I work full-time, have two young children, and more hobbies than I can possibly have time for. My life is always hectic. Period. Ideally, this is where a spa day filled with girlfriends, relaxation, and pampering comes into the picture. However, the reality is that most of us cannot afford to go the spa as often as we like or deserve to go, but this does not stop me from finding ways to pamper myself or try to relax in the comfort of my own home. These are some of my favorite items when I need a little pampering, without blowing my budget.
Havaianas – The moment I come home from work, I kick off my heels and sink my feet into the world’s best flip flops.
L’Occitane – Lather this cream on your hands before bedtime and your hands will be unbelievably smooth the next morning. I especially love to use this line of hand cream during the cold weather when my skin craves extra moisture.
Brooklyn Green Tea Lemongrass Candle – Put a match to this candle and curl up on the couch with a warm cup of tea and a good read.
Burt’s Bees Cranberry Pomegranate Sugar Scrub – Don’t get fooled its delicious sounding name, this body scrub does wonders to exfoliate and make the skin look absolutely radiant.
Full Circle Glass Everywhere Water Bottle – Eight glasses of water per day is a rule that I follow religiously. Add some berries or slices of cucumbers to the water bottle to create your own fruit infused spa water.
Essie Nail Polish Essie is my go to nail polish because of its affordability and wide array of colors ranging from classic to modern.
Harney and Sons Cherry Blossom Tea – I always start my morning off with a cup of espresso, but when I want a cup of caffeine that I can slowly sip, there is nothing I love more than Harney and Sons teas. Each cup is luxurious in flavor, calming, and I am always sad to see the cup come come to an end.
Gaiam Yoga Mat – I practice yoga a couple of times a week and especially love these mats. It’s well cushioned, absorbent enough so that I can hold my poses for an extended period of time, and the fun prints are an added bonus too.
I’m ready to kick off my heels, put the tea kettle on the stove, light some candles, and pamper myself! I hope you also enjoy my tips for an easy DIY spa day in the comfort of your own home.
Let’s say that you find yourself with a child free labor day weekend to spend with your husband, but you’ve put off booking a hotel reservation until the last minute, only to find that most everything is booked or overpriced due to the holiday. What’s a gal to do? Well, that was my situation quite recently, and I suggested to my husband that we go a different route and take a look at the offerings of Airbnb.
If you haven’t used Airbnb before, it’s a website where you can rent a single room or an entire home from hosts in 190 countries around the world. There are some amazing offerings on their site. We knew that we didn’t want to stray too far from our home in Ventura, as L.A. holiday weekend traffic didn’t seem particularly relaxing, so we looked north in the Santa Barbara area and found an adorable little place in walking distance of downtown Summerland. For less than we would have paid for a standard hotel room in Santa Barbara, we got this adorably decorated, straight out of Anthropologie triplex with an ocean view.
You park on a residential street, and walk down some steps through a thick hedge of oleander to arrive at the home. I loved all of the little details like potted orchids throughout and a pair of binoculars for dolphin and whale watching from the balcony.
Summerland is a tiny town just north of Carpinteria and south of Santa Barbara. It is darling and full of small town charm. The best part about our little rental, is that it was in walking distance to downtown.
We had dinner our first night in town at Cafe Luna. When you walk up to the cafe, you will notice hydroponic towers where they grow their own greens and veggies right there on the restaurant property. The ambiance is casual and the dinner crowd was mostly couples with a few larger parties with small children sprinkled in. My husband and I ordered a pizza and the gnocchi with chicken and tomato cream sauce, which was the highlight of our meal.
We loved our meal there so much that we went back for breakfast several times over our weekend stay. The coffee drinks and breakfast were just as good as dinner, and after a long breakfast we strolled down the main street and admired the home goods in Botanik and the baby gifts and decor in Amelia Jane.
We did a lot of relaxing and reading on the porch, but we also hit the beach and went hiking on the Romero Canyon Trail where we saw wonderful views of the Pacific. We had a wonderful and refreshing time in Summerland and we will definitely be going back when we are in need of a relaxing getaway that isn’t too far from home.
