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Trying On…Drunk Elephant (Part 1)

2018 June 29

Good things come to those who wait.

A lot of people have asked me about my thoughts on Drunk Elephant as I have shown bits and pieces of the products I’ve been using online over the past several months. And while I am always at the ready with an opinion and a recommendation, I wanted to spend some more time with the brand, try out more products and learn a little more about them before I put my official review together.

So here it is. My Drunk Elephant review. Hopefully worth it. I tried to keep it brief but it was getting so long I decided to break it up into two parts. Let’s start with a look at what I love.

First, if you aren’t familiar with the skincare super launch that is Drunk Elephant, it was started by Tiffany Masterson, a woman (and mom of four!) in Austin, Texas who stumbled across a seemingly magical bar of soap from Thailand (I believe) that she started importing and selling to locals in the market. What she quickly learned from the soap’s amazing results was that it wasn’t necessarily what was IN the product that was making such a big impact, it was what WASN’T in the product. So she based the development of her first skincare brand on the Suspicious 6 – a list of ingredients that she believes to be irritants that our skin reacts to when it gets oily, sensitive, dry, etc. It is a long and thoughtful philosophy and if you want to learn more, I recommend watching this interview with her and Caroline Hirons. It’s when my interest in Drunk Elephant became an addiction. This is not a natural line, which is a common misconception. It is rooted in science and uses active ingredients (some chemical, some non) that deliver results without synthetics, fillers, fragrance and irritants. Her concept just makes sense and I am happy to say, the products (for the most part) prove it.

What I love:

C-Firma Day Serum. This was my very first Drunk Elephant purchase and probably still my favorite. It is a vitamin-packed daytime serum that I use daily (after washing, before moisturizing), without fail. It leaves your skin looking bright and firm and had a considerable impact on my dark spots. The consistency can be a little sticky to some but I got used to it quickly. It is an investment and the product doesn’t have a long shelf life so you need to use it religiously right off the bat to get your results and money’s worth. But I think you will.

Pekee Bar. The DE philosophy recommends only washing your face at night and simply rinsing with water in the morning before moving onto your serums and creams. This was a BIG step for someone like me who is prone to oily skin and usually wakes up with a shiny forehead and t-zone. But since I started washing regularly with this bar soap (and alternating every few days with Juju, the exfoliating sister soap), my skin has looked and felt more balanced…even with only one wash per day. It took a few weeks to adjust, but it definitely did, and I truly believe this little wonder bar had something to do with it. This travel sized duo of the soap bars is a great way to experiment with both and lasts long enough for you to gauge the results for yourself.

Umbra. One of the Suspicious 6 culprits is the chemicals found in most sunscreen and/or skincare with sunscreen products and this is one area where I saw a direct impact after switching to DE. Umbra is their daily sunscreen (also comes in a tinted version, though I haven’t tried it firsthand) that offers SPF 30 UVA/UVB protection and a power-packed combo of antioxidants, nourishing oils and extracts. I love it because it’s lightweight and goes on sheer, though I have to admit that the scent is not my favorite. But most importantly, when I didn’t have it with me and switched back to using another product with chemical ingredients for just one day, the tiny bumps on my forehead that I have battled for years flared right back up. Umbra forever now. I have also started using it on my daughter’s pre-tween hormonal skin to try to fend off possible irritation from chemical sunscreens before they even start.

Lippe. It may seem silly to get excited over an $18 lip balm, but I am. I originally bought this on a whim with a leftover Sephora gift credit and am so glad I did. It’s hard to say what is special about this product but I use it night and day and it leaves my lips feeling smooth, nourished and yes, maybe even a little plumper than usual. It became an instant favorite at first use.

Those are my absolute must-haves from the Drunk Elephant collection and a great way to try them all (and more) is with their mini sample set, The Littles, which gives you eight products in a smaller size for only $90. A perfect test run.

Next up I will share some of the things I like (that you may love) and the things that just didn’t do it for me as well. Because those exist, too.

Hope you find this helpful in your skincare journey – mine has been a long one and it’s fun to share these finds where I can.

Have a great weekend. x

*this post contains affiliate links which means that if you click through to purchase something, I will receive a small commission. It does not impact the price of any product. The post is not sponsored and no products were gifted to me. 

