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An Evening with Outstanding in the Field

2017 June 19
by WWGD

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” – James Beard

A few years ago, I wrote a post about how I don’t believe in date night. A lot has changed in the five years since and while the main impetus behind the article remains true to my heart (don’t rely on date nights to keep your marriage healthy and strong; enjoy them by all means, but look to all the moments in between date nights and focus just as much of your effort there), a proper evening out in a beautiful setting with food and drink and my husband by my side is always welcome.

So for my birthday a few months ago, tickets to Outstanding in the Field were the only thing on my wish list. I had been following the farm-to-table dinner series for years online and was always inspired by the vision, not only for the food, but for the evening itself. One filled with community, nature, authenticity and, of course, wine. It did not disappoint. Tickets for their entire season go on sale at once and some dates sell out fast (i.e. Big Sur) while others are easier to nab…sometimes even last minute. We ogled the list and all the beautiful locations but ultimately decided that for our first one, it would be easiest (and most cost effective) to pick one close to home so we chose the spring event at the Temecula Olive Oil Company (tickets for the same event in October are still available here).

We made our way to the little town of Aguanga (practically Palm Springs, if you’re counting) through winding, dust-covered roads and were greeted by a lively cocktail reception where guests mingled and took in the OITF vibe over gin cocktails, tray passed appetizers, the best watermelon and basil popsicle I have ever had, and flowing Riesling. It felt casual and comfortable, a mix of couples young and old, a few groups of friends, and some obvious regulars. OITF hostesses took our coats and sweaters and piled them on bales of hay for access later. Guests are asked to bring a dish to the table (a common gesture of good will at a communal dinner) and those were stacked high as well, some of them custom-made for the occasion. If you missed the plate memo (ahem, like us), there were plenty on-hand as most people leave theirs behind as a donation at the end of the evening. The founders, Jim and Eden, gave a brief overview of their journey and the events’ origin and background and then the founder of the Temecula Olive Oil Company led an informative – albeit, a little lengthy – farm tour and olive oil tasting. The property was stunning, as are all of their destinations for the dinners, taking on just as much importance as the menu, without a doubt. Rows of majestic olive trees, vine-covered pathways, evening sun just peeking through.

The evening was already off to such a memorable start and we hadn’t even been seated yet. That’s where it became magical. A family style table set for 165 people, stretching so far through the lush corridor of olive trees you couldn’t even see the end of it. If you go with a small group of friends, the OITF team will set out reserved plates for your seats but otherwise, it’s come as you are, sit where you can. The mixed assortment of dishes on the table was really pretty, even to my typically OCD eye for aesthetics. Food and drink is served family-style, with a dedicated waiter for each group of 6-8 guests (ours was really great and the service rivaled any fine dining restaurant, from start to finish), and what starts out as a slightly awkward exchange as you knock elbows with strangers and stretch over them to capture a pic or two (the Italian sausage with torn croutons is above) quickly moves into easy banter by the second course. Conversations flowed to the left and right of me. Politics and preconceived notions were left at the door. Ageism didn’t exist as I chatted with a woman in her 60s and a girl in her early 20s about everything we had in common, a span of four very different decades between us. And by the time the sun started to set and votive candles were dotted down the winding table and string lights lit up the trees as dessert was served, quiet conversations had turned into full blown laughter and wine-fueled inside jokes.

Almost five hours after we arrived, we gathered our belongings in the glow of the candles and string lights and said goodbye to our new friends. We would see them again, on social media, the next morning, all sharing similar perspectives on the experience: the table, the food, the canopy of olive trees. But somehow, I am sure it meant something different to all of us. To some, it was about the food. To some, the farm. To some, the time spent with a friend or loved one. To some, the gin cocktails.

But whatever it was, I believe in it. And I can’t wait to do it again. You should, too.

Trying On…Care/Of Vitamins

2017 June 7
by WWGD

I feel like I am in this strange phase of life where anything wellness-related needs to fall into two distinct categories all at once: effective…but easy. I don’t have the time to spend on elaborate rituals like I did in my 20s or hope to in my 70s. I don’t have the desire or means to invest in costly ones because I want to establish healthy practices that will (hopefully) stay with me for many decades to come and my budget is still spread across so many other needs. And I don’t have the patience to try things on just for size or trend factor anymore. I need to find things that work. Effortlessly.

