21 Day Cleanse

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21-Day-Cleanse I woke up last Tuesday and decided to start a cleanse, and that was that. While the decision came easily and my mind was made up with absolute certainty, I didn’t really just wake up out of the clear blue sky and decide to do this. 2013 was in many ways a great year for me. Family life was good, work was good, and to help improve things, our whole family started eating better. For a good portion of time, I felt a lot of really positive effects from changing how we ate, and benefited from a lot of self-education about diet and nutrition. Things were moving right along, even though we dealt with a couple of hiccups along the way; including recurrent strep for both Syd and I. As you know, Syd had his tonsillectomy in November 2013, and even though I had already dealt with about 4 cases of strep that year, his ENT assured me that by him getting his tonsils removed, my strep issues would most certainly go away. I felt hopeful.

They didn’t though, and about 3 weeks ago, I dealt with my 7th case of strep throat since August 2013, and 10 total cases of strep in the past 18 months. 2014 has been a bit rockier than previous years, with kid’s activities increasing, the demands of Art’s job increasing, and while Hayden is still a relatively easy child, as he neared 2, normal child development behavior fell in line. All in all, we just all seem to have a lot more on our plate, and for the past 6-9 months I have been continuously exhausted, more so than just typical “mom” fatigue. I had consistent insomnia where at least 4-5 nights a week I would be up for the day at 3 or 4 am, never falling back asleep. I would count down the minutes till Hayden’s nap, and have zero energy to be productive during that precious 1.5-2 hour window. I would dread school pick-up, and the ensuing homework, activity, and dinner prep routine. And oh the back aches I’ve experienced this year; they’ve been debilitating.

I’ve been exhausted before, but usually a good night’s sleep would cure most of what was ailing me. But this was relentless chronic fatigue that was clearly affecting my life. Not only was I struggling to juggle work and typical house duties like paying the bills (on time), but I couldn’t concentrate, finding it took me hours to complete something that would normally take me half the time. My creativity nose-dived, I had constant writer’s block, and while I didn’t feel depressed per se, all this lack of productivity definitely affected my overall mood and self-esteem. I wasn’t just being lazy because I needed a break; I felt dead tired and wanted to work, create and be productive, but just couldn’t. And zero energy meant a vicious cycle ensued where I would  be too tired to cook or prepare a good lunch for myself, so I would snack, and then wouldn’t have any energy from food, so would be even more tired, and on and on. While I was still buying great, wholesome foods and was still strictly avoiding processed and fast food, consuming healthy food alone doesn’t have the same positive affects as continuing with healthy habits.

So when the most recent case of strep knocked me down hard for a few days, I knew I needed to make some serious changes, and I started by going to see an ENT. My doctor’s appointment helped a lot and will get into that later after I get some test results back, but in addition to a few other simple changes I’ve made over the last few weeks, deciding to go on this cleanse has been a big part of me recapturing some of my health.

Cleanse Details
21 day cleanse, mostly following the detox program outlined in It’s All Good, which is based off of Dr. Junger’s Clean Program. There are a hundred different cleanse and detox programs out there, but I chose to do this one because I am already so familiar with the background, principles, recipes and I don’t have to worry about supplements or any other add-ons. In the mornings I drink a pressed green juice with some combinations of greens, cucumber or celery, an apple, lemon and some ginger and herbs, or if my stomach is feeling a little acidic, I juice a less acidic drink like beets, apples & carrots along with some ginger. The juice is my breakfast. Then for a morning snack I have some nuts or an apple with some nut butter, or maybe a pear. For lunch I have a lean protein along with some vegetables, or a ton of veggies over some grains like brown rice or gluten-free pasta. In the afternoon I have another drink as my snack, either a smoothie or a pressed juice. Then for dinner a repeat of lunch, although I’ve been finding that as long as I have some protein in the evening, and not just a strictly vegetarian meal, I am less hungry closer to bed time and it helps with my urges to snack. And that’s it, no snacking in between, which when I pay attention, I do a lot of mindless snacking. Finishing the kid’s meals for them, picking at food when I’m preparing meals, leaving me less hungry at meal time, or pushing off meal time so much that I wind up starving, and then reach for the junk (even though my junk is pretty clean, like basic potato chips, it’s still pretty empty calories); basically all the typical stuff we urge our kids not to do.

Elimination Details
Foods I’m eliminating from my diet include: dairy, soy, red meat, shellfish, caffeine, alcohol, nightshades, wheat, gluten and sugar. While there are widely varying degrees to which people and science can and do proclaim these things are either all good or horrible for us, most can agree that these particular set of food categories can be extremely taxing on our digestive system, causing a lot of our bodily energy to go towards digestive work. When you eliminate these hard-to-digest foods, you free up much of the energy wasted on initiating immune responses. This PDF explains the reason why each category is part of this elimination diet, and while a lot of the medical jargon can easily be googled, I can’t say I agree that these foods need to be eliminated on a continual basis for every person. I’ll most likely go back to eating wheat and limited dairy, red meat, caffeine and alcohol. I will most definitely be watching my sugar intake more closely going forward though.

Why this Cleanse?
One of the important points that came out of my meeting with my ENT was learning that I’ve been living with strep this whole time, and never getting rid of it completely. This means my body has been constantly fighting to stay well, an easy reason as to why I’ve been so dang exhausted this year. She has me on a cleansing protocol to help clear out the infection, without the use of antibiotics and definitely without the need for a tonsillectomy myself, which is brutal at my age. For this I am so thankful and appreciative! While my ENT did not personally recommend a cleansing diet, after a LOT of research, I decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to help restore gut health after all the doses of antibiotics over the past year, and give my body a chance to rest and reset, and reduce inflammation (hello backaches!). This cleanse is pretty close to those following an Autoimmune Protocol Diet, and while I have not been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and probably do not have one, the principles behind AIP diets are definitely beneficial to those suffering from chronic infections.

How I’m Feeling
The first 3 days were terrible. Actually, day 1 started off strong, but by 4 pm I got a horrendous caffeine withdrawal headache, which feels like a really bad tension headache. Day 2 was horrible, I felt like I was in a fog all day in addition to the tension headache, and day 3 was more of the same. By day 4, I woke up feeling a ton better, and my day 5, I was feeling fantastic. Yesterday was day 6 and we spent the day at Disneyland in 100 degree heat, came home and cooked dinner, then went out to the market for a bunch of groceries, then came home and cleaned out the fridge and put all the groceries away. I can’t tell you the last time I felt that good and had that much energy. In a nutshell, I feel dramatically different than I felt this time last week, and better than I’ve felt all year. I’ve made a few other changes that have helped my mental attitude and helped me sleep better, which improves everything, but I’ll share more about htat later. With that said, me feeling fantastic may have a bit to do with the cleanse as well as a couple of other recent changes, but I know I can attribute a lot to the cleanse.

