Aliso Beach and Camel Point

First, let me say that the beach is always wonderful.  I realize I could be sweltering through another San Antonio summer with temperatures in the upper nineties and humidity to match. And oh my god, thank goodness I'm not.

The whole year is beautiful here and summer is no exception. But summer is not my favorite time to go to the beach. The beaches are beautiful but crowded and hot. But I think I figured it out yesterday.  The secret to Southern California beaches in the summer is to avoid the main spots. Don't hit places with easy parking and recognizable names (Laguna and Newport, I'm looking at you).

  Yesterday, we joined some friends at Aliso Beach just south of Laguna (which was a traffic nightmare with all sorts of art festivals going on and the end of summer tourism at a high). It's still a pretty big beach with a huge parking lot off of PCH and although it wasn't as crazy as Main Street Beach in Laguna, it was crowded.

After a little while of playing, we took a walk around a bluff where the waves were crashing on some tide pools. We rounded the corner and we were on a new beach. It was less than three blocks away but it felt like a totally different world.  The breeze was cool and the people were scarce and I immediately felt zen.

I brought my camera along and snapped something like a thousand photos. When I got home, I realized most of them didn't turn out for one reason or another (it was so bright, I couldn't really see the previews of what I was taking - but I just kept snapping away on manual). I sat down and forced myself to edit a few just for the practice. I'm learning that simple things, like adjustment layers for brightness/contrast and saturation, coupled with layer masks, can make a huge difference in the quality of photos. For instance, I spent about ten minutes editing these photos (after watching at least thirty minutes of Photoshop tutorials on You Tube because I have no idea what I'm doing) and I'm blown away. They're not perfect but they're pretty good, don't you think? Just a few minutes of editing makes a noticeable difference when it comes to snapshots.

AFTER EDITING

What do you think? Do you have favorite editing tips? If so, I'm all ears, please share!

BEFORE and AFTER

Chocolate Buckwheat Granola

Life has been busy around here. The girls and I spent a few weeks in Ohio and then, upon our return, my parents flew into California. They're living with us for a few weeks while they wait for their furniture to arrive from North Carolina and for their house to be ready. It's been terrific. It's such a lovely change of pace to have them around. I don't know what the girls are going to do when they move into their own place (although it is only one exit down the 405).

Since this weekend was their first full one here together, we made the most of it. We went to a new beach in Dana Point early Saturday morning. We beat the crowds and although it was the antithesis of a beautiful sunny Southern California day, I loved the overcast skies and the few drips of rain. I could spend hours at the beach on a cloudy day but somehow I get antsy in the sun. We played smash ball and my dad and Donovan tossed the football around. Donovan and I went for a barefoot jog down the beach. There was a sandcastle built and a little cove explored.

image.jpg
image.jpg

On Sunday, we went over to a friends for lunch and swimming and my parents joined us. Our friend, Amber, made a really great, homecooked lunch with pulled pork sliders, slaw, a tomato salad and macaroni and cheese. I'm always amazed at her ability to throw a meal together for a large group of people! I struggle if I have to cook for more than us four and here she is, throwing together meals for like 15 people.

This morning I woke up and made this chocolate buckwheat granola from My New Roots. I've probably made it a dozen times and it's delicious and although it seems indulgent, it's really quite healthy. The granola is a mix of oats and buckwheat. Buckwheat is actually not a grain at all. It's actually a seed from a plant that is similar to rhubarb and is high in protein and magnesium and super delicious. I find them in the bulk section of a natural foods store (where they are about $1.50/lb) but you can also find them online.

Chocolate Buckwheat Granola
Chocolate Buckwheat granola

The granola is simple to make - you simply throw together a bunch of dry ingredients, make a homemade chocolate sauce to toss it in (seriously, like the spoon!) and then toast it in a 350 degree oven. I eat it for breakfast or snacks with a bit of almond milk and sometimes some fresh fruit.

Chocolate Buckwheat Granola

CHOCOLATE BUCKWHEAT GRANOLA

from My New Roots

WHAT YOU NEED

  • 3 cups of rolled oats
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 cups of chopped walnuts
  • 1.5 cups coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup of coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

WHAT TO DO

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the oats, buckwheat, walnuts, coconut flakes, and chia seeds in a large bowl.
  3. Heat the remaining ingredients (the maple syrup, coconut oil, salt, vanilla and cocoa powder) in a small pot until melted and combined.
  4. Add the chocolate sauce to the dry ingredients and mix until fully combined. Spread on cookie sheet, pressing down with the back of a spoon or spatula.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove and stir the granola. At this point, I take the granola out and stir every 3 minutes until everything seems toasted. Watch the coconut so that it doesn't burn. If you're using shredded coconut rather than flakes, I would add it in after the first 15 minutes to guarantee it doesn't burn. I find that mine granola is done between 18-21 minutes.
  6. Cool and enjoy.

Side note: this granola doesn't clump up and stick together for me. If you wanted it to, you could substitute about 1/4 cup of almond flour in for 1/4 cup of the oats and I find that really helps hold some of it together.

Have a great week!

xoxo.


Rotisserie Chicken Pesto Sandwich

Last night, I walked over to the grocery store across the street to pick up some pita bread but the bread aisle had shrunk by half its size. Honesty, there were like six loaves of bread total in the aisle.  When I asked the cashier if they had any pita, the front end manager walked over, and standing next to a giant, weird display of plastic toilet seats, explained that they would only be carrying Asian food items from then on so the chances of them having the bread was pretty slim.

