Moroccan Chicken Salad


Loaded-Moroccan-Chicken-Salad California Pizza Kitchen is hands down, Syd’s favorite place to eat. The kid would be content to eat their mac n cheese every single day for the rest of his life. Or at least until his taste buds evolve a bit. My point being, whenever there’s a special occasion to celebrate and we leave the option up to Syd, we eat at CPK. Their food isn’t anything remarkable, but we all leave feeling full and happy because the kids love the food and we love how close it is to our house, and that the volume in there is always loud enough to mask our noisy kids. Their gluten free menu is decent, and I flip flop between ordering a certified gluten free pizza, and this Moroccan chicken salad. I love this salad so much that I had to recreate it myself at home, and I’m quite pleased to say my version is even better than the one they serve, thanks to a yummy garam masala blend coating the chicken, and a flavor packed dressing.
morroccan-chicken-salad3 Let’s be completely honest here, anyone else find salads to be a complete pain in the arse to put together? Sort of like sandwiches too, they seem to taste so much better when someone else is making them, but I promise that your return on investment here is plentiful. To make things a bit easier, I roasted the beets and butternut squash as well as the chicken all together on the same big roasting sheet, and while those things were roasting, I prepped the rest of my ingredients.
morroccan-chicken-salad2 You’ll want to roast 1 very large beet, 1 smaller butternut squash, and 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts. This will allow you to make a very large salad that will easily serve two as a main dish. My mom and I ate this for lunch the day I made it to shoot, but if you’re flying solo, go ahead and cut the quantities in half. If you don’t add all the dressing though, there’s no reason you can’t pack away the leftovers and enjoy this 2 days in a row. morroccan-chicken-salad-ingredients So that your beets don’t color the squash and chicken, keep all three items separated on the sheet pan, which should be no problem if you’re using a large pan. Because you roast the veggies at 400 for a good 30 minutes, but you don’t want to cook the chicken that high for that long for risk of drying it out, I went ahead and cooked the veggies solo at 400 for 20 minutes, then added the chicken breasts and continued cooking for another 10 minutes until the veggies were done. At that point I took out the veggies, lowered the heat to 350 and cooked the chicken for another 10-15 minutes or so. As I type this out, it seems rather complicated but I swear it was easy in the moment. If you don’t want to keep track of pulling things in and out of the oven or adjusting oven temps, say to hell with my method and just cook the veggies and chicken separately. By the way, one of the best parts of this salad is the flavorful chicken, which I achieved by rubbing the breasts in some olive oil, a store bought garam masala blend, and to add more flavor and color, 1/4 tsp of turmeric. You can find premade garam masala at most grocery stores, or if you have a well-stocked spice rack, you can make your own blend. You can of course leave your breasts plain, but why would you want to?

There are so many beautiful and delicious fixings in this salad that you may be wondering if they’re all completely necessary. I’d say of course not and would let you off the hook if you’re missing a thing or two, but I will assert that besides the essential chicken, beets and squash, you won’t want to skimp on the almonds for some crunch (use standard almonds if you can’t find Marcona), and the dates for some sweetness. The addition of the craisins, carrots and maybe even the egg aren’t completely crucial, but of course each adds their own depth of flavor. Being from California and all, I’d have to say that the creaminess from the avocado is also non-negotiable.  moroccan-chicken-salad You’ll find that your salad may become quite beet and squash heavy if you add the whole thing, so just go ahead and add about a cup of each and reserve leftovers for another day and another use, you should have no problem making good use of both. If all else fails and you’re feeling lazy the next day after throwing together this monumental salad, just pop them in your mouth one by one and consider that your lunch. However, if you have feta or goat cheese on hand, combine the leftover veggies with a bit of cheese and maybe even some simple spinach leaves and you have a more dignified lunch.

You may recognize the dressing from the Harvest Carrot Quinoa Salad of last year, and comes together quite quickly and easily. You won’t have any leftovers of the dressing, so I suggest making a double batch and storing it in an airtight container in your fridge, it’s that good and wonderful to have on hand always. This particular dressing by the way really elevates the flavor of the salad and is one of the main reasons why this version is better than the restaurant version. morroccan-chicken-salad1 Once you’ve peeled and chopped and sliced and roasted all your ingredients, you’re finally able to put them all together and enjoy the fruits of your labor. I promise this salad is worth the extra effort and it will quickly become a favorite I’m sure. Find the printable recipe below, and of course please let me know if you make this lovely dish and how you liked it.

Moroccan Chicken Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This satisfying main dish salad is loaded with flavor, texture, nutrients and plenty of protein.
Recipe type: Main Dish Salad
Serves: 2
  • 1 small head of romaine lettuce or romaine hearts, chopped
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, roasted
  • 1 small carrot, shredded
  • 1 large beet, peeled, cubed and roasted
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, cubed and roasted
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • ¼ cup Marcona or plain almonds
  • ¼ cup dates, chopped
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 6 tbsp divided in thirds olive oil
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp each coriander and cumin
  • 1 tbsp garam masala blend
  • ¼ tsp powdered turmeric
  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 400 and preparing your squash and beets to roast by tossing them each separately in 2 tbsp of olive oil and a tsp of maple syrup. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and spread out on a roasting or sheet pan, and roast for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Lower heat of oven to 350 and season your chicken breasts in 2 tbsp of olive oil, the garam masala and turmeric. Toss to coat and place on a sheet pan and cook for 20-30 minutes. Cut in slices when cool enough to handle.
  3. See note in post if you'd like to cook your chicken with your vegetables.
  4. As your veggies and chicken cook, prepare the rest of your ingredients by slicing egg, chopping up dates, cubing the avocado and shredding the carrots.
  5. To make dressing, whisk together 2 tbsp olive oil, lemon juice and cumin & coriander.
  6. Assemble salad ingredients and toss in dressing to coat. Serve immediately and chow down!


My Revamped Safe & Carefree Makeup Collection


safe-and-carefree-makeup-collection                                               acrylic countertop makeup tray by Caboodle

I’ve been slowly working on revamping my makeup collection for the last year, and after making a few more purchases in the last few weeks, I’ve finally arrived at an assortment I feel good about. To be clear and transparent, this is an assortment of products that I feel good about, and while some may not view them all as safe or clean enough, I am really proud of the progress I’ve made in this department. I am always striving for progress, not perfection, and so in a year this assortment may look a bit or a lot different, but for now this is where I am, and I love each and every one of these products.

After revamping what I put in my body with a food overhaul, an overhaul of what I put on my body was a natural progression. While I at first didn’t give it much thought, when I eventually began looking into the cosmetics industry and the ingredient listing of the many products I was using on a daily basis, I was more than a bit disappointed. Here’s a few key takeaways in case you’re wondering why you may want to revamp some or all of your own routine, to products which contain no harmful ingredients.

