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The Best Thing I Made This Summer

2019 September 17

I loathe lunchtime.

It’s 12:04pm as I type. Breakfast has come and gone. That’s typically easy. An egg here, a chia bowl there, maybe a simple bowl of cereal to tide me over with my second cup of English Breakfast.

Dinner is on the horizon. It’s always an important part of my day and week — looking ahead to dinners and menu planning and satisfying cravings and health obligations all at once.

But lunchtime inevitably becomes this mid-day stressor where there is never time, or inspiration, for anything more than mediocre. I end up with a takeout salad or a basic (and sad) cheese quesadilla or maybe a leftover, if I am lucky. No matter how I serve it up, lunchtime is never a highlight for me during the week so instead of basking in that today, I thought I would share something that will inspire: my most favorite new recipe of the summer.

I first discovered this dish via Instagram – naturally – where I follow Tieghan Gerard of Half Baked Harvest religiously. Her food is not only absolutely gorgeous to look at, it’s typically fairly straight-forward in terms of skill level, delicious and a nice balance of good for you…and not. I already love her cookbook (and have pre-ordered her next one) and rely on her recipes often so it was an easy decision to jump into this Basil Chicken Saltimbocca without hesitation.

And then to do it again a few weeks later.

And again a few weeks after that.

This dish is the perfect combination of salt and acid and fresh and fried, all in one. The chicken is cut thin so it fries easily in the panko crust, the prosciutto and basil are tucked away inside and add layers of flavor in every bite and the bright marinated tomatoes paired with a bite or two of chilled burrata is decadent and meaty all at once (Trader Joe’s burrata is a staple around here – it compares easily to any premium brand, imo). The result is delicious, colorful and (relatively) easy to make.

And apparently, “saltimbocca” is Italian for “jumps in your mouth,” which is amazing in its own way.

Nothing to loathe about that now, is there? Didn’t think so.

Have a good Tuesday! x

*image above via Tieghan Gerard, Half-Baked Harvest

Baby Steps

2019 September 16

I ran two minutes and 28 seconds the other day.

I know it was 148 seconds because I watched the clock on the treadmill tick by with every single one, trying to find the endorphins all these runner types speak of, but really just feeling pains in the my shins and my skin starting to crawl (literally, it itches when I run – anyone else??) and my body trudging along, willing the clock to move faster with every step.

But I did it. Two minutes and 28 seconds. And it felt like a million more. I think that for a big portion of my life, it wouldn’t have felt like enough. It would have felt like a bit of a failure. It would have felt like too little. Not this time, though. It felt like a million and one steps towards one big one and that felt really good.

I spend a lot of time psyching myself out of goals or challenges or new because the mountain, the climb, the hunt for endorphins, is simply too overwhelming. It’s easier not to start at all than to stare up at the challenge and face it head on. But with baby steps, I give myself a pat on the back every step of the way. I am kind to myself, knowing that the pace will ebb and flow and the mountain will still be there…ready in its own time for me to scale it. I can make progress through the journey, instead of only at the destination and that feels really good at this stage of life.

I’ve been running for a long time. Not physically, don’t get me wrong. But running, nonetheless. And right now, I am perfectly ok with simply taking little steps instead. I think you end up in the same place, after all. Just at a slower pace. And that is just fine by me.

*image above via The Chalkboard Mag

What I Am Loving…Right Now

2019 September 10

It has been a (long) while since I have shared some of my favorite frivolous finds with you here so the time felt right. I’ve tried so many new things this year but these are the five that I am loving…right now. Hope you will, too.

Olive & June nail polish. I’ve had my eye on this LA-born brand since it opened its first nail salon in Beverly Hills a few years back (pictured above). Their upscale yet organic approach to the run of the mill mani/pedi experience was an instant hit and truly elevated the pampering process to new heights. Fast-forward a few years and they’ve evolved that ethos into a signature product line including polishes and accessories. I picked up the Fall Set for my first foray into their e-shop and was very impressed. The colors are spot-on, trend-wise, and in conjunction with their top coat, my mani made it almost five days chip-free…which is a feat. I will say the polish is thinner than your average so it required three coats versus the standard two to get a nice, uniform look but since I have become increasingly wary of the effects and damage of gel manicures, I am willing to go the extra coat for something clean and longish lasting.

