Hot and Sweaty for the Sweat Shack

I like to think of myself as an early adopter for healthier choices. When I hear of a healthy, new idea it's not long before I'm trying it out for myself. I am always willing to give anything healthy a try. I see it as having nothing to lose and everything to gain.

After reading about the benefits of infrared saunas, hearing a girlfriend talk about how much she loved it, and seeing a short segment about it on the news, I knew I'd better hurry up. I didn't want to be behind in making the latest healthier change. I headed down the street to the Organic Sweat Shack.

Saunas have been around forever. Growing up in the 70's, I remember my dad having a sauna in our garage. The big yellow box with a door and a tiny window near the top freaked me out. Why would anyone willingly sit in there? I always feared getting trapped inside, not being able to get out. When I was older and went to a spa with a steam sauna I hated every minute of it. The small room and the hot steam made me feel like I was suffocating. I hated it.

My girlfriend promised me that an infrared sauna experience would be different. The list of health benefits from spending 30 minutes in an infrared sauna was long enough to encourage me to try:
  • sweating out toxins (This reason alone was enough for me to give it a try.)
  • heavy metal detoxification (Yes, please.)
  • increase in collagen production, skin tone and softness (Who doesn't want that?)
  • fat burning/weight loss (No brainer!)
  • relieves muscle tension and fatigue (That's always a good thing.)
  • and stress relief... just to name a few!
Clearly I needed to get over my sauna issues and go get in the box.

I loved my experience at the Organic Sweat Shack. I decided to go with The Clear Skin Sweat. The saunas use infrared heat as well as chromotherapy which is the science of using color to adjusts our body vibrations, each color possessing frequencies that help balance your body. My color was blue which promotes relaxation and calm. They also use Dr. Mercola's essential oils as part of the experience. But before I could go in, I had to read up on sweat etiquette.

Then I was taken behind one of the curtains where the infrared boxes were hidden. I stripped down to my birthday suit per the sweat etiquette, grabbed my book (fearing I would get bored sitting there for 30 minutes), left social media and the outside world behind, and headed in.

Turns out the calming blue light might be awesome for chilling out but is not good for reading. I was forced to just sit and relax and listen to the gentle music which was a VERY good thing. It dawned on me while sitting there that I could combine my daily meditation with my sauna experience so that's exactly what I did. It was a little strange at first, sitting there naked trying to mediate, but I quickly moved past the awkwardness and allowed myself to be in the moment.

I totally understand now how people are getting hooked doing this. I loved being warm and cozy in my little box. I didn't feel trapped or claustrophobic at all. I didn't start sweating until about half way through, but I'm not a big sweater to being with. After my 30 minutes were up, I felt completely relaxed and would have stayed in there longer if I could.

Leaving the Organic Sweat Shack, I felt like I had just had a full body massage, not a deep-tissue kind but the kind that leaves you completely relaxed and at peace. For that reason alone I will definitely be going back, anxious to try other choices from the Shack Menu with different colors and different essential oils. I will be curious to see if I notice more benefits by making this a regular part of my routine.

Please note that I am not paid by companies or businesses to review their products or services. This is all me and my real opinions. I promise to tell you exactly what I think and if it's worth your time and money. I got you.

Stephenie's Detox Green Juice

While walking around a local farmer's market with my husband, the two of us enjoying a fresh cold-pressed juice, I said something along the lines of, "If I had a juicer I'd make fresh juice all of the time!"

A week later on Mother's Day I opened my very own juicer proving that sometimes husbands actually listen. (However he never seems to be listening when I mention the diamond earrings or whatever expensive handbag I'm currently coveting, but I digress...) I do love my juicer and I have learned to make juice in batches to cut down on the cleaning. Best of all, I'm learning to make healthy juices that are damn tasty!

I'm not always the best about making sure I am eating my daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Juicing makes it easy. I get all of the unprocessed nutrients, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants that help remove free radicals that are responsible for aging, tissue damage, and disease. (Juicing does remove the fiber which has important health benefits as well, so I would never recommend only getting your fruits and veggies through juicing.)

