Daily Style – Give Me An “A”

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IMG_0260 Initial Sweatshirt – Kate Spade Saturday (and it’s 40% off!!); Nude Patent Leather Flats – Steve Madden; Jeans – Rag & Bone but similar fit here by LOFT; Faux Leather Reversible Tote last seen here and hereNordstrom; Nameplate necklace – c/o Jenny Present (use code BIGFAN for 20% off site wide)

Art and I experienced a glorious 18 hours of kid-free time this weekend, and enjoyed dinner out with friends, although we were zonked out by 11 pm, and rushed out for a quick breakfast before we had to pick up the kids the next morning. Eat and sleep, that’s pretty much what we do when we don’t have the kids. Oh, and watch TV. When the kids left with my parents Saturday night, we had exactly 2 hours before our dinner reservations. We made very productive use of our time by using 1 hour to watch an episode of House of Cards, and 1 hour to get ready without the hassle of having to hold clingy toddlers or break up fights between a brother and sister who go from sibling love-fest to full blown screaming matches in under 8 seconds flat.  Watching TV you can’t watch with the kids around, when you still have enough energy to keep your eyes open, is an awesome thing by the way. I totally recommend you try it the next time you have a sitter.
IMG_0231 Feeling pretty lucky that it’s been very cool here in Southern California, so I’ve been able to wear this Kate Spade Saturday initial sweatshirt non-stop since it arrived. Also feeling pretty lucky that I snagged it for 40% off, and you can too because it’s still on sale. And by the way, in case you’re wondering why the entire Kate Spade Saturday site is 40% off, it’s because they’re closing down the division. I’m assuming items will remain on sale while they have stock, so hurry up and grab a few gems while you can. I love love love this sweatshirt and the quality is really nice; nice enough to not feel like a bum wearing it all day every day. Some other cute pieces I picked up on sale include the mini skirt in both the stripe and fun freestyle print, and I wouldn’t mind grabbing this striped shift dress.

It’s a bummer they missed the mark with this line, as had they dialed it in earlier, I think it could have been really something special to add another casual layer onto the already amazing Kate Spade line. The problem I always saw with the line, and what kept me from buying anything earlier, is that the styles always seemed too structured to be flattering on everyone, and there was a definite key items piece missing. It seemed that every collection differed from the next, and there was rarely anything consistent other than that same boxy shape and the same cotton poplin. They actually brought in my friend from James Perse to help create a more meaningful key items category, but perhaps a little too late. I spoke to her yesterday, and she’ll be packing up and moving back to LA shortly. Their loss is your gain though, I suppose.  IMG_0222 These Steve Madden nude patent flats are also a recent acquisition, to replace my seriously adorable Zara chain metal flats from 2 years ago. I got so much use out of those very basic nude flats that I wore out the heels and the toes are scuffed beyond repair. These little numbers though should work just fine, and are surprisingly comfortable, although there was of course the standard break-in period. I think we’re golden now though.  IMG_0270 By the way, if you have been wanting an updated name plate necklace, have a special gift you need to buy or you’re just in the market for some new jewels, Jenny Present is offering my readers a 20% site wide discount with the code BIGFAN. They have some great hand stamped pieces, as well plenty of other gorgeous and versatile non-stamped pieces.  IMG_0234 Hoping you all have a great week. I’m sure many of you are counting down the days (17 I think), till the start of Spring. Hip, hip hooray!



Easy Breaded & Baked Chicken Cutlets

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baked-chicken-cutlets I have an internal conversation with myself each day as I prepare dinner, in which I decide whether Syd will eat the food I’m preparing. Most days it’s pretty cut and dry, and I just know that certain things will require modifications, and other things he gobble down. Other days, I really can’t decide and on those days, the kid usually surprises me. The fact that I’d even consider his tastes each day would have some people believe is strong proof of why he is particular when it comes to food choices. But if you spent any time in our house, they’d see this kid is particular about a lot of things, least of which is food, and so in an effort to try and understand him better, and therefore connect with him better, I consider his feelings on all sorts of matters, but especially food. easy-baked-chicken-cutlets That was a really long way of saying, that because of my daily considerations of Syd’s taste buds, I came up with these quick and easy chicken cutlets. I was making chicken parmesan for the family, but without question knew Syd would not want sauce on his chicken, as he loathes all things tomato based, including ketchup. So I simply left the sauce and cheese off of his chicken, and it turns out, these were just as good, albeit a totally different flavor, and reheated beautifully for leftovers. They also didn’t lock us into a specific culinary region, like chicken parmesan does, making you feel like you must eat it alongside a bowl of pasta, and were just overall, a lot more versatile. As leftovers they served up nicely when chopped up and topped on a salad, and even worked in the kid’s lunches one day. I’ve made these a few times now, and I think they strike a nice balance between grown up and kiddie food; being breaded they automatically appeal to the younger set, but being baked and not in the form of a nugget or tender, they appeal to grown-ups too. Here’s how I  make these little beauties. IMG_9871 You’ve got to start by baking your bread crumbs, and while we’re discussing bread crumbs, I think Panko crumbs work best here. Panko crumbs are just bread crumbs made with crustless bread. Baking the crumbs first will give them a nice golden brown color and make the cutlets look even prettier. Of course they add a little bit of extra flavor as well. Season your crumbs with salt and if desired, pepper, to give them a bit more flavor though. IMG_9935 Now you want to use cutlets for this recipe, as they bake so much quicker, hence allowing you to get dinner on the table even faster. Plus, they just come out more tender this way too. Speaking of tenders, don’t buy those little tender packs, as they’re too small. Tenders are that little piece of flap meat on an actual breast, which are too small to serve much purpose, other than making kiddie chicken tenders. Save them for another purpose, or use them here if you must, but breast tenders shouldn’t serve as your whole meal.
IMG_9937 Cutlets are made by simply inserting a sharp knife into the middle of your breast, and slicing it in half. Easy peasy, and the extra 5 minutes it takes to cut each breast in half, saves you at least 15 minutes in cooking time, so there.  IMG_9940 Place your cutlets either in a ziploc bag or between two sheets of plastic wrap, and pound into submission. Okay, actually don’t pound too hard, just a few little whacks will do, as you don’t want to demolish your beautiful cutlets, just tenderize them. Add some salt and pepper to each cutlet to give them a bit more flavor. IMG_9942 Get your flour or flour substitute, eggs and crumbs all together in a space that allows you to work efficiently, and dip in flour, dip in eggs, and then roll around in the bread crumbs to evenly coat. I then take one of those cookie cooling racks, and place it on top of another baking sheet, and place the coated cutlets on top of cooling rack. This allows air to circulate really well, cooking the cutlets perfectly, and also makes the cutlets a little easier to flip, with minimal bread crumb loss, half way through cooking. You will want to flip these by the way, to bake evenly on both sides. baked-breaded-chicken-cutlets Serve alongside your favorite vegetable such as green beans or spinach, and I have found warm apples or applesauce is a nice accompaniment to this as well, sort of like pork chops and applesauce.

