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5 Favorites of 2016

2016 December 30

I kind of feel like this is one of those years that needs to go out on a fun, frivolous note. There is too much challenge and change from the past 12 months to even try to reconcile with so instead I am sharing my five favorite beauty finds of the year to bring a little superficial distraction to the final days of 2016. Hope yours are just as frivolous.

Love + Salt hair and body mist. I have shared this one before and with good reason, it’s on my top 5 favorites list as well. It’s a wave spray made from all-natural products and it works beautifully, without the crunchy, icky residue that so many others leave behind. You’re also supporting a small, indie beauty brand when you buy it. A small, indie beauty brand that makes a really great product.


Bite Beauty. My girl Sarah at Whoorl (a must-follow if you have any interest in green beauty at all) first introduced me to Bite and I am hooked. Their all-natural lip collection is so clean you can actually eat it (my kids get a kick out of that little fact every time I put it on), the colors are gorgeous and hyper pigmented for long-lasting, comfortable wear and the packaging is sleek and cool in a simple matte black look I love. Win/win/win. The matte lip crayons are my personal favorite.

Aveda Smooth Infusion Styling Creme. My new hairdresser (at an Aveda salon) turned me onto this styling creme for my half wavy/half curly/half kind of straight and random hair. Just a small dollop on wet hair helps bring definition to my curls and waves as they air dry and leaves hair soft, shiny and just a little more refined.

Aveda Botanical Kinetics Exfoliant. Another new Aveda favorite is this exfoliant. I used the gel cleanser from the same line and I liked it, but I LOVED this exfoliant. It’s cool because it’s a liquid exfoliant – no micro-beads or grains of anything – so you just swipe it on with a cotton pad and it sloughs away dull surface cells. It’s a nice, simple alternative to a traditional exfoliant that leaves your skin feeling clear, clean and soft.

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum. Finally, the Drunk Elephant serum that goop built. They mentioned it a few times this year and it quickly became a cult favorite so naturally I had to try it…and I love it. I am using it in conjunction with their B Hydra Gel and that is not worth sharing (in my humble opinion), but this Vitamin C fueled serum is. It promises to firm and brighten and it’s done just that. I use a pump in the morning with my moisturizer (it’s a little sticky for a few minutes so you need to let it settle) and I swear it has left me with brighter skin and lighter sun spots. And if that’s not a good way to ring in a New Year, I don’t know what is.

Would love to know what you loved this year, too! Share in the comments if you’re so inclined. I have become a certified skincare junkie.

*disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. 

Happy New Year, Maximus

2016 December 29

I went for a walk in the lagoon near our house yesterday with the kids and some friends and our dogs.

It was a gorgeous day. One of the few we have had this holiday season. It has been unseasonably rainy and chilly and very un-San Diego like over Christmas and the days that followed it and while I enjoyed the change of scenery (almost reminds me of living with the seasons…sort of), it was nice to feel the warm sun on our skin again. To see the blue water lapping away in the lagoon and the people in their short sleeves and bare legs, taking in the reason why we live here with each and every step.

We did our thing, letting the kids forge their own paths up and down embankments, always ten feet behind, lost in a world of childhood chit chat and make believe. The dogs behaved, walking confidently in stride, barely letting their puppy energy get the best of them. My girlfriend and I made small talk. About the holiday. About family matters. About the weather and the kids and the dogs….always talking about the dogs.

And then we met Maximus. Maximus was a little scruffy terrier. He was just intimidated enough by our duo of labs. Not shy enough to hide away, but not quite bold enough to say hello. Maximus was walking with a man and a woman, who was presumably his owner. And she is the reason for this post.

She was fairly nondescript at first glance. Slim, probably in her late 50s. Patagonia-style uniform from head to foot. Slightly unruly curly hair. Brown with flecks of auburn that shimmered in the sun. A pair of reading glasses that have obviously been well worn and loved through the years. A water bottle in one hand. I imagine she listens to NPR and has a “Feel the Bern” bumper sticker and a stack of Joan Didion books on her nightstand.