Curology. This is yet another brand and product that found me online and made me a believer. Curology is a custom-formulated skincare brand with an online only concept that involves a skin analysis, personal dermatologist advisor and easy, ship-to-home concoctions developed to tend to you and your specific skin needs and wants. I was skeptical, at best, but opted to try their free trial product (you cover shipping only) and have been surprisingly impressed. You do a detailed questionnaire and submit close-up images of your skin from various angles and their derms whip up a formula for you that you can then tweak from month to month based on your reaction, results and feedback from their team. Mine was a little strong at first (and I have what I call bulletproof skin) but once I eased into the routine, I started to see results in texture, dark spots, blemishes and tightening. I definitely notice a change in my skin when I skip consistent use over several days and am happy to say I am on my first full-sized bottle with plans to continue with it as part of my nightly regime.

Glossier Body Hero. I did an in-depth review of my favorite (and not so favorite) Glossier products a while back but it’s time to call out one that I keep on auto-supply month after month. Body Hero Daily Oil Wash. This has become my absolute favorite shower product. It’s an oil wash that froths up into a light lather with a nice, perfume-y scent that randomly reminds me of my Romanian grandmother (in a good way) and leaves your skin feeling clean and soft at the same time. But my favorite part is that the scent actually lasts for hours on your skin and for someone like me who doesn’t wear perfume every day, it’s a lovely hint of the smell that stays with me in a really nice way.

Bumble & Bumble Invisible Oil Collection. I used this ages ago and have no idea why I ever strayed. After trying a lot of different hair products this year – Kristin Ess, Prose, R+CO – I landed back on this Bumble & Bumble shampoo and conditioner and INSTANTLY remembered why I loved it in the first place. My hair felt noticeably softer and more manageable after just one use and it gets better with time. I added the finishing oil to the line up as well for a little extra shine and it is a great addition. This is my favorite hair care collection, bar none.

Younique mascara. Never heard of Younique? I hadn’t, either. Until a friend of mine started working with them and promised me the mascara would wow me – particularly since I was coming off a long hard break up with lash extensions and then lash lifts. I wanted to go back to simple mascara but none of the usual suspects and brands were giving me the pop that the extensions would and did. And then I tried Younique’s Moodstruck Epic Mascara. This is, quite simply, a game-changer. Goes on like a dream and gives you depth of color, thickness and length all in one. It’s the absolute closest I have found to the lash extension look in a regular tube. I will say I have had a little bit of under eye transfer when I have it on for long days or nights but nothing substantial and easy to swipe away in a flash. Other than that, it’s a new favorite through and through.

Hope you find a little something here to add a fun lift to your day. As always, some products featured include affiliate links but as you know, I only share what I purchase on my own…and love. x

*photo above via Olive & June

Hi, Henry

2019 September 8

There was a post that went semi viral on Instagram last week among mothers and care-takers telling back to school kids to talk to the outcast, the child who looks lonely on the school yard, etc. 

The sentiment was lovely, of course, like most things you find on Instagram when you’re a mom, but I found it horribly misguided. Like posting that re-gram was going to make a true difference in anyone’s life but your own that day. Like mean girls, boys who bully and generally unkind kids of any age were going to see this re-post on Instagram and take it to heart. 

I sighed with frustration with every single re-post that I saw.

You can’t parent by Instagram. You parent in real life. 

We were in the car pool lane on the second day of school when a boy named Henry crossed my mind. He has been one of my daughter’s school mates for five years now. We don’t know him very well but he has always been a kind, quiet kid who goes with the flow in his own subtle way. His mom is lovely and always gives me a smile when she sees me, even though we have long forgotten each other’s names from the brief introduction we had several Septembers ago. 

“Have you seen Henry a lot this year?” I asked my daughter, as my son was struggling to work his way into his backpack in time to jump out of the car at the school’s bustling car pool curb. 

“Henry?” she questioned, pausing for just a split second to look up from her book. 