To reheat, simply store in your favorite container, and when ready to reheat, place cutlets on a foil lined baking sheet and heat in the oven with the broiler set on low. You’ll have to watch them carefully though and only cook for no more than 5 minutes. If you tend to be forgetful about things cooking in broiler mode, just reheat in the oven.

Now, a word on making this dish gluten free. It’s fairly easy; when coating your chicken, you just use a flour substitute like arrowroot powder or rice flour, and you sub almond meal, not almond flour, for the panko breadcrumbs. I have gone through the process of baking the almond meal first, like I do with the breadcrumbs, and have found no difference in taste or color, so just skip that part, and bake the rest as usual. No big deal at all.

Good luck and I hope you enjoy these as much as we do!

Easy Baked & Breaded Chicken Cutlets
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
These easy breaded and baked chicken cutlets make for the perfect healthy, weeknight meal.
Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, depending on size, cut into 4-6 chicken cutlets
  • 4 cups plain Panko bread crumbs
  • 4 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup flour or flour alternative of your choice, arrowroot powder works well too
  • salt & pepper for seasoning
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375. Season your bread crumbs with a generous amount of salt and pepper, and the spread out in a single layer onto a large baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 7-10 minutes, until golden brown but not dark brown.
  2. While your breadcrumbs are baking, pat your chicken breasts dry, and cut them into cutlets by inserting a sharp knife into the center of the breast, and slicing in half, creating two thin breasts, or cutlets. You will want to slice off the little tender piece of meat found on most breasts, and either reserve that for another use, or to make a really small version of these breaded cutlets.
  3. Once you have your cutlets ready to go, either wrap in plastic wrap or place in a Ziploc bag, and tenderize them till soft and thin, but not see-through. If you wish, season the cutlets with a bit more salt and pepper.
  4. Whisk your eggs in one shallow bowl, and place your flour in a separate shallow bowl.
  5. Dip your cutlets one at a time in the flour or flour substitute, and then in the egg wash. Then dip in the browned bread crumbs, still spread out on the baking sheet. Make sure the cutlets get an all-over even coating of the crumbs.
  6. Place cutlets on a wire rack, like a cookie cooling rack, placed over a baking sheet. This will allow for the breaded cutlets to get a nice even cooking, and will reduce the amount of breadcrumbs that fall off when you flip them half way through cooking.
  7. Bake in the 375 oven for 10-12 minutes, flipping half way through cooking.
  8. Serve along side your favorite side dishes, but they taste exceptionally good with some warm apples and buttered green beans.

 



The Essential Oil Protocol That Got Our Toddler To Sleep

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How-I-Used-Essential-Oils-to-Get-My-Toddler-to-Sleep There’s nothing that can really prepare you for the sleep deprivation that comes with being a new parent. You can prepare yourself as much as possible by reading books and asking around, but until your baby is home and you experience first hand the delirium that comes from lack of sleep, you’ll never understand just how desperate you’ll become to get some sleep. We were lucky with our first two children, who were quick to fall into a great sleep routine as babies, and now as older children fall asleep and stay asleep with limited, to zero hesitation. But the sleep gods did not smile down on us for our third child, and as he left babyhood and entered toddler-hood with continued night wakings, we became willing to try just about anything to get him to sleep, which is how and why we turned to oils. But first, a little back story.  IMG_0183

Hayden, for all of his wonderfully amazing qualities (and he does have a lot of them), has been nothing short of a terrible sleeper since day one. Actually, back up, he’s a terrible sleeper unless he’s cuddled up with another human. I remember vividly bringing him in to bed to cuddle with me, just a few short days after we brought him home, delirious with exhaustion. Within seconds I kid you not, he sweetly, soundly passed off to sleep. I quickly began to realize that this child, unlike our other two, would be the perfect candidate for co-sleeping. But we knew that was not the road we wanted to head down. After successfully getting the first two on pretty strict sleep routines from a very early age, following all the The Baby Whisperer techniques to the letter, I knew that I wanted some semblance of a routine for all our sanity, but I also knew it couldn’t be as strict, with two older kids in the house with schedules and activities galore. I also knew that as my last baby, I wanted to cuddle more and cherish those early months without the constant stress and pressure of sleep training, but even still, co-sleeping as a consistent philosophy and way of life, was just not for us.

