Sometimes I feel like my stuff is closing in on me.
I mean, that probably sounds dramatic. The stuff is probably minding its own business. But even knowing that it’s there is enough to throw me sometimes.
If you’ve been around this blog for a minute, you probably know that purging my stuff is practically an annual ritual for me. With the baby, though, I found I was too busy over the last year to do much heavy tidying. So, instead of spring cleaning, I’m hoping to clear out some space in time for fall and winter. (Because Lord knows I spend too much time inside during the winter to feel claustrophobic.)
While I rarely struggle with the actual letting go of stuff, I find the hardest part when living in New York City (without a car during the week) is getting the stuff out of my apartment. It tends to sit in bags and boxes, creating even more clutter, for weeks before I find a way to get it to Goodwill. This time around, I’m going to try to avoid that. I want to plan another clothing swap with some girlfriends. I’ll bribe friends with cars into making a drop-off. I’ll throw things away if I can’t give them away.
The point is, the stuff has got to go. Here’s to a more simplified end-of-the-year.
My family recently went on a trip to Virginia with some friends. I was excited about the trip, but, I’ll be honest, a little nervous for how Vivi would do in the car.
Joey and I tried to travel as much as we could before we had a baby, and most of our trips were out of the country. We both always felt like we should save the domestic trips for when we had kids. I think we both look forward to showing Vivi the Grand Canyon, national parks, and oceans and lakes throughout the United States — and it’s even better when we can drive there.
Vivi has done a major road trip before; we drove to Cleveland when she was about three months old. But a 10-month-old baby is different from a 3-month-old baby. For one, Vivi is a lot more mobile these days, meaning she expects to burn off some energy crawling and toddling around most of the day. For another, the older she gets, the more she expects out of entertainment. Meaning I can no longer expect her to be thrilled by what she sees out the window.
Fortunately, the trip went well — thanks to a little preparation. Here are the four things I’d recommend to any momma looking to hit the road:
2. Vivi isn’t big into TV or movies yet, but she will watch short videos, especially if a song is involved. This extendable tablet holder made it easy to prop up Joey’s tablet and play her favorite music videos and a few Disney favorites. (Not going to lie; the adults in the car may have enjoyed this more than Vivi.)
3. One thing that really gets Vivi steamed in the car is when the sun is in her eyes. To prevent that (and keep the car cool), we use these retractable window shades. Plus, they’ll also tell you if the car is getting too hot!
4. The final thing that I never leave home without? Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. Vivi eats a lot of what I’m eating these days, but squeezy fruit and veggie puree packs are clutch when we’re on the go. Because a hungry baby is definitely not a happy baby.
Now, let’s talk discounts! Whether you’re planning your own RTWAB (road trip with a baby…what? Is that not a thing?) or just love the look of a babe in a romper, I’m so excited to share a coupon code from Lunaby Baby with my readers! Use code JUSTINE10 when you check out for 10 percent off your entire order. The rompers, bibs, and colorful tights are all super reasonably priced, so you can walk away with a pretty great haul of seasonal basics for your baby. Happy shopping!
Romper provided by Lunaby Baby; opinions 100% mine.
I’ve never been a big fan of breakfast pastries. Or, really, pastry in general. It’s the way it basically melts away in your mouth. Did you even eat anything at all?
If I’m going to consume the calories, I better at least be sure I had a snack.
The only breakfast baked goods I tend to enjoy are scones. A scone is basically a cookie (which I love), and it’s got enough heft to it to leave me feeling full.
When I make them at home, I try to incorporate a few more nutritious ingredients as well. My homemade scones are usually made with almond flour (more protein and gluten-free for my pals that go that route), coconut oil (instead of butter, in case you’re watching your dairy intake), and agave nectar (instead of sugar). I like that they’re not super sweet. I’m not even sure you can technically still call it a scone, but, heck, I’m eating it for breakfast, so I will what I want.
This is the recipe I make most often, but when I found myself without any dark chocolate this past weekend (quelle horreur), I decided to get a little creative.