  • The United States has not passed a federal law to regulate the ingredients in personal care products since 1938.
  • The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FFDCA) includes 112 pages of standards for food and drugs, but just a single page for cosmetics.
  • Of the 10,000+ ingredients used in personal care products, only about 10% of them have safety data.
  • In the absence of government authority, the safety of personal care product ingredients is evaluated through a voluntary industry program known as the Cosmetic Ingredient Review process. Not only is this program run by the very industry it is intended to oversee, but compliance with CIR recommendations is totally voluntary.
  • Many ingredients commonly used in personal care products have been found to be carcinogenic, cause reproductive issues, and skin irritations. To see a list of the most commonly used ingredients to avoid, view this list of Chemicals of Concern, or print out Beautycounter’s “The Never List.”

Now enough with the bad news, let’s get into the fun stuff. Note that in determining the safety of each of these products, I referred to both the Environmental Working Group’s site Skin Deep as well as Campaign for Safe Cosmetic’s Think Dirty App. Because I found conflicting ratings for some products, I’m not going to include ratings for each item, but in general my max threshold rating is a 4 for Skin Deep, and a 5 for Think Dirty. All of these products rate somewhere between 1-4 or 5. If the product was not found on either site, I referred to the ingredients and cross referenced to the never list, so none of these contain the big bad ingredients that commonly make headlines; parabens, phthalates, resorcinol, mineral oil, BHA/BHT, etc. Phew, all that to say, I think I’ve done the best I can with my limited knowledge and resources. I will never claim to be an expert “green chemist” so pardon any mistakes, and as always I encourage you to do your own research and proceed in a way you feel most comfortable.

safe-&-carefree-beauty-products3 Face:
Beautycounter Tint Skin Linen – I replaced my Shiseido BB cream for this product and don’t have a single regret. The best sort of tinted moisturizer I’ve ever used, although they don’t necessarily call it a tinted moisturizer, I love that I can apply a single coat for fresh and light coverage, or can add a second application for coverage you’d expect from a foundation. I know it doesn’t have SPF in it, but since I already use a daily SPF moisturizer, I’m not concerned.

Tarte Maracuja Creaseless Concealer (I also used the Tarte Colored Clay CC Undereye Corrector and liked that as well) – I can’t really say I have a favorite between Tarte’s concealer or corrector, and really just tried out this concealer because they were out of the other product. Great coverage without being drying or cakey.

Tarte Clean Slate Smoothing Primer – full disclosure here, I got this as a gift with purchase and so far I like it a lot, although since I try to keep my routine as simple as possible these days, not sure I’ll continue using it after this full sized sample runs out. Great product however, if you do find the need for an all over primer under your foundation.

Beautycounter Retractable Complexion Coverage Brush & Flat Complexion Brush  – I’m going to go ahead and embarrass myself by saying that this little round complexion brush is the bomb! It applies the Tint Skin evenly and quickly since it’s so large, and the flat brush is great for applying a second layer to achieve full foundation coverage. Having used a flat brush for years, I’d say right now I’m preferring the big round brush, but both are fantastic.
safe-&-carefree-beauty-products4 Cheeks:
Beautycounter Color Sweep Blush Duo in Tawny/Whisper – A nice color duo for the coming spring and summer months, I use the darker bronze color to contour my cheeks and jaw line, and apply the lighter rose color on my cheeks. I do love the Bloom/Tulip color duo as well though and think I’ll eventually add that for some variety.

Beautycounter Angled Brush & Powder Brush – I use the angle brush for contouring and the powder brush for all over color. If you’re in need of new brushes, may as well buy the set. You can’t go wrong, these brushes are top notch. safe-&-carefree-beauty-products-5
Tarte Volumizing Brow Powder – after years of using eyeshadow to fill in my brows, I finally purchased actual brow powder and not a day goes by that I haven’t used this stuff and loved my brows because of it. Goes on easily, but even better, blends in so it looks completely natural and flawless.

Beautycounter Color Shade Eye Duos in Oyster/Amethyst and Pearl/Champagne – great basic colors, I apply the pearl/champagne all over my lid, and then the amethyst in the crease, and the oyster pink on my inner lid. Love how fresh and natural my eyes look with these colors.

Tarte Gifted Smart Mascara – I’ve been using Tarte’s Lights Camera Lashes for the past 4 months or so, and when I recently ran out I decided to give the Gifted tube a try. I love both equally as much, only discerning factor, if it’s important to you, is Gifted rates a notch better in safety, than Lights Camera Lashes.

Tarte SmolderEYES Waterproof Liner in Moonstone Brown – I have to say I haven’t found a liner I love as much as my old Lancome standby, but this will do alright for now. Goes on really creamy and blends well, only problem is it’s so soft that the sharpener never makes a fine edge, so I never get a thin and defined line. Great for a thicker, and/or smudgier eye though.

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion in Eden – just can’t give this stuff up, I tried to switch brands but ended up returning both products and went back to this. Rates a 4 on Skin Deep and Urban Decay is strongly committed to being cruelty free, so why bother switching? Just because a company doesn’t overtly advertise or claim to be “natural” or whatever, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. Something to keep in mind.

Beautycounter All Over Eye Brush & Crease Eye Brush – great brushes for all over and crease application.

MAC contour shadow brush (very old) – I’ve had this brush for about 15 years, I don’t think they even sell it anymore, but it is the best for heavy color application in the crease, and so I will hold onto it forever.

Anastasia Dual Eyebrow Brush – this brush, along with the brow powder, is one hell of a dynamic duo. Apply with the angle side, and blend with the round bristly side, this brush is all sorts of amazing. Love, love, love it!

safe-&-carefree-beauty-products It Cosmetics Naturally Pretty Eye Palette – there is very limited information on It Cosmetics, but they are cruelty free and the ingredient listing read okay, nothing on the never list, so I went with this beautiful assortment of colors and can’t rave about it enough. The pearl color in the lower right corner gives any of the matte colors a pearlescent sheen. By the way, I technically didn’t get rid of my NAKED palette picutred above, as it rates okay on Skin Deep and like I said, Urban Decay is crueltry free. I just needed a break from the shimmery tonal colors, after using that palette for over 2 years straight. It was time to give it a break, and so it sits in my cupboard for the time being.   safe-&-carefree-beauty-products-2
The Honest Company Organic Lip Balm in lavender mint – this lip balm is creamy and totally moisturizing, and tastes good too.

Beautycounter Lip Shine – this is a great lip gloss on its own, or to apply over the lip sheers to enhance and deepen the colors.

Beautycounter Lip Sheers in Plum, Twig & Scarlet – it was hard to choose just a few to start with, but these colors are a great assortment, with Twig being a perfect minimal daytime color, and Plum and Scarlet being a bit more intense and bold.

