mom life

When in doubt, travel!


Two moms and a bottle of wine is what we said we’d name our Barcelona guidebook. While accurate, it was more of a nod to the insanely affordable, yet delicious wine, as well as the comical circumstances only one can find themselves in while traveling in a foreign country.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Back in February of this year, I hit a wall. I desperately needed something to look forward to, other than the 1st and 3rd weekends of the month without my kids.

That sounds horrible, I know. As a single mom with a bent towards introversion, peace and quiet, uninterrupted time, not feeling like a nag or having to prepare yet another meal or feeling like I was working 24/7, is exactly what I needed.

It had also been far too long since I traveled outside of the United States. My travel itch was furiously scratching.

One night, when I should have been asleep already, I started searching for flights to Europe. I’d go anywhere to escape, but Europe felt right! When I found a direct flight to Barcelona on Norwegian under $400, I was sold.

I was set to go alone, as I had plenty of times before (and quite enjoy it), but I threw it out a dear friend who I’ve known since 6th grade. And what do you know, she was game.

The few short months leading up to the trip were nothing less of one curve ball after another: foolishly playing on the playground resulting in 10 stitches; late nights working a part-time job in addition to side hustles; very little downtime on the weekends and being on the road a lot; rough parenting patches; and lastly, my Uncle having his final stroke mere days before we were scheduled to go. With multiple hospital visits to see him leading up to the flight, I was uncertain if I’d even be able to leave town.

Long story short, and sadly, as I was taking off in Oakland, he passed away.

But let’s focus on the fun things, feet on the ground in Spain!

We packed light, mainly because we opted to not pay an additional price to check luggage. Though I might get some opposition, I loved the challenge of meeting a weight limit and packing minimally.

To meet the requirement, I utilized the following and even had 2 pounds to spare:

1.    A lightweight backpacking backpack to hold -

  • Minimal clothing and toiletries – 5 shirts, 3 pairs of pants, a skirt, a hoodie and jean jacket, 2 pairs of shoes, makeup and cleansers, toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, and done.

  • Workout band

2.    Carry-on bag 9a smaller backpack) –

  • 2 books

  • Journal + pens

  • Snacks: chomps, epic bars, Organifi green and gold juice

  • Travel scarf to double as purse when I didn’t want to carry my smaller backpack; minimalist wallet

  • Phone + headphones

  • Beautycounter makeup wipes to feel a little fresh and clean on the plane

  • Neck pillow in hopes of sleep

packing.jpg

 

HOTEL: Being the start of the busy season, I missed out on AirBnB apartments. I was a bit disappointed at first but when I found the fun boutique hotel chain Praktik (I’d compare it to a Kimpton here in the states), I was stoked. We stayed at the Praktik Vinoteca, but after visiting two other centrally located Praktik hotels, your stay would be well enjoyed at any of them.

Though the metro is easy and cheap to get to/from the airport into Barcelona, Praktik arranged a taxi to pick us up at the airport. After a red-eye, it was the best thing we could have done for ourselves. I highly recommend the splurge and ease.

. . . . . .

From here I’ll break it down by our daily activities, what we loved, and what we would have done differently:

DAY 1 –

arrive! Once we dropped off our suitcases at the hotel and enjoyed a complimentary glass of rose on our mini balcony, we put on our walking shoes and hit the Ramblas, walking nearly 2 miles down to the water to soak in the sights and sounds, hitting up the La Boqueria for a meat “bouquet” snack along the way. Realizing we hadn’t eaten barely anything since before boarding our flight, we booked it to Ciudad Condal, a highly recommended restaurant by many family and friends.

You’d think two college educated women with two maps could find the dang place, yet we walked by it three or four times before succumbing to hunger at 9pm and entering the restaurant called “Ciutat Comtal.” For a good 15 minutes I was convinced that it had to be the place because the letters were close enough, but you get two perfectionists together and you want to be accurate.

Needless to say, we put our name down and hung out in the bar, hoping someone would leave soon. Sure enough, a seat opened up and we pounced on it. Starving at this point, we ordered everything that sounded and looked delicious around us. IT.DID.NOT.DISAPPOINT.

I highly recommend the following dishes:

  • Solomillos (little filet mignon tapas)

  • Pimientos de Padron (sautéed shishito peppers)

  • Baked artichoke hearts

  • Asparagus and mushrooms

  • Honey Aioli Cod

  • Egg and chorizo over fries

 

DAY 2 –

The longest day ever…. With the idea that we would get our bearings and make it a Gaudi day, we jumped on the on/off bus. We grabbed the blue line to hit up Sagrada Familia on the way. Upon our arrival, we discovered that you CANNOT purchase tickets there, only online. Despite the free wifi around the cathedral, we also found out that tickets were sold out for the next couple of days.

TIP: FOR ANY ATTRACTION YOU WISH TO VISIT, BUY YOUR TICKETS ONLINE.

Many friends told us to buy tickets online but never why – it’s because they don’t sell them there on-site, in most cases. Save time and stress by creating your schedule before you get on the plane.

A little bummed, we jumped back on the bus to discover Park Guell.

Let me tell you, the anticipation of traversing this park has been on my heart for 18 YEARS since I studied architecture at University of Washington. I was so excited.

Yet I wasn’t so excited when the bus dropped us off in a residential neighborhood without clear directions. We followed the masses and got there but it was certainly touch and go and some points.

TIP: BRING YOUR FAVORITE GUIDEBOOK!

This was the first time I traveled without a guidebook nor doing as much research as I would have liked. I skipped the guidebook because of the weight limit and the working mom life kept me from planning more. All in all we survived just fine, but there were moments I was a little bummed I didn’t have them.