I had a giant box of organic strawberries that I had picked up at Trader Joe’s (after promising myself that I would finish them before they went bad and I had to throw all that money in the trash), so my immediate thought was to make strawberry scones.
Then I had a flash of inspiration: peanut butter and jelly scones.
I used my chocolate chip scone recipe as a sort of outline for this recipe and then subbed in the new ingredients, and the results…well, put it this way: Joey’s response to eating one was, “This is the best thing you’ve ever baked.”
He’s a bit of a peanut butter addict, but I’m still taking those kudos to heart.
Here’s how to whip up your own gluten- and dairy-free scones for a little weekend treat:
Almond Flour Peanut Butter and Jelly Scones
2 1/2 c almond meal or flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 c agave nectar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 c chopped fresh strawberries
1/4 c creamy peanut butter
1/4 c almond milk
1 T powdered sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your baking pan by lining it with parchment paper.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine your scone dry ingredients.
3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk your scone wet ingredients, then pour into the medium bowl with the dry ingredients.
4. Fold in the strawberries.
5. Using an ice cream scoop (or a large spoon), scoop the batter into round lumps, about 3-4 T each, about 1 inch apart on the prepared pan. (They don’t spread, so don’t worry about fitting them all.)
6. Bake for 17-20 minutes, then set aside to cool.
7. While the scones are baking, whisk your icing ingredients in a small bowl. Add more milk if necessary to create a light, creamy consistency (sort of like toothpaste).
8. Spoon the icing into a piping bag (or a sandwich baggie with a corner cut out if you’re fancy like me). Once scones are cool, drizzle with the icing as desired.
One thing to note: The fresh berries carry a lot of water, so you may need to bake your scones a few minutes longer if you want the insides to be firmer. Mine were soft on the inside, which my family prefers. Alternately, you could dehydrate the strawberries in your oven prior to adding them to the batter to avoid excess moisture.
Sometimes I feel like I can barely remember how I felt when Vivi was first born.
I don’t mean the good things. The good things are so indelibly burned into my brain that I don’t think anything short of a lobotomy (or, you know, something like this) could ever get them out. I’m talking about the bad stuff.
I swear, you guys: I know I was stressed out and exhausted and overwhelmed and tense all the time…but I can only barely remember what it felt like.
It must be like giving birth. I know it hurt like WHOA and that I threw up a dozen times and was kind of hating life near the end there, but all I can remember is that I powered through it and felt like Superwoman at the end. Superwoman with the cutest, most amazing baby ever.
Almost ten months after that day (good LORD, time, will you stop breaking my heart already!), I can honestly say that I rarely feel like the mess I know I was at the beginning anymore. It’s not that I’m the perfect mom — I’m not. It’s not that I have it all figured out — I do not. I just…don’t beat myself up the way I used to.
I don’t expect perfection from myself because I know Vivi doesn’t either. We’re both fed and clean(ish) and happy, and that really is good enough for both of us.
When I first had Vivi, I was also just beginning this crazy world of freelance, part-time work, and that was scary and overwhelming too. (Remember this panic-induced all-nighter? Yeah, not fun.) I remember one day feeling like I was just being bad at everything and wondering if I had spread myself too thin. Maybe I couldn’t do it all. Maybe I couldn’t do anything.
I’m glad I was able to shake those feelings off eventually. Or, rather, glad I gave myself time to adjust before deciding I was just a miserable failure.
And now? Now, I actually feel confident in my abilities as a mother. My friend Madison once said that she felt like she was truly the best person to be her child’s mother, and I completely get that now. Now, being a mother just makes me so, so happy. I still feel all the feels from this post. Now, I feel like Vivi and I have a routine that works for us and makes everything seem so much more manageable.
In short, I feel like I’m hitting my stride. In so many ways, whether that be motherhood or my new career or my relationships or even things like my health and fitness. Things just seem to feel even and peaceful.
And I know that even putting that thought into print is a guarantee that everything is about to change and I’m about to face a whole new bunch of challenges, but, you know what? I actually feel confident in our ability to face those, too. (Though I wouldn’t mind if they took their time getting here.)