Blast. The cheap, freshly baked pita bread three blocks from my house has saved many a last minute dinner snafu. Pita pizza? Surely. Pita sandwiches? Of course. Fresh veggies and homemade tabouleh with a side of pita? Done, done, and done. I can't really complain since their Middle Eastern counterpart is just a mile down the road but there is something to be said for "walking distance" when you have a four and three year old in tow.

Although it cramped my style last night, because I love how thin and delicious fresh pita can be, how it compliments the sandwich rather than overwhelming it, it was no big deal. I had some demi baguettes sitting on my counter at home and so I grabbed a tomato and some mozzarella  from the store(not so Asian, though, so maybe the cheese will be a goner soon too?), and threw this sandwich together.

They ingredients are simple and easily substituted for what you have on hand. Some rotisserie chicken, pesto, mozzarella, and tomato. Some bread and maybe some arugula or spinach and you've got yourself a meal.

I love recipes that aren't really recipes in the summer time. And although it pales in comparison to the heat we'd be feeling if we still  lived in Texas or Phoenix this summer, low nineties is still warm enough that turning the oven on seems counterintuitive. So although you could totally smear some garlic and olive oil on the bread and throw it under the broiler with the cheese and tomato, by all means, if you live where it's over 90 degrees, just go ahead and skip that step.

ROTISSERIE CHICKEN PESTO SANDWICH

WHAT YOU NEED

  • Two cups of shredded, precooked chicken (I used a Costco Rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/2 cup of homemade or store bought pesto
  • Baguette or pita
  • Sliced tomato
  • Sliced mozzarella
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Handful of spinach or arugula

 

WHAT TO DO

  1. Turn on broiler.
  2. Cut bread to desired length and smear inside with a bit of olive oil. Smash a clove of garlic and rub over oiled bread.
  3. Place a slice of tomato and a slice of cheese on bread and place under broiler under cheese melts about 3 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, mix shredded chicken with pesto and set aside.
  5. Take bread out of oven top with about a 1/2 cup of chicken and pesto mixture and some spinach. Enoy.

The Local Coffee shop in Oberlin, OH serves their bagels with pesto and cream cheese and it's had me on a serious pesto kick for the last few days. What's your favorite way to enjoy pesto? Or rotisserie chicken for that matter?

Happy simple summer dinner.

On my mind this Monday....

I think I finished three books in the past week. They're older books that I never got around to reading and they were all wonderful. I pretty much unplugged while we were in Phoenix and just relaxed and read (and ate and drank and swam). I never expected to love the desert when I moved to Arizona but there is just something so magical about it. I love the way it smells in the evening when there is a bit of moisture in the air. It's just the slightest bit of dampness but it gives everything a different feel. The sun sets are beautiful, the saguaro everywhere.

I brought my camera and didn't take a single picture except for a few on my phone.

Being unplugged, away from the lure of Facebook and of sitting around jumping from link to link or text to text, always feels nice. I love the space it creates for thinking. Sometimes that leads to more reading for me, but today I just felt like listening to music. 

I used to spend hours just sitting and listening to music. I got lots of good suggestions from you about what to listen to on Facebook (doh! Back in the saddle!) --- my request was like the Lumineers but not the Lumineers --- because I've exhausted that album (I've also exhausted Mumford and Sons). Some of the bands recommended are ones I've heard on various Pandora stations but never explored more and others, I've never heard of. (What you recommended: The Avett Brothers, Shovels and Rope, Band of Horses, Dawes, Trampled by Turtles, The Jayhawks, Civil Wars, Head and the Heart, The Lone Bellow, Nathaniel Ratliff, Mumford, Lincoln Durham, Uncle Lucious, Daughter, Of Monsters and Men, Bon Iver, Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros, Young the Giant).

I'm excited to explore. Right now, I'm settled into listen to Yankee Foxtrot Hotel which is one of my forgotten favorite albums of all time. I honestly had no idea Wilco had new albums since Sky Blue Sky.

Does anyone else have suggestions for me? My kids will probably go nuts with the mellow music but you can only listen to the Disney princess songs before you crave something with a bit of heartache, right?

Happy Monday.

Also, just two days until the girls and I travel to Ohio to visit family and attend Donovan's cousin Tyler's wedding. Can't wait.

Exciting family news!

On Friday, we got some really exciting news. My parents are moving to Southern California!

Donovan and I have both lived away from our families for a long time. Before having kids, I felt okay about it. It was still simple to travel. And although we've managed to see both sides very regularly over the past five years, I've had a strong yearning to be close to them again. I always thought that would mean a move back to the Midwest (which honestly, we were both hesitant about) but the cards fell a different way. My dad just accepted a job fifteen minutes from where we currently live.

My dad and I snowshoeing with Grace at Big Sky, Montana.

My dad and I snowshoeing with Grace at Big Sky, Montana.

I grew up close to my extended family and so did my husband. We spent every birthday with my aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins. He practically lived at his grandparents house while working at their lumberyard. We were both so affected, in positive ways, by the influences we had around us. Although we've established good friends in each of the cities we've lived in, nothing beats family. Especially your own parents. There is just something different about it: the familiarity, the bond, that makes me super excited for this change in our life.  We always see people for extended periods of time - a week here or two here or there - with long periods of absence. I like the rhythm that we can embrance through the close proximity. The visits are shorter but more frequent and I imagine a different personal kind of relationship is allowed to evolve. One where someone else can be engaged in the day to day or week to week - in all the special moments that are involved in growing up. I'm imagining Sunday Fun Days like happen frequently with my Ohio family :)

My mom and the girls at our house in San Antonio.

My mom and the girls at our house in San Antonio.