Beautycounter Lip Conditioner in Peppermint – I love how thinly this goes on, but still provides ample moisture. I put this on my lips under the lip sheers to achieve a more sheer color tone. Also great on its own of course.

Tarte lipcolors from left to right – Plummy Rose, Blushing Bride, Warm Golden Pink, Lively & Fiery – these all have a bit of a different texture, something you may find great or confusing about Tarte’s lip color assortment in general. Plummy Rose goes on super creamy, the gloss is of course a gloss, and the Warm Golden Pink is also very creamy. Lively and Fiery are from their matte collection, therefore go on with a lot of saturation and almost stain the lip, so very long lasting. May at times feel drying though.

Tarte Universal Lip Liner – a great liner for a wide range of colors, the only one it hasn’t worked with so far is my Scarlet lip sheer.

Burt’s Bees Lip Crayons in Hawaiian Smolder & Carolina Coast – most likely because these crayons are still so new, they weren’t found in either of the databases, But since most of their lip colors rate fairly well and safe, I’m taking a leap of faith that these will too when they’re eventually rated.

You probably noticed that the vast majority of the selection is Tarte and Beautycounter. This is sort of on accident, but also on purpose. I didn’t set out to solely use these two brands, it just sort of happened that way after using multiple products. I love that Tarte is so widely available, from Amazon to Sephora to Ulta, which is within walking distance to my house. And after hearing so many good things about Beautycounter over the last year, I decided to finally give them a try. After all I love their advocacy mission and the fact that they’ve taken the legwork out of finding safe products thanks to their strict ingredient safety standards. In the short 4 weeks since I began using their products, I’ve quickly become hooked to many of them (FYI, their shampoo and conditioner are INCREDIBLE!). I’m always open to trying other brands both small and large, so don’t be surprised as my assortment will eventually evolve I’m sure. This is pretty much a minimalist assortment for me after all.

And if you’re concerned about ordering cosmetics sight unseen online from Beautycounter, don’t fret because they have a 30 day no questions asked return policy, so you can try out a product and easily return it if you don’t love it. So far I’ve only had to return the Tint Skin in a wrong color. If you think you may want to try a few of their products, I suggest becoming a member of the Beautycounter Band of Beauty – you pay a $25 annual fee, $10 of which is allocated to one of their nonprofits. In return you receive $25 in reward money for every $300 purchase, free shipping on orders over $100, and special pricing on one of their most popular packages. Or you can join as a consultant, which is what I did. The cost is $85 and you get a discount on all products, and the ability to sell your favorite products to friends and family. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go with the “socials” concept, but I do love the added perks. Let me know if you have questions about either program.

Okay, I think I’ve covered everything! Please let me know if you have any questions at all. I’ll soon be covering my updated skin and beauty routine as well, so stay tuned.

Cooking With Kids and 10 Foods They Can Master By 10


Cooking-with-kids-plus-10-foods-they-can-master-by-10 This past weekend a monumental feat was achieved; one of our children took over meal time and cooked a full 4 course meal for the family, grandparents included. A few days prior, she had rediscovered our copy of The Silver Spoon for Children , and took a keen interest in it. I had purchased it at some point last year, and she barely gave it a glance, even when I offered to help her cook a few things from it. So when the other day, she prepared a whole menu from the book, complete with appetizers and dessert, I eagerly encouraged the experiment.IMG_0364 , and took a keen interest in it. I had purchased it at some point last year, and she barely gave it a glance, even when I offered to help her cook a few things from it. So when the other day, she prepared a whole menu from the book, complete with appetizers and dessert, I eagerly encouraged the experiment. IMG_0376

On the menu was a basic tomato bruschetta on toasted baguette, a beautiful white bean & tuna salad with pine nuts and leeks, ham and peas over tagliatelle pasta, and for dessert, cookie & cocoa stuffed peaches and vanilla bean ice cream. Sounds incredible, right? I made her write down her grocery list and I did the shopping for her. She did most of the prep work all by herself, with some help from me here and there. IMG_0379 IMG_0388 IMG_0389

Considering she’s 9 years old, almost 10, she did pretty well in the time management department, getting an early start by 4pm and delivering the first appetizer course by 4:30, and the salad was plated by 5. We ate our main dish by about 5:45, and dessert was prepped and in the oven by 6:15. The only glitch was her not realizing the peaches needed to bake for 1 hour, putting us a bit behind schedule for bed time routine, being it was a school night. IMG_0399 IMG_0401 IMG_0403

While she could have done a few things a bit more efficiently, like chopping all ingredients at once or thoroughly reading through recipe directions so she would’ve caught the hour long cooking time, she definitely learned by her few missteps. I mention this not because I am being critical, because believe me I am beyond proud of her, but because I was really impressed that she realized how and where to improve for next time. For the most part I tried to not get in her way and let her do her own thing, only offering suggestions as she asked for them or appeared in trouble a bit. The vast majority of all the chopping and measuring was done by her, and the main areas I helped her with were boiling the pasta, manning the sauce for the pasta, which required a lot of stirring, and Art helped her scoop out the flesh from the peaches. IMG_0407

I’ve been cooking with the kids on and off since they were in preschool, and they’ve been using special Montessori type cutting tools like this Wavy Chopper Knife to chop and dice foods. Just in the last year though have we let Taylor venture into the real knife territory, and believe me it’s scary, but I’ve been impressed at how fast she’s learned and how well she now handles a knife. For the most part though I try to discourage use of my steel Wusthof knives, and instead encourage use of my super lightweight Kyocera ceramic knife. It’s a lot more manageable for her to use, and if she were to slip, it’s more likely she’d suffer a clean cut rather than a major gash, possibly hitting bone. I try not to hover, but do routinely remind her how to properly hold a knife and to keep her fingers out of harm’s way.By the way, this Kai Little Chef Club Children’s Stainless Steel Knife looks interesting. IMG_0419 to chop and dice foods. Just in the last year though have we let Taylor venture into the real knife territory, and believe me it’s scary, but I’ve been impressed at how fast she’s learned and how well she now handles a knife. For the most part though I try to discourage use of my steel Wusthof knives, and instead encourage use of my super lightweight Kyocera ceramic knife. It’s a lot more manageable for her to use, and if she were to slip, it’s more likely she’d suffer a clean cut rather than a major gash, possibly hitting bone. I try not to hover, but do routinely remind her how to properly hold a knife and to keep her fingers out of harm’s way.By the way, this Kai Little Chef Club Children’s Stainless Steel Knife looks interesting. IMG_0420

