Monday, November 24, 2014

Frozen Birthday Party

Yes, I totally gave in to the craze, drank the frozen kool-aid, and threw our 3 year old a themed birthday party. I even hired 2 princesses to come and sing with the kids. Sometimes, it's just easier to give in to the desires of the third child, than to pretend that she doesn't watch TV and craft a wholesome birthday party.

I sourced table decor from my house, so vases in blue and white, a silver branch candelabra, pinecones, an owl... anything that felt winter-frozen-blue-white-maybe-it-goes.

We pushed the 2 dining tables together, and had kids attempt to "build a snowman" out of pretzel rods and marshmallows. They also had waffles and fruit.

Of course, I made us take a family photo...

A shot of the food...

Snowman parts, Olaf's nose, snow, Sven snacks  for a Frozen birthday party

Watching the movie an hour before the party to refresh the older two. They aren't addicted like the 3 year old, so they needed a reminder about the song lyrics.

Snowman parts.

Snowman parts for a Frozen birthday party

"Snow" was popcorn, carrots were Olaf's noses, and "Sven snacks" were Chex mix and pastel M&M's.

Frozen themed snack food: snow, Sven snacks, snowman parts

Princess Elsa singing Let it Go.

Our 3 year old in heaven!

Both princesses together.

My sister made 2 cakes, which was amazing and generous and kind and lovely and thematically appropriate!

Frozen cake

princess cake with a ruffle skirt

Our happy girls watching Princess Anna:)


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Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to Recover from an "Off" Day

Tuesday was just an off day for me. I'm open to the idea that it was this because it started off with the horrific news from Israel, but usually I am able to compartmentalize sad/tragic news (lots of experience with this over the summer and the war) and it doesn't make me upset and fussy like a baby for an entire day. My brilliant friend Nicki wrote about the attacks and her response here.

So, faced with the reality that I was going to be basically useless on a day when I had tons of things to do, I decided to take action, and to do everything in my power to shake off the icky-ness.

  • I snuggled with the two little kids.
  • I ate breakfast, and fueled my body with yogurt, almond butter, and blueberries.
  • I put on my workout clothes to set myself up for success.
  • I did 30 Day Shred, level 3, a for-sure-to-sweat exercise video that got my heart pumping
  • I allowed myself to surf the internet aimlessly, and put fantasy clothes (sequin ball gown) in my online shopping cart, without actually buying anything
  • I turned up some happy music (Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams) and danced around my kitchen while making dinner *way* ahead of time, so that the evening wouldn't be rushed.
  • I baked some oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies to put in kid lunches as treats
  • I picked up my preschooler and we sang Frozen songs in the car on the way home
  • I took a walk with a girlfriend (seeing friends and socializing is very healthy for you)
  • I picked up my kindergartner, took him to speech class, and read a really funny book during the wait (Andy Cohen's new one)
  • I held hands with above-mentioned kindergartner and we skipped, jumped and hopped our way to the car...

After all of that, I still had a kid dentist appointment for the 3 big ones, we ate dinner as a family, I put the baby to bed, snuggled and talked with the 2nd grader, then went to bed myself at 8:30.

Sometimes we just have those days. And this week, I felt good knowing that I was doing everything in my power to make the day better, and instead of curling up in a ball (maybe with unhealthy food), I stayed healthy, and strong, and set a good example for my kids about what to do when we don't feel our best.

Any other tips I might have missed? Since winter and sick-days are approaching, I'm sure that I'll have other days where I need new pick-me-up ideas.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Stitch Fix Review

Since we were in the "country" this summer at the vacation house, and I was quickly getting to small for my clothes (not out-growing, but the opposite, what is that? de-growing?), I decided to fully embrace anything that could arrive via USPS, UPS or FedEx (see my honest review of Blue Apron here).

Other than an almost-breakdown over missing the Nordstrom Anniversary sale (solved with online shopping, and returning 2/3 of what I ordered, kids shoes are tricky!), I stuck mostly to Amazon Prime. Until I was blog surfing one day while the baby napped and I discovered Stitch Fix.