I recently had the opportunity to try a box of snacks from our partner NatureBox, and I wanted to share my experience for those who may be wondering what it’s all about. NatureBox is a monthly subscription box for healthy, nutritionist-approved snacks. With over 100 snacks to choose from, NatureBox offers options for a variety of dietary needs, including vegan and gluten-free. All of their products are free of artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners – and include no high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils. After hearing about them for months, I was excited to try them out and see what I thought. I started on the NatureBox website by adding around ten snack choices to my pantry – and let NatureBox surprise me with five of them. My box included the Dark Chocolate Berry Trail Mix, Lemon Pucker Pistachios, Whole Wheat Strawberry Figgy Bars, Sea Salt Sun Crunch, and Greek Yogurt Pretzels. A few days later, the box arrived at my door – and my daughter and I got to sampling!
I love a good trail mix, and combined with my favorites of dark chocolate and berries, I was excited to try the Dark Chocolate Berry Trail Mix! It was the perfect mix of sweet and salty, and I love that it had pumpkin seeds, cherries, blueberries, and almonds mixed in with some other tasty ingredients.
The Lemon Pucker Pistachios were next up. I have to say that they picked the perfect name for these – they were like regular pistachios with a kick. It took me a while to decide whether I liked them or not – but ultimately I voted Yes (as evidenced by the empty bag and pistachio shells sitting next to my laptop right now)! I still love regular pistachios more, but I could get used to eating these on occasion.
The Strawberry Figgy Bars were similar to a Fig Newton, but without all the yucky artificial ingredients. I found myself reaching for these in the mornings when I was rushing around to get my family ready for the day – and I would definitely order them again.
The Sea Salt Sun Crunch was a savory, crunchy, sesame-sunflower seed treat. I really liked them, maybe best of all – but I wish they had a little less salt.
Finally, my daughter’s favorite – the Greek Yogurt Pretzels. These were sweet and tangy, with the perfect amount of salt. They also have them in a variety of flavors, like strawberry and blueberry – which I think we will try next time. (I am also secretly excited to try the Cherry Ganache Granola and Orange Apple Fruit Chews).
Overall, I really enjoyed my NatureBox. I liked that there were so many options to choose from, and I loved the convenience of shopping from home. I think this would be a great service to gift to a new mom – and would also be great for someone who is always on the go and likes to carry healthy snacks with them. When you consider the quality and convenience of these snacks, I felt that the price was on point. You can even add extra bags to your order for $3 each, and extra granola bars for $1 each. I also loved that they donate a meal to Feeding America for each box that they deliver. The only drawback for me was that I always had delicious snacks lying around my house, tempting me to eat just one more!
Will you try NatureBox? If so, I’d love to hear what your favorites are!
*Editor’s note: This post contains affiliate links, which help to support this blog and its authors. All photos copyright NatureBox.
Today I’m going to introduce you to my new favorite holiday drink. It’s called Wassail (pronounced Wah-sull). Haven’t heard of it? Neither had I until just a couple weeks ago. Apparently, almost everyone who knows of it has been keeping it a secret all these years. I don’t know how I possibly went twenty-something years without ever having tasted this delicious drink, let alone known of its existence! And there’s even a Christmas Carol about it, appropriately named Here We Come A-Wassailing. Sound a little familiar now?
So what is Wassail? Wassail (meaning ‘be you healthy’ in Old English) is a traditional English hot mulled cider with sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Over the years, the recipe has grown to include wine, fruit juices like orange or pineapple, mulled ale, sherry or brandy. The drink originally began as part of a Wassailing tradition, which is a ceremony involving singing and drinking to the health of the trees on Twelfth Night. Over the last half century, it has evolved as a symbol of wishing good tidings to friends and family around Christmas and New Year’s.
There are many ways to make Wassail, but here is the recipe I like most.
Wassail Cider Recipe
- 64 oz Apple Cider
- 2 cups Orange Juice
- 46 oz can Pineapple Juice
- 2 (3 inch) Cinnamon Sticks
- 1 tbsp Whole Cloves
- 1/2 cup Honey (brown or white sugar also works)
- Pour everything into a large stock pot or large slow cooker. If you have a teabag infuser, you can put the clove in that to make it easier to strain later.
- If cooking over a stove in a stock pot, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat. If cooking in crockpot, let simmer for 1-2 hours.