So we got him on a flexible schedule early on, and being the easy-going baby that he was, he learned to self-soothe and put himself to sleep all on his own, which many sleep experts and doctors are sure is the best way to get babies to sleep through the night; if they can self-soothe and put themselves to sleep from the get-go, they’re more likely to put themselves back to sleep when they inevitably wake up in the middle of the night. Makes a lot of sense, right? But as we quickly found out with baby #3, that way of thinking doesn’t always work.

Hayden would go to sleep like a charm, but would consistently wake up multiple times through the night and would not be able to self-soothe himself back to sleep. I tried various techniques I had used before; adjusting the bed time, adjusting awake time, adjusting nap length and frequency, adjusting his feeding schedule, cluster feeding, and using the pick-up/put-down method from the The Baby Whisperer  books. In all theory, this baby was getting the perfect amount of day sleep, could put himself to sleep, ate like a champ, including solids, so hunger wasn’t an issue, and fell asleep peacefully each night. But he would just not stay asleep. He didn’t sleep through the night until he was almost 1 year old, and even at that, it was a fluke. Somewhat consistent sleep didn’t occur until well into the 18 month mark.IMG_0151  books. In all theory, this baby was getting the perfect amount of day sleep, could put himself to sleep, ate like a champ, including solids, so hunger wasn’t an issue, and fell asleep peacefully each night. But he would just not stay asleep. He didn’t sleep through the night until he was almost 1 year old, and even at that, it was a fluke. Somewhat consistent sleep didn’t occur until well into the 18 month mark.

As we entered the toddler years, and now at 2.5 years old, Hayden was still waking up once or twice a night, every 3-4 days. It was almost like he was playing with us, giving us just enough sleep filled nights so that we could fill up our tanks, only to go back to his old habits for a couple of days, and the cycle went on and on. As he got older, his night wakings would occur routinely between 11pm-2am, and he’d always want the same thing; to sleep with one of us. Having transitioned into a regular twin bed now, he had slept great for several days and seemed genuinely excited about his new big boy bed. But the novelty quickly wore off, and in the past couple of months, we’d deal with intense screaming sessions where he’d cry over and over again, “Tay Tay’s bed!” or “Bubba’s bed!” or “Mommy’s bed!” Bottom line, he just wanted to sleep with a warm body. After dealing with night wakings for so long, we sort of welcomed this easy fix, and quickly got in the habit of letting him sleep with one of us, usually the kids.

We had to put a stop to it though after he kept Taylor up half the night, throwing stuffed animals at her head and dancing in her bed. The poor girl was so exhausted the next day for school, that I knew we had to change and this couldn’t go on.

So how did I land on essential oils? Well, I had tried pretty much everything else, and so I figured, why not? I will say that I’m a natural skeptic and do think that some of the oil claims out there sound a bit far fetched, but I’ve also experienced relief from a few simple remedies, so I was hopeful that they may work for Hayden’s sleep issues. I had been gifted a nice starter set from my friend Jen and Jodie, and my sister had been making me different essential oil mixes for over a year now. I personally knew a lot of people who had been helped with essential oils, and figured  I didn’t have anything to lose. I did a quick search in the oils Facebook group I belonged to, and came across another woman who had used a similar protocol. I was missing one of the oils she had used, so I just subbed one in that I thought would work, and come to find out, it indeed did work! essential-oils-protocol-for-toddler-sleep

Here’s the oil protocol we used to get our toddler to sleep through the night:

During pajama and story/play time, around 7 pm, I began diffusing a few drops of lavender in his room.

Starting with the feet, I rubbed a couple of drops on the soles of his feet. I then worked my way up.

Joy on his heart.

Peace & Calm behind his ears.

Frankincense on the crown of his head.

Depending on your needs and child’s sensitivities, you can of course dilute the oils before applying, and the smallest amount works well, no need to go overboard.

We used the oils and blends from Young Living, and I purchase from Jodie, who has proven to be a wonderful resource for all my oil questions. She’s put us on an oil protocol for wart removal and a few other things, which I’ll keep you posted on, but it was the private Facebook group, under her leadership, where I learned about this oil protocol, so I’m indebted to her. With that being said though, from what I’ve heard, you can find comparable blends from other brands, so don’t fret if you use a brand other than Young Living. Contact Jodie though if you’d like to order these specific oils, or you have any general questions about oils.

After the first night of using the oils, he slept all the way through. Because he was known to give us a couple of good nights before a string of bad nights, I didn’t yet proclaim this a victory. I told my husband, if he sleeps through for more than 4 nights, I may become a believer.

He continued to sleep for 4, 5, 6, and 7 nights in a row without a waking. essential-oils-protocol-to-get-toddler-to-sleep

After we had been doing the oils for over a week, he did have a waking, but we easily got him back to sleep, in his own bed.

I’ve lost track of how many days we’ve been doing this routine now, but it’s been about 3 weeks. We actually ran out of one of the oils, and a couple of nights last week we didn’t do the routine at all, yet he still slept through the night. The skeptic in me was quick to think it had all been one big coincidental fluke, and the oils had not helped at all. But then I remembered all my knowledge on the subject of sleep, having read about 10 books on the topic, and it seemed more likely that he had just got into a very good pattern and habit of sleeping through the night, and that he may no longer need the oils. Tracy Hogg in her book wrote that it usually only took a baby a week to develop a good sleep routine that would stick.

I also really think the routine of applying the oils; quiet time, massage, and focused attention, helped Hayden sleep well, just as much the oils themselves.

IMG_0168
this is Hayden lifting his shirt up so I can apply Joy to his heart area

With multiple children, and especially older children where there’s a large age gap like we have, it’s easy to fall out of the simple habits like a consistent bedtime routine, and rush through these processes.  Pajamas on, hurry up! Brush teeth, read a book, hurry, hurry, get into bed! The oils routine really helped us all slow down and focus on quiet time with our youngest, who often gets mixed into the crazy shuffle of the big kid’s life of homework, activities, school stuff and overall rushed bed times.

