Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Road to Mom 2.0 - Live from the 10 Freeway

Y'all this month is FLYING by. Hell, the year really. Hard to believe we're already halfway through May and things just keep ticking along. Our social calendar has been out of control lately, our communication was out of whack and I was longing for a little R+R that could not come soon enough. Luckily, on the horizon was a highly anticipated trip to Arizona with some of my blogging loves as we ventured off for Mom 2.0 Summit at The Phoenician Resort + Hotel. I was VERY excited about this trip.

I desperately needed the break in routine and to get out of my head.
When we were just about two weeks away I was "ready to start packing NOW". . but I refrained although I studied my closet like I was going to be tested on it's contents. I tend to get either really cutthroat with my packing and do an excellent job(blissdom) or go a little nuts and bring a workable mish-mash (blogging while brown) because I can't commit. I tried to only shop my closet , with maybe one exception as I've had my eye on a TopShop tank for a while now and had planned on getting it for this occasion. And I already had my hair done (thank you crochet braids) the car was been rented, hotel booked and we had a rough idea of what time we wanted to hit the road.
Oh yeah, that's right, my faves Lori (Mommyfriend) and Xenia (Raised By Culture) and I hit going Romy and Michelle style all the way to AZ. It was a grand adventure.

Of course things didn't go as planned. The rental car wasn't ready, I left my driver's license at home, then couldn't find it, back at my house we discovered I left my CAR &HOUSE KEYS in Lori's car. Fingers and ankles were crossed that he hadn't left for work yet and you better believe I did a praise dance when he showed up with them. When we finally got on the road it seemed surreal. Like any minute now we would be stopped and told to turn around and go back to our everyday mom life. It never happened.

Now, a lot of people cringed when I told them we were driving but I was excited. I'm kind of a fan of road trips and I like nothing more than chatting about random ish as you gaze at whatever scenery there may be whizzing by. Admittedly it was my first ladies road trip (in a long time) and I get why a  lot of people get nervous about being in the car with people you only know online (Lori & Xenia had only met in person "officially" that morning), or don't know all that well. Music becomes a question and how do you work out who's paying for gas/ how often will you stop, who's driving and if you're required to bring your own snacks. The list goes on and on. But we had none of those issues. Both ladies are beyond cool and got along famously as we chatted amiably while we cruised along the 10 freeway heading east to whatever might wait for us at the foot of the mountains.

It seemed to take us both forever and no time at all to get there fortunately the conversation and company were equally awesome since the scenery was not. Once we were on the property you could literally feel the energy shift within us. We were here.Nestled in the foothills of some picturesque mountain range the Phoenician hotel rises against the backdrop like a bird from the ashes and it was here I could feel myself be renewed.
I knew that once I stepped through those doors I was going to come out a changed woman. And I was right.

Not all conferences are created equal and over the last three years I have been to my fair share and learned ever so much. Not just about the business of blogging but the space in which I live the majority of my life (the internet) and about women as well. This conference though, this reminded about the sisterhood of motherhood and the digital sisterhood/sorority that we've sort of formed. No, we're not all friends and some of us blatantly don't like others, while some feel there is a cool girls clique happening, but at the end of the day, NONE OF THAT MATTERED.
As Laura Mayes said during the opening keynote : forget about it. all of it. You got here. And that's all that matters. So enjoy yourself.

And I did.  For 3 days I talked, laughed, danced, cried, guffawed, learned, questioned and supported my fellow woman while I drank my fair share of champagne and let my tongue turn blue from cotton candy. It was marvelous and magical and all the things I imagined it would be. And then some.
On the way home we stopped at this cute little cafe Kitchen 56 we'd seen on the way to the hotel and since they had brunch, we decided to partake and ohmyword were we so glad we did! The food was A-MAZING. We all zeroed in on the chilaquiles and Lori and I decided to split an order since we also wanted the creme brulee french toast. Well the staff was so courteous and just all around awesome they went ahead and split the order for us. Meaning we each got our own plates of both options. No messy table splittage! It was kind of awesome. That the food was stupid good was just icing on the cake and made us actually look forward to the impending ride home.

