hiding the fails and mess, only to let the perfectness shine through. I think the current catch phrase that’s become sorely overused is, “be authentic.”
  • Have an opinion. Being opinionated on everything gets tiresome for you and the reader, but on key subjects, it’s important to stand for something, or as the saying goes, fall for everything. Speaking your mind and inviting discussion and even criticism, allows your followers to get to know you better, and in turn allows your posts to get some pretty engaging commentary going. While it’s vital that this interaction and engagement be truly genuine, as a positive aside, it’s also worth noting that the more people who interact on your post thread, the more likely your account is to get noticed in the “following” activity section. I always notice a nice bump in followers after I post on an engaging or even controversial topic that elicits a lot of interaction.
  • Do your research and offer your knowledge. There’s a lot of confusing subject matters out there, but none so overwhelming as how to feed your family right. People get bogged down in the conflicting nature of online reporting and the minutia of healthy eating. I know because I was in the same exact boat. Thanks in part to a paying job which allowed me to spend a bit more time on the subject, I did a lot of research from the very beginning, and then regurgitated my findings to my followers, something many appreciated a lot, a lot ;) I never claimed to be an expert and in many areas I’m still a novice and would never feel comfortable guiding people down a certain path, but in many, many areas of health and nutrition, the information is out there for the taking and is relatively easy to understand, if you just take the time to dig around. My followers appreciated that in many areas, I had done the leg work for them.
  • Be a voice of reason, not of extremism. There are a lot of bloggers and Instagrammers out there that will freak you the hell out and make you scared to eat just about everything you haven’t grown, harvested and made yourself. Fortunately for my family, I’m not one of those people. Again, it’s been one of the things most noted that my followers appreciate about my account.
  • Keep it fresh and always try new things. My account would get pretty stale if I always made the same 5 meals week after week, so in order to keep it fresh and engaging, I’m always on the lookout for new recipes and techniques to try, new avenues to explore.
  • Post genuine product feedback. You want your audience to trust you, so with that in mind, be careful and considerate when posting product reviews. Be upfront when the post is sponsored or if you were gifted it so the readers know the distinction, and only post products you either purchase yourself and truly love, or would use regardless of receiving it for free. Trust is key here.
  • Be consistent about something so you can be known for something. Yes, my account is a food account, but in the last few months one new addition that has helped my audience grow, is my daily lunch posts. Now, when other people ask for kid’s lunch ideas or accounts to follow for healthy school lunches, my account is often referred. Pick one or two things that set may set you apart in a sea of millions of users.
  • Offer something of value. Whether it be quick and easy recipes or mini DIY tutorials or tips on styling your hair or great beauty products, don’t be afraid to share your knowledge with your followers right there on your account. If you are a blogger or sell a product, the end goal is to get people to your site or blog, but by offering valuable information right there on IG, you create a reason and almost a need for followers to keep on following, and for new followers to find you, especially when you give followers a reason to tag you on posts. Of course you don’t want to only post your best content directly on IG, you still want to give them a reason to come to your site, but offering tidbits of info in the convenient form of IG, you keep followers engaged and attract new ones.
  • But what about pictures??? Yes, beautiful pictures are a definite plus, but realize that they aren’t everything. Don’t be afraid to post an ugly picture every now and then if it tells an important story or is an important piece of your journey. But overall, you do want to focus on posting decent looking pictures, the prettier the better. But this isn’t really a post about how to take and style the perfect Instagram (because I’m far from the expert IG’er),  rather a study in the many other factors that play into Instagram success that allow your pictures, pretty or not, to stand out among the rest.
  • Get familiar with and use hashtags, but don’t live and breathe by them. At least 70% of the time I don’t post a grouping of keyword hashtags in my pictures, and it’s something I could definitely improve on, yet I’ve still experienced a modicum of success despite my laziness. With that being said though, they do help so post them as often as you can, or as often as you remember to.
  • Timing and frequency matter. I notice the most engagement when I post in the evening, as folks are winding down and scrolling through their phone. I’ve never gotten too caught up in collecting likes, but if that sort of thing is important to you, then late afternoons and evenings are prime time for IG, just like Facebook. Weekend are hit and miss for me, but Saturday mornings always do pretty well. And whether you track number of likes or not, it is important to note that timing and likes is an indication of how many active eyes you have on your posts, and the more active eyes you have, the better chance those eyes will transfer to your blog post or website. Frequency is important too, and I try to not post more than 3-4 times throughout the day, unless I’m at a really key event that I know my followers are interested in, or I have something really important to share.

So that’s about all I have to say on the matter of Instagram. Again, I’m not claiming to be some outrageously huge IG success, but I think I’ve done pretty well considering the account was a complete departure from what I had been writing about for years (DIY and personal style). While some of my bits of advice were specific to food writing, I hope much of the information is practical enough it can crossover and be meaningful in a wide range of niches. Please let me know if you have any questions! Peace out and happy gramming!