My Detox Green Juice

This juice is an easy one to make. You will need the following:

  • 2 Green Apples, cut into quarters 
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, stem removed
  • 1 Cucumber, peeled
  • A handful of Spinach
  • 2 stalks of Celery
  • 1/2 lemon, peeled

ApplesContain phytonutrients and antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of developing cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Green Bell Pepper: An excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C and vitamin B6, a very good source of folate, vitamin E, vitamin B2, and potassium.

Cucumber: Very hydrating, helps flush out toxins, contains vitamins A, B, C which boosts immunity and gives you energy, and has skin-friendly mineral like magnesium, potassium, and silicon.

Spinach: Hello Super Food! High in niacin and zinc, as well as protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E, K and B6, folatecalcium, iron, and magnesium.

Celery: Has antioxidants that act as anti-inflammatories, has a diuretic effect to reduce bloating and boost digestion, helps to protect the liver and prevent ulcers.

Lemon: Balances your pH, contains potassium, vitamin C, aids in digestion and has been known to support weight loss. 

What I love about juicing is that you can put the whole fruit or juicing in with very little prep. Wash everything, of course, and then just start adding to your juicer. 

You will end up with lots of pulp. I wish there was something good to do with it, and perhaps there is, but I always just throw it away. I use these bottles from Bormioli Rocco. Two batches of the above recipe will make about 20 ounces, perfect for storing some and drinking the rest. 

Don't have a juicer? Don't let that stop you! You could also make a whole fruit version of this recipe if you have a strong blender (think Vitamix, which I also love.) Just be sure to remove all stems, cores, peels/skins, seeds, etc. before blending. I use the Kuvings Whole Slow Juicer and although it can be a pain to clean, I do love it.

And I really love my green juice.

Minimizing My Life: How I Hygge

Let me paint the picture for you: You are in your comfiest clothes (you know the ones that make you happy to put on after a long day), sitting in a cozy spot in your home, a candle lit nearby, a hot cup of tea in your hand and a great book in your lap. You are at total peace and you feel a warm sense of happiness. That is hygee.

Hygee, pronounced hue-gah, is the Danish concept of coziness. It's the "art of creating warmth, comfort, and wellbeing." Hygee is about slowing down and enjoying life's simple pleasures. When you hygge, you enjoy the moment without worry or stress or pressure to do anything other than being yourself. I would venture to guess that you could use more hygee in your life. We all could. 

Part of the process of minimizing your life includes creating an environment that is simple. That being said, minimizing your life doesn't require having to live without. You would not enter my home and ever think I'm living without. Quite the opposite. I have plenty of stuff even after minimizing my home. The difference is that after minimizing, my home is now filled with only quality items that serve a purpose and bring me or my family happiness. When you hygee your home, you create a home that is a cozy reflection of who you are. 

Simplicity is the name of the hygee game. Make time to slow down, unplug, and find peace in spending time with the people and activities that you love the most. I used to feel guilty when I would indulge in a good book on the couch with a latte in my favorite mug instead of doing something that the world deems productive. How could I do such a thing when there is so much else to be done? There's always laundry piling up and the bathroom toilets are gross and there are emails I need to response to. I could let all of those things dominate my time, fill up every inch of my life, maximize my time, but I don't. I can't. 

Similar to meditation, hygge gives you an opportunity to slow down and focus on being in the moment. Just like when I meditate, hygge centers me. It calms me and allows me to relax and reconnect with myself which always helps be connect better to others. How could you ever feel guilty about that? My most favorite thing is to get under a cozy blanket, turn everything else off, put my phone away, and read. That is my version of hygee. Creating hygge for yourself is easy.