My Favorite Essential Oils (and a sale!)

2018 June 25

The world of essential oils can be an intimidating one. So many different companies, so many different products and formulations, so many of your neighbors and friends selling them…

Which is why when I discovered Eden’s Garden a few years back, I loved it right away. The brand is a mom-owned, independent company that is direct sales focused, meaning no MLM set up or commissions or minimum orders or anything like that. Their huge assortment of single and blended oils are easy to navigate and shop and you just buy direct online (with free US shipping!) without any of the pressure of some of the other bigger brands in the industry.

I’ve shared my favorites from the brand here and here and they have since launched a whole slew of new signature products including bath soaks, perfumes and bar soaps, which I am dying to try. I particularly love the pre-formulated kids’ oils which are already diluted for safety and super easy to use — especially in roll-on format. The only thing I have tried and didn’t love was their diffuser. It’s pretty but did not diffuse well. Always on the lookout for the perfect diffuser. Using this one for now and so far, so good.

Eden’s Garden is celebrating their nine-year anniversary and everything on the site is 20% off from today through June 27th with code EG9 so I thought it was the perfect time to share…and stock up.

Happy Monday, friends. x

*image above via Eden’s Garden. Post does not contain affiliate links. Just genuine love. 

How to Stop Time

2018 June 11

I was just here.

The frenetic energy of the last day of school. A yard full of kids hollering and laughing and letting go of all their cares, as if they are physically throwing them into the air. Moms and dads and teachers beaming with excitement. With relief. With nervousness. The hot sun pounding down above you and the warm concrete sizzling below you. Hundreds of bodies, big and small, finding their way into a messy human corridor with a long open walkway straight down the middle.

“Please join us to celebrate our fifth graders as they walk off campus for the last time ever!” bellows the principal’s deep voice in his mic.

The human corridor roars to life. A timely tradition that marks the last day of every year. A sea of hands throwing out high fives. Parents with tears in their eyes as they watch their young, almost adolescents take their final bow as big kids. I push my own two kids into the mix, urging them to go and give high fives, to show those kids support as they move onto a new chapter in their lives and leave the comfort of this old one behind.

“Some day, that’s going to be you!” I say to them, excitedly.

“Some day, that’s going to be you,” my heart whispers to me quietly.

I was just here.

And I am about to be here again. In just a few short days. Mine will be the fifth grader taking her final walk off campus. Mine will be the big kid holding out her hands for high fives and fist bumps from friends and semi strangers. Mine will be the one leaving the comfort of her cocoon and that deep voice she knows so well and moving onto her next chapter with bright eyes, an apprehensive heart and a busy mind.

But I was just here.

Last year was yesterday. First grade just happened. She was only born a moment ago.

I want to stop time. I want to freeze in this moment and watch these other big kids take their bow and then stop it right there. I want morning hugs and non-stop chatter about baseball and middle of the night pleas for…anything. I want little hands that can’t quite control the milk carton and questions about Saturn and bowls of homemade popcorn. I want family movie nights and road trips that require booster seats and last days of school. Forever.

My daughter is beyond ready to move onto middle school this week. She is so excited and prepared, both emotionally and academically. And in a few years, she will be ready to leave that behind and move onto high school. And college and whatever else lies ahead. And a few years behind her, in synchronicity, her brother will do the same. They will keep progressing and growing and moving forward with time flying right alongside them, every step of the way.

And I won’t be able to stop a thing. Nor will I want to in a lot of ways, I know. My days will change and their needs will, too. My role will evolve and their paths will find their own way. My memories will find new companions in the years to come and my mind will store them away, wrapping them in delicate paper and keeping them safe.

But my heart will stop time. In this moment.

In this time of reflection and appreciation and sadness and gratitude. In this chapter where change is coming and despite everything I tell myself, I know it’s good. My heart will stop time in this moment. And in all the other important ones that mark our lives. Their childhood. My motherhood. My heart will stop time in those moments. These moments.

And never let it go.

A Right Turn

2018 June 7


I reversed my walk this morning.

When I walk the dog, I typically take the same route. Out of our driveway, turn left, veer left through the park and up to the upper edges of the neighborhood and back from the other direction.

Today, I turned right instead.