Henry, I reminded her, throwing in a detail or two to clarify who I was referring to. I didn’t even know his last name after all these years because they have never really forged a close friendship, but I knew that he was probably the type of boy who started back at school with a little anxiety in his back pocket. A few extra nerves lingering over his morning. A subtle, quiet boy on the outskirts of the activity just trying to find his way in. 

“Oh yeah, I haven’t seen him yet,” she said. “I don’t think we have any classes together, but I am sure he’s there.”

“When you see him, say hi to Henry,” I told her, grabbing her gaze and holding it tight. “Ask him about his summer, tell him which teachers you have.” I paused. “Say hi to Henry.”

She looked at me and nodded. 

“Repeat after me,” I nudged. “Say hi to Henry.”

I didn’t have to go much further than that, thankfully. My daughter understands. She has always been excited about going back to school, about seeing her friends, about making new ones. But she knows that isn’t everyone’s reality. We’ve talked about it. She’s witnessed it firsthand. She has seen the impact that her confident kindness can have on other kids. 

And she hasn’t learned one bit of that from my Instagram feed. 

She learned it through real discussion. Meaningful, poignant moments where I call her or her brother out on behaviors that we observe or witness or hear about. In dinner table conversations about kids with personalities and backgrounds and needs different from theirs. About bullies and mean girls and the teachers who make change and those who simply don’t. We talk about it openly and often. On first days and day 100. And never once on Instagram. 

“Say hi to Henry,” I repeated, this time a little louder and with a light-hearted laugh to go along with it, treating it like a command from General Mom. My son, now about to pop out of the backseat to navigate his own second day of school, laughed back. “Got it, mom!” he yelled, half way out the car door, already finding a friend up ahead to catch up to. “Off to find a Henry!” The door slammed behind him.

And with that we pulled away from the curb. My daughter went back to her book as we weaved our way through the kid-lined streets to the middle school. I turned up the radio a little and we drove the rest of the way without chatting. I picked up my phone at a red light, checked in on Instagram and saw the same post that had irked me in the first place. Another influencer mom, sharing a trendy bit of parenting advice in a scripted black and white font that aligned with her feed and her back-to-school content. I gave it a “like” to make her feel good about herself. Like she had made an impact that morning with that post. Silently hoping she had a real-life conversation to go along with it. That she wasn’t just driving in silence, talking to her Instagram audience more than her own kids. That she took the reminder as an opportunity to inspire change off her screen as well. Where it’s really needed. 

With a simple “Hi, Henry.” 

Today You Are 12

2019 April 9

Today you are 12.

You look 12. You looked 12 yesterday and you looked 12 the day before but I swear you only looked 11 the day before that. I guess that’s how time gets you. It passes right before your eyes.

Today you are flannel shirts and Vans and hooded sweatshirts and jeans that are too baggy on you, hiding away your frame behind layers and layers of clothing. Comfort over cool.

Today you are size 7 shoes. Women’s. Throwing on my size 8s once in a while just because you (almost) can.

Today you are drawing all the time. Sketching animals, mostly. Giving them each names and personalities and back stories. You find the inspiration online and then copy it from there but your natural talents are showing through the borrowed lines already.

Today you are still a reader. All the time, any time, every time. You don’t discriminate. You will read pretty much anything you can get your hands on and you will have four books going at once. We stop in every bookstore we see – especially the old used ones – and we go to the library twice per week because you always need something new to read. I hope you do this forever.

Today you are into Spotify and YouTube animators and this show called Gravity Falls. You assure me it’s appropriate. You’re 12 now, so I believe you.

Today you are bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. Every darn day. Still not that into fruit. Or vegetables. Or anything beyond bagels and cream cheese, for the most part. I hope you don’t do this forever.

Today you are one of my favorite people to hang out with. You make me laugh and you make me think and you make me see the people and places around me in a different light.

Today you are Coldplay, The Beatles and any musical soundtrack you can find. You’ve just begun playing the piano and already have a natural ear for it. I can’t wait to hear more.

Today you are sleeping in on weekends and staying up until close to 10pm. You have to be pulled out of bed for school most days. Except today, of course.

Today you are a good friend. You are navigating the early social chaos of middle school with grace, kindness and an open heart. You have found your tribe but you are liked well beyond it, too. And you never let anyone get you down for longer than a minute or two.