So yeah, the road to Mom 2 was a little bit rough even though we did a good job of planning and coordinating schedules. But thank goodness we have partners who were able to hold down the fort while we worked on our craft but then again I guess that's what real life is like right? Sometimes it's a little rocky and things don't go according to plan but we adjust, make do and pull together to make it happen.
I think that's kind of cool.

Have you ever done a girls road trip?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

This is how WE play + LEGOS save the day

I'll admit that when we received our first LEGOS gift one Christmas I was nervous about bringing it  home as all I could think about was all the  mommy horror stories I'd heard about pieces spread all over the floor . It's practically written into the motherhood handbook to : BE WARE THE LEGOS.

But then we opened up the box and discovered a whole new world of play with Baby Ninja. LEGOS gave us the ability to really get down on his level and let our imaginations and his run wild.  At first it was all about building and stacking to make the highest tower  possible and then promptly knocking it down but then something really cool happened.  He started to do more imaginative play and add other 'fwends' to the mix. and one day as he played and I listened absentmindedly to his toddler chatter I realized how much the LEGOS were actually teaching him. More than just something that I avoided/ dreaded stepping on, these colorful blocks were giving him a voice to act out the scenes in his head. 


I watched him do what in "real life" would be a complex geometric equation and work on spatial reasoning, fine motor skills and imaginative play all in one sitting. I was blown away. This was a legit learning tool! What the what! Maybe I'd never really paid attention to it before but you better believe I was paying attention now. This kid was actually doing things beyond the "norm" for his age simply by playing. I mean, what's not to love right? And to be fair, a little LEGO time has bought me more than my share of a few moments peace when I need to get some work done. I always know he'll play with them.


Additionally, LEGOS have been the common factor between Sweet Pea and Baby Ninja, even back when his sole enjoyment was to knock them over, they have always been able to connect while a stack of blocks lay between them. My mother-in-love is HUGE fan of playing with the LEGO Duplo blocks with Baby Ninja. They build these elaborate structures and then tell stories about the people who may live there or bring in the dinosaurs and cars to make a "town". I love that she gets down on his level and really gets into playing with him. I also love getting sent photos when I'm away of how they spent their morning listening to music and playing "building castles/houses/towers" with the blocks.

This year, for his 3rd birthday we took him to the LEGO store at Downtown Disneyland , upon which he promptly freaked out and didn't' want to leave, and treated him to one of the holy grail of toys for a young boy - the train set, complete with conductor, gas pump, a passenger and livestock to transport. Talk about hours of fun! I don't know who was more excited to get it all set up, him or my husband! They spent all day watching the train go 'round the tracks and building a train tower and more buildings for the train to roll under.  And I'll fully admit I was pretty excited to see it all come together as well. LEGOS are kinda fun man! 

So when I came home from Mom 2 Summit with the My first Playhouse set, he took one look and said "open it. Have to pway Mommy." Obviously he took me being gone for 3 days in stride.
He wasted no time in getting the box open and then dumping out the rest of his collection so he could build whatever was in his minds eye. 

A week later I was back out of town and kept getting texts from home of what they'd been building and how much fun he was having incorporating his new set. And when I walked in the door after three more days gone, he was so eager to show me his latest creation and how it all worked and what was happening  and it was so freaking cute that I completely forgot about my need for food and a long nap. I loved his excitement and hearing all about why the tools had to go in the red door and that the train was going up, up, up with the people. His little voice gets me every time. So yeah, I have no problem placing an order for another set of tracks to expand his train. I can't wait to see his face light up when we make it bigger and see what kind of other fun we can have with all the blocks.

Are you a LEGO family? What are your favorite sets?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Simple & Chic Mother's Day Brunch

* I was compensated by Fresh & Easy for this post but all thoughts and opinions contained herein are my own. 

We all know that on mother's day there is nothing us mom's love more than to be doted on. But that doesn't always happen. From the moment we wake up (which is hopefully later than usual ) we just want to not have to do anything. Going out for breakfast or brunch is ideal but if you've got small children (or just a toddler ) that may be more trouble than it's worth thusly making 'your special day' not so special. Because of this I thought I'd invite my mama friends over for a little post-mother's day brunch. No kids, no worries, just us, catching up on one another's lives without having to scream scold someone for climbing on the couch.
We like to get together for coffee as often as possible but with our busy schedules it's just not always possible but sometimes, I can get them all in one space and when I do, I go all out and brunch is ALWAYS a good idea.