There are other lovely things about it too. When my parents moved to Charlotte from Chicago over a year ago, it became another destination on our list of family locations. Instead of just having Chicago (where my family was) and Cleveland (where my husband's family was), we also had North Carolina. It means I rarely get to see my brother and sister in law who have added two children to their household in the past two years. Cutting one location out of the equation means, I hope, we will get to see them and my nephews more.

My dad and Gracie and I walking to the Pearl's Farmer's Market in San Antonio.

My dad and Gracie and I walking to the Pearl's Farmer's Market in San Antonio.

It will be an exciting month. The girls and I are spending a few weeks in Ohio. We'll go to Donovan's cousin's wedding in Pennsylvania (Donovan will be there for that too).  My parents come out next week to find a house and then my dad returns the following week to start his job. My mom will be out the last week of July. So by August, our Southern California family will grow by two.

My dad and Gracie riding my bike in San Antonio.

My dad and Gracie riding my bike in San Antonio.

Although I know it's fairly common nowadays to parent without extended family nearby but I'm so excited for this change. Tell me - do you live in the same place as your parents/extended family or far away from them? And has anyone experienced parenting away from extended family only to have that change? What was that like for you?

My brother, Donovan, my mom and I walking at the Riverwalk in San Antonio.

My brother, Donovan, my mom and I walking at the Riverwalk in San Antonio.

xoxo. Happy Tuesday.


small food changes

Boy, how my relationship with food has changed over the years. In high school, I ate a lot of bagels with non fat cream cheese and sour patch kids. When I was in college, I ate a lot of junk. Whatever the dining hall or sorority provided but it most often included things like deep fried chicken tenders and pizza.  For a semester I spent in Ireland, I lived almost entirely on pasta noodles with butter, ramen, and the cheapest beer I could find (with the occasional Guinness or Murphy's for good measure). I had a limited budget and I wanted to use the money to travel and explore and it just never crossed my mind at 20 years old that food was a really interesting way to dig into a country. 

When I was in my mid-twenties, I really loved going to hip restaurants and spending hours at dinner. Appetizers through desserts with fancy cocktails and wine. That was how I would describe a perfect night out.  And then, after we got married and had kids and bought a home and sold a home and I quit my job and we moved states a few times, my food preferences changed again. I realized I could eat really great food at home. I started cooking and reading food blogs and magazines. Then I started reading books about food (like The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Matters) and I started caring that my food was real and not processed. I started caring about ethical issues with animals raised for food and I started caring about the quality of my produce. 

So, here I am, it's 2014 and I'm 32 years old and I've been on the same roller coaster with food that many of you have too. Food is no longer a peripheral part of my day. It's something I think about all day long (for better or worse). 

If I had to describe the way I eat now, in a phrase, I would say I eat real food. Stuff with only a few ingredients. Stuff that I make at home myself. Stuff that expires. Stuff that tastes good and is high quality. I eat much more mindfully than I used to. 

And even though there are plenty of days when I indulge in pizza and ice cream and beer, most days are a mix of really good choices and some minor indulgences. I'm trying not to feel guilty about those indulgences, because when I really think about how much I've changed in the past ten years, I've realized that all the incremental changes have added up to a much better and healthier life. 

Here are some of the small things I've changed over the past ten years (in no particular order):

  1. I buy full fat dairy including milk. I try to make it organic.
  2. I buy plain, whole milk yogurt and flavor it myself.
  3. Real maple syrup. 
  4. I try not to buy "snack" foods and if I do I try to buy things with less than five, recognizable ingredients. Key word: try.
  5. I stopped eating cereal for breakfast (heck, I started eating breakfast).
  6. I only add a splash of cream to my coffee. No sugar and no sugary "coffee" like beverages.
  7. I drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.
  8. If it's not water or coffee or tea or alcohol, I'm probably not drinking it. That means no juice, soda, or sports drinks. Man, how I used to love Diet Coke and Gatorade.
  9. If I crave candy (which was a true love of mine), I try eating dried fruit or a moderately small piece of very dark chocolate. Moderately small is a weird way to describe it, huh? It's a good chunk of a high quality chocolate bar. Maybe 1/5th of it?
  10. I try to incorporate green vegetables daily. My next goal will be to incorporate them into every meal.
  11. I eat a lot more protein (nuts, oats, seeds, nut butters).
  12. I limit myself to one cup of coffee per day.
  13. I try to buy my produce in season.
  14. I try to buy most of our meat at the farmer's market and if I don't, I almost always buy organic.
  15. I limit sugar that isn't natural. Fruit, maple syrup, and honey are fair game. 
  16. Farmer's market eggs are so much better than the grocery store variety. Also, I don't like eggs very much but I'm learning to because they are so, so good for me.

I'm sure there a lot of other things I'm missing but that's a good start for now. It's interesting how interweaved they are too. Drinking enough water makes me less hungry and also makes me crave sweets less. Not drinking soda makes me less snacky especially for salty things. Cutting back on sugar makes sugary stuff taste overwhelmingly sweet. I prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate now. And so on and so forth. I eat real food and now I crave different things. 

Small changes lead to big changes. 


hearty pancakes and prescribe nutrition

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you've probably seen me share some posts about Prescribe Nutrition. Prescribe Nutrition is all about eating real, whole foods while cutting out a lot of the things people have sensitivities to (gluten, dairy, sugar, processed foods, some meat, and alcohol). 