- Strain out cinnamon sticks and cloves before serving.
- Serve and enjoy.
Apple cider substitution: If you’re like me and accidentally bought regular apple juice instead of apple cider (oops!) or just only have apple juice, you can add 3 extra cinnamon sticks and 1 tsp whole cloves to your apple juice to turn your apple juice into apple cider.
I love the blend of the apple, orange and pineapple juices with the clove and cinnamon. Although perhaps a bit odd sounding at first, the combination is absolutely delightful and the aroma is to die for. This is the perfect hot drink for your next Christmas party, to snuggle up with next to a hot fire and a good book, or to sip while viewing Christmas lights. I will be traveling to a faraway tropical paradise for Christmas, but still wanted a Christmas-themed tropical drink to share with family, so I experimented by serving my Wassail cold with ice – and it tastes incredible! So even if baby-it’s-not-so-cold-outside whenever you area this holiday season, you can still enjoy a cup of Wassail ice cold and feel merry.
Happy Holidays everyone! May this season be filled with peace, love, charity – and lots of delicious Wassail!
Last weekend I went on a photo walk with the intention of photographing holiday decorations that adorn Los Angeles this time of year. While on the photo walk, I became distracted when I stumbled upon a candy store called Sugarfina, which is like the Tiffany’s of candy stores.
Not only is Sugarfina a treat for the tastebuds, the store itself is an absolute treat for the eyes. The candy are all neatly boxed in a minimalistic and modern style allowing the candy to stand out. Many of the sweets sold at Sugarfina are imported from Italy, Germany, France, and Japan and are difficult to find anywhere else in the United States. These colorful candies are called Kyoto Blossoms and the Japanese believe they represent hospitality. Almost too beautiful to eat, each color tastes like a different fruit.
Confetti Dolci are imported from Italy and each piece feels like the finest sugar melting on your tongue. Confetti Dolci comes in fun flavors like peach, banana, and rosewater.
Frutta Bellas are fruity flavored cream fondants from the Piedmont region of Italy. Not only are these handmade gems packaged beautifully , they also taste absolutely divine.
Another sweet thing about Sugarfina is the story behind it. On their third date, the owners went to a screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. After, they couldn’t stop thinking about creating their own grown-up version, filled with treasures from around the world. They circled the globe, taste-testing fine candies – and ended up with a perfectly curated collection of sweet treats for their boutique.
I had a lovely time visiting this sweet shop and I know you will too. The next time you’re searching for fun and unique sweets like bitty berries, fruits de mer, or cafe italiano chocolate cordials, be sure to check out Sugarfina in Beverly Hills and Glendale – or on their website at www.sugarfina.com.
We recently launched our new series, Creative Features, where we will be introducing you to women who are following their passions and pursuing their dreams in creative fields like art, design, photography, fashion, and more. Today I am excited to introduce you to Koseli Cummings, a freelance copywriter and blogger based in Berkeley. Koseli (pronounced like “closely”), has worked with brands like Penguin, Sagmeister & Walsh, Airbnb, and Johnson & Johnson – and has had her work featured on a number of popular blogs including Clementine Daily, A Blog About Love, Frock Files, Brooklyn Bride, and Design Mom – which Time Magazine recently named Website of the Year. She also started a news haiku blog a few years ago called Inadvertent Haiku that the New York Times riffed as The Haiku Bot. We caught up with Koseli to hear more about her recent projects, her take on finding inspiration and creativity, and how she balances work and family. The images here are of Koseli and her boys and were taken by Mariliana Arvelo in Brooklyn.
Tell us a little about your background in creative writing and blogging.
I’ve been blogging for fun since 2007 and professionally since 2011 when I started writing for Design Mom. I had a byline column on Gabrielle’s site called, The Coolest Thing You’ve Seen All Day. I also created the 8 Things of Note column on Clementine Daily, Erin Loechner’s women’s lifestyle site. I currently curate Original Archiving Co. as a design discovery and lifestyle blog. I also feature Brooklyn and East Bay specific information, because I love geeking-out about where I live. My husband, Keenan, and I have two little boys, Silas, 3 and Sondre, 1. We love exploring together and sharing our experiences. And, I recently created Bored Moms, a fun side project that pokes fun at the idea that moms are bored and boring by featuring moms from around the world that are doing some pretty amazing stuff.