Fresh & Easy made it ridiculously easy for me as they already have a great selection of items from fresh flowers and fruit, to fresh squeezed juice and an assortment of baked goods made fresh every day. So that practically makes it the perfect place for me to shop right? Y'all know how much I love one stop shopping when it comes to my groceries and I was loving how much great stuff I found. I may or may not have gone a little overboard with all my ideas (because PINTEREST) but I love my ladies and spending time with them sans kids is a rare thing so when we do get together I like to make it special.

I've learned over the years that flowers are really the most simple yet most fabulous decor you can use to spruce up any table setting so I definitely wanted to use some my decor. But since I'm on a budget and dealing with time constraints, a trip to the flower mart was not in the cards but, I was happy to see  a variety of bouquets for me to choose from when walked into the store and I knew I could buy several and break them apart  and remix them (shhhh!) to maximize my dollar and y'all, I had a hard time choosing which ones I loved the most. I have since decided I absolutely need fresh flowers in every room in my house every week. Well, in a pinterest perfect world maybe. Anywho.

I think some of the best breakfasts are the simplest and because I also have kids to drop off at school and not a ton of time in the mornings, I'm all about the quick and easy while still being yummy and catering to the ladies diverse tastes. That the baked goods are made fresh daily is kind of a cool bonus and I'm impressed with the variety of options for the many dietary restrictions and was a bit overwhelmed as to what to finally decide on. Muffins seemed like the way to go as I could pick from an assortment of flavors and we absolutely could eat 3 different kinds of blueberry muffins so yeah, that was going to happen.


I figured sausage was easy because I would be making bacon for the kids anyway and I could just keep it warming until the ladies arrived and muffins and donuts obviously pair well with coffee which is always in abundance, and what's brunch with out champagne?

A sad, sad, breakfast that's what. I thought the grapefruit juice would be a fun twist to the usual orange because mimosas yo. And I can't even pretend like we're not going to polish off a whole bottle of champs while still having quite a bit of juice leftover. It's just how we do.

Yogurt is also one of my favorite go - to's for brunch as you can easily do a build your own type of bar with a mixture of fun toppings from fresh fruit and granola to chia seeds and carob chips if you're into that sort of thing. Some of my friends are. So I try to be considerate of that and have more than just sweet treats on hand for those who are trying to eat a little cleaner or may have health concerns.

And as much as I love serving my friends and doing nice things for them, let's be honest, no one wants to have to do the dishes after an event, so you can bet I'll be using the cool compostable, gluten free "paper" goods I found for a steal! Because for as much as I don't want to wash dishes, I also don't want to be responsible for the destruction of the rainforests so yeah. I try to do my part.

Not going to lie, this trip actually got me looking forward to Mother's Day and spending time with my lovely mama friends. It's great when you get to spend time with the people who made you 'mom' but it's just as awesome when you're able to enjoy time with those who understands what it means to have that title. 

How will you celebrate Mother's Day?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wednesday Wishlist: Back Yard Edition

We already know that home decor is my jam so it should come add no surprise that as the season (slowly) changes I'm feeling the itch to change some things around here. I've got a bunch of projects in.varying stages and have found tons of inspiration thanks to Pinterest ,HGTV, DIY network (I'm looking at you Yard Crashers) as well as Lara Spencer's new book. And since I'm on a whole capsule wardrobe don't really buy anything unless your'e going to wear it forever kick I've got home decor on the brain like whoah.
My poor husband gets about 10 emails/texts from me a day with images of rugs, pillows and coffee tables I'm considering. Never once do I think about the cost of these things. No I just imagine what it will all look like when it finally 'comes together' the way it is in my mind.
Right now I'm focusing on the backyard. It's honestly the most neglected space in this home and not because we don't use it. We do, we just don't hang out back there because it's not cute.

