What I’d Buy From The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

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The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale started last Friday and because we were on our road trip, I haven’t had a chance to go in and do any damage, which is probably a good thing. I did some browsing last night though and found a few things I plan to order up, and because of the great free returns option, will just send back what doesn’t work. I rounded up a few items I either want for myself this year, or very similar/identical items I bought last year that I absolutely love and continue to wear. Because I know the fit and quality was great, I’m making a few recommendations for you just in case browsing through pages and pages of their website isn’t all that feasible for ya.
anniversary-sale-vest-picks Left – Faux Leather Trip Drapefront Vest $59.90; Right – Shawl Collar Vest $49.90

At $60, I’m definitely ordering the wool boucle vest on the left, and I’ll style it probably just back to a T-shirt as shown here. And the vest on the right reminded me a lot of the vest I wore earlier this year, but about half the price I paid for it. Embrace the vest friends!   anniversary-picks-jackets Left – Angelina Zip Leather Moto Jacket $199.90; Right – Caslon Drape Collar Leather Jacket $218.90

I had a leather moto jacket on my wishlist last year, but opted to buy a more practical jacket instead. Seems only fair then that this fall I invest in something a bit more fun, but still classic. Both of these leather moto jackets look like fun options, with a bit of a more sleek and feminine feel to them, minus the buckles and zippers you usually find in a moto jacket. The one on the left reminds me a lot of my silky moto jacket I bought earlier this year and got a ton of wear out of.  anniversary-sale-denim-picks Left – AG Cigarette Jean $149.90; Middle – Rag & Bone Dre Slimfit Boyfriend Jean $175.90; Right – Paige Denim Skyline Jean $124.90

Last year I bought one blouse and a pair of designer jeans during Anniversary Sale, in addition to a couple of pairs of shoes for the kids. I showed restraint if you ask me 😉 I bought the slim cut boyfriend jean from Rag & Bone, seen center, and I absolutely love them and wear em quite often. The other pair of nice designer jeans I picked up, not on sale, were the Paige Highline, seen right, in dark denim and they are the perfect skinny jean. Higher rise at the waist, and super comfortable, they are offering a slightly lighter wash for Anniversary Sale and I think if you’re going to invest in a great pair of skinny jeans, these should be it. Super stretch too so no harmful accidents should occur! The ankle denim on the left are just too cute so had to add them in. anniversary-sale-picks-tops Left – Split Neck Top $29.90 also available in solid colors ; Right – Plaid Blanket Poncho $38.90

I bought this exact same blouse, just in a different print, last year during the sale and I LOVE it! Lightweight and very flattering on, it looks great back to denim or slacks/pencil skirt for more of a work look. Available in a variety of prints and solid colors, and a fantastic price. The blanket poncho on the right is also a great price and so cute.
anniversary-sale-handbags Left – Vegan Leather Pocket Tote $31.90; Right – Heidi fringe boho bag $305.90

The infamous reversible faux leather copycat Madewell tote bag got a style refresher with added pocket for the Anniversary sale, and the price makes it a no-brainer. Dying over this fringe leather bag by Frye. Probably won’t take the plunge here, but someone definitely should have this bag! anniversary-sale-picks-athletic-gear Left – Nike Cool Breeze Running Tank $22.90; Middle – Nike Free Flyknit $96.90; Right – Zella Live In Capri $33.90

Let’s not forget about sportswear because Anniversary sale is always a great time to stock up. When we were in Portland I mentioned visiting the Nike employee store. While there, I picked up this tank in white, and my first pair of fly knits, and oh my gosh I love them both. The tank is really lightweight but also loose fitting so it’s ridiculously comfortable. Our friend who we stayed with while in Portland is a shoe engineer for Nike, and he told me these shoes are designed to feel like you’re just wearing a sock, and that’s pretty much accurate. Really lightweight and unobtrusive, you hardly feel like you’re wearing much at all. And the Zella leggings will last you year after year of sweaty use, and fit like a glove. I have them in solid black and a couple of prints, but am really digging this one. anniversary-sale-girls-shoe-picks Left – Ruby & Bloom Josie Flat $32.90; Right – DV Savina Bootie $54.90

Lastly, the only one who will get a new pair of shoes (or 2) from the sale will be Taylor. Syd burns through tennies so fast these days, no matter how high quality they are, means that I’m sticking with cheaper pairs. And Hayden is at that fickle toddle shoe stage (most of you can relate, right?), that one day he’ll love a pair of shoes and the next day he finds they’re too tight, too lose, too “hurty.” So that leaves us with Taylor, who is content to wear 2 pairs of quality shoes that are comfortable all school year long, and whose feet grow super slow. Last year I bought her both of these shoes and they lasted most of the school year. She got the ballet flat in gold and the elastic heel made them much more comfortable for kiddos, plus they help to keep the shoes on so you can go up 1/2 size and they won’t slip off the way a regular ballet flat would. This makes them of course last longer. I’m going to get her 2 pairs of these she loved them so much. And she wore the heck out of these same DV booties (although in plain brown leather) and I finally threw them away just a couple of weeks ago. With dresses, jeans, shorts, whatever, she loved them and found them to be made very well and were really comfortable. I don’t love the metallic pair as much, but they’re still cute.

And that’s all she wrote! Do you guys usually shop the sale and stock up for Fall?