Overall, dinner was seriously spectacular and we were all ridiculously impressed with not only how good the meal tasted, from start to finish, but how well she handled the whole thing. Towards the end she got tired, but she never failed to eagerly bound out of her chair at the end of each course, buzzing into the kitchen to start the next course, telling us she “didn’t want to keep her guests waiting.”  She offered to get us drinks, checked in to see how we were enjoying our food, and even managed to set the table. All in all, she was a gracious hostess. Of course the clean-up fell in my lap while Art got the kids ready for bed, but I didn’t mind since I was still beaming with pride for my aspiring chef. IMG_0425

Since we’re on the subject of kids cooking, I thought I’d share 10 of the foods Taylor has mastered cooking, right before her 10th birthday. While she’s been whipping up a couple of these items for awhile, most of them she has learned to cook in just the past year. She’s not quite a tween, but quickly approaching, and thus can be quite self-centered. However when she’s in the kitchen, she completely has a heart of servitude and happily makes these items for the whole family to share. Being in the kitchen is a good grounding point for her, not because she’s a girl and cooking is what girls do, but because it allows her to do something she genuinely enjoys, which in turn helps the whole family out. It’s also given her an incredible amount of confidence and allowed her to feel in control, which has been so important for her this past year, which has had its fair share of challenges. Mastering these small dishes is also what allowed her to feel confident and capable of cooking an entire meal for her family.

Pancakes – kids learn so much by making this simple breakfast dish; from measuring and mixing just the right amount, to carefully minding the hot griddle (she only got burned once before she learned to diligently pay attention to arm and finger placement).

Cereal & Oatmeal – simple, no brainer foods that allow her to feel like a rockstar when she can serve herself and her brothers breakfast early Saturday morning, and settle in with a bowl to watch some cartoons.

Toast with butter & jam or cinnamon sugar – learning to work quick so the butter can easily smear on the warm bread, and being strategic with jam or cinnamon sugar placement, so that the sweetness does not overpower the yummy creaminess of the butter, there’s lots of valuable lessons to be learned in toast making.

French toast – she graduated from pancakes to French toast rather quickly, and while she doesn’t make this dish often, as she doesn’t like her hands to get messy from the dipping of the bread in the egg wash, she always feels quite proud after whipping up a batch.

Chocolate chip cookies – probably her favorite thing to make, and my least favorite because of the flour dust she leaves everywhere, she’s gotten so good at making chocolate chip cookies that she can even make them using coconut oil and maple syrup.

Coffee – probably my favorite thing she makes, Taylor loves making coffee for us on the weekend and easily transitioned from using the Keurig to the Chemex without a hitch. No complaints over here, that’s for sure!

Salads – Taylor loves salads and in learning to make them, she’s gotten quite good at chopping and dicing, and has learned to expand her taste horizons by combining whichever veggies we have on hand, although she still has not acquired a taste for cucumbers or mushrooms.

Scrambled eggs – a dish she’ll make for the rest of her life, not something she’s made more than a couple of times, but still, a valuable meal to have in her cooking repertoire.

Wontons – this is kind of a random one, but last summer she became quite obsessed with making the veggie wontons out of It’s All Good, and mastered them in just one short session. I posted several videos of her creating perfectly formed wontons, and declared them so easy to make, even an 8 year old could make them!

Smoothies – she’s into making smoothies, big time lately. She grabs some frozen fruit, coconut water, spinach and either hemp or chia seeds, and goes to town. Her best concoction is pineapple, strawberries & mango with spinach, coconut water and hemp seeds.

Now, if only I could get her to be as interested in cleaning up her messes, as she is in making them.

Do any of your kids cook, and if so, how did you get them interested and what have they mastered?


Working With An Integrative Doctor & My Treatment Protocol


working-with-an-integrative-doctor About three weeks ago, I felt the best I had felt in a long time, finding myself with enough energy to make it to workout class or yoga six times that week. I had been on a gradual upswing of energy during the day for a few months, and I was hopeful that this latest boost of motivation was a sign of the tides turning. What followed after that very physical week though was a crash in energy which I’m still trying to rebound from. And this is pretty much the story of my life lately, up and down, day in and day out. I always work to keep things in perspective, and so I know things could definitely be worse, but I’m just so tired of feeling fine one day, and terrible the next.

While an in-depth post updating you on my health may not be the sexiest of subjects to cover and may in fact be a snooze fest for some, I do hope that this update is helpful. I know so many of the women I hear from via email, online and on Instagram can relate to what I’ve been going through, and even if you’re in tip-top shape, perhaps some of this information may help you help someone you care about. Having just come back from a follow-up appointment with my integrative doctor/naturopath, I wanted to give you a brief run-down of what’s going on, and encourage you to seek out help if your story feels eerily similar to mine.

An update on Hashimoto’s
The last you heard from me about my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, I was basically told by my endocrinologist we’d have to take the “wait and see” approach, which is not atypical for many diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. The nature of the disease is that the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing the thyroid gland to go into overdrive, resulting in a hyperactive thyroid state, until it eventually burns out and then it becomes hypoactive. My TSH levels were in fact indicating I was in hyperactive mode, but they were not so bad that they required medication. Because of this state of limbo, my endocrinologist very strongly felt that there was nothing we could do besides wait until my thyroid was damaged enough, to really send my levels out of whack. Besides, my symptoms were more in line with hypoactive thyroid; fatigue, brain fog, sadness and other states of moodiness. Medicating me I agreed, did not seem like the right thing to do, but to do absolutely nothing felt really wrong as well. This feeling of unease is what prompted me to seek out an integrative doctor. By the way, during this time my doctor also ordered me to have a thyroid scan, which is basically a high power X-ray, to confirm what exactly my thyroid was doing, since blood work indicated hyperactive, but my symptoms indicated hypoactive. This procedure cost me $1400 after billed through insurance and I’m now on a 1 year payment plan with the hospital to pay off this test I had no idea was so damn expensive. I almost threw up when I got that bill and I tell you all this because when we get into the costs of the integrative doctor below, I wanted you to have a clear picture of the costs involved in both types of treatment; conventional medicine and the more holistic approach.