This woman lit up when she crossed our path. I mean, she lit up. It started with her smile. It was a mile-wide, big and open. Easy and natural. Her warm eyes crinkled with love. You could literally see the love in them come to life. She bent over to pet our dogs, giving them each a frisky rubdown, basking in their energy and their wagging tails. She spoke to them like she spoke to us. With so much enthusiasm and life. She commented on their coats, on their eyes. She commented on the weather and the trees. She told us that Max was named Maximus after the horse in “Tangled.” The kids had a laugh. She laughed along with them. A loud laugh, funny and free.

We spent maybe three minutes with this woman. This complete stranger who was just walking her little scruffy terrier Maximus down the same path by the same lagoon we walk by all the time.

Maybe three minutes.

She told our dogs it was time to go. Maximus needed his exercise. She smiled that smile at us. She smiled at our kids. She thanked us for stopping to talk in a way that felt sincere and heartfelt and true. And she and her companion and her little terrier went on their way.

And I stood there watching her go.

She was 20 feet away in a matter of seconds, but her smile remained right by my side. Her crinkled, warm eyes were still standing next to me. Her energy and her natural joy and her, for lack of a more underused term, aura…it wouldn’t leave.

My girlfriend noticed it, too. We both remarked on how we would love to have that kind of energy. Not in the physical sense. In another sense altogether. An energy that just emanated from her. One that felt pure and natural and real and truly…happy. To put it out into the world. To share it with others. How does one project that kind of ease, peace, absolute joy? Even with complete strangers? Has she always had it in her? Did it come with age? Was it Maximus? The sun shining? Her walking companion that day?

I didn’t catch that woman’s name. Only the dog’s. But moving into the new year, into a new season of change and transition and self-reflection…I will remember her. I will keep her smile and her eyes and energy in my memory. In my back pocket. In my mindset on sunny days.

Happy New Year, Maximus.


Today You Are Six

2016 December 20


Today you are six.

Today you are donuts and cold milk and extra vitamins because you need to fight off the little bug that tried to take you down on your birthday…again.

Today you are all things Pokemon, all the time. The cards, the game, the figurines, the cartoons. If it’s not Pokemon, it’s not life. This is six.

Today you are a little bit longer. A little bit leaner. Jeans that are a little too short and shoes that are a little too small. More and more big boy and less and less our baby boy.

Today you are happiness. Your smile and your energy and your aura all radiate this contagious, infectious glee that goes with you always. You can’t keep a straight face, even when you’re in trouble…a giggle always bubbling up under the surface. You see the happy in the sad, the light in the dark and the sun through the clouds. Every day.

Today you are soaking it all in. Words, numbers, facts and figures. Your brain wants to know it all and it’s processing it very quickly. You can read, you like math (especially when it’s related to your Pokemon cards) and you can’t wait for first grade to get “real homework.” We hope you still feel that way when it comes.

Today you are full of hugs and kisses and I love you’s. Anything that brings a smile to someone else’s heart. You are there to deliver.

Today you are mac and cheese but not the kind in restaurants where they top it with breadcrumbs. Yes to fruit. Maybe to some vegetables. Always yes to chocolate.

Today you are your sister’s best friend and protector. Unless she wants one of your Pokemon cards. You are starting to find your boundaries even in the relationship that brings you the most joy.

Today you laugh out loud. And it fills my heart. You cry out loud, too. But most of the time it’s justified.

Today you are 40 something pounds and still want to be carried once in a while. But only once in a while.

Today you still sleep with your beloved monkey and I hope he sticks around for a few more years.

Today you are six. You are moving on from five and working your way towards so much more. I can’t wait to watch you every step of the way.

Happy birthday, Kai. We love you so.


The Good Life

2016 November 6



I’ve adopted a new habit lately that I wanted to share.

When people ask me how I am doing, feeling, whatnot on any given day, I reply with my usual (and very true) standards: busy, tired, a little crazy…but I add an important disclaimer on the end:

“But it’s a good busy. A good tired. A good crazy.”

Yes, I am more tired right now than I have been in years. I can barely keep my eyes open past 9:00pm (and yes, my 9-year-old daughter is usually still awake then), I silently curse the sun rise every morning as it peeks through the blinds into my bedroom, and I physically need to pull myself off the couch to make dinner come 6pm every night. I am busy beyond the norm. I am inching towards the end of a very hectic year at work and it feels like my personal and family life have more demands on it than ever before. Balance has been tough to come by this year and most weeks, it feels like a constant go-go-go race to the finish line. Which leads to the crazy part. My mind, time and energy are being pulled in so many different directions right now and it’s increasingly difficult to keep up. My focus feels a little more scattered and my memory is standing me up more often than it used to. Things just feel a little crazy…a lot of the time.

