Moms, It’s Time We Change How We’re Treating the Dads

I sent my husband a text today about a cute, little indoor play spot that I brought our girls to.

His reply: The moms don’t talk to me there.

Enough to break your heart, right?  Except, this isn’t an anomaly, this is how he’s treated more often than not.

I’ll start by explaining that my husband is a stay-at-home dad to our two young girls a couple days every week.  That means (for those of you wondering how this stay-at-home parenting thing works) that he takes them to swim lessons, play dates, random appointments, and generally tries to keep them happy, entertained, and alive.  To me, this has been a blessing.  It allows us both to work outside the home.  It gives us both the opportunity to spend days alone with our kids.  It means that we both know what it’s like to deal with drippy noses, poop explosions, sinks filled with never ending dishes and living rooms that look like a bomb dropped.

But, do you know what I get that he doesn’t get?  Respect and support from the community around us.  I get it.  Most stay-at-home parents are moms.  But, it’s 2017, people, there’s no need to be shocked into silence (or worse, condescension) when you see a dad out and about on a weekday with their children.

The first few times that someone joked about him “babysitting” our kids, we laughed.  Four years later, it’s gotten stale.  He’s not babysitting, he’s parenting. And there’s a big difference.

He goes to the park and the other moms ignore him.  He takes the kids grocery shopping and people ask if mommy’s out of town or sick.  He brings them to parent-and-me preschool and overhears all the moms planning a group playdate that he’s not invited to.

He’s not a second class parent.  He’s living and breathing the parenting thing day in and day out, the same way I am.  He works hard at his job and hard (probably harder, if we’re being honest) at home.

Luckily, we have one or two mom friends that don’t feel intimidated by his y-chromosome, and they happily include him in group playdate arrangements and other kid friendly invitations.  But, when I hear how most moms treat him, even after showing up to the same class for weeks in a row, I’m appalled.

Moms, we will never turn the men in our lives into the dads and husbands they could be if we continue to treat them like a second class version of ourselves.  We need to acknowledge that dads can be fantastic parents, not just for an hour here and there, but constantly and consistently.

I’m tired of hearing from friends that they “can’t” leave their young kids alone with their husbands because they “poor guy” wouldn’t know what to do.  Give them a little credit! We were all new at this, too.  And how did we learn?  By screwing up and trying again.  We’ve all been peed on, vomited on, unable to prevent a toddler meltdown, or cooked the “wrong” food for dinner, resulting in tears.  And we’re still here to tell about it.  So, let them learn.  I promise, they’re up for the challenge.

And, next time you see a dad out somewhere with his kids, give him the same knowing side smile you’d give another mom.  Make a little small talk with him.  Maybe go so far as to invite him and his kids to play at a park sometime.  It could go a long way toward helping those long days with littles – because we all know how lonely those days can be.

I Tried The Top Meal Delivery Boxes, And Here’s The Ones I Loved!


A little about me: I enjoy cooking but don’t consider myself to be very good at it.  So, about 3 years ago, I started looking into meal delivery boxes, which have been increasingly popular in the last half-decade or so.  But, because I’m never satisfied, I couldn’t just stick with one single company, I had to try out all of the competitors to make sure I was getting the most bang for my buck and the most delicious offerings available.

GreenChef – Sorted Out For The Week

Here are my thoughts on four of the most competitive meal delivery boxes on the market, and why you should (or should not) give them a try).

I’ll start by saying that none of these boxes save a tremendous amount of time, in the long run.  They don’t eliminate trips to the grocery store, as you still need to eat breakfast and lunch, plus, feed your children.  They don’t save me a ton of prep time, since I wasn’t spending more than 30-40 minutes making dinner on any given night, anyway.  I find that they’re really intended for people who love to cook (or enjoy learning), are trying to move away from eating out as often, and want to spark some creativity into their meal planning repertoire.

Blue Apron Udon Soup with Soft Boiled Egg and Peanuts

For those wondering, I rarely feed my kids from these dinner boxes for a few reasons.