Back to the Park…

It was a lovely, sunny day. We meandered, got annoyed at the vendors, toured Gaudi’s house for 5euros (so interesting), and even sat on a bench to read while listening to live music. So dreamy! If reading in the sunshine wasn’t making me sleepy, I could have sat there all day.

We explored some more only to realize we needed a ticket into the section I REALLY wanted to see. And again, no tickets were being sold there and it was sold out. Boo!

So we decided to head back to the bus.

Mistake #1, we didn’t grab a route map that were available on the bus; mistake #2, we opted to find the stop after the one we got off on, which turned out to be NOWHERE near where we were. We figured we’d keep walking until we found it. We did, but it was back where we got on, over 2 miles away!

Fatigued and hungry, we grabbed some lunch, got back on the blue line and began our journey again, taking a few naps while basking in the sun on the second level of the bus. I might have urged us to get off at a few different stops along the way, especially at Montjuic, but I let my companion sleep. We were exhausted! Jet lag and walking miles upon miles is no joke!

Needing a pick-me-up, we jump off near the waterfront for a snack at Cecconi’s. I can’t vouch for the delicious food that passed us by, but the pistachio gelato, tiramisu, champagne and cappuccinos went down all too smoothly. My architecture heart also loved the space. It was the perfect pitstop before more exploring.

We jumped back on the bus and went back to Casa Batllo. We lucked out and were able to purchase tickets and join a tour right then and there. Go team! The 35euro price tag seemed a bit steep, but it was so worth it. Gaudi’s work is impeccable and the guided tour via a personal iphone/headset told the history and inspiration of the space, and delighted all of senses.

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After jumping back on the red line for an hour to see other parts of the town, we realized it close to 10pm and hungry.

We walked to a local restaurant a block from our hotel, L’Olive. Shocking, the kalamata olives tapa may have been the best I’ve ever had (I may need to go back to Greece to confirm!), the simple, grilled veggies were perfection and the paella never tasted as good! This Michelin rated restaurant should be added to your list.

DAY 3 –

With a number of people telling me not to miss Montserrrat, we read a few posts about how to get there and went to the Plaça Espanya train station.

Like everything we read, it was a bit confusing. Basically, keep following the signs to the R5 line to Aeri de Montserrat; be sure to buy the combined ticket for the train and cable car at Plaça Espanya.

If confused, there are people to help you with any questions. I promise you won’t be the only one going to Montserrat.

By train, the journey takes about one and a half hours. From the Aeri de Montserrat station, take the cable car to the top. It’s very obvious at this point what to do!

Unlike what we had experienced in the city, Montserrat was the complete opposite. For the hiker, you’ll want to wear your hiking shoes and be prepared to explore. We meandered for a bit after a surprisingly tasty lunch in the cafeteria, and finally making our way to the Benedictine monastery and basilica. Located inside the basilica is a statue of the Virgin of Montserrat, one of the few black madonnas of Europe. The trams to the other parts of the mountain were closed, but I suspect the views and trails are impeccable.

For dinner we hit up Teleferic. Coincidentally there is a Teleferic in Walnut Creek, my current hometown, so we had to stop by! I have to say, the Sangria may have been my favorite.

The only way up is on that teeny tiny, yellow teleferic.

The only way up is on that teeny tiny, yellow teleferic.

DAY 4 –

Woke up to rain. It’s a sad day when you want to explore but it’s wet and dreary out. We certainly didn’t pack for rain or cold weather, so we were quite miserable, but we made the most of it. After striking out at a restaurant we thought we’d try for lunch, we ended up at Black Remedy, where we noshed on food and drinks, and read some. It wasn’t incredibly cozy, so we moved on. I tell ya, I never used to mind the rain, but after living in Seattle for 16 years, I’ll take all the sunshine I can get. It definitely affects your mood. Also, being cold is simply not my favorite at all!

We walked through the Gotic quarter, through another market to see the weirdest sight: the tallest Asian couple I’ve ever seen (both were well over 6’ tall) dressed up as if it was a warm Spring day, getting their engagement photos taken. Rather than photos though, they were being followed by a cameraman. They also looked incredibly apathetic.

If you ever come across a music video with a forlorn couple walking through a Spanish market surrounded by dead fish and chorizo, with two American girls huddled together for warmth, you better believe that was us!

But I digress….

Since we were near the Picasso Museum, we meandered in the drizzly weather that way, only to find it jam packed, with NO tickets sold on site, as well as no WIFI to buy them online.

I imagine they lose a ton of money by the way this system is set up, but I guess they don’t care.

Striking out again, we meandered the alleys to find a drink! Wine or hot tea would suffice.

A couple of cafes later, we decided to head back to the hotel to warm up.

Dinner was at Ciudad Condal again to make sure it really was as good as it was the first night in our starvation stupor. It most certainly was!

DAY 5 –

stiges.jpg

The sun was out and we had plans to jump on the train again and head to Stiges, a beach town about an hour down the coast. We felt relatively comfortable by now riding the metro but this trip also involved a train. By all of the online searches we reviewed, we knew we were going to take the C2 train from Estació de França on to Sitges. But it wasn’t that simple and to be honest I couldn’t tell you the exact way to get there. We followed a suggestion from a website to look for Vilanova i la Geltru, but this was a stop after Stiges.

Apparently, we got on an express train which didn’t stop at Stiges and therefore we had to play the “Stupid American Girl” card and tell multiple train agents that yes, we had paid our fare, we went an extra stop, let us on the damn train!

It all worked out but there HAS to be a better, more simple way to get there!