But it’s the good kind. And by reminding myself of that each and every day, I started to feel it. To embrace it. To know it’s true. I am beyond lucky to have work and family and deadlines and to-dos looming over me. To have good health on our side, despite the exhaustion and the (somewhat) lazy memory. To be able to do (for the most part) all the things I set out to do at work and at home and to balance everything in a sometimes precarious but always somehow successful way.

It’s the good kind of busy. Of tired. Of crazy. And now that I have stopped focusing on the “busy” and more on the “good” it’s actually feeling that way.

They say mind over matter and I know that to be true, but first you need to get your mind on track, too. And that can start with something as simple as one little word, how you choose to use it and all the meaning behind it.

So I hope you have a good day today. A busy, tiring, crazy one. But a good one.

*image above via @Happsters.


What I Am Loving…Right Now

2016 October 28



It has been a long while since I have done a must-have round up but that doesn’t mean I haven’t found a ton of things to share with you…here are just some of my recent favorites:

Norden Goods candles. I came across this local, San Diego-based candle brand earlier this year and quickly fell in love with the husband and wife team’s branding and aesthetic and am happy to say the product stands up to the same test. I am partial to the Leucadia candle (a warm, spicy mix of vanilla, orange and rosemary) which is perched on my desk as we speak, but all of their candles, planters and home accessories are minimal in a not-too-minimal way that I love.

Drunk Elephant skincare. You have probably seen the buzz on this fairly new skincare brand on social media. And I am here to happily let you know that most of it is warranted. I came across the line via goop (obviously) and promptly ordered the cult-favorite Vitamin C serum that came highly recommended from…everyone. And I love it. I apply it in the morning after their B-Hydra Intensive Hydration gel (I like the gel, but I LOVE the serum) and it leaves my skin brighter and tighter, albeit a tiny bit sticky at first. I also swear it is helping one of my sun spots slowly fade. This one is staying in my skincare regimen rotation and I am going to add the night serum to the mix next as well. I am taking my skincare very seriously these days. Performance is key. Natural-ish is as well. Drunk Elephant delivers on both. It is not all-natural, but it’s close. And that’s ok for me right now, because I need results…big time.

Rockets of Awesome. I’ve been meaning to tell you about this one since back-to-school but better late than never, I say! Rockets of Awesome is a new shopping service for your littles that you – and they! – will love. Your kids answer a few quick style-related questions (i.e. pink – love it or hate it? dinosaurs – super cool or super lame?) and they curate a wardrobe-in-a-box custom tailored to your kids and their tastes. Fun, right? And the best part? We LOVED everything in our box. You only have to keep the pieces you want and you simply return the rest but every single piece in our box was a hit…and they have all held up to multiple wears, back-to-school nerves and my daughter’s very picky (no pink or lace, please) sartorial standards. Oh, and I love that their pieces feel unique on the playground unlike most of the other usual suspect brands when it comes to kids’ wear.

Eden’s Garden OK For KidsI’ve been using essential oils for a few years now in our home and I have always loved the benefits, but not the guesswork when it came to safety, especially where my kids are involved. Eden’s Garden is a southern California-based oil company that I have used for a while now simply because I loved the quality of their oils and that they aren’t a HUGE brand like most of the others that feel very sales-y to me. And now I love them even more because they recently launched an OK For Kids line that features custom synergy blends that are just for kids – already diluted and ready to go. No guesswork involved. We especially love the roll-on options because they are mess-free and my kids can apply them themselves (with supervision, of course) when they need them. The blends are super cute – Bee Happy; Focus, Focus, Focus; Study Buddy, and more) – and make it easy to mix and match the right ones for your family’s needs.

Finally, Love & Salt Beach Spray. I’ve tried several “beach-y wave” sprays in my time and I have finally found the one. This spray (created by a small indie brand, which I love) is the first one to really deliver the gritty, wave-y, piece-y look for me that all the others promise. It smells lovely, leaves your hair feeling soft (not crunchy) and looks cute in my vanity which is always a factor for me. Apparently you can use it on your body as well but I can’t attest to that. My hair would be too jealous.