My first stitch fix #stitchfix

Plenty of other bloggers have described this way better than I can, but here's the gist of it:

  • You go online and fill out a style profile. You include your size, things you like and love, links to your Pinterest clothing board, even a special note.

  • You pay a $20 refundable styling fee. If you buy anything at all, they refund you this fee.

  • Your stylist (mine is Christina and I love her), choses 5 items and sends them to you in a box, all pretty and packaged, and it arrives on a day that you have chosen.

  • You try on everything in the box, keep what you like, return (in an enclosed postage paid bag) anything that you don't love, then you "checkout" online.

  • The checkout process includes giving tons of feedback about what you loved, what didn't work, and most importably, *why* you like things (or don't).

My first Stitch Fix gave me these awesome green jeans, this Splendid top, and another tank that I kept. 2 pieces I sent back.

My first stitch fix #stitchfix

My second box arrived in September, just in time for the Jewish High Holidays, and I kept all 5 items! Oh, if you keep all 5, then they give you a 25% discount on everything.

Here's the step-by-step. 

The box arrives, and I get all excited and tingly, and race upstairs to my bedroom to have a fashion show for the baby.

It's like an early Christmas with Stitch Fix

Everything is packaged nicely.

Stitch Fix packaging

Inside, there is a printout with each piece, and 2 styling ideas for how to wear them.

clothes that come to you! Why I love Stitch Fix

These were the 5 items that I kept.  From left to right: a cropped sweater, a lace top, hot pink blouse, pony-print dress, and a skirt.

clothes that come to you! Why I love Stitch Fix

Me in the blouse and a skirt I already own from Boden.

Stitch Fix

The pony-print dress.

pony-print dress from Stitch Fix

I just got my third box last week, and kept 3 of the 5, still a success. I know that "normal" people go to stores to shop, but I'm more than happy to have someone else chose items for me and then to have them magically arrive at my house!

If you want to try Stitch Fix, and you click on the links here, I'll get a small referral fee. I already got a few just by posting on Facebook, which was a total happy surprise, and just shows that non-blog people can take advantage of their friend networks too:)

Happy Shopping!


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Monday, November 17, 2014

Dining Room Update- 2 Tables

Here is our dining room set for Rosh Hashanah dinner (the Jewish New Year). We pushed both tables together and it was the perfect fit for 12 of us. As you can see, we only bought white chairs, and only 8 of them, so we had to fill in with some black ones. Not ideal, but the layout works so wonderfully day-to-day that I'm willing to overlook a few design issues for now:)

A few more pictures to show you how it's working:

Using two tables in a dining room.

2 West Elm walnut mid-century tables in a dining room

pushing 2 dining tables together to form a larger square table

pushing 2 dining tables together to form a larger square table

The last 2 were from our 3 year old's Frozen birthday party!


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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

An Honest Review of Blue Apron

I adore having things delivered.

There might be nothing in this world I refer to staying at home and having things brought to me. I've always been a homebody, and my love for creating a home has just nestled nicely in with my natural tendencies towards being *inside* and looking at a lovely view *outside*. (After 10 years my husband understands this, but still isn't of the same mindset. Hence he rides bikes outside, and I do exercise videos inside)

Anyway, I have an unending love for Amazon Prime (I wrote about how I think it saves me hours a week here), so this summer, while we were at the vacation house I decided to try Blue Apron. They deliver a box to your door every week with ingredients for 3 meals. Everything is all perfectly portioned, with photo step-by-step instructions. Since we were "in the woods", grocery shopping was not very refined, and this was a chance to spice things up a bit.

Little did I know how spicy it would be. 

Even with our stove and oven being out for 5 weeks (I know, I know, but "in the woods" there are very few repair people), I managed to make the meals Blue Apron sent.

An aside- This is not a sponsored post, I paid for everything, just wanted to let you know my thoughts.

Sorry for the iphone photo, but everything tastes great. The downside, which I alluded to earlier, is that it is WAY too spicy for my kids. So in the end, I wind up seasoning and spicing half of everything, and the leaving the rest plain. The above was salmon crusted with rice flakes, kale with garlic, and miso-mashed potatoes which were a huge hit, even the baby likes them!