current sad state of affairs
There is no grass and the rose bushes are thorny and daunting. The patio furniture needs new cushions and could absolutely stand a coat of paint. But despite the current ugly, the yard size was one of the draws of this house. I could imagine cookouts with friends, possible movie nights and afternoons spent in the blowup pool. I have dreams y'all! But alas, my dreams were put on hold and then pushed even further back last year as we had other things we needed to focus on. But now that I'm working on shifting my focus from fashion wants to home goods it's high time I figured out what to do back there.

gimme ALL the things

There is no shortage of  ideas looming in my head and a recent trip to World Market brought to life pretty much exactly what I want to do in the back yard. And now that I have a the visual aid I need it's time to see about getting those ideas out of my head and making them a reality. But those are two totally different things. See, I'm totally not a gardening girl. Matter of fact, because of my allergies and asthma I tend to stay away from playing in the dirt but with Baby Ninja's growing fascination with all things mud and wanting to have bonding activities with Sweet Pea, I figured it was high time I learned. I have a couple of projects in mind and have delusions of making major headway before the month is up.  So I figured as to not get totally overhwelmed with all my many ideas I'd break things down into a few separate projects to work on over the next few weeks/ months.


Project #1 : Go green
 Because we're on spring break I have a little more leeway in my schedule so I hope to get to Home Depot this week and get some help with how much work it might be for us to try and put down sod ourselves while also having the neighbor's landscaper come by and give us a quote about seeding and sod.
- the roses can they be moved and replanted up front? I love the flowers but it's not the safest thing to have with kids running around.
- remove random pavers along left wall and replace with wood chips or soil for raised herb/ vegetable garden. I love the idea of using a wood pallet!
- remove random bricks and arrange to close up 'patio' area

Project #2 - Furniture / seating
Our current set has seen better days and while normally I originally planned to just recover them, the cushions have since been waterlogged/ bird damaged and seen better days.The furniture can be salvaged and would be good as new with a fresh coat of spray paint. I waited too long last summer to look for cushions but I've already decided to go with a clean look of white washable ones via IKEA and then add color with accent pillows, lanterns and the like
- spray paint furniture
- new cushions
- bright toss pillows
- colorful rug ; I saw a fabulous one at World Market the other day that caught my eye and it was on sale. I'm holding out to see what else I find.
Project #3 : empty wall space

I came across some CUTE ways to keep the kids entertained  with a hanging outdoor chalkboard which I thought would be perfect for the blank wall at the far end of the yard. That will keep the kids entertained and then I came across a stand to keep them organized as well and y’all know that was right up my alley. We’ll see if I’ll actually be able to pull it off.
- hanging chalkboard
- add rocks to fill in area between patio and wall


project # 4 : Lighting
We have string lights under the balcony as well as fixtures on the house itself but I'd like a little more for the Pinteresty twinkle affect. But then I think about having some type of hanging lanterns as well so
- string lights + posts to connect them
- hanging lanterns
- outdoor candles

Project #5: "patio"
In my dreams this is wear we dine al fresco under twinkling lights or enjoy lunch under the shade of the umbrella. I'm also thinking I'd like to add a fire pit of some kind for those transitional nights as we make our way from "spring" to "summer"
- outdoor dining table + chairs 
- umbrella or gazebo
- fire pit

Clearly I have delusions of grandeur but I'm committed to getting my ideas off the ground and getting maximum use of our outdoor space. Of course I don't expect all of this to happen in a weekend or even in the next month, although, that would be AWESOME.  But ideally I'd like to get started on the first two projects this month and then slowly make my way through the list as summer continues. The end goal is to truly create an outdoor living space that we are able to enjoy year round.

What's on your home improvement list this season?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Skinnytaste: A cookbook review

At the beginning of the year I was looking to spend some of my Christmas cash and was cruising through Target with the fam when I first spotted a cookbook that sparked my interest just off the name alone. That and the cover photo. They had me at shrimp & grits.
I flipped through it quickly and noted a few of the recipes sounded yummy but ultimately put it back on the shelf as I was in no mood to impulse buy and cookbooks (well all books really ) are a weakness of mine. Later, after we got home, I looked up skinnytaste and was stoked to discover I've actually pinned and tried one of her recipes previously and we liked it so I figured what the heck. Went back to Target and scored because it was marked down 20% and I had a gift card so it was basically free!

