Staying Stylish in Suburbia

The Importance of Safe and Natural Bug Repellent

Monday, June 30, 2014

It's summertime again. That means the birds are chirping, the garden is growing and the bugs are definitely making their mark. Unfortunately, with all the crazy chemicals used in bug spray these days, repellent can be just as worrisome as the insects themselves. Still, there are certain diseases spread by bug bites (West Nile Virus and Lime Disease) that are important to protect ourselves against. I did a similar post last year and thought it was time to bring it back around again. 

We all want to keep ourselves from getting eaten alive, but at what cost? Chemical laden bug spays have been linked to all kinds of potential health problems, ranging from negative affects on the nervous system (including thyroid and liver issues) to neurological damage. It's the sad truth that as adults such warnings don't always deter us from buying a product. As parents though, we can't ignore the fact that it is our responsibility to help our kids steer clear of such hazards. A study from Duke University through the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides found that, "With heavy exposure to DEET . . . humans may experience memory loss, headache, weakness, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, tremors and shortness of breath." Other chemicals in standard repellents have also been linked to skin and eye irritations. 

Of course there are other ways to prevent getting bitten. You can try to stay indoors during the evening when the bugs are more likely to be out, or dress in long sleeves and long pants. I have also come up with a list of five natural and safe bug sprays that have reportedly had good results. I hope this helps!

Natural Bug Repellant

Baked Clam Taco with Pineapple-Nectarine Slaw

Friday, June 27, 2014

Have you ever been walking through the grocery store and stopped to sample something so surprisingly good that you had to get it even though it wasn't on your list? That's exactly what happened to me the other day at BJ's. They were giving out samples of baked clam strips, of all things, and I wound up with them in my cart. It wasn't until I got them home that I realized I needed to figure out what to do with them 

One of my husband's favorite dishes in the world is fish tacos. I don't eat fish and never cook it so I thought it would be nice if I made something similar out of the baked clams. I also have a wonderful memory of the two of us chowing down on a basket full of fresh from the ocean fried clams at a seaside restaurant during our trip up the coast from San Diego to San Francisco. Food is a lot like music in that way. It evokes feelings and memories far beyond the taste itself. Luckily, the tacos turned out great and I wanted to share them on the blog today. Buen provecho!


Flour Tortillas
Breaded Clams (frozen)
Grated Cheese
Romain Lettuce
Plain Greek Yogurt
Chipotle Paste
Salt and Pepper


1/3 of a Whole Pineapple chopped to medium cubes
2 Nectarines chopped to medium cubes
1/3 Cup Cilantro chopped to small pieces
2 Cup of Cabbage chopped to small pieces
2 Cup Romaine Lettuce chopped to small pieces

Chipotle Sauce

1/4 cup Mayo
1/4 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1Tablespoon Chipotle paste
1 Tablespoon Lime Juice
2 Cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine ingredients and stir


Preheat oven and cook clams as directed on box
Meanwhile put together the slaw and make the chipotle sauce
Slice avocado
When clams are done baking warm up tortillas in cast iron skillet
Assemble tacos by layering the slaw, then the clams, then the avocado and cheese.
Finally drizzle chipotle sauce over top and serve with a side of black beans. Enjoy!

Our New Gallery Wall and Tips for Making Your Own.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Our gallery wall is finally hung and looking mighty fine, if I do say so myself. This was a fun project. Art walls are great because they're so personal. Most of the artwork I used was either given to us by artist friends, found at thrift stores, or made by me. I bought the blue feather and antler prints on Etsy and the little Degas replica of the dancers was purchased years ago from a museum gift store. The rest of the pieces were just images I liked and wanted to add to the mix.

I really love how the bookshelf acts as an almost 3D continuation of the gallery wall itself. Likewise, with my guitar hanging to the left. It all feels very haphazard but harmonious somehow, which suites us perfectly. Anything overly polished would have seemed strange in the midst of our otherwise colorful yet chaotic lives.

A few tips I learned along the way 

1. Give it meaning. I tried to use pieces that held significance for us for whatever reason. It makes looking at the finished gallery wall that much more enjoyable. Plus, it's a better conversation starter if you can explain why you love a certain piece or that it has a personal story behind it.

2. Fillers are fine too. Even though I wanted the wall to have meaning, every piece didn't have to be special or sentimental. I also felt fine about using something just because I liked it. Period. 

3. Get inspired. Before I started this project I went onto Pinterest to look for inspiration. There were a couple of paintings on there that I loved but couldn't afford. My solution was to paint something similar myself. My point being that you shouldn't let your budget stand in the way of creating a great gallery wall. Even if you don't feel comfortable making the artwork yourself, you can still print pictures out or frame an album cover from a thrift store. Just get creative with it and have fun!

4. Mix it up. When it came to frames, I wanted to use different shapes and sizes. That made finding them cheap (either on sale or at Goodwill) fairly simple. 

5. Choose a color pallet. Even though I wanted my gallery wall to be very eclectic, I still needed something to tie it all together and make it feel cohesive. I did this by keeping a color pallet in mind when choosing or making my artwork. 

6. Pre-arrange. Once I had all my pieces collected, I laid them out on the floor, arranging them like a puzzle. You don't have to strictly stick to the plan once you hang them up but having an idea helped us avoid unnecessary redoes and extra nail holes in the wall. 

7. Eyeball it. We didn't get too technical when it came to the spacing in-between the pieces. An eclectic gallery wall doesn't need to look too tailored or perfect in my opinion.

8. Sit with it for a while. Once we were finished I sat back and admired our work. There were a couple of things I switched around after a few of days but that's all part of the process. 