The other major drawback is that while the food is pre-portioned (1 tomato, 3 stalks of celery...) it is not pre-cut. So each meal takes about 45 minutes to prepare, but most of that is hands-on time. Not ideal for the baby stage that I'm currently in. I'm used to hands-off dinners, so to find 45 minutes to chop, slice, dice, marinate, sauté, broil, sear, toss and garnish is a tough call most weeknights.

The recipes are delicious, and give me tons of ideas. My kids adored a Vietnamese Shaking Beef (recipe here).

So inspired by the shaking beef success, I made it again and served it to guests. I paired it with corn ravioli in a miso-ginger broth, lime rice, and we ended with poached pears and ice cream. You can find my recipe for poached pears here.

Any new convenience deliveries you are using?

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Moodboard Thanksgiving

It's getting to be that time of year, so I decided to make a mood board of all my Thanksgiving ideas this year.

Thanksgiving inspiration

The recipe-side will probably come to fruition, the decorating side, might be a wee bit overly ambitious:) Time will tell...

Bacon-wrapped Turkey
Sweet Potatoes
Perfect Gravy
Pumpkin Pie
Peanut Butter Cookies with Maple Bacon

string lights outside, holiday party design by Emily Henderson

It will be a kosher Thanksgiving at our house, so it will be beef bacon (no pork), plus I'll add a few more "green things" to quote my kids. Maybe green beans, or brussels sprouts, or a salad... But sometimes they only get in the way!

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Books I've Read this Year

I'm nothing if not a reader, so I thought it would be fun to list the books I've read so far in 2014. I'll start with the ones I've read most recently then end with the list of the 30 books I read while on bed rest for 6 weeks.


The Marriage of Chani Kaufman, by Eve Harris
The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
My Life in Loubies, by Erica Negi
Visible City, by Tova Mirvis
The Outside World, by Tova Mirvis
Social Lives, by Wendy Walker
The Perfect Manhattan, by Leanne Shear and Tracey Tobmey
Delicious, by Ruth Reichl
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty


A Winter's Tale, By Stephanie Laurens
Taming of the Duke, by Eloisa James
Loving Rose, by Stephanie Laurens
On the Way to the Wedding, by Julia Quinn
When he was Wicked, by Julia Quinn
It's in his Kiss, by Julia Quinn
To Sir Philip, with Love, by Julia Quinn
Romancing Mister Bridgerton, by Julia Quinn
An Offer from a Gentleman, by Julia Quinn
The Viscount who Loved Me, by Julia Quinn
The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn (the above 8 were all me re-reading a beloved series)
The Escape, by Mary Balogh
Storming the Castle, by Eloisa James
Three Nights with Lady X, by Eloisa James
A Duke of Her Own, by Eloisa James
The Brazen Trilogy, by Elizabeth Boyle
Have You Any Rogues?, by Elizabeth Boyle
And The Miss Ran Away with the Rake, by Elizabeth Boyle
Along Came a Duke, by Elizabeth Boyle
The Masterful Mr. Montague, by Stephanie Laurens
Otherwise Engaged, by Amanda Quick
If Wishes Were Earls, by Elizabeth Boyle


At Home, by Bill Bryson
Save the Date, by Jen Doll
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography
Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham
All The Money in the Worls, by Laura Vanderkam
I'll Drink to That, by Betty Halbreich
Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler
Looking for Class, by Bruce Feiler
Smart Money, Smart Kids, by Dave Ramsey & Rachel Cruz
Un-Shopping, by Debbie Roe
What the Most Successful People Do at Work, by Laura Vanderkam
What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend, by Laura Vanderkam
What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, by Laura Vanderkam
On Becoming Baby Wise, by Gary Ezzo M.D. and Robert Ruckman M.D.
Growing up Duggar, by the Duggar Girls
Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey
Super Freakanomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Hell is Other Parents, by Deborah Copaken Kogan
Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, by Brigid Schulte

Health/Diet/Fitness (see also How I Lost the Baby Weight then got to Wedding Weight):

Slim By Design, by Brian Wansink Ph.D.
The End of Overeating, by David A Kessler, M.D.
The Everygirl's Guide to Diet and Fitness, by Maria Menounos
Thin Side Out, by Josie Spinaldi
Skinny Thinking, by Laura Katleman-Prue
Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink Ph.D.