I’ll continue to use the oils as much as possible, since he seems to really enjoy them, and the one-on-one time they bring, but I’m hoping this isn’t a routine that we’ll have to use for years to come haha! Using all these oils every day for an extended period of time adds up, so I’d like to continue use with some discretion.

It makes me both sad and uncomfortable to see the controversy and fighting that essential oils can bring among women. I can honestly say I cringe each time, before I post a picture on Instagram of something having to do with oils. Without fail, someone always has something negative to say, whether it be about a particular brand, business practices or oils in general. I honestly don’t get it and I think it’s all really strange.

I believe and trust in individuals over brands, and with that, I’ve come to use both doTerra and Young Living. People in my life whom I trust and love have introduced me to both brands, and I have had success with different things from both lines. I’ve stayed out of the brand wars, and am just happy products from both brands have provided relief and comfort to people I care about. That’s what should matter most of all.

So whichever brand of oil you trust, for whatever reason, I hope this little oil protocol can help some of you out there. Sleep, or lack of it, is one of the worst things we can experience. It wreaks havoc on our mental and physical health, causing a whole host of problems from sadness and depression to recurrent illness due to low immune suppression. We need rest as much as we need water and air, and so with that being said, all you tired moms and dads out there, hang in there and good luck to you! I don’t make any claims that this oil protocol will work as well for you, or at all, as it did for us, but I sure hope you see some success from it!

Please let me know if you have any questions at all!



Daily Style – Wrapped Up

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IMG_0106 Outfit Details:
Wrap – c/o Evy’s Tree Diana wrap in navy stripe (worn 3 ways, but it’s also reversible); Jeans – old Rag & Bone from Anniversary Sale, but very similar fit here at Loft; Booties – Sole Society (LOVE these so much!); Faux Leather *reversible* Tote – Nordstrom, just like the Madewell tote but 1/4 of the price; Bangles I Wear Every Day – Alex & Ani (I have big hands and I love these because they’re adjustable, making them really easy to slide on and off); Hat – Yellow 108, a local Long Beach company!
IMG_0110 Winter has made a small return here in Southern California, bringing back some much needed rain and cooler temps. While I’m sure the rest of the country is ready for Spring to reveal itself, it was a nice change of pace to have a bit more cold weather, before the warmth eventually takes over for the next several months. It allowed me to wear this cozy wrap all weekend long, and I didn’t feel the least bit silly when I wore my favorite wool hat.
IMG_0117 This wrap was a sweet gift I received from the kind ladies at Evy’s Tree, and I love the versatility of it the most. Literally throw it on when you’re running out the door, as I did this morning for school drop off, or take a bit more time and tie it around yourself, creating a sort of casual undone look. It also looked great just slinging one side over a shoulder, and wearing it as a nice warm cocoon. The wrap also comes with drawstring ties, so you can cinch it up at the neckline and tie it in a bow. IMG_0079 IMG_0082 Hoping you all had a great weekend, and are staying warm and cozy. Have a great week everyone! IMG_0089 IMG_0045



Week In Review – Parenting With Gorillas

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IMG_0916 Last week while Hayden and I were at Target shopping for groceries/home decor/shoes and candles, Hayden fell in love with some colorful stuffed gorillas, meant for Valentine’s Day gift giving. He ran over to them and picked up one, the pink one first, and ran over to me, stuffed it in the cart and said “mine!” He ran back and got the black colored one, came back over, threw it in the cart and yelled “Bubba’s!” A third time, he ran back over, picked up a brown gorilla, shoved it in the cart again and said “Tay Tay’s!” And that was that.

As you can see, we have plenty of stuffed animals, more than we can count really, although the kids do keep surprisingly accurate inventory, and the last thing we needed were more stuffed animals. But it’s hard to refuse Hayden, and it was Valentine’s Day after all. So I acquiesced and we took all three home. The kids fell in love immediately and named them appropriately; Bubble Gum, Blackberry, and Cocoa. In fact every single one of their stuffed animals has a name and the older two can recount how each of them came to be in their possession. IMG_0921

I really should start a stuffed animal toy drive and get rid of 99% of these animals, but when I watch them snuggle up and play with these guys, it allows me to think they’re still very little and are far far away from the perils of growing up. Of course they’re no longer babies and after experiencing our fair amount of school drama these past few weeks, which has thankfully settled down, I’m content to stay in my naive bubble and let them get lost in pretend childish play for as long as possible. I figure they’ll want to toss the stuffed animals soon enough.

But seriously, it would be a tragic day if we ever got a case of lice in this house.

Good reads around the web:

1980’s Teen Movies Mashup – I love this so very much, and if you’re a child of the 80’s, I bet you will too. Every single memorable teen movie of the decade is included. And after you watch that, get a bit more nostalgic with my 80’s fashion post.

I still don’t know what to think about this woman who makes close to a million dollars a year, selling on Etsy, but my gut tells me I think it’s shady.

10 Types of Odd Friendships You’re Probably Part Of - I’m definitley part of 1, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10. What about you?

How One Stupid Tweet Ruined Justine Sacco’s Life – I remember still, when all this went down, and even before we knew the full story, I have to admit I felt bad for Justine Sacco. The people of Twitter can be abnormally abhorrent, and she went to the electric chair, the gallows and lethal injection for her stupid tweet. And a follow up worth reading, if you find the story interesting, is the public apology the instigator eventually gave her, after experiencing his own Twitter nightmare when he too tweeted something stupid. All this adds up to, why I’m never on Twitter. I hate that place.