My road to cleaner eating has been winding. I cook and buy a lot of really good, quality foods for my family and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. We do some indulging from time to time but for the most part, I think we strike a pretty good balance of crazy but not too crazy ;)

About a year and a half ago, I decided to see a naturopath. I was getting headaches and was really fatigued. For a long time, I had blamed my exhaustion on being a mom to two little kids. I had a husband who was working a ton and we had moved to three different states in just a handful of years. But after moving to California, something hit me. The girls were sleeping through the night and life was slowly creeping back to normal and yet I was still exhausted. Like having to force myself to get out of bed. Too exhausted to get myself to play dates. Too exhausted to cook.

The iron supplements weren't helping and so I decided to look into diet a little more. It was about that time I stumbled on Prescribe Nutrition through Stacy at Kids Stuff World. I enrolled in the Reset 14 program and all of a sudden, I realized how important it was to be thoughtful about what I was eating....all the time.  And with the support of the team at Prescribe Nutrition (it's like having your own private nutritionists on hand all the time) and their recipes, I started making big changes. I've seen my energy levels increase AND I feel really good and knowledgeable about the food decisions I make for myself and my family.

The Reset 14 program is starting again next week and if you're interested in making some changes to your diet, it's a very supportive place to begin. First off, they give you a terrific packet of recipes so you have really good choices right at your fingertips. Additionally, there are videos and podcasts with a ton of explanation of WHY our choices are so important. And then, there is the discussion boards. All the participants are invited to pose questions or share their challenges or victories. The ladies at PN are quick to respond with answers....so if you just need a quick reminder of why Diet Coke is not the best choice for breakfast, if you ask...you will receive...and quickly!

I also wanted to share one of my favorite recipes from the program. We make pancakes every weekend and over the last few years, we've transitioned from Bisquick to homemade pancakes with regular flour to these Simple Hearty Pancakes. These pancakes are satisfying and healthy and you don't feel like you need a nap when you finish eating them. I love that I'm full but not too full...if you know what I mean. Head over to check out the detail on Reset 14 and then try these pancakes. You won't be disappointed. If you decide to sign up, use the code simple20 for 20% off. Hope you decide to join us!


And now, for the pancakes.

Hearty Pancakes at One Simple Thing Blog
Prescribe Nutrition Hearty Pancakes
Prescribe Nutrition Hearty Pancakes

WHAT YOU NEED

  • 1 cup of rolled oats (gluten free if desired)
  • 4 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 3 organic eggs
  • 3 organic egg whites
  • 1 cup of dairy free milk (I use almond)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla
  • coconut oil for greasing pan

WHAT YOU DO

  1. Turn your oven to the lowest setting. In a blender, grind the dry oatmeal into a fine flour. Place in bowl and whisk in coconut flour, baking soda, baking power, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, egg whites, milk, and vanilla.
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring to combine.
  4. Use about 1 tbsp of coconut oil to grease your skillet.
  5. Over medium heat, pour 1/3 cup of the batter onto the skillet and cook until bubbles start to form. Flip and finish cooking. Keep them warm in the oven while you cook the rest.

NOTES:  We love to top ours with some real maple syrup or fruit. I just picked up a lovely jam from the Santa Barbara farmer's market (meyer lemon and lavendar) and I imagine it will be a great topping too. 

Because the pancakes are hearty, we don't eat a ton at each sitting. This makes about 10 pancakes and so as not to waste them, I place them on wax paper on a cookie sheet and individually freeze them. Once they're frozen, I transfer them to a ziploc baggie and save them for a morning that we're in a rush.

 

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

Can we just agree on the fact that lime juice, cilantro, and avocado make everything right in the world? Lime shortage? What lime shortage?

Sweet Potato Black Bean tacos

These sweet potato and black bean tacos are perfect. They're an easy weeknight meal,  an easy way to add a vegetarian dish into your rotation, AND they're super delicious (not to mention those colors!). We probably eat them once every other week and so far, anyone we've cooked them for enjoys them as much as we do.

Cabbage Slaw for Sweet Potato Tacos
Sweet Potato Black Bean tacos

The girls aren't super excited about them but they aren't super excited about anything food related lately except steak. Umm...Neva requests steak every single night of the week. She shoots for the moon, that girl. Basically, I deconstruct the tacos for the girls and they either nibble at the separate components or play at putting the taco together and then nibble at the separate components. I can't be held accountable for the fickle tastes of my preschoolers, right?

So let's talk about these tacos. It's basically a mix of sweet potato, black beans, and a cabbage slaw  soaked in lime juice (there's A LOT of lime juice in this recipe). I peel and dice up the sweet potatoes in advance and then toss them in some olive oil and lime juice right before roasting them.

As the potatoes are roasting, you can work on the slaw and beans. I use a small yellow onion and mix half with the slaw and the other half with the beans. For the slaw, you shred up some red cabbage (which keeps FOREVER in the fridge, I should add) and mix it with 1/2 a diced onion and some cilantro and lots of lime juice. The other half of the onion goes in a pot with some olive oil. Once the onion is soft, throw in the beans, some cumin and some, you guessed it, lime juice. Throw all the ingredients together on a corn tortilla and add a few slices of avocado because it makes everything better and you've got yourself a meal.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

slightly adapted from Joy the Baker

WHAT YOU NEED

  • 3 tbsp olive oil (divided)
  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • juice of 4 limes (divided)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup total)
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • salt
  • corn tortillas
  • 1/2 avocado for garnish
  • optional red pepper flakes

WHAT YOU DO

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss your diced sweet potatoes with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt, and the juice of one lime. Add some red pepper flakes if you like (we leave them out because of the kids). Place them on a cookie sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size and quantity of the potatoes. I like mine to have a little bit of charring.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the cabbage, 1/2 cup of yellow onion, and cilantro in a bowl. Toss with the juice of two limes.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small pan. Add 1/2 cup of onion and heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the black beans, the cumin, and the juice of one lime. Cook until heated through.
  4. Warm your corn tortillas and top with sweet potatoes, slaw, black beans and a slice or two of avocado. If you eat dairy, some queso fresco on the top is also delightful.