  1. They don’t eat enough to justify to bump in cost from 2 people to 4 people.
  2. I use the boxes to branch out creatively, which often means the recipes are things a 2 and 3 year old aren’t super excited to try.
  3. The prep and cooking is a pretty intense 30-40 minutes for each meal.  It’s much easier for me to focus in the kitchen after they’ve gone to bed. (Luckily, my kids have an absurdly early bedtime of 6:30pm, so dinner is often after they go down.)
  4. Since the price per meal is the same regardless of the menu (with the exception of GreenChef), I try to pick meals that are a little fancier or more exotic than what I’d make unassisted (fish, game, vegan, spicy, etc.).  We often replace a take-out night with a dinner box night – the cost ends up being in our favor.  It gives my husband and I a sweet little “date night” at home and a chance to relax and have a nice dinner together.

 

GreenChef Cajun Shrimp with Orzo Pilaf

Blue Apron:

I think the Blue Apron brand is the most widely recognized name in dinner/meal kits.  Each week, you have the option of picking 3 meals from a menu of 8 choices.  The cost is the same, regardless of what you select (about $9/serving).  Prep/cook time is pretty consistently 30-40 minutes per meal, although if you aren’t used to their instructions and timeline, it can take longer than that.  They use some seasonal ingredients, but don’t have organic options.  There’s also no easy way to filter meal choices based on a food allergy or dietary preference (gluten free, for example).  There are usually 3 vegetarian options among the menu choices.  While the meals usually turn out tasty, they’re also among the least health-conscious of the boxes I’ve tried.  I’ve often ended up with meals over 800 calories per serving or containing 40-50% of my daily cholesterol or fat.  There’s also often weeks where I’m less than thrilled with the menu, and I end up skipping rather than spending money on food I’m not interested in eating. You can skip weeks anytime, without penalty, as long as you make the change prior to the cut off date.  We’ve been using Blue Apron about one week each month for the last year.

Score: 8/10

Date Night in the Backyard

Gobble:

Gobble’s claim to fame is that prep/cook time averages about 10 minutes per meal.  They also list specific meals as “certified family friendly” catering specifically to families with kids.  The weekly menu includes 10 options, of which you can select 2 (at $14/serving) or 3 (at $12/serving) choices.  So, while the plan is geared toward busy families, the price makes it a little restrictive to feed a family of 4 – I don’t usually spend $48-56 on a home cooked meal for my family.  I was also pretty disappointed in the flavors that the meals delivered.  In order to have the food table-ready in 10 minutes, most of the sauces, marinades, chopping and prep have been done for you.  I found that a lot of the food had an overly-processed taste and lacked the freshness that I love about the other boxes I’ve tried.

Score: 4/10

 

GreenChef Honey Roasted Carrots, Grilled Haloumi Cheese and Artichoke Gremolata

Hello Fresh:

The recipes available through Hello Fresh are the closest to meals I would make at home, without the inspiration or guidance of a meal delivery box.  Most meals have a protein, starch and vegetable.  They’re tasty and clean, but can be on the boring side.  Prep and cooking techniques are easy and straightforward.  At $10/serving, they’re a little higher in cost to what I’d spend on the ingredients alone.  I usually try to pick the fancier proteins to get more bang for my buck (because who wants to make ANOTHER dinner featuring our friend, the boneless, skinless chicken breast).  Of all the boxes, these are the meals that my kids are most likely to enjoy, and the portion sizes are usually large enough to put aside portions for them.  My favorite Hello Fresh feature is the ability to download all of the week’s recipes, whether or not you’re a current member.  I’ll often print out that week’s recipes and file them away for a future week of meal planning.  Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating the system, but I guess they wouldn’t offer the option if it took away from their business!

Score: 7/10

 

Hello Fresh Grilled Steak with Spring Vegetables and Mint Chive Pesto

GreenChef:

This was the first meal delivery box I signed up with, over 3 years ago.  They offer all organic ingredients, along with menus specifically addressing different dietary preferences (omnivore, carnivore, vegetarian, gluten free, Paleo).  Unfortunately, once you select your menu preference, GreenChef picks your meals for you so there’s little flexibility if there’s an ingredient you aren’t super fond of.  Also, at $10.50-15/serving, they’re on the more expensive end.  Their menus are, by far, the most creative and delicious – using rich flavors, interesting proteins and unusual grains.  Having all the ingredients certified organic helps justify the slightly higher cost.  And, despite the decadent flavors, the meals are usually surprisingly healthy, with most servings coming in around 550-650 calories.

