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Three Quick Reads

2017 August 15

For business: an interesting read on Everlane and how it’s growing in an ever-evolving consumer landscape. Via Business Insider. I am a longtime Everlane devotee and this is a sharp, interesting look at their model and how its simplicity and direct approach proves that less can be so much more in business.

For pleasure: a great read from a busy executive on maintaining work-life balance after getting a big promotion at work. What struck me the most about this one wasn’t just the focus on work/life balance but moreso on how his family made that a group priority and decision and stuck to it. I think a lot of modern-day households could benefit from getting on the same page – really on the same page – about balance and what it looks like to everyone and where and how to prioritize it. This is a great start to that conversation. Via Fast Company.

For fun: Twelve Questions via Atelier Doré. This is a dummies guide to basic skincare and beauty questions and I can almost guarantee you there are at least 2-3 in there that you’re wondering about, too.

PS – now reading this. Really liking it. And just finished reading this. Loved it. And I just finished writing this. If you want to take a peek.

Happy Tuesday! xx

A Travel Guide to Palm Springs

2017 August 9


After living in Southern California for close to 15 years, we have become certifiable experts on Palm Springs weekends. Heading to the desert is one of my very favorite getaways. In less than two hours, we are in a different mindset, climate and relaxation mode and we often sneak away whenever we can and head east, sometimes on a day’s notice. Here are some of our favorite places to go.

For a getaway with the girls. Holiday House (above) is a brand new boutique property located in an idyllic spot at the base of the San Jacinto Mountain range and steps from downtown Palm Springs. Disclaimer: I do some work with the owners but when I went for a night away recently with a friend, I knew I would be back regardless of that. First, note that this is a 21+ property which means you need to book a babysitter and never look back. The design is SO fresh and airy with a signature blue and white palette that feels new and crisp for Palm Springs (which a lot of the city’s famed haunts do not). You are greeted with a glass of rosé and a pair of love beads at check-in and the lobster roll is the perfect accompaniment for your second glass of rosé at lunch. Many of the rooms boast cute outdoor showers, there is shuffleboard to play and blue Linus bikes to borrow and at night, the property lights up with fire pits and torches for a cool, cozy backdrop for your last glass of…you guessed it, rosé.

For a getaway with your significant other. My husband and I managed to sneak away for 36 hours last week and Sparrows Lodge was the perfect destination. Another adults-only property, this one has a rustic, organic allure that I simply loved. Every detail is so thoughtfully designed from the welcome glass of sangria to the horse trough bathtubs in the guest rooms to the tiny private patios spilling over with bougainvillea. No TVs or phones to be found on-property and I promise, you will appreciate it. This is a quiet place for real relaxation, where you can finish a book and start another all in one trip. Have the burger in The Barn Kitchen for lunch and sign up for the Saturday night family-style dinner if you can. Easily one of my very favorite places in the desert for a simple, peaceful getaway.

For a getaway with your littlesBecause the truth is, I am always happiest when I am with my kids, we often head to the desert with them in tow, too. We have stayed in several different places with them but always end up returning to Rancho Las Palmas, an Omni Resort. A few miles further east in the neighboring town of Rancho Mirage, this hotel is a favorite because it keeps everyone in the family happy. The kids have an incredible family pool area complete with water slides, lazy river and all the Dippin’ Dots they can consume and we get gorgeous property views like the one pictured above, a spacious and comfortable guest room, a good spa and live music by the fire pits at night. I love a hotel that can appeal to everyone in the family and this one does, consistently. The restaurant is decent but you also have easy, convenient access to Rancho Mirage if you want to venture off-property for dinner (which I suggest). There is also a tranquil little adult-only pool you can escape to if you find the chance.

What to do. When you are not hanging out poolside in Palm Springs, you’re likely eating, drinking or spa’ing (if you’re anything like me…). My favorites on that front are:

Rooster and the Pig. This Vietnamese hotspot in a strip mall in downtown Palm Springs is a new find for me and instantly became a favorite. The decor is simple and minimal, the food is absolutely amazing and the wait is long. Don’t take the kids. Do drink the gin and basil cocktail.

Counter Reformation. Another recent find for me, this relatively new wine bar tucked away in a former storage space at the Parker is cool (literally) and really fun. The bartenders know their stuff, the wine list is strong and the tapas menu is creative and yum. I wouldn’t necessarily make an entire night of it but it’s a great place to start before dinner or drinks somewhere else. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays so plan ahead.