Week One Summary: Project 333

Just a quick little summary of Week One of the capsule wardrobe.

I must say it's significantly easier to get dressed in the morning with less choices. There's less clutter, less thought and I just grab something and go. It's easy because I'm choosing, mostly, from my favorites. Additionally, it forces me to get dressed rather than stay in my yoga pants all day (that's a win AND a loss).

I'm going to go through week two with the same pieces but then probably make some swaps. There were things I knew I wouldn't wear and I included them anyway. I think I need less shirts and more pants/skirts to make things a bit more interesting. Right now, I'm pulling on the same two pairs of jeans and matching them with a shirt every day. I'll have more flexibility when it warms up since I included some shorts but the weather here has been quite chilly*. 

Five different outfits, 15 different pieces which could all be easily mixed and matched into different set ups. I'm still not doing much in the way of accessories (except that hat. Whoa, I wore that hat! I've had it almost a year and worn it once. And that brown belt. I've had it since high school and have only worn it a handful of times). I also have to say that I very rarely wear my hair down but something about being intentional with my clothing choices made me more intentional with doing my hair.

Goals for next week include incorporating more accessories or really think through why I own them. I have some that are very special to me which I tend to wear on a regular basis but the rest of them never feel quite right on me. I'd also like to start listing more of my clothes on Poshmark and see what happens. It takes more time than I like and a bit more energy (it's like a whole other social network) but I'd at least like to clear out the pieces that don't fit. Otherwise, I ordered a bag from Thredup so there's always the backup plan of sending stuff in and letting someone else sell it. Significantly less money to be earned that way but I think it's worth it's value in time.

Some capsule wardrobe stuff I loved from around the internet this week:

Faking boyfriend jeans (because let's be honest, the REAL version just doesn't look good on most of us, right?)

 Seven Tips for Upgrading your Lingerie Wardrobe (I take atrocious care of mine. Machine wash, machine dry, a total afterthought. Changing that now).

And if you're thinking about trying out a capsule wardrobe, start here at Project 333. Such great tips.

Have a fantastic weekend. If you're interested, follow along on instagram.

 

*And by chilly, I mean for Southern California standards. Say what you want but 65 and cloudy is like "ARE YOU KIDDING ME? IT'S SUMMERTIME IN CALIFORNIA."

My Late Spring/Early Summer Capsule Wardrobe

I've been talking about purging  my closet forever and finally decided to take the plunge and attempt a capsule wardrobe. I've been playing around with different outfit combinations and attempting to figure out my my personal style. My motivation comes from having a closet full of stuff and always feeling like I have nothing to wear. Know the feeling? Here's some background on my lack of shopping process, my closet, and the beginning of the clean out. Basically, just as I suspected AND although I'm not a huge shopper, I have a ton of stuff that either work well in my day to day life or doesn't interest me.

Early Summer Capsule Wardrobe // One Simple Thing Blog

I first heard of the capsule wardrobe through Project 333. An amazing place to get started if you're doing some digging around on the the notion of simplifying your wardrobe. The idea is simple enough - 33 items of clothing for 3 months of your life. You basically create a capsule wardrobe for a season including tops, bottoms, shoes and accessories (although I'm leaving accessories out - more on that in a minute). You also exclude things like lounging clothes, under garments, and gym clothes (although that exclusion means you shouldn't be wearing them around town on the regular. You don't know anyone who wears gym clothes and then doesn't go to the gym, do you? ;) )

So for the past week or so, I've been playing around with different combinations in my closet. I made sure to take into account "my season" (meaning I'm a stay at home mom to two little kids and therefore things like dressy clothes and heels don't make a ton of sense in my day to day life). And after perusing my Pinterest style board, and doing some editing and deleting and adding, I gathered that I'm drawn primarily to neutrals. One of the mistakes I'm making when I'm shopping is that I feel the need to buy bright colors (they're more fun!) but truth me told, I don't wear them all that often. I feel more comfortable in grays, whites, blacks, and denims. So that's primarily what I chose here - with some odd balls - and hope to make them more interesting with the use of accessories. I don't own a ton of jewelry but I'd like to start using what I do have. It typically feels a bit dressy to me but I think it's a matter of matching the pieces with more casual clothing.

So without further ado, here is my capsule wardrobe (I'm reserving the right to make some changes along the way).

TOPS/DRESSES

row one: white tank / white tee / black tank / black tee

row two: gray tee / tan tee by LA Made / striped 3/4 length tee from Stitch Fix/ light chambray

row three: dark chambray / pink & white checked button up / olive vest / Anthro gray sweater

row four: baseball sweater / gray sweatshirt / silk tank from Stitch Fix / mint button up

row five: striped tunic / black sheer blouse (old) / Old Navy summer dress/ Old Navy striped summer dress

PANTS/BOTTOMS/SKIRTS

Rainbow Flip Flops /  Guiseppe Zanotti Design (given to me as a gift) / Mossimo Wedges (old)

Matt Bernson Gladitors similar /  Lucky Ballet Flats / Gee Wa Wa Flats (old)

 

I'm leaving a little bit of wiggle room for a few more items. There are things I know (ALREADY) that I probably won't have any need to wear. Like that black sheer blouse and maybe even the cute mint one. And gosh, I've owned that black pencil skirt for years and have NEVER worn it. But they fit okay into the scheme of things and maybe, just maybe, this capsule wardrobe will force me to be more creative. (Of course, there's always the chance I rock jeans with a white tee every day like I do in real life).