Today you are a natural leader. Not in a bossy, obvious sort of way but in an effortless, easygoing manner. We say you are going to change the world in a quiet way. One with meaning and true impact.

Today you (still) hate PE. I don’t blame you. You don’t hate me for making you run cross-country this year but you gave it up, nonetheless. I don’t blame you.

Today you are still four years older than your brother. But those years are feeling wider and wider with time. You still hang with him and spend time with him and laugh with him, but you value your own time just as much.

Today you are 12. You are my past and my future at the same time. I see so much of me in you. I see so much of 12 in you. I see so many amazing years ahead in you. And I can’t wait to be there every step of the way alongside you. Lending my shoes.

Happy birthday, D. x

Butterfly Run

2019 March 17

Time has fallen away from me again and I have let this space – and my writing – sit quiet for a few weeks, intentionally and not. I got back into that place in my mind where I was analyzing what to write about, what to share, what not to share, etc and it left me speechless. I was reading a lot of great books and seeing a lot of genius quotes and phrases and thoughts online and sitting there thinking that my words are just not good enough. Not worth putting out there. Not up to par. For you and for me. I am really good at overthinking instead of just doing, particularly when it comes to matters of the heart and soul. So today, I am just doing. No real direction in mind, no real message to share, no real purpose behind it. Just to sit down and do it. To catch it before it falls again.

There has been a really special butterfly migration happening across southern California this past week. Someone online had simply posted “Butterfly run! Go!” and that’s how I first came upon it. Instead of sharing a link to the multiple articles that outlined the migration pattern, its history, its effect on the butterfly population, he just said go. Look at it. So I did.

I would call it stunning, but it wasn’t quite that. It almost felt like an eerie locust or moth invasion at first, until you realized (with the help of social media, of course) that they were painted lady butterflies – a blur of orange and black – flying by you by the hundreds, but in thin, random clusters of a dozen here and a dozen there.

Apparently the wet winter we’ve had brought them through this area in search of the superbloom on their northern migration. We haven’t seen it happen to this effect since 2005. It took them thirteen years to retrace their steps along this path. To find the right time to revisit it. The effect was admittedly both a little surreal and a little strange until you stopped walking or driving or moving and just stood there for a minute to take them in. Only then did their dance start to look elegant and whimsical and their wings seemingly slowed down so you could see each individual flutter versus the mass of jittery movement you noticed at first glance. That’s when you felt the true effect. That’s when it was stunning, if even for a few minutes. That’s when you saw its true beauty. Standing on the side of the road. Catching it all. Before it falls again. Speechless.

*image via Etsy of a beautiful piece of 3D butterfly wall art.

My Menu Plan

2019 February 11

I realized recently that I was not inspired to share my weekly menu plans – sporadic as they have been – because they were simply not inspiring. Not for you and not for me. That was just the phase we found ourselves in. The holidays took over and then the new year felt daunting and exhausting and preparing not only a list of meals for the week ahead – but one that would get me excited in the kitchen – felt like a challenge. But this week, I remembered that I don’t shy away from challenge, I embrace it. So I decided to make this week’s plan almost entirely new recipes – for me and for you – in the hopes of getting us both back in the kitchen in an inspired way.

Sunday – made this five ingredient pasta from Gimme Some Oven. It was a great combination of flavors and it got my kids to happily eat kale, which is always nice. But I erred on the side of conservative with the amount of cheese I used and the result left the pasta a little dry. Next time, I will follow her measurements. Overall, easy to make even on a weeknight and the whole family enjoyed it.

Monday – tonight we are going for our favorite – and easy – fish tacos. Simply salt and pepper tilapia (we use one piece per person) and sauté it with your favorite green salsa. Serve with warm tortillas, Trader Joe’s corn salsa, avocado slices and lots of lime. If you need more filler, cilantro lime rice is a great addition, but we typically fill up just fine on the tacos alone. Don’t skip the corn salsa, it is a game-changer. Mango salsa also a favorite.

Tuesday – Thai meatballs with rice. Ground turkey and zucchini meatballs topped with a homemade red curry sauce. We love Thai flavors around here and I am excited to try my hand at making this one at home. Will report back.