I’ve really only “dieted” a couple of times before, both after having Taylor and Syd when I was trying to lose the “baby weight.” The meal plans I followed back then, first Jillian Michael’s and then a protein and raw veggie diet recommended by my boot-camp instructor, left me feeling completely restricted and I mentally had a hard time sticking with it. This cleanse is the most intense eating plan I’ve ever followed, and yet I feel the best about it. I have cravings here and there, but they’re not super intense, and because I’m not restricting calories or portions, I don’t feel hungry. I think the fact that I was able to resist Disneyland corn dogs on this cleanse says a lot about the program, and my mindset. This time, I’m doing this for my health, not just to reach a number on the scale, and that alone makes a world of difference in my mental attitude.

And this is the part where I have to eat a little bit of crow. When I started this journey over a year ago, I didn’t anticipate that I’d ever be writing a column about wellness and nutrition. As you guys know, I have no formal training in this, all of which I’ve learned in the past year has been self-taught and I’ll be the first to admit that it has been a long and huge learning curve. Each article I write at Babble has to be backed with credible evidence, and I can tell you that in the world of health and nutrition, you can find proponents to support all ways of eating; Paleo versus vegan, whole grains versus grain-free, legumes versus legume-free; it’s ridiculous and exhausting trying to weed through the information. All this to say, you can find evidence to support any way of eating, and for a while there I tried too hard to figure it all out and figure out the “best” way. But really, the best way is what works for you. Of course there’s some things we can all agree on that are bad and good for you, but the jury is still out on whether grains really do cause problems for everyone, or only certain individuals, if people who don’t have Celiacs can be gluten intolerant, and if all can fully function on veganism. The same goes for elimination diets. I’ve made a few quips here and there about how you don’t have to eliminate whole food groups to eat healthy and be healthy. While I still firmly believe that if you’re consuming quality products, you can certainly be healthy on any type of REAL FOOD, I now see through my own experience, that there’s nothing wrong with testing the waters to see if eliminating certain foods will improve your health. I want to support anyone who’s trying to just live the best lives they can; it’s not my place to say what’s right or wrong. Lord knows scientists and doctors can’t even figure it all out!

I’ll continue the cleanse diet for another 2 weeks, and then slowly add back in foods to see how I do with them. I’m hopeful that the cleanse, along with some of the other changes I’ve made will allow me to go back to eating all these foods on the elimination list with no ill effects, but to be sure, I’ll slowly add them in one by one. Although I’m fairly certain I’ll dive head first back into a glass of wine.

Let me know if you have any questions! As always, thanks for your support guys! And of course don’t forget, if you want to follow along, join me on Instagram to get a glimpse of what I’m eating most days during the cleanse.



Homemade Water Kefir

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organic water kefir Fermented probiotic beverages are all the rage right now, and I am 100% on board! About a month ago I started making water kefir and it’s turned into a fun little hobby with health benefits. My family really enjoys the tangy, fizzy drink that is chockfull of probiotics and other nutrients.

Making water kefir is much easier than I ever thought it could be. You might be familiar with milk kefir. The fermentation process is basically the same, except instead of lactose in milk, the beneficial bacteria uses sugar dissolved in water to create a delightful probiotic beverage. Milk kefir grains cannot be used to make water kefir, and vice versa. And milk kefir has way more probiotics and health benefits, but we like water kefir as a healthy alternative to soda. bubbly kefir water I purchased my water kefir grains from Cultures For Health. They come freeze-dried and require several days of rehydration to activate them. If you’re on the look out for kefir grains (water or milk) check local health food store bulletin boards, Craigslist, and through social media. I find people are more than happy to share. There are even Facebook groups where members share cultures and information about fermenting kefir, kombucha, vinegar, and other probiotic beverages.  water kefir grains The process is as easy as can be. Once it gets going you’ll have a new batch of water kefir every other day or so. I like to do a second fermentation which results in a bubbly “soda,” but that’s an optional step. It’s perfectly fine to drink after the first fermentation. using water kefir grains The kind of sugar and water used matter a lot. The culture readily consumes plain old white sugar, but requires more minerals to maintains the health of the kefir grains. Raw sugars such as evaporated cane juice, turbinado, jaggery, or sucanat are recommended. If I use white granulated sugar, I make sure it’s cane sugar, preferably organic. Honey has its own enzymes and other things that may interfere with the fermentation process, so it’s best to stick with sugar. Maple syrup and coconut sugar, or other natural sugars might be okay, but always let the grains rest and rejuvenate in plain sugar water occasionally or they might stop working or die off. I do know of people who have successfully used honey, maple, or coconut sugar effectively, but if you’re a beginner, start with sugar. organic evaporated cane juice It’s important to use filtered water. If the filter removes minerals, like reverse osmosis, they will need to be added back in. There are several ways to do that – adding 1/4 teaspoon of molasses, baking soda, or a pinch of sea salt (not all three) will add just enough minerals. There are also mineral drops available. Tap water often contains chlorine, fluoride, and even lingering pesticides which can harm the kefir grains. I have a reverse osmosis filter in my kitchen, which works fine, but I do add a pinch of sea salt in with the sugar and water for the added minerals. making-water-kefir Fermentation time varies a little, but typically 24 hours is sufficient for the first fermentation; maybe 48 hours if the room temperature is on the cooler side. It’s important to keep feeding those grains, so anything beyond 1-2 days may actually injure them. I know people who ferment for longer, but add a little sugar each day to keep the grains active. I did leave some to ferment for 5 days as an experiment and the grains recovered, but I wouldn’t let that become a habit.

A second fermentation is optional, but will result in a fizzy “soda” that is utterly delightful. The second fermentation is done without the kefir grains. They are filtered out and a new batch immediately started. For the second fermentation, fruit or fruit juice, herbs, or spices can be used to flavor it. I usually use about 1/4 cup of 100% juice for every 1 quart of fermented water kefir. The second fermentation is also 24-48 hours, but can be even longer depending on how fizzy you like it. The longer it ferments, the fizzier it will become. We’ve had some pop and bubble over like champagne. (My kids love that trick!) You can drink it right away or store it in the refrigerator. Ours never lasts longer than 1-2 days because we are always drinking it, but it should last 2-4 weeks even. Do be careful and “burp” the bottles so they don’t explode. I have only had that happen once because I forgot to stick the bottle in the fridge at bedtime and we woke up to a GIANT mess. kefir grains in jar Once you get going on the water kefir, it can seem a bit overwhelming. The grains will grow and reproduce. To halt the fermentation process for a short amount of time (less than a month), the grains can be refrigerated in the sugar water solution. Change the sugar water every so often, but the grains should be just fine. For longer storage, it’s recommended that the grains be dehydrated. Freezing is not recommended.