*Note: This post is not sponsored in any way, these are genuine favorites that I love. It does, however, contain a few affiliate links which means that if you opt to purchase a product via this post, I earn a small commission on the sale. But trust me, it’s small. And has no influence on what I choose to share. Ha. 

**image above via the Norden Goods Journal. Check it out here

Say Yes to Birthdays

2016 October 4


I was walking up to my daughter’s school today for pick up, running a precise 4 minutes late as I tend to do, and crossed paths with a mom walking out with her son who was likely in 3rd or 4th grade (on her way out because she is apparently the precisely on-time for pick up mom I strive to be).

“So I am going to say no to that birthday party you were invited to,” she said to him, nonchalantly. “You don’t even know that boy.”

“Oh, Evan’s party?” he questioned, kicking the pebbles that crossed his path. “I know him…”

“You don’t, really,” she continued, making his mind up for him. “Let’s say no.”

I wanted to stop her in her tracks. I wanted to look her in the eye. I wanted to plead with her…

Say yes to birthdays!

We say yes to birthdays. Of course there are occasions when we’re out of town or sick or have another commitment, but if we can get there, we say yes.

We say yes to invitations from kids we barely know, kids we adore and consider family, kids we don’t see again after that school year has passed.

We say yes to birthdays.

We say yes because there are a lot of kids (or shall I say moms) out there who say no. And more importantly, there are a lot of lonely kids out there who are waiting, hoping, wishing for a yes.

We say yes because there are a lot of moms and dads out there who work really hard on these celebrations and invite the whole class – whether they know them or not. And that’s a sign of kindness, confidence and compassion that I want my kids to appreciate and embody every time we see it.

We say yes because for some kids sending out the invite (especially to kids they “don’t even know”) is a very important step. We say yes to them taking the leap, being a friend, including everyone.

And of course, we say yes to cake and balloons and pizza, too. Any time we get the invite.

I don’t know Evan. And I don’t know that mom I walked by today. Maybe her days are too busy? But maybe her son’s aren’t and he can go on his own. Or maybe her budget is too tight these days? So maybe she can just hand down some beloved books from her own son’s collection. Maybe Evan has been unkind to her son in the past? It didn’t sound like it, but if so, maybe this is the exact “yes” they both need to move past it? Maybe she doesn’t like his mom (because let’s be honest here…that is the reasoning behind more schoolyard situations than we probably care to admit)? And maybe that’s all the more reason to give the kids the opportunity to be kids, no mom strings attached.

I don’t know. I don’t know their scenario and that’s ok because it’s theirs and theirs alone. But we say yes to birthdays. And when we send out invites, we hope people say yes to ours. Because it always means a lot to our kids. It makes them happy to see their friends (close ones and not-so-close ones alike) come out to celebrate with them, to watch them blow out their candles, to eat too much pizza and go home with a sugar high. It makes us sincerely happy when they say yes to ours.

And we especially appreciate it when they are precisely four minutes late.

*image above – birthday cake cookies, how fun! – via My Baking Addiction

My Menu Plan

2016 October 2


Hello, October!

Fall feels good around here. It’s not in the temperature outside (that’s still in the 80s) or the change in wardrobe (still open-toed everything), but it’s in the routine. School is back in session and the kids are thriving in their new classrooms. Weekends are more defined and a little less busy. And menu planning is back on my weekly routine. Which helps my sanity, budget and waistline…all good things.

Here is a look at our menu for the week:

Sunday – Baked pesto parmesan chicken (recipe here) with spaghetti squash.

Monday – Grilled steak with brown rice and brussels sprouts. I buy the shaved brussels sprouts from Trader Joe’s and stir fry them with a bag of this brown rice (I get ours at Costco), diced shallots, chicken broth and lots of seasoning. It’s pretty darn delicious for brussels sprouts and brown rice, have to say.

Tuesday – Fish tacos. This may be the easiest 15-minute meal ever and our family eats them up. We sautée some fresh tilapia with a green salsa and then top it with avocado, shredded cheese and a squeeze or two of lime in a fresh flour tortilla. My little guy hasn’t embraced the tilapia yet so I cook him some fish nuggets from Trader Joe’s to fill his taco with. I still consider it a win.