Start with the following:
  • Find a cozy spot in your home. A chair or couch that's comfortable. Grab a cozy blanket.
  • Turn off any overhead lights and turn on lamps instead. 
  • Light a non-toxic candle and put a calming essential oil in your diffuser.
  • Put your phone away. No excuses. Taking a break from social media and technology in general is a must.
  • Make your favorite cup of coffee or hot tea.
  • Grab that magazine that you've been meaning to read or that book that you've been dying to finish.
  • You don't have to hygge alone. Hygge with a friend or loved one. Hygge doesn't have to be a solitary activity.
I have been hygee-ing for a long time except I always called it "being lazy." Now thanks to the Danes I have a better name for it and recognize that it isn't "being lazy" at all. Adding hygee to your life is beneficial, important, and necessary. Hygee minimizes the chaos and negative noise that fills up our lives. Give yourself permission to live simpler, find peace and savor the moment.   

Searching for a Safe, Effective, Natural Deodorant

If I smell it's not my fault. Not really. I've been trying out new deodorants and it's been...well, it's been a somewhat stinky process.

My old deodorant, the brand I had used forever, was working just fine. The only problem was my old, have used it forever deodorant contained potentially toxic ingredients like aluminum, parabens, propylene glycol, triclosan, and phtalates. What are those you ask? Well...

  • Aluminum is linked to breast cancer in women, prostate cancer, and an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease
  • Parabens can disrupt our hormonal balance, which can lead to things like early puberty in children and an increased risk of certain cancers. It is also linked to birth defects and organ toxicity.
  • Propylene Glycol can cause damage to the central nervous system, liver, and heart.
  • Triclosan is classified as a pesticide by the FDA as a probable carcinogen by the EPA.
  • Phtalates are linked to a higher risk of birth defects, may disrupt hormone receptors, and increase the likelihood of cell mutation.

I started searching for a deodorant for myself and my family that had none of the above. A deodorant that was both safe and effective. It hasn't been the easiest switch I've made when it comes to safer beauty. There's definitely been some trial and error. Here are five deodorants that I've tried so far. I broke my critique down into simple pros and cons for you. Please note: I am not a health care or natural deodorant specialist. These are my personal experiences with each of these deodorants. You might have totally different experience so take all of my opinions as they are and be sure to try them all for yourself.

Pros: I liked the smell of this one and it kept my B.O. at bay. Liked that it was a roll on. It is also gluten-free, certified vegan and cruelty-free. Antiperspirant. Made in the U.S.A.

Cons: It was difficult to put on. It was so dry that it crumbled when I drug across my skin. On the packaging It does recommend holding it "momentarily to skin to soften on contact with body heat." 

Notes: Schmidt's has several scents made with natural essential oils. Also comes unscented. They have jars if you prefer that to roll ons. Bought this one for my husband (who has sensitive pits like I do) in the Cedarwood + Juniper scent and he has liked it. Has continued to use it and wants me to order more. 

Pros: Chose to go with "unscented" for this one. Like the it was a stick/roll on. Also cruelty-free.

Cons: Contains baking soda which I have discovered irritates my skin and caused a little bit of a rash (which Beautycounter's Cleansing Balm helped clear up right away.) Was so drying that it made my arm pits itch. I woke myself up in the middle of the night scratching under my arms.

Note: Several friends on Facebook highly recommended this one but in the jar. Does come in several scents. 

Pros: Liked the citrus smell. Works well when working out. Don't feel the need to reapply during the day. Also cruelty-free.

Cons: A little on the pricey side. Have to use your finger to apply which took a little getting used to but really isn't that big of a deal. Irritated my skin on the days I shaved under my arms which is basically every day. I have found for me the key is to use less to make it less drying. 

Pros: Cheap and easy to make. Free of baking soda. Includes corn starch, coconut oil, and essential oils. Very hydrating thanks to the coconut oil. Soothing. Makes plenty, almost too much.

Cons: Keeps the stink away only part of the day. Would not recommend if you have major perspiration problems. Needs to be reapplied, especially on hot days or after activity where you've been sweating. I only use this if I'm staying home all day, sitting on the couch with a good book. 