Meeting with an Integrative Doctor
On December 16th of last year, I met with local integrative doctor Dr. Kelly McCann, referred to me by Sarah. I never got around to writing about my first experience with her, but very briefly I can tell you it was very positive. To join her practice I had to pay a $350 fee. Because she is a MD, office visits are billed through insurance, but she unfortunately has an additional office visit fee of $70-$85, so I pay for my usual copay and her office visit fee. This at first feels outrageous and ludicrous, but I soon came to find out what I was paying for. Before my appointment, her staff had done the legwork of tracking down all of my latest lab results, and had contacted each doctor I had recently visited (hematologist, endocrinologist, and ENT) to get my charts. She had reviewed my entire history on paper before I even stepped foot into her office, and had also reviewed my extensive 45 page enrollment packet. She pretty much already knew what was going on with me before I even stepped foot in her office, so that our 1 hour visit could be all about getting to work on a treatment plan. After that first visit, she put me on a basic protocol to support thyroid function and help boost my immune system after all of my recurrent strep infections in the last year. She also ordered more tests, some were covered by insurance and some were not. Because I was trying to be cost-effective, I spread out the tests over the last 2 months, and waited until all test results were in before I went in for my follow-up visit. They will review test results over the phone with you, but because they don’t just tell you your results and send you on your way, but rather go over a treatment protocol, there is a fee for such phone calls. Hence, my reason for just waiting for a single visit. By the way, she wholeheartedly felt it was best to maintain a gluten free diet, something it is believed most individuals with any autoimmune disease, but especially Hashimoto’s, should do. I have my slips here and there, but for the most part I’d say I’m eating gluten free about 70% of the time.

Current symptoms
Honestly, the last few months, since about November, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my energy during the day, which I’m so grateful for. I am still crashing by 6 pm though, and most nights I’m in bed by 8:30, fast asleep by 9. On nights I don’t get to bed early, I pay for it the next day in a very big way. My brain fog comes and goes, some weeks I feel on top of my game, but days like the ones I had last week, where I completely forgot 2 very important events, show that I can still be quite flakey. Sleep has improved since getting my new mattress, but I still find myself 2-3 nights a week, wide awake and up for the day at 4 am. My motivation is nowhere near what it used to be, and I’m forcing myself to say no more and more, but I get little spurts here and there, usually when I have a toddler screaming at me and can’t do much about my streaks of creativity. Bottom line, life is not terrible and my health is overall, very good. I’m just not the same person I used to be, and at 38, I’d like to do what I can to make the most of the many good years I still have left in me.

Tests & follow up
Based on my symptoms, the doctor ordered further blood work, tests that were tailored to my needs so not really worth getting into, and she also ordered a saliva and urine neuroscience test from Pharmasan Labs. Most of the blood work was covered by insurance, but the neuroscience test was not and cost $279. The neuroscience test is used for reading the levels of all our neurotransmitters including serotonin, GABA, glycine, glutamate, histamine, PEA, dopamine, dorepinephrine and epinephrine and I had to submit 2 separate urine samples and 4 saliva samples, all taken at key times throughout the day. I had to fast for 12 hours before the test began, and could not eat, drink or chew on anything for 1 hour before each sample was taken. I recorded the times on a sheet provided, and stored the samples in vials provided by the lab, then immediately shipped them off to the lab the next day. I believe anyone can take this test, however I do think you need a doctor to sign the lab slip. Visit their website for more information.

Key areas of concern were low serotonin and epinephrine levels, and high norepinephrine levels. Clinical correlations for these high and low levels would likely result in difficulty sleeping, fatigue, anxiousness, low mood, difficulty paying attention , focusing and thinking clearly, and lack of motivation. My adrenal hormone levels were also tested, and found that they were very low in the morning, when they are supposed to be high, likely causing me to feel very groggy and slow to wake and be alert in the morning, and began rising just a bit at night, when they were supposed to be dropping, most likely contributing to those 2-4 am wakings. From this list you’d think I’d be a mess, but I feel I manage fairly well. Of course some days I have a portion of these symptoms, but I usually don’t feel all these symptoms at once.

The key takeaway here is that these test results aren’t necessarily linked to the Hashimoto’s, so just about any of you reading this could be suffering from these symptoms as a result of these disruptions. This is a big reason why I wanted to write all this out, to let you know that the symptoms you may pass off as mom fatigue and mom brain, may be a sign of something else going on. These tests and appointments are a burdensome expense and time consuming, so I don’t want to encourage you to get a whole battery of unneeded tests done, but if you’ve been feeling more than off for an extended period of time, and your life allows, please seek help.

I’m not one to look for problems and I promise you I’m not a hypochondriac, in fact I hate going to the doctors and prior to all this rarely found a need to visit a doctor other than for my annual well woman exam. But after my day to day quality of life being impacted for more than a year, I desperately wanted to get to the heart of this problem. I hope we’ve now found the root cause. Oh! And another thing they discovered is that I still have strep in my system! So another course of antibiotics and follow up tests to hopefully wipe it out this time.

I also wanted to tell you this whole long story so you can see the purpose of integrative doctors. They are programmed to think outside the medical box and look a bit deeper. For months my endocrinologist was telling me over and over that my symptoms don’t match my TSH levels and basic Hashimoto’s symptoms, and never delved further. Now that I’ve had these other tests completed, my chronic fatigue and brain fog was more likely a result of my neurotransmitter levels being out of whack and the beginning of adrenal fatigue. It all makes a lot more sense now. Had I not gone and seen this Integrative Doc, I’d likely still be banging my head against the wall wondering why my symptoms were not matching the textbook.

Treatment Protocol
So now begins the process of taking lots of supplements, for what will hopefully be a rather short period of time, to help my body get back on track. Here’s the breakdown of the protocol:
Week 1:
Calm PRT: 3 capsules before bedtime to help lower my cortisol levels.
Travacor: 1 capsule 30 minutes before bedtime to help build up the serotonin levels.
Week 2:
Continue with Calm PRT and Travacor, and add the following.
Focus DL : 1-2 capsules before breakfast and 1-2 capsules before lunch to help with brain fog and mental clarity.
A-Drenal: 2 capsules before breakfast and 2 capsules before lunch to help build up the adrenal glands and support adrenal hormones.
Other treatment, both temporary and permanent:
Vitamin D 5000 IU : 1 capsule daily
Continue with daily selenium to support thyroid function.
Amoxicillin 10 day course to rid body of strep antibodies, and Lauricidin Monolaurin for 1 month to serve as an antimicrobial to help further rid the body of strep.
Probiotics and magnesium are on hold for the time being because they’re both messing with my bowel movements too much, causing me to get extremely constipated. I’m also going to stop taking my LLV pack from doTerra because I just can’t take anymore pills!

It’s a lot and I feel like a crazy person for going down this road, but I’m willing to try anything at this point to restore as much of the old me as possible. If you ask friends and family members who know me well, especially Art, they’d tell you I’m usually a go-getter who can thrive off of huge workloads and 6 hours of sleep. While this last year of extreme slowing down has been good for me in so many ways, forcing me to say “no” more and rid my life of extreme busyness, I’d like to at least return to the days where I could go out on a date with my husband and not feel like falling asleep during dinner. It would also be nice to not want to rip my hair out during bath time or being so tired by the end of the day I feel physically ill.

