Tuesday, May 19, 2015

DIY Surf Spray for Beachy Waves

Wanted to share with you all today a super simple, super cheap, & effective DIY surf spray for those popular beach waves everyone is doing. I recently chopped 8 inches off my hair to sport the new 'lob' 'do, which I absolutely love! It is so easy to style and in my opinion looks the best when styled with these loose beachy waves. I bought Bumble & Bumble's Surf Spray right after my haircut, but for $25 a small bottle, I figured out how to make a very similar spray which will cost you next to nothing, and made from all natural ingredients and no chemicals! Many of the sea salt sprays are also drying to the hair, as salt pulls moisture and natural oils out, but this recipe contains epsom salt (which is less drying), as well as coconut oil, which is sooo good and hydrating for your hair.

This is a super simple recipe you can make at home, and it literally costs about 1/50th of the store bought versions. It adds great texture and volume to your hair without the chemicals, and If you make it yourself, you can customize to your hair type to get the texture you want! I use this all the time to style my new 'do -- I spray all over hair when damp, rough blow dry or air dry, curl a few small sections of hair with a 1" or 1.5" curler, and then spritz again as a finishing spray to lightly hold (SO much better than hairspray which can look greasy and crunchy)

What You'll Need:
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 tablespoons epsom salts
- 1 teaspoon aloe vera gel
- 1 teaspoon liquid coconut oil (if you don't have coconut oil you can use almond oil or jajoba oil. If you have fine/oily hair, you might not even need to add any oil - this just moisturizes and offsets the dryness caused by the salt)
- 5-6 drops lavender essential oil (lavender's my fave but I think citrus scents would also smell great!)
- 8 oz spray bottle (check out Walmart or dollar store)

1. Dissolve Epsom salt and aloe vera gel into hot water.
2. Combine coconut oil and essential oil
3. Pour into spray bottle and shake well.
That's all! Enjoy :)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

For the Mom's: 10 small things you can do to bring more peace & order to your life :)

Finally reached a point where I feel confident enough to write this post and share some of this wisdom I have learned from the past year and a half though the challenging and demanding early years of motherhood with a toddler and a baby, without family nearby and my husband working/traveling a great deal. I think that all mothers, regardless if working or stay at home, single or married, with 2 under 2 or just one - all of us are juggling numerous demands and constantly answering to the highest priority and letting other things slip by and compound. Maybe your biggest demand right now is a high need or a sick baby, a stressful work situation, a personal family or marital crisis, maybe you are struggling with your own health issues, or maybe you are dealing with the stress of caring for a special needs child or an aged relative. We are all in different walks of life and  facing different sets of challenges, but I think we can all agree that sometimes, life is simply just hard. Some days, some months, some years, are just utterly exhausting and stretching. If you are in one of these seasons it can become hard not to let the other, lesser-priority things pile up, and it becomes hard to even take care of our own selves, and generally be the woman, mother, wife, and friend that we know God called us to be. After a challenging hard year and a half, I came to the realization that I am more than just a milk machine and I was more than the frazzled, sleep-deprived, anti-social woman I became many days over the past 18 months. What really helped me was finally getting Blair to sleep through the night at 16 months, but I also found that by incorporating the following habits into my daily routine, there came a huge increase in energy levels, my outlook, attitude, and my mindset became much more positive, and ultimately I gained overall feelings of clarity, lightness, and happiness. There is nothing earth shattering here - These are small things you can do that if you just try to stay mindful of and remember to do these things (give em a few weeks or month in a row!) I can promise you will find your life to regain more order, peace, and ultimate happiness :)