Score: 9/10 (I’d give them a perfect score if there were more meal choices each week, instead of a fixed menu for each dietary preference)


So, there you have it!  I’ve attached my referral codes, below, in case you want to try any of these services out.  Most links will give you a sustancial discount off of your first delivery, which is a great way to try them out for yourself.

GreenChef: Enjoy 4 FREE meals

Hello Fresh: Enjoy $40 OFF your first delivery

Blue Apron: Receive your first delivery FREE (limited quantities available, must provide valid email address, below)

 

I’d love to hear your experiences, as well!  Have you tried any of the ones I’ve reviewed here?  Any others you suggest I check out?  Rumor has it that Amazon has a meal delivery box in the works.  If that’s true, that will be the one I’d love to check out next!

Jen.

 

All of these reviews are my honest, unbiased opinion.  I received nothing complementry from the companies featured.

 

Lipstick That Never Comes Off? Too Good To Be True? An Honest, Unbiased Review of LipSense

I’m sure you’ve seen the videos circulating around Facebook.  A woman is shown with bright red, pink, or even black lipstick and proceeds to smear her lips onto mirrors, babies, her husband, her wine glass, and her fingers – only to show that her lipstick has not moved, transferred or smudged.  Amazing, right?  I thought so, too!  And being the beauty junkie that I am, when I found out a friend had signed up as a distributor, I decided I needed to get my hands on this new LipSense product and try it out for myself.

Smudge Proof, Budge Proof

This post is my completely honest, unbiased review.

At first glance, I was put off by the packaging.  It looks like it was designed around the same time as GlamourShots and my 1990’s kitchen (recently remodeled – blog post coming soon!).  The website is no better.  It’s bland, boring and difficult to navigate.  No wonder most distributors choose not to host from their online storefront.


According to the tutorials I watched, you’re supposed to shake the bottle, apply 3 thin layers of product, and seal with the gloss (which is sold separately).  Then, you continue reapplying the gloss throughout the day to “seal” the color in.  The gloss seems to wear off fairly quickly, so to keep your lips looking and feeling their best, you’re looking at reapplying gloss 6-8 times per day.  At $25 per lip color and $20 per gloss, it was shaping up to be a pretty hefty investment for someone who’s typically pretty happy with tinted lip balm on an average day.  And while there are tons of gorgeous colors to choose from, the selection of nudes and lighter colors leaves something to be desired.

So, LipSense in hand, I shooed my children out of the room and focused my attention on applying 3 perfectly drawn in layers of the pretty rose color in front of me.

First impression?  This stuff stinks.  It reminded me of that metallic taste you get in your mouth while using teeth whitening strips. And it was super sticky.  Both the stink and the stick eased up considerably after applying the gloss, but there was still a slightly unpleasant flavor/scent that lingered through the day, and I had a hard time ignoring it.  The other thing I noticed was a slight burning sensation while applying the color.  LipSense calls this the “exfoliation phase” while your lips are growing accustomed to the product.  They also claim that you have to completely discontinue use of ANY wax based products (chapstick, lip balm, other lipsticks, pretty much any lip product you’ve ever purchased and currently own) because the LipSense helps to strip away YEARS worth of wax buildup on your lips.

Wait…. WHAT?  I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty confident that my skin (including my lips) sheds itself, without assistance from any cosmetics, at a rate much quicker than that.  I’m positive that I don’t have years of buildup anywhere on my body.  In fact, my experiments with self tanner have proven to me that even when a product is designed to last a week, my skin has gotten rid of it within a few short days.

And I don’t really like being lied to.  It makes me more skeptical of the other information I’m being fed.