And to be honest, I also vacillate between feeling proud of myself for being my own advocate and seeking answers and treatment, and other times I feel like a giant jerk for taking all these tests and ordering expensive fancy supplements. This is all so different from how I was raised, in a world of affordable in-network Kaiser healthcare, and a good dose of “suck it up.” My parents just about fell over when I told them I had just spent close to $200 on supplements. By the way, don’t buy your supplements direct from your doctor, find them online instead, where you’ll save yourself at least 20%.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m going to order all my supplements on Amazon today and begin taking my antibiotics today as well. The naturopath is hopeful that I’ll only have to be on this complete regimen for 3 months, and after that we’ll scale it back to the basics. I’ll certainly keep you all posted, but in the meantime, please let me know if I can answer any questions. Thanks as always for your support and virtual high fives. You guys are awesome.

How I Find Time To Cook


How-I-Find-Time-To-Cook That old familiar saying about only 2 certainties in life being death and taxes, should be amended to include 3 certainties – death, taxes, and cooking, because we all must eat. And unless you plan to eat take-out for the remainder of your life, someone’s gotta do it, so why not try to at least enjoy the process? Granted, there are some who seem to be born with an innate joy for the love of cooking, but as Tamar Adler wrote in An Everlasting Meal, none are really born with an innate skill of cooking, but rather, it’s a path we take; “Instinct, whether on the ground or in the kitchen, is not a destination but a path.” But this post isn’t really about enjoying cooking, or even being good at it. It’s about finding the time to cook; but if you find the time to cook I can almost guarantee with utmost certainty that you will not only become a better cook, you will also grow to enjoy it more and more.

So how do I find time to cook, and more so, how do I find time to add variety and uniqueness to our weekly menus? Well, each week it’s hit and miss for us, and some weeks I find myself bounding out of bed to get some vegetables roasting in the oven before the house wakes up, and some weeks I find myself approaching my stove with great resentment. I would imagine these fluctuating feelings are very common for any home cook, so I ride the tide and know that sooner or later, my joy will return. But after getting asked time and time again, I finally decided to take some notes and figure out how I manage to find time to squeeze in cooking, add variance to our weekly meal plans, and keep my sanity at the same time. Here are a few of the things that instantly came to mind, when I consider my process and schedule. And let me say, I wish I had an easy-follow guide which would list step by step, hour by hour, when and where I fit in cooking time to my schedule, so forgive me if you were expecting something like that in this post. Rather today, I’d like to share more about general thoughts and tips on finding time to cook.  FTLO-64

Also, please keep in mind that I now work part time from home, therefore I am allowed a ton more flexibility than many working women, and I fully understand that. Having been a full time working mom outside the home for a good part of my years of mothering, I know that I relied tremendously on a working partnership between our caregivers and my spouse. I’d often leave food prepped, along with a recipe, and would cajole my mother in law into getting dinner going for me, or I’d leave things cooking in the crock pot. Of course whomever got home first was always responsible for getting dinner going. But even back then, getting dinner on the table always revolved around teamwork, easy, often packaged type meals, and being prepared, and so we’ll start with that.

Meal planning – Failing to prepare is preparing to fail should be the home cook’s mantra. It’s a pain in the neck but it will be the only thing that saves you when you’re crunched for time and feeling less than enthusiastic about cooking. I usually take about 30-45 minutes on the weekend to go through my cookbooks and Pinterest boards, and find maybe 1-2 new recipes to try, usually based off cuts of meat I know I have on hand. I also consider our schedule for the week and plan meals around sporting events and celebrations, knowing that we’ll be more apt to eat out or at someone’s house. This saves me money at the grocery store, on fresh produce that will go bad if we’re not around enough. I put one day for leftovers, one day for eating out, and suddenly I’m only down to 4-5 dinners to cook, as opposed to 7. This numbers game helps tremendously with my mental attitude and makes it seem much more achievable. I don’t plan for breakfasts or even lunches, just stock up each week on our usual rotations of items we eat; bagels, salad for greens, sweet potatoes for roasting, yogurt, etc. Honestly, it’s not a perfect system and some weeks I don’t even meal plan until Wednesday, just to get us through the weekend, but it’s a necessity and I can’t seem to function without a plan now. Any specific questions about meal planning?

I read and collect cookbooks – So I usually only rotate through 3-5 cookbooks at any given time, but I own at least 10 cookbooks I know I can fall back on at any given time. Right now, I keep the following out on my counter because I use them so much: The Williams Sonoma The New Slow Cooker cookbook, IT’S ALL GOOD, Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple, America’s Test Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2 and their new The Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution. I know that I can flip through any of these cookbooks and within minutes, find something I can add to the weekly meal plan that will be delicious and family-friendly. I also make it a habit of any time I get a new cookbook, I read through as much of it as possible, and make mental notes or place sticky tabs on pages of recipes I’d like to try. I may not always remember exactly, but I’ll often recall seeing a recipe during one of these browsing sessions, which sounded good and would fix a craving, or used an interesting cut of meat I have sitting in my freezer. I also use my cookbooks by the index a lot. If I have a certain grain on hand that I’d like to finally use, or some other ingredient, I’ll do index searches in any of these books, looking for a specific recipe to try that makes use of these ingredients. If this may sound like a lot of work or a pain in the butt, I promise you get used to it. It’s really just a different way of thinking, and really doesn’t take up any extra time in your day, if you just swap one activity, like browsing Facebook, for browsing your cookbooks. Not that there’s anything wrong with Facebook, as I find a lot of great recipes on there…but we all know when we’ve stayed too long, and when I find myself seeing the same thing in my news feed, I tell myself it’s time to move on and do something more productive 😉

making-time-for-cooking Leftovers – Real people eat leftovers, plain and simple haha! I can’t believe how many people I still hear don’t like leftovers or refuse to eat leftovers. Get over it is what I tell them! Leftover nights in our house are a freaking life saver for me, and I am so eternally thankful for them. Plus side is, everyone gets to pick and choose what they want that night, and everyone can usually find something that makes them happy.

Don’t be afraid to eat out – We eat out at least one night a week, sometimes two, and I want to kiss my server or cashier each time we roll through Chipotle or some other restaurant, and I don’t have to do dishes. There’s no fault in eating out and allowing yourself a break, so if your budget allows for it, plan for it.

No recipe meals – these are the meals you can prepare off the cuff, without a recipe on hand. Ground turkey, marinara sauce and pasta, some healthy sausages, rice and broccoli. You get the idea. Each night of the week doesn’t have to look like a restaurant worthy meal or something you’d see on Ultimate Chef. Simple, no recipe meals save me at least 1-2 nights a week.