All in all, Stiges was a quaint beach town where we meandered through the town and the along the beach, stumbled upon a honky tonk talent show (!), negotiated a blanket to be able to read comfortably on the sand, and enjoyed a leisurely lunch.

If you don’t care about beaches or shopping, this day trip may not be wrth it for you. However, Stiges is home to Don Bacardi, so that may be worth checking out if you like Rum.

We returned in time to make our Sagrada Familia tour at 7:15pm, only to realize I didn’t actually have the proper documentation, which I thought I had!

TIP: be sure to have the accurate paperwork downloaded on your phone or printed out

It all worked out though as I had enough information for the security guards to print out proper tickets for us.

We joined the masses and finally got into.

YOU GUYS, I wasn’t prepared for the incredible architecture inside the cathedral. The lighting was impeccable, breathtaking. I can’t even begin to articulate the precision and beauty, the attention to detail. You just have to see it for yourself. Gaudi was a genius. Period.

sagrada2.jpg

I’ve been to a lot of incredible places around the world and I have to say this may top all of the man-made structures I’ve seen, even in my beloved Roma.

We would have stayed later but it turns out they close at 8!

Despite our mega big, late lunch, we figured we’d try a new restaurant and just get drinks and dessert. Jumping on the metro, we went to Silvestre.

It was 9pm but we were the first ones in the joint. It was a bit odd, but we embraced it as much as we could, especially since this was the first place on our trip where they didn’t speak much English.

Embrace it we did. After reviewing the menu, we decided we had to order more than dessert and wine.

We devoured:

  • Duck crepes (Crepe con pato)

  • Scallops with bacon and asparagus

  • Shrimp

  • Cod Croquette

  • Apple tart

  • Vino

This may have been the best meal in my life!

And shockingly, as most meals we enjoyed, it was roughly $60 total. There was no way in hell we’d enjoy such delicious food, including wine and dessert for $60 in California. Perhaps I’m jaded because California, the Bay Area in particular, is so ridiculously expensive, but this seemed outrageously affordable. Too good to be true, in fact!

DAY 6 –

We took one of our last days, very slow. We had lunch at Honest Greens, a beautiful paleo restaurant which spoke volumes to the awareness and demand of healthy, fast food. We meandered the Ramblas again, and grabbed a gelato. We rested and read in our hotel’s courtyard until our 5:30 reservation back at Park Guell. This time we took the metro to the Park, which was another journey to note!

We took the green line (L3) to Vallcarca, where we heard of some magical escalators up the hill. Yes, there were escalators, but half of them weren’t working and you still have to walk  up a significant hill. Bring water!

bench.jpg

All of that being said, I was thrilled to be back in the park. Like I mentioned above, seeing, touching and sitting in the famous Trencadis Serpentine Mosaic Tile Bench has been a dream nearly 20 years in the making. Minus the selfie taking crowds, it was perfect. Like the park’s mosaic kimodo dragon below on the steps, we basked in the late afternoon sunlight, reading our books. Pure bliss.

I never wanted this moment to end, but as the sun went down it got chilly and we got hungry. We also knew it may take a while to get down the hill again!

We were Gracia quarter pros by now and knew the metro well enough to navigate our way back to the Gotic quarter where we found our way to dinner at Sensi. Another all-star dinner!

We devoured:

  • Tuna tartare

  • A fancy green salad

  • Stuffed tomatoes with beef and lamb

  • Vegetarian lasagna

On the eve of my birthday, we thought it was only appropriate to get dessert. All attempts failed as it was a Sunday night and the restaurants we had earmarked for a special treat were closed. On our way back, we stumbled by a chocolate shop and grabbed three rather large truffles to share.

Back at our hotel, we toasted the evening with a bottle of cava and our chocolates as I rang in my 38th birthday.

DAY 7 -

I’m always a little melancholy the last day of trip when the hours seem to move at rapid pace signifying the return to reality. I never feel like I have enough time to soak in the history, the people, the entire experience of traveling.

To make matters worse (perhaps that’s not right) – to add another layer to all of the emotions on our last day - it was my birthday.

Sure, I booked the flight back knowing it was going to be my birthday, but more than anything I wish I could have gifted myself one more day.

After breakfast I quickly wound around the Eixample to get one more breath of the Catalonian culture. Coffee cups clanked against table tops as people started their day, Spanish words rolled out of local’s mouths on the street corners, and I simply tried to absorb it all, wishing time would stop.

Could I take a seat at one of tables and blend in?

I didn’t want to go back to long days behind a computer or frustrating commutes on a packed train into a dirty and lifeless city (compared to this one). I felt alive amidst the history and culture; going back to laundry piles and responsibility seemed cumbersome.

That’s what traveling does though. It gives you perspective and a renewed sense of self as it adds another dimension to your story. It allows you to take a step back, a long breath, and re-calibrate

It’s empowering.

My love for travel and architecture blossomed at the same time, around the age of 10. Now nearly 30 years later, I’m still in awe of the entire experience every time I go somewhere new.

I have to say, I already knew I was going to love Gaudi’s work, but I fell in love with the rooftops of Barcelona.

Man, I never want to stop exploring our amazing world.

I look forward to the day I can do with my daughters, until then I get to recap the adventures and inspire them to see the world.

P.S. I may have had the longest birthday ever. We chased the sun from waking up in Barcelona to finally going to sleep in California on the same day! It’s one for the books!

Wine, chocolate and a good book are always in style!

Wine, chocolate and a good book are always in style!

On being a (working) M-O-M!

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There’s no crying in parenting!