Pros: Easy to spray on. Nice lavender vanilla scent. Didn't irritate my ski. Contains witch hazel and organic tea tree oil that conditions skin. Didn't make my pits itch which is always a good thing.

Cons: This is not an antiperspirant, so wouldn't work for heavy sweaters. If I've had an active day I have to reapply. Takes about 5-6 sprays to do the job. 

Even thought I had some success with each of these, my quest continues. There are other brands I want to try, other scents, etc. Stay tuned...just don't be surprised if I'm still a little stinky in the mean time. 

My First Food Experience

I've lived 44 years, almost 11 of those in Southern California. I've had a lot of great meals in a lot of fantastic restaurants over the years, but I've never had a food experience until this past weekend.

We couldn't find the restaurant. There was no sign, no big crowd, no valet offering to park our car. There was only one black door with a single "M" in frosted glass and small olive trees in pots on either side. If my girlfriend hadn't been standing out front, we would have walked right by.

Getting reservations to Maude, a restaurant by celebrity chef Curtis Stone in Beverly Hills, are like trying to get concert tickets. As soon as they go on sale, the 1st day of the month at 10AM, people jump to grab their table for the following month before they're all sold out. Only 24 seats in the entire restaurant for dinner only, every one of them is highly coveted. We were grateful to have foodie friends in the know who invited us for a fun night out.

After asking if we preferred flat or sparkling water and filling our wine class with a fantastic Chardonnay, we were promptly told there would be no menu until the end. The 10 course meal would be served all centering around one "hero" ingredient. At Maude there is a new ingredient every month, the menu always evolving and changing and our "hero" ingredient for the month of February 2017 was lime.

This was the moment that the girl inside from Oklahoma sat with her eyes wide open, unsure of what to expect next. When we first moved to California we met some friends at a Spanish tapas restaurant for dinner. Never having eaten at a tapas restaurant, I made the mistake of arriving hungry. When I realized that I wouldn't get to order what I wanted, wouldn't have a plate all my own, and would have to share my bite-sized food with everyone else at the table, well that pretty much ruined my evening and made me hate tapas-style eating forever.

Then there was the time I had dinner and too many martinis at one of the best sushi restaurants in L.A. After a full boat of really expensive sushi, I stumbled across the street to Burger Lounge where they serve fantastic organic, grass-fed burgers. I impressed my husband by devouring an entire burger and fries all by myself. He still reflects with awe and wonder about my eating habits that night.

I'm not a foodie and I'm not a picky eater either. I'm willing to try new a point. I like what I like. I'm the kind of eater that I finds a favorite item on the menu and orders that every single time. If I look at a menu and see an ingredient that I'm unsure of, I move on to the next item too embarrassed to ask. To be sitting at a restaurant where I couldn't order what I wanted and I had no idea what they were about to serve me, well, it was...LIBERATING! All I had to do was sit back, enjoy the wine and the company and look forward to each new surprise.

Did I love everything that I was served? No, not really. Did I know what I was eating? Some of the time. There were moments when I was convinced the waitress was speaking in a foreign language while explaining the dish. The meal forced me to try new things that I have never tried before and will probably never try again. But the experience, ah, the experience was fantastic. The antique china and monogrammed napkins and turquoise banquet and sterling silver candle sticks kept me mesmerized. And when your experiencing all of this with good friends and interesting conversation, well it makes for a perfect evening.

The first course looked like a tequila shot. It was not, but you took it like one. (And between the salted rim and the spicy kick it might as well been tequila.)

I would explain each picture, but it's too hard. And yes, I was THAT person taking pictures of her food all evening.

Each dish was truly a beautiful presentation.

I still don't know what abalone is, but it's under there somewhere. I'm nervous to look it up and find out what I ate.

The nasturtiums in the orecchiette pasta were very good. I feel like I'm growing as an eater.

Under that weird foam was a delicious snapper.

This little piece of cheese was one of my favorite dishes. Could have had a bunch of these but I have a feeling that would have been a bad look to ask for more cheese.