Melvyn’s. If you haven’t done it, the bar at Melvyn’s is a must for that old-school, authentic Palm Springs vibe. You can picture the Rat Pack sitting back in the dimly lit room where the piano plays loud, the drinks are aplenty and the sing-alongs are inevitable. A guaranteed good time. No need to stay for the Steak Diane.

Workshop Kitchen + Bar. This is a special occasion spot where you assume the impeccable design is going to outshine the food, but it doesn’t. I have been on a few occasions now and the menu is creative, delicious and fresh. Expensive, yes. But worth it. Contrary to what the vibe may lead you to believe, you can bring kids here (if they are good restaurant kids) and the kitchen will happily make them a margarita pizza. The mezcal cocktail is worth having twice. In one night.

Palm Springs Yacht Club. Venture back to the Parker for a trip to the spa. It is one of the coolest ones I have been to with a design that feels relaxing in a not-at-all typical spa way, fantastic services and a his and hers relaxation space that lets you chill with your man, which is always fun. We got a welcome shot of ice-cold vodka at reception last time we came but I am not sure if that’s customary or we just looked like we needed it. A favorite for a reason.

Have any other Palm Springs favorites to add to the list? Let me know! 

Trying On…Glossier

2017 August 3

At this point, I am fairly certain you don’t need an introduction to Glossier, the less-is-more skincare and beauty brand developed by girl boss extraordinaire, Emily Weiss. It’s no doubt all over your Instagram feed, perhaps a few items are already in your medicine cabinet, or maybe you’ve been staring at it in wonder, wishing you were 25 again. Because most of it looks like it’s made for 25-year-olds with seemingly perfect skin, no pores, and cool, tiny New York city apartments made for hoarding Glossier products. Well I am here as a far-from-25-year-old to share my favorite – and not so favorite – products from the collection to hopefully help you edit your Glossier wish list down to the perfect size. These are the products I have personally purchased and tried and my honest opinions about each.

What I love from Glossier:

The masks. I have used both the Moisturizing Moon Mask and the Mega Greens Detoxifying Mask over and over and over again. They used to sell them in these amazing individual pods and I miss those dearly but the regular size is just fine. I just really like these masks (and I try a LOT of masks, friends). They are thick and rich and just feel really good on your skin with no harsh after effects. I tend to favor the greens in the summer when my skin feels oily and kind of gross and the moon mask in the winter when it’s a little drier and extra thirsty.

Boy Brow. This cult favorite has its following for a reason. Boy Brow is the epitome of the Glossier mantra. Easy, natural-looking, but deceptively effective. Let me start by saying what it’s not: a brow pencil. It doesn’t fill in spots or give you that penciled-in look where you need it. Keep your pencil in rotation if you want that. But layer this on top. I use a pencil first to fill in holes and then Boy Brow to fluff and shape the brows into a more natural finished look, which I love. It does a good (not great) job of keeping everything in place without a sticky finish or residue which I also really appreciate. I have repurchased this immediately every time I run out and use it every single day.

Priming Moisturizer. I didn’t realize how much I like this product until I ran out. I do not use this as my daily moisturizer because it doesn’t feel packed with nutrients and actual skincare benefits, but I LOVE using it as a primer under my makeup for a dewy finish. It gives your skin a quick burst of hydration and helps foundation and tinted moisturizer look smoother and lighter. It has a neutral smell and a really light texture so skin feels healthy and not heavy.

Cloud Paint. I love, love, love Cloud Paint. It’s a cream blush but it is so thin and airy, you can truly control how it looks by layering it on one tiny dot at a time. The finish looks like a natural flush, not something that is painted on (despite the name) and I find myself reaching for it every time I do my makeup. It’s an instant pick me up. I bought Puff and Dusk for layering but definitely use Puff the most.

What I don’t love from Glossier:

Balm dot com. I wanted to love this because the coconut smell is amazing but the texture is not for me. It feels like a watered down Vaseline lip treatment and I prefer something more natural for my lips. Started using it on my cuticles instead and still didn’t finish my first tube.