It was nearing midnight as I folded the corners of my clean sheets over my mattress - to merely climb in my bed 5 minutes later - as I reflected on the many dark facets of my Saturday. It started at the breakfast table when my youngest, who is on the older side of being 5, started crying for no apparent reason. Thick tears and pure exasperation came over her as she hunched over her full plate of home-cooked waffles, bacon and fruit. Stubborn as all hell, she also wouldn’t say what was wrong.

All I wanted to do was rectify the situation and make her stop crying. For heaven’s sake, it was only 8:30am on a Saturday morning and my brain couldn’t function with what appeared to me was sheer nonsense. What possibly could have happened when I turned my back to get something in the kitchen?

A few hours later, I ran (literally ran, pushing both of them in our non-jogging stroller, ha!) to the park. We hadn’t done this in quite possibly a year and it was the perfect day. Not a cloud in the sky, the first warm temperatures of the year, and we were ready to get our wiggles out.

Again, I have no clue what set off now my oldest but as she climbed off the stroller her temper flared and she kicked a branch. Sometimes as moms we should really keep our mouths shut, but as I tried to tell her that she should be grateful we were at the park, the branch got stuck to her foot and I laughed.

Perhaps I was shaming her some - call it what you want - but of course that made her more mad. More so that I was laughing, not that the branch was now attacking her shoe. Karma lady!

This quickly escalated. Once she got the branch free, she threw it at me, resulting in a time out. Not that anyone rejoices in a time out (except for me perhaps, when I lock myself in my room to take a parenting breather), but this contributed to her anger going up another 5 notches. I get it, you’re at the one place where you want to be to have fun and you’re not allowed to have fun. This also included myself.

I’m a firm believer in teaching my kids that there are consequences to their behavior. You don’t get to be mean, rude, or hurtful and not get away with it. Not all of life plays to those rules, but I think there is value in teaching little people that our actions *most of the time* will have repercussions – whether good or bad – and that the good ones make the world a nicer place. 

Let’s be honest here, you can’t be an asshole and expect your life to smell like roses.

As you can imagine, this didn’t go well. She got louder, disrupting everyone on the playground and I got more annoyed as I just wanted to have some fun in the sun – and selfishly get a workout in as they played. I suggested doing what she needed to do - a reset of her liking, breathing techniques, a good ol’ conversation, but nothing worked. Never mind that every time I stepped away to make sure I could see her sister or to possibly diffuse the situation, she screamed “MOM” incessantly.

Since she wasn’t calming down, I decided to remove all of us from the situation. With the library nearby, I thought that perhaps changing her environment, where she had to be quiet, would be helpful.

Needless to say, it was another fail and we basically got kicked out for being loud.

Completely frustrated, I simply ran us home. Thankfully I had headphones with me so that I could drown out her complaining the entire 1.5 miles back. Do note that this was the FIRST time I’ve ever run with headphones with my kids in tow. I like to talk with them on our runs, but this time it was necessary!

Long story short, motherhood – parenting in general – can suck. Especially when there isn’t another adult to punt to, I easily find myself in a tizzy.

Motherhood.

Work.

Commutes.

Drop-offs and pick-ups.

Side hustles.

Household chores.

Dreams to chase.

Piles of books to read.

Relationships to nurture.

Summer planning (in March!)

Exercise.

Self care.

Fun.

Sleep.

Phew!

Everyone has burdens to carry, that’s life. However, I do feel that mothers carry a disproportionate load.  We don’t need articles like this one, reminding us that here in the U.S. working moms are “drowning” in stress. We already feel it, as we live it every.single.day.

Nor this study about how moms are sleep deprived until their first child is 6-years old! Or another outlining that the average moms work is 98 hours a week - basically 2.5 jobs!

Simply put, give yourself grace and share these studies with your spouse to confirm that you’re not crazy, simply tired!

Yet, what’s the solution?

Sadly, I don’t have one.

I’m the last person to say buck up and deal with it. However, I do want more women to recognize their value, their worth, their voice, and their power.

Too many times I see moms completely fall apart when their husbands are away for any length of time. Their whole world is turned upside down and they go insane. I get it, a two-parent household is so much easier than doing it on your own. I understand the comfort of having an adult to talk through your day with or the arms to nestle into in pure exasperation or to handle the nightly battle of brushing little people’s teeth. A family was designed to have two parents and therefore, yes, it’s amazing when intact.

As a single parent though, I’ve experienced both worlds, and let me remind you, ladies, YOU CAN DO THIS!

  • You can ask for help.

  • You can have a conversation with your spouse about how to help around the house or with the kids, or simply how to love you best.

  • You can speak up at work and see how you can contribute differently (not more) to get the raise or the promotion.

  • You can create boundaries – at home and at work – to help you stay sane and be present. It shouldn’t be an all or nothing mentality, nor should you feel like you’re shackled to your desk missing out on all of the school potlucks or the only parent present to do all of the parenting duties.

I do believe we should expect greatness and look for wonder in all things in our lives, but that doesn’t mean it will be void of hardships or hard conversations or some introspection to help decide what it is we truly want.

In short, you can use your voice, create balance AND you can do all of the hard things! You’re more powerful than you think!

In closing, at the root of my recent internal wrestling, is that I’m understanding more how the political side of the corporate world works. Not that I didn’t have any idea but being closer to the inner circle has given me insight into the policies and procedures. Looking in from the outside, I’m more frustrated than ever, especially being a woman.

I stepped away from the corporate world for four years.

Four years, which now seems like a death sentence.

I shouldn’t have to, but forgive me for stepping away from a J-O-B to raise my daughters. For wanting to spend time with them and be their primary caretaker from day one.