My heart and head have been in a very complacent, quiet place lately. Neither one seems to want to work very hard. Neither one seems to have much to say. They both want to rest a little. Think a little. But not too much. Just relax.

It’s nice in a lot of ways. Learning to ease up on the pressure to produce, to constantly be in motion. Allowing oneself to just be and accomplish what you can and want to, without the guilt of what’s left behind. It’s freeing to not look to tomorrow or the next day all the time and to realize that sometimes good enough isn’t just enough, it can be everything. It’s been nice in a lot of ways.

But today, I took a right instead. I wanted to walk a new path. I wanted to see the flowers from a different angle, run into different people, feel the wind from a new direction. I think that when you ease up too much for too long, you can get too relaxed. Too tired. Too unmotivated. And I think that’s where I am. It was nice in a lot of ways and now it’s time to look ahead with a fresh set of eyes. Well-rested eyes.

I am sure there will still be days ahead of me where I turn left. I know that a period of mental and emotional rest is good for me and I hope to revisit it here and there when I need to. But now I am ready to revisit that other part of me that feels alive and motivated and driven and awake. To look for new challenges and revisit old ones. To write more and talk more and create more. Because there is a lot of life to live out there.

And sometimes you can find your way back to it with just one little step.

*originally posted on my essay site, What Would Raluca Do. I am going to start sharing more of that here again. Just because it feels right. 


The Game-Changer: P50

2018 June 3

Hello, friends.

It has been a long time. Again. I feel like most bloggers on the internet are starting their posts this way these days. Blogging is dead. No one reads anymore. This isn’t Instagram.

It has been a long time.


I have spent some time away from this space but it wasn’t entirely because of laziness or Instagram taking over (though admittedly, both of those things crept in here and there). It was more of an intentional pause. A thoughtful break. Where I chose to focus my mind and time and heart on exploring some stuff in my mind and my creative heart. I haven’t figured it all out quite yet, but it’s nice to come back here to share from a slightly different perspective.

So I would like to introduce The Game-Changer. It’s a new, hopefully regular feature I will use to share the things that have really made a difference in my life some way. Not just another round up or list or bunch of commission links (though those may pop up as well, always with a disclaimer). The Game-Changer is about things that make a significant impact, that stand out among the link noise and that have become true must-haves for me. And hopefully, in turn, for some of you.

I think that what has happened to blogging is that quantity took over quality. More became the mandate. I think less and better is actually where it’s at. So let’s start here.

This is P50 1970*. It is a cult favorite skin product from France that has been dubbed a “magic potion” by many and I am here to assure you that the magic is real. I have been investing a lot on skincare lately. It may be because I just turned 40 or because I want to spend less on make up or because I got bored with shoes and handbags. I have tested a lot of things and found some favorites (stay tuned for my Drunk Elephant rundown because it’s definitely coming) but nothing has wow’d me like P50.

This toner-type liquid acid is said to exfoliate, hydrate and balance your skin all in one step. And it does. On another level. It is strong and mighty and leaves my skin feeling smooth and soft and my pores visibly smaller. After every single use. I like to use it every other night, after cleansing, and put a drop or two on my fingertips and lightly pat it into my skin. I was applying it with a cotton pad but then read somewhere that that method wastes so much product that gets absorbed into the cotton and this is not a product I am looking to waste (on that note: I am on the hunt for good reusable pads so if you have a recommendation, please share in the comments). I like to take my time with it, use it mindfully and really relish in its effects.

I will admit that it smells like vinegar (and I just noticed that it is actually one of the ingredients…ha) and the concentration of acids in this (lactic, salicylic AND niacinamide are all in here, among other stuff) may be too strong for some so I would do your research and start sparingly until your skin feels happy and healthy. There are a few different products in the line and even different formulations of this product (here is a great guide to them all) but for me, the Lotion P50 1970 Original has been the game-changer. A true must-have. One that cuts through all the noise.

And will for a long time.

Hope you have a great day, friends. Thanks for spending a few minutes of it here with me. x

*the Shop Rescue Spa link is not an affiliate link. It is the only online shop in the US I have found to be an authorized retailer of P50 so recommend buying from them direct to ensure quality.