Workout Motivation Trick

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I wish I could say I was one of those people that craves a good workout. Despite the fact that I ALWAYS feel better when I exercise, I usually need a little extra motivation to get myself going. For my Mother's Day gift this year, B got me a monthly subscription to It's pretty much my favorite thing ever! For a small fee you can receive one or two stories a month. They've got a huge variety of everything from fiction, non-fiction, classic literature, biographies, memoirs etc...

It was with the help this magnificent service, that I concocted the perfect plan to trick myself into wanting to getting all red-faced and sweaty while running with a double stroller. Want to know my secret? Here it is. First, I get a really interesting audio novel or memoir. Then, I only allow myself to listen to it when I'm working out. That's it!

As I'm sure you know, a good book can be quite addictive and using this little motivational trick keeps me looking forward to even the toughest exercise routine. Of course it takes another kind of discipline altogether not to listen to the story all the time. I'd be lying if I said I never cheated. I try to push stop once I'm done exercising though. That way I find myself looking forward to my workouts just so I can hear what happens next in the story. Brilliant, right?!

I'd love to hear from you on this. Do you ever listen to audio books? Ever have a hard time finding the motivation to workout? What do you think of this solution?

Here I am red-faced but happy (with audible on my headphones) after my morning run through the neighborhood.

Homegrown food- A cure for picky eating?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ever since the weather turned warm, Esmae has been talking about growing strawberries. I'm not sure where she got the idea but once the thought was in her head, she couldn't seem to shake it. Recently, she's been taking her watering can outside to water the weeds, all the while pretending they are her very own strawberry plants. After watching this scenario play out so many times I decided we should probably let her have a go at growing the real thing. 

I plan on having more of a garden one day but the patio area and yard need some work first. For the time being I'm more interested in keeping it simple by potting a few vegetables along with a strawberry plant for my girl. I did some research on container gardening and it's amazing what all you can grow that way. When I told her that we were going to have a little potted vegetable garden she was thrilled and eager to help. 

There's another reason I wanted to grow a few veggies this summer though. When Esmae was a baby she would eat anything and everything I put on her plate. Broccoli, squash, brussel sprouts, you name it. I was so proud (maybe even a little smug) thinking that I was somehow cracked the kid-code to finicky eating. Then she turned two and her pickiness picked up...way up! She can usually be coaxed into taking a couple bites of whatever I prepare, but my smugness is gone and I would very much like to help wet her appetite for veggies again.

I've heard that most food preferences develop by the age of five. It's a tricky topic though. Of course I want to help steer her in the right direction for healthy eating. At the same time, it's important to me that food and eating not become a source of tension between us.

Dr. Kalich, a registered dietitian and a health science and nutrition professor, talks about the idea that the source of children's pickiness can be traced back tens of thousands of years ago.

"If you were part of a hunting and gathering society, and at the age of 3 you had enough dexterity to be one of the gatherers, you were sent out to the fields or the woods to forage your food. You would always be fearful that you would pick something that was poisonous."

In other words, children were conditioned thousands of years ago to be extremely wary of anything new or remotely bitter tasting because it could hurt or even kill them. It's that wariness, Kalich argues, that is still hardwired into their way of thinking when it comes to food to this day. I don't know if that's true but it's an interesting theory and one that certainly helps me have more patience with her reluctance to try new things. Dr. Kalich is also a huge advocate for growing your own food with kids. She started a program called Early Sprouts that engages very young children (preschool age) in gardening and nutrition with the idea of fostering early enthusiasm for healthy foods. 

Long story short, that is why I wanted to grow a little garden with Esmae this year. I believe in keeping the right foods around the house and offering her different veggies often. I don't cook separate meals for her and she is expected to try everything on her plate. But more than that, I want to see her excited about eating a gorgeous yellow squash or juicy red tomato that she grew herself. When a kid has a part in planting and watching something grow they become invested in the process. There is a sense of pride and ownership which in turn leads to an eagerness to taste whatever it is they had a part in creating. That's the hope anyways. I'll keep you posted on how it works out. xoxo 

Here she is finally watering her very own REAL strawberry plant. 

She said that the fruits and veggies we planted were going to make us grow STRONG!!!

Yoga with my Three Year Old

Monday, June 9, 2014

I recently came across this wonderful yoga poster for kids. I showed it to my three year old and she was so taken with the drawings that she asked if we could try out the moves together. I got out the old yoga mat (dusty from lack of use I'm afraid to say) and we set about going through the poses together one by one. 

While living in California (before I had two kids) I did yoga at my local gym three times a week. It was easy. I would drop Esmae off at the little daycare there and have a blissful hour to myself. I loved my yoga practice. Not only did it strengthen my muscle tone and endurance, it was also the most relaxing workout imaginable. I left feeling renewed and replenished every time. 

Fast forward to now and my yoga practice with a wiggly, demanding toddler. It wasn't nearly as relaxing. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun we had. Since that first morning, we've turned our yoga practice into more of a routine. On the days that she doesn't have preschool in the mornings, we roll out the mats and get our "Downward Dog" and "Happy Baby" on. It feels great. My body is loosening to the movements again and I am beginning to re-discover my breath. All of which, I might add, is highly beneficial when trying to find the patience for parenting. 

If you think about it, yoga has a lot to offer kids too. This article from PBS Parents has some great insights on the types of things that young people can learn from practicing yoga. Things like respecting their bodies and understanding balance, breath, and quieting of the mind. It's a discipline but a fun one, which is also a great lesson for kids to learn early on. Now Esmae is the one reminding me that it's time for our yoga. It's the perfect motivation to get my day off to a good start with her happy and me more mellowed out. 

Below are a few of the moves Esmae and I have been going through during our yoga routine together.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, opinions and experiences in regards to your own yoga practice as well as doing yoga with kids.

Namaste y'all! xoxo