Anyway, I proceeded through my day, as normal, eating and drinking, and checking my perfect lips in every mirror I could find.  As the gloss wore off every couple hours, I found my lips feeling very dry and slightly tacky, but as long as I kept reapplying the gloss, the color stayed in place pretty well!  I did notice it starting to flake after eating a greasy meal, as I’m sure the oil started to break down the pigment, but it was around dinnertime by then, and I wasn’t interested in removing the whole thing and starting from scratch.  All in all, it stayed on all day, even if it didn’t look as good by evening.

I found my perfect nude: Pink Champagne

Having a little (ok, a LOT) more fun wearing Sassy Z. Don’t mind the tiara.

Pros:

  • Very long lasting
  • Many color choices, including various gloss finishes
  • Great for special occasions

Cons:

  • Unpleasant scent
  • Vintage (I’m being nice) packaging
  • Hefty price tag (LipSense addresses this by showing a cost comparison to other high end lipsticks, but most of them don’t require 3 layers or a second, required product, so I maintain that their product is definitely on the expensive side)

After trying it out and finding a nude I love (see above for Pink Champagne), I definitely see myself using my LipSense when I want to look a little more polished.  It’s great for date nights, beach days, weddings, and other events when you want to look put together without worrying about reapplying (but don’t forget your gloss or you’ll be sad!).  But, I think I’ll stick to my casual glosses and balms for my normal, mom days.  And I won’t be afraid to switch back and forth between LipSense and my trusty BareMinerals favorite, because I’m a rebel and I don’t let lipstick boss me around.

Jen.

 

P.S. My LipSense friend has offered to give my readers 15% off!  Join her page and mention my blog, and your discount will be automatically applied!

Where’s My Mom Tribe?

You know what’s hard? Being a mom.

Know what’s harder? Being a mom on social media.

While I’ll be the first one to admit the convenience of being able to ask a parenting question online and receive 53 answers, I also feel like people think that offering advice online replaces the real, honest socialization and support that parents so desperately need.

Everyone has an opinion but very few people are actually interested in helping.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that I would plan to breastfeed my children.  My mom was an active La Leche League member, and I grew up watching her nursing my younger sisters (5 and 10 years younger than me).  When I became pregnant with my first baby, my plan-turned-passion to breastfeed her grew into a near obsession.

In these modern days of mom shaming, Facebook parenting, and fed/breast is best, it’s easy to feel the pressure to breastfeed.  But the stories of struggling moms surrounded me and made me start to wonder how I’d feel if my dreams of breastfeeding fell flat.

I made a huge effort to get as much education on the subject as possible before my newborn arrived.  And this, I found, is part of the problem.  There’s almost no resources available to women before the birth of their child.  At most, some women can find a quick 2 hour class giving some tips and pointers about nursing – how to do it, what to look for, and the benefits for both mom and baby (which hopefully help motivate mom to keep nursing through the initial rough days and weeks).

A newborn often nurses at least 10-12 times a day.  That means that by the baby’s first checkup around a week old, mom has breastfed roughly 70-100 times.  Maybe she got a couple visits from a lactation consultant in the hospital.  Maybe her pediatrician offered some advice around that 7th day of life.  But 100 times is 99 too many when you’re cracked and bleeding and sore and worried that your baby might not be getting enough food.

Sure, there are some women who are not able to nurse their babies, despite every effort.  Yes, there are families who choose to use formula based on their own preferrences or due to certain health issues that make breastfeeding impossible.  I send no negitivity their way – this has nothing to do with personal choices.

However, when I see new moms struggling to feed their child because our culture doesn’t provide adequate support and information, it breaks my heart.  Nursing is as natural as walking.  We’re meant to do both, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to learn how.  And to tell a tired, stressed, overwhelmed mother that it should all just come “naturally” is to basically throw her failure in her face.

We need our tribe back.  As moms, we need to reach out to the new moms around us and swoop in with love, advice, information, and – most importantly – support to help make this journey easier.  We need to stop waiting to be asked for help, and instead need to offer tips and knowledge in a safe, non intrusive way, so that we can continue building a circle of support that has no end.