Wednesday – Chicken meatballs with pineapple sauce. This is a first-time recipe for us so will report back. Planning to serve over brown rice with some roasted broccolini.

Thursday – Take out. We’ve earned it by now.

Friday – Homemade pizza. I am trying to limit myself to eating pizza once per week. This may sound like an easy challenge to most of you but not me. We’ve been obsessed with Gaby’s creations lately (her menu plans are pretty great, too) and this one is on heavy rotation…but only once per week 😉

Have a good Sunday!

Champagne and Advil

2016 September 26


The other night we were at a friend’s house for dinner and when we were leaving I stumbled on my way down their walkway, falling to the ground and twisting my ankle badly. It made that crunching noise that sends shivers up your spine and your mind straight to the ER and it happened so quickly I was on my butt before my knees or my instincts had a chance to catch me.

My son started crying, as a five-year-old boy will do when his mom is suddenly hurting right before his very eyes. My daughter rushed to my side, as a nine-year-old will, wanting to help but unsure of what to do. And I sat there, the pain almost too much to bear, trying to hold back tears and curse words in the same breath.

I have a feeling that moment will stay with them – and me – forever.

I could blame it (partially) on the champagne but the reality is that 38 has been a tough year on me, physically. For the first time ever, I have felt my age. In my skin, in my bones, in my moods. I am just a little more tired, a little more achy, a little more sensitive…than I have ever been before. I know that 38 is nothing in the grand scheme of aging. It’s an opening hurdle. Not even 40. Barely even catching a glimpse of middle age. But I feel it already. It has been sprained ankles and sensitive knees. It has been bad skin and hormonal moods. It has been 9pm bed times and champagne that hits me a little earlier in the evening and affects me a little later the following morning.

But at the same time, it has been life with a 9-year-old. It has been someone who is up to my shoulders, height-wise, and who doesn’t look at all out of place on the odd occasion when I let her sit shotgun. It is nights when we lay in bed chatting, even though the clock says 10 minutes past her bedtime and my 38-year-old eyes say it’s almost mine. It is conversations about politics and books and life that simply weren’t there when I was 30. When my knees were better. It has been life with a 5-year-old. It has been swimming in the deep end and kindergarten and learning to read and sight words. It has been family dinners where everyone actually eats the same thing and traveling through airports without a care in the world and two people who run to your side when you fall.

So while some aspects of 38 are kicking my ass (literally), so many other aspects of it, of this stage, of this particular chapter of life, are wonderful. Easy-going, joy-filled, balanced.

And I am going to try to focus on those pieces of it for now instead.

Champagne in one hand and Advil in the other.

Myra, Lola and Me

2016 September 20


Last weekend I went to a dear friend’s baby shower and met her dear friend, Myra. Myra is a working mother of two with a brand new baby. She was introduced to my blog through our mutual friend a long time ago and has been reading ever since. Myra was beyond kind, telling me how my writing entertains and inspires her, how she loves the recipes I post and the products I share because she simply doesn’t have the time or energy to go hunting things down on her own right now. Myra told me to “keep writing” when the blog’s recent silence came up. She told me it’s a voice she loves, that it feels familiar to her and comforting and gives her a dose of inspiration here and there that she needs. Myra bid farewell to my daughter (my date for the day) and I as we headed out of the shower and she told my daughter, “Your mommy is a great writer,” to which my daughter replied, filled with pride and showing off her big, toothy 9-year-old smile, “I know.”

The next day, I logged back into this space for the first time in a while and I met Lola. Lola is a new reader, or she was for a day at least when she took the time to go through a dozen or so of my past posts and leave negative comments on each one. I don’t know if Lola works or has kids or where she lives or how she came upon this space. But she didn’t like it. She doesn’t like my writing, it’s “genuinely unreflective.” She doesn’t like mommy bloggers. She doesn’t like the comments people have left on some of my essays. We are all mommy sheep. She doesn’t like the peach salad I have been eating obsessively all summer long. It’s all vapid. It’s all basic. It’s all terrible. I am just another example of a narcissist sharing her “perfectly imperfect life”…and not even sharing it well, for that matter. In Lola’s eyes, I suck. At this, that, everything. In a nutshell.