I first heard of Care/Of from a friend who posted about them and was instantly intrigued. I had dabbled in a women’s multivitamin and collagen pills here and a probiotic there, but was fairly certain that something was missing in my vitamin and supplement regimen. Or lack thereof. So I hopped on their web site and took a quick health and wellness quiz and then they pulled together a personalized daily vitamin pack for me based on my results. The products are carefully sourced from around the world, manufactured with clean production practices, and then independently tested for health and safety standards here in the US. Once you finish your quiz, they recommend a mix of vitamins and supplements and you can make tweaks where you need or want to. Add something that sounds interesting, remove something that doesn’t.

You get a really cute box with 30 individual daily packs (each personalized — an extra fun touch!) that actually looks cool on your counter and makes it easy to remember to pop your pills every day. I ended up with a selection of four vitamins: The Harmonious Gut, which is a probiotic blend; The Brainiac, a bacopa supplement said to help relieve occasional stress; The Dream Weaver, a magnesium supplement to help with occasional sleeplessness; and The Coral King, a daily dose of astaxanthin that supports healthy skin. The instructions recommended I take them with my first meal of the day and this is where I had my only hiccup with the program. Trying to take them all at once left me terribly nauseous. I remember having similar issues with pre-natal vitamins. Think I am just sensitive to supplements in that way. So I started breaking up my doses throughout the day to help alleviate the side effect.

The best part? An entire one month supply of four different supplements delivered to your door for $33 (price may vary depending on your personal cocktail). And then auto-delivered again one month later so you never need to think twice about it. The even better part? If you use the code RALUCA at check out, your first month can be 50% off.

Effective, easy, affordable and made just for you. If only everything in life were the same!

*note: this post is not sponsored; I loved my experience with Care/Of and reached out to them to let them know I would be sharing it and asked for a code for you guys which they happily sent over.

Five Links

2017 June 6
by WWGD

We just got back from a really incredible trip to Mexico (more details to come). It was a beautiful, relaxing, restorative type of trip that has me looking at life through a softer lens…preferably one that is mezcal-tainted. Here are five recent finds that are feeding that feeling right now:

13 things you need to give up if you want to be successful. So many good things here, I honestly can’t pick a favorite. Implement them all.

This podcast round up from Homesong. I often complain that I don’t have time to listen to podcasts. I am either working at my desk (and can’t handle the distraction) or have my kids with me or don’t have a quiet time and place to focus on one. This list makes me want to find the time and place.

How not to end up hating your partner. Ties back to our recent vacation. It was kid-free. And much-needed. Marriage isn’t easy, no matter what stage of it you are in. This article offers some good perspective that you may want to keep in mind. This was another great read on the topic, from a men’s point of view.

Finally, a beautifully made mini movie on Erin French and The Lost Kitchen. You may have read about her off the beaten path culinary gem in the outer lands of Maine. Now you can learn more about the journey that took her there. Soft lens very much in focus.

Have a great Tuesday. xx

*image above via Death to the Stock Photo 

Father’s Day Gift Guide

2017 May 24
by WWGD

Father’s Day is around the corner and I thought you’d appreciate some suggestions on what to get for the guy in your life. My husband always feels guilty about buying himself…anything. So I like to take the opportunity to spoil him with some things he wouldn’t typically get for himself. Here are some of the best:

A subscription to his favorite magazine. In our case, that means the Surfer’s Journal. For your guy, it might mean Monocle. Or European Car. Or National Geographic. It’s such a simple gift but it pops up every month to put a smile on his face.

 

 

Reigning Champ slim sweatpants. My husband has a hard time investing in his own comfort so when I did it for him, it went a very long way. These are the best sweatpants — they have a slim but not too slim cut that doesn’t stretch out or lose shape, amazing cotton quality and colors that don’t fade in the wash. And they get washed a lot. 

 

The perfect tee. My man is a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy and finding the right one took his daily uniform to a new level. He likes the ones from Everlane but he LOVES the ones from Lone Flag, a local San Diego-based brand. The cut is perfect, the cotton is soft and again, no fading or stretching. It fits like the first time, every time.

 

Some fancy face stuff. A few years ago I bought my husband some Kiehl’s men’s products for Christmas. He sort of snubbed them because he’s not a “fancy” face stuff kind of guy. Until he tried them. Now he can’t go back. He is addicted to his little regimen and his (ahem, aging) skin is thankful, too. This Kiehl’s beard grooming oil is a great way to dip your guy’s toe into a men’s grooming routine. It smells heavenly, it will look good on his side of the counter and it’s one little step that will go a long way. If he is not a beard guy (lucky you, ha ha!), this starter kit is a perfect pick.