Wednesday Mediterranean chicken with a dill yogurt sauce. I easily serve chicken at least three times per week, if not more. I am always looking for new ways to serve it up and these fresh, vibrant Mediterranean flavors look amazing.

Thursday – it’s Valentine’s Day! Our plans are up in the air and may include a few hours of night skiing and will definitely include our kids so I am not planning to cook or be near my kitchen. In the name of love, of course.

Friday – I may or may not get to this one on a Friday night (if I don’t, I think I will save it for Sunday) but I bought all the ingredients to make this rosemary mascarpone and potato tart from Donna Hay (photo above – isn’t it gorgeous??). I will serve it with an arugula salad and a great glass of red. And if it turns out even half as pretty as hers, I will consider it a win.

Have a great Monday, friends. x

*image above via Donna Hay

For Valentine’s Day

2019 February 7

Valentine’s Day is one week away and if you are like most moms in America right now, you have the holiday on your to-do list. You have to go to Target and find some sort of cheap bag of themed candy or cartoon-adorned cards and you will wonder why they never come in packs big enough to suit a class of 26 so you don’t have to buy three. Or you’re on Pinterest, pondering whether to mix some homemade love potion concoction and put a cute sticker greeting on it or to glue a pencil to a piece of paper printed with a pun about love and friendship.

I see you, mama. I have been there myself. I understand.

It’s another Hallmark holiday that has, frankly, gotten a little out of control with its expectations of bucket loads of candy and perfectly Pinterest-worthy greetings and crafts that…don’t get me started on the crafts. It’s hovering on your to-do list alongside make a dinner reservation and buy your husband a book and don’t forget about the heart-shaped pancakes with whipped cream and pink-tinged milk that you need to serve that morning. Obviously.

But here’s what I challenge you to do a little differently this year. You (and surely your kids) may love the candy. You may love the creative ideas on Pinterest. Heck, you may even love the over–priced prix fixe dinner because it gives you an excuse to get out on a weeknight, sans kids. But I want to encourage you – and more importantly, your child – to take this Valentine’s Day and make it a little different. A little more meaningful. To actually make it about…love.

Last year, my kids wrote real Valentine’s. To each and every kid in their class. A short note that said – I think you’re hilarious. Or you’re so great at baseball, I love playing with you. Or I love how you helped me out with that thing that time. Or simply, you’re a good friend.

It seemed daunting at first, yes. My son wanted to give out baseball card greetings and my daughter wanted to give out mini packs of Skittles. But when I gave them some red paper, scissors, stickers and enough time and encouragement to sit and think about something – just one thing – they could say about every kid in their class, they had fun with it. They thought about it. They took it to heart. Pun intended.

Their friends missed out on one more pack of candy, sure. But I venture to guess that they got a little smile out of our Valentine’s, too. That even if they didn’t fully appreciate it in the holiday haze of first grade, they would remember that personal greeting down the road. That hopefully they, in turn, would think about spreading a little love on this holiday instead of just another greeting that their mom made for them to pass out anonymously.

Other great ideas? Find a neighbor who may be feeling lonely this season and deliver a simple bouquet of inexpensive flowers with a greeting. Send your own girlfriends a heartfelt card to remind them that you appreciate them. Tie red heart balloons with sweet messages and leave them anywhere you can. Pass them out to strangers in the coffee shop. Make it feel personal, even if it’s not. And have your kids witness it all. Because if there is one thing this world needs more of right now, it’s not just love. It’s children who are being taught not only to feel it, but to spread it. To show it. To encourage it. To shout it from the rooftops and share it with a friend. And that doesn’t start at Target or on Pinterest. It starts with us. At home. Wherever that may be. With a piece of paper, a kind word and a tiny red heart.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends. Make it a good one. x

500 Minutes

2019 February 5

Every day in my meditation, there is a step towards the end where you are prompted to let your mind be free. After several minutes of following along with the guided voice, of counting your breaths and doing your body scan and working diligently to train your mind into a meditative state…it is given a moment of respite. A chance to be wild. Untethered. Completely unfocused. You are prompted to simply let your mind do what it wants to do. If it wants to think, let it think. If it wants to wander, let it wander. If it wants to dream, let it dream. 