Daily Style – 24 Hours in Portland

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IMG_5973 Chambray Back Dress – Vince on sale at Shopbop; Sandals – Sam Edelman Garrick; Fringe Crossbody – Nordstrom; Necklace & Earrings – Stella & Dot

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you may have noticed that we’ve been on a pretty ambitious road trip since last Thursday. We traveled 600 miles our first day on the road, to make it just a couple of hours outside the Oregon border. On our second day, we made it into Oregon, making a quick stop at Crater Lake before arriving in Bend, Oregon late in the afternoon. We stayed in Bend for 3 nights and visited quite a few places in our short time there, and on Monday we left the mountainous high desert to travel 3 hours into Portland.
IMG_5992 When we get home and settled in, I’d like to write up a whole recap of our trip, but for now I just wanted to do a quick check-in from Portland. We’re staying 2 nights here, and at first we figured 2 nights would give us a chance to get a good flavor of the city, but the reality is we’ve barely scratched the surface. We have managed to pack in several highlights while here though. IMG_5987 Last night after a long day on the road, we arrived famished so we just grabbed a quick burger along with truffle fries at Little Big Burger. We are staying with friends here in Portland (and in fact we’re staying with friends throughout our entire trip), and they live in the Alberta area. Alberta is a great little street with one delicious option after another of great food, beer, coffee and ice cream joints, with some retail shops mixed in. After a quick burger and beer, we crossed the street to Salt & Straw for a famous ice cream cone.

They are known for their made fresh to order waffle cones, and unique ice cream flavor combos. I ordered a scoop of marionberry goat cheese habanero, and oh my word was it amazing – sweet and creamy with a little kick at the end.

We were lucky to not have to wait in line too long, but either way it would have been worth the wait. The ice cream was so good in fact that tonight we went back for more, and this time I ordered a split scoop of the strawberry balsamic black pepper and olive oil. IMG_5978 Other highlights of the trip have been a tour of the Nike World Headquarters where our friend works as a shoe engineer, along with a trip to the Nike employee store where everything is 50% off and of course no shipping. We cruised through 2 coffee shops including Stumptown, and also had dinner at Hopworks, a great local brewery that is super kid friendly and has some great food.

We are back on the road early tomorrow morning, but first we’re going to hit up one last coffee shop which came highly recommended by some readers, and a gluten-free bakery. We’ve done nothing but eat and drink the last 24 hours, almost to the point of gluttony, but it’s been fun to make the most of such a short trip.

IMG_5996 By the way, these are the only shoes I’ve worn the entire trip, besides my tennies, and they’ve gone well with everything and have been so comfortable. I wore this dress for the first time today, and it was the perfect thing to get me through a hot and busy day. Ridiculously comfortable, and casual but also put-together. The fabric draped beautifully and the front panel didn’t wrinkle at all, as you can see since these photos were taken at 8 o’clock at night. The back chambray panel wrinkled a bit, but didn’t look sloppy. This was the perfect outfit to take me all day through this casual and fun city, and the dress is on sale right now! IMG_5988

Follow along on Instagram, either at my personal account @andreavhowe, or on my food account @howeweeat, to see highlights from our trip. I’ve lived my whole life in California, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to make it up to our bordering state Oregon. It’s been a memorable trip and we’ve had such a great time so far. Here’s to another few great days on the road!



Supporting Mom-to-Be with healthy mama®

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“This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and healthy mama® , but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #gethealthymama disclosure IMG_5933 Two of the most exciting experiences of my life was when we bought our home, and of course, being pregnant and giving birth to my three kiddos. Exciting and wonderful experiences, but also both very stressful and exhausting. I can’t imagine going through both things at the same time, but my sister in law and brother are doing just that. When They recently purchased a home and my sis in law especially, is going through the challenges that come along with packing and unpacking and settling into a new home, while 6 months pregnant.

They are thrilled to be moving to a home with more space to accommodate their growing family of 5, but I know it’s gotta be a lot for them. I visited them at the new pad last weekend and helped unpack several boxes while I was there, and it barely seemed like we made a dent. I felt overwhelmed just looking at all there was to “get done”, so I can only imagine how my sister-in-law felt. Before we left on our week long road trip, I put together a little care package for her to send along with my mom the next time she visited. I assembled a basket of goodies I know she’ll love, featuring a couple of items from the revolutionary new company healthy mama®.
IMG_5923 healthy mama® is a line of products designed specifically for pregnant and nursing women, and is the first brand to offer safe and effective wellness solutions for some of the most common pregnancy and nursing related ailments. From lack of energy to heartburn and constipation, healthy mama® has a full range of products to fit almost every need, and a their products are what I built my care package around.I started with the Boost It Up caffeine-free protein energy drink, because we all know moving is exhausting, but moving while 6 months pregnant is a whole other beast. I should have bought her a case of this stuff, but we’ll start with one bottle of the mango flavor. I also bought her a package of the Calm the Crazy! peppermint tea, to help ease the nausea she continues to experience, and settle her down at night so she can get a restful night of sleep. IMG_5957 I found the line of healthy mama® products under the new maternal health section at Target, which is near the pharmacy, and right down the aisle from the feminine care products. Even though this new section came a little late for myself, I’m happy retailers like Target are working with companies like healthy mama which are working to create shelf space for prenatal care, so that women can more easily find great, safe solutions during while pregnant and nursing.

I also love that healthy mama® is committed to making products that are safe and pregnant women can feel god about using, without worrying if they include potentially harmful ingredients. Their products are all made in the US, are free of artificial dyes, sugar, gluten, parabens, and are non-GMO and when possible, use organic ingredients. The company’s social mission is one in which they are committed to being environmentally responsible and to giving back, partnering with organizations like March of Dimes, which are committed to helping mothers sustain healthy, full-term pregnancies. All these points made including healthy mama® products in my sis in law’s goodie basket a no brainer.

IMG_5959 The remaining items I included were all things I wish I always had a steady supply of when pregnant with each of my kiddos; snacks, water and beauty products that helped me feel a bit pampered.