 

Books, books, books. And some time to actually sit down and read them. With a cold beer in hand. Here are my husband’s favorites: Born Standing Up by Steve Martin, Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, Life by Keith Richards, Barbarian Days by William Finnegan and Hosoi: My Life as a Skateboarder Junkie Inmate Pastor by Christian Hosoi. Skaters, surfers, rock ‘n’ rollers and a sneakerhead. Yep, sounds about right.

Happy dad’s day to you and yours!

PS – Father’s Day is apparently June 18th and NOT June 11th, as I thought…hence this ridiculously early post. Just a heads up in case you thought the same 😉

*this post contains affiliate links

What to buy from goop

2017 May 15
by WWGD

To celebrate the launch of goop’s pop-in at Nordstrom this month (more details and a list of participating stores here), I thought I would take a minute to share my personal favorites from Gwyneth Paltrow’s rapidly growing retail empire. I don’t necessarily believe that everything Gwyneth touches turns to gold (see my not-so-favorites mentioned below), but a lot of it definitely has a shiny allure that can’t be denied. Expensive, yes. But also rooted in quality, beauty and longevity, which are three things I find myself seeking out in everything I buy these days, whether it’s for me, my home or my family. Here are the things I have loved from Gwyneth’s goop:

The signature candles. These candles are beautiful to look at and display with a chic, (almost) all-black vessel and subtle, tonal branding. It is simply stunning, no matter where you perch it in your home. I had mine next to my kitchen sink for a month, just to add a little beauty to my mundane dish-washing time. Add to that an all-natural composition (most scented candles make me physically ill from their chemicals and nauseous fumes) and seasonally-inspired fragrance stories that feel subtle and specific at the same time. Easily one of my favorites for the home.

The exfoliating instant facial. This has quickly become one of my all-time favorite skincare essentials. It’s an all organic exfoliating scrub (“instant facial” and it feels like one) that works like a dream. It only takes three minutes for serious results that leave your face feeling soft, smooth and new. It can be intense so ease into it a few times per week and adjust accordingly from there. I have also heard great things about the melting facial cleanser which is next on my wish list. I wish I had better things to say about the day time moisturizer. It’s the one thing that gP actually sent to me direct to try out but I didn’t love it. It felt too heavy for my skin and just didn’t seem to do much for my hydration issues. I would highly recommend the discovery set if you’re interested in testing out the line to see what works. You can’t deny the quality of the ingredients and the simple beauty of it all but given the price point, a mini test run is definitely a good idea.

My Father’s Daughter. This is a pre-goop favorite of mine. I have bought all her cookbooks and this is the only one I turn to consistently. The other ones (here and here) are pretty and enlightening but just not conducive to my life and the way I like to cook for it. The recipes in My Father’s Daughter are fairly simple, just nutritious enough without being overbearingly clean and family favorites. It’s a nice read filled with really lovely pictures (two very important factors when it comes to cookbooks, in my opinion) and I find myself reaching for it time and again…even after five years.

Have any goop favorites I need to know about? Share in the comments!

*this post contains affiliate links

Buy Yourself Flowers

2017 May 13
by WWGD

Buying yourself flowers is always a good idea in my book so even though this may look like another Mother’s Day post let’s make it a “Buy Yourself Flowers” post instead. There is something really nice about buying yourself something simple and pretty, just because. Yes, it’s always lovely when someone else does it for you, of course, but I like to buy myself flowers every week as a little indulgence that goes a long way. A little “I love you” to myself, if you will. If my husband happens to pick some up for me as well…hey, even better. I’ve never seen a home that had too many flowers in it.

I came across these wreaths via Food52 ages ago and immediately loved their earthy, organic aesthetic. They are handmade by Creekside Farms, a family-owned operation in the Central Coast region, that specializes in creating natural, aromatic wreaths with care using materials such as herbs, branches, berries and more. Each one is built on a wire frame and pieced together with a meticulous eye for the natural, wild beauty of its ingredients.

You can buy them individually or Food52 offers a seasonal subscription (pictured above) which is my idea of one amazing gift. It features four unique wreaths, each inspired by the season: the Spring Branch Wreath features myrtle branches, moss, statice, and artemisia; the Fragrant Pod Wreath for Fall has eucalyptus, salal, bear grass, nigella, lotus pods and tallow berries; the Winter Citrus Wreath has a gorgeous mix of eucalyptus, lemon and orange slices, slit oranges and white statice; and the French Herb Wreath for summer (my personal favorite) is a blend of lavender, bay, marjoram, sage, oregano. Dreamy, I tell you.

Happy Mother’s Day, friends. Buy yourself something nice.

A New Chapter

2017 May 10
by WWGD

 

Sometimes in life, more is more.