I went back to my coffee. Drip, with CoffeeMate in it. I looked around at my “perfectly imperfect” house. The basic white kitchen, the grey floors, the Pinterest-inspired fixtures. I looked at my vapid stack of magazines and paperbacks that came recommended by mom bloggers and Oprah and NPR. I looked at the bowl of peaches sitting on the island, waiting to be made into a salad. Or maybe a trendy little rustic galette. Or maybe just eaten in big chunks with my son, the way we like it, with juice running down our chins and staining our shirts. And I decided to write for Myra.

I thought of my parents and their upbringing in Romania and how they dreamed of having a life like ours. I thought of my kids and how hard we have worked to raise smart, cultured, kind people…even in the most basic of southern California suburbs. I thought of the moms and women and girls out there who want a familiar voice to remind them that sometimes, basic can be just fine. That simple pleasures are some of the best ones in life. That loving your life and feeling optimistic and sharing that with your community doesn’t make you insensitive or uneducated or banal. Or that when life isn’t worth loving, there are people out there who want to inspire and entertain and comfort…sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small. I thought of all the moms out there that give me inspiration in return – via their images, their words, their shares and their stories. I thought about how peaches and tomatoes together are a fucking great combination and that I will stand by that recipe all day long.

And I decided to write for Myra.

To give her a minute or two here and there where she can look around at her life, at the world around her, at the people in it, and to appreciate it all.

Some days it might be vapid. Some days it might be thoughtful. Some days it might be witty and some days it might not. Some days it will inspire and engage and amuse and others, it will be random and scattered and genuinely unreflective. Some day soon, it might not even be right here in this space (more to come on that…).

But wherever it falls, whatever it is, it will be here for Myra. And for my daughter, some day. And for me. And for today, I think that’s enough.


The Best Worst Mom Ever

2016 July 7

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 5.46.42 PM


“Mommy, can I talk to you about something?”

I dropped what I was doing. It was the first minute — literally, the first — that I had sat down to relax in almost ten hours. The day was impossible. One kid home with no summer camps or activities planned. Another kid home on day three of the stomach flu. An overactive inbox. A stressed out husband. A bored and restless puppy. A kitchen filled with disarray and clutter and piles of mess.

I had just sat down to breathe, nothing more. I wasn’t looking to hop on Instagram or text my sister or even to check the weather. I just wanted to breathe. I just wanted to try to find a moment of solace to regroup for the evening shift. For the piles of laundry that were calling my name. For the next round of the stomach flu. For the work deadlines that still loomed ahead into the night.

I dropped what I was doing and turned to her.

“I feel like you don’t have any time for me,” she whispered, her bottom lip starting to quiver.

My heart fell. I knew where it was going. I should have booked a summer camp. I should have tried to cut back on work this month. I should have hired a dog-walker.

“I know,” I said. “In some ways, today, I don’t.”

I wanted to make excuses and find an extra ten hours of free time and bring a smile back to her face and explain to her again about why I am a working mom and how it benefits us in so many ways and how we are beyond fortunate for our circumstances, lack of time and all, but…I couldn’t. I didn’t.

“Today, I didn’t have enough time,” I said gently. “I just didn’t.”

No excuses. No miracles pulled out of my back pocket. No promises.

I was the worst mom ever in the best possible way.

I was honest. I was sincere. I was looking her in the eye and telling her what she didn’t want – but maybe had to – hear, with all my love. I was letting her see that some days, the world wins. That it piles up on top of you and you can choose to try to fight it all and climb further uphill or you can let it slide a little. You can realize that some times, there isn’t enough time. And some days you can’t prioritize where your time goes, no matter how badly you want to. I tried to show her that some days you will be the best worst you and that’s all you can be. And most importantly, that I think it’s ok. It’s ok that I failed a little that day. And it’s ok that she called me out on it. And together, we will make tomorrow better.

I was the worst mom ever but I was going to own it.

She smiled a little. Just a hint. Wiped away the tear that had started to roll down her lightly freckled cheek. She looked to the summer sky above, just starting to soften in the evening light. And she looked back at me.

“It’s ok, mom,” she said. And she sat down next to me. And we took a deep breath.

I was the worst mom ever and in that moment, it was the best thing that had happened all day.