What I Am Loving…Right Now

2018 April 19

Here are a few things I am loving right now…the monochromatic edition. I would be lying if I didn’t say that packaging plays a major role in a lot of my consumer product purchases but these six favorites aren’t just pretty to look at. They have become instant staples in my beauty and wellness routine and I think you will love them as much as I do:

Bathpack. This was an Instagram find (do you find yourself shopping via the app more and more or is it just me?) recommended by Jenna Rammell, who I follow and adore. And it was worth every penny…particularly since it only cost 500 of them! This detangling brush is – dare I say it – better than the WetBrush. It glides through my hair (and more importantly, my daughter’s bird’s nest) with incredible ease and very little snagging, if any. I don’t know how or why it’s different, but it is. And for $5, you owe it to yourself to try it firsthand, even if you are skeptical.

Agent Nateur. Another Instagram recommendation, this time via Meg Biram. I am going to go out there and say this is the best natural deodorant I have tried. And I have tried several, trust me. This keeps me feeling – and smelling – clean all day long, no matter where it takes me. I got the men’s version because I like a musk-y scent and couldn’t resist that gorgeous all-black packaging…sigh. But am going to try the women’s next. If you enter code NATURAL at check-out via this link, it’s 20% off until 4/25.

Kristin Ess Working Serum. I am basically a sucker for all things Kristin Ess right now. Her haircare line for Target is great. I am using most of it on the regular (including this, this and this) but wanted to spotlight this serum because I am convinced it’s a game-changer. I use a pea sized amount in my wet hair and just work it through the mid-section and ends and let it air dry and the finish is always sleek, frizz-free and soft. I love it. This is the only thing I have not loved from her line. Leaves my hair feeling crunchy. This is still my favorite wave spray.

May Lindstrom The Honey Mud. This was a big-ticket purchase that I pondered for a long time before taking the plunge this month because a) I am about to be 40 and b) my skin is about to be 40, too. This interview with her via Caroline Hirons also made me want to buy anything and everything she is making. So I bought this. And I love it. Again, the jar is so beautiful I want to put it on display, but the product itself is incredible as well. It’s an all-natural raw honey mask infused with clay and plant oils and it leaves your skin feeling incredibly soft, supple and balanced. You can use it as a cleanser or a mask but to me, something this indulgent should absolutely be enjoyed in 20 minute increments. Your skin – almost 40 or not – will thank you.

Majestic Pure Castor Oil Serum. Ever since I gave up my beloved eye lash extensions (too much maintenance), I have been looking for a more natural way to boost the look of my lashes so I don’t look half as tired as I am. I read about castor oil being a good, natural booster and found this one in a two minute search on Amazon. I’m glad I did. I use it at night on both my lashes and my brows and can say with certainty it has made a difference in just a little over a month. If I remembered to do it every single night, it would be even more dramatic. I have heard good things about Lash Boost but this is a) cheaper and b) more natural and I am willing to take the long and steady road to thicker, longer lashes so this is a great alternative.

goop Bath Soaks. When gP came out with this line of bath soaks a few months ago, I thought it was genius. Not only are the individual bags a beautiful accent to your bath surround, but the specially formulated blends of salts, essential oils, botanicals and minerals take therapeutic soaking to another level. I bought the Soak Set to try three different formulations – G. Nite, The Martini and G. Tox – and they are all amazing in their own ways. I am not traditionally a huge bath person but these heavenly soaks have converted me. My only note is that they can get messy; be ready to give your tub a good rinse immediately after using to avoid any staining or too much leftover residue. Otherwise, soak in serious style.

Hope you love it all. x

*this post contains some affiliate links 

How I Am Celebrating 40

2018 April 16

I am turning 40 in a few weeks.

You are going to hear more about it because I have a lot to say about it, ha ha. And I will be doing that in posts here and there over the coming weeks.

Forty is a big deal in this stage of life. I feel like you spend your 20s figuring out career and relationships, you spend your 30s figuring out parenting and marriage and how to create a foundation for this life you want to live and then in your 40s…you start living it.

I am here to start living it.

So when it came to figuring out how to celebrate it in a way that felt a) fun but b) true to what makes me happy at this stage in life, I was committed to doing it right. I thought about a big trip but it felt overly indulgent and we already have a big trip planned for later in the year so it didn’t make sense. I thought about spending a bunch of money on a fancy, Pinterest-style dinner for 20 of my closest friends in a raw space where I would oversee every detail from the flowers to the candles to the signature drink. And then realized overseeing all those details would be exhausting. I thought about booking a hotel room and finding a club that plays 90s hip hop exclusively and dancing the night away like I did on my 18th birthday. But it turns out I am no longer 18 and probably couldn’t hang for more than an hour or two in a club of any size.