The house they purchased is charming and has a rather large backyard complete with pool, but the home is pretty much all original, built in the 50’s 0r 60’s, so my sister in law has a lot of plans for the house, some of which she plans to start on straight away. So between unpacking, setting up a nursery, and now adding in DIY home improvement projects, I don’t imagine she’s going to set aside a lot of time to cook and prep meals multiple times a day. So to help keep her energy up she’s going to need lots of quick snacks on hand, so I included several Kind bars, as well as a bag of popcorn to munch on when things get a bit stressful. IMG_5934

A huge insulated water jug in a pretty shade of pink will hopefully remind and motivate her to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water, which is vital during pregnancy. And to pamper herself a little bit, I threw in some of my beauty favorites including rose water spray, body lotion and lip balm because I know my skin and lips were always especially dry while pregnant. Belly balm will help keep her continuously growing belly hydrated and itch-free, and makeup wipes provide the perfect solution when she’s too tired at the end of the day to shuffle over to the sink and wash her face.

A simple “congratulations on moving” card completes the basket, and it was ready to head up to surprise my sister in law, the next time my mom went to visit.

It’s the little things that make a mama feel special when pregnant, so I hope this basket of goodies will help her feel loved and cared for, even though she’s going through such an exciting, but stressful and tiring transition.



Daily Style – Walking Nude

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IMG_5893 Caftan Maxi Dress – Lanston; Sandals – Sam Edelman Garrick Gladiator; Reversible Faux Leather Bag – Nordstrom BP; Nile River Necklace – Noonday; Hoops – Stella & Dot

So the MuTu program I follow highly encourages us to wear “barefoot shoes” in order to help with our walking form and alignment. Here’s a little bit of information on why it’s important, but basically, “when you walk properly (read ‘naturally’), the muscles of your backside, core and pelvic floor work properly too. As a result your glutes actually work as you walk and run, your core is effectively supporting your centre of gravity as you move and your pelvic floor muscles are at full length and doing their job of holding everything in.” And in order to walk correctly, you have to be wearing shoes that allow your feet to wiggle freely and which have a heel strap of some sort so your toes aren’t constantly trying to hold the shoe in place, as they do when you wear clogs and flip flops. The sole should also be soft and flexible. Most barefoot shoes are, to put it nicely, interesting looking, so imagine my excitement when I came across these pretty sandals by Sam Edelman, which for the most part fit the profile of a good barefoot shoe; secure ankle straps, open room for toes to wiggle around, and a fairly flat and soft sole.
IMG_5873 I was even more excited about these sandals because they are three shades of brown, making them really versatile. Plus, I’ve always had good luck with Sam Edelman shoes lasting a long time. My last pair of gladiators got multiple years of wear out of them and I was sad to finally toss them when the heels wore through. So in short, even if you weren’t intentionally looking for a good for your feet sandal, know that this one will benefit you, your feet and your pelvic floor. Women of multiple children, this is especially important to you and your life as it relates to sneezing and jumping.

IMG_5890

IMG_5894 Now, let’s talk about this maxi dress, which I’m fairly certain I could live in 24/7. The material is soft and lightweight, but not so lightweight that it’s see-through. In fact the coverage of this dress was something I was a little concerned about because of the light color, but it turned out to be perfect. The lower neckline and side slits are a perfect balance of sexy without being toe revealing either. And the silhouette is loose but not boxy. I am in LOVE with this dress and you’ll be seeing me in it all summer long! It runs true to size, so the medium fit me perfectly, and is a little more blush pink than these photos reveal. The pictures on the website are more true to color.

IMG_5911 Hope you are all having a great week and are keeping cool. Our summer has yet to really start, as June gloom has moved into July. Of course it will get hot right when the kids are ready to go back to school but that’s just the way it goes. Have a good day guys!

 



Healing My Diastasis Recti

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IMG_4849 I first discovered I had diastasis recti earlier in the year, towards the end of January. Diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominal walls and is quite common in postpartum women. In fact 2 out of 3 women with 2+ children have some sort of separation. Mine wasn’t completely severe at a 2.5 finger gap, but I was dealing with many of the issues commonly associated with diastasis just the same, including a weak pelvic floor, lower back pain and a bulging tummy that only seemed to become more pronounced the more fit I got or more weight I lost. In fact, the before photo above was taken the day I began the program to help heal my diastasis, which was also the last day of the 21 day cleanse I did. I had lost about 4-5 lbs, and was weighing in at 138, and the after photo was taking this morning and I currently weight 141. I also just started my period. So while the last cleanse I did certainly helped me feel better and trimmed up the rest of my body, it did nothing but make my tummy seem more pronounced. While I was by no means striving to achieve some level of perfection, it was more than demotivating to continue to work so hard on my fitness and eating right, and not see any improvement in my stomach.

Diastasis101Web image via MuTu System

I don’t even remember exactly how I had even learned about diastasis, but I remember feeling shocked that the condition wasn’t a regular part of standard OBGYN conversation either pre or postpartum, especially with it being so common. Once I found out about the condition and realized I had it, I learned that the ab exercises I had been doing were all in vain, and could actually be making the diastasis worse. Traditional ab exercises like plank, crunches and some yoga and pilates moves could cause more harm than good, and will actually do nothing to really help flatten the tummy out, if you have diastasis. I also quickly learned that you can either have your diastasis surgically fixed, but since mine wasn’t really severe that seemed out of the question. You can also perform certain exercises to help heal and close the gap on your own. This seemed more my speed. There were 2 main methods I discovered; the Tupler technique and the MuTu System. After some research, I went with MuTu because Tupler called for wearing a waist cincher and from reviews I read, the exercise count in the Tupler method got a little intense, upwards of 100’s of reps a day. No thanks.