Here are the gaps I'd like to fill:

  • White sneakers like my Bensimon flats or Converse All-Stars. I have a pair I wear constantly but they're really beat up.
  • Another pair of flowy shorts, preferably in a solid color, because holy comfort.
  • I'd really like a pair of black heeled sandals. Maybe some Hasbeens. Something clog like. I bought three pairs of black shoes on Zappos last week and returned them all so I'm still searching.

Phew. Have you ever attempted a capsule wardrobe? I lugged two trash bags of clothes into a spare closet (and still have my fancier dresses/shoes tucked into the other half of my closet).

I have no idea how this will actually play out in real life. I'll be documenting my outfits on instagram using the hashtag #thehappycloset if you want to play along.

 

More on my closet project.

Two little monkeys.

The girls are obsessed with posing for my new camera which means I'm getting lots of practice with it. We've had a busy but happy week. We started swim lessons again after a long break. The swim lessons we took last fall were a total bummer. The girls didn't like the coach and almost immediately begged me to stop taking them. They cried every time we were supposed to go and it was so hard to force them to do something that should have been fun. We just quit going.

This time our swim lessons are at the YMCA and the coaches are young and energetic. The girls are so much more at ease. I played my libra card (you know what I mean?) for a while and debated signing up for weeks. When I finally went and it did, we were stuck at 6pm at night. That being coupled with rush hour traffic and a bit of a drive, has me a bit nuts. It's making meals a bit hodge podgey this week and I'm hoping to write a post about how to eat healthy and balanced while running around like a crazy person (this is just a preview, I know, to the really crazy years).

This is them all nerved up before we started.

And this is them like four minutes later.

I have a ton of photos but I'm going to stop there. I'm taking them all on manual mode and feel pretty comfortable. Now I just need to take the next step and learn to edit properly. I have photoshop elements but tend to use picmonkey on my computer because it's so easy. I know so much goes into editing photos and it's going to take a big time investment to figure out how to make ordinary pictures look a bit more spectacular. I mean, I should probably stop using these less than stellar filters, right? (right). Tell me, what are your editing secrets? Where should I spend some time learning? Honestly, these photos looked better before I started playing with them ;)

Happy weekend.

Vanilla Chia Pudding with Berries

Yesterday I went to see the new food documentary, Fed Up, produced by Katie Couric. Poor Donovan. I was so fired up after seeing it, I immediately came home spewing all sorts of statistics about sugar and how outrageous it is that our government is so influenced by special interests and how much money and manipulation goes into marketing food. A product that should be straight forward and easy to buy. (I wrote up a whole blog post about it but ranting really isn't my style. Just watch the trailer and see the movie if you're interested).

We all know it's not simple. There are 600,000 products in the average grocery. Food is complicated because a lot of people have a lot of interest in what we eat. And not necessarily how healthy we are. It's a matter of economics. And maybe that's the only way to fight back. With economics, with our wallets, with the knowledge that we gather from reliable writers like Michael Pollen and Mark Bittman and Marion Nestle. Perhaps moving forward, knowing that we can't trust our government to tell us what to eat (in the school lunch program, Congress considers pizza a vegetable. Oh, french fries too) and we certainly can't trust the food companies, maybe we just all stop listening to the garbage and do what we know is right. Eat real food. Take the time to cook it ourselves. Be smarter than the hype and the marketing and the bullshit.

It's time to take back our plates.

As many of you know, I've been participating in a two week program hosted by the ladies at Prescribe Nutrition called Get Balanced. (Cannot speak more highly of these ladies). It's all about eating whole foods and getting your hormones and your body back on track. I've cut out alcohol, dairy, gluten, red meat, sugar and all processed foods for two weeks. Now, that may sound scary or extreme, and perhaps it is a little crazy. (I am the girl who showed up at the movie theater with homemade granola and baked apple chips in my purse last night). But the truth is, I feel better. I feel great actually. And it's only been 8 days.

So I wanted to share one of my new favorite go-to recipes with you. It's from the program. And it's a new staple in our house. Sometimes for dessert. But honestly, it's healthy enough to eat for breakfast. It also makes a great snack. Change comes from creating new norms. It's not easy but it's worth it. And where we might have had a bowl of ice cream or a piece of cake for dessert a year ago (or even a month ago), now we rely on nutritionally dense alternatives like this pudding.

What are chia seeds? Well, it's a little black seed that packs a powerful nutritional punch. It is chock full of omega 3s and also provides calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, niacin, and zinc. There are 5g of fiber in just one tablespoon. Thankfully, they're really easy to find right now. Most grocery stores carry them.

My favorite way to eat them is as this simple chia pudding. It takes almost no hands on time and everyone in my family loves it. Even the girls. It kind of reminds me of tapioca and if you can get over the kind of strange look of it, it tastes delicious. You can adjust the level of sweetness by playing with the maple syrup. I've found the longer I stay away from processed foods and sugar, the less sweetener I need.

Vanilla Chia Pudding with Berries

From Prescribe Nutrition

WHAT YOU NEED

3 tbsp chia seeds

1 cup almond milk (you can substitute another nut milk or coconut milk if you prefer)

2 tbsp pure maple syrup

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

WHAT YOU DO

Blend the milk, syrup, vanilla and cinnamon until well combined. Then pour the liquid over the chia seeds. Stir until mixed and then again in another five minutes. Place in fridge and let it come together for at least an hour or up to over night. We top ours with fresh berries and pecans but get creative and use whatever you have on hand!

