Tuesday, January 13, 2015

4th Birthday Bounce House Bash at Playland Sausalito

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I'm not gonna lie. This guy was pretty stoked for his fourth birthday party. And so was I.

In year's past, I have been very DIY with my birthday parties. I've spent hours creating collages and banners and stayed up late to make props for Toy Story-themed photo booths. I love having the opportunity to put my all into parties and celebrations for my kids. When Sutton was born, its like my available time was split in half, and then quarters, and then nearly eliminated. For Keagan's 3rd birthday, it was almost like I had to try to prove to myself that I could still go big on a party, even with a second kid in tow. What I found was that the DIY approach drained me. I was breastfeeding in between taping up decorations and I didn't get to enjoy the party. I felt like I was a ghost in and out of the celebration I had spent so much time, energy and love on. Heck, I didn't even blog about that 3rd birthday party (super hero themed, all DIY) and I had an obstacle course of games for toddlers at that one! Who has time to write when you are carrying an infant and creating games about superhero bubble breath?

With Keagan's 4th birthday on the horizon, I decided that this year, it was time to outsource. We headed over to Playland Sausalito.

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Costco cake, pizza, veggie and fruit trays, and bottled water? Check. Gift bags and contents are all from the Dollar Store. It took me all of ten minutes to open the bags, fill them with Spiderman swag, and move on!

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Playland Sausalito was a dream come true. Four bounce houses set in an old gymnasium, complete with train tables, push cars, '80s music and air hockey!

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My initial reservations about booking a big location for Keagan's birthday were: a) the cost. It was about $300 to house 15 toddlers and all the accompanying adults. That is a big chunk of change for a 4th birthday party and b) would it be worth it to spend that money for my own ease of planning?

Well, I can say without reservation that for me, it was worth it. I thought about all the money we had spent in the past for the DIY parties on food, drinks, decorations, entertainment, and the like and it wasn't too far off from $300. If you count in all the personal time lost making the party happen and my own time being a planner and not a participant, it's hard to put a value on that. I consider myself fortunate to be in a position to be able to spend the money on a party like this and working with the team at Playland Sausalito was stellar. They made it so easy to bring in the food and take out the trash and they kept the party moving along at a comfortable pace. Not one person noticed that I didn't spend hours creating homemade, Pinterest-worthy decorations. I was able to absorb every minute of the tumbling, laughing, bouncing 3-and-4-year olds taking over the scene. Seeing Keagan play so hard that his little chubby cheeks turned red made me want the moment to last forever.

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Happy 4th Birthday, buddy! We want all of your dreams to come true!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Christmas and the New Year

Life skates by pretty quickly. The holidays took over, but I'm back to rapidly walk you through the madness. Shall we?

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Well, this happened. I'm guaranteed a spot on Santa's naughty list for leaving my screaming child in his lap while I snapped this photo. Worth it. Posterity is everything.

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On Santa attempt number two, we got this. Santa fail all around this year. And to prove my children exited their Santa run-ins unscathed, here is some tree time happiness.

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The holidays were chock full of sweet reminders of our beloved Turbo.

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For New Year's Eve, we decided to scratch the Eve and make it a day before the eve in St. Helena by celebrating the opening of Cook Tavern and stopping off for grenache at Elizabeth Spencer...

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...which was perfect for our 6:30 p.m. celebration of the new year. Kevin and I didn't even make it to the New York ball drop. I was fast asleep by 8:30 p.m. Wouldn't have wanted it any other way!

Happy 2015, everyone!

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Schoola: #HolidaysR4 Giving Back to Education



There are certain things that strike right at my heart. Squishy bulldog faces. Discount children's clothing. Educational philanthropy. I've learned that I can fulfill two out of these three joys with Schoola

You may have recently read about Schoola, a Bay Area start-up, in a recent San Francisco Chronicle feature. Schoola sells donated name-brand children's clothing at discounted prices and donates $2 of every $5 of the proceeds back to schools. You donate the clothes, you get to choose which school receives the proceeds. Buy without remorse and know that almost half of the proceeds will benefit today's youth.

What a perfect option for shopping as we approach the holidays! Schoola has asked me to consider what I think the holidays are for and I believe that their mission sums up exactly what I love about the holidays. In fact, I'll break it out into hashtags for you:

#HolidaysR4...Dressing up your kids for lifelong memories through perfect holiday photos without breaking the bank.