MuTu is essentially a 12 week core and alignment focused program that includes a 7-8 minute core routine that you are supposed to perform twice daily, and as you progress in the program, you also add in a 20 minute “intensives” workout routine, which is to be performed 3-4 days a week. You are also highly encouraged to go on a 20-30 minute daily brisk walk to help with your alignment. Minimal equipment is needed, and in fact I already had a couple of dumbbells and just needed to get an exercise band which i found at Target. The focus of the program is to correct your alignment and to help strengthen your core, by beginning with the transverse abdominal muscles, which are the little muscles underneath the bigger ab muscles, which help to hold your tummy in nice and taut.

IMG_4850 The results I’m showing here were from following the program loosely 3-4 days a week for the last few months. For a couple of reasons including my ADD brain and the amount of enjoyment I get from actually exercising outside of my house with my group of friends, I did not exclusively stick with the program. But I can easily say that even just by adding in the core work and being very mindful about my alignment and posture, I was able to achieve these results. Had I stuck with the program as directed, by doing it everyday for 12 weeks, I’m sure my results would probably be better, but I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now. My butt seems to be a bit higher and my obliques are definitely firmer too.

And guys, the core work is so EASY! Like, zero planks or crunches or sit ups. In fact so easy that when I first started I figured there was no way this would actually work, especially since I was already pretty active and fit. But oh my gosh I feel such a difference in the tightness of my core muscles, and the most amazing part?! My pelvic floor is working so much better now! I can jump rope and run without fear of peeing my pants! My back aches haven’t improved much to be perfectly honest, but I’m taking what small victories I can! The intensive routines do provide a challenging workout and plenty of them left me feeling sore, but they’re only 20 minutes long and I believe, totally doable for any fitness level.

Oh, my diastasis recti is also down to a 1 finger gap! That’s pretty amazing if you ask me.

Because the program is meant to be followed pretty concretely, I’ll tell you how I modified it a bit to suit my lifestyle, without compromising what I had learned in the program.

  • I did increase my amount of walking as directed, to almost everyday. And when I walk anywhere now I concentrate on proper alignment and heel to toe form. Walking with proper form, I’ve learned is so important to our overall spinal and core health.
  • I keep proper alignment and posture in mind now when I’m also standing and sitting. The program includes a lot of information and training on proper alignment, how to achieve it and why it’s so important to our core strength, so if this is confusing to you, don’t worry. I don’t always hold proper alignment, but I’m mindful of it a lot more now, and just gaining better posture alone has helped improved the physical appearance of my tummy.
  • I stopped doing all planks, crunches and basically any ab movement that stresses the outer abs and makes your stomach “dome.” I did continue to run, however, even though she advises against it, just because I love it and felt good doing it. I have now achieved enough core strength to go back to planking during my bootcamp workouts, but I still don’t do crunches or sit-ups, mainly because I just hate them haha!
  • I perform the MuTu core work about 4 days a week, twice a day. I did the 20 minute intensive workout routine for a few weeks, either at home or at the gym, but because it was similar to exercises I was already doing with my bootcamp, I’ve pretty much dropped doing those.
  • When exercising with my bootcamp though, I keep proper alignment in mind, and do not lift heavy weight that I don’t feel I can support.
  • I’ve continued to eat great, but have changed up a few things which I’ll share in another post because it deserves a post of its own!

The thing I loved most about this program is that it gave me a starting point and provided plenty of direction and helpful information. I felt comfortable modifying it because I was already in pretty good shape, but if I wasn’t and was just starting out on my fitness journey, I would have just stuck with the program 100%. For me, the MuTu core work was just another wonderful addition to an existing routine I already really enjoyed. Does that make sense?

Another wonderful aspect of the program is that you gain lifetime access to a very active Facebook group exclusive to members only, where you can go on and ask questions, read past threads on common issues, and also see inspiring before and after photos. These success stories are always really motivating.

Bottom line, MuTu, along with eating right and doing other exercises helped me achieve these results, but I think whether you follow the program to a T or modify it a bit like I did, good results are achievable.

You can purchase 2 different programs; either the 12 week program, which includes the intensives, or a scaled down version called Focus, which is just the core and alignment portion. Looking back, I probably could have just purchased the Focus program since I didn’t take advantage of all the intensive routines, but it was enlightening to see what Wendy developed as a safe postpartum exercise routine, and get confirmation that I was pretty much on the right track with my exercises. It was jut the core work I was doing wrong.

And sale alert! I just found out today that both programs are 44% off, which is why I kinda wanted to finally get this post published today! The sale expires at midnight though, so jump on it if you’re thinking of giving it a try.

By the way, you don’t have to have just had a baby to get benefit from the program. Some women in the program have babies who are 20 years old (even mine was over 2 when I began).

I think I’ve covered everything, but please let me know if you have any questions!



Week In Review – Doing What Comes Natural

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IMG_4699 Well hello there friends, how is life treating you? Have any fun plans for the 4th of July weekend? We will be spending the day at my sister’s house where she lives on a quiet but fun block, and we’ll be grilling and watching the kids have the time of their lives in one of those giant water balloon slides/bouncy houses. Hopefully no one gets hurt. As you know, we’re doing a decent size reno on our home, and this week things got way real when the roof was ripped off and the framing began. We also chose our windows and I’m hoping in 5 years I don’t get sick of them – black frames for the front of the house, and to save on costs, standard white for the sides and back of the house.

IMG_4745 While things progress at the house, the kids have each enjoyed going to camp last week, and I’m still heading into Art’s office 2 days a week to work on CIU office related tasks. When things are busy for Art and he doesn’t have time to direct me, I’ve been working on blog posts here and there, and also spending a bit of time doing Beautycounter socials, one-on-one appointments and drop-offs. If you follow along on Instagram, you may have noticed a bit more Beautycounter love in my feed lately, and I wanted to share a bit about why I chose to actively pursue the business a bit more. Who knows, some of you may be wondering what gives, and some of you may be genuinely interested in the product or the business.