And at the end when we were enjoying our lovely desert, I requested a decaf which was delivered in this mug. This mug that I would have snuck out of the restaurant had I brought a bigger purse. 

And you know what? There was a Burger Lounge across the street and I did NOT feel the need to go devour a burger. That's when you know you've had an awesome food experience.

Drop by Healthier Drop

Enjoy today's post written by one of my best girlfriends, Amy Bryan, and her discovery about the natural health benefits of using essential oils.

When Stephenie asked me to write a piece about essential oils I thought, “How in the world can I put this all in one article?!” There is so much to say. So much I would love to just sit with you over coffee…or better yet a glass of wine...and gush about how they have changed the way we address health in our home.  So go get your coffee...or your glass of wine...and let’s pretend we are just chatting.
Over the last few years I have been on a path to find more natural ways to address health and wellness in our home. I have changed a lot of the way I feed my family and through the process have quickly learned how food can positively or negatively affect our bodies. Which got me thinking…..what else is affecting our bodies? If food alone can make such a difference then what about all of the pharmaceuticals we use? What effects are they having on our bodies especially when we have long term use of certain drugs?  
When my son was six weeks old he contracted RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and had to be in an oxygen tent for seven days. We battled respiratory issues for 14 years now, ranging from breathing treatments, using steroids, prescription drugs, inhalers, and daily over the counter medication. Every year when allergy season hit in the fall we would gear up and start all of typical protocol. And I hated it. I hated giving him all of those medications, not knowing what it was doing as far as long term effects for his body, but what choice did I have? He has to breathe, right? Enter essential oils.
I had been quietly stalking a friend who was using and selling essential oils. (Anybody else do that? No? Just me?) I watched her posts on Facebook about her health wins with oils, and more and more I was hearing about other people’s success with essential oils. But I was skeptical. Not because I was afraid of them, but because I couldn’t believe it could be that simple. Could plants really be the answer? It seemed crazy. But didn’t I believe that God put things on this earth to help us with our health issues? Yes, I did. And wasn’t I worried about using all these chemicals on my son? Yes, I was. So, what did I have to lose?
After much research about companies and brands and purity and a few other things that are for another blog posts, I finally bought a starter kit. I was determined that if we were going to try this, we were REALLY going to try this. I researched some information on allergies, asthma, respiratory issues and ways oils could support the body systems to fight those things on its own. Our life was completely changed by something we call, “The Pollen Bomb.”
Prior to allergy season, I started my son on a regime of two drops lemon oil, two drops lavender oil, and two drops peppermint oil in a spoon mixed with a little honey.  (He was not taking any other medications at the time because in the summer he did not need it.) As we headed into what is his major allergy season we did not have to add anything else to keep him breathing clearly.  Nothing. ZERO. ZILCH. NADA.  We continued “bombing” him throughout the entire fall season. And do you know what? Essential oils were the only thing we used to support his respiratory function. Do you have any idea how happy that makes a mama’s heart to know that I can support my son’s health naturally without the fear of side effects?  
So how does that even work? Essential oils work in a way that support our bodies so that they can fight more efficiently on their own. They don’t do the work for our body…they support our body.  Think about when you cut your hand. A healthy body responds to that on its own. Your blood starts to coagulate, your skin cells start to regenerate, and the cut eventually heals on its own. You don’t have to tell it to do that. (Isn’t that crazy when you really think about it? God is so cool.) Essential oils support your body’s ability to function effectively.
We have many oil wins in our home. We have fully incorporated them into our lives and have seen significant health benefits. Does that mean I’m opposed to modern medicine? No. I absolutely believe it has its place and when we need it we access it. But if we can treat our health naturally as much as possible, I believe that when we do need to access medicine our bodies will be able to better handle the effects of it (but that’s a whole other post).
You are probably at the end of your glass of wine now…but if you’d like to chat more about oils I am always up for it! I love to answer questions and educate.