I was lucky – I knew to advocate for myself and to demand help from the hospital’s lactation consultant.  My mom offered endless support and advice.  I found a local breastfeeding support that offered invaluable advice and education (plus the added bonus of some awesome friendships!).   And I was determined.  But others arent so lucky.  Too many women assume that the difficulty is because something is wrong, instead of it just being a natural part of the learning curve.

I was never one of those moms who adored breastfeeding.  I never felt the euphoria that some feel while their baby suckles themselves to sleep.  But I loved the closeness and I had an enormous sense of pride that my body was able to sustain life for my little girls for over a year, each.

And even though that chapter of my life is over, I’m going to continue to try to be part of the tribe for new moms around me.  And as I continue my parenting journey, I know I’ll come across new obstacles and failures. When I feel like I’m falling, I can only hope that my “been there, done that” mom friends can help to pull me back up.  Because, sometimes all you need is a hug, a cup of coffee, and some kind words to know that you’re doing everything just right.


Jen.

Cultivating a Toddler’s Green Thumb (Easier Said Than Done!)

One of my daughter’s favorite books is “The Carrot Seed” by Ruth Krauss.  It’s SUPER old (from 1945) and incredibly simple.  It was in a box of books my mom gave me from my childhood and I honestly didn’t think it would even hold her attention.  But, like the generations of children before her, it sucks her in and gets her asking about gardening and planting her own seeds, which makes my heart happy.

There’s a lot of research that shows that children who help with a garden learn to enjoy a wider variety of foods – especially fruits and vegetables.  Which would be nice, because mine acts like I’m trying to feed her poison as soon as she sees something green on her plate.

What is it about kids and green vegetables? My husband and I both eat a ton of them, so it’s not like my kids aren’t constantly exposed to them. But, it’s almost as if they came out of the womb with an aversion to all foods green. And I know I’m not alone here.

I’ve even tried hiding the veggies in normal foods, but my 3 year old is some kind of super sleuth and she figures me out. Not even that, she then refuses to eat the pasta/smoothie/whatever the next time because she’s convinced I’m tricking her. So it’s actually making things worse, instead of better!

At our old house, we had a small backyard garden.  We still have a lot to learn, and we get smarter after each season, but we love going out every day and checking on our plants and how things are growing.  After our move earlier this year, one of our first projects was to get our garden back up and running.  But this time, we’re making more of an effort to bring the girls out and have them learn and help with everything.  We explain the foods, have them help with watering and weeding, and we make a big point to remind them when a food we’re eating came from our garden.  We started from seeds for the first time this year, so we haven’t gotten much food yet, but our plants are growing and we’ve gotten to pick a few treasures.

I’m hoping that their interest in our garden will help pique their interest in eating more vegetables.  They would happily survive on fruit, and only fruit, so that isn’t a problem. But, the 3 year old, especially, has a hard time with veggies.  In an effort to think outside of the box, I planted purple string beans and purple bell peppers.  They’ve grown quickly and easily and both of my girls have actually been excited to try them!  So, I feel like we’re making baby steps.

In the next couple weeks, we should have corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, more carrots, squash and, eventually, watermelon.  Until then, we’ll continue to check the plants each day, pull up the weeds, and sprinkle water around them.  And, day by day, my little gardeners will begin to love the food they’ve helped grow.


Anything you love growing in your garden?  We’re always planning ahead and getting ideas.  I’d love to hear what you’ve tried and enjoyed!

Jen.

The Palest Girl in California

It’s that time again.  The time of year when bikinis come out of storage boxes, pants are traded for shorts, and skin that’s been covered and protected for months comes out to see the light.  For most people, this also means that it’s time to get their tan on.  For me, it’s the time to spend another summer learning to embrace my pasty, almost albino, Casper-like, self.

Thanks to my Russian grandparents, I have been “blessed” with milky, white skin.  My freckles are deceptive, but underneath lies the palest skin that most makeup artists have come across.  In fact, there are only two brands at Sephora that carry foundation light enough for me (Lancome and Make Up For Ever, in case you were wondering).  So, when I try to “tan”, I usually end up a nice, ripe shade of tomato red that lasts for a week until I peel and reveal my original shade of alabaster.  I can’t even tan after the burn!