When I wrote about my revamped safe makeup collection, I told you about signing up as a consultant for Beautycounter. At the time, quite frankly I was mainly excited about the 25% product discount afforded to all consultants. Plus, I figured when I occasionally wrote about skincare and beauty products, I’d link to the items and would make some affiliate income. I had no intention of pursuing the business through actual in-person sales.

But then I began using more and more of the products because I genuinely loved how they performed. And then a few friends starting asking about it, and then I had the opportunity to host a “social” with Melody, the owner of my fave local bakery Sweet & Saucy Shop, and my business just sort of took on a life of its own.

In the month of June, I had the opportunity to come into the homes of 8 different women, some strangers and some friends, and share information about the personal care industry and why it needs reformation.  It was an awesome experience and it made me realize how much I missed being in front of people, engaging and interacting like that. In my previous life in the fashion industry, I was rarely behind a desk, but was usually out training sales associates, meeting customers, working sales, and educating about the products I represented. It was a fun and interactive job and the thing I loved most about it was being around people. In short, doing business this way comes natural to me, and is something I enjoy and feel happy doing.

Not to mention the fact that the company is truly one I believe in. Beautycounter has the most advanced ingredient screening process in the industry. They don’t formulate with over 1,500 known toxic ingredients, and they carefully and painstakingly screen every ingredient they do use for safety. They are also obsessed with performance: products have to perform to the highest of standards so that you don’t have to sacrifice high performance for safety. Beautycounter is also a Certified Benefit Corporation, which means they have a triple bottom line: Where most companies focus on revenue, they focus on people, planet, and profit, in equal measure. And because these things matter to some, the products are gorgeous: from the branding to the packaging, everything is done so tastefully.

So that’s where I’m at. Still blogging, still helping out Art as much as he needs me, still doing the mom thing a majority of the time, and now, adding another fun layer to the roster as an active Beautycounter consultant. Yes, you may see more pics of their products in my feed, but please know that I won’t inundate you all and when I do choose to write about their products, it’s because I genuinely love it. I won’t ever sacrifice trust for cash, and I never want to lose the trust of my readers and followers on Instagram, something I’ve strove to attain for the last several years.

IMG_4747 This weekend they are having a wonderful 4th of July promotion, where you spend $200 and receive an exclusive color cosmetic set valued at $75 – an eyeliner in navy, a color shade eye duo in slipper/slate, and a lip shine lip gloss. If you’re new to the products, first few things I fell in love with are as follows:

Shampoo & Conditioner – If I could give everyone a sample of their shampoo I would, because it is the best I’ve ever used. After failing to clean my greasy hair with the “best of the best” including Bumble & Bumble and Kerastase, this stuff has done what none of those could do: get my hair clean, keep it clean for 3+ days, and not strip it so I could still style it with some body.

Tint Skin (I personally wear Linen but now in the summer I’ve transitioned into Sand) – offers great coverage that is lightweight and build-able. Here is a “find your shade” chart, and if you’re still worried about choosing your color, don’t sweat it. They offer a 60 day money back return policy, so you could always order 2 shades and try them out at home.

Lip Sheer in Twig – perfect everyday color for just about every shade of skin.

Protect All Over Sunscreen – made with 19% zinc oxide and scented with blood orange, so it smells delicious, this sunscreen blends in beautifully and leaves no streaks.

Thanks as always for your support and encouragement. I appreciate it more than you know. And because a Week In Review wouldn’t be right without a few good links from around the web, here are some of my favorite reads of this past week.

I Made the NYT Pea Guac – “Finally, I did not sprinkle any sunflower seeds over the top; I don’t have those on hand because I’m not some kind of socialist.”

Hummus recipe from ‘Jerusalem’ – apparently mind-blowing hummus, or so I’ve heard.

Med Students Learning a Bit About Nutrition & Cooking – not a bad idea!

IMG_4659 These off-white denim shorts are amazing and have been a summer staple on my booty! And speaking of booty, they’re a bit longer in the back so you don’t show any of your booty. Perfect! And they’re 40% off so jump on it.

Loving these gladiator sandals and a great price at $78!

Another favorite summer staple is this lightweight chambray colored blouse from Target. Runs true to size, I got a medium and actually fits well, being long enough for my long torsoed body. Super cute and $20!



Crafting With Seedling

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IMG_5804 Design your own tote bag project by Seedling

So how are things going at my in-laws? Well, we’re in our 3rd week and so far it’s going really well. We’ve been in and out of the house a lot since summer began last week, but when we are home I am trying my best to keep things as calm and collected as possible so as not to be too much of a burden. Keeping 3 young kids calm and collected though, can be a “challenge” to say the least. Taylor’s 10 and suddenly finds everything Syd does annoying. Syd is 8, and of course likes to annoy his sister. Hayden is almost 3 and is taking his role as the cute cuddly baby boy very seriously, pushing his limits on aggression and yelling as far as he can. Combine all this with parenting under a microscope, and things can get a little tiring. Needless to say, I’m sleeping pretty well, falling into bed exhausted each day.

But I promise there are plenty of bright spots each and every day, as we watch the kids bond even more closely with nana and papa, getting free reign to practice on the piano and play in their backyard, and I’m so happy that Art is getting to spend so much time with his dad each night, watching the baseball game or news. I really think papa Howe is enjoying the extra company, and doesn’t seem to mind the noise too much. Art even gave me a gem of a confidence boost when he told me last week how happy he was that after 20 years together his parents could finally witness first hand how great his wife is. Ummm, I didn’t delve too much further with that statement, not wanting to know what their current opinion of me is 😉

Since my role these days is to keep everyone happy and the volume at a reasonable pitch (while also limiting screen time so their brains don’t melt into a puddle of goo from inactivity), we’ve been spending lots of time outside, and the other day we spent all morning working on some crafts. I was thrilled beyond belief to partner with Seedling to try out some of their beautifully curated craft kits and share the results with you all.