1. Get dressed!! Get dressed for the day you want to have, not the one that's trying to have you. As a SAHM the reality is you can still find me in yoga pants and a top knot most days, Really, I only get 'dressed' up in the sense of skirts and silky blouses and high heels for special holidays and occasions. For the past year and a half, I think most days I looked homeless in shirts smeared with unknown food particles and snots.  I know this one can difficult with a baby and a toddler -- I could barely shower or brush my hair or teeth without Blair screaming at me or hanging off my leg crying at my feet to be picked up. But you just need to just figure out 10 minutes in the morning to quickly shower and just groom yourself for the day -- cut your cuticles, buff your nails, shave, clean up your eyebrows, and put on clothes that fit you well (or just that you don't look homeless in), and you will actually feel better that day and actually have a better day. You don't need to give yourself a blow out. You don't need to put on make up. You don't need to dress uncomfortably beautiful. But just making dressing nicer a priority in my life has a huge difference in my productivity and overall outlook on life those days. I’ve found that I get more done, I feel more energetic, and I just feel happier. I started keeping a small cosmetic case in my bag filled with a travel size deodorant, a small hair brush, and a tinted cheek/lip balm (love this one) so that when we arrive somewhere a couple minutes early I can easily fix up in the car while the kids are happily contained.
(Pictured above in L'eggs Brand Silken Sheers - for when you do go the extra mile, these are such a fabulous product with new run-resistant technology and control top ;))
2. Cook, clean, fix things up or put things away around the house or outside the house, with the kids involved.  It may take you twice as long, but I've found sometimes these things literally just won't get done, (or otherwise they'll get done with a screaming toddler, or your toddler somehow getting hurt). & it's fun for them to feel 'needed' in your world and praised for their efforts. And it's a great hands-on real-life learning experience for them. I think just as important as sitting down (or running around) and playing with them - kids are curious about the real world and are more intrigued with what captures our attention and time, and this teaches your toddler about caring for a home or yard and sets the tone for them to help and understand household responsibilities and chores as they grow. For example, my kids like to help me cook - Blair doesn't really care what she's doing as long as she's involved, and Landon will actually help me read recipes, find ingredients, mix things together and watch them cook like a science experiment. Laundry is another one, I'll have them help sort the dirty clothes into dark and light piles, help transfer wet clothes into the dryer, press the buttons, and sort the clean clothes into each person's pile.
3. Clean up as soon as a mess is made, rather than letting it accumulate. Sometimes in the middle of the day we think it'd just be easier to just deal with it after the kids get to sleep, but that mindset can cause so much more mess and ultimately, overwhelming feelings of chaos and anxiety. This means: pick up and put away toys when you are done playing, put away bath toys as soon as bath is over, clean the dinner table and dishes as soon as dinner is over. Clean that poopy cloth diaper as soon as you take it off. This way, nothing can accumulate and get out of control.
4. Have a daily to-do list and prioritize tasks. Tackle the biggest / hardest task first thing and then the smaller ones after that. You will be amazed at how much better and more motivated you feel when that huge annoying thing you keep thinking about is DONE! Keep your daily list to about 5 items, otherwise you will get bogged down. Also keep a separate, long-term to-do list, of things that you want to eventually tackle, but that there is no 'deadline' for and that can wait for when you have a low-key weekend or unexpected chunk of time, or your husband's help to deal with.
5. Have a shared family calendar. My husband and I sync our hotmail calendars, where we each add events into it so we can see what's going on on both ends since we have too much going on to call each other about it. I also keep a large calendar up in print in our kitchen because I'm a visual person, which helps me constantly see the picture of how many days I have to do things before a specified day or event. This is such a small thing to do but can instantly help you visualize your month better and be more effective on a weekly and monthly basis.
6. Pick one day during the week to take a few hours (sans kids) to go grocery shopping and food prep for the week. For me, it's Monday. (This is also something we just started doing a few weeks ago and I can't tell you how much easier it's made my life). I go food shopping and get everything I need for the week's breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Then I rinse and cut up all the veggies, bake the chicken or turkey meat so all I have to do is simply re-heat. I can't over-emphasize the importance of this one! Food prep is so important and can ease a lot of stress and hanger when you've had a busy day, and also helps everyone eat healthier. For example, we always have hard boiled eggs, bananas, apples, and cut up veggies and hummus & dressing in the fridge, which makes it easy to grab a quick, healthy snack when hunger strikes. On Mondays I will also mbake chicken tenders and ground turkey meat to keep in the fridge, for easy sandwiches, wraps, and to throw in dinners.
7. Wake up before the kids. I know this one might be hard too but I promise it will set the tone for a better day. All you need is 30 minutes before them. I have my first cup of coffee in peace and quiet and read a chapter of the bible. I'll also set up their bowls of cereal and pack sandwiches and bags for the day before they wake up, which makes the struggle of getting out the door so much much less hectic.
8. Stay on a schedule. Studies have shown across the board that children thrive when they follow structure and routine. Of course as parents of young children, things come up and unexpected doozies are thrown our way more than we'd like and adjusting and rolling with the punches is definitely a learned skill....but on the whole, if you keep a routine to your days and nights, everyone will function better.
Since today is Friday, I'll give you an example of how a typical Friday looks like for us:
5:30am: Wake up. I take 30 minutes before the kids wake up to make my coffee, read my bible and say a quick prayer for the day.
6:00am: Kids wake up. Diaper change, eat breakfasts, clothes change. Clean up right after they are done eating. Pack lunches, bags, car for the day.
8:000am: Out the door. Usually to our gym, where the kids play and I get a workout in and shower, or like today, I am in the cafe working on my blog or working on Extract.
11:30: Lunch.
12:00: Landon gets on the bus and Blair takes a nap.
1:00-4:00: 'Free time' with Blair. Usually we run errands, clean up around the house and prep for dinner.
4:00: Landon comes home from school. We play outside, go for a walk or bike ride for about an hour before dinner.
5:30: Dinner. Clean up afterwards.
7:00: Bath time, massages, pajamas & brush teeth. We all read books together before bed in Landon's room.
8:00: Bed. After I get the kids to bed I throw in a load of laundry and run the dishwasher so clean for the next day.
9. Keep extra mom & kid necessities in your purse and in the car, so that you are never caught already running late to a birthday party, running into Target for a new outfit and sippy cup. This way, no matter if you are running late, or just forgetful, or the kids are just extra needy, you are equipped to handle any forseeable blow out or snack attack. Our car stash contains diapers, wipes, a sippy cup, change of clothes, snacks, and bandaids.
10. Schedule Date Nights. This was also hard for me to do, but it is so important. I recently heard a pastor at a baby dedication tell the parents that the most important gift you can give your kids is a good marriage. Isn't it true? They are going to look at our marriage as the picture in their mind for when they ultimately chose a life partner of their own. I think that especially in the early years of parenting we feel like it's too hard to invest time in your spouse as we are already stretched so thin and feeling like we barely have time for ourselves or our kids. But you need to make the time - Our spouses need our time and our love and our support. And when the kids are all grown up and living lives on their own maybe on other parts of the country, it is your spouse you will be still be growing old with. & life is just better, in the good days and in the bad days, sharing it with a person you are still in love with.