I have meditated more than 500 minutes now. A goal I am very proud of. A tiny step in what is sure to be a long journey ahead for me because I love the way it has impacted my life, even this early on. And in each one of those sessions (at 10 minutes each, we’re looking at 50 or so) – every single time- when I reach the part in the exercise when my mind is left to its own devices…it does nothing at all. It’s the one point in the meditation, day after day, when it actually settles effortlessly into what I imagine meditation is all about. Complete calm, total clarity, stillness. When it is finally given permission to break out of its box and go a little crazy and be totally free…it does what it really wants to do. And it zeroes in on quiet. 

It astonishes me every time. I prompt it a little at first – go on, go ahead. Keep thinking about those to-dos that were beating their way in while you were counting your breaths. Worry about that thing that kept nudging you while you did your silent body scan. Let that inner voice whisper into your ear a little louder, you can listen now. But it won’t. It’s like it gives me a little smile and it goes into its happy, quiet place and it settles quietly. And stays there. 

I am at a crossroads in my life. I am 40. I have followed the guided journey thus far in life. Went to school, started career, married with kids, bought house, got dog. Check, check, check. And now it is becoming more and more apparent to me – through the conversations I am having and the books I am reading and the things I am gravitating towards – that my life and my heart and my mind want to be untethered a little bit. To be interested in new things, new opportunities, new ideas. To fall out of line. To define a new line. To look beyond the guided life plan and see what pops up, randomly, when you break out of the box and zero in on absolutely nothing. Perhaps my mind will find some quiet there. In the place where you aren’t counting a thing. Where you aren’t ticking off any milestones. Where you aren’t taking guidance from anything or anyone but yourself. Perhaps that’s where the quiet and the calm and the stillness are really laying. Smiling back at you. And staying there.  

Five Jackets

2019 January 24

I was going to title this post “Five Jackets That You Need” but let’s be honest…you don’t need any of these things. But if you want to add a statement piece to your wardrobe, these are some of my favorite jacket styles that let you instantly add a hit of style to a simple pair of jeans and basic tee or tank. Which is typically the way I dress, for both day and night. Simple, simple, statement. So let’s just call it five jackets that I know…and love. And you just might, too.

A leopard jacket. Preferably either vintage or a little oversized. I found one similar to the one pictured above at Zara in Paris and have been wearing it non-stop, day and night. It just adds a layer of cool to any look. Don’t worry about how you style it. The key to leopard is to treat it like a neutral. But shop selectively. There is a lot of bad looking leopard out there. J. Crew does a good one. Make that two.

A white blazer. My friends make fun of me for wearing white blazers all the time but there’s a reason why I do: they are a chic, unexpected twist on your standard dark version and make you stand out in any crowd. I have a short, fitted one from Helmut Lang (similar to this one – on sale at a MUCH better price than what I paid for mine…ahem) and a loose, oversized one from Zara and I love them both so much I may just get a third.

A statement sweater. These are all the rage right now and with good reason. A fun, embellished cardigan sweater like this one that you have seen all over Instagram makes a statement regardless of what you have on underneath. I bought that one and while the price does reflect the quality (it has a loose knit and the shoulders are not quite cut right and it sheds), it is an affordable, eye-catching look that I have turned to on more than one occasion. Just make sure it’s warm enough that you don’t need to cover it up with an overcoat.

A jean jacket with a twist. You probably already have a jean jacket but I like one that has a unique something. Maybe it’s black denim instead of blue. Maybe it’s extra long like this one. Or maybe it’s perfectly distressed in all the right places like my favorite one from Able. Either way, make sure the one you choose makes a statement beyond the basic blues.

A faux fur. Ok, I can’t lie. I don’t own a faux fur jacket yet but it is at the top of my wish list because I love the way it looks, especially when paired with simple basics. This one is fantastic. So fantastic it is sold out. This one is more glam, but in a good way. Skip anything that is stringy or in a color that real fur wouldn’t ever come in (ie pink, blue, bright red) and make sure all your friends know you’re faux. Naturally.

*this post contains affiliate links

**images in order from top to bottom: source unknown, via Wendy’s Lookbook, via Wild One Forever, via Shopbop, via Emerson Fry