If you have more questions or would like to get started using essentials oil, you can reach out to Amy at or at

Minimizing My Life: Silly Clutter

Clutter. Oh how I loath clutter. Clutter in my home makes it hard for me to breath. You know when you're watching a movie and someone is drowning and you suddenly find yourself having trouble catching your own breath? Yeah, that's how clutter makes me feel.

I don't have a massive clutter problem in my house. Some of you who have been to my home know this. It's not because I hurry and clean up before you get there. It's because I make sure that it's not there to begin with. I'm like a Clutter Ninja. I take care of that shit before it ever has a chance to become a problem.

That does not mean that my house is clutter-free. There is still plenty of clutter lurking. It just happens to be nice looking, seems to have an important purpose, clutter. To some of you the particular clutter issues that I'm about to mention may seem silly, but clutter is clutter. We treat all clutter equally in this house: the tote bags (I'm a sucker for a cute tote bag), the notepads (the stationary store is a close second to the book store), the pens (when you find a kind you like you buy enough to last a lifetime and hang on to the others...just because), and don't even get me started on all of the social media clutter in my life (that's a whole other blog post.)

I think we are good at handling the big clutter issues but guilty of never confronting the little ones. This clutter might not be an issue for you, but I would bet there's something similar in your home driving you nuts too.


And this is just one table in one room.
Ah, frames. I used to be a sucker for a cute frame. Frames are nice to decorate with, but I think that this is definitely a case of too much of a good thing can be bad. We have so many great pics it would be easy to add a new frame every week if we wanted to. But dusty frames are a pain in the ass because that means you actually have to dust them. And just because I have a shit ton of cute pictures of my boys that doesn't mean they all need to be displayed on every square inch of space in my home.


Cookbook Clutter, including a cookbook from my childhood and WAY too many cookbooks about southern cooking.

Cookbooks definitely fall into the clutter category. The pictures look so pretty and the recipes sound yummy so you buy it and use the same old recipes that you've always used. Friends, if you never have used it or have only used it for one recipe, write down that one recipe on an old fashioned recipe card and give that cookbook away. Side note: if you give someone a cookbook as a gift, please don't write a message on the inside. I know this seems like a sweet gesture, but it just makes it difficult to sell to a used book store or give away to a friend. If you want to write a note, do just that on an actual note card. I know you have plenty of them. If not I have a bunch I can give you.


No one needs this many vitamins. No one.
This one might seem weird. How could vitamins be considered clutter? Well, when you have a cabinet full of them, taking up space that could be used for storing other things, then they are considered clutter. I hold onto these vitamins because vitamins are expensive and throwing them away seems wasteful. But vitamins don't do you any good if they only sit in the cabinet expiring. Throw them away and stop buying more. Or better yet, remember to take them. And while you're at it, start flossing.


I guess it's a good problem to have.

Corks are a big problem in our house. A lot of wine equals a lot of corks. The empty bottles immediately go into the recycling bin, but the corks? They seem to take on a life of their own making us looking like we have a really big drinking problem. (We don't. We just have a cork problem.) My husband NEVER wants me to throw them away. He claims that he's going to do something with them, but I know this man. He will never, EVER do anything with them and they will continue to clutter up my life. I try my best to display them in a cute way, but what you don't see in this picture is the gigantic jar filled to the brim with corks under the cabinet. I threw a bunch of them away one time and Derek acted as if I had committed some kind of wine drinking treason.

Truth is, he will never miss them just like we will never miss the frames or the cookbooks or the expired vitamins. Now to tackle the tote bag, note pads and pens.

Safer Lip Scrub

The other day I found my original post about switching to safer beauty products. I talked a lot about "being green" in that post. But I have since learned that in the beauty industry, words like green, eco-friendly, and all-natural don't mean anything. (These terms aren't regulated by the FDA who oversees the cosmetics industry.) Just because I buy something that claims to be "all-natural" I cannot assume that that product is good for me.