Seedling originally began in New Zealand, they are now sold in over 20 countries, and they offer a beautiful selection of craft kits, toys and party supplies. The kits are thoughtfully put together and help to take a lot of the prep and planning work out of the crafting process, and allow you and your kiddos to spend more time doing the fun stuff. We picked out a few kits that I knew each kiddo would love, including the design your own tote bag for Taylor, wooden peg pirate guys for Syd, the modeling clay for Hayden, and a superhero max I thought any of the kids could do. Seedling-Products

Hayden played with the modeling clay for awhile, but then when he saw the tubes of glitter glue which came with the masks, he was all in. IMG_5731 I didn’t bring a single craft project with me to my in-laws because I didn’t want to overtake their house with unnecessary stuff, so aside from some colored pencils and paper, the entire contents of the Craft Cabinet are sitting at home unused. It was so nice to just grab a couple of pairs of scissors and we were on our way. It’s worth mentioning that these kits are great not just for middle aged parents living with their in-laws, but for any busy or non-Pinteresty mom who wants to inspire artistic expression and creativity with their kids, but crafting in general is overwhelming or even intimidating. Not to mention an investment (oh, all the money spent at Michael’s). Honestly, in the last year I haven’t had much longing to break out the crafts on the daily like I used to, and I know Taylor misses it and Hayden is missing out on experiences I gave the other 2 on a regular basis. But even for me, someone who isn’t the least bit intimidated by any level of craftiness, I just haven’t had the energy. Even more reason why I was so happy to try out these kits. IMG_5708 IMG_5737 Everything you need for your craft, with the exception of scissors, is included in each kit, and the quality and design aesthetic of the supplies were quite impressive. Beautiful and funky prints, and nice thick pieces of felt. The tubes of glue and paint all worked well too, because goodness knows I’ve seen my fair share of faulty tubes of glitter glue. IMG_5701 IMG_5718 IMG_5743 Complete instructions and an inspiration picture is included for each project, as well as some tips on getting your creative mojo going. Taylor never seems to need much inspiration though and dives head first into each project, a trait I greatly admire in her. IMG_5711 The boys finished up each of their respective projects in about 45 minutes, and after piling on loads of glue to his mask, Hayden determined it was too messy and wouldn’t wear it. Syd however, thought it was awesome and wore it the rest of the morning.  IMG_5767 IMG_5745 Taylor continued to work on her tote bag off and on throughout the day and finally finished before dinner time. She was over the moon excited about it. IMG_5784 IMG_5780 Seedling is having a great Independence Day promotion through July 6th, and the entire site is 40% off using the code FOURFUN! After the 6th, you can continue to receive 30% off your order site wide through July 17th, using the code seedling30. You’ll also receive free shipping on orders over $50.

Build, imagine, play! Seedling helps bring kids’ ideas to life with beautifully designed, all-in-one projects that encourage children to follow their own creative initiative. Enjoy 30% off at Seedling when you choose your own adventure using the code Seedling30. Offer valid one per customer; discount does not apply to past purchases, packaging, applicable taxes, or shipping and handling. Expires July 17, 2015

This post was in partnership with Seedling, however all views expressed are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies and brands, which help support this site.



A Bit About Our Cooking Club

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IMG_4529 (pineapple beef kebabs – we prepped the veggies, beef and marinade at cooking club, and assembled into kebabs and marinated when we were ready to cook)

A few weeks ago, I helped the owner of my beloved boot camp, Happy Hour Fit Club, come up with a multi-dimensional meal plan for a new concept she wanted to get off the ground. She had toyed around with various meal plans before, including having participants swap recipes and even doing a few successful salad swaps, where ladies would prep big batches of their favorite salads to swap with others. But she wanted something new, which would hit a few goals including distribution of healthy meals, camaraderie and community, and of course making life easier for those participating. She came up with the Happy Hour Cooking Club.

The final concept reminds me a bit of Dream Dinners, but put a bit more power in the hands of the participants. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

  • Groups of 3-4 participants are placed together to make up their own cooking club.
  • Each week a new leader is designated, and the leader is responsible for choosing the meals (with feedback from her group members of course), doing the grocery shopping for all members of her group, and hosting the group at her home to prep the week’s meals. Participants divide up the cost of groceries and of course pay back the leader that week.
  • The members get together at the host’s home and prep at least 2-3 meals for the week ahead.
  • Prep work involves chopping and dicing, and browning/braising meats where applicable. All members stay to help the host clean up the kitchen :)
  • Emphasis for our cooking club was on healthy meals, which were also family-friendly.

Each week’s cooking sessions lasted about 2.5 hours from start to finish, which when you think about it doesn’t save you a ton of time in the “meal prep” department, but it saves the mental energy that goes in to trying to figure out what to cook each night, and eliminates dinner-time stress. Since we’ve only been doing this for a month, I can’t say we wouldn’t get more efficient as time went on, but since the main objective wasn’t to save time, but to make access to healthy meals more achievable, I say we won big time.

A few words about choosing the meals, because it can be tricky. I volunteered to help develop the meal plan options because I have access to so many great, health-conscious cookbooks, and through all my research and writing, I’ve got a good grasp on truly healthy meals, versus those disguised as such. A challenge from previous healthy recipe swaps was that some would submit recipes that were for instance, low in calories, but quite high in processed foods like “lite” dressings as marinades and “corn flake” crusted cuts of meat, which were “gluten free” but still full of questionable ingredients. The objective therefore wasn’t necessarily low-calorie, but nutrient rich whole foods free of processed ingredients.