I hope this helps some of you guys! Got another life tip of your own?? Would love to hear it!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bits of Life Lately

Spring is definitely here to stay now and we are loving this new season in our new home, planting flowers and vegetables (to be transplanted into our soon to be new garden!), enjoying the long-awaited warm sun, and the beauty and freshness of new life all around us. I spent this past weekend in Massachusetts with Blair so you won't see L in too many of these pictures, but he's doing well and had an awesome boys weekend back home without us ;)
Lettuce sprouts!
C/o Pictli (use promo code LB1520 for 20% off)
Our beautiful cherry blossoms in bloom
Providence College ladies (& babies) reunion
Celebration of this little babe's Dedication
Nature walks with Pampa + Mimi 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Bamboost - Eco-Friendly Education for Young Children

Happy Friday guys! I'm posting today on an incredible campaign that is designed to help educate 10 million young children (ages 0-6) living in urban slums by the year 2020 through the availability, use, and education of bamboo cloth diapers and hygiene products. You all probably already know I cloth diaper, and I have a few bamboo diapers right now which I absolutely love, so I was so excited to jump on board this campaign to get the word out and help show my support that connects eco-friendly products and practices to such a noteworthy and heart touching cause.
The campaign, Bamboost, introduces bamboo fiber health and hygiene products to urban slum communities, as well as age-appropriate curriculum books. People living in urban slums are making only $3-5 per day, but are spending more than $20 on diapers and sanitary pads per month. By introducing bamboo fiber products to slum communities, they will reduce that monthly cost to only $3. That means that every month, parents will be able to buy $3 packages, which consist of bamboo fiber diapers, bamboo fiber sanitary pads, and a monthly age appropriate curriculum book for young children. There will be enough quantity of products to last a month, and the monthly curriculum books will work on developmental milestones that are specific to the exact age of the child.
But they need more support and awareness to bring this mission to a reality! So, if this cause speaks to you at all, I encourage you to visit their site and help by donating any amount you can, and also by helping raise awareness by following or liking their facebook, twitter, and instagram.
Contributors will receive some awesome eco-friendly bamboo products in return for their greatly appreciated support! This is an all-or-nothing campaign, meaning that if they don't raise the money they need, contributors will not be charged. BamBoost needs your help to raise $20,000, which will be used towards:
- Buying bulk inventory of bamboo-fiber health and hygiene necessities from manufacturing partners.
- Bulk printing of age-appropriate curriculum books from manufacturing partners.
- Rental of a distribution center in Brazil.
- Shipping of products to our distribution center in Brazil.
- Hiring of a manager and door-to-door saleswoman in Brazil.
- Fulfillment of rewards to contributors.
- A successful campaign will also help us continue our Hult Prize Competition journey.