Currently reading:

I am about half way into listening to the audio book version of All the Light We Cannot See. I’m still not sure if I like it as much as I thought I would; I’ll keep you posted.

I’m also reading Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell and so far it’s interesting, although I still like Outliers more.

And tonight I’m cooking from the new ATK Slow Cooker book – The Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution

In other news:

I finally placed an order from Fabletics and I love the fit and feel of my first outfit! I’m wearing it to hot yoga tomorrow, and will keep you updated as I wash and wear it a few times. I’m hoping it holds up well.

Kate Spade Saturday is 40% off site wide! I grabbed one of these initial sweatshirts

In case you missed it:

I published the recipe for Cashew Cream, and last week, I also posted the recipe for Kick-Ass Bone Broth.



Spring 2015 Looks I Love

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Spring is always a busy time for our family, with multiple birthdays (mine and Taylor’s are just a week apart), our anniversary (this year we celebrate 16 years!), and of course the lots of other special occasions that come along in Spring including Easter and the inevitable baby/bridal shower or two. This year I’m also excited to have a couple of business meetings and conferences that I’ll have to dress up for. I spent some time the other night looking through Nordstrom’s site for outfit inspiration. I found so many looks I loved, and plenty of inspiration to shop my own closet too. Here are a few of my favorite looks for Spring 2015.
Spring-looks-I-love This gorgeous pleated maxi dress is a great price point at just under $100, and I love that it can be worn fairly casual, as they styled it here, or can easily be dressed up even more with a higher heel and a pretty evening clutch.

Moto jackets continue to be huge in Spring, and I love the unstructured look of this oversized version in a cotton twill. The Paige Denim distressed jeans in the lighter wash are fab too, although I’d love to find a more affordable option, like this pair and this pair.

I can’t tell whether I’m going to love this Foxiedox feather printed dress or not, once it arrives in person, but from the looks of it I think it will be beautiful. You know how some prints can appear much different online versus real life? Well that’s how I feel about this one, but I love the high slit and paired with the belt, I think this will be a great look for a big birthday party we have coming up in April. The price is fantastic too, at $79.

You guys know I love midi skirts, and from the feedback from many of you on my last midi skirt post, you do too. This bold mix of the bright red textured shell along with the crisp white midi skirt is going to be the perfect outfit for a conference I’ll be attending, and maybe even to wear on my 39th birthday. Both pieces are from Nordstrom’s own brand Trouve, and are priced right at $48 and $78.
Spring-accessories-I-love Accessories and shoes are what really complete the above looks, and these are a few of my favorites affordably priced options.

The House of Harlow sunburst drop necklace makes a statement with gold and black enamel contrast, and has infinite uses.

The Steve Madden Fringly suede high heel sandal may be a bit of a stretch for me, but still love the way it makes the moto jacket outfit look a bit sexier and less masculine.

I ordered this crystal and gold chain stretch belt because it will work well with so many skirt/top outfits I already own, and of course to define the waist line for many dresses too.  Can’t beat the price!

I already own the Birkenstock Gizeh in black, and it was my shoe of summer last year. I’m thinking I’ll have to add white to my mix this year though, and not sure if I’ll keep the Gizeh, or go with the Arizona.



Easy Vegan Cashew Cream

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FTLO-78 Cashews have seem to become an all-purpose nut these days, and I’m kind of loving it. Mild in flavor, softer in texture and full of essential nutrients, including a healthy dose of protein and healthy fats, you may find cashews transformed into grain-free crusts, as a simple add-in for protein packed smoothies, and here, as a non-dairy, non-legume alternative to sour cream and hummus. Lindsey introduced us to cashew cream earlier last month, as a topping to this yummy cauliflower rice and sweet potato dish, and most recently, I used it in place of ricotta in my zucchini rolls. Since the original recipe was sort of buried within another recipe, I decided to separate it out and showcase this beautifully versatile dip on its own. FTLO-39 FTLO-40 You begin by soaking your raw cashews  in some warm water, for at least an hour. If you soak them longer, say, overnight, they will absorb even more water and yield a creamier texture, so if you have the time, allow them a nice long soak. FTLO-43  in some warm water, for at least an hour. If you soak them longer, say, overnight, they will absorb even more water and yield a creamier texture, so if you have the time, allow them a nice long soak.  FTLO-46 To balance out the inherent sweetness of the cashews, you’ll want to add some citrus, in the form of lemons and/or limes. I like both, but use what you have on hand. This will give the cream some bite.
FTLO-49 Add your cashews, along with your water, into the food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Now note here, if you’ve left your cashews soak for a long time, they’ll be more watery, therefore you’ll need to use less water. A safe place to start is with 1/4 cup, and go from there. Just like when you make hummus, you’ll add olive oil as you go, to suit your liking. FTLO-53 fitted with the chopping blade. Now note here, if you’ve left your cashews soak for a long time, they’ll be more watery, therefore you’ll need to use less water. A safe place to start is with 1/4 cup, and go from there. Just like when you make hummus, you’ll add olive oil as you go, to suit your liking.  Add in your citrus, as well as a heavy pinch of salt, at least 1/4 tsp, and pulse till nice and smooth, scraping the sides to fully incorporate, as needed.  FTLO-62 Store your cashew cream in the fridge for up to 10 days, and use it as a topping for sweet potatoes, as a dip for fresh veggies, as a smear in lasagnas or fresh veggie rolls, as a filling for wraps, and on and on. The possibilities are endless really. My favorite way is to saute up some spinach, fill a roasted sweet potato with spinach, and then top with cashew cream and some slivered almonds.  FTLO-65 FTLO-67 FTLO-68 FTLO-71 FTLO-74 Let me know if you give this a try, and what you thought. As with some other healthier swaps, like gluten-free alternatives and lettuce wrapped burgers, I’m often left feeling a bit of longing for the “real deal.” With this cashew cream though, I can honestly say that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, and I hope you feel the same way too.