While on Bed Rest:

Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Real Food for Mother and Baby, by Nina Planck
The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty
The Divergent Trilogy, by Veronica Roth
One Perfect Rose, by Mary Jo Putney
Sleepless Nights, by Sarah Bilston
Bed Rest, by Sarah Bilston
The Trouble with Virtue, by Stephanie Laurens
Everything is Perfect When You are a Liar, by Kelly Oxford
Melting Ice, by Stephanie Laurens
And Then She Fell, by Stephanie Laurens
The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh,
I Shouldn't be Telling you This, by Kate White
The Peculiar Case of Lord Finsbury's Diamonds, by Stephanie Laurens
All Through the Night, by Connie Brockway
Getting to 50/50
This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper
Dad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan
French Women Don't Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano
The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon
Spelling it Like it is, by Tori Spelling
Happier at Home, by Gretchen Rubin
Flawless, by Tilly Bagshawe
The Devil Wears Kilts, by Suzanne Enoch
No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, by Sarah MacLean

Fiction:  22
Romance:  32
Non-Fiction:  28
Health: 6

So far that's 88. So to hit my goal of 100 books this year I need to read another 12 before the end of the year, I think it's doable:)


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Monday, November 3, 2014

How to Make School Lunch without Losing Your Mind

Now that school has been in session a few months, the newness of packing lunches has worn off, and the (potential) drudgery has set in.

I would love to be a school lunch wizard like local blogger Wendolonia, who photographs he two sons' lunches each day. She does crazy-amazing things with bento boxes, alphabet punches, and edible markers.

Instead, I'm just trying to make my mornings run more smoothly, and try to remember who needs to ear a PE shirt, and who has art today (which means clothes that can get really messy). So, in my juggling act with 4 kids, I aim to make lunches for the week ahead of time on Sunday, and put them in the fridge all ready to go for the week.

I use these super simple containers for the lunches, with occasional silicon cupcake molds for dividing the main compartment, and plastic ball jars (see my post here) for snacks.

My go-to lunches?

  • PB&J sandwiches
  • Apples with peanut butter
  • Smoked Salmon roll-ups in a whole wheat tortilla (for one kid)
  • Leftover pancakes with pb&j
  • waffles with cream cheese and strawberries
  • apple "sandwiches" with peanut butter and raisins
  • carrots and hummus
  • mini-pita pizzas
  • overnight oatmeal
  • homemade granola
  • trail mix (we make our own)

I also adore baking, so we usually make one or two batches of muffins (or really anything that is cooked in a muffin pan) for weekly snacks. Some recipes are totally made up, some are from 100 Days of Real Food (either the blog or the book), or from my favorite cookbooks.

  • Chocolate avocado banana muffins (made up with help from the 3 year old)
  • Gluten Free Apple Spice Muffins
  • Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
  • Pumpkin Spice Muffins
  • Banana Raisin Muffins
  • Oatmeal chocolate chip muffins (or cookies)

  • Adding some cocoa powder or chocolate chips to *anything* makes it more appealing
  • vary the size, mini muffins or regular size
  • try to keep fruit and veggies small and cut up so kids can eat them easier
  • let your kids help you decide which items will be for lunch this week
  • almost any baked good can be frozen, then defrosted overnight in the fridge
  • mini-pizzas can be frozen (after baking), and defrost in the fridge. My kids will eat them cold!
  • vary the fruits each week (or every day)

I've written about a week of kindergarten luncheswhat I learned after 1 year of lunch packinghow to pack a zero waste lunch, and you can also check out what I packed the first week of school in first grade. So clearly, this is something I've spent  lot of time thinking about!


Products that make lunch-packing easier. As always, these affiliate links are only for products that I've already purchased and loved!

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