BamBoost is offering contributors the following beautiful bamboo products in return for their support:
With a $25 contribution, you will receive a beautiful and refillable bamboo notebook, included with a custom name laser engraving. 
With a $30 contribution, you will receive a 3-month supply of bamboo-fiber diaper liners, and will also give a 3-months of Bamboost packages to a family living in an urban slum.
With a $65 contribution, you will receive an educational toolkit package, consisting of five eco-friendly educational projects for children ages 0-6, with custom name laser engraving included.

For a full list of all the different contribution gifts, please visit their website - They offer many different gift packages for varying amounts of contributions. Please help share your support and help them impact the lives of millions of young children!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

LifeBank USA Cord Blood Banking & Graco 4Ever Car Seat Giveaway!

I blogged about cord blood banking about a year ago (here) and am back today with another follow up post to tell you about our experience and to also re-emphasize the importance of cord blood banking. 
We had a really wonderful great experience using LifeBank USA to donate Blair's cord blood last year. They were awesome to work with, we got our request and paperwork processed super fast, and the process at the hospital to donate the kit was so unbelievably easy. All I had to do was bring the cord blood kit box in with me to the delivery room, and the nurses completely took over with all the instructions from LifeBank. Basically all they did was take 4 vials of blood from me, check off a few administrative notes, package up the tissue, placenta, & cord blood after delivery, and then all I had to do was call LifeBank within 2 hours of her birth to have a representative come pick up the box. I was a little stressed out about the whole process beforehand but everything turned out to be very simple and uncomplicated and very easy on me.
If you don't know anything about it, there are soo many reasons to preserve your baby's cord blood, or otherwise donate it. Through cord blood banking, you can collect and preserve potentially lifesaving stem cells, and doing so could one day save the life of your child or a blood relative. The ability of stem cells to save lives via cord blood banking has proved successful for replacing abnormal or diseased cells, and treating life-threatening blood disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. In fact, 1,988 stem cell transplants have been used to treat some 80 diseases.
You can bank even more stem cells by collecting them from 2 usable sources of stem cell-rich blood: the umbilical cord and the placenta. This service is called Placental and Cord Blood Banking and it is available only through LifeBank USA. Whether you choose Placental and Cord Blood Banking or Cord Blood Banking alone, there are still many other reasons to choose LifeBank: LifeBank is the only company that offers cord blood, placenta blood, and tissue banking, and they are also the first to release placenta-derived stem cells for a successful transplant. They have been absolutely wonderful to work with and they will collect cells from anywhere in the US. Another reason to bank with LifeBank? They include tissue banking (tissue from the placenta) for free. Placental tissue contains mesenchymal (MSCs) and MSC-like cells. While stem cells found in cord blood and placenta blood have been used to successfully treat patients, there are currently no approved uses for stem cells derived from the umbilical cord or placenta tissue. Possible therapeutic applications are in early research stages and LifeBankUSA's parent company is actively involved in their development. LifeBankUSA will store the placenta tissue for you as part of their banking package using their cryogenic tanks for long-term preservation. In the event your baby's tissue cells are ever needed for future therapies, the tissue may then be processed and cultured using available technology at the time. Banking with LifeBankUSA will definitely give you peace of mind, knowing that this stem cell-rich blood can be used to treat certain diseases in the future.
Along with peace of mind, LifebankUSA is also now giving away THREE Graco 4Ever Car Seats in a random drawing. A $300 value each!! You can enter the contest HERE. Good luck!!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spring Fever

A spontaneous 8 inch hair cut 
New Balance for JCrew & mini-me metallics freshly picked (giveaway coming soon!) 


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