All photos by the lovely Mary Yung of Yung Bean Photography

Cashew Cream
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Make this easy dairy alternative for sour cream and other dips, with raw cashews and some citrus fruit.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1.5 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in warm water for at least 1-2 hours
  • Juice of ½ lime and ½ lemon
  • ¼ tsp salt to taste
  • ¼-1/2 cup filtered water
Instructions
  1. Drain cashews, and place in food processor or high speed blender, with the chopping blade attachment. Add remaining ingredients, and pulse till cashews are nice and creamy, adding more water and juice of lemon and lime till desired consistency and taste.
  2. Note that if you soak your cashews longer, like overnight, they will retain a lot more water and will therefore require less water to make smooth. The cashews will also blend up finer if you soak them longer. Also, depending on the juiciness of your citrus, you may need to add more or less than ½ of each lemon or lime. This recipe isn't a perfect science, but rather one you can tailor to your own tastes and preferences, just like some enjoy a thicker hummus and some enjoy one more runny, the same is true here. You can use either all lime or all lemon as well, however I prefer the tang of combining the two, and think it settles out the sweetness of the cashews very nicely.

 



Week In Review – Growing Pains

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Valentine's-Day-Nails You know those children who don’t seem to have a filter, and who can talk your ear off for hours at a time, filling even the smallest fraction of a second of quiet time with jibber jabber? Well, I don’t have those children. I have children who contently ride in the car in silence, only talking when someone infringes on their personal space or prompted to speak, but sometimes not even then. They’re not apt to butt in to adult conversations, although sometimes they do, and they’re not one to seek attention from visitors with elaborate stories and endless questions. For years we figured this was a relatively good thing. With us, they’d open up and of course talk, but when in the company of others, they were often mutes, and car rides were always relatively peaceful. But now, especially with Taylor, that ongoing silence has proven to be at times detrimental.

We’ve had various bouts of school drama the past couple of months, no doubt brought on by the simple fact that Taylor isn’t much of a talker, and it only seems to be getting worse, where the important stuff is concerned. We’re working hard with her, trying to get her to open up, reassuring her that she can talk to us about anything, and reassuring her that she can and most certainly must, stand up for herself when she’s out in the big bad world on her own, aka, school. It’s been a learning process, especially the last few weeks. Learning not so much in how exactly to get her to open up, but learning when we need to be alert and at full attention, when we need to back off, and when we need to step in. As she nears 10 years old, I know this is only going to get harder and so we’re trying our best to develop some tools for all of us, so that we can deal better as we head into 5th grade, and eventually the dreaded middle school days. I use to always get so irked at those “Just wait” parents, who were always warning of impending doom and harder days ahead as our children grow and mature. But now, I all too often see how right they are. Of course it’s not all doom and gloom, but as they get older, I can definitely see how the stakes are greater and the challenges become more complicated. The last few days I feel as though there’s almost no room for error, but of course I know I’m being overly dramatic and during those moments of self doubt and anxiety, I remind myself to breathe, just so I can think more clearly.

I’ve toyed with the idea of having her go see the school counselor, just so she knows she is safe to be open and honest with the events and pressures at school, but after a positive visit to the principal’s office this week, where some girl drama seems to finally be sorted out, she’s assured me that she’s doing okay and a visit to the counselor isn’t necessary. I drove by at lunch time today, something I often do since we live right across the street, and she was laughing and playing happily with her friends, so I do hope she’s being honest and is feeling better. I’m on high alert though, and I’ve gone ahead and ordered this mother-daughter journal called Just Between Us, which will hopefully provide a pathway to better communication between the two of us. Lord knows I’m trying here, and will continue to do so. As I try to achieve the ever-delicate balance between hands-off mom and helicopter parent, I take some minor comfort in the fact that she’s got a hell of a better support system at home and at school than I ever did, and even still, I turned out okay.

Interesting reads around the web:

Death to the Chicken Finger (I wonder if the author of this piece ever caught wind of my hashtag #nomoreeffingchickenfingers?)

This video of the making of a Dior bag is fantabulous!

I shared this article, How To Become a Morning Person, with Art. I think our marriage could only improve if he and I were both on the same page with regards to our nocturnal schedule.

Current obsessions:

I completed the The Lunar Chronicles last night, and I can’t believe I have to wait till November to see how the series ends!

I need to dedicate an entire post to my new-found love for my brows, thanks to the Tarte Volumizing Brow Powder. Seriously, my brows have never looked better.

What I’m pinning and making this week in the kitchen:

For Valentine’s Day I’m making this raw cheesecake, which gets ridiculously good reviews.

And just because, I’m also going to try this life changing bread.

I’ll keep you posted on the results.

Follow me along on Pinterest to see all the recipes and other stuff I’m obsessing over.

In the mean time, please let me know anything new and exciting you’ve stumbled across, and if you have any suggestions for good books to read on the subject of daughters and the approaching tween/teen years, I’m all ears!