Now I simply feel overlooked, undervalued, and “behind” in my career. And you know what? Sure, I have some lofty aspirations on how I want to help people, but ultimately, the only thing I really, really care about is being present with my girls - being the best mom I can be.

At this point quite frankly, I’m too burned out to be any good..

At the end of the day, I don’t mind putting effort in and working hard, but when you trade dollars for time, miss out on your children’s lives, and feel like you’re barely scraping by because of the economic climate (and living off of one income) in the area, I think something is wrong.

The mere fact that we’re having this conversation today, that women are still fighting their way in the work force for equal pay and acknowledgment is disgustingly wrong.

Honestly, I could rant all day, but I’ll stop! I’m truly curious….

  • How do you steward your money?

  • Do you have the same sentiments?

  • How do you feel about being a working mom?

  • What works for your family?

  • How do you handle the emotions of your children?

  • How do you execute time-outs or how many bottles of wine or CBD oil to you go through?

Curious minds want to know!

Vitamin D: Why you need it and how to get it + Hawaiian travel recommendations.

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Until recently, I haven’t seen an OB, or any doctor for that matter, beside my acupuncturist. In fact, I believe that last time I’ve seen an OB was shortly after my youngest was born. She’s now 5 and a half!

I don’t know for certain, but I feel I may be in the in the majority with the lack of maintaining my routine exams. Truth be told, unless I’m dying, I still probably wouldn’t go.

Where do you fall in the spectrum?

At my recent visit, we ran all of the usual blood tests.


Sidenote: you should get these typical labs done to have a baseline knowledge of your health:

  1. Complete Blood Count (CBC)

  2. Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP)

  3. Lipids

If you want to take it a step further, and begin to address root issues, you should include these labs:

  1. GI MAP

  2. MRT (food sensitivity test)

  3. DUTCH Complete (sex hormones + adrenals)

  4. Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis

If you’re curious about these, please reach out for more info or talk to your physician (who may or may not agree - it’s more about politics than health!)


Back to my lab results - I didn’t expect any shocking news, even when she told me my vitamin D levels were scary low.

Most Americans are deficient in Vitamin D without knowing it, but there are some consequences if we don’t take actions to rectify the situation. The normal range of vitamin D for adults and children is recommended between levels of 25-80 ng/mL. That’s quite a range. Regardless, my levels were at 18. Well below adequate levels.

Despite living in California, I’m rarely outside soaking up the sunny rays. I’m sure you can relate with working a typical 9-5 job, with most of those hours sitting behind a screen (I won’t even get into the negative side effects of siting all day). With it being winter, I’m also not winning any sunshine points. That in addition to my office being in a not so nice area of San Francisco, as well as in a basement (it’s a pleasant basement, but a basement nonetheless), are further strikes against me in attaining the midday sun.

So why should we even care about vitamin D?

First of all, without enough vitamin D, calcium cannot be absorbed. Calcium is essential for signaling between brain cells, development of bone, and tooth formation. In essence, vitamin D helps to maintain bone density. We all have that grandma who is hunched over because her bones are becoming more brittle. Don’t let that become you.

Studies also reveal that low vitamin D levels are associated with:

  • Increased loss of muscle strength and mass as we age

  • Increased risk of cancers

  • Lower levels of immunity

  • Higher blood pressure

  • The development of neurological disorders

  • The development of diabetes

Vitamin D levels can also be affected by age, body fat levels, time of year, and skin color/ethnicity.

Did you know that as we age, our ability to make vitamin D is reduced by a whopping 75%!

Did you also know that depending on where you live, your body’s natural ability to create vitamin D from the sun will fluctuate? For example, if you live north of Atlanta, GA, you will make zero vitamin D from the sunlight between November and March. If you live below Atlanta, GA, you’ll be all right. Crazy, right?

How do we get Vitamin D?

The best way to create vitamin D is via natural sunlight. In fact, vitamin D isn’t really a “true” vitamin, as we don’t need food to attain it.

If you need to supplement, I recommend a liquid D3. In fact, I’m taking this one now and really like it.

For more info, I highly recommend giving this article a glance, especially the last bit about how much vitamin D you can create through the sun based on where you live and the time of year.


This past week I was in Honolulu attending a SMPS (marketing) conference and found enough sun breaks to get sunburned. While I don’t advise getting sunburned, I do suggest getting out in the sun without sunscreen for a good 10 minutes before applying your favorite SPF (mine happens to be this one). This way you will absorb a good amount of Vitamin D, whereas applying sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher will decrease the amount of vitamin D made in the body by about 99%!

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Speaking of Hawaii, I wanted to also share our top 3 restaurants to hit up the next time you jetset to Honolulu. If you’re like me and typically travel to Maui, Waikiki was new and foreign. Since it’s been nearly 25 years from the last time I stepped foot on Oahu, my bearings were a wee bit rocky!

While we stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, which provided enough restaurants and activities to never leave the site, we ventured nearby to get a flavor of Waikiki.

 

SCRATCH– a short distance from the hotel is Alo Moana and Ward Village, shopping centers that have everything you need. You don’t come to Hawaii to spend time at the mall, but to find some basic necessities and a meal, I would recommend these two. Based on yelp reviews and proximity, we hit up Scratch and had a great dinner. My mom and I shared a steak and eggs dinner, which was not only a fun play on the standard steak and eggs breakfast, but also plenty of food to share. Flavorful steak, lightly dressed arugula, brussel sprouts, crispy potatoes, and a fancy deviled egg. My girls got steak tacos which also looked amazing. At the rate they ate them, they were either starving or delicious – or both.