Before you correct me, I’m fully aware that tanning is bad for us all and we all say that we’re diligently applying sunscreen in an effort to remain youthful and wrinkle-free.  But the truth is, in California, people tan.  A Californian’s “pale” skin is still about 10 shades more golden than my own.  And each year, I struggle through the full range of emotions that comes with having blinding white skin in a society that embraces a golden glow (even if they don’t want to admit it).

When I was a kid, I was teased relentlessly about my skin.  And, as an adult, I have trouble shaking the fact that I’ll always be the palest person in the room.  It’s an inner dialog that happens daily from about May until October.

My thoughts go like this:

Ugh, it’s 95 degrees today, I guess I should find my one pair of shorts.  No, my legs are too pale, someone will say something, I’ll just wear these capris.  UGH – it’s still too flipping hot, shorts it is.  Maybe this self tanner will help?  Nevermind, they only make self tanner for people who already have a little tan. On me, it looks fake, streaked and ORANGE.  Maybe this bronzer will work?  Oh, this stuff is a mess and the color of brownies, what on Earth was I thinking?  Ok… maybe they’re not as pale as I think they are.  After all, there are lots of pale, gorgeous celebs out there that don’t self tan – Emma Stone, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore come to mind.  I’m sure they don’t worry about this stuff.  But, maybe they do, and they’re just so incredibly gorgeous that you forget the milkiness of their skin.  Maybe, I need to lose weight and people will forget how pale I am.  Maybe, if my outfit and makeup are perfect, people will notice that first.  Maybe….

See where this is going?

And, now that I have 2 little girls, I feel like I’m hyper-aware of how I portray my body and my self-confidence.  My older daughter has my fair skin and my baby has her daddy’s “spaghetti sauce” (aka gorgeous, Italian, olive) skin tone.  I worry that my oldest will compare herself to her sister and wonder why she didn’t get the golden skin that is so highly praised and coveted.


I know how easy it is to fixate on something about yourself and have that manifest into a circle of self-hate.  So, this summer, I’m going to wear my shorts and my bikini and try my best to embrace the qualities that make me ME.  It’s never to early to teach self-love and, with my daughter approaching four, she’s starting to notice the things people say about their own bodies and others.  Maybe, in the quest to teach her to love herself, I’ll be able to love myself a little more too.  SPF 100 and all.

Jen.

Four Ingredient Bread for Gluten Lovers Everywhere.

If you’re anything like me, you consider bread an integral part of your daily existence.  Personally, I’d take fresh baked bread over chocolate any day.  Seriously.  But with two toddlers and less personal time than I’d like to admit, baking bread just doesn’t usually make the cut of things we get to do very regularly.  I even have a bread machine and I’ve cultivated my own sourdough starter (epic fail – don’t even get me started on that one).  Still, we don’t see a lot of homemade bread in our house.

Enter, the easiest, most delicious bread recipe…..ever. I’ve actually tried a couple variations of this recipe in the past.  I’ve taken a few similar recipes and condensed them into one, easy, foolproof method so you can have fresh, delicious bread any time you want it.

First, mix 3 c. flour, 1 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. yeast in a very large bowl.  Pour in 1 1/2 c. warm water and stir until you have a thick, sticky lump of dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit on your counter for 12-18 hours.  Seriously.  Just leave it there.


When you wake the next morning (I tend to make my dough before I go to bed), go straight to your oven and crank it up to 450 with your dutch oven (or other large pot with a lid) inside.  By now, your dough should have doubled or even tripled in size.

It’s now even stickier than before, so sprinkle some flour on top and gently pour (pull/scrape/maneuver) it into a ball-like-shape onto a large piece of parchment paper.  After your dutch oven has been heating up in the oven for about a half hour, carefully pick up your dough by the parchment paper and plop the whole thing into the pot.
img_0687
Bake for 30 min with the lid on, and then an additional 15 min with the lid off.


That’s it.  For real.  No kneading, no hard work.  About 5 minutes before bed and 5 minutes in the morning (plus baking time) and you can have fresh, preservative free, homemade bread any time you want it.