Kick-Ass Chicken Bone Broth, aka Stock

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Homemade-Chicken-Bone-Broth It seems that currently, you can’t gain access to the healthy living club, unless you know how to make your own bone broth, or as our ancestors referred to it, stock. At first when all this talk started forming about “bone broth”, I figured it was some different magic elixir than the one people have been making for centuries, but it seems it’s one in the same. Sure, some recipes suggest you add vinegar to help extract the marrow from the bones, and some insist the broth must cook for days to evoke the medicinal properties. Still, some others insist any stock/broth worth its weight, must be made using beef bones. I won’t get caught up in the many nuances of making broth/stock these days, but as far as I’m concerned, as long as your stock turns out a rich deep color, has a consistency that’s thicker than water, and gels up nice and firm when refrigerated and allowed to sit for a few days, you’ve done a bang up job. Now, to make it taste good so that you can actually make soup out of it, or even drink it straight without having to add tons of salt and seasoning, as I’ve learned, requires a bit more attention to detail. And by the way, there is no secret membership to the healthy living club, and you certainly don’t need to make stock to belong to it. Anyone can join and membership is free, but knowing how to make a few good staples will definitely go a long way towards saving you money and making your healthy food taste really good.   IMG_9690 IMG_9682 To get started, you want to gather some veggies you have on hand. Older sad wilty veggies are fine, and making stock out of them is usually a good way to salvage them before they go in the trash. You usually want a few carrots, some celery stalks, at least one whole onion, and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand, although the heartier kinds like bay leaves, rosemary and thyme are best. The key to making really flavorful stock I recently discovered by a fluke, is to roast your chicken pieces first. If you’re taking a whole chicken you’ve already eaten and picked clean, go ahead and season with salt, pepper and any other favorite dried herbs you have on hand. Roast for 10-15 minutes or so in a 375 degree oven. This will enhance the flavor before you cook it. If you don’t have time for this step, fine, but I suggest you make time ha! Doing this has taken my stock from a taste level just above that of grocery store boxed stock, to kick-ass stock that tastes so good you can slurp it up all on its own.  IMG_9692 IMG_9695 After you’ve roasted your chicken pieces, which look lovely after being picked clean, add them to your crockpot, and then place your cut up veggies on top. Sprinkle with a good amount of salt and pepper, at least 1 tbsp salt and 1/2 tbsp pepper, and cover with water. Place the lid on top and cook on low for hours and hours. Overnight, for a minimum of 8 hours is ideal, but don’t be shy going for 12 hours too. Turn off your crockpot when the broth is done cooking, and I always like to let it come to room temperature before I start straining it. Don’t be afraid to let it sit out on the counter for a few hours while it does this. IMG_9836 IMG_9930 Ideally, you want to have some Cheese Cloth on hand, as this will make quicker work of the straining process.  Assuming you have cheesecloth on hand, grab a sheet of it, a fine mesh strainer, a big bowl and a super large 4 cup measuring cup. You can make your job a bit easier by scooping out the largest pieces of veggies and bones from the broth, setting aside in the trash or wherever you want to dispose them. I like to scoop out huge ladles full of stock along with all the bits and pieces, and feed it right through the strainer into the large measuring cup. Work in batches, transferring the measuring cup full of stock to your large bowl as you go. Keep scooping and straining till all your liquid has been worked through. IMG_9927 on hand, as this will make quicker work of the straining process.  Assuming you have cheesecloth on hand, grab a sheet of it, a fine mesh strainer, a big bowl and a super large 4 cup measuring cup. You can make your job a bit easier by scooping out the largest pieces of veggies and bones from the broth, setting aside in the trash or wherever you want to dispose them. I like to scoop out huge ladles full of stock along with all the bits and pieces, and feed it right through the strainer into the large measuring cup. Work in batches, transferring the measuring cup full of stock to your large bowl as you go. Keep scooping and straining till all your liquid has been worked through.  If you want to get really thorough, you can grab another large bowl and strain through again, but if you are using cheesecloth and a strainer, you shouldn’t really have to.  You can see how much is really held through with just one pass.

Out of a typical batch of stock, I usually get anywhere from 10-12 cups of broth. I like to store it in 3 cup increments, but store according to your own needs. You can freeze in glass mason jars, leaving a bit of room on top for expansion, or store in quart size freezer Ziploc bags. It can be stored in your fridge for a couple of weeks, and in the freezer for about 6 months, but it shouldn’t even last you that long.

I use stock to cook my grains in, making a killer white rice by sauteing up some diced onion and then swapping out water for stock, and cooking as usual. Makes really nice and flavorful rice this way. Also does a great job elevating the rather bland taste of quinoa. Really to add more flavor to a number of dishes, you can swap out stock where the recipe calls for cooking in water. Of course you can use it to make a wide range of soups, including a simple vegetable soup, by simply boiling hearty vegetables in the stock, including broccoli, carrots, cabbage and mushrooms.

Now, does stock have magical healing properties beyond helping to ease the symptoms and duration of the common cold? Well that’s up for debate, and is one that has recently been challenged. Hence, I won’t extol the virtues of bone broth/stock beyond the simple fact that it enhances the flavor of food, and is quite comforting. Making it yourself is also a great exercise in thriftiness and resourcefulness. Sure, store-bought broth isn’t all that expensive, but if you already have chicken bones lying around, why not use them and your cost is therefore zero dollars? kick-ass-chicken-bone-broth I hope I’ve helped to demystify the process of making broth/stock. I think I sometimes take for granted that everyone knows how to do these things, so why share the recipe or tips here? But it seems every time I post my stock-making adventures, I always get plenty of questions, so why not share the process?  Let me know if you have any questions, and please, go forth and make some kick-ass stock for yourself!

*Edited to add answers to a couple of questions I’ve already received on Instagram – I use bones from at least one whole chicken, or if I’ve made chicken pieces, I save enough until I have at least 6 good size bone remnants. If you don’t make bone-in chicken that often, go ahead and save them in a freezer bag as you go, and add to the bag. When you have enough bones, toss them in a crockpot and get cooking. You can do the same freezer trick with vegetable scraps too, to make veggie stock!