In 2010 you left behind your book publishing dreams and a job at Penguin to start a boutique branding company, Kos&Co. How did it feel to leave the security of a stable career to pursue your own projects?
Leaving Penguin and going out on my own was incredibly scary for me. For six months, I was frozen. I couldn’t make a move. I was so freaked out about failing that I was too scared to try. So instead of pursuing clients, I created a site called Inadvertent Haiku where I took top news stories and summed them up in haiku. It was super fun and interesting. Each haiku was illustrated by an incredible designer or illustrator. It was so inspiring to work with such talent! The project got a lot of attention and helped me have the confidence to start accepting and pursuing freelance projects. The whole experience really changed me. I think living in NYC had a lot to do with how daring I felt, but more and more it feels like you can do amazing stuff from wherever you live.
Which of your projects are you most proud of, and why?
Honestly, probably my first blog. I started it in 2007 and my first post was supposed to be a funny personal essay about an experience I had in a class in college. (It was not funny.) But I hurdled a lot of fears by writing about my life and the things I was thinking about. I imagine a lot of other women feel that sense of community and power, too. Blogs are the best! I also loved writing for Design Mom. A lot. It opened a lot of doors for me and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity I had to create content for Gabrielle’s amazing community.
What inspires you?
Women who are brave and are unapologetically who they are. And, grace amidst challenges.
What’s next for you, professionally?
I don’t know! I’ve recently begun freelancing again. I took the last year off to be at home with my two boys and only blogged intermittently. I’m not sure what’s around the corner but I’m feeling open and excited about the possibilities. I just finished a big naming project and I’m currently working on developing the brand voice for a venture capital seed fund. I’m a generalist and joke that I kind of love everything, or at least learning about a lot of different things. That’s the biggest perk of writing for me—all the default learning.
What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday morning?
We go to Beauty’s in Oakland and eat bagel sandwiches. (They’re better than any we ever had in New York City!) Then, we drive to a part of the Bay area we’ve never been before and explore. There’s so much to do here—it’s amazing! We also love the Estate Sales in the Berkeley Hills, and hiking around the Presidio.
Do you have any advice for living a creative life?
I’m trying to figure this out every day. Really simple things like flowers, or a funny interview on the radio keep me feeling creative these days. I’ve also been reading a lot, and my Kindle is stocked with YA for the holidays. My three-year-old says and does off-the-wall things all day long – his jokes and thoughtful observations remind me that there’s always a chance to return to the childlike qualities that make me feel fearless and most happy.
Koseli, thank you so much for sharing your journey and perspectives with us. We look forward to following and can’t wait to see what you create next!
It hardly feels like fall in California, let alone winter. But I’m ready for the holidays and I’m looking forward to soaking up all the winter fun we can. There are a couple of new holiday events I’m super excited about this year – and a few we do every year. Our first stop for holiday lights was the new IlluminOcean display at the Dana Point Harbor in Orange County.
Running through January 4th, Illuminocean is a spectacular display of lights spanning along the harbor. Park North of Doheny State Beach, just south of the “Santa Crab” outside Harpoon Henry’s. Along the water’s edge you’ll find the entrance to the first of 3 lighted tunnels. Stroll through and view sea animals and waves of light. At the end of the tunnels, pop into Coffee Importers for some hot cocoa and continue your stroll along the harbor. There are stops along the way with more sea animals, a Santa reeling in a marlin, a giant sea dragon and more. At the end of the walk you’ll head up toward the street and turn back in the direction you came to find a giant pirate ship, a musical light tree and two beautiful blue whales. I’ll leave a few surprises for you, including what you’ll see with the special glasses you can pick up at the coffee shop!
The light displays are fairly spread out, but weather at night has been just perfect for a long walk to take in some sights and enjoy a little family time. My kids loved running through the tunnels and tackling each other on the grass by the pirate ship while my husband and I watched and smiled at their excitement.
If you park at Doheny State Beach, you’ll pay $15 for parking, but the restaurant lot – and the light show – is free. Lights run from 5 – 10 pm Sunday through Thursday and 5 – 11 pm on Friday and Saturday. Swing by and go for a stroll!