As you know (and no doubt, have sensed), I have been struggling with the focus of this blog for a long time now. It always felt like I needed to cut back, re-focus, do less, in order to bring it to life again…for me and for you.

It turns out, I was wrong.

Welcome to the next chapter of What Would Gwyneth Do. One focused on the people, places and things that inspire my everyday. Moving forward, this space will be a carefully curated diary of my favorite things in beauty, design, travel, food and the like. Things I just have to share. Places I think you will love. People that will hopefully bring a little inspiration to your day. And yes, things that Gwyneth would probably like, too. I love this space, the concept behind it and the bits and pieces of inspiration I share here and I am excited to do more of that, with a new eye for quality, everyday inspiration and beauty. I hope you will continue to love it, too.

On the more is more note, I also want to introduce you to What Would Raluca Do. It’s a whole new blog. A whole new Instagram. A whole new space that will be filled with essays, musings and advice on modern-day motherhood and the moments that lie beyond it. It’s where my writing will live. My stories. My observations and thoughts. It will be no Gwyneth, all me, and hopefully some of you as well, who may be looking for a more thoughtful read once in a while and a place to sink into at the end of a long day or week. It will be simple in its design and it will feature some of my favorite essays from this space alongside all my new ones. It will be the big sister to WWGD, just a little bit younger in internet years. I hope you will pop in once in a while.

I think this new chapter will be a good one. It’s more work, more time, more effort. But somehow feels so much lighter in my mind.

Thank you, as always, for taking the time to stop by.

Raluca

The Amazing Race

2017 May 3
by WWGD

Every day after school pick up, my kids and I play the same game. I drive to the mailbox at the end of our street, my daughter hops out to grab the mail for me and then she dumps it back through my open car window and she and her brother race me home. We live about five houses away; it’s a short race. But every day, they run like the wind to beat me and my big, heavy SUV. Their little legs pump furiously in the sun, despite already having seven or so hours of busy activity under their belts. Their hair flies behind them in the wind as they run into the afternoon sun’s rays. The smiles on their faces are big. Determined to win. Delighted to be racing. He is always trailing just a few steps behind her, but somehow it feels like they are running in tandem. Eyes moving quickly from the road ahead to their running feet and back up again. I always let them win. I hit the gas a little bit around house three just to keep them motivated and then I ease off the pedal as they cruise the corner into our driveway, always declaring their victory with arms above their heads and a “YES!” erupting from their little lungs. They collapse into victory laughter, teasing me for my slow driving, high-fiving each other for another winning race. 10 and 6 and always in first place.

My parents are both 70 now. They walk together every day. My dad goes twice, once in the morning by himself and then again with my mom in the afternoon. They walk the hills by their home, some of the most beautiful suburban streets in the country, I am sure of it. They religiously climb them and descend them day after day (except on Sundays, when my mom prefers to lounge in bed and read magazines…it’s her version of church), marveling at the blooming bougainvillea, huffing and puffing a little on the sharp inclines. Pausing to take in the vistas along the way, to remark on something that happened that day with me or my sister or my kids or Trump. Finding their way back home along the familiar streets, sometimes hand in hand, sometimes with my dad just a few steps ahead of my mom. I read a thing the other day about how the decades between 50 and 80 go the fastest. How they feel like seconds, not decades. Time just moves so quickly in that chapter of your life and you need to hold on like never before. I was telling my mom about the article and she concurred. Racing the clock. Racing those seconds. Always in first place, even at your own pace.

I turn 39 today. It’s one of those odd birthdays: not a milestone, not particularly young and not particularly old. Just 39. I look at all the things I’ve accomplished and done in 39 years and I feel proud. My marriage, my children, our home and day-to-day life. I want to celebrate it. Get a facial. Go and read on the beach. Eat my favorite pizza with my kids. Drink a glass or two of rosé. A new chapter will begin, as it always does on this day each year. I sense the next one will not be about accomplishments as much as it will be about living. About seeing places I want to see and doing things I want to do. About being with the people that fill me up and finding the things that do the same. About striving for a little less and enjoying a little more. I know, it sounds cliché for every woman in her late 30s. We all want to do a little less. Slow down. Come in last place some days. Not racing anyone or anywhere or anything. Just take it all in for a couple of years, declaring victory in our own way, readying ourselves for the next lap that lies ahead. It’s an amazing race, after all. Every step of the way. I will pick up my kids later. Take them for ice cream. Come home and stop at the mailbox. But maybe, just maybe, today I will let myself win.

*image via Death to Stock photo 

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Today You Are TEN

2017 April 9
by WWGD

 

Today you are ten.