Because I love my family and want to feed them healthier food options I was really excited about this cookbook. But not really anyone else was. However, after a doctor's visit D realized he needed to get excited about low-fat, healthier eating. So I asked him to go through the book and put tabs on the recipes he'd like me to try and I'd do my best to honor his choices. If you don't already know, here's the part where I tell you that I'm still somewhat of a picky eater so I totally understand Sweet Pea's food issues. I don't know WHAT Baby Ninja is going through right now but hopefully it's just a phase.  But I want Sweet Pea to want try new things even though I know it took me YEARS to get to this point. I just hope if we keep exposing her and getting her involved with the food making process that she'll get more excited about different things. Fingers crossed.
So I got the book in January and we're slowly but surely making our way through it and I'm thrilled to say that we've enjoyed everything so far. That's saying a lot. My husband comes from a family of women (and men) who THROW. DOWN. in the kitchen so for him to say he likes some recipe of a stranger that I replicated (and maybe tweaked a bit) makes me feel great.

The fact that a lot of the recipes are low cal and can be modified to be vegetarian and gluten free makes me equally happy. Both of my parents are on semi-modified diets (Dad is diabetic and Mom is recovering from chemo) as well as a bunch of other family members so I'm loving trying out these recipes and seeing what I may be able to make for them.  And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just looking for some inspiration in the kitchen as well. The last few months of the year were full of festivities and weird schedules so my cooking mojo was all out of wack and then when it was time to get back into the swing of "regular schedules" I found I simply had lost my desire to get creative.

We've mostly made our way through the dinners; think lean meats, fish and poultry( I see you buttermilk oven "fried" chicken) and are working on fully incorporating Meatless Monday into our weekly meal plan and routine. It's a little tricky for me to manage each week but I'm working on it. The soups have been spot on with the Slow- Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili Verde being a favorite and Chicken Pot Pie Soup next up on the list , D is a HUGE fan of chicken pot pie as is my father so if I can get this right I will be their favorite for sure.
One of the things I really like about the book is how the introduction isn't all ; here's what to eat so you can lose weight or 'diet' it's basically, here are some tips on how to create a lifestyle of healthier eating and cooking and breaks down the items to keep on hand in your pantry, fridge and freezer while reminding you why REAL food is always good food.

As soon as I started posting dinners on IG I realized it seems the whole world knew about Gina and her delicious recipes. And I just kept thinking: HOW COME NO ONE TOLD ME???? Thanks guys!

I've been working over the past year or so to rid my family of the super processed junk (cheez-its will be our downfall) so this book was a great way to reinforce what we've learned about food and our bodies and take steps to do better. I also like how it's set up. I'm visual so I need to SEE what my food is going to look like and the images in this book are downright mouthwatering.
But mostly, I love making quality food that fills up my man, and doesn't make my kid frown too much because vegetables.

The breakfast chapter sounds promising and I have delusions of overnight oats, western omelet "muffins" and get this....crepes. I want my people to start the day off right so I am going to make it my mission to get them on the quality breakfast train so that they are held over until lunch time and also so when they want 'grab something quick' they do it from our freezer (hello breakfast burritos & homemade frozen waffles) or even a fruit parfait, so I guess I need to get this show on the road and get to cooking!

I broke the trunk of my car in with it's first Costco trip last week so I'm very excited about meal planning over the next two weeks. Yeah, my pantry is well stocked right now and I'm also working on getting that more organized. Getting rid of all boxes and purchasing stackable storage bins to save space as well as glass jars to replace bulky spice containers but that's a whole project in and of itself. I got started the other day with a few things I found at the Daiso Japan and quickly realized I could spend hours in my kitchen letting my OCD fly while bumping some tunes and get that place in order like nobodies business.
It's amazing what excites me these days.

I don't generally blog the recipes I make from other people's cookbooks, unless I do some major tweaking but so far I've only swapped out a spice or two based on our taste preference so don't look for a ton of recipe posts here BUT you can always follow my cooking adventures on Instagram and see photos of how my versions turn out.

What's your favorite cookbook right now?


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