Side note: If you haven’t had your fill of mush yet, I highly recommend going back and re-reading this post for the photos alone. That spiky hair and tiny baby smile? I die.
I’ve recently discovered a surprisingly additional benefit to having a baby: It’s really helpful if you suffer from any kind of social anxiety.
You might think the opposite. After all, it is true that it’s very rare that someone can walk past this mug without stopping to talk to us:
But the thing is, it’s actually pretty rare that they’re stopping to talk to us. They really just want to chat with the little lady you see above.
I’ve been pretty surprised at how quickly I’ve actually become invisible when holding Vivi. Whenever we’re in groups of people we know, she’s almost always the first to be greeted. Occasionally, the person will acknowledge me (“And, of course, hello to you, too!”), but sometimes they keep their eyes on the baby-shaped prize.
The thing is, I’m not complaining. Because, yeah, I’m a fairly friendly person. And, in general, I can hold a conversation with just about anyone.
But actually approaching people, let alone strangers? Yeah, that’s a little place I like to call out of my comfort zone.
But talking about the baby? That I can do. I mean, I talk about her all day long anyway. Sure, you can join in on that conversation.
Lately, I’ve even noticed myself subtly adjusting my body to put the baby between the other person and me. Like, “Don’t notice me…be distracted by this bundle of cuteness!”
I like to tell myself I’m encouraging Vivi to be friendlier. But I’m probably just encouraging my own complexes, right?
The thing is, I think I’m okay with that. I mean, technically I am talking to these people, right?
Regardless, I don’t think I’m going to be able to ditch the title of “Vivi’s mom” for a while now. And, you know what? That’s a title I’ll gladly take.
For most of my life, I’ll admit I wasn’t that concerned about the ingredients of my skincare products or makeup. In general, I would swing through Walgreens and grab my bottle of Neutrogena face wash and a CoverGirl powder compact without thinking twice. As I got older, I started investing more in my makeup, but I was motivated more by a search for quality than a concern for safety.
As an adult, I starting being more aware of the ingredients in my food or how the animals I was eating had been treated and making better choices in that respect. But while I was paying a lot of attention to what was going in my body, I still hadn’t caught on that what went on it could be just as damaging.
Suddenly, my body wasn’t simply my own and what I exposed myself to I was also exposing my baby to. That’s a lot of pressure. It didn’t help that I was reading scores of disagreeing articles about the potential dangers of some of the most common beauty treatments. With the idea of “better safe than sorry,” I started looking for simple swaps I could make to safer products, for my baby as well as my own health.
I wasn’t alone in that goal. My friend Madison was experiencing a similar drive to make better choices about what she put on her skin, especially after experiencing two miscarriages before getting pregnant with her daughter, Ainsley. I remember reading Madison’s blog during her pregnancy (especially after I knew I was also pregnant but hadn’t announced it yet) and soaking up her advice and recommendations for safer or less chemical-laden products. Then, after her daughter was born, Madison was looking for more flexible work options and became a consultant for a brand called Beautycounter.
Beautycounter is a skincare and beauty company founded by a woman named Gregg Renfrew. She started the brand after realizing that so many personal care products are not as regulated as many people think — in fact, many use products linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and hormone disruption, all without ever informing consumers. Unlike the FDA, Beautycounter has banned more than 1,500 unsafe ingredients (many of which are banned by the European Union), creating one of the highest standards in the beauty industry.
They also rigorously screen all of their ingredients, working with scientists and industry leaders to reduce the exposure to toxic chemicals and develop safer alternatives. They also choose ingredients that are over 80 percent organic, natural, or plant-derived, and that are sourced responsibly. Oh, and they also don’t test on animals. And just in case you needed one more reason to trust the products, they don’t hide anything nasty under the guise of “fragrance,” “flavors,” or “preservatives” either.
Like I said, they really take this whole “safe skincare thing” seriously.
As I’ve watched Madison climb the ranks from a consultant to a director within the company, I was always curious to know more about the products. Madison obviously couldn’t say enough good things about them, so when she put out a post on Facebook asking if any of her friends would be interested in hosting a Beautycounter social, I reached out and told her I was interested.