IMG_4675 (cooking club ideas I distributed each week. Notes on ingredients and make-ahead prep tips included to make things a bit easier, but not necessary)

When I assembled the meal plans, I broke recipes down into several categories; meat (beef & pork), poultry (chicken & turkey), seafood, slow cooker and vegetarian. Each week I included 3-4 recipe ideas for each category, so that participants could pick for themselves from the section. I deliberately chose recipes that involved prep work we could get out of the way during the cooking club. For instance choosing to roast a chicken wouldn’t be that great of a selection because it typically involves a simple basting then popping in the oven. But a stew that called for a bevy of chopped veggies, or a meat dish that required an involved marinade were all great choices. Does that make sense? Most of the meals were ones I’ve been gathering for years on Pinterest, have used in previous meal plans, my own recipes from the blog, and because it was a small private group (i.e. not for profit), I even photocopied a few fave recipes from my own collection of cookbooks to share with my group.

What should you do if you want to replicate something like this with your own group of friends? Easy! Here’s a few tips to make it more manageable:

  • Keep your group small, like 3-4 people, to keep things as simple as possible. This will make it easier choosing a date each week, and make the grocery shopping less cumbersome.
  • Pick a date each week and stick with it.
  • Not everyone in the group has to be a “star cook!” In our group of 3, two of us were very comfortable in the kitchen and performing tasks like quick chopping, while one of us declared themselves a “non-cook.” I tell you though, she did just fine and held her own. There were plenty of tasks to go around and she always found something to do which she felt comfortable with.
  • Shopping for 2-3 other people seems like a pain, but I promise you when it’s your turn to sit back and just show up, it is such a treat! While you each could do your own shopping, I highly recommend you first try the “leader shops” technique before dismissing it. It was really awesome.
  • Don’t agonize over choosing the meals to cook. Either put one of you in charge or just put a bit of trust and faith in each member and just go for it. Each week in our group, the leader chose the meals and just double checked that we were all okay with it, and then went for it. One week we made a salmon dish, and one member’s family didn’t eat salmon, so she just swapped the salmon out for chicken, instead of choosing a whole new meal. And of course, everyone’s idea of healthy differs so just choose based on what will work best for your group!
  • When deciding on a time, either do it at night when your significant other can be home to help manage the kids, or do it during the morning when the kids are at school (or summer camp considering the current season). It makes things a bit more hectic when kids are running around, so keep that in mind when scheduling.

Lastly, have fun! I think I’ve answered any possible questions you may have, but of course feel free to ask in the comments, any I may have missed.



Is the Planetbox Lunchbox Really Worth the Investment?

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I can’t believe we’re already half way through 2015 and saying goodbye to another school year. Taylor will be entering 5th grade in the fall, Syd will be a 3rd grader, and Hayden will start preschool 2 mornings a week, meaning I’ll have a 3rd lunch to pack each morning. While the year had its fair share of ups and downs, dealing with a bit of baseball and 4th grade girl drama, for the most part it was a terrific school year. The kids loved their teachers, and we saw Taylor rise to the challenge of a heavily increased workload, with me seeming to complain about it more than anyone. Syd made a couple of really good friends who live close by and he started spreading his wings a bit with the increased independence that comes with biking on your own to your buddies house.

IMG_4440 A constant throughout the school year were our daily school lunch posts, most often packed in the Planetbox. I started getting so many questions about the Planetbox, that I wrote a post answering all of your most frequently asked questions. After using these boxes for a complete school year, I wanted to answer the most basic question of all, and that is if the expense is really worth it, to which I answer with an unequivocal yes.

Quality

The Planetbox is made of stainless steel, and while the boxes at first seem a bit heavy, the kids quickly got used to them and didn’t even notice the extra weight. What I’m most impressed with is that these boxes look almost brand new still, even after a year of constant use and almost daily running through the dishwasher. The magnets stayed in tact and haven’t peeled at all, and the boxes don’t have even the slightest dent.

IMG_4439 The lunchpail that goes with the Planetbox held up pretty well. Syd carries his in his backpack so it stayed a bit nicer than Taylor’s, who carries hers outside of her pack because it’s so stuffed with books (aww, the life of a 4th grader). I washed Syd’s once throughout the school year, and Taylor’s got a washing about every 2-3 months. To wash, I put in a pillowcase and set it on the delicate cycle, then let it air dry. They held up beautifully in the wash.

IMG_4441 The only Planetbox item that got a bit sad by the end of the school year were the ice packs. Not sure if you can tell here in the photo, but some of the pockets of water sprung leaks so obviously no longer ice up. They still did their job in the cooler temps, but because we go back to school August 5th, when it’s just heating up here in SoCal, I’m definitely going to need to replace these to have any chance of keeping their lunches cool.

Efficiency

I know some people see these “pretty” lunches and think they make life more complicated and add unnecessary stress to the day, but I really felt the opposite when using them. I knew each day what I had to work with and just a few weeks in, developed such a routine that having all those compartments to fill became a really easy task and took the guesswork out of what to pack each day. And I have to stress here that using bento style boxes like this aren’t about making beautiful works of art and laboring over kid’s lunches for an hour each day. It’s about appropriate portion sizing and adding variety to their meals. Most days I repeated meals over and over, but as long as I had some veggie, some fruit, a carb and protein and a little treat, everyone was happy.

IMG_4438 Less Waste

The premise with using bento style boxes is that there’s less disposable waste as opposed to using individual packaging and ziploc baggies and such. Yes, you’ll definitely see less waste when you use these, and coincidentally will save a buck or two buying fewer Ziploc bags. But an unexpected advantage to packing this style of school lunches, is that there was less food waste too.