Super Pure serum. According to their web site, 79% of users saw improvement in their blemishes after using this. I am apparently the other 21%. I SO wanted to love this because it’s marketed to my exact issues: hormonal breakouts, excess sebum, issues around the mouth and chin. But I used it religiously for two months with little to no effects. The serum is much more water-y than most serums so that in itself took some getting used to, but when the results just weren’t happening, it made it even harder to justify. I still throw it on during my breakout week in case a miracle is hiding behind month three, but for now, I can’t recommend and it has turned me off of trying the other two, Super Glow (my favorite Vitamin C serum is this one) and Super Bounce.

What I want to try from Glossier:

Wowder. This is the brand’s newest release and it promises to be a modern take on a standard powder with a lighter finish, shine-cutting power and makeup setting capabilities. I’ll be the judge of that. I need a powder to keep the above mentioned excess sebum in check but totally agree with them that most products on the market leave me feeling chalk-y white and cake-y. Hopefully this does what it promises to do. Ordered it today and will report back.

Invisible Shield sunscreen. I have become religious about sunscreen this year and am currently loving this one as my daily go-to but have heard good things about Invisible Shield. It is not water resistant, so that is worth noting, but apparently it’s effective and feels good on your skin so I am curious to try it firsthand.

Have any Glossier favorites to add to the list? Let me know!

*use this link to get 10% off your Glossier purchase

**this post (obviously) contains some affiliate links 

***image above via Glossier 

Where to Shop for Home Accessories

2017 August 1

I am just as guilty as the rest of us when it comes to filling up my cart at Target, West Elm and the usual home decor suspects. But when I want to add something really special to a space in my home, I like to invest in a piece or two that feels more special, handmade and unique. Here are some of my favorite places to shop for them.

Farmhouse Pottery (above). I fell for this Vermont-based brand ages ago based on their dreamy Instagram feed alone. And when I ordered my first piece, it lived up to the dream. Their pottery pieces are handmade in their Woodstock studio by a team of skilled craftsmen overseen by Zoe and James, the brand’s co-founders and husband/wife duo. Some of my favorite Farmhouse Pottery finds are their signature match strikers, wooden bowls and boards and gorgeous gift boxes. If you follow me on Instagram, you know one of my major life goals is to own a farmhouse in Vermont, on a mountaintop with views for days and wi-fi that doesn’t work. In the meantime, I have Farmhouse Pottery to serve as inspiration.

Rose & Fitzgerald. I met Courtney a little while back at a luncheon here in San Diego and instantly loved her effortless, laidback sensibility and warm nature. She and her husband, Laren, have injected that authentic, inspired aesthetic into a beautiful collection of heirloom-crafted and artisan goods, all sourced from their “adopted homeland” of Africa. Each piece Rose & Fitzgerald produces is handmade by individual artisans using luxurious materials that have been sourced locally, such as Ankole horn, palm leaf, pure brass, Mugavu and Teak wood, leather and organic cotton. And the beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces are more affordable than you might think. Some of my favorites are these pure brass bowls, this gorgeous gold shield ring and this Mugavu wood bowl.

Food52. This may not be a “mom and pop” operation like the others, but their shop is thoughtfully curated like one. The food site goes above and beyond to highlight small artisan makers and brands that make some of the most beautiful kitchen and home accessories on the market, often with very affordable prices. Some recent favorites include this marble & metal sugar pot set from an independent brand in Hudson, New York called Hawkins New York, these vintage French amber apothecary jars and this cool metal flower bucket. Because who doesn’t need one of those?? Not me, friends. Not me.

Have any other favorites to add to the list? Share them in the comments!

*all images courtesy of the respective businesses featured

Five Tips for Freelancing

2017 July 12


Finding a way to balance my career with motherhood has been one of my proudest accomplishments and drives a lot of the inspiration behind this blog. I truly believe that the key to a lot of my sanity and sense of self as a working mom is in large part to the flexibility, creativity and yes, imbalance, that my freelance career provides. First, a little background. I am a full-time freelance consultant who specializes in public relations and copy writing. I previously worked for various PR agencies in Los Angeles before striking out on my own (at the urging of a fellow working mom) almost nine years ago. I work from a home office five days per week and am on the road typically once per week for a client meeting, work-related event or business trip (I was in Palm Springs just this past Monday – yes, it was hot!). I am freelance which means I am technically my own boss, but in reality…my clients are my boss. I have my own clients that work directly (and only) with me and then I also support other PR agencies on occasion and work with a network of fellow freelancers (all moms) on projects from time to time as well.