The water kefir should have a nice, yeasty or yogurt-y kind of smell to it. If it smells sulfury or “off” it’s best to toss it out and start with fresh sugar water. It’s very rare for mold to grow on the kefir. There might be strands of yeast, however, which is totally normal. yeast on water kefir Whatever you do, especially at this time of year, keep the jar covered with a cloth or paper filter to prevent fruit flies, ants, or other unwanted pests. Fruit flies are the biggest concern. They love the sweet, fermented liquid and will quickly take residence in an open jar. Cheesecloth is not recommended because the weave isn’t tight enough. I use pieces of flour sack towels and a rubber band. covered water kefir jar dissolving cane juice in warm water Scroll down for printable recipe and directions for making your own basic organic water kefir, at home. fermented water kefir

Homemade Water Kefir
 
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Learn how easy it is to make homemade organic water kefir
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 1 quart
Ingredients
  • 2-4 Tablespoons water kefir grains
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar*
  • 3½ cups filtered water
  • Optional (for second fermentation) - fruit juice, diced fruit, fresh or crystallized ginger
  • Equipment needed - quart-sized jar, plastic fine mesh strainer, piece of cloth or coffee filter, rubber band or jar ring
Instructions
  1. Wash and sterilize a quart-sized jar. Warm 1 cup of the filtered water and dissolve the sugar in it. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer to the jar, add kefir grains, and remaining filtered water. Cover jar with the cloth or coffee filter and secure with jar ring or rubber band.
  2. Place jar in a warm corner or cupboard away from direct sunlight.
  3. Allow to ferment for 24-48 hours; the water kefir will ferment more quickly in warmer temperatures and during the summer. Bubbles will be visible rising from the bottom to the top of the jar as soon as a few hours, but the longer it ferments, the bubblier it will become.
  4. Strain out the water kefir grains to make another batch. The water kefir can be consumed at this point, or bottled for a second fermentation.
  5. For second fermentation, transfer the water kefir to a bottle with a swing top. (Glass jars and bottles are preferred, but plastic soda bottles can also be used.)
  6. For flavored water kefir, add ¼ cup of pure fruit juice or diced fruit into the bottle then add the water kefir. Seal the bottle tightly. Let ferment an additional 24-48 hours. Crack the seal of the bottles at least once a day to prevent pressure building up. The kefir is ready to drink. Store in the refrigerator.

 

 



Aloha Berry Smoothie Bowl and Aloha Banana Fig Smoothie

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“This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Aloha, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #MyAloha #AlohaMoment http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV Aloha-Berry-Bowl I hate to wish time away, but I’m ready for summer to be over. While we still have a couple of weeks before the last day of summer officially hits us, the Labor Day weekend is a great place to say sayonara, and welcome in the season with a fresh start. I know many people associate the upcoming months with excess and over-indulgence, but I like to look at is a way to hunker down and get back to a simpler routine that centers around the home. Summer is all about gallivanting all over town, while Fall represents longer nights spent indoors, with more opportunities to cook nourishing meals, and less time to hang pool side most of the day chowing down on chips and guacamole, alongside a cold beer.

A certain someone did a lot of the latter this summer, and a certain someone lacked a lot of motivation to cook well-rounded, healthy meals on a daily basis. I’m not naming names, but this certain someone is definitely ready to get back on track. This past week, I’ve been getting a little kick-start back into my formerly healthier ways, with the Aloha Daily Good Greens blend box. While I will never abandon my love for fresh fruits and veggies, some times it’s nice to have a bit of convenience on hand to help us along.

The blend box offers several packets in 3 flavors, of the world’s first 100% natural, vegan, whole-food powder, in convenient individual serving pouches. These packets are seriously magical, and I’ve been enjoying them blended in smoothies and my smoothie bowls, and have even drank it straight with a tall glass of cold water. They’re the most perfectly pure powder supplement I’ve ever come across out there, with all ingredients organically grown and wild-harvested, manufactured in the US, non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan, and with absolutely nothing artificial whatsoever. It’s seriously the “cleanest” supplement I’ve ever seen. And each packet contains 2 daily servings of fruits and veggies, not to mention other “super-food” supplements like spirulina, moringa and cacao. Aloha-Bowl-with-Goji-Berries

Beyond how naturally pure this product is, I have to get back to the convenience factor. To make a typical green juice or smoothie, I would have to wash and prep up to 10 different fruits and veggies, plus my supplements like spirulina and cacao. This is all ready to go for me, in one pouch. No clean up of my juicer, no chopping and peeling, nothing. Just add to water, your smoothie or even a bowl of oatmeal, and you’re good to go.

The daily good packs have seriously been a life-saver this past week as I slowly try to get back to my old self. The past several months have been particularly hard on me, something I haven’t opened up about here, but I’ve had several bouts of strep which have left me feeling weak and chronically fatigued, with little to no motivation to cook, let alone juice, a habit that was ingrained in my daily routine just a short time ago. I’ve tried to push through it instead of acknowledging my need for help, but finally sought out an ENT to help me kick these chronic infections I’ve been dealing with for the past year. Just meeting with her last week was the jump start I needed to get back on track, and prioritize my healing. These packets have been a great way to ease back in, and recapture some of my previously vital healthy habits.

Smoothie bowls are a favorite breakfast around here, and this one features the Aloha Berry Blend, and is topped with a qia mix, primarily made up of chia seeds and nuts, goji berries and fresh fruit. Bananas give the bowl some density, almond milk makes it creamy, and the almond butter adds protein and healthy fats. The berry blend includes spirulina, spinach, sustainably sourced moringa, peas, wheatgrass juice, wild blueberries, king trumpet mushrooms and Hawaiian red alaea salt, just to name a few. Each ingredient has been thoughtfully sourced and selected to combine for a powerful, nutrient dense packet of whole-food powder that can help boost energy and immunity, as well as hydrate. IMG_7675 I’ve added the simple daily good green juice packet to cold water and had no problem guzzling it down, and neither did Hayden, although he loves just about any type of green juice so perhaps he’s not the best gauge. If you’re at all nervous about the taste though, simply add to a smoothie. This morning after an intense heated yoga flow class, I came home hungry but also severely dehydrated, having failed to properly hydrate before class. I wasn’t ready to eat, but primarily wanted to focus on hydration, so I dug through the fridge and found a few leftover organic figs that were a little past their prime to eat fresh, but made for excellent smoothie material.   Aloha-Cacao-and-fig-smoothie Along with the 4 figs, I added a fresh banana, about 1 cup of almond milk, a heaping tablespoon full of almond butter, and the daily good chocolate cacao pouch.  Aloha-Chocolate-Cacao-Smoothie What I got was a fantastic tasting, rich smoothie with the subtle hint of chocolate; sweet but not overpowering, with the added benefits of the added nutrients from wild-harvested coconut water, an excellent source of electrolytes for rehydration, red alaea salt, known for drawing out and eliminating toxins, and the yummy taste of both cacao, coconut and maple sugar.  Alohoa-Cacao-and-fig-smoothie I’ve loved my trial of Aloha products so much that I’ve signed up to continue to receive the monthly service for at least the time being. While I do have a juicer at home, as well as some of these supplement powders, I could really use the continued convenience, which for now, ensures that I get the nutrients I need, to help me get back on track with my health and my daily habits. Perhaps in another month or two when I’ve kicked these chronic infections I’ll take a break from the service, but for now, I’m thoroughly excited to have these pouches at my disposal.