#HolidaysR4...Giving back to your local community and embracing the true spirit of the holidays.

Want to try to win some Schoola cash? Use the hashtag #HolidaysR4 to Tweet or Facebook your own holiday moments. Schoola will randomly choose entries to win one of three $25 gift cards to Schoola. Enter as many memories as you want before November 16 to win!

Don't forget to visit Schoola to look for fantastic holiday clothes. There are Baby Gap holiday dresses for under $6 and boys holiday sweaters from Gymboree for $4! My readers get 25% off your first purchase with the code TRYSCHOOLA at checkout.

Check out Schoola! It is consignment online with a philanthropic twist.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Halloween 2014: Minnie and Her Mini

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Yeah, I know. I said I was going to phone it in this year. But when it comes to Halloween, I can't resist getting in on the action. I thought back to my own childhood and realized some of my happiest memories involve dressing up on Halloween. I want to instill that same sense of fun and imagination in my kids.

Since I played Cookie Mommy to Keagan's Cookie Monster back when he was a baby, I decided to tag along with Sutton's Minnie Mouse this year.

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And you know what? It was the easiest costume ever. A black turtleneck dress, black leggings, black boots, a red necklace and some headband ears that I brought back from a recent trip to Disneyland. I threw on some fake eyelashes and used liquid eyeliner for my eyes and nose. MAC Viva Glam I is my go-to red lip stick. I lined only 3/4 of my mouth, outside of my natural lines to give a cartoon-ish style to my lips. I used white Halloween paint for light contours on the nose and lips. Ta-da! Mrs. Mouse was ready to go on a Trick-or-Treating extravaganza.

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Oh, Halloween. You get me every time. And I love it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween 2014: I'm Phoning It In This Year

I love Halloween. It is a love that boggles my husband's mind. When I get pumped up about wigs and makeup, there is no stopping my Google searches and my vintage store scouring for the perfect compliments to my costume.

But you know what I love more than Halloween? Sleep. I love sleep. And I don't seem to get much of it these days, between two toddling kids that hate to go to bed and love to wake up at 5 a.m. and working full-time. I had big plans to do an elaborate costume this year, but instead, I've decided to phone it in and catch up on sleep instead. Sure, I'll get into the spirit tomorrow with some sort of get-up. But it will be nothing like what I've committed to in the past.

So, today, in honor of the energy and enthusiasm I know I have buried deep inside my sleep-deprived brain, I bring back two of my favorite costumes from journey into motherhood.


The Bride (and Son) of Frankenstein

Man, I was proud of this costume. I still can't believe that at 29 weeks pregnant, I had this much ambition. And here I am complaining that I can't muster the energy. I'm so ashamed. I was particularly pleased with my makeup.




Last year's challenge was as follows: how do I manage carrying around a 3 week old baby and not miss a minute of my son's first real foray into Trick-or-Treating, while still staying in the spirit of the day? Boom - girls on fire. One night of cutting out construction paper flames and pinning them to my Ergo, followed by 20 minutes of clipping in fake hair and putting on makeup. Easiest costume ever...

Hmmm, maybe I just inspired myself to get off my lazy butt and make a costume happen tomorrow. I'll let you know on Monday whether I went for the gold or simply ate all my son's Snickers from the sidelines.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Let's Really Talk About Metastatic Breast Cancer

This month, we are inundated with pink - pink ribbons, pink football uniforms, pink coffee mugs. I even saw some pink tweezers being sold all in the effort to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. I'm not going to argue that the blast of pink isn't effective for raising awareness for a devastating disease - it absolutely is. I'm also not going to debate how funds are raised for this truly important cause - the money is desperately needed. What I will take issue with is that all this pink covers up what should be shining through: it's the faces of the beautiful women who are battling breast cancer every day and in particular, those that have stage IV breast cancer. So today, I highlight one woman who has touched my life as a friend and as a METAvivor. What is a METAvivor? Read on.