 

GOOFYS– I was a little skeptical by the name, but the yelp reviews offered only positive marks and since it was a 5-minute walk away, I was willing to try it. Hands down, this place was awesome. Local and organic ingredients, plenty of options for everyone and super friendly staff. After working up a good sweat in the gym prior to going, as well as being up since 4:30am with the little people who were still on California time, I was a little worried I wasn’t going to get enough to eat. I ordered an omelette and kale salad. It was perfectly divine, keeping me full until dinner.

 

HOUSE WITHOUT A KEY – For our last night in Hawaii, we decided to go fancy! Since I was determined to go somewhere to see the sunset in it’s pure Hawaiian splendor, in addition to jonesing for poke or sushi, we chose House Without a Key. We put on our finest and walked just under a mile along the beach to Halekulani, the gorgeous hotel where the restaurant is tucked away, facing west toward the sea. A live Hawaiian band welcomed us, as well as hula dancers silhouetted in the fading sunlight. Shortly after we were seated, the sun continuing is setting journey, peaked in it’s fiery glory behind the sailboat races and cruise ships neatly placed along the horizon. We soaked it in, watching Diamond Head grow darker in the night shadows behind us. Ambiance obviously is a huge factor, but the food also needs to live up to the hype. I ordered poke, sautéed asparagus, and a Halekulani Sunset (a guava pineapple mai tai – a girl likes to indulge ever so often). My poke was a hefty portion and just what this mama wanted. The asparagus was just as nice, lightly buttered and seasoned with garlic. My mai tai which I savored after my meal, felt more like dessert, capping the evening off on just the right note.

poke.jpg

 

Bonus/snack spots:

Lanikai Juice – the Kale Tonic was everything I needed in the morning without my usual Organifi Green Juice. The acai bowls also looked tasty.

lanikai.jpg

Leonard’s Bakery – Though not paleo, I hear the malasadas are the best around. My mom took the girls one day and they said they were the tastiest they’ve ever had. Then again, they never tasted my Grandma’s so the jury is still out.

 

What are your favorite restaurants in Honolulu?

I can’t wait to get back and explore without having to also attend a conference!

Filling my cup and how you can fill yours....or just make chocolate peppermint cups (recipe)!

Homemade peppermint coconut cups

Homemade peppermint coconut cups

Four-day weekends should be a thing at least once a month, don’t you think?

During these four-day holiday breaks from work, I’ve:

  • slept. A lot. Man did this exhausted mama need it!

  • read.

  • tidied up the pantry, the bane of my existence craft cupboard, and tomorrow will be for my children’s messy room. Shhhh, don’t tell them I’m in a purging mode.

  • taken my time at the gym.

  • made yummy, chocolate treats. More on that below.

  • Taken at least one Epsom bath so far.

  • watched both seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I highly recommend it. I may have even shed a tear when Season 2 concluded.

Most importantly, I’ve connected with family, friends, and my community.

Today I hit up my local, Walnut Creek farmer’s market to visit my friend Chris at the smoked salmon stand. Since I get most of my produce from Imperfect Produce and rarely need anything else during the week, grabbing a salmon filet (and possibly a waffle from Rooted) is the only reason I go to the Farmer’s Market. Strange, I know!

Anyway, I knew Chris was taking January off, so it would be a good 5 weeks until I got my salmon fix. Prepared to buy more than usual, Chris, pleased to see me, went on to bless me with 3 salmon filets, for FREE. What? He said it was a gift because he enjoyed seeing me and the girls on Sundays.  We’re far from regulars, but I’ve made a point to not only consume but take my time and get to know him. We banter with his neighbor vendor, the sweet potato pie guy, and genuinely like to chat. There’s something about having friends and being known, even if it’s not a deep relationship.

Before the crowds became too overwhelming, we hugged it out and I wished him well until I saw him again in February.

This interaction reminds me of the vendors I befriended at Seattle’s Pike’s Place Market, when I lived near the market and was a SAHM. Everyday I’d push my babies through the market, to say hello, grab some veggies or eggs, and just be a kind face in the sea of consumers.

That’s how you get to know people anyway, right?

A simple hello, a smile, some kind words…..it doesn’t take much. Or as Ed Sheeran says, “Love can change the world in a moment…”

Last night, I was also able to sneak out with some moms from school. Turns out 3 hours at True Food was just the thing I needed – perhaps what all three of us needed. If we hadn’t shut down True Food, I’m sure we could have talked the night away drinking our pomegranate kombucha! Ha!

Connection, let alone sharing stories that make you feel not so alone, is important. We may come from all sorts of backgrounds, but we share common denominators of being moms, working moms at that, trying to figure out this life as an adult, being transplants - moving across stateliness, even countries, to name a few.

It’s refreshing to commiserate, as well as celebrate this moment in our lives; share our worries and fears, hopes and dreams, question our school’s hippiness and horrible math homework, and our awkward conversations with our kids about sex, the internet, and gender. Who knew back in the 80’s that we’d have so many different gender pronouns in 2018! Sheesh! And why in the world have they changed the way they teach math?!

Anyway, I implore to get out. To connect. To smile at a stranger. To say hello and ask them out.


santa's cup.jpg

Moving on to tasty things though.

I was on dessert duty for Christmas and made some deliciously rich peppermint fudge cups I saw on the eating evolved website here. They were a hit. You’ve been warned though, they’re very rich and one is sufficient, even for this chocoholic. As well as Santa!

Earlier in the month I also made my own peppermint coconut cups which were just as wonderful. They’re very similar (i.e easy) to make as outlined in the recipe above, but I’ll note it here:

Coconut center Ingredients:

  • 1 cup homemade or premade coconut butter

    (To make homemade coconut butter, simply dump 16oz of shredded coconut  - feel free to lightly toast beforehand - with a pinch of salt in a food processor an let ‘er whirl until you have a smooth consistency, about 10 minutes.)