Crockpot Meals – Fortunately for my family, I’m an early riser and naturally wake up at least an hour before the whole house wakes up. If I don’t go to the gym, I’ll often start a crockpot meal, or at least prep it so I can easily toss it together later in the day. And now that Goop has written about crockpots, I guess they’re on trend ha?! Dig out your crockpot or buy a new one; they’ll last forever and save you much heartache. Mine was still going quite strong 15 years later, but I’ve been wanting a digital one where I can set the timer, and received this Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S model for Christmas. I love it and use it on a weekly basis, plus I still held on to my old one in case of parties or to loan to a friend.

I enjoy it, therefore I make time for it A lot of articles I’ve read wag their finger at the non-cook and declare that they must make cooking a priority or else they’ll never do it. I get what they’re saying, but I won’t deny that you’ve got to actually enjoy something to make it a priority. Clean clothes and washed dishes are a necessity in this house and one I should make a priority, but I hate doing both and resent the chores, so I often procrastinate on both. My point being, if you can work towards slow goals of making simple meals, and more of them, make it a point to meal plan, keep a well-stocked kitchen, and so on, you’re more likely to enjoy cooking. And if you enjoy it, making it a priority will come a little easier. Make sense?

Practice leads to efficiency, and eventually, enjoyment – I keep going back to enjoying cooking because I truly believe one of the biggest roadblocks to finding time to cook, is finding reasons not to do it because you don’t enjoy it. Take baby steps, don’t make it complicated and don’t freak out about every ingredient. Just practice, practice, practice, and the better you get, the more you enjoy the food you’re cooking at home, the more excited you’ll become about the process. IMG_7623

I keep a well-stocked kitchen – What came first, the well-stocked kitchen or the ingenious home chef? That’s a question that’s just as quizzical as the chicken or the egg debate, but I do know that having plenty of staples on hand most of the time, helps me make easy, good tasting meals virtually out of thin air. The more you cook, the more you’ll know what items you must *always* have on hand. The more great items you keep stocked in your kitchen, the more great meals you’ll be able to make out of nothing, and the cycle goes on and on.  Here are several great articles that list out some different and some overlapping items that every kitchen pantry should have on hand: from the kitchn, this one from all recipes is pretty spot on and very similarly represents mine, and if you can get through the annoying slideshow, this Health article lists some good ones too.

I *try* to always get enough sleep – What does sleep have to do with cooking? Well, because sleep has a lot to do with everything! You’ll be an overall better, more productive human being with enough sleep, so if you’re going to make anything a priority in your life, make proper rest and sleep it! No one has cooking gumption when they’re dead dog tired; you won’t be creative or crafty in the kitchen, you’ll make mistakes and ruin meals, you’ll be inefficient, you may cut yourself when slicing an onion, you’ll yell at the kids for getting in your way, you’ll leave the dishes because you’re so exhausted, only to wake up to a stinky mess the next day. You get the picture. Making sleep my number one priority this past year has been a saving grace and it’s the piece of unsolicited advice I’m not afraid to be bossy and pushy about.

How I deal with the kids – And speaking of the kids, how do I cook when they’re around? Well keep in mind that I have 2 older kids who are pretty much self-sufficient at 7 and 9, and I have the easiest toddler around. Even still, life’s not always a cake walk in the kitchen when they’re around. And of course there’s homework to deal with (4th grade common core math, I hate you!), and fighting and bickering. We all have our tips and tricks to get things done with kids around, so I won’t get in to this extensively, but I will share a bit about what works best for me. A few minutes before I pick up the kids from school, I make sure I do a quick sweep of the house and primarily the kitchen. I clean my work space so it’s one less thing to do. I take out meat if it needs to come to room temperature, little things like that. When the kids get home, we do a snack and I usually assist with homework for about an hour, at which point I try and begin dinner around 4-4:30. At that time, Taylor is probably wrapping up homework and Syd is already done, since 2nd grade is a breeze, and I put Syd in charge of Hayden. He knows his role is to play with Hayden and keep him out of my way so I can cook. Because I’ve already cleared my work space and loosely prepped by gathering my ingredients, I can get to work right away. When Taylor’s done with her homework, I then put her to work with either watching Hayden, or one of the big kids will help with food prep. So bottom line, I pull my resources and put the kids to work. This works well now because of the ages and stages they’re in. When they were younger, both in diapers, it was definitely harder and back then I cooked a lot differently than I do now, relying on packaged meals and take-out.

I tell you this because I hear a lot of guilt associated with today’s new health and real food movement. I think I do a pretty good job of cooking from scratch, yet I am still given suggestions on an almost daily basis to make more and more foods from scratch, to the point that I even get overwhelmed sometimes. Mothers are tired and stressed, trying to manage it all. Know that you should just focus on doing the best you can, for the season of life you’re in. Maybe this year isn’t the year you tackle homemade yogurt and exclusively use bone broth you cook each week. Maybe you still rely on take-out more nights than you’d like to, but think big picture and if it’s important to you, then know you’ll eventually find a way to make this all work.

At the heart of this very long post, I hope I’ve conveyed how important I believe it is to actually enjoy cooking, because I do think it is possible with virtually everyone. There’s a few other hobbies I enjoy quite a bit that I’ve had to put on the backburner since becoming so involved with home cooking. My sewing machine hasn’t been touched in well over a year, nor have my jewelry making supplies. I still haven’t done Hayden’s baby book, but I take consolation in the fact that he’s well represented on Instagram and on my DSLR. I’ll get to all that other stuff eventually, but for now the only main hobby I seem to have time for is keeping my family fed.

Let me know if you have any questions, and good luck in the kitchen!



The Most Commonly Asked Questions About the Planetbox – Answered


Planetbox-lunch-ideas-for-kids-3 I’ve been posting photos of the kid’s lunches almost daily since the beginning of the school year. I had posted a few pictures off and on a bit during the 2013-2014 school year, and they always garnered a lot of attention and questions. Not that they were anything extraordinary, in fact they were quite basic, but I think that’s what my readers and followers over on GMMDI appreciated about them. Like most things I strive to do, they were in fact pretty uncomplicated and provided a few new ideas to time-crunched moms, rather than evoking some uncomfortable lunch-packing envy. So I began posting very regularly during the 2014/2015 school year, and it’s fun to now see almost 90 fun and interesting, yet totally achievable, lunch box ideas we can refer to when in a pinch. By the way, if you’d like to see all of the lunch ideas from this school year, visit the #gmmdi tag on Instagram.

I covered the very grueling debate on choosinga new lunchbox for the new school year in this post last year, which details all the systems we use and what we love/don’t love about each of them. While we have 4 different lunch sets, me and the kids both love the Planetbox Rover the most, for the simple fact that it holds the most variety of food, the easiest. We really do use all of them though, but the Planetboxes garner the most attention and lots of questions, so I thought I’d do a little FAQ round up on the most commonly asked questions. In the comments, please let me know if I’ve missed any and I’ll be sure to update. Here goes.