So, what is a Beautycounter social? It’s a little bit of education, a little bit of shopping, and a little bit of having snacks and drinks with your girlfriends. Basically, a trifecta of my favorite things. I told Madison I wanted to host a physical social, but also that I wanted to have a blog component to share with anyone who couldn’t attend. After getting to try out more of the products, I’m really pleased with not only the way the products are made but also how they perform.
So! What do you need to know if you want to host your own social? Here’s a peek at what I did:
What We Ate
Is it just me, or is a party really only as good as the snacks? (I’m kidding.)(Kind of.) Because Beautycounter is all about making healthier choices for your body, I decided to put together a menu that featured a lot of fresh, healthy ingredients…along with a few more decadent treats.
Rather than an official main course, I opted to create a few heavier appetizers. I put together cucumber bites with a cream cheese-dill sauce (recipe here) and crisps with goat cheese, blackberries, and honey (recipe here).
I also made a bruschetta and turkey meatballs.
SIMPLE HOMEMADE BRUSCHETTA
1 container grape tomatoes, quartered
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
3-4 T fresh basil, chopped
3 T olive oil or avocado oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and let sit for 1 hour to overnight to let flavors mingle. Serve with crusty or toasted slices of French bread.
CROCKPOT TURKEY MEATBALLS
1 jar marinara sauce (I used the bottled kind, but feel free to get fancy with something homemade. You’ll need about 4-6 cups.)
2 lbs 98% lean ground turkey meat
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
4 T fresh basil, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 T oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Pour the sauce into the crock pot.
2. Combine all of the meatball ingredients with a big spoon or your fingers.
3. Using your hands, roll the meatballs using about 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture. Don’t pack too tightly.
4. Place the rolled meatballs into the sauce in the crockpot in a single layer.
5. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Serve with bread for dipping in the sauce.
I also made mini fruit pizzas for dessert, but like a dummy completely forgot to take photos. Or, rather, like an animal who couldn’t wait to wolf down her mini fruit pizza. Whoops. I used this recipe to make them and topped each pizza with strawberries, raspberries, and a few pomegranate seeds.
For drinks, we had my summer drink of choices, rosé.
What We Did
The social started out with everyone having something to eat and drink and generally getting comfortable. My friends were good sports about letting me take pictures of them. (Thank you again, lovely ladies!)
Once everyone was settled, I played a video message from Madison explaining how we knew each other, how she got involved with the brand, and just what she loved about many of Beautycounter’s most popular items. It was so helpful hearing from someone who actually uses so many of them on a regular basis, and we pretty much spent the whole video saying, “Ooh, I want that!” and “Man, Madison is seriously adorable.” (We also agreed you have the best hair and skin, M! But I digress…)
Then, it was time for the fun part: playing with the products! Madison had sent me several sample packs and full-sized products for my guests to test, and it was so helpful to be able to actually feel, smell, and see what we were looking at.
I also loved being able to send each guest home with a little something from the line. Each person got one of the sampler packs I mentioned, and I also divided up a Charcoal Cleansing Bar so everyone could take a piece home to try out. (I’ve been using mine once a day since the social!)
All in all, it was a super simple event to plan. Madison was extremely helpful in answering any questions I had and even offered to answer any questions online in real time if necessary.
Now for the fun part! You don’t have to have been at the physical party to shop the brand. Click my social host link here to see everything that Beautycounter has to offer, from naturally beautiful cosmetics to super safe skin care. I’ve been really loving the Protect All Over Sunscreen (it’s safe to use on Vivi and blends in way better than the other baby sunscreens I’ve tried without any chalky residue), the Rejuvenating Eye Cream (because thirty is right on the horizon, yo), the Charcoal Cleansing Bar (it sells out quickly whenever it’s in stock, so jump on that!) and the Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer (the perfect lightweight coverage). I’m planning to get one of the Lip Sheers and the new Purifying Charcoal Mask as well, and I can’t wait to try them out. Just be sure to use my link so Madison gets credit for the sales 🙂
Have any other questions about the brand or want to host your own social? Let me know or reach out to Madison directly — she’s seriously the best to work with.