  • 2-3 drops or an ⅛ tsp peppermint oil - a small amount goes a long way

  • 1 crushed candy cane--optional

Chocolate Cup Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup dark chocolate melted

Instructions

Filling Instructions:

  1. Once you have your coconut butter, add the peppermint oil and blend again until mixed.

Chocolate Cup Instructions:

  1. Take a wax lined cupcake liner OR silicone cupcake liner an spoon 2 tablespoons of melted primal chocolate into bottom. Swirl around, covering the ¾ of the cupcake liner. Place on a flat surface and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Assemble:

  1.  Drop 1-2 tbsp of the coconut butter into the bottom of the chocolate cup (with the liner still on). Liquid coconut butter is easier to work with, so you may need to warm it up slightly, but be sure it’s not hot otherwise you’ll melt the chocolate! Let harden some – 5 minutes in the fridge should suffice.

  2. Pour another tbsp of chocolate over the top, spread to the sides, and place back in fridge for at least 20 minutes.

  3. Enjoy!


How did you relax this holiday season and what did you make? I’d love to know!

P.S. If you need help weaning yourself from chocolate and all of the sugar this season, or simply need some inspiration on how to create healthy habits or a kick start a healthy eating plan come January, reach out or join my January 21-Day Sugar Detox group! I’ve got you covered.

I’m sorry, you want to do what?


needles.jpg

Before it was trendy to do so, I went gluten free in 2003. I recall having immediate results - my head and gut aches practically vanished, and my body was simply happier. Even as a self-prescribed bread addict, I thought it wasn’t terrible to give up bread and wheat. Call me young and naïve, but I even wondered, what else could I do to my body to heal it? I’m no biohacker like today’s Ben Greenfields or Dave Aspreys, but I dabbled.

Detoxes, fasts, blood tests, weight training (pre CrossFit days) or cardio - I tried it. Honestly, not a lot of profound results, but I learned about myself and my body as I chased the ideal of healing limiting beliefs, aches and pains.

So in 2007, when I continued to explore other alternative health options for my ailments, Laura, my yoga teacher recommended I come in to see her for acupuncture.

I trusted her so I went.

Otherwise it would have been a big hell no. Me and needles, um, no thanks!

But again, when you’re in your twenties, childless, and apparently don’t have much else to do on a weekend, the hour or two spent with needles in your limbs is quite the adventure.

We chatted, she looked at my tongue, took my pulse, and with quick precision placed the needles. I barely felt them, and even napped.

Acupuncture was nothing what I expected.

Not only was I pleasantly surprised at how relaxed I was, I was more impressed by having the best night of sleep that evening. Needless to say, I returned.

In my next appointment, after addressing my issues with the needles, Laura asked me if I had ever done cupping.

I’m sorry, what?

When you’re exposed, lying on a table, and people ask you vague questions, it can be a little intimidating.

I got the run down and was game. At this point in my life I was at the gym every day, addicted to running, sitting behind a computer for 8+ hours, and needed whatever she offered.

But back to cupping. Even if you’ve been debriefed and mentally prepared, it’s hard to know what to expect with that first experience with the cup. While there is more pain associated with cupping than acupuncture, it’s a good kind of pain. It truly hurts so good. You feel me?

Where acupuncture gently realigns our energy, reminding our body how to heal on its own, cupping provides pressure, encouraging blood flow, breaking up any stagnation to the area applied.

All in all, cupping was different, somewhat magical, and since it leaves painless bruises, it was an easy conversation starter at the gym the next day.

But, life happened, as it does, and I didn’t see much of yoga, acupuncture or cupping for some time. That was until I got pregnant and had other aches and pains I wanted to address naturally.

But as you can imagine, once my babies came, I again pushed my healing to the side.

Sure, I made time for things I love, like a good meal with dear friends, moving my body regularly, and a good living room dance party with my littles. But what I love about acupuncture and cupping, aside from the healing, is the personal nature of the time spent with the practitioner. This is not your typical run of the mill 10 min, box checking, interaction with your GP or therapist. Acupuncturists take their time to get to know you. They have to!

Part therapist, part healer, part teacher, acupuncturists are there to help, and spend their time to do so.

Though I often find myself a little lost when my daughters go with their dad on his weekends, it’s not hard to hide my excitement for the quiet and the ability to retreat to activities that speak to my soul and offer healing. My most recent visit with Candise provided just that. Once we got past the formalities and updates from the last month, Candise quickly had me in tears. Happy tears, tears of frustration, tears of freedom! When was the last time you were in someone’s presence and you could let your guard down and let everything flow? No judgment, only pure empathy, concern, and care.

Like a friend who has seen you through thick and thin, and still chooses to offer a hand, Candise has that touch. That is in addition to her touch with needles, ear seeds, and cupping.

breathe.jpg

Where are you on your journey of health and balance?

Have you hit the wall and realize it’s been far too long since you did more than the usual to take care of yourself? As career women, as moms, we do what we can, when we can. Manis, pedis, a spa day, a glass of wine, here and there.

But does it add up to the balance you need? Does it address the root issues or only numb the dissonance between your desires and your reality?

It’s a lot to address right now, I understand. But do take the time to ask yourself these questions. What’s missing? What are you ignoring? What could you say “no” to, to be able to say “yes” to feeling your best?

Let’s return to the first issue I brought up – I quit gluten, which led to an interest of healing all of me. Even knowing, despite wishing otherwise, it wouldn't be a quick fix. But why wait? There are no perfect moments to start anything!