(Photo: Jennie Grimes)

Meet Jennie Grimes. Isn't she gorgeous? I will tell you that this is a beauty that runs deep to her generous and thoughtful soul and through her big, engaging laugh. Jennie has been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer and has been battling back for the last four years. She has been through variations of chemo. She has become an expert on barf bags. She rocks the port in her chest for easier chemo intake. She has lost her hair through treatment (though in my opinion, her new look only goes to further highlight her bright blue eyes and her contagious smile). And through it all, she has documented her journey in her blog, projecting positivity and perspective that every person in this world should emote, emulate and cling to on a daily basis. She is a gifted writer and a person to be profoundly admired. I could sing her praises for days, months, years, but to get a true sense of this phenomenal woman, I highly encourage you to read her blog in its entirety: Putting The Grrrrr In Grimes.

And as she has self-proclaimed, she is a METAvivor. Metavivor.org, an organization dedicated to the specific fight of women and men living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer, defines a METAvivor as "a thriving community of people living against the odds every day, fighting for the research that could save our lives." In her blog post titled, four, Jennie asks for four things. You can read her post to count them off, but let me emphasize a few important points here.

Only 2% of money raised in cancer research goes towards metastatic disease research; most of the funding goes towards early detection and prevention. While early detection and prevention can and does save lives, the statistics are that 30% of those detected will develop metastatic breast cancer. More money needs to be dedicated to metastatic cancer research so that one day, it too can be considered "preventative".

Please donate to METAvivor.org! This is an organization that gives 100% of your donation to metastatic cancer research. In the spirit of "four", won't you consider giving the price of your daily latte, just $4, or perhaps $14, or $40 or whatever you are compelled to give to make a difference in this fight.

Share Jennie's post, four, on your social media channels. Whether it is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google + or just telling your friends in person to check out Jennie's blog, let's not escape this month of Breast Cancer Awareness without spreading the perspective of someone who is truly living it, every day and every month.

Give yourself a hug. That's right. Jennie wants you to hug yourself because that is who she is. She spreads sunshine, sparkles and glitter where ever she goes. Literally. I opened a card from her once and a pile of glitter fell on my lap. She has cancer-kicking bedazzled cowboy boots and she's been known to rock a tiara during the royal wedding. To quote Jennie:

"Through all of the ups and downs, losses and gains over the past years– the lesson I have truly learned in living a life well-lived…is making a difference. Leaving this world a little better than you found.  And sprinkling love and goodness along the way.  Sprinkle on, xoxo"

For this woman who gives back so much to the world, I ask that all of you give back to her and other METAvivors by spreading real awareness, not just the color pink.



(Photo: Jennie Grimes)


Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: Boden Activewear - Fashion and Function!

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When Boden contacted me to review their new Activewear line, my response was: "Perfect timing!" After two kids who are now both walking, my last excuse keeping me from working out is that I don't have any new running gear. I've signed up for a 10K in November and I have a sweet new outfit to sport while I train. I love the dynamic pattern and the leg lengthening stripe down the side.

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I'm not joking when I say that this is the most comfortable gear I've ever worn. With most work out gear I own, I face two common issues - shirts that ride up over my belly button and the length of the pants. With Boden Activewear, I had a perfect fit.

In my jog around the neighborhood, the shirt stayed put. It has a built-in bra, though busty gals can easily double up with a sports bra. I'm comfortably wearing a racer back bra in this photo. And the leggings actually go to my ankles! The ankle zippers are tight and the material is thick and very high quality. Plus, there is a hidden zipper on the back just below the waistband that opens to a large pocket. If you need to carry a key, cash or even a cell phone, it provides the perfect space.

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The Run Faster Sweatshirt is going to see heavy rotation this fall, from my training runs to my weekend jaunts out to get coffee. Like the pants, it has a thick, heavy feel that is perfect for warming up against the fall wind. One of my favorite things about this jacket and the entire line is that it is sized 2-18, rather than your typical S-M-L offerings, which can be hard to fit. I am wearing my current true size and the fit is spectacular.

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And guess what? You can pick up your own gear at 15% off between now and November 9! Just use the promo code YOGA at checkout when you visit Boden Activewear. I enthusiastically recommend this line. It is priced right - the same that you would pay for Nike or Adidas - and you know you are buying a quality product for the long-term in a fashion-forward style. If you aren't into patterns, Boden is adding basic black to the collection in a few short weeks, so stay tuned!

Thank you, Boden, for letting me try out your gear!

Disclosure: Boden hooked me up with this fantastic gear, but the opinions expressed are my own and totally legit. I love this line!