Instead of "going green" with our beauty products, we need to be "going SAFER." Safer means choosing to products from companies, like Beautycounter, that are transparent about the ingredients they use, choosing to stay away from know toxic chemicals. Switching to safer products takes time. I often tell people the key is to swap slowly. When you use up your night cream, use that as an opportunity to try a safer product. Don't overwhelm yourself and your bank account with switching everything all at once. Unless you have a ton of extra cash sitting around, no one can afford to throw away everything under their sink and start fresh.

But here's the thing. There are simple, inexpensive things you can do right now, things that you have in your pantry right this very minute that you can use as part of your beauty routine that are safer, healthier choices. I used up all of my Beautycounter Rejuvenating Eye Cream the other night, but instead of putting the jar in the recycling bin I'm giving it new life with a DIY LIP SCRUB!

Here's the recipe:
3 Tablespoons of sugar
1 Tablespoon organic coconut oil
1.5 Tablespoons honey
Stir well and put in a small, clean jar. (All amounts are approximates. This makes more than enough for my jar. Play with the amounts until you get the right consistency.) I used some washy tape to finish it up for an easy label. Beautycounter's Rejuvenating Eye Cream and Lip Conditioner jars are perfect for this but of course any small jar will work!

A Home Tour: The Sh*t Box

The baby, a new Californian, out at the front door of Shit Box #1

When I last left you on the tour, we were living in the dreamiest little house in my hometown in Oklahoma. The house was indeed dreamy but our lives were anything but. Then in April of 2006, Derek took a phone call while we were at the preschool family picnic that would change our lives forever.

Long story short, it was a phone call from the UCLA Head Men's Golf coach. By June, we were packing up our belongs and headed west. We rented out the Dream House to a nice man who promised to take great care of it, put the majority of our belongings in storage and selling the bulk in a big garage sale. On July 3rd the boys and I were on a flight, Derek and his brother having gone before us in the moving truck with my car and the stuff we thought we couldn't live without.

The scariest part of this story, though we didn't realize it at the time, was that we had rented a place site unseen. We couldn't afford to fly out and hunt for an apartment/condo, so instead we shopped for one online. Friends, consider this your PSA for the day. If there is one thing and one thing only that you learn from reading my posts let it be this: Don't shop for an apartment online, site unseen, in a city that you've never even stepped foot in. Not a good idea. Do. Not. Do. It.

Because even though the city we were living in was touted as being one of the safest in the whole state of California, we managed to pick the one tiny are of that city that was actually bad. So bad that after the moving truck was vandalized and the car trailer was stolen within the first 8 hours of arriving, the sheriff told Derek, "I sure wouldn't move my family here."

This apartment in the bad part of town is what we now loving refer to as The Shit Box. The apartment itself was fine. It was clean, it had three bedrooms and an attached garage (which was really important due to the fact that we had a 1-year-old and a preschooler.) But it was in such a bad part of town, I didn't even want to sit outside so the boys could play at the playground that was only a few steps from our front door.

The only person in the complex that was friendly was a next door neighbor who had also recently moved there from Michigan. She was different but nice, and since I had no local friends to speak of, she became my only one. We met in July...and by January she was dead. I wish I was kidding. Apparently she had a bad liver and by the time it was discovered it was too late. The wine she was constantly drinking from the Dollar Store might have contributed, but that's just a wild guess (may she rest in peace.)

I don't have many pictures from our year in the Shit Box because I was too miserable to take any. I was homesick, my husband was constantly traveling for work, and the one friend that I had made died. I have pictures from Disneyland and LEGO Land, trips to the beach and Santa Barbara, soccer practice and birthday parties at the bowling alley. But taking picture of the Shit Box itself? No, I don't have any of those.

By the time our lease was up, I had already found another condo in a better part of town for us to move to. Same size, same price, better location. I couldn't get my stuff moved across town into the new condo fast enough. Things started to look up in the new place. I made a couple of new friends. Bentley started Kindergarten and T-Ball and we found a new church. We had settled in a little more which helped lift my mood ever so slightly. During this whole time, we still owned the Dream House and still had half of our belongings in a storage unit in Norman.