I hope you enjoy it. And I hope, in the next few weeks, to really focus more on food and how instrumental it is for our long term health to start making better choices. One simple thing at a time.

 

 

one simple thing // 07 // utilize your library

I'm keeping this short and simple. Here's how I got organized so that I didn't have the urge to go out and buy new books all the time (although, let's be a honest, I still have my moments of impulse book buying).  First, when I hear of a book I want to read, I pin it on my Books to Read Board.

I keep a shortcut to my library's home page on my browser so then I pop over and add a hold. Sometimes I'm pretty close to the top of the list....sometimes I'm at the bottom of a long one (The Goldfinch, anyone? Impossible). Although it's tempting to run out and buy something like The Goldfinch, I've got plenty of other books to keep me occupied in the meantime.

Library hold list

You can see most of these, I just put on today. I go in spurts. We try to make it to the library for a preschool story time every Thursday so if I have books on hold, they're convenient to pick up.

Sometimes my library won't carry a book and then I check to see if there is a good deal for my Kindle. For instance, I got Ruth Reich's "Tender at the Bone" for $1.99 on Amazon. Modern Mrs. Darcy often has great book suggestions and often includes postscripts about steals for your e-reader.

So that's it! I LOVE books and it's my primary source of impulse buying even with this system in place. But I figure every book I check out from the library instead of buying is a win. One day, when I wind up in a non-rental house and have the dreamy built in bookcases I've pictured in my head for the past 15 years, then maybe I'll go back to buying real, paper books. For now, this helps our financial picture AND allows us to keep clutter at a minimum.

Random ramblings and books.

I think I've forgotten how to write, it's been so long since I've sat down to do it. My technological life has been a bit rough. My computer died on me. I immediately brought it to the Apple Store where the genius at the Genius Bar revived it for oh, about two days, before it died again. It's not like I don't have access to ways to write (I have enough quarter filled notebooks to stock a library). I have an iPad with a wireless keyboard. I have my phone if I'm really desperate. But I've kind of enjoyed the time.

My camera was acting funky and after selling half my closet on the internet and winning a camera and turning around and selling it, I finally had enough money to buy the camera of my dreamy dreams. It's a refurbished Canon 6D. It's already everything I hoped it would be. It's going to take me some time to learn it but I already see that the quality of the pictures is so stinking amazing. Plus, the full frame sensor is very freeing for someone who hangs out with a 50mm lens. Plus, I can send my photos WIRELESSLY to my iPad which means I don't even need a computer (although a computer would be nice). I'm not able to do much editing, which is still something I need to learn how to do anyway, but apps like Pic Tap Go and VSCO are helping with the basics.

Just a random photo of my old friend Sam and Neva Lou shot from my new camera. Because every post needs a photo, right? Total manual mode right there, ladies and gentleman.

Just a random photo of my old friend Sam and Neva Lou shot from my new camera. Because every post needs a photo, right? Total manual mode right there, ladies and gentleman.

I've been reading a ton. I'm still chugging along through the Anne of Green Gables series (still loving it). I just finished Anne Morrow Lindbergh's classic, Gift from the Sea, which was totally different than I expected but amazing nonetheless. As a mother, and a human, there is nothing I miss more than solitude.

The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of the whole web of human relationships... And woman today is still searching. We are aware of our hunger and needs, but still ignorant of what will satisfy them. With our garnered free time, we are more apt to drain our creative springs than to refill them. With our pitchers, we attempt sometimes to water a field, not a garden. We throw ourselves indiscriminately into committees and causes. Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands in distractions... Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day -like writing a poem, or saying a prayer. What matters is that one be for a time inwardly attentive.
— Alice Morrow Lindbergh

The line "with our garnered free time, we are more apt to drain our creative spirits than refill them" really resonated with me. I think about the time I do have to be quiet, the time I used to spend reading and thinking or just relaxing, and how it's often filled with mindless distractions like Facebook and Instagram and shopping online for things I shouldn't and won't buy. I make a conscious effort to try to quiet the noise but it's an addiction.  That buzzing and humming always draws me back in. And I know I'm not the only one.

I also just finished reading "Something Other Than God" by Jennifer Fulwiler. I preordered this book months ago and it was a nice surprise when it showed up on my doorstop. She writes about her conversion from atheism to Catholicism. It's well written (the good, bad and ugly all included). I'm probably some sort of agnostic but I have these pangs that leave me feeling unsettled. I want to know more about people's relationship with God, how their faith exists, whether that gives them comfort when faced with big questions. I can't wrap my head around religion (maybe that is part of the problem. It's probably not something you really wrap your head around, is it?) Maybe more on this sometime when I'm not feeling so damned confused about it all.

I'm re-reading Plate to Pixel so I can start sharing some new food photos. I think that cooking, even following recipes, allows me to tap into quiet, creative energy. I'm cooking a ton since I'm in the middle of this Get Balanced Program from Prescribe Nutrition. If you'd like to see how that's going, I'm trying to keep up to date on my Instagram without being too annoying with pictures of food. Tell me, do the food pictures bother you? After two days of headache, I feel amazing. I'm thinking about sticking this out for the long haul.  And I could sit and look at beautiful photographs of food all day! It's so much harder than I thought to really capture the beauty of food.