How does the Planetbox keep food hot or cold?

I get asked this quite often, especially because I send a lot of warm foods in the kid’s lunches. To keep the food cold it’s quite easy; I just include a Planetbox ice pack in their lunch box and it does a decent job keeping the temperature low. I will say though, on super hot days, and because the container is made of metal, the food does heat up. The kids keep their lunchboxes outside in their backpacks, and eat lunch at 11:30 and 11:45 am, so the food doesn’t have a chance to get so hot it spoils. But, foods like string cheese and yogurt get a little too warm for their liking on days that are scorchers. I try to keep this in mind then and not send super perishable foods.

Keeping foods warm is another story though. These containers are not insulated, like thermoses, so they will lose heat and cold. When I want to send warm foods but not use a Thermos, I heat up the food nice and hot before hand, and then either wrap in foil (foods like tortillas or pizzas), or place in the individual lidded containers (like noodles). The food ends up becoming sort of room temperature most days. If I’ve included fruit in the lunch mix along with a hot food, the heat will transfer a bit and everything sort of just warms up or cools down, making all the foods room temperature. Taylor doesn’t usually care either way, as she’s not super picky about temperature, but it’s hit and miss with Syd. On his pickier of days, he’ll leave the food untouched claiming it was too cold, and on other days he could care less.

Bottom line, the Planetbox is not a Thermos so does not hold hot and cold foods super efficiently, but does a decent job of keeping foods cool and safe. No food poisoning yet :)  Planetbox-Lunch-Ideas-for-Kids

Does the Planetbox fit in any lunchbox container?

I certainly didn’t try a hundred different options, but I tried at least 3 different sizes, which are pretty “universal” and it didn’t fit in any of them. The Planetbox is a larger rectangle shape, so it was either too wide or too long for many lunchboxes, so I wound up just getting the standard Planetbox lunch container. Good news though, the Planetbox lunchbox holds all my other lunch containers.

Does it leak?

I don’t send super liquidy type foods with the kids, but I have sent applesauce and yogurt. I make sure to always send those in the round lidded containers that come with the Planetbox, and so far we haven’t had a problem with leakage. They are not leak proof though, so I certainly wouldn’t take my chances with soups, or putting things like applesauce in the divided sections.

Is it easy to clean?

It’s incredibly easy to clean, and we actually just stick it right in the dishwasher, with the magnets and all, and have had zero problems. No rusting, no peeling or any other issues.

Is it enough food to keep your kids full?

The Planetbox Rover holds 4.5 cups of food, the most food among all of the major lunch containers, and it holds the most variety too, with 5 separate compartments.  We’ve been in school for 7 months now, and it definitely holds enough to feed them on their hungriest days. If I pack a lunch they are absolutely digging, they eat 100% of the food. On other days where they don’t love the selection, or are in a rush, about 30-40% of it comes home, but I’d say 90% of the time, the food gets completely gobbled up. They certainly come home ready for a snack, but they never complain that they didn’t have enough to eat at school. For this I’m thankful.

How well does it hold up?

So far, 7 months in to the school year, it holds up extremely well. No dents dings or rust spots, and the magnets are still perfectly intact.  Planetbox-Lunch-Ideas-for-Kids-2

Does the lunch container hold up well?

Yes, it is well made and insulated, and easy to clean. It is recommended to just spot clean, however Taylor’s was filthy 6 months in to the school year. She clips her lunch-bag onto the outside of her backpack because she has no room to hold it in her backpack (awe the life of a 4th grader), so hers had really taken a beating. I spot cleaned it with some stain remover, then put it in a pillowcase and washed it in cold water on the gentle cycle and it cleaned up beautifully and no worse for wear.  Planetbox-lunch-bag

How do you keep your apples and pears from browning?

This really has nothing to do with the Planetbox, but I get asked this all the time. I actually do nothing other than let them get brown! I cut them fresh in the morning so they only have about 4 hours to color, and apparently they don’t brown enough to make them unappealing, as the kids always eat them. Suggestions for you concerned about this though, include squeezing some lemon water on top or soaking them in lemon or citrus water before hand.

Do the kids like it?

They honestly love it. They love helping decide what goes in to each compartment and they love the visual presentation it creates. Nice and neat and orderly, a big plus for Syd, who hates for his foods to touch. Also, having everything laid out so nicely makes it easier to get to and eat quickly, so they can hurry up and play!

Do the kids actually eat all the food you pack?

Like I said, they go through phases, but most of the time they do eat most if not all the food I pack. There’s occasional hits and misses, but I know them pretty well by now, and know what they’ll go for and what they’ll shy away from. Syd’s easy in a way because despite him being particular, he can also eat the same thing everyday, and wouldn’t really mind if I packed hi, pb& j each day. Taylor on the other hand, really loves it when I get creative. I strive for balance though so I don’t drive myself crazy!

Does the food stay as neat as when you pack it?

For the most part, yes, the food stays pretty well intact.

How do you come up with lunch ideas?

I follow a few great lunch idea accounts on Instagram, I’m not afraid to serve up leftovers, and I just try to think of foods I’d make us here at home on the weekends, and try to adapt them to make them lunchbox friendly. I’m never going to be the fancy bento lady though, making cute faces on their bread and cutting intricate designs in their fruit, so letting go of that notion helps a lot.

What are some of your favorite lunch box foods to include?

I try to always include a fruit and or veggie, some protein, something crunch and/or sweet as a treat, and something carb based to help fill them up. If I’m packing a meatless lunch, I always include a veggie and some sort of grain or legume to make a complete protein. I always try to have some Applegate lunch meats on hand or in the freezer, as those are easy, clean and healthy no-brainers to include. String cheese, yogurt and hard-boiled eggs are great sources of dairy protein as well. Even though GM bought Annie’s, I still like their healthier snack options the best, and so do the kids. I make it a point to browse the bulk bins at the grocery store too, as I always find fun new dried fruits and snack options to help make the lunches a little more creative and unique. Overall though, helping to make healthy eating fun and enjoyable is really the thing I love most about the Planetbox, and any other bento style lunch container like this.

Despite the Planetbox being a big initial investment, I can seriously see us using these containers for years and years to come because the kids can grow in to them and I can just tell they’ll last that long. When Taylor enters junior high, she can simply pull off the magnets and carry around a very cool and hip stainless steel lunch container, and as Syd grows up he could too go magnetless or buy another option. They also hold plenty of food so should last them until they get to high school and are corrupted by the lunch carts or the allure of going off campus for lunch. My only regret is not investing in them earlier, but I’ll make sure to start Hayden off right when he goes to Kindergarten.

Hey, let me know if you still have questions!

Daily Style – Give Me An “A”


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


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.
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4-6
  • 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
  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


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.

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


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