Is the Planetbox Lunchbox Really Worth the Investment?


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

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


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

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

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


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

IMG_4438 Less Waste

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

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

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

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

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

Life Lately – House Remodel


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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Style – What I’ve Been Wearing Lately


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

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

Thrive Market, CSA’s & Grocery Budgets


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not being shy about putting items back along the grocery

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

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

Slow-Braised Carnitas Tacos


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

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

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


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


Getting the Yard Ready for Spring


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

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

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

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

Week In Review – Stopping the Self-Sabotage


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

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

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

My Newsletter Is Alive & Kicking!

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

Great links around the web:

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

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

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

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

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

Currently Reading:

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

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

Current Obsessions:

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

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

Fresh Pressed Rainbow Juice


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

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

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

Toasting you in good health and balanced living! Enjoy.


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


Daily Style – Peplum Empire


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

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

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

I wore this outfit exactly as styled to my birthday dinner Friday night, and got compliments all around. I can’t remember the last time I shopped full price at Anthropologie, usually I only allow myself to scour the sale racks, but it was a fun indulgence considering my birthday discount and gift certificates, and I can’t wait to wear these pieces in many different ways in the year ahead. Here’s to birthday indulgences, and feeling great at any age. The more I say it, the more I’ll believe it ha!
IMG_4710 IMG_4721 IMG_4724 IMG_4730 IMG_4747 IMG_4756

Food Processor vs Blender, Which One Is Better?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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