What else, what else? I'm also toying with the idea of what to do with preschool next year. Neva is all set up to go and I had planned on sending Gracie to transitional kindergarten at the public elementary school. I'm so not ready for her to be gone five days a week though. And I'm certainly not thrilled at my almost five year old being in class with 30+ kids. So we do pay to send her to the private Pre-K at the same school as Neva? Do I (gasp) homeschool? I don't know.

Also, how pretty is this website and her capsule wardrobe? Still needing to clean out my closet. It's going in the right direction though.

Lots on my mind. Lots to think about.

 

Healthy Snacks for Kids: Organic Kefir from Lifeway

"This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Weave Made Media® and Lifeway Kefir, but all my opinions are my own. #weavemade 

We've done a lot of work on cleaning up our diet in the past year. Like seriously cleaning it up.  I cook almost all of our meals at home, we eat a ton of fruit and veggies, and have cut out most processed foods. It's important to me as a mom to teach my kids healthy eating habits.

It's tricky but since the girls are still young, well, they don't have a lot of say in the matter. Sure, they might prefer gold fish crackers to hummus and carrots but it's not like they can empty out their piggy banks and hightail it to the grocery store. But still, I don't want to be so strict with the girls that they rebel against healthy eating when they get to be school aged. We try to abide by an 80/20 rule. 80% of the time I give the girls pretty healthy and unprocessed "treats." The other 20% of the time, I squint my eyes and look away. 

So it's always amazing to find a treat that probably falls into the healthy snack category that feels like an absolute treat to them. 

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The trick up my sleeve? These Lifeway ProBug Organic Kefir pouches. They're the perfect way to sneak in some goodness. And let's be honest about the packaging. Kids are total suckers for packaging. It's bright, easy to drink from, and it has a kid friendly character. Marketing at it's finest.  (Any one else a child of the 80s and 90s? I remember eating "homemade" lunchables which were no way near as cool as the real thing). So sure, I could throw some yogurt in a tupperware and bring a spoon. But there is so much more enthusiasm for these.

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They're packed with good things: organic kefir and probiotics. Even though they have added sugar, it's a relatively small amount. The packets are convenient and you don't need spoons. They're just as easily consumed at the park, a walk or on the road.  I had planned on saving these for a play date but these two begged to eat them right away. Happy kids = happy mom.

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What is your favorite healthy snack for play dates? Have you tried these ProBug Organic Kefir snacks? Find more information on their website, Twitter or Facebook

One simple thing // 06 // rotisserie chicken

The $5 costco rotisserie chicken. It's amazing right? I wish it was organic and unseasoned but the truth is, I'm not in a place where I can afford organic meat all the time. It's convenient and cheap and maybe a bit too salty - but we make it work. 

I buy one every few weeks and make two different meals using it (this week this amazing salad and chicken noodle soup - both of which actually lasted us for multiple meals) and then use the carcass to make the simplest, most delicious broth ever. Don't be fooled into thinking homemade broth is complicated. It's not. And it's so much tastier than the store bought version.

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Here is how I do it. Just throw the carcass in a stock pot and cover with water, rough chop some vegetables and toss them in with some salt, bring to a boil and then simmer for a while. There is no real science to it. I use whatever veggies I have available - today, carrots, celery and shallots. Sometimes I throw in herbs I need to use up.  Strain it, throw it in the fridge over night and then ladle off the fat in the morning. I then pop it into quart size bags and freeze it. The broth is a game changer. 

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I also love these rotisserie chicken tostadas and this chicken rice bowl.  How do you use rotisserie chicken?

(in sad news, my computer has officially bit the bullet. So yeah, it's iPad typing and iPhone pictures for a while). 

What I'm Reading Now -- April 2014

Can I just tell you that I'm completely head over heels for the Anne of Green Gables series? I mean, really, isn't everyone? I remember loving them as a child and I'd quote Anne or L.M. Montgomery sometimes ("I'm so glad I live in a world with Octobers," right? RIGHT) but I'm just as charmed reading them now. The characters, the pace of life, the focus on the beauty in nature, the relationships and how they so slowly become richer and richer. If you're looking for something easy but totally worth it, read or re-read these books. Plus, you can get the whole series for Kindle for just $0.99!

And that brings me to Notes from A Blue Bike written by Tsh Oxenreider of The Art of Simple.  I love Tsh's blog and I'm excited to read this book about "living intentionally in a chaotic world." I'm telling you about this for a few reasons. I feel so compelled to slow down and figure out how to be really intentional in my day to day life. In a lot of ways, I already do this. I cook and eat much more intentionally. I parent more intentionally. I spend time meditating and try to slow down. It's a lot of work and it's really hard right now - especially living in a productivity driven society. Now, I'm only a few pages into this book and so I don't have a ton to say yet. The real reason I'm recommending it is that Tsh has started an online book club for the book on Facebook. Talk about a community of like minded people! Everyone is interested in living more simply and the conversations have been really thought provoking. It's just starting this week (and taking a small section each week) so if you have any interest, you should pop over and join us.

And finally, I'm listening to The Fault in the Stars. For book club. I'm sorry. Have you read this? I'm only a third of the way and even though nothing REALLY sad has happened, I feel like I'm on the verge of crying the whole time. I know there's a lot more to it and I'm both excited/anxious/reluctant to listen further. I feel like I should say a whole lot more about this book but I can't. Maybe you want to pick it up and read it too so we can cry together? Maybe I'll write more about it later, when I finish and I figure out how to talk about books naturally (it always feels weird to me).

I also just read Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl which was amazing. And I recommended The Rosie Project (another $1.99 selection for Kindle!) which was our last book club book, to a friend and she liked it. What are you reading these days? Anything happy?

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