And oh, did I mention that we couldn't bring our dogs out to California with us because we couldn't have them in the Shit Boxes with no yard? Not to mention they charge you more rent when you have a pet. So we were sending money to my sister-in-law in Oklahoma to take care of our dogs for us. Those two years were so unsettling with our dogs in one place, our belonging in another, and the four of us 1300 miles away from it all.

I ate my feelings those first two years. In-n-Out and Ben and Jerry's Karamel Sutra ice cream became my drugs of choice. There were lots of difficult things that came with moving half way across the country, but not having a home was one of the most difficult for me. Yes, we had a roof over our heads. We weren't sleeping out in the cold. The boys were healthy and happy and Derek was working his dream job. But I knew that these places where we were living were temporary and when you know they are temporary you can't emotionally invest in making them a home.

I can hear my mother's voice in my head. "You made both of those condos very nice places to live." Yes, I decorated and hung pictures and did all of the homemaking things that you do because that is who I am at my core. But emotionally, they weren't my home. I called them Shit Boxes for goodness sake! But things would get better.

Darth Vader in his Card PJ's in Shit Box #1

Riding his new bike in his Spiderman PJ's on Christmas Day in Shit Box #1 (wearing our PJ's must have been a "thing" a lot back then.

First Day of Kindergarten for B on the front steps of Shit Box #2. I got in trouble for having too many pots on my front porch. But look how cute they were back then? 

Derek working in the living room at Shit Box #2. Who am I kidding. Other than the bedrooms, this was the only room in the house. Calling it the "living" room implies there were multiple living spaces. There were not.

When you don't have a yard, you hunt Easter Eggs inside the house. It worked just fine.

This was in our bedroom at Shit Box #2. Does not show the space at all, but it was too darn cute not to share. We might have been unhappy where we were living, but I loved the people inside those Shit Boxes like crazy.

My Go-To Protein Smoothie

I started making this several years ago after my girlfriend, Amy, passed along the recipe. I've tweaked the recipe every so slightly and made it a little bit of my own. It could be any easier. I usually make one on the mornings that I have a pilates or barre class. Gives me the energy I need without filling me up too much. I learned the hard way that doing back extensions at pilates on a full tummy is NOT a good idea.

The Ingredients:
  • Banana
  • Chocolate Protein Powder
  • Almond Milk
  • Nut Butter
  • Collagen Peptides
  • Ice

Start with the banana. I use the whole banana because I'm not a fan of half bananas lying around my kitchen countertops.

I add 2 cups of almond milk. I'm a big fan of Califia Farms Vanilla Almond Milk. They also have plain, unsweetened and other flavors as well. I've used all of them and honestly can't tell a huge difference when I switch them up, but the vanilla tends to be my regular. (I also like Califia Farms Almond Coffee Creamer. Very yummy!)

Next I add a tablespoon of nut butter. My preference is almond butter, but I have also used SunButter (made from sunflower seeds) and of course just good ol' regular peanut butter but that adds too much sugar so I try to stay away. My favorite almond butter is Justin's Honey Almond Butter. So good!

The protein powder that you choose to use can really effect the taste of your smoothie. I like PlantFusion Complete Plant Protein in Chocolate because it gives me that little bit of chocolate flavor that I want but isn't overpowering. I use a plant-based protein because I like that it is vegan and also contains no dairy or soy. I first switched over to this protein powder when I started Whole 30.

This next addition is a new one. Like, in the last week. That's how new. I was recently introduced to collagen peptides by another blogger who said she used them in her smoothies. When I saw the words "anti-aging" and read about the benefits for your skin, hair, nails, joints, and bones, well I was SOLD! The kind I use is unflavored so it does not effect the taste.

Finally, add about 1 cup of ice and blend well! This makes enough for a full meal replacement drink, or can easily be shared for a quick breakfast treat.