So I decided on a series of small celebrations instead. A week or so of intimate outings and get-togethers with people that I love, doing things that I love, to fill my heart with love.

I am hosting 16 of my friends for dinner at my favorite local pizza place where the table will be long and piled high with my favorite food, bottles of red wine and hopefully a little Tom Petty playing in the background. I am having a special birthday dinner with my parents, husband and kids in a fancy new restaurant I’ve been wanting to try where we will dress up for the night and drink special cocktails and hopefully have to Uber home. And then my husband and I are sneaking off to Napa for a weekend alone of eating, drinking and looking back on 20+ years of birthday celebrations together and (hopefully, ha!) another 20+ ahead of us. I am also booking myself various solo spa treatments and coffee dates and shopping trips throughout just to treat myself. And I have a girls’ weekend planned for a month later with some fellow turning 40 girlfriends that I simply adore.

Sounds pretty perfect, right? I am really excited about how it is shaping up. I thought about it for so long and debated so many ideas and in the end, my favorite things with my favorite people just made the most sense. The big milestones in life are yours to celebrate and it turns out, I like to celebrate them in small ways at this stage in life. As long as pizza is involved.

So happy almost 40 to me. x

*image above via Las Alcobas Napa Valley, which we will be calling home for a few days. 


Today You Are Eleven

2018 April 9

Today you are eleven.

A whole new decade, a whole new journey, a whole new phase of life. For both of us.

Today you are tall for your age. Already topping one of your grandparents and edging in closely on another one of them. Your build and stature are all me. But a little bit cooler.

Today you are Descendants and Zombies and something called Vampirina. You want to watch your shows on your own, without your little brother in tow. And sometimes, he lets you.

Today you are a voice to be reckoned with. Confident, secure, inspired. I can only hope that you keep even a bit of that in the years to come.

Today you are legs. All legs. And even though they look best in skinny jeans, you prefer boot cut. No one even makes boot cut anymore. But I will keep trying to find them.

Today you are letting your hair down for the first time in your life. You are not 100% comfortable with it but you’re 25% comfortable with it, 25% of the time. And it looks beautiful every time.

Today you are still a reader. A lot of your friends are on screens a lot. YouTube, Musically, apps of all kinds. But you still prefer a trip to the library and endless free time to just read a book. And one of my favorite things in the world is sitting right next to you, reading mine.

Today you are a picky eater. Still. Sigh. Pasta, rice, chicken. But you eat steamed broccoli like it’s pizza. So there’s that.

Today you are fitting into some of my clothes. The ones from when I was a little skinnier. The shoes that I was about to donate to Goodwill. It makes me happy and sad at the same time.

Today you are ready for middle school. A few more months of elementary school lay ahead of you but your mind and focus have already moved on. I remember your first day of first grade like it was yesterday. I guess time just does that to all of us. It moves on.

Today you are ice cream cake and sleepovers and The Greatest Showman with your friends.

Today you are a good friend to many and a best friend to few. You haven’t fallen into the “clique-y” aspect of girlhood yet. You can hang with a different kid every day of the week and be perfectly content. I know that in the big picture of life, this quality will be an amazing one to have. I know that in the short term of middle school, however, it may feel like a bad thing. I hope to be able to show you why it’s not.

Today you are coming to marches with me to fight for gun control and asking about school shootings and seeing the world around you in a grown up way, for the first time. You don’t seem scared of it. Yet. May you always keep that fearlessness in your back pocket.

Today you are sleeping in and staying up a little later than usual. The mornings are nice. The late bedtimes, not so much. But I know that your brain and your body are going through a lot right now so whatever patterns fall into place are ok by me.

Today you make us proud. Your kindness, your compassion, your sense of responsibility and your confidence. Your brains and your determination. Your everything. We are proud of every single piece of it.

Today you are ripped jeans and black Converse and denim jackets and t-shirts from the boys department and an arm full of bracelets. It’s all amazing.