You can sign up for a free trial of the Daily Good Greens powder on the Aloha site, and continue with an automated monthly enrollment service if you love the added benefits. Either way, I sincerely love this product and hope you give it a try, even for just a few days. If you do give it a try, please let me know what you think!

 



Vegan Chocolate & Zucchini Muffins

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chocolate-zucchini-muffins Summer usually finds many home gardeners people with an over-abundance of zucchinis, and if you’re a mindful shopper, you’ll notice that they’re almost giving them away at any local grocery store. Summer makes zucchinis grow like weeds, and even those with hardly a green thumb in their body can get a few to grow with minimal effort. We didn’t plant zucchinis this year, because we hardly had time to plant a few rows of lettuce before we were overrun by a pack of screaming kids, and had to call it a day. But we  have been receiving our steady supply of yellow and green squash from our CSA produce boxes, and I’m always trying to come up with new ways for us to go through them. Confession, my kids hate squash of any type, so it’s often hard for Art and I alone to go through the amount we seem to find on our hands these days.

But with a little ingenuity, I was able to get through our last batch by completely tricking my kids into eating them. I made these beauties the night before we left on our summer road trip up to Cambria, and figured they’d be a great little snack or breakfast food while we were hanging out in our hotel room. Since kids tend to wake up starving, and I didn’t want us to feel rushed to get out the door each morning to get them fed, I packed these and some yogurt tubes for a quick and simple breakfast to tide them over each day. Did the trick and hit the spot. Plus, they’re sorta super healthy, made with raw cacao powder, rich in nutrients, and whole wheat flour so they get plenty of healthy grains first thing in the morning. They turned out moist and fluff, and while they aren’t too sweet, and definitely wouldn’t pass as a brownie or anything, they are a perfectly acceptable morning treat.

Vegan Chocolate & Zucchini Muffins
 
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These chocolate zucchini muffins are dairy free and completely vegan
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • ⅓ cup raw cacao powder
  • ½ cup sweetener like sucanat or coconut sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 mashed ripe banana
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • ¼ cup Almond Breeze unsweetened milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
Instructions
  1. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl. In a separate bowl, mash banana and stir in applesauce, then add in almond milk, vanilla and zucchini. Combine wet ingredients by folding gently into dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Place in oiled or paper lined muffin tins and fill half way. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, sticking with a toothpick to check when baked through.

index This post was sponsored by the nice folks at Almond Breeze, but all opinions are my own! Thanks for supporting the companies who allow me to support this site.



Easy Outdoor Summer Picnic With Burrata & Peach Salad

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IMG_6261 A few posts pack, I shared with you an appetizer as dinner spread I pull together, on the nights where I don’t really feel like cooking. Spreads that appear quite impressive and complicate, but are really just the result of fridge rummaging, and making sure to have can’t-live-without items always on hand; salami & cheese, some favorite seasonal fruits and veggies, olives, and simple crackers and little sweet treats. IMG_6262 One of the first parts of the house that we worked on when we moved in almost five years ago was our backyard. Because we live in Southern California, outdoor living is a big part of our life anyhow, but when we purchased a home with an expansive backyard, by SoCal standards, and an almost 40 foot Chinese Elm tree, we knew that the backyard is where we would spend a lot of our time.
IMG_6285 The kids and I often throw out some beach towels and eat back there during the summer or after school snacks, or we sit around the fire pit, with it’s thick border serving as a natural table ledge. We also entertain outside under the elm tree and twinkly lights quite often. Our backyard is our favorite part of the house, for all of us, and so it’s not unusual for me to put together a spread like this one, and eat out here in between the kids taking dips in the pool. Although, I usually don’t bring out Hayden’s knit poof from his room, that admittedly was for styling purposes only. IMG_6287 The way this meal differed a bit from the one I showcased a few weeks back, is that the grounding dish is a burrata and peach salad, versus the steamed artichokes. burrata-peach-salad Because it’s summer, and boiling/steaming artichokes for 30-45 minutes at a time can unnecessarily heat up a hot kitchen to its boiling point, I focused on a light and refreshing salad, mimicking a similar one I had eaten at Bestia LA, and cut back a bit on the meats and cheeses, although some were still included. I filled in the blanks with a lightly seasoned, non-oily olive, some fresh seasonal veggies and fruits, and a couple of little treats to serve as dessert, including mango yogurt covered almonds and chocolate covered raisins. outdoor-summer-salad-spread The recipe for the Burrata & Peach Salad can be found over on Wayfair’s website, where I serve as a quarterly contributor. Please go check it out, you’ll find it’s quite easy to throw together, and if you’re new to burrata, this is the perfect introductory recipe to try it out. outdoor-summer-picnic Visit my last post to see the full appetizer for dinner how-to guide, but note a few of the key principles I replicated here: Something savory (prosciutto & salami), something crunchy (carrots & radishes), something mild (cold boiled potatoes), cheese with accompanying sweets (figs & chocolates); something dense (the burrata salad gives the table substance and rounds out the entire meal). outdoor-summer-spread So what are some favorite rustic spreads you pull together on the nights you don’t want to cook? Please share, as I’m always looking for new ideas that don’t equal a lot of work.