completely recognize this type of professional set up isn’t feasible or of interest to everyone. I know a lot of very successful working moms who work full-time in an office or corporate setting and they are happy and fulfilled and kicking ass. But if you want more flexibility, independence and time to live your life on your own terms, freelance is a great way to do it. So for those of you who are freelance and/or may be thinking of doing it some day, I thought I would share the top five things that have helped me along the way:

How to get started. First, get a pushy friend (hi Karsha!) to talk you into it. If you don’t have one, call me. Second, prepare yourself to take the leap. Depending on your industry, this might mean saving up six months of emergency fund. It might mean honing in on your new craft so you are extra good at it. It might mean moonlighting for a little while before you make an official switch. It will (and should) definitely include a good long chat with your husband or partner to figure out how the uncertainty of a freelance income might impact your day-to-day life and long-term goals. Prepare yourself mentally and financially for the transition because it is one. Third, and most importantly, tell everyone you know. Pull out every single professional contact you have ever had and let them know you are going (or have gone) freelance and what your services entail. I did that in one mass BCC email nine years ago and (knock on wood) have never looked back. Do not send it if you’re still employed by someone else. Wait until you are on your own, day one. And research any non-compete contracts and non-disclosure agreements that may be in place at your current gig before you do it.

The basics. Again, this depends on your industry and/or what type of work you do but here are some basics in mine: a professional email (ideally not your personal one and definitely NOT a Hotmail, Yahoo or AOL if you still have one) and an updated LinkedIn profile that includes a detailed list of services and the word “freelancer” somewhere in your new title. Develop a web site, if you need one. Start your new Instagram feed (because you are not weaving your work into your personal one unless the two are very related). Just have some sort of polished place online where you can send possible business leads and referrals for more information on your background and services. And then keep it up to date every step of the way.

Mind your money. I highly recommend finding a good accountant who can steer you in the right direction for freelance financials. I keep mine fairly basic. I am a sole proprietor which means that all my billing goes through my social security number. You might need to incorporate or become an LLC. It all depends on your set up and industry and a trusted professional is worth the investment to get it right. Once the money starts coming in, be smart with it. As a freelancer, you are responsible for deducting your own taxes, savings, retirement contributions, etc. and it’s the number one area I see freelancers stumble over once they start seeing pay checks that are larger than what they are used to. I deduct tax and savings money off EVERY single check or payment I receive right away and siphon them away to their respective accounts. I have done it this way for nine years – even when I may be tempted to book another trip to Costa Rica instead – and it has served me very well. Also, invest in your own success.  You should hire a babysitter to let you work in peace when your kids are home (more on that below). You should splurge on the nicer business cards if you are going to be handing them out. You should get a photographer friend to shoot a good headshot for you if it’s at all relevant to your networking. Treat your business like a business (even if it starts out as a hobby) and it will pay off.

Prepare yourself for instability. This is a tough one and admittedly, comes with time. Freelance life has loads of peaks and valleys. One month, you are working 16 hours per day with more on your plate that you ever imagined and the next you are fitting in mid-day manicures and wondering if your email is down because nothing new is coming in. Enjoy those days when you can. The one thing I have learned with freelance work is that when one door closes, another one usually opens. While you’re waiting on it, send out another mass email. Dust off your LinkedIn. Think about ways you can expand, evolve and/or grow your business. But do not panic. If you are smart with your finances and your time management, you can ride these peaks and valleys with the best of us…ahem, them.

Set up your parameters. This is very important for those of you balancing work and kids, in particular. You need to set up boundaries on the work and personal front and treat the flexibility of freelance work with respect in order for the two to succeed harmoniously. Find a space to work in. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even need to be outside of your home. But it does need to allow you peace, quiet and a barrier from the kids, dog, neighbor friend who always has a bottle of wine in hand and no one to drink it with. Make a schedule of work and non-work hours. One that is conducive to results. When you are just starting out, focus it on work and growing your business. You will reap the benefits later. Now that I am a few years in and established, I don’t typically book any calls or meetings after school lets out because I want to be able to do pick up and check in with my kids in the afternoon without the distraction. On the flip side, sometimes I work evenings and weekends and have to ship my kids off with my mom or husband so I can focus. The give and take is part of the fun. Do not apologize to your kids for working. Explain it to them, but do not apologize for it. And do not fatigue your clients with your tales of pick up duty, room mom responsibilities and personal to-dos. It’s only my advice and you don’t have to take it, but I never use my kids or family as an excuse for work related things and I never feel bad about working if I have to when my kids are around. Emotional parameters are just as important as physical ones.