Today you are eleven. The first year of the next decade. The last of the first. And there will be ice cream cake to celebrate it. Because it deserves to be celebrated.

Happy birthday, D. x

Making My Monday

2018 March 12

“We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde

I wish I could tell you that I am heading into this week with an excited frame of mind. But I am not.

Weekends are extra sweet these days and scrambling this morning to get two very tired kids out the door when I just wanted to tuck them back in and let us all sleep some more was a rude awakening. Work stuff is a drag lately and I find myself spending more and more time thinking about what’s next instead of what’s now which is making the now harder than ever to embrace. And I have successfully avoided the gym for over a week now for no good reason which means today…no excuses.

So here’s to a Monday that feels like a Monday. I am going to embrace it and just let my ho-hum attitude have its way today. We are entitled to do that every once in a while, don’t you think? In the meantime, here are a few things that I want to share. They may not be changing my foul mood altogether, but they prompted me to write this post. And for today, that’s enough!

This New York Magazine feature on How to Raise a Boy. A must-read for any of you with a son at home. Be sure to read the “More from this series” links at the bottom or find the whole feature on my favorite new app, which I told you about here. It was eye-opening – especially the mini stories – and alarming and educational all at once.

This piece on about being 40 and pregnant. Apparently 50 is the new 40, at least when it comes to our bodies. But how do you feel about it for your mind and lifestyle and emotions? I am almost 40 and often say I would have another baby if we could figure it out financially, etc. but I think it’s more than that holding me back. It’s fear and exhaustion and the known (versus the unknown).

And speaking of fear and exhaustion, let’s talk about this book. I shared it on Insta stories when I first got it but now that I finished it, I have to share it here in more detail. You need to go buy this book. It is self-help but in the most non-self help kind of way. It’s inspiring and encouraging and honest and raw and resonated with me on so many different levels. It has little doses of Christian stuff here and there and from a non-Christian, I can say it wasn’t preach-y or overwhelming at all. It all just made a lot of sense to me. Rachel talks about fear and exhaustion and the unknown and makes it all feel ok. Surmountable, even. And prompts you to not just picture your dreams in vivid detail, but to go after them, head first.

It’s what I think a lot of us need at this stage of life. A little push to dive in head first. We’re comfortable and restless at the same time. Bored, but tired. Striving for mediocre because it’s the easiest way to get through the day. Maybe we need someone to help us dream a little bigger and a little brighter. To encourage us to find our energy again and to put it to good use. Starting tomorrow. 😉

Have a good Monday. x

Making My Monday

2018 February 19

Hello, Monday. Here are five things making you a little easier to swallow this week:

Today’s (semi) holiday. First, I say semi because it seems that most people are actually working today but my kids are not at school and the mailman has the day off and, well, that’s enough for me to take it a little easy on the work front. Second, I say semi because…the image above. Ha. Happy President’s Day to you, however you are spending your day, on or off.

March For Our Lives. It has come to this and I am sure glad it has. Kids protecting themselves because our country won’t do it for them. These students in Parkland, Florida are fighting back and it is the most inspiring thing I have seen in this country in months. Follow them on social here and donate to their fund here. And then support the teens in your community on March 24th.

Middle school information night. I am oddly excited about my daughter going into middle school next year. Check in with me then to see if the feeling sticks. She is excited, too. We have our first parents info night this week and since I know next to nothing about what to expect, I am going in with eyes wide open. On the one hand, I cannot believe that my first born is almost a teenager. On the other, I love this phase just as much as the others…so far.

A hair appointment. It has been months since I have seen my hair stylist and you can tell. I thought I wanted to grow it out again and shun the lob look since everyone and their mother (ie me…I am the mother now) have it but the truth is, there’s a reason why. I am loving Kristin Ess’s work (and her products, more to come on that front) and I am thinking this is the way to stay for now.

And, of course, what would this post be without food? I always look forward to food. Our backyard lemon tree has been in overdrive and the fruits of its labor are amazing. I found this seemingly easy recipe for one skillet lemon butter chicken from Halfbaked Harvest and it’s safe to say, it will be on this week’s dinner menu. If it’s good, will share. If you live in north county San Diego, come over for lemons.

Have a good week, friends. Feel inspired today. Change is coming. And it’s going to be good. Be a part of it. x