The portions are great for school age kids, so I very rarely over packed their lunches with food they couldn’t eat or have time to eat (the eating portion of lunch recess is a measly 20 minutes at our school). Of course some days they came home with uneaten food, but for the most part almost everything got eaten on a daily basis.

The compartments also help to keep the food separated and looking nice, making it easier and more appealing for the kids to eat. Some kids have dexterity issues with opening up a bunch of different packages, leading to wasted time. Some kids hate for their foods to touch, and so these separate compartments help in those situations.

With the way these things are holding up, we’ll easily be using these for the remainder of elementary school, and Hayden will probably be able to adopt Syd’s Planetbox when he goes off to middle school. Who knows, he may even still want to use it then.

The cost is a tough pill to swallow, but if you can swing it, you’ll definitely be happy with yours, especially if you have younger kiddos who can get a lot of use out of them throughout the years. Let me know if you have any questions I didn’t answer here!



Life Lately – House Remodel

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IMG_4426 We moved into our home 5.5 years ago, and the longer we’ve lived in it, the more I have grown to love it. When we first moved in, the freeway noise drove me crazy and the school traffic made me irritated. For the first two years we lived there, we regretted our decision to buy this particular house and often talked of eventually moving. We even went so far as to put an offer on another house. We low balled it because I think deep down we both knew we were being ridiculous and subconsciously sabotaged the transaction.

Of course we were being ridiculous, and over 5 years later we have really come to love this house of ours. I’ve gotten so used to the freeway noise that I no longer even notice it (we’re the 3rd street in from a major SoCal highway and it really has come to be regular white noise to us). And being that we have late-risers, living steps from the school has become the biggest relief to us as we yank kids out of bed and rush across the street to make it in the nick of time. We’ve grown close to our neighbors, and our kids love having built-in playmates, and of course we absolutely love our backyard and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

So if we love our home so much, why are we remodeling it? Well, I suppose it’s because we see ourselves living in it for a very, very long time. When we originally moved in, we weren’t thinking of having another child, and now that we have 3 under our roof, we’d like to make that roof a bit bigger. So we’re adding a bit of square footage, knocking down a wall to make the living areas bigger, and we’re moving the master into the back of the house, and swapping rooms with the boys. Let me take you on a little tour that will give you the overall gist of the project. IMG_5663 The front of the house, which is our living room, will move forward 8 feet and the fireplace will move to the left side of the house. Let me show you what it looks like from inside. IMG_5640 When you walk in the fireplace is directly to the left of the front door and just sort of floats in the center of the living room. Most houses in our tract have the fireplace already on the wall we’re moving it to, making seating arrangements centered around the fireplace much more feasible. With our rare model though, the fireplace almost serves to heat the entire house with its center placement. Great back in the day before central heating, but not very functional otherwise because of lack of seating space. IMG_5639 The ceilings will all be made flush and raised where need be, to be 8-9 feet high. Our entryway is 6’10” high, and us tall people can touch it with bent arms. Raising the ceiling here will make the house feel a lot more open. Funny thing is, there is nothing structurally necessary about this mix of low and high ceilings, just the way the designers built the houses back then. IMG_5649 IMG_5648 The wall between the kitchen and living room will come down and the kitchen will go from a galley layout to an L shape. The washer and dryer will find a home in the hall way. The main goal of the remodel in this area of the house is to make it more open and gain more space. The kitchen was remodeled by the previous owners about 5 years before we moved in, so over 10 years ago. The cabinets are from Home Depot and some of them are holding up okay, but a few are falling apart including the 2 pantry cabinet pull out drawers are buckling and falling apart. The fridge is from our old house and is now 11 years old, and will move to the garage. The microwave and dishwasher will be relocated to Art’s office and we are donating the oven to Habitat for Humanity.  IMG_5664 The one part of the house that we haven’t grown to love is having our master bedroom in the front of the house, which you see pictured here. Normally it would be fine, but since our house is front and center to the school drop-off and childcare center, families start arriving to school before 6:30 am. There’s one kid who when he gets dropped off yells goodbyes to his dad for about 5 minutes as he drives down the street. It’s a sweet, albeit jarring wake-up call each and every morning. The front of our house offers primo parking so cars pull in and out all day long and it’s pretty much noisy throughout the day since the child care center is open from 6:30 am-6 pm, and remains open through summer. It’s just part of living across the street from a school and I take the good with the bad, but because of this we are moving the boys up front and we’re taking their room in the back. Since they can sleep through alarms and freight trains, let them deal with the noise.

So that’s about it. A lot, I know. We’ve saved and are taking on debt to get this done, our consolation being that investing in your home in SoCal is usually always a good idea. That’s what we keep telling ourselves at least. I’ll update our progress occasionally over the next few months and don’t be surprised if I look for suggestions and advice. We’ve never done something like this before, and don’t plan on ever doing this again. This is our one shot to essentially take our home and make it into our dream home, so I’m not taking it lightly. I’m a bit nervous but most ecstatic.

Oh, and in the mean time, we’re living with our in-laws while this goes on. They live just a few blocks from us and are the sweetest, most generous people I know. My father in law is in his eighties and most of his day is spent watching the news, Judge Judy and reading his Bible. We are trying to keep things as quiet and calm as possible and sort of just stay out of his way. My mother in law is a bit younger and full of life, teaching Tai-Chi classes 4 days a week and flutters in and out of the house, busy as a bee. We’ve been there 2 days and I’m just trying not to freak her out by taking over her kitchen. Of course it won’t be easy not really having our own space, but the money we are saving is so worth it. We really can’t waste a cent right now, so having them open up their home to us has been the biggest blessing.

One things for sure, it’s going to be a very interesting summer :) Wish us luck! xo