Shop Back To School With Schoola & Support Local Schools

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IMG_7453 A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you a new organization called Schoola, which is an online consignment store, accepting and selling either brand new or gently used children’s clothes, while helping to raise money for valuable school programs in the process. You can either donate, which is as easy as requesting a donation bag online, or you can shop a very large selection of clothes. I loved the concept from the start, which is why I had no hesitation being a part in this campaign, but I wasn’t exactly sure what I would think of the shopping process. I tried it out last week though, and I couldn’t be happier with our purchases. IMG_7464 Since we start the school year so early in summer still, we still have many hot days ahead of us, so I focused on shopping for shorts and short sleeve shirts for Taylor, and found a really great selection of both. The site functions just like any shopping site, or may even be more detailed in its filtering systems. You can filter your results by school level, including preschool, grade school and high school, and then further filter down by size from there. Tops are categorized into different silhouettes (J. Crew, you should get on that!), so you can search for hoodies, sweaters, etc. You can even see a list of brands available and filter from there, so if you know Gap clothes fit your kid particularly well, just browse the Gap selection and forge the rest. IMG_7470 What I especially liked though, while shopping, is that you can see just how much money you will help raise for schools, with each item you add to your cart. The cute denim shorts I picked up for Taylor were from Justice, and originally retailed for $30. They were selling for $8.97 on the Schoola site, and with my purchase $3.59 of that would go to the school noted. Now, this is how Schoola works, and how you would get involved in order to raise money for your school; you need to request a bag, go through your closets and donate for your school. When an item you donate is sold, that’s when you raise money for your school! So whenever you shop, you help to raise money for great schools across our nation, but when you donate for your school, you raise money through purchases. Make sense? That’s the way it works like a consignment store. It’s a win-win either way you slice it! Schoola-1 Purchases of $50 or more receive free shipping, and at the end of your purchase, you can see just how much you saved and how much of your shopping dollars went to school programs. The money raised goes towards valuable programs like art, music and physical activity; programs that are continually being slashed around the country. A reader was surprised to hear that our art program is completely run by parent volunteers and without it, our kids wouldn’t experience art, as it’s no longer part of our regular curriculum. It’s sadly a true reality across hundreds if not thousands of schools in America. schoola-2 I’m extremely excited to have had the oppoprtunity to not only find out about this organziation, but share it with you all. I hope you’ll consider requesting a bag to donate, or browsing the site for some new school clothes for your kids. Taylor’s top came in with the tags still attached, and the shorts were in absolute perfect condition. She’s worn the outfit several times already, and she’s only had it a week! It’s an awesome way to declutter, shop, and raise money for schools in need. As I said in my previous post, I hate that we need to be so creative with funding valuable programs, but I love that we as parents can be proactive in some small way.

This post is brought to you by Schoola, the best place to buy discounted kids clothes all while give back to schools in need. Click here to learn more about Schoola. Click here to see what people are saying.



Back To School With Tea Collection

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tea-collection-4 Our school schedule runs a little bit different than the norm. We have a modified year round schedule, so our breaks are broken up throughout the year into smaller and longer vacations than the traditional school year calendar. This makes for a short summer which flies by in the blink of an eye. We try our best to strike the balance between lazy days and activity to keep everyone happy. Some days and weeks it works, and we take our time and enjoy the lack of schedule. And some days the kids fight or we are rushing out the door, and I take a sideways glance at my calendar to see how many days left till the school bell rings.
tea-collection-6 I don’t know what the right balance really is, and if it can ever be achieved, but we try our best to make the best of each day, and we had quite a few of them. tea-collection-5 We recently discovered a somewhat local place called the Anaheim Packing District, a large food hall housing a variety of restaurants, a couple of bars and several dessert stands, one of them being a popsicle stand called PopBar. The kids asked to go there twice in our last week of summer break, so we did. Some days I should probably say no more, but I tried to focus on saying yes a lot the last week of break. Saying yes a lot led to one tired momma, which made me excited for school to start and less sad about summer passing too quickly. Not sure if that’s a healthy way to treat sadness, but whatever works, right? IMG_7429 tea-collection-2 I also said yes to them wearing school clothes and shoes this summer, a rule my own mother never let me break when I was growing up. You can see how well that went. IMG_7441 But in reality, a good soak and a long night of sleep did us all some good each night, and getting to sleep-in without an alarm clock was one of the things I already miss most about summer. IMG_7440 I do not miss the inevitable bickering though, I’ll tell you that much. Perhaps I’m doing this parenting thing wrong, but I’ve yet to find the perfect formula for endless “together time”, that leaves all parties smiling and happy. Let me know if you have the answer, pretty please. tea-collection-3 The kids returned to school just yesterday, and how exciting of a day it was for all of us. The kids seemed to really love their teachers after the first day, are excited about a few projects they will both be working on in 2nd and 4th grade, and were downright pleasant to each other all afternoon. Hayden and I also got to return to our routine of Curious George and a long morning walk. IMG_7495 I’m sure soon enough we will all be missing summer, but for now anyhow, we’re happy to have a bit of routine back in action. Plus, before we know it, it will be the last week of September and we’ll be signing out for a week of vacation. How much longer do you have before school starts for your kiddos? Are you joyfully anticipating the return of school, or dreading the daily grind? IMG_7494 The lovely folks at Tea Collection have designed a wonderful new line of clothes, perfect for back to school, called Be Bold, Be You. The idea behind this collection is taking some great mix and match pieces, and making them suit each wearers individual personalities and style. The pieces you see the kids wearing throughout this post are all part of the new collection, and they each had a lot of fun picking them out. The dress colors and prints are still so age-appropriate for Taylor, yet with the right amount of stylish edge to make her love them. And Syd wears jeans 365 days of the year, no matter what the weather, so he was more than happy to sport these, which are the perfect mix of skinny and relaxed, making his touchy self very comfortable.

You can find easy to shop sets here, for both boys and girls, or you can shop the individual pieces through this link for boys and this one for girls. Taylor’s favorite printed dress is the Lyrical Shapes, and the adorably mod black and white floral dress, with an exposed back zipper, is the Odette. Syd’s favorite pair of pants are actually made of twill called the Daytripper.

We’ve long been fans of Tea, since Taylor was first born, and I am thrilled to be able to collaborate with them in such a fun way. Thank you Tea for always designing such perfectly stylish, quality clothes, and thank you for supporting the brands that help me do my thing.

This post was sponsored by Tea Collection, but all opinions are my own.



Coming To Terms With My Own Mommy War

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IMG_6520 Nine years ago after giving birth to my first child, I found myself wrestling with an internal struggle that I would continue to deal with for the next 9 years. At the close of my maternity leave, I went back to work as an Account Manager for St. John Knits, handling the Saks Fifth Avenue account. Words cannot express how much I loved my job, and although it was stressful and emotionally draining at times, more so than not it was fun, exciting and empowering. Early on in my pregnancy Art and I made the decision together that I would return, because we needed the income and health insurance, and also because I felt I “needed” to work. So even before I gave birth we had plans in place for childcare and settled into the ideal situation, with both sets of grandparents splitting up the week to care for Taylor.

When I was 7 months pregnant, with my full support, Art left his job to start his own company. While the future was scary and unsettling, we at least knew we had my income to fall back on in case his business was slow to grow. When I returned to my job though, within the first week I knew I couldn’t stay. Art and I consulted with an accountant to go over finances, took inventory of our own expenses and savings, looked into the costs of health insurance since we would be losing that, and that Friday of my first week back, I tearfully went into my bosses office and handed in my resignation.

Let me interject here to say I have complete understanding of how lucky I was to have the option to stay home. I do not take that for granted, and as you continue to read, I hope you understand my sincerity in that. I know plenty of women who don’t have the luxury of a choice, one way or another.