Hope this was helpful for those of you out on your own or dreaming of it. I truly believe that if it’s something you want to pursue, you should, can and need to. And I am more than happy to help inspire you along the way.

*If you have any other questions about my freelance journey or yours, I’d love to hear them! Leave it in the comments below!

**The photo above is five years old in my last home office…and no, I don’t look that young and fresh-faced anymore 😉

Trying On…The Goodwell Company

2017 July 11


If you’re anything like me, you are increasingly concerned about what you are putting not only on your body but into your environment, each and every day. So when I read about The Goodwell Company and their stance on plastic toothbrushes, it felt like such a duh moment. Of course we shouldn’t be using plastic toothbrushes that cannot be recycled and end up in landfill piles every day.


In my house alone, we probably go through a cycle of 6-8 new plastic toothbrushes every few months. For whatever reason, each of my kids always have at least 2-3 going at once, ideally one for every bathroom in the house, it seems (please tell me I am not the only one). So we decided to test drive The Goodwell Company’s bamboo & binchotan, biodegradable (and admittedly very aesthetically pleasing) basic toothbrushes to see if going eco in this department would feel as good as it looks.

Binchotan is a type of Japanese charcoal with cleaning and deodorizing properties that also balances the pH in your mouth to naturally eliminate odors and fight germs. The sustainable bamboo handle is completely recyclable, lightweight and undeniably the coolest looking toothbrush I’ve ever had on my vanity. We got one in the dipped black (pictured above) and one in the dipped white as a his and hers pair and they look great together.

But how do they perform?

Well. It definitely takes a minute or two to get used to not brushing with plastic. The bristles are a little tougher than most, which made me nervous because I have sensitive teeth and typically use a soft brush. But after a few weeks, I’m used to the more rigid feeling and can happily say my teeth don’t feel any increase in sensitivity or abrasion. My husband loved his from the get-go. I wouldn’t necessarily say the cleaning feels any better than a standard toothbrush but the eco-benefits and aesthetic definitely outclass your standard Oral B. The brand has a few more premium brushes that might be even better (as well as toothpaste and floss), but we’re happy with the binchotan version for now and will get a new set every two months when they presumably wear out (at $5.99 per brush).

Overall, definitely a wise choice for you and your environment…and your bathroom counter will appreciate it, too.

*Use the code WWGD here to get 20% off your first order with Goodwell. Note: this is not a sponsored post; I just really liked the product and reached out to them to see about getting a promo code to share so that hopefully you can love it, too. Enjoy! 

Download This App

2017 July 1

If you’ve had a chance to check out my new essay site, What Would Raluca Do (and thank you in advance if you have!), you may have read my recent post about my not-quite-mid-life crisis. It’s physical, it’s emotional and it’s most definitely hormonal (which offers me some sort of odd relief in remembering that bits and pieces of any particular phase in life is quite simply out of my control, so I should just have a margarita and laugh about it). I stopped taking birth control a few years ago to “clean out my system” after being on and off of it for so many years and the reality is that it’s left me a hormonal nightmare. Bad skin, intense menstrual cycles and so many mood swings, my husband has probably started marking HIS calendar just to keep up.

So when I came across this app that is designed to tune you into your hormones, their swings and the exact impact it can have on your mind, body and general mood on any given day of the month, it felt like a much-needed beacon of light. It’s called Hormone Horoscope and while it won’t be winning any awards for app design or tech ingenuity any time soon, it’s quickly become one of the most used little icons on my phone.

You simply sign up (I have the free one, so I can’t speak to the added benefits of the paid offering), enter the first day of your latest cycle along with some basic info, and every day you can log on to get your “hormonal horoscope” for the day. It will tell you what your hormone levels are doing that day (in general) and how that might impact your mood, your body, your stress levels and more – in detail. And then it will give you tips and tricks to navigate the day in the right direction (i.e. avoid salty foods today, don’t make plans that involve a crowd of people, go and work out because you have a ton of energy today). It’s easy to understand and not filled with medical terms or jargon and sheds a little light on my day that helps me understand why I am suddenly barking at my children every time they look at me or crying over a cookbook.