You don’t need to thank me.  But, do tell me if you give it a try!

Jen.

The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Saving the Planet (And Getting Something In Return!)

I’m a true California girl.  And with all this sunshine and summertime, Californians are expected to reach above and beyond when it comes to saving our planet.  We put a heavy emphasis on recycling, water conservation and energy saving initiatives.  And, while my heart wants to reduce my footprint for the sake of my kids, my head is often spinning from all the rules and options available.  Here are a few super easy ways to help save the world and make it a better place for the future generations.

 

ThredUp:

If you’re anything like me, you have about 10x more clothes than you actually wear or need.  And your kids’ closets are probably even worse (mine are, anyway!).  Research shows we’re not alone – only 20% of clothes in most closets are worn regularly.  Enter ThredUp.  You order a kit, send them all of the gently used clothes that you aren’t actually wearing, and they pay you upfront for them.  Cash out on PayPal or use the credit to buy yourself something you’ll actually love.  You can get high end items (think LOFT, J. Crew, Hudson, Zara, Mini Boden, Baby Gap, etc.) for up to 90% off, and the clothes you send are going somewhere other than the landfill.  ThredUp up-cycled 14 million items in 2016 alone!

Get started HERE and you’ll get $10 toward your first purchase.

Imperfect Produce:

Research has shown that up to 60 MILLION TONS of food is grown and wasted in the U.S. each year.  That’s enough to feed the 800 million hungry people in the world twice over! Much of this produce isn’t accepted by grocery stores because of the way it looks – too small, too big, not the predictable shape or color Americans know and love.  So Imperfect Produce is out to change that.  To date, they’ve saved over 3.2 million pounds of produce that would’ve been trashed otherwise.  They buy the “rejects” from local farms and sell them to consumers at a fraction of the cost you’d pay at the grocery store.  The produce is fresh, delicious, and often organic; it just doesn’t fit the standards that stores require.  It’s a small way that you can boost your produce intake (always a good thing!) AND help reduce waste.  Win win!

Sign up for your Imperfect Produce box HERE.  Use my name (Jennifer Hooper) when you sign up and you’ll get $10 off your first box!  They currently only deliver to the Bay Area, LA and Orange Counties, but they’re rapidly expanding!


OhmConnect:

We’re all supposed to conserve energy, especially at peak times, but it’s often confusing and frustrating trying to figure out how and where those energy cuts can be made.  On top of that, you usually don’t even know how much energy you used (or didn’t) until you get your bill at the end of each month.

I recently found out about OhmConnect, a company that syncs with your energy provider to help you conserve electricity, and therefore, save money.  It’s completely free, and you can earn both product and monetary incentives based on your performance.  OhmConnect sends you a text or email alert when there’s going to be an OhmHour, and you can make the necessary choices to cut back on your usage.  Take a walk, read a book, go outside, turn off lights, wait to run the dishwasher – it’s completely up to you!  Additionally, they sent me a FREE smart thermostat so that my old house doesn’t have to work so hard to keep the temperature comfortable for me and my family.

Get started with OhmConnect HERE and start seeing the savings roll in.  With Summer coming, there’s never been a better time to reduce your electricity bill!


What other ways are you working to reduce your carbon footprint?  I’m always looking for easy ways to do more good and be rewarded for it!

Jen.

Mother’s Day Hangover

I saw a funny meme this morning as I was scrolling through my Instagram:

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While I’m sure some of my friends out there had a lovely, relaxing Mother’s Day (as indicated by all of the overly enthusiastic social media posts), I found comfort knowing that I wasn’t the only mom out there struggling to enjoy Mother’s Day.  I mean, it was really just a regular day with a little side of added pressure to do something magical with your family, who I spend a ton of time with anyway. Right?