Those first few months at home with Taylor were a blur, and many days I felt lost. To help “keep me busy”, I decided to start a children’s clothing company selling screen-printed tees. I busied myself with designing, sourcing garment houses, dye houses, pattern makers and screen printers. Once we had our first line completed, I took it to the garment district in Downtown LA and looked for a rep to sell the line, literally cold-calling these reps in person, until I found one who took in the line. I sold at craft fairs and we got into, at one point, 13 stores across the country. I used my old connections at St. John to also show the line to the Saks buyers and had plans to eventually get the line in their stores. Back then we could just focus on doing the work; designing, producing, selling and shipping, without the distractions of social media to contend with. Facebook hadn’t even really began. So although it sounds like “a lot” I did most of it at night, with the exception of the selling, after Taylor went to bed. I took a few afternoons here and there to sell the line, but for the most part I was doing the mom thing by day, and the clothing thing at night. It felt, back then, completely manageable.

Even though I was experiencing some successes with the clothing line, essentially getting the best of both worlds by being to stay home and have something going on the side, I still greatly missed my old job. I kept in touch with all my old friends and would regularly meet them for lunch or drinks and we would catch up on office gossip and happenings. I remember always feeling sad after those get-togethers, and during one lunch date, I decided to stop by the old office to show off Taylor and say hi to some old coworkers. I ran into my old boss and as we hugged goodbye, tears ran down. My job was my identity for so many years, I was struggling to let go of the old me and embrace this new role. IMG_6547

Let me interject here again to talk about preconceived notions of women’s roles, and how we should handle them. During this time I remember getting a lot of grief from various people for not embracing full time stay at home motherhood with complete joy. I know I’m not alone in this. For those who wrestle with the decision and reasons to stay home or return to work, we are rarely able to make anyone else happy, let alone ourselves. If we miss our old job and way of life, we are pegged as ungrateful and crazy. We are spoon fed a guilt trip; do you know how many women would be overjoyed to be in your situation? Alternately, if we embrace full time motherhood, some may accuse us of wasting our potential. Even worse is when fellow mothers who continue to work, emphatically tell us how they could never stay home, they would go crazy. When it comes to the topic of stay at home or go back to work, it is hardly ever an easy and uncomplicated situation, which is why it baffles me when people make judgments based on their own experiences or projections. We all have different backgrounds and histories that shape each decision we make, therefore how can we ever expect to fully understand, and then comment on, someone else’s situation, based on our own frame of reference? As with almost anything, especially involving parenting, I think the world and our roles of motherhood would be a lot more joyous and a lot less guilt ridden, if people kept their opinions to themselves. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to a mother’s decision to stay at home or go back to work.

Soon after I had the tearful run-in with my boss, I called him one early morning and asked if they had any openings. I did not consult Art, and truth be told, it was the only time in our marriage where I lied to him about something. I told him that my old boss had called me with this opportunity, and it was a long time before I told him that I was the one who made the call. Even though I felt lost and quite depressed staying at home, I also felt extreme guilt about my desire to return to work. I had recently confided with my mom’s group how conflicted I had been feeling lately, and a friend gave me a copy of The Mommy Wars, which only seemed to confuse me more since it was a collection of personal essays from both sides of the spectrum; moms at work feeling guilty, and moms at home feeling guilty. It seemed like you were damned if you do, damned if you don’t, and so I figured if I was going to be wrapped up in turmoil and guilt, I may as well be bringing home some money in the process.

I returned to work full time, just a week after Taylor turned one, and essentially closed up shop on the clothing company, although continuing to sell off inventory here and there to friends and at the occasional craft fair.

I settled back into a routine at work, and although I had taken a different position than before, this time as a Regional Sales Manager covering the entire west coast, I still loved my job and enjoyed the daily hustle and bustle. For a brief time anyhow. After a couple of months of continuous travel, I started to seriously question my decision to return to work, as I missed Taylor like crazy. Six months after being back at work, I found out I was pregnant with Syd, and had to march into my bosses office and deliver the news. He surprisingly took it very well and as my due date grew closer, we worked out a plan for me to return to work after maternity leave, in a different role, working only part time. I couldn’t believe how well things were falling into place again, and I felt very lucky. IMG_6601

After Syd was born, I worked in the office 2 days a week, and 1 day from home, writing product knowledge materials, giving factory tours and putting together a quarterly glossy type magazine, to be distributed to all sales associates across the country. This part time gig wasn’t the most glamorous or exciting of positions, but I was thankful for the ability to keep my foot in the door and be home with the kids a good portion of the week.

That arrangement lasted for almost 2 years, until the economy went to crap and the company started doing lay-offs. My part time position was finally cut after the 3rd round of lay-offs, and I took it as my sign to switch gears and help out Art with his growing business. So I went into Art’s office 2 days a week and did all the accounts receivables/accounts payable, where it became evident that I didn’t have the stomach for small business accounting, especially when it’s your own business. Small business finances, especially with newer companies, is erratic and volatile, and my nerves were constantly frazzled seeing the influx, and outpouring of money – essentially our own money – on a daily basis. Art and I fought a lot, I nagged him about how he was running the business, he grew defensive and told me I didn’t understand how it all worked and took offense at my lack of faith in his abilities. It was a bad situation.

To make matters more complicated, I had also decided at that time to start another clothing company and open an Etsy shop, this time doing the sewing all myself, and spent way too many late nights cutting and sewing. I really can’t say what I was thinking. I started my old blog Four Flights of Fancy some where in between there too.

After a couple of years of fighting with Art and driving myself crazy sewing and listing things in Etsy, I found myself accepting a new position at a different clothing company. This time, my old boss did call me up and offered me a job at a new company he was at, James Perse, in a role I was familiar with. On top of everything, we had recently moved into a different house and I was feeling stressed about finances. Even though I actually didn’t want to return to work full time, I took it as a sign or a blessing in disguise, and figured we could use this opportunity to build up on our depleted savings account, and possibly use some of my income to build Art’s business a bit, maybe hire another employee.

I took that job, and within weeks I knew I hated it. The company was influx, and shortly after I started my role and expectations completely changed, and I found myself traveling to New York for market every 6 weeks. It was a bad situation all around, and I cried every day at lunch, I missed the kids so bad, but made a personal goal to try and stick with it for a year. I did, and then got my ass out of there as fast as I could.

If you’ve read this far, you may notice a pattern with me and leaving jobs. After I left James Perse, instead of starting another clothing line, I decided to start this blog. By that time, blogs were on a fast course track to world domination. Women were making money hand over fist, getting book deals left and right, and become television stars. With my background in fashion and my approachable sense of style for moms, I figured my course was set and I’d soon be able to replace a good portion of my full time income with monetizing the heck of what would soon become one of the best style blogs around. I even had the genius idea of maintaining BOTH blogs, my Four Flights of Fancy blog would be dedicated to family, and this new blog I had yet to create or even name, would be solely dedicated to style. I could monetize both blogs and make a crap ton of money.

That last paragraph was only mildly dripping with sarcasm. While many bloggers were in fact scoring book deals and even a select few indeed becoming television stars, I soon found out that the vast majority of my fellow bloggers were working their asses off for a small piece of the pie. Because advertising on the blog(s), and sponsored posts were still very much in their infancy and not as far reaching as they are now, I tried to secure outside writing gigs to supplement my lost income, and began writing at Disney Baby, turning out 13 posts a month.

