Week In Review – Doing What Comes Natural


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crafting With Seedling


IMG_5804 Design your own tote bag project by Seedling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Bit About Our Cooking Club


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the Planetbox Lunchbox Really Worth the Investment?


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 http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV 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 KidsGardening.org 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 KidsGardening.org 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.