I don’t mean to complain, as I know my family (and most families, I’d imagine) means well and tries their best, but Hallmark holidays just aren’t my thing.  There’s a lot of pressure to do something meaningful, post your favorite mom pic ever, shout out to all the mom friends – including the fur moms, rainbow moms, moms of babies lost, moms that aren’t really moms but act like moms, and every other maternal figure in our lives (major guilt trip if you forget anyone!).  It’s just that while we’re out there trying to make sure the world knows we have “the best mom EVER”, I’m pretty sure there are a lot of moms who wish they could just drink a cup of coffee without hearing their kids fighting over their two identical, purple beach buckets (because one is CLEARLY better than the other) or have the week’s groceries magically appear in their refrigerator.

I hope I don’t sound ungrateful.  I adore my kids, I know I’m blessed with an incredibly hands-on husband and family that lives nearby and steps in to help without even being asked.  But this “Mother’s Day Hangover” really is a real thing.  It’s nearly impossible to not sit there comparing your day, gifts, and Insta posts to those of the people around you. I love being a mom – it’s the best, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done – but I think I’d rather just skip the Mother’s Day fuss and try to find the joy in the normal days, because I’m pretty sure these are the ones I’m actually going to look back and remember.

So, this morning, while the 3-year-old declared that the only food she’d eat for breakfast was garlic bread and the 1-year-old hated every pair of shoes we own in her size, I took a step back and a deep breath and let the world slow down around me.  Because, even though it’s cliche, these are the moments that define me as a mother.  The good, the bad, the exhausting, and everything in between.  And I know that my kids adore me without requiring them to cooperate at an overpriced brunch or crowded pedicure spot.

Today I did my entire family’s laundry and didn’t end up with any unmatched socks.  A true victory in our home.  And tonight, I’m going to snuggle my littles, read them some books, tuck them into bed, and wait to do it all again tomorrow.  So, I’m going to pat myself on the back and declare today a win.  Because, to my sweet little fam, I’m already the #bestmomever.

 

Jen.

The Dirty, Black Truth Behind Charcoal Masks

Anyone else completely obsessed with facial masks? I’ve been using them for years. First, there were those gooey, sticky fruit-based ones that peeled all the peach fuzz off your face. Then came self heating masks, sheet masks, mud masks, and everything in between. But the one that remains my favorite? The black, charcoal ones.
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There’s something about slathering that thick, obsidian paste on your face and removing it to reveal smoother, brighter, -dare I say- happier skin. Redness? Gone. Zits? Shrunk. Dull skin? Glowing.
Masks are serious business in my house. So, I recruited the Hubs and we tried out some of the more popular charcoal masks on the market.
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Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal Mask, $22:
This charcoal mask goes on more gray than black, but that doesn’t mean it’s not prepared to get down and dirty with your pores. It’s the thinnest consistency of the 3 we tried. It’s smooth and doesn’t need to dry completely prior to washing it off. I kept it on for 15 minutes and washed it off to reveal smaller pores and less redness. A little goes a long way, and it’s the least irritating of the three I tried – a plus for sensitive skin.
Get it here.
Boscia Luminizing Black Mask, $36:
This was the one that started it all for me.  It’s thick, sticky and completely opaque, and it peels off once it dries.  You have to use quite a bit (it doesn’t peel off properly if you apply too thin of a layer), which is hard since it’s not a cheap product, but the results are worth every penny.  My face is consistently left glowing – luminized – exactly as promised.  It’s effects on blemishes are not as noticeable as the other two masks, but it’s one of the few masks that leaves lasting improvement for a few days after using it.
Get it here.
Clearskin Pore Penetrating Black Mineral Mask, $6.99:
Ok, this mask is more of a mud mask than a charcoal mask, but because of it’s fabulous black color and awesome skin transformation abilities, I’m lumping it into the same category as the others.  This is also the only mask that has Salicylic Acid, which means it’s a mask powerhouse when it comes to blemishes.  The pleasing tingle reminds you that it’s working and it dries relatively quickly from a dark black to a light, concrete gray.  It’s easy to rinse off and leaves pimples visibly reduced.
Get it here.

Any other charcoal masks you’ve tried and loved?  I’d love to check them out!  In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here with a fabulous, black paste on my face, waiting for it to work it’s magic.
xoxo, Jen

May contain affiliate links.  Origins product received free from Influenster.  All reviews and opinions are 100% my own.