Do you have the confidence to search for and find balance? Are you bold enough to take control of your health - whether that is ditching the foods you know don’t love you back, or creating the time to exercise, or finding a coach to help you strategically make sense of it all, or making a monthly appointment for acupuncture?

All are good, all can be necessary, but what makes you feel your best?

Start there!

I think we can agree, we all yearn to be heard, understood, liked, loved, and to belong. It begins with knowing who you are and being willing to write a different ending for ourselves.

I know I want to thrive, and I’m sure you do also.

For lack of better words, for the most bang for your buck, or when all else fails, start your journey of health in all of it’s imperfection….and get yourself an acupuncturist (or a health coach, like me!).

Comment below with where you are on your health journey or if you love acupuncture.

I’d also love to know what would serve you best as you navigate the balance between work, health, kids, and life.

xox

when life gives you balls, you juggle them

Jump down to the end for the recipe....I kind of go off on a tangent!

Jump down to the end for the recipe....I kind of go off on a tangent!


Standing at the kitchen sink washing a pan, I gaze out to see Charlie maliciously wave a dirty mop in her sister's face.

That was it.

I had just told her an hour ago that there is never a reason to hit her sister. And now this.

Perhaps I should have just kept my mouth shut, but I immediately begin to mediate and tell her to go to her room. While she was at it, to clean up the earlier tornado that hit that section of the house.

Stomping off, the wailing begins.

I shout, "crying about it won't get you closer to the goal."

I can't believe I utter those words. Yet in sheer frustration, the darkness and humbling truth is usually revealed. Were those words for her or for me? 

Quite plain and simple, I'm tired. 

There's no doubt a laundry list of reasons why exhaustion burdens me. Parenting alone, however, tops the list. Cuddling, having fun, playing games, and cranking up the music for dance parties is easy. On the flip side, discipline, and understanding the bigger picture of not only my legacy, but the minds, and the legacies of these little people I was blessed with, is created in the minor moments of loving correction. This is hard. These moments continue to beat me down, and make me feel I'm doing something wrong. Like I know better but can't learn the lesson myself. 

Relationships are funny, intricate things.

And then there are moments like this - 

Yesterday at a 6-year olds birthday party, I was caught in the crossfire of a dad exchange:

With empathy one dad asks, "How long is your wife out of town?"
The tired dad replies, "She was in London last week and will be in Charlotte next week. So two weeks."
"Oh geez. You need a raise and a 'World's Best Dad shirt' for that kind of stint," the empathetic dad responds, but with a hint of disgust.
"Yes, yes I do!"
I blankly stared forward, thoughts swirling in my head.

Really? I guess I knew men felt this way when their wives went away, but I had never been caught in the middle of the banter. Seriously, how do you think your wives feel when you go away? Why is this even a discussion? Is equality still this skewed? It took both you to create these children, so buck up!

Well, that's only the beginning of my G-rated version.

Shaken from my stupor, I feel the kids racing up the stairs for cheesy pizza and cupcakes. It was time to choose my own battles with my children. To choose gluten or not.

I certainly don't stew on the following ideas, but I was reminded of them through various conversations this weekend:

  • I didn't get married to boast I had a husband who cheated on me multiple times. I don't need to share this, but some people give you the look of "why are you divorced?"
  • I didn't get married to end up a single mom. Though it's hard and not what I intended, I don't want your pity.
  • I didn't get divorced to be judged on whether or not I made the right decision to move to a different state to be closer to family. You don't know the full picture and boundaries had to be defined. Period. 
  • I didn't get divorced to feel a special kind of overwhelm. That kind of just comes with the territory when you're playing the role of both mom and dad at all hours and doing it all. Even with shared custody, the "overwhelm" doesn't go away.

So with that, that's where we land today. In the here and now. We make it work. Though I'm so very tired of doing it alone, especially at 2am when there's no one to nudge to ask to take this shift for the night, I know things won't always be this way. Apparently there's an actual Law of Rhythm that dictates this fact, establishing the seasons of life. Sometimes it's hard to see beyond tomorrow, which looks a lot like today. Yet like a pendulum, we swing to the left and back to the right - in constant motion, growing, changing, learning and evolving. Thank goodness! 

So with a deep breath, I keep moving forward, knowing anything is possible, especially when I dare to create it. With eyes in my own lane, focused on my end goal, keeping the balls in the air long enough to learn what I need to learn, and teach both myself and my little ladies. This one life is precious and I want to live it to the fullest, providing a rich and vibrant environment for all of us.

This post definitely took a different turn than I intended, but I guess I had to get some things off of my chest.

With that note, speaking about balls, how about some homemade energy balls, or bars, that are easy, quick and totally satisfying?

We made both mango and chocolate versions, but at the end of it, the girls voted their favorite was chocolate. So here it is. Email me if you want the mango version!

Double Chocolate Date dates

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened toasted coconut
  • 1/3 cup dry roasted and salted macadamia nuts
  • 10 pitted dates
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 squares of dark - 70% or higher - chocolate cut up to little pieces 
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder, optional

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a food processor, pulse the macadamia nut until they're just chopped. Any longer and it will become nut butter. Remove from food processor and place in a big bowl.
  2. Add dates into the food processor and pulse until just blended. Add coconut. Pulse again until it's a nice paste.
  3. Add to the nut mixture. Add in chocolate pieces.
  4. Form into balls with your hands or press into an 8x8 roasting dish to make bars.
  5. Roll the balls in the cacao powder for some extra chocolate love.
  6. Refrigerate and enjoy.