Kick-Ass Chicken Bone Broth, aka Stock
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
An easy way to make this commonly used kitchen staple
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 10-12 cups
Ingredients
  • Various chicken bone-in chicken pieces
  • 1 onion, cubed
  • 3-4 carrots, cubed
  • 2-3 celery stalks, cubed
  • Hearty fresh herbs including bay leaf, rosemary or thyme
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Begin by seasoning your chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and roasting them on a baking sheet for 10-15 minutes until browned, in a 375 degree oven.
  2. Remove chicken pieces from baking sheet and place in slow cooker.
  3. Add in vegetables and fresh herbs, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with water.
  4. Place lid on slow cooker and cook on low for a minimum of 8 hours.
  5. Allow to come to room temperature, then strain broth through a cheesecloth lined fine mesh sieve.
  6. Store in the freezer for up to 6 months and in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

 



What I Think About My Fitbit Surge

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Fitbit-Surge For Christmas, Art got me the Fitbit Charge. At $129, it was a step up from the basic model, and probably would have suited my needs just fine. I was so excited for this unexpected gift that I ran to the computer on Christmas morning, eager to get it all set up, only to find out that Fitbit’s newer models were due out in March. Fancy new models which sounded like they could do amazing incredible things. I’m not one who gets caught up in having the latest and greatest, especially where technology is involved, as you’ll find me still happily chatting away on my old iPhone. But after reading the descriptions on these newer models, I’ll admit I was impressed and suddenly my new gift didn’t feel quite so cool.

So I returned the Fitbit Charge, along with the new Uggs I really could have used (I know they’re ugly, but just like Birkenstocks, once you get a pair, you forsake all statements of fashion in the name of comfort, amiright?), in order to have enough money for the new Surge that would soon be released. Originally estimated to hit store shelves in mid March, it actually came out last month, and I’ve been using it for a solid 4 weeks now. The new Fitbit Surge is a Fitbit on crack because it is not just a pedometer, but a GPS tracker as well, which means you can track mileage with almost pinpoint accuracy, and even record splits and pace. These are very important things for a serious runner. I’ll state now that while I used to run track and cross country, and even completed a half marathon in my late twenties, my days of runs over 4 miles are long gone, thereby knocking me out of contention for the title of “serious runner.” Never mind all that though, I was pretty darn sure I needed a gadget that could make me feel like a very serious runner on my 3 mile jaunts, one who knows her pace at all times and even records her splits.

Besides the GPS factor, the Surge was also equipped with a heart rate monitor, which is a cool feature I guess, and just like the base models, the Surge can track your sleep, calories burned and of course your steps taken. It can also link to your mobile device so you can receive, but not send, texts, and can sync to your music library. Like the other models, there are various exercise modes so you can track estimated calories burned for a certain period of time.

After wearing and using the Surge for just about a month now, I can tell you that I have a bit of buyers remorse. The biggest drawback is that the Surge is huge, so huge in fact that I hate wearing it to bed, so that I can’t even use one of its coolest features. I religiously wore it to bed for over a week, in hopes that I’d get used to it, but I never did get used to it and it just caused me a lot of restlessness. It also looks clunky on my wrist and sticks out like a sore thumb in photos.

While the Fitbit Surgeis proving to be more muscle than I previously thought I needed, I do love having a step counter for the simple fact that it serves as a reminder to move more than I normally would. I workout consistently, a minimum of 3-4 days a week, and even still, I find that most days I don’t come close to making the standard step count goal of 10,000. On days where I do bootcamp, which regularly involves a very active game of ultimate frisbee, I make the step count goal fairly easily. On days where I do some other form of exercise, like yoga or pop physique which doesn’t involve a lot of “steps”, I have to really strive to even come close to 8,000 steps, finding that adding in a 30 minute walk first thing in the morning before the house wakes up, isn’t even enough. Bottom line, I’ve learned that 10,000 steps is a lot of mileage, about 4.5 miles to be exact, and unless you’re getting a solid run or a brisk 45-60 minute walk in each day, our otherwise sedentary lifestyle of driving all over town, computer screen time, with some quick walks around the block, just don’t cut it.

Do steps taken really make a difference in a person’s overall health though? I’d say for an elite athlete in training, probably not, but for those who are just relatively active and especially older folks who tend to be more sedentary, increasing your mileage each day can absolutely bolster your health. A study a couple of years back in fact linked walking to lower breast cancer risk; finding that 7 hours of walking each week helped lower a woman’s risk by 14%. Walking of course has other benefits including an increase in heart health, and mental health. The bottom line, in today’s fitness crazed culture of heavy lifting, crossfitting, soul cycling and other strenuous exercises, we often downplay the simple and clear benefits of just walking. I can tell you with the utmost sincerity that since getting the Fitbit, I may only reach my steps goal 3-4 days of the week, but I have adopted a daily walking practice, and I feel so much better for it. I could really care less about making the goal, although it is nice to feel the little buzz on my wrist each time I do, I’m more appreciative of just how much more mindful having this thing on is making me. Plus, I’ve managed to listen to some pretty cool books and podcasts in the last month, because of my newly adopted exercise routine.

The Bottom Line & My Recommendation To You:

I would absolutely recommend getting a Fitbit for the simple fact that you’re more apt to be mindful of your daily movement.

But, unless you’re a serious distance runner, I would skip getting the fancy Fitbit Surge, and settle for the Fitbit Chargeor Fitbit Charge HRif you want the added benefit of the heart rate monitor.

The smaller models are more sleek and feel better on, and I’m sure much easier to sleep with. They may not have GPS, but unless you really care about tracking mileage, they can do pretty much everything else the Surge can do. The text and music functionality is cool I guess, but I personally found the text option annoying and turned it off. When I don’t have my phone near, it means I don’t want to be bothered with it, so being buzzed each time I get a text even when I purposely put my phone aside, feels like an infringement on my personal time.

If you’re like me and are just interested in tracking your steps so you can move more, than save your money and stick with the lower-end models, they’ll suit you just fine.