The reality is, we’re in a phase of life and motherhood and womanhood that isn’t always easy and I believe that our changing hormones play a huge role in that. So being able to understand them a little better, even if you can’t necessarily do anything about it, is really nice. It gives you a sense of sanity, it reminds you to be gentle with yourself and it helps you remember that all of us women are on this crazy journey together. And sometimes we’re just along for the ride, simply a passenger on our own little hormonal road trip. But at least this lets us light the way a little bit to set our minds at ease.

And that’s definitely worth a download.

Five Great Grown Up Exfoliants

2017 June 21

I watched a skincare video with Hollywood facialist Kate Somerville a while back and she made a statement that stuck with me:

“If your pores are enlarged, you are simply not exfoliating enough.” 

I took one glance back at the mirror and vowed then and there to make a regular skin scrubbing part of my regimen (sans actually scrubbing…read for more). And just a few months later, I am happy to say Ms. Somerville was right. I have seen a very noticeable difference in the appearance of my combo skin pores since I started using some sort of exfoliant several times a week. Now that microbeads are officially banned (thank god), your old school St. Ives apricot scrub from high school is finally declared off limits (as it should be) so I thought I would share some more “grown up” exfoliating favorites I have loved of late on my (successful!) quest for smaller pores. No beads within.

Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask (pictured above). This Vermont-made all natural skincare brand has taken luxury cosmetics counters across the country by storm and with good reason. Harper’s potent yet pure mix of ingredients gives serious results with no icky chemicals or preservatives. The Resurfacing Mask is known for the instant glow it gives you after 20 minutes of sloughing away your dead skin cells with a beta hydroxy focused formula. The mask feels cool and hydrating when applied so it’s perfect for warm summer nights. Only complaint is that it’s a small container and if you love it as much as I do, it will go fast.

goop Instant Facial. This is officially a desert island must-have for me and by far my favorite product in the goop skincare line. This (almost) all organic instant facial smells faintly like your favorite green juice and goes on in a very thin layer of grainy goodness. After only three minutes of activation from the natural blend of alpha and beta hydroxy acids, you gently massage and rinse your way to a glowing, baby soft complexion. It may be a little red afterwards so I tend to do it at night and follow with a serum to feed my skin while it’s fresh. If you do it during the day, sunscreen and shade are a must for an hour or so.

Aveda Botanical Kinetics Exfoliant. This is my favorite grab-and-get-it-done exfoliant. All it takes is a cotton pad and a splash or two of this liquid exfoliant and you can quickly (and efficiently) wipe away dead surface cells in a second. It’s the least intense (and least expensive) of the five and the one I probably reach for the most because it feels like my skin can handle it daily with no issues.

Kate Somerville Exfolikate. Where it began. When a client of mine who has skin like porcelain told me she swears by this stuff, I knew I had to try it. Dubbed “Hollywood’s 2-minute facial,” it’s a Somerville signature product packed with lactic acid, silica, papaya and pineapple enzymes, salicylic acid and more. Similar to the goop product, you apply a thin layer and do a quick “scrub” and then let it sit for two minutes and work its magic. And magical, it is. Your skin feels polished, soft and instantly brighter. This one tends to leave me a little less red than the goop, but if I had to choose, the goop leaves my skin a touch smoother. If it’s still too strong for you, there is a Gentle version available as well.

Eminence Yam & Pumpkin Peel. Finally, the best smelling of the bunch. This all natural exfoliating peel from Eminence smells so good you will want to eat it. And you probably can because the brand is known for its clean yet super effective concoctions. This purée-like mix of yam and pumpkin sloughs away dead skin cells, improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and leaves your skin feeling firm and extra glow-y. And that’s a very good thing. PS – I linked this one to because I find they always have 20% sales happening AND you can usually get a free magazine subscription at check-out. How fun is that??

*this post contains affiliate links but is not sponsored by any brand mentioned above; I buy and try them all and only share my favorites. 

**image above via

An Evening with Outstanding in the Field

2017 June 19

“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

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.