When I eventually started this blog in February of 2012, I was already pregnant with Hayden and still unaware of how much having a third child would change me, and our family. I continued writing at Disney Baby, did some contributor posts for Making It Lovely, and got a taste of income from my first sponsored post. I still remember how exciting it was to receive the confirmation email that I had been chosen to write about Kraft American cheese slices (I’m not even kidding). I could get used to this, I thought. IMG_6505

Hayden was of course born and we fell hard and fast in love with him. While I eventually stopped writing at my old blog Four Flights of Fancy, I continued to try with all my might to grow this one, took on more sponsored posts and advertising, and continued to write at Disney Baby. And while I didn’t try to start another clothing line, I did try and start a new business concept with Jules – The Craft Cabinet. I really wish we could have figured out how to get that thing really going because I loved the two events we put together. I eventually swapped writing for Disney Baby with Babble, and have taken on a few other outsourced writing gigs here and there over the last couple of years.

I could probably write an entire epistle on the complexities of blogging and how demanding it can be, but I don’t think we need another blogger complaining about how hard our job is. Plus, the reason I went into the long and drawn out story of my career path over the last 9 years was because my current feelings about blogging have more to do with my struggles with work and motherhood than they do with blogging itself.

Simply stated though, blogging in and of itself is not all that hard or complex. But maintaining a monetized blog is nothing like I thought it would be. There are so many hats to juggle, so many people to answer to, and so many roles to wear that this job can and very easily has become almost a full time gig for me. And I can assure you I am not making full time money on this. Those bloggers who are making full time money though are indeed working full time, plus more. This has slowly evolved into a monster that I can’t really manage. Maybe someone else could, but I have finally come to admit that I’m just not good at this. I’m not good at the juggling and all-consuming nature that blogging tends to have. Over the past two years, I’ve forgotten to pay bills, bounced checks, and those are just the minor things that can easily be fixed. More often than I’d care to admit, I’ve snapped at the kids because I needed to meet a deadline, yelled at my husband because he wasn’t home from work in time to help me shoot a post, been distracted way too many times by my phone, and lots of other offenses here and there that make up the bigger stuff I’m not proud of, and make up a life I don’t really want to lead right now.

IMG_2522 Our second Craft Cabinet, which was a watercolor workshop

Blogging has been an incredibly exciting avenue for women to take these past several years. It’s launched careers, given women a place to tell their stories, and opened up opportunities that countless women would otherwise never have had, usually while staying home in the process. I am one of them and please don’t mistake my frustration for ungratefulness. But in many ways I think some of us have been sold a bill of goods by the idea of blogging. We want to stay home, we want to make money, we want to excel, and blogging can help us do all that. But it’s not as easy as banging out a few paragraphs at night and shooting a post while baby naps. Don’t be fooled, it’s way more complicated then that. This is not the hardest job in the world and we’re certainly not saving lives here, but doing well in blogging isn’t as cute and simple as taking some pretty pictures and getting them pinned on Pinterest.

I look back over the last 9 years since I became a mother, and of course I see a lot of wonderful things, but I also see a lot of confusion and indecision on my part. Starting and stopping things because I never really took the time, or was honest with myself, to decide if that was really what I wanted, and what was good for me, my family and my marriage. I’ve spent a lot of time searching for the perfect thing that would fulfill me and leave me enough time to be the kind of mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister and woman I wanted to be, never stopping to acknowledge that perfect doesn’t exist, and I’ve wasted so much time.

I don’t know if I’m ready to stop doing it all and commit to mothering without working, but I’m ready to give up some things, for the sake of recapturing some sense of peace around here, and to stop wasting time. I’ve decided for starters to take a back seat on monetizing this blog. I’ll continue with some already agreed upon sponsored posts, which by the way, I feel good about and at this time will remind you to check out my Schoola post. But after my commitments are finalized, I will take an indefinite break in sponsored posts of any kind, here or on Instagram. It is my hope that by removing this area of the blog, I’ll remove a lot of the pressure of deadlines and maintaining numbers. Friends who don’t blog often don’t understand bloggers’ obsessions with numbers and followers and all that, but without the numbers, you can’t secure the sponsored posts and advertisers and other opportunities. It’s that pressure that I’m tired of dealing with. By removing the monetization factor, I’m free to post when and what I am compelled to, without worrying about lost page views or dropped followers.

I will continue with my writing gig at Babble. There have been a lot of changes at the site over the last few months, and through some negotiations and policy changes, I feel like it continues to be a great opportunity I can’t and shouldn’t toss aside. Deep within my bones I still love to work and create, and while the fears of money and lost income have diminished over the years, thanks in part to a wonderful husband and my own growing faith in God and His grace, I still can’t discount this opportunity and the extra income it provides our family.

So why choose to make money working for someone else, writing at Babble, than make money here on my own site? Well, you may not have picked up on the pattern in all the jobs I’ve held over the last 9 years, but I have. I have finally come to the realization that I am a lousy entrepreneur and am just better, more saner, when I’m working for someone else, through one channel. I may be good at multi-tasking, but I’m terrible at juggling all these various balls that monetizing your own blog throws at you. Perhaps one day in the future I can recommit to my space here, but right now I just feel that I’m trying to do too much, and it’s making me crazy. If the Babble gig eventually goes away, who knows, I may return to monetizing as an option, so never say never, but for right now this just feels right.

I do realize that I don’t need to make this grand announcement to all 10 of you reading. I’m not sure if anyone really even cares. But I thought it was worthwhile to tell my story for two reasons. One, I think many women agonize in silence over their choices in staying home or returning to work. Many women are judged and even bullied for their decisions, or like me, for their indecision. I at least wanted to share with anyone interested and let you know that you’re not alone. I struggled for years and continue to wrestle with my decisions. This does not make you or me ungrateful, unappreciative or a flake for not being able to make up our minds.

Second, I thought it would be helpful to be honest about blogging. There’s no need to throw ourselves a pity party, because us bloggers don’t have it all that bad, I know. But there’s so much sheltering of the truth with (big) blogging that we often paint this pretty and perfect picture that we can do it all. Be creative, make beautiful things, style pleasing Instagrams, take amazing pictures, write eloquently, be the queen of SEO, and monetize a successful blog, all with a baby on our hip and straight A students. That picture of perfect is a falsehood, and quite frankly impossible. Behind all that beauty and creativity is a babysitter or a kid sitting in front of an iPad eating gold fish from time to time. A lot of bloggers have been transparent about the demands of maintaining a monetized blog and I have always appreciated the breath of honest fresh air. Hopefully this post will be another one.

This may not be every blogger’s story, but it is mine. If I was willing to hire full time help and build the dream, life would be great. But this isn’t my dream right now, and so I’m taking a step back.