Double digits, as they say. A whole new chapter. I think it may be your best one yet.

Today you are friendship bracelets and cartooning and Harry Potter.

Today you are chewing gum and Converse and sleepovers with your friends.

Today you are a few inches taller than you were last year, with no signs of slowing down. You are the same height as one of my good friends, so I justify it when I let you ride in the front seat…she drives a car, after all.

Today you are still a really great big sister. The divide between you and your brother is widening a little with every passing year, but you’re still best friends and he still makes you laugh like no one else. When I tell you to look out for him, you roll your eyes just a little and grab his hand.

Today you are still a voracious reader. Everywhere, all the time, anything. But Harry Potter, in particular.

Today you are important questions and thoughtful conversations and I do my best to keep up with every single one because I know they are going to stick with you forever. These are the days. The ones that count.

Today you are a skateboarder and a swimmer but most of all, an artist. You go to art class every week and lose yourself in canvas and paint and splattered aprons. You often carry a sketchbook and pencil case with you, just in case. You want to start a YouTube channel with step-by-step videos on cartooning. We shot the first episode already.

Today you are kind. You are empathetic and thoughtful. And now you’re old enough to really know what those things mean. How valuable they truly are. How they make up the character that will make you who you are forever.

Today you are in between. Some days, it’s toys and stuffies. Other days, it’s closed doors and headphones. It’s such an interesting place to be…for all of us.

Today you are still turquoise and always ponytails, but now you like to do them yourself. Some days, it works. Some days, it doesn’t.

Today you are 71.5 lbs, give or take. You discovered steak this year. The good kind. And you’re slowly opening up your repertoire beyond butter pasta and bread…but just a little bit beyond it. You had your first taste of soda a few months ago, a San Pellegrino Limonata, and we convinced you that Italians do it best. Because they do.

Today you are long legs and more freckles with every sun-filled afternoon and bushy eye brows that you will learn to appreciate in another ten years or so. You are asking about make up, but from afar. Sitting on the edge of the tub, watching as I put a little on here and there. Telling people your mom only wears lipstick on “special occasions.” I have a feeling you’re going to grow up to do the same.

Today you asked for chocolate cake with turquoise frosting and confetti decor. You got it.

Today you are ten. We are ten together. Me as a mom and you as you. The most perfect you I could have ever imagined. Ten years ago, today, and forever more.

Happy birthday, D. xx

Intentionally Sporadic

2017 April 4
by WWGD

I got an email from a former client the other day.

It has been a while since our professional relationship wrapped up and while I always really liked and admired her, there wasn’t a real reason to stay on top of our regular correspondence once life moved us along on different paths.

She reached out to say that since we last spoke she has been a regular reader of this space, popping in and out quietly as she navigated working motherhood with her first and then second baby boy, taking in various topics that stuck with her along the way. She felt compelled to send me a note after all this time to say hello and share her feedback and I thanked her so much for getting in touch, for taking the time to read, and apologized for my “sporadic” random posts and writing habits.

Sporadic means you write when there’s something to say, not just to fill the space,” she replied.

I have been thinking long and hard about intention the past year or two. And I know a lot of you are as well. What it means to live a life with intention, especially when so much of it is anything but, by nature. Is it watching less TV and reading more? Eating farm-to-table and foregoing fast food forever? Promising to put down your phone the minute your kids walk in the door…every single time?

And then Kate’s comment got me thinking. Maybe living with intent has nothing to do with what you do do and everything to do with what you don’t do.

Leaving some spaces empty once in a while. Some moments untouched. Some days completely blank.

Maybe it’s less about the choices you make and put out into the world and more about the ones you make and keep for yourself.

Maybe living with intent means filling your space and your time with things that matter to you, and only you, regardless of how the Insta world defines it. Or, better yet, not trying to fill your world with anything beyond what feels good to you in that particular moment, at that particular time. And sometimes that’s a whole lot of absolutely nothing and that’s just perfect.

I think I was struggling with trying to chase this life filled with “intent” while I was actually already living it in my own personal way the whole time. I just needed to define it for myself.

Taking in more sunsets and more deep breaths. Listening to the world around me and not saying a word. Practicing kindness in ways big and small and looking for it in other people I meet along the way. Teaching my kids to do the same; not through words, but through actions. And when I feel like it, fast food. Or a ridiculous reality show. Leaving some spaces empty and some moments undocumented and some hours completely blank until they are ready to be filled.

Here’s to more of those. To living with empty intent.

Thanks for the note, Kate. And for spending some of your blank moments here with little old me.

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