Without a doubt, I’ll still be around, and I’m still committed to producing quality posts. They just may be fewer and farther in between, or who knows, maybe without the pressure of the “numbers game,” I will be recharged with some late night creativity. Probably not though, as I have a whole lot of TV to catch up on and about 10 unread books sitting on my nightstand. Oh, and Hayden’s uncracked baby book to deal with too. We’ll just see how it goes, no promises either way.

I hope none of this has come across as self-pity or ungratefulness. I know full well how lucky (and hard-working) I’ve been to have had the opportunity to test out full time work, part time work and self-employment, and by now I consider myself an expert on trying to achieve the ever-elusive work-life balance, free of worry about finances and resumes. I’m not sure if that balance and worry-free life exists for anyone else besides millionaires, but we owe it to ourselves and our family to always keep trying. No matter how flaky, indecisive or crazy we may come across to the outside world.

And just for kicks, a few pictures of my first and second clothing lines, called Baby Taylored. Sadly, I think somewhere along the lines we deleted all the original photos of the very first screen printed line, but I found a couple here and there of Taylor wearing some pieces. Here’s one I found particularly cute, although not the best “quality.” IMG_6643 And here are a couple of photos from the hand-sewn line, photographed by Melissa Brandman. Coincidentally, these photos were taken at the same park as the ones above, taken just a few days ago. A full circle moment I suppose.  It’s my sincerest wish for all us mothers that we continue to strive for balance, happiness and have the faith and courage to take risks from time to time. Baby-Taylored-0072 Baby-Taylored-0048



Helping to Fund Art Through Schoola

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For the past 4 years, since Taylor began Kindergarten, I have been volunteering in the Meet the Masters art program at school. When Syd began elementary school, I took turns alternating each month between the two classrooms, and needless to say both kids have always looked forward to seeing me in the class, even if I was just passing out brushes or cleaning up. Meet the Masters is a standardized art program available to schools all over, that features the work of several well known artists. The program is 100% run by parent volunteers like myself, and is usually funded primarily through donations. As you can imagine, not every school across the country would be able to afford to run such a program. IMG_4018

The educational benefits of art programs, especially when included in school curriculum, are well known. From the early child development years all the way through high school, incorporating art programs at school have tremendous benefits from increased cultural awareness and language development, to an increase in academic success and higher career goals. If you’ve had a chance to watch your own child work on art projects at home, you probably already know that it’s obviously a great creative outlet too, but when you have a chance to watch a room full of kids create art, even for just a small amount of time, you pick up on some other amazing benefits too. These kids are excited, engaged and rarely have to be told to pay attention or stop talking during instruction. They feel compelled to create their own masterpieces for the sheer enjoyment of it, and rarely feel nervous of making mistakes or getting the answer wrong; a nice change of pace to the common core curriculum they focus on for the majority of the school day. From a layperson’s point of view, there’s a tremendous difference in energy between regular school hours when I’m volunteering, than when the art program is in session. Often times during Meet the Masters, the students are so attentive that the teacher will use this time to leave the room and perform other work duties. It’s quite different than normal instruction time when I often over-hear her telling the kids to settle down and warnings of disciplinary action are doled out every few minutes.

But even though we all know the benefits to kids self esteem, school performance and enthusiasm for school, that the arts can bring, school budgets for art programs continue to be cut year after year. But schools, parents and organizations, continue to be creative in finding ways to try and fund these programs because they understand just how valuable they are. Once such company that was created to help fund some of the vital programs like sports, arts and music, is Schoola.

Schoola is an online consignment store that accepts gently used name brand clothing items, with a portion of the proceeds going to schools in need, yours included. You can read more about how it works and some FAQ’s on their site, but the basics are that for every sale on Schoola, 40% of the proceeds go to your chosen school to help pay for these vital, often underfunded programs at school. Schoola ships you a bag, you fill it up and return it, and then collect a portion of sales for your school.

Because a new school year is quickly approaching – we go back in just 10 days! – Schoola wants to get the word out about how you can help clean out closets and drawers, while raising money for valuable school programs at the same time. I’ve chosen to adopt Yick Wo Elementary in San Francisco, which is raising funds to help further their art program on campus. You can learn more about Yick Wo in the video below.

If you’re interested in trying out Schoola this school year, simply request a donation bag to be sent to you, fill it up and send it back in. Since I’m trying to raise money for Yick Wo, when you request a bag, $1 will be sent to my sponsored school. Plus, when you fill out your school information, you’ll be earning $2 for every $5 made for valuable art and sports programs at your school. Win/win for both of us!

While it’s disheartening and frustrating that these amazing and valuable programs continue to be underfunded, despite their proven benefit, it’s also encouraging that parents, educators and private companies across the country, continue to think outside the box in finding ways to help. It’s easy to get down about the situation, but instead of getting down about it, I’d much rather try to be proactive and help out, and I know most feel the same. A sincere thanks to the creators of Schoola for coming up with this creative opportunity to allow us to help.

This post is brought to you by Schoola, the best place to buy discounted kids clothes all while give back to schools in need. Click here to learn more about Schoola. Click here to see what people are saying.



Monday Thoughts

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The other day I crossed the aisle of Target, distracted by something shiny and pretty. You know the feeling. Unknowingly, I stepped in front of a fellow shopper, going straight with purpose, and me, momentarily cutting him off at the pass. He huffed a bit and I apologized, not thinking much of it since I didn’t really slow him down any, nor did I bump into him. My apology only seemed to aggravate him more, his huffs turning to loud sighs, to which I replied something slightly sarcastic like “didn’t know you were in such a hurry.” He kept walking and yelled back at me, “didn’t know you were retarded.”

I stood there in front of the candles and stationary, in total shock, that a grown man, as “normal” as they come, would call someone retarded in broad daylight, in the middle of Target. I don’t know why it made me think of the internet, but I saw with instant clarity how people could be so awful online, seeing as how we could be in real life, face to face. Then that made me think about how easy it is for us all to get so worked up on a daily basis about stuff, because we have so much information coming at us every day from differing points of view, half of which could make us seething mad. I spent a good portion of early mornings during our vacation, waking up before everyone else, reading updates and articles about what’s going on in Gaza, and reading the comments. I don’t know why I do that, read the comments, but it always sucks me in and makes me sad how different we all see things.

I read a quote from Judd Apatow on my Chipotle bag today which made a lot of sense, and got me out of my funk a bit today. It said “Don’t be a jerk. Try to love everyone. Give more than you take. And do it despite the fact that you only really like about seven out of 500 people.” Why are we such jerks to each other? I’m feeling really conflicted today posting about food or clothes or even my family vacation I was fortunate to take. There’s so much to talk about, but I really just want to stay quiet. I’ve lost my words it seems.

I will hopefully